California Yawns at Affirmative-Action Ban: San Francisco's Reaction Differs from Rest of State

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LOS ANGELES - California's ban on affirmative-action preferences went into effect yesterday with little apparent effect for the nation's most populous state.

The ban - which forbids the state to use race and sex considerations in everything from hiring to education - coincided with a planned march in San Francisco to commemorate the 34th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Marchers hastily turned the event into a protest as they streamed across the Golden Gate Bridge.

But here, the state's largest city, and elsewhere in the state, reaction was muted.

"Boring would be a good word to describe San Jose, and no one is making speeches," said Joanne Jacobs, an editorial writer for the San Jose Mercury News. "Everyone here is working, and we are too busy. We don't like to get out of our cars. We've delegated that [protest] to San Francisco."

This city's largest daily newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, did not offer an editorial on the subject and when the proposition was upheld by an appeals court last week did not run the story on the front page. Nor did the topic dominate Southern California talk shows yesterday.

"In general what we are going to see is an acceptance of the new reality, that governmental racial preferences are now illegal," said Manny Klausner, an L.A. lawyer who helped draft the ban and co-chaired the campaign with University of California regent Ward Connerly.

California voters passed the measure, Proposition 209, in November by 54 percent to 46 percent, but the ban has been tied up in the courts since then. The American Civil Liberties Union and other opponents tried to have it struck down, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused Tuesday to block implementation while it is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Education has been at the center of the preference controversy, but for many state institutions, the implementation of the measure will mean little change - the University of California system banned race and sex preferences in 1995.

"We have already implemented changes in admissions and hiring practices," said Terry Colvin, a spokesman for the University of California system. "We have revamped the university outreach program, which will no longer target specific ethnic and racial groups but will have university campuses partnering with disadvantaged schools. …