Yes on Measure S Report: Public Unaware of Closed Door Meetings

Jill Stewart
Campaign Manager for Measure S and former Managing Editor of LA Weekly

The Yes on Measure S campaign releases a special report, “Pay to Play In Los Angeles City Government” entirely assembled from official city information that has been released publicly, but unpublished to date.

This report reveals how L.A. City employees and politicians work behind closed doors for months or years on behalf of specific developers and usually without knowledge of the public, to get around an area’s zoning rules. Throughout this closed process, most developers also donate to these same elected leaders.

The result of this non-transparent, favor-driven process can be seen by looking out the window: L.A.’s skyrocketing traffic, rents, homelessness and human displacement, during a time of low unemployment and low population growth of just 1.2% a year.

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Governor’s “Nowhere Money” a Violation of State Spending Limit, Says LAO

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

The Legislative Analyst’s Office says the governor’s budget proposal attempts to dodge the state spending limit that was overwhelming passed by voters in a 1979 Special Election. In declaring that the governor’s budget does not count $22 billion dollars against any appropriation limit, the LAO report states clearly that the Governor’s proposal violates the spirit of the Gann Limit.

The state spending, or more properly, appropriation limit, named after chief proponent Paul Gann, intended to limit state appropriations to 1978-79 spending with increases allowed for population and inflation growth.

With the state economy growing, revenue is now approaching the appropriation cap, according to the LAO’s calculations. If the appropriation limit is breached, the law requires excess revenue be split between the schools and taxpayer rebates.

The governor’s plan is to make $22 billion invisible from spending limit calculations and create greater room for spending in the state budget.

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Striking the Right Balance on Air Quality

Richard Lambros
Executive Director, Southern California Leadership Council

California, long-known for its environmental leadership, also boasts the world’s sixth largest economy. For Southern California, with our large, diverse population, the leadership challenge we face is how to create more good-paying, middle class jobs while improving our quality of life – cleaner air and water, reduced road congestion and increased affordable housing.

Nowhere is this balancing act better illustrated than at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) – the regional air board responsible for managing air emissions from stationary sources in four counties – Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.

For the past four years, SCAQMD Board and staff have engaged with stakeholders to develop the latest iteration of the region’s Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). SCAQMD staff held hundreds of meeting and forums, generated thousands of pages of documents and produced a final draft Plan that is balanced and strong. In fact, SCAQMD staff indicated at the February meeting where the Plan was discussed that this AQMP will set us on course to achieve federal clean air standards (something that the district has struggled with in the past) and does so at a pace that is equal to or faster than prior AQMPs. This AQMP will achieve these standards in a way that also allows for continued economic growth.

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Capitol Housing Battles Ahead

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

It had to happen.  California is suffering through one of its worst housing crises and all the while the state legislature is doing nothing to solve the problem.  In fact, based on the numerous pieces of legislation introduced before the curtain went down for such proposals last month, they’re making things worse.

Inadequate supply.  By nearly all accounts, these two words define California’s chronic housing problem.  California is home to roughly 13 percent of the nation’s population, and has slightly greater than average population growth.  Yet, over the last 20 years the state has accounted for only eight percent of all national building permits.  Consequently, the state is short on supply and, correspondingly, has the nation’s most unaffordable housing markets.

There are several pieces of legislation proposed in 2017 to deal with the state’s housing crisis.  A large number of them are, for example, being advanced as “spot” bills – with the substantive contents due later – so we don’t know yet what’s intended by them.  Many of those bills promise to amend the state’s housing element law, which is intended to obligate local governments to plan for more housing.  Underlying the housing element law is the state’s good intention to take control of the housing problem and insist that local governments comply.

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More Transparency Needed for Little-Known Driver of Health Care Costs

Marcy Zwelling-Aamot, M.D.
Vice Chair, American Academy of Private Physicians

Imagine walking into your pharmacy to pick up your medication only to find that the drug you have been prescribed is not covered. What does that mean? Because your medication was not “chosen” by a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) – a shadowy third-party entity that insurance companies hire to manage prescription drug benefits – your anticipated $10 copay might now have turned into $600 per month. How can this happen to California patients with insurance?

PBMs determine which drugs a health plan will cover. They negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies over the cost of the drugs. While one of the main purposes of PBMs is to leverage the number of people they represent for lower prices from drug makers, it is unclear whether they save insurance carriers and ultimately patients, any money at all. Even if they do, whether they actually pass on those savings to America’s patients is an open question. In fact, in some cases PBMs even charge insurance companies more for contracts that disclose information on how much money they are pocketing for themselves.  Further, the health plans can financially punish the pharmacist if he or she offers the patient a cash price that would save money.

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Hardly Anyone Running for Office in LA Election

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

Isn’t it a problem in a great metropolis like Los Angeles that two of the three charter officers running for election are unopposed and the third—the mayor– has only token opposition?

The situation brings to mind the old question: What if they gave an election and no one came? Unfortunately, close to that result is a prospect for the Los Angeles city election coming Tuesday. I talked to a Los Angeles City insider and a local political reporter this week and both questioned whether turnout for the election would top 10-percent. Four years ago, the election saw a 21-percent turnout but there was a contested mayoral race.

City attorney Mike Feuer and city controller Ron Galperin have no opposition. None. Not even token opposition. Under each office in the ballot the incumbent is the only name listed. Raising this issue is not an indictment of the men who hold these offices. By all accounts, they have done good jobs.

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After Recent Storms, California Drivers Deserve a Better Transportation Infrastructure Plan

Vince Fong
California State Assembly, 34th District

A recent study put Los Angeles and San Francisco in the top five worst cities on the planet for traffic congestion. Roads and bridges around the state are literally crumbling from recent storms.  And the extra wear and tear caused by the poor condition of our roads costs the average California driver an extra $739 in vehicle operating costs every year.

Capitol Democrats’ solution to this problem is to raise gas taxes 20 cents per gallon, raise diesel taxes by 12 cents per gallon, and hike vehicle registration fees by nearly $40. The problem is that there are no assurances about how much of this money will actually go towards roads.  It is unacceptable that transportation funds that the state currently collects are being swept into the General Fund to be used for non-transportation related items.

Despite state spending increasing by $18 billion over the last 2 years alone, not one additional dime has gone towards transportation.  Capitol Democrats have made it clear that transportation infrastructure is not a priority, and the way they have raided transportation funds year after year proves that we must reevaluate our budget priorities.

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Is L.A. Back? Don’t Buy the Hype

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

With two football teams moving to Los Angeles, a host of towers rising in a resurgent downtown and an upcoming IPO for L.A.’s signature start-up, Snapchat parent Snap Inc., one can make a credible case that the city that defined growth for a half century is back. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Rams, Chargers and the new mega-stadium that will house them in neighboring Inglewood, show that “that this is a town that nobody can afford to pass up.”

And to be sure, Los Angeles has become a more compelling place for advocates of dense urbanism. Media accounts praise the city’s vibrant art scene, its increasingly definitive food scene and urbanist sub-culture. Some analysts credit millennials for boosting the population of the region and reviving the city’s appeal. Long disdained by eastern sophisticates, there’s an invasion from places like New York. GQ magazine called downtown L.A. “America’s next great city” last year.

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All Aboard, Bay Area, on Your Fast Train to Wasco

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)

Dear Bay Area,

Welcome to Wasco.

You may never have heard of this small city of 25,000 in the San Joaquin Valley. You probably can’t pronounce it (it’s WAW-skoh).

But you and Wasco share a future.

You could be connected—at least temporarily—by the most expensive infrastructure project in state history.

Your Wasco connection is a byproduct of problems with high-speed rail’s plan for a San Francisco to Los Angeles train. The financial and engineering challenges of tunneling the Tehachapi Mountains have delayed construction to L.A. And the project is short $2 billion to get the train to Bakersfield, which happens to be the hometown of U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a fierce opponent of high-speed rail.

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Governor Brown Says Vote No on Measure S 

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

“I join with all those who say Measure S goes too far.”
– Gov. Jerry Brown

Last week Gov. Brown agreed with what a historic coalition of community residents and civic leaders has been saying for over a year – Measure S goes too far. In his second term, the Governor has led the charge to address the housing crisis in California’s cities. His 2017-2018 budget warned specifically of the dangers of anti-housing policies like Measure S. The Governor’s budget demonstrated how a housing ban would raise rents, drive away the middle-class, and worsen homelessness, climate change and traffic. Thank you Gov. Brown for joining us.

The deception and misrepresentation being used by the proponents of Measure S is being denounced community wide. Despite Mayor Garcetti’s solid opposition to Measure S, the Yes on S campaign continues to use his photo and partial quotes in mailers that imply his support. In response, the Mayor issued a statement on the campaign’s “dirty trick.”

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