Taking on the Minimum Wage Debate in L.A.

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

The national debate over minimum wage increases will take center stage in Los Angeles because two efforts to raise the minimum wage face staunch opposition from the business community. The Los Angeles Business Federation, known as BizFed, went on the offensive last week coming out strongly against both minimum wage proposals and the way the council is going about reviewing the consequences of a minimum wage increase.

Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to see the minimum wage increased to $13.25 an hour while advocates and some council members say that’s not enough, that the minimum wage should go up to $15.25 per hour.

BizFed doesn’t think the discussion should be a competition on which higher minimum wage proposal takes effect, but rather whether there should be an increase at all at a time the state is raising the minimum wage.

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Testimony: Building Trust in State Government

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

(Editor’s note: Yesterday Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California testified before the Little Hoover Commission about interactions between state government and the public. His testimony is below.)

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your important and timely discussion about improving the delivery of public services and better engaging Californians with their state government. I have been asked in my testimony to set the stage for your work by helping you to better understand current public sentiment toward state government.

Last year, voter turnout in California reached a historic low: 30.9 percent of eligible adults in the November general election and 18.4 percent in the June primary. Millions of Californians who could register to vote did not, and millions of Californians who could vote opted out. These numbers clearly point to a California public that is disconnected from their state government today.

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Don’t Forget About That Recession That Just Happened

Autumn Carter
Executive Director, California Common Sense

To hear some people tell it, California is out of the metaphorical woods. Just a few years ago, worries were at the forefront for citizens and policymakers alike. State revenues were bottoming out, services were facing repeated cuts, unemployment was still rising into double-digit territory, and we were asking which city would go bankrupt next.

In some places – like here in Silicon Valley – today’s booming housing markets, extremely low unemployment rates, and seemingly abundant disposal income can make it seem like the recession never even happened at all. That is nonsensical.

The reality though is that this latest recession impacted communities throughout the state in markedly different ways. Last year, five California cities were among the nation’s top 10 large cities with the highest unemployment rates. Oakland was second only to now-bankrupt Detroit. Fresno, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Long Beach followed.

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‘Surf City’ First in Nation to Repeal Plastic Bag Ban

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

On Tuesday night, on an overwhelming 6-1 vote, the city council of Huntington Beach, California–which is officially known as “Surf City, USA“–directed the city staff to begin the process of repealing a policy that bans the use of plastic grocery bags, and requires grocery stores to charge a ten-cent fee on paper bags.

This coastal city in Orange County, which boasts 9.5 miles of beautiful beaches, is about to make history, as never before has a city with such a bag ban ever repealed it.

The city’s bag ban was an issue in last year’s council elections, and all four council members who won election were public in their support for repealing it, defeating two incumbents who had voted in favor.

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Falling Gas Prices Mask Hidden Tax

George Runner
Member of the California State Board of Equalization, District 1

So why is it that while other states are now enjoying gas prices of less than $2 per gallon, California is still paying higher prices?

Due to high taxes and costly regulations, our state’s gas prices are higher than other states. It’s been that way for years.

But what’s new is that the gap between California’s and other states’ gas prices has grown.

To get a sense of the change, compare California gas prices with those of the nation as a whole. According to GasBuddy.com, even while overall prices have fallen, the gap has grown from about 32 cents per gallon just a month ago to as much as 47 cents this January.

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Tracking the 5 Major Employment Indicators in California

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

Last week the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) was issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (for data through November 2014). It includes key employment indicators of job openings and job openings per job seeker. It builds on November 2014 data released earlier for the key state employment indicators of unemployment rate, payroll job numbers, labor force participation rate, and the little-known but important indicator of involuntary part-time employment (chart below).

Bernick_CA PT Workforce Analysis

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Think Big, California

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)

In today’s California, we set big, ambitious goals for improving energy efficiency, fighting climate change, and, well, not much else.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s inaugural address this month was a case in point. The governor again expressed his famous skepticism of big plans and big spending, then made an exception for energy and climate change, proposing three ambitious goals for the next 15 years: to derive 50 percent of electricity from renewables; to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by half; and to double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.

All three are important goals, and they build on more than a decade of similar policies. But why is our vision so feeble when it comes to other subjects?

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Free Ontario International Airport

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

The Cities of Los Angeles and Ontario are butting heads in court over Ontario’s effort to purchase the under-performing Ontario International Airport at a reasonable price.

Ontario International is situated on 1,700 acres in the heart of the distribution hub of Southern California, 50 miles east of LAX on the 10 Freeway and several miles west of the I-15, a major north south interstate.  This strategically located airport serves a population base of more than 4 million people.  This is slightly larger than the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Importantly, Ontario International has two world class parallel runways with lengths of 10,200 feet and 12,200 feet.  This compares to LAX’s longest runway of 12,091 feet. 

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Will Top Two Ruin Our Senate Fun?

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 retirement of a four-term Senator should open a breath of fresh air into California politics. But the stench of the top two system is fouling things up.

It’s rare to have a moment full of possibility. So many qualified people could run. And the sheer numbers of possible candidates provide the opportunity for an outsider with a novel approach to get heard, maybe even slip through and win. And California’s ossified elite sure could use some freshening up.

Except that the top two creates huge incentives to limit the number of candidates and outsiders. How’s that, you ask? In a couple ways. With a crowded ballot and two highly competitive rounds of voting, money is even more important than usual to compete. Candidates who don’t go in with their own money or a fundraising structure have little chance of being given a shot. There’s no possibility of building slowly through a primary season, because there are no longer primaries under the top two—and then having the party and its donors to come to you if you swipe the nomination.

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Where Will Business Turn in All-Dem Senate Final?

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Anthony York’s conjecture in his Grizzly Bear Project column that the 2016 U.S. Senate primary could deliver two Democrats in the general election begs the question, in such a circumstance, which Democrat would most likely pick up Republican and business support?

As York notes, two Democrats dueling for the senate seat in the November election could “give the business establishment and other traditionally Republican constituencies a meaningful voice in a top-of-the-ticket race for the first time since the recall of Gray Davis.”

Of course, at this stage we do not know what the field for the senate seat will look like, whether a Republican with name ID and stature will enter the race, and certainly who the two finalists would be if Democrats go one-two on primary Election Day. Such uncertainties have not stopped pundits, including yours truly, from filling up a notebook full of horserace possibilities for the contest.

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