Union Grip on California’s Government Still Stronger than Ever

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

Before anyone gets out the balloons and starts celebrating the Harris vs. Quinn decision too much, step back, sober up, and reflect on the scope of what happened, and where it puts us in this war. To use a WWII analogy, we just won the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe no longer dominates the skies over London. That’s significant. This is, perhaps, as Churchill once said, “the end of the beginning.” But from Al Alamein to Stalingrad to the Beaches of Normandy, our ultimate destiny still hangs in the balance.

To carry this metaphor further, California today might be compared to Nazi occupied Europe in 1941, where the possibility of liberation was years in the future, if ever. While across America the forces of freedom celebrate what is indeed a strategic victory, in California, an occupying army continues to build their own 21st century version of Fortress Europa.

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Thinking About the Idea of America on July 4th

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

To honor America on its 238th birthday we offer a short clip of the singer Bono speaking to a Georgetown University audience about the idea of America.

Fox and Hounds will take off tomorrow, July 4th and begin publishing again on Monday July 7th. Happy 4th.

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Cost of Energy Big Political Issue in CA

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

Yesterday, on this site we ran a column by Joel Kotkin saying that the fight over the types of energy sources will have a profound effect on national elections in November. While California is certainly involved in that larger picture, the actual cost of energy will be a focus in California as well. With cap-and-trade fees threatening to boost energy costs, threats of oil taxes, a fight over oil and gas drilling by hydraulic fracturing in this state and the general increase of gasoline prices from multiple causes, the cost of energy is swiftly rising up the political issues ladder.

Whether the energy costs are a determinate in California elections is uncertain but the potential is certainly there.

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SB 1253 and Our Next Secretary of State

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

While responses to SB 1253 (“Ballot Initiative Transparency Act”) range from the disappointed to the ecstatic and everywhere in the middle, what can’t be disputed is this: our next Secretary of State is going to be pretty busy for at least the next four years.

Along with the multiple challenges currently miring the office – from the delayed VoteCal voter database implementation to the still-antiquated Cal-Access campaign finance system to business registration problems – the Legislature has piled on more responsibilities in reaction to the legitimate concerns we Californians have about how our hallowed initiative and referendum process is conducted. In so doing, they have further defined the type of person who should be leading this vital agency as it has lurched into the 21st century.

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Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

As our country celebrates its 238th birthday this Friday, we look back in appreciation of the brave men and women who shaped our country and sacrificed to preserve the ideals of our democracy, one of which is the ability for Americans to vote in secret ballot.

This basic tenet of our society protects our ability to make decisions based on whatever conclusion our minds, hearts and souls may reach before punching a ballot. From our vote for President of the United States to an elementary school vote for student council, the secret ballot allows us to vote without fear of political retaliation or bullying on the playground by people who disagree with us.

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How Fireworks Divide 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)

If you venture out to Fourth of July weekend events around California, you’ll probably hear high talk about how Independence Day is a celebration of the things we Americans supposedly have in common: the same rights and freedoms and equality under the same laws.

Yeah, right—and I’m Thomas Jefferson.

If you want to know what the Fourth—and this nutty country—are really all about, head to the intersection of Huntington Drive and Alhambra Road in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley. There, at the southeast corner, in front of Cheney’s Tropic Liquor and the 99 Cent Store, you’ll find a fireworks stand—one of hundreds that go up across California for a week each year.

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Teacher Tenure Ruling Should Inspire Republican Reforms

Mark Vafiades
Chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County

The recent court decision essentially invalidating teacher tenure has unleashed a virtual torrent of reaction from all sides and every side – as well it should.

This is because while there are many crucial and compelling public policy issues, only a select few are truly the permanent issues that touch all of our lives. Education is on that short list.

And yet, for seemingly as long as any of us can remember, issues relating to students, teachers and curriculum have been attached to withering public arguments fueled by political organizing and powered by hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending – practically all of it from the educational establishment that runs the public school structure as we know it.

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California’s New Republican Boss

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Neel Kashkari is the Republican candidate for governor because of the efforts of a mild mannered, bow-tied Stanford University physicist named Charles Munger Jr.  Munger is also responsible for the defeat and retirement of several powerful California members of Congress, and he is the major funding source keeping the California Republican Party afloat.  Not bad for a guy almost no one has ever heard of.

Munger has become the major funding source for a moribund and nearly broke state GOP, investing some $2 million in favored candidates this spring alone.  The obviously wealthy physicist did not make this money as a Stanford professor, but through the very good luck of the being the son of Charles Munger Sr., senior partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway.  The 90-year-old senior Munger ranks number 1,432 on the Forbes list of world billionaires.

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Making it Easier to Reach LAX

Kevin Klowden
Managing Economist at the Milken Institute and Director of its California Center

On Thursday, June 26th, the Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors committed the agency to building an intermodal light rail, bus and tramway station to actually serve Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This is a significant development for Los Angeles, for a number of reasons. It not only affects quality of life issues for the city residents by providing easier car-free access to the airport and taking drivers off of city roads, but it also transforms the experience for visitors to the city from a clogged, backwards central terminal area to, one hopes, a smooth transition to mass transit and a consolidated car rental facility. Ever since the failure to reach an agreement for the Metro Green Line to reach LAX in the early 1990s, it has been readily apparent to both residents and visitors that Los Angeles has missed a key element that is considered being part of a world class city: the ability to use rail to reach a major airport.

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Why Controller Matters

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)

State controller – like most of the down-ticket executive offices in California – should be an appointed position, not an elected position. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

It’s an important position. The duties include being the state’s chief fiscal officer, maintaining control on all receipts, payments and balances in state funds; monitoring bonded indebtedness; reporting on the financial condition of the state; apportioning revenues to local governments; serving on more than 70 boards and commissions (including the Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, CalPERS, and CalSTRS); conducting audits and reviews of state operations.

Didn’t realize the controller did all that? Well, powerful interests in California didn’t want you to know. They’ve been successful at electing competent officials to the job who won’t use their power to rock the boat.

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