Janus: the Beginning of the End of California’s Pension Crisis?

John Mirisch
Beverly Hills City Council Member and two-time former mayor

Cities in California are already starting to crash and burn because of an unsustainable pension system for public employees. With CalPERS expected to significantly raise rates cities are paying each year just to keep up with the liabilities, Oroville is just the latest example of a Californian city on the brink.

Thanks to the US Supreme Court, public sector unions could lose some of their power, which might – just might – open the door to real and lasting solutions to California’s pension crisis, unfortunately, probably too late for cities like Oroville.

At the root of the problem are the all-powerful Californian public employee unions who over the years have been able to use their political juice to get their members pensions and benefits that private-sector employees can only dream of – because they are simply unaffordable. Who, for example, in the private sector can retire at the age of 50 with 99% of her highest single-year salary for life (and with COLA increases built in)?

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KCET Fills Public Affairs Programming Gap in LA

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

Not enough local and state affairs find its way on television but Los Angeles’ independent public television station, KCET, works to fill the gap. Debuting this month on KCET will be two shows dedicated to local life in LA—the award winning SOCAL CONNECTED returns along with a new series, TOWN HALL.

While SOCAL CONNECTED is a weekly news magazine that reports on issues that affect Southern California and is shot in and around Los Angeles, the new TOWN HALL show, done in conjunction with the veteran public affairs organization, Town Hall Los Angeles, will consist of in-studio conversations with leaders to focus on California solutions to local, regional and even national concerns.

The shows are not designed to be political said long time host Val Zavala. However, because of the causes some of the guests champion, such as dealing with the poor or less advantaged, they can have a political bent.

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A California-Catalonia Secession Connection?

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)

In a year when protests against federal government has become as fashionable in California as board shorts, the protests on the last Saturday of September stood out.

They were for the right of Catalonian sovereignty.

Yes, that’s Cataloania, one of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions, home to 7.5 million people and the exquisite city of Barcelona. There was a highly disputed Oct. 1 referendum there on seeking independence from Spain. And the Spanish government moved aggressively to squelch it.

So why did it become an issue in California?

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Are We Ready For Legal Psychedelic Mushrooms?

Charles S Grob, MD
LA BioMed lead researcher and chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Kevin Saunders, a mayoral candidate in Marina, a town near Monterrey, recently filed a state ballot initiative to decriminalize mushrooms containing the psychedelic compound psilocybin.  Sensing a shift in public sentiment in the wake of California’s historic legalization of marijuana, scheduled to go into effect in early 2018,  Saunders was evidently also inspired because of his own personal experience using psilocybin mushrooms to overcome a heroin addiction.

While carefully controlled clinical trials have found benefits from laboratory synthesized psilocybin, the open use of psychedelic mushrooms poses far more potential complications than the legalization of marijuana. The knowledge of how to adequately control for safe outcomes with individuals who have consumed psilocybin remains limited to a handful of clinical investigators and an underground cohort of cultural aficionados of psychedelic mushrooms who have developed their own networks and systems of use.

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Why the Governor Should Veto SB 63

Chris Micheli
Attorney and Lobbyist at the Sacramento government relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

The business community supports and promotes family-friendly policies so long as these measures do not impose an undue financial or compliance burden upon businesses operating in this state. Unfortunately, SB 63 (Jackson) does not fit this mold. To make matters worse, last year Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill by the same author that would have provided a 6-week protected leave of absence for new parents. This year’s version doubles the amount of the protected leave and does not adequately address the Governor’s veto message.

California is recognized by the National Conference of State Legislatures as one of the most family-friendly states given its existing list of programs and protected leaves of absence. Moreover, in a recent study titled “The Status of Women in the States: 2015 Work & Family,” California was ranked No. 2 in the nation for work and family policies.

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Unusual Alliances Brought Success for L.A. School Construction

Joel Fox and Connie Rice
Joel Fox is editor and co-publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily. Connie Rice is a civil rights activist and lawyer; co-founder of the Advancement Project in Los Angeles.

At a time of toxic national polarization, a Los Angeles success story 20 years in the making was recently completed, because people with different political perspectives worked together to accomplish a goal — repair schools and build new schools efficiently and cost-effectively for L.A.’s students.

After a rocky start, the building of 131 new schools finally finished this year, 20 years after the passage of the first school construction bond, following decades of meager public support for school bonds.

But it took an unusual coalition of outsiders from different points on the political compass to make it happen.

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What is Farmworkers Union Hiding From? 

Hector Barajas
Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm.

United Farmworkers Union (UFW) president Arturo Rodriguez recently sent a letter to several agricultural organizations, elected officials, and water groups intended to bully the recipients into supporting an effort to disbar an attorney in a closely watched labor case, Jose Arias v. Anthony Raimondo. The letter made several unproven allegations about events surrounding the deportation of a dairy worker.

After an initial review of details in the letter, it is amazing what a job the UFW does trying to sell its allegations as facts.

Jose Arias v. Anthony Raimondo was dismissed in Federal District Court, appealed to the 9th Circuit, and returned to the District Court with an order to hold a court hearing. The case thus far hasn’t been tried or heard — neither the plaintiff, nor the defendant has yet had their day in court. 

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OC High Schools: Nowhere to Go But Up On Voter Registration 

Laura Brill
Laura W. Brill is an appellate and constitutional lawyer in Los Angeles.

Orange County set a participation record in the last presidential election, with more than 80% of registered voters casting ballots, the highest percentage in 40 years. High schools in the OC, however, are not setting any records on a key test of engaging young adults in the political process.

Students in California can pre-register to vote at age 16. That means that when they turn 18, they will automatically be able to vote in the next election.  Very few people know that the pre-registration option exists.  High schools, where 16-year-olds spend most of their days, generally do little or nothing to inform their students about pre-registration or to help them pre-register.

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California’s Shift to a March Primary Likely Dooms Top-Two System

Richard Winger
Editor of Ballot Access News

Governor Brown signed SB 568, which moves all of California’s partisan primaries from June to the first week in March, in midterm years as well as presidential years.  The change is effective after 2018.  Although much commentary about this bill has been published, there is little or no mention of the fact that a March primary for Congress and state office, in all election years, will very likely render the top-two system unconstitutional.

For almost 50 years, the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has been ruling that states cannot shut down all methods for getting on the November ballot in the spring and summer of election years.  But if SB 568 becomes law, there will be no means for a candidate (for congress or partisan state office) to get his or her name on the November ballot unless that candidate qualified by December of the year before the election.  That is because California doesn’t let anyone onto the November ballot who doesn’t place first or second in the primary.  And a March primary means candidates must qualify in December of the odd year before the election.

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Back to the Drawing Board on Wetlands for Water Board

Assemblyman Jim Patterson
Assembly Member Jim Patterson represents the 23rd District, which includes portions of Fresno and Tulare counties.

In California, nothing succeeds like success except — perhaps — failure.

Take as one case in point California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in the matter of wetlands management.

According to the SWRCB — California’s governor-appointed czars endowed by our legislature with broad authority to protect our state’s waters — the eight regional water boards under its umbrella are so dysfunctional at protecting wetlands that their parent board must redefine what wetlands are in order to straighten out their confusion and conflicts.

What’s more, the SWRCB also claims its prior and continuing efforts to protect, preserve and grow California’s wetlands have been managed so poorly and with such unsatisfactory results that they should now create and manage vast new swaths of wetlands, including areas that the federal government does not recognize as wetlands at all.

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