They held an election in California’s largest city last week, more or less.
Just 16 percent of Los Angeles’ registered voters cast ballots, and neither of the two leading candidates for mayor received even a third of that vote.
So City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel, each claiming the allegiance of just 4 percent to 5 percent of the city’s voters (and only a couple of percentage points of its 3.8 million residents) will face each other in a May 21 runoff election for the very dubious honor of governing a city that’s flirting with insolvency. Read More
Gov. Jerry Brown’s major achievement in his first year as governor in 1975 was the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which created a first-in-the-nation mechanism for the United Farm Workers union to seek contracts with growers.
It did not, contrary to expectations, result in the massive unionization of fieldworkers. Thirty-eight years later, the reasons are still being debated. The UFW and its allies contend that there has been unfair stalling by farmers; growers blame the union’s indifference to doing business and its own internal strife. Read More
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument or column writing, that the fundamental task of any public-school system is to maximize the number of students who graduate from high school and are ready to either enter the workforce or further their educations. Read More
It’s utterly amazing at times how brain-dead the East Coast political media, both partisan and independent, can be about California’s politics.
The canards about California abound and become more entrenched with every election, such as the so-called Bradley effect.
Some liberal East Coast pundits love to believe that Tom Bradley, then the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, was the victim of a secret anti-black bias when he lost the governorship to Republican George Deukmejian in 1982, because pre-election polls favored Bradley. Read More
This wasn’t your father’s electorate, much less your grandfather’s.
Even as California’s white population declined sharply in the last generation to well below 50 percent, middle-age white homeowners still dominated California’s elections. And this widening gap between voters and the overall population contributed to chronic political gridlock.
But last week’s election saw the emergence of a much different demographic profile that, if it continues, permanently changes assumptions about our politics. Read More
Let’s begin with the bedrock principle that voters deserve full disclosure of who’s giving money to whom for what.
In fact, we’d be much better served to make full and immediate disclosure of campaign funds our sole regulation of political money, rather than the complex melange of federal and state laws, regulations and court decisions that now purport — but fail — to protect the political process. Read More
So far this year, three California cities have filed for bankruptcy protection, and it’s likely they will be joined by at least a few others in the not-too-distant future.
That’s not merely journalistic speculation. Moody’s Investment Service, which closely monitors state and local governments for the huge municipal bond industry, issued an unusual public warning the other day that other California cities may be headed down the same path. Read More
For decades, it’s been the California Legislature’s practice to ask voters every few years to approve a statewide education bond issue, providing funds to expand and rehab local schools, community colleges and state universities.
In fact, voters have approved 21 of 24 state school bond issues since 1949, according to one history on the matter.And since 1998, state bonds have paid for a third of the approximately $100 billion in bond money spent on local schools, with the remainder coming from local bond issues repaid from property taxes. Read More
The public pension-reform legislation that the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown adopted very carefully avoided any changes to current pensioners’ benefits and those of future recipients now on state and local payrolls.
Not only would that have been politically impossible, but it’s widely assumed that pensions are protected by the California Constitution’s ban on “impairing the obligation of contracts.”
Therefore, all of the pension changes apply only to future employees.
But is the legal barrier to changing current pension promises absolute? Read More
Redevelopment is dead — or so proclaimed Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators last year when they canceled the legal authorization for the six-decade-old urban renewal program and seized its assets to close the state’s budget deficit.
Since then, state and local officials have been dismantling hundreds of local redevelopment agencies and squabbling over payment of their debts and disposition of their assets.
Redevelopment is dead. Long live redevelopment. Read More
A late-blooming, business-backed drive to significantly alter the 42-year-old California Environmental Quality Act died late last week when it crashed into a wall of opposition from influential environmental groups.
That wasn’t the official reason, of course. Rather, legislative leaders insisted that putting off CEQA modification was a good government decision not to rush something so significant.
“This law, for all of its strengths and its faults, is far too important to rewrite in the last days of the session,” state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said. Read More
The Sacramento Bee published a lengthy article recently about the proliferation of special committees in the California Senate that rarely, if ever, meet, just as rarely produce worthwhile research, and appear to exist mainly to give senators extra, off-the-books staff.
Bee reporter Jim Sanders spent many hours poring through Senate documents, looking — mostly in vain — for evidence that the special committees serve some valid public purpose. Read More
No session of the California Legislature would be complete without at least one “scope-of-practice” bill. What’s that, you ask?
Health care is the largest single piece of the California economy, involving about $200 billion a year. That cornucopia fuels competition among medical specialists over the legal scope of their practices. As some seek to expand their fields, they encroach on others’ turf. Read More
For years, even decades, business groups have complained that the California Environmental Quality Act’s complex provisions were being misused to block worthwhile projects, often for reasons that had nothing to do with the environment.
The complaints drew sympathy from Republican legislators, and sometimes became intertwined with the state’s budget negotiations. But the Legislature’s dominant Democrats, closely allied with environmental groups, refused to entertain any major changes to the environmental law. Read More
Given its record on other issues, such as the deficit-ridden budget, it’s not surprising that the California Legislature doesn’t handle scandal very well.It almost always ignores internal scandal, including its members who run afoul of criminal laws. It’s difficult to say how outrageous a legislator’s conduct would have to be to earn censure. Mass murder, perhaps?When scandals surface in the remainder of state government, usually via journalistic revelations, the Legislature’s response seemingly depends on politics of the moment, rather than consistent principle. Read More