Bay Area Media Turn to SJSU on Election Night 2016

Sergio Bejar-Lopez, Melinda Jackson, Larry Gerston and Garrick Percival. Photo Illustration: SJSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

Sharing their expertise with millions of television viewers and radio listeners will be professors Sergio Bejar-Lopez, Melinda Jackson, Larry Gerston and Garrick Percival. Photo Illustration: SJSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

San Jose State University political science professors will be sharing their expertise with millions of television viewers and radio listeners across the Bay Area on election night. Four professors will be providing reaction and expert commentary on six television and radio stations Nov. 8 and 9.

Our political science faculty is excited to be able to share its expertise with the community,” said Melinda Jackson, department chair. “SJSU has a long tradition of engaged scholarship and public service, one of the things we love about teaching here.”

How to Tune In

Associate Professor Jackson will appear on ABC affiliate KGO-TV on election night beginning at 8 p.m. She will also offer post-election analysis the next morning on KGO-TV’s newscasts.

Assistant Professor Sergio Bejar-Lopez will be on-set analyzing the election for Telemundo affiliate KSTS-TV and Univision affiliate KDTV-TV.

For the 36th year, Professor Emeritus Larry Gerston will share his political expertise with NBC Bay Area viewers and KCBS radio listeners.

Associate Professor Garrick Percival will offer analysis of some of the 17 propositions on this year’s ballot with Fox affiliate KTVU and others. 

A Wealth of Knowledge

“We are especially proud of the fact that so many of our department’s faculty members have been asked to provide political analysis on the important issues and races at the local, state and national level this year,” Professor Jackson said. “We have a wealth of expert knowledge on this campus!”

New York Times: Politics Professor Comments on LGBT Legislative Victories in California

2011 Was a Good Year for Causes of Gays

Published by the New York Times Dec. 29, 2011.

By AARON GLANTZ

Although the court fight over same-sex marriage in California is unresolved, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups scored major legislative victories in 2011.

“We passed a ton of bills,” said Rebekah Orr, spokeswoman for Equality California, a group that lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. “There is an understanding that inequality is real, so it is relatively easy for a number of these bills to be passed.”

Twelve bills backed by Equality California were passed by the Legislature in 2011. Gov. Jerry Brown signed 10 and vetoed 2.

“There is a new realization that today family is defined differently than it was in the past, and our law needs to reflect that,” said Assemblyman Jerry Hill, a Democrat from San Mateo. His bill making it easier for nonbiological parents to win custody of their children becomes law on Sunday.

Mr. Hill’s bill, opposed by conservative groups and passed on a mostly party-line vote, was spurred in part by the experience of Kimberly Smith, a Santa Cruz woman who nearly lost custody of her twin sons to her former partner’s sperm donor because California family law in some cases prescribed an absolute preference to biological parents.

Conservative groups expressed frustration at the process. In contrast with previous legislative sessions, “bills sailed through without serious debate or reflection and the arguments raised by others were simply ignored,” said William B. May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, a San Francisco-based advocacy organization.

Larry Gerston, a professor of political science at San Jose State University, said the shift had occurred largely because of the tone set by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who took office in January 2011, and by Democrats, who control both houses of the State Legislature.

Mr. Brown “showed his hand even before he became governor when as attorney general he refused to defend Proposition 8,” Mr. Gerston said, referring to the 2008 state ballot initiative banning gay marriage.

Two other bills affecting public education will take effect Jan. 1. One, sponsored by Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, will require lessons about gay men and lesbians to be integrated into social studies classes in California public schools.

The other, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, mandates that all schools have clear policies against bullying. It was named Seth’s Law after Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old boy in Kern County who hanged himself in September 2010 after experiencing anti-gay harassment.

Conservative groups are responding by taking their case directly to the voters. In November, two organizations asked California’s secretary of state for permission to begin collecting signatures for a June ballot initiative to repeal Mr. Leno’s bill on social studies instruction. The measure could be added to the ballot for California’s presidential primary.

aglantz@baycitizen.org

SJSU in the News: Politics Professor Argues Against Proposed Part-Time Legislature

Larry N. Gerston: Move for part-time legislature is just another power grab

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News Dec. 17, 2011

By Larry N. Gerston
Special to the Mercury News

Few words are more abused than the term “reform,” which for many is a synonym for positive change or improvement. Now a group is circulating a constitutional amendment ballot initiative that would “reform” the state Legislature by turning it into a part-time body that would meet for no more than three months each year.

Supporters say the new system would force the Legislature to be more laserlike in its policy-making responsibilities because of the limited time in which it would have to conduct its work. Knowing that they have to get back to their full-time jobs as soon as possible, legislators would move quickly in organizing their tasks for the year. As a result, a sometimes weary public would be more informed about the Legislature’s activities because of the compact time frame.

Who are they kidding?

Here’s what would really happen with a part-time Legislature. Policy makers of this branch would be all but crippled in their ability to understand complex issues and act on them. Hearings, research, meetings with various parties would be pushed aside in the name of expediency. Rather than act independently as an equal branch of government, the Legislature would depend on others with vastly more knowledge and institutional capabilities because of their permanence in Sacramento. And as for composition, only the very wealthy or retired people would be able to serve. Who else can take three months off their job every year and spend it in Sacramento?

To begin with, more power would accrue to the governor simply because of his year-round presence. With the Legislature absent most of the year, bureaucrats and lobbyists — neither elected — would negotiate with the governor day in and day out to carry out the “people’s” work (read the sarcasm). State issues don’t restrict their emergence to January through March of the year.

Speaking of the bureaucracy, the institution so denounced for its isolation would become even more insulated and powerful because of its control of expertise, access to information and recommendations for managing it. There would be no meaningful legislative body to oversee bureaucratic activity.

But the real winners would be the special interests. Already possessing a wealth of influence through money and lobbyists, they would now have one less obstacle to keep them from having their way on issues that serve their members first and the public last. Last year, the Mercury News published a report showing how interest groups wrote about one-third of the bills “carried” by legislators during a recent two-year session. Imagine what would happen with a part-time Legislature. Interest groups would be like kids in a candy shop, with no grown-ups around to tell them to stop making pigs of themselves.

It’s easy to pick on the Legislature. The fact is that term limits and impossible thresholds for raising taxes greatly hinder legislators’ ability to do their work. Further, the ability of special interests to circumvent the Legislature with ballot initiatives adds to legislative impotence. No wonder gridlock seems so permanent in Sacramento. Reforms in these areas would do a lot more good for the state.

So the choice becomes this: Emasculate the Legislature, leaving power in the hands of unelected individuals accountable only to their own selfish interests, or empower the Legislature to do its work, with the voters judging them in each election. In a representative democracy, I vote for the latter.

Larry N. Gerston is professor of political science at San Jose State. His latest book, “Not So Golden After All: The Rise and Fall of California,” will be published by Taylor and Francis in spring 2012. He wrote this article for this newspaper.