Category Archives: City Visions
Is Racial Segregation In The San Francisco Bay Area Getting Worse? Tonight on City Visions

Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area may pride themselves for being part of one the most diverse cities in the nation.  But both data and anecdotal evidence indicate that the area’s extraordinary economic growth in recent years has led to growing inequality and racial segregation. With rents and home prices soaring, low-income and minority populations are being pushed out from job-rich urban centers.

What is the social, economic and environmental impact of low-wage earners living further and further outside the cities where they work?  Can housing policies reverse these trends?  And what does this mean for a region that prides itself on its identity as a bastion of progressive politics?

To hear a discussion about these issues and more, tune in tonight at 7pm to City Visions on KALW, local public radio.  Guests include:

  • Miriam Chion, lecturer at U.C. Berkeley in the Department of City and Regional Planning.
  • Chris Schildt, Senior Associate at PolicyLink.
  • Tony Roshan Samara, Program Director of Land Use and Housing at Urban Habitat.

Tune in or stream it live on KALW 91.7 FM.  And please call, email or tweet us with your questions.

Standardizing Food Labels To Avoid Waste

Food waste is a staggering problem.  Researchers estimate that Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food each year. Globally, we waste or lose 1.3 billion tons of food annually. The economic costs are significant: the typical American family spends about $1,500 on food that they throw away, adding up to billions of dollars of waste.

Environmentally, it’s also a huge contributor to climate change.  Analysts have documented that food waste leads to 3.3 gigatons [billion tons] of CO2 equivalent emissions, making it the third top emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.

One relatively straightforward solution is for the food industry to standardize food labeling.  Fortunately, an industry group has agreed to tackle the problem, per NPR.  The Consumer Goods Forum is a network of 400 of the largest food and consumer goods companies around the globe (including Walmart, Kellogg, Nestle, Campbell Soup, and Amazon), with a plan to harmonize labels:

These are the two standard phrases that you can expect to see on food packages in the future: “BEST if Used By,” which describes the quality of a food product. This term is meant to convey that “the product may not taste or perform” its best after the specified date, “but it is safe to use or consume,” explains the Food Marketing Institute in this release.

The second term is “Use By,” which applies to highly perishable products. “These products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date,” explains the FMI.

This is an important step that will hopefully give consumers more guidance about when to throw out food or not.  We’ll still need to tackle other parts of the problem, such as minimizing waste in the fields and at markets, but consumer education is a big need.

If you’d like to hear more about how to reduce food waste, check out this City Visions discussion I hosted in August on KALW FM 91.7.

HBO’s “Silicon Valley” Star Matt Ross — Tonight On City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM

undefinedTonight on City Visions I’ll be interviewing actor, director, writer – and Berkeley resident – Matt Ross.

You may know Ross from his role as Hooli CEO Gavin Belson on the  HBO show Silicon Valley. He is also the writer and director of last year’s critically acclaimed movie Captain Fantastic, which netted an Academy Award nomination for lead actor Viggo Mortensen.

Ross will discuss what inspired him to create this unusual, thought-provoking movie, as well as reflect on Silicon Valley – the place and the show – and perhaps offer insight into who the characters are modeled on.

You can tune in live at 7pm on 91.7 FM in San Francisco or stream it on the web. Feel free to send me your questions in advance — I hope you can join the conversation!

Reducing Food Waste — Tonight On City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM

Most of us throw out old food all the time. But combined with the food waste from grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses, it’s become a serious economic, environmental, and even moral problem. Astonishingly, researchers tell us that 40% of all food grown in the United States each year winds up in the trash.

This waste occurs while nearly 1 in 5 children in California goes to bed hungry each night.  The economic losses are significant, and the waste also creates an environmental problem, as the decaying food emits potent greenhouse gases.

So what can we do differently on farms and in restaurants, grocery stores and our own homes to reduce the amount of food wasted? Join us tonight on City Visions when we explore the topic of food waste and find out what several Bay Area organizations are doing about it.

Guests will include:

  • JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate in the Food and Agriculture Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Chris Cochran, Executive Director of ReFED
  • Mary Risley, Founder of Food Runners

You can tune in live at 7pm on 91.7 FM in San Francisco or stream it on the City Visions website. Feel free to send me your questions for the panel directly. Hope you can join the conversation!

Gene Editing Plants, Animals, & The Unborn — Tonight At 7pm On City Visions

Gene editing techniques have the potential to cure genetic diseases in humans, transform agriculture, and even help the environment.  But at this point, the technology raises more questions and concerns than it answers.

Should we be manipulating the genomes of the unborn? How can this technology be equitably distributed and effectively regulated? And what role does the public play in this debate?

I’ll be discussing the social, ethical and legal implications of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology tonight at 7pm on City Visions on KALW 91.7 FM.  Joining me will be:

Tune in or stream live tonight — and please call or send in your questions.

Can Technology Solve Our Sleep Problems? Tonight On City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM

Sleep — or more like the lack of a good night of it — is shaping up to be the new health craze.  Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are betting big time on it, investing time and money to develop devices they claim will monitor and improve the quality of our rest.

Are we really doing a bad job sleeping these days?  What are the consequences?  And will these new technologies help us get a better night’s sleep?

Join me tonight at 7pm on City Visions, on local public radio KALW San Francisco, as I host a discussion on the current state of sleep with:

  • Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford; Medical Director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center; and Director of the Stanford Center for Human Sleep Research.
  • Nancy H. Rothstein, MBA, known as The Sleep Ambassador and Director of CIRCADIAN Corporate Sleep Programs.  Nancy serves on NIH Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board and on the Steering Committee of
  • Liz Rockett, MBA, MPH, director with Kaiser Permanente Ventures, where she invests in healthcare IT, digital health and technology-enabled services.

You can tune in on 91.7 FM in the Bay Area or by streaming the show on-line.  Please send us your questions for discussion on the air!

Is San Francisco Ready For A Safe Injection Facility? City Visions Tonight At 7pm, KALW 91.7 FM

Should San Francisco provide an indoor, medically supervised facility where drug users can safely and legally inject?

Last month, the board of supervisors convened a special task force to examine this issue. Harm reduction advocates and local public health officials support it, but many members of the community are concerned about what it will mean for the city’s neighborhoods and for those who would utilize the services.

I’ll be moderating a discussion on the pros and cons of safe injection facilities in San Francisco tonight on City Visions at 7pm.  Panelists include:

  • Alex Kral, Director of the Behavioral and Urban Health Program, RTI International
  • Gary McCoy, HIV/AIDS activist and Recovery advocate
  • Laura Thomas, Deputy State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

City Visions airs on local public radio KALW 91.7 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area and via our website.  Call in, comment, or email with your questions!

City Visions Tonight: Interview With Photographer And Former MTV Reporter Tabitha Soren

Image result for tabitha sorenTabitha Soren made her mark as a political reporter in the early days of MTV. But these days she has turned her interest in photography into a successful second career. Her new book Fantasy Life tracks the baseball players drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 2002 “Moneyball” draft, made famous by her husband, author Michael Lewis. It’s a photographic series that captures that wide range of outcomes for these young players, from fame to destitution.

I’ll be discussing this book and more about her photography and career tonight on City Visions, 91.7 FM KALW. Tune in or stream it to ask your questions!

Democracy In America — An Update

This January, I hosted a City Visions radio discussion on the state of democracy in America.  The show’s two guests have researched public opinion on democracy and found alarming trends, with declining belief in the value of this system across many demographic groups.

President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey has now raised alarm bells among democracy experts, including my guest on that show, Harvard’s Yascha Mounk. caught up with Mounk, who had this to say in the wake of the firing:

“Trump has talked like a would-be authoritarian since day one. … This is the first clear warning sign that he’s attempting to [act like one].”


“We now have to watch out for two things,” Mounk says. “The first is whether [Trump] nominates a clear partisan hack, like Rudy Giuliani [to run the FBI],” and the Senate confirms that pick instead of blocking it. “The second thing to watch for,” says Mounk, “is whether this is the beginning a whole series of similar appointments to similar institutions.”

But how likely is it that someone with authoritarian leanings like Trump can actually end our democracy, short of the traditional coup? Our system is famously designed to decentralize power, not just within the three branches of government, but devolved to 50 semi-autonomous states. And erosion is certainly different from actually overturning democracy.

If I were try to “game out” such a takeover (minus the possibility of the aforementioned military coup), it would probably look like this:

  1. Consolidate control over the executive branch. That would mean firing anyone not loyal (a la Comey) and exerting control especially over agencies like the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA — in short, any power center that could threaten the executive with oversight and intelligence gathering/leaking. That would also mean firing or monitoring employees within the agencies who are disloyal.
  2. Interfere with congressional oversight or elections. Congress represents the one giant check on the presidency. Right now, due to partisan loyalty, the congress is not exercising that authority, but that dynamic could change if Trump’s support erodes among the Republican base (although those voters so far appear not to have lost much faith in their leader). But due to voter suppression and gerrymandering, the House of Representatives is already skewed in favor of Trump’s party, while the Senate has long been counter-majoritarian by design.  Whereas it used to favor small states, it now favors rural voters at the base of Trump’s support. But could an authoritarian take further steps to interfere with congressional elections? Two worrying signs: Trump’s recent executive order to create a “voter fraud commission,” which could lead to partisan legislation or appointments that interfere with state election processes, and the recent resignation of the U.S. Census Bureau head, which could portend changes in how population is distributed and counted among congressional districts, which in turn could weaken opposition party representation.
  3. Control the judicial branch.  Due to an unprecedented degree of obstruction of Obama’s judicial appointments by Senate Republicans, they’ve now handed Trump control over the U.S. Supreme Court with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, as well as many district court-level vacancies.  It’s not clear that appointed judges would necessarily support authoritarian or anti-democratic maneuvers, but we’ve generally seen Republican-appointed judges uphold efforts on partisan gerrymandering and rolling back of Voting Rights Act protections — a worrying trend.
  4. Generally undermine voter confidence in democratic institutions and the media.  Trump has been following this pattern by disparaging institutions and leaders, as well as the media, as corrupt and illegitimate and deliberately spreading falsehoods to undermine confidence in government (like lying about the population count at his inaugural, for example).  These efforts engender apathy and distrust among the voters, possibly making them more willing to allow greater transgressions of democratic norms over time.

Trump has four years to make headway on these strategies, if that’s his intention.  And with a strong economy and no war in 2020, he potentially has eight years, with his family members now positioned to follow him into power, should he get too old to serve.  He also has a partisan majority in government to support these efforts.

On the flip side, an active press, emboldened media, and judiciary with integrity can remain a bulwark against authoritarian moves.  And the voters ultimately have the final say.  If Trump loses support among his base, as I mentioned, enough Republicans would then be likely to support checks on the presidency through proper and independent oversight.

America’s democracy has a lot of built-in safeguards, but it’s hard to deny that it is under duress and really has been for at least the past few decades, as my guests on City Visions described.  But the rot doesn’t come from the top — it comes from voter apathy and disillusionment with our government.  Unless democrats (with a small “d”) make headway against those trends, the fight to preserve this system as we’ve known it will be that much harder.

Criminal Justice Reform Debate On City Visions TONIGHT: Does Less Time Mean More Crime?

California used to be a “tough on crime” poster child, with a strict “three strikes” law that led to overcrowded prisons during a time of decreasing crime nationwide. But recently the state has changed directions, with voters approving criminal justice reforms to ease sentencing guidelines, coupled with court decisions requiring the state to address prison overcrowding.

To debate the success of these measures and discuss pending reform proposals, I’m hosting a City Visions discussion tonight at 7pm on KALW 91.7 FM, with guests:

Tune in or stream at 7pm tonight, and send me your questions or comments for the guests to address on the air.

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