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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Two Tales of a City – How Detroit Transcended Ideology to Reform Pensions

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss.”

–  Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

Traveling through suburban Detroit, a sprawling city of 143 square miles whose population has dropped from nearly two million to less than 700,000, you can often imagine you are in rural Tennessee. Rutted narrow roads bend past groves of cottonwood, oak and silver maple. Deer and jack rabbits forage in tall grass. Until you pass a burned out ruin of a home, not yet removed, obscured by greenery, it is difficult to imagine that these neighborhoods once were filled with homes, set 35 feet apart and carpeting the land for mile after mile.

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They Thought We Were Crazy

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

In 2009 when the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to end chronic and veteran homelessness in L.A. County, most people either ignored the announcement or thought we were crazy. Los Angeles was the homeless capital of the United States and it would always be that way.

Our new partnership studied the homeless problem in L.A. County by talking to service providers, elected officials, law enforcement professionals and the homeless themselves. We traveled to other cities and states and visited with community leaders who had used a variety of different approaches to address their homeless problems. In 2011, we developed a plan called “Home for Good” that focused on the goal of creating permanently supportive housing for the most chronic of our homeless population and for the veterans of past and current wars who were struggling with homelessness.  

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Cost An Issue in Environmental Friendly CA

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

The new Public Policy Institute of California poll on the environment shows that Californians continue to be strong for environmental protections, but standing up for the environment weakens when a price tag is attached.

While the poll covered a number of environmental issues, when pollsters asked follow-up questions involving possible cost increases for transportation fuels under the cap-and-trade proposal and for electricity under the renewable energy law attitudes changed dramatically.

Yet, on some other energy related issues such as fracking or carbon tax no follow-up questions on costs were asked.

Queried if oil companies should be required to produce transportation fuels with lower emissions, 76% of adults agreed. But when followed with the question: “Do you still favor this state law if it means an increase in gasoline prices at the pump?” support dropped to 39%. The drop off was particularly notable among those making less than $40,000 a year. While 77% supported reducing fuel emissions, the number fell to 32% when they learned they might have to pay more.

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California’s Roads: Why Pay More But Get Less?

Madhusudan Ravi
Research Analyst at California Common Sense

Next time you’re stuck in traffic on the way home from work, think about what sitting in traffic is costing you and other drivers.

Our state’s population is booming but the availability of roads is simply not keeping pace with growing demand.  Gas prices have grown substantially in the last few years, and owning a vehicle has become increasingly expensive.  Californians are simply paying more while getting less and less.

Conventional approaches to addressing California’s transportation problems are expensive.  For instance, the state has implemented a $2.3 billion project to construct 925 lane-miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) road with the intent of alleviating traffic and promoting carpooling. Studies have shown that although HOV construction lowers travel time for those traveling in HOV lanes, it does not significantly alleviate congestion and may not even encourage carpooling

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Be Nice, Murrieta, You Need Immigrants

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)

To: The People of Murrieta, Calif.
From: Joe Mathews
Re: Recent Damage to Your Global Reputation

You can still be “The Future of Southern California,” as your city’s motto promises, but it won’t be easy after these past few weeks.

There’s no denying that Murrieta, incorporated in 1991, is one of the fastest-growing places in the state. Your population has quadrupled to more than 100,000 over the past quarter century. More than 30 percent of your residents are children. And you’ve embraced a successful growth strategy based on encouraging people around the world to invest and settle there.

But then came the Central American refugee crisis, and the self-destructive decision by more than a few of your citizens to immerse your city in one of the country’s divisive, hateful political debates. The scene outside your U.S. Border Patrol station—the opening of which eight years ago was considered a city triumph, bringing 148 jobs to town—introduced Murrieta to much of the world. And it was an ugly greeting. A small but nasty group of protestors blocked the entrance for buses carrying refugees, reported to be women and children, and the Border Patrol decided to turn the buses around. Aggressive protests have continued since. Comments by local politicians opposing the processing of refugees in your town, and outright racist statements by citizens at a town meeting (all covered by the nation’s media), cemented an image of Murrieta as a hateful place. “Shame on You, Murrieta,” blared one L.A. Times headline.

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State Peddles Idea that Bullet Train Contractors are Investors

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

On Jan. 11, 2010, the Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report on the latest iteration of the business plan for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. It contained a game-changing conclusion — a predictable conclusion but still a crucial one. Here’s what I wrote in a Union-Tribune editorial at the time:

The Legislative Analyst’s Office released a terse analysis that depicted the latest business plan as vague, unsubstantiated and not credible – and then concluded with this bombshell:

“The Proposition 1A bond measure explicitly prohibits any public operating subsidy. However, the plan … assumes some form of revenue guarantee from the public sector to attract private investment. This generally means some public entity promises to pay the contractor the difference between projected and realized revenues if necessary. The plan does not explain how the guarantee could be structured so as not to violate the law.”

In an e-mail, a spokesman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeffrey Barker, said the authority was responding to the criticism by putting together a business plan that “does not require government operating subsidies” and could comply with the wording of Proposition 1A by offering private investors a “ridership guarantee” instead of a “revenue guarantee.”

But a ridership and a revenue guarantee are the same thing because ridership times ticket price equals revenue. The Legislative Analyst’s Office told us yesterday that it agrees.

That’s been the giant fundamental obstacle ever since to the $68 billion bullet train project getting substantial private investments.

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