The Rap on Vallejo

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)

California’s greatest art is supposedly created by collisions between the different culture in our biggest cities.  

But if that’s true, how did Vallejo become a capital of hip hop?

The North Bay city of 120,000, in producing generations of acclaimed rappers, makes the case that, in our era of hyper-connectivity, the isolation of life on the outskirts can be its own potent form of artistic inspiration. 

Indeed, most of Vallejo’s long line of rappers—from Mac Dre and E-40 to the new group SOB x RBE—have roots in the same out-of-the-way neighborhood, Country Club Crest. 

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Why Doesn’t Mighty California Produce More Presidential Nominees?

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

Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign woes have been chronicled extensively the last few days from Scott Lay’s column on this site to the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. 

It’s beginning to look like another presidential election will pass by without a Californian heading a major party ticket.

For arguably the most influential state in the union leading the way on so many issues over recent decades, not to mention the most populous state, one would think that California leaders would top many presidential tickets but that has not been the case. In fact, California’s current crop of presidential wannabes are not generating much excitement even at home.

The state’s voters are not behind any of the California Democratic candidates, Harris, Tom Steyer and Marianne Williamson, vying for the party’s nomination. The three candidates between them couldn’t capture even 10% combined in recent statewide polls. 

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Call to Action for Business: Keep Investing in OC

Lucy Dunn
President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council

Orange County is an economic powerhouse.  With the recent release of the 2019-20 OC Community Indicators, the facts are in:  3% unemployment–well below state and national levels–5th most educated county in the US, 2nd largest workforce in California, and 4th largest international population in the nation.  Yet when the perception persists that we’re suburbia, note that net 200,000 commuters travel from all surrounding counties to work here than the other way around

LA is, indeed, now OC’s bedroom community!

This economy has thrived because of diversity of our people, businesses and the quality jobs they help create. In recent years, we’ve become a leader in tech, innovation, medical device manufacturing, tourism and hospitality – attracting new businesses, jobs, opportunity and visitors to the regional annually.

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Collect Your Signatures in the Temple

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)

As direct democracy expands around the world, finding public space to collect signatures on referendum or initiative petitions has become a global challenge. Sometimes it’s quite hard. Here in California, local governments and corporations often use harassment or litigation to keep petition circulators away from places they should have the right to be.

But Taiwan, which has embraced direct democracy recently, with 10 nationwide referenda just last year, has found a solution for this.

The temple.

Specifically, Taiwan’s Buddhist and Taoist shrines and temples have become a magnet for petition circulators. Such places draw a steady stream of visitors, and even more people during services. They tend to be open. And they often are in very public spaces, next to night markets where families can go after they’ve visited the temple.

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Surprise Medical Billing – And How Congress Should Stop It

Jim Verros
Small business owner and communications specialist from California’s San Joaquin Valley. As a veteran of multiple campaigns he frequently provides political analysis on television and radio.

There are good surprises and bad surprises. Surprise medical bills are without a doubt the bad kind.

They come most often after a patient receives care at an in-network hospital only to be treated without their knowledge by an out of network physician. The patient’s insurer and provider try to work out a price, and if they can’t, the patient ultimately receives a surprise bill. And these bills are usually quite steep. One study found that they are typically “2.5 times what most health insurers pay and more than 3 times hospitals’ actual costs.”  

If this seems like a scam to you, it’s because it is. But it’s also legal and has happened to a startling number of Americans. By one estimate, nearly 40 percent of U.S. patients have been hit with unexpected out-of-network fees. If we want American healthcare to work for everyone, then this legal scam needs to end.

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With SB1 behind us, California Has a Brighter Future for Water and Environmental Management

Mike Wade
Executive Director, California Farm Water Coalition

We applaud Governor Newsom’s veto of SB1, legislation that would have blocked efforts aimed at finding collaborative solutions to water supply and ecosystem challenges. He chose to calmly focus on the long-term rather than get caught up in the politics of the moment, which is often difficult. But it’s critical because what’s at stake is nothing short of California’s water future. 

Now that the path is clear, the Voluntary Agreements on water can move forward. These agreements represent a completely new way to manage our water supply and environment because they are cooperative efforts between all water users including farms, cities, conservationists, and rural communities. The impacts of the VAs will be felt throughout the state, including the Bay Area, which depends on water supplies from the Bay-Delta watershed.

The process of developing a framework for the VA’s is close to completion. According to a July update letter by California Secretary Jared Blumenfeld and California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, by mid-October they expect, “to have the modeling and scientific analysis nearing completion and the governance and adaptive management structure in close to final form.”

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California’s Conflict of Interest Obligations

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

Imagine you are a donor to a non-profit organization whose board members receive gifts from employees to whom the board, without your consent, promises retirement benefits. Now the organization is asking you for larger donations to cover surging retirement spending but not disclosing the real reason more money is needed.

That describes the current situation in California as tax increases are proposed across the state to fund retirement promises never approved by voters and made by elected officials who receive donations and other political support from beneficiaries of the retirement promises. Retirement obligations to public employees in California consist primarily of pensions and reimbursement of Medicare premiums and other retiree out of pocket health costs.

Recent examples of tax increases covering up retirement spending include a $50 million per year parcel tax increase for the benefit of San Francisco’s school district that raises an amount equal to the district’s increase in annual retirement spending:

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Ten Commandments for Modern Direct Democracy

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)

Greetings from Taichung, Taiwan, and from the 2019 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.

We, more than 300 people from six continents, have met here to discuss direct democracy at a forum that was free and open to anyone in the world who wished to attend. Our conversations were inspired by Taiwan’s strong commitment to direct democracy, as expressed in the 2018 revamping of the Taiwan Referendum Act, and by the global growth of direct democracy, which is now legal in 115 countries.

We have many differences of opinion. But we also have a strong shared sense that modern direct democracy—and tools like the initiative and referendum—should have a greater role in the world, and thus must be better designed.

So we issue this “Taichung Declaration on Modern Direct Democracy” to offer ten basic ideas for people working at all levels—transnational, national, provincial, local, and community—for better direct democracy. 

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Californians chased out of state by bad public policy

Steven Greenhut
Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.

I remember getting that phone call 20-some years ago while at my desk at The Lima News, which was a sister newspaper to The Orange County Register. “Would I like to come to California to work at the Register,” the editor asked. “Why, yes,” I eagerly said. “When do I start?” I forgot to ask about the salary.

When I told my wife the exciting news, she asked if we were going to weigh the pros and cons of such a big move from our cozy Ohio town to sprawling Southern California. “No,” I answered. “There’s nothing to discuss.” We’re going to California and, unlike the words in the Led Zeppelin song, it’s not with an “aching in my heart.” After crossing the border near Needles, in the 110-degree desert heat, I fell in love with the place and never looked East again.

Like others from the Midwest and East, I had long dreamed of the Golden State. By then, of course, California already ceased to be the magnet it was in earlier decades. The number of Americans who left California for other states had surpassed those from other states who moved here. Immigration rates and birth rates were still growing, however, which propelled our population from 30 million in 1990 to nearly 40 million now.

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Public Banks Driven by Political Agendas; A Test of Public Banks in LA

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

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 857 to allow California cities and counties to establish public banks. A political agenda was behind the move to public banking and in the end it could be extremely costly and unmanageable for taxpayers.

Los Angeles city, in particular, may be a test case for the validity of public banks since the voters soundly turned down the idea for public banks less than two years ago. 

Supporters of public banks claim such institutions would reinvest local tax dollars in needed community projects that private bankers often ignore such as affordable housing. But the anti-Wall Street rhetoric of supporters also spells out a liberal political agenda. 

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