- California high court to rule on key Prop. 8 issue (SF Chronicle)
The California Supreme Court has rejoined the battle over same-sex marriage, agreeing to decide the crucial question of whether sponsors of an initiative can defend it in court when state officials refuse to do so. The justices issued a unanimous order Wednesday granting a request by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that the high court decide whether the backers of Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative banning gay and lesbian marriages, have the right under state law to appeal a judge's decision declaring the measure unconstitutional.
- Bill would force state officials to defend ballot propositions (The Informant)
As the California Supreme Court announced that it will weigh in on the issue of whether a group of anti-gay-marriage activists can defend Proposition 8 in court, Republican State Senator Tom Harman has introduced a new bill that would apparently ensure that such a question would never have to be decided again. Under Senate Bill 5, or the “Attorney General: defense of initiative statutes” bill, Attorney General Kamala Harris would be obligated by law to defend the same-sex marriage ban in court–something both she and her predecessor, now-Governor Jerry Brown have famously refused to do.
- Fruitvale Gang injunction defendant denies criminal connections (Oakland Tribune)
Since the city attorney proposed a Fruitvale gang injunction in October, several defendants have been joined by scores of protesters in demonstrations against police abuse, and 13 have been arrested for new crimes -- but none testified in his own defense until Wednesday. Javier Quintero, 27, is one of 40 adults accused by City Attorney John Russo of being active in the Nortenos street gang, which police say is behind half the violent crime in the troubled neighborhood. If the lawsuit is successful, Quintero and others will be forbidden to gather with one another or members of any other gang. They'll be disallowed to wear certain colors and forced to obey a 10 p.m. curfew.
- Bay Area pot raids net 10 arrests and 22 pounds of marijuana (Bay Area News Group)
Police arrested 10 people, seized $70,000 in harvested marijuana and shut down seven grow houses during raids Wednesday in San Francisco, San Mateo County and the East Bay. The searches, which targeted an Asian drug-trafficking network, netted $100,000 in cash, 2,200 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, 22 pounds of pot and four guns, according to a statement from the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force. Undercover agents had spent a year investigating the operation.
- SF Unions Warn Rank-and-File City Employees of Tough Times Ahead (Bay Citizen)
When the city's unions united in November to soundly defeat Proposition B, a controversial ballot initiative that would have required city workers to contribute more toward their pension and benefits costs, their mood was jubilant...Now, city employees are being told to prepare themselves for another onslaught. Adachi is preparing yet another ballot measure for November, and he said in an interview last week that he now thinks $200 million in savings are necessary. Edwin M. Lee, the city's newly appointed mayor, said in an interview with The Bay Citizen yesterday that a far greater figure — $300 million to $400 million — is in the ballpark of what will be necessary.
- Records show ICE backtracking on immigration program (SF Examiner)
Federal immigration officials hastily changed their opt-out policies after officials from San Francisco and other counties actually took them up on the assurance that they could not participate in a controversial program to identify illegal immigrants. A trove of e-mails released Wednesday provide insight as to why the Immigration and Customs Enforcement response to Sheriff Michael Hennessey was so confused — jumping back and forth on the question of whether a local community could refuse to take part in the program.
- San Francisco parents say best school choice not always close to home (SF Examiner)
...The changes to the San Francisco Unified School District placement system, which was approved a year ago, update a decades-old selection process that used a complicated diversity-index lottery. A variety of factors — including socio-economic status, language and race — were used to determine where students should go. In some cases, students were bused across town. For years, many parents fought to change the placement system so they would have a better chance to send their kids to schools near their homes. But now that the selection process has changed, not all parents are celebrating the rebirth of neighborhood schools in The City.
- School-zone crackdown nabs numerous drivers (Gary Richards, San Jose Mercury News)
...San Jose police fielded 816 online traffic complaints last year, and many were about bad driver behavior in school zones. They targeted 50 schools this week, and the number of tickets will run into the hundreds. It could be thousands, judging by the complaints that Roadshow gets. The usual culprits aren't commuters or young people but parents dropping off their kids at school. "It's parents, coming and going," said Sgt. Paul Harmon, head of this team. "Going too fast, stopping in the middle of the street, letting their kids out in traffic."
- Borders to shut 11 area stores in bankruptcy filing (SF Chronicle)
The president of the American Booksellers Association likened it to "a slow-motion train wreck." Lying in the wreckage are at least 11 Borders stores out of 19 in the Bay Area, some of which will start closing this weekend. Close to 500 employees in the region will be laid off. Hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space, including in San Francisco's Union Square and San Jose's Santana Row, will become vacant.
- California high-speed rail could feel ripple from Florida (Bay Area News Group)
California is now the nation's only state close to building a high-speed railway after Florida killed its project Wednesday, casting further doubt on whether there is enough national support to fund the Golden State's train line. In the short term, Republican Gov. Rick Scott's decision to quash construction of Florida's costly high-speed train between Tampa and Orlando could inject up to $2 billion into California's forthcoming $43 billion bullet-train line. Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday that he'd welcome the money and reiterated his support for the project.
- Jury screening concludes in Bailey murder trial; final jury to be selected March 21 (Chauncey Bailey Project)
The screening of prospective jurors in the Chauncey Bailey murder case ended late Wednesday -- five days sooner than expected -- with Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon announcing he has qualified enough people for the jury pool. "That's it for the interviews," Reardon said at the end of the seventh day of juror questioning. "I am done." He had scheduled 12, daylong sessions to screen potential jurors.
- Who Benefits from Enterprise Zones? Nobody Knows (Bay Citizen)
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate California's enterprise zones has generated a heated debate between business and labor groups. Business groups say eliminating tax breaks associated with enterprise zones will cause companies to shed workers in the midst of a recession. Organized labor claims the zones drain hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state's coffers every year without stimulating employment. Research from the Legislative Analyst's Office and two well-regarded think tanks back up labor's view.
- Man with Hamas items on computer can be deported (SF Chronicle)
...Tareq Abufayad, then 24, was returning from college in Egypt to join his family in San Mateo four years ago today when he was questioned at the airport by a customs agent who said Abufayad had a "confrontational" attitude. A search of his computer hard drive produced what an agent described as "jihadist materials," including some that referred to Hamas. The group governs Gaza, where Abufayad lived, and the U.S. government considers it a terrorist organization. Abufayad has been in immigration jails ever since. He said he had never joined or supported Hamas and that the items in his computer concerned current events in Gaza, some of which he hadn't read.