Category Archives: City Visions
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.

City Visions Conversation With Gov. Brown Senior Adviser Ken Alex, Tonight At 7pm

Pretty much everything boils down to land use, at one level or another. Certainly housing and office development is traditionally within that sphere, but so is energy development, when we think about siting new transmission lines or solar farms. Even electric vehicles involve permitting and siting public charging infrastructure.

Tonight on City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM, I’ll talk with Ken Alex, Governor Brown’s senior adviser and director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), which helps the state set land use policy. We’ll talk transportation, housing policies, water, and climate change. And beyond local government matters, Ken also helps the state with its international climate efforts like the Under 2 MOU.

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

UPDATE: audio available here.

Tech’s Gender Problem: Tonight at 7pm on City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM

The tech industry is dominant in the Bay Area.  Its products and services have already changed so much of our lives on a daily basis, while its growth has changed the commuting and physical landscape of the region.

Yet the industry has lagged on key markers of equality, particularly gender equity.

Tonight at 7pm on City Visions, I’ll moderate a panel asking about the efforts tech companies are making to open their doors to more women.  Will these measures prove effective? And where they lead, will other industries follow?

My guests will include:

  • Elizabeth Ames, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Alliances and Programs at the Anita Borg Institute

  • Carissa Romero, Partner at Paradigm, a strategy firm taking a data-driven approach to helping companies to build stronger, more diverse and inclusive organizations

  • Stephanie Lampkin, Founder and CEO of Blendoor with an engineering degree from Stanford and an MBA from MIT

Tune in on local public radio KALW 91.7 FM San Francisco or stream live.  You can also call or email with your questions.  Hope you can join the conversation!

UPDATE: Audio is now here.

Trump’s Environmental Policies And The Bay Area: City Visions Tonight At 7pm On KALW 91.7 FM

The Trump Administration has been hostile to environmental protections in both rhetoric and policies, arguing that rules to protect clean water, air and public lands have undercut our economy.  The president has signed rollbacks of environmental regulations and proposed a budget slashing funds for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental programs.  Meanwhile, tomorrow promises to bring a new executive order to unwind President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce pollution from the electricity sector, and to  ease restrictions on coal extraction on public lands.

How will these policies affect the San Francisco Bay Area — and beyond?  What will the future be for programs like bay restoration, regional transit improvements, and state policies to boost clean cars?

To discuss these questions, I’ll be moderating a panel tonight at 7pm on City Visions, on local public radio KALW 91.7 FM San Francisco.

My guests will include:

  • Jared Blumenfeld, former regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama
  • Anne Notthoff, Director of California Advocacy, San Francisco and Sacramento, for the National Resources Defense Council
  • Michael Wara, Associate Professor of Law, Stanford University

Tune in or stream live and call or email with your questions!

UPDATE: archived audio is now available.

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How Will Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Affect The Bay Area? Join City Visions, Tonight At 7pm, On KALW 91.7 FM

With the Trump Administration escalating deportations and expanding enforcement  beyond serious criminals, how will these policies affect the San Francisco Bay Area — and beyond?  What does it mean to be a sanctuary city?  And what options are available for protecting residents?

To discuss these questions, I’ll be moderating a panel tonight at 7pm on City Visions, on local public radio KALW 91.7 FM San Francisco.

My guests will include:

  • Sheryl Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission
  • Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney in San Francisco with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center
  • Sandy Valenciano, statewide coordinator for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance

Tune in or stream live and call or email with your questions!

Restoring Trust In The Media In The Era Of “Fake News”: City Visions Tonight At 7pm, KALW 91.7 FM

America’s trust in the media is at an all-time low.  As the media environment fragments and political leaders, including the president, routinely disparage the press, what are the consequences of a weakened media for our democracy? What can the press do to restore trust?  And how should Americans evaluate the news going forward, to stay informed and engaged in our political process?

Join me tonight at 7pm on City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM for a discussion on this issue.  My guests will include:

  • Sally Lehrman, director of the Journalism Ethics Program and the Trust Project at Santa Clara University
  • Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, university librarian and professor at the School of Information at University of California, Berkeley
  • Janine Zacharia, Carlos Kelly McClatchy Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Communications at Stanford University, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Middle East Correspondent for the Washington Post, and chief diplomatic correspondent for Bloomberg News in Washington

And if you can’t access the airwaves, anyone with wifi can stream the broadcast here.  Please email or call in with your questions for the show!

What Is The Future Of U.S. Democracy? Join City Visions Tonight At 7pm, KALW 91.7 FM

The new president sworn in last Friday caps one of the most tumultuous presidential election campaigns in our country’s history. Amid allegations of foreign interference, proliferation of “fake news,” gerrymandering, voter restriction laws, government investigations of the candidates and their advisors, and leaked emails, Americans trust in government and the media is at an all-time low.

Yet trust in these institutions and in a free and fair election is a bedrock principle of our democracy.  With declining confidence in this system — and its vulnerabilities on harsh display in this last cycle — what is the future of democracy in America?

I’ll host a discussion on this question tonight at 7pm on City Visions, KALW 91.7 FM.  My guests will include:

  • Yascha Mounk, lecturer on Government at Harvard University, a Fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America, and a Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund
  • Paul Pierson, the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

For those outside of the Bay Area, you can stream the broadcast here.  I hope you can join and bring your questions to the show!