California’s High Speed Rail Should Look Like Germany’s

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)

Will California’s high-speed rail system be German enough?

That question is not a joke, as I learned last month while riding Germany’s popular high-speed rail. In fact, it’s a more important question than the ones Californians have been myopically asking for years about the costs, funding, and construction deadlines of the state’s controversial project.

The value of high-speed rail does not lie in the cost or speed of trains, but rather in the ability of such projects to anchor deep connections—between transportation hubs, between cultural attractions, between cities, between job sites. And German high-speed rail, while far from perfect, excels at creating fast and efficient connections.

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High-Speed Rail is Failing. California Must Have the Courage to Change

Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader, United States Congress

The liberals in Sacramento have blinders on. Their tunnel vision focus on completing this high-speed rail project in California regardless of the cost, delays, and lack of ridership interest puts California taxpayers at big risk for little, if any, gain.

The evidence keeps coming in that Sacramento has broken its promise to the people of California with this rail project. Most recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that that cost estimates for the train are going up, and the rail authority only revealed that fact when pressed by lawmakers.  In fact, the authority only recently revealed to the public that the projected cost of the first phase of the train had risen by 31 percent—a fact they had known since October 2013.

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Jerry Brown Biography on its Way

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

Jim Newton, former long time Los Angeles Times editor and columnist and noted biographer of Earl Warren, Dwight Eisenhower and Leon Panetta, is writing a biography of Jerry Brown. The governor is cooperating with Newton.

“My hope is to tell the story of modern California — its transformation into the nation’s largest, most prosperous and most divided state — through the story of its longest-serving governor, Jerry Brown,” Newton told me.

Scheduled to be published by Little Brown in 2019, after Brown ends his fourth term as governor, Newton is looking for background stories to help flesh out his history.

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California Pension Follies Continue

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

When San Diego radio talk show host and failed Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio first unveiled his pension measure in March of this year, he boasted to Reuters news that “We have done a lot of legal work to make sure this initiative is bulletproof.”

Turns out, the measure had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. Independent legal experts like Clark Kelso panned it, saying that it did apply to existing public workers — directly contradicting DeMaio’s statements that it didn’t.

Even one of the state’s most ardent pension bashers, Contra Costa Times editorial writer Dan Borenstein trashed the initiative, admonishing DeMaio not to “continue to falsely pitch the measure.” Bornstein also gave Attorney General Kamala Harris kudos for correctly describing the impact of the measure in its title and summary — undercutting DeMaio’s insistence that the Attorney General had falsely labeled it for political reasons.

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Private Firms Offer To Run State Retirement Plan


A board working on a proposal to enroll most small business employees in a state-run retirement savings plan, unless they opt out, was told last week that small technology-focused financial firms could do the job.

The founders of three firms that offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans to small businesses did not object to competition from the state. They offered their services, acknowledging that several small firms may be needed due to the size of the job.

“We’ve got the systems, the people to support this type of an initiative, and we are all excited,” said Pete Kirtland of Aspire Financial Services. “Whether or not we participate, it’s the right thing to do.”

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Homeless Initiative Will Drain LA’s Rainy Day Fund

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have declared a State of Emergency to address the homeless crisis that is plaguing Los Angeles.  This will require our cash strapped City to devote $100 million a year from the General Fund to finance new housing and services for its 26,000 homeless residents.

But Garcetti and the City Hall gang have not presented any definitive operational or strategic plans.  They have also not identified how they intend to pay for this ambitious undertaking that will crowd out other vital programs such as the repair of our streets, residential sidewalks, and parks or the restoration of services that were eliminated during the City’s financial meltdown.

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Ballot Guerrilla War

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Did anyone notice the guerrilla war that broke out last week?

No, it wasn’t a coup d’etat in some tropical backwater. In fact, the first shots were fired on the website of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

The Ballot Wars have begun again, more or less on schedule.

To no-one’s surprise, the California Teacher’s Association last month proposed a ballot initiative to re-enact the Proposition 30 income tax hikes for another 12 years (albeit with a twist to exempt the new revenues from the Proposition 2 rainy day reserve). The CTA measure continues to deposit the new taxes into the state’s General Fund, and most of the money will be spent on public schools.

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They’re Partying In Malibu Over Microbead Ban

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.

California knows how to party.

Under Malibu moonlight in a famed inn by the sea, a well-heeled group of enviro do-gooders reveled in victory. Not gloatingly, but with a long and deep exhale. They did it. They got little pieces of plastic shite out of our waterways. It wasn’t easy. It never is. But with a play-ball attitude led by multiple NGOs and Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom, they got microbeads banned out of beauty products and toothpastes in the state of California.

“Being across the street from the ocean on an extraordinary beautiful SoCal evening was a nice touch for a party that brought advocates together to celebrate an important victory for the aquatic environment,” said Bloom. 

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Is Today’s Election Worth The Time?

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)

More people want me to vote today. The county of Los Angeles has been emailing more than usual. So has the League of Women Voters, and my own city.

But it’s not clear whether voting will be worth it today.

It’s an off-year election, and so there is not much on the ballot. Two local school board seats are up, and there are three candidates total. All seem pretty reasonable. And it’s a local school board in California – with little power over funding or curriculum. The big school decisions get made in Sacramento –or have already been made by voters.

There’s also a parcel tax for our small city’s library. It’s a nice library, and it’s likely to pass. I’d be happy to vote for it, but the library isn’t why I live here. It’s the schools—I’d make a point to show up for a small election on a school parcel tax, as I did a couple years back.

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Better Ways to Handle Coming National & CA Debates after CNBC Debacle

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

Those considering hosting debates in the coming California elections should take lessons from the mishandling of the current presidential debates and take advantage of the state’s unique primary system to offer real issue-oriented debates.

The recent Republican Presidential Debate on CNBC received more blowback for the way the debate was handled than what the candidates had to say.   Now the Republican National Committee is suspending its relationship with NBC and affiliated organizations over future debates because of the debate questions while the candidates are in open revolt over how the debates should be handled.

While candidates would love to control the debates, the media, which usually moderates the debates, cannot give up journalistic independence.

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