The Cop Whisperer

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

Over the weekend, Congresswoman Karen Bass held a forum on the issue of policing in the African-American community featuring Los Angeles Civil Rights attorney Connie Rice, an appointee to President Obama’s 21st Century Community Policing Task Force. During the forum a number of community members expressed anger at the lack of progress on dealing with the police while Rice offered her formula for making strides in police/community relations. As she summed up, things are not as bad as they were but not as good as they should be.

Rice said the formula for success is to flip the incentives for police – to credit police for handling a situation and not making an arrest instead giving them credit for an arrest or what she said police department’s often call a “righteous shooting.”

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A Question for All The Born-Again Democratic Poverty Fighters

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)

Who knew there were so many poverty fighters among Democrats in the legislature? Heck, who knew that there were Republican poverty fighters too? And why are so many coming out of the woodwork now, in the wake of yet another austerity budget from Gov. Jerry Brown?

I share many of the concerns about the need to restore – and, more broadly, make smarter and more stable – health and human service programs that were decimated in the recession. But the Democratic interest in the subject – after nearly a decade of Democrats cutting such programs without remorse – is curious. In fact, here’s a more than fair question.

Where the heck were you poverty fighters last fall?

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U.S. Economy Needs Hardhats Not Nerds

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

The blue team may have lost the political battle last year, but with the rapid fall of oil and commodity prices, they have temporarily gained the upper hand economically. Simultaneously, conditions have become more problematical for those interior states, notably Texas and North Dakota, that have benefited from the fossil fuel energy boom. And if the Obama administration gets its way, they are about to get tougher.

This can be seen in a series of actions, including new regulations from the EPAand the likely veto by the president of the Keystone pipeline, that will further slow the one sector of the economy that has been generating high-paid, blue collar employment. At the same time, housing continues to suffer, as incomes for the vast majority of the middle class have failed to recover from the 2008 crash.

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How Paid Sick Leave Can Be Healthy For Pensions

Publisher, CalPensions.com

President Obama said during his State of the Union address last week that 43 million workers have no paid sick leave, forcing “too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.”

The president wasn’t talking about government employees.

Most of them not only have paid sick leave, but also an incentive not to use it. When they retire, their unused sick leave can be converted into “service credit” for time spent on the job, which increases the amount of their pensions.

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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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