Black Bart Award for California Politics 2019

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

For the past ten years frequent contributors to this page Joe Mathews, John Wildermuth and I have nominated candidates for Californian of the Year in the world of politics. This year we will be joined by Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, long time journalist for NBC in Los Angeles and former professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. We then collectively—and not always in agreement–name the final selection the winner of the Black Bart Award.

There are no specific criteria to follow in making the selection. Each author will explain his or her reason for selecting a nominee. Perhaps, the nominee took one courageous act, or committed a dastardly deed that had great repercussions, or performed heroically in difficult circumstances. The nominee may be a person, or more than one, or even an institution or an issue that had great impact on California politics and policy over the year.

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Black Bart 2019 Nominees: Wiener and Gonzalez

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 Black Bart was a game-player and a schemer. And in 2019, California politics was full of games and schemes.

The early favorite for Black Bart was our own U.S. senator, Kamala Harris, but it turned out that she and her team couldn’t play the presidential game. The year concludes with Harris moving to Iowa, presumably so she can be closer to Devin Nunes’ family.

So I had to turn to other contenders.

I consider cultural figures for Black Bart, because culture is political. And this year has produced two terrific California films—Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Jimmie Falls’ The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Either filmmaker would be a worthy recipient. But film is in decline, and so other figures made a big impact.

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Bait and switch on pensions

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Local officials, particularly those in California’s 400-plus cities, have been complaining loudly in recent years about pension costs, raising the specter of insolvency if they continue their rapid increase.

Last year, the League of California Cities issued a report declaring that “pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels.”

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) confirms that projection in a new report.

The report reveals that mandatory “employer contributions,” including those from the state and school districts, as well as local governments, rose from $12 billion in 2016-17 to $20 billion a year later.

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Reasons Split Roll Survives, Other Tax Initiative Doesn’t. It Wasn’t About Schools

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

News that the California School Boards Association pulled back their tax increase initiative leaves only one high profile measure destined for the California November ballot that will, in part, fund schools. The proposal to split the property tax roll so that most commercial property pays more in taxes will be the focus of the school and tax raising interests.

The decision to pull the California School Boards initiative is a curious choice given recent poll results and potential opposition seemingly much greater for the split roll.

The November Public Policy Institute of California poll found that the idea found in the School Boards proposal to tax wealthy income taxpayers and corporations and dedicate all the money to the schools was leading among likely voters, 56% to 38%. Meanwhile, likely voters were divided over the split roll with 46% in favor and 45% opposed.

Taking on the iconic Proposition 13 is certainly a higher hill to climb than painting the rich and corporations as targets. Even with supporters of the split roll arguing that corporations must pay their fair share of taxes, opponents will point out that small business would suffer as will as consumers when costs are passed on.

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California Office Pool 2020

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)

This is the 11th annual edition of the California Office Pool. It was inspired by the late, great New York Times columnist William Safire, who made a habit of writing an annual column he called Office Pool. In it, Safire offered, multiple-choice style, a series of possible news events that could take place in the new year. At the column’s end, he let you know which ones he thought would occur.
Safire’s focus was Washington; ours is California. My picks are at the end.

My record in last year’s pool was mixed. I was right about everything Trump—that he would remain in office, make multiple trips here, and be sued more than 10 times by the state. I predicted that Kamala Harris would lag in the presidential race, and that the economy would remain strong.

I framed the question about PG&E—as an either/or between bankruptcy and bailout—because of a deficit of cynicism on my part. In fact, the company both declared bankruptcy and got bailed out.

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AG Becerra Must Ensure Proposed Privacy Regulations Don’t Deliver Knock-Out Punch to California Latino Businesses

Julian Canete
President and CEO of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

In 2018, the California legislature passed and Governor Brown signed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The law was well-intended: to help consumers protect their online privacy. But as its implementation date nears (January 1, 2020), that good goal has been usurped by its price tag and unreasonable burdens on California businesses. 

As CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I am very concerned that the draft CCPA implementation regulations issued by Attorney General Xavier Becerra could disproportionately hurt California Latino-owned businesses. 

Many newly formed Latino-owned companies are more vulnerable to substantial new operational requirements, and any new business costs impact these businesses more. Statistically, a report from the California Latino Economic Institute (CLEI) found that while nearly one-quarter of all California firms are Latino-owned, businesses owned by Latinos are smaller and generate less revenue than businesses run by whites or Asian owners. 

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Another showdown over crime looms

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

No California ballot would be complete without at least one measure about crime and punishment and 2020 will be no exception.

A referendum seeking to overturn California’s landmark ban on cash bail in criminal cases will once again test voters’ sentiments about the treatment of accused lawbreakers.

During previous decades, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, voters endorsed a tough, lock-‘em-up attitude, culminating in passage of the state’s famous — or infamous — three-strikes-and-you’re-out law aimed at repeat offenders.

At some point — roughly a decade ago — voter attitudes about crime softened and criminal justice reform advocates began winning in the political arena.

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Garcetti Blinks at Worker Benefit Reform

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

It appears Los Angeles taxpayers will continue paying for their health care and someone else’s—that of city workers. 

The Los Angeles Times reported right before the Thanksgiving holiday that, Mayor Eric Garcetti has abandoned his long-stated goal of getting the city’s public employee unions to pay a portion of their healthcare costs.

Garcetti’s action—or non-action—could set up Los Angeles as the canary in the coal mine as what will happen to municipalities if they ignore exploding public worker costs.

Politicians are hiding from one of the biggest problems facing government today—how to meet pension and health care obligations without busting budgets.

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“F– the POA!” Just Another Day in California’s Most Liberal City

Raul Riesgo
Public relations expert featured on Spanish language news outlets Telemundo and Mundo Fox News discussing both political and Latino community issues. He has also been a news reporter for two Los Angeles area newspapers.

San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer made herself the poster child for coarse, vulgar bullying recently.

Surrounded by several other current and past supervisors, Fewer took the stage at an election night party to lead in chanting: “F— the POA! F— the POA! F— the POA!” Her reference is to the San Francisco Police Officers Association, which her oh-so-progressive and enlightened self obviously hates.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Fewer, “waived her arms like a conductor while flanked by some of the city’s most notable progressive leaders. Smiling behind her were supervisors Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen, as well as former supervisors Jane Kim and David Campos.”

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2020 Brings Longer Claims Period for Employment Discrimination Cases

Chris Micheli
Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

Beginning January 1, 2020, AB 9 (Reyes), Chapter 709, extends to 3 years the statute of limitations for complaints alleging employment discrimination (up from the current one year). The new law specifies the operative date of the verified complaint is the date that the intake form was filed with the Labor Commissioner.

The new law also makes conforming changes to current provisions that grant a person allegedly aggrieved by an unlawful practice who first obtains knowledge of the facts of the alleged unlawful practice after the expiration of the limitations period.

AB 9 provides that complaints alleging a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act shall not be filed after the expiration of one year from the date upon which the alleged unlawful practice or refusal to cooperate occurred. However, a complaint alleging any other violation of the Act shall not be filed after the expiration of three years from the date upon which the unlawful practice or refusal to cooperate occurred.

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