Contrasting Road Plans Lead to Frustrated Drivers

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

Drivers must be scratching their heads over conflicting approaches to transportation goals in the state and cities. Yesterday, a coalition of business and labor organizations supported a plan to raise funds for road repair to the tune of $6 billion a year to be shared by the state and local governments. At the same time in Los Angeles, Mobility Plan 2035 is moving forward designed to take away roads for bike lanes and bus-only lanes to force people out of their automobiles.

The puzzle—how to get more money from drivers when you want them out of their cars?

The problem of raising money from diminishing use of a product is becoming endemic in California. Previously, I’ve written that agencies that rely on tobacco tax revenue are scrambling for more money as tobacco use drops off. In the same vein, water agencies are watching their budgets shrink as consumers use less water in response to the drought.

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How To Leave CalPERS Without Paying Huge Fee

Publisher, CalPensions.com

It may surprise cities that did not switch new hires to 401(k)-style plans because of huge CalPERS termination fees, not to mention the authors of a proposed initiative giving voters power over pensions.

But a CalPERS white paper that surfaced last week describes a “soft freeze” of pension plans that switches new hires to a 401(k)-style investment plan without paying a termination fee.

The March 2011 paper seems to contradict the current California Public Employees Retirement System position: When a pension plan is closed to new members, state law requires that the plan be terminated.

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Pensions as Economic Stimulus

Former CalPERS Senior Financial Manager

Each month the California economy experiences a large stimulus and the positive jolt is barely felt or acknowledged by civic, political or media leaders. But hundreds of thousands of citizens and many local businesses anticipate and welcome the infusion of money. The stimulus is monthly government pension payments, which is a contributor on par with the State’s largest industries. This stimulus is an approximately three billion dollar monthly payroll. That’s three with nine trailing digits, one hundred and fifteen times larger than the twenty six million dollar payroll of the sought after Tesla battery factory and larger than the Central Valley’s agricultural payrolls. If this economic powerhouse was more obvious, there isn’t a political office holder who wouldn’t desire to be associated with its influence.  

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Grading Politicians

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

Last week the Los Angeles Times offered report card like grades for Los Angeles City’s mayor, city attorney, controller, and council president. Grading politicians is not a bad idea and Times publisher Austin Beutner said the newspaper intends to expand the practice to offer grades for county supervisors and state officials. Wouldn’t be a bad idea if some entity grades the press as well.

The attention-getting grade was a C for Mayor Eric Garcetti. The newspaper’s 8-member editorial board came up with the grades. They weighed the leader’s Leadership, Effectiveness, Vision, Transparency, and Political Courage giving each category an individual grade. Garcetti’s overall grade was dragged down by the D he received for Political Courage. The newspaper said, “his inclination to avoid tough or controversial decisions is undermining his ability to address the very serious problems facing the city.”

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How Government Can Work Even Better—-A Bipartisan View

Ed Coghlan
Contributing Editor & Special Correspondent, California Forward

“There are many issues and problems in California that can be dealt with successfully if we work together in a nonpartisan way.”

Those words from former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed help explain why he is participating in a series of bipartisan conversations across California with Pete Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University; Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and former president of Green Dot Public Schools, Marshall Tuck.

The event is called: “Money, Schools, Jobs and You – A Bipartisan Conversation.”

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More Local Decisions Usurped By Ideological Regulators

Joel Kotkin
Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

In hip, and even not-so-hip, circles, markets, restaurants and cultural festivals across the country, local is in. Many embrace this ideal as an economic development tool, an environmental win and a form of resistance to ever-greater centralized big business control.

Yet when it comes to areas being able to choose their urban form and for people to cluster naturally – localism is now being constantly undermined by planners and their ideological allies, including some who superficially embrace the notion of localism.

In order to pursue their social and perceived environmental objectives, they have placed particular onus on middle- and upper-class suburbs, whose great crime appears to be that they tend to be the places people settle if they have the means to do so.

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New Fee Would Push S.F. Housing Costs Even Higher

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

The cost of housing in San Francisco and Silicon Valley has been a national news story throughout 2015. On Wednesday, for example, USA Today reported that teachers could no longer afford to live in San Francisco.

This has prompted hand-wringing from San Franciscans who worry that their city is well on its way to being a global symbol of income inequality. With the average home selling for more than $950,000 and average monthly apartment rent hitting $3,458 this year, with further increases expected in coming months, this fear seems well-founded.

Yet a proposed new fee on residential development that appears likely to be adopted would push housing costs even higher. This account is from the San Francisco Business Times:

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California and the GOP Debate

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

Looking for California in the GOP debate presented some challenges even with one candidate who has tentative ties to the Golden State and the state’s Democratic governor who tried to put himself into the debate via a letter to the candidates on climate change.

There was only one Californian (sort of) in the field of 17—Carly Fiorina who made her name as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and was handily defeated by Barbara Boxer for the California U.S. Senate seat in 2010. She now lives in Virginia.

She did fairly well in the first debate, many pundits declaring her the winner. And it appeared that former Texas governor Rick Perry has Fiorina lined up for the Secretary of State job if he becomes president. In criticizing the Iran nuclear deal Perry said, “I’d rather have Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation rather than (Secretary of State) John Kerry.”

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7 Key Measures of California’s Transportation Challenges

Senator John Moorlach
California State Senate, 37th District

1. CA’s gas taxes are the 4thhighest in the nation.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, California’s 61-cent-per-gallon gas taxes are the 4th highest in the nation, behind only Pennsylvania, New York and Hawaii. This does not include the recent addition of extra cap-and-trade taxes resulting from bringing fossil fuels under California’s AB 32 law.

2. CA’s gas prices are the nation’s highest.

According to AAA, the current national average price for a gallon of ‘regular’ gasoline is $2.63. California’s current average price is $3.69 per gallon (as of 8/5/15).

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CA Water Cops Crack Down

James Poulos
Staff Columnist, Orange County Register

With California residents and wildlife struggling to cope, officials have introduced a fresh round of crackdowns on water consumption, dealing a blow to farmers and municipalities thirsty for more.

Hard targets

Water suppliers braced for fines in areas where consumption didn’t hit aggressive targets set by Gov. Jerry Brown. As the Los Angeles Times noted, “16 water suppliers missed their conservation targets by 15 or more percentage points and will be contacted by water officials for an explanation, as well as corrective actions, within the next two weeks,” according to officials.

Californians have made strenuous efforts to comply. “Data released by the State Water Resources Control Board showed that Californians had reduced their water consumption by 59 billion gallons compared with June 2013, indicating what officials called a fundamental change in water-use habits,” the Times added.

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