Patt Morrison for January 26, 2011

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After a hearing that lasted eight grueling hours, the Temecula City Council voted unanimously to allow a mosque to built within the city. Impassioned residents pleaded their cases from both sides of the issue - assertions that all Muslims are terrorists were met with arguments from interfaith relgious leaders stating that Islam is a peaceful and non-violent religion. In the end, the city council paid attention only to the proposed mosque's impact on the environment and traffic, as well as the project's compliance with the law. Many of those opposed to the mosque are still boiling mad, but at least for now, the project will go on and be built in two stages.
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It was a rough day for the American oil industry—first a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate, authored by California Sen. Barbara Boxer and co-sponsored by every Democratic Senator from the West Coast states, that would permanently ban new oil drilling off of the Pacific Coast. A congressional ban on new Pacific offshore drilling expired in 2008, and there is a current ban, under executive order of the president, in place, but that could theoretically be lifted at any time. Citing concerns from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Democratic Senators from Washington, Oregon, and California are seeking a permanent drilling moratorium. That was the right hook—the left cross came last night during President Obama’s State of the Union address when he called for an end to federal subsidies for oil companies, proposing to use the money to promote biofuels and electric vehicles instead. Both proposals will be long-shots, if they have any shot at all, to get through the Republican controlled House of Representatives, but they do signal President Obama’s willingness to get tough with oil companies. Will the oil industry get tough back?
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Governor Brown proposes to cut half a billion dollars from the California State University system budget, a move meant to help close the state’s $25 billion budget gap. But CSU is looking for ways to alleviate the fiscal pain. On Tuesday, the finance committee of the CSU board voted to increase fees for its Doctor of Education degree programs by 10% and will likely not be able to admit as many students in the fall as previously planned. With increasing costs and fewer dollars to support education, what will an education from our state-run institutions look like in the future?
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With over 40,000 homeless living on its streets, Los Angeles is the homeless capital of the country. The largest cluster of those homeless men and women—nearly four thousand—lives on Skid Row, just in the shadow of city hall, where city and county government make policy decisions about the issue. Nearly five years after Mayor Villaraigosa's ambitious Skid Row Safer City Initiative—the policing strategy that placed 50 additional officers in the fifty block area of downtown's Skid Row—we look back at whether or not it accomplished what it set out to and what is left to be done to address homeless issues downtown and throughout the county. We begin this two-part series on homelessness by tracing the SCI from its inception as an idea on the pages of 1982 Atlantic magazine, to the streets of Los Angeles. Did SCI deliver both the policing and social service components it promised, and was it the best use of resources? Is policing a necessary but insufficient part of the solution or just a way of criminalizing homelessness? You’ll hear from the people affected by it—police, policymakers, and the homeless themselves.
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