An Urgent Plea to the Left and Right: No Civil War

Ralph E. Shaffer
Professor Emeritus of History at Cal Poly Pomona

Two disturbing events last week emphasize that the United States is on the brink of a second civil war. The California Secretary of State warned election officials to expect disruption and voter intimidation at the polls on presidential election day, with a specific reference to the illegal presence of weapons. In Michigan, the FBI arrested members of a right wing militia that planned to kidnap the governor and overthrow the state government, leading to a national uprising. Couple that with the earlier seizure of a portion of Seattle by leftist militants, the possibility of a second civil war is not remote. When the election results are rejected, by either side, the nation will be in chaos.

Not since 1861 have Americans faced such a calamity. But the destruction that took place in that Civil War was confined largely to the South. This time, every hamlet, town and metropolis in America will be ravaged in the fighting that follows the turmoil over this presidential election if either side resorts to force in response to an electoral outcome they won’t accept.

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Prop 21 Denies the American Housing Dream for Black, Latino Families

Diane Robertson
Diane Robertson is a small property owner in Los Angeles.

A primary path to the middle class for American families is through property ownership. However, for many African Americans and Latinos, however, it is a dream that and other minorities, the opportunity has been out of reach because of discriminatory housing laws and economic inequality.

It’s alarming that a measure on the November ballot would make this lack of access worse, and simultaneously threaten relatively recent gains made by others in these groups. Proposition 21 would make it more difficult to build the affordable housing we need and make it harder to enter the middle class through home ownership — the central pillar of the American Dream.

Proposition 21 would exacerbate the already dire situation facing mom and pop property owners like me and could hasten foreclosure and short sales of our properties. Like the last housing crisis, this economic upheaval will lead to large corporate landlords and hedge funds swooping in to purchase these properties at distressed prices, devastating small landlords and forcing tenants out of their homes. 

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Current Housing Dispute Magnifies Local Mess

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

Disputes between state and local governments are nothing new.  Indeed, the California constitution was amended long ago to ensure against state mandates on locals unless accompanied by complete compensation.  It’s a past stipulation that continues to be honored by all lawmakers and their staff.  The provision is regularly used in drafting legislation.

But, despite the mandate prohibition disagreements remain.  Locals feel put-upon.  They fear lawmakers have ignored the curb on state directives or worry that some may have slipped by.  Or pre-dated the constitutional arrangement.

At least one did escape constitutional scrutiny.  In fact, it became law 10 years before California voters approved Proposition 4, which authorized the mandate prohibition in 1979.  It was the RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) and the requirement that each local general plan include a housing element.

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More Housing Now

Jennifer Marroquin
Area Representative with the Office of Legislative and External Affairs, City of Los Angeles.

California has an increasingly expensive housing market which leaves many either homeless, struggling to pay rent, or unable to purchase a home. California has not been building enough units to house all those in need and the small number of units that have been built are not affordable. The housing issue in California – though grave, is not a lost cause. There are tools our legislators can use to alleviate the pressure the housing market is causing on lower income individuals.

As of November 2019, the median home price was $600,000 with median rent at $3,000 a month. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has a less than 30% benchmark regarding rent/mortgage, this means that if a household spends over 30% of their income on housing, they’re going to have a hard time affording other goods and services. A household must make at least $10,000 a month to be able to comfortably afford a $3,000 apartment.

One of the main drivers of the increasing prices in housing is the lack of physical buildings for people to live in. The number of housing units built is controlled by local governments, some of these governments have very strict zoning regulations which make the construction of new housing very difficult.

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Veep debate: Fact-check on Kamala Harris as California prosecutor

Ben Christopher
Contributing Writer, CALmatters

A few things distinguished the vice presidential debate from the Trump-on-Biden interruption-fest that the nation suffered through last week:

  • The two were separated by prophylactic plexiglass
  • Tupac was invited for some reason
  • A fly made a surprise appearance on the vice president’s head
  • The back-and-forth was, for the most part, actually a back-and-forth, rather than a free-for-all of interjections and insults

Another difference particularly applicable to Californians: Democratic nominee Sen. Kamala Harris gave American voters a preview of criminal justice policy under a Biden-Harris administration that she said was based on her record here.

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Yeah for Yee

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

It’s tough during times of the typical contentious political give and take for a recognizable member of a political party to make a stand that faithful party members think adverse to the party’s interest. It’s even more difficult in these polarizing times. Yet, State Controller Betty Yee, a Democrat, told fellow Democrat Secretary of State Alex Padilla that he does not have the authority to issue a $35 million contract to a well-connected Democratic public relations firm to promote voting in the coming election. 

Good for Ms. Yee. 

Padilla awarded the contract to SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C. based PR firm that has ties to the last Democratic administration and is connected to the current Democratic presidential nominee. The issue for Controller Yee was not so much the politics but the authority of the Secretary of State to make a $35 million allocation of taxpayer money, which she said he lacks. 

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Reading the Props: 20’s New Supermajority

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)

Every two years, I read the full text of all statewide ballot propositions—because at least one Californian should.

Next is Prop 20.


Prop 20 offers voters a chance to revisit reforms of sentencing and criminal supervision laws passed in the first half of the 2010s decade. Usually, going back and reconsidering previous laws is healthy, because it promotes badly needed flexibility in California’s inflexible system.

But Prop 20 does this in a very inflexible way.

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The United Chambers of Commerce Says No on Proposition 15

Richard Fisk
Chair, Government Affairs Committee, United Chambers Of Commerce San Fernando Valley Region

The United Chambers of Commerce opposed the Split-Roll initiative when it was presented at the Government Affairs meeting last spring.  Now that it is a formal ballot issue as Proposition 15, our opposition is still intact.  Why?

Proponents of Proposition 15, the property tax increase on businesses, say this new tax money could be used to address poverty, unemployment and homelessness.  However, if this new tax passes it will add to the historic bankruptcy filings, unemployment, poverty and homelessness we are now experiencing, and it will raise the cost of living for everyone as the increased business costs are added to everything we buy.

The proponents of Proposition 15 claim that the measure is a fair and balanced reform that will close loopholes in the 1978 Proposition 13 law. What loopholes?  Proposition 13 stated that all property in California will be taxed the same, locking in the rate at that time and allowing for a maximum 2% annual increase.

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An “ecotopian” Future: Can California’s Green Extremism Go National?

Joel Kotkin
Editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

They paved paradise…And put up a parking lot…With a pink hotel, a boutique…And a swinging hot spot…Don’t it always seem to go…That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone — Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi,” 1970

One is often at a loss to explain California to people from other planets—like, say, earth. This is a state that issues mandates for electrification of everything while reducing its generating capacity. It blames devastating fires on climate change, without taking the blame for forestry practices that helped make the seasonal fires much worse. In California, pot is legal, but owning a car with a gas engine, however clean, may soon not be, and climate skeptics of any stripe face opprobrium, consignment to obscurity, and—if they have assets—court dates.

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Will Voters Jump on the Politicians’ Diversity Bandwagon?

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

This coming election will indicate whether the governor and California legislature are way out in front of the electorate on a high-profile issue of the moment—diversity in the form of affirmative action. 

Recently, Governor Newsom signed AB 979 that requires businesses with corporate headquarters in the state to have board members of underrepresented communities defined in the bill as “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” 

There must be one director from an unrepresented community if the board has four members or fewer; two directors from these communities if the board size is between five and nine; and three members if the board is larger than nine. There are monetary penalties for ignoring the mandate. Under previous legislation the state required female representation on boards of directors for corporations headquartered in the state. 

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