Subscribe to Matsui Center Blogs feed Matsui Center Blogs
the official blog of the Robert T. Matsui Center at UC Berkeley
Updated: 54 min 50 sec ago

My First Experience with the “9 to 5″

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 9:48am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Pranav Trewn

As a Cal-in-Sacramento intern this summer, I have experienced my first taste of the life of a working professional under the structure of “the 9 to 5,” a phrase that turns casual the weight of a forty-hour workweek. To many this experience is rather unremarkable, but to a college student who is used to part-time employment with flexible hours – it is an entirely new world.

I spend a majority of my day in one place – as opposed to the constantly changing stimuli provided in the past by summer days. This means that from the moment my foot reaches my doorstep when I arrive home from work, I take on a new race – one against time to see how much I can squeeze out of the space between the end of the work day and the end of the night. A forty hour work week imposes constraints on how you spend the remaining free time you are left with. I’ve had to be creative in trying to fit my entire agenda of recreational reading and media consumption, hobbies, social engagements, and personal development into each day, and through these efforts have discovered a new culture of leisure. Post-work happy hours are not simply social engagements – but a place to get cheap and early dinners. While initially I used my lunch breaks as a time to socialize with coworkers, I now value it as personal time to read by myself or be alone with my thoughts. With the limited free time available after I get home from work – I have become far more proactive in budgeting and scheduling my hours. Every move I make is weighed against its costs and benefits.

Because a number of activities I deem necessary to my daily routine, my amount of flexible free time is shortened further. Once I finish exercising and eating dinner – I’ve already used about half of my non-working, non-sleeping hours of the day. I’m left having to decide which of my interests is most deserving of being explored. Should I be social or in solitude? Can I turn my solitary activities into social ones to kill two birds with one stone? Is leisurely reading something I want to do on my own time or only during my lunch breaks at work? Do I have time to learn a new skill? Is sleep necessary? If I don’t sleep too much, how much more could I get done? Each question is considered, and my answers change from day to day. All these decisions imposed by the requirements of one’s workweek make it that much more important to find a job that you enjoy. Because despite the restrictions work places on your free time, when you identify with your work you would not dare purposefully forgo a second of that precious time between 9 and 5.

Pranav Trewn is a UC Berkeley junior studying economics and education. He is interning at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Reporting From Sacramento

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 10:22am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Paige McConnaughy

What an incredible month I have experienced here at the State Capitol! Senator Vidak’s staff is absolutely amazing. With so many offices at the Capitol to choose from it was overwhelming trying to decide where I would best fit. Coming and interning for Senator Vidak was the greatest decision; after just four weeks my office feels like home. The Vidak Staff took me under their wing and helped make my transition into their office a smooth one. Having only been here a few weeks I have learned so much from the staff; my questions are always answered and they are constantly reaching out to show and teach me new things.

New Ronald Reagan Statue at the Capitol

Jann Taber the Communications Director (left) held a ladies brunch for our office. Also pictured is Senate Fellow Carolina Garcia (right) and Scheduler, Nancy Stewart (2nd to right)

Working for my own state representative is great; I know the district and I can easily relate to the struggles of Senator Vidak’s constituents. It’s amazing to witness firsthand the introduction of legislation that will affect my hometown. On June 30th Senator Vidak introduced a special session measure that requires a re-vote on High Speed Rail. High Speed Rail broke ground in Senate District 14 and is affecting farmers throughout the Central Valley. HSR is estimated to cost $100 billion dollars and it has failed to obtain funds from private investors, which were promised to voters. With billions of dollars going to a project that may or may not ever materialize Senator Vidak wants voters to have the opportunity to decide if HSR should continue to be funded by tax payer dollars. It’s reassuring to me knowing that my elected representative is listening to his constituents and working to make sure the state government is on track with California voters. It’s easy to blame the government when things aren’t going the way they were intended. Senator Vidak is eliminating this blame by presenting Californians an opportunity to re-vote and show both legislatures and the Governor whether High Speed Rail is still a supported issue.

Barry Goldwater Jr., me and Senator Vidak

Me, Senator Vidak, and Carolina after the Cattleman’s Steak and Egg Breakfast

It will be tough leaving the Capitol in a couple weeks. I have so greatly enjoyed the Vidak Staff – from staff lunches and receptions to the laughs that occur on a daily basis in the office, this summer has been an absolutely incredible experience. I made memories that I will cherish for many years.

Staff lunch

Paige McConnaughy is a UC Berkeley sophomore studying political science. She is interning in the office of Senator Vidak as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


A Life of Law

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 10:08am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Jessica Paduganan

It is exactly the half-way point of this internship program so far and I am loving every minute of it. So far, this opportunity and program has opened a world to me that was once mystical and seemingly unreachable. I have begun to learn about criminal law, how to brief cases, how to properly conduct legal research, and what law school will be like in a few years from now. In both an intimidating and thrilling way, I have found what it is that I am supposed to do with my life. Pursuing law school and a career in law is an enormous life decision that will not only require a commitment of my time, but also my money and complete focus and dedication. As I learn what law school is like, I am slightly intimidated and know that I will be humbled when I arrive. But if I wasn’t scared, at least a little, there would be something wrong. Dreams and goals should be a bit intimidating because that means you are reaching for something that is worth investing in.

My cubicle!

Touring the Federal Courthouse this past week, began an excitement in me for the law which I never even knew existed. To me, there is something so attractive and intriguing about making a positive, influential change in the world through intellectual debates and persuasion. What better way to use the opportunities I have been given, and the tools I have cultivated, than to help the lives of others.

Ms. Torres, another eCrimes clerk, and I at lunch after the DNA lab field trip.

However, I am slightly sad that the internship is already halfway done. This is what I want to do with my life, and knowing that in four weeks this opportunity is over, and that I will need to complete two more years of undergraduate studies before I even attend my first year at law school, is a constant reminder of how much I still have to do to make these dreams a reality. It also shows me, however, how much time I have right now to enjoy simply being a student, and getting to explore and discover, before I commit the rest of my life to the law.

The Law.

Already I am overjoyed with everything this program and my internship has given me the opportunity to do, and more importantly, to realize that being a lawyer, and practicing law is exactly what I want and need to do with my life. I look forward to the last few weeks of my internship at the Department of Justice and all that it will teach me.

Jessica Paduganan is a UC Berkeley junior studying sociology. She is interning at the California Department of Justice eCrimes unit as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


A New Focus with Some New Friendships

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 10:33am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Zachary Raden

After my first week at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), I was eager to start my work and excited that it was so strongly related to my Sociology major. With my initial task of researching existing literature on ‘social cohesion indicators,’ I assumed there were studies done by individual social scientists in the past, but was worried about how many studies I would actually find and how extensive they would be in application.

I sorely underestimated the amount of existing studies.

My office

Trying to navigate in a vast sea of information from various graphs, tables, definitions, and applications of social cohesion, this general overview on social cohesion was going to be anything but simple. From funding from cities, countries, and even inter-governmental institutions like the United Nations, social cohesion has been a hot topic for public policy even outside the U.S. Finishing all this material, while interconnecting it with an environmental justice framework, in time to be presented for discussion at the meeting with the Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC), was certainly a headache.

Thankfully, a draft was completed before the meeting, and although there was much more work to be done, some OCAC members showed interest in its potential use. After Brian and ‘Miss’ Margaret read through the draft, they agreed that a full report would be useful and might even get published. If the Kresge Foundation liked the report, an Oakland-specific social cohesion assessment could be funded, using Oakland modified social cohesion indicators and surveys used in past studies.

My initial assignment evolved into something a sociology grad student dreams of: having their personal research funded and implemented to create social change. However, it did mean spending a significant amount of time in the office ensuring the report was clear and professional. When I heard that the other two Matsui Local Government Fellows were going to be at the 2015 Matsui Sacramento reception (held every year for Cal-in-Sacramento fellows, their supervisors, Sacramento-area Cal alumni, and special guests), I saw it as an opportune time to rest my brain, network with some important people, and make a fun trip up to Sacramento with other fellows.

Matsui Local Gov fellows: me, Korbi [interning for Sacramento County Regional Parks Dept] & Gladys [interning for Alameda County Office of Education]

Matsui Local Gov Fellow Korbi [interning with Sacramento County Regional Parks Department], me and Matsui Center staff Camille.

Meeting the other Matsui Local Government Fellows,Gladys and Korbi, and all of the Cal-in-Sacramento Fellows, was definitely a worthwhile experience. I made some new friendships, experienced our state’s Capitol building for the first time, and even met up with some old friends. After coming back, I knew I really had to find some new inner focus to finish this report. Sitting at my quiet desk, I noticed a couple new members at the WOEIP office. A handful of high school students! The office was holding a summer leadership workshop, adding some extra energy, and maybe some new focus, to my desk job.

One of the high school workshop labs.

Zachary Raden is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology. He is interning at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


Political Diversity’s Impact on My Life

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 12:50pm

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Robert Nuñez 

When we talk about wanting or recognizing the benefits of a more diverse legislature, it’s not just some minority movement, or an issue of pride in which we all want our own team to win. The diversity I have seen in the Capitol is necessary for the health of a democracy in a diverse state like California. If there was a legislature composed completely of conservative white males who understood the issues that my family and I have had to endure, and created effective solutions that allowed my family and me to thrive, then I would be proud to call them my elected officials; unfortunately, as seemingly simple as it is to empathize with a person’s struggles, it’s far more difficult to truly understand what it actually feels like, and act accordingly. I have the privilege of getting to intern for Senator Ricardo Lara, a powerful man of color, and openly part of the LGBT community, who sits on some of the most powerful committees in the legislature, including chairing the Appropriations Committee. The Senator, his staff, and many of the other persons of color I have met at the Capitol truly embody a knowledge of the struggles I have had to face; If not by logic, they have been able to understand my issues by heart, by a raw emotional humanity which ads an extra dimension to politics.

Robert with Senator Ricardo Lara

Carli Yoro and Gaby Bermudez along with Robert grabbing a bite to eat after work to celebrate gabby birthday. Cal-in-Sac interns bring diversity to the capitol.

Like many other debates, politics isn’t as two-sided a battle as it appears to be; there are many facets to be considered. Take gay rights, for example, which my Senator is constantly working to progress. It may appear to be a simple battle over ‘marriage’ or ‘no marriage,’ but there’s so much more that goes without consideration when addressing this community; there’s the endless years of heartache, tears, and confusion that the individual had to endure before accepting himself or coming out to his family. A legislator who understood this would be best suited to contribute to a conversation on how to deal with the issues of this population.

My personal struggle, which has deeply affected my life and my educational choices, has been my immigration status. While I have status now, it’s important for me to remember that it has not always been this simple, that holding a card with my social security number on it is not the end of a battle for myself or my community.

Growing up I understood that I was an AB 540 student, but until a couple of years ago I didn’t know what that meant. It meant that a senator sat at his desk, thinking about how he could help the community he came from, looking back on his experiences and influences, and realized what our community needed, specifically as undocumented students, and proposed AB 540. The bill qualified students that were in my situation to be considered for in-state tuition and the financial aid that comes along with state residency for California public universities. This bill is the only reason I was able to apply, be accepted to, and attend an institution like UC Berkeley.

Now, the story comes full circle. Here I am, typing at a desk, in the office of Senator Ricardo Lara, who years ago, in the Assembly, before having ever met me or knowing my struggle, championed AB 540 through the legislature. His background, his community, his immigrant parents, all indirectly contributed to the passing of a bill, which allows me to sit where I am today. The Senator has made it possible for Dreamers to go to school, get some form of financial aid, has assisted with the guaranteeing of drivers licenses, and much more. Additionally, my first day on the job I got to see the floor vote for SB 4 which gives undocumented children healthcare access, something which would have benefited me greatly as a child.

Behind the scenes shot from a bilingual international press release after the Governor announced $40 million dollars in funding for the Health For All bill (AB4) (healthcare for all) and the setting up of a fund for the Office of New Americans (SB10). Just one of the perks of working under the communications director.

During Robert’s first day on the job he was able to witness the historic vote passing SB4 through the Senate.

 

I am proud to get to work in such an office and to witness such historic precedents being set, to get to see a fire being lit under the federal government for its inaction on immigration by a senator’s office in the capitol of one state. I’m proud to give back, and hopefully be the change, that helped me along the way for the next generation of Dreamers.

I see value in having a diverse legislature to serve the needs of every minority, denomination, and faction of our diverse state. I feel California is leading in that respect. I look forward to learning more from the Capitol and all of its members during my time here.

Robert Nuñez is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and media studies. He is interning in the office of Senator Ricardo Lara as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Also Blossoming

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 12:24pm

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Cali Yoro 

On my first day as an intern for the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), the first thing I noticed was the eye catching sculpture in front of the building. The sculpture is made up of four giant slabs of stone arranged in a circle with a poem inscribed on the inside faces. After working with the Agency for a few weeks, it dawned on me that the sculpture was a reflection of CalEPA itself and its relationship with the California government.

Artist Beverley Pepper’s stone sculpture in front of Cal EPA’s headquarters.

The first line of the poem reads “How shall I be the steward of this land. Have lightning at my disposal.” The Agency is like a steward of the land with a mission to protect the California environment and ensure that its citizens are healthy and safe. Because it is such a large regulatory body that has influence over several entities and is an adviser to the executive and legislative branch, it has a significant amount of responsibility. Some could even say its power is as impactful as lightning.

The poem is also inscribed in different angles and separated between all four of the slabs of stone. Just as the poem is not complete without looking at the full picture from different perspectives, the same is true for environmental policy. Without the consultation from all of the Agency’s smaller entities such as the Air Resources Board, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and many others, their overarching policy frameworks would not be as well-rounded and comprehensive as they currently are.

California Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters Entrance.

Although the sculpture is reflective of the Agency, I have also found that it emulates how I would like to perform as an intern for the summer and hopefully as a professional after I graduate. Just like the many alumni from UC Berkeley, I hope to always do what I can to make my community a better place. If I have the chance to wield as much authority as lightning, I hope to use it wisely and for the greater good.

My roommates and me on our first day of work! (Left to right: Me, Keely O’Brian, Stephanie Kinser, and Judy Kim)

As laws are constantly debated and passed in the legislature and orders are given in the Governor’s office, agencies such as CalEPA have a much more subtle, yet important, duty. As the environmental culture of California continues to grow in these arenas, it is up to CalEPA to ensure all of the goals and policies that have been set actually come to fruition. The poem inscribed in the sculpture’s stone is entitled “Also Blossoming.” As I learn more about how important it is for the state to grow from the creation of new laws and orders, I also realize it is equally important for the state to blossom as the policies are implemented and regulated. I hope by the end of this summer internship and my time at Cal, I will have been exposed to the intricate processes of public service and governance that will help me not only grow, but also blossom.

Carli Yoro is a UC Berkeley senior studying environmental economics and policy. She is interning at the California Environmental Protection Agency as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Three take-aways from the Matsui Center Fellows summer reception

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 10:58am

Matsui fellows with Governor Jerry Brown

By Ethan Rarick

You know things are going well when the Governor walks into your event unexpectedly. That happened last night, when Gov. Jerry Brown stopped by the Matsui Center reception for our summer Fellows and posed for a picture with the students.

The presence of one of Berkeley’s most famous alumni was just one of several great things about the reception, an annual event to honor the students participating in our two summer programs – Cal-in-Sacramento and our Local Government Fellows. For me, three things stood out:

1. It takes a village. We’re proud of our programs, but we have a lot of help – and a lot of it was present at the reception. The offices that agree to host the Fellows take on a big task, and without them, the program wouldn’t exist. It’s added work to supervise an intern, but the offices that do it – whether in the Legislature, a state agency, or elsewhere – are providing a Berkeley student with a fabulous opportunity to gain real-world experience. A lot of the Fellows’ supervisors were at the reception, and it was delightful to meet them – and to thank them for helping our students.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom, Michelle Moskowitz [UC Berkeley Government and Community Relations Office], Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, Rodolfo Rivera-Aquino [Cal-in-Sac Fellow), Ethan Rarick [Director, Matsui Center], Camille Koué [Matsui Center]

Gladys Rosario (Matsui Local Government Fellow), Angela Alexanian (Cal-in-Sac Fellow), LeAnn Fong-Batkin & Peter Callas of the CA Dept of Ed.

2. Bears have friends. The Cal network is amazing. As mentioned above, Gov. Jerry Brown came by, but we also had five members of the Legislature – Sens. Ben Allen and Bill Monning and Assemblymembers Ken Cooley, Tony Thurmond, and Richard Bloom. Cooley, a Berkeley alum, gave an inspiring speech about the importance of public service. Judge (and former Assemblymember) Alyson Lewis also spoke, and former Assemblymember and current Little Hoover Commission Chairman Pedro Nava was there as well. And that’s just the elected officials. I also talked to Cal alums in important positions throughout the policymaking community – senior legislative staff, agency officials, leaders from advocacy groups. Many of them were former Matsui Center Fellows who are now working in public service. It’s great to see the amazing network that Berkeley has among the Golden State’s leaders.

Assemblymember Ken Cooley, Talisha Faruk [Cal-in-Sac Fellow]

UC Berkeley and Cal-in-Sac alumns Kyle Simerly [Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the California State Transportation Agency] Alex Hirch [Deputy Legislative Counsel at Office of Legislative Counsel State of California]

3. Berkeley students are the university’s best ambassadors. Time and again, I was told by the people supervising our Fellows that the students are doing great work. It’s nice to know that we can put our students into positions where they will be doing real work, and that they will do it well enough to impress their bosses.

2015 Matsui summer fellows [Cal-in-Sac & Matsui Local Government fellows]

2015 Matsui Local Goverment Fellows Zachary Raden [interning at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project], Korbi Thalhammer [interning at the Sacramento Regional County Parks Department] & Gladys Rosario [interning at the Alameda County Office of Education],

I know that all the students in our Matsui Center summer fellowship programs are having great experiences this year – and it was truly a joy to talk with so many of them, and to see so many other great leaders supporting our programs.

Ethan Rarick is the Associate Director of IGS, and the Director of the Institute’s Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service.


A Formal Assessment of Informal Trails

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 9:51am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Korbi Thalhammer

The slim ribbon of dirt I’d been following for a quarter mile skirted the edge of a bluff, ducked under a low oak and then dipped out of sight as it followed a precipitous line down the edge of a dredge tailing. I made my way down the steep slope of rocks that had been excavated from the American River’s bed during the California Gold Rush, listening for periodic beeps from my GPS to ensure that I was indeed recording and updating my location as I traveled. At the base of the tailing, the trail wound its way around a fallen cottonwood and finally disappeared into blackberry bushes and poison oak. I turned around and clambered back up the rock pile, GPS and satellite photos in hand. At the top of the pile, I stopped to record the trail’s width and level of degradation.

As an intern at the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks, I’ve been tasked with developing and implementing a system of mapping and categorizing informal social trails in the American River Parkway. The mapping and classification will provide a concrete means of assessing recreational impacts on the parkway’s natural resources, which include deer, quail, valley oaks and other native flora and fauna. The trail assessment will play a major role as part of the resource impact monitoring plan called for in the 2008 American River Parkway Plan. The plan’s Resource Policy 3.4 requires that the monitoring plan, which has proved exceedingly difficult to develop, “clearly define criteria and standards to monitor, evaluate and protect the Parkway’s resources.”

In a complex ecosystem, determining precisely when and how the environment is affected by recreational use is a difficult prospect. Formal equestrian, pedestrian and bicycle trails are already mapped, but parkway visitors who venture off these official trails to swim in the river or to cross a field leave behind trampled grass, compacted soil, and fragmented grasslands and riverbanks. They also leave behind a trail that is invisible. Mere human presence, however temporary, can alter the behavior and well-being of wildlife. And physical habitat fragmentation means there is less available space away from humans in which threatened species like the Swainson’s Hawk can eat and live.

The assessment of informal trails will bolster the resource impact monitoring plan with data. But how can qualities like erosion, soil compaction and the loss of organic matter be incorporated in a classification system that is applicable to all trails on the parkway? What does the trail down the rocky dredge tailing at Sailor Bar have in common with a dirt trail through tall grass near the river? Scientists like Jeff Marion have spent their careers in pursuit of a scientific understanding of trail conditions. For the past few weeks, I have been combing through articles written by scientists like Marion in order to gain a thorough enough understanding of trail condition science to write a system of trail classifications that can be applied to the American River Parkway.

 

This closeup image of a portion of Sailor Bar shows uniform mounds of rock dredged during the California Gold Rush. The yellow line traces the trail described in the first paragraph.

A dredging operation on the Trinity River near Weaverville, CA.

 

My supervisor has sent me to numerous parts of the parkway to expose me to the dramatically varied landscape and informal trail conditions that exist in the various parts of the river corridor. Trails weave through prickly thickets and curtains of reeds. They cut swaths through otherwise impenetrable walls of star thistle. Trails flow over stretches of rocky riverbeds left dry in these years of drought. It’s all of these trails that need to be classified, cataloged and mapped in order to provide a scientific understanding of where recreation can be encouraged and where it must be curbed for the good of wildlife.

Korbi Thalhammer is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying forestry and natural resources. He is interning at the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


A Republican “War on Women”? I Don’t Think So!

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 8:27am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow
Kerida Moates

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the College Republican National Committee’s 61st Biennial National Convention in Washington DC. Not only did I have the opportunity to hear prominent political figures such as Rand Paul, Elise Stefanik, Grover Norquist, and Tom Price, but I also was able to meet other College Republicans from across the nation.



However, what I found most interesting about this convention was the presence of not just inspiring political figures, but inspiring women. One of the very first speakers of the convention was presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. In her limited speaking time, there was no uneasiness in her voice as she stated that it was time to bring the conversation of feminism to the Right. It was thrilling, and yet shocking to witness such a powerful women embrace the Republican Party. Carly Fiorina was then followed by Elise Stefanik, the youngest women to ever be elected to US Congress. Both were followed the next day by Dana Perrino, who is best known as George W. Bush’s White House Press Secretary. After being fed countless stereotypes about the supposed Republican “war on women” by many Berkeley students, it was refreshing to see such inspirational and powerful women in the Republican Party.

In the Cal-in-Sacramento program, I am also surrounded by powerful women. Not only do I intern for Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, but our entire Capitol Office staff from the Chief of Staff to the Scheduler is entirely composed of women. These women are very intelligent and hardworking, and to my knowledge, we have never had any problems with men in the Republican Party.

On a more personal level, being involved with the Republican Party, and more specifically, College Republicans, has done nothing but empower me as a young women. My involvement has taught me to be a strong, independent thinker, and for that I am thankful. With my first three weeks of my internship almost complete, I find myself asking, where is this supposed “war on women” in the Republican Party?

Kerida Moates is a UC Berkeley junior studying political science. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Catherine Baker as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Proposition 13 revamp eyed for ballot

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 2:29pm

Written by Cal-in-Sacramento fellow Alvin Chen for Capitol Weekly

Changing Proposition 13, the landmark, tax-cutting ballot initiative that California voters approved in 1978, is the goal of a constitutional amendment aimed at next year’s ballot.

The plan by two Senate Democrats – Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Loni Hancock of Berkeley – would allow commercial and business properties to be regularly reassessed for tax purposes, with an exemption for properties worth less than $500,000. Under current law – Proposition 13 – those properties are only reassessed when there is a change in ownership.

Mitchell and Hancock, both liberals, have a daunting task: Proposition 13 has long been popular among California voters.

Although that support has dwindled in recent years, politicians are loathe to seek changes to Proposition 13, and those that do invariably are Democrats. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of each house. Since Democrats narrowly fall short of the two-thirds threshold, passage would require at least some Republican votes and backing from moderate, business-friendly Democrats.

If approved, the plan, SCA 5, would go directly to the ballot; it needs no signature from the governor.

Hancock and Mitchell say Proposition 13’s change-of-ownership rule has loopholes and allows a “minority group of wealthy corporations and commercial property owners to dramatically reduce their tax share and shift that responsibility onto homeowners and renters.”

Tax reform activist Lenny Goldberg, who has sought changes to Proposition 13 for decades, believes the change is necessary.

“It is inevitable, whether this year or in the future” said Goldberg, who said the existing system under Proposition 13 inflates land values and makes regulatory process too difficult.

But critics disagree.

“Before Proposition 13 and after Proposition 13, California’s property tax system has always treated property owners equally, and it would be unfair to now change the rules and target certain types of property owners with higher taxes.” says David Kline, spokesman for the California Taxpayers Association.

Kline said tax hike increases will boost the jobless rate, and that employers will increase prices to stay afloat.

A Field Poll in June 2008 randomly surveyed 1,052 registered voters on “voting preferences if Proposition 13 were up for a vote again today” and 57 percent of voters favored the proposition while 23 percent of voters opposed.

Six years later, in April 2014, Field conducted another survey of 1,000 registered voters. When asked about “voter preferences as to whether or not parts of Proposition 13 should be changed”, 49 percent of voters were open to changing Proposition 13, while 34 percent were opposed.

Rex Hime, head of the California Business Properties Association, which has lobbied against for years against changing Proposition 13, said the Hancock-Mitchell amendment faces a steep uphill battle.

“There is absolutely no way this is getting out of the Legislature” Hime said.

Alvin Chen is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying political economy and history. He is interning at Capitol Weekly as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


A Learning Curve at the County of Education

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 10:27am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Gladys Rosario

There’s a ton to reflect on even though my internship with the Superintendent’s Office at the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) started less than two weeks ago. I have already met dozens of people and begun to sink my teeth into the projects I will work on this summer. So far I feel a sense of calm urgency, and I think it’s in part fueled by my daily doses of morning coffee. Or it might be stoked by the constant planning, meetings, and conference calls that I keep seeing in motion around the office. There are many Post-It notes and tasks waiting to be accomplished and checked off the County’s long to-do list. Since it is summer, that means budgets are being turned in for final review, including the County’s and the Governor’s. Once they’re finalized, these education dollars will then be sent to the more than 18 school districts and hundreds of schools who need them to take care of students’ needs, especially for those most vulnerable. But as I’ve seen in federal government, education funding is tight in state and local governments as well. Despite there being more funding this year, politics still plays a huge role in ensuring the highest-need priorities are met. I am eager to witness how this plays out on the local level–where school boards and policymakers will be able to make last-minute adjustments before everything is all set in stone.

My first day interning at ACOE

Even more exciting so far have been my introductions to the people who commit to seeing this work to fruition. I visited ACOE’s Community School in Hayward with my supervisor Dan Bellino and was fortunate enough to meet Principal Crawford and his trusted tutors Jamal and Eric who gave us a tour of the facilities. We walked into a few classrooms, saw teachers and students in action, and at the end of it I was able to once again realize who this vital work is done for—all students, especially the most vulnerable and at-risk. After this visit and a few days of being in the office, I was reminded of how refreshing it is to be in a space where education policy and politics constantly buzz through the air. It is incredibly inspiring to be working in an institution whose mission aspires to serve all students and children.

My ID badge

 

Last summer I interned at the U.S. Department of Education, and I was able to help their mission move along from a bird’s-eye view. At the local level, I can more closely observe the educational process. Advocacy groups, non-profits, labor unions, and community members are right at the helm of the County’s work, and it’s fascinating to see how they interact and work together. As for myself, I have a few planning projects and policy researching tasks on my to-do list, and in the next few months I will have the privilege to support the ACOE in their mission. I am in the same office as my supervisor Dan, and Superintendent Karen Monroe’s Office is just down the hallway, so I know there will be no short supply of mentors as I embark on what will surely be an eye-opening experience.

My office space shared with supervisor Dan Bellino

Gladys Rosario is a senior at UC Berkeley studying political economy and global poverty & practice. She is interning at the Alameda County Office of Education as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


Internship Choice: Your Most Important Summer Decision

Tue, 06/16/2015 - 12:55pm

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow
Laura Jessica Douglas

“This is your bill, I need you to become an expert on Medi-Cal services for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the next two weeks.” Having no previous experience in the health insurance industry, ASD, or mental health in general, it has been a challenge understanding all of the different components of applicable state and federal healthcare insurance law, regulations regarding what services can and cannot be provided through the different Medi-Cal providers, and assessing the cost and scope of expanding the program to those currently not served, all while working with our bill sponsor to navigate the legislative process as we seek to push our bill through the many hurdles of our California legislature. This is just one of the most stimulating and nerve-wrecking assignments I have been given since beginning my internship three weeks ago in the Office of Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas, representing the 54th District.

Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the short time that I have been here, I have learned and done so much. My office has entrusted me with everything from tracking votes to staffing legislative meetings with constituents to working on my own bills. They have taught me the inner workings of the legislative processes, taken me around the capitol to various offices and introduced me to people, and have been wonderful in inviting me to the myriad of events, press conferences, and hearings that hallmark a life in the political sphere. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my time here is that choosing the right office is paramount to a productive and valuable internship experience. Before accepting my internship with Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas, I danced with a few other prospective internship opportunities that sounded impressive on paper. Nonetheless, when I met the AD 54 team they were welcoming, genuinely interested in my development, and offered me a place as a core member of their office. That day, I knew this was the place for me and it has turned out even better than I expected.

 

Laura Jessica Douglas is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and global poverty & practice. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


For Me, the Capital is the Place to Be

Fri, 06/12/2015 - 9:44am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Sophie Khan

A week and a half has passed thus far during my internship with Assemblymember Kansen Chu in the State Capitol, and I have already realized that I’m in the right field. Like many college students, I go back and forth a lot trying to find my calling, and before this internship, I had major doubts about whether politics was the right place for me. However, the Fellows in this program and all of those who I have met in the Capitol have changed my mind. I am naturally an introvert, which is what made me have doubts in the first place, because at times it seems like there is no place for introverts in the networking-heavy and debate-heavy political world. Being a part of Cal-in-Sac gave me an instant community that I had already known for six months before I came here, and experiencing our state’s capital with my fellow fellows, whether it is at Sacramento Pride or just eating a delicious free lunch in front of the Capitol makes it so much easier to overcome whatever I am nervous about.

My fellow Cal-in-Sac interns and I taking our requisite picture with the bear in front of Governor Jerry Brown’s office on our first day.

At work, whether it’s dealing day in and day out with my member’s bills on issues that he and, now I, have become passionate about, such as decriminalizing the homeless, or watching intense committee meetings about contentious bills, such as SB 277, there is never a lapse in action at the Capitol. Even if I am just observing these actions for the time being, I know this is where I want to be because where else do you get to watch hours of CalChannel during work and have your co-workers be as into it as you are? I am excited to see what I will experience in the next six weeks both in and outside of the office!

Sophie Khan is a UC Berkeley junior studying political science and public policy. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Kansen Chu as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Meaning in the Mundane

Thu, 06/11/2015 - 9:10am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Pranav Trewn

I’ve been lucky enough at my internship this summer at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to be assigned projects I find both incredibly stimulating and self-directed. However, beyond the matters of policy and politics I get to spend my workdays researching and deliberating over, I am also responsible for a number of more structured and routine tasks. For example, each morning I review and organize paperwork on projects going through the necessary process to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Working with a daily stack of various project proposals from across the state is not nearly as individually rewarding, at least in an immediate sense, as directing my own project. Nonetheless, through my assuming this role at OPR since the start of this week, I have learned more about California planning and development than I have from any of my other projects thus far.

Going through the CEQA documents involves a formal and standardized procedure, one that requires knowledge of a great number of state agencies, as well as a solid geographic understanding of the state. My comprehension of both has improved in just the few days I have taken on this responsibility, and I imagine will only continue to improve. The most important concepts I learn from this task, however, are what I gain from reading about all the proposed projects from across California. I have broadened my planning vocabulary, refined my understanding of infrastructure, and gained a sense of the types of activities that are important in the development and maintenance of a city. While I arrive at the CEQA workstation throughout the week ready to undertake the same procedure, I leave with varied knowledge each time. It is through this lens into California cities provided by this task that I have discovered there can be meaning in the mundane, and that it is not always the most glamorous projects that are the most necessary or self-fulfilling.

Pranav Trewn is a UC Berkeley junior studying economics and education. He is interning at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Community Leaders: The Unsung Champions for Change

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 11:07am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Zachary Raden

When I applied for the Matsui Local Government Fellowship, I knew from the beginning I wanted to intern for the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP). After taking a class on environmental justice the previous year, I learned about the effectiveness and specific victories WOEIP had accomplished within West Oakland. Tackling the issue of the high shipping truck traffic within residential areas and the resulting high asthma rates among residents, I was specifically impressed with how they managed to do it collaboratively with both the City of Oakland, the EPA, and the community, while ensuring the community’s decision-making and participation. However, even with this admiration, I had little knowledge of what happened on a day-to-day basis at the WOEIP.

Exiting the West Oakland BART Station, I made a short walk around the corner to find myself in front of the WOEIP office. A small customized community-built building on a relatively empty plot of land. I found Brian Beveridge, Co-Director and Co-Founder of the WOEIP, stepping out of his truck and heading to unlock the building’s door. As I stepped inside with him, we talked about the WOEIP and the current situation and work they were currently involved in. Shortly after, ‘Miss’ Margaret Gordon, the other Co-Director and Co-Founder of the WOEIP, along with an intern from the EPA, entered and began to set up for the day. That day they were hosting a funder’s meeting from the Kresge Foundation along with various other leaders in surrounding West Oakland community organizations. As I sat in the meeting, I quickly learned the scope and magnitude of the WOEIP’s work.

With a track record of success with their limited resources, along with their other work such as free educational workshops for the community, there was a reason Kresge Foundation put their faith and funding in them for their Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative. Being my first day and second hour in my internship, there was a lot to digest during the meeting. Afterwards Miss Margaret helped explain the long history and relationships with Oakland, the EPA, the community, and various other players involved. Overwhelming at first, I slowly started to understand the current situation and the high importance of their work. We were at the center of creating real monumental change, granted with some difficult obstacles ahead.

Nothing proved to me more that community leaders are at the center of change, that very few people have the knowledge, skill-set, and patience to fight for a more just world. When I asked Brian the type of work I will be doing over the summer, he did not respond with a clear definite answer. It came clear to me that the work would not be predictable, that it would constantly be changing depending on what was needed, what resources were available, and the current political climate. However, I was given a first task between my funder’s and city council meetings: define and measure ‘social cohesion indicators,’ where they could specifically be applied to West Oakland. As a recent Sociology graduate, it was music to my ears as it combined my passion for environmental justice with a framework and skill-set of Sociology.

My first day exceeded all expectations and I look forward to the rest of the summer working with the two unsung champions of ‘Miss’ Margaret Gordon and Brian Beveridge of West Oakland.

Zachary Raden is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology. He is interning at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


From the District to the Capital

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 10:39am

 

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Paige McConnaughy

My Cal-in-Sacramento internship began two weeks before moving to Sacramento in Senator Vidak’s District Office. I wanted to get the most out of my internship and for me that meant having the entire political experience of participating in both the district and capitol offices. In the district I handled constituent work, attended meetings, and met with local government agencies. It was a great opportunity for me to familiarize myself with the district as well as a way to get up to date with issues and legislation. The Hanford staff is absolutely incredible – mentoring and preparing me for my upcoming adventure to the Capital.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now having completed my first week at the Capitol I must say I have had an absolutely incredible experience. With deadlines to pass all bills out of the House of Origin within the week, the halls of the third floor were buzzing with excitement – lobbyists filled the entrance of the Floor, staffers busy working away, Senators spending hours voting and debating legislation, and I was lucky to have the privilege of being in the middle of it all!

Although, only having been a part of the Vidak Team a short time in the Capitol I have worked alongside an amazing staff, for an exceptional Legislator, which has been an incredibly inspiring experience. As a Political Science major and active participant of California College Republicans I find great interest in policy and legislation. In my short time at the Capitol I have witnessed history as legislation such as SB 128 The End to Life Bill passed the Senate Floor as well as SB 4. Sitting on the Senate Floor I can say that I was not only in the  building but in the room where California Senators debated and finally voted on highly controversial legislation.

the Senate floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must say the most inspiring part of my time here, thus far, has been Senator Vidak’s decision to sway from his party lines and make a vote for a controversial bill that he felt best represented his district. It takes a great deal of courage to join support for controversial legislation and working for someone who is passionate about their constituents, above all else, has been extremely rewarding.

I look forward to the weeks to come and can’t wait for the many more exciting experiences that are in store!

In front of the Capitol Building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paige McConnaughy is a UC Berkeley sophomore studying political science. She is interning in the office of Senator Vidak as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


The Start of a High Speed Internship

Fri, 06/05/2015 - 4:43pm

 

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Ryan Lynch

The first week is off to a great start here in Sacramento! Working at the California High Speed Rail Authority is, well, high speed. The CHSRA, or the Authority for short, occupies three floors of an office building just a few blocks down from the Capitol on L Street and is in charge of overseeing America’s biggest infrastructure that will shoot California’s transportation system into the 21st century.

I am spending my Cal-in-Sacramento Fellowship within the Authority’s External Affairs Division, but I am already seeing what a multi-faceted organization it is. The office has people dedicated to press and public relations, risk management, legal analysis, engineering, and outreach to those affected by the rail’s potential routes. Indeed, the high speed train will eventually connect Sacramento to San Diego and connect the state like never before, but it’s more than putting wheels to a track to get there.    In my short eight weeks here, I hope to get a peek into all of the different areas of the Authority’s operations and its partnership with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA). In the meantime I hope to keep enjoying the many farmers’ markets Sacramento has on offer amidst great Cal-in-Sac company!

Ryan Lynch is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and public policy. He is interning at the California High Speed Rail Authority as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Day One: Learning What I Signed Up For

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 10:08am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Jessica Paduganan

Today was more than just exciting and stressful, explorative and fun; it was absolutely terrifying, overwhelming, and tiring. My internship, at the Office of the Attorney General, eCrimes division, is going to be one that changes my life. Beyond learning legal terms, writing case briefs, and doing research, I will have to read 50 pages a week in outside books that I will be tested on weekly. I will have to make hard deadlines for memos and briefs that I have never had experience with before. I will have to take the stairs every single day instead of the elevator, and the office is on the 9th floor, my cubicle, on the 14th. I will have to run those stairs multiple times on Tuesdays and run more distance on Thursdays and Saturdays. I will have to learn and do things that I haven’t before. And I am so ready to begin.

Goodbye Arizona… Sacramento here I come!

After small introductions, the four other new law clerks and I had a day filled with a presentation about what we would be doing for the summer, a lecture, getting our badges, filling out paperwork, receiving a presentation on software programs we would be using, walking many flights of stairs, and receiving a tour of the library.

I knew going into this internship that I would be signing up for an intensive 8-week program that was going to challenge me. But as I got off of the light-rail at the end of today, the only words I could think of to describe how I felt was exhausted and terrified. As part of the internship we are reading One L by Scott Turow, a true story of a first year at Harvard Law School. In the first 25 pages he describes how overwhelming, stress-inducing, and anxiety-filled those first few days are. And to be completely honest, I feel oddly similar right now. I have four assignments due Friday morning, a reading assignment due Wednesday, and a pre-law quiz on Wednesday; it’s day one. This is going to be quite a bit of work both physically and emotionally. I will be spending most of these next 8 weeks in libraries, cafes, and cubicles, but could not be more excited. This opportunity of a lifetime is more than I could have asked for and I plan on making the most of every minute of it. For tonight, I will try to rest and not think about the growing list of tasks. But starting tomorrow, it’s time to get to work.

Night one- the information and tasks I received today.

Jessica Paduganan is a UC Berkeley junior studying sociology. She is interning at the California Department of Justice eCrimes unit as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Law, Public Service & Cherry Blossoms: Final Thoughts on D.C.

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 4:02pm

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Brandon Wong.

Well, here we are. It’s now April 2015, the final month that I’m in our nation’s capital. Rather than recount everything that has happened to me in the past few weeks since my last post, I’d like to reflect on my time here and things that I’ve learned. But first, an obligatory aside about the cherry blossoms.

For the folks at home, Washington, D.C. isn’t just known for scandal, polarization, and drivers that honk their horns as if it were a necessary bodily function. One of the more positive aspects of D.C. is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. If you’re really interested, you can learn more here. In a nutshell: our friend and ally Japan gave us a gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees over one hundred years ago to celebrate our relationship. Every year around this time (for only about two weeks at that!), the trees bare their beautiful pink blossoms and mark the arrival of springtime. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to D.C. annually to take part in the festivities and take selfies with the cherry blossom trees. I’m only half joking about that last part. Fun fact: picking the blossoms of the tree is illegal, so don’t even think about it!

Cherry Blossom Trees by the waterfront. If you squint, you’ll see thousands of tourists.

As I write, I’m considering three big questions. First: Do I ever want to come back to work in D.C.? Coming to D.C. for political science majors is something of an academic pilgrimage. We study government—typically Congress and the President—so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that political science majors thrive here. Nevertheless, I’m unsure if I ever want to come back to work here. I have loved my time here, and I have been graced with working at a fabulous think tank like the American Enterprise Institute. Public policy has been one of my passions since picking it up as a minor a few years ago, so I’m happy that I got to put my education to work in an organization whose sole purpose is to generate new ideas and policies. However, it’s frustrating to know that good public policy can die in Congress if enough people threaten it. Such was the case of the Student Success Act, which was poised to rectify the failing No Child Left Behind. Do I really want to devote my life to making and advocating policies that will go nowhere in a polarized legislature? I think that question answers itself. Maybe a career in law here would be better for me. That’s a perfect segue into my next question, actually.

Second: Have my goals changed? For the last few years of my life, I’ve been grappling with the perennial and existential concern about going to law school. I could provide dismal statistics about law school graduates, but suffice it to say that it’s not something to be entered into lightly. My experience with local government during my college career has been a countervailing force against going to law school, and I have seriously considered a career in public service that doesn’t require a J.D. Finally, I came to D.C. to dip my toes into the policy world, which is something I’ve considered a career in as well. Thus, it’s been hard for me to reconcile these competing life trajectories. However, I think that my goal, after completing this program, is to return home to beautiful Orange County and work in local government for a year before going off to law school. With a law degree, I could follow any of these three paths (law, local government, policy). It might even be possible to do all three at the same time. Without one, I’m afraid of hitting a ceiling in terms of how far I could progress. After a few years of torturously weighing these competing perspectives, I think I’m making the right decision.

Finally: Was it all worth it? I braved snow, subzero temperatures, illness, sleepless nights, and being away from both my girlfriend and family back home and my friends at Berkeley to be a lowly intern in D.C. I certainly didn’t have to enroll in the UCDC program, since I completed all of my academic requirements last year. So was this all worth it? You bet it was. There are any number of things I could talk about here. New friends, policy experience, informational interviews, amazing sights, the East Coast perspective. The list goes on. But ultimately, I don’t think I can adequately articulate why I think these past three months have been so valuable for me. It was a growing experience, certainly, but there was something more to it—an ineffable quality that escapes me. It’ll come to me after this has been posted, I guarantee it.

It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work in the nation’s capital. It’s hard to believe three months have already gone by so quickly! But it’s time for me to mosey on back to beautiful, sunny, (and drought-stricken) California where I belong. Peace out, Washington.

Brandon Wong is a senior at UC Berkeley, studying political science and public policy. He is currently interning with the American Enterprise Institute as a Matsui Washington Fellow.


Fifty Shades of DC

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:15am

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Summer Dong

The prolonged winter in DC is over. This past week, the temperature has consistently been around 60F. And the once chilly and aloof DC starts to strike people with its cuteness by offering thousands of cherry blossoms and magnolias. Yesterday, when I went to work in the morning, these cuties were greeting me in front of UCDC Center:

Taken in front of Department of the Treasury

 

After work, I took a walk at the Washington Monument and WWII Memorial. That was the first time I visited the park since I came to DC this semester (last time I was only 12 years old and didn’t remember that much). I kind of deliberately saved it until now so that the grass, flowers and warm breeze could balance the frosty glow from the white marble. And it worked out well:

WWII Memorial

Washington Monument

Because we just had probably the coldest winter in DC for the past 20 years (my colleague, a 25-year-old DC native, told me that he didn’t remember having such a cold winter since he was 5), the cherry blossoms were delayed for quite some time. Typically, they should have reached peak bloom around late March. Well, the good thing is that the spring semester students (like us, UC Merced, Umich, and Carnegie Mellon students) came back from our spring break to experience the blossoms in full swing. I’ve asked several friends from DC to suggest some spots to see cherry trees and here is what I got:

1. The Tidal Basin. Of course. If you’ve seen a picture of the Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument through blooming cherry trees, it’s probably taken from the Tidal Basin. But it can be very crowded as people from all over the country (and in some cases, the world) come to share the beautiful view.

2. Stanton Park. Near Capitol Hill. Less crowded than the famous Tidal Basin.

3. Meadowlark Botanical Garden. Located in Vienna, Virginia. 25 min drive from UCDC Center. Or take the Red/Silver Lines to the Vienna Station and then use Uber/Lyft.

Me and my boss, Mr. Richard McGregor, current research fellow at the Wilson
Center, former Financial Times bureau chief in DC and Beijing, in front of the
White House. The picture was taken in mid March. Note the leafless trees and
snow on the ground

Now that spring has come, it’s almost time to say goodbye to DC. I will be moving out at the end of next week and will go on an East Coast campus tour that has been long overdue. But I somehow know that I’ll come back at some point. Maybe as a graduate student, or as a researcher at some think tank, or staff at some advocacy group. In any case, I have the feeling that more stories are yet to come between me and this legendary city.

Summer Dong is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and history. She is interning at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC as a Matsui Washington Fellow.


Pages