Governor signs ‘prosecution fee’ bill sparked by Desert Sun investigation

*Part of a project named Finalist for 2018 IRE Award*

Less than one year after a Desert Sun investigation revealed Indio and Coachella had hired an outside law firm to prosecute residents found in violation of municipal ordinances, then charged them thousands in “prosecution fees,” the practice has been officially outlawed in California.

In a five-part series, The Desert Sun found Silver & Wright, an outside law firm hired by Indio and Coachella, had charged residents thousands in prosecution fees, often for minor infractions involving things like messy yards, keeping chickens on a property, and failing to apply for building permits. – Desert Sun 

Idyllwild Fire District, the town’s de facto local government, fights for survival

As wildfire season grows longer and more severe, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District and its small, 1,500-voter elections have become about more than provincial politics. Dead brush and chaparral function like matchboxes in the San Jacinto Mountains. Wildfires spread quickly and with ease, unless the Idyllwild Fire, Riverside County, and the U.S. Forest Service can contain them … – The Desert Sun

Political outsiders want to split California in three, but local leaders are skeptical

In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs have heralded innovations like smartphones and car-sharing. Now, Tim Draper, one of the valley’s most successful venture capitalists, wants to similarly shake up the way California is governed by dividing it into three states — “Northern California,” “Southern California,” and “California.”

But if he wants it to pass, he’ll need to convince voters in California’s other valleys, including the Imperial Valley and the Coachella Valley, that the proposal is more than an out-there idea from an eccentric billionaire.-The Desert Sun

Fiction of Dystopian Times: Ahmed Saadawi’s “Frankenstein in Baghdad”

As this emotionally sensitive corpse monster — the first authentic Iraqi, by way of amateur suturing, we’re told — roams a city where reality has become stranger than fiction, his vigilante trials offer readers a glimpse of Iraq that can’t be gleaned from traditional war reporting or policy memos. The dark stitching of real and pressing political quandaries into Saadawi’s comedic and irreverent writing mirrors what we consider quality dystopian fiction; it offers both an escape from the reality of present-day Iraq as well as a new way of reflecting on it.  – Los Angeles Review of Books

Riverside Sheriffs’ Association has given over $1M this election. Why?

In Sacramento County, where police officers allegedly shot black 22-year-old Stephon Clark eight times, including six in the back, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s acceptance of contributions from law enforcement unions, while the case is still pending, has opened her up to criticism and sparked conversations about law enforcement unions’ involvement in politics throughout the state.

Law enforcement and organized labor have always made strange bedfellows. Like other public sector unions, law enforcement associations negotiate wages and contracts with county government. But unlike most unions, which tend to lean Democratic, law enforcement associations – and, in turn, the candidates and causes they support each election – often champion conservative causes, putting them at odds with left-leaning organizations and social movements, like the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.

Although campaign finance has become a heavily publicized concern in both state and national politics, the contributions given to politicians running in county races elude parallel scrutiny. Individual contributors and unions alike are able to fund the candidates of their choosing and, for the most part, fly under the radar without having to answer questions regarding whether their advocacy aligns with the interests of voters and taxpayers.—The Desert Sun

District Attorney’s race asks: Can a ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor also be a reformer?

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The criminal justice system in Riverside County has earned national notoriety for the aggressive tactics employed by county prosecutors. In many years, the county puts more people on death row than any other county in the country …

… The seat has long been dominated by Republicans. As the region continues to change demographically and trends toward the Democratic Party, the question that arises is whether prosecutors like Hestrin, aligned with the Republican Party’s public safety platform, will continue to occupy the District Attorney’s office or will they be upstaged by reform-minded candidates like Gressley.  — The Desert Sun

In Algiers, Police Are Rounding Up Migrants and Summarily Deporting Them To Niger

Jeumuel, a 31-year-old Ivorian migrant living in Algiers, said he rarely goes outside anymore, afraid he’ll be captured by police and thrown onto a bus for Niger. “We’re hungry, we’re thirsty, but we’re afraid whenever we go out to get something, because they’re arresting people,“ he said. “It’s hard to leave the house.”—Vice News