Black Bart Nominee: Scott Wiener

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

By definition, all legislators are politicians. But not all politicians are legislators, officeholders committed to making their city/state/country better and willing to compromise and work with anyone to get that done.

State Sen. Scott Wiener is a legislator. And his willingness to take up important but controversial issues and fight hard to do what he believes is best for the state is what makes him my nominee for Californian of the Year.

In his first term in office, the former San Francisco supervisor has become the face of the state’s housing battle, taking on cities, counties and politicians across California in his effort to make it easier to build the housing the state desperately needs.

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An Important Lesson from the Angel Stadium Deal

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)

The city of Anaheim made headlines with a deal to sell Angel Stadium and the land around it to an entity in which the Angels baseball team’s owner is a partner. 

The sports pages emphasized that this keeps the Major League Baseball team in the Orange County city for another 30 years. Some commentators remarked on the fact that the sale, valued at $325 million, is less than the 12-year, $430 million contract of its superstart center fielder, Mike Trout.

But accounts of the deal also offer a lesson in sports and stadium economics for California cities that keep chasing such sports facilities. Stadiums don’t boost an area. In fact, they are a drag on land values. 

Take note of a city-commissioned appraisal of the Angels’ land, which was released around the time of the deal. The appraisals actually came in a range. The lower the footprint of the stadium, the higher the value. Indeed the highest appraised value of the land involved a scenario where the stadium was torn down and not replaced, thus opening up the entire 150 acres for development. 

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Will We Choose to Heed George Washington’s Warning?

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

With the announcement that the House Judiciary Committee will be filing Articles of Impeachment, the stage is getting set for a historic trial in the U.S. Senate which will determine whether or not Donald Trump is convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

He would become the 4th president to be impeached and the only one in his first term.

Richard Nixon faced three counts of impeachment and escaped nearly  certain conviction by resigning before the trial could proceed.

Bill Clinton was judged guilty on two counts— lying under oath to a grand jury about the nature of his relationships with Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones and Obstruction of justice, for encouraging Lewinsky and others to make false statements and concealing gifts he had given her.

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2020 Brings New Lactation Accommodation Requirements for Employers

Chris Micheli
Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

Beginning January 1, 2020, SB 142 (Wiener), Chapter 720, imposes numerous lactation accommodation rules on California employers.

This new law requires an employer to provide a lactation room or location that includes prescribed features and requires an employer, among other things, to provide access to a sink and refrigerator in close proximity to the employee’s workspace. The law deems denial of reasonable break time or adequate space to express milk a failure to provide a rest period.

The law prohibits an employer from discharging, or in any other manner discriminating or retaliating against, an employee for exercising or attempting to exercise rights under these provisions and establishes remedies that include filing a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. The new law does authorize employers with fewer than 50 employees to seek an exemption from the requirements of these provisions if the employer demonstrates that the requirement poses an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense.

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Many Shining Stars for the Black Bart Award

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

As I look at the California political heavens in 2019, so many names and issues shine like stars as greatly influencing the politics of the day and setting foundation stones for our political future. As always with the annual Black Bart Award, I must add—for better or worse.

Proud California has its record to boast—booming economy, political advancements along the lines of what the ruling party calls “California values”—and its record of shame—homelessness and wildfires among them. Any of these issues are worthy of nomination for the Black Bart Award for 2019 but I choose to focus on people who had an impact on the political scene.

Considering the political direction of the state you can’t ignore the governor in any year. But, especially this year, newly installed governor Gavin Newsom has been a star sitting above the political landscape leading the ideological charge left and heading the fight against the Trump Administration. However, this choice is weighted down by the fact California politically was already headed in that direction and that the California resistance to Trump was already two years old and in high gear when Newsom was sworn in.

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In LA, Where the Homeless are and Where Complaints about Homeless Come from Don’t Match Up

Bill Boyarsky
Columnist for LA Observed and former reporter, editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times

The fewer the homeless in a neighborhood, the more residents complain about their presence.  As the headline on a study by USC journalists and other researchers put it: “In some neighborhoods hundreds of calls about encampments but only a few people living on the street.”

The study, covering the first six months of the year, was completed last month by Crosstown, a non-profit news organization that is part of USC Annenberg School of Journalism. Working with the Integrated Media Systems Center at the university’s Viterbi School of Engineering and mappers from SC’s Spatial Sciences Institute, the journalists assemble and analyze data they hope will guide policy makers.  Among the topics covered on the Crosstown web site are crime, traffic, and air quality. In charge is publisher and editor Gabriel Kahn, a USC journalism professor.

The homeless study is important because it reduces to hard data a subject usually discussed with more heat than facts.

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California is Stuck in the Gray Zone

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)

“Gray zone” is a military term for the space between peace and war, a time and place that provides opportunities for the well-armed while posing dangers for citizens caught in the middle.    

In California today, I think the phrase explains the perilous condition of our communities as the state pursues major changes in how we regulate drugs, respond to homelessness, and sentence criminals. 

In these policy areas, California voters have righteously demanded major transitions that move people out of the darkness of illegal drug sales, sleeping on the street, and lives stalled by criminal records—and into the light of legal cannabis businesses, permanent housing, and second chances for ex-cons.  

But California governments are struggling to complete these transitions. As a result, too many people get caught in the gray zone between black market and white market, between illegal and legal, between street and home. 

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Black Bart Nominee: The Donald—Who Else?

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe
Former Senior Fellow at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and Political Reporter for NBC Los Angeles

“Don’t get mad, get even,” was the political mantra of legendary California Democrat, Carmen Warschaw, Donald Trump has tweaked it a bit, when it comes to his dealings with the Golden State: “Do get mad and get even.” That modus operandi has earned Trump a nomination for this year’s  Black Bart Award.

He’s certainly not a Californian—he’s practically allergic to this state these days. But you have to admit that he’s “had a great impact on the state and on the attention of those who follow the Golden State’s politics for the year.” For three years in Trump’s case.

Observed Trump’s “failing” New York Times, “The state has been a political fixation since the early days of his presidency, but that was heightened this autumn. Mr. Trump has attended meetings, asked detailed questions at briefings and pressed aides to find ways to use policies to go after the most populous state in the union… Aides… describe him as obsessed with narrow policies that directly affect California.”

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Go to Iowa Anyway, Gavin

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)

“I was going to Iowa in a couple of days. I just bought my damn ticket. I want a reimbursement!” – Gov. Gavin Newsom

Kamala Harris’ departure from the presidential race is probably a victory for California, if she returns to full-time work in the U.S. Senate defending her state from the war that the Trump administration has declared on it.

But her quitting leaves Gov. Gavin Newsom hanging. Indeed, less than 24 hours before the announcement that Harris was leaving the race, Newsom had indicated he would go to Iowa Dec. 14-15 to campaign for her.

That trip is almost certainly on ice. But here’s a suggestion, governor. Go anyway.

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2020 Brings Ban on “No-Rehire” Clauses

Chris Micheli
Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

Beginning January 1, 2020, AB 749 (Stone), Chapter 808, adds Chapter 3.6 (commencing with Section 1002.5) to Title 14 of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP), and names it “Agreements Settling Employment Disputes.” The new law adds just one section to the CCP.

This new law prohibits an agreement to settle an employment dispute from containing a provision that prohibits, prevents, or otherwise restricts a settling party that is an aggrieved person from working for the employer against which the aggrieved person has filed a claim or any parent company, subsidiary, division, affiliate, or contractor of the employer.

The law also clarifies that an employer and an aggrieved person are free to agree to end a current employment relationship, or to prohibit or otherwise restrict the settling aggrieved person from obtaining future employment with the settling employer, if the employer has made a good faith determination that the person engaged in sexual harassment or sexual assault.

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