Fox and Hounds’ Annual Black Bart Award

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

For the past nine years frequent contributors to this page Joe Mathews, John Wildermuth and I have nominated candidates for Californian of the Year in the world of politics. We name the final selection the winner of the Black Bart Award.

There are no specific criteria to follow in making the selection. Each author will explain his reason for selecting a nominee. Perhaps, the nominee took one courageous act, or committed a dastardly deed that had great repercussions, or performed heroically in difficult circumstances. The nominee may be a person, or more than one, or even an institution or an issue that had great impact on California politics and policy over the year.

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Virtually No State And Local Races Are Decided On Election Night, So Why Pressure For Early Results?

Caity Maple
Principal & Lobbyist for Quintana, Watts & Hartmann

Oh, election night.

It’s so much more than just the counting and reporting out of how people voted for candidates and on issues, it is a direct — and at times emotional — reflection of what our priorities are and what direction our district, city, county, state or even the nation is heading.

Voting is a reflection of our values.

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The Arrival of Governor Gavin Newsom

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught public policy at USF, UC Berkeley and other institutions and is Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

All elections have consequences—some more than others. California’s often send ripples across the nation—none greater than the one just concluded.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco) is a safe bet to be voted in as the returning Speaker of the House in a chamber that will be transformed with 40 new Democrats of diverse backgrounds and views. Included among them are 6 new Democrats who ousted long-time Republicans making 1 out of every 5 Democratic members of Congress a Californian.

However, it will not be a cakewalk for Pelosi with many of the rookie non-Californians making demands for committee assignments and advocating new voting rules that will make life more difficult for the leadership.

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Capra the Californian

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The California story needs a remake.

Get me Capra!

Frank—legendary director of films from It Happened One Night to It’s a Wonderful Life—has been dead since 1991, you say? No matter! Just this fall, Capra published a novel, a short David-and-Goliath tale about developers and locals in the eastern Sierra. So just dig up his bones at Coachella Valley Public Cemetery and reassemble them behind the camera to make another classic about little guys who won’t bow to the big shots.

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California’s Two Election Results

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

California seems to be running two elections, the one that concludes Election Day when the television ads and mailers finally stop and initial results are announced, and the second election with final results a month later that show a number of different winners. While most other states have their final election totals nearly complete election night and winners can take a bow and losers concede, in California that process takes weeks when many fewer members of the general public are paying attention. The California Target Book put some numbers on this phenomenon: an astounding 42.7% of the vote was tallied after the election, over 5 million votes.

Can’t we do better than this?

The first score came election night when Republicans were reported to still be in competition for a number of seats. At the time the Target Book reports that California’s vote count stood at 7,272,399. But in the following weeks an additional 5.4 million ballots were counted closing in on half of the yet to be certified final total. See what I mean about two elections?

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Higher Turnout Shouldn’t Discourage Direct Democracy

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The high turnout in this November’s elections in California is good news – mostly. More people were engaged, and new laws to encourage voting did the job. Indeed so many people voted that it may be possible that more than half of the 25-plus million Californians who are eligible to vote may have cast ballots. It would be the first time in ages that, among eligible adults, the voters would outnumber the non-voters.

But there are downsides to high turnout. The first is obvious: the high turnout represents the real threat that Trumpism poses to our state and our country. The second is less obvious.

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CalPERS Leadership: Focus on Pensioners, Not on Politics

Jon Lopey
Siskiyou County Sheriff-Coroner

California is home to some of the most dedicated public servants in the United States. From fighting the wildfires that have plagued our state to teaching our children, local and state government employees work tirelessly to enforce the laws and keep our citizens safe. Regrettably, the officials who oversee public employees’ retirement security are failing our firefighters, police officers, and others by putting social policy aims ahead of returns on investment.

The state of California has long faced mismanagement of retirement funds. The unfunded liabilities of the California Public Employees Retirement System and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalPERS and CalSTRS) are $138 billion and $96.7 billion, respectively as of 2016. In the midst of the massive funding gap, the boards overseeing these pension plans have chosen to promote political and social agendas instead of generating better revenue from investments.

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California Democrats Rewrite the Voting Rules in Their Favor

Shawn Steel
CA RNC National Committeeman

Election night was painful for California Republicans, but it was nothing compared to the slow torture we’ve endured ever since.
For three agonizing weeks, Republicans have watched registrars update their tallies with late absentee and provisional ballots. From Orange County to the Bay Area, it’s the same story playing out with different candidates: Democrats flipping seats with late ballots.
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The Supreme Court’s Chance to Reform the “California Rule”

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

If only all workers enjoyed a form of the “California Rule”—that is that a worker’s retirement rights or even work positions or salaries remain in place despite changing financial circumstances surrounding their employment situation.

That’s not the business world but workers in the public sector as protected by the California rule when it comes to retirement benefits.

The practical circumstances that affect the private sector may intrude on the public sector when the California Supreme Court decides the case of Cal Fire Local 2881 et al. v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System et al. The court heard arguments yesterday specifically over the issue of “airtime”—a situation in which a public employee can purchase service credits to boost their retirement payouts. The question is whether an employee’s purchase of “airtime service credits” amounts to a vested pension right.

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What Recovery Looks Like – Oakland

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

Skylines emerge. Neighborhoods are transformed. And, life is forever changed.

Count on all that happening when new development comes to town. And, yes – rents rise, too. Sometimes rising rents will displace existing residents, sometimes they won’t. But, to be sure – as time marches on so does growth, and all that it brings to communities, old and new.

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