What are California’s School Children Learning?

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

As I was driving to the Capitol in Sacramento from my home in Folsom the other morning, I heard yet another radio commercial from the Education Coalition. Now if you go their website you will see that it is a collection of unions and associations who have a vested interest in education funding and not necessarily for the benefit of the kids, although that is their stated goal.

For my money they are all looking for more funding from the Legislature to maintain their stranglehold on how and what California’s school kids are learning. And judging by the product they are pushing out into society we should all demand our money back.

In their radio ad they use the old arguments of classroom size and cuts to art and music programs. I’m all for arts and music and smaller classes, but what the hell else are they learning? Can they count and do arithmetic at grade level without a calculator? Can they write a cogent essay? Can they spell without Microsoft Spellcheck? And most importantly, have they learned the most basic thing that a well rounded education should provide—the ability to think for themselves.

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Fire and Taxes

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

Fires roared out of control across California. Pictures of heroic firefighters battling the blazes appeared on the nightly news and in the newspapers. As it so happened, the fires occurred just a week prior to Californians voting on a measure to raise the state sales tax a half-cent, the revenues to be distributed to local governments for public safety purposes.

This occurred in 1993. In a special election called by Governor Pete Wilson, the voters considered the fate of Proposition 172. The measure was little noticed by the voters until the firestorms hit. A campaign ad in support of the measure was hastily thrown together showing the firefighters standing against the blazes. The tax measure passed with 58% of the vote.

Today as thousands of fires sweep across Northern and Southern California the discussion of fires and taxes is intertwined again. The question is: Will the fires of 2008 lead to tax increases?

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed what he terms a fee on property insurance to be set aside for fire protection. The governor’s proposal would charge policyholders a 1.4 percent surcharge in high fire zones and a .75 percent surcharge in other areas of the state. The fee would raise about $125 million.

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HJTA’s Coupal on Legislative Spending Limits

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

Check out this piece that ran over the weekend at Flashreport, a commentary by Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association calling for Legislative spending limits to help deal with Sacramento’s seemingly continual budgeting problems.

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Sign of “The Times”

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

It was disappointing and sad to read that the Los Angeles Times plans to lay off 250 workers, a majority from the editorial side of the paper. The Times troubles are reflected in the plight of other newspapers, which are losing advertising revenue to the Internet.

When one participates in the public arena, as I have for 30 years, you can adopt some bitterness to the press if you feel your efforts have been misread or even trashed by the newspapers.

While Thomas Jefferson is often remembered for saying "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter;" he also wrote: "Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this. Divide his paper into four chapters, heading the first Truths; the second, Probabilities; the third, Possibilities, the fourth, Lies."

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Rising fuel and energy costs are hurting California’s small businesses

John Kabateck
NFIB State Director in California

Soaring fuel and energy costs rank second only to the cost of healthcare among the problems facing small business owners, according to one of several surveys by the National Federation of Independent Business, California’s leading small business association. According to NFIB’s recently-released Small Business Problems and Priorities survey, 42.3 percent of the small business owners nationwide rank the cost of natural gas, propane, gasoline, diesel and fuel oil as a “critical” concern. That’s up from 26.1 percent on the previous survey, conducted in 2004. Both surveys rank the cost of health insurance as the number one issue facing small business owners.

Details of the most recent Small Business Problems and Priorities survey, sponsored by Wells Fargo, are available here. For information on the 2004 survey, click here.

The National Federation of Independent Business represents small businesses in a wide range of industries that are being hurt by higher fuel prices. In addition to the Problems and Priorities survey, the NFIB Research Foundation has published two other national polls – Energy Consumption and Adjusting to Cost Increases — which are available on NFIB’s small business information Web site, www.411sbfacts.com.

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That never stopped him before…

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

On the heels of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s announcement of his ‘potential’ run for Governor in 2010, he’s facing some trouble back home as a national furor is developing over the City’s decision to shield eight illegal immigrant crack dealers from deportation.

Newsom’s response? He claims he lacks the authority to intervene.

I don’t recall a lack of authority ever stopping him before…

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LA Gang Problem Like a Malaria Epidemic Treated with Fly Swatters

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

The gang problem in Los Angeles is spreading and civil rights attorney Connie Rice is working against time to implement a long-term strategy to reduce the violence. Rice told Fox and Hounds Daily she feels the solution has perhaps two years to get in place and start producing results or she fears the gang problem could spin out of control.

At the request of the Los Angeles City Council, Rice undertook a massive study to determine the effectiveness of the city’s anti-gang efforts. Eighteen months ago she released the “Gang Activity Reduction Strategy Report” done on behalf of the Advancement Project, which Rice co-directs. The report concluded that too many anti-gang programs were scattered under too many different authorities to have any effect. Further, she argued trying to confront the gang problem simply by relying on police force would fail.

“If you look at this as a public disease it would be the same as looking a malaria epidemic and handing out fly swatters,” she said. “If you have a malaria epidemic and you’re in the malaria zone you have to organize your entire ecosystem to fight that disease or it will wipe your population out. “

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Battle of the Bulge in South L.A.

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Despite working next door to Burger King and being tempted daily with the smell of charbroiled burgers, I only eat there about twice a year. I have a soft spot for Taco Bell, but I hardly ever go there either—unless there are no other options, and I’m desperately in a hurry and hungry. I was raised not to eat fast food, so I normally avoid it.

But a renewed effort at L.A. City Hall to permanently ban any more fast food outlets into South L.A. strikes me to be about as effective as banning chocolate or beer. Neither is particularly good for you when consumed in mass quantities, but many of us will find a way to buy them no matter how expensive or readily available they are.

The effort is being made in the name of fighting obesity, a noble cause. However, I think it is more effective when parents show their kids healthy foods to eat, how to prepare them, and where to buy them. It’s also on the heals of other proposals to ban trans-fats in L.A., but not lard.

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McCain’s $300mil Battery Prize could jumpstart US Alternative Energy Innovation

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

A lot of people didn’t quite know what to think last week when Senator McCain proposed a $300 million taxpayer-funded cash prize to whomever could develop a battery that would leapfrog the efficiency of currently available technology, providing the same amount of power at 30% of the cost. Reactions from both Republicans and Democrats were mixed, and presidential rival Barack Obama dismissed the idea as a ‘gimmick’.

Just about everyone must admit that the same thought had crossed their mind – how serious is the cash prize plan, and does it have a chance of success? The short answer – yes, there’s a very good chance that Senator McCain’s proposal could result in the development of a new generation of efficient and cost effective battery technology.

I was tempted to just leave it at that, but there is indeed a very good reason for why the aforementioned plan will succeed. By shedding the chains of bureaucracy and special interests that generally accompany funding of this nature, it exits the grey area of the government subsidy and provides a true incentive for innovation — produce results, get the prize. In adopting this mindset, the McCain plan takes aim in the same direction that technological innovators already have in the recent past, valuing efficiency and demanding results.

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Tesla Motors deal highlights why CA must become more business-friendly

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

It’s a good thing that Tesla Motors has decided to build its electric car factory in California. One of the main reasons executives changed their minds and decided not to build the factory in New Mexico as previously announced is instructive, creative and disconcerting all at once.

A major incentive to produce the cars in California is that the company will not have to pay sales tax on $100 million worth of manufacturing equipment. That will be a savings to the company of about $8 million.

Once again we see companies reacting to tax pressure. While a whole host of legislators and interest groups are clamoring for business to pay more taxes, we see that business paying less in taxes keeps companies, and most importantly, jobs in California. The government will get its share of revenue when those workers pay their taxes and the company pays other taxes.

The way the company will get around the sales tax is because the company itself will not purchase the manufacturing equipment. The state will purchase the equipment and lease it back to the company. This bit of creativity was put together by the governor’s office and the state treasurer’s office. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer chairs the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority, which created the program to exempt makers of zero-emission cars from paying sales taxes on equipment.

Kudos go to the treasurer and governor for creativity to keep the company in California. However, should the state be in the business of buying equipment for favored companies? Where might this lead and what other types of companies will demand equal treatment? How much equipment of private companies should the state own?

Perhaps the way to avoid these questions is to make California a much more business friendly place. After all, Tesla always considered putting its manufacturing plant close to its engineers in Northern California, but as vice president Darryl Siry was quoted in the Mercury News, “We always wanted to be in California,” but it is “prohibitively expensive.”

Improving the California business climate will go a long way to encourage companies to stay in the Golden State. As for now, welcome back Tesla, we’re glad you are here.

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