tv KQED Newsroom PBS August 16, 2015 5:00pm-5:31pm PDT
good evening. welcome to kqed "newsroom." in a few minutes thuy vu will have a series of reports on how the drought is changing our land and our lifestyles. first, this week governor jerry brown signed a bill banning the use of criminal grand juries. in investigations involving the use of lethal force by police. last year our guest ladores customer dell called for an interest to grand juries in these cases. grandell has been a judge and police auditor. thanks for being here. just tell us a little bit about brand juries. how they work and why they're needed. >> sure. there are two types of grand
juries. there's a civil grand jury and criminal grand jury. so if the focus has been on the criminal grand juries, the job of the criminal grand jury is to investigate crimes, basically. usually felonies. and what most people don't understand about criminal grand juries is that it is a proceeding shrouded completely in secrecy. there's only one lawyer in the room with the grand jurors and that is a prosecutor. no judge in the room. no defense attorney. and then it is whatever information or evidence the prosecutor gives to the grand juries is considered by them, then they determine whether or not the person who was the subject of this proceeding should be indicted, meaning, is there probable cause to believe this person committed the crime that the prosecutor believes happened? >> even the transcripts are sealed. it really is a very secretive process. coming to the bill that the governor signed, sb-227, you strongly supported that bill. you urged him to sign it. in a letter you wrote to him. why do you feel it was so
important? >> this legislature this year in california is really making some strides to bring change and reform to our criminal justice system which in many ways is broken. sb-227 was one major step toward correcting that. and that is looking at the grand jury system. most people don't want secrecy in the criminal justice system. and that's what the bragrand ju is. this bill basically lifts the lid of secrecy and basically says, at least when there are officer-involved uses of lethal force, where the person ends up dying, either from shooting, daysing, beating, whatever, that the prosecutor can't go to the grand jury. the reason that's important is that most people have begun to see -- and i believe this -- grand jurors sometimes are used as political cover. >> what is the expression, you could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, based on what you give them? >> yes, yes. the prosecutor gives them
whatever the prosecutor wants them to have and they make their decision. >> district attorneys were among the strongest opponents of this bill. were you surprised at the level of opposition they voiced? >> not at all. i mean, it's a fact that if you're an organization and you have a job and someone says, we're going to pull back on that, so you get resistance. systems don't like change. so i wasn't at all surprised at the opposition. i felt, however, the opposition was very weak. that they were just opposing it because it's something they could occasionally use and they didn't want that option being taken away from them. that balanced against what people want, which is more transparency and accountability in the system, that outweighs it in my mind. >> in that letter you wrote to the governor you said more than 400 people in the past two and a half years have been killed by law enforcement officers in california. 407. that's a big number. i was surprised by that. how many of those cases resulted in an indictment of a police officer? >> first, i was surprised by that number as well. that's a large number.
and so to answer your question, i don't know if grand juries were convened by prosecutors in any of those killings, because there's no one central place to find out when grand juries are convened. i can tell you if there had been, i think we would have heard about it. my guess is there were no grand juries convened in any of those killings. >> should there be some place where that information is kept? >> absolutely. there should be a centralized place where there's -- >> they can do that? >> it's a start. >> santa clara county is one of two counties, i believe l.a. the other, where there are no grand juries. they've decided locally not to use grand juries in these sorts of cases. what difference has that made in your county, santa clara county? >> i believe it is really a courageous thing for these two d.a.s, jeff rosen in santa clara county and jackie lacy in los angeles county, to say when there are killings that are a result of officers' uses of force, we're not going to run to grand jurors.
we, prosecutors ourselves, are going to decide whether or not to press charges. if we decide not to, we will explain why to the community. >> and they are accountable to the voters. >> absolutely. that's the way it should be throughout california. >> do you expect as a result of this law, which takes effect next year, there will be more indictments of police officers or other law enforcement officials in these sorts of cases? >> this aren't going to be grand jury indictments if people are killed because this law, sb-227, now says you can't do that. >> prosecutions? >> right, there will be prosecutions. i don't think anything is going to change dramatically. what this bill does is do officially what's being done unofficially throughout california anyway by prosecutors. they very rarely use criminal grand juries. so i don't understand why they have all that upset. >> is there, in addition to the secrecy, a concern there's a conflict of interest? law enforcement and district attorneys, they need each other. >> law enforcement and district attorneys, prosecutors, they're in bed with each other, they have to be. the police are the ones that put
together the cases that the d.a.s prosecute. so yeah, i think there is a conflict of interest, frankly, and i think that when an officer-involved conduct is at issue i think someone independent of prosecutors should be the ones to decide whether or not to go forward. >> quickly, we're running out of time, the governor signed a bill that makes it clear that people have a right to videotape police officers in public doing their jobs. wasn't that already part of the first amendment? >> well, one would think so. but there are officers who will actually go up to people and intimidate them and ask them, why are you taping, why are you recording? it's two criteria. the officers have to be in public, and they cannot interfere with the officer by doing the recording. this bill says the officer can't come up to you, question you, ask you why you're doing it, because it's your right. >> all right. lots to keep track of in the new year as this takes effect. ledores, thanks so much. now thuy vu. we're going to turn our attention to the drought. conditions are getting worse.
81% of california is now in an extreme or exceptional drought according to the national weather service. three months ago, that figure was 68%. there may be relief in sight. forecasters are predicting that this year's el nino could be the strongest on record. california could be in for an unseasonably wet winter as a result. los angeles isn't waiting for el nino. this week the city rolled out a new anti-drought weapon, shave balls. more than 90 million of them are floating in the los angeles reservoir. city officials say the balls will help reduce water loss due to evaporation. it's been two months since the state imposed new rules limiting water use. joining me to discuss whether californians are complying is felicia marcus, chair of the state water resources control board. ms. marcus, thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> many water districts, including most in the bay area, met their mandatory june conservation goals. 140 cities and water districts did not.
what are you doing about that? >> a variety of things. there are varying shades of not quite meeting it. we're putting out attaboys and atta girls to those who met it. sending letters to tell people they're within 5% and they need to step it up a notch. the folks between 5% and 15%, we're sending notice of violation and eventually probably corrective orders, unless they let us know what they're doing. then our staff went out and met personally with the folks who are 15 percentage points or more away. fortunately, they got a lot of stepped-up efforts and a lot of optimism that the numbers are going to be a lot better next month. >> sounds like you haven't issued any fines, why not? >> you don't start with fines and enforcement. our goal is not to get fines, our goal is to get conservation. in any program you start with educating, you go and find out what's the problem. sometimes people weren't able to get something imposed in time.
sometimes it took them awhile to get their communication messaging up and running. sometimes they were really just confused. in some cases the numbers were wrong. in other cases folks had applied for alternative compliance because their main water user was the main business in town and for health and safety reasons they can't really cut back. so staff has been furiously working through all of this. >> is there a sense now -- it seems inexcusable at this point that some districts are still continuing not to meet conservation goals. does it not? >> well, no, not necessarily. it took people awhile to get up and running. that's why we took the unusual step of actually setting targets on people. some of those targets were very, very high. and they needed to ramp up communications and get through their boards to impose new regulations. i think on balance, when i look at the numbers, i'm very impressed with how many people have complied and how many have gone far beyond what we asked. such as in santa clara valley where they know they need to do
more to protect their groundwater basin. and they're doing twice what we've asked them to do. so it's just a blend. the circumstances are different. there are some communities such as many in the bay area, although not all, many in the bay area have been conserving a couple of decades. others who really haven't tried to conserve a lot at all, they're starting from scratch. you know, it's better to be compassionate this first month and then lower the boom later if you have repeat offenders. >> let's talk about el nino for a second. because if you believe the forecasts it doesn't seem like that's going to be too compassionate this winter if it's as strong as everyone says it will be. big, wet storms expected. are you concerned that will make people less vigilant about conserving? >> it's interesting. you know, el nino -- again, it's still a prediction. obviously the signs for a strong el nino are strong. as the reporters have done such a good job with all the caveats this round as opposed to last year, there are -- we don't know where it's going to rain.
we don't know if it's going to largely be in the south, which is helpful for people's lawns and for a whole host of reasons. but what the state really needs to get out of drought is rain. and more importantly, snow up in the sierras, to refill our major reservoirs and to refresh the snowpack which is an additional reservoir. that's like one-third of the storage in california in an average year as it melts and refills reservoirs and surface water. so we need a lot of precipitation, preferably cold precipitation, in northern california to get us out of the drought. but the reports say that this blob, a ridiculously resilient ridge formation, may well have a lot of that rain, even if we do have an el nino, a wet el nino, may go around us again. we're on pins and needles. there's no time to relax vigilance on conservation. what i've been saying is, it ain't over till it's over. >> if we head into a fifth year drought, what will your agency do?
>> we are meeting across the administration to start coming up with what happens next month. obviously there's more of the above. i mean, part of what we've been implementing through this drought is a plan that we came up with before the drought, which is what we need to do to deal with the effects of climate change in the decades to come. we've accelerated a lot of it. so you would see steady as she goes on these tough conservation regs. you would see even more effort to get recycled water projects on the ground. we've put out hundreds of millions of dollars in low-cost loans last year. the bond gave us hundreds of millions of dollars that we can use on conservation, storm water capture, recycling, et cetera. so you will see a lot of that going forward with or without the drought. really with an even heightened sense of urgency with the drought. >> felicia marques, thank you. we'll keep our fingers crossed for rain. felicia marques, state water resources control board. the drought has provided plenty of fuel for wildfires.
since the first of this year there have been nearly 4,400 wildfires and the state, according to cal fire. that's an increase of 43% over the same period last year. currently there are 16 active wildfires across the state, including the jerusalem fire which now spans parts of lake and napa counties. it has burned more than 24,000 acres. firefighters have contained the rocky fire which destroyed 43 homes near clear lake. california's propensity for fires, floods, droughts, earth cakes tests the limits of insurance coverage. joining me is nancy kincaid from the state department of insurance. thank you for joining us. what are some of the insurance issues that californians face when they lose their home in a wildfire or some other natural disaster? >> natural disaster hits, the first thing we think of is the insurance coverage we have. it's so important to reach out to your insurance company right away so that they can get an assessment of the damage. but it's also important before you make that call or face a
disaster, understand your coverage. we tell people all the time to read their policy. while those are complicated, sometimes the easiest thing to do is read the exclusions. know what's not covered. and then oar going in with eyes wide open when that disaster duck strike. >> what are some of the provisions you should make sure you have in your homeowners or renter's policy? >> it's important to make sure that you have enough to cover the contents of your home and rebuild your home. often people buy coverage based on what they think their home's value is. and that's not what it takes to rebuild your home. what you should do when you're deciding your coverage is find out within your area what is the average cost per square foot t o build a home? that tells you what you might need. you might add a little bit too that. if there's a big disaster like we see with wildfires where 40 homes are destroyed, there's a shortage of labor and materials and that means prices go up. so you might want to add a little extra. some people add 5%, some add
10%, just to make sure you have enough coverage. >> are there certain things you need to be aware of before you accept a settlement from an insurance company? >> absolutely. that's why it's so important to read your policy. understand what your rights are. that's what the department of insurance is there for. commissioner jones supports a team of 100 compliance officers whose job it is to help consumers when they have a question about their policy or they're trying to settle a claim. in fact, we've returned over $230 million to consumers who had claims not settled correctly or they were charged the wrong premium. it's important to know the department is there to help you when you have a question about your coverage. >> some of these claims are handled by phone. what can you do in terms of the way you communicate and the way things are documented to make sure you're protected and that you get that settlement quickly? >> right. there's a law that requires the insurers to act quickly. sometimes you want to make sure that it's not so quickly that not everything is investigated properly and you've got the
amount of coverage and then claim payment that you need. you mentioned documentation. and that's important. any time you speak with someone, write down the day, the time, who you spoke to, what they said. because the employees of that insurance company are responsible for representing the company. if they make a mistake, then the company is responsible for that. so absolutely document, make sure you have a copy of your policy, you understand your coverages, and that you stay in contact with the insurance company and advocate for yourself. if you run up against a difficult time, call the department of insurance and let us step in. >> the housing market as you know is very tight right now. after a disaster it often becomes even tighter. are there protections against price gouging for consumers? >> there are. when it comes to rebuilding and contractors, work done by contractors. that's another department, that's the california state contractors licensing board. we work in tandem with them quite often after a disaster. we will team up with them and go into the community and talk to consumers about how to avoid being ripped off, what to look
for, how to hire a proper contractor or a licensed adjuster if they're looking for an independent adjuster. so we always come into those communities after a disaster and are available to consumers if it's an individual house fire also. >> let's talk about earthquakes for a moment. big concern here. earthquake insurance is expensive. the deductibles are high. there's not a lot of people participating in that program. should the state be looking at another way to insure californians? >> this is the answer that came after northridge, which was the most costly earthquake and still remains the most costly earthquake in u.s. history. going back to how can we mitigate against this risk, the most important thing consumers can do first is mitigate against the risk. the majority of the injuries that come from the earthquakes we have in california come from the furniture and the things that fly around your home. secure those things. you can do it for about $110. that's an easy fix. if you're in a really dangerous area where the soil is soft or
you have crippled walls and you need structural mitigation that may be something you can do. for $2,000 or $3,000, the cost of a few years of earthquake insurance, you might be able to avoid needing earthquake insurance at all. but the california earthquake authority has made a number of improvements to their products. and it's now more of a menu. you can pick the coverage that's right for you. >> different price points? >> different price points. it's important to understand the deductible. most of us think about the dedud deductible as something you write a check for. earthquake insurance, the deductible comes off the top of what they're paying you, you do not have to write a check to collect from them. >> quickly in 10 seconds or less if you can, are insurance companies choosing not to provide coverage in california because of climate change and natural disasters? >> for what type of insurance? >> just broadly. >> homeowners insurance, in high-risk areas for wildfire, there are some insurers who have cut back their coverage. but more than 100 rate in california. so we tell people to shop around. >> all right, very good.
all good tips, nancy kincaid, state department of insurance, thank you. >> you're very welcome, thank you. natural disasters have certainly changed california's landscape. but so too has human intervention. artist david musel has documented those changes using aerial photography. kqed arts producer laurie halloran travels as he photographed a once-abundance water source. ♪ >> i'm david masel, photographer and visual artist. for the past three decades i've been making aerial photographs of sites that have been altered by human intervention. sides that have undergone kind of a severe environmental impact. not necessarily for the better.
working from an airplane does pose very specific challenges. because some of the most interesting pictures happen as the pilot exits and enters severe banks. >> positioned almost right over it. this is going to be great. >> all right. >> you don't want to be going too fast. otherwise that makes it difficult for him to get the shots he wants. you've got to keep it slow and banked over and going straight. those aren't things that an airplane wants to do all at once. >> i got started making aerial photographs at mount st. helen's. seeing the destruction of the volcano, the aftermath, was fascinating. but what struck me most was the clear-cutting of the forest there was in a way creating devastation on a scale equal to the natural disaster of the volcano. and i was hooked. i thought it was just an incredible way to look at landscape and to think about these issues.
mining is considered by the environmental protection agency to be the nation's worst industry of all in terms of industrial pollution. montana, arizona, new mexico, i was completely unprepared for the scale of what i was looking at. nevada and the carlin trend is north korea's greatest concentrated area of gold mining. to get above this particular site and see this gigantic pool of acid green water -- absolutely revolting. and also strangely compelling. >> the line that david walks very skillfully is this line between sort of education and inspiration. and these pictures are in their own way terrifyingly particular in what they show. but we don't as viewers always understand what water looking
at. and this gives it a life span beyond the immediate one-liner, where when you look at the work, you think you understand initially what's being conveyed. that's not the case with his photographs. you are left with questions. >> i guess i'm always a little bit interested in getting to look at things that you're not supposed to see. and as you look at aeronautical charts of the northwest, you there are enormous tracts of land you're not permitted to fly over. that made me really curious. when i was working on a project called "terminal mirage" which happens all around the great salt lake and utah, there's one area that was a military zone where there are about 900 structures spread across the valley floor. they look like a little suburban housing development in the desert. but in fact, they house expired
chemical weapons. the tooele incineration plant was actually where they kept chemical weapons. the ash would go up to the air and eventually settle on the lake, which was mined for its minute wall content. there's the sense that one hand doesn't necessarily know what the other is doing. i find it in a way a reflection of just who we are as a society. >> i feel totally different than the last time i was here. >> once i started the project, in a way it never ends. so i've been looking at owens lake since 2001. and just recently returned. what fascinates me at owens lake is its scale. it's enormous. it's like 150 square miles. probably the largest site that i have ever worked at. >> 100 years ago, i wins lake was one of the largest natural lakes in california. in the early 1900s the city of
los angeles realized they didn't have the water to support that city. so they looked far and wide and identified the owens valley as a source of water for the city of los angeles. divergence started in 1913. by about 10 years later, owens lake was essentially dry. so that exposed those salts and soils to the high winds that we have here. the dried owens lakebed became the largest single source of particulate pollution in the united states. >> when the wind is coming off the mountains just right, the lake at times could look like a nuclear bomb went off. >> about 3,000 people are greatly affected by the lake. between 2000 and 2015, the city of los angeles has spent about $1.5 billion on the lakebed. that's a controlled project. it's a mix of gravel, flooding and vegetation, kind of a mosaic of these three.
david was one of the first people from the outside, sort of that took an interest in this project. >> bank it right here. >> yeah. >> and he realized that this was really a geography-changing thing that was going to happen. it changed the way our planet looks from outer space. >> every frame that i shoot by necessity is different. what you see through the camera is constantly shifting. >> bring me back closer to the brine pool. >> the minerals that would have been dispersed at the lake are basically concentrated in these little zones of water. and that yields these blooms of salt-loving bacteria that stain the water this incredible deep red. >> one of the things that's very interesting about david's work is its archeological characteristic.
the trace that we as people leave during our life spans. >> look at this glow. >> there's not an activist photographer but he is a photographer who's motivated to try to show us something in a manner that we haven't seen it ever before. >> this is beautiful. >> i'm not wanting to make these pictures to be didactic, to tell us what we're doing wrong. it's not the place of art to solve these problems. it may be the place of art to bring them to our attention. i just want to ask the questions. >> pretty amazing images. that is all for us for tonight. for all kqed's news coverage, go to kqednews.covering. i'm thuy vu. have a good night. ♪
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