Garcia: As candidates bicker, voters balk

Even before the release of a new poll on the governor’s race this week that showed Republican front-runner Meg Whitman’s once-overpowering 50-point lead against challenger Steve Poizner dropping to single digits, her consultants were telling reporters that the survey didn’t take note of Whitman’s new momentum.

Would that be momentum up or momentum down?

Yet, perhaps the most significant finding in the poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California is that nearly one-third of all Republican voters are undecided with just a few weeks before the primary.

The candidates’ mean-spirited attacks against each other apparently are making GOP voters uncertain about the qualifications of Whitman and Poizner, according to analysts, and it’s going to be a nervous finish to the most expensive campaign in California history.

And it would appear from the poll results that the person enjoying it most is Democratic kingpin Jerry Brown, who has watched from the sidelines for months while the two Republican candidates ripped each other to shreds in negative ads. In a theoretical matchup in the PPIC poll, Brown leads Whitman by 5 points and Poizner by 12.

For the record, Brown held his first official campaign event this week, in which he said the campaign being waged by his GOP rivals is largely responsible for the anger among voters and low regard in which they hold public officials. He called the whole process “contaminated.”

And Brown must be fairly prescient because the new poll showed that only 18 percent of the voters surveyed believed that California was on the right track, while a whopping 77 percent said the state was off the rails — one of the lowest measures ever recorded.

So far, Whitman has spent $68 million on her campaign and Insurance Commissioner Poizner has spent $24 million, and those numbers aren’t spinning into much positive news for either camp. While Poizner’s surge has been the result of his targeted attacks on Whitman about illegal immigration policies and her ties to discredited Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, Whitman still has a 9-point lead and the voters don’t have a positive view of Poizner.

When all is said and done (and spent), perhaps the Republican candidates will find that President Ronald Reagan’s old adage about why GOP candidates shouldn’t bash each other was steeped in truth.

For now, it’s proving to be an awfully expensive lesson to learn.

City taxpayers aren’t responsible for street neglect

It’s hardly news that officials at City Hall have put off basic street maintenance for years — no doubt you have the car and dental bills to prove it. But that neglect is not the taxpayers’ fault, a fact that appears to be missing in a new report by a task force looking at how to pave a way to a brighter street future.

As The Examiner reported this week, a group convened by the mayor and the president of the Board of Supervisors determined that the best (and apparently only) way to solve the streets dilemma is to tax city residents and then tax them again.

The recommended creation of a citywide benefit-assessment district or a parcel tax based on “trip generation” — you know, like when you go grocery shopping or pick up the kids — does beg the question of what exactly you pay taxes for in the first place. Isn’t it to fund basic government services, like clean parks, libraries, public safety and smooth streets?

The idea of a street maintenance bond was already raised last year and roundly trashed for that reason. Perhaps the task force might start with a new premise, that additional taxes are not driver-friendly.

Higher hotel tax would just cost jobs

Here’s a brilliant idea: Lead a boycott of several San Francisco hotels under the premise of saving union jobs and then slap a proposed hotel tax on the ballot that will likely eliminate said union jobs in the future.

Why not just tell tourists to ignore San Francisco and go somewhere that they can afford?

That seems to be the probable outcome of a move this week by a loose coalition of labor activists and revenue-hungry progressives to start gathering signatures for a November ballot
measure that would raise the hotel tax by 2 percent and try to force online bookers to pay regular costs.

The so-called Stand Up for San Francisco organization announced that the plan is designed to make city hotels “pay their fair share.” With a 14 percent hotel tax already in place and with one of the highest sales taxes in the West, visitors to San Francisco indeed don’t pay a fair share — they pay an exorbitant share, one of the highest in the country. If the tax measure was to pass, it would increase the overall hotel surcharge to more than
25 percent.

“There is nothing fair about this tax proposal for The City because it would take us out of the competitive market,” said Patricia Breslin, executive director of the San Francisco Hotel Council. “This proposal would do a disservice to the [hotel union] members.”

We’ve come to expect our lefty leaders to be hostile to business. But to step on The City’s golden egg? Horrors.

Researchers believe manure holds power

There’s a lot of hot air swirling in California right now, and it’s not just because it’s election time.

Scientists at computer giant Hewlett-Packard are proposing a new “bio-gas” system that would convert manure into methane and then use the fuel to power data centers — a considerably less-expensive energy source than, say, hiring outsource workers in India.

One of the researchers called the process — as reported by the San Jose Mercury News — a natural fit combining the “symbiotic relationship between manure and IT.”

I know what you’re thinking here, but before the discussion worsens, the scientific team says the idea of using waste as a new energy application is among many proposals to tap sources to power the next
generation of computer centers.

It shouldn’t surprise you that two of the researchers worked on ranches during their youth, learning firsthand about livestock and all that other, uh, stuff.

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