Richard Gonzales

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.

Gonzales joined NPR in May 1986. He covered the U.S. State Department during the Iran-Contra Affair and the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Four years later, he assumed the post of White House Correspondent and reported on the prelude to the Gulf War and President George W. Bush's unsuccessful re-election bid. Gonzales covered the U.S. Congress for NPR from 1993-94, focusing on NAFTA and immigration and welfare reform.

In September 1995, Gonzales moved to his current position after spending a year as a John S. Knight Fellow Journalism at Stanford University.

In 2009, Gonzales won the Broadcast Journalism Award from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He also received the PASS Award in 2004 and 2005 from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for reports on California's juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

Prior to NPR, Gonzales was a freelance producer at public television station KQED in San Francisco. From 1979 to 1985, he held positions as a reporter, producer, and later, public affairs director at KPFA, a radio station in Berkeley, CA.

Gonzales graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in psychology and social relations. He is a co-founder of Familias Unidas, a bi-lingual social services program in his hometown of Richmond, California.

This story is part of an ongoing project on commuting in America.

What's known as the "last mile" of a commute can be the Holy Grail for many city transportation planners. How do you get people from their major mode of transportation – like a train station – to their final destination?

Sonoma County, Calif., is probably best known for its good wine, green sensibilities and otherwise healthy and peaceful living. But that peace was shattered last week when a county sheriff's deputy shot and killed a young teenager carrying a toy gun.

New Mexico law doesn't explicitly ban or approve same-sex marriage. There were a spate of lawsuits seeking to clarify the issue, but they were tied up in the courts. Then in August, the clerk of Dona Ana County, Lynn Ellins, a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage, consulted his staff.

"And we all agreed that it was about time to bring this thing to a head, and if we did nothing, the cases would languish in the district court if we did not move to issue these licenses and try and put the ball in play," Ellins says.



In other immigration news, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a measure that makes it harder for federal immigration officials to detain people believed to be in this country illegally. The new state law, called the Trust Act, restricts local police from holding undocumented immigrants without serious criminal records and turning them over to immigration authorities. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

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A federal judge in San Francisco on Thursday hears arguments over a radical plan to stem the foreclosure crisis. The City of Richmond is proposing to buy underwater mortgages in order to help keep local residents in their homes. If banks don't want to sell those mortgages, the city says it is prepared to invoke eminent domain to seize the mortgages.



Back in this country, a major hedge fund manager, Philip Falcone and his company, Harbinger Capital Partners, have agreed to pay $18 million to settle charges over the improper use of his company's money.

As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, Falcone is also barred from the securities industry for five years.

In California, officials are ramping up a unique program that identifies and seizes guns from people who are prohibited from keeping them. Under state law, a legally registered gun owner loses the right to own a firearm when he or she is convicted of a crime or becomes mentally ill.

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It's not often that Oakland, Calif., hosts a movie opening. But there is plenty of anticipation for Fruitvale Station.

The film is about the life and death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was fatally shot in the back by a white transit police officer in the early morning hours of New Year's Day in 2009.

Grant was killed by Officer Johannes Mehserle, who claimed to have been reaching for his Taser, not his handgun. Mehserle was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months of a two-year term.



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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.




Let's go next to California, where the largest public works project in the history of that state is running over budget, over time, and has lost the public's confidence. The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, with a price tag of $6.4 billion, was scheduled to open on Labor Day. There's still time, but that deadline is in doubt, as questions are raised about safety.

NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

In most states, the power to draw lines for political districts rests with legislators. In recent years, California voters have tried to make the process less political by taking it out of lawmakers' hands. But not everyone is happy with how things are turning out.

To understand redistricting in California, consider this: Over a 10-year period beginning in 2000, there were 255 congressional races, and only one seat — that's right, one seat — changed parties.



This follow-up now on the move for immigration reform: When a Senate committee approved a bill overhauling immigration laws this week, it was a victory for supporters of reform, but a bitter pill for one group: the gay and lesbian community. Both Republican and Democratic senators rejected an amendment that would have allowed American citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for permanent residency. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports from San Francisco.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is locked in a legal battle over control of his state's prison system. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling ordering the state to drastically reduce its prisoner population. Brown claims the state has made substantial progress, but the governor has stopped short of complying fully with the court order.



A federal judge has ruled that Stockton, California, may enter into bankruptcy proceedings. That opens the way for Stockton to become America's largest bankrupt city. The population there is 300,000, bigger than Cincinnati, Newark, New Jersey or St. Paul, Minnesota. NPR's Richard Gonzalez reports that others cities share Stockton's problems.

Ever since the Newtown, Ct., school shooting, there's been a raging debate over how to keep America's schoolchildren safe. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre proposed stationing an armed guard in every school in the country. Critics said that idea was impractical and would be too expensive to carry out.

But many schools and school districts already have armed police officers. Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, about one-third of the schools in the U.S. have added some kind of armed security, according to federal data.

Karl Rove had a sharp message to California's Republican Party Saturday. He implored party leaders to "get up off the mat" and work to revitalize the state GOP. Republicans hold no statewide offices in California and have given up a supermajority to Democrats in the state legislature.

The city of Oakland, Calif., is taking a major step toward helping to bring many of its residents, especially illegal immigrants, out of the shadows.

It will issue a municipal identification card to anyone who can prove residency.

Oakland isn't the only city to issue such ID cards to illegal immigrants. New Haven, Conn., and San Francisco already do that.

The Oakland card, however, has a unique feature — it doubles as a debit card.

The University of California, Berkeley is taking the DREAM Act a step further. On Tuesday, the school announced a $1 million scholarship fund specifically for undocumented students.

More than 200 school districts across California are taking a second look at the high price of the debt they've taken on using risky financial arrangements. Collectively, the districts have borrowed billions in loans that defer payments for years — leaving many districts owing far more than they borrowed.

In 2010, officials at the West Contra Costa School District, just east of San Francisco, were in a bind. The district needed $2.5 million to help secure a federally subsidized $25 million loan to build a badly needed elementary school.



Emergency managers around the nation have been paying close attention to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. From California, NPR's Richard Gonzales a look at what lessons disaster planners there say they've learned.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Superstorm Sandy didn't sneak up on anybody.

CHRISTOPHER GODLEY: They had days of warning before it made landfall, before the damage really started to occur, so people could prepare themselves, their families, their neighborhoods.



Twelve days after Hurricane Sandy smacked the eastern seaboard and beyond, tens of thousands of people still lack basic necessities - food, water, even shelter. NPR's Richard Gonzales sent us this postcard about three men from Chicago who took it upon themselves to bring some comfort to Sandy's victims.


Dan Lungren has been in and out of public office since 1979. The Republican represented a Southern California district in the '80s, served as the state's attorney general for eight years, and then returned to Congress to represent the Sacramento area in 2004.

These days, he's still the same pro-business, limited-government conservative he's always been, Lungren told a friendly audience in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova.

In the mid-1960s, the Black Panthers came to symbolize black militant power. They rejected the nonviolence of earlier civil rights campaigners and promoted a radical socialist agenda.

Styled in uniforms of black leather jackets, dark sunglasses and black berets, the Panthers were never shy about brandishing guns, a sign that they were ready for a fight.

A small solar power company hopes to become a winner in a market littered with losers.

San Jose, Calif.-based SoloPower is opening a $60 million manufacturing facility in Portland, Ore., Thursday as it works toward receiving a major government loan — like the one given to now-bankrupt Solyndra. SoloPower thinks it has a strategy to succeed where Solyndra failed.

Coming out to your family as gay or lesbian can be an excruciating experience, and it is no less so if you're part of a Latino family.

Tax increases will join political candidates on the November ballot in several states struggling to plug some big holes in their budgets.

One of the most closely watched measures is in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown has staked his reputation on closing his state's multibillion-dollar budget gap.

On Wednesday in Sacramento, Brown officially kicked off his campaign to get voter approval to raise taxes via the Schools Public Safety Protection Act, also known as Proposition 30.



Here in the U.S., analysts are trying to figure out what affect an oil refinery fire could have on gasoline prices. The fire erupted Monday night at an important refinery in Richmond, California. It's owned by Chevron Corporation. It was extinguished within five hours, but could have a lasting impact.

NPR's Richard Gonzales reports that gas prices are expected to shoot up in an already expensive market.