The Changing Face of Local Governance

Pete Peterson
Dean, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Public Policy

In a typically humorous aside, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “citizen participation is a device whereby public officials induce non-public individuals to act in a way the public officials desire.” Of course, there are many examples of municipalities and school districts “marketing” their pre-determined positions under the guise of civic involvement, but current events and several recent conversations with local leaders in California reveal that we are moving into a unique period in municipal governance – one in which officials at the city and school district levels around the state are proactively engaging their residents in policy-making. Most of the reasons offered for this change fit into three main themes.

The first is technological. The growth of the internet as both a communications and research tool has completely altered the relationship between our political leaders and citizens. In his best-selling book, Here Comes Everybody, author, Clay Shirky, declares, “We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race. More people can communicate more things to more people than has ever been possible in the past.” Through blogs, every citizen has a bullhorn and can broadcast her issues with the local government or school system. Through social network sites like Facebook, MySpace, and others, citizens are organizing more easily than ever before. Through email campaigns, citizens can barrage local officials with hundreds (even thousands) of messages.

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Dispatch from the Fire Front

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

I was right in the middle of the Sesnon Fire below the hills in the northern San Fernando Valley. Returning from a trip to the East, smoke billowing from the hills just north of my house. Evacuations called for just blocks away. The cars packed, pictures off the walls, reinforcements brought in … my sons and friend. Many of my walking and hiking areas burned to black. Then we waited to see the how the fires turned, flowed or jumped in the dried hills.

In the dark of the night the bright blaze on the hillside had a hypnotic effect, both strangely stunning and scary at the same time.

The fire burned down to Sesnon Blvd. I call one of my race walking courses the Sesnon Loop. I’m up there all the time. Had the fire jumped that road houses would have surely gone up in flames. The firefighters made a stand here, pushing back the flames. They were on top of the fire immediately, letting some of the dried brush burn down so they would not have to come back and fight the fire in that spot again, then applying water to the fire and putting it out.

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Make Your Vote Count

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

Accusations of voter fraud have dominated the news cycle as of late, with groups such as ACORN going as far as to register 7-year-old girls to vote alongside Mickey Mouse, members of the Dallas Cowboys (in Arizona) and a particular teenager who is set to vote 73 separate times.

The fact that such a story has received so much coverage as of late is indicative of the Media’s bias in favor of conservatives – this is just another blatant Rove/Cheney/Fox News/Diebold attempt to see that individuals are denied the right to vote!

In fact, we have obtained the agenda of the radical right, no doubt personally drafted by the evil forces of Donald Rumsfeld and Newt Gingrich, detailing their plans to deny true social justice in this coming election. Here are just some of their evil plans:

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Bailout Brings Dumping Danger

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

Wanna buy a property cheap? I mean, for $40,000 you could buy a property that was worth $100,000 only a year ago, and may be worth that again soon. Maybe you could buy it for $30,000 if you bargain hard. Hold out, and perhaps that price would drop to a low, low $25,000.

That’s the kind of deal you could get from the Resolution Trust Corp. in the early ’90s. You remember the RTC? It was created in the midst of the savings and loan implosion. The RTC is often credited with clearing out the smelly air, but it is also blamed as engineering one of the greatest wealth transfers in history. It essentially took properties that had been foisted onto taxpayers and dumped them, sometimes for pennies on the dollar, to those shrewd enough to recognize a bargain.

The reason I bring up the RTC is that the federal government seems destined to repeat its RTC mistake with the so-called Wall Street bailout. After all, it’s pretty much the same situation: The government will acquire a huge number of properties and other assets and sell them back to the private sector.

I know they say they won’t dump properties, but that promise is about as good as the one from presidential candidates who vow not to go negative.

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After all, the government has close to zero incentive to hold onto properties and make a slow, orderly sale. It has every incentive to unload them quickly. The problem with dumping properties, such as houses, is that they drive low prices even lower. And the low prices attract not just those who want to live in them but scads of speculators who want to rent them out. Or just sit on them and wait for the rebound.

Southern California is particularly vulnerable to house dumping. This place is becoming the Grand Bazaar for foreclosed properties. And last time around, thanks to the RTC, the Inland Empire was particularly hurt.

Patrick Morris, the mayor of San Bernardino, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal last week saying that after the S&L crisis, “Our city was so impacted by the drama that we moved from a city of owner-occupied homes to a city of renters.”

That’s why a variety of officials in the Inland Empire are supporting a bill that would allow businesses and local governments to buy up some of the properties that will fall to the Treasury Department under the bailout plan, according to the same article. It’s a little hazy about how it would work, but the aim would be to let local private-public partnerships have more control over the disposition of properties. That way, they could head off a crippling fire sale.

There are many things not to like about the several bailout plans: the failure to neutralize the ruinous mark-to-market accounting rule (which would cost taxpayers close to zero); the reliance on asset purchases instead of loans; and the government taking equity stakes in businesses. (On that last point, just wait for congress members to shout, “Not in my district, you don’t!” when a business tries to sell a doggy unit or lay off employees.)

But the worst one for the Southland is the possibility of a government-orchestrated house dump accompanied by low, low prices that speculators can’t pass up.

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Check out the Fox&Hounds Ballot Endorsement Grid

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

With twelve different measures on the California ballot for the coming election, things can get a bit confusing. In an effort to make this process easier for our readers, Fox&Hounds has put together an Endorsement Grid, listing the positions that a number of California Advocacy Groups have taken on the various ballot measures along with links to their respective websites for further information if available.

If you don’t see your group listed and you would like to be, please feel free to Contact Us with your list of positions.

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For Obama, the Acorn Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Matt Klink
President, Klink Campaigns

Here’s a troubling pattern for the Barack Obama – one that should scare the pants off of most Americans. Barack Obama, who since his earliest days has been and remains attracted to a radical, activist, left-leaning agenda, has associated himself with some really shady characters and organizations that don’t share Main Street American values.

And, when these ties are exposed, Senator Obama at first attempts to minimize the situation or attack those raising the claims…but when attacking or minimizing proves unsuccessful, Obama casts these “connections” aside and quickly attempts to distance himself.

America first witnessed this with Obama’s handling of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright situation. When statements made by Obama’s pastor of 20-years grew too problematic, the Senator attempted to calm the fury by making a speech about race relations in the U.S. The left fawned over the “chosen one” for his prophetic comments. Main Street America yawned. When the fury over Wright’s “God d*mn America” comments wouldn’t pass, Obama said, “See ya” to his friend.

Most recently, Obama appears to have weathered the storm over his close connections to American-born terrorist William Ayers largely by ignoring them…and the elitist media gave him a pass.

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Scary Times Made Scarier By Property Tax Bills

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

For many, these are scary economic times as the value of homes and
investments declines. Adding to the anxiety, property tax bills are
arriving in mail boxes across the state.

Fortunately, as a direct result of Proposition 13, which limits
increases in a property’s assessed value to two percent annually,
most property owners have a good idea what their bill will be even
before opening the envelope. Still, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association recommends that taxpayers carefully examine their latest
property tax bill. Although not common, assessors do make mistakes.

Taxpayers should understand the various charges and make certain
that they are not being dunned for more than they are legally
obligated to pay. The best way to check a tax bill is to have your
previous year’s bill handy for reference.

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InfraGard–The FBI and Business Teaming up to Guard Infrastructure

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

For the past few weeks, one evening a week, I have been attending the FBI Citizens’ Academy in Los Angeles learning about the inner workings of the FBI. Among the programs the FBI has set up is InfraGard in which the Bureau works with the business community and others to share information in hopes of thwarting attacks against physical and cyber infrastructure in the country.

InfraGard is a government/private/public sector alliance. The program is designed to allow businesses, academic institutions, local law enforcement and the Bureau to combine knowledge and share information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States. In other words, the FBI is asking members of the community to use their expertise and be the eyes and ears in protecting America.

There are four InfraGard chapters in California: San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego. Each center covers wide areas of the state. You can find info on the local chapters here.

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Independent Expenditure Committees Pick Their Targets

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

Some key Independent Expenditure Committees (IEs) have jumped into targeted Assembly races in attempt to influence their outcome come November.

The biggest player, thus far, is an IE titled Opportunity PAC, which is being funded by the CA Faculty Association ($350,000), CA State Council of Service Employees ($300,000), SEIU 1000 ($250,000), Political Action for Classified Employees of CA Schools ($400,000) and the CA Federation of Teachers ($100,000).

As of this writing, they have spent:

  • $167,612 in support of Democrat ALYSON HUBER, an attorney running in the 10th Assembly District (AD10) against Republican JACK SIEGLOCK, a former member of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
  • $331,000 in support of Democrat JOAN BUCHANAN, a San Ramon Valley School Board member running in AD15 against Republican ABRAM WILSON, the mayor of San Ramon.
  • $159,670 in support of Democrat MANUEL PEREZ, a Coachella Valley School Board member running in AD80 against Republican GARY JEANDRON, the former Chief of Police of Palm Springs.

Going on offense is an IE titled Faculty for Our University’s Future, which is funded totally by the California Faculty Association.

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Rehab for the Bush Haters

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

What seems like the longest election cycle in history will mercifully be over in three weeks. President Bush is down to his last three months in office and I am sure that after eight long and difficult years he is ready if not eager to go home to Crawford, Texas and let someone else see if they can govern this restless and divided country.

But what about the foam-at-the-mouth Bush-haters? What will they do with themselves? How will Keith Olberman, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd, MSNBC, NBC, CNN, CBS and the New York Times cope with this situation? To say nothing about the late night comedians like David Letterman who will have no material.

And what about the insipid and vacuous Hollywood celebrities? Who will they trash from the safety of their mansions in Beverly Hills and the Cannes Film Festival? And the Democrats in Congress will have lost their favorite punching bag . The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Steven Colbert will be dropped from the Comedy Central due to drastic ratings drops without Bush and the Republicans in power providing fodder.

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