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When Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Alameda Assemblyman Rob Bonta as California Attorney General last year after Xavier Becerra left to join the Biden administration, the decision drew much praise. and few surprises. Smart and energetic, the Yale Law School graduate had the credentials and had long been considered a rising political force. He was also a prominent member of the mainstream progressive wing of his party and hailed as an aggressive advocate of criminal justice reforms. It was also a milestone that he was the first Filipino American to serve as an attorney general in California. Five of the 10 US metropolitan areas with the most Filipinos are in California, including San Diego.
But there’s growing reason to wonder if he really wants to be the constructive and outspoken attorney general California needs. His refusal to truly address deep concerns about Proposition 47, passed by state voters in 2014, and Proposition 57, signed into law in 2016, is exposed in a wafer-thin response in the San Diego Union-Tribune Q&A Editorial Board. It’s also evident in his refusal to be interviewed by Politico news outlets at ABC 10 in Sacramento for stories about his campaign.
Proposition 47 more than doubled the monetary threshold for when people could be charged with criminal theft, bringing it to $950. Police chiefs, district attorneys and many crime victims say this has led to a culture of impunity in which brazen thefts are committed time and time again by people who realize they face little consequence. . But the problems with this ill-conceived sentencing reform are even worse than some critics claim: in states across the country, the reduction of legal consequences for drug-abusing offenders has undermined the incentives for such offenders to participate in drug court registration – perhaps as high as 50 percent in California.
Proposition 57 was equally flawed. Touted as a smart way to keep nonviolent offenders out of state prisons, it amended the state constitution to define rape of an unconscious person, malicious wounding of a child, certain types of domestic violence , assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and many other similar crimes as “non-violent”.
Our editorial board has long supported criminal justice reform. Too many young offenders face onerous sentences that prevent them from saving their lives. But when so-called reforms arrive that help 78% of voters in the state raise alarm about crime — as happened in February — it hurts the cause. Because 26 months of the pandemic likely had a downward effect on some crime rates, Bonta and some advocates for 47- and 57-year-olds have at times challenged the idea that crime is really the problem so many people think about. But that will be small consolation for store owners facing bankruptcy due to mass shoplifting and for the victims of San Francisco’s astonishing rise in vehicle burglaries, including 3,000 nothing. only in November.
Bonta will be more inclined to avoid substantive comment on the issue if his fall opponent is former U.S. Attorney Nathan Hochman, a skilled and admired attorney but also a Republican who once served in George W’s Justice Department. Bush and running in a state. who rarely elects the GOP to constitutional positions like this. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert would be a far more formidable rival. She’s a Republican-turned-independent, pro-choice, and dismissive of Donald Trump, who was the first gay person elected to office in all of Sacramento County. In interviews, she wondered what was progressive about telling people “that domestic violence is a non-violent crime”. But she is not a caricature of law and order. She blames the state for insufficient rehab funding to help offenders bounce back. In our Q&A, she praised state laws limiting officers’ use of force and promoting transparency.
It is on this file that Bonta should face much more heat. As a member of the Assembly, he castigated state laws and court rulings that he said had the effect of protecting rogue officers from the consequences of their actions – and allowed them to easily move on to new jobs when their departments grew tired of their continued misconduct. In his early days as Attorney General, he pledged to do a much better job on the issue than his predecessor, which shouldn’t have been difficult. In 2019, Becerra threatened to punish a journalism program associated with UC Berkeley because it had legally obtained tapes of crimes committed by 3,500 past and present law enforcement officers — a police state tactic and an abuse of power that will haunt Becerra’s image forever.
Incredibly, however, the editorial boards of The Mercury-News and East Bay Times reported this month that Bonta had continued his predecessor’s legal battle to block the publication of certain records chronicling extensive police misconduct. Californians deserve better than that from the best cop in the state. Schubert has far more promise of being an independent voice that doesn’t cut corners when pressed on its policies. We endorse Schubert for the job of attorney general and look forward to a campaign between her and Bonta where he will be forced to tackle the issues a lot more.