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The Outlook For Property Tax Reform In The Wake Of Prop 15's Defeat

Disney is one of the companies that will continue to benefit from low property taxes after Prop 15's defeat. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

California voters have narrowly rejected Proposition 15, which would have forced the state’s businesses to pay more in property taxes.

It sought to undo part of Proposition 13, the historic 1978 tax-cutting measure that has kept individual and business property taxes low for decades. Big legacy firms like Disney and Intel have been among its beneficiaries.

Progressive reformers have long wanted to go after Prop 13 — Prop 15 would have dedicated the billions of dollars raised in higher business property taxes to public schools and local governments.

The closeness of the vote — currently 51.8% to 48.2% — is significant, given that Prop 13 is “the third rail of California politics,” said USC sociology professor Manuel Pastor.

The Yes on 15 campaign says that’s a sign of strong public demand for raising corporate taxes. The initiative’s opponents counter that its defeat shows voters do not want to dismantle Prop 13.


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Los Angeles Progressives Tapped Into Voters' Hunger For Change To Win Big

Nithya Raman, Los Angeles City Councilmember-elect for the 4th District. Eric Kelly

Progressive candidates such as Holly Mitchell, Nithya Raman and George Gascón took home big wins in Los Angeles in the 2020 election. Voters also adopted Measure J, the ballot measure to amend the county charter and require more spending on alternatives to incarceration.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Pete White, founder of L.A. Community Action Network, which campaigned for Measure J.

“Implementation is more of the battle than the actual campaign,” White said.

Progressive activists flexed their political muscle to oust Democratic incumbents and defeat more center-left candidates. How will the growing power of the left wing play out when these elected leaders take office?


Early Reports Show Households Skipped More Census Questions Compared To 2010 

SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 19: The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it has s

Americans were less willing to share their age, sex, race and ethnicity with the federal government on the decenial census form this year, compared to a decade ago. That means Census Bureau officials will need to spend the next month and a half filling in the gaps with other government records.

In-person follow-up with unresponsive households was conducted on a compressed schedule this year, at the request of the Trump Administration.

Census Bureau Deputy Director Ron Jarmin doesn’t believe that truncated schedule was responsible for the increase in unfinished forms, however. Even those who responded on their own -- over the internet, mail or by phone -- also left out answers at higher rates than usual.

As Dr. Jarmin wrote on the census website blog, “something else is at work.” LAist talked with researchers and census advocates to find out what that might be.


LAUSD Unveils Roadmap To Reopen Campuses -- But It Won’t Go Into Effect Just Yet

At a Nov. 10, 2020 meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, district administrators walked through the next steps in the Return to Campus Plan. (Screenshot of LAUSD Board meeting)

With the coronavirus cases increasing in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Unified School District will not be able to return to in-classroom instruction until January – at the earliest.

Still, the district has been planning for the eventual return to campus, whenever that might be.

Superintendent Austin Beutner and Local District South Superintendent Michael Romero updated the members of the district’s board of education on the status of those plans at Tuesday’s meeting. An important caveat: L.A. County must move off the state’s most restrictive coronavirus tier -- and remain there for at least two weeks -- before anything can go into effect.

Here are some of the highlights.


Next week, the district and schools will host virtual town halls and meetings, and will share a “Return to Campus Program Overview” with LAUSD families via email, text, and physical mail, both in English and in Spanish.

The district will offer two options: hybrid — meaning students will spend some of their time learning in-person at the school site, and some time learning online or online-only.

Families will get a survey asking if parents would like their children to go back to school in a hybrid format (more about that in a second), or if they’d prefer continuing with s online-only learning.

Romero told the board that families will have until the day before Thanksgiving to let the district know which option they’d prefer.


On Tuesday, Romero explained to the board that negotiations with district employees over what exactly the hybrid model would look like are continuing “the next couple days,” though he thinks “we’re getting close.” LAist reached out to United Teachers Los Angeles for comment on the status of negotiations.

Students could be sorted into cohorts, with some students in the classroom in the morning, and others in the afternoon. Or those cohorts could alternate whole school days, on and off campus.

Either way, Superintendent Beutner said “we will take care of your child all day – all day in a classroom, all day with other supervised support.”

“It allows children to be with their classmates, and continue to learn in a school environment – even if it's not with their teacher,” Beutner told the board. “And we can support a family all day, the entire school day so that working families can go to work.”

Romero said LAUSD is expecting “a large number of our students” to choose the virtual-only option.


According to a safety video shown at the meeting, the district will be focusing on “three S’s”- screening (all students and employees will get checked for fever and asked about symptoms), sanitizing (including hand sanitizer and electrostatic misters), and social distancing (including reorganized classrooms, stickers making some hallways one-way).


While Los Angeles County remains in the state’s most restrictive coronavirus tier, no schools within the county district, charter, or private can fully reopen their K-12 schools for in-classroom instruction.

There are two ways that schools can partially reopen:

  1. They can welcome up to 25% of their enrollment back for specialized services for students with the most need of in-person support.
  2. They can apply for a waiver to reopen classes for the youngest learners, grades TK-2.

At a town hall Monday night, Beutner explained to parents and LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin why applying for a waiver to reopen for grades TK-2 is not part of the district’s reopening plan.

For one thing, he said, the district has more than 400 schools and the county health department is only approving a couple dozen waivers a week.

“So we don’t fit,” he said. “But it’s mostly an issue of health and safety.”

Beutner said if it’s not safe to bring K-12 students back to school generally, then he interprets that to mean it’s also not safe to bring the district’s youngest grades back, even with a waiver from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

In a different town hall also on Monday night, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told parents and Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Debra Duardo that among the 1,500 schools that have reopened for students in need of specialized, in-person services and the 74 schools with approved TK-2 waivers, “we only have 10 schools that have seen ... either three or four cases. Only one school has seen nine cases.”


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This Veterans Day, Meet A 95-Year-Old Who Helped Break The Marines' Color Barrier

Ninety-five-year-old World War II veteran Luther Hendricks poses with some of his military honors. (HENDRICKS FAMILY / U.S. MARINE CORPS)

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Luther Hendricks was just a teenager. But he wanted to defend his country.

"Once President Roosevelt declared war, I went down the next day to the recruiting station to join up, and I was told they didn't take coloreds in the Marines," Hendricks said.

Ultimately, Roosevelt ordered all branches of the U.S. armed forces to accept black recruits. Thousands enlisted in the Marine Corps, though they were segregated from white troops.

White Marines were trained at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. But black men went through grueling training at nearby Montford Point, earning the moniker "Montford Point Marines."

Hendricks, now 95, remembers the racism he endured before serving his country in Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and elsewhere.

But he says, things weren't much better after the war ended. "We fought segregation fighting over there, and we fought segregation when we got back home over here."


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Lawyers Threaten LA County Sheriff With Lawsuit Over Seizure Of Student Photographer’s Equipment

Pablo Unzueta is a freelance photojournalist and a student at Cal State Long Beach. (Courtesy Pablo Unzueta)

A UC Irvine law clinic says the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department violated a student journalist’s constitutional rights by unlawfully seizing his camera and phone, while he covered a protest in September near Compton.

Pablo Unzueta, a freelance photographer and student at Cal State Long Beach, was on assignment for the campus newspaper, covering a protest over the killing of Dijon Kizzee by sheriff’s deputies in September, when he was arrested after deputies called the protest an unlawful assembly.

Unzueta said deputies seized his iPhone and a Nikon D800 camera during the arrest. He was released about six hours later, but he said the Sheriff's Department did not return his equipment.

A college advisor suggested he reach out to the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that provides free legal assistance to student journalists and educators.

Staff from the center connected Unzueta with the Criminal Justice Clinic at the UC Irvine School of Law. The clinic contacted the Sheriff’s Department directly and Unzueta got his camera back. But its memory card -- which Unzueta said included two years worth of freelance work for the Voice of OC, the Washington Post, and the student newspaper at Mt. San Antonio College -- was missing.

“When your livelihood is taken away, and there's nothing done about it... obviously you're going to feel hopeless,” Unzueta said.

The Sheriff's Department, he said, claimed it didn’t have the memory card. Unzueta said because of the way the camera is designed, it would have been very hard for the card to come out accidentally.

Last week, the Intellectual Property, Arts & Technology Clinic - a sister group at UC Irvine School of Law - sent a letter to Sheriff Alex Villanueva accusing deputies of unreasonable seizure, and threatened a lawsuit if the department doesn’t return Unzueta’s phone and memory card.

“It's illegal to keep [a journalist's] equipment without a court order,” said UC Irvine law professor Susan Seager, adding that there are even some protections for non-journalists when equipment is involved.

She said Unzueta’s case, and other incidences of excessive force by law enforcement officers against journalists in the L.A. region, is troubling.

“I don't think there was any reason to arrest him. He was leaving the protest,” Seager said. “They violated his 4th Amendment right and they violated his 1st Amendment right to be documenting things in a public place.”

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to LAist's request for comment.

UPDATE, Nov. 12, 1:20 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify that the Criminal Justice Clinic at the UC Irvine School of Law contacted the Sheriff's Department to retrieve Unzueta's camera.


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Morning Briefing: LA’s New Officials Take Action

A mask sits on top of a ballot in preparation for voting on Election Day. Tiffany Tertipes/Unsplash

Good morning, L.A.

Election results are still coming in, but those who’ve already secured the vote are making swift moves. Last night, newly elected District Attorney George Gascón met with leaders of Black Lives Matter L.A., as well as some families of people who have been killed by police.

The evening was significant because it was Gascón’s first official meeting as D.A.-elect, and because Gascón’s predecessor, Jackie Lacey, was taken to task repeatedly for allegedly refusing to meet with the activist group.

During the campaign, Gascón pledged to reopen four fatal police shootings if elected. At last night’s event, he was reminded of that promise. Activists also repeatedly told him that they would continue to hold him accountable for law enforcement’s deadly use of force.

"We can't be the full mothers that we want to be because our child is gone," said Lisa Vargas, whose son Anthony was shot 13 times in the back by Sheriff’s deputies. "In order for us to trust you, you gotta earn that trust. It's not just going to be given to you."

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, November 11

On this Veterans Day, Robert Garrova profiles Luther Hendricks, 95, one of the first members of the all-Black Montford Point Marines, the Marines’ equivalent of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Carla Javier covers LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner’s rollout of a return-to-campus plan, which would allow parents to choose between hybrid classes and online only instruction.

A UC Irvine Law clinic is demanding that the L.A. County Sheriff's department return a student journalist’s cell phone and camera memory card, which the clinic contends were unlawfully seized. In September, Pablo Unzueta says he was arrested while photographing protests over the shooting of Dijon Kizzee for the Cal State Long Beach student newspaper and that his equipment was seized. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez will have the story.

Some restaurants around Southern California are offering deals to current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and veterans. Christine N. Ziemba has some of the best options.

The Census Bureau is reporting that non-response rates were high this year for questions involving birth date, race, Latino or Hispanic origin. Caroline Champlin examines what happened.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Policing Law Enforcement: District Attorney-elect George Gascón met with members of Black Lives Matter-L.A. and relatives of people killed by police Monday night. L.A. County has agreed to pay $3.9 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of Ryan Twyman, who was shot to death by two sheriff’s deputies as he backed up his car in a Willowbrook parking lot in June 2019.

Election 2020: Michelle Steel has won the 48th Congressional District race, flipping the district back to red after the “blue wave” that swept California in 2018. L.A. County officials updated election returns on Monday afternoon, providing a clearer look at the voter turnout and several key races. Prop 15, which would have undone part of Prop 13, failed to pass.

Coronavirus Updates: COVID-19-related restrictions are now tighter for 11 counties in California, including three that slipped back to the most restrictive purple tier – San Diego, Sacramento and Stanislaus.

True Crime: This week's Servant of Pod goes behind the lens -- and the mic -- with true-crime legend Marc Sperling, a pioneer true crime documentarian who co-created the podcast Crimetown.

Photo of the Day

Lisa Hines' daughter, Wakiesha Wilson, died in a jail cell. Police have alleged it was a suicide; Hines and others believe Wilson was killed. Here, Hines speaks to D.A.-elect George Gascón.

(Frank Stoltze/LAist)

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