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tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  August 6, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm PST

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closed captioning of this program is made possible by the fireman's fund foundation. >> belva: tonight, supporters of gay marriage celebrated a federal court decision while opponents immediately filed an appeal. the speculation is over. oakland's mayor, ron dellums, says that he will not seek re-election. san francisco's efforts to overturn proposition 209, the state's ban on affirmative action, failed. and a conversation about new research that creates beating heart cells. research that creates beating heart cells. coming up next. captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund
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♪ >> belva: good evening. i'm belva davis, and welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me on our news panel, aimee allison, journalist with, on the oakland mayor's race. bob egelko, staff writer with the "san francisco chronicle" on san francisco's challenge to proposition 209. and starting with josh richman, legal and political affairs reporter with the "oakland tribune." josh, on what constitutional grounds did judge vaughn walker make his ruling on proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage? >> well, the judge found that it violates both the due process
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clause and the equal protection rights provided under the 14th amendment, basically saying that gay and lesbian couples who want to marry are being deprived of their liberty to have this fundamental right to marry under the due process clause and that they're being disadvantaged without any rational justification, that there's no -- there's no proof of a compelling government interest in restricting this fundamental right that he found that there is to marry. basically, it's the first detailed trial record, the first findings of fact that establish this. and that's why this case is so significant. this is going to go up the appeals chain. most people expect it's going to end up at the united states supreme court. both the 9th circuit and the supreme court will review his legal conclusions de novo all by themselves from scratch. but they have to give deference to his findings of fact. the things he heard and saw and
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interpreted from the testimony and evidence presented at trial. this is the first time that kind of record has really been established. and that's what people are so enthusiastic about, or i should say proposition 8 opponents, gay marriage advocates are so enthusiastic about. >> belva: we've not heard much from the proponents of proposition 8 since this has been -- this ruling. >> well, they are -- they are busy. they have already filed their appeal to the 9th circuit. they had actually filed a pre-emptive motion with judge walker to stay the effect of his ruling pending that appeal to the 9th circuit. the judge said today is the deadline for written arguments on whether or not his ruling should be stayed. the proponents of prop 8 had argued that a stay is essential to averting the harms that would be created for the state if there is another window of opportunity that will then be cut off for people to engage in same-sex marriage. we already have 18,000 couples married from the last such
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window of opportunity. they contend that the uncertainty essentially would be very destabilizing and burdensome for the state. the state says not so. both attorney general -- attorney general jerry brown and governor arnold schwarzenegger today filed briefs saying no problem here, let's start the marriages next week. if we have to change that later on, fine. but you the judge have found that there's a fundamental constitutional right that's being abridged for people here and we can't allow that to continue. >> what's not at all clear is whether marriages that were conducted, let's say, if judge walker's ruling took effect right away, would be valid or whether there would be a judicial divorce if the judge were later overruled. >> there's a lot of uncertainty out there. there's a lot of speculation on what he'll take into consideration in terms of making this decision next week on whether to stay. some legal scholars say that judges tend to try to preserve the existing status quo and not change things up while the appeals are still ongoing.
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on the other hand, the plaintiffs' lawyer, david boies, last night was talking at the commonwealth club about how there's this finding there's a fundamental constitutional right being abridged and judges are hesitant to let that go on for a year and a half of appeals very often. so there are a lot of things to weigh. >> i'm interested in what's happening outside the courtroom because it's clear that the battle for hearts and minds is going to continue, particularly outside the rainbow belt. there are celebrations here. but the national organization for marriage is still doing their whistle stop tour, trying to convince people that gay marriage is wrong. in fact, the head of the organization said that the judge's ruling was something like a soviet-style takeover of marriage. so the vitriol still continues. >> yeah. >> what's that going to look like on the ground, though? >> well, i think that there's going to be vitriol all the way up to the supreme court and well beyond whatever the supreme court does from one side or the other. yeah, the national organization for marriage is out there
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stumping away in other states to try and hold the line on this issue. it's sort of blown back into politics here in california somewhat. barbara boxer's campaign a while ago was trying to make a big deal -- i should say barbara boxer's supporters were trying to make a big deal of the fact the national organization for marriage, which had basically bankrolled prop 8 in the first place, was now helping to bankroll an organization, a latino family values outreach group that's backing carly fiorina. >> belva: this is a federal hearing. so would this have any impact? if it doesn't, i know when it gets to the supreme court, but does judge walker's ruling -- >> judge walker's doesn't right now at the moment. it deals with california's constitution. but as it works its way up the judicial ladder, his decision is framed broadly enough so that there is the potential for national impact depending upon how the appellate courts handle it. there are some who think that the 9th circuit could possibly address this in a narrower way, sort of tailored to california's
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peculiar situation of already having some couples married and not allowing others that would limit the national impact and maybe the supreme court would pass on it. but i don't think -- >> belva: finally, the political side of this. will this become a football in the upcoming november election? >> oh, it already is. you saw exultant, happy statements on wednesday from jerry brown and barbara boxer and kamala harris. you saw very cautious, well, this is only a trial court, we have to appeal this, it's the will of the people is at stake statements from meg whitman, carly fiorina, and steve cooley. so this is -- at least here it seems like there is a distinct partisan divide, although the lawyers are quick to say it's not a partisan issue. >> belva: okay. well, i mentioned political football, and i move now to oakland because i think oakland's mayor probably has thought that that's been his fate over the last couple of years. so aimee allison, tell us, were there any surprises that ron dellums decided not to run?
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>> you know, it is and it isn't a surprise. i mean, it was a surprise because he and his team had originally planned for today to be a press conference and to announce that he wasn't going to run. and it's also historic because he's the only mayor that, you know, chose not to seek a second term in the history of the city. it wasn't very surprising, though, because he hadn't filed the right paperwork and there's already been two mayoral forums that he and his people were very clear he was not going to participate in. and i think generally the silence from city hall said more than he could have said at any time. so i think people were not surprised. they are surprised, though, they waited this long. but remember, back in -- jerry brown, when he decided to make his announcement for re-elect n re-election, he also waited for the very last day to hold a press conference. >> the city of oakland, the finances of oakland are, you know, not something that i think
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most mayors would want to claim as their legacy. it's a mess. laying off police. apparently no financial wherewithal to rehire them. the officers saying even before the layoff they weren't going to enforce a lot of criminal laws. who's -- dellums called himself the master strategist. whose responsibility is this? obviously, the person at the top has to -- the buck has to stop there. but would it be fair to lay this at dellums' doorstep? >> we've got a strong mayor in oakland. jerry brown made sure that we do. and we in oakland wanted to see a little bit more of that strong mayor, especially because the budget, 75% of our general fund in oakland is fire and police. there are some structural problems with the way the money's being used. there's an overly generous contract with the police officers association that they've been wrangling over. they became a privileged class of city workers.
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and as soon as the city instituted this kind of zero contribution to pension, that's when the financial problems started. i would say that, you know, it's the mayor for showing leadership to deal with these structural problems but the city council who just voted to put additional taxes in front of homeowners in november who also need to bear a lot of the responsibility, particularly because some of those same city council members who signed the original oakland police officers' contract are still in office. >> so with dellums now definitively out, what do you see the dynamic of the race shaping up to be to succeed him? is there a presumptive front-runner? >> it's an interesting question because of course former state senator pro tem don perata was considered by many to be the front-runner because he's so powerful and he has access to deep, deep pockets from all his years in sacramento. i don't think it's going to be that easy. i don't think he's going to be a
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shoo-in. we have two city council members, gene kwan and rebecca kaplan, who are working really, really hard. and we have this x factor, which is rent choice voting. the first time oakland voters are going to go to the polls and be able to choose up to three candidates. and what that means on a practical basis is the kind of knockdown, drag-out kind of campaigning that oakland is very accustomed to, that happens in local politics. we're going to see that, one, that's not going to work. and, two, if gene kwan and rebecca kaplan are smart they'll figure out they'll get a percentage of people that will sort of coalesce, hey, i'll be two to your one, that kind of thing, they may be able to pull something off. oakland residents, out of those three candidates, only one or two are visible in the community. and i've gotten some mailers and -- attacking gene kwan and rebecca kaplan funded by the prison guards association which
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has -- by the way, it's a state association who's taking an extremely deep financial interest in what happens in the city of oakland. you've got to question that they're really backing don perata. it's a wait and see. it's going to be very, very interesting. >> belva: you forgot one other candidate who's entered this race. >> you're talking about joe timmons. he's a political commentator and he's a professor. smart guy. he made his debut at the second mayoral forum and impressed a lot of people. i think what people in oakland are looking for, and i think joe timmons is going to respond and be good for some. i think what people are looking for is a roll up your sleeves administrator and leader. with crime, with policing, education, and jobs. those are the big issues in oakland. >> belva: is there still a lot of hope in oakland that somebody can solve the problems in oakland? >> here's the thing to know. hope is what kind of got us into the dellums situation in the
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first place. because ron dellums ran on this stellar track record as a venerable and revered congressman who came back to oakland, and i was in the room when he made the decision. it was very last minute. and i remember him thinking i'm not really sure, my wife and i aren't sure, but i'm going to do it. and he immediately started talking about task force that's were going to tap the expertise. and he didn't follow up on that, and the hope died. >> belva: now we're going to go to the polls again in november, and it will be -- thank you so much. bob egelko, you have to explain to us proposition 209. it's been around a long time. in the courts san francisco had a case that was just decided. tell us about what 209 is, and then tell us about san francisco's case. >> remember when. i mean, 1996, prop 209 was the issue.
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prop 209 was passed to outlaw essentially affirmative action, which was renamed racial preferences, in education, public contracting, public employment. it was upheld by a federal appeals court in 1997, and there we all figured the question about its constitutionality would have ended. the state supreme court interpret td rather broadly in 2000 and said that it ganz not on only what are called preferences but even outreach to minority contractors. so it seems to prohibit racial classifications, any consideration of race. that was then. i should mention the san francisco case before we get any further. san francisco since 1989 had bidding preferences for minority and female contractors. the latest version of it passed in 2003.
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5% to 10% bidding preferences. the rationale being they've always been underrepresented. the share of city contracting dollars, no matter what we do, remains below what you'd normally expect. and we can find, the human rights commission looked into it and found some practices that seem to discriminate against them. well, the argument by some white contractors was this clearly on its face violates prop 209, they're racial preferences, and it does. san francisco argued, number one, that we can get around 209 if there's deliberate discrimination, but number two, 209 really is unconstitutional. and state court have never considered that. it turned out that when they raised that argument jerry brown, the attorney general, candidate for governor, chimed in and said yeah, you know, i think 209 is unconstitutional, the reason is that it disadvantages minorities, it places this political impediment against minorities in a way that
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it doesn't against veterans that want preferences. veterans can just go to the city council. >> they accused attorney general jerry brown last year of political expediency in taking that position since the previous attorney general -- or a previous attorney general, i should say, dan lundgren, back in the day when this was a new issue, had gone the other way. >> yeah. well, maybe it was political. i don't know. there's a legitimate legal argument to be made. and as it turned out, the state supreme court this week didn't buy it. 6-1 they ruled that prop 209 is constitutional for basically the same reason that the federal appeals court did in 1997. that is, that it may make it more difficult for minorities to get preferences, as they put it, but preferences themselves are of questionable constitutionality. and i think that's really what's changed. because when 209 was on the ballot there still was something you could call affirmative action. it was a thriving minority admissions program. there were minority contracting
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and employment programs, school integration. now with the john roberts court at the supreme court level, it's questionable whether any minority preferences will be allowed. a couple years ago in a school integration case that came within one vote, basically making 209 the law of the land. >> i want to ask you about that because lots of -- the uc system has done this. local school districts have tried to get around 209 in the 14 years that it's been in place. the question is is this court ruling on the san francisco case the nail in the coffin for affirmative action statewide? >> interesting that they've left san francisco out. they've said we will not kill your program, you can go back and try to convince a trial judge that it's still valid because you deliberately discriminated and this is the only way to remedy it. possible. difficult but possible. but on the school level there's still a berkeley case where berkeley is actually allowing diversity by neighborhoods. the racial composition of neighborhoods to promote racial
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diversity. in other words, you get certain points if you live in certain neighborhoods and that's the way you determine school enrollment. that's been challenged under prop 209 as well. so far it's won its lower court rules. the state supreme court's going to consider it and that could hold the key to whether we still have any such considerations legal in california. >> belva: so prop 209 is here but not here. diminished somewhat by this ruling. not -- >> perhaps there's an exception to it. it's constitutionally valid. maybe there's a way around it. we'll see. >> belva: okay. well, my thanks to all of you for joining us here tonight. well, also in the news this week, democrats in sacramento presented their budget proposal. the plan calls for an oil severance tax as well as hikes in vehicle and income taxes. at the same time it slashed the state sales tax. predictably, republican lawmakers called the proposal dead on arrival, as did the governor's office. an alameda superior court judge issued an injunction against ac transit on monday.
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their contract with their union workers expired at the end of june. and this injunction prevents the transit authority from imposing a new contract and requires management to honor the old contract during binding arbitrations. and in san jose polling has convinced the city council to abandon hopes of putting a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax on the november ballot. like most cities, san jose is operating with a deficit and looking for ways to close its budget gap. coming up, we'll be having a discussion of groundbreaking research on heart cells.
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♪ >> belva: well, there was exciting news this week about revolutionary heart cell research. here to explain it is the director of the gladstone institute of cardiovascular disease at ucsf, deepak srivastava. would you please explain to us just what's all the excitement about your findings just published today? >> well, i think the thing that i'm most excited about is that we might finally have a new approach to treat people who suffer from and die from the number one cause of death both in men and women in the united
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states. and what that is is heart disease, where there are over a million people each year in the united states that suffer a heart attack, where a vessel will close up immediately and parts of their heart muscle will die. and half of those, nearly half of those individuals, unfortunately don't survive that episode. the other half that do survive are left with hearts that are damaged. what happens is that these connective tissues, connective tissue cells within the heart start to expand and they create a scar over where the heart muscle died. and that scar obviously can't squeeze. the muscle around it squeezes. so these patients are left with -- they survive but they have damaged hearts. they can't walk up a flight of stairs or they can't park their car and walk across to their place of work. and we've had very limited ability to treat these people. and i think now we might have a new way. >> belva: and so what is the new way? >> so what we've found now is that there's a way, we've discovered a way to take those
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same connective tissue cells that normally would form a scar and instead of them forming a scar transform some of them into beating heart cells that can contribute to not just scar formation but also create new muscle within the heart. so it's sort of a new way to regenerate heart muscle from within, from the cells that are already right there in the -- >> belva: what is a beating heart cell? >> so it turns out that only -- that only half of the cells in the heart are ones that actually squeeze and contract like this, and those are the ones that allow the heart with every heartbeat to squeeze blood out to the body. the other half of the cells are these sort of structural, or architectural types of cells that we call connective tissue that bring support to the heart, but they don't beat. and what we've now been able to do is convert those cells into ones that can actually beat. >> belva: so you're repairing cells that are in the heart.
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so you're not introducing something into the heart? is that right? >> that's the hope here. because our laboratory and many stem cell laboratories like ours have been trying for years to make stem cells in a dish turn into beating heart cells and then put them into the heart. and we're still trying to do that. and we hope that that can work as well. but if this approach could work in humans, it might be a lot easier because then we wouldn't have to put cells into the organ, risk them being rejected or dying, but rather take the cells that are already there and harness them to turn into beating muscle cells and regenerate the heart without having to go through all this injection of cells. >> belva: so this is a safer method than stem cell? and explain the difference between stem cell and -- >> we think it might be safer if we can get it to work like we think we can. stem cells hold a lot of promise also. but you have to put them into the heart. and then one of the challenges we face with stem cells, and we
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worry a lot about, is if there are any rogue stem cells, if you will, left over in what we put into the heart that still have the potential to turn into other cell types of the body, which is characteristic of stem cells, we worry that we might then introduce a hair cell or a bone cell into the heart. we try to not make that happen, but that's a concern. these cells would be a little bit different because we found a way to turn these connective tissue cells not into a stem cell and then into a beating heart cell but rather sort of skipping the stem cell stage and going directly into a heart cell. and we think that might make this a bit safer. >> belva: are there any words of caution in the description -- >> there are always words of caution. we wouldn't of course want too many of these connective tissue cells to become muscle cells because we need those cells also
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for the architecture of the heart. but those cells fortunately have the property that unlike muscle cells that after birth can't divide anymore and make more of themselves these cells actually can divide even after birth, and we think they'll be able to -- >> belva: and of course you know the question. when? how soon would you be able to do it? >> well, there are several things that have to happen before we can start to treat patients with this approach. the first thing is that so far we've done the -- been able to do this in cells in a mouse. and so the very first thing we're trying to -- very aggressively to do is see if these same factors -- there are three genes that can do this, these three same genes can do the trick in a human cell. and if we can do that, then we have to be able to replace these factors with substances that we can load into a stent maybe into a heart and have those factors go into the muscle and reprogram the cells that are within. >> belva: well, exciting news. and we thank you so much for sharing it with us. and i'm sure there are thousands
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of people out there eager for this work to move forward. >> thank you. >> belva: well, that's all for tonight. visit us online at to watch complete episodes and segments of our program. you can also subscribe to our newsletter and our podcast and share your thoughts about the show and our stories. a reminder that the film "a day late in oakland" about journalist chauncey bailey will air tonight right after our program. so i'm belva davis. good night.
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