Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 7/8/20, AM | KALW

Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 7/8/20, AM

Jul 8, 2020

State Legislature Considers Rent Repayment Plan / Fact Checking Concerns About Mail-In Ballots / Gunman Threatens Black Lives Matter Protesters / Levi’s Crumpling But Not Folding

State Legislature Considers Rent Repayment Plan

The California legislature has proposed a repayment plan for unpaid rent due to COVID 19. The bill — SB 1410 — proposes a voluntary relief program that would keep renters in their homes, but could cost taxpayers as much as $10 billion. 

State Sen. Anna Caballero, who co-authored the bill, says it’s part of an effort to stabilize the housing market. 

The program would span between 2024 and 2034. During that time, tenants would make rent payments with their tax returns. In exchange, they would be protected from evictions for unpaid rent that accumulated during the pandemic. 

The agreement would also give landlords some relief, in the form of tax breaks equal to the amount of rent they are forgiving. They could also sell their tax credits for extra cash. 

The California Association of Realtors and the California Rental Housing Association oppose the bill. They say that the relief for landlords won’t cover their mortgage and maintenance costs during the 10-year period. And that selling their credits would be too complex and too risky, particularly for landlords with fewer properties.

Fact Checking Concerns About Mail-In Ballots

California plans to send all active registered voters a mail-in ballot ahead of the November election. But a citizens watchdog group says hundreds of thousands of those ballots will be sent to people who have died or moved.

The Election Integrity Project California made this striking allegation:

It says a whopping 458,000 ballots could be sent to those who have died or moved. They also say this could open the door to voter fraud.

Election officials say some ballots are sent out in error. But they’re highly skeptical of this large number. Sam Mahood from the Secretary of State’s Office says:

“They make you think election officials are derelict and that’s just not true. There are ongoing voter list maintenance activities that both the state and county election officials engage in.”

Ellen Swensen is with the Election Integrity Project. She says her group looked at people who died, their addresses and voting records to come up with the 458,000 estimate.

Now, there’s no law requiring the state to take people off the voter rolls just because they haven’t voted for a while. Still, Swensen says these are people that don’t exist anymore: 

“We’re just asking can you please, at least investigate it?”

Elections expert Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School says he strongly doubts so many invalid ballots will go out. But even if they did … 

That does not mean that they will be used to cast ballots that are counted. There are plenty of other safeguards in the process.”

The biggest protection is the signature matching requirement. A voter must sign the outside of their ballot’s envelope. That signature is then matched with the one on file.

In the end, we found it’s impossible to know how many wrong ballots will go out. What is clear is that election officials do, in fact, update the voter rolls. And they’re confident in the safeguards designed to stop fraud.

Gunman Threatens Black Lives Matter Protesters

On Sunday night, police in Martinez arrested a local man for brandishing a loaded gun at a group of people gathered near a Black Lives Matter mural. It’s part of a wave of backlash to the movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The mural spells out “Black Lives Matter” in bold yellow letters. It was painted on the street in front of the Contra Costa County courthouse by local organizers with permission from the City of Martinez.

The mural came to national attention after a video of a white couple defacing it went viral amidst a holiday weekend filled with racially charged incidents and speeches. 

In the video, a woman uses a roller and black paint to cover over the mural and says “this is not happening in my town.” Her companion, wearing a red Trump 2020 t-shirt, calls the mural itself racism and says that stories of police brutality, oppression and racism are a leftist lie. 

The following evening Martinez resident Joseph Osuna drove past the mural and began yelling “all lives matter.” He then got out of his car and waved a gun at an assembled crowd. After he left, law enforcement was notified, and Osuna’s vehicle was stopped a block away. A search of the vehicle turned up a loaded .22 caliber revolver. He was arrested for allegedly possessing a loaded and concealed firearm and taken to Martinez county jail.

Levi’s Crumpling But Not Folding

Levi's said, yesterday (Tuesday), that it will cut 700 office jobs, or about 15% of its worldwide corporate workforce, as it deals with a sharp drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. The San Francisco-based jeans maker said the layoffs will save it about $100 million a year and won't affect workers at its stores or factories.

Like other clothing companies, Levi's had to temporarily close its stores due to the virus. Many of the department stores that sell its jeans were also shut.

Levi Strauss & Co. said its second quarter revenue sank 62% to just under half-a-billion dollars. It reported a loss of more than $360 million, after reporting a profit a year ago.

The company said most of its stores are now open and seeing sales at about 80% of where they were a year ago.

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