What If Uncle Leland Had Won?

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)

Here’s a thought exercise for the Leland Yee scandal. What if the investigation had been delayed, or stayed underground, for another year? What if last week’s raids had come not in March 2014 – but in March 2015?

And what if it were California Secretary of State Leland Yee who was being taken into custody by the FBI?

Such an alternative universe is hardly an unlikely one. Yee was a strong contender in the race, and a victory would not have been improbable.

Would our reaction be the same?

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Does Where You Go to College Impact Your Job Future in California?

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

The posting below is a variation of an essay which first appeared in Zocalo Public Square on April 9, 2014 (here), and perhaps a useful antidote to this recent news article on college admissions (here).

This month, high school seniors throughout California are receiving college decision notices of acceptance and rejection.  They, and their parents, will think, “Where I go to college will decide my employment future.”

What do we know about college choice and job success in California? How important is college selection in determining employment future?

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Proceed with Caution – Beware of Early Polls

Carson Bruno
Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution & author of the blog: The Pragmatic Conservative

Early polls might generate buzz, but reporters, voters, and politicians should view these polls skeptically.  They are unlikely to predict the June primary results very well for three cascading reasons.

Few people are paying attention to the election at this point in the cycle.

In the last five Field and PPIC polls that have asked a head-to-head June primary question, on average 27% of the electorate is undecided (shifting very little between December and the spring).

In PPIC’s January survey, only 28% of likely voters (and just 28% and 21% of likely Republican and Independent voters, respectively) were following election news very or fairly closely.  A statically similar segment of Republicans and Independents were “not at all closely” following the election.  This suggests that roughly half of voters who expressed an opinion in the head-to-head match-ups are following the election “not too closely.” If voters are not really paying attention to the election, do not expect the polls to be an honest portrayal of future outcomes.

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Journalist Greg Lucas as State Librarian? Yes!

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

When Governor Jerry Brown nominated journalist Greg Lucas, as state librarian there was an immediate backlash from some in the library community. They charged that Lucas was unqualified for the job. However, in this corner, Brown’s nomination is an inspired choice. Lucas will bring uncommon insight and a fresh perspective to the job.

greg lucasLucas served as reporter and Sacramento bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades. More recently, he continued writing about politics as both a reporter and political satirist on his website California’s Capitol.

Not all reaction from the library community to Lucas’s nomination was negative. Gary Kurutz, Special Collections Principal Librarian Emeritus, told me, “I think having a veteran wordsmith and a person experienced in public relations will get out the message of the vital importance of the State Library.”

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California’s Taxing Dilemma

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

As the April 15 deadline for filing taxes looms, we asked Californians in the latest PPIC Statewide Survey how they view their state and local tax burden. Their responses point to a disconnect between public opinion and the views of many fiscal reformers.

A record-high 60 percent say that they pay more than they feel they should in state and local taxes. Just two years ago, 46 percent held this view. Today, six in 10 Californians also have the perception that California currently ranks above average or near the top in state and local tax burden per capita. And they are correct: A Tax Policy Center report recently ranked California’s 2011 state and local tax burden as the 11th highest in the nation.

Further, a record-low 50 percent of Californians say that the present state and local tax system is very or moderately fair. In contrast, 57 percent said it was at least moderately fair two years ago. Across income categories today, perceptions of the fairness hover around 50 percent.

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Bullet Train Not All that Environmentally Friendly

Adrian Moore
Vice President of Research at the Reason Foundation

Governor Brown wants to use cap and trade fees to help pay for the state’s high speed rail project.  Those fees are assessed against enterprises in California that emit greenhouse gases and are supposed to be spent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Brown argues that the bullet train will reduce greenhouse gases, so spending the cap-and-trade fees is legit. And helps fill the moon-sized crater in the bullet train project’s funding plan.

But a new analysis by the Reason Foundation finds that if the project is at best a lousy and expensive way to reduce greenhouse gasses, and at worst, would on net, increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The High Speed Rail Authority says that by 2040 the train will reduce GHG emissions by 1.54 million tonnes per year.  But they get that figure by assuming nothing else will change. That over the next 25 years neither cars nor automobiles will get more fuel efficient according to their forecast.

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California – Lack Of Business, As Usual

Senator Mimi Walters
California State Senator, 37th Senate District

Nearly 8.0% of Californians are currently unemployed compared to the national average of 6.7%. Using an alternative method of looking at poverty, which includes factors such as cost of living and public benefits, the official rate released by the U.S. Census Bureau this past September determined that over a three year period, California has more people living in poverty than any other state in the nation. Nearly one in four California residents is considered to be impoverished.

In addition, the Golden State is one of only two states in the nation where one-fifth of its labor force is underemployed, a situation which occurs when skilled and educated workers are forced to accept employment for which they are overqualified and/or accept fewer hours due to a lack of opportunities within the current job market. California has the second highest rate of underemployment at 17.8%. This state of affairs creates a domino effect that reduces economic opportunity as higher skilled workers edge out those with fewer skills as they compete over entry-level positions.

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The Facts About High-Speed Rail

Dan Richard
Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Once again, opponents of California’s plans for a modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly high-speed rail system seem to think they can get away with criticisms of the project that have no basis in fact.  Tom Del Beccaro’s recent opinion piece is just that, opinion.  And while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.  Allow me to set the record straight.

First, contrary to his delusory claims, we do have funds for a useable high-speed rail segment in the Central Valley – a project that substantially improves already popular existing rail service while building the spine of a new rail network.   That project, which has commenced, will create thousands of near- and long-term jobs.  Meanwhile, we’ve executed funding agreements with local rail agencies in Los Angeles and on the San Francisco Peninsula to upgrade existing rail infrastructure for future high-speed rail use, moves that deliver immediate benefits to conmmuters and cut billions off the project’s total cost.

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Silicon Valley Needs Workers from CA

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

On Monday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the cap for H-1B visas has been reached – in only one week’s time. The USCIS says a computer-generated process will randomly select the number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 85,000 visas so skilled computer scientists from around the world can work in the United States. Ask Silicon Valley executives and they’ll tell you that number is not nearly enough.

That’s why Valley leaders have created an organization, FWD.us to convince Congress to reform immigration or at the least lift the cap. As the group’s co-founder, Joe Green, put it,

“In Silicon Valley, if you don’t like the way something works, you go around it. If you don’t like the taxi system, you build Uber. But you can’t go around Congress. It’s Congress.”

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Bill Clinton, Yes — Sacramento, No

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Last Thursday morning, former President Bill Clinton was at L.A. City Hall with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss strategies to finance economic development and to promote job growth, climate mitigation and resiliency through 21st century infrastructure. Clinton was joined by the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and spent much of his time touting the opportunity to use public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure projects in Los Angeles and California.

The business community in Los Angeles and California is in complete agreement. However, you won’t find strong support for public-private partnerships in Sacramento. The same day that President Clinton was in L.A., the California Assembly passed a resolution urging lawmakers to oppose contracting out for public services. Proponents of the resolution said that outsourcing leads to a lack of transparency and accountability for taxpayer dollars and that the private sector isn’t as reliable or efficient as the public sector.

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