Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California's mass prison hunger strike enters fourth day

Prisoner Hunger Strike

Paul Sakuma/AP

Demonstrators hold up a sign during a rally in front of the State Building in San Francisco, Friday, July 1, 2011 to support prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. Inmates in an isolation unit at Pelican Bay State Prison are on a hunger strike to protest conditions that they describe as inhumane. Advocates say several dozen inmates in the Security Housing Unit declined to eat their morning meal on Friday. The unit holds about a third of the 3,100 inmates at the Northern California prison. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The number of California prison inmates on a hunger strike dramatically dropped Thursday, but 12,000 inmates still refused to eat for a fourth consecutive day to protest the common use of long-term isolation. For the frist three days of the strike, 29,000 inmates participated.

Getting to day four triggered an official state response, which includes aggressive monitoring of inmates’ health and possible disciplinary measures, including segregation and force-feeding.

Joyce Hayhoe, with the federal receiver’s office in charge of prison medical care, says that at four days without food, some inmates may already need attention, “to determine if there are any conditions or medications that place them at risk for complications during fasting."  

For every day that inmates fast, medical staff will have more to do to ensure their safety. Within a week nurses will check daily on all inmates on the hunger strike. One week later, inmates will have the option of visiting doctors to have their weight and other vitals measured.


No Democratic support for GOP piecemeal approach to immigration

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Democratic Caucus chair Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles says it'll be hard to find Democratic votes for piecemeal immigration bills being pushed by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Now that rank-and-file House Republicans have had the opportunity to debate immigration behind closed doors, it's up to Speaker John Boehner to chart a road forward.

Thursday morning, Boehner again said the House will vote on immigration legislation in separate pieces. Republicans are likely to do that without a single Democratic vote in support.

Boehner said he has two takeaways from the immigration debate: that the "vast majority" of his Republican colleagues believe they have to wrestle with the issue, and they also believe "we need this step-by-step common sense approach."

RELATED: Congressman and former teacher Mark Takano gives GOP immigration letter an 'F'

That means tackling a series of GOP-sponsored bills moving their way through committees that address individual issues such as border security and visas for high-tech workers.


Congressman and former teacher Mark Takano gives GOP immigration letter an 'F'


Former high school English teacher Mark Takano (D-Riverside) gives a failing grade to a Congressional colleague's immigration letter. For a larger version of the image, go to @RepMarkTakano on Twitter or click the link in the story below.

You can take the teacher out of the classroom — even send him to Congress — but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. Or take away his red pencil.

Before coming to Washington, freshman Democrat Mark Takano taught English for 23 years — mostly at Rialto High School. He must have been a tough grader.

In the midst of the heated Congressional debate over immigration, Takano tries humor — a bit of political fun at the expense of his GOP colleagues.

Republican House members were circulating a "Dear Mr. Speaker" letter urging John Boehner to take up immigration reform in pieces rather than consider the comprehensive Senate bill. (No mention is made of the bipartisan bill being crafted in the House by the "Gang of 7.")

Takano took out his red pen marked up the letter as if it was something from a student and posted it on his Twitter account. (You can see it above; click here for a larger version of the image.)


Maven's Morning Coffee: representation in Whittier, truck noise in Long Beach, building restrictions in Malibu

Mercer 10447

David Berkowitz (cc by-nc-nd)

The city of Long Beach wants ice cream trucks to turn off their music when serving customers. Ice cream truck operators say the music helps attract customers.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Thursday, July 11, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


KPCC looks at the impact of at-large districts in the town of Whittier. "Under the at-large system, just one Latino has won a council seat in Whittier's 115-year history," according to the station.

The Long Beach City Council is considering an ordinance to silence ice cream trucks, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Council officials are getting a lot of national attention as a result, and not all of it is flattering. They have nothing against ice cream trucks, they say, but they want them to be quieter," reports The Times.


Whittier Latinos may use CA Voting Rights Act to seek district elections

Thomas Saenz

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says "there are a number of cities, some of them not even known to us, where there are serious issues of racially-polarized voting and exclusion of Latino candidates."

KPCC has launched a series called "Project Citizen."  Our stories look at the responsibilities, traditions and privileges that citizenship entails.  Voting is one of them.  But some voters say fair representation remains elusive. As KPCC's Sharon McNary reports, California's Voting Rights Act is being used with greater frequency to change how voters elect their local officials.

As Miguel Garcia strolls Greenleaf Avenue — the quaint shopping street in Uptown Whittier — he points out the many Latino-owned businesses.
"You have a restaurant that is called La Pescadora," he says. "There's the shop that imports furniture from Guadalajara,  the ice cream store, Steve's Barbeque and a couple of upscale restaurants." Garcia estimates about one-third of the city's businesses are Latino-owned.
Garcia has been a resident since 1987, and he loves the place — except for this one thing:
"We've been trying to elect a Latino to the City Council at least for ten years and we haven't been able to do so.
About two-thirds of Whittier's population and more than half the people of voting age there are Latino. Like more than 4o0 other California cities, Whittier uses at-large elections. In such cases, voters from throughout the city select all the council members.
Under the at-large system, just one Latino has won a council seat in Whittier's 115-year history. He was Victor Lopez, a popular local high school football coach.
Garcia and a group called the Whittier Latino Coalition are demanding the council switch to district elections and move them from the low-turnout month of April to November.
If the council refuses, the Coalition says it will sue under the California Voting Rights Act. The 2001 law is a powerful legal tool designed to force local governments to switch from at-large to district elections.