California Republican politicians and pundits are stuck in the 1980s when it comes to crime, criminal justice and policing. They think it makes good politics to exaggerate the extent of crime and scapegoating policies like Proposition 47. And in some jurisdictions, it is.
Prop. 47, for context, reduced a handful of crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Notably, it had the support of Newt Gingrich and Rand Paul at the time. It was approved in 2014 with nearly 60% of the vote.
And, let’s face it, for better or worse (and I’d say it’s for the worse), being in the superminority, Assembly Republicans generally seem at peace with being irrelevant and pandering to their shrinking base.
Kiley, unsurprisingly, is once again running for another office. That’s all he seems to do, having lost races for state Senate and governor in the last few years. He announced his run for Congress soon after introducing his bill to repeal Prop. 47, which yielded plenty of news stories despite the fact that everyone knows it has zero chance of getting anywhere. It’s not supposed to. It’s about grabbing headlines and reinforcing worn out narratives. That’s all.
It’s simple: it’s an election year.
Hence, Republican Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, James Gallagher of Yuba City, and James Patterson of Fresno have introduced bills in Sacramento to either totally repeal or partially repeal Prop. 47.
Kiley’s reason for introducing a pointless bill is the same reason Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas of Bakersfield introduced his own Prop. 47 repeal bill. Salas, who is plainly in the pocket of the police and prison guard unions, is also running for Congress and wanted to prove to Republican voters that he’s not like those other Democrats, or whatever.
Now, having said of this, politicians will do what they do. Being a fraud is in the job description. But media outlets have contributed to this farce.
The Fresno Bee editorial board decided to jump in this past week with an utterly inane take. The Fresno Bee called for placing Prop. 47 back on the ballot, after uncritically quoting Patterson as saying, “The reason crime statistics are down is because they changed the kind of crimes reported in the statistics.”
I’ll help out the Fresno Bee editorial board and Patterson. The California Department of Justice publishes crime reports, with explanations of what goes into the reports and even breakdowns of the crimes. You can go to oag.ca.gov/crime. On page three of the 2020 Crime in California report, they might be surprised to find this note, “It is no longer possible to distinguish felony from misdemeanor larceny-theft. Therefore, it was decided to include total larceny-theft crime in the property crime category regardless of value.” They might even be surprised to see breakdowns of larceny-theft into categories, including as low as $50 or less.
And, for the record, larceny-theft rates per 100,000 people have declined from 1,538 since Prop. 47’s passage in 2014 to 1,326 in 2020. Notably, the Fresno Bee editorial board didn’t bother to acknowledge Proposition 20’s existence or defeat. That was the 2020 measure to curtail criminal justice reforms, including Prop. 47.
Prop. 47 isn’t the problem. Cynical politicians and half-baked media takes are the problem, for they mislead the public and waste time on nonsense when they could be working on actual solutions to actual problems. It should be remembered that Prop. 47 has freed up more than $500 million since 2014, which is required under the measure to be reinvested in crime prevention, drug treatment programs and other much needed efforts. But don’t expect to hear an acknowledgment of that from those who whine about Prop. 47.
The Fresno Bee editorial board, I guess, has decided to now support “a retrograde and racist prison spending scam.” Odd. They must’ve forgotten they opposed Proposition 20, calling it “a retrograde and racist prison spending scam.”