Gavin vs. Kevin, and California Dysfunction

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 not just a tempest in a teapot. It’s more telling than that.

The back-and-forth over state Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon’s pulling back two employee positions from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has become a statewide story, with lots of speculation about what’s behind the move and what it may mean.

Politically, I’d say the winner is Newsom, as a sign that he’s got enough momentum in his gubernatorial campaign that newspapers care to spend any time or resources publishing stories about staffing at the lieutenant governor’s office. Indeed, making any news at all when you’re lieutenant governor is an achievement.

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Friday’s California Job Numbers/”Eve of Destruction” Songwriter from the 1960s

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director and author, The Autism Job Club (2015, with R. Holden)

eveofdestructinoTwo events from last week are of note for our California workforce community and more general California public affairs community: the latest monthly job numbers, and the passing away of the P.F. Sloan a Southern California songwriter whose songs included the 1965 hit “Eve of Destruction”. Let’s briefly explain, including their loose connection.

Last Friday’s state job numbers (for October 2015) continued the trend in California dating from February 2010 of steady job gains, and a declining unemployment rate. The state gained 41,200 jobs during the month, bringing the total job gains to 463,000 in just the past 12 months, and 2,131,800 jobs since February 2010. The unemployment rate declined to 5.8%. In 2010 it was above 12.5%.

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Picking the Wrong Number for LA City Pensions

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

During the last year’s budget hearings, Los Angeles City Council Members Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, and Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee, were pushing to increase the investment rate assumption for the City’s two underfunded pension plans to 8%, up from the current level of 7.5%.

This would have the dual effect of lowering the then $8 billion unfunded pension liability and decreasing the City’s Annual Required Contribution by an estimated $200 million.  This additional cash would allow the City Council to fund the new budget busting labor contract for the City’s 20,000 civilian workers, begin the repair of our lunar crated streets, or pay for new initiatives or pet projects.    

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Pepperdine Grad Students’ Head-On Collision With Local Govt. Officials

Katy Grimes
FlashReport Senior Correspondent

pepperdine universityWhy does it take 54 days, more than 30 emails, 25 phone calls, 3 faxes, and 2 trips to the city of West Covina to obtain records available to the public? The short answer is that some local government officials don’t believe they have to make the public records available to the public.

A group of graduate students working to achieve a Masters Degree from the Pepperdine School of Public Policy were assigned with obtaining all official campaign contribution forms 410, 460, and 700 for elected officials in the city of West Covina from 2012-2015.

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The Return of George Deukmejian (In Spirit)

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

California’s 35th governor, George Deukmejian, built much of his political capital being tough on crime. The former attorney general wrote the state’s capital punishment law while in the legislature. While governor, Deukmejian supported strong crime laws and appointed tough judges. He built new prisons and while he served as governor the prison population increased three-fold. I bring up the former governor because the issues of crime and punishment that propelled his political rise appear to be once again taking hold as a priority concern of voters as we head into the election of 2016 and beyond.

In part due to the prisoner build-up that started in the 1980s, courts and activists have combined to try to reduce prison populations through legislation (AB 109) moving state prisoners to local lock-ups pressuring local officials to release some prisoners early, and Proposition 47 that downgraded some drug possession and theft crimes to misdemeanors.

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Student Protests at USC and Around the Nation

Luke Phillips
Research Associate for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and Senior Correspondent at Glimpse From the Globe

There’s been a flurry of news stories with a common theme- the liberal-minded student body of a university someplace on the East Coast or in the Midwest is inspired to activism by some grave, actual injustice (i.e., explicitly racist harassment by unknown perpetrators at the University of Missouri,) members of the student body organize to counter the injustice and spread awareness, and invariably, they take it to excess and do something that sparks a national controversy (like betraying liberalism by harassing reporters covering their protests.)

These storylines- rather nuanced situations, where tolerant conservatives should usually agree with the activists’ grievances in the early stages- take place against a backdrop of more proactive “reform” on the part of postmodern social justice activists. Student governments at universities across the country issue powerless but symbolic resolutions banning ethnic Halloween costumes, divesting from fossil fuel companies and countries like Israel, instituting politically-correct speech codes restricting “harmful speech” and “microaggressions,” and similar tomfoolery. This fundamentally political movement- confined to the campuses, for now- has its roots in the anti-colonialist and gender theory scholarship of the 1960s and beyond, and tends, paradoxically, to be nihilistic and dogmatic at the same time. 

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CARB’s Concern for the Rainforest is Ironic

Eric Eisenhammer
Founder of the Coalition of Energy Users, a nonprofit grassroots organization for access to affordable energy and quality jobs.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently announced plans to dedicate a portion of its hidden gas tax to saving the tropical rainforest. This is ironic because CARB’s own policies actually contribute to rainforest deforestation.

The agency is a strong advocate of a “low carbon fuel standard,” or LCFS. The LCFS is a food-for-fuel program that, along with similar mandates in the European Union and the United Kingdom, is wreaking havoc in the rainforest.

Unlike the national ethanol mandate, which relies heavily on domestically-produced corn-based ethanol, CARB’s LCFS places a much greater emphasis on sugar and soybean-based fuels – crops often produced in tropical nations where rainforests are endangered.

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The Cities Where Your Salary Will Stretch The Furthest 2015

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

Average pay varies widely among U.S. cities, but those chasing work opportunities would do well to keep an eye on costs as well. Salaries may be higher on the East and West coasts, but for the most part, equally high prices there mean that the fatter paychecks aren’t necessarily getting the locals ahead.

To determine which cities actually offer the highest real incomes, Mark Schill, research director at Praxis Strategy Group, conducted an analysis for Forbes of the 53 largest metropolitan statistical areas, adjusting annual earnings by a cost factor that combines median home values from the U.S. Census (20%) with a measure of regional price differences from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (80%).

The takeaway: When cost of living is factored in, most of the metro areas that offer the highest effective pay turn out to be in the less glitzy middle part of the country. 

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Views from the Governor’s Office Raises Questions

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

The Public Policy Institute of California’s Speaker Series kicked off yesterday’s session with a conversation between Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Secretary (read: Chief of Staff) Nancy McFadden and PPIC President Mark Baldassare.

Following are a few items from that short 10-minute conversation and questions that popped into my head while listening to the discussion.

McFadden declared the number one priority of the Brown Administration is to stay on a fiscally stable road. She cited advancements the administration made to cut debt and explained that worthy projects were vetoed by the governor because they had to be evaluated in the context of the overall budget.

She also noted that if California accepts the drive for a $15 minimum wage that would add a $3 billion cost to the state General Fund.

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The Unintended Consequences of Extending Proposition 30

Jerry Nickelsburg
Adjunct professor of economics at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and senior economist for the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

In 2012 voters passed Proposition 30—an initiative to raise taxes and take state government finances out of crisis mode. However, the new taxes, primarily falling on the top income earners in California, did not purport to be a cure for the underlying problem. Rather, the rationale was to give the state some breathing room. And Prop 30 came with an expiration date, 2018.

Now it looks like Prop 30 might have an even longer life. Last month, the California Teacher’s Association—the union representing more than 300,000 teachers—filed an initiative to extend Prop 30’s temporary income tax surcharges until the year 2030. The rationale according to Gale Kaufman, strategist for the initiative, is to “keep our state budget balanced, and prevent devastating cuts to programs affecting students, seniors, working families, and health care.”

Unfortunately, economics and the available empirical evidence suggest there is a very large risk that Prop 30 will produce the exact opposite outcome from that suggested by Kaufman.

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