Andy Puzder, Abandoning California

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)

President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andy Puzder, is being scrutinized for his finances and his business record. There are real questions about his ethics and how he has treated workers.

But there can be little debate about his record as a California: he was a traitor to the Golden State.

Puzder was a Missouri lawyer when he came to Orange County to help Carl Karcher run the company founded in Anaheim. California was a fine place to grow and expand the company; our state helped make him a wealthy man.

But Puzder became a constant critic of California’s governance, especially its regulation of business. There is plenty to criticize about how California regulates and governs, but Puzder didn’t stick to the facts. He painted the state as an implacable foe of business. And he sometimes stooped to degrading workers, suggesting he’d rather have robots as servers than actual humans.

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When Did Young Tech Workers Become the Enemy in San Francisco?

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director, whose newest book is The Autism Job Club (with R. Holden).

bernick_techinsfHow did San Francisco, which welcomed newcomers for so long, decide that the tech workers flocking to it were no longer welcome? And why should those of us outside of tech care about this?

Over the past few years, tech workers have been blamed not only for the city’s worsening traffic congestion and sky-high housing, but also for undermining the city’s bohemian culture and leftist politics through their focus on commerce and money. The chief accusers have been members of San Francisco’s literary establishment, led by Salon founder David Talbot and journalist Rebecca Solnit. A part of this dispute reflects San Francisco’s provincial narcissism. But a part reflects broader themes important beyond San Francisco: the refusal of aging baby boomers to cede even part of the stage to younger creatives, and the related inability of the boomer intellectuals to recognize the creativity in tech’s new worlds of internet commerce and social media.

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CALmatters is Part of a Changing Media World

Dave Lesher
Editor and CEO of CALmatters

In regard to your column in Fox and Hounds last Thursday on CALmatters, as a veteran journalist, Timm, you are trained well to “follow the money.” In Watergate, those were the instructions that led reporters to the White House connection. In journalism today, it points to a vital question about how newsrooms maintain credibility as they work to replace the money lost when the traditional business model collapsed.

At CALmatters and other non-profit journalism centers nationally, philanthropy is filling the gap. Your article is wrong in saying CALmatters is much different than the public radio model, which you call “the most promising.” We actually share many of the same donors and we even seek joint funding with public radio. But you’re right to look at the independence of the journalism, which is a core value built into CALmatters. It’s reflected in the “top-notch … respected veterans” you describe at CALmatters as well as in our board of directors, which includes several executives from major American news organizations. It’s also affirmed by the reproduction of our work in most of California’s major newspapers and radio stations. 

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Mayors Don’t See Eye to Eye on Infrastructure Fixes

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

Can a Northern California big city Democratic mayor and a Southern California big city Republican mayor find common ground when it comes to infrastructure improvements? Sacramento’s Darrell Steinberg and San Diego’s Kevin Faulconer both want infrastructure improvements but place a different emphasis on how to get the job done.

The mayors talked infrastructure fixes to a Public Policy Institute of California audience in Sacramento last Friday, the event moderated by PPIC president Mark Baldassare.

Steinberg wanted an easier path to raise taxes for transportation needs. The Sacramento/Placer County sales tax measure in November missed the required two-thirds vote requirement by less than two percentage points. Steinberg said he didn’t understand the two-thirds vote requirement for earmarked taxes. He argued that if a government identifies what the tax revenue is being used for then a majority vote should be satisfactory.

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Decentralize Government to Resolve Country’s Divisions

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

America is increasingly a nation haunted by fears of looming dictatorship. Whether under President Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” rule by decree, or its counterpoint, the madcap Twitter rule of our current chief executive, one part of the country, and society, always feels mortally threatened by whoever occupies the Oval Office.

Given this worsening divide, perhaps the only reasonable solution is to move away from elected kings and toward early concepts of the republic, granting far more leeway to states, local areas and families to rule themselves. Democrats, as liberal thinker Ross Baker suggests, may “own” the D.C. “swamp,” but they are beginning to change their tune in the age of Trump. Even dutiful cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s imperial presidency, such as the New Yorker, are now embracing states’ rights.

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Trump’s Super Bowl Dilemma

Richard Rubin
Chair, California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

Just when we thought there were no more significant snubs forthcoming after Mexico’s president turned down the invitation to visit the White House over the unresolved issue of who will pay for The Wall, we hear that some of the Super Bowl Champion, New England Patriots, may also be taking a pass.

One tantalizing question is whether their star quarterback, Tom Brady, is among them?

Foreign leaders often cancel appointments over political quarrels but if Tom Brady, the record-breaking California-bred star quarterback says no thanks that is cause for concern.

The nation can withstand slights directed at our presidents as temporary dust-ups that can be remedied over time.

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Business Networking Key to Boosting Bay Area over LA

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

The “Beat LA” chant that occurs at many San Francisco sporting events featuring teams from the two regions of the state may reflect more than the athletic contest on the field. The San Francisco Bay Area’s economy has surged ahead of Los Angeles’s economic growth over the past 40 years.

Professor Michael Storper of UCLA told a Town Hall Los Angeles audience Wednesday that the Bay Area managed the transition to the modern economy better than the Los Angeles region. Former Los Angeles city councilman and county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky agreed that while San Francisco looked ahead at the blossoming high tech business, Los Angeles business leaders and politicians were looking back, working to preserve traditional industries.

Storper, co-author of the book, The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles argued that the Bay Area’s success was due to San Francisco’s old downtown business community realizing that it needed a regional approach. In the 1980s, the Bay Area Council, which represented traditional San Francisco businesses, understood that the economy was changing. To capture the future of high tech, high-income economy, the Bay Area Council reached out to the Silicon Valley.

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Gloves Come Off as a Rude and Loud Minority Seeks to Stifle Open Democratic Discourse

Hector Barajas
Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm.

Whether one is speaking of First Amendment-protected speech on university and college campuses or efforts of elected congressional representatives to conduct dialogues with their constituents, America has become messy indeed.

While we weren’t looking, groups were organizing to take away our most fundamental civil liberties.

Organized and paid political activists mingle among honest citizens seeking to participate in democracy and have their grievances and voices heard. They drown them out before they even have an opportunity to speak.

These are not spontaneous grassroots occurrences. They are carefully planned, funded, organized and executed campaigns with the specific purpose of disrupting our democracy.

Take two recent examples, one from the University of California at Berkeley and the other from a California congressman’s town hall meeting in the Sacramento area.

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Why California’s Finances Could Derail Their Energy Plans

Todd Royal
Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

According to State Senator John Moorlach (R – Costa Mesa) California has real financial problems that need to be immediately addressed. A self-described Truman Democrat, Joel Kotkin, in a recent syndicated article echoes the same sentiments. Some of the problems are California has the highest taxes overall in the nation, worst roads, underperforming schools, and the recent budget has at least a $1.6 billion shortfall.

Moreover, depending on how the numbers are analyzed California has either a $1.3 or a $2.8 trillion outstanding debt. This is before counting the maintenance work needed for infrastructure, particularly roads, bridges and water systems. Yet tax increases aren’t covering these obligations, and even the bullet train project, which held so much promise when it was passed are now billions over budget.

However, the financial strain also has California’s net financial position running a $169 billion deficit according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which puts California ranked last in the nation. Deferred maintenance on our state roads and highways is roughly $59 billion. Estimates of California’s unfunded pension liabilities – assuming a rate of return – above 5% has CalPERS at $114.5 billion, CalSTRS at $76.2 billion and UC Pension (UCR) at $12.1 billion.

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Focusing on Mobility Not Travel Mode for Better Economic Growth

Wendell Cox
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

The last article outlined research on job access by cars, transit and walking by the University of Minnesota Accessibility Observatory that assesses mobility by car, transit and walking in 49 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Of course, it is to be expected that the metropolitan areas will have the largest number of jobs accessible to the average employee simply by virtue of their larger labor markets.

Indeed, smaller, but important major labor markets, from Grand Rapids and Buffalo to Philadelphia and Washington seem unlikely to ever rival the job numbers in metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles.

Researchers such as Remy Prud’homme and Chang-Woon Lee of the University of Paris, David Hartgen and M. Gregory Fields of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte have shown that a city (metropolitan area( is likely to experience better economic results if its transportation system provides better mobility. This includes greater job creation, greater economic growth and poverty reduction.

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