L.A. Mayor is a Life Sentence

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 speculation about Mayor Eric Garcetti’s political future is entertaining—will he run for governor in 2018, or in 2022, or for U.S. Senate when Dianne Feinstein retires? But it’s laughable.

Doesn’t everyone know Garcetti is the mayor of Los Angeles?

The world is full of change and uncertainty, but there is one immutable law of California politics: the mayoralty of Los Angeles is a dead-end job.

L.A. has been the state’s largest city for approaching a century, and not one of its mayors has been elected governor. L.A.’s greatest mayor, Tom Bradley, came close in 1982. And statewide office has been next to impossible.

Why, you ask? Well, why do they chant “Beat L.A.” in ballparks from San Francisco to San Diego? It’s not because our fellow Californians love L.A. or us Angelenos.

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Why California’s Dams are Breaking

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Here’s a study you may find interesting:

Among all states, California spends the lowest percent of its budget on infrastructure, according to a report last year from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Golden State invested only 3.3 percent of its budget in 2013 on infrastructure, one of only three states that spent less than 4 percent. Texas, the most comparable state in size and population, spent almost twice as much at 6.4 percent.

We can easily see the result of this neglect. California’s roads and bridges are among the worst in the country, and the Oroville dam’s two spillways, when finally called upon to work in February, were quickly rendered useless, creating the potential for a devastating flood.

Incredibly, the state was warned in 2005 that the emergency spillway at Oroville was totally inadequate. Three environmental groups pointed out that because the spillway is a hill of bare dirt and not covered in concrete, that dirt would quickly erode as soon as water hit it, creating a potential lake-draining catastrophe. And that is exactly what happened, forcing officials to evacuate nearly 200,000 people downstream.

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Reckless Bill to Repeal Limits on Rent-Control will make Housing Crisis Worse

Susan Shelley
Columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, "How Trump Won."

One of the more depressing tricks employed by people who favor more government control of everything is this: Put government controls on a business, which causes problems, and then use the problems as a justification for more government controls.

It’s like trying to reverse a case of alcohol poisoning with a jug of moonshine.

Nowhere is the “here, drink this,” cure more discouraging than in the housing market. Just recently, Assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and two co-sponsors introduced AB 1506, a bill to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

The Costa-Hawkins Act put statewide limits on the rent-control ordinances that local governments are allowed to enact. The law, passed in 1995, prohibited rent control on newly constructed residential housing starting in 1999. It also guaranteed owners of rent-controlled buildings the right to raise the rent to market rate for new tenants when former tenants moved out voluntarily.

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The Crime Issue Rises

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

The murder of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer and the big increase of property crimes have highlighted growing concern over the consequences of recent legislation and ballot measures that have opened prison doors. The crime issue, so powerful in the final decades of the last century, is rising again in the public consciousness.

In the 1980s and 1990s, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson captured the governor’s office in part because of their strong anti-crime agendas. The three-strikes law was passed at the time and Wilson supported a number of ballot measures tagged as tough on crime.

In a Sacramento Bee op-ed published before the last election Wilson wrote, “The three strikes initiative approved in 1994 and other sensible crime control laws prevented millions of Californians from becoming crime victims. It would be gross dereliction of duty to discard laws that have provided us protection of such proven effectiveness.”

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L.A. Is Too Good to Host the 2024 Olympics

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)

Los Angeles should drop its bid for the 2024 Olympics—before it gets chosen.

It’s true that Paris has long been the favorite to be awarded the games during an upcoming vote in September. The Paris bid has broad international support, the City of Light has come close to winning the games in recent bids, and sentiment is on its side. 2024 would be the 100th anniversary of the last Olympics in Paris, the 1924 Games portrayed in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.

But the contest is changing. All other contenders for 2024 have now dropped out (Budapest hung on the longest before bailing last month), leaving just L.A. and Paris. And after reviewing documents from and about both bids, it looks to me that L.A. has the superior bid, with greater public support, stronger management (led by two of L.A.’s most skilled civic operators, Casey Wasserman and Gene Sykes) and a better plan for producing an exciting event without the organizational meltdowns and cost overruns of previous Olympics.

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A Modest Proposal for California from a Public Servant

Ed Ring
Ed Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

When I see someone attacking the benefits the Fire Department receives or the Police Department receives, my concern is: Why wouldn’t you expect the same for yourself? We should act as a beacon.”
—Mike Mohun, president of the San Ramon Firefighters Union, quoted in the New York Times, March 2, 2017

There are many compelling reasons to examine this statement by Mr. Mohun, since pension benefits for state and local government workers are consuming ever increasing percentages of tax revenue. For starters, using the term “attack” is unfair. More accurate might be “counter-attack,” since the costs for these pensions are what has become extreme, not our reaction. If these pensions were financially sustainable, California’s citizens would not be under attack by continuously escalating taxes, and continuously diminishing public services.

But why shouldn’t we expect the same for ourselves? This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable statement. Perhaps to evaluate the reasonableness of Mohan’s idea, let’s examine the benefits received by retirees in the San Ramon Valley Fire District.

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Valid voter fraud complaints in California? Dozens, not millions

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

With President Donald Trump alleging serious voter fraud in California, and the state’s top election official calling his claim untrue, how much voter fraud is actually under investigation in the Golden State?

Not much—certainly not enough to sway the election, in which California voters chose Hillary Clinton over Trump by 4.3 million votes.

And while the California Secretary of State is investigating some cases of potential fraud, not a single case opened last year involves allegations of voting by an immigrant who is in the country illegally—a stark contrast to the picture painted by Trump.

The Secretary of State received 948 election-related complaints in 2016, according to its response to a CALmatters’ Public Records Act request. The office determined that more than half (525) did not merit criminal investigation. Of the remaining complaints, 140 are still being screened, 194 were non-criminal problems referred to local officials, and 89 triggered investigations by the Secretary of State.

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The American Health Care Act: Refocusing Medicaid for those Most in Need

Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader, United States Congress

Skylar Overman was born with abnormal clefts in her brain. At only 10 years old, her condition—schizencephaly—is getting worse. As a disabled minor, Skylar qualifies for Medicaid, and a Medicaid waiver for home care would help her family as they struggle to pay mounting health care costs.

But by last count, Skylar was number 754 on the wait list for a waiver.

How did this happen? Medicaid is meant for people like Skylar, but Obamacare’s perverse incentives flooded Medicaid with more people than the system can handle.


Medicaid for those Most in Need

In their attempt to increase health care coverage, Democrats provided in Obamacare massive incentives for states to expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults above the poverty line. Instead of helping these people to afford private insurance, Obamacare overstretched Medicaid. As a result, the gaps in Medicaid became chasms, leaving the poor, the sick, and the disabled behind.

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LA Election Results: the Establishment Wins

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

In an era when populist uprisings have brought surprising election results nationally and internationally, the opposite was true in the Los Angeles elections yesterday. The establishment held its ground as most incumbents, led by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s overwhelming victory, retained their seats and the powers-that-be held sway on high profile city and county ballot measures.

Garcetti brushed aside 10 challengers by capturing over 80% of the vote, a one-sided result that sets him up for a possible run for higher office. Compare Garcetti’s finish to that of his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who faced nine little known challenges in his 2009 re-election bid and managed to avoid a run-off election by scoring 55% of the vote.

The former L.A. mayor is a candidate for governor of California, a seat Garcetti is rumored to covet. Should Garcetti use his landslide win to vault into the governor’s race that could complicate matters for Villaraigosa. However, having both the current and most recent mayors of California’s biggest city in the same contest could undermine both men when the field will offer a contingent of well-known candidates.

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Could the Housing Shortage Produce Another Supermajority?

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)

Housing affordability in California is worse than it’s ever been, according to statistics and state officials.

And the housing crisis is making other things worse.

In an example of how bad housing policy begets bad, consider new legislation proposed by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from L.A.

Santiago is rightfully frustrated with how cities and counties have passed measures to slow or freeze development in their communities. Such development restrictions can pass locally on a simple majority. And they add to the cost and difficulty of building housing – and buying and renting housing. California now has a median housing price more than 2 ½ times the national average.

But Santiago’s legislation would cure the California housing disease with the California governing disease.

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