What does the death of the LA Times Local Section mean?

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 only thing surprising about the announcement that the LA Times is killing its local news section is that anyone was surprised. Sam Zell, the owner of the paper’s parent company, Tribune (yes, I know that an employee stock ownership plan is the nominal owner, but the ESOP is a tax dodge and employees have no power whatsoever), and his pirate crew of lieutenants have a near perfect record of making stupid moves. This is just another one.

This is also another case of Zell and team doing the exact opposite of what they said they would do. Zell took over a little more than a year ago – yes, it feels like it’s been longer – saying he wouldn’t cut because newspapers couldn’t cut their way to the future. As soon as he had control, he immediately began cutting. Zell also profanely declared in an infamous meeting in the Times’ now defunct Washington bureau, where I worked as a reporter at the time, that readers didn’t care about national news and that the paper’s future was in local news. (He suggested, insanely, that there was a bigger audience for coverage of the Santa Ana city council than there was for stories on national affairs). So it was only a matter of time before local news was gutted.

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How Is “Compromise” a Win if Main Street Shuts Down?

John Kabateck
NFIB State Director in California

It has become increasingly evident to Capitol insiders, pundits and others that the Governor and Legislature may be close to reaching a budget “compromise” in the coming days.

As the leading representative group for California small businesses, we must ask: “What, in fact, is the true meaning of ‘compromise’ if it shutters the few remaining mom-and-pop businesses already on life support and sends the last batch of working Californians to the unemployment line?”

When it comes to identifying small business as a “priority issue”, many of our elected leaders surely make a valiant effort to “talk the talk” during campaign season, but a select few truly “walk the walk” when it comes to making important, sustainable decisions that will protect the very men, women and families that sent them to Sacramento in the first place.

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Small Business Seeks Short Delay in Clean Air Mandate

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

Concern that hastily implementing clean air laws would hurt small business is playing out over the requirement for gas stations to install Enhanced Vapor Recovery (EVR) systems by April. This issue reflects the bigger problem small business will face in going along with the mandates for AB 32, the state’s landmark environmental measure.

Gas stations, most independently owned, are required by the California Air Resources Board to install equipment by April 1 to prevent a relatively small amount of harmful vapors from escaping into the air. Given the cost of the equipment and the difficulty getting financing in these hard economic times, a number of small retailers find this hurdle impossible to meet.

According to a survey conducted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, 2.4% of those responding said they would shut down operations rather than try to comply with the mandate. While the Air Resources Board calculates that the cost of compliance can be met by adding .68 cents per gallon of gas, smaller outlets would have a larger burden.

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Optics – Better No Budget than a Bad Budget

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Rumors abound that the Big Five have agreed in concept to a budget solution. As the details of the plan are presented to the legislators who will have to vote on it, taxpayers hope that those who call themselves fiscal conservatives remember a few basic principles.

First, it is far better to have no budget solution at all than to acquiesce to a bad budget solution; i.e., one that adds to California’s already crushing tax burden. This is not to advocate for continued gridlock. This is to advocate for the economic survival of the state.

We are cognizant of the substantial political pressure from many corners to get a deal – any deal – no matter what the merits. And the fear has been expressed that the failure to address quickly the severe cash flow problem will hurt Republicans because they are more likely to be portrayed by the MSM as the obstructionists. In short, the “optics” of some tragedy – for example, the death of a recipient of in-home health services – is more likely to hurt those who hold the line on taxes.

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Sacramento’s Bucket List

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

There are a lot of reasons why we as voters and taxpayers are subjected to the annual state budget stalemate. Like the sequels to the 1984 hit movie “Police Academy”, they are getting harder and harder to sit through.

Surely, term limits is a big part of the problem, and we have heard almost every argument in support of either extending term limits or eliminating them altogether. But there is a fresher argument against term limits that helps to reinforce the lack of accountability in the state legislature.

Let’s call it the “Bucket List” theory. Remember that Rob Reiner flick a couple years ago about two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward intent on living life to the fullest before they die? I never saw it, but I heard it was good from someone I don’t remember. Regardless, the analogy works in Sacramento, too.

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But, Will It Work?

David S. White
Principal of the Law Firm of David S. White & Associates, West Los Angeles, specializing in litigation, arbitration and mediation of real-estate-related disputes and litigation since 1977; www.dswlawyers.com

So now we have another $827 Billion, or so, in new BailOut funds (which they don’t call “BailOut” anymore – that is so, so 2008) spread out among tax cuts, “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, a little pork here and there, and a bunch of other life preservers and economic emergency plans to get America back to work. But, will it work?

President Obama told us we are averting a “national catastrophe,” some economists tell us that we are still underestimating how bad this situation really is, and the job loss numbers now put us at 7.6% unemployment nationally, with no figures for those who have fallen off the far end of the statistical train, or are underemployed, or who had to go back to work because they lost all their retirement money. If we are sliding into the next great Depression and real, live Deflation is happening all around us (50/75% off sales abound), are we now officially living in our own Lost Decade, like Japan was in the 90’s?

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Turning the Art of Compromise into a Criminal Offense

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

Core elements of California’s budget problem were exposed in the political ploy by labor and environmental groups charging that Republican legislators are offering to trade votes in the budget talks.

The union and environmental groups sent a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown charging GOP legislators with offering to trade their budget votes for a loosening of labor and environmental laws. Leaders from the California Labor Federation, State Building and Construction Trades Council, Conservation League and Sierra Club say that changes in environmental and labor laws have nothing to do with the budget; therefore, trading a vote on the budget and/or taxes for labor and environmental reforms is illegal.

Revenue government collects from private sector activity has everything to do with the budget and the current budget crisis. Allowing business to grow will produce more revenue. Putting restrictions on business will limit revenue.

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Cowards, Bullies and Bluffs

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)

Hiram Johnson, the famous early 20th century California governor who was elected as a Republican only to ditch the party less than two years later for a new Progressive Party, was fond of saying this: “You can’t make a man a coward by pointing a pistol at his head. You can only prove him a coward.”

Johnson was defending the concept of a recall of elected officials and judges. (President Taft had spoken out against the idea of adding a recall provision to the California constitution, and Johnson had to defend the recall in the successful 1911 campaign to add direct democracy to the state constitution.

I’ve been thinking about Hiram’s comment as California politics melts down into a lava sea of bitter threats. Labor types are threatening to recall or end the political careers of Democrats they don’t like—and demanding criminal investigation of Republican lawmakers engaged in the usual political horse-trading. The Republican party has countered with threats to excommunicate lawmakers who even contemplate voting for tactics. And some talk show hosts (several of whom face declining ratings and relevance in this era) are demanding “heads on sticks” for lawmakers who vote for taxes.

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State Spins Wheels on Mass Transit

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

If you ask David Fleming about L.A.’s infamous traffic congestion, he’ll tell you it is one of the most complained-about problems of doing business here. In fact, Fleming, who’s chairman of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, said when that organization last year surveyed its members, traffic was the No. 1 concern.

Heck, it’s a big issue for just about every one of the 10 million of us who live in Los Angeles County and who spend countless and needless hours inching our way along streets that seem more like moving parking lots.

So that’s why he was flummoxed last week about what’s been going on in Sacramento. State legislators are seriously toying with the idea of pinching off a funding source for L.A. County’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, the agency that runs buses and commuter trains.

It looks like the MTA could lose about 16 percent of its budget not only now but in the future, and that upsets Fleming, who also is a director on MTA’s board. (Believe it or not, the guy sits on 14 boards.)

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How to solve a thorny tax problem

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

While debate rages in Washington, DC over the size and extent of the economic stimulus legislation, a similar discussion is taking place in Sacramento behind closed doors: If California receives five-, ten-, or twenty-billion dollars in federal stimulus aid, how should it be used?

The Administration supports using the stimulus funds to repay or offset any borrowing needed to balance the budget.

Legislative Democrats and interest groups want to use the stimulus money to offset program cuts.

But the most economically effective and fiscally responsible use of part of the stimulus funds would be to offset one of the most egregious tax increases from last year.

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