Prop 48: Indian Gaming Compact Deserves Yes Vote

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

Voter turnout for this Tuesday’s election is projected to be lower than any general election in a generation. And it’s no wonder; we are in a blue state, so the statewide partisan races are largely inconsequential. And while six measures are on the ballot, none of them is a “wow” issue that would cause voter participation to spike. This column is devoted to encouraging you, if you do decide to vote, to cast a “yes” vote for what may be the most obscure measure of them all — Proposition 48, the ratification of a small gaming compact with a small Indian tribe in Central California.

While I will elaborate below, for those who care so little about this issue that this paragraph is as far as you will get before re-aiming your browser in a more interesting direction, simply put, the North Forks Indian Tribe had their ancestral reservation lands stripped from them back in the 1970s. Through a complicated, decade-long process, they got some other land designated by the federal government as their new reservation land, after proving to the satisfaction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs that their tribe had a legitimate historical nexus to the site.

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Stockton Bankruptcy Ruling Backs Away from Pension Reform

Heidi Siegmund Cuda
Former Investigative Producer for Fox 11 News in Los Angeles and the Creator and Host of the Economic Series, "Saving the California Dream." She is currently directing a film on the nation's public pension crisis.

Jack Dean likes to tell the story of Prichard, Alabama, a city that declared bankruptcy not once, but twice.

“They were warned that the pension fund was running dry, and in 2009, it ran dry,” says Dean. “So they stopped mailing the checks.”

Dean, the editor and founder of PensionTsunami.com, tells the cautionary tale of Prichard in response to Thursday’s federal ruling that gave the California city of Stockton the green light to exit bankruptcy by paying bond investors chump change while protecting public pensions.

“Once again, Calpers has managed to intimidate a city government into not dealing with the pension issue,” says Dean. “So we’ll continue to careen down the pension crisis path, because they’re not paying attention to the elephant in the corner.”

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Silicon Valley’s Chips Off the Old Block

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

Silicon Valley long has been hailed as an exemplar of the American culture of opportunity, openness and entrepreneurship. Increasingly, however, the tech community is morphing into a ruling class with the potential for assuming unprecedented power over both our personal and political lives.

Rather than the plucky entrepreneurs of legend, America’s rising tech oligarchy constitutes a narrow emerging elite. They are primarily beneficiaries of the limited pools of risk capital – nearly half of which is concentrated in Silicon Valley. They also have access to a highly incestuous club of skilled professional managers, lawyers, PR mavens and accountants that counterparts elsewhere are unlikely to enjoy.

In contrast to the intense competitive environment that defined industries such as semiconductors, disc drives and personal computers in the 1980s, today’s “lords of cyberspace,” as author Katherine MacKinnon describes them, enjoy oligopolistic market shares that would thrill the likes of John D. Rockefeller. Google, for example, accounts for more than two-thirds of the market for Internet search. The fantastic wealth amassed by Bill Gates, like that of the other oligarchs, stems in large part from these kinds of “monopoly” rent; in his case, for consistently mediocre but dominant software.

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Yes on Props 1 & 2

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

The old expression that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good is often repeated in political debates when compromise is at hand. An application of that old saw should be applied to Propositions 1 & 2 on next week’s ballot and both measures should be passed by voters.

This page has carried a number articles on both sides of the Proposition 1 and 2 debates, mine included. Today, I’ll rehash and reference some of the reasons I wrote previously in support of these measures.

However, I will start with a dig at the powers-that-be. The governor and legislature manipulated the system – not for the first time — to give themselves every edge by changing the numbers on these two propositions presenting an odd set-up to voters with proposition numbers 1 and 2 then jumping to 45. As I’ve written previously, biasing rules to favor one side or the other on political questions is another reason the general public is losing faith in the political process. Stop gaming the system.

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Proposition 2: Houdini Economics

Jennifer Bestor
Research Director of Educate Our State

Escaping the bounds of financial reality seems to be Sacramento’s favorite magic trick.  The official forecast shows Proposition 2:

  • adding just $1 billion a year to the state’s savings fund in each of the next three years;
  • paying off just $1 billion a year of the state’s ($300 billion) debts;
  • putting nothing into the school savings account.

During these relatively stable, prosperous times.

Yet, had it been fully in place in 2008, the state’s director of finance wrote to Loren Kaye, a Proposition 2 supporter, that it would have covered 62 percent of the $15 budget shortfall in 2008-09 and another 23 percent of $39 billion in 2009-10 (avoiding $6 billion in education cuts), as well as eliminating virtually the entire first year of the 2009 tax increases.

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California Choices Offers Valuable Endorsement List

Jack Citrin and F. Noel Perry
Jack Citrin is Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. F. Noel Perry is the Founder of Next 10, a nonprofit that seeks to foster a deeper understanding of issues facing California.

One of the truisms about American politics is that some voters are uninformed when they go to the polls. This can be especially true when voters face complex ballot measures, such as those going before Californians this year.

How do voters fill that information vacuum? One way is to look for cues from outside sources, like business groups, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, political parties and politicians.

Political science research has shown that endorsements can influence voters. Even endorsements from newspapers – often derided as dinosaurs in the modern media landscape – can sway voters, particularly if they represent a dramatic reversal of a past position.

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If Kashkari Really Cares About Kids, He Should Flip on Prop 2

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)

Let’s do a little negative campaigning here – Neel Kashkari has endorsed Prop 2, the formula on reserve and debt payback, so Gov. Brown’s supporters should know the measure is clearly a payoff to creditors and Neel’s buddies on Wall Street!

Oh wait, Gov. Brown is running in support of measure too.

The politics (though not just the politics) of Prop 2 are screwy, as Democrats embrace a formula that prioritizes reserves and debt over reinvestment in key programs. So Kashkari’s support of the measure, unjustifiable on its questionable merits, makes no sense politically. Prop 2 would seem to offer him an opportunity to point out the hollowness of the supposed fix of the budget – Brown is still relying on the same formulas and gimmicks that create the California disease.

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Secretary Of State 2014: Tight Race, Cautious Candidates

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

It’s one of the few competitive statewide races in California. And befitting a close contest, Democrat Alex Padilla and Republican Pete Peterson share remarkably close visions for the job of secretary of state.

CalWatchdog.com asked the two candidates a half dozen questions about the job. The responses from both candidates, which are posted in their entirety below, show frequent agreement on the major issues as well as a similar level of caution in the curve balls we threw their way.

Both Padilla and Peterson intend to use technology to improve the office that oversees everything from the state’s election system to business registration. Both the Democrat and the Republican want to increase transparency in the state’s campaign finance disclosure system and promote greater civic engagement in the political process. Both candidates believe it should be faster and easier to start a business in California.

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California’s $12.3 Billion in Proposed School Bonds: Borrowing vs. Reform

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“As the result of California Courts refusing to uphold the language of the High Speed Rail bonds, the opponents of any bond proposal, at either the state or local level, need only point to High-Speed Rail to remind voters that promises in a voter approved bond proposal are meaningless and unenforceable.” -  Jon Coupal, October 26, 2014, HJTA California Commentary

If that isn’t plain enough – here’s a restatement: California’s politicians can ask voters to approve bonds, announcing the funds will be used for a specific purpose, then they can turn around and do anything they want with the money. And while there’s been a lot of coverage and debate over big statewide bond votes, the real money is in the countless local bond issues that collectively now encumber California’s taxpayers with well over $250 billion in debt.

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Bankruptcy Judge Explains Pension Cut Hurdles

Publisher, CalPensions.com

A federal judge, who earlier ruled CalPERS pension contracts can be overturned in bankruptcy, yesterday outlined the difficulty of cutting pensions while approving Stockton’s plan to exit bankruptcy with pensions intact.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein issued a ruling on Oct.1 that CalPERS pensions, despite attempted safeguards in state law, can be cut in a municipal bankruptcy much like any other debt.

“Nobody should think that Chapter 9 (municipal bankruptcy) is an easy or inexpensive process,” Klein said yesterday, one of several remarks aimed at any thought that bankruptcy might be a painless way out of financial problems.

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