The Kamala Dilemma—California Style

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe
Former Senior Fellow at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and Political Reporter for NBC Los Angeles

It was 2:30 pm on a busy Saturday afternoon at the California Democratic Party Endorsing Convention—just a couple of hours away from a roll-out of myriad candidates for the party’s Presidential nomination. Some were taking a brief detour from the Golden State money trail; all were seeking to claim a California primary victory.

In the Exhibit Hall candidate booths were abuzz. All except one: Kamala Harris’.

It sat empty, except for one lone Harris sign on a table that was listlessly chaperoned by a non-attentive volunteer.

Was all the political paraphernalia gobbled up earlier? Could be.

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California Coast Needs an Irish Wake

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)

Peace out, Pacifica

Don’t despair, Del Mar

Never stress, Newport Beach.

Yes, sea levels are rising. Yes, California’s coastline is eroding and changing. And we are going to lose beloved beaches, bluffs, and homes. 

But we must not let our responses to sea-level rise become dominated by fear, division, and local politics, which will produce drastic, panicked and litigation-driven policies that our descendants will rue. Instead, we should embrace the coast’s shifting nature, and celebrate its evolution as a way to encourage our own.

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The Cost to Taxpayers of Enhancing Sonoma County Employee Pensions

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

In the early 2000s, along with many other cities, state agencies and counties in California, Sonoma County enhanced their employee pension benefits.

As of 6/30/2018, Sonoma County’s pension system had $2.7 billion of invested assets, but nearly $3.1 billion in actuarial accrued liabilities. To what extent is its $400 million unfunded liability attributable to the pension benefit enhancements? Put another way, how much have these enhancements cost Sonoma County’s taxpayers?

Just as it is impossible to know with perfect accuracy the amount of a pension fund’s actuarial accrued liability, it is impossible to precisely calculate the cost to taxpayers of Sonoma County’s pension benefit enhancements. There is enough data available in the financial statements provided by Sonoma County’s pension fund, however, to provide credible estimates.

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Newsom Huffs and Puffs, Like the Big Bad Wolf

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Remember the children’s fable about the wolf who was attempting to capture and consume the three little pigs?

If a pig refused to admit him or come out of its house, the wolf threatened: “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration that the state will stop buying vehicles from automakers that oppose its mileage and tailpipe emission rules is just such huffing and puffing.

While several car companies agreed to California’s demands, others refused and continued to support the Trump administration efforts to weaken Obama-era mileage and emission standards.

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Homeless Issue Tops in CA, Political Price for Inaction?

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

Two recently issued polls reveal that homelessness is the top issue in California. Disagreement abounds on how to confront the problem but the truth is if the homeless crisis is not ameliorated there will be a political price to pay and wise politicians should understand that.

The Public Policy Institute of California statewide poll revealed that homelessness was considered the number one issue in the state among both likely voters and all adults. A Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Business Council Institute poll on homelessness in Los Angeles County showed people are frustrated and want something done about the situation.

Mark Baldassare, PPIC president stated in a release accompanying the PPIC poll, “Homelessness and housing costs are now being mentioned as much as the economy and immigration when asking about the most important problems facing the people of California today.”

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“F– the POA” Is a Slogan With Power

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)

After Chesa Boudin’s surprise victory in the San Francisco district attorney’s race, a prominent supporter of Boudin, Supervisor Sandra Brewer, shouted “F— the POA!” at an election party.

The chant was directed at San Francisco’s Police Officers Association, the powerful police union, which spent big money against Boudin.  The chant occasioned criticism—about being a sore winner post-election, and about supposedly being anti-police. The POA itself demanded an apology.

Fortunately, there hasn’t been one. I think that the chant, despite the bad word, hit the mark—and that we will hear it again, across California.

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Threatening to Jump onto a Freeway; LA Homelessness; Business on the Move

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

Whatever the reason, there was a man who recently threatened to jump from a bridge along the Hollywood Freeway causing  both north and south bound lanes to be shut down for 11 hours!  

It all began around 11:00 pm on a recent Monday evening and concluded the following Tuesday morning around 10:00 am.  For nearly 11 hours everyone traveling on the 101 both north and south was directed off the freeway onto local streets which soon became huge parking lots.  People were late to work, court, school, doctor’s appointments and a host of other destinations. All because one individual wanted to play games with the lives of thousands of motorists trying to carry on with their daily activities.  During this time, the LAPD, CHP, Cal Trans and LAFD Personnel directed traffic and baby sat the individual while attempting to talk him down. The man final surrendered when he was offered some food. Case closed and traffic along the freeway resumed to the normal gridlock after many hours of frustration for both the motorists and public safety officials.  If you were one of the drivers caught in this mess, you will remember this nightmare for years to come.     

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Jerry Brown’s quixotic quest to save the world

Susan Shelley
Columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, "How Trump Won."

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown was in Washington a couple of weeks ago to testify to the House Oversight Committee that Republicans are “flat Earth” science deniers who don’t understand the “life-and-death” stakes of California’s effort to require automakers to increase the average mileage of the vehicles they sell from 37 miles per gallon in 2020 to about 50 miles per gallon in 2025.

“The blood is on your soul here,” he testified.

Brown blamed California’s worsening wildfires on climate change without mentioning that in 2016, he personally vetoed a bill that would have required the state to identify areas at high risk for wildfires, and would have required state utility regulators and forestry officials to develop enhanced plans to prevent fires caused by power lines and other utility equipment.

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PPIC Poll Tests Appeal of Tax Money for Schools

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

What can we learn from the Public Policy Institute of California’s poll on tax issues probably facing voters next year? For supporters of more money for schools, there is disappointment at this time in that two of the three measures tested have not generated majority support among likely voters.

Schools are supposed to be the slam dunk appeal to the hearts of voters when it comes to approving more tax money. It’s an old strategy that frequently succeeds. However, at the moment, the school people seem to have work to do convincing voters that more money from their pockets for the children is a good idea.

When asked about the pre-school thru college health and public safety bond that will appear on the ballot in March as Proposition 13, likely voters support it 48% to 36%. Clearly, the bond is in position to reach the 50% passing mark, but given that most bonds on the statewide ballot pass, it seems strange the poll didn’t find stronger support for the bond.

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PG&E Hearing Wrap-Up

Dan Morain
Senior Editor, CALmatters

(Editor’s Note: The following report compiled by CalMatters’ Senior editor Dan Morain covered yesterday’s hearing on PG&E power blackouts held by the California senate.)

“We don’t want Californians to think they’re living in Puerto Rico because they are not.”— Ana Matosantos testified at a Senate hearing Monday. She’s Gov. Gavin Newsom’s energy czar and also serves on a board overseeing the financial restructuring of Puerto Rico, including the island’s electric grid.

  • PG&E Chief Executive Officer William Johnson told the senators: “Repeatedly turning off power for millions of people in one of the most advanced economies in the world, even in the interest of safety, is not a sustainable solution to the wildfire threats we face.”
  • PG&E warned that 800,000 people could lose their power Wednesday and Thursday as wind-driven fire weather is expected to return.
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