tv This Week in Northern California PBS March 17, 2012 1:30am-2:00am PDT
closed captioning of this program is made possible about the fireman's fund foundation. >> belva: despite efforts by governor brown and some backers of the millionaire tax to unite forces with one proposal, there's still a rival tax measure competing for the november ballot. ross mirkarimi's future as sheriff of san francisco remains uncertain even after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment. bart finds its way to san jose with a $9 million boost in federal funding. also, a rising star in politics. california attorney general kamala harris on her efforts to bring relief to struggling homeowners, and more, coming up next.
>> belva: good evening. i'm belva davis and welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me tonight are gary richards, "san jose mercury news" transportation reporter. rachel gordon, "san francisco chronicle" city hall reporter. john meyers, sacramento bureau chief, will be with us to talk about governor brown. rachel, we'll start with you and a long-running story here in san francisco. that is about san francisco sheriff mirkarimi.
seems to not be able to not have unwound himself from this case involving his wife and domestic violence. >> right, i mean, there always seems to be something new all the time. this week we found out ross mirkarimi, facing three criminal charges of misdemeanors stemming from a case of alleged domestic violence on new year's eve, he decided in a plea bargain with prosecutors to plead guilty to a lesser charge of false imprisonment. he had been facing domestic violence, battery, dissuading a witness and child endangerment because this alleged incident took place in front of their 2-year-old son. they decided to have a plea bargain agreement, he'll be sentenced monday. this case just keeps going and going and going. jury selection had been under way already. they had close to 450 potential jurors in the pool. only about 150 left. a lot of the people have heard about this case. even after sentencing monday, we aren't sure if that's the end of the story.
i'm pretty sure it's not the end of the story. mayor lee has to decide whether to bring a charge of official misconduct against the sheriff which opens up a political quagmire at city hall because the board of supervisors ultimately will be the ones that will decide whether mirkarimi should be removed from office. it's a case that hasn't ended and seems to keep building and building and building. >> belva: do you think that people outside of san francisco understand what is going on here? is this partially political, the fact that it keeps moving from place to place? or is it the defendant himself that keeps getting in trouble? >> we have to keep in mind this is a top law enforcement official. the san francisco sheriff runs one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state of california. here's a top law enforcement official who has pleaded guilty to a crime of false imprisonment. it's the san francisco sheriff that runs the san francisco jails. so you have to keep that in mind. this case has made international headlines, not just national
headlines, not just local ones. one of the reasons it's international headlines that is his life, eliana lopez, has been a soap opera star in convenience will la, so there's been attention around that aspect of it. is it politically tinged? he's an elected official being prosecuted by an elected official, ultimately it's elected officials that might bring charges against him. if you listen to district attorney gas goen, he says we're prosecuting this by the book. i think where mirkarimi might have one of his best cases this is political, there's been information that's been leaked out from the police department o over time. i'd say whether you're a progressive, conservative, moderate, this information would have gotten out anyway. there are factionth in the police department and he's a high-profile city official. and there seems to be hunger around this. is it beyond san francisco? you go to the supermarket, the playgrounds, the schoolyards,
muni, a lot of people are talking about this case. >> viewed from afar from south bay, it's embarrassing. it's like, what's going on up there? is it just another san francisco issue? or -- but it goes beyond that. >> yeah, it does. i mean, there have been a lot of things that have come out. pretrial hearing, an ex-girlfriend talking about women's panties. that's going to get a headline with the ex-girlfriends coming in. there's been a videotape that the neighbor, a neighbor has taken that was a key piece of evidence in the mirkarimi case which was really that the wife eliana lopez went to her to confide in her what happened. so there's videotape of the brutds that she allegedly got on her arm from her husband. as well as her tearfully recounting what happens. the defense teams not only for mirkarimi's defense team, the wife's lawyers have tried every avenue to keep that out of evidence in the trial so there have been a lot of motions before the courts, a lot of coverage of that.
it's -- you know, and mirkarimi's legal bills keep climbing. he's had two fun raisers to try to tamp down the legal bills. >> belva: one comment of his about his legal bills got him in trouble with the d.a.? >> that was one of the things. another aspect after he entered his plea monday in superior court, he said, i'm guilty of this crime of false imprisonment of my wife, he had comments in the "chronicle" as well as the "bay guardian," people around him saying perhaps the main reason he pleaded guilty is because of the legal bills, because he wanted to end this issue that was kind of consuming his family. he wanted to put it behind him. gascon told the "chronicle" editorial board, if he's guilty plead guilty. if he doesn't think he's guilty he shouldn't plead guilty and we should let a jury decide. monday at the sentencing hearing the judge is likely to ask, do
you really feel you're guilty? on a domestic violence charge, the punishment that he's facing right now is everything that a domestic violence offender would face. three years' probation. he has to enter domestic violence intervention classes every week for a year. he had to apologize to the neighbor who shot the videotape, because they were maligning her. court fees and fines. he might have to take parenting classes and community service -- >> belva: talk about the mayor's role. what are his choices? one of his choices was if people didn't like him, to have him recalled. >> the recall effort can start up against a public official six months after they've taken office. he took office january 8th. by july 8th is when they can start this petition drive. you have to collect 47,000 signatures from registered voters in san francisco. not the easiest thing to do but possible to do. it's possible if those signatures are collected it could be in the november election or if they can't meet
the deadlines a later date at special election. misconduct is not the easiest thing to do and it's been tried infrequently in san francisco. 1930s a public defender was removed from office, he was involved in a murder for hire scheme. george moscone was may i yore, he removed an airport commissioner and a higher court overturned the misconduct charge on that. that's the only other time. there's a san francisco supervisor more recently, ed jew, got in trouble for shaking down some members of the public. he was facing misconduct charge but resigned before it got -- progressed very far. that's it. in san francisco history. there's a lot of lawyering going on now. what constitutes misconduct? is it something that can be upheld? the mayor saying he's giving it close consideration, working with the city attorney. he's also talking to former mayors to see what the political implications might be. how do you can it politically? >> do you think there's any chance he could resign? >> that's a good question. there's been a strong demand
that he resign from advocates for domestic violence victims, in city hall, talking to the mayor and supervisor saying, he shouldn't be in this office in this position. he's been steadfast, i'm not resigning, i'm planning to mend my family and do the job i was elected to do. >> belva: you were reporting on a story that's long-term, much longer term than this story that's only been in the news a few weeks. you're talking about something that's been talked about for maybe the last half century. >> 50, 60 years. it's in the '50s when they were conceiving the bart district and at the time, san mateo county was going to be a part of it. the idea would be a san mateo came into it it would be down the peninsula. san mateo county opted out partly because they feared the shopping center would lose customers because people would take bart instead of 280 which hadn't been built yet. san mateo opted out, santa clara
county didn't have a chance. over the 20 plus years i've been doing this transportation stuff, that's been the number one question, which is bart coming to san jose? a lot's happened in 50, 60 years. silicon valley happened. a lot of people who work in the valley live in the east bay. contra costa county, alameda county, the stockton area. the county voters have twice passed taxes to get it. and just this past week, the federal government signed off on a $900 million federal funding aagreement that will come over the next several years and construction starts this summer. >> belva: was that $900 million lying around someplace waiting on what? >> they have a pot of money, i want to say it's more than a couple billion every year, for new starts projects, new rail projects. it will come in, a couple
hundred million dollar increments. once the fta was convinced not only could they build it but they could operate the trains, they've got to recommend -- they had money to build it, it was on their not recommended list. they shortened the line, the initial phase of it, and they got a tax by, passed, two-thirds majority by a couple thousand votes back in last november. and the fed said, okay, you're in. >> gary, it goes not only into the heart of downtown san jose at this point, but it's still a possibility? >> yes. it will go to east san jose. near the highway 101 interchange, six miles short of where it eventually wants to go downtown. that's a $4 billion second part. thief about $2 billion of that. they're looking for money. but it's going to be tougher to come by. will the state commit money to high-speed rail versus bart? >> with it stopping there, is it going to become a train to
nowhere? >> they're going to have express buss running there to downtown. and the federal government actually has a loan program where if you can be convinced -- if they can be convinced that you've got money to eventually build it, they can loan you the money. los angeles is doing that for a 30-year transportation program. and one thought being this current tax to build bart will expire in 2036. that seems really far off there. but if they renewed the tax, pass a ballot measure to renew that tax, then go back and say, we've got money coming down the line, can we bond out, can we move this forward? there's optimism there. >> any talk of having it ring the bay, that it eventually could come up the peninsula to san francisco? is that -- don't get ahead of ourselves? >> yes and no. yes in the sense that the line will run to santa clara. and meet with the cal train station in santa clara. that's up the peninsula.
but when high-speed rail comes in, if it comes in on the peninsula, that's where that's going to run. so, you know, i don't think it's ever going to happen. i think it's too costly. >> belva: does it go past the new stadium? >> if it goes downtown, it will be within walking distance of stadium. >> belva: let's turn to john meyers, in jacket, about governor brown surprised everyone with his decision to join forces with backers of a rival tax measure. please explain to us what happened. >> well, you know what happened belva of course, in the world of politics we think we know everything before it happens. we didn't know this one. this week we found out governor brown no longer has two separate rivals of tax measures for the november ballot. now instead of three measures, there are ostensibly two. the governor joined forces with the california federation of teachers, which had been pushing a millionaires tax for the
november ballot. instead, the federation of teachers has decided to back off that plan and they're going to join the governor. what they've come up with is what i call the jerry brown plus plan which means -- it's the brown plan plus a few other things. the sales tax is slightly smaller, a .25% increase, and the income tax actually is a little higher on millionaires than the governor wanted. the entire tax package would last about seven years before the whole thing would roll off, so 2018 when taxes would expire. it would bring in between $7 billion and $9 billion depending whose numbers you believe. the governor got great news today here on friday. not only did he have the fiscal analysis done on the measure but the attorney general late this evening issued a title in summary, the governor can now circulate the initiative for signatures. he got all that done in 48 hours. and i think now the governor has probably five, six weeks to get the signatures he needs. it's going to be very expensive to do it that fast. but he's got a pretty good shot.
then, of course, there's the campaign. >> belva: we cannot say this is not a governor who's inflectionible. >> jerry brown is well-known for this, as he likes to talk about, the canoe theory of politics. paddle a bit on the left, paddle on the right, go down the center. it reflects jerry brown's pragmatism toward what you've got to do to get the job down. the governor saw he needed to join forces, that multiple measures were not going to be good for his. and in the group of the california federation of teachers, they had the millionaires tax. it was the one that was polling the best of alley them. honestly there was a lot of the political pressure brought to bear on them over the last few weeks. i kind of joked earlier today i think they were threatened with being in political siberia in california, if they had continued to oppose the governor and put a measure up that might have killed his. they joined forces. they think they've got a better chance together than apart. we should mention the business community hasn't weighed in yet
on this. they're not going to like the higher-end taxes, how long the taxes last, and the real question is will there be a funded opposition campaign to this? if it is, governor will have a fight on his hands. >> we're going to hear from the governor and other proponents of the tax. these of the consequences. if you don't pass this tax, it's going to be many more state parks that are going to close, many more classrooms that are going to have 60 students instead of 30. i mean, is that the bottom line what was we can expect between now and november? >> i think in some way. because keep in mind these tax reserve news, we're talking about a november election, you're right. these tax revenues are going to be written into the budget that probably will be agreed to by late june, early july. and so if you're going to count on revenues voters haven't yet approved, then there is going to be a trigger mechanism that's going to say, if revenues aren't approved by voters we cut x, y,
z. that trigger list is still in debate in sacramento. there are a lot of democrats that don't like the list the governor's put out so far but you're right, it is largely education. and i think that's going to promote a very vigorous debate about whether we have to do all those cuts if the taxes don't happen. if those are the right cuts versus something else. >> belva: there is still an opposing measure that could be on the ballot, right? >> a competing measure more an an opposing measure, a measure by a wealthy civil rights attorney molly munger, independently wealthy so she can get it on the ballot by herself, would raise taxes on all taxpayers with money earmarks for k-12 schools. that broad of an income tax increase is not polling well. i think the governor's people think they can win if that one's on the ballot, they didn't think they could win if there were three. >> belva: it's been a pretty good week for jerry brown. thank you so much, john, for the update on that changing story.
>> you're welcome. >> belva: this is women's history month. tonight we talk with a woman who made history when she was elected as california's first female attorney general. kamala harris' political star has steadily been on the rise. her recent rising speech at the california democratic convention wowed the crowd. >> and california democrats, when we pull together, we are too big too fail. >> belva: as attorney general she's earned a reputation as a tough negotiator. securing up to $18 billion to help california homeowners. >> we were very determined to make sure that california, the hardest-hit in the country, would receive its fair share. >> belva: also on harris' agenda this year, a homeowners' bill of right and a crackdown on mobile phone apps that collect users' data. "newsweek" named her one of the
150 women who shake the world and invited her to their international conference on women in new york. earlier today we talked about her job as attorney general and the role of women as leaders. attorney general harris it is good of you to join us here. today you were in the news again because today you appointed a monitor to oversee that $18 billion settlement that you were able to push through on behalf of california homeowners. tell us a bit about uc irvine professor katherine porter. how is she especially qualified to make sure people really benefit from this? >> can i first start by saying, belva, it's so wonderful to be on your show and thank you for everything that you do and have always done for the bay area, the state, and this country. you are such an inspiration to me. and i know you're going to be going off the air soon so i just had to get that in. katherine porter. so we negotiated on a settlement to bring back to california $18
billion, to california homeowners who have been in this awful process of foreclosure. and on the ideas that this money will be used for principal reduction and also to allow people to refinance their loans so they can afford to stay in their homes. we negotiated for california in terms of the dollar amount and certain specific provisions which we have referred to in total as the california commitment. as part of the national settlement, a monitor has been chosen for the country. i decided that in addition to joe smith, who was chosen as a monitor for the country, i wanted someone who was focused specifically on california. because of course, we are the largest state, we were hardest-hit. i wanted to make sure that promises made are promises kept. >> belva: there's a homeowners' bill of rights, you're trying to get that through the legislature, what are its chances? >> again, settlement covers three years and we need permanent reform in california and the rules to be changed. in particular for all those
folks who are in the process of dual track, going through foreclosure, also trying to modify the loan and stay in the home. there are two systems not talking to each other. one simple fix is let's have one point of contact for that homeowner. that's one of the bills. the bills are about saying that we want to make sure that there are appropriate penalties for misconduct. and we have the package with the support of the speaker perez and senate pro tem darrell steinberg, and we are counting on their leadership along with folks like skinner and lonny hancock and mark leno and others who have stepped up to provide leadership to say, enough is enough and we've got to stand up. the banks may be powerful interests. it can be very difficult for some legislators to stand up to them. but i think we have courageous leadership in california that is prepared to do that in the best interests of the consumer and the homeowner. >> belva: let's move to the criminal justice system because that's where you made your
reputation. there's going to be a question before voters on the death penalty. and that was a difficult issue for you when you were running for office. where do you standno on the issue? >> my position is the same. i am personally opposed to the death penalty but i will follow the law. and so we'll see how that initiative turns out. >> belva: another issue that you wrote a book and included something about three strikes, the three strikes law. it also will be on the ballot again. >> right. >> belva: what are your feelings about taking another look at three strikes? >> i think that we need to have laws that -- that are primarily concerned with keeping the community safe. and that was the intent of the three strikes legislation. but, for example, when i was district attorney of san francisco, my policy was that we would not pursue a third strike unless that which as 25 year to life sentence, unless that offense was of a serious or
violent nature. and i believe that's the right way to approach it. >> belva: the whole issue of president obama's push on his health care bill which would be heard by the supreme court, you are for the expansion of medicaid. what do you think the chances are that this bill has for staying alive? >> i think the affordable care act was the right thing to do. we needed reform of our health care system in this country. when being a woman as pre-existing condition, which means it can be the basis for being denied medical coverage. such as if you're pregnant and trying to improve your insurance to get prenatal care and you can be denied. true story. because you're pregnant at the time that you apply for the improved insurance policy. i think it's outrageous. so affordable care act was the right thing to do. it's being challenged. we as california filed many briefs, many courts throughout the country supporting it, amicus brief.
the supreme court will be hearing it. i believe that the court will do the right thing. it will probably be a 5-4 vote. but i believe that the vort will find, as we have found in our legal research, that the affordable care act is constitutional. and should be supported. and -- >> i've got to squeeze in one last question on women leadership. you were at this wig conference. hillary clinton is saying to women, get out and do something. do you think this is a year when women are going to make an impact on the national scene politically? >> i think women make an impact every day of the week, of the year. sometimes other people are a little slow to recognize that. but i think that there has been a legitimate concern about, you know, what's going on. we fought -- the fight was fought 50 years ago. and we're still having a conversation about contraception? that's scary.
i remember saying, coretta scott king. not specifically. i don't have it down. but she said, you know, the fight for civil rights is something that must be fought with each generation. and i think she had a reason for sale that which includes the fact that when you're fighting for people's rights, they are not -- it's not always going to be permanent, it's not of a permanent nature. we're going to have to keep fighting so let's not get tired or fatigued because that's the nature of it. that that's where we are. we have to keep fighting for women's reproductive health rights. it's unfortunate. but we'll take it on and we'll win as we've done in the past. >> belva: hopefully your portfolio doesn't seem as if you ever get tired. there's so much to talk about but i'm happy to have had an opportunity. >> thank you. and thank you for your leadership. >> belva: thank you. well, that's all for tonight. and i want to thank you again for joining us here for this program. please visit kqed.org/thisweek