Congressman Schiff: Ready for His Close-Up

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

With Barack Obama keeping a low profile and Bill and Hillary Clinton sidelined, there has been a lot of hand wringing about the lack of fresh Democratic leadership.  Now, from the relative obscurity of the California Congressional delegation, a new Democratic “person of the hour” has materialized –Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

“Before the election of Donald Trump,” the New Yorker magazine recently noted, “Schiff was known in Washington as a milquetoast moderate.” However, now, from his perch as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Schiff has emerged as the “voice” of the opposition party—the designated anti-Trump The question remains as to what Congressman Schiff will make of his new-found celebrity.  He may be simply enjoying his “15 minutes of fame” or he may spend the next four years as President Trump’s nemesis.  (The New York Times called Schiff “more a labradoodle than a Doberman,” in response to which Schiff tweeted “Prefer to think of myself as a Churchillian bulldog. But I’ll accept labradoodle from the @nytimes.”)

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There Ought to Be a Law…That is Ignored

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

UCLA basketball is facing Kentucky in the Sweet 16 tonight in Memphis, Tennessee. Eyebrows were raised when the trip to Tennessee was justified despite a state law that prohibits California tax-supported individuals from traveling to certain states blackballed because those states passed laws tabbed discriminatory by California politicians.

Tennessee has a law that allows therapists to deny service to gay and transgender clients.

While the state’s public colleges, including UCLA, have declared they will not schedule games in blackballed states (a negotiation between UC Berkeley and Kansas basketball was ended because Cal refused to play in Kansas), UCLA made a quick pivot to play in the Sweet 16. The school decided post-season play is an exception.

To my knowledge there have been no protests on the UCLA campus against sending the school’s basketball team to a California legislature-designated discriminatory state.

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California’s Goodreads and the New Economic Order

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director, whose newest book is The Autism Job Club (with R. Holden).

bernick_good readsMichael Larsen is one of the deans of literary agents in the United States, who established Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in 1972 and has represented hundreds of books since. Last month, at the sold-out San Francisco Writers Conference he acknowledged the mounting challenges facing authors in the past few years—the stagnant book industry sales, the shuttering of bookstores, and the heightened competition with more than one million books published each year. But his main message on writing was upbeat: “There is no better time than today to be a writer.”

Chief among his arguments: the eroding power of the big media gatekeepers and the rise of social media platforms that enable authors to connect directly with readers. Authors no longer are dependent on currying the favor of a small group of large publishing houses and major national newspapers and journals. There is a transformation going on in publishing, as in other sectors, that is decentralizing economic power for the better.

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Hollywood’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

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

No industry is more identified with Southern California than entertainment. Yet, in the past, the industry’s appeal has lain in identifying with the always-changing values and mythos of American society. But, today, that connection is being undermined, not just by technology, but also by a seemingly self-conscious decision to sever the industry’s links with roughly half of the population.

This was painfully obvious during the Oscars — the penultimate event of the seemingly endless award season — when speaker after speaker decided to spend their moments of fame denouncing President Donald Trump. For all his personal failings, and often misguided policies, most Republicans and independents disapprove of the relentless Trump bashing in the media.

Hollywood’s decision to make itself part of the anti-Trump resistance would make for wonderful satire, if you could get it on film. Imagine feminist icon Emma Watson fighting for “women’s empowerment” while baring her breasts in Vanity Fair. Or a host of social justice warriors, like Meryl Streep, demanding justice for the dispossessed, then returning to their estates where these victims of Trumpism are not likely to be found outside the servants’ quarters.

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Recycling Program’s Untruth And Consequences

Jeremy Bagott
Former Journalist. He writes about land-use and finance issues from Los Angeles.

It’s an old story. A problem arises and government steps in to fix it. A bureaucracy forms, and long after the problem is fixed, disappears or changes, the bureaucracy – unable to adapt or phase itself out – continues to grapple with the fiction of the original problem, creating distortions and waste in the process.

Such is the case with a program to promote the recycling of cathode ray tubes – so-called “CRTs.”  California lawmakers were already late to the party in 2003, when a new law created a structure that taxed consumers of new electronics and used the revenue to incentivize recycling of the lead-tainted funnel tubes into new ones.

These tubes, once in every American’s TV set, arrayed dancing photoelectrons in such a way that sitcoms like “Petticoat Junction” were viewable (if that show was ever truly viewable). Each tube contained up to eight pounds of lead in its glass, which made TV sets of the day so heavy and clunky.

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Poll: Jobs, Regulations, Taxes and Trains

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

Many business people have raised concerns over excessive regulations hampering business growth and job creation. However, at first glance, it appears that California voters don’t make the connection between regulations and job creation in a new Public Policy Institute of California survey. According to the poll, a plurality of likely voters and all adults picked jobs and the economy as the most important issue facing people in California. At the same time, likely voters and all adults agreed by a wide margin that the statement government regulation of business is necessary is preferable to the statement that government regulation does more harm than good.

Business owners are not opposed to regulation. Excessive regulations, added paperwork, and suffocating mandates on how businesses operate are the issues that frustrate small business owners. The PPIC question asked for an up or down verdict on all regulation, which doesn’t reflect the real world. Regulation and mandate reform—not eliminating regulations– likely would lead to economic growth and job creation.

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The Brown Act Is a Gag Rule

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 Ralph M. Brown Act, first approved in 1953, is celebrated for its supposed guarantees that we citizens have a voice in the decisions of all our local governments.

But today, it is little more than a gag rule.

Over the past six decades, the Brown Act—famous for its guarantee of a 72-hour notice for public meetings—has become a civic Frankenstein, threatening the very public participation it was intended to protect.

The act’s requirements of advance notice before local officials hold a meeting has mutated into strict limitations on the ability of local officials to have any kind of frank conversation with one another, even over email. Brown Act requirements that we, the public, be allowed to weigh in at meetings have been turned against us, by way of a standardized three-minute-per-speaker limit at the microphone that encourages rapid rants and discourages real conversation between local officials and the citizens they represent.

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Rent Control’s Dirty Little Secrets

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

The debate over rent control has been predictable.  On one side, lower-income activists (proponents) argue it’s the only counter to soaring, increasing, unaffordable rents.  They insist on arbitrary caps on rents, regardless of the consequences.  On the other side, housing providers (opponents) assert damage to their bottom line and their diminished ability to offer adequate shelter.

But, what about tenants?  How are they helped by a policy as harsh and absolute as rent control?  Not well, according to California’s and the nation’s experience with rent control.  Advocates of rent control assert they need the policy to help people of color and lower-income households.  But, what do the data show?  Let’s take a look.

First, the argument goes, rent control – by limiting what a property owner can charge for rent – delivers a benefit to lower-income residents.  Is that true?  No.  Despite suggestions by advocates that the “equity” of the policy, rent control is not means-tested.  That is, nowhere are rents set as affordable to families based on their incomes.  Rents are simply and arbitrarily held below the market.  And, due to the policy’s chill on new rental housing construction – and a vanishing supply of housing – choices are made fewer for lower-income families. 

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Legislature is Ignoring Lessons of the Housing Bubble – And It’s Going to Hurt Californians

Herman Gallegos is a co-founder of the National Council of La Raza. John Gamboa is a co-founder of The Greenlining Institute. Jennifer Hernandez is a partner at Holland & Knight.

Californians learned something profound about the perils of housing insecurity when the housing bubble burst almost ten years ago. Foreclosures and evictions devastated the finances of millions of families, of course, wiping out the savings of entire generations. But as researchers began to sift through the wreckage of the recession, they found the acute anxiety generated by the loss of a home—along with the more general financial insecurity associated with struggling to pay for housing—had serious health impacts as well, from psychological disorders and substantial declines in physical health (including high blood pressure, depression, and increased obesity risk) to increased crime and child maltreatment.

The 2008 housing crisis literally made us sicker—even for those who just lived close to someone who lost their home or defaulted on their mortgage. Unaffordable housing, in other words, impacts everyone.

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A stronger Zero Emission Vehicle program will help us all breathe easier

Afif El Hasan, MD
Dr. Afif El-Hasan is a pediatrician practicing in Orange County, California. He serves on the governing board of the American Lung Association in California.

As a doctor in Southern California specializing in pediatric asthma, I see the toll pollution from petroleum-based cars, trucks and buses takes on children’s health every day. Air pollution makes kids sick. They miss school, and their parents miss work, so air pollution can threaten a child’s health and educational development and a family’s financial stability. It can even kill.

Across our state, pollution from petroleum-based transportation is largely to blame for our air quality problems. In Southern California, nearly 90 percent of pollution in the region comes from mobile sources, inflicting significant costs. A recent report by the American Lung Association in California, “Clean Air Future,” found that every year, passenger vehicle emissions cost California residents $15 billion in health and climate expenses from smog, soot and climate pollution.

To bring it down to a personal level, consider this: the Lung Association study found that each 16-gallon tank of gas costs society about $18.42 in health and climate-impact costs – from hospitalizations and premature deaths, to crop losses and the increased costs of droughts and severe weather in a warming world. 

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