The Impact of Minimum Wage Increases

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

The debate over the minimum wage did not end when the state followed the lead of a number of local governments in agreeing to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Now we are watching the impact of the increase. Even before workers achieve the $15, there are signs that the increase in minimum wage is hurting many it was intended to help.

A report in the San Diego Union Tribune reveals an economic study showing an increase of just $1.50 to$11.50 likely cost 4,000 food service jobs.

While it may be early to judge the true impact of the $15 minimum wage boost, anecdotal evidence continues to come in. This on top of reports out of Seattle that the $15 minimum wage mark is sending jobs out of the city and into the suburbs.

Many in the business community warned that raises in the minimum wage could hurt hiring of entry level jobs and put pressure on small business owners to reduce work time or cut jobs all together.

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Nuking San Francisco

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)

It’s hard to know how to react to North Korean video showing a nuclear missile attack on downtown San Francisco.

With a look on the housing market benefits?

Finally, middle-class people will be able to afford to the live in the city again.

With techie scorn?

Look at those awful CGI graphics. Can’t some Bay Area virtual reality company find a way around sanctions and help the North Koreans create something suitably scary enough for a crackpot dictatorship?

With alternative targeting? Kim Jong Un, if you want to attack the heart of San Francisco arrogance, you gotta aim at Noe Valley instead.

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Crowding Out the Housing Agenda

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

Housing expert and friend Carol Galante has drunk the Kool-Aid. She’s bought into the theory that things other than California’s profound undersupply of housing should determine state policy. In this case, of course, it’s environmental policy.

Galante is a housing pro. For a long time, she worked under housing guru Donald Terner at the now-famous BRIDGE Housing Development Corporation, the nation’s most prolific non-profit developer of affordable housing. After Terner’s untimely death in the early 90’s, Galante took over BRIDGE and ably ran it for over 15 years. She was later appointed by President Obama to be the nation’s chief housing policy-maker and now runs UC Berkeley’s new housing think tank.

But, even after acknowledging that California’s current housing woes have been “caused in large part by a thriving economy and a multi-decade-long undersupply of housing relative to population and job growth” Galante, along with fellow academicians, said in a newly released study she thinks lawmakers and policy makers need to “assess the environmental and economic impacts of housing production scenarios that could help meet the state’s proposed 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target under Senate Bill 32 (Pavley, 2016).” In other words, subordinate housing policy to environmental policy.

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Split roll property tax proposal is really a pension tax

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

When state Sens. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, introduce a split roll property tax to increase taxes on business property, you’ll hear arguments from advocates that the tax money is for the schools and local services such as libraries and police. In actuality, the measure is a tax to fund public employee pensions and health care costs.

Public pensions continue to eat away at state, local and school budgets. A number of cities pay more than 15 percent of their general fund budgets for pensions and retiree health care. Sacramento is over 17 percent. Los Angeles is at 20 percent, up from under just 5 percent a decade-and-a-half ago.

When cities must spend so much more than they have spent historically for employee benefits, reductions have to be made in other areas. In the East Bay city of Richmond, for example, staff positions have been cut, library spending is down, after-school programs have been reduced and still city officials worry that Richmond will follow other California cities into bankruptcy. It’s easy to understand why when pension debt and health care is projected to take 41 percent of the city’s general fund in five years.

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The Art of the Municipal Deal

John Mirisch
Mayor, City of Beverly Hills

Attending the US Conference of Mayors in January, I was struck by one particularly distressing and costly observation. Local governments are great at doing any number of things, from providing public safety to creating and maintaining infrastructure and – in some cases – engaging in urban planning. But there is one pursuit in which cities seem to falter like rank amateurs: deal making with developers.

In negotiating contracts with suppliers, municipalities are sometimes very cost-conscious, leveraging volume – and ideally partnering with other municipalities – to make good deals. The idea, of course, is all about cost savings for all of us – the taxpayers.

But across the table from developers, cities have about as much chance at success as Harry Frazee at a Vegas roulette table. To paraphrase a Swedish expression, developers routinely wipe the floor with cities.

Beverly Hills itself has had an unenviable history of being on the wrong side of a good deal, although we have advantages which other cities don’t. Nevertheless, we were routinely getting our clocks cleaned each time we entered into a development agreement. Here’s just one example:

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Calexit Will Never Be Over

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)

Some genies can’t be put back in the bottle.

Reports of #Calexit’s demise are premature. Yes, its backers have withdrawn an initiative, after reports about the Russia-philia of one of its backers. But at least some of those backers are moving onto other movements to push forward the idea of California as its own country.

#Calexit isn’t like to go too far as long as President Trump is in office. Put simply, most of California loathes Trump, and the president loathes California. Since he would love to see us go away, there’s no way we’ll go. And anyone who pushes #Calexit can be fairly accused of helping Trump.

But in the long run, the idea of California as a country will stay with us. It’s a very Californian idea—we are different, the Great Exception, in Carey McWilliams’ famous words. And we have the character and economy of a successful, larger-than-average country. In many ways, our interests are different than those of the United States.

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Supreme Court’s role in public safety is a judgment call

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

U.S. Supreme Court justices don’t patrol the streets of Los Angeles, but you might be surprised at how much the justices are responsible for what goes on in your neighborhood.

As one example, judge for yourself the long-term consequences of the court’s decision in 1972 to throw out a law in Jacksonville, Florida, that allowed authorities to fine people $500 or lock them up for 90 days for being “rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging.”

Jacksonville’s vagrancy law specifically made it a crime for people to be “common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons” or to be “neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children.”

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AB 224-Protecting Children in the Dental Chair

Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine; Professor (Clinical) Anesthesiology and Associate Director, Pediatric Anesthesia Education at Stanford University School of Medicine

Our state legislators have an important opportunity this week to vote on a bill that could save lives and improve patient safety for young children in communities throughout our state. The current laws related to pediatric dental anesthesia are insufficient and must be updated to better protect the safety of children undergoing these procedures. AB 224 (Thurmond) provides that pathway.

The deaths of two Bay Area children in recent years – Caleb Sears and Marvelena Rady – highlighted how delicate pediatric dental anesthesia cases are, and that tragic complications can occur quickly. We owe it to these children to make sure there are appropriately trained anesthesia providers, and adequate monitoring equipment, in the room with them.  Not every complication can be prevented, but there should be basic systems and protections in place to make it as safe as possible.

As devastating as their headlines are, it is even more troubling to know that the regulations guiding anesthesia in dental offices are not on par with those for anesthesia in a medical setting. Why is that? Anesthesia is complex and risky, whether you are lying in a dental chair or lying on an operating table. And yet dental regulations do not yet require a separate second trained anesthesia provider in the room for an oral procedure – the same person is allowed to give anesthesia and conduct surgery at the same time. But both activities require vigilance and meticulous attention to detail and should be done by two separate experts; nowhere else in the medical field would it be allowed for a single person to do both.

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Eliminate the Bd of Equalization? I Voted for That, Sort Of

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

A spotlight has been put on the Board of Equalization, a state tax agency, that has been found wanting after a critical audit, enough so that the governor has clamped restrictions on the board. One idea that has re-surfaced in the wake of Board of Equalization examination is that the agency should be closed down. I agreed with that notion as a member of the California Constitution Revision Commission in 1996 but opposed the Commission’s final suggestion because I believe revenue officers should be elected.

The Board of Equalization is one of a number of tax collection agencies in the state. It was originally formed in the 1870s to equalize property tax assessments around the state. Four elected members plus the state controller make up the board. The total of four members was equivalent to the number to congressmen California sent to Washington in those days. While the state’s congressional delegation has grown dramatically since then, the board membership remained at it original total.

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California’s Idea of a Full School Day Doesn’t Make the Grade

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)

On many mornings, I think my state senator has the best policy idea in California.

The rest of the time, I think he’s missing the point.

The idea involves the sleep of schoolkids, and the state senator is Anthony Portantino, who represents me and nearly one million other residents of one of California’s nerdiest regions, the San Gabriel Valley.

Portantino has won plaudits for a bill that would require middle and high schools to start the school day later—no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The bill is grounded in research showing that additional sleep and a later start would reduce tardiness and absenteeism, which in turn should increase school funding (which is tied to attendance) and improve students’ academic performance.

My two older sons’ school starts at 8:10 a.m. So, at around 8:02 a.m., Portantino’s bill has such obvious appeal that I wonder why he doesn’t extend its protection to elementary schools.

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