Are special interests blocking housing reforms? Or is public opposition?

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

Should land owners be able to put up small apartment buildings in single-family areas? A powerful state senator says no.

The belief that California has a profound housing crisis took hold in the state’s media and political establishments in recent years after Census Bureau statistics showed the Golden State had the highest effective rate of poverty once cost of living was included.

The view was amplified by stories about four-hour commutes forced by housing costs and about shocking numbers of poor college students who struggled to pay for food.

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Teach For America, not California

Larry Sand
President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

Assembly Bill 221 in California would prohibit school districts from entering into a contract with a third-party organization that employs teachers “who commit to teaching in the organization for less than five years.” This is an obvious bullet aimed at Teach For America, whose name was invoked but then removed from an earlier version of the bill.

Founded in 1990 by Princeton graduate Wendy Kopp, TFA chooses the best and the brightest college grads – only about 15 percent of applicants are accepted into the program – and trains them. These committed and enthusiastic young men and women who exhibit leadership qualities, get five weeks of teacher preparation, ongoing support once in the classroom, and must commit to teach for two years, typically in some the nation’s worst schools.

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Don’t Look for the Next President to Rescue CA’s Bullet Train

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

The Trump Administration is pulling financing from California’s high speed rail and those who can hardly wait for Trump to exit the White House see this as another policy a new president would reverse. I wouldn’t count on it.

The Trump Administration is cancelling an additional $929 million promised for the bullet train and the governor and others are fighting mad. Governor Newsom issued a statement that said, “The Trump administration’s action is illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure, and the thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project.”

But the response from those opposed to the administration’s move ignore the fact that the high-speed rail has fallen well short of promises made to California taxpayers when the state bond to kick-off the train’s financing was on the ballot 20 years ago.

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California’s Greatest and Neediest Urban Park

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)

If I had a free Sunday to spend anywhere in California, I’d head for Balboa Park in San Diego.

The Golden State has grand urban parks, from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to L.A.’s Griffith Park to Chico’s lesser-known Bidwell Park. But no public space here offers as many different experiences with as much sunny spectacle as Balboa Park. And the park could become even better, if Californian could figure out how to better support it.

Balboa Park, at nearly 1200 acres, is bigger than New York’s Central Park. It’s home to our planet’s greatest zoo. And with multiple theaters including the Old Globe, and 17 museums, from the San Diego Museum of Art to the Museum of Man (which tells the story of humankind), Balboa Park boasts more cultural heft than any American parkland outside the National Mall.

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The Bullet Train Fiasco

Susan Shelley
Columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, "How Trump Won."

In 1962, the Mona Lisa was assessed at an insurance value of $100 million. That would be about $837 million today, and not even close to the most expensive painting in the world. The priciest creation ever made with paint is not in the Louvre Museum but in a government office in California, where the latest artist’s illustration of the bullet train has cost taxpayers about $5 billion, and counting.

“Let’s be real,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in February, announcing something that sounded at first as if he was cutting the losses and ending the project. It wasn’t that at all.

You could say it was surreal, but even Salvador Dali couldn’t have dreamed up the latest report from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

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Why Are Public Safety Unions Supporting Teachers Unions?

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

During the Los Angeles teachers strike earlier this year, an article in the ultra-left publication The Nation offered an excellent glimpse into the mentality of strikers and their supporters. The article begins by describing a scene in front of an LAUSD middle school on day three of the strike. A truck driver has arrived to make a delivery to the school, and the picket line won’t budge. Police have been called.

What happens next? According to The Nation, “The line holds. The police don’t make good on their threats to cite or arrest teachers, and the truck and police cars drive off. One of the officers even gets on his radio before he leaves and says, ‘Don’t let them come between us. We support you!’”

It would take an expert to determine whether this conduct falls within the boundaries of normal police discretion or constitutes a minor act of civil disobedience in solidarity with the strikers, but it doesn’t take an expert to determine whose side this officer was on. “We support you.”

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An LA City Council Race Could Influence the Outcome of the LAUSD Parcel Tax

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

An interesting political circumstance to consider in the battle to pass Measure EE, the Los Angeles school parcel tax on the June 4 ballot, is that completely inside LAUSD boundaries is a special election to fill the Los Angeles City Council District 12 seat. Could the hotly contested city council race in the more conservative section of Los Angeles influence the outcome of Measure EE?

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Turn SB 50 Into a Ballot Initiative

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)

Too many ideas for laws and constitutional amendments go to the ballot as initiatives directly, without stopping to pause at the legislature, or to get real scrutiny or debate. Sometimes these ideas are trivial, and only matter to a small number of Californians. That’s why I often rail against so many ballot measures—they don’t deserve our attention.

But sometimes an idea comes along that sparks a real debate. And then it gets considered in the legislature, and it is amended. And then, despite broad enough support to pass, the idea is strangled by a minority of the legislature, short-circuiting debate and a vote.

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Scapegoating In Sacramento

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

Govern For California supports lawmakers who legislate in the general interest. This week two bills will be up for votes in the State Assembly that are pure examples of special interest legislation.

To explain, first we must start with an understanding of Medicare, which is government-funded but not necessarily government-provided healthcare. Though funded by the government, Medicare beneficiaries may patronize either government-run or non-government-run hospitals.

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Can California crack its housing nut?

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

The state Department of Finance reported this month that California, which has a stubborn and growing shortage of housing, added just 77,000 houses, apartments and condos in 2018.

Actually, private and public housing developers drew permits for well over 100,000 units, and about that many were constructed. But a whopping 23,700 existing homes were burned or demolished, more than half of them in just one community, Paradise, which was virtually destroyed by wildfire.

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