The State of Black America®

Every year, the Urban League publishes a report on the State of Black America. This year’s report focuses on voting rights, and the myriad ways they are under attack, both from the usual suspects and new threats made possible by the Internet.

Porter Elementary School is in Crisis

Many of you will already be aware of the situation at Porter Elementary School, as it was highlighted in multiple articles in the Voice of San Diego.

For those of you who aren’t, there are currently complaints filed with San Diego Unified School District, the California State Equity Office and the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. These complaints allege discrimination, safety violations, inadequate response to special needs, retaliation and more. San Diego Unified’s own investigative process has deemed the claims justified.

And yet, the response from the District seems to be entirely defensive. The only counsellor for 833 students has been notified that her hours will be reduced next year. NAACP representatives were told just yesterday that they must be confined to the counsellor’s office or leave school grounds; not only by Principal Chavez, but also by Area Superintendent Bivins. We have sent a letter of protest to the School Board.

The school has no PTA. One the day we were there, a parent was complaining about sickness being spread on school grounds; she was denied a conversation with Principal Chavez, who emerged from her office shortly after the parent left.

While the District has claimed that a “special team of counsellors” has been assigned to the school, these were not in evidence during yesterday’s (all too brief) NAACP visit to campus, nor has the current school counsellor met any of these alleged worthies. Indeed, the guidance assistant previously assigned to the school declined to return after sustaining multiple injuries on school grounds.

We urge all San Diego Residents who are concerned about the deplorable state of Porter Elementary and schools like to to go to the May 14th Board of Education Meeting, and demand that SD Unified do better for our children, and operate under truly equitable best practices. Please submit a public testimony request form if you would like your voice to be heard.

We’ll warn you–you’ll have to stay late. In what appears to be a further effort to suppress community input, the Board suddenly and quietly changed its rules to permit comment only at the ends of its meetings, not near the beginning as is customary for most public bodies.

Porter Elementary is part of the Lincoln Cluster, so to warm up for the SD Unified School Board Meeting, you might go to the Lincoln Cluster meeting on Tuesday, May 13th. At that meeting, one of the trustees who was present when the NAACP was booted off Porter’s campus will speak. The meeting will also contain a presentation on LCAP, which is one of the few ways we can try to ensure the School District spends our money fairly and in line with the needs of our kids.


Political Action Committee Meeting: 6:00 pm TUESDAY April 16

The Political Action Committee will hold its first meeting of the year at 6pm on Tuesday, April 16th, 6pm at the Jacobs Center. New Chair Kamaal Martin is excited to get your input and involvement! Come if you care about law at the City, County or State level. Help monitor and influence legislation, the resulting policies, and the administration of those policies by government agencies and the courts. Encourage voting. All that is in the purview of the Political Action Committee.

Please note: this first meeting is on TUESDAY, April 16th, not Wednesday, April 17th as announced last week. Future meetings will be on the 3rd Wednesdays; only this first one is on a Tuesday.

Continued Engagement with the City of San Diego

Your branch has continued to engage the City of San Diego in an effort to land more contracts for firms of color, and more jobs for people of color.

Our delegation, led most ably by Vice President Francine Maxwell and Assistant Treasurer Wanda Rogers met with Mr Nagelvoort, Director of Public Works, and Mr Perkins, Deputy COO for Infrastructure and Public Works, among others, on Tuesday, January 29th.

We cannot say that we have progress yet, but we have found a couple of issues on which we can bring political pressure to bear, including applying SB 693 “Skilled Workforce” provisions to more City Contracts than just Pure Water. We will be continuing to engage with the City on this pressing problem of equity.

Will Bail Continue in California?


Earlier this year, the California Legislature passed SB-10, a bill that will, beginning in October of 2019, eliminate cash bail in favor of a system purporting to detain people according to their risk of re-offense or fleeing from trial.

The abuses of the cash bail system are well known.  Bail amounts are set without regard to the actual risk an accused person presents, poor people often are unable to raise even the required 10%, that same 10%, as it is non-refundable, can often tip a poor family into a downward spiral, excessive pre-trial detention is used buy prosecutors as a cudgel to get guilty pleas, and so much more.  The overall effect of the cash bail system is also highly racially discriminatory, with proportionally far many more people of color detained before trial than white folks.  However, there is always a way to make a bad situation worse.

SB-10 began as an honest attempt to address these problems, and replace them with a more just system.  However, massive revisions were made to SB-10 a mere three days before passage.  These revisions caused many organizations, including the ACLU and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice to withdraw their support for the bill, citing its potential to vastly increase pre-trial detention in California. (The Criminal Justice Committee has analyzed SB-10, and prepared a diagram of the process it envisions.)

Christopher White

In 2017, Christopher White was standing by his truck in Encinitas when his friend Jeremy Owens assaulted a local woman, grabbing her by the neck and beginning to pull her to the truck.  By his own account, he yelled at Owens to stop.  Owens stopped, and as the girl fled, Mr White yelled “Go in the house!”  His friend got in the truck, and the two men drove away.

Over that weekend, Mr White tried to convince Owens to turn himself in, and discussed with other friends Owens’ need for counseling.

The San Diego County DA’s Office charged White with attempted rape and kidnapping.  He was denied bail, on the grounds that he was a danger to society.  He was also offered a plea deal which included three years of unsupervised probation.

In Re White

A member of our Branch’s Criminal Justice Committee recently attended a meeting at the League of Women Voters, and got a chance to discuss White’s case (called “In Re White”; text of brief here) with his defense attorney, Laura Schaefer.

Schaefer explained that California is actually in a bit of a confusion around bail.  Cash bail (non-excessive cash bail) has been a right of California citizens under Section 12 of the California Constitution since before the turn of the last Century.  However, in the ecstasy of punitive spirit so common after the Civil Rights movement (and so often used to subvert the gains of that movement), multiple ballot initiatives weakened the right to release under Section 12.  Parts of the first measure were found in conflict with Section 12, but others were allowed to stand, and then the whole thing was relied on in another amendment, and SB-10’s vast apparatus of pre-trial detention is the latest bill to build upon this foundation.

Schaefer’s argument consists of two major points:

  1. Denying White’s bail was prosecutorial overreach and nonsensical on its face, as the DA’s Office simultaneously argued that White was too dangerous to be release before trial, but offered him a deal recognizing that he was not dangerous enough to even warrant supervision if he plead guilty.
  2. The initiatives that weakened Section 12 did so implicitly only, and the only correct way to amend section 12 is to do so explicitly.  Therefore, Section 12 still should apply in full.

If Schaefer were to win her case, those portions of SB-10 that build upon the ballot initiatives (namely, the pre-trial detention provisions, NOT the release-without-bail provisions) would be void, and cash bail would continue in California past October 2019.

There is a companion case to In Re White, called Humphrey, that specifically addresses excessive bail as unconstitutional under Section 12.  It could also invalidate much of SB-10.

Arguments are ongoing before the California Supreme Court.

Interested in Criminal Justice?

Get involved with our Criminal Justice Committee; email [email protected] for more information.