North-South Rivalry Alive Over Brown’s Big Projects

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

California’s historic north/south rivalry appears to be writing a new chapter over Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed big legacy projects: the bullet train and delta tunnels.

The rivalry is sure to heat up over both a report that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is reconsidering running the bullet train route north to San Jose before heading south to Burbank as was originally planned, while efforts intensify to stop the tunnels and prevent more water flowing south.

In the Los Angeles Times account of the possible switch of the rail plan, reporter Ralph Vartbedian noted, “With the project already behind schedule and facing estimates of higher costs, the Bay Area option could offer a faster, less risky and cheaper option. Getting even a portion of the project built early would help its political survival.”

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Quit the Legislature, Pay to Elect Your Successor

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)

C’mon, Henry, pay up.

Assemblyman Henry Perea’s decision to quit the legislature early to take a presumably higher-paying job has sparked ideas about what to do in such situations. No one likes the costly, low-turnout special elections currently required. Some say the governor or the legislature itself should fill such positions. I believe it’s an argument for having voters cast ballots for party lists, instead of individual politicians.

In the meantime, there’s a strong case that politician who quits early for money should have to pay for any special election. George Skelton put it simply: “Require the deserting lawmaker to pay for the special election he caused.”

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Gas Taxes and Roads

Scott Lay
Higher education Lobbyist and Publisher of The Nooner

There’s an interesting debate in Sacramento right now about how to pay for needed highway repairs. It’s universally agreed upon that our roads are not in great shape. Anyone who has driven to Reno from Sacramento knows when they cross into The Silver State, not by the “Welcome to Nevada” sign, but rather the condition of the highway.

Sure, there are some high-profile projects–widening of the 405 in LA and the addition of carpool lanes to I-80 in Sacramento. However, the regular maintenance and projects on lower-profile roadways has declined. 

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In Southern California, It Takes An Assortment Of Villages

Joel Kotkin is Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential Fellow in urban futures at Chapman University. Charlie Stephens is a researcher and MBA candidate at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics and founder of substrand.com.

Among urban historians, Southern California has often had a poor reputation, perennially seen as “anti-cities” or “19 suburbs in search of a metropolis.” The great urban thinker Jane Jacobs wrote off our region as “a vast blind-eyed reservation.”

The Pavlovian response from many local planners, developers and politicians is to respond to this criticism by trying to repeal our own geography. Los Angeles’ leaders, for example, see themselves as creating the new sunbelt role model, built around huge investments Downtown and in an expensive, albeit underused, subway and light-rail network.

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A State of the Budget Address

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)

Forgive this personal note, but I want to thank Gov. Jerry Brown for, finally, taking my advice.

He’s given up on giving a State of the State speech annually—much as I suggested a couple years ago.

Yes, he gave a speech with that title on Thursday morning in Sacramento. But the speech said nothing of consequence about the state. And it offered no narrative of what the state is becoming (a basic omission at a moment of great change in Californians) or vision for the future. At this point, contempt for big visions – beyond apocalyptic warnings about deficits and climate change – is a Brown hallmark.

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Notes on the State of the State Speech

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

Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t offer any new programs in his State of the State speech. Refreshing. His focus was on how we pay for the state’s current commitments.

Brown reviewed his budget talking points again on the uncertainty of economic future and the need for a strong Rainy Day Fund. No argument here.

He particularly noted that the budget reserve was necessary because of the way the California tax system is constructed. Heavy reliance on the income tax, which provides 70-percent of the state’s General Fund.

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Of Robot Cars & Dispensable Humans

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

Ok, call me a hopeless Neanderthal—a throwback to earlier times when steering wheels and brake pedals seemed like a reasonable idea for controlling a few thousand tons of steel hurtling down our streets and highways.

That could be changing with the advent of the robot car—an invention that might dispense with these handy devices we have traditionally considered of some importance for operating the current antique contraptions.

With computers taking charge, will a driver’s license become somewhat redundant? After all we have been sending people up to the moon for decades in giant space vehicles which can navigate extra-terrestrial routes with minimal need for pilot guidance.

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Is California’s Economy Swell?

Bill Watkins
Executive Director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University

Every now and then, something happens to cause California’s comfortable establishment to celebrate the state’s economy.  Recent budget surpluses and jobs data have provided several opportunities, never mind that these are hardly summary statistics.  They don’t tell the complete story.

The celebrants conveniently ignore California’s nation-leading poverty, huge inequality, persistent negative domestic migration, and the fact that with about 12 percent of the nation’s population, California is home to about 30 percent of the nation’s welfare recipients.

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A State of the State Speech Ripped from the Archives

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

Given Gov. Jerry Brown’s concern for excessive spending on new programs and his instance on maintaining budget reserves, here is a likely way he might begin his State of the State speech today:

“Fortunately we began the year with a sufficient surplus to weather the decline in state revenues…But we cannot easily disregard the lessons of other states where government actions far exceeded the available funds. Toward that end, I will work to maintain a prudent surplus as a hedge against an uncertain economy. 

It is simply not responsible to spend down to the last dollar in hopes the economy will simply grow and grow. That would be to ignore the cyclical nature of our system and do a disservice to those who would come to depend on programs that would have to be cut back in learner periods.

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Why Don’t Angelenos Trust Homegrown Talent?

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)

Last week, Michelle King was appointed superintendent of L.A. Unified, California’s largest school district. But can we really trust her to lead the Los Angeles schools? After all, she’s from Los Angeles.

Actually, that understates how suspiciously local King is. As a child, she attended L.A. Unified schools. Then she got degrees from UCLA and Pepperdine (and is even now working on a doctorate at USC). She has spent her 30-year career in the L.A. school system, as a science teacher, principal, and top deputy to the last two superintendents. Heck, she even sent three children to L.A. schools.

If she were any good, wouldn’t she have lived or worked someplace else?

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