How Many County Supervisors—and Who Should Decide

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 idea of increasing representation by having fewer constituents per elected representative is getting some attention. On the state level, an initiative filed by John Cox proposes to reorganize state governance by molding a Neighborhood Legislature whose goal is to reduce campaign costs and improve the democratic process by decreasing dramatically the number of constituents per elected legislator. On the county level, Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) has proposed a constitutional amendment, SCA 8, that would increase the number of county supervisors from the constitutional minimum of five to seven in counties that have two million residents or more.

Mendoza says California’s population and demographics have changed significantly since the formation of counties and by increasing the number of supervisors from five to seven residents of California’s largest counties will get a more representative and responsive county government.

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“Farmer John” Matthesen and California’s Urban Agriculture Movement

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

matthesen3Throughout California’s 112 community colleges faculty members are active as entrepreneurs and creators of businesses. “Farmer John” Matthesen, a faculty member in the Culinary department at Diablo Valley College (DVC) in Contra Costa, has had several careers as an entrepreneur in California. His current career finds him deeply involved in two of California’s growing industries, urban agriculture and agriculture technology (“ag tech”).

In the most recent EDD jobs report for June 2015, agriculture employment totaled 403,200 jobs statewide—not among the top-employing sectors, but still a main employer in the state. The great majority of these jobs are in large farms in the Central Valley and other agricultural areas of the state. But there is also a growing urban agriculture (urban ag) movement, whose employment impacts reach into food services as well as agriculture.

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Time To Give Delivery Businesses A Level Roadway

Dan Bender
Executive Director, California Delivery Association

Transportation network companies in California sure have been under an Uber-microscope in recent months.

In mid-June, the California Labor Commission ruled that a San Francisco Uber driver is a company employee and not an independent contractor, which could ultimately require the company to provide certain benefits and pay certain taxes and costs borne by drivers.

And in recent weeks, an administrative law judge of the California Public Utilities Commission suspended the license and fined a subsidiary of Uber $7.3 million for failure to meet reporting requirements. The ruling states that the company didn’t provide state regulators with data such as the number of rides requested, or driver safety and accessibility information about its vehicles.

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On Bullet Train, Voters Finally May Get To Apply The Brakes

Susan Shelley
Susan Shelley is an author, former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly.

Pencils have erasers. Computers have the undo command and the escape key.

If you had it to do over again, would you vote for the bullet train?

It was called the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act” on the 2008 ballot, and it authorized $9 billion in bonds — borrowed money — to “partially fund” a high-speed train system in California.

The ballot measure required that there would be “private and public matching funds,” “accountability and oversight” and a focus on completing “Phase I” from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Anaheim. Bond funds could not be spent on the other corridors, like Fresno to Bakersfield, unless there was “no negative impact on the construction of Phase I.”

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Remember When Politicians Didn’t Brag About Their Billionaire Friends?

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)

I’m just old enough to remember the days when a politician with a billionaire friend and backer wouldn’t brag about the relationship. When said politician might downplay it. Or avoid mentioning the billionaire. And if pressed, the politician would certainly explain that he or she would never dare shape their public policy work to fit the preferences of the billionaires.

Those days are long gone.

Today, politicians highlight their closeness to billionaires. In California, we have the spectacle of the top legislator in the California State Senate, Kevin de Leon making a spectacle of his relationship with a billionaire, Tom Steyer.

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Media Coverage of California Fuel Markets is Off the Mark

Catherine Reheis-Boyd
President of the Western States Petroleum Association

Tom Elias’s recent column on California gasoline markets repeats a number of preposterous and unsubstantiated allegations and misses the mark entirely in providing his readers any insights into the recent volatility of gas prices in California.

There is ample evidence a short term supply shortage in Southern California has resulted in a supply/demand imbalance.  Those generally higher market prices had the expected result of attracting additional imports of fuel by ship into the Southern California market.

As aggravating as these price spikes are for consumers, they indicate a highly competitive California fuels market driven by the laws of supply and demand.

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Low Voter Turnout Seen Among Fast Growing California Demographic Groups

Correspondent, California Forward

Only one in three eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2016 general election to elect all the statewide offices, congressional representatives and approve initiatives last November, a record low. But, for two of California’s fastest growing groups, the numbers are even more troubling.

“Everyone was quite shocked about that and, of course, very concerned, but we wanted to know with that low of a turnout, what groups that vote even lower — what did they do in this record low context, or how low was their turnout,” said Dr. Mindy Romero, founding director of the California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP) at UC Davis.

In this month’s Policy Brief, the CCEP found that, as low as the turnout was for the general population, the turnout from Latino and Asian Americans was even lower.

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AB 96 Tramples On Californians’ Constitutional Property Rights

Partner in the Los Angeles office of Harrington, Foxx, Dubrow & Canter

Like most Californians, I am a fervent supporter of meaningful efforts to combat elephant poaching and cracking down on the black market trade for ivory.

However, as an attorney and resident Californian, I am very concerned about a bill moving through the state legislature that disingenuously claims to attack the illegal ivory trade while at the same time tramples on the most fundamental of constitutional rights.

Specifically, Assembly Bill 96 (Atkins) aims a proverbial elephant gun at the world of ivory by making the sale of nearly any and all ivory illegal – no matter if it was legally acquired or possessed a generation ago. By shifting the focus from importation and sale of new ivory in future commerce, AB 96 essentially devalues property owned by Californians. 

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Testing All the Arguments on SB 350

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

The Public Policy Institute poll boosted the argument for state governmental action on climate change – or so it seemed. Asked if likely voters agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 respondents liked the idea by 63% to 29%. Asked if the objectives set by SB 350 to require by 2030 that 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy; petroleum use in cars be reduced by 50% and energy efficiency in buildings double, likely voters gave pollsters a loud affirmative: 74% on renewables, 63% on petroleum reduction and 68% on building efficiency.

However, that is as far as the poll went – it did not raise any consequences for the putting such mandates in place so there is no way to know how voters might react if they heard counter arguments.

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Fixing California – The Need For Tax Reform

Gerald Parsky
Gerald L. Parsky is chairman of the Aurora Capital Group and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. In 2009, Gerald served as Chairman of California’s Commission on the 21st Century.

(Editor’s Note: The Hoover Institutions’ EUREKA newsletter this month examines California’s Revenue Conundrum. The following article was one of a series of articles published discussing California’s tax system.)

From 2008 to 2009, California experienced its worse economic recession (dubbed by some as the Golden State’s “Great Recession”) since the tax system was first created in the 1930’s.

During this period, state tax revenues dropped precipitously, resulting in months of political struggle in Sacramento. Consequently, critical, publically-provided goods and services were curtailed and many Californians personally suffered as a result of the state’s budget predicament.  Memories often fade, but I suggest this situation be kept in mind as we assess what has happened since, where we are now, and where we need to go in the future. 

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