Richard Gonzales

Correspondent Richard Gonzales is based in San Francisco. His reports are featured regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Gonzales describes his beat this way: "Willie Brown, Jerry Brown, medical pot, gay marriage, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court, and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California the rest of the country should know about. California has the reputation for generating new ideas and trends and we try to keep track of them."

He began his California stint in September 1995, after spending a year studying the impact of international trade and information technology on the American political process as a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

Gonzales joined NPR in May 1986 when he covered the U.S. State Department during the Iran-Contra Affair and the fall of apartheid in South Africa. In August 1990, he assumed the post of White House Correspondent and reported on the prelude to the Gulf War and President George Bush's unsuccessful re-election bid. From 1993 through 1994, Gonzales covered the U.S. Congress, focusing on NAFTA and immigration and welfare reform.

In 1988 Gonzales received a World Hunger Media Award for "Street Children in Maputo." He was also honored by the World Affairs Council of Northern California in 1984 for his documentary on the war-ravaged Miskito Indians of Nicaragua.

Before joining NPR in May 1986, Gonzales was a freelance producer at KQED-TV/San Francisco. From 1979 to 1985, he was a reporter, producer, and later, public affairs director at station KPFA-FM/Berkeley.

Gonzales graduated from Harvard College in 1977 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.

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4:20pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Politics

Senate's Immigration Reform Bill Is Declared Dead At One Year Old

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 7:10 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A year-long effort to push a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the House was officially declared dead yesterday. Prospects for the bill were always dicey and the debate became more complicated by the recent wave of unaccompanied children seeking entry into the United States. NPR's Richard Gonzales has more.

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5:13pm

Thu June 19, 2014
Arts & Life

Never Tell Them The Odds: Cities Vie To Host 'Star Wars' Collection

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 7:12 pm

While cities are still competing for the not yet built Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, parts of the collection are already on display. The "Star Wars Identities" traveling exhibition, currently at the Cite du Cinema in Saint-Denis, France, features 200 objects from George Lucas' collection — including the costumes of Chewbacca, Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa.
Patrick Kovarik AFP/Getty Images

A short time ago, in a city not far away, Star Wars creator George Lucas decided to build a museum to house his movie memorabilia and his art collection.

There's just one looming question: Where should it go?

Lucas says he'll spend $300 million of his own money to build the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum and will provide a $400 million endowment after his death. In addition to holding Skywalker artifacts galore, the museum would also host Lucas' private art collection, featuring works by Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth, among others.

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3:09am

Thu June 12, 2014
The Salt

Fight Over Calif. Oyster Company Splits Chefs And Land Defenders

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 4:38 pm

The Drakes Bay Oyster Farm caters to local residents and restaurants. But unless its lease is renewed, its days are numbered.
Richard Gonzales NPR

Drive just an hour and a half north of San Francisco, and you're in Drakes Estero, named for the first English explorer to lay claim to California.

This near-pristine, wind-whipped marine wilderness is a federally protected home for large beds of eelgrass, the base of the marine food chain. The estuary hosts the largest colony of harbor seals on the West Coast, and tens of thousands of resident and migratory birds.

It's also home to the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

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3:06am

Thu May 29, 2014
Race

Shooting Of Sikh Army Veteran Divides Community

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 11:31 am

A photograph of Parminder Singh Shergill is displayed during his funeral services at Cherokee Memorial Park in Lodi, Calif., on Feb. 8.
Randall Benton Sacramento Bee

In late January, a mentally ill man was shot and killed by two police officers in Lodi, Calif., south of Sacramento. Tragedy often follows a confrontation between the police and a mentally ill person, but the facts of this case are in dispute.

The victim was a Sikh Army veteran, and his death has roiled the Sikh community and the city. On a recent Saturday evening, more than 100 people gathered at the Sikh temple in the largely agricultural community of Lodi, to remember Parminder Shergill.

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4:16pm

Mon April 21, 2014
News

Teen Stowaway Somehow Survives Flight To Hawaii In Wheel Well

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 7:26 pm

The FBI is saying that a 16-year-old boy is lucky to be alive after he hid in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose to Maui. Severe temperatures and low oxygen would make survival difficult. Investigators are examining the case.

5:02pm

Sat March 29, 2014
Code Switch

Activists: We Want An Emancipator, Not A 'Deporter In Chief'

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 6:59 pm

Members of a coalition of Latino groups rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Activists say they plan more rallies and demonstrations across the country to push for action on immigration reform.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Activists who support an overhaul of the immigration system are angry and frustrated. The immigration bill that passed in the Senate in June is stalled out. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is on pace to deport some 2 million illegal immigrants since taking office six years ago.

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1:12pm

Sat March 29, 2014
Politics

The Story Of Calif. Senator's Arrest Reads Like Pulp Fiction

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 4:04 pm

San Francisco state Sen. Leland Yee leaves the San Francisco Federal Building after he was arrested and released on bond Wednesday.
Ben Margot AP

It's a case that has stunned California's political community: A prominent Democratic lawmaker has been accused in a federal complaint of participating in an elaborate conspiracy involving guns, gangs, drugs and bribery.

State Sen. Leland Yee was known as a champion of open government and gun control, but not any more. A 137-page federal affidavit accuses the lawmaker of soliciting and taking bribes from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for political favors.

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3:21am

Wed March 26, 2014
The Salt

What A Long, Strange Trip: Salmon Are Trucking To The Pacific Ocean

Pacific Or Bust: Fingerling Chinook salmon are dumped into a holding pen as they are transferred from a truck into the Sacramento River Tuesday in Rio Vista, Calif. From here, they'll be towed downstream for a bit, then make their own way out to the Pacific Ocean.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

In California, severe drought has imperiled millions of juvenile salmon who now face waters too dry to let them make their usual spawning trip to the ocean. So state and federal officials have embarked on a drastic plan to save them – by letting them hitch a ride on tanker trucks.

Over the next two and a half months, some 30 million Chinook salmon will be trucked from five hatcheries in the state's Central Valley to waters where they can make their way to the ocean.

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4:44am

Tue March 18, 2014
Business

Businesses Help Guide Workers Down Path To Citizenship

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 5:28 am

Silicon Valley companies have launched a drive to provide citizenship services on-site to employees holding green cards. The belief is that such employees become more valuable workers.

6:10pm

Wed March 12, 2014
Law

Ruling On Gay Juror May Cause Ripples In Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 8:14 pm

A legal dispute between pharmaceutical companies Abbott Laboratories and SmithKline Beecham ended up before a federal appeals court. The court's ruling may have implications for laws that concern gays and lesbians.
Tim Boyle Bloomberg via Getty Images

There was a small development in a case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month that could have a major impact on the legal battle over same-sex marriage. The case involves a dispute between two pharmaceutical companies, a gay juror and the level of legal scrutiny directed by the appellate court.

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3:37am

Wed February 26, 2014
Parallels

Gays And Lesbians Seeking Asylum In U.S. May Find A Hard Road

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 7:43 am

Activists protest Uganda's anti-gay legislation in Nairobi, Kenya, this month. LGBT status has been grounds for asylum in the U.S. since 1994, but winning refugee status can be difficult, particularly for people who are unable to obtain visas to the U.S. before applying.
Dai Kurokawa EPA/LANDOV

Even through a long-distance line from Uganda, you can hear the fear and anxiety in the young man's voice. Nathan, 19, is gay. NPR is not using his surname because he fears arrest.

"Right now we are not safe," he says. "Because we are hearing some people say ... 'If we get you, we will kill you. If we get you, we'll do something bad to you.' "

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11:29am

Sat February 15, 2014
Law

Flood Of Gay Marriage Cases Releasing Stream Of Federal Rulings

Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 10:48 pm

Virginians demonstrate outside Federal Court in Norfolk, Va., on Feb. 4. The judge ruled this week that Virginia's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
Steve Helber AP

A federal judge in Virginia struck down that state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage this week. It's just the latest in a string of similar rulings in conservative states, and it indicates that the strategy for winning marriage equality in federal courts is moving faster than many had expected.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen said Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because "core civil rights are at stake." She compared the case to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling recognizing interracial marriage.

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6:50pm

Thu January 30, 2014
The Salt

Small Cuts To Food Stamps Add Up To Big Pains For Many Recipients

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:00 pm

The farm bill proposes a $1 billion cut to food stamps, which would affect nearly 850,000 struggling families who already depend on food banks like the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, Calif.
Antonio Mena Courtesy of Alameda County Community Food Bank

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives Wednesday approved a massive five-year farm bill that costs nearly half a trillion dollars.

The bill includes some reductions to food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, to the tune of nearly $1 billion a year. It's far less than what many Republicans had wanted. But the cuts are large enough to worry some Democrats and many food stamp recipients.

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5:12pm

Tue January 14, 2014
Around the Nation

In California, Alarm Grows Over Shrinking Water Levels

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 6:33 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Last week, we were shivering in depths of the polar vortex. Now another sign that Mother Nature is in charge. This time it's California, where right now it should be rainy season. Instead, there's growing alarm over a persistent lack of rain. The state is suffering its third consecutive dry year.

And as NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, there are calls for the governor to officially declare a drought.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

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5:11am

Wed December 25, 2013
Around the Nation

Number Of States Allowing Gay Marriage Expected To Grow

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:04 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As we approach the end of 2013, we've been looking at numbers that tell the story of this year in different ways. Today's number: 38. That's the percentage of Americans who live in a state where same-sex marriage is now legal. Supporters of same-sex marriage say that percentage is likely to grow dramatically in just a few more years. NPR's Richard Gonzalez reports.

RICHARD GONZALEZ, BYLINE: When the history of the legal and political battle over same-sex marriage is written, this will likely go down as the banner year.

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3:17am

Tue December 3, 2013
Around the Nation

As Rent Soars, Longtime San Francisco Tenants Fight To Stay

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 6:02 pm

San Francisco has long been a desirable place to live — and that's even more true today as the city is basking in the glow of another tech boom. But the influx of new money and new residents is putting a strain on the city's housing market.

The city has the highest median rent in the nation, and evictions of longtime residents are skyrocketing.

Ground zero for San Francisco's eviction crisis is the Inner Mission District. Until recently, this edgy neighborhood was home to a mix of working-class Latinos, artists and activists.

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3:03am

Fri November 15, 2013
Around the Nation

With Robberies Up, Oakland Residents Turn To Private Cops

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 12:16 pm

Security officer Steven Long patrols the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood in Oakland, Calif. With city police struggling to control crime, several neighborhoods have hired private security to patrol local streets.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

The city of Oakland, Calif., is in the middle of a robbery epidemic. In response, some residents in several Oakland neighborhoods are taking matters into their own hands, hiring private security companies to patrol their neighborhoods.

Overall, robberies in Oakland are up 24 percent over the past year, with armed robberies up 45 percent. Since the recession dried up local tax revenues, the Oakland Police Department has been hamstrung by the loss of more than 200 officers and can't respond to all the calls it receives for help.

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3:23am

Wed November 13, 2013
U.S. Commutes: The Way We Get To Work

How A Free Bus Shuttle Helped Make A Small Town Take Off

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 3:18 pm

There were 1.5 million boardings on the Emery Go Round last year. Zikhona Tetana, a visiting scientist from South Africa, is taking the Emery Go Round to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory facility in Emeryville. "It's convenient and always on time," she says.
Cindy Carpien NPR

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?

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5:06am

Thu September 26, 2013
Sports

Oracle Team USA Defeats New Zealand To Win America's Cup

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 5:28 am

Oracle Team USA completed a remarkable comeback to win the America's Cup regatta, winning eight straight races. The American team, backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison, beat Emirates Team New Zealand. Just a few days ago, the American team trailed the Kiwis, and were on the brink of being eliminated from the competition.

5:30pm

Wed September 25, 2013
Sports

In Comeback, Oracle Team USA Wins America's Cup

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 6:03 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In San Francisco today, a dramatic winner-take-all finish to the America's Cup race. Oracle Team USA, the defending champion, completed a remarkable comeback to win the regatta, 9-8. The American team is led by Silicon Valley billionaire and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. They were on the verge of elimination to their opponent, Emirates Team New Zealand. Trailing 8-1, the Oracle team then won eight straight races, concluding this afternoon in the high winds of San Francisco Bay. Announcer Todd Harris had the call on the NBC Sports Network.

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2:56am

Tue August 20, 2013
U.S.

One By One, California Agents Track Down Illegally Owned Guns

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 8:57 am

Firearms seized during a sweep by the Los Angeles Police Department using the California's Armed Prohibited Persons System initiative. The program uses a database to identify gun owners who are no longer allowed to possess a firearm.
Damian Dovarganes AP

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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5:13am

Fri July 12, 2013
Code Switch

Oakland Braces For Seeing Subway Shooting On The Big Screen

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 5:00 pm

Cephus "Bobby" Johnson in 2011, when the former transit officer who shot Johnson's nephew, Oscar Grant, was released from jail. Johnson and other family members have seen Fruitvale Station, a new feature film depicting the shooting, multiple times.
Jason Redmond AP

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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6:41am

Sun July 7, 2013
NPR Story

Crash At San Francisco Airport Kills Two

Originally published on Sun July 7, 2013 2:21 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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9:22pm

Fri June 28, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court

Same-Sex Marriages Resume In California

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its injunction on gay marriages in California on Friday. They'd been on hold while the challenges to Proposition 8 worked their way through the appeals process.

2:52am

Wed May 29, 2013
It's All Politics

Political Battles Still Dog Redistricting In California

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 10:47 am

California Citizens Redistricting Commission members sign resolutions certifying the final vote for new legislative and congressional maps at the Capitol in Sacramento in 2011.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

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.

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2:50pm

Tue April 30, 2013
U.S.

On California Prisons, It's The Governor Vs. The Courts

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 5:32 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown in January calls for federal judges to return control of California prisons to the state. This month, a federal appeals court denied Brown's request and ordered the state to reduce its prison population immediately.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

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.

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3:16am

Wed March 20, 2013
Guns In America: A Loaded Relationship

How To Be The Good Guy With A Gun At School

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 9:30 am

Stockton Unified School District Police Officer Myra Franco and Chief Jim West patrol 50 schools in California's Central Valley region. One of the campuses was the site of a 1989 shooting massacre.
Richard Gonzales NPR

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.

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5:07am

Mon February 25, 2013
Around the Nation

Oakland To Issue IDs That Double As Debit Cards

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 9:11 am

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (center) and former Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente are registered for the Oakland City ID Prepaid MasterCard program by Jaime Suriano (left) Feb. 1 in Oakland, Calif.
Ben Margot AP

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.

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5:14pm

Tue December 11, 2012
Education

Berkeley Receives $1M For Undocumented Students

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 9:34 pm

Meng So, coordinator of the University of California, Berkeley's Undocumented Student Program, says students he helps are from low-income families with no experience navigating a university such as Berkeley. So calls undocumented students "underground undergrads."
Carol Ness UC Berkeley

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.

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4:45pm

Fri December 7, 2012
U.S.

School District Owes $1 Billion On $100 Million Loan

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 4:10 pm

Students leave Miramonte Elementary, in the Clovis Unified School District in Los Angeles. School districts across California have taken out loans requiring payments that far exceed the original loan amounts.
Damian Dovarganes AP

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.

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