Constitution Day is September 17 – Take the Preamble Challenge
PHILADELPHIA –– Many Americans are poorly informed about basic constitutional provisions, according to a new national survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey finds that:
- More than half of Americans (53 percent) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution;
- More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment;
- Only a quarter of Americans (26 percent) can name all three branches of government.
“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are.
The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections.”
Illegal immigration and constitutional rights
The APPC survey, conducted Aug. 9-13 among 1,013 adults in the United States, finds that 53 percent think that people who are here illegally do not have any rights under the Constitution. That incorrect belief is especially strong among self-identified political conservatives – 67 percent think it is accurate, compared with 48 percent of moderates and 46 percent of liberals.
In fact, immigrants who are in the United States illegally share some constitutional protections with U.S. citizens. More than a century ago, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886), a case involving an undocumented Chinese immigrant, the Supreme Court ruled that non-citizens were entitled to due process rights under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Other cases have expanded upon those rights. (For more on Yick Wo, see this video on Annenberg Classroom’s website.)
Most respondents, though not all, know that under the Constitution, U.S. citizens who are atheists or Muslim have the same rights as all other citizens. Seventy-nine percent of respondents know it is accurate to say that U.S. citizens who are atheists have the same rights as other citizens, and 76 percent know it is accurate to say that citizens who are Muslim have the same rights as other citizens.
What does the First Amendment say?
Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights. And far fewer people could name the other First Amendment rights: 15 percent of respondents say freedom of religion; 14 percent say freedom of the press; 10 percent say the right of assembly; and only 3 percent say the right to petition the government.
The First Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Contrary to the First Amendment, 39 percent of Americans support allowing Congress to stop the news media from reporting on any issue of national security without government approval. That was essentially unchanged from last year. But the survey, which followed a year of attacks on the news media, found less opposition to prior restraint (49 percent) than in 2016 (55 percent).
Many don’t know the branches of government
Only 26 percent of respondents can name the three branches of government (executive, judicial, and legislative), the same as last year. People who identified themselves as conservatives were significantly more likely to name all three branches correctly than liberals and moderates. The 26 percent total was down significantly from APPC’s first survey on this question, in 2011, when 38 percent could name all three.
In the current survey, 33 percent could not name any of the three branches, the same as in 2011.
Constitution Day and the Civics Renewal Network
APPC’s Annenberg Classroom, presented by the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics, has created a series of free, award-winning videos for educators and the public, including Yick Wo and the Equal Protection Clause, The Role of the Courts, and Freedom of the Press: New York Times v. United States.
Annenberg Classroom has joined with 30 other nonpartisan organizations to create the Civics Renewal Network, which offers free, high-quality educational materials online. Among CRN’s partners are the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Constitution Center, the U.S. Courts, the NEH’s EDSITEment Project and iCivics.
Constitution Day (Sept. 17) will be observed Monday, Sept. 18. To mark it, the U.S. Courts are holding naturalization ceremonies nationwide and educators will lead students in the “Preamble Challenge,” celebrating the Preamble to the Constitution.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center was established in 1994 to educate the public and policy makers about the media’s role in advancing public understanding of political, health and science issues at the local, state and federal levels. Find APPC on Facebook and Twitter: @APPCPenn. Follow the Civics Renewal Network: @CivicsRenewal.Read More
SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) voted ‘no’ on SB 595, which would require the nine Bay Area counties to hold a special election, known as Regional Measure 3, to propose raising tolls on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area. After the vote, he issued the following statement:
“I recognize the need for funding transportation improvements, but after much thought, I believe adding another tax on commuters is not the answer. I ultimately voted NO on the bridge toll bill because $8 per crossing is just too much of a financial burden on drivers. If you commute from Solano County to San Francisco – entailing two bridge tolls that would potentially total $16 a day – that’s highway robbery.”Read More
SACRAMENTO – The state Senate on Thursday passed legislation that will give Bay Area voters a chance to create an independent inspector general for BART to hold the sprawling transit district accountable for its spending, service to riders, and timely delivery of capital projects.
The inspector general was proposed by state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) as part of a bill by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) that will ask voters to raise bridge tolls to fund transportation projects designed to relieve traffic congestion in the bridge corridors.
The bill was approved by the Senate on a 27-13 vote.
Glazer, a longtime critic of BART, insisted that voters be given the option of creating the accountability czar as a condition of his support for placing the measure on the ballot. Other major transit agencies, including those in Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, have long had inspector generals to serve as an independent check on the bureaucracy.
“BART stands to gain about a billion dollars from the toll revenues this measure would generate,” Glazer said. “It’s only fair that riders and residents get an extra set of eyes and ears inside the agency to hold the administration accountable.”
If approved by voters, the inspector general would be appointed by the governor from a list of three finalists nominated by the BART board. The person could be fired only with a two-thirds vote of the board and the governor’s agreement.
The BART inspector general would be tasked with investigating fraud, waste and inefficiencies, conducting audits and recommending changes in the agency’s practices that will improve services to riders.
And in a twist, Glazer, who has been at odds with BART’s unions in the past, insisted on adding a line to the inspector general’s mission requiring the office to assess whether management was using best practices to promote “positive and productive” relations with employees and their representatives.
“The vast majority of BART employees are hard-working, dedicated public servants who share their customers’ desire to have trains that run on time, stations that are safe and clean, and escalators and elevators that work when they are supposed to,” Glazer said. “I hope the employees and their unions will find an inspector general to be an effective ally in making those things a reality.”
Glazer also pushed for amendments to the bill that ensured Contra Costa and Alameda county commuters would see a fair share of congestion relief projects if the toll increases become a reality.
Projects to improve traffic flow on Interstate 680 and rebuild interchanges where 680 connects to state routes 4 and 84 were included in the final version of the proposed spending plan.
Glazer praised Sen. Beall, and Assemblymen David Chiu and Phil Ting of San Francisco and other members of the Bay Area legislative delegation for a collaborative process that allowed for input from throughout the region and a final proposal that included the crucial provision to oversee BART’s administration and spending.
“No one got everything they wanted, but this is a fair compromise that will give the voters an opportunity to fund projects designed to relieve congestion throughout the entire region while providing independent oversight of the district’s practices,” Glazer said.Read More
By Daniel Borsuk
On an initial split vote, Contra Costa County Supervisors picked Superior Court Judge Diana Becton to complete the nine remaining months of former Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson on Tuesday.
Supervisors initially made their preferences known on a 3-2 split vote, to pick Becton from a field of five well-qualified competitors, for the top county criminal prosecutor post that pays $21,415 a month. Supervisors John Gioia of Richmond who represents District 1 and Diane Burgis chose Becton, while Candace Andersen and Karen Mitchoff chose Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. Board Chair Federal Glover broke the tie and stated his preference for Becton.
A few minutes later, supervisors voted to unanimously approve the selection of Becton as interim DA.
She has announced her retirement as judge in order to assume the DA position next Monday.
Becton, the first African American female judge to be selected by former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, will now become the first African American and first female in history to be in charge of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, an office marred by scandal, most recently the June resignation of Peterson for illegally spending of $66,000 of his campaign funds over a five-year period for personal use, then not disclosing it on finance reports. In 2008, the county DA office was rocked when deputy prosecutor Michael Gressett was charged with allegedly raping a female DA colleague.
Graves, who had won the endorsement from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Association and most all of the police officers associations in the county, has already announced his candidacy to run for the DA office in the June election. Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, another applicant for the interim post, has also announced his candidacy. Vanier, who is running on a campaign of conducting a “comprehensive audit” of the department, did not draw a vote from any supervisor.
In addition to Vanier, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, a former San Francisco prosecutor, did not attract any votes from supervisors, either. Douglas portrayed a conservative management “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” style that may have turned off supervisors.
During the public hearing prior to the supervisors’ vote, Becton had scored the most support from 20 out of 40 speakers, many who had acknowledged the judge’s 22 years of criminal courtroom experience and progressive views about bail reform and the need to decrease the rising number of BART crimes, gang and freeway shootings. Becton also earned the endorsement of the NAACP clergy, following the East County Branch’s public interview of the five applicants, last Saturday.
On the topic of plagiarizing material for her application for the post Becton admitted, “I did liberally copy from all sorts of sources. I own those mistakes. But you have to look at my 22 years of service in this county of working with integrity to improve our criminal justice system.”
She also stated that she didn’t think U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) would have a problem with Becton’s use of her words.
Under questioning from supervisor Andersen, Contra Costa County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Kensok, a 30-year veteran of the DA office, also admitted he had copied material in his application without identifying his sources.
“I should have put in quotation marks, but I did not think of it,” he said. “There was no intent to deceive. I’m sorry for the way it came out.”
So far Becton has not stated whether she will run in the 2018 election campaign for the full-time position.
Sheriff David Livingston chipped in a recommendation that supervisors might want to develop a duo DA position with Beckton/Kensok holding the post in a caretaking status until the June election. That idea did not draw any reaction from supervisors.
“There is need for change. The department needs to be transparent,” said Glover of Pittsburg, who represents District 5. “We want the department to think differently, and Judge Beckton can bring that.”
On the initial vote, District 4 Supervisor Mitchoff voted for Graves because of his “integrity and extensive prosecution experience.” Later on the supervisor joined her colleagues to make the appointment of Becton unanimous on a second vote.
Andersen of Danville, who represents District 2, had also initially voted for Graves, but later voted to support Judge Becton. “We need to have a person who can restore public trust, public safety, and protect the mentally ill who enter our criminal justice system,” she said in support of Graves.
District 5 Supervisor Burgis of Oakley said, “My first choice is Judge Diane Becton.” Burgis said Becton will promote diversity and that “she’s earned the trust of our community.”
Supervisors to Consider Rubicon Contract
In a related matter, supervisors will get an update at their Tuesday, Sept. 19 meeting on the status of a $408,750 contract with the non-profit ex-felon organization Rubicon Programs, Inc.
With the contract expiring at the end of September, a political tiff has developed between Livingston and Gioia, who had opposed the recently approved $70 million West County Detention Jail expansion in north Richmond, a major project of the sheriff.
The problem is the CCP panel is not scheduled to convene until November, too late to renew the Rubicon Contract for the West County Reentry Success Center.
SACRAMENTO – The full Legislature has approved a bill by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) which would assess a financial penalty on candidates who lie on ballot statements when seeking political office. AB 894 now goes to the governor for his signature.
AB 894 would impose a fine of up to $5,000 if a candidate includes knowingly false information on statements they submit for inclusion on election ballots. The fine can be multiplied if an offender is convicted on associated criminal charges.
“Candidates who shamelessly lie to voters are committing fraud and they should pay the penalty,” Frazier said. “For many voters, the only information they may have about a candidate is what the candidate submits for a ballot statement. This is especially true in down-ballot races, such as the Board of Education, which usually don’t get a lot of media coverage.”
Frazier authored AB 894 after a Jeff Belle, a candidate elected to represent East County on the Contra Costa County Board of Education in 2014, was found to have blatantly lied about his qualifications, background and criminal record in the candidate statement he submitted for inclusion on the ballot. Instead of a punishment, the candidate received just an entry into a diversion program for offenders. The current fine for intentionally misleading voters on ballot statements is $1,000.Read More
They really do go everywhere, man!
The Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority known as the Tri Delta Transit bus system, is launching a new downtown circulator route serving the downtown Pittsburg area. New Route 381 begins service September 25, 2017 and will travel between the Pittsburg Marina, through downtown Pittsburg, to Los Medanos College. So, now like their TV ad states they really do go everywhere.
The new route will be the shortest and quickest route in the Tri Delta Transit system. From start to finish, the trip takes only 20 minutes and operates every 30 minutes. “This is a terrific route to access many downtown restaurants and shops as well as big-name stores, and shopping centers in Pittsburg,” said Director of Marketing, Mike Furnary. “Route 381 will provide service to popular destinations including Los Medanos College, Wal-Mart, Atlantic Plaza, Pittsburg Health Center, The East Contra Costa Clinic, downtown Pittsburg, Pittsburg Marina, Pittsburg High School (Railroad Ave at School St.), City Park, Pittsburg Senior Center, Pittsburg Courthouse, and Pittsburg Library.” New Route 381 operates 22 times every day, Monday thru Friday. New bus stops will be added along Railroad Avenue in downtown Pittsburg offering pick up and drop off just steps away from many downtown restaurants and shops. New bus stops will be located on Railroad at 5th Street and 8th Street.
Route 381 will eventually serve Pittsburg Center BART, currently under construction. “For those in the area who currently use another bus route to Pittsburg Bay Point BART, they might be better served by Route 381 once the new station is operational,” said Furnary.
Route 381 is being introduced along with a newly revised schedule going into effect on September 24, 2017. In addition to new Route 381, one-time change is being made to the schedule. “We’ve made one adjustment to our Clockwise Route 383 serving Oakley and Antioch,” said Furnary. “This change will allow an earlier arrival at Freedom High School in Oakley, making Route 383 Clockwise a more reliable option for Freedom students.” Times on all other routes will not change from the previous schedule. To see times Route 381 will operate and all other bus schedules and times, visit Tri Delta Transit’s Web site at www.trideltatransit.com. New printed schedules will be available on buses the week of September 18, 2017.
Tri Delta Transit was named small bus operator of the year in 2014 by the American Public Transportation Association, the national representative for public transportation in Washington DC. They provide over 3,000,000 trips each year to a population of over 250,000 residents in the 225 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County. They operate 13 local bus routes Monday – Friday, 4 local bus routes on weekends, door-to-door bus service for senior citizens and people with disabilities, and shuttle services to community events. For additional information about Tri Delta Transit, please visit www.trideltatransit.com.Read More
Detectives from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff are looking for 22-year-old Antonio Morales of Oakley in connection to an attempted homicide incident in Byron.
At about 2:04 AM on September 2, 2017, Deputy Sheriffs were dispatched to a report of a shooting on the 3000 block of Taylor Road in Bryon. Callers also reported an unknown suspect speeding through a parking lot with his vehicle aimed toward a group of people. Initial reports indicated the vehicle, a Nissan Maxima, struck numerous people, shots had been fired and several people were injured.
The suspect vehicle fled the scene. Two people were hit by the car. They were treated and released from the hospital. Detectives later identified Morales, the driver, as the suspect. There is a warrant for his arrest for two counts of attempted murder.
Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Morales or on this case is asked to contact the Investigation Division at (925) 313-2600 or call the anonymous tip line at (866) 846-3592. Tips can also be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.Read More
Emerging drone technology moves construction and engineering into the future
On Tuesday morning, September 12, 2017, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and Alta Vista Solutions showcased two emerging technologies on a construction project aimed to improve commutes on Highway 4 in Brentwood (aka the Bypass). Engineers piloted drones equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) lasers–a surveying tool that uses a laser to create high-resolution geographical data.
The combination of the two emerging technologies has never been done in construction before and opens untold possibilities for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology and related jobs in the future. CCTA featured the system in action by providing a live feed of a drone flight. The feed from this morning’s drone flight can be viewed at altavistasolutions.com/media – bar .
With assistance from engineering firm Alta Vista Solutions (Alta Vista), who proposed the new method, CCTA is flying the LiDAR scanners to measure the volumes of earth that need to be moved during this $74-million project to rework the Balfour Road interchange. The drones ensure that the cut-and-fill earthwork goes efficiently. With LiDAR’s pinpoint accuracy, CCTA can now make needed calculations and monitor site conditions faster, eliminating the unavoidable guesswork involved in manual surveys. Putting LiDAR on drones gathers 15 gigabytes of precise, high-quality data per month, cutting down drastically on time spent surveying. The drones also improve safety by taking workers out of live traffic.
Drone capabilities enable CCTA to track construction progress firsthand as work on Highway 4 continues.
“We are always looking for new ways to increase safety and efficiency on construction projects,” said CCTA Executive Director Randy Iwasaki. “Drones give us aerial views of the site that were hard to come by before, making it safer for surveyors to do their job and helping us manage the large volumes of dirt that are being used to improve this intersection. This technology also allows us to monitor environmentally sensitive areas without disturbing the habitat.”
“This will change engineering and surveying,” said Ed Greutert, principal engineer at Alta Vista Solutions. “Innovations like combining LiDAR and UAVs are opening doors in infrastructure and making us efficient, effective, and safe in ways we couldn’t achieve before.”
Greutert also addresses fears of job loss as automation increases. “Using technology to do the surveying work can lead people to ask if this is the next step to the robot apocalypse – are drones going to take our jobs?” he speculates. “Not quite. It’s going to change jobs. It’s going to create new jobs in technology—and in the Balfour Road case, help people get to work faster.”
CCTA has faced challenges in being the first to test these technologies together.
“This has never been done. LiDAR on a UAV hasn’t worked until now – there are huge possibilities if we can be creative enough to really tap into them,” Greutert noted.
Handling the unprecedented quantity of data generated has also posed a challenge. However, in recent months, the team has succeeded in processing the hundreds of gigabytes collected.
“There are always challenges to pioneering new technology,” Iwasaki said. “But with the benefits this technology can provide in terms of keeping workers safe and managing a complicated construction project, I believe we’ll start to see more widespread use of drones on construction sites within a few years – especially as we discover new applications that can help save time and money. Right now, CCTA is excited to be leading efforts in this new frontier.”
About the Contra Costa Transportation Authority
The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) is a public agency formed by Contra Costa voters in 1988 to manage the county’s transportation sales tax program and oversee countywide transportation planning efforts. CCTA is responsible for planning, funding and delivering critical transportation infrastructure projects and programs that connect our communities, foster a strong economy, increase sustainability, and safely and efficiently get people where they need to go. CCTA also serves as the county’s designated Congestion Management Agency, responsible for putting programs in place to keep traffic levels manageable. More information about CCTA is available at ccta.net.
About Alta Vista Solutions
Alta Vista is a California-based engineering firm that has been recognized as the 20th fastest-growing engineering firm in America by Inc. 5000 and was named by Zweig Group as one of America’s Hot Firms. Alta Vista has quickly differentiated itself by performing customized quality management strategies for some of the most complex infrastructure projects in the world. Over the past decade, Alta Vista has worked with public and private organizations to complete large-scale engineering projects that better serve their regions. Known for engineering services that include engineering, inspection, testing, unmanned aerial systems, quality management, and structural health monitoring, Alta Vista has grown and diversified and has been acknowledged in 2017 by ENR Magazine and other media outlets for using innovative solutions and technologies to deliver infrastructure projects faster, better and more cost effectively. For more information about Alta Vista, visit altavistasolutions.com.Read More