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.

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3:18pm

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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5:00pm

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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5:27am

Mon November 19, 2012
Around the Nation

California Learns From Hurricane Sandy In Northeast

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 10:38 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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.

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11:29am

Sat November 10, 2012
U.S.

BBQ Support: Feeding Fellow Americans After Sandy

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)

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5:17am

Sat November 3, 2012
House & Senate Races

Race For Redrawn Calif. District Is Tight And Pricey

Originally published on Sat November 3, 2012 10:48 am

Democrat Ami Bera is challenging Lungren. Bera ran against Lungren in 2004 and lost, but since the district was redrawn, the race has become competitive.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

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.

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4:39pm

Wed October 3, 2012
Around the Nation

Did Man Who Armed Black Panthers Lead Two Lives?

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 11:39 am

Richard Aoki was known as the "minister of education" for the Berkeley, Calif., chapter of the Black Panther Party.
Nikki Arai Courtesy of Nancy Park

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.

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3:40am

Thu September 27, 2012
Business

In Solyndra's Wake, Solar Company Sees Bright Spot

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 9:59 am

SoloPower is betting it will succeed where others have failed with a $197 million loan from the Department of Energy.
SoloPower/PRNewsFoto AP

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.

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4:29pm

Fri September 14, 2012
Around the Nation

It's Hard To Tell La Familia You're Gay

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 5:50 pm

Samantha Moreno, in pink, with her family. "The hardest part of coming out is to know that you're about to hurt someone that you love," she says in a video featured on the website of Familia es Familia, which aims to help Latino families accept their LGBT loved ones.
Courtesy of Samantha Moreno

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.

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4:54pm

Fri August 17, 2012
U.S.

Budgets Tight, States Ask Voters To Raise Taxes

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 6:03 pm

California Gov. Jerry Brown, speaking in Sacramento on Wednesday, advocates a ballot initiative that would increase sales and income taxes. Several states have measures on the November ballot that seek to plug deficits by raising taxes.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

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.

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4:50am

Wed August 8, 2012
NPR Story

Chevron Fire May Lead To Higher Calif. Gas Prices

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 11:52 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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.

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2:55pm

Tue July 3, 2012
NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century

Oakland Turns A Corner As Calif. Faces Budget Woes

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 2:17 pm

Ryan Curtis leans in for a kiss from Love Kovtun on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood in April. New businesses and investment have helped revitalize the city's downtown over the past decade.
Laura Morton for NPR

The city of Oakland, Calif. has long been associated with crime, poverty, urban decay and, more recently, violent protests tied to the Occupy movement.

So it may have been a surprise to New York Times readers when the newspaper listed Oakland as No. 5 among its top "places to go" in 2012.

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3:50am

Fri May 25, 2012
Around the Nation

Walk This Way: Crossing The Golden Gate Bridge

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 2:15 pm

More than 200,000 people crossed the bridge the day it opened in 1937. Many walked. Others ran, tap-danced, roller-skated, unicycled, or strode on stilts.
Courtesy of GoldenGateBridge.org

On May 27, 1937, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge opened, connecting bustling San Francisco to sleepy Marin County to the north. The Oakland-Bay Bridge had opened six months earlier — but the Golden Gate was an engineering triumph. It straddles the Golden Gate Strait, the passage from the Pacific Ocean into the San Francisco Bay, where rough currents prevail and winds can reach 70 mph.

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5:57am

Sat May 19, 2012
Million-Dollar Donors

With Eye On Future, Billionaire Investor Bets On Paul

Originally published on Sat May 19, 2012 11:19 am

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who has donated more than $2.5 million to a superPAC backing GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in October.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, only one candidate remains to challenge presumptive nominee Mitt Romney: Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Even Paul has said he will no longer campaign in states that have yet to hold their primaries. And Paul has always been considered a long shot to win. But that hasn't deterred many of his hard-core supporters, including the Silicon Valley billionaire who has bankrolled the superPAC backing Paul.

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4:54pm

Mon May 14, 2012
Election 2012

Obama's Gay Marriage Stand May Not Sway Latinos

Originally published on Mon May 14, 2012 7:49 pm

President Obama speaks during a campaign fundraiser Monday at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. The event, co-hosted by gay- and lesbian-rights leaders and a Latino nonprofit, featured singer Ricky Martin.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is attending a campaign fundraiser Monday night co-hosted by gay- and lesbian-rights leaders and a Latino nonprofit. The event is being headlined by singer Ricky Martin.

Obama maintains a commanding lead over likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney when it comes to support among Latino voters. But those same voters are generally regarded as socially conservative, leading some to wonder how the president's support for same-sex marriage might affect the Latino electorate.

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4:48am

Thu May 10, 2012
Politics

Gay Community Elated By Obama's Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 6:44 am

Gays and lesbians have been largely supportive of the Obama administration due to the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. But some had felt the president was moving too slowly on the issue of same-sex marriage.

3:39am

Tue April 3, 2012
Around the Nation

Oakland Police: Former University Student Kills 7

Originally published on Wed April 4, 2012 2:01 pm

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan address reporters after a gunman allegedly killed seven people at a California religious college. The suspect, identified as One Goh, is a 43-year-old Korean who has been living in the United States.
Kimihiro Hoshino AFP/Getty Images

Oikos University is housed in a nondescript single-story industrial building in a business park near the Oakland International Airport.

The university's website says it trains men and women "for Christian leadership, both lay and clerical." But it doesn't say how many students attend. It offers courses in nursing, music, biblical studies and Asian medicine. And now it's the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in California in recent memory.

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6:20am

Sun March 11, 2012
Economy

An Example To Avoid: City Of Stockton On The Brink

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 6:21 pm

The beleaguered city of Stockton is fighting to avert bankruptcy by cutting staff, including a quarter of the roughly 425-member police force.
David Paul Morris Bloomberg

The city of Stockton, Calif., about 90 minutes east of San Francisco, is broke and on the brink of bankruptcy. Stockton's road to insolvency is a long one, and it appears that, financially speaking, everything that could go wrong in Stockton did.

If Stockton can't solve its budget crisis, it would be the largest American city to go bankrupt.

The City's Seen Better Days

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2:54pm

Fri February 17, 2012
U.S.

For Cash, Murderer Leads Police To Victims' Remains

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 6:45 pm

San Joaquin sheriff detectives sift for human remains that were excavated from an abandoned ranch near Linden, Calif., on Sunday. Authorities say Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog wantonly murdered an unknown number of victims before their arrest in 1999. Now, one of the convicted killers is leading investigators to burial sites that have yielded hundreds of bones.
Craig Sanders AP

In California's Central Valley, authorities are excavating the gruesome remains of an unknown number of murder victims who were buried many years ago by a pair of convicted murderers and drug users.

The search began last week after one of the convicts agreed to lead authorities to the remains in exchange for cash.

But, the case raises some thorny ethical and legal issues: Should convicted criminals be able to benefit from their wrongdoing?

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4:00am

Fri February 10, 2012
Business

Many Advocates Not Impressed With States' Foreclosure Settlement

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 8:02 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

Here's a sign of just how huge the housing and foreclosure crisis has been. Five big banks agreed to pay about $25 billion to people who've been harmed bank's abuses, plus an extra billion to settle a claim involving a mortgage company. And one of the first reactions is that all that money could not possibly be enough.

President Obama says the banks will spread the money around.

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3:25am

Mon February 6, 2012
U.S.

Unions Create TV Ad To Appeal To Young People

A new TV ad recently test-launched by the AFL-CIO discusses work, but never mentions unions specifically.
Courtesy of the AFL-CIO

At a time when young activists from Zucotti Park to Tahrir Square have shown what the Internet and social media can do to help organize people, some American unions have been taking notes.

The AFL-CIO is embarking on a new advertising campaign that combines new and old technologies.

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12:01am

Thu January 19, 2012
Crisis In The Housing Market

Silicon Valley Homebuilder Finds A Profitable Niche

James Witt stands next to the foundation of a house he is building in Palo Alto. Witt has built a successful business by tearing down and rebuilding houses in Silicon Valley. His business has survived four recessions, including the most recent one.
Cindy Carpien NPR

The U.S. housing market may be singing the blues, but there are pockets where home sales are rising. James Witt, a homebuilder in California's Silicon Valley is surviving and thriving thanks to his luck, location, and knowledge of the local market.

Witt is a tall lanky man whose graying long hair suggests an actor in a Western movie. He's standing on his 3-acre property in Palo Alto, which includes an updated old farmhouse and a yard with a pair of donkeys. One, named Perry, has an interesting pedigree.

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3:00pm

Mon December 12, 2011
NPR Story

A Log Cabin In An Unlikely Place

Gerald Brady's neighborhood in Arabi, La., was devastated by Katrina. It's still mostly empty lots and the few homes around are made of brick. Brady's house — a log cabin built on eight-foot-high concrete piers — stands out so much that tourists come around to take pictures. He fought hard to build the unlikely house of his dreams in a most unusual place.

8:02am

Sat December 10, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

Latinos Get Little Credit For Rebuilding New Orleans

Methodist Pastor Oscar Ramos conducts English classes for Latino immigrants in New Orleans. The majority of the immigrants say they arrived after Katrina to work in reconstruction and intend to stay.
Richard Gonzales NPR

Part of a monthlong series

Since Katrina, the Hispanic population in the New Orleans metro area has skyrocketed by more than 33,000 people. That's a 57-percent increase in the past decade, much higher than the national average.

They came for the construction jobs — and they've chosen to stay. Often, you can find about a dozen Latino men hanging out near a home improvement store looking for work near a mostly black neighborhood.

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5:17am

Sun November 13, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

Big Sky Country Has Lots Of Room For Optimism

Billings, Mont., has a diverse economic base, as evidenced by the confluence of stockyards, oil refineries and natural beauty. The unemployment rate for Billings' Yellowstone County was 5.3 percent in September, far lower than the national average.
Richard Gonzales NPR

Part of a monthlong series

In Billings, Mont., the land of the "Big Sky," there aren't many clouds. A city of about 100,000 people between Denver and Calgary, Billings is weathering the economic storm better than many other communities in this country.

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5:34am

Tue November 1, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

Calif. County Yearns For 'The Way It Used To Be'

Craig and Linda Black sit at a table in the yard of their home in Vacaville, Calif. They are desperately trying to hang on to their home after falling behind on their mortgage payments.

Richard Gonzales NPR

Part of a monthlong series

There's a lot to like about Solano County, Calif., a collection of bedroom communities between San Francisco and Sacramento: great climate, diversity and until recently, very stable neighborhoods.

But it also has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country. Its largest city, Vallejo, went bankrupt. And unemployment here is 11 percent, higher than the national average.

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1:23am

Thu September 29, 2011
Around the Nation

California's New Prison Policy Has Some Skeptics

California is days away from launching a dramatic shift in the way it handles criminal offenders: Starting in October, the state will redirect tens of thousands of nonviolent felons away from state prisons to local facilities.

The state's plan is called "realignment." It shifts certain functions from the state to the counties, says Barry Krisberg, who teaches criminal justice at the University of California, Berkeley, law school.

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12:01am

Fri September 16, 2011
Around the Nation

California Turns To China For New Bay Bridge

Catwalks hang over a section of the newly constructed eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in Oakland, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

California is spending more than $7 billion building what it says will be an architectural marvel: the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. But the state saved a lot of money sending some of the construction work overseas.

The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge will have a distinctive design to rival its more famous cousin, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bart Ney, a spokesman for the project, recently stood near the top of a gleaming white tower, more than 500 feet above the San Francisco Bay.

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