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The new “Big Daddy”caljournal-newbigdaddy (PDF)
Published February 1990

Clay Jackson likes to quote an old adage about lobbyists – that nobody actually chooses to be one, that “all good lobbyists got to be lobbyists by accident.”


caljournal-lawyer-lobbyistsLawyer-lobbyists become big fish in the Capital pond (PDF)
Published February 1990

For Vigo Gilbert “Chip” Nielsen Jr., the road to managing partner of the prominent political and government law firm of Nielsen, Merksamer, Hodgson, Parrinello & Mueller began more than two decades ago when he was an administrative assistant in the state Assembly.


1992.1Dan Lungren shakes up Justice (PDF)
Published January 1992

Dan Lungren does not merely walk into a room. As Jim Robinson, recently hired communications director for the California attorney general, puts it, his boss “bounds” into a room. The description is apt.


1995.1The Future of California Children (PDF)
Published June 1995

Of all the stories on children I have researched and written over the years, I especially remember the story of six-year-old Danny Balfour, and the pictures the police showed me of his bruised and near-lifeless body hooked up to futile hospital life-support machines.

1995.2Clay Jackson in Prison
Published November 1995 (PDF)

For many years, Clayton R. Jackson – a chemical engineer-trained lawyer and former offensive tackle at USC – was California’s highest paid and arguably most powerful lobbyist. In December 1993, after an eight-week trial with co-defendant and former Democratic state Senator Paul Carpenter, he was convicted in United States District Court in Sacramento of racketeering, conspiracy, and mail fraud.


1996.1Police Woman (PDF)
Published November 1996

When Katherine Mader was a young lawyer working as the patient-rights advocate for the California Health Department in the mid-1970’s, she conducted a surprise, 3 a.m. inspection at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk – a gloomy, institutional relic that resembled a prison as much as a hospital for the mentally ill.

1996.2Whither Welfare Reform (PDF)
Published November 1996

In the baffling, statistic-laden jargon of welfare reform, numbers and categories tend to obscure the people behind them – in California, hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, the aged and disabled. They get lost in the numbers and categories, and most especially in the stereotype of welfare recipients as being largely unwilling to work.


1997.1The Politics of Government P,R. (PDF)
Published January 1997

Just before his 94th birthday in 1985, Edward Bernays – adviser to at least four American presidents and countless captains of industry and widely credited as a founder of modern-day American P.R. – expounded in an interview about the vagaries of a profession he sought, with limited success to hold to a higher ethical standard.

1997.2’98 attorney general’s race unsettled, crowded (PDF)
February 1997

Attorney General Evelle Younger once remarked that the attorney general may well occupy a more powerful position in California state government than even the governor. He hedged somewhat, saying the state’s top legal and law enforcement position – often a springboard to “higher officer” (e.g., the governor) – “touches the lifes of Californians probably more than any other state office, with the possible exception of the governor.”

1997.3The Prison Dilemma (PDF)
Published March 1997

Franklin Zimring, a law professor and noted criminologist who directs the Earl Warren Legal Institution at the University of California, Berkeley, has been studying and writing about crime and punishment for more than 25 years.

1997.4Down from the pedestal (PDF)
Published April 1997

In the spring of 1992, nurses at Alameda Hospital observed “Dr. A.,” an anesthesiologist, “behaving while on duty as if he were under the influence of narcotic drugs.” The first incident, according to an October 1996 ruling against the hospital by the California Supreme Court, occurred in March of 1992, when Dr. A. was on call at the time a patient required emergency surgery.

1997.5Environmental Opposites (PDF)
Published May 1997

Even among his critics – and there are many – Assemblyman Keith Olberg (R-Victorville) has a respectful, albeit cautious, following. (Companion piece written by Mark Simon.)

1997.6Who’s in Charge? (PDF)
Published June 1997

In 1978, Nancy Reeves, who was appointed to the state Board of Education by then-Governor Jerry Brown, resigned after some 18 months on the board. A lawyer, Reeves said she was resigning because the board was “paralyzed by ambiguities” in state law regulating the massive task of governing California’s schools.

1997.7The MTA: Los Angeles’ Transit Nightmare (PDF)
Published July 1997

Shortly before noon last October 23rd, Arthur Sinai, inspector general of the troubled Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, met in a closed session with the MTA board of directors – a contentious, unwieldy 13-member body (26, if 13 alternatives are included) with bitter, longstanding politics divisions.

1997.8The HMO Wars (PDF)
Published August 1997

If money is a measure of the stakes in California’s burgeoning managed-care system – as it usually is in political matters of any significance, then the victory party on Election Night last November to celebrate the demise of two consumer-backed health care initiatives was surely a defining moment in the health-care wars.

1997.9The faces of the mentally ill: ‘A nightmare in broad daylight’ (PDF)
Published October 1997

It has been nine years since then 14-year-old Melanie started showing signs of mental illness. “It was difficult to tell, really what was going on with her,” recalls her mother, Susan Miller, a registered nurse who has battled the mental health system, and sometimes her daughter, to get Melanie the help she needed.

1997.10California mental health care: From the snake pit to the street? (PDF)
Published October 1997

The acute psychiatric unit of the Sacramento County Jail is located on the second floor of the towering, state-of-the-art new jail in downtown Sacramento, where some 2,000 inmates are housed. On this late summer morning, there are 11 prisoners in individual cells on the psych unit, including one severely disturbed woman who keeps trying to stuff food, or whatever else she can get her hands on, into an open incision in her chest.

1997.11California’s lost children (PDF)
Published December 1997

Built in 1965, on a tree-studded chunk of semi-rural acreage wedged between a major freeway and two busy streets, the Sacramento Children’s Receiving Home, like many other children’s shelters in California, provides temporary shelter to abused and neglected children with increasingly horrific stories to tell.


1998.1Los Angeles Unified School District (PDF)
Published January 1998

The numbers are staggering. Total enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1996-97: 667,624 and climbing. Primary languages spoken by “limited English proficient” (LEP) students: more than 80, most of them Spanish-speaking (286,983), but also 4,923 Armenian, 3,916 Korean, 3,044 Chinese, 2,511 Filipino, 1,568 Vietnamese, 1,484 Russian, 899 Farsi, 730 Khmer, 471 Thai.

1998.2Delaine Eastin (PDF)
Published March 1998

Meetings of the California State Board of Education have not traditionally been crowd-pleasers, generally attaching the same insider assemblage of bureaucrats and school officials for hour after tedious hour of the two-day monthly gatherings. Appointed by Governor Pete Wilson, many board members are former educators, some “rewarded” for their political fealty, almost all Republicans.

1998.3Abortion in the shadows (PDF)
Published April 1998

Felicia Stewart was a young intern at Cambridge City Hospital in Boston when a comatose woman, married with two small children, was admitted with severe complications from a botched illegal abortion. “She came in dead, basically,” recalls Stewart. “She died in my arms. She and her husband had been afraid to come, so they didn’t come in time. Poor, pale, sad woman — she haunts me today.”

1998.4Nurses under siege (PDF)
Published August 1998

When Jill Furillo was an emergency room nurse in the early 1980s at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, she wasn’t making much of a salary – far from a doctor’s salary – but she and the more experienced nurses routinely trained new, inexperienced physicians.

1998.5Gridlock … and beyond (PDF)
Published November 1998

Perhaps nowhere in California has the daily commuting nightmare become more horrifying than on the dreaded Interstate 580-680 corridor carrying workers from the burgeoning San Joaquin Valley’s still-affordable bedroom communities across the Altamont Pass to the state’s powerful high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley of Santa Clara County.


1999.1Davis and education: Can he move the mountain? (PDF)
Published January 1999

As he faces looming deadlines to create an administration, a legislative agenda and a state budget, Governor Gray Davis has moved swiftly on his priority campaign issue, naming two top state educators to key transitional and cabinet positions and appointing a 13-member task force of luminaries in education and business to flesh out his admittedly vague education agenda.

1999.2Like a bulldog (PDF)
Published February 1999

When Charles (“please, call me Charlie”) Reed was chancellor of the Fresno State University system, he would periodically take a day off from his regular job to work unannounced in the trenches of academe – in a college admissions office (“the lines were horrible”), as a maintenance worker, in a campus power plant, a student health center and at least once a year as a university police officer during a big football game in a state where folks take their football very seriously.

1999.3Eduspeak (PDF)
Published February 1999

The Education Writers Association recently issued a “glossary of education terms” for its members, and anybody else who wants to visit their website ( It starts with terms such as “alternative assessment” (“any form of measuring what students know and are able to do than traditional standardized tests”) and “basal readers” (“elementary school books that incorporate simple stories”) …

1999.4Taking care of our elderly (PDF)
Published March 1999

In the early 1970s, fresh out of Leeds University Law School in Yorkshire, England, Paul Greenwood spent two years in the British equivalent of the Peace Corps, as a teacher in Kenya. It proved to be a formative experience. Today, he works for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, where he heads one of California’s most aggressive local prosecution programs targeting criminal abuse of the elderly.

1999.5Two Cents – Frank McCulloch: Asking the Questions (PDF)
Published April 1999

When Frank McCulloch left the Saigon bureau of Time magazine in 1966, he may not have known that his already stellar journalistic career was less than half over, that he would go on to become a top editor at two more California dailies, The Sacramento Bee (1975-85) and the San Francisco Examiner (1985-92) – having already been managing editor of the Los Angeles Times in the early 1960s.

1999.6Tracing the roots of teacher tenure (PDF)
Published May 1999

In 1986, after school officials in El Cajon spent several years documenting more than 400 reasons why high school English teacher Juliet Ellery was unfit to teach, the school district fired her. But it took eight years and more than $300,000 for the district to win its case. After two decades in the classroom, Ellery hardly ever lectured, gave baffling assignments, belittled students and ignored repeated efforts by the high school principal to get her to improve.

1999.7Two Cents – Wilson Riles: ‘Reinventing the wheel’ (PDF)
Published May 1999

Davis Campbell recalls the time years ago when the late Wilson Riles shared an elevator with a fan who spoke gushingly of his admiration for the tall black man and his rise from poverty to become California’s state superintendent of public instruction. “I’ve always been an admirer of yours, Mr. Bradley,” the man said.
Bradley, as in Tom Bradley, the first black mayor of Los Angeles.

1999.8Two Cents – A sense of place, a clash of memory (PDF)
Published June 1999

I knew it was changing, irrevocably so, one beautiful spring day about 10 years ago, when my then 12-year-old daughter and I were walking with my parents in Bidwell Park, that vast and stunning natural resource a few steps from the front door of the house where I was raised. We walked what my mother calls “the loop,” a trek that took us down a worn trail near the park’s entrance, under the roar of the ugly, 1960s-era elevated freeway, across an arched wooden footbridge over Chico Creek.


2004.1One-to-six (PDF)
Published March 2004

Maureen Barry is a registered nurse who has worked for the past 14 years at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine – the only “level-one” trauma center in Orange County. It is also a burn and liver transplant center, a teaching facility, a children’s hospital and a nationally recognized cancer center.

2004.2A system with no center (PDF)
Published May 2004

In 1999, Steve White was named by Governor Gray Davis to head the state Office of the Inspector General, an independent agency which investigates the state prison system and recommends changes. The prison systems includes the state Department of Corrections (CDC), the California Youth Authority (CYA), the state Board of Prison Terms, the state Board of Corrections and the Prison Industry Authority – all gathered within a “super-agency,” the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency (YACA).

2004.3Cut to the Bone (PDF)
Published June 2004

It is late afternoon in the gritty center of the venerable Loaves & Fishes complex on the industrial fringe of downtown Sacramento, and rough-looking men with leather skin and haggard, world-weary faces are moving on to the next stop. The daily free lunch service, which is the centerpiece of the 20-year-old program, ended hours ago and there are no more “second” as in part years.

2004.4The ‘Mississippification’ of California schools (PDF)
Published September 2004

When Moises Canel, Magaly de Loza, Yeimi Alba, Arturo Escutia and Edgardo Solano attended Wendell Helms Middle School in San Pablo, California, conditions in the public school were appalling.
In fact, Helms was beyond horrid.