Does Chiang Top Field of Dem Hopefuls? (Part 2)

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

Going by the metrics, John Chiang may be the strongest candidate to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 or U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016.

You’d never know it by the way the media have zeroed in on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris — even before the Nov. 4 election in which both were re-elected. Chiang, the outgoing state controller, was elected as state treasurer. All are Democrats.

As far back as 2011, reporters have been setting the stage for the inevitable “Kamala vs. Gavin” showdown.

“Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris: the California Democratic Party’s future?” the L.A. Times asked in 2011. “The party’s top officeholders — Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — are all in their 70s. Newsom and Harris top the list of up-and-comers.”

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The NFL’s Return to Los Angeles Is a Terrible Idea

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)

Mayor Eric Garcetti is wrong when he says Los Angeles shouldn’t give taxpayer dollars to the National Football League. To the contrary, L.A. would be wise to pay the NFL to stay away from Southern California. Permanently.

Unfortunately, 20 years after the Raiders and Rams left town, the very bad idea of luring the NFL back is gaining momentum. The city of Los Angeles just extended a downtown stadium deal agreement that was expiring. The NFL is surveying rich Angelenos to see if they’d buy season tickets. Garcetti himself says it’s “highly likely” a team will relocate here in the near future.

So there’s no time to waste in organizing an all-out blitz to stop the drive for a new team before it reaches the goal line. The arguments against bringing the NFL are so strong and numerous that I can’t list them all in a short column, but here are some of the all-stars among them:

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Workers’ Comp – Again

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

Sad to read Dan Walter’s item that California once again leads the nation in workers’ compensation costs. It was just a decade ago that the Small Business Action Committee carried the initiative supported by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that ultimately brought the warring sides of business and labor to agree to a legislative compromise that brought down the state’s workers’ comp costs.

That measure was adjusted a few years ago under Governor Jerry Brown to insure that injured workers were not deprived of just compensation for on-the-job injuries while still protecting employers’ expenses. Yet, here we are again facing a rising cost that could jeopardize job and economic growth.

The situation is not to the point that it was a decade ago – yet. According to the survey conducted by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, California worker’s comp costs are $3.48 per $100 of payroll. In 2003, the year before the compromise bill was passed, worker’s comp cost $4.81 per $100 of payroll with costs projected to rise to a staggering $6.50 per $100 of payroll by 2006.

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Local Government Fiscal Early Warning Systems: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

Marc Joffe
Marc Joffe, Principal Consultant at Public Sector Credit Solutions

Two years ago, Treasurer Bill Lockyer called for an early warning system to detect signs of financial trouble in California local governments before they faced bankruptcy. By proactively identifying at-risk cities, the system could create an opening for local experts and external advisors to intervene before any given situation spun out of control. As the California Policy Center (CPC) showed earlier this month, such a system is possible, and it can be built from components already available to the State Controller’s Office (SCO). So, while the state does not yet have an early warning system, incoming Controller Betty Yee will have the raw materials to implement one.

For the CPC study, we gathered audited financial statements from over 490 California cities and counties. All but the very smallest local governments are required to produce financial statements for bond investors and/or the federal government. The statements follow Governmental Accounting Standards and include an opinion from an independent accounting firm. These audits are also filed with SCO, which provides lists of current and delinquent filers on its single audit status web page.

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Socio-Economic Disparities in California Schools

Autumn Carter
Executive Director, California Common Sense

Among other points, the latest analysis from California Common Sense — Concentrated Disadvantage in California Schools: The New Status Quo by Kimberly Ang — found that 72% of California students now attend schools in which the majority of students are socio-economically disadvantaged. That may surprise some of you. Among our team, it seems to run counter to many of the common narratives we hear about the distribution of disadvantaged schools: that socio-economic challenges are largely isolated among a few needy schools or that those schools and districts mainly exist in extremely urban or rural areas.

Here are the brief’s four main findings:

  • Concentrated disadvantage among students is the norm, not the exception.
  • Disadvantage affects districts in all regions statewide, and the highest levels occur in urban LA County and throughout the rural Central Valley.
  • Average student performance is strongly tied to socio-economic disadvantage. Even top performing students in high-disadvantage districts underperform compared to the worst performing students in low-disadvantage districts.
  • The state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding increases will supplement high-need school districts, but it is unknown what proportion of funds will go directly to classrooms.
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U.S. Senate 2016: Why John Chiang is a Top-Tier Democrat to Replace Barbara Boxer (Part 1)

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

We haven’t certified the 2014 election results, which can only mean one thing:

It’s time to start looking at the 2016 election.

All the buzz is that California’s 74-year-old U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer is retiring in 2016. She’s got less than $150,000 in the bank. If she doesn’t raise money fast, she’ll be vulnerable to an intra-party challenge from an ambitious Democrat-in-waiting. Paging Ro Khanna.

As far back as 2011, reporters have been setting the stage for the inevitable “Kamala vs. Gavin” showdown for either governor or U.S. Senate.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re on a collision course for running for governor in 2018,” Democratic consultant Garry South told the L.A. Times earlier this year.

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Results Are In! Voters Stayed Away.

John Cox
California-based Businessman and Former Illinois Republican Official

The recently completed election in California was more than just a wave election.  It was a watershed in a trend that has been building for the past several decades; the exit of the informed and interested voter.

Sure, there was a lot of political discussion.  Nonstop chatter on the cable news shows.  Tons of political ads blasting at viewers.  Mail pieces filling the mailbox.  At the end of the day, not much of a change, despite ample evidence that the public has little confidence in their elected leaders.  The light turnout is blamed on a lack of competitive races but is this a self fulfilling prophecy?

Look at the results of this last election here in California.  There were 100 state legislative seats up for election – the entire Assembly of 80 members and half the Senate’s 40 members.  Of those ‘competitions’ – as we used to think of elections – about 10 of them were in play between two reasonably competitive candidates.  The rest were either cakewalks or exhibited no opposition to speak of.  A total of only about 4 million votes were tallied for these legislative races.  This, for a legislative body more than a majority of citizens feels is dysfunctional. 

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“Unfinished Business”: Chuck Reed’s Just Getting Started On Pension Reform

Heidi Siegmund Cuda
Former Investigative Producer for Fox 11 News in Los Angeles and the Creator and Host of the Economic Series, "Saving the California Dream." She is currently directing a film on the nation's public pension crisis.

All Chuck Reed needs is $25 million, and that’s all he needs.

“For me, it’s unfinished business,” says Reed, the outgoing mayor of San Jose, California. “I’m stubborn, persistent, whatever you want to call it.”

He’s talking about his plans for a statewide pension reform initiative in 2016; the $25 million is the cost of taking the message to the streets. While some observers may have thought he’d abandoned reform after his abortive 2014 attempt, Reed says he’s just getting warmed up.

“The fight will continue,” he says. “I’m going to work on fiscal reform issues, on the state and national level.”

For Reed, it’s personal.

“The problem is still threatening my city,” he says. “Retirement costs continue to go up, and this year the costs ate up all my revenue.”

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Fracking Safety — NY Times vs LA Times, Yet Again

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

The fracking revolution continues to unfold in a half-dozen states around the nation, with enormous benefits to all Americans. A New York Times analysis Friday laid out the particulars:

The steepening drop in gasoline prices in recent weeks — spurred by soaring domestic energy production and Saudi discounts for crude oil at a time of faltering global demand — is set to provide the United States economy with a multibillion-dollar boost through the holiday season and beyond.

The windfall, experts say, comes at a critical moment, with the American economy on the upswing but facing headwinds from other quarters, including weaker exports because of slow growth overseas. Gas prices recently dropped below $3 a gallon for the first time since 2010, while crude oil prices have fallen by more than $25 a barrel since midsummer, settling on Thursday just above $74.

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The Progressives’ War on Suburbia

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

You are a political party, and you want to secure the electoral majority. But what happens, as is occurring to the Democrats, when the damned electorate that just won’t live the way—in dense cities and apartments—that you have deemed is best for them?

This gap between party ideology and demographic reality has led to a disconnect that not only devastated the Democrats this year, but could hurt them in the decades to come. University of Washington demographer Richard Morrill notes that the vast majority of the 153 million Americans who live in metropolitan areas with populations of more than 500,000 live in the lower-density suburban places Democrats think they should not. Only 60 million live in core cities.

Despite these realities, the Democratic Party under Barack Obama has increasingly allied itself with its relatively small core urban base. Simply put, the party cannot win—certainly not in off-year elections—if it doesn’t score well with suburbanites. Indeed, Democrats, as they retreat to their coastal redoubts, have become ever more aggressively anti-suburban, particularly in deep blue states such as California.  “To minimize sprawl” has become a bedrock catchphrase of the core political ideology.

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