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A Republican in Santa Monica: Is Top Two an Antidote to “Rational Ignorance”?

Pete Peterson
Candidate (R) for California Secretary of State, and Executive Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy

My good friend, Joe Mathews, has thrown a couple gauntlets at my feet (here and here) regarding my support of the Top Two. In one piece, he cites the results of Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review (some form of which I’d like to see here), and in a second, he indicates that Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor has been harmed by it. At the foundation of Joe’s arguments is the issue about which we are both most concerned: the Top Two’s (Open Primary) effects on civic participation.

Readers should take a look at the tremendous “work product” fashioned by a group of “regular” Oregonians invited into a policy discussion about a complex political reform, as it outlines the real trade-off’s involved. While not determinative of a measure’s outcome, the Review is incorporated into Oregon’s Voter Information Guide to provide voters with an “informed citizen’s view” of a particular ballot initiative.

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Everyone Was For The Free Speech Movement—For Awhile

Robert Naylor
President of Robert W Naylor Advocacy and Former Assembly Minority Leader

It was autumn 1964 in Berkeley, in a small apartment just a few blocks from Sproul Hall, when I found myself interviewing Mario Savio, the embattled leader of the Free Speech Movement.   I was editor in chief of the Stanford Daily and sent staff reporters to Berkeley almost every day for months.  This was one of my days.

Savio was shaving and getting ready for a press conference.  His apartment was abuzz with excitement and activity because of his sudden effectiveness at grabbing the attention of the inept UC Berkeley administration.  He did not look much like a campus radical—in fact, no one did then.  He had curly hair that was not particularly long.  His clothes were rumpled but pretty conventional middle class.  He was polite, low key and not given to colorful language.  At least until he stood on top of mob-encircled police vehicles.

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Bankruptcy Judge: CalPERS Pensions Can Be Cut


A federal judge ruled yesterday that CalPERS pensions can be cut in bankruptcy like other debt. He rejected the argument that the giant system is an “arm of the state” with pensions protected by federal law and two state laws on contracts and liens.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein, who has called the issue of whether CalPERS pensions can be cut in bankruptcy a “festering sore,” delayed until Oct. 30 a ruling on whether Stockton can exit bankruptcy without cutting pensions.

Stockton does not want to cut pensions, arguing they are needed to be a competitive employer, particularly for police. The city reached agreements with three bond insurers owed $265 million, all labor unions, retirees and other major creditors.

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Mr. President, Please Stop Visiting California

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)

Bad news: President Obama is coming to California again.

Mr. President, I realize such a statement may seem jarring to you and your strongest supporters. After all, our state (and this columnist) voted for you twice, and you and California are a near-perfect match on the issues. Heck, when you were first running for president, Maria Shriver said, “If Barack Obama were a state, he’d be California.”

A presidential visit to the biggest and most important state in the nation–3,000 miles away from the capital–ought to be an occasion to be anticipated, a moment of connection. But these days, I bet I could rally a majority of my fellow Californians for a proposition asking that you never visit again. And I wouldn’t have to talk about your recent political troubles or your record-low job approval ratings among Californians.

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Surprising Follow-up to my Washington Post Article (It’s not about California Politics)

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

No California politics or business today. Rather this is the story of what happened after the Washington Post put up my article last week about my family’s travels almost two decades ago to a place in Luxembourg where my father saw action during World War II.

battleofbulgeThe article, which I wrote for a Smithsonian and Zocalo Public Square co-sponsored project entitled What it Means to be an American, was published a week ago Monday. You can find here. It dealt with my travels to Wiltz, Luxembourg with a goal to visit a World War II museum dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge in that town. My father, Tec 4 Sargent Harry Fox, earned his Bronze Star fighting around the town.

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The Non-Election Election

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

What if they called an election and nobody came?  That seems to be the story this November.  Turnout for the June primary, just 25 percent of registered voters, was the lowest in history.  The November turnout will probably not surpass 45 percent, also an historic low.

Many analysts assume that this lower turnout bodes well for Republicans but in fact the significant drop-off between this year’s primary and the comparable non-presidential year primary in 2010 seems to have been among Republican voters.

In the 2010 primary, 45 percent of registered Republicans cast a ballot for governor compared to 32 percent of registered Democrats.  In raw totals, the GOP primary vote nearly equaled the Democratic vote.  This year only 33 percent of Republicans cast a ballot for governor compared to 31 percent of Democrats.  Interestingly, the Democratic raw vote total in 2014, 2,392,000 votes cast for governor, was nearly equal to the Democratic votes cast in vote 2010, 2,395,000.  But the Republican vote fell from 2,377,000 in 2010 to just 1,684,000 in 2014, a drop of 693,000. 

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Majorities Favor State Government Downsizing

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

The recent PPIC Statewide Survey offers an early snapshot of voters’ choices as we enter the November election cycle. The majority support for Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection and the Proposition 1 state water bond was widely cited in the media last week. But the poll also reveals surprising news about the voters’ overall mood this year: by a wide margin, likely voters would rather pay lower taxes and have a state government that provides fewer services (53%) than pay higher taxes and have a state government that provides more services (41%).

What is so special about this finding? We have been observing a slow but steady rise in the preference for lower taxes and fewer services since November 2012—when voters approved the Proposition 30 tax increase. In the 24 times since we first asked this question in our February 2003 poll, the preference for lower taxes and fewer services has usually been below 50 percent. Moreover, this preference has never exceeded 55 percent, placing the current reading close to the historic high.

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The Plastic Bag Referendum and the Connection to the Sec. of State Race

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

If the referendum filed to overturn SB 270, the plastic bag ban law signed by Governor Brown yesterday, makes the ballot arguments against the ban will deal with lost manufacturing jobs and charging consumers 10-cents for paper bags that grocers’ pocket. Those arguments should be highlighted during the signature drive and later in the campaign if the referendum qualifies.

But is there a chance that the referendum effort will bleed into the state’s Secretary of State’s race?

The Secretary of State’s office has nothing to do with implementing the new law.

But in another era, the Secretary of State’s office had nothing to do with outlawing pay toilets especially for women. However, Oakland Assembly woman March Fong Eu rode that issue into the statewide office in 1975. She held the position of Secretary of State for 20 years.

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Gov. Brown Rebuilds Redevelopment

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

Reversing his 2011 abolition of redevelopment, on Monday Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that will revive it, Senate Bill 628 and Assembly Bill 229. He also vetoed a third redevelopment measure, AB2280, he believed went too far by codifying an anti-poverty program into redevelopment law.

Property rights advocates opposed the trio of  bills as bringing back eminent domain abuses and taxpayer-funded corporate handouts.

“Since redevelopment’s abolishment in 2011, the Redevelopment Lobby has been advocating for a replacement that would bring politically connected developers back to the public money trough,” said Nick Mirman, a grassroots activist with the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, an influential property rights group that recently released a radio ad campaign against the measures. “If signed, these redevelopment bills will invite a return to the era of rampant eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare.”

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The Days of Awe

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

We are currently in the Days of Awe, the 10 day period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a time of repentance, prayer, and charity. It directs us to a form of charity or good deeds relevant to our employment world today.

daysofaweIn repentance, prayer and charity, we are to take an active role. In repentance (“teshuvah”) , we are to ask forgiveness for our sins not only from God but from those we have wronged.  Yom Kippur atones for sins between man and God. For sins against others, we must seek them out and seek reconciliation with them directly. In prayer (“tefilah”) , we are to engage in introspection of our actions: how much of what we are doing has meaning and how much is driven by vanity and self-importance. Most of all, in charity (“tzedakah”), we are to  take actions that benefit others directly, not engaging in  abstraction or ideology.

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