Wrong Prescription

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Kamala Harris is nothing if not a politician. And she demonstrated that with her politicized handling of the sale of the Daughters of Charity Health System. What should have been a clean transfer of ownership has become an embarrassment for the attorney general. Not to mention it could result in a loss of service to poor patients.

The situation is a little involved, so here’s a summary: The non-profit Daughters of Charity runs six hospitals – four in northern California plus St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood and L.A.’s oldest hospital, St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown. They serve many lower-income folks.

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Background: Misuse of Assessments and Fees Brought on Prop 218, which Took Down the Tiered Water Fee Plan

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

San Juan Capistrano’s water fee usage plan ran afoul of Proposition 218’s taxpayer shield to protect taxpayers from being charged taxes disguised as fees and assessments. The goal of the tiered water plan was designed as a financial punishment for those who use excessive amounts of water. However, the method the city chose violated Proposition 218, which was aimed at preventing governments from using assessments and fees to avoid asking the people for a vote on increased taxes. I was a proponent of Proposition 218.

The 4th District Court of Appeal struck down San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water fee plan because it violated Proposition 218’s restriction that any fee must be for the cost of service and no more. The court found that by creating a 4-tier fee plan that charged $2.47 per unit for first tier water usage up to $9.05 a unit for greater usage the plan was not based on the cost of the water service.

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So Many Ways to Vote. So Few Reasons.

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)

The Goo Goo Dolls are on the march, and they want to make it easier for you vote.

I’m not talking about the band, but about the good government community and its allies in state government. The miserable low turnout in California elections has inspired a wide variety of plans to make it easier to vote. Automatic voter registration. Automatic mailing of ballots. An easing of restrictions and rules that can make voting a chore.

Many of these are fine ideas — though it’s interesting that the post office and cars – both of which are in decline – are the areas of emphasis. Why not tie to voting to horse purchases and newspaper subscriptions while they’re at it?

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‘High Flying, Adored’: What Happens to California Politicians Who Succeed Young

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

bernick_highflyingLast week, Michael Dolgushkin and Shelby Kendrick of the California State Library and I were going through a collection of papers from the 1980s. Unexpectedly, we found issues of the journal, Golden State Report (GSR), for the two year period, 1987-1988.

GSR has been out of business for many years. But in the 1980s, led by respected political writer Ed Salzman, GSR chronicled state government and politics. For a few years I wrote a monthly column for Ed on (what else) employment in California.

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California Assembly Democrats Seem Determined to Completely Eliminate Minor Party Candidates

Richard Winger
Editor of Ballot Access News

On April 15, the Assembly Elections Committee passed AB 372, a bill which seems motivated by a desire to completely rid the November ballot of minor party candidates.  Even though the bill has a Republican sponsor, it received no votes from either Republican member of the committee.  But it passed because 4 of the 5 Democrats on the committee voted for it.

Ever since the top-two system went into effect in 2011, there have been virtually no minor party candidates on the November ballot for Congress or partisan state office.  There were only three such minor party candidates in 2012, and just three in 2014.  All six of the minor party candidates were running in races in which only one person had filed to be on the primary ballot.  So, the minor party candidates noticed there was only one person on the primary ballot, and they all then filed to be write-in candidates in the primary.  In all six cases, the minor person then placed second in the June primary, with write-in votes, and were allowed on the November ballot.

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The Drought: California Is So Over

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

California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle- and working classes.

The water situation reflects this breakdown in the starkest way. Everyone who follows California knew it was inevitable we would suffer a long-term drought. Most of the state—including the Bay Area as well as greater Los Angeles—is semi-arid, and could barely support more than a tiny fraction of its current population. California’s response to aridity has always been primarily an engineering one that followed the old Roman model of siphoning water from the high country to service cities and farms.  

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Pension Costs are Crowding Out Salaries

Stephen Eide
Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the recent report “California Crowd-Out: How Rising Retirement Benefit Costs Threaten Municipal Services.”

In my recent report “California Crowd-Out: How Rising Retirement Benefit Costs Threaten Municipal Services,” I document how rising public pension costs continue to deprive vital public services of funding. There’s only so much room in state and local budgets. When pension costs rise at a rate above revenues, taxpayers can expect less in terms of basic infrastructure maintenance, public safety, education, and quality-of-life services such as parks and libraries.

But it’s not only taxpayers who are getting a raw deal here. The status quo on pensions is not great for public workers, either.

California local government employees’ salaries grew 4.6 percentage points slower than private sector workers’ salaries over the past fifteen years. Same labor market, different takehome pay experiences.

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Improving the Movement of Freight. Why Should We Care? Part II

Billie Greer
President, Southern California Leadership Council

My commentary, posted nearly a year ago, spoke to the critical need to fund the repair and upgrade of the system that moves goods through California and the nation, given that international trade is one of the most important drivers of the state’s economy and that competitors, both in the U.S. and abroad, are flexing their muscles. If shippers cannot get their goods to the marketplace quickly and efficiently, they’ll pursue other options at California’s expense. Today’s column looks at some pending remedies to the challenge.

It’s not a pretty sight. The American Society of Civil Engineers have given America’s national bridges and rail system a grade of C+, our ports – a C, our roads – a D. Overall grade for the entire infrastructure system – a miserable D+.

So what to do?

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Uber Technology Makes Me Feel Safe

Brisemae Long
Uber Driver Partner

It is no secret that transportation methods are changing for many Californians. No longer are people choosing outdated ways and means to get around town, but instead, they are now relying on the ease, availability and safety of ridesharing apps like Uber. The popularity of ridesharing apps is growing – not only for riders, but more and more people are choosing to become driver partners as well. In fact, in the Bay Area alone, more than 20,000 people now drive for Uber.

Take me for example. As a driver partner with Uber for nearly a year, it has been a great experience, a wonderful way to supplement my income and allowed for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Before becoming a driver partner, I worked in accounts payable. Once my daughter was born, I realized that I wanted to spend more time with her so I decided to leave my job. However, funds quickly became scarce, and I realized that I needed to help support my family. So, my dad suggested becoming a driver partner with Uber because of the flexible schedule, and I’ve been driving ever since.

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Can the GOP learn from California?

Fox and Hounds Daily Editors

In his Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne Jr. comments on the California GOP and suggests what happened here politically can happen across America. He also interviews state GOP chairman Jim Brulte about his attempt to turn things around for California Republicans. The full column is here.

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