One “Dastardly Deed” Cements Gavin Newsom as my Black Bart Nominee

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Ph.D., is retired Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and co-creator of the podcast Inside Golden State Politics

I thought I might nominate Donald J. Trump for this year’s Black Bart Award. But it’s time to retire our lame-duck President’s number. Instead, I nominate California’s Governor Gavin Newsom–for his often good, sometimes bad and, once-in-a-while really stupid impact on the Golden State.

On the plus side, or the negative–depending on where you stand politically, Newsom has managed not to totally alienate President Trump.  Despite Trump’s incessantly bashing the Golden State—political punishment for its blue hue, he hasn’t spewed a whole lot of angry tweets in Newsom’s direction. Trump, you could argue, likes Newsom better than the state he governs.  And no matter what your political persuasion, you’ve got to admit that this somewhat curious relationship has been more useful than an unceasing poke in the eye—especially when federal assistance is needed. 

Newson  has shown movement (sometimes chaotic) on several progressive agenda items (e.g. fracking and prescription drug costs). But unresolved major state issues, like the homeless crisis and the affordable health care conundrum, continue to haunt his tenure.

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Becerra: Another Bright Spot For California And The Rest of The Country

Bill Boyarsky and Sherry Bebitch Jeffe
Bill Boyarsky is a former reporter, editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, is a retired Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California

We look at the good news and the bad.  The appointment of California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to head the Department of Health and Human Services brings an accomplished  politician and health care champion to the challenging job.  We dismantle the congressional stalemate on  coronavirus aid.  And we   criticize California  Gov. Gavin Newson, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the news media for lack of effective communication on the pandemic aid bill.  Finally we agree it’s time for the public to demand action.  

Nancy Boyarsky is the producer-director of Inside Golden State Politics

The podcast is here

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Becerra’s Problems with Senate Confirmation

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Gov. Gavin Newsom best not plan to appoint a new attorney general too quickly because there is a very distinct possibility that current Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominated to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, will not be confirmed by the US Senate.

Thus far Senate Republicans have been fairly restrained about President-elect Biden’s cabinet appointments; a new president usually gets his first set of picks although President Trump did lose his first Labor Secretary.  But Becerra has two drawbacks that the others do not have.

First, he has no direct experience in the bureaucracy of health care, yet he would be heading up a massive federal health care agency.  Already there is some grumbling over this; most secretaries of HHS have had some medical or healthcare background; Trump’s current secretary, Alex Azar, came out of the pharmaceutical industry. 

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Black Bart Award for California Politics 2020

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

For the past eleven years frequent contributors to this page Joe Mathews, John Wildermuth and I have nominated candidates for Californian of the Year in the world of politics. This year, as last, we will be joined by Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, long time journalist for NBC in Los Angeles and former professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. We then collectively—and not always in agreement–name the final selection the winner of the Black Bart Award. 

I expect we’ll find some extraordinary nominees in this extraordinary year. 

There are no specific criteria to follow in making the selection. Each author will explain his or her reason for selecting a nominee. Perhaps, the nominee took one courageous act, or committed a dastardly deed that had great repercussions, or performed heroically in difficult circumstances. The nominee may be a person, or more than one, or even an institution or an issue that had great impact on California politics and policy over the year. 

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Water Wars by Other Means

John Seiler
Most recently the press secretary for state Sen. John M. W. Moorlach, for three decades John Seiler was an editorial writer for the Orange County Register

Clausewitz famously said war was “politics by other means.” In California, politics is water wars by other means. Although it isn’t always above the surface, below the surface everything in the state involves water one way or another.

That’s because the more populous Southern California needs most of its water to flow down from Northern California. Two-thirds of Californians live in the South, while 75 percent of the water is in the North.

The California State Water Project was built mostly from the 1960s to the 1980s, a period when Southern California was a vast industrial powerhouse, especially the aerospace and defense industries. And two presidents hailed from there, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

But recent years have seen the rise of Northern California because of the vast wealth created by Silicon Valley and San Francisco due to the tech sector, even as state regulations have choked off Southern California “dirty” industries. National politicians include Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris, all from Fog City. Not surprisingly, the state has been unable to resolve such issues as what to do with the Sacramento-Joaquin River Delta and the potential Twin Tunnels project, possibly downsized to One Tunnel, as Newsom proposed in 2019.

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The Road Ahead for the California GOP

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.

California’s AG resisted any temptation to join those of 18 sister states led by the Texas AG seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn President-Elect Joe Biden’s irreversible victory. 

Not that the vast majority of California voters favored the idea which turned out to be a giant waste of time as the high court delivered a terse 24 word judgement declaring it had no authority or interest in subverting the will of the voters.

It amounts to a desperate effort to undo a result that should never have been contested which threatens to further disrupt a country struggling to control a raging pandemic that has so far claimed nearly 300,000 lives and 20,000 Californians alone. 

In addition to the resounding proclamation from the court that should put to final rest what one commentator labelled the “fever dream” to change America into a monarchy, news was received that a vaccine to fight the dreaded disease has been given “emergency approval.” 

That’s the good news. 

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Assembly Bill 5: California’s ‘Swiss Cheese’ Law

Kerry Jackson
Kerry Jackson is a senior fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

California voters pulled the teeth out of Assembly Bill 5, the labor classification legislation that outlawed gig work, when they approved Proposition 22 last month. The ballot measure didn’t strike AB5 from the books, but it is a statute in trouble, further weakened by a recent lawsuit. With every punch that lands on AB5, there’s a rising hope that workers will eventually have their freedom protected by government rather than violated by it.

Two weeks after voters sided with workers and passed Prop 22, the International Franchise Association, the Asian American Hotel Association, and a couple of independent franchise groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. They are asking for protection from the injustices of AB5.

“Without exception,” the suit says, “all of the statutes that regulate franchising recognize that the relationship between a franchisor and its franchisees is a commercial relationship, not an employment relationship.” 

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Housing Laws that Allow the Theft of Community Wealth

Susan Kirsch
Susan Kirsch, Political Advisor and Community Organizer.

You’ve heard the story about frogs who don’t leap out of a kettle of water that is slowly brought to a boil. The story illustrates how people, like frogs, will succumb to slow changes without taking action. The story is a myth, but the principle holds true for California’s single-family homeowners, neighborhoods and communities.

Having passed over 64 housing bills in the past four years, the state legislature is misguidedly turning up the heat to eliminate single-family zoning. In 2021, for example, they are likely to pass a bill that will allow duplexes to be built on most single-family lots, regardless of local zoning. Legislators repeatedly attack cities’ rights to self-determination, which opens the door to marauding real estate speculators.  

The reasons change but the objective stays the same.

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Looking to 2021 and Our Recovery

Stuart Waldman
President, Valley Industry & Commerce Association

The holidays are here, which means 2020 is coming to an end. Under normal circumstances, a new year would represent new beginnings and new opportunities, but as we prepare to welcome the new year, the hard truth is that many of the issues and challenges we have faced throughout 2020 will remain with us in 2021. 

While we will continue to be faced with adversity in the new year, I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel if all of us continue to do our part. This includes our elected leaders doing their part as well. 

It is incumbent upon our elected leaders to seriously consider what our economic recovery will look like as we work to move past this pandemic. 

Several businesses have permanently shut down during the era of COVID-19, crushing our economy and leaving many people out of work. This will undoubtedly continue to worsen if we do not take a hard look at how to keep businesses open and reevaluate our suffocating policies.

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Midway through plagued first term, Newsom’s career hits make-or-break point

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

Speaking to the camera from his home office during the final days of a family quarantine, Gov. Gavin Newsom seemed at times to be giving himself a pep talk, as much as encouraging 40 million Californians to hunker down amid a coronavirus spike threatening to overwhelm hospitals

“We will get through this,” the governor said last week, before a bookcase decorated with antique cameras and stylish knick-knacks. “This is the final surge. We have a light at the end of the tunnel with these vaccines, but we need to take seriously this moment.”

The moment is consequential not only for California — with more than 10,500 people hospitalized with COVID and 77% of the state’s population on the strictest state-ordered lockdown since spring — but also for Newsom’s political career. He’s approaching the midpoint of his four-year term just as California confronts a critical phase of the pandemic. How he manages it will shape his political future.

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