The Cult of Jerry Refuses to Die

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)

Now I understand why Jerry Brown is working so hard to stop the apocalypse, whether the threat is nuclear and climate.

Because only the apocalypse could end his personal political cult.

The endurance of the Cult of Jerry—lovely for his fans, maddening to those of us who seem as merely an artful dodger—has reached a milestone. The terrific Scott Shafer of what is now California’s leading media organization, KQED, has a new podcast, “The Political Mind of Jerry Brown.”

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Middle-and low-income people leaving California

Kate Cimini
Reporter with the Salinas Californian and CalMatters' California Divide project

In 2017, Susanna Cardenas-Lopez left her home in Salinas to visit her brother in Idaho. Three days into her trip, she called her husband and told him they needed to move there.

Back in Salinas, Cardenas-Lopez and her husband were left out in the cold after their landlord decided to stop renting the home they lived in. They couldn’t afford anything else, so they had to move in with a family member, which was stressful.

Now in Idaho, she and her husband have free time and money left over at the end of each month. There’s a bonus — the area is significantly safer, she said.

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To Fight Opioid Misuse and Dependence, Assume Every Patient is At Risk

Tara Vail
Tara Vail, MBA, is the chief operating officer of HST ASC Software, the top-ranked software solutions company for the Ambulatory Surgery Centers industry

Based on the news of multi-million-dollar settlements with large opioid manufacturers, it is tempting to believe the U.S. is finally gaining traction on the opioid epidemic. But now is not the time for health care providers to take a victory lap. There were nearly 400,000 deaths linked to overdoses of opioids, both prescription and illicit, in the U.S. from 1999 to 2017. Over half of those deaths were associated with prescription opioids.

California in particular has taken great strides to reduce the number of opioid deaths. The California Department of Public Health currently hosts the California Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard to provide the latest data publicly, with dashboards available that can parse information down to the county level. A number of initiatives have also been rolled out across the Golden State to address the opioid epidemic, including increasing access to naloxone, promoting public education, and expanding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).

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Use State Land for Housing Homeless, Gov. Says, But Will the Homeless Go

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

Among the proposals Governor Gavin Newsom is pursuing in dealing with the homelessness crisis is to open state owned land to be used for temporary homeless shelters. While temporary sites close to city centers may appeal to the homeless as a temporary residence, it is a question whether lands away from locations the homeless currently occupy will be rejected.

The governor’s proposal and reaction from the homeless community will become part of the ”right to shelter” debate.

The right to shelter would require governments to offer shelter to the homeless. Newsom’s move is designed to assist it that effort. With the US Supreme Court denying a hearing in a case out of Boise, Idaho, that stopped police from citing homeless who camped on city streets, state and local governments now have to offer housing opportunities before seeking to remove homeless.

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The Governor’s Budget is Coming

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

The California Constitution requires the governor to submit a proposed budget (the “Governor’s Budget”) for the next fiscal year to the state legislature by January 10. The Governor’s Budget sets the table for discussions with the legislature, which must pass a budget by June 15, and is must-reading for anyone who wants to dive deep into California’s governance, as is a review of past budgets that may be accessed here.  Such a review would disclose a number of interesting items:

–  Revenues in the current fiscal year are 80 percent greater than ten years ago. The largest source (Personal Income Tax) grew more than 100 percent.

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Why Gavin Newsom was wrong in vetoing ranked-choice voting – and how to fix it. Part 2

Michael Feinstein
Michael Feinstein is a former Santa Monica Mayor and City Councilmember, a co-founder of the Green Party of California and a June 2018 Green candidate for California Secretary of State.

A piece of resistance

At a time when voting rights and diverse political representation are under attack in Washington DC and the courts, California has an opportunity to lead to strengthen our democracy.  RCV is the wave of the future for a multi-racial, multi-everything society that must continually seek consensus among diverse constituencies about complex issues. 

There are two pressing diversity concerns that RCV addresses for which California should be a national leader — and Newsom, as a supporter of cutting edge policies and a one of the leaders of ‘the Trump resistance,’ should seemingly support. 

First, current state law compels California’s general law counties to use two-round ‘contingent runoff’ elections — where if a candidate wins a majority in the primary, the election is over — no November “top two” run-off. Under this system, most Board of Supervisors races are decided in low turnout springtime primaries, which feature a much less diverse electorate — contributing to severe under-representation of traditionally disenfranchised communities. 

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California is taxing our patience

Larry Sand
President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

It’s a new year and for Californians, that invariably means new taxes. But there are many questions the tax-grabbing state bureaucrats should be forced to answer first.

Why is California the only state in the country that stubbornly refuses to reveal public spending records to a government watchdog, which has now prompted threats of legal action? If California education spending is at an all-time high, why are schools still short on cash? Why is there is no way to track educational spending to ensure it is going to the right place?

To be sure, many tax dollars disappear into the bottomless hole also known as bureaucratic waste. But clearly a large chunk of that money goes for public employee pension and healthcare perks. In a paper published by the Brookings Institution in May, University of Missouri economics professor Cory Koedel writes, “California’s pension debt is harming teachers and students now—and it’s going to get worse.” He explains that the California State Teachers Retirement System’s total unfunded liability is over $100 billion, “which is greater than the total amount of money spent to educate all of California’s public K-12 students for a year ($97.2 billion).”

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Businesses Turn to Courts to Fight Policy Changes

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

With the one-party dominance of the Democratic Party in California leading to more government controls on business, companies are turning to the courts for relief from legislative mandates.

As new laws were set to kick in on January 1, a number of lawsuits were filed by businesses seeking protection from the new laws. Many of the suits aimed at Assembly Bill 5 setting requirements to determine whether workers are employees or private contractors.

The law has met pushback from affected industries and it is certain that the question of which industries deserve exemptions from the law will be played out further in the legislature over the coming year.

In the meantime, the California Truckers Association went to court and attained a temporary restraining order blocking the law’s effect on independent truck drivers.

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Why Gavin Newsom was wrong in vetoing ranked-choice voting – and how to fix it. Part 1

Michael Feinstein
Michael Feinstein is a former Santa Monica Mayor and City Councilmember, a co-founder of the Green Party of California and a June 2018 Green candidate for California Secretary of State.

For the second time in three years, a California Governor has vetoed important pro-democracy legislation, granting the option to use ranked-choice voting (RCV) to California’s general law cities – Jerry Brown in 2016 and Gavin Newsom this year.  

For many in the electoral reform community, their official explanations rang hollow. When I was Mayor of Santa Monica in 2002, I had a personal encounter with then-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, suggesting there may be more to this than meets the eye.

First, Some History:

Jerry, We Hardly Knew Ye

It was August 2002. I was in Johannesburg, South Africa representing the City of Santa Monica at an official dinner of local government officials attending the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). 

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The Golden State is on a path to high-tech feudalism

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

“We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta. California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta,” declared then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. “Not only can we lead California into the future . . . we can show the nation and the world how to get there.” When a movie star who once played Hercules says so who’s to disagree? The idea of California as a model, of course, precedes the former governor’s tenure. Now the state’s anti-Trump resistance—in its zeal on matters concerning climate, technology, gender, or race—believes that it knows how to create a just, affluent, and enlightened society. “The future depends on us,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at his inauguration. “And we will seize this moment.”

In truth, the Golden State is becoming a semi-feudal kingdom, with the nation’s widest gap between middle and upper incomes—72 percent, compared with the U.S. average of 57 percent—and its highest poverty rate. Roughly half of America’s homeless live in Los Angeles or San Francisco, which now has the highest property crime rate among major cities. California hasn’t yet become a full-scale dystopia, of course, but it’s heading in a troubling direction.

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