A Scandal That is Not a Scandal

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 state auditor has discovered another scandal that isn’t a scandal.

The latest target of Elaine Howle’s office is the California State University system. And if the supposed crime sounds familiar, it is: CSU has been behaving in fiscal prudent ways.

And you can’t do that in California.

Our state, with a dysfunctional budget process, has developed its own genre of scandal involving the public institution that saves too much. CSU is accused of keeping a secret surplus of $1.5 billion. Of course, the surplus wasn’t really secret—it was disclosed in documents—but the university system didn’t advertise it prominently enough to legislators.

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Despite crackdown, is state losing ground in vaccination push?

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

Four years into a crackdown on high numbers of California students going unvaccinated because of claimed concerns over vaccine risks, new statistics from the 2018-2019 school year show that 10 percent or more of the students in 117 kindergartens and 5 percent or more of those at 1,500 other kindergartens do not have their required shots. But these students are able to attend school because their parents have succeeded in obtaining medical exemptions.

After a new law by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, was enacted in 2015 that ended personal belief exemptions from vaccinations, the number of vaccinated kindergartners increased to above 95 percent on average. That’s the level seen as creating “herd immunity” from infectious diseases. This was treated as a success story by public health officials who supported Pan’s effort to respond to a Disneyland-based measles outbreak that was California’s worst in years. They expected the vaccination rate to keep going up as public health information campaigns emphasized their importance.

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Looking Forward on Affordable Housing

John Moorlach
State Senator representing the 37th Senate District

With the state budget mostly concluded, now is a good time to look at future reforms to bring Californians more housing, affordable or otherwise.

It’s called a housing crisis, yet you can buy a 282-square-foot kit home on Amazon.com for $18,800, instructions included. If you need something bigger, there’s a 1,336 square foot kit home for $64,650.

So perhaps it should be called a property crisis. While building a house can be cheap, in California the property under it is the expensive component, requiring builders to meet all sorts of state and local regulations. State and local governments refuse to make it easier to erect any kind of housing.

Just Google “land entitlements” for a rude awakening on how complex property regulations are. This traditional approach needs a review.

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Pelosi’s Real Failure on Immigration

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 fight between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the “Squad” of young, female, non-white members of Congress exposes a huge problem for the immigration debate and for the country Neither Pelosi nor her young tormentors have a real plan—on policy or in narrative—on immigration.

In fact, while the hyper-progressives don’t realize it, they aren’t that far away from President Trump, or from President Obama for that matter, when it comes to immigration. Trump and Obama have both used reckless, rights-violating mass deportation as an immigration policy, and both presidents have reinforced the last 30 years of American immigration policy—which is about endless ramping up of border security and surveillance.

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We Raise Taxes, Nothing Improves

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

When California’s gasoline tax went up a few weeks ago, there was a flurry of articles about how state motorists now pay the highest such tax in the country and how gasoline here typically costs $1 a gallon more than most other states.

I wouldn’t mind paying more if I could boast that we have the best streets and highways. Alas, we don’t. Various surveys regularly rank our roads poorly. Just recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave California a “D” for our road conditions, saying they are some of the worst in the country.

Excuse me if I’m skeptical that the new gas tax will improve the condition of our streets. After all, the state doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation when it comes to fulfilling promises from tax proposals. You know, if you agree to raise taxes, we’ll agree to do X.

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In Needles, a ‘sanctuary’ for gun owners—and ‘a little jab in the eyes’ for California

John M. Glionna
Former National Reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

The whole business began with a backyard barbecue.

Tim Terral, a 50-year-old cable company worker recently elected city councilman in Needles, on the rural eastern edge of California, planned a cookout for some buddies who live just over the state line in Arizona.

Nobody wanted to come.

Under California law, they couldn’t bring their loaded firearms across the state line, so they all decided to stay home.

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Tom Steyer Wants a National Referendum

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

I’m trying to imagine how the national referendum proposed by Tom Steyer as part of his presidential platform would work.  He said he trusted the people to make the laws, and that he had success using initiatives in California. Of course, his great wealth spurred those law changes in the Golden State. It would take even more money to campaign for a national initiative.

It is not uncommon for rich individuals, or businesses or labor unions to put an initiative on the California ballot. The same would likely apply nationally; those with the money call the tune. Then again Steyer plans to put a crimp into the abilities of certain interests to get behind a measure-corporations. That is implied in his support to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Steyer wasn’t clear on the details of his plan. He called it a national referendum. In California, a referendum is a measure to undo laws passed by the legislature. There will be a referendum on the November 2020 ballot to undo a law passed to cut out cash bail for suspects. 

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Dear San Francisco, My heart breaks for you.

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 cry tsunamis for you.

Please accept my thoughts and prayers. Depending on which media you read, you are now in collapse, having become either a “hellhole” or a “Third World” city. The Washington Post declared you dead (headline: “San Francisco Broke America’s Heart”), and even the Chronicle says you’re a “mess.” The summer’s best movie laments the departure of your “last black man.”

How does your small and lonely city even manage to get up in the morning and keep going on? 

Maybe that question seems insincere. But for Californians not from San Francisco, the most troubling part of your crisis is that when we look at you—and your beauty and success—we can’t understand what’s wrong. You live in a hell so new that we outsiders can’t contemplate how hot the fires must burn. 

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Soaring Building Costs Are Slowing Housing Recovery

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

By all accounts, California is in the depths of a crisis.  Affordable housing can’t be found in the state’s growing job centers – enjoying an economic renaissance of sorts but with no place to house a burgeoning workforce.  To preserve that welcome growth, now, more than ever, there is a need to build additional housing, everywhere – paying particular attention to lower-income households.

Surely, lots of local land-use laws and policies will have to change to help accomplish a new level of production.  For starters, zoning rules in some communities will need to be amended to allow for higher densities. However, that, despite the contention of some, doesn’t mean the wholesale destruction of existing single-family homes to make way for high-rise apartments.  Nevertheless, the limited supplies of developable land in some urban areas dictate that some neighborhoods in California will definitely be affected.     

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California Attorney General an unexpected obstacle to police transparency law

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

Appointed to replace newly elected U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris in 2016, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra ran for his own four-year term in 2018 as a supporter of then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s law enforcement and judicial reforms. “California’s Department of Justice has modernized its police force, sponsored state legislation to require an assessment of 2015 and 2016 data related to officer-involved shootings and has explored options for bail reform,” his campaign web page declared. After winning, Becerra made similar claims in a speech at Stanford University.

But to the surprise of many Democrats, the former 12-term congressman has also emerged this year as a persistent, unexpected obstacle to a reform measure that Brown signed before he left office.

Senate Bill 1421, by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, requires law enforcement agencies to release discipline records related to officers’ excessive use of force, sexual misconduct and dishonest actions. It replaced a previous collection of state laws and court rulings that made it close to impossible for the public to learn about sustained allegations against peace officers.

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