By Maxim Elramsisy | California Black Media | March 7, 2023
This profile is part of a series of 10 California Black Media articles capturing the stories of elected Black Mayors working to make a difference in the lives of Californians in large cities and small towns across our state.
When the City of Fontana hosted NASCAR Feb. 24, third-term Mayor Acquanetta Warren served as an honorary official for the final run of the Cup Series Pala Casino 400.
According to Warren, Auto Club Speedway, formerly California Speedway, will undergo reconstruction that will reduce its size from the current two-mile track to a half-mile one.
One observation stood out for Warren as the mayor reflected on the final race on the racetrack that opened in 1996 in the city about fifty miles east of Los Angeles.
“I’m seeing way more African Americans working on the cars. They are more among the vendors, and I think in two more years, we’ll have even more,” she said.
“I’m constantly trying to get younger sisters and brothers that look like me to understand that you can have these dreams and they can be fulfilled,” Warren told California Black Media (CBM). “Don’t limit yourself.”
Although stock car auto racing has a well-known lack of racial diversity, particularly among owners and drivers, former NBA great Michael Jordan bought a majority stake in NASCAR’s 23XI team in 2020. Driving the team’s “23 car,” a nod to Jordan’s Chicago Bulls jersey number, is Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only active Black racer.
Other racing teams are becoming more diverse, too. Lamar Neal, a 29-year-old Black man, was on the pit crew for Kyle Busch’s race-winning team.
“It’s a sport that’s waiting for young smart people, not just drivers or pit crew, but the analytical side, the engineers — a whole world waiting for young, good people,” said Warren.
As the race cars revved up their engines to the thundering roars of the race spectators, Warren said she was reminded that inflation continues to skyrocket and that natural gas prices are running higher than normal — a point many guests attending the series also pointed out.
“We recognize these are really hard times, especially with the gas costs. People are calling me with bills [totaling] $600 to $800 when they’ve been paying $52 a month. That is terrible,” Warren told CBM.
Leaders must respond urgently to the high costs, Warren said.
Enter Fontana Eats, a program distributing gift cards for food to residents of the city.
“We had already been working on this program, but I want to increase [the amount people in the program receive]. It is also an opportunity for us to get our residents out more and do it safely,” she said. “They can go to restaurants, or they can go to grocery stores.”
When Warren was elected mayor in 2010, she was an experienced local politician, having served eight years on the city council.
Like many places around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges.
“We probably had over a half a million free masks to give out,” Warren said, recalling a step the city took responding to price gouging by some businesses.
Measure EE, in San Bernardino County, narrowly passed in November 2022. It directed elected representatives for San Bernardino County to research and advocate for all methods (including secession from the state) for receiving an equitable share of state funding and resources.
“I really advocated for people to vote for [Proposition] EE, because it’s a study on whether or not we’re obtaining the funds fairly in this county. We always are the stepchildren,” said Warren. “San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States by land mass. Yet, we can’t really make it work if we’re not getting adequate funding.”
For example, Warren says her city does not have enough courthouses and judges.
“People talk about fairness, equity and due process. Well, it would help if we could get them into court and get them out of jail. If you don’t have the resources, everybody has to wait,” she said.
In addition to advocating for funding and tackling food insecurity, Warren is pushing for more public parks.
“We’ve always focused on our recreation, particularly for our young people. We don’t want them to be graduates of sidewalk university,” she said. “We’ve got softball, we’ve got baseball, football, soccer, basketball. We have various programs that the kids can sign up for. They can do arts, they can dance.”
According to Warren, the city now has 59 parks to keep its 220,000 residents active.
As she walked across the front straight away, Warren spoke with anyone who approached her, and she stopped by to a room full of teenagers from the Boys and Girls Club of Fontana.
Warren says she moved to Fontana after the Rodney King riots in 1992 shook her neighborhood in Compton.
“When I got appointed to be the first African American on the council, people were making a really big deal, but I discounted it,” she said. “For many residents though, it was a big deal. The Black pastors and a lot of the older African Americans in this community called me to a meeting and they let me have it. They let me know that I stood on their shoulders, and they were proud of me.”
Warren is an advocate for more diversity among people addressing the challenges all Californians face. This month she was named the Chair of the Southern California Water Coalition’s Board of Trustees.
“We need more African Americans in the water world. All these people are retiring,” she said.
Although several heavy storms have hammered California over the past three months, including a historic storm disrupting the weekend race schedule, Warren doesn’t think California’s historic drought is over.
“The challenge will be, can we capture the water when it melts, and store it, and that’s where we fall short,” she said.
Black Justices Bring Diverse Experiences to California Supreme Court
by California Black Media l November 29, 2022
(CBM) – In November, Associate Justice Kelli Evans became the third Black Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court. Black justices now make up half of the Associate Justices on the state’s High Court.
The state Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. It reviews decisions by the six state Courts of Appeal, decisions by the Public Utilities Commission, and cases that result in a death sentence.
Evans, 54, is the first openly lesbian female Justice to serve on the bench of the court. She was nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August and approved this month after a unanimous vote by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.
“Throughout her career, Judge Evans has been widely recognized for her intellectual curiosity, diligence, work ethic, humility, and integrity,” the commission’s report reads.
“From all this, the commission concluded that Judge Evans will make an outstanding Associate Justice and found her to be well qualified for the California Supreme Court,” the report continues.
Evans is a graduate of Stanford University and UC Davis Law School. She is a former ACLU staff attorney, worked as a senior trial attorney in the US Dept of Justice Civil Rights Division and represented clients in civil rights litigation at the law firm Relmen & Associates. In addition, she worked in the California Attorney General’s office, for the State Bar of California, and was Newsom’s chief deputy legal affairs secretary before becoming an Alameda County Superior Court judge.
Anthony Rendon (D-Lakeside), Speaker of the California State Assembly, called Evans’ approval “excellent news for California’s Supreme Court” in a Tweet.
During a conversation with Newsom in a video posted by Newsom’s office, Evans spoke about her 28-year career.
“I’ve been really privileged to have an incredibly diverse and rewarding legal career, having had the opportunity to impact people’s lives for the better,” Evans said.
Newsom praised Evans’ appointment by tweeting, “Judge Kelli Evans has dedicated her life to promoting equality and justice through her work. Her broad experience in law and policy will serve her well as an Associate Justice on California’s Supreme Court.”
Evans is joining two Black colleagues already on the court – Associate Justice Leondra R. Kruger and Associate Justice Martin J. Jenkins.
Associate Justice Leondra R. Kruger, 46, was nominated by Gov. Jerry Brown and confirmed and sworn in on January 5, 2015. She was the second Black woman to be appointed to the California Supreme Court.
Kruger, a native of Southern California, was born in Glendale and raised in Pasadena.
Kruger attended Harvard College before attending Yale Law School and asserts that “My approach reflects the fact that we operate in a system of precedent,” she said in a 2018 Los Angeles Times interview.
“I aim to perform my job in a way that enhances the predictability and stability of the law and public confidence and trust in the work of the courts,” she continued.
From 2007 to 2013, Kruger worked in the US Department of Justice as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Deputy Solicitor General. While there, she argued 12 cases before the United States Supreme Court representing the federal government.
In private practice, Kruger specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation. This year, she was on the short list to be appointed to the US Supreme Court by Pres. Joe Biden to replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he retired.
Associate Justice Martin J. Jenkins, 69, was the first openly gay California Supreme Court Justice.
Jenkins earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Santa Clara University. Before entering the University of San Francisco (USF) Law school, he played football for the Seattle Seahawks.
Justice Jenkins previously served as a trial judge on the Oakland Municipal and Alameda County Superior Courts. He was a federal district judge for the Northern District of California appointed by President William J. Clinton in 1997. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the California Court of Appeals. Preceding his appointment to the Supreme Court he was Senior Judicial Appointments Advisor to Newsom.
“Justice Jenkins is widely respected among lawyers and jurists, active in his Oakland community and his faith, and is a decent man to his core,” Newsom stated when he announced Jenkins’s confirmation. “As a critical member of my senior leadership team, I’ve seen firsthand that Justice Jenkins possesses brilliance and humility in equal measure. The people of California could not ask for a better jurist or kinder person to take on this important responsibility.”
Jenkins was unanimously confirmed to the Supreme Court on Nov. 10, 2020.
At his confirmation, when asked by the Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye why he wanted to serve on the Supreme Court, Jenkins said, “I felt I could do good work, that I had a voice to add to the discussion that might be absent, not better, just different and ultimately being a man of faith, I felt this was a calling and never once have I refused the call of service.”
“Proposition 30 has lost favor in the past month and support is now below a majority,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “A majority of Democrats still support this initiative, but most other voter groups are now in the ‘no’ camp.”
Two closely watched ballot measures on gambling are failing to gain majority support. One in three likely voters (34%) say they would vote “yes” on Prop 26 (sports betting at tribal casinos), while one in four (26%) would vote “yes” on Prop 27 (online sports gambling).
California voters have a low level of interest in gambling on sports, with 9 percent of likely voters saying they are personally interested in sports gambling. Nearly half (48%) say that legalizing sports betting in California would be a bad thing.
“Propositions 26 and 27 both fall well short of majority support,” Baldassare said. “Few California voters have a personal interest in sports gambling and many say that legalizing it would be a bad thing for the state.”
The new statewide survey also finds:
Through Ads and Advocates, Battle Over Calif. Gambling Propositions Heat Up
By McKenzie Jackson | California Black Media | Posted: September 19, 2022
Clint Thompson, a Santa Monica resident in his 30s, wouldn’t say he has been inundated with advertisements supporting or denigrating Propositions 26 and 27, but he sees an ad focused on one of the legislations each time he turns on his television.
“I usually watch the news during the day — NBC — and on NBC, Prop 26 or Prop 27 comes on every other commercial break per show,” said Thompson, an actor, who admitted he hasn’t researched the sports gambling propositions. “Both of the props seem to have good things with them. The commercials seem to have reasons why you should say ‘yes,’ or ‘no.’”
Prop 26 would legalize roulette, dice games, and sports betting on Native American tribal lands if approved by voters in the Nov. 8 election. It is backed by over 50 state Native American tribes.
Prop 27, supported by sportsbooks DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Fanatics, PENN Entertainment, and WynnBet, would give those sports betting companies the reins in sports gambling in the Golden State and allow online gambling.
If people like Thompson feel the advertisements from the campaigns for and against the propositions seem to be flooding the television and radio airwaves — and to be ever-present on social media (Watched a YouTube video lately?) — they might be right.
The dueling propositions have raised a combined $400 million for advertising leading up to Election Day this November. That has led to
ads backing and slamming the two propositions to be front and center in all forms of media Californians consume.
Dinah Bachrach of the Racial Justice Allies of Sonoma County, a group supporting Prop 26, said the proliferation of ads supporting Prop 27 is concerning.
“They are all over the place,” Bachrach said. “Gambling is already a pretty big business, but to be able to do sports gambling online is dangerous because it hurts what tribal casinos have been able to do for their communities in the state.”
According to Bachrach, Prop 26 protects the sovereignty of native tribes. “It’s a really important racial justice issue,” she said. “Indian casinos provide a tremendous amount of financial support for the casino tribes and the non-casino tribes, and they contribute a lot locally and to the state.”
Bachrach’s organization is one of several civil rights or African American organizations that have thrown its support behind Prop 26.
Santa Clarita NAACP spokesperson Nati Braunstein said in an email, “The NAACP supports Prop 26, which would legalize retail sports betting at California tribal casinos only and opposes Prop 27 which would allow online sports betting via mobile sportsbooks.”
Kathy Fairbanks, speaking for the Yes on 26/No on 27 coalition, composed of California Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and other partners, said winning the approval of every potential voter, including Black Californians, is their goal.
Yes on 27 – Californians for Solutions to Homelessness, the campaign arm of Prop 27 backers, had not returned California Black Media’s requests for comment for this story as of press time. Prop 27 proponents say in ads and the Yes on 27 website repeats that the initiative would help solve California’s homelessness crisis.
Prop 27 imposes a 10 % tax on adjusted gross gaming revenue. Eighty-five percent of the taxes go toward fighting California’s homeless and mental health challenges. Non-gaming tribes get the remaining 15% of tax revenue.
Organizations such as Bay Area Community Services, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness, and individuals including Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Bay Area Community Services CEO Jamie Almanza, and Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians Chairman Jose “Moke” Simon are listed as Prop 27 supporters on the Yes on 27 website.
On the campaign’s Facebook page, commenter Brandon Gran wrote under an advertisement photo that voting for Prop 27 was a “no brainer.”
“People are already gambling using offshore accounts,” he typed. “Why not allow CA to get a piece of the pie … money that will (hopefully) go to good use.”
However, a statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), conducted between Sept. 2 and 11 and released on Sept. 15, revealed that 54 % of California voters would vote “no” for Prop 27, while 34 % would vote “yes.” Twelve percent of the respondents were “unsure.”
The survey’s authors wrote that a strong majority of Republicans wouldn’t vote for the proposition, compared to half of Democrats and independents.
“Regionally, majorities in the Inland Empire, Orange/San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay Area would vote ‘no,’ while likely voters in the Central Valley and Los Angeles are divided,” they wrote. “At least half across most demographic groups would vote ‘no.’ Likely voters age 18 to 44 (52%) and renters (51%) are the only two demographic groups with a slim majority voting ‘yes.’”
The survey, titled “PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government,” did not ask participants about Prop 26. The Yes on 26/No on 27 coalition, said in a news release that the PPIC’s research confirmed what Prop 26 supporters have said for some time.
“Despite raising more than $160 million for a deceptive advertising campaign, California voters are clearly not buying what the out-of-state online gambling corporations behind Prop 27 are selling,” the statement read.