tv This Week in Northern California PBS January 20, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PST
>> close captioning of this program is made possible by the fireman's fund foundation. >> governor jerry brown gives an optimistic, yet sobering state of the state address saying california is on the mend while pitching higher taxes and budget cuts. >> and digging ourselves into a deep financial hole to do good is a bad idea. in too time of uncertainty, prudence and paying down debt is the best policy. >> brown also asked for support of california's multi-billiion dollar high-speed rail project. but is it headed for a crash?
an in-depth report explores the issues. >> i'm sure in time that they're going to need the fast rail. but, you know, they don't have to take and just because they can where we're going to just take all this property away from people. >> court oversiegts of the state's prison system may be coming to an end as realignment helps reduce overcrowding with lower level offenders being shifted to county jail. and san francisco sheriff pleads not guilty to three misdemeanor charges at his arraignment while refusing calls for him to step down by groups fighting domestic abuse.
>> belva: good evening. welcome to this week in northern california. joining me tonight are rachel gordon, san francisco chronicle city hall reporter. and marissa lagos, a san francisco political reporter. and john myers, sacramento bureau chief for kqed joining us from the capital. well, john, governor brown gave his state of the state address this week. and he's been touring the state ever since. well, what's the essence of what he's saying? >> you know, belva, i think the essence of what the governor is saying is trust me. trust me on my plain for the future of california. trust me on my plan for spending cuts. trust me on my plan for why we need additional taxes. and, you know, last year, the
governor spent all of his time here at the state capital trying to bridge the divide among legislators at the state capital and dealing with these budget issues. this year, he takes it on the road and he's got to try to bridge the very different viewpoints of where california should go with voters. and i think it's a pivotal year. i should really tell you, i think it's a pivotal year both for this four-year term of jerry brown and for the jerry brown legacy is whether or not he can get voters to sign onto his vision of the future. >> but i think we talked about this before. he really has a challenge here, right? he's pushing his project like high speed rail, water or haul of the entire statewide system while proposing welfare cuts, health care cuts and voters need to create taxes. do you think voters are going to buy those messages? >> it seems like that a little bit, doesn't it? i mean, this is tult malt juggle here. how do you balance this call for os terty with all of those kind of cuts with this call for
boldness, this vision that california can be grand again and we can do things on a grand scale. i think if anybody can do it, maybe jerry brown can do it. he certainly won last year on a campaign based on experience, on his know how and his knowledge on what california really is. but, you know, these are tough things to do. and, again, think about the way californians view taxes. this is the fundamental question, the $7 billion tax increase that would raise income tax on the wealthy, sales tax on everyone. when it comes to increasing taxes, regardless of what the polls say, it's a tough sell to get voters to tax themts. >> john, is the sale going to be to the state legislature or voters or the combination of both. if he has to go to the voters, what constituency do you think he's going to focus onto make sure that these proposals can go forward. >> well, i think first of all, most people will tell you it's a
bypass of the legislature this year at least on the issue of taxes. last year, it was about would republicans agree with him. so now he's taking the tax component of all of this directly to the voters. i think people overlook the fact that he has work to do in the legislature and i think he has work to do inside the democratic ranks of the legislature. his own democratic party. he's asking for another round of very tough cuts. he wants quick action on those cuts and we've already heard they're probably not going to do that. and he asking them to make very difficult cuts to social programs, to all kinds of other things that they care about in an election year where they're going to be challenged perhaps in some primaries around the stat by other democrats who say. >> belva: john, let's listen to a little bit of that speech right now. >> the cuts are not ones that i like, but the situation demands them. as for the initiative, it's fair, it's temporary, and it's half of what people were paying in 2010. and it will protect our schools
and guarantee in the constitution funding for the public safety programs we transferred to local government. >> belva: john, today there was some mention that the governor also wanted to maybe take the big water bond off the ballot? is that right? >> yeah, i think the governor is starting to lean that way. he told a lot of reporters that he's willing to reconsider that bond. it's an $11 billion bond package. and it holds a whole host of things about water supply, water reliability. and i'll tell you, though, it was a really tough thing to negotiate for the last governor in the legislature a few years ago to get it on the ballot. and i've got a feeling when you crack that thing open, everyone is going to want to redo the deal. and one of the way that is we keep watching here this week in that state of the state, he had this huge laundry list of things. water, pensions, reliability of renewable energy and, of course, the budget and high speed rail. how do you get all of this done? i think any one of those would
be quite an accomplishment for any governor. how are you going to get all of that done and run this campaign on taxes. >> especially when he's really kind of giving up on republicans. if you watch the state of the state, he made no effort to speak to them. i don't think he got a single clap out of republicans except for maybe on pensions. and so i think it's going to be difficult, yeah, if you have to open up a bond and you need two-thirds and you've given up on an entire party, why would they play ball with you especially when these bonds have so much pork in them to get lawmakers on board. and people are talking about reducing it. >> and, john, i guess at the same time he's talking about high speed rail which is another big expense. >> yeah, he really is. and that whole vision thing that we talked about earlier, belva, the governor is the single largest proponent of high-speed rail. the legislature has to act this year to appropriate the very first part of the bond money and there's some skittish legisla r
legislators on both sides of the aisle. >> but, john, on the high-speed rail, he needs the legislature to come in on this. we're not going to see that come frg washington. it's almost a no lose for him to say he's from this project where there's not going to be the money forthcoming right away from washington. >> you're right, rachel. but first and foremost, the voters approve this $9, $10 billion package back in 2008. if the legislature doesn't appropriate that first part, the whole thing falls apart. and look at the polls. the voters have said they would want a chance to vote again and might reject the entire idea. it seems to me that the governor is the guy kind of holding this thing together trying to preach that we need to think bold, as i said, about the future. >> belva: well, he's certainly having to prove that he has the energy to handle the problems of this state. thank you so much, john. well, as jonl mentioned, governor brown strongly defended
the high-speed rail project in his state of the state address. now, an in-depth report on the voter-approved bullet trains that have been running into a lot of resistance from throughout the state. >> belva: in downtown san francisco, construction has already begun on the $4 billion transit center. the vision is for a grand central station of the west. and as these schematics in the construction office show, high-speed rail is literally the foundation of that vision. scott roule does community out reach. >> california is going to grow by millions and millions of people over the next few decades. and we need to be thinking of ways to be able to accommodate the transportation needs of all of those additional people.
bullet trains would arrive every fu mints. even las vegas. but the prospects for high-speed rail have dimmed in recent months. last week's announcement that ceo will resign was the most recent blow. tom amburg also announced that he was stepping down as chairman, though he will remain on the board. >> this project is bigger than any one person. it's going to be a project that's going to require courage, vision, leadership over the course of at least the next two decades. so there's going to be a number of different chairs and a number of different ceos. >> belva: governor jerry brown and president obama on high-speed rail in california. >> it's now your decision to evaluate the plan and decide what action to take. without hesitation, i urge your approval. >> belva: the train's price tag is now around $100 billion. more than doubled what voters
approved in 2008. opponents in the legislature are proposing to halt the sale of $9 billion in voter-approved bonds. but the final nudge that could spell its cancellation may come from an unlikely spot. the central valley farming community of hanford, population 53,000 is half way between los angeles and san francisco. >> this is dead zero on the train. we're standing where the train tracks are going to be right now. where i've been told, more or less, that that's the angle taking out across my property. >> belva: geography and politics have made this ground zero in the fielgt. the central valley segment is the only part that can start construction in time to make deadlines for federal matching funds. project engineers push here. >> you better build that backbone system where you can
operate at high-speed to connect people over long distances. and that means you do not start in the city centers. you do not start at the ends. you basically start building that section when you're operating at high-speed. voting in the cities is generally the last part. once you connect the m metropolitan areas, you aim to get trains into the end stations. you normally do that through some form of failure of implementation. >> belva: high-speed trains complete their journey by slowing down and sharing tracks with cal-train and amtrak. >> my family has had a farm since the 1800s. my family will have to move. >> belva: but the decision to start in the central valley fuels a backlash. evident at meetings such as this one in bakersfield. >> i'm ross and this is my wife, phyliss. we've lived here since 2005.
but the property has been in her family since '42, 1942. her dad bought it and farmed 10 acres here. >> the house may be demolished. >> we bought this place with the idea that we were going to retire, spend the rest of our lives here. it's nice and quiet and serene. the grand kids love it when they come down here. and i see that all going up in smoke. i don't see that happening now. >> and i'm not against the fast rail. i mean, i'm sure, in time, that day're going to need the fast rail. but, you know, they don't have to take and just because they can where we're going to just take all of this property away from people. to me, it's just wrong. it's not right. >> it's just from grangeville and kdead ends on our property. >> this is not what i voted for because i was one of those
people that said, yeah, it sounds like a good idea, you know. getting to l.a. fast, that doesn't sound like a bad idea. we never thought that that proposition would lead to what we're going through right now. >> belva: the gaspers aren't convinced the roar of 200 mile per hour trains will terrorize their cow and they won't produce milk. >> you can tell cows are calm creatures. it's very peaceful and quiet out here. >> belva: but advocates say the cows will adapt, just like they have in france. that's a view shared by brad johns, the tomato farmer. >> you can demolish the house and they will pay you for the house. or, many my case, i am going to have them pick up the house and relocate it to another location on the ranch, set it back down, drill the well, put in the septic, hook up the power. they were willing to pay for all of that.
and i'm out of pocket nothing. >> belva: johns even hopes to put up solar panels and sell power for the trains. >> i envision when this train is finally built that most of the folks here in town will get up on a friday, decide that i would really like to go to san francisco for a bowl of clam chowder. and then they will decide there's a really nice show playing in las vegas and they will get back on that same train and be in las vegas for dinner, get back on the train and be home by midnight. >> belva: such visions can still become reality. >> this is a difficult and complex state. fine. underneath all of that is also a state where people believe that great things are possible. and i think that was what the governor was tapping into when he said that he supported high-speed rail because he still felt california was a place where we do big things. but it doesn't mean that it's not hard.
>> belva: if supporters prevail, san francisco's transbay may get its bullet trains or this vision for the grand central station of the west may end up, as the critics call it, a very expensive bus stop. well, that report was produced in association with train ward, a documentary tracking the people and political forces involved in california's high-speed rail project. you can find more information about that at kqed.org/thisweek. well, marissa, governor brown was pleased that judge felton henderson is talking about ending the court order that has kept the prisons in the limelight. why is the judge moving so fast, some are asking. and others are saying why not? >> yeah, i think some people say it's about time. well, just a little background here, we've been under a federal receivership for six years, governing everything from mental
health care to medical care in the prisons. this was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2001 that, basically, ended up with the judge saying one person is dying basically a week in the prisons because of inadequate care. so in the last few years, the states built federal medical facilities. we have had this realignment program that jerry brown put out that is not moving folks from the state prison. but i think that's something that people don't understand. when new offenders are being sentenced who are nonviolent, not sexual and nonserious, which is actually a legal definition, they're spending their time in the county jail. and that's resulted in nearly a thousand less bodies in state prisons per week. so, yeah, this week, judge henderson said the conditions are improving. he ordered both sides to kind of sit down and come up with a plan to extract themselves from this receivership by april 30th. but i don't think this is really entirely the end.
he said there's still going to be oversight. this is sort of the first step towards getting out from under this. >> why wouldn't the state not want to be under federal oversight? what could they do without that chain on them anymore if the federal government said you do your own thing. how have they been hampered? >> well, the health care costs in california prisons have doubled over this receivership. it hit a high of a little over 2 billion in 2010 and that's about $15, $16,000 per prison. some are getting a hundred thousand dollars worth of care and some are getting far less. i think it's out ovt state's hands in terms of running their own prison. no lawmaker, no governor wants to be told by another branch of government how to do things. >> on the other hand, i think they might like the excuses that we have to do this because the federal government is trying to. they have to get it from somewhere to make these improvements. >> i agree. and you're right, this court order, the supreme court last
year upheld these lower court orders and said that the state has to reduce its uponulation by about 30,000 inmates by 2013. i think it did give the governor political coverage. but ultimately, i mean, i think everyone in the state, including the receiver, he has said from the beginning, i do my job best when i get to walk away and not have this job. . >> belva: but earlier on, when we first heard about this, the impression was that people would be paroled or release to county frs the prisons as they are now. there's certainly three-strike people who thaugts this was going to mean something. that, you say, is not really the case. >> that's not happening. there's been no early release of state prisoners. now, some counties have had to release jail inmates early because they've had this influx of bodies and they've had to look at their numbers and say people at counties are also under court population caps.
as of now, the people getting released from prison would have been released anyway. this thousand drop a week is attrition. there's bodies going out, but not as many coming in. there's still concerns from the add voe vats that filed this true. but they also understand, i think, why the state is eager to get out from this. and i do think you have to give the governor some credit here. i mean, this is something that the last two administrations have really grappled with it, kind of came in toward the end of grey davis' time. brown is prepared to kill some of those constructions. so it's moving. >> belva: well, we have to move now to a man who is supposed to be in charge of the jails here. rachel, you have the latest on san francisco mayor. >> this is a new san francisco sheriff who was sworn in just about two weeks ago.
and he appeared in court today saying not guilty -- actually, his attorney said it for him -- not guilty to three misdemeanor charges relating to domestic violence on new year's eve. the charge was domestic violence and child neglect because the child was with them when this happened and dissuading a witness. it's very highly unusual to have happened where a public official, an elected official was appearing in court. he has steadfastly maintained his innocence on this. and his wife, a person who's allegedly bruised by him, by him grabbing her arm, says all of these accusations are false. he's not cooperating with prosecutors. in fact, it was a neighbor of the couple that called police after lopez came to her and talked about what happened or what she said happened. so that's kind of one of the latest things.
but the mayor ed lee in san francisco kind of weighed in saying i'm not going to try to get him to force him from office. he has that power as mayor to try to remove him from office. but i really want the sheriff to think about it over the weekend. can he do his job effectively if he's got these charges pending. he still has to run this jail system. it's pretty big. it's six jails and one of the largest law enforcement agencies in california. >> belva: what can he do except he can't go home because he's now barred from seeing his family. >> the court -- the judge said that he's going to have to stay awa from his son and his wife, at least a hundred yards away from them through the duration of the trial. now, it might be getting to court pretty quickly. he's living with friends. he's living with former mayor as
kind of taking him in and mentoring on how to deal with this. and he's going to work every day. now, he came into the sheriff's department after the sheriff had run it for 32 years and he also took the civilian staff where someone say there's a brain drain going on there. so he has to hire an assistant sheriff, a legal counsel, the undersheriff and number two in charge is waiting to retire and he was interviewing replacements for her today. >> that would have been a big enough job without all of this happening. but i have to ask, even if he fights and is successful in getting it acquitted, can he recover from this? these are serious allegations. . there was some very disturbing things in the affidavit that was released this week including comments that his child had made about mommy getting a boo boo from daddy. >> i think it's going to be something we have to look at. but he has a four-year term. so there's a little time for him
to recover politically. i think he can get away with a lot in san francisco. you can get away with drug use. cheating. vice crimes. but domestic violence really is this third rail when it comes to crimes, i think. and we're seeing somewhat of a gender divide and how people are responding to it. the domestic violence, victim's advocates were there this week saying we really want this man to step down. while this is here and while that taint is there, he really shouldn't be in charge of a system that deals with people who are in there for domestic violence charges. and, also, the jail system started under hennesee has done a tremendous amount to deal with inmates, how can they start to control their anger and violent tendencies. so he's in a real pickle on this. there's not a ton of people who are circling around him saying we're going to help you out. he's kind of out there alone. >> belva: briefly, how important is it that his wife is really standing up for him.
>> in domestic violence cases, the prosecution does not need the alleged victim to cooperate with them. but it's going to be a big hurdle for them. they're going to have to deal with what evidence they have and testimony from -- if they can use it from the neighbor. so it's going to be a big hurdle. but they're pressing far ahead. >> okay, more coming ahead because, afterall, you only now have his pleading. you'll have to see what the judge says. okay, thanks to both of you for joining us here tonight. and that is all the time that we have tonight. next week, a conversation with oakland's mayor gene quan. until then, visit kqed.org/thisweek. and in the meantime, we'll be rooting, i know you will be, too, for the 49ers as they play against that new york team for that championship game that we all hope we see here on sunday.