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share save 120 16 Michael Lewis: California and Bust
Arnold in SM Michael Lewis: California and Bust

Photograph Courtesy of Art Streiber

Read all of Michael Lewis’ excellent piece on California government and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A ompelling book called Cal­ifornia Crackup describes this problem more generally. It was written by a pair of journalists and nonpartisan think-tank scholars, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, and they explain, among other things, why Arnold Schwarze­neg­ger’s experience as governor was going to be unlike any other experience in his career: he was never going to win. California had organized itself, not accidentally, into highly partisan legislative districts. It elected highly partisan people to office and then required these people to reach a two-thirds majority to enact any new tax or meddle with big spending decisions. On the off chance that they found some common ground, it could be pulled out from under them by voters through the initiative process. Throw in term limits—no elected official now serves in California government long enough to fully understand it—and you have a recipe for generating maximum contempt for elected officials. Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. “The vicious cycle of contempt,” as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.

But when you look below the surface, he adds, the system is actually very good at giving Californians what they want. “What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got.” As much as they claimed to despise their government, the citizens of California shared its defining trait: a need for debt. The average Californian, in 2011, had debts of $78,000 against an income of $43,000. The behavior was unsustainable, but, in its way, for the people, it works brilliantly. For their leaders, even in the short term, it works less well. They ride into office on great false hopes and quickly discover they can do nothing to justify those hopes.

share save 120 16 Michael Lewis: California and Bust

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share save 120 16 Flaps California Morning Collection: August 17, 2011
griffith park observatory Flaps California Morning Collection: August 17, 2011

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Internet poker battle waged in Sacramento

A group of casino operators has taken to radio and television with ads urging state lawmakers to legalize Internet poker in California, prompting opponents to step up pressure for legislators to table the proposal for the year.

The ads by the California Online Poker Assn. say legalizing web-based poker could help the state avoid deep budget cuts. The spots started airing in the Sacramento area this week. Legislators are less than a month away from the deadline to act on bills this year.

“Online poker will provide California with $250 million dollars immediately and billions more in the future,’’ said Ryan Hightower, a spokesman for the association.

The group includes Commerce Casino, Bicycle Club, Hollywood Park Casino and operators of American Indian gaming facilities, including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Other American Indian tribes have joined the California Tribal Business Alliance, which Tuesday sent a letter to legislators asking them to drop two pending pieces of legislation for the year.

The alliance includes the Pala Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino near Temecula. The alliance argues that Internet poker could take customers away from brick-and-mortar casinos.

Dan Walters: A corporate tax break Democrats adore – The Film Industry

Democratic politicians and liberal groups, including unions, often rail against corporate tax loopholes as unjustified raids on the public treasury – as they should.

Loopholes are particularly troublesome during periods, such as this one, when state and local budgets are leaking red ink and basic public services are being slashed.

But one multimillion-dollar loophole draws vocal support from those who usually oppose corporate tax breaks – one that happens to benefit a heavily unionized industry whose top executives are overwhelmingly Democrats and contribute lavishly to the party’s candidates and causes.

That would be Southern California’s movie and television production community.

California revenues down, Department of Finance confirms

Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance said Tuesday that California was $541 million shy of its July revenue forecast, a total similar to one released last week by state Controller John Chiang.

School officials grew nervous last week because the state budget signed by Brown requires K-12 districts to absorb cuts if the state falls $4 billion shy of revenue expectations for the fiscal year. The budget also would impose cuts to higher education, social services and public safety programs.

State legislators and Brown tacked on that $4 billion expectation of higher revenues to finish closing the state deficit in June.

Finance officials, in a department bulletin, cautioned against early concern. They suggested that most of the higher revenues would come on the back end of the fiscal year, from December through June. And they said forecasts by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance in November and December would determine whether the “trigger” cuts are necessary.

The $541 million in missed revenues represents 9.2 percent of the $5.867 billion that Finance expected the state to receive in July.

November 2012 Targets – Part Three: The State Senate

Last week, I made my early picks a to where the action may be for Congress and the state Assembly in November 2012. Now, lets look at the state Senate.

First, only the 20 odd-numbered districts are up for election in 2012, and, barring a successful court challenge or referendum, the candidates will run in one of the newly drawn districts that the Citizens Redistricting Commission, in their final vote, are expected to approve today, August 15.

Senators elected in 2010 in one of the 20 even-numbered districts were elected to a four-year term and will represent those districts as drawn until the end of their current term in 2014. Should any of these senators resign his/her seat, a special election would be held to fill the unexpired term, but the election would be held under the old lines. The newly drawn even-numbered districts do not become legal until the 2014 election cycle.

Here are the odd-numbered senate districts that I pick as possibly being competitive, with the more likely targets being listed first.

27th Senate District: Republican Sen. Tony Strickland and Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley are gearing up to battle each other for this highly competitive district that encompasses Ventura County’s Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, and the L.A. County city of Malibu, stretching north through the west San Fernando Valley and ending in Santa Clarita. Forty percent of the voters in this new district reside in the current 19th District represented by Strickland, while thirty-six percent reside in Pavley’s current 23rd District.  It’s also interesting to note that half of the new Senate district overlaps Assembly districts currently represented by Republicans Jeff Gorell and Cameron Smyth, while the other half overlaps Assembly districts currently represented by Democrats Robert Blumenfield and Julia Brownley.

Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman tied here, 47% -47%, while Carly Fiorina squeaked by Barbara Boxer 47% – 46%.

Side Note: Should Cong. Elton Gallegly (R) decide to not seek reelection to Congress next year, Strickland could decide to run for the Gallegly congressional seat. That would open the door for Asm. Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) to run in this district.

I look for Tony Strickland to run for the Congressional seat of a retiring Elton Gallegly

Enjoy your morning!

share save 120 16 Flaps California Morning Collection: August 17, 2011

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share save 120 16 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Proposes Driving the Rest of California Business to Texas
villar Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Proposes Driving the Rest of California Business to Texas

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky hold souvenir concrete chips as they celebrate the demolition of two lanes of the Mulholland Drive bridge over Interstate 405 ahead of schedule in Los Angeles Sunday, July 17, 2011. The event that many feared would be the “Carmageddon” of epic traffic jams cruised calmly toward a finish Sunday as bridge work on the Los Angeles roadway was completed 16 hours ahead of schedule and officials reopened a 10-mile stretch of one of the nation’s busiest freeways

Oh, I mean Mayor Villar has proposed to modify California’s Proposition 13 for business property taxes.
In what could be an initial foray into statewide politics, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Tuesday for a renewal of progressive politics in California in the nation, including an overhaul of the state’s iconic limit on property taxes, Proposition 13.

“Progressives have to start thinking – and acting – big again,” Villaraigosa declared in prepared remarks for the Sacramento Press Club, to counteract anti-tax and anti-government drives by the Tea Party and other conservative blocs.

“If the Tea Party in Washington and their counterparts here in Sacramento are intent on pitching jobs overboard in the mindless pursuit of ideology over country, we have to be willing to stand and defend our people,” Villaraigosa said, adding, “And yes, that means making a case for new revenue to sustain long-term investment.”

Villaraigosa was particularly critical of the spending cuts that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature’s Democrats made to balance the state budget after their efforts to extend some state taxes were rejected by Republicans. Those cuts, he said, will damage California’s ability to educate its children and remain economically competitive.

“Governor Brown, I say we need to have the courage to test the voltage in some of these so-called ‘third-rail’ issues, beginning with Proposition 13,” Villaraigosa told the press club. “We need to strengthen Proposition 13 and get it back to the original idea of protecting homeowners, Proposition 13 was never intended to be a corporate tax giveaway but that is what is has become.”

Some Democrats have backed changes in Proposition 13 that would remove, or at least modify, its protections for business property, but Brown has not signed onto that drive. He was governor when Proposition 13 passed in 1978 and although he opposed it prior to the election, after its passage he declared himself to be a “born-again tax cutter” and became a champion of state tax cuts and spending limits.

Does Villaraigosa who is termed out for another term as the Los Angeles Mayor, really think he has a shot at the California Governorship? And, by going to the LEFT of Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and/or Attorney General Kamala Harris?

I guess so.

But, Texas Governor Rick Perry must be licking his chops for all of the California businesses planning to move out of state, once this massive property tax increase hits the ballot.

share save 120 16 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Proposes Driving the Rest of California Business to Texas

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share save 120 16 California Citizens Redistricting Commission Approves New Congressional and Legislative Districts
CA New Congressional District California Citizens Redistricting Commission Approves New Congressional and Legislative Districts
Flap’s old Congressional District CA-24 and the new one CA-26

The new Congressional and California Legislative Districts have been approved by the California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission this morning.
A citizens panel gave final approval Monday to new boundaries for California’s state and congressional legislative districts, setting the stage for possible challenges to the plan in the courtroom and on the ballot.

The maps adopted Monday by the Citizens Redistricting Commission will be used during the next decade in elections for 120 seats in the state Legislature, 53 congressional seats and four seats on the state Board of Equalization.

“Given the conflicting requirements, I think we did a very good job,” said Commission Chairman Vincent Barabba, a Republican businessman from Santa Cruz County who is a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 14-person panel was created after voters approved Proposition 11 in November 2008 to take the job of redistricting away from legislators, who drew the boundaries in a way that helped make sure incumbents were reelected.

Some Republican members of Congress have complained about how the districts were drawn and hinted that the new districts could be subject to a court challenge.

California Republican Party spokesman Mark Standriff said it is “less likely” the state party will go to court, and a decision on whether to put a referendum on the ballot to challenge the plan will probably be made this week.

By and large, the Citizen’s Commission followed the law and their plan is probably about as fair as one can expect in politics. Sure, some POLS will be upset, but having been exposed to the last decade of blatant gerrymandering, this is a vast improvement.

But, stay tuned, since there is liable to be some challenges either by referendum or by lawsuit.

You can view your new California Congressional and Legislative districts here with an interactive map.

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share save 120 16 Flaps California Morning Collection: August 15, 2011
CaliforniaStateCapitol Flaps California Morning Collection: August 15, 2011

California’s Capitol

Watch out Californians, the California Legislature is back in session this morning after a month’s long summer hiatus.
The Legislature returns from a month-long summer recess this week with hundreds of bills, many of them highly controversial, still awaiting action before the Sept. 9 adjournment.

The recess itself was unusual, since in recent years the Legislature has remained in session through the summer due to budget stalemates. This year, with a budget – albeit a very shaky one – in place, the Capitol’s denizens can concentrate on bills.

That means renewing traditional end-of-session follies. Hundreds of lobbyists will battle over high- dollar issues, and legislators will cash in with fundraising events – an average of at least five every working day.

Fittingly, perhaps, the Legislature’s return coincides with the supposedly final vote of the new Citizens Redistricting Commission on legislative and congressional maps for the 2012 elections and beyond.

New maps mean some incumbents will be fighting for their political lives next year while others will be maneuvering to ascend the political food chain, thus making late-session campaign fundraising even more frantic than usual.

Late-session bills tend to be controversial and/or involve taking money from someone and giving it to someone else, which is fertile ground for political fundraising.

Plus, an added bonus today, with the above referenced California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission approving final legislative and congressional maps. The meeting starts at 9 AM.

OK, on to the links…..

For Some, Redistricting is Splitsville

Even with testimony from the public and formal guidelines written into law, California’s first-ever citizens redistricting effort has found no easy answers to the question, “What is a community?”

And so, in the statewide maps being certified Monday morning, some will see their communities split between political districts. Others will be lumped together with communities with which they think they have nothing in common.

The complexity and controversy of shaping political maps based, when possible, on community boundaries has been a dominant theme of the dozens of meetings and decisions made by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

On Monday morning’s edition of The California Report, we take a look at how some of those decisions have left some grumbling in different parts of the state, while commissioners believe the new maps reflect a thoughtful and careful deference to the needs of the public.

Mike Ward: Redistricting Panel Broke Law

A member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission believes that the commission broke the law, failed to uphold an open and transparent decision-making process and used political motives in drawing California’s new state and federal legislative districts, according to an exclusive, in-depth interview with CalWatchDog.com.

“This commission simply traded the partisan, backroom gerrymandering by the Legislature for partisan, backroom gerrymandering by average citizens,” Commissioner Mike Ward said in an interview with CalWatchDog.com on Sunday night. “This commission became the Citizens Smoke-Filled Room, where average citizen commissioners engaged in dinner-table deals and partisan gerrymandering — the very problems that this commission was supposed to prevent.”

Ward, who was the lone member of the commission to oppose all of the commission’s proposed maps at its July 29 meeting, will outline his opposition in a detailed statement to be delivered at the commission’s press conference later today. An advance copy of the commissioner’s remarks was obtained exclusively by CalWatchDog.com and is reprinted below.

Life after politics for O’Connell

Former state superintendent of public instruction and longtime Ventura County lawmaker Jack O’Connell seems to be settling into life after politics. I visited him yesterday in his Sacramento office at School Innovations & Advocacy, the national education consulting firm where he serves as “chief education officer.”

Interesting for Jack saying he didn’t miss the zoo. For someone who taught continuation high school, for what less than two years, before sitting at a card table in a gerrymandered Democratic districts to win the first of many political jobs, he should not be so dismissive. Wouldn’t you think?

Have a wonderful morning!

share save 120 16 Flaps California Morning Collection: August 15, 2011

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