I am Not Trader Joe

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)

For years, I’ve told children, newspaper editors, and other credulous people that I’m the Joe of Trader Joe’s. That’s a lie. But it’s true that the store and I grew up in the very same neighborhood.

As a Pasadena child, I would ride my bike two blocks from my house to the Trader Joe’s on Arroyo Parkway—the original store, opened by San Diego native and Stanford alum Joe Coulombe in 1967. 

Back then, it seemed like a cluttered and unremarkable place, mostly good for snacks. So I’ve watched its growth—to 480+ stores across 41 states—with the wonder with which you might follow a neighborhood boy’s transformation into a movie star.

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How The 2019 Elections Help Pelosi And Schiff With Impeachment

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

An obscure race for governor of Kentucky has Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff breathing a lot easier.  In a mild upset, Democrat Andy Beshear defeated incumbent Republican governor Matt Bevin on Tuesday. Bevin’s whole campaign was about supporting President Trump and opposing impeachment, but he lost, albeit very narrowly.

This result, and other results around the country, show that impeachment which is being led by these two Californians is not a drag for the Democrats. In fact, it may be helping them politically.

The results we saw in 2018 that led to Democrats reclaiming the House of Representatives by running up huge margins in the suburbs were replicated in the 2019 races.   Republicans lost the Virginia legislature because they got killed in the Washington DC and Richmond suburbs; they lost their last foothold in the Philadelphia suburbs that once returned nothing but Republicans to office.  But most interesting is what happened to them in Kentucky.

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UCLA and Presidential Debates: Win Some, Lose Some

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

I find it ironic that UCLA lost a major presidential debate because of a labor controversy when UCLA was once the beneficiary of hosting a presidential debate after a different kind of dispute moved the second 1988 presidential debate to UCLA from its original venue. In 1988, Vice-President George H. W. Bush, the Republican nominee squared off against Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee at UCLA’s basketball arena, Pauley Pavilion.

In the present situation, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees asked the Democratic National Committee to honor a boycott on speakers at UCLA because some of the university’s patient care workers are in a contract dispute with the university system. The DNC complied cancelling UCLA as the site for the scheduled December 19 Democratic presidential debate. UCLA went along with the decision without kicking up a fuss–publicly. However, behind the scenes you can bet UCLA officials are disgruntled about the snub and a chance at national and international exposure.

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Leland Stanford, the Railroad Baron and Governor of California, was Starkly Contradictory and Infamously Disruptive

Roland De Wolk
Historian and long-time investigative reporter and author of American Disruptor: The Scandalous Life of Leland Stanford. UC Press.

Born in his father’s East Coast backwoods bar, dying in a magnificent West Coast mansion built from his self-made fortune. Condemned as the complete robber-baron, consecrated as a singular titan of American enterprise. Exalted as the magnanimous founder of a world-class university, damned as a thief, liar, and bigot. 

With all of the stark contradictions in his character, Leland Stanford—a man best known as a railroad magnate, California governor, and putative philanthropist—embodies American typecasts that have bedeviled us for centuries. Today’s infamously disruptive, get-rich-quick, world-altering, ill-mannered, entrepreneurial culture traces directly back to this enigmatic, mythical man. 

He had a quintessential American provenance. His earliest American ancestor arrived in New England a few years after the Mayflower moored at Plymouth Rock. A later Stanford fought in the Revolutionary War. (That ancestor’s widow had to fight the government to get his pension. How American is that?) Stanford’s people moved west to what is now Albany, New York and ran a bar called the Bull’s Head tavern, where he was born in 1824. 

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Audit backs school finance critics

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

A half-decade ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature overhauled California’s school finance system with the avowed goal of closing the “achievement gap” separating poor and English learner students from their more privileged classmates.

School districts with large numbers of “at-risk” students would be given billions of extra dollars to improve their educations. From the onset, however, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) drew criticism from education reform and civil rights groups.

While they applauded the concept, they complained that LCFF would shovel more money into local school coffers without tracking how it was being spent or whether it was closing the gap.

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A Holmes and Watson Approach to the Homeless Crisis

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

I’m not sure who plays which role but Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas are attacking the California crisis of homelessness like the team of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson using what Steinberg called a “deductive” approach to the problem. The co-chairs of the Governor’s Homelessness Task Force want to achieve the goal of removing many of the homeless from the street by respecting the homeless while using the best ideas to help, but also most importantly and controversially, to have government directly involved in housing the homeless. 

Ridley-Thomas’ and Steinberg’s deductive approach is mission oriented—fix the problem by focusing resources on the end result. Now the focus appears to be on the many remedies offered with no coordinated effort focused on the mission. 

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Leaving California for Greener Pastures

Dennis Zine
Former Los Angeles City Councilman and Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant.

While Tax-Paying California Residents flee the state, we find that the homeless population increases along with an assortment of proposed increased taxes and exploding property crimes along with a reduced overall quality of life in the once Golden State of California.

It wasn’t long ago that California and in particular Southern California had a great reputation as the place to live, work and play.  A state with a moderate climate, a great educational system and many quiet residential communities with affordable housing and plenty of places to shop at local retail centers.  

There were multi-lane freeways where you could drive at 65 mph from the San Fernando Valley to downtown Los Angeles in 30 to 45 minutes.  There was no traffic congestion or the current freeway parking lots where we now creep along at 5 to 20 miles an hour most times of the day and into the evenings.  As we remember, they were called “The Good Old Days.”  

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Small Business Releases its 2020 Legislative Agenda

John Kabateck
NFIB State Director in California

Not in any of our members’ memory has NFIB California needed to shape and refine its legislative agenda for the coming session so soon, but these are extraordinary times.

The fate of thousands of people who have freely chosen to be their own bosses, the further legal life of the only tax that has done more for economic stability than anything else, and the threatening potential from even more lawsuit abuse are just a few of the things hanging in the balance when California legislators reconvene January 6, 2020. 

For 76 years, it’s been the National Federation of Independent Business’ primary educational mission to remind legislators and policymakers that small businesses are not smaller versions of big businesses. They have different struggles in remaining solvent. 

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San Francisco’s ‘homeless tax’ helps spur departure of another high-profile company

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

Will Uber be the next tech company to bail on San Francisco? 

Less than a year after losing by far its biggest-grossing company to Texas – the pharmaceutical giant McKesson Corp. – San Francisco is losing another high-profile firm. Stripe, a financial software company that is the second-highest valued start-up in the U.S., is moving to South San Francisco.

Both McKesson and Stripe were unhappy with Measure C, the “homeless tax” approved by San Francisco voters last November that requires companies based in the city, which have more than $50 million in annual revenue, to pay a levy based on their gross receipts. McKesson moved to Irving, a suburb of Dallas, which has no such tax and much lower overall corporate taxes. While South San Francisco is not as cheap as Irving, it doesn’t have anything akin to San Francisco’s tax, which has helped the city attract many tech firms, in particular biotech giant Genentech.

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Does California Really Need Yet Another Statewide School Bond?

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)

Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders have been bursting with self-congratulation about the new state school bond they’ve just placed on the March 2020 ballot.

And they have some reason to do so. This school bond is designed to address some problems of previous such bonds, especially around equity. In the past, school bond money, which requires matching funds, has gone disproportionately to communities with wealth and strong existing plants. This new bond is designed to make things a little more even, and put more money into modernization of school plants—to make drinking water safety, address health and safety, and update structures for seismic reasons. 

But those improvements don’t address the larger question: Why does California need yet another state school bond? Much less a $15 billion bond, the largest in the history of the state. 

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