Thoughts About the California Presidential Primary

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

With the withdrawal of California’s junior Senator Kamala Harris from the presidential race, the state will not have a “favorite daughter” on the ballot in March.

Hers was a strategic decision as much as a financial imperative after a steep decline in her ability to raise funds with the all-important Iowa Caucus looming in less than 4 weeks where most candidates are focusing their resources.

Given the growing likelihood of a poor showing in the traditional first-in-the-nation presidential contest which carries considerable weight a bad loss there would have effectively ended her campaign. It was a risk the Harris forces wisely rejected.

Taking a leaf from President Obama’s winning playbook in both 2008 and 2012, the idea was to hold on long enough to capture the South Carolina primary a few weeks later in a state which offers a far more diverse demographic including a very large African-American voter population.

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Abolishing Single-Family-Only Zoning Expands Freedom and Choice

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

A bedrock principle of conservatism is that individuals should be allowed to live as they please free from the overly meddlesome dictates of regulators. Another conservative mainstay is a belief in property rights—the right to do largely what we choose in our homes and on our land. When it comes to zoning issues, however, many conservatives have become “but” heads. They believe in freedom and markets, “but” not in their neighborhoods.

The latest debate centers on efforts by some states to outlaw single-family zoning—a move opponents depict as a nearly totalitarian plot to force everyone out of their picket-fenced homes into “stack-and-pack” subsidized-housing projects. The critiques have gotten overheated after Oregon recently passed a bill to eliminate this type of zoning. Virginia also began considering a similar plan.

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Governor’s Homeless Proposal is All Wrong

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

As sure as California has an exploding homeless problem, it’s almost a certainty that our state and local leaders – elected and otherwise – don’t have a clue as how to deal with it.  To wit, Joel Fox, in this space recently, conducted an excellent examination of Governor Newsom’s pre-budget plan to spend nearly $1.5 billion to build housing for homeless individuals.  To that I add this critique:  It’s a pointless plan.  Primarily because for most street people shelter is not what is most needed.  Help with their mental illness maladies or abuse of both drugs and alcohol is.  An investment in treatment would be a better use of the money.

Building more emergency shelters is the only smart thing about the Governor’s proposal.  In many instances, emergency shelters make sense.  And, there is a serious shortage of them in the state, for sure.  So, state dollars to build more is a good thing, so long as the sponsors work with tenants before rulemaking.

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Legal Obligation on Homelessness Must Include All Parties to the Issue

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

The governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors called for a legal obligation for local governments to provide housing for the homeless under the threat of penalties. But, it should not be just the local governments that are held accountable under such a legal mandate. The homeless themselves must cooperate in such a program and the accountability measures must protect taxpayers who will be called on to fund any expanded housing program.

Simply put, under a legal mandate for obligating local governments to fund increased housing for the homeless, the homeless must accept that housing—a step in the “right to shelter” debate requiring government to build housing while also requiring the homeless to use that housing the governor’s homeless advisors did not take in their recommendations. Further, if the taxpayers spend money to make more housing a reality—something understood must happen in the recommendations that were made—then the mandated accountability should not punish taxpayers.

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Can Steyer Be Stopped?

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 Californian in the race is gaining.

Tom Steyer has surged in polls in early state polls. In South Carolina, he’s second, and he’s gaining fast in Nevada.

Why? He’s spent more than $100 million on TV ads, raising his name recognition. And yet he’s not seen as a real contender, so there is relatively little critical coverage of him.

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Governor Newsom’s Bad First Year

Corrin Rankin
President, Legacy Republican Alliance

Nearly anyone who has watched Governor Gavin Newsom would agree he’s a good public speaker. He often talks about California’s great economy and diversity, and eloquently conveys the bold ideas he believes the state should embrace. He speaks of dreamers, doers and courageous risk-takers.

Sadly, there is a dichotomy between what Gov. Newsom says and what he actually does. 

Looking across that divide, we see that Gavin Newsom’s first year as governor was a disastrous one for far too many Californians.

In summary of his first year – “On the Record with Governor Newsom: One Year of California for All” – he mentions repealing the sales-and-use tax on diapers. What he failed to mention was that he misled the bill’s authors on an important detail he buried inside the bill. 

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New Year Brings More Frustrations

Stuart Waldman
President, Valley Industry & Commerce Association

Few people would accuse me of being sentimental, but if there’s ever a time for it, it’s the first week of January.

The holidays are over and the cracks in our economy, disguised during the December rush, are showing again. A few weeks ago, we got word that Corky’s, open for over 60 years and a San Fernando Valley icon, closed. Last month, two other Valley restaurant owners told me privately that 2020 will be their last.

I’m not concerned simply for nostalgia’s sake. If the times are a-changin’, then fine. I can change with them, find new Saturday morning routines for my family, enjoy emerging small businesses, look forward to the future.

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For Small Business, the Governor’s Budget Giveth and Taketh Away

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

While recognizing the emergence of an evolving economy and new ways of working, Governor Gavin Newsom’s second budget both promotes and raises obstacles to these circumstances.

With all the news about spending increases in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed record $222 billion budget introduced Friday, there is a nugget buried in the document for reduced revenue–a tax cut for small businesses.  

Labeling small businesses “a major engine of economic growth in California,” the governor’s budget proposes a first year exemption for the $800 minimum tax paid by limited liability companies, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships.  He wants to encourage entrepreneurs to set up shop in California. With state spending increasing over $7 billion dollars from last year, the one-year projected revenue loss of $100 million will hardly be felt.

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Is the Budget Presser Over Yet?

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 soon as I go out and defend Gov. Newsom against charges that he’s too unfocused, he goes out and gives a press conference like that.

I’ll admit I didn’t make it to the end of Newsom’s presser to introduce the budget. It started at 10:30am, and the Twitter broadcast link went out on me at 12:10p (goodness I miss the CalChannel), as he started to take questions. It went on so long that I wondered if I should call hostage negotiators or a SWAT team to free my journalist friends who were stuck in there.

That’s right. Newsom talked for more than an hour and a half about his budget without taking questions. He also wasn’t reading; he seems to have the budget document close to memorized. 

He touched on very small items, and made various asides, not at all flattering to himself, about everything from his dyslexia to why he would not be telling reporters the full truth about various things. 

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Governor’s Proposed Budget is Here

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

Last Friday, Governor Newsom released a budget proposal for the next fiscal year for the legislature’s consideration. Our comments on the principal spending items of interest to the Govern For California Network are below:

Reserves. We are pleased the governor proposes to use much of a projected budget surplus* to build additional reserves. Because California’s tax revenue is dependent on personal income taxes that are derived in significant part from volatile investment gains, tax revenues are hostage to stock and other investment markets that have been on the rise for more than a decade. When that music stops — and it always does — the negative consequences for California’s budget will be enormous. As the governor makes clear, even $20 billion is just a fraction of those consequences. Until the state adopts a more stable revenue generation system, hefty reserves are the best defense. We would add even more.

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