California Public Policy and Citizen Participation/Printable version

California Public Policy and Citizen Participation

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Introduction: What is public policy?

Public policy as government action is generally the principled guide to action taken by the administrative or executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs. In general, the foundation is the pertinent national and subnational constitutional law and implementing legislation such as the US Federal code. Further substrates include both judicial interpretations and regulations which are generally authorized by legislation.

Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D. states "Public policy can be generally defined as a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives." [1]

Different forms of citizen participation

The various editors of Wikipedia's entry for Community Organizing [2] seem to take the point of view that community organizing is the superior form of engaging the state. Be that as it may, they distinguish several classes of participation which they distinguish from community organizing per se.

  • Activism: According to Edward Chambers, community organizing is distinguishable from activism if activists engage in social protest without a coherent strategy for building power or for making specific social changes.
  • Mobilizing: When people "mobilize" they get together to effect a specific social change, but have no long term plan. When the particular campaign that mobilized them is over, these groups dissolve and durable power is not built.
  • Advocacy: Advocates generally speak for others who are unable to represent their own interest due to disability, inherent complexity of the venue such as courts and hospitals, or other factors. Community organizing emphasizes the virtue of trying to get those affected to speak for themselves.
  • Social Movements: A broad Social movement often encompasses diverse collections of individual activists, local and national organizations, advocacy groups, multiple and often conflicting spokespersons, and more, held together by relatively common aims but not a common organizational structure. A community organizing group might be part of a “movement.” Movements generally dissolve when the motivating issue(s) are addressed, although organizations created during movements can continue and shift their focuses.
  • Legal Action: Lawyers are often quite important to those engaged in social action. The problem comes when a social action strategy is designed primarily around a lawsuit. When lawyers take the center stage, it can push grassroots struggle into the background, short circuiting the development of collective power and capacity. There are examples where community organizing groups and legal strategies have worked together well, however, including the Williams v. California lawsuit over inequality in k-12 education.

Wikipedia also informs us that "Saul Alinsky, based in Chicago, is credited with originating the term community organizer during this time period. Alinsky wrote Reveille for Radicals, published in 1946, and Rules for Radicals, published in 1971. With these books, Alinsky was the first person in America to codify key strategies and aims of community organizing. He also founded the first national community organizing training network, the Industrial Areas Foundation..."



Chapter One

A Unique Early History

California was originally settled by a First Nation which in its various tribes is called the Chumash. When the Spanish conquistadors entered the continent, the land became part of the Spanish empire. Father Juniper Serra pioneered a string of missions up the coast and the Catholic church was a major player inculcating the Chumash with Christianity.

Subsequently, war broke out in Texas and swiftly engulfed the continent. A group of rebel white American settlers declared the Bear Flag Republic and seceded from Mexico, barely two weeks before the US Navy arrived at Monterey and declared US martial law. US troops marched into Mexico City and installed Santa Anna from whom the US exacted the Treaty of Guadalupe. Cash was paid for acquisition of California.

The U.S. Congress subsequently took California into the USA as a state. As a result, California has two US Senators and a House of Representatives delegation of 53, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Gold Rush and Immigrant Scares

The California Gold Rush was a major influence, drawing Americans from the East and many Asians from the West. This led to a series of anti-Chinese scare which by all estimates are not a legacy of which to be proud.


This section is under construction. Please feel free to contribute.

Jumping to Modern Times

In the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Democratic incumbent Gray Davis defeated Republican challenger Bill Simon.

On October 7, 2003, Davis was successfully recalled, with 55.4% of the voters supporting the recall (see results of the 2003 California recall). With a plurality of 48.6% of the vote, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen as the new governor. Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante received 31.5% of the vote, and Republican State Senator Tom McClintock received 13.5% of the vote.

Schwarzenegger began his shortened term with a soaring approval rating and soon after began implementing a conservative agenda. This initially resulted in sparring with the heavily Democratic Assembly and Senate over the state budget, battles which provided his infamous "girly men" comment but also began taking their toll on his approval rating. Schwarzenegger then embarked on a campaign to enact several ballot propositions in a 2005 Special Election touted as reforming California's budget system, redistricting powers, and union political fundraising. The union-led campaign spearheaded by the California Nurses Association contributed heavily to the defeat of every proposition in the Special Election. Since this conspicuous failure, Schwarzenegger has made a turn back to the left, criticizing the Bush Administration at many junctures, reviving his environmental agenda, and compromising with the legislature on the traditionally Democratic issue of education spending. His approval rating has also been revived, and he was re-elected in 2006. However continued paralysis in state government and the inability of the Legislature and Governor to work out the fundamental funding questions has resulted in voter disapproval of both the legislators and the Governor whose approval rating is among the lowest ever recorded pending the election of a successor in November, 2010.

Chapter Two

The Brown Act, officially known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, was an act of the California State Legislature, authored by Assemblymember Ralph M. Brown and passed in 1953, that guaranteed the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.[1]

The Brown Act, originally a 686 word statute that has grown substantially over the years, was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards, and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret "workshops" and "study sessions." The Brown Act solely applies to California city and county government agencies, boards, and councils. The comparable Bagley-Keane Act mandates open meetings for State government agencies.



The introduction to the Brown Act describes its purpose and intent:[2]

In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

A local newspaper opined of the act:

A law to prohibit secret meetings of official bodies, save under the most exceptional circumstances, should not be necessary. Public officers above all other persons should be imbued with the truth that their business is the public’s business and they should be the last to tolerate any attempt to keep the people from being fully informed as to what is going on in official agencies. Unfortunately, however, that is not always the case. Instances are many in which officials have contrived, deliberately and shamefully, to operate in a vacuum of secrecy.

Sacramento Bee, October 1952



Supporters of the Brown Act say it still lacks enforcement, contending the law has been eroded by court decisions and government officials' efforts to block access to records. "The unfulfilled promise, I'm afraid, that 50 years has revealed, is enforcement," commented Terry Francke, of the California First Amendment Coalition, on the 50th anniversary of the bill's passage in 2003.

Key provisionss

  • Open meetings are required of all county, city and special districts such as water boards. The Brown Act does not apply to the state legislature itself, to the consternation of some commentators.
  • Closed sessions are only allowed for things like labor and real estate negotiations. The body must report back on the progress of closed session at the following open public session.
  • Documents at meetings are public, all of them.
  • Electronic communications auch as emails must not be allowed to be used to conduct a de facto closed private meeting. Back and forth emails constitute an illegal deliberation.
  • Emergency situations allow some exceptions to rules such as the prohibition of back and forth emails between members of a board.
  • Public is not required to provide their name or any information when viewing documents.
  • Notice of meetings
  • No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not on the agenda so that the public will have notice, via the agenda, in advance, that the particular action is being taken or discussed.

  • Criminal penalties are written into the act if there is proven intent to deprive the public of information, although this is rarely even threatened or discussed.
  • Public comment is permitted at all open public meetings but the chair has discretion as to the scope and length of such public comment.
  • Public criticism of governemtnt action is allowed but most agencies specifically prohibit personal attacks.
  • Recording the proceedings is, by law, permitted, when it is done in a non-disruptive manner.
  • Special meetings are subject to all of the same requirements as any other meeting.



The Brown Act applies to "legislative" agencies such as school districts, which "legislate" policy, boards of supervisors, city councils etc. [3] According to the Primordial Wikipedia Article on the Brown Act, as of the date it was transwiki'd, subcommittees that are less than a quorom do not count. According to that wikipedia article this section was based on, "Advisory committees that do not legislate do not count." However, this writer is on an advisory committee which does not legislate, and Brown Act compliance is enforced very rigorously at all times and, according to city staff, the city could be fined for violating the Brown Act in the conduct of its advisory committee activities. Be sure to consult with the city or county attorney if you are on such a committee or if you are a citizen seeking to enhance the performance of any such committee.

According to the wikipedia article, state agencies are covered by the Bagley Keene Act.[4]

State agencies are covered by the Bagley-Keene Open meetings act


It is the public policy of this state that public agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business and the proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed. In enacting this article the Legislature finds and declares that it is the intent of the law that actions of state agencies be taken openly and that their deliberation be conducted openly. The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. This article shall be known and may be cited as the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. [5]

Notes and references



  1. Lockyer, Bill (2003), The Brown Act: Open Meetings for Local Legislative Bodies (PDF), vol. Foreword, Introduction, and Table of Contents, California Attorney General, retrieved 2009-06-27
  2. California Government Code §54960
  3. Government Code Section 54952
  5. Search CAL. GOV. CODE § 11120 : California Code - Section 11120

Chapter Three

In California, a ballot is a proposed law that is submitted to the electorate for approval in a direct vote (or plebiscite). It may take the form of a constitutional amendment or an ordinary statute. A ballot proposition may be proposed by the California State Legislature or by a petition signed by members of the public under the initiative system. In California a vote on a measure referred to voters by the legislature is a mandatory referendum; a vote to veto a law that has already been adopted by the legislature is an optional referendum or "people's veto"; the process of proposing laws by petition is the initiative.



Referenda have been a part of the Constitution of California since 1849. The initiative and optional (or facultative) referendum were introduced in 1911, by a constitutional amendment called California Proposition 7 (1911). There are three forms of direct democracy in California.

Mandatory referendum


The State Legislature may pass an act which is signed by the Governor of California, proposing a state constitutional amendment, which is then submitted to the voters as a referendum at the next statewide election. If more than 50% of the voters approve the referendum then the constitutional amendment is approved and goes into effect.

Optional referendum


Laws already adopted by the state legislature may be vetoed by means of a referendum. To qualify a referendum for inclusion on the ballot, a referendum petition must have been signed by at least five per cent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election. This is also known as a "petition referendum" or "people's veto".



A ballot proposition enacted by the initiative process may alter the State constitution, or amend the ordinary laws of the state, or do both. An initiative is brought about by writing a proposed law as a petition, and submitting the petition to the [[California Attorney General along with a submission fee (in 2004 this was $200), and obtaining signatures on petitions from registered voters amounting to 8% (for a constitutional amendment) or 5% (for a statute) of the number of people who voted in the most recent election for governor. The signed petitions are then sent to the Secretary of State of California for validation of signatures.

Due to duplicate signing or invalid signatures, usually at least 50% more than the legal minimum number of signatures are collected to compensate for possible invalidated signatures. If the number of validated signatures is more than the minimum number required, the proposed initiative measure is submitted to the voters, similar to a referendum as noted above. If the proposition is approved by more than 50% of all voters who vote, it becomes a part of the state constitution (if it is a proposed amendment) or the state's statutes (if it is a proposed statute) in the same manner and having the same legal effect as if it had been passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.

In order to pass, the "yes" votes on a proposition must exceed the "no" votes. Ballots which record neither a "yes" nor a "no" on the proposition are ignored in determining the outcome. In other words, the majority of voters required for passage refers to a majority of those voting on that proposition, rather than a majority of those voting in the election held at the same time or a majority of those who are registered to vote.

Originally, initiative and referendum petitions were given a number starting at one each year. This tended to be confusing as often famous initiatives such as California Proposition 13(of 1978) might be confused with another initiative in a later year if there were more than twelve proposals on the ballot in any given year. Starting in 1982, the proposition numbers were not re-used but would continue to increment until at least a decade had passed from when a particular one had appeared on the ballot, eventually resulting in proposition numbers exceeding 200. Starting with the 1998 ballot, the count has been reset back to one; it will now be reset every ten years.[1]

Chapter Four



Public comment is a specific term of art used by various government agencies in the United States, a constitutional democracy, in several circumstances. It is sometimes called "vox populi". Generally these circumstances are open public meetings of government bodies which set aside time for oral public comments, or comments, usually upon documents. Such documents may either be reports such as Draft Environmental Impact Reports (DEIR's) or new regulations. There is typically a notice which is posted on the web and mailed to more or less ad hoc lists of interested parties known to the government agencies. If there is to be a change of regulations, there will be a formal notice of proposed rulemaking.

The basis for public comment is found in general political theory of constitutional democracy as originated during and after the French Enlightenment, particularly by Rousseau [2]. This basis was elaborated in the American Revolution, and various thinkers such as Franklin, Jefferson [3]and Thomas Paine [4]are associated with the rejection of tyrannical, closed government decision making in favor of open government. The tradition of the New England Town Hall is believed to be rooted in this early American movement, and the distillation of formal public comment in official proceedings is a direct application of this format in the workings of public administration itself.

Overview: The Two Types of Public Comment


Public comment embedded in actual meetings is typical of meetings convened by legislative or executive bodies; judicial units do not have public comment, but rather testimony from witnesses and procedural statements from attorneys. Public units such as city councils or county legislative bodies are typical examples of legislative public comment hearing bodies. Note that comment may be written, oral, or electronic.

There are two types of comment period. One is when comment goes to a specific agenda item. Secondly there is a class of public comment which pertains to items which are not on the agenda for that day. However, it is necessary that comments be restricted to matters within the jurisdiction of the government body.

This latter requirement is seldom enforced except in those unusual cases in which commentators have set themselves at odds with policy makers and have been designated as a nuisance. In such cases, there are usually more explicit reasons given for restricting the rights of such speakers, however most undesirable comments tend to be outside the scope of legislative jurisdiction. The above distinction between agenda-item public comment and what is called "General Public Comment" pertains both to legislative type bodies as well as executive agencies. These are typically commissions, committees or boards. There are typically public comment periods during meetings of agencies such as city councils, county boards, and agencies which are concerned with matters such as water quality, fish and game, sewer runoff management and transportation. Time limits frequently range from one to five minutes for unscheduled presentations. It is not typical to require that the person commenting be a resident, a registered voter, a qualified elector, or even a citizen, simply that they be present and able to speak.

A whole different class of public comment is requested by agencies which are seeking input on draft policy documents such as Environmental Impact Reports which provide information which may be used in policy determinations by their own agency and other agencies at various levels of government.Typically there is a notice of completion of the draft which is posted in the newspaper, on the web, and is mailed to known interested parties who may be designated as "stakeholders" or simply "interested parties". A public comment period is established and comments which are received by the cutoff date become part of the official public record. In some cases, there is a statutory mandate that those comments be replied to or incorporated in some fashion into the Final document.

Oral public comment at public meetings


Comments provided at public meetings may be oral or written and not infrequently utilize audio visual aids such as thumb drives, CDs or overhead projectors (transparencies or opaque material). They may include video clips. A laser pointer, such as used by professional presenters, is useful but seldom utilized except by scheduled presenters on preset agendas, who are often credentialed professionals hired by the government agency to produce reports or provide consultation.

Public comment in some cases includes remarks from experts or public officials with some role in the issue at stake, but at a different time or level of process. Typically these kinds of comments may be ad hoc, not solicited by the governing agency which is conducting the hearing. There may be informal expectation that such a party may comment, but if it is an interested agency then there will be prior notification and a larger chunk of time may be allowed to such presenters. Surprisingly, however, these knowledgeable high level speakers, including office holders, often are limited to the same time constriction and queuing requirements as all other public commentors. They simply wait in line, their name is called when their speaker slip happens to come to the top of the pile, and they are subject to being cut off after their two minutes or three minutes are up.This equalization between expert and lay commentator is an example of social leveling which occurs in democratic process and which is often harshly criticized by elitist theorists such as Machiavellians, fascists, communist technocrats and other conservative social thinkers.

Persons preparing public comment often think about and express the value of the constitutional protection and a certain level of gratitude for the opportunity to speak. Such expressions are considered good etiquette the first few times a speaker presents to a board, and it is also common to state one's background, credentials, or interest. Persons who speak frequently to a particular agency become better known and typically refrain from repeating such formalities to excess, and may go directly into their substantive testimony.

Variation of official attitude toward public meeting comment


In constitutional democracies which permit public comment, meeting facilitators can be relaxed, friendly and informal, allowing for errors on the part of public speakers such as exceeding allowable time. In some cases they are strict in enforcement of rules and may make somewhat hostile remarks to speakers. This attitude may be a result of prior episodes in which public commenters may have expressed accusations or hostility to seated officials. Frequently, such remarks result in warnings and may escalate to the point that the meeting chair may not recognize the public speaker and refuse to allow access to the microphone. Less frequently, speakers who are out of order are ordered to leave, escorted out of the building, or, rarely, placed under arrest for trespass or other charges. However, most government agencies in the United States are reluctant to resort to such measures, which may be viewed as restricting free speech protection of the US and various state constitutions. They may also result in litigation and in some cases do. For instance, Robert Norse filed suit against the City of Santa Cruz when he made a Nazi style straight arm salute to the Santa Cruz City Council as a protest for council not permitting one additional public speaker who had not put in a speaker's slip and would have exceeded the amount of time allowed for public comment. The suit, typical of a possible consequence of not permitting public comment, is based upon Title 42 Section 1983 of the US Code, and alleges that city council violated his First Amendment right to free speech by having him arrested for refusing to leave as ordered in response to his gesture. [5]

Some states and regions may differ widely in their policies and procedures with regard to public comment, ranging from the extremes of anarchist collectives in twentieth century Spain, in which many routine decisions were made by workers councils, to dictatorships in which making a comment on the performance of government officials can be proscribed by law as tantamount to slander or provoking insurrection. In such systems, even the very idea of exposure to risk of prosecution deters the flow of information needed for the system's self rationalization process, resulting in stifled innovation, accumulated inefficiencies, decline of group morale and trust levels, with eventual system collapse.

Liberalized systems also typically proscribe slander, fabrications and personal attacks, however defined, and public commenters are discouraged from engaging in back and forth discussion with board or committee members. Comments which are directed from the floor towards persons who have the floor are generally classified as heckling.

Public comment in authoritarian systems


Authoritarian systems generally tend to take a dim view of public comment. In the writings of Benito Mussolini, he expressed the view that fascism offers "free" speech, but only to persons who were "qualified" to have an opinion.[6]Similarly, in the historical development of Nazism, public commentators at official NSDAP rallies were not infrequently beaten by the mob, or, if there were large numbers supporting the adverse commentator, brawls broke out. [7]today's People's Republic of China, public comment on government policy is considered inappropriate, and may result in long prison terms for persons such as Wei Jin Sheng.

Public comment as an aid to editing of government publications


As indicated above, there is a separate and distinct form of public comment, in the US, does not occur at meetings but is solicited in written or electronic form prior to a set deadline. This type of comment may pertain to an intended action, such as permit issuance, or the classification of a particular species of plant or animal as endangered. Other instances occur with regard to publication of draft environmental impact reports, which comments are then answered and may be reflected in subsequent revisions to the document. These public comments are often posted on the web in advance of the deadline, which provides commentators with an opportunity to view the remarks of others before committing themselves in writing.

This type of comment process may be mandated in legislation or in regulations enforcing statutes such as the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) or California's Cxxxx Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Triggering events may include development proposals, mandated master plan updates or discovery of an endangered species. The NIH requested and received massive public comment pertaining to its own openness to its generally sophisticated public, and they did a thorough job of analyzing the voluminous submissions which is posted on their website. [8]

A government portal which may be useful allows review of comments and opportunity for making comment and can be searched by keyword[9]. The keyword search crosses different government agencies and has drop-downs permitting a boolean exclusion algorithm narrowing the focus between alternative choices such as documents, rules, notice of proposed rule changes, etcetera.


  1. California Attorney General's Office Initiative Guide
  2. Jean-Jaques Rousseau, The Social Contract, late 1700's, Public Domain
  3. Declaration of Independence, Jefferson et al, 1776
  4. Common Sense, Thomas Paine, late 1700's, public domain.
  5. Norse vs. City of Santa Cruz, US District Court, North Central District, Public Record
  6. Readings on Fascism and National Socialism Selected by members of the department of philosophy, University of Colorado Contents The Doctrine of Fascism by Benito Mussolini
  7. "Goebbels" by Ralf Georg Reuth

Chapter Five

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) was passed in 1999 and is part of the California Fish and Game Code. The MLPA requires California to reevaluate all existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and potentially design new MPAs that together function as a statewide network. The MLPA has clear guidance associated with the development of this MPA network. MPAs are developed on a regional basis with MLPA and MPA specific goals in mind, and are evaluated over time to assess their effectiveness for meeting these goals.



Unlike terrestrial conservation, marine conservation often lacks a systematic approach to conserving biodiversity.[1] Little gap analysis has been performed on the marine environment, and there is a lack of knowledge into what is protected, what needs to be protected, and where the protection needs to occur.[1] Over the last century there has been a rapid increase in the loss of marine biodiversity and habitat degradation. About 70% of California's population lives within one hour of the coast and the ocean provides resources to local, state, and national interests. As a result, species and habitat loss has become a major issue. Over 90% of California's coastal wetlands have been lost, coastal waters have become contaminated with a variety of urban and agricultural toxins, and a large number of targeted species have declined in the last 10–20 years.[1] Over the last two decades, California fish catches have decreased by over 50%.[2] These impacts have decreased the health and value of the California's coastal ocean and imply a need for a more systematic approach to marine conservation.[1][2] Although there is no single solution to conserving the marine environment, MPAs are a potentially valuable tool for marine conservation when designed and managed effectively. A well designed and managed network of MPAs helps to prevent degradation, fosters marine biodiversity, and may maintain a more sustainable fishing industry.[2] The MLPA helps to promote a shift from single-species management to an ecosystem based management and is a more systematic approach to marine conservation.

A Brief History of California MPAs


California’s first six MPAs were created between 1909 and 1913; by 1950 all had been removed. After 1950 more than 50 other MPAs were created along the California coast. But these MPAs were established in a random manner and without regard to regional conservation goals.[3] Most have been thought to be too small and ineffective in protecting against habitat and species loss.[1][2][3] With these existing MPAs less than 1% of coastal waters were protected, and none extended to deeper waters.[1] In 1999 the MLPA was created in order to re-evaluate the current MPA system and to establish a better network of MPAs that would be more effective in protecting against habitat and species loss.

The Marine Life Protection Act


The Marine Life Protection Act language as amended to July 2004

MLPA Findings


The MLPA found that existing MPAs were not created under a coherent plan or scientific guidelines, and that there is a need to redesign the MPA system. Coastal development, water pollution, and other human activities are a threat to California’s diverse coastal waters. These coastal waters, along with the ecosystems and species which thrive within them are vital assets to the state and nation. An improved MPA system would help protect against habitat and ecosystem loss, conserve biological diversity, provide safe breeding grounds for fish and other marine species, improve research opportunities, create a reference point from which the rest of the ocean can be compared against, and may help to re-grow depleted fisheries.[3]

MPA Network


The MLPA appointed the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) with the task of developing and managing a network of MPAs. The CDFG determines the final location and size of each MPA. The goal is to establish a network of MPAs that work together. This network takes into account the movement of adult and larval fish and also focuses on deepwater habitats for the first time.[2] A proportion of the MPA network is to be designated as no-take zones. No-take zones allow for a large area of safe breeding grounds and a sanctuary for large, female fish. Large female fish produce more viable offspring and are vital in a population.[4] With this idea, the MPA network has the potential to boost fish populations in areas out side of MPAs. Fishery growth has been successful along the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary after reserves were established in these areas.[2] The final decision of the size and location of the MPAs depends on the species and habitats effected, stakeholder and conservation goals, and how each individual MPA will function on its own and as part of the network.

MLPA Implementation


After its passage in 1999, the CDFG began to implement the MLPA. The first attempt involved a Master Plan Team which included primarily scientific experts and governmental agencies, with little input from local stakeholders.[5] This plan failed once it was brought to the public for approval, mostly because stakeholders and other members of the public were excluded from the process. Commercial and recreational fishers showed the most resistance, stating that MPAs produce no benefits for fisheries and objecting to the size and location of the proposed MPAs.[2][5] In 2002, the CDFG implemented the MLPA for a second time. This plan involved members from the Master Plan Team, as well as seven Working Stakeholder Groups, which included governmental agency officials, recreational and commercial fishing interests, recreational divers, ocean vessel representatives, environmental interests, charter boat operators, harbormasters, and scientists/educators.[5] This attempt was more successful and gained public support, but the project lost funding in 2003 due to a poor fiscal year.

In 2004 the CDFG gained new funding from several organizations to initiate the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. The Initiative divided the coast into sequential regions and assembled a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Marine Protected Areas, Science Advisory Team, and Regional Stakeholder Group to develop and evaluate the first set of MPAs in the Central Coast region.[2] On April 13, 2007, after nearly three years of public meetings and proposal reviews, the Fish and Game Commission evaluated and voted on a final MPA proposal for the Central California coast. The commission voted on a plan to establish 29 MPAs covering approximately 204 square miles (18%) of state waters with 85 square miles (8%) designated as no-take state marine reserves.[6] The network ranges from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County south to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, and contains several types of MPAs with varying degrees of protection. Central coast MPA regulations will be effective starting summer 2007.[6]

The Central Coast plan has received high marks for scientific effectiveness. Local stakeholders developed a balanced network that protects the region’s best habitat, including parts of the Big Sur Coast and Monterey Bay, while allowing continued access to most recreational and commercial fishing grounds. California’s new Central Coast MPAs went into effect in September 2007 and scientific baseline data has been collected over the last two years.

The North Central Coast plan, adopted by the Fish and Game Commission on August 5, 2009, also represented a compromise between different interest groups, and protected iconic sites like the Farallon Islands, Point Reyes Headlands, and Bodega Head while leaving nearly 90 percent of coastal waters open for fishing. Regulations for the North Central Coast MPAs, which extend from Alder Creek, near Pt. Arena in Mendocino County, to Pigeon Point in San Mateo County, went into effect on May 1, 2010. The regulations established 21 marine protected areas (MPAs), three State Marine Recreational Management Areas, and six special closures, in total covering approximately 153 square miles (20.1%) of state waters in the north central coast study region. Approximately 86 square miles (11%) of the 153 square miles are designated as "no take" state marine reserves, while different take allowances providing varying levels of protection are designated for the rest.

In 2008, South Coast Regional Stakeholders began a public planning process to design the part of the statewide MPA network that spans from Pt. Conception in Santa Barbara county to the U.S. border with Mexico. On Dec. 15, 2010 the CA Fish and Game Commission adopted regulations to create 36 new MPAs encompassing approximately 187 square miles (8 percent) of state waters in the study region. Approximately 116 square miles (4.9 percent) have been designated as no-take state marine reserves (82.5 square miles/3.5 percent) and no-take state marine conservation areas (33.5 square miles/1.4 percent), with the remainder designated as state marine conservation areas with different take allowances and varying levels of protection. Implementation of the new South Coast MPAs will take place in mid 2011.

The North Coast region, which stretches from Point Arena to the Oregon border, concluded the stakeholder planning process in August 2010. Stakeholders developed a unified proposal for their regional MPA network supported by fishermen, conservationists, and tribal representatives. The unified plan will be considered by the Fish and Game Commission beginning in 2011.

The Science


An extensive body of peer-reviewed studies on marine protected areas have concluded that well-designed networks of protected waters are effective in improving ocean health and making ocean waters more resilient.[7] Most recently, the February 2010 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) included several new studies that showed that scientifically-based MPA networks have a net positive impact on both ecosystem productivity and associated fisheries. One of the studies found that such well-designed networks can simultaneously improve the quality of ocean habitat, increase the size and abundance of sea life, and increase fishing yields and profits.[8] Several studies have stressed the importance of location: The location of protected areas is important. In order to be effective, marine reserves must be placed in the areas where fish and shellfish feed and breed.[7]

MLPA Controversy / Conflict of Interest Investigation


The MLPA Initiative recently began to receive negative press from fishing rights groups and individual fishermen due to the apparent conflict of interest of some MPA officials and unfair practices in the MLPA process.[9] On May 14, 2009, Fish and Game Commission Member Jim Kellogg called for the Commission to put the MLPA process on hold due to the state budget crisis. Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez and North Coast Assemblyman Wes Chesbro requested investigation into conflicts of interest among Blue Ribbon Task Force members as well as sources of funding for the MLPA.[10]

On May 19, 2009, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (CFPPC) disclosed that the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission has started a formal investigation into Fish and Game Commissioner George Michael Sutton, under charge of having violated the Political Reform Act (PRA) of 1974 due his conflicts of interest on votes on the MLPA while serving on the Fish and Game Commission.[11]

On June 24, after investigating the matter, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) declared that Commissioner Sutton can participate in any and all public processes and deliberations surrounding the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) without conflict.[citation needed]

MPLA process winds up


Despite staunch opposition from fishermen whose livelihood might be impacted, the final brushstrokes were put on the MPLA process at the Santa Barbara meeting in late 2010. Despite significant input from the industry, many of the provisions would apparently impact economically viable fisheries. Representatives indicated that they intend to file litigation with respect to one or more possible improprieties in the process. On the other hand, many contended that there was an unprecedented level of public involvement which provides a solid foundation of legitimation of the process.

Much of the criticism centered on putative irregularities with respect to the Blue Ribbon committee of experts. Specifically, it is alleged by many that the commission did not conform to the Brown Act and conducted some of its activities via informal meetings which nevertheless did cover public policy matters which the Act would require to have been public. The other side contends that there were never substantive disposition of issues at any such contacts and that they never met in quorum.

It remains to be seen to what extent the industry will shrug off lingering resentment of the imperfections in the process and the outcome and to what extent there may be continuing litigation, non-compliance, or attempts to repeal or modify the MPLA as enacted. There are some who argue that the management of fisheries will benefit the industry long term, and possibly that viewpoint will gain traction going forward. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is significant dissatisfaction within the fishing towns and it is unclear whether those views will taper or increase as the 2011 election season approaches.

Much was said of the putative involvement of "Hewlett Packard money" and there is a perception that environmental interests are well funded by endowments of various kinds which are insensitive to the needs or working people. Sentiment against environmentalism runs high even in communities which pride themselves on maintaining high standards with respect to environmental stewardship. A similar dynamic occurs with respect to Coastal Commission regulation, in which agricultural interest bitterly contest permitting requirements which constrain crop rotation.

If environmental successes provoke significant backlash, they may find many of their gains being reversed if the State Legislature switches to Republican, or if Democratic party leaders mitigate their environmental policies. It will be interesting to note to what extent political campaigns in 2011 bring out dissatisfaction with environmental controls such as the MLPA. Some business interests, such as residential realtors and tourism, are solidly in support of environmentalism. When the campaign dollars flow, perhaps those kinds of businesses will support candidates with strong Sierra Club endorsements, offsetting loss of votes and financial support such candidates may receive from fishing, agriculture and developers.


  1. a b c d e f Gleason, Mary G. et al. 2006. Assessing gaps in marine conservation in California. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 4: 249-258.
  2. a b c d e f g h Avasthi, Amitabh. 2005. California tries to connect its scattered marine reserves. Science. 305: 487-489.
  3. a b c CDFG. 2004. Marine Life Protection Act: sections 2850-2863. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Region.
  4. Palumbi, S.R. 2004. Why Mothers Matter. Nature 430: 621-622.
  5. a b c Weible, Christopher. et al. 2004. A comparison of a collaborative and top-down approach to the use of science in policy: establishing marine protected areas in California. The Policies Study Journal. 32: 187-207.
  6. a b CDFG. 2007. Marine Life Protection Act initiative: commission gives final approval for Central Coast marine protected areas. [1]. Viewed 22 May 2007.
  7. a b Halpern, Benjamin S. et al. 2010. Placing marine protected areas onto the ecosystem-based management seascape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
  8. Gaines, Steven. et al. 2010. Designing marine reserve networks for both conservation and fisheries management. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
  9. Richard Holland. 2009. Rules Disregarded, Changed. [2]. Viewed 29 May 2009.
  10. Indy Bay. 2009. Jim Kellogg Asks Commission to Put MLPA Process on Hold. [3]. Viewed 29 May 2009.
  11. Earth Times. 2009. CCFCC Applauds Fair Political Practices Commission Opening Investigation of Fish and Game Commissioner Mike Sutton. [4]. Viewed 29 May 2009.

Chapter Six


This article is about water resource policy and policy making rather than hydrology, irrigation, geography, implementation, the management of specific water projects or the purchase, ownership and conveyance of water law|water rights. These policy issues may be subdivided by various means, but generally concern either water supply or pollution. Uses include domestic, industrial, mining and agricultural facilities.[1]

It is widely recognized that water policy is entering a period of more or less permanent crisis, at least in some region, and the chilling spectre of worldwide crisis at some point in the future[2].Given the complexity of international law, national sovereignty and forecasted water shortages, attention is increasingly focused on various approaches to this complex subject matter[3]. Organizations such as the Global Water Policy Project have sprung up to promote awareness and prod government and NGO's into heightened awareness of the problems.[4] Various jurisdictions at all levels from international down to small water districts regulate water resources to protect drinkability and agricultural uses from water pollution. Advanced industrial countries typically develope stringent rules which are disseminated worldwide through aid agencies and international agencies such as various departments of the United Nations. Within the developed nations, some localities have more highly developed water regulatory policy analysis, making and implementation bodies in place, due either to general social and ideological concerns or familiarity with specific, often problematic water quality problems.

Global water resource policy


Planning is viewed as a means to prevent possible political or military conflict as well as a means to address the raw need for water in itself.[5]

At Earth Summit 2002 governments established targets for 2015 to improve access to safe drinking water. [6] In nations of all classes, conflict between urban and agricultural uses are expected to intensify, creating policy making challenges of increasing complexity.

The 1977 Mar del Plata United Nations Conference on Water was the first intergovernmental water conference, leading to the 1980 Declaration of the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade by the UN General Assembly. [7]

The United Nations Environmental Program is a key institution housing water resource policy making agencies and disseminating best practices worldwide. This activity occurs at global, regional and national levels. This role has been enhanced by landmark policy directives:

  • UN General Assembly Resolution 3436 (XXX) Agenda 21
  • 1997 Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP and
  • 2000 Malmö Ministerial Declaration adopted at the First Global Ministerial Environment Forum.




Treaties between nations may enumerate rights and responsibilities. For instance, a treaty between Poland and Germany, "An Agreement to establish cooperation on water resources management" provides:

  • supply of drinking water of good quality,
  • protection of surface water,
  • supply of water to agriculture,
  • fight against water pollution. [9]

The Permanent Court of International Justice adjudicates disputes between nations including water rights litigation. [10]

Non governmental organizations may have consultative status at the UN. One such NGO is the World Water Council, an "international multi-stakeholder platform" established in 1996 to act "at all levels, including the highest decision-making level...[in] protection, development, planning, management and use of water in all its dimensions...for the benefit of all life on earth." It was an outgrowth of the 1992 at the UN's International Conference on Environment and Development in Dublin and at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The Council itself is mow based in the City of Marseilles.[11] Their website explains its' multi-stakeholder basis as due to the fact that "authority for managing the world's fresh water resources is fragmented amongst the world's nations, hundreds of thousands of local governments, and countless non-governmental and private organizations, as well as a large number of international bodies." Subsequently, in 1994, the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) organized a special session on the topic in its Eighth World Water Congress held in Cairo in November 1994, leading to creation of the World Water Council. [12].

Pollution types and regulatory oversight mechanisms


Such regulatory bodies as exist cover designated regions [13] and regulate piped waste water discharges to surface water which include riparian and ocean ecosystems. These systems of review bodies are essential to maintaining a healthy aquifer for purposes of drinking water and agriculture as well as the state's endangered fisheries. Another area of regulatory attention, which may or may not be housed within the same regulatory structure, includes storm water discharge which tend to carry fertilizer residue and bacterial contamination from domestic and wild animals. [14] They have the authority to make orders which are binding upon private actors such as international corporations [15] and do not hesitate to exercise the police powers of the state. Water agencies have statutory mandate which in many hurisdictions is resilient to pressure from constituents and lawmakers in which they on occasion stand their ground despite heated opposition from agricultural interests[16] On the other hand, the Boards enjoy strong support from environmental concerns such as Greenpeace,Heal the Ocean and Channelkeepers.[17]

Complexity of policy making and implementation


In typically water challenged province in a developed nation, the number of water regulatory agencies at the provincial level alone is substantial, not counting county, city and special districts:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (State/EPA)
  • Coastal Commission
  • Coastal Conservancy
  • Department of Fish & Game
  • Department of Water Resources
  • Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES)
  • Ocean and Coastal Environmental Access Network (OCEAN)
  • Resources Agency Wetlands Information System
  • State Water Resources Control Board


Regulatory scope


Jurisdictions may have saltwater, freshwater, or both concerns.



Surface water and groundwater have often been studied and managed as separate resources, although they are interrelated.[19] There are three recognized classifications of groundwater which jurisdictions may distinguish: subterranean streams, underflow of surface waters, and percolating groundwater.[20]

Sites of policy makers' concern include:

  • residential
  • construction,
  • industrial,
  • municipal activities,
  • discharges from irrigated agriculture;
  • dredge and fill activities;
  • Consistency with national regulations
  • and several other activities with practices that could degrade water quality.



Ballast water, fuel/oil leaks and trash originating from ships is a growing concern in terms of water pollution in addition to other concerns. Of special concern are:

  • cruise ships
  • tankers
  • bulk cargo carriers

Ballast water may contain toxins, invasive plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria.

Programmatic subdivisions


The agencies categorize their work into the following programs or similar ones.

  • Biosolids
  • Dredge/Fill Wetlands
  • Irrigated Lands
  • Land Disposal (landfills, waste piles, etc.)
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) (surface water)
  • Recycled Water
  • Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO)
  • Storm water
  • Timber Harvest
  • Riparian and ocean going vessel pollution

Areas of concern


Stormwater runoff


Surface runoff is water that flows when heavy rains do not soak (infiltrate) soil; excess water from rain, meltwater, or other sources flowing over the land. This is a major component of the water cycle.[21][22] Runoff that occurs on surfaces before reaching a Channel (geography)|channel is also called a Nonpoint source pollution|nonpoint source. Such sources often contain man-made contaminants, the runoff is called nonpoint source pollution. When runoff flows along the ground, it can pick up Soil contamination|soil contaminants including, but not limited to petroleum, pesticides, or fertilizers that become discharge (hydrology)|discharge or nonpoint source pollution.[23][24]



Wastewater is water which has been discharged from human use; "water that has been adversely affected" by anthropogenic influence. [25] The primary sources are discharge from the following sources:

  • domestic residences,
  • commercial properties,
  • industry,
  • agriculture

Potential contaminants exist in varying concentrations and new ones are found on an ongoing basis [citation needed]. Sewage is technically wastewater contaminated with fecal and similar animal waste byproducts, but is frequently used as a synonym for waste water. Origination includes cesspool and sewage outfall pipes, some of which are unpermitted [citation needed]



  4. [
  5. Dehydrating Conflict by Sandra L. Postel and Aaron T. Wolf, September 18, 2001. From Global Policy Forum
  6. Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report
  12. Ibid
  19. United States Geological Survey (USGS). Denver, CO. "Ground Water and Surface Water: A Single Resource." USGS Circular 1139. 1998.
  21. Robert E. Horton, The Horton Papers (1933)
  22. Keith Beven, Robert E. Horton's perceptual model of infiltration processes, Hydrological Processes, Wiley Intersciences DOI 10:1002 hyp 5740 (2004)
  23. L. Davis Mackenzie and Susan J. Masten, Principles of Environmental Engineering and Science ISBN 0-07-235053-9
  24. Adapted for this section, including citations herein, from open source CCL 2.0 main article at
  25. Section adapted from main topic Wikipedia article at CCL 2.0 Originating editor TakuyaMurata

Chapter Seven

In the aftermath of the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster, there is heightened concern with the Diablo Canyon (Nuclear) Power Plant and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Due to Federal pre-emption, most of the decision making regarding Diablo Canyon (Nuclear) Power Plant and SONGS are at the Federal level. This book focuses on California State regulatory agencies and public access thereof; a more comprehensive approach may be found at Wikibooks at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant: The WikiBook

Environmental policy in California is primarily managed under the California Department of Natural Resources. The California Department of Energy supervises state energy policy and hence, interaction with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission with respect to Diablo Canyon and the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plants. Other agencies at state and county level also get in on the act, notably the California Public Utilities Commission which has a public hearing schedulted for June 2011. The California Coastal Commission implements the Coastal Act and supervises coastal development permits for properties adjacent to the coast.

Fukushima I Unit 1 nuclear reactor before and after the hydrogen explosion.

Anyone living downwind of a nuclear power plant would do well to carefully consider the possible consequences. It is helpful to have a perspective based upon a realistic assessment of the history of nuclear energy incidents. Remember that the nuclear plant in the area you study - be it DCPP< SONGS or the Northern California facility - has its own specific issues in terms of engineering, geology and potential impact on the biosphere.

Earthquake hazards


Diablo is built proximal to multiple signifigant earthquake faults. It has undergone extensive retro-fitting, but the Fukushima issue has brought the public's attention back to the issue. The relicensing is being held up pending return of 3-D seismic studies which have been ordered.

Public perception issues


There was an uproar when it was discovered that certain blueprints had been misinterpreted, resulting in installation of some cooling systems in the wrong location and/or configuration. Also, there are reports that the valves for the emergency cooling system had been out of order for an extended time period. Moreover, some parties have been agitating on the safety issue (notably Mothers for Peace, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility) and on environmental concerns (Sierra Club), resulting in a highly contentious public debate.

Background on the nuclear safety issue


By now, the most serious nuclear accident has been the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Other serious nuclear accidents include Fukushima I Nuclear Power Station|Fukushima I accident, Three Mile Island accident, the Windscale fire, Mayak accident, and the SL-1 accident. In the period to 2007, 63 major nuclear accidents have occurred at nuclear power plants. Twenty-nine of these have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and 71 percent of all nuclear accidents (45 out of 63) occurred in the United States.[1][2]

Fukushima raises public concernes


On 11 March 2011, the Magnitude 9.0 devastating 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami took place in Japan. [3]

At Fukushima I and II tsunami waves overtopped seawalls and destroyed diesel backup power systems, leading to severe problems including two large explosions at Fukushima I and leakage of radiation. Over 200,000 people have been evacuated.[4] Seismic recordings at six assessed nuclear power plant facilities indicated the plants had been exposed to peak ground accelerations of 0.037–0.383 g and peak ground velocities of 6.18–52.62 cm/sec.[5]

Chernobyl disaster


The Chernobyl disaster was a major accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986, with an explosion at the plant and later radioactive contamination of the surrounding area. It is so far the worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power. A plume of nuclear fallout|radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe|Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, Ireland and eastern North America. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly damaged, forcing the people in charge to have to evacuate and resettle more than 336,000 people. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus, according to official post-Soviet data.[6]

The accident made many people worried about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry. As a result, plans for more nuclear plants were put on hold and the Soviet government, who were not very open with its data, had to make public more of its data. The now-independent countries of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have had to spend a lot of money and time on decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident. Nobody knows how many people died because of this accident. This is because the Soviets covered up information, did not fully complete lists, and did not let doctors list "radiation" as the reason why some people died. Most of the expected long-term deaths, such as that from cancer, have not yet happened and it is hard to say that Chernobyl was the full reason for their deaths.

At Fukushima I and II tsunami waves overtopped seawalls and destroyed diesel backup power systems, leading to severe problems including two large explosions at Fukushima I and leakage of radiation.[7]

Three Mile Island accident

Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station consisted of two pressurized water reactors each inside its own containment building and connected cooling towers. TMI-2 is in the background.

On March 28, 1979, the Unit 2[nuclear power plant on the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania suffered a partial core nuclear meltdown.

The Three Mile Island accident was the worst accident in United States commercial nuclear power generating history, even though it led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community.[8]

The accident unfolded over the course of five tense days, as a number of agencies at local, state and federal level tried to diagnose the problem and decide whether or not the on-going accident required a full emergency evacuation of the population. The full details of the accident were not discovered until much later. In the end, the reactor was brought under control. Although approximately 25,000 people lived within five miles of the island at the time of the accident,[9] no identifiable injuries due to radiation occurred, and a government report concluded that "the projected number of excess fatal cancers due to the accident... is approximately one". But the accident had serious economic and public relations consequences, and the cleanup process was slow and costly. It also furthered a major decline in the public popularity of nuclear power, exemplifying for many the worst fears about nuclear technology and, until the Chernobyl disaster seven years later, it was considered the world's worst civilian nuclear accident.

Davis Besse Reactor Head Inspection.



Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is a single reactor located on the southwest shore of Lake Erie near Oak Harbor, Ohio. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Davis-Besse has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States] since 1979.[10]

SL-1 accident


The SL-1, or Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One, was a United States Army experimental nuclear reactor which underwent a steam explosion and meltdown in January 1961, killing its three operators. The direct cause was the improper withdrawal by a maintenance team of a single reactor control rod. The event is the only reported fatal reactor accident in the United States. [11] [12]

Windscale fire


On October 10, 1957, the graphite core of a British nuclear reactor at Windscale, Cumbria, caught fire, releasing substantial amounts of radioactive contamination into the surrounding area. The event, known as the Windscale fire, was considered the world's worst nuclear accident until the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

The fire itself released an estimated 20,000 curies -(700 becquerel/terabecquerels) of radioactive material into the nearby countryside. Of particular concern was the radioactive isotope iodine-131, which has a Half-life of only 8 days but is taken up by the human body and stored in the thyroid. As a result, consumption of iodine-131 often leads to cancer of the thyroid.

No one was evacuated from the surrounding area, but there was concern that milk might be dangerously contaminated. Milk from about 500km² of nearby countryside was destroyed (diluted a thousandfold and dumped in the Irish Sea) for about a month.

Mayak accident


Mayak is the name of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plants 150 km northwest of Chelyabinsk in Russia. Working conditions at Mayak resulted in severe health hazards and many accidents,[13] with a serious accident occurring in 1957.

The 1957 Kyshtym disaster occurred when the failure of the cooling system for a tank storing tens of thousands of tons of dissolved nuclear waste resulted in a non-nuclear explosion having a force estimated at about 75 tons of trinitrotoluene|TNT (310 joule|gigajoules), which released some 20 MCi (740 petabecquerels) of radiation.[14] Subsequently, at least 200 people died of radiation sickness, 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes, and 470,000 people were exposed to radiation.



Contributors to this chapter are listed at this link.

  1. Benjamin K. Sovacool. The Costs of Failing Infrastructure Energybiz, September/October 2008, pp. 32-33.
  2. Benjamin K. Sovacool. The costs of failure: A preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, 1907–2007, Energy Policy 36 (2008), pp. 1802-1820.
  3. "Japan earthquake: Evacuations ordered as fears grow of radiation leak at nuclear plant;". News. AU. 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2011. According to the industry ministry, a total of 11 nuclear reactors automatically shut down at the Onagawa plant, the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants and the Tokai No. 2 plant after the strongest recorded earthquake in the country's history
  4. "Japan's nuclear fears intensify at two Fukushima power stations". The Guardian. 13 March 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  5. "Shake Cast Summary, M 8.9 – Near the East coast of Honshu, Japan". ShakeCast2. International Atomic Energy Agency. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
  6. "Geographical location and extent of radioactive contamination". Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. {{cite web}}: Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help) (quoting the "Committee on the Problems of the Consequences of the Catastrophe at the Chernobyl NPP: 15 Years after Chernobyl Disaster", Minsk, 2001, p. 5/6 ff., and the "Chernobyl Interinform Agency, Kiev und", and "Chernobyl Committee: MailTable of official data on the reactor accident")
  7. IAEA Update on Japan Earthquake
  8. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fact Sheet on the Accident at Three Mile Island. Available at
  9. President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, The need for change, the legacy of TMI : report of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island (Washington, D.C.: The Commission, 1979). [Aka “Kemeny Commission report.”] Available at
  10. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2004-09-16). "Davis-Besse preliminary accident sequence precursor analysis" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-06-14. and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2004-09-20). "NRC issues preliminary risk analysis of the combined safety issues at Davis-Besse". Retrieved 2006-06-14. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. Stacy, Susan. Proving the Principle (PDF). {{cite book}}: Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  12. "The SL-1 Reactor Accident". {{cite web}}: Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  13. [5]
  14. [6]

Chapter Eight

Concentration of media ownership (also known as media consolidation or media convergence) refers to a process whereby progressively fewer individuals or organizations control increasing share of the mass media.[1] Contemporary research demonstrates increasing levels of consolidation, with many media industries already highly concentrated and oligopoly,dominated by a very small number of firms.[2][3] The majority of the major media outlets are owned by a proportionately small number of conglomerates and corporations.[citation needed]

Media concentration closely related to issues of editorial independence, media bias, and freedom of the press. In that sense, the term "media consolidation" is used especially by those who view such consolidation as sociologically detrimental, dangerous, or problematic.



Concentration of media ownership is very frequently seen as a problem of contemporary media and society.[4][5][6] When media ownership is concentrated in one or more of the ways mentioned above, a number of undesirable consequences follow, including the following:

  • Commercially driven, ultra-powerful mass market media is primarily loyal to sponsors, i.e. advertisers and government rather than to the public interest.
  • If only a few companies representing the interests of a minority elite control the public airwaves of 300 million US citizens, then calling them "public airwaves" is only lip service.
  • Healthy, market-based competition is absent, leading to slower innovation and increased prices.

It is important to elaborate upon the issue of media consolidation and its effect upon the diversity of information reaching a particular market. Critics of consolidation raise the issue of whether monopolistic or oligopolistic control of a local media market can be fully accountable and dependable in serving the public interest. If, for example, only one or two media conglomerates dominate in a single market, the question is not only that of whether they will present a diversity of opinions, but also of whether they are willing to present information that may be damaging to either their advertisers or to themselves.[citation needed]

This despite the fact that before deregulation there were only the Big Three television networks.[citation needed]

On the local end, reporters have often seen their stories refused or edited beyond recognition, in instances where they have unearthed potentially damaging information concerning either the media outlet's advertisers or its parent company.[citation needed]

An example would be the repeated refusal of networks to air "ads" from anti-war advocates to liberal groups like, or religious groups like the United Church of Christ, regardless of factual basis. Journalists and their reports may be directly sponsored by parties who are the subject of their journalism leading to reports which actually favor the sponsor, have that appearance, or are simply a repetition of the sponsors opinion. [9]Template:Verify credibility

Consequently, if the companies dominating a media market choose to suppress stories that do not serve their interests, the public suffers, since they are not adequately informed of some crucial issues that may affect them. If the only media outlets in town refuse to air a story, then the question becomes, who will?

Concern among academia rests in the notion that the purpose of the first amendment to the US constitution was to encourage a free press as political agitator evidenced by the famous quote from US President Thomas Jefferson, "The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure."[citation needed]

Critics of media deregulation and the resulting concentration of ownership fear that such trends will only continue to reduce the diversity of information provided, as well as to reduce the accountability of information providers to the public. The ultimate consequence of consolidation, critics argue, is a poorly-informed public, restricted to a reduced array of media options that offer only information that does not harm the media oligopoly's growing range of interests

For those critics, media deregulation is a dangerous trend, facilitating an increase in concentration of media ownership, and subsequently reducing the overall quality and diversity of information communicated through major media channels. Increased concentration of media ownership can lead to the censorship of a wide range of critical thought

AAnother concern is that consolidated media is not flexible enough to serve local communities in case of emergency. This happened in Minot, North Dakota, in 2002, after a train filled with anhydrous ammonia derailed. None of the leading radio stations in Minot carried information on the derailment or evacuation procedures, largely because they were all owned by Clear Channel Communications and received automated feeds from the corporate headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. 1600 people were injured and one died [7]Template:Verify credibility

Determinants of media pluralism


Pluralism is a very complex issue that cannot be secured by creating one panacea solution. According to Gillian Doyle, the following have to be investigated in order to decide what sort of acts or policies are the best for any given country that want to support media pluralism: size and wealth of the market; diversity of suppliers; consolidation of resources; and diversity of output.[citation needed]

Size and wealth of the market


“Within any free market economy, the level of resources available for the provision of media will be constrained principally by the size and wealth of that economy, and the propensity of its inhabitants to consume media.” [Gillian Doyle; 2002:15] Those countries that have relatively large market, like the United Kingdom, France or Spain have more financial background to support diversity of output and have the ability to keep more media companies in the market (as they are there to make profit). More diverse output and fragmented ownership will, obviously, support pluralism. In contrast, small ones like Ireland or Hungary suffer from the absence of all those that are given in bigger countries. It means that “support for the media through direct payment” and “levels of consumers expenditure”, furthermore “the availability of advertising support” [Gillian Doyle; 2002:15] are less in these countries, due to the low number of audience. Overall, the size and wealth of the market determine the diversity of both media output and media ownership.

Diversity of suppliers/owners


From the previous paragraph can be assumed that size/wealth of the market have a very strong relation to the diversity of supplier. If the first is not given (wealthy market) then it is difficult to achieve fragmented supplier system. Diversity of suppliers refers to those heterogeneous independent organizations that are involved in media production and to the common ownership as well. The more various suppliers there are, the better for pluralism is. However, “the more powerful individual suppliers become, the greater the potential threat to pluralism.” [8]

Consolidation of resources


The consolidation of cost functions and cost-sharing. Cost-sharing is a common practice in monomedia and cross media. For example, “for multi-product television or radio broadcasters, the more homogeneity possible between different services held in common ownership (or the more elements within a programme schedule which can be shared between ’different’ stations), the greater the opportunity to reap economies.” [9] Though the main concern of pluralism is that different organization under different ownership may buy the same e.g. news stories from the same news-supplier agency. In the UK, the biggest news-supplier is The Press Association (PA). Here is a quoted text from PA web site: “The Press Association supplies services to every national and regional daily newspaper, major broadcasters, online publishers and a wide range of commercial organisations.” Overall, in a system where all different media organizations gather their stories from the same source, then we can’t really call that system pluralist. That is where diversity of output comes in

Concentration of media ownership globally


Globally, large media conglomerates which may operate in California at any time include, National Amusements, Viacom, CBS Corporation, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG, Sony, General Electric, Vivendi SA, The Walt Disney Company, Hearst Corporation, Organizações Globo and Lagardère Group.[4][5][6]

As of 2010, The Walt Disney Company is the world's largest media conglomerate, with News Corporation, Time Warner and Viacom ranking second, third and fourth respectively.[10]

United Kingdom


Many Californians may utilize UK media due to its good reputation and the common language. United Kingdom|Britain and Ireland, Rupert Murdoch owns best-selling tabloids News of the World, The Sun (newspaper)|The Sun as well as the broadsheet The Times and Sunday Times, and 39% of satellite broadcasting network BSkyB. BSkyB in turn owns a significant part of ITV plc. Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) own The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, Ireland on Sunday, and free London daily Metro (Associated Metro Limited)|Metro, and control a large proportion of regional media, including through subsidiary Northcliffe Media, in addition to large shares in ITN and GCap Media.

Richard Desmond owns OK! magazine, Channel 5 (UK)|Channel 5, the Daily Express and the Daily Star (United Kingdom)|Daily Star.

The Evening Standard and The Independent are both owned by Russian businessman and ex KGB agent Alexander Lebedev.



Many Californians may access Israeli media especially for opinions on international events. In Israel, Arnon Mozes owns the most widespread Hebrew newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, the most widespread Russian newspaper Vesti (newspaper)|Vesty, the most popular Hebrew news website Ynet, and 17% of the cable TV firm Hot (Israel)|HOT. Moreover, Mozes owns the Reshet TV firm, which is one of the two operator of the most popular channel in Israel, channel 2.



Template:Unreferenced section Many Californians read Mexican media. In Mexico there are only two national broadcast television networks, Televisa and TV Azteca. The former has a 70% market share. Though concern about the existence of a duopoly had been around for some time, a press uproar sparked in 2006, when Ley Televisa|a controversial reform to the Federal Radio and Television Law, seriously hampered the entry of new competitors, like Cadena Tres.

Televisa also owns subscription TV enterprises Cablevisión (Mexico)|Cablevisión and SKY Latin America|SKY, publishing company Editorial Televisa, and the Televisa Radio broadcast radio network, creating a de facto media monopoly in many regions of the country.

United States


In the United States, movie production is known to be dominated by major studios since the early 20th Century; before that, there was a period in which Motion Picture Patents Company|Edison's Trust monopolized the industry. The music and television industries recently witnessed cases of media consolidation, with Sony Music Entertainment's parent company merging their music division with Bertelsmann AG's BMG to form Sony BMG and TimeWarner's The WB and CBS Corp.'s UPN merging to form The CW. In the case of Sony BMG, there existed a "Big Five" (now "Big Four record labels|Big Four") of major record company|record companies, while The CW's creation was an attempt to consolidate ratings and stand up to the "Big Four" of United States|American network television|network (terrestrial) television.

There may also be some large-scale owners in an industry that are not the causes of monopoly or oligopoly. Clear Channel Communications, especially since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, acquired many radio stations across the United States, and came to own more than 1,200 stations. However, the radio broadcasting industry in the United States and elsewhere can be regarded as oligopolistic regardless of the existence of such a player. Because radio stations are local in reach, each licensed a specific part of airwave by the Federal Communications Commission|FCC in a specific local area, any local market is served by a limited number of stations. In most countries, this system of licensing makes many markets local oligopolies. The similar market structure exists for television broadcasting, cable systems and newspaper industries, all of which are characterized by the existence of large-scale owners. Concentration of ownership is often found in these industries.

In the United States, data on ownership and market share of media companies is not held in the public domain. Academics, for example at MIT Media Lab and NYU, have struggled to find data that show reliably the concentration of media ownership.



Prior to 1927, public airwaves in the United States were regulated by the United States Department of Commerce and largely litigated in the courts as the growing number of stations fought for space in the burgeoning industry. The Federal Radio Act of 1927 (signed into law February 23, 1927) nationalized the airwaves and formed the Federal Communications Commission|Federal Radio Commission (later named the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC) to assume control of the airwaves.

The Communications Act of 1934 refined and expanded on the authority of the FCC to regulate public airwaves in the United States, combining and reorganizing provisions from the Federal Radio Act of 1927 and the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910. It empowered the FCC, among other things, to administer broadcasting licenses, impose penalties and regulate standards and equipment used on the airwaves. The Act also mandated that the FCC would act in the interest of the "public convenience, interest, or necessity."[11] The Act established a system whereby the FCC grants licenses to the spectrum to broadcasters for commercial use, so long as the broadcasters act in the public interest by providing news programming.

Lobbyists from the largest radio broadcasters, ABC and NBC, wanted to establish high fees for broadcasting licenses, but Congress saw this as a limitation upon free speech. Consequently, “the franchise to operate a broadcasting station, often worth millions, is awarded free of charge to enterprises selected under the standard of ‘public interest, convenience, or necessity.’”[12]

Nevertheless, radio and television was dominated by the Big Three television networks until the mid-1990s.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 set the modern tone of deregulation, a relaxing of percentage constrictions that solidified the previous history of privatizing the utility and commodifying the spectrum. The legislation, touted as a step that would foster competition, actually resulted in the subsequent mergers of several large companies, a trend which still continues.[13] Over 4,000 radio stations were bought out, and minority ownership of TV stations dropped to its lowest point since the federal government began tracking such data in 1990.[14]

The Federal Communications Commission|FCC held one official forum, February 27, 2003, in Richmond, Virginia in response to public pressures to allow for more input on the issue of elimination of media ownership limits. Some complain that more than one forum was needed.[15]

On June 2, 2003, Federal Communications Commission|FCC, in a 3-2 vote under Chairman Michael Powell (politician)|Michael Powell, approved new media ownership laws that removed many of the restrictions previously imposed to limit ownership of media within a local area. The changes were not, as is customarily done, made available to the public for a comment period.

  • Single-company ownership of media in a given market is now permitted up to 45% (formerly 35%, up from 25% in 1985) of that market.
  • Restrictions on newspaper and TV station ownership in the same market were removed.
  • All TV channels, magazines, newspapers, cable, and Internet services are now counted, weighted based on people's average tendency to find news on that medium. At the same time, whether a channel actually contains news is no longer considered in counting the percentage of a medium owned by one owner.
  • Previous requirements for periodic review of license have been changed. Licenses are no longer reviewed for "public-interest" considerations.

The decision by the FCC was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC in June, 2004. The Majority ruled 2-1 against the FCC and ordered the Commission to reconfigure how it justified raising ownership limits. The Supreme Court of the United States|Supreme Court later turned down an appeal, so the ruling stands.[16]

Cross-ownership proceedings


The FCC voted December 18, 2007 to eliminate some media ownership rules, including a statute that forbids a single company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (FCC)|Kevin Martin circulated the plan in October 2007.[16] Martin's justification for the rule change is to ensure the viability of America's newspapers and to address issues raised in the 2003 FCC decision that was later struck down by the courts.[17] The FCC held six hearings around the country to receive public input from individuals, broadcasters and corporations. Because of the lack of discussion during the 2003 proceedings, increased attention has been paid to ensuring that the FCC engages in proper dialogue with the public regarding its current rules change.

FCC Commissioners Deborah Taylor-Tate and Robert McDowell joined Chairman Martin in voting in favor of the rule change. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats, opposed the change.[18]

By corporation

  • Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair, controls rights to cable broadcast of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox (see full story at
  • Among other assets, Disney owns American Broadcasting Company|ABC, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, ESPN, and Miramax Films.
  • CBS Corporation owns CBS, CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Broadcasting), Simon & Schuster editing group, a 50% ownership stake in The CW Television Network|The CW, etc. Though technically separate companies, CBS and Viacom (owners of MTV Networks and several mostly cable television stations) have a large portion of common ownership through Sumner Redstone's National Amusements.
  • NBC Universal is owned by Comcast (51%) and General Electric (49%).
  • Time Warner owns CNN, Time (magazine)|Time, and a 50% ownership stake in The CW Television Network|The CW, etc.
  • Bertelsmann owns Arvato, Direct Group, RTL Group (which in turn owns VOX (TV channel)|VOX and Five (channel)|Five, a part in Métropole 6|M6 TV channel, and FremantleMedia North America), and several other companies.
  • Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners own Clear Channel Communications, one of the largest radio station ownership groups in the United States, and a share in The Weather Channel.
  • Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate, a part of News Corp., also owns British News of the World, The Sun (newspaper)|The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times (UK)|The Sunday Times, as well as the Sky Digital (UK & Ireland)|Sky Television network, which merged with British Satellite Broadcasting to form BSkyB, and SKY Italia; in the US, he owns the Fox Networks and the New York Post. Since 2003, he also owns 34% of DirecTV Group (formerly Hughes Electronics), operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, and Intermix Media (creators of since 2005. See also Murdoch Newspaper List.
  • Oaktree Capital Management's Triton Media Group is rapidly consolidating assets in the radio industry, acquiring Dial Global, Waitt Radio Networks and Jones Radio Networks, three major satellite music radio providers; they also own Gap Broadcasting, which has mainly bought radio stations away from Clear Channel Communications, and also is a large creditor to Clear Channel.
  • Lagardère Group owns Hachette Filipacchi Médias, which is the largest magazine publisher in the world, 100% of Lagardère Media, 34% of CanalSat, and Hachette Livre (as well as parts in the European military aerospace EADS company).
  • Vivendi owns Canal Plus|Canal + Group and Universal Music Group.
  • Edouard Etienne de Rothschild|Edouard de Rothschild has 37% of French left-wing daily Libération since 2005.
  • Arms company Dassault owns 82% of the Socpresse, which controls conservative Le Figaro (in which the Carlyle Group previously had a 40% stake), as well as L'Express (France)|L'Express.
  • L'Origine du monde|Le Monde is owned by La Vie Le Monde, which also controls Télérama and other publications of La Vie Catholique, as well as 51% of Le Monde diplomatique.
  • French Bouygues company owns 42.9% of TF1 TV channel, and is the parent company of Bouygues Télécom (company)|Bouygues Télécom.
  • Modern Times Group, quoted on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, owns Viasat TV network and Metro International, which is the world's largest chain of free newspapers, publishing 57 daily Metro editions in 18 countries.
  • In the UK, Daily Mail and General Trust plc owns newspapers including the Daily Mail, Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, has a 29.9% stake in GCap Media (the owner of Classic FM (UK)|Classic FM and other radio stations), and a 20% stake in ITN, and also owns regional publisher Northcliffe Media.
  • Bolloré, owned by Vincent Bolloré, who is Havas's main share-holder and president and UK group Aegis Group plc|Aegis' first share-holder. Bolloré owns Direct 8 French TV channel.
  • Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, controlled by Fininvest, the family holding company of Silvio Berlusconi, possesses a large share of the magazine publishing industry in Italy.
  • Mediaset, also controlled by Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest, owns 3 out of 7 national TV channels in Italy. Mr Berlusconi in his function of prime minister also exerts great influence over 3 more channels (RAI-owned), thus directly or indirectly controlling almost 90% of Italy's mass media.




  1. Steven, 2009: p. 19
  2. Downing, John, ed. (2004). The SAGE Handbook of Media Studies. SAGE. p. 296. ISBN 9780761921691.
  3. Lorimer, Rowland & Scannell, Paddy (1994). Mass communications: a comparative introduction. Manchester University Press. pp. 86–87. ISBN 9780719039461.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. a b New Internationalist (April 2001). "Global Media". New Internationalist. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
  5. a b New Internationalist (April 2001). "Ultra Concentrated Media - Facts". New Internationalist. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
  6. a b Katharine Ainger (April 2001). "Empires of the Senseless". New Internationalist. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
  7. credibility
  8. Doyle, 2002: p. 18
  9. Doyle, 2002: p. 22-23
  10. - Fortune 500
  11. "The Communications Act of 1934 ." United States Public Law.
  12. "[Thomas I. Emerson, The System of Freedom of Expression (New York: Vintage Books, 1970), p. 654-655 ]." Thomas I. Emerson
  13. "Adbusters : The Magazine - #72 The Fake Issue / Fighting For Air: An interview with Eric Klinenberg". Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  14. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (3/9/2003). "Speak Out for Media Democracy: Why isn't the FCC doing its job?". Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. Retrieved 10 October 2009. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. Casuga, Jay-Anne. Not Enough: FCC public hearing allows only one hour for citizen input (
  16. a b Labaton, Stephen. "Plan Would Ease Limits on Media Owners." The New York Times, 18 Oct 2007. Retrieved on 10 Dec 2007.
  17. "Chairman Kevin J. Martin Proposes Revision to the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule." FCC. Press Release, 13 Nov 2007.
  18. "FCC Votes to Relax Cross-Media Ownership Rule" Associated Press, 18 Dec 2007. Retrieved on 18 Dec 2007.



Further reading


Chapter Nine

Gary Webb (August 31, 1955 – December 10, 2004) was a Pulitzer prize-winning United States|American Investigative journalism|investigative journalist.

Webb was best known for his 1996 "Dark Alliance" series of articles written for the San Jose Mercury News and later published as a book. In the three-part series, Webb investigated Nicaraguans linked to the Central Intelligence Agency|CIA-backed Contra (guerrillas)|Contras who had allegedly smuggled cocaine into the U.S. Their smuggled cocaine was distributed as crack cocaine in Los Angeles, with the profits funneled back to the Contras. Webb also alleged that this influx of Nicaraguan-supplied cocaine sparked, and significantly fueled, the widespread Crack Epidemic|crack cocaine epidemic that swept through many U.S. cities during the 1980s. According to Webb, the CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US|shipments of drugs into the U.S. by Contra personnel. Webb charged that the Reagan administration shielded inner-city drug dealers from prosecution in order to raise money for the Contras, especially after Congress passed the Boland Amendment, which prohibited direct Contra funding.

Webb's reporting generated fierce controversy, and the San Jose Mercury News backed away from the story, effectively ending Webb's career as a mainstream media journalist. In 2004, Webb was found dead from Multiple gunshot suicide|two gunshot wounds to the head, which the coroner's office judged a suicide. Though he was criticized and outcast from the mainstream journalism community, his reportage was eventually vindicated as many of his findings have since been validated: since Webb's death, both the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune have defended his "Dark Alliance" series. Renowned journalist and former Webb colleague Al Giordano states that "the CIA’s internal investigation by Inspector General Frederick Hitz vindicated much of Gary’s reporting" and observes that despite the campaign against Webb, "the government eventually admitted to more than Gary had initially reported" over the years.



Early life


Webb was born to a military family in Corona, California. At 15, Webb began writing editorials for his suburban Indianapolis high school newspaper. At the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, he created his first controversy when he criticized the use of a female drill team to rally students for the war. Webb attended journalism school at Northern Kentucky University, where he was on staff at the student newspaper The Northerner, but dropped out. He started his professional career at the Kentucky Post, then worked as a statehouse correspondent for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Webb found a lifelong passion in investigating political corruption|government and corporate crime|private sector corruption. In 1988, Webb joined the San Jose Mercury News as a staff writer. He helped expose freeway retrofitting problems in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and wrote stories about computer software problems at the California Department of Motor Vehicles|DMV.

Dark Alliance




In August 1996 the San Jose Mercury News published Webb's "Dark Alliance," a 20,000 word, three-part investigative series which alleged that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had sold and distributed cocaine|crack cocaine in Los Angeles during the 1980s, and that drug profits were used to fund the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contra (guerrillas)|Contras. Webb never asserted that the CIA directly aided drug dealers to raise money for the Contras, but he did document that the CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large shipments of cocaine into the U.S. by the Contra personnel.[1] "Dark Alliance" received national attention. At the height of the interest, the web version of it on San Jose Mercury News website received 1.3 million hits a day. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the series became "the most talked-about piece of journalism in 1996 and arguably the most famous—some would say infamous—set of articles of the decade."[2]

Webb supported his story with documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, subsequently including a 450-page declassified version of an October 1988 report by CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz. According to Webb and his supporters, the evidence demonstrates that White House officials, including Oliver North, knew about and supported using money from drug trafficking to fund the contras, and these officials neglected to pass any information along to the Drug Enforcement Administration|DEA. The 1988 report from the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations of the Committee on Foreign Relations led by Sen. John Kerry commented that there were "serious questions as to whether or not US officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war effort against Nicaragua."[3]

If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me ... I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress...

—Gary Webb.[4]

Immediately, denials began to emerge refuting the assertions Webb made in "Dark Alliance." Reports in The Washington Post|Washington Post (Oct 4, 1996), Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times|New York Times (Oct 21, 1996), tried to debunk the link between the Contras and the crack epidemic. Post ombudsman Geneva Overholser agreed with critics that her paper's response to Webb's series showed "misdirected zeal" and "more passion for sniffing out the flaws in San Jose's answer than for sniffing out a better answer themselves."[5] Richard Thieme argued in an opinion piece that the major news outlets focused on attacking Webb or less relevant parts of the story, leaving Webb's thesis largely intact.[6] Overholser concluded there was "strong previous evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook contra involvement in the drug trade.... Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift. Alas, dismissing someone else's story as old news comes more naturally."[7]

Robert Parry, who in 1985 became the first reporter to accuse the Contras of involvement in drug trafficking,[10] wrote that the Post's denunciation of Webb was ironic, because the paper "had long pooh-poohed earlier allegations that the Contras were implicated in drug shipments" but now "the newspaper was finally accepting the reality of Contra Illegal drug trade|cocaine trafficking, albeit in a backhanded way."[8]

In response to these attacks, Webb created a web site that contained primary documents, transcripts, and audio interviews. By January 1997, Webb's editors no longer contacted him about his stories. In March, Webb was informed that the paper was going to address the readers about his series. On May 11, 1997, Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos published an editorial describing the series as an "important work" and "solidly documented," but criticized the series for: a reliance on one interpretation of complicated, sometimes-conflicting pieces of evidence; failing to estimate the amount of money involved; for oversimplifying the crack epidemic; and for creating impressions that were open to misinterpretation through imprecise language and graphics.[9] Webb was reassigned to a suburban bureau 150 miles from his home. Because of the long commute, Webb quit the paper in December 1997.

Webb alleged that the 1997 backlash was a form of media manipulation. "The government side of the story is coming through the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post," Webb stated. "They use the giant corporate press rather than saying anything directly. If you work through friendly reporters on major newspapers, it comes off as the New York Times saying it and not a mouthpiece of the CIA."[9] James Aucoin, a communications professor who specializes in the history of investigative reporting, wrote: "In the case of Gary Webb's charges against the CIA and the Contras, the major dailies came after him. Media institutions are now part of the establishment and they have a lot invested in that establishment."[9]



In 1999, Seven Stories Press published Webb's Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, complete with extensive source citations. The book received mixed reviews.

The book includes an account of a meeting between a pilot (who was making drug/arms runs between San Francisco and Costa Rica) with two Contra leaders who were also partners with the San Francisco-based Contra/drug smuggler Norwin Meneses. According to eyewitnesses, Ivan Gomez, identified by one of the Contras as a CIA agent, was allegedly present at the drug transactions. The pilot told Hitz that Gomez said he was there to "ensure that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not into someone's pocket."

According to Webb, Judd Iverson, a San Francisco defense attorney who represented former Contra Julio Zavala, discovered compelling evidence demonstrating that "agents of the U.S. government were intricately involved in sanctioning cocaine trafficking to raise funds for Contra revolutionary activity."[10] Soon after, members of the Justice Department persuaded U.S. District Court Judge Robert Peckham to seal the documents in the case.



Webb’s reporting on the CIA’s dealings with cocaine dealers was not without its critics. The Nation magazine contributor David Corn, while crediting him that "it is only because of Webb that US citizens have confirmation from the CIA that it partnered up with suspected drug traffickers in the just-say-no years and that the Reagan Administration, consumed with a desire to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, allied itself with drug thugs," also criticized Webb for overstating the case and for not proving "his more cinematic allegations."[11]

Reason (magazine)|Reason magazine’s Glenn Garvin was critical of Webb’s sources and of the evidence he presented. Garvin wrote that Webb’s evidence that the Contra leadership was selling cocaine is almost entirely drawn from the claims of a few Nicaraguan traffickers facing long jail terms, and argued that they were using the CIA as a convenient scapegoat. Garvin also wrote that every guerilla group, including the Mujahideen, FARC and Shining Path, has used the narcotics trade as a way of bolstering its funding efforts, and that far from the Contra-related drug trade being widespread it came down to a small handful of Contra pilots and their associates who were involved in narcotics. He also argued that while these covert narcotic relationships were alleged to be most rampant, the Contras had the least need for funds, as the United States was supplying them with millions of dollars a year in support.[12]

Supporters and Corroboration


According to historian Mark Fenster,[13]

[T]he common view among journalists and researchers who have reviewed Webb's stories and have expertise on the Contras and the CIA's role in Nicaragua is that the stories sometimes overstate and overplay the largely testimonial evidence Webb had gathered but were nevertheless neither false nor fantastic. This is true whether the commentators are sympathetic to or critical of Webb. The historical consensus -- to the extent that such a thing is possible concerning controversial covert operations -- indicate that the basic outlines of the Mercury News stories were largely correct.

In 2006 the LA Times published The Truth in `Dark Alliance,’ in which L.A. Times Managing Editor Leo Wolinsky is quoted saying "in some ways, Gary got too much blame...He did exactly what you expect from a great investigative reporter." The article surveys mainstream reporting at the time of Webb's pieces and states that while Webb had committed "hyperbole" and included some unproven allegations, articles by the New York Times "didn’t include the success he achieved or the wrongs he righted – and they were considerable" according to Walt Bogdanich, now a New York Times editor, who had known Webb earlier.

The LA Times piece criticizes its own unfair portrayal of Webb -- "we dropped the ball" -- and notes that "spurred on by Webb’s story, the CIA conducted an internal investigation that acknowledged in March 1998 that the agency had covered up Contra drug trafficking for more than a decade" and concludes that "History will tell if Webb receives the credit he’s due for prodding the CIA to acknowledge its shameful collaboration with drug dealers. Meanwhile, the journalistic establishment is only beginning to recognize that the controversy over “Dark Alliance” had more to do with poor editing than bad reporting [on Webb's part]".[14]

Writing in 2005 in the Chicago Tribune, about "the Dangers of Questioning Government Actions," Don Wycliff, the Tribune's public editor, wrote, "I still think Gary Webb had it mostly right. I think he got the treatment that always comes to those who dare question aloud the bona fides of the establishment: First he got misrepresented -- his suggestion that the CIA tolerated the Contras' cocaine trading became an allegation that the agency itself was involved in the drug trade. Then he was ridiculed as a conspiracy-monger." [15]

Media Critic Norman Solomon's analysis, "The Establishment's Papers Do Damage Control for the CIA," includes various corroborating evidence that a witch-hunt to discredit Webb was pursued more vigorously than the truth of some of Webb's allegations, including corroboration internal to one such paper, the Washington Post. Notes Solomon[16]:

The Post's ombudsman, Geneva Overholser, was on target (11/10/96) when she re-raised the question of the U.S. government's relationship to drug smuggling and noted that the three newspapers "showed more passion for sniffing out the flaws in San Jose's answer than for sniffing out a better answer themselves."

Citing "strong previous evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook contra involvement in the drug trade," Overholser found "misdirected zeal" in the Post's response to the Mercury News series: "Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift."

Investigation timeline


Facing increasing public scrutiny from the fallout after Webb's "Dark Alliance" series, the CIA conducted its own internal investigations. Investigative journalist Robert Parry credits Webb for being responsible for the following government investigations into the Reagan-Bush administration's conduct of the Contra war:

  • On December 10, 1996, Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block announced the conclusion of his investigation into the issue, publishing a summary of the investigation at a press conference. He announced at the press conference that "We have found no evidence that the government was involved in drug trafficking in South-Central." Nevertheless, the report included information that supported some of the charges. Charles Rappleye reported in the L.A. Weekly that Block's "unequivocal statement is not backed up by the report itself, which raises many questions."[17] Much of the LAPD investigation centered on allegations made in a postscript article to the newspaper's "Dark Alliance" series.
  • On January 29, 1998, Hitz published Volume One of his internal investigation. This was the first of two CIA reports that eventually substantiated many of Webb's claims about cocaine smugglers, the Nicaraguan contra movement, and their ability to freely operate without the threat of law enforcement.[18]
  • On March 16, 1998, Hitz admitted that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and individuals the CIA knew were involved in the drug business. Hitz told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that "there are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug-trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations."[19] Senator John Kerry reached similar conclusions a decade earlier in 1987. (See:[3])
  • On May 7, 1998, Rep. Maxine Waters, revealed a memorandum of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department from 1982, which was entered into the Congressional Record. This letter had freed the CIA from legally reporting drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan rebels.[11]
  • On July 23, 1998, the United States Department of Justice|Justice Department released a report by its Inspector General, Michael R. Bromwich. The Bromwich report claimed that the Reagan-Bush administration was aware of cocaine traffickers in the Contra movement and did nothing to stop the criminal activity. The report also alleged a pattern of discarded leads and witnesses, sabotaged investigations, instances of the CIA working with drug traffickers, and the discouragement of Drug Enforcement Administration|DEA investigations into Contra-cocaine shipments. The CIA's refusal to share information about Contra drug trafficking with law-enforcement agencies was also documented. The Bromwich report corroborated Webb's investigation into Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan drug smuggler. [citation needed]
  • On October 8, 1998, CIA I.G. Hitz published Volume Two of his internal investigation. The report described how the Reagan-Bush administration had protected more than 50 Contras and other drug traffickers, and by so doing thwarted federal investigations into drug crimes. Hitz published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering had made its way into Reagan's United States National Security Council|National Security Council where Oliver North oversaw the operations of the Contras.[12] According to the report, the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement. To that end, the internal investigation revealed that the CIA routinely withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the analytical division of the CIA itself. Further, the report confirmed Webb's claims regarding the origins and the relationship of Contra fundraising and drug trafficking. The report also included information about CIA ties to other drug traffickers not discussed in the Webb series, including Moises Nunez and Ivan Gomez. More importantly, the internal CIA report documented a cover-up of evidence which had led to false intelligence assessments.

Aftermath and death


After leaving San Jose Mercury News Webb went to work for the California Assembly Speaker's Office of Member Services and served as a consultant to the California State legislature Task Force on Government Oversight. As a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Webb investigated charges that the Oracle Corporation received a no-bid contract award of $95 million in 2001 from former California Governor Gray Davis. Webb was hired by the Sacramento News and Review, after being laid off in 2003 with the rest of the former Speaker's staff as part of a house-cleaning when the new Speaker took over.[20]

On December 10, 2004, he was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the head.[21] Sacramento County coroner Robert Lyons determined that it was suicide. Webb's ex-wife, Sue Bell, said that Webb had been depressed for some time over his inability to get a job at another major newspaper.[21]


  1. Webb's 1999 book, Dark Alliance, substantiated these allegations with copious references.
  2. Kornbluh, Peter (January/February 1997). "The Storm over "Dark Alliance"". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  3. a b U.S. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. Drugs, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Policy. (S. Rpt.100-165). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1988. [7]PDF (9.47 Mebibyte) (9.5MB)
  4. Borjesson, Kristina (Ed.) (2002). Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-972-7. Includes chapter 14 by Gary Webb.
  5. Bowden, Charles (1998-09-01). "The Pariah". Esquire (magazine). Archived from the original on 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  6. Thieme, Richard (2004-12-14). "My Last Talk with Gary Webb". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  7. Norman Solomon|Solomon, Norman. (Jan./Feb. 1997). "Snow Job". Extra!. Retrieved Jul. 20, 2006 from the Internet Archive.
  8. Robert Parry|Parry, Robert. (1996). "Contra-Crack Story Assailed". Retrieved Jul. 21, 2006.
  9. a b c Osborn, Barbara Bliss. (Mar./Apr. 1998). "Are You Sure You Want to Ruin Your Career?". Extra!. Retrieved Jul. 21, 2006.
  10. Webb 1999, pp. 92-95.
  11. Gary Webb Is Dead
  12. Reason Magazine - Hooked on Fantasies
  13. Fenster, Mark. (2008) Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture (revised edition). University of Minnesota Press. 0816654948, pp. 2-3.
  14. L.A. Times - The truth in `Dark Alliance’
  15. Chicago Tribune - Dangers of Questioning Government Actions
  16. FAIR - Snow Job The Establishment's Papers Do Damage Control for the CIA
  17. Rappleye, Charles. (Dec. 13, 1996). "Sherman's Contra-Diction". LA Weekly. Retrieved copy of original article Jul. 21, 2006 from California State University Northridge.
  18. s:CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz
  19. Pincus, Washington Post, Mar. 17, 1998.
  20. The Ultimate Gary Webb - American History Information Guide and Reference
  21. a b Stanton, Sam. (Dec. 15, 2004)."Reporter's suicide confirmed by coroner." The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved Jul. 20, 2006.



Chapter Ten

Temporary IMC in Edinburgh covering protests at the 31st (2005) G8 summit

The Independent Media Center (a.k.a. Indymedia or IMC) is a global Open publishing|participatory network of journalists that report on political and social issues. It originated during the Seattle WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity|anti-WTO protests worldwide in 1999 and remains closely associated with the global justice movement, which criticizes neo-liberalism and its associated institutions. Indymedia uses an open publishing and democratic media process that allows anybody to contribute.

According to its homepage, "Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth."[1] Indymedia was founded as an alternative to government and corporate media, and seeks to facilitate people being able to publish their media as directly as possible.[2]



The first Indymedia project was started in late November 1999 to report on protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity|WTO meeting that took place in Seattle, Washington|Seattle, Washington (U.S. state)|Washington, and to act as an alternative media source.[3][dead link] This followed a successful experiment in June that year, reporting the events of the Carnival Against Capitalism in London, UK. The Media team there used software and unmediated reports from protest participants.[4] The open publishing script was first developed by video activists in Sydney, Australia.

After Seattle the idea and network spread rapidly. By 2002, there were 89 Indymedia websites covering 31 countries (and the Palestinian territories),[5] growing to over 150 by January 2006, not all of them currently active. Indymedia websites publish in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew.[6]

IMC collectives distribute Printing|print, sound reproduction|audio, photo, and video media, but are most well known for their open publishing newswires, sites where anyone with internet access can publish news from their own perspective. The content of an IMC is determined by its participants, both the users who post content, and members of the local Indymedia collective who administer the site. While Indymedias worldwide are run autonomously and differ according to the concerns of their users, they share a commitment to provide copyleft content. The general rule is that content on Indymedia sites can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes.[7] Indymedia sites run on a number of free software platforms, many developed especially for the purpose; these include DadaIMC, Mir, Oscait, Active, SF-Active, Activismo, Drupal and Plone (software)|Plone.

Content and focus


Image:Belgian Indymedia media centre.jpg|300px|thumb| Belgian Indymedia's headquarters in Brussels The origins of IMCs themselves came out of protests against the concentrated ownership and perceived biases in corporate media reporting. The first IMC node, attached as it was to the Seattle anti-corporate globalization protests, was seen by activists as an alternative news source to that of the corporate media, which they accused of only showing violence and confrontation, and portraying all protesters negatively.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

As a result, between 1999 and 2001, IMC newswires tended to be focused on up-to-the-minute coverage of protests, from local Demonstration (people)|demonstrations to Summit (meeting)|summits where anti-globalization movement protests were occurring. In 2007, this was still the case,[14] but some IMCs are attempting to broaden their coverage to include more of what "traditional" journalism ignores.[citation needed]


There have been a number of print-based projects under the Indymedia banner, including short-run papers and longer-running newspapers. New York City IMC has produced The Indypendent, a bi-weekly "free paper for free people" for over five years. Winner of numerous awards from the Independent Press Association for original writing, photography, design and art, the Indypendent is currently the most widely circulated underground paper in North America.[citation needed] During the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the Indypendent printed hundreds of thousands of copies and briefly attained a mass circulation. Contentious issues have included consistent editorial practices, commercial advertising and a diversity of perspectives rare among radical publications. Short-run papers for protests have included the Unconvention during the Philadelphia "R2K" protests during the 2000 Republican National Convention|Republican National Convention in 2000. Other newspapers include the Bay Area's Fault Lines (newsmagazine)|Fault Lines, and papers in Connecticut, Maine, Baltimore and St. Louis in the United States, as well as in Wellington, New Zealand.

Radio projects


They have a global radio project, which aggregates audio RSS feeds from around the world.[15]

Video project


They produce a regular DVD magazine, called newsreal, in the US, Europe and Australia.

Some of their footage has been used in evidence in several court cases, e.g. 27th G8 summit|Genoa.

Organizational structure




Image:Indymedia Cuiabá.jpg|300px|thumb|Indymedia collective at Mato Grosso Federal University in Cuiabá, Brazil hosting a free radio broadcast in 2004. Local IMC collectives are expected to be open and inclusive of individuals from a variety of different local anti-capitalist point of view (literature)|points of view, whether or not these have any definite political philosophy, so that even those without internet access can participate in both content creation and in content consumption. Editorial policies, locally chosen by any Indymedia collective, generally involve removing articles which the Indymedia editors believe promote racism, sexism, hate speech, and homophobia.[16] All Indymedia collectives are expected to have a locally chosen, thoroughly discussed and clearly stated editorial policy for posts to their website.[16]



The overall Indymedia network is decentralized to the extent that the local IMCs operate independently once they are authenticated into the IMC network. The process of admission into the IMC network is somewhat centralized but is relatively relaxed and transparent compared to the occasionally contentious disputes within local IMCs and has not generated a great deal of criticism. Local IMC collectives vary widely in their openness, editorial policies and tolerance of different viewpoints. Along with the locally-organised collectives are IMC websites dealing with particular topics (such as biotechnology) or for different media (such as video). Along with contributing their own media, core organizers maintain IMC's open publishing infrastructure, enabling different people throughout the internet to publish their news. IMC editing is done by a system of layered admin which contributors apply to join for each site, by participating on open email lists and attending open meetings.[citation needed]

As an example of different models for collective internal organizing, the DC IMC (one of the older IMCs in the network) became a Coop with dues with a workshop/office, now closed. In contrast, other IMC local collectives are without any formally-defined membership and have minimal organizational structure.[citation needed] Some IMC memberships require its members to sign a mission statement – not every IMC has a formalized policy. Some collectives do ban members for repeated rules violations. Some feel that membership includes only those actively doing organizing or other IMC work, while some feel that it actually extends to every IMC contributor.[citation needed]



IMCs tend to be funded solely by donations of money and equipment from individuals. In maintaining its independence and anti-corporate stance, Indymedia has had struggles with funding issues. For example, in September 2002, the Ford Foundation proposed funding for an Indymedia regional meeting[citation needed]. This was ultimately refused because many volunteers, especially some from IMC Argentina, were uncomfortable with accepting money from the Foundation, which some believe to be linked to the CIA.[citation needed]



Image:Indymed2.jpg|300px|thumb|Indymedia workshop Indymedia has a variable reputation, both among its users and outside critics. Indymedia has been criticized for adopting a position hostile to the interests of capital, others believe that this is the purpose of the media. Its editorial policy on feature selection and hiding or deletion of articles has been criticized of being biased in certain topic areas, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some critics argue that since anyone can publish with little to no editorial process, unsubstantiated allegations and conspiracy theories are often published as fact, along with inaccurate articles and content that can offend.[citation needed]

In its favor, Indymedia is an alternative to corporate media. Its operations are conducted by activists around the world, who, though they may be lacking in journalistic training and corporate funding, tend to make up for this with enthusiasm for reporting issues of social justice and unique related events, which in their view, the corporate media under-reports or Project Censored|censors. For example, the Bolivian Gas War in 2003 was virtually unheard of in the US media, while it received extensive worldwide and multilingual reporting through Indymedia. Another example is the February 15, 2003 anti-war protest in many US and European cities, which received detailed coverage written by its participants.[citation needed]

While Indymedia has global aspirations, the vast majority of IMCs are in North America, Latin America and Europe. Although the Middle East is an area of considerable interest to Indymedia, there are only three IMCs in the region, located in Beirut, Lebanon; Cyprus and Israel, although there was a Palestine IMC in Jerusalem between 2001 and 2003. The Lebanon center is one of three IMCs in Muslim nations; the other two are in Jakarta, Indonesia and Istanbul, Turkey.[citation needed]

Temporary removal from Google News searches


In early May 2003, after receiving numerous complaints about newswire stories that referred to the Israeli military (Israel Defence Forces|IDF) as "Zionazi forces"[17] or to Israelis as "Zionazis",[18] Google temporarily stopped including some IMCs in Google News searches (many non-English IMCs remained in the search)[citation needed]. Google News described the term "Zionazi" as a "degrading, hateful slur" and refused to index the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center|Bay Area IMC because it had appeared there; SF Bay Area Indymedia agreed that it "could be considered hate speech".[19] This spawned a petition which sought to promise that content the Indymedia community finds offensive will be moderated from the front page as a matter of editorial policy.[citation needed] IMCs were still included in normal Google web searches. As of October 2004, IMC articles were restored to Google News searches.[citation needed]

Controversy and criticism


Hate speech


Naomi Klein has written, "Every time I log onto activist news sites like, which practice 'open publishing,' I'm confronted with a string of Jewish conspiracy theories about 9-11 and excerpts from the Protocol of the Elders of Zion."[20]

Open publishing has left some IMCs in Europe vulnerable to legal action or threats of Lawsuit|legal action related to questions of Defamation|libel or hate speech.[citation needed] In some such cases, local IMC collectives took autonomous decisions to temporarily suspend the site while the different activist groups reorganized to find a consensual, constructive method of dealing with these problems and to increase openness and non-authoritarian organizing methods.[citation needed]

FBI investigation


In March 2006, the Los Angeles Times alleged that Indymedia had appeared with Food Not Bombs and the Communist Party of Texas on an Federal Bureau of Investigation|FBI terrorist watchlist, revealed at a presentation at the University of Texas|University of Texas School of Law.[21] A reference to the 2005 IndyConference was made at the same presentation.

Editorial policy


Although attempts have been made to formalize global editorial standards, the autonomous and independent nature of Indymedia has meant that many IMCs prefer their own local policies. As a result, many deal with similar issues and complaints, particularly around matters of distinguishing between criticism and hateful comments ("hate speech"); and the criteria for selecting issues and authors for the websites' "featured articles". While freedom of speech is valued by Indymedia collectives, it is rarely the overriding principle guiding editorial policy.[citation needed]

Many IMCs now routinely remove from the front page "newswire" articles copied from corporate-run or state-run press sources. This policy (where implemented) is intended by those IMCs to keep Indymedia as an independent news source, rather than a blog of articles from existing news sources.[citation needed]

There is generally an editorial electronic mailing list, to which questions and complaints may be directed.[22]

Servers seizures


Indymedia has had interactions with authorities in USA and UK.

Seizure of servers by the FBI


On October 7, 2004, the FBI took possession of several Server (computing)|server hard drives used by a number of IMCs and hosted by US-based Rackspace Managed Hosting. The servers in question were located in the United Kingdom and managed by the British arm of Rackspace, but some 20 mainly European IMC websites were affected, and several unrelated websites were affected (including the website of a Linux distribution).[23] No reasons were given at first by the FBI and Rackspace for the seizure, in particular IMC was not informed. Rackspace claimed that it was banned from giving further information about the incident.[24] Some (but not all) of the legal documents relating to the confiscation of the servers were unsealed by a Texas district court in August 2005, following legal action by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[25][26] The documents revealed that the government never officially demanded the computer servers—the subpoena to Rackspace only requested server log files. This contradicted previous statements by the web host that it took the servers offline because the government had demanded the hardware. Thus, it is unclear whether it is correct to say the servers were seized by the FBI. The documents also contradicted Rackspace's claim that it had been ordered by the court not to discuss publicly the government's demand. The seized servers were returned on October 13, 2004.

A statement by Rackspace[27] stated that the company had been forced to comply with a court order under the procedures laid out by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which governs international police co-operation on "international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering". The investigation that led to the court order was said to have arisen outside of the U.S. Rackspace stated that they were prohibited on giving further detail. Agence France-Presse reported FBI spokesman Joe Parris,[28] who said the incident was not an FBI operation, but that the subpoena had been issued at the request of the Italy|Italian and the Swiss governments. Again, no further details on specific allegations were given. UK involvement was denied in an answer given to a parliamentary question posed by Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP.[29]

Indymedia pointed out that they were not contacted by the FBI and that no specific information was released on the reasons of seizing the servers. Indymedia also sees the incident in the context of "numerous attacks on independent media by the US Federal Government", including a subpoena to obtain IP logs from Indymedia at the occasion of the Republican National Conference,[30] the shut-down of several community radio stations in the US by the Federal Communications Commission|FCC, and a request by the FBI to remove a post on Nantes IMC containing a photograph of alleged undercover Swiss police.[31]

The move was condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, who stated that "The way this has been done smacks more of intimidation of legitimate journalistic inquiry than crime-busting" and called for an investigation.[32] Criticism was also voiced by European civil liberties organisation Statewatch[33] and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).[34]

In Italy, the federal prosecutor of Bologna Marina Plazzi confirmed that an investigation against Indymedia had been opened because of suspected "support of terrorism", in the context of Italian troops in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. The Italian minister of justice, Roberto Castelli, has refused further details. In November 2003, 17 members of parliament belonging to the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale, including Alessandra Mussolini demanded that Indymedia be shut down. A senior AN member and government official had announced the co-operation with US authorities (AN was a member of the Italian coalition government), and AN spokesman Mario Landolfi welcomed the FBI's seizure of the Indymedia servers. Left-wing Italian politicians denounced the move and called for an investigation.[35]

Bristol server seizure


Image:Bristol indymedia.jpg|300px|thumb|Graffito (drawing technique)|Graffito in Bristol, United Kingdom advertising the local chapter of Indymedia with the slogan "read it write it your site your news". Not long after the Rackspace affair another server in the UK was seized by police in June 2005. An anonymous post on the Bristol Indymedia server, came to police attention for suggesting an "action" against a freight train carrying new cars as part of a protest against cars and climate change in the run up to that year's Gleneagles G8 summit.[36] The police claimed that the poster broke the law by "incitement to criminal damage", and sought access logs from the server operators. Despite being warned by lawyers that the servers were "journalistic equipment" and subject to special laws,[37] the police proceeded with the seizure and a member of the Bristol Indymedia group was arrested.[38] Indymedia was supported in this matter by the National Union of Journalists, Liberty (pressure group)|Liberty[39] and Privacy International, along with others. This incident ended several months later with no charges being brought by the police and the equipment returned.[40]


In 2005, Indymedia UK was threatened with a libel action by the US arms company EDO Corporation, for publishing articles accusing their UK branch EDO (UK) of EDO MBM Technology Ltd (who supply the US, UK, and Israel armed forces) of being 'warmongers'. Their lawyers ultimately withdrew the writ.

EDO Corporation|EDO MBM then launched a further High Court lawsuit against the protest group Smash EDO in April 2005, under anti-stalker laws, presenting as evidence articles that had been posted anonymously on Indymedia UK. Although a controversial interim injunction was imposed on this evidence, the suit collapsed without reaching a trial in early 2006.


On January 30, 2009, one of the system administrators of the server that hosts received a grand jury subpoena from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana|Southern District of Indiana federal court. The subpoena asked the administrator to provide all "IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information" for every visitor to the site on June 25, 2008.[41] The subpoena also included a gag order that stated that the recipient is "not to disclose the existence of this request unless authorized by the Assistant U.S. Attorney." [41] The administrator of could not have provided the information because Indymedia sites generally do not keep IP address logs. The Electronic Frontier Foundation determined that there was no legal basis for the gag order, and that the subpoena request "violated the Stored Communications Act|SCA's restrictions on what types of data the government could obtain using a subpoena." [41] Under Reporters' privilege#Department of Justice guidelines|Justice Department guidelines, subpoenas to news media must have the authorization of the attorney general. According to a CBS News blog, the subpoena of was never submitted for review by the Attorney General.[42] On February 25, 2009, a United States Attorney sent a letter to an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation stating that the subpoena had been withdrawn.[42]

Assaults on journalists


On August 15, 2000, the Los Angeles Police Department temporarily shut down[43] the satellite uplink and production studio of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center on its first night of Democratic National Convention coverage, claiming explosives were in a van in the adjacent parking lot. No explosives were ever found.

Image:Greek riot police reverse baton 12-3-07.jpg|300px|thumb|right|A Greek riot policeman wielding a baton in the direction of a photographer during a protest at the Athens courts, as published by the Athens Indymedia.[44]

In July, 2001 at the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Indymedia journalists were seriously assaulted at the Diaz school where Indymedia had set up a temporary journalism center and radio station. Twenty-nine Italian police officers were indicted for grievous bodily harm, planting evidence and wrongful arrest during a night-time raid on the Diaz School, and thirteen were convicted.[45][46] A further 45 state officials, including police officers, prison guards and doctors, were charged with physically and mentally abusing demonstrators and journalists held in a detention centre in the nearby town of Bolzaneto.[citation needed] Video evidence from Indymedia and from the video activist group Undercurrents (news)|Undercurrents, was used as key evidence for the prosecution.[47][dead link]

On June 1, 2003, Indymedia journalist Guy Smallman was seriously injured by a police grenade[48][dead link][49] in Geneva. He was covering protests against the 29th G8 summit|G8 summit in nearby Evian for Indymedia and Image Sans Frontière.

On June 9, 2003, Alejandro Goldín, a photographer for Indymedia Argentina claims to have been assaulted by Federal Police officers while covering an incident between police and factory workers at the Brukman factory|Brukman textile factory in Buenos Aires.[50][citation needed] Goldín claims that although he identified himself as press and showed his credentials, police tried to smash his equipment. Goldín claims that he was beaten on the head with a shotgun, shoved to the ground and kicked repeatedly by officers.

On May 19, 2005, two videographers were roughed up by the Houston Police Department's Mounted Patrol during the Halliburton Shareholders Meeting - both videographers were contributors to Houston Indymedia. Both videographers were charged with assault on a police officer, but the charges were dropped after mainstream media from KTRK-TV (ABC13), KPRC-TV (Local 2 Houston), and KHOU-TV (Channel 11 Houston) provided the Harris County District Attorney's office with video footage that exonerated the journalists. A followup article later appeared in the Houston Press May 26, 2005. [citation needed]

Brad Will shooting


Image:Mexico moord Oaxaca is overal.jpg|300px|thumb|Indymedia banner in the Netherlands protesting the Oaxaca shootings.

On October 27, 2006, New York–based journalist Bradley Roland Will was killed along with two Mexican protesters in the city of Oaxaca, Oaxaca|Oaxaca. People had been demonstrating in the city since May as part of an 2006 Oaxaca protests|uprising prompted by a teachers strike. Lizbeth Cana, attorney general of Oaxaca, claimed the conflict was caused by the protesters and that the gunmen who engaged them were upset residents from the area[citation needed]. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, however, claimed the men may have been local police[citation needed]. Reporters Without Borders condemned the actions of the Mexican government in allowing the accused to go free.[51] Protesters also allege that the men were police and not local residents. Associated Press alleged that the protesters also had guns, describing the conflict as a "shootout" [citation needed].

Prizes and honors

  • In 2006 December, IMC received from Club de Periodistas de México A.C. - a Mexican group of journalists - a prize for Journalism at Internet and Brad Will's memory was honored.[52][dead link]
  • In 2008 April, in Brazil, IMC and Brad Will received the Medalha Chico Mendes de Resistência (Chico Mendes Resistance Medal in Portuguese language|Portuguese) from the Brazilian humanitarian group Tortura Nunca Mais (No more torture in Portuguese) for their contribution for Human Rights and a more fair society.[53][54]

Social software


The various php software that makes Indymedia, is available for download. It is released under the GPL licence. In 2006, a number of long-time Indymedia developers met at the Techmeet Summit in São Paulo, Brazil to begin work on a next-generation CMS for Indymedia, combining the efforts of the two main IMC content management systems. A prototype for the new CMS was released in 2008 and work continues on the project, coordinated at


  1. Indymedia global home page
  2. Haas, Tanni (1 July 2007). "Do citizen-based media of communication advance public journalism's ideals? Evidence from the empirical research literature" (fee required). International Journal of Communication. New York: Gale Group. OCLC 1AIY ASAP. Retrieved 2009-08-11. {{cite journal}}: Check |oclc= value (help)
  3. First ever Indymedia post, made November 24, 1999
  4. Anonymous, "June 18th 1999 Carnival Against Capital", in Days of Dissent!, 2004, accessed online at
  5. "Wayback Machine - circa September 1, 2002". Archived from the original on 2002-09-01. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  6. "Indymedia's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Indymedia Documentation Project. 25 July 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  7. See IMC "Principles of Unity"
  8. "Independent+Media+Center"
  9. "Independent+Media+Center"
  10. Media center fighting FBI over Web data
  11. FBI raids media center
  12. An overflow crowd vents its anger at city, police
  14. "Climate Camp 2007". UK Indymedia. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  15. "Radio Indymedia". Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  16. a b Shine, Simon (22 July 2008). "Principles of Uity". Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  17. example of Newswire posting using the term "Zionazi forces"
  18. example of Newsire posting using the term "Zionazi"
  19. Google News Bans SF Bay Area Indymedia Over Israel/Palestine Controversy
  20. Naomi Klein. "'Sharon, Le Pen, and Anti-Semitism'". Retrieved October 25, 2010.
  21. Food Not Bombs, Indymedia investigated by FBI Austin FBI Officer Says Indymedia, FNB, CP of Texas on Terrorist Watch List
  22. Imc-manila-editorial Info Page
  23. FBI seizes Indymedia servers, Sydney Morning Herald, 2004-10-08
  24. Indymedia report
  25. EFF Statement
  26. John Lettice, US court files reveal Italian link to Indymedia server grab, The Register, 3rd August 2005, accessed 25th August 2005
  27. Quoted in FBI Seizes IMC Servers in the UK, accessed 25th August 2007
  28. News website Indymedia says FBI seized server
  29. MP Richard Allan's website
  30. American Civil Liberties Union : Statement of Brian Szymanski Regarding Secret Service Investigation of Indymedia
  31. Indymedia's page on the FBI seizure
  32. "More Intimidation Than Crime-Busting" Says IFJ As Police Target Independent Media Network, IFJ press release, 8th October 2004, accessed 28th August 2007
  33. Was the seizure of Indymedia's servers in London unlawful or did the UK government collude? , Statewatch Press release, October 2004, accessed 25th August 2007
  34. FBI seizes Indymedia servers in the United Kingdom, bulletin, 8th October 2004, accessed 28th August 2007
  35. Damiano Valgolio, The Censorers Trace leads to Rome and Zurich, Junge Welt, 11th October 2004, cited at Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites", accessed 25th August 2007
  36. John Leyden, Legal row after police seize Bristol Indymedia server, The Register, 28th June 2005
  37. PRESS RELEASE : Bristol Indymedia Server Threatened, Bristol IMC press release, 24th June 2005, accessed 25th August 2007
  38. Indymedia server seized in raid, BBC News, 28 June 2005, accessed 25th August 2007
  39. "Freedom of press under attack?". BBC Bristol News (BBC NEWS). 30 June 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  40. imcvol (27 May 2008). "Bristol Indymeda Summer Newsletter". Bristol Indymedia (BIMC). Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  41. a b c Electronic Frontier Foundation "Anatomy of a Bogus Subpoena", Retrieved on 2009-11-11.
  42. a b Declan McCullagh "Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists", Retrieved on 2009-11-11.
  43. [Imc-Nyc] Lapd Blocks Satellite Feed Of Indymedia Coverage Of Dnc In Los Angeles
  44. Athens Indymedia
  45. Arens, Marianne (24 November 2008). "Italy: Judgement in G8 police raid trial". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 1 June 2009.
  46. "Campaigners fear Italy G8 trouble". BBC News. 5 December 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2009. 
  47. Law and disorder, Channel 4, [12 January 2006]
  48. "Photographer injured by riot police in Geneva". Archived from the original on 2006-09-25., NUJ report, June 2, 2003, accessed 25th August 2007
  49. New Pics: G8-"Rabbit Hunt" on Guy Smallman, Switzerland IMC, 10th June 2006, accessed 25th August 2007
  50. CJFE demands investigation into attacks on Argentinian journalists, open letter to Argentina's ambassador in Canada, June 13th 2003, accessed 25th August 2007
  51. Two suspects in cameraman Brad Will's murder freed for lack of evidence, RSF press release, 5th December 2006, accessed 25th August 2007
  52. 13
  53. CMI Brasil - CMI é homenageado pelo Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais com a medalha Chico Mendes
  54. CMI Brasil - [Rio de Janeiro] Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais homenagea o CMI com a medalha Chico Mendes

Chapter Eleven

Marijuana (Cannabis sativa)

The recent history of Cannabis in California comprises a number of legislative, legal, and cultural events surrounding use of marijuana, hashish, and cannabis. California was the first state to establish a Medical cannabis program, enacted by Proposition 215 in 1996 and California Senate Bill 420. Prop. 215, also known as the "Compassionate Use Act", was approved by initiative with a 55% majority, allowing people with cancer, AIDS and other chronic illnesses the right to grow or obtain marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a doctor. SB 420, or the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, was signed into law by Governor Gray Davis and established an identification card system for medical marijuana patients.

In 2009, Tom Ammiano introduced the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, which would remove penalties under state law for the cultivation, drug possession, and use of marijuana for persons over the age of 21. When the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 4 to 3 vote in January 2010, this marked the first time in United States history that a bill legalizing marijuana passed a legislative committee. While the legislation failed to reach the Assembly floor, Ammiano stated his plans to reintroduce the bill later in the year, depending on the success of California Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, which appeared on the November 2010 ballot.[1] However, the proposition lost 46% to 54%. [2]

On September 30th, 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law CA State Senate Bill 1449, effectively reducing the charge of possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a violation, similar to a traffic violation, with a $100 fine and no mandatory court appearance or criminal record.[3] The law became effective January 1, 2011.





In 1973, California's neighboring state of Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis.[4] While laws vary from state to state, decriminalization of marijuana (which treats the drug possession of small amounts of the drug as a civil, rather than a criminal, offense) was established in July 1976 when the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 95.[4][5] California Proposition 19 (1972)|Proposition 19, a California ballot proposition|ballot proposition previously attempting to decriminalize marijuana, was defeated in November 1972 state election by a 66.5% majority.[6] SB 95 made possession one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine, with higher punishments for amounts greater than one ounce, for possession on school grounds, or for cultivation.[7]

California Proposition 36 (also known as the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000) was approved by 61% of voters, requiring that "first and second-offense drug violators be sent to drug treatment programs instead of facing trial and possible incarceration."[8] Marijuana remains decriminalized in California today.[7]

On September 30th, 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law CA State Senate Bill 1449, effectively reducing the charge of possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a violation, similar to a traffic violation, with a $100 fine and no mandatory court appearance or criminal record. [9]. The law became effective Jan. 1st, 2011.

Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana sign at a dispensary on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles, California

California's Medical medical marijuana program was established when state voters approved California Proposition 215 (also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996)[10] on the November 5, 1996 ballot with a 55% majority.[11] The proposition added Section 11362.5 to the California Health and Safety Code, modifying state law to allow people with cancer, anorexia, AIDS, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraines or other chronic illnesses the "legal right to obtain or grow, and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a doctor". The law also mandated that doctors not be punished for recommending the drug, and required that Federal government of the United States|federal and State governments of the United States|state governments work together "to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need."[10][11] Proposition 215 does not affect federal law, which still prohibits the cultivation and possession of marijuana.

Vague wording became a major criticism of Prop. 215, though the law has since been clarified through the Supreme Court of California's rulings and the passage of subsequent laws. In January, 2010, the California Supreme Court ruled that the amendments to Prop 215 were illegally done, and all limits on medical marijuana in California were lifted. Presently, within the state of California, Medical Marijuana users with a valid Doctors recommendation may grow and possess as much marijuana as they require, provided that it is strictly for personal use (as was clarified and published in the LA Times)[citation needed]. Currently there is a bill waiting for California voters this November (Proposition 19) that would effectively make possession and cultivation of marijuana legal for everyone over the age of 21, and would regulate it similarly to alcohol. If passed, Proposition 19 would not only provide much needed revenue for the Californian budget, but would virtually eliminate marijuana grown illegally on public lands, removing the threat of hikers, hunters, fishermen and others walking into illegal grow operations and quite possibly boobytraps setup by illegal growers. California's Proposition 19 has the support of many law enforcement agencies as it would free up much needed resources and allow them to direct them into areas of law enforcement that they are really needed, such as the eradication of illegal drug labs where methamphetamine is manufactured.[12] To differentiate patients from non-patients, Governor Gray Davis signed California Senate Bill 420 (also known as the Medical Marijuana Protection Act) in 2003, establishing an identification card system for medical marijuana patients. SB 420 also allows for the formation of patient collectives, or non-profit organizations, to provide the drug to patients.[13] Medical marijuana ID cards are issued through the California Department of Public Health's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP).[14] The program began in three counties in May 2005, and expanded statewide in August of the same year. 37, 236 cards have been issued throughout 55 counties as of December 2009.[15]

Critics of California's program argue that marijuana has become quasi-legal, as "anyone can obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana at any time for practically any ailment".[12] Acknowledging that there are instances in which the system is abused and that laws could be improved, Stephen Gutwillig of the Drug Policy Alliance Network[16] insists that the passages of Proposition 215 is "nothing short of incredible". Gutwillig argues that because of the law, 200,000 patients in the state now have safe and affordable access to medical marijuana to relieve pain and treat medical conditions, without having to risk arrest or buy the drug off the black market.[12] Twelve other U.S. states have followed California's lead to enact medical marijuana laws of their own: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan Compassionate Care Initiative|Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon Medical Marijuana Act|Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.[17]

Legalization of non-medical cannabis


On February 23, 2009,[18] California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (Democrat) introduced the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, a proposed bill that would "remove all penalties under California law for the cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, and use of marijuana, natural THC and paraphernalia by persons over the age of 21" and "prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal marijuana laws".[19] The bill would help with battling the 2008–2010 California budget crisis by allowing the state to regulate and tax its sale at $50 per ounce.[20] According to Time magazine, California tax collectors estimate the bill would raise about $1.3 billion a year in revenue.

Critics such as John Lovell, lobbyist for the California Peace Officers' Association, argue that too many people already struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and legalizing another Psychoactive drug|mind-altering substance would lead to a "surge" of use, making problems worse.[20] Apart from helping the state's budget by enforcing a tax on the sale of cannabis, proponents of the bill argue that legalization will reduce the amount of criminal activity associated with the drug. Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray estimates that eliminating arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment for nonviolent offenders due to legalization could save the state $1 billion a year.[20]

The bill was delayed until January 2010, when the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 4 to 3 vote—this marked the first time in United States history that a bill legalizing marijuana passed a legislative committee.[16] However, the bill was unable to move forward to the Health Committee, where it was required to be heard before reaching the Assembly floor, before the January 15 deadline for proposed 2009 legislation. Ammiano plans to re-introduce the bill later this month or wait to see how a ballot measure for legalization fares in November 2010.[16]

There were three separate marijuana related initiatives put forth to qualify for the California state elections, November 2010|November 2010 elections. Two of these failed to gather the required number of signatures.

On March 24, 2010 California Proposition 19, titled the "Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act", qualified for the November ballot for the State of California.[21] If it had passed, this initiative would have legalized marijuana in California and allowed local governments to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana and its related activities.[22] However, the proposal was defeated during the November 2 election.[23]


  1. Banks, Sandy (March 29, 2010). "Pot breaks the age barrier". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  4. a b Suellentrop, Chris (February 14, 2001). "Which States Have Decriminalized Marijuana Possession?". Slate (magazine). The Washington Post Company. Retrieved January 15, 2010. {{cite web}}: Text "Slate" ignored (help)
  5. Philip Bean, ed. (2003). Crime: Critical Concepts in Sociology. Routledge. pp. 249–250. ISBN 9780415252676. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  6. Phillips, Kevin (June 2, 1973). "Marijuana: Political future in California?". St. Petersburg Times. Times Publishing Company. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  7. a b "California - NORML". National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  8. Wallace, Bill (November 15, 2000). "Money, Opinion Propelled Prop. 36". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  10. a b "Health and Safety Code Section 11357-11362.9". California State Legislature. Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  11. a b Conaughton, Gig (November 12, 2006). "County, medical marijuana users head to showdown". North County Times. Lee Enterprises. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  12. a b c Imler, Scott; Gutwillig, Stephen (March 6, 2009). "Medical marijuana in California: a history". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  13. Barton, David Watts (October 31, 2009). "Support for the legalization of cannabis grows". Sacramento Press. Castle Press. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  14. "Medical Marijuana Program". Dr Rachna Patel, Medical Marijuana Doctor. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  15. "California Department of Public Health Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) Facts and Figures" (Portable Document Format). December 14, 2009. Retrieved January 12, 2010. {{cite web}}: Text "PDF" ignored (help)
  16. a b c Harmon, Steven (January 12, 2010). "Committee passes marijuana legalization bill". San Jose Mercury News. MediaNews Group. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  17. Raguso, Milie (November 16, 2007). "Medical pot users seek help in theft". The Modesto Bee. The McClatchy Company. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  18. "AB 390 - Assembly Bill". California State Legislature. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  19. Pierce, Tony (February 24, 2009). "Could Measure AB 390 put a 360 on California's budget woes?". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  20. a b c Stateman, Alison (March 13, 2009). "Can Marijuana Help Rescue California's Economy?". Time (magazine). Time Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2010. {{cite web}}: Text "Time Inc" ignored (help); Text "Time" ignored (help)
  21. Banks, Sandy (March 29, 2010). "Pot breaks the age barrier". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  23. "CA Secretary of State: Results for Proposition 19". Secretary of State. November 7, 2010. Retrieved November 7, 2010. {{cite web}}: Text "Secretary of State's office" ignored (help)


Food line at the Yonge Street Mission, 381 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada in the 1930s.

Homelessness describes the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are unable or unwilling to acquire and maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence."[1] The legal definition of "homeless" varies from country to country, or among different entities or institutions in the same country or region.[2]

The term homeless may also include people whose primary night-time residence is in a homeless shelter, a warming center, a domestic violence shelter or other ad hoc housing situation. Government homeless enumeration studies [3][4] also include persons who sleep in a public or private place not designed for use as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.[5][6]

Difficulties in classification: lack of generally agreed nomenclature


The "unsheltered" are that segment of the homeless who do not have ordinary lawful access to buildings in which to sleep. Such persons frequently prefer the term "houseless" to the term "homeless". Others may use the term street people which does not fully encompass all unsheltered in that many such persons do not spend their time on urban "street" environments, and to the contrary shun such locales and prefer to convert unoccupied buildings, or to inhabit mountains or, more often, lowland meadows, creeks and beaches[7]

A portion of homeless persons are generally in transit, but there is no generally accepted terminology to describe them; some nomenclature is frequently associated with derogatory connotations, and thus the professional and vernacular lingo to describe these persons is both evolving and not lacking in controversy.[8] Much of the concern stems from the European situation, where "homeless" persons of Romani people|Roma, Sinti and other ethnic descent have rejected the term "gypsy". Other terms which some use regarding in-transit persons are: transient, vagabond, tramp or "railroad tramp". Occasionally these terms are interchanged with terms not necessarily implying that the person is a traveler, i.e. hobo. The term "bum" is used for persons lacking a work ethic, or ethics generally, but its application to persons purely on the basis of homelessness is strictly a form of prejudicial labeling. The term "transient" is frequently used in police reports, without any precise definitions across jurisdictions.

Many jurisdictions have developed programs to locate such persons in short term emergency shelter, often in churches or other institutional real property, during particularly cold spells. These are referred to as warming centers, and are credited by their advocates as life saving. [9]

United Nations definition


The UN, either via a UN Agency or via a vote in the General Assembly has agreed upon these bare minimum conditions for a person to be countable as homeless :

  1. The person is assumed not to own any other property that is habitable in or on
  2. Their rent or mortgage are equal to or greater than 72% of their monthly income
  3. Their source of income to pay rent is not stable or the amount of money available for food is not stable

It is understood that these legal definitions for homelessness may date back to the beginnings of the UN in the late 1940s. The definition of a person being a refugee is at least partly linked to the definition of homelessness as many refugees may have been or are homeless. Trends in homelessness are closely tied to neighborhood conditions. [10]

HUD technical definitions of homelessness


Homelessness in the United States is addressed by United States Department of Housing and Urban Development which promulgates best practices and definitions which are highly influential. HUD defines homeless as pertinent to an individual who lacks

  1. an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence; and
  2. an individual who has a primary night-time residence that is -
    1. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
    2. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
    3. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings


Chronic homelessness, an area of emerging concern


(HUD) defines a "chronically homeless" person as "an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years."[12] Much of the current literature takes note that such persons often account for a disproportionately large percent of the public and private expenditures related to homelessness. In response to this perception, there is as of early 2011 an increased momentum, particularly on both US coasts, to "target" the chronically homeless utilizing a vulnerability index system. These "VI's" code for conditions such as advance kidney or liver disease, HIV-AIDS or multiple hospitalization as well as factors such as age. Criticism has been relatively muted as parties often critical of conventional homeless service systems recognize a window of opportunity for innovations. Common Ground is an effort which originated in NYC, claiming high success in the Times Square area, and now proliferating its model in other areas such as Los Angeles. [13]

Area of emerging interest: the unsheltered


The "unhoused" are that segment of the homeless who do not have ordinary lawful access to buildings in which to sleep, as referred to in the HUD definition as persons occupying "place not designed for ... sleeping accommodation for human beings. Such persons frequently prefer the term "houseless" to the term "homeless". Recent homeless enumeration survey documentation utilizes the term "unsheltered homeless." HUD requires jurisdictions which participate in Continuum of Care grant programs to count their homeless every two years. These counts have led to a variety of creative measures to avoid undercounting. Thus teams of counters, often numbering in the hundreds in logistically complex volunteer efforts, seek out the unsheltered in various nooks and crannies. [14]There has been a significant number of unsheltered persons dying of hypothermia, adding impetus to the trend of establishing warming centers as well as extending the enumeration surveys with vulnerability indexes [15][16]

  1. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, "Federal Definition of Homeless"
  2. "Glossary defining homelessness"
  3. Bogard, Cynthia J., "Advocacy and Enumeration: Counting Homeless People in a Suburban Community", American Behavioral Scientist September 2001 vol. 45 no. 1 105-120
  4. Gabbard, W. Jay; et al, "Methodological Issues in Enumerating Homeless Individuals", Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless Volume 16, Number 2 / May 2007 90-103
  5. Office of Applied Studies, United States Department of Health and Human Services,"Terminology"
  6. United States Code, Title 42, Chapter 119, Subchapter I, § 11302. United States Code: General definition of a homeless individual.
  7. "Inside Straight Edge". Writer: David Shadrack Smith. Directors: Jim Gaffey and David Shadrack Smith. Inside. National Geographic Society. 9 April 2008. Retrieved on 28 January 2011.
  9. Svitek, Patrick. "Evanston homeless find warm shelters". Daily Northwestern. Retrieved
  10. Families on the move: Breaking the cycle of homelessness.,Notkin, S., Rosenthal, B., & Hopper, K., New York: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation Ken Burnett, 1990
  11. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), "Federal Definition of Homeless"
  12. HUD working definition of Chronically homeless
  13. Common Ground website New York City
  15. "Detroit cuts funding for homeless warming centers". 2011-01-29. Retrieved 2011-02-
  16. Hendricks, Mike (2011). "After judge’s warning, homeless camp with TV, Christmas lights is taken apart". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 14 February 2011.

Warming center

Risk factors include age, medical conditions, and homeless status. Hypothermia.

A warming center is a short term emergency shelter that operates when temperatures or a combination of precipitation, wind chill, wind and temperature become dangerously inclement. Their paramount purpose is the prevention of mortality and morbidity related to exposure to the elements. This may include acute trauma from falling objects such as trees, or cold weather injury to extremities due to frostbite. A more prevalent emergency which warming centers seek to prevent is hypothermia, the risk for which is aggravated by factors such as age, alcohol consumption, and homelessness.



Thus Warming Centers are frequently directed to the circumstances of persons who are "unsheltered" due to a personal state of homelessness and whom, for one reason or another, do not utilize existing homeless shelters. In other circumstance, Centers serve stranded motorists [1] or, during cold-weather power outages, homeowners and tenants.

In some cases, when cold snaps threaten wildlife, they are created and operated to protect endangered wild animals. Cold blooded animals such as turtles are particularly vulnerable as are their hatchlings.[2] Emergency shelters vary in policy on pet, companion, or domesticated animals.[3] During large scale disasters, there are frequently separate locations including a safe place for horses. [citation needed]

Location of warming centers


File:Warming_center.jpg|thumb|alt=Churches are frequently used for warming centers. Hypothermia.

Existing shelters


While they are in some cases directly affiliated with existing homeless shelter operations, warming centers are more frequently housed in different locations.[citation needed] Due to zoning, special use permit, and fire code restrictions, homeless shelters and day centers serving homeless populations are often legally constrained from exceeding authorized capacity. Not infrequently, existing shelters are engaged with ongoing negotiations with neighbors who in some cases take a NIMBY ("Not In My Backyard") attitude toward existing operations. Any increase in capacity can become politicized, despite the exigencies of spikes in cold temperature days, particularly when cold or rainy weather is routine.[citation needed]

Thus, they need to secure alternative sites unless restrictions are waived due to extreme or otherwise unusual weather. Such waivers may be either on a one-time basis, or pursuant to memorandum of understanding (MOU's) with relevant agencies; however, existing shelter sites are typically at the highest level of use compatible with neighborhood character and the political balance of power.[citation needed] Few warming center sites appear to be utilizing the same building as routine homeless shelter operations, and the preponderance of them do situate in alternative sites.[citation needed]

Alternative sites


When not using existing shelters under MOU's or other legal instruments relaxing ordinary legal restrictions, venues of operation frequently involve coalitions of non-profit entities which own or operate suitable real estate. These include churches and community organizations but also may involve special purpose institutional real estate such as national guard armories.[4]

Determination to activate warming centers


Warming centers are generally[5] opened for only a few days at a time based on the conditions of the area, although some [6] are open for specific portion of the year when weather conditions are adverse.[7][8]

The City of Chicago opens its shelters from December 1 to March 1 each year, as well as any other times the temperature drops below freezing.[9]

The City of Portland, Oregon, uses a more complex formula to determine when to open shelters; factors include wet or dry conditions, the night's predicted low, the three-day trend of lows, sustained wind speed, and whether snow is on the ground or predicted to fall.[10]

Activation is generally a centralized decision based upon what is termed either an algorithm, or, in other jurisdictions, an Activation Trigger.[11] Lane County, Oregon utilizes an elaborate system of tiered readiness levels in collaboration with the American Red Cross.[12] They refer to these levels as their "alert status", ranging from fair weather OUTLOOK status to STANDBY,WATCH and finally ACTIVATE.[12]



Outreach to vulnerable persons


Once a center has been sited, staffed and the volunteer phone tree has been activated, it is required to connect with the populations it intends to reach and persuade them to come in. A significant population is resistant to interaction with perceived "authorities" and others may not have sufficient contact with the system of care to be adequately aware of their options. A recent trend promoted by organizations such as Common Ground is to piggy back vulnerability indexes and site data onto HUD-mandated enumeration studies. One of the benefits hoped for with regard to those projects is that there will be better opportunities to promote the warming center option to vulnerable populations.

Centers often coordinate with outside programs. For communication of the availability of open centers, many coordinate with the Federally mandated 2-1-1 or the 3-1-1 phone information system.[13] Street newspapers are generally published weekly or less frequently, which makes them useful only for general information such as contact numbers and locations.

For transportation to centers, some offer free transportation,[14] in some cases for persons being released from jail into conditions of inclement weather.[15] In blizzard conditions, snowmobile enthusiasts have been mobilized.[16]

Warming centers in service


Once opened and populated, they typically offer only the most bare-bones of service: a cot and perhaps a bowl of hot soup. They are generally operated with one or more experienced professional staff person, due to the difficulties which untrained volunteers might encounter in dealing with the clientele. Often, users of warming centers are persons who are not participating in routine homeless shelter services due to disciplinary exclusions or non-compliance with behavioral policies. In order to distinguish mere oddness from behavioral disorders which might disrupt the ability of other persons to obtain service, professional staff is the preferred alternative to all -volunteer personnel.[17] [18] Others utilizing Warming Centers are persons who are not in the shelter system for an array of reasons not necessarily associated with pathology. They may personally be in transit but not prepared financially or otherwise to contend with unanticipated weather conditions. Others may be locals who are eligible for but decline to stay in shelters due to objections to policies and procedures.[19]

Historic and current role in society


Warming centers frequently are opened as a response to the tragic occurrence of hospitalizations dues to hypothermia when unsheltered persons are discovered in extreme exposure-related Trauma (medicine)|trauma or mortality.

They seem to go back as far as 1945, when used in Berlin at the conclusion of World War II. Clothing and blankets were allowed for under the air lift plans and an extensive plan was developed for public "warming centers."[20]

In more recent times, U.S. warming centers are proliferating as a means to serve the unsheltered homeless during temperature and rainfall spikes. Such cohorts may not have access to year-round homeless shelters due to supply and demand imbalance, or may may simply be uninterested in nightly access during mild weather, but some observers note that others may be unable to comply with conditions for use. According to Detroit socialist writer Naomi Spencer, they serve also as "a last resort for homeless people to find respite from the cold, especially those with drug addictions, mental illness, or criminal backgrounds, who may not meet requirements imposed by some homeless shelters or religious charity operations."[21] Others, including straight edge, DIY, or anarchist-identified persons who may choose to live "off-the-grid", without facing exclusion from quotidian shelters due to sobriety issues.[22]

Others simply find shelters too regimented, too much like jail: newspaperman Mike Hendricks quotes a former resident of an unauthorized homeless encampment named Crow, who said that "some guys would sooner do what they want and not be told what to do."[23]

Tom Brown (naturalist)|Tom Brown's Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival contains chapters on shelters and heating.[24] He also outlines means of creating a personal warming center by using ATM access cards.[24] His recommendations have been circulated by Chicago's urban community activist Chrisdian Wittenburg including instructions on building a makeshift stove and a plethora of collaborative cultural projects.[citation needed]



Perception of the importance and priority of warming centers varies. At one extreme, their under-utilization or minimal level of service is characterized as unfriendly. During the blizzard of February, 2011, the City of Ottawa, Illinois did not have established warming centers, and an ad hoc facility was established. Users were required to bring their own food and blankets, drawing fire for the "have-nots...can all freeze to in the friendly city."[25] In Detroit, failure to disburse Community Development Block Grants resulted in a situation where people slept in plastic chairs or "in cold hallways".[26]

At the other end of the continuum, critics have expressed scepticism that the churches and other facilities utilized for warming centers are appropriate and capable of handling the clientele.[27] Another contention is that assisting the homeless "enables" them to continue a lifestyle which is problematic.

But advocates of warming centers have similarly noted that they tend to maintain the status quo by not addressing structural factors, but their emphasis is that too little rather than too much is done to help the needy. Sue Murphy is the administrative director of Interfaith Action of Evanston, Illinois, which has a daytime center for a time slot during which overnight shelters are closed to clients. She states that warmth and snacks "is not nearly enough...what we need is a place where they can go the whole winter. Her concerns are seconded by Sue Loellebach of Connections for the Homeless, who laments the paucity of warm refuge during daylight hours, but rejects that and even extended-stay shelters as inadequate and that they perpetuate the status quo.[28]


  1. Richmond, Randy and John Miner, The London Free Press. "A warming centre refuge | London | News | London Free Press". Retrieved 2011-02-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. "Freezing Temps Convert ORA into Sea Turtle Warming Center Again". 2010-12-24. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  3. "Three shelters, "warming center" to open their doors today | | Tucson, Arizona". 2011-02-03. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  4. "Warming center now open at National Guard Armory in Gilroy". Gilroy Dispatch. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  5. "Warming center opens at homeless shelter". 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  6. "Multnomah County Homeless Families Emergency Services" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  7. "Windsor Locks Open Warming Center During Power Outage". WFSB. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  8. ""Warming Center" Open at Apache Middle School | News | Sierra Vista-Ft. Huachuca News". Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  9. "DFSS Warming Centers". City of Chicago. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  10. "Disaster Responders—Emergency Warming Center Volunteers". Oregon Red Cross. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  11. "Newsroom - News Releases". Oregon Red Cross. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  12. a b McCowan, Karen. "Egan Warming Center Home Page". Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  13. [Washington County Severe Weather/Warming Center Information "Washington County Severe Weather/Warming Center Information"]. 211. Retrieved 18 February 2011. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  14. "Warming Center". 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  15. Dr. Lynn Jahnke, Public Testimony, South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee, Minutes,February 10, 2011
  16. "County declared a disaster area". My Web Times. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  17. Jahnke, Dr. Lynn. "Public Comment on Agenda Item: Request From Mayor Schneider And Councilmember House Regarding A Funding Request From Freedom Warming Centers, Santa Barbara City Council" (PDF). City of Santa Barbara.
  18. Jahnke, Dr. Lynn. "Public Comment on Agenda Item: Request From Mayor Schneider And Councilmember House Regarding A Funding Request From Freedom Warming Centers, Santa Barbara City Council". City of Santa Barbara.
  19. "Report to Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors, Steven Levios Memorial Homeless Opinion Survey". County of Santa Barbara. November 1. Retrieved 2011-02-17. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. Berlin (Territory under Allied Occupation, 1945- U.S. Sector), Germany (Territory under Allied Occupation, 1945-1955 : U.S. Zone)
  21. "Detroit cuts funding for homeless warming centers". 2011-01-29. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  22. "Inside Straight Edge". Writer: David Shadrack Smith. Directors: Jim Gaffey and David Shadrack Smith. Inside. National Geographic Society. 9 April 2008. Retrieved on 28 January 2011.
  23. Hendricks, Mike (2011). "After judge's warning, homeless camp with TV, Christmas lights is taken apart". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  24. a b Brown, Tom (1986). Tom Brown's Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival. New York: Berkley Trade. ISBN 0425091724. Template:Page needed
  25. "Cities offer warming centers". The Times Company. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  26. Spencer, Naomi. "Detroit cuts funding for homeless warming centers". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  27. Francisco, Dale. "Comment on Agenda Item: Request From Mayor Schneider And Councilmember House Regarding A Funding Request From Freedom Warming Centers, Santa Barbara City Council" (PDF). City of Santa Barbara.
  28. Svitek, Patrick. "Evanston homeless find warm shelters". Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 14 February 2011.

Homeless Vulnerability Index

The Vulnerability Index, as used with respect to homeless issues, is a survey and analysis methodology for "identifying and prioritizing the street homeless population for housing according to the fragility of their health."[1][2] It is a pragmatic methodology based on concern and inquiry into the reasons for recurring fatalities of homeless living in the outdoor urban context. It was developed by Dr. Jim O'Connell of Boston's Healthcare for the Homeless organization.[3]

According to its proponents, his work succeeded in pinpointing the health problems that led to homeless persons being "most at risk for dying on the street". He lists eight conditions, in medical terminology called "markers". According to Common Ground, a national organization to house the homeless, 40% of the Boston mortality was attributable to those factors.[4]

In its formulation as currently promulgated by Common Ground, the index includes these factors: hospitalizations/emergency room visits in a year, age, HIV-AIDS, liver disease or kidney disease, history of frostbite, immersion foot, or hypothermia, and tri-morbidity. Tri-morbidity is co-occurring disorder (psychiatric, substance abuse) with a chronic medical condition.[5]

A national drive is underway by Common Ground to piggy back data collection for the VI onto the bi-annual homeless enumeration count mandated for communities participating in the Continuum of Care grant program of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.[6] Its proponents contend that such demand side data will assist in placements and getting needy individuals off the street, whereas critics argue that it is intrusive and not likely to lead to increased supply of housing.[7]

The Vulnerability Index has been used outside of the north eastern United States. Cities include Charlotte, North Carolina,[8] Albuquerque,New Mexico, Santa Monica, California.[9] Los Angeles, California, Santa Barbara, California|Santa Barbara,[10] California and New Orleans, Louisiana.[11] By June 2011, it had also been deployed in various cities in Australia.[12]

Antecedent use of the concept


A vulnerability index for the environmental concerns was developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).[13] They noted that the concept of vulnerability could be applied at to various "levels or issues." They specifically noted that it could be applied to "a single issue... or to assess a complex entity such as a country." In sociological research, a distinction is made between indexes and scales. The former often weights variables equally but in any case does not register patterns of data. A scale on the other hand presents a structure in which certain patterns of the variables tend to aggregate at one end of the scale and go together in ascending order. [citation needed][14]

Earliest use


Papers associated with Small independent developing societies research used the term "vulnerability index" long before its adoption by Dr. O'Connor. United Nations – DPCSD (1997). This took two forms; the term was used in combination with a qualifier. Examples are "environmental vulnerability index" and "Economic Vulnerability Index". However, the raw term "Vulnerability Index" appeared in an epinonymous background paper cited by Professor Lino Briguglio,[15] University of Malta, an expert on "the development of indices for measuring the economic and environmental vulnerability of small island developing states".[16]




Vulnerability index

A vulnerability index is a composite of indices, also referred to as integrated indices, which are quantitative indicators similar to scales, which, when entered into a formula, deliver a single numerical result which can be used for triage (prioritization) and policy analysis. Through their use, ““diverse issues can be combined into a standardised framework…making comparisons possible”.[1] For instance, variable from physical science can be combined with social, medical and even psychological variables to evaluate potential complications in disaster planning contexts.

Basic methodology


The basic methodology is quite simple and not without antecedents. Different relative importance is assigned to the different factors (weighting). A cumulative score is then generated. Through application of variable scenarios decision trees can be developed reflecting alternative policy options.Much of the original research has been evaluated by Lino Briguglio and presenters at Oxford, providing a body of secondary source material which is known primarily to workers in specialized areas of development.

Earlier use


A modern concept of a composite vulnerability index grew out of the work of South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), Fiji, and the Expert Group on Vulnerability Index [2] affiliated with the United Nations.

“in response to a call made in the Barbados Plan of Action, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)”[3]

A prominent observer and participant in development of the vulnerability index model is University of Malta researcher Briguglio for international organizations of small island developing states.[4] UM also hosts the Islands and Small States Institute, Foundation for International Studies,. Other institutional participants included the New Zealand Official Development Assistance (NZODA) Programme [5] In 1996, the concept of a composite vulnerability index had been taken up by policy analysts in the Commonwealth but still on only a tentative basis.[6] In 1997, official background papers of the SIDS unit reflected the term “vulnerability index” at least internally.[7] It was also advanced in Commonwealth channels.[8] By 1997, the term was approved for publication by the staff of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the SG’s Report on Development of a Vulnerability Index for SIDS.[9] This concept was subsequently adopted by other experts in that field.[10] and explicitly named as such.[11]

In a 1999 Technical Report for SOPAC, Kaly et al. discussed more specially designated vulnerability indexes. A subsection of that report was entitled “. Vulnerability index – environment” and the report also discussed a newly minted concept of “Environmental vulnerability index”.

A 2002 paper applied a vulnerability index model to analysis of vulnerability to sea level rise for a US coastal community.[12]

At a 2008 Capacity Building Seminar at Oxford, the “Climate Vulnerability Index” was [13] presented with an application to the protection of tourist economies, which may be important to small island states and others. By the time of this seminar, vulnerability indexes were established as tools of governance .

In medicine


A “Histopathological Plaque Vulnerability Index (HPVI) “ was proposed in a 2005 paper by Tang, et al., entitled Local Maximal Stress Hypothesis and Computational Plaque Vulnerability Index for Atherosclerotic Plaque Assessment.[14] Thereafter, the term was adopted by Dr Jim O’Connell, who is author of a textbook on healthcare in shelters. From his post at Boston’s Healthcare for the Homeless, the model was adopted by Common Ground, an advocacy organization in New York City which has promulgated its organizing model using the vulnerability index to, Santa Monica, New Orleans, Washington, DC, and what their literature refers to as “Los Angeles County’s infamous Skid Row”. It utilizes only eight key key health indicators puts a chronically homeless person at significant risk of dying. The model is now being adapted to and utilized in Australia, with the on-site support Common Ground personnel and has been used in registry week drives in the “ inner city areas” of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.[15]


  2. Pantin, D. (1997). Alternative Ecological Vulnerability Indicators for Developing Countries with Special Reference to SIDS. Report prepared for the Expert Group on Vulnerability Index. UN(DESA), 17–19 December 1997.
  3. Technical Report 275
  4. Briguglio, L. (1992). Preliminary Study on the Construction of an Index for Ranking Countries According to their Economic Vulnerability, UNCTAD/LDC/Misc.4 (1992).
  6. Wells, J. (1996). Composite Vulnerability Index: A Preliminary Report. London: Commonwealth Secretariat.
  7. United Nations – DPCSD (1997). Vulnerability Index (Revised Background Paper). SD-SIDS Unit.
  8. Wells, J. (1997). Composite Vulnerability Index: A Revised Report. London: Commonwealth Secretariat.
  9. United Nations (1997). Report of the Secretary-General on the Development of a Vulnerability Index for Small Island Developing States (Advance Unedited Version to be submitted to the Commission for Sustainable Development, Sixth Session, 20 April-1 May 1998, and to the Committee for Development Planning, 32nd session, 4–8 May 1998).
  10. Easter, C. (1998). ‘Small States and Development: A Composite Index of Vulnerability’ in Small States: Economic Review and Basic Statistics, Commonwealth Secretariat, December 1998
  11. Crowards, T. (1999). An Economic Vulnerability Index for Developing Countries, with Special Reference to the Caribbean: Alternative Methodologies and Provisional Results. Caribbean Development Bank, March 1999.

Appendix A

The California Public Records Act (California Government Code §§ 6250 through 6276.48) was a law passed by the California State Legislature and signed by the Governor in 1968 mandating disclosure of governmental records to the public upon request, unless there is a specific reason not to do so. The law is similar to the Freedom of Information Act, except for the fact that "the people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business" is enshrined in Article 1 of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment).



When the legislature enacted CPRA, it expressly declared that "access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state."[1] Indeed, in California "access to government records has been deemed a fundamental interest of citizenship"[2] and has emphasized that "maximum disclosure of the conduct of governmental operations [is] to be promoted by the act."[3] By promoting prompt public access to government records, the CPRA is "intended to safeguard the accountability of government to the public."[4] As the California Supreme Court recognized in CBS v. Block:

Implicit in a democratic process is the notion that government should be accountable for its actions. In order to verify accountability, individuals must have access to government files. Such access permits checks against the arbitrary exercise of official power and secrecy in the political process.[5]

Public records and exemptions


In accordance with this policy, public records are broadly defined to include "any writing containing information relating to the conduct of a public's business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristic[.]"[6] Citing with approval an even broader definition of public records adopted by the California Attorney General, another court has stated:

This definition is intended to cover every conceivable kind of record that is involved in the governmental process and will pertain to any new form of record-keeping instrument as it is developed. Only purely personal information unrelated to 'the conduct of the public's business' could be considered exempt from this definition, i.e., the shopping list phoned from home, the letter to a public officer from a friend which is totally void of reference to governmental activities.[7]

Moreover, unless the public records of a local agency are exempt from the provisions of the CPRA, they must be made available for public inspection.[8] Exemptions must be narrowly construed and the public agency bears the burden of proving that an exemption applies.[9]

Most of the exemptions under the CPRA are set forth under Section 6254 and are specific as to certain records or types of records, but under Section 6255 a general exemption exists where, on the facts of the particular case, "the public interest served by not making the record public clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record."[10] In reviewing the propriety of an agency decision to withhold records, a court is charged with ascertaining whether nondisclosure was justified under either of these statutes.[11]

Because the CPRA was modeled after the federal Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. Section 552 et seq, courts may look to case law under FOIA in construing the CPRA.[12]

Orders and appeals


To facilitate prompt public access to public records, court orders either directing disclosure of public records or supporting an agency's decision of nondisclosure are immediately reviewable by an appellate court by way of an emergency petition seeking issuance of an extraordinary writ.[13] In 1991, the California Supreme Court made clear that under this writ procedure, trial court orders are reviewable on their merits.[14] Thus, when a trial court order under the CPRA is reviewed by an appellate court, the independent review standard is employed for legal issues and factual findings made by the trial court will be upheld if they are based on substantial evidence.[15]


  1. Cal. Gov't Code § 6250.
  2. CBS v. Block, 42 Cal. 3d 646, 652 n.5, 230 Cal. Rptr. 362, 725 P. 2d 370 (1986).
  3. Id. at 651-52 (emphasis added).
  4. Register Div. of Freedom Newspapers Inc. v. County of Orange, 158 Cal. App. 3d 893, 901, 205 Cal. Rptr. 92 (1984).
  5. Id. at 651.
  6. Cal. Gov't. Code § 6252(e).
  7. San Gabriel Tribune v. Superior Court, 143 Cal. App. 3d 762, 774; 192 Cal. Rptr. 415, 422 (1983)(internal citations omitted); see also Versaci v. Superior Court, 127 Cal. App. 4th 805, 813, 26 Cal. Rptr. 3d 92 (2005)(quoting Coronado Police Officers Ass'n v. Carroll, 106 Cal. App. 4th 1001, 1006, 131 Cal. Rptr. 2d 553 (2003)(citing with approval same definition)).
  8. Williams v. Superior Court, 5 Cal. 4th 337, 346, 19 Cal. Rptr. 2d 882, 852 P.2d 377 (1993).
  9. Bakersfield City School Dist. v. Superior Court, 118 Cal. App. 4th 1041, 1045, 13 Cal. Rptr. 3d 517 (2004); CSU Fresno Association v. Superior Court, 90 Cal.App.4th 810, 831, 108 Cal. Rptr. 2d 870 (2001); see also Lorig v. Medical Bd., 78 Cal. App. 4th 462, 467, 92 Cal. Rptr. 2d 862 (2000); County of Los Angeles v. Superior Court, 82 Cal. App. 4th 819, 825, 98 Cal. Rptr. 2d 564 (2000).
  10. Cal. Gov't Code § 6255 (commonly called the "catch all" exemption).
  11. Cal. Gov't Code § 6259(b).
  12. See Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 3d 1325, 1338, 283 Cal. Rptr. 893, 813 P.2d 240 (1991); ACLU v. Deukmejian, 32 Cal. 3d 440, 447, 186 Cal. Rptr. 235, 651 P.2d 822 (1982); but see Williams, 5 Cal. 4th at 348-54 (holding that CPRA's exemption for law enforcement investigatory records did not incorporate FOIA criteria and thus courts cannot look to FOIA cases to interpret Section 6254(f) of the CPRA, but must look to the statutory language of the CPRA provision to construe the statute).
  13. Cal. Gov't Code § 6259(c).
  14. Times Mirror Co., 53 Cal. 3d at 1336; see also State Bd. of Equalization v. Superior Court, 10 Cal. App. 4th 1177, 1185, 13 Cal. Rptr. 2d 342 (1992) (echoing the decision in Times Mirror and stating that the scope of review by a writ of review is equivalent with the scope of review on appeal).
  15. Times Mirror Co., 53 Cal. 3d at 1336 (citing Block, 42 Cal. 3d at 650-51).


Brown Act
is a law that requires open government, public notice of meetings, and public comment at all public meetings at the county, district, and city level.
Emergency shelter
Any place where people or animals can take refuge during a crisis.
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Transwiki refers to copying pages from one wiki to another using the standardized method described below. For the sake of simplicity, the originating and target wikis are respectively called 'original' and 'remote'. The word transwiki was coined in late 2003 by Ray Saintonge (see [Wikipedia-l] Transwiki) and officially introduced to the MediaWiki codebase by Brion Vibber in mid-2005 as part of the Special:Import function (see change). The term is intended to avoid ambiguity with English words like transfer. SOURCE: