The Republicans Best Chance in 2014

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Republicans are looking around for a chance to snag one statewide office this fall, and most attention has focused on Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin running for Controller.  But the GOP should really focus on Pete Peterson, their candidate for Secretary of State.  He has a much better opportunity than Swearengin.

Peterson is the executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public and Civic Engagement, and has been campaigning on an agenda of reform for the Secretary of State’s office, which it badly needs.  Swearengin is a well respected second term mayor of Fresno but she had a very bad break when Board of Equalization member Betty Yee nabbed the Democratic nod for Controller over former Assembly Speaker John Perez.

But the biggest difference between Peterson and Swearengin is that he will have his name and a personal message in the ballot pamphlet that goes out to 16 million voters, and Swearengin will not.

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Twin Tunnels Project Threatens Property Owners

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

You’d think that with all the well deserved bad press heaped on the High Speed Rail debacle that Governor Brown would be a little more circumspect about mega-infrastructure projects which, presumably, he wishes to be the cornerstone of his legacy. Unfortunately, it appears that his legacy may be that of an inflexible politician who has saddled California with projects that are financially suspect and downright wasteful.

His latest adventure is the pursuit of the “Twin Tunnels,” a massively expensive water conveyance project. This project, part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), envisions two large tunnels 40 feet in diameter to take water from the Sacramento River and send it to the southern part of the San Joaquin delta to be connected with both the California Water Project and the Central Valley Project.

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Don’t Be So Dense About Housing

Joel Kotkin
Editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

Southern California faces a crisis of confidence. A region that once imagined itself as a new model of urbanity – what the early 20th century minister and writer Dana Bartlett called “the better city” – is increasingly being told that, to succeed, it must abandon its old model and become something more akin to dense Eastern cities, or to Portland or San Francisco.

This has touched off a “density craze,” in which developers and regulators work overtime to create a future dramatically different from the region’s past. This kind of social engineering appeals to many pundits, planners and developers, but may scare the dickens out of many residents. They may also be concerned that the political class, rather than investing in improving our neighborhoods, seems determined to use our dollars to subsidize densification and support vanity projects, like a new Downtown Los Angeles football stadium. At same time, policymakers seek to all but ban suburban building, a misguided and extraordinarily costly extension of their climate-change agenda.

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Detroit-Style Pension Cuts: Could It Happen Here?


Bankrupt Detroit announced last week that current workers and retirees voted overwhelmingly to cut many pensions by 4.5 percent and to trim or eliminate cost-of-living adjustments.

If the plan to exit bankruptcy had been rejected, a federal judge might have imposed a proposed 27 percent pension cut, and a $816 million contribution to offset pension cuts would not be made by foundations, the state and art donors.

“I want to thank City retirees and active employees who voted for casting aside the rhetoric and making an informed positive decision about their future and the future of the City of Detroit,” the Detroit emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, said in a news release.

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Not Your Father & Mother’s GOP A.G. Candidate

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

The challenger to Attorney General Kamala Harris is Republican Ron Gold, a former California deputy attorney general whose positions don’t always line up with the stances often associated with Republican candidates.

Read his press releases. Gold supports legalizing marijuana and backs the U.S. Senate immigration plan and a path to citizenship.

Gold calls for swift, compassionate judgment for the wave of immigrants crossing the border. An immigrant himself from Canada, Gold says he wants to grant protections for those immigrants who are truly refugees from crimes and hardships while swiftly deporting gang members and criminals.

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Where Would the 6 Capitals Be?

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)

Yes, yes, it won’t happen. But Six Californias is so much fun that it’s become the summer story of 2014.

Proponent Tim Draper foolishly won’t let states name themselves but his initiative is silent on a crucial question: the location of capitals of the new state. The Internet abhors a vacuum, so let’s fill it with some possible capitals for the six states.


Favorite as capital: Redding, right in the middle.

Dark horse: Eureka, cool on the coast and permitting Jefferson to take California’s motto with them.

Best choice: Medford, Oregon, since Jefferson would quickly become a poor client state of Oregon, where southern counties have agitated for a split as well.

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Teacher Seniority Might Well Survive the Vergara Decision

President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

Last month’s decision by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to strike down California’s teacher tenure, seniority, and dismissal statutes may be a great victory for children, though much depends on the outcome of any appeal. This week, Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a 22-page request with Judge Rolf M. Treu asking for further clarification of his decision in Vergara v. California. Harris’s filing, coming on the heels of a similar request from the California Teachers Association, could be the prelude to an appeal. But assuming such appeals fail, the question is what would replace the laws that Vergara voided. A roadmap may already be in place to preserve teacher seniority, based on another pending legal settlement in Los Angeles.

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Yes, the Private Sector Will Invest in California High-Speed Rail

Dan Richard
Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

While I am loathe to get into another round of back-and-forth, Chris Reed’s latest anti-high speed rail screed cries out for a response, not only because it is so completely off-the-wall, but also to clear up broader misconceptions about private investment in the system. There will be private sector investment in California’s high-speed rail program. We know because private investment entities have told us.

I sympathize with Mr. Reed’s suffering on this issue. He’s running out of arguments and one can sense the panic setting in. After I demolished each element of his seven-point critique of James Fallows’ articles on the high-speed rail program and after the San Jose Mercury News published a story about renewed interest of the private sector, Mr. Reed penned a wild essay stating that it’s all a big fraud. Never mind that neither the Mercury News nor the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press (who also wrote on this topic) recognized this perceived fraud.

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Higher Energy Costs Matter More for Some

Michael Shires
Associate Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University

The state’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by producing a greater share of its energy from renewable sources and imposing a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has and will drive up the state’s energy prices. The California Independent System Operator, for example, estimated that the retail price of electricity rose 15 percent in the first six months of AB 32’s cap-and-trade market. Estimates for next year point to an increase of 16 to 76 cents per gallon of gasoline as vehicle fuels are folded into the AB32 marketplace.

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Why Making Policy from Polls Can Be Troublesome

Carson Bruno
Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution & author of the blog: The Pragmatic Conservative

It is a constant criticism of politicians; they poll test or focus group everything before making a decision. If you are one to follow politics, you’ll know that new polls on everything from election horse-races to how the public feels about minute details of policy ideas come out daily. But policy-makers should be wary of using public polling to determine policy directions. The recently released PPIC Californians & the Environment Statewide Survey illustrates why.

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