Photograph Courtesy of Art StreiberRead 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.
A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 freewaysOh, 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.
Flap’s old Congressional District CA-24 and the new one CA-26The 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.
California’s CapitolWatch 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.
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.
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!
Day By Day by Chris MuirChris, welcome to the heavily regulated world of American small business.
In California, where I have been for 6 decades, businesses are just pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere. The non-baby boom generation of employers will NO longer tolerate the left-wing ridiculousness of the Democratic Legislature.
High taxes and burdensome regulation now outweigh the excellent weather.
An unusual radio in California warns voters against signing petitions for ballot initiatives on the grounds that signers might be exposed to identity theft. This ad is posted here because such ads tend to disappear after campaigns are over. In this case, the ad appears to be an effort to discourage signing of a “paycheck protection” initiative which would make it difficult for labor unions to use dues money for political campaigns.
A labor-backed group running controversial radio ads urging voters not to sign initiative petitions has formally filed as a campaign committee.
Californians Against Identity Theft launched a website and radio campaign last week telling voters that signing petitions to qualify measures for state and local ballots increases the risk of identity theft.
The group has come under fire for both its claims of an identity-theft threat, which some consumer advocates have blasted as false, and a lack of disclosure of its backers. The secretary-treasurer of the effort initially declined to identify donors funding the spot, though the president of the state building trades union acknowledged last week that he had helped think of the idea and was providing funding.
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California President Bob Balgenorth told The Bee on Friday that he was not still directly involved in the effort, saying the corporation operating the campaign was formed by “some other people.” He declined to name the principals or other contributors, saying “I don’t know who all the people are.”
But Balgenorth is listed as a principal officer on the committee’s statement of organization, which identifies its primary sponsors as the building trades union and the California State Pipe Trades Council. The two other officers of the committee, who were listed elsewhere as the president and secretary of Californians Against Identity Theft, also have ties to the building trades union.
Liars, Liars, pants on fire. They don’t want voters to sign certain initiatives and are not worried about protecting voters from identity theft.
Pretty standard in politics – scare people and lie.
A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.
Democrats on California’s Central Coast were handed a rare prize last week when the Citizens Redistricting Commission created a Senate district with no incumbent and a 12-percentage point Democratic voter registration edge.
The race is already on to see who gets to claim the prize of becoming the party’s candidate, and it could be run on a track that is crowded, uncertain and potentially dangerous.
Three contestants have either reached or are approaching the starting line:
– Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, a former assemblywoman who lost a Senate race in 2008 by fewer than 900 votes in a district that was much less friendly to a Democrat. She says she’s “seriously considering” becoming a candidate. “I’m very much leaning in that direction.”
– Jason Hodge of Oxnard, a Ventura County firefighter and an elected commissioner of the Oxnard Harbor District. Hodge has been planning a run for the Legislature for months, has formed a campaign committee and begun raising money. He says he’s definitely running and has “a full expectation to raise $1 million for this primary.”
– Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, a former assemblyman and onetime member of the California Coastal Commission. He says he hasn’t made up his mind, but muses that the Senate district “almost looks like someone drew it for me.” Nava says that by Labor Day, “Everybody should have a sense of what’s real and what’s possible.”
None says he or she would shy away from a primary race in which there are multiple Democratic candidates.
National Tea Party leaders in California were thrilled about one by-product of the political bloodbath over raising the federal debt ceiling: The fight showed that after two years of rabble-rousing from outside the Capitol, the Tea Party has real power to shape the debate in Washington.
Their challenge now that President Obama has signed the debt limit law: Can the Tea Party transform its government-shrinking mantra into long-term power, or will it be a one-hit wonder?
They’re not stopping to think about it. This month, Tea Partiers will storm town hall meetings of Republican and Democratic members of Congress and demand even more cuts. It’s the same strategy Tea Party groups used two years ago to protest – and ultimately water down – the health care reform law when they burst on the national scene.
“You’re going to see a lot of heat at those meetings,” said Mark Meckler, a Grass Valley (Nevada County) resident and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, a national organization that called House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to lift the ceiling “an embarrassment.”
Tea Partiers say the debt deal didn’t cut enough federal spending, was crafted behind closed doors, and assigned responsibility for further cuts to a small, joint committee of Congress.
That heat will be stoked further on Aug. 27 in Napa, when thousands of supporters and at least two GOP presidential candidates are expected to attend a rally to start a Tea Party Express bus trip across the country. It will end in Tampa, where the group will co-host a Republican presidential debate with CNN.
Two years ago, the idea of the Tea Party co-hosting a debate with the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news” was unimaginable.
So the state’s new redistricting commission, after countless hours of hearings, discussions and mind-numbing exercises in specific line-drawing, has produced its almost-final maps of 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.
Partisan and independent analysts have cranked up their computers, and their scenarios generally agree that the proposed districts, which need one more commission vote this month, would result in a Democratic gain of congressional seats and give Democrats a strong chance to claim two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses.
Whether those conclusions become reality, however, would depend on what happens in “swing” districts – those potentially winnable by either party – in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. And their dynamics would be affected by the new and untested “top two” primary system.
It’s “would” rather than “will” because it’s uncertain whether the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s maps will actually go into effect, since they are subject to attack by those – Republicans, mostly – who believe they got the shaft.
Critics could challenge the maps by referendum – collecting signatures to put them on the 2012 ballot – and if a referendum qualifies, the state Supreme Court would adopt temporary maps for the 2012 elections.
It could simply decree that the commission’s maps be used for 2012 while voters decide their permanent fate.
That’s what the court, headed by Chief Justice Rose Bird, decided when a Republican referendum challenged the 1981 maps adopted by a Democratic Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown – a ruling that fueled a drive to oust Bird in the 1986 election.
Or the Supreme Court could draw its own maps, as it did to break redistricting stalemates after the 1970 and 1990 censuses.
The state attorney general and California’s campaign watchdog agency have been asked to investigate a new labor-backed group telling voters that signing initiative petitions increases risk of identity fraud.
Carl DeMaio, a San Diego councilman supporting an effort to qualify a local pension reform measure, filed a complaint over the weekend with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Californians Against Identity Theft is running afoul of state disclosure laws and “knowingly using false information to alarm voters and stifle the constitutionally protected rights of individuals” in the radio spots and website it launched last week.
In a separate letter, DeMaio asked state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the ad and other activities he said are “undermining the initiative process” for San Diego voters.
As The Bee reported Friday, the organization behind the ads has received funding from the California Building and Construction Trades Council. The secretary-treasurer of the group, a retired attorney who formerly represented the union, declined to identify other contributors Friday. He said Californians Against Identity Theft, which has not filed a campaign committee, has been incorporated as a 501(c)4 nonprofit.
Californians Against Identity Theft’s 60-second radio ad, which is airing on stations in Sacramento and Southern California, urges listeners not to sign initiative petitions.Organizers say the effort is intended to educate the public about a need for more regulation of the initiative system, particularly the paid-signature gathering industry. But the ad came under fire Friday from good government and consumer advocates who said its claims were largely unsubstantiated and the timing sparked questions about whether the real goal of the campaign is to derail efforts to qualify measures circulating for local or statewide elections.
Attorneys for a statewide proposal to overturn a new online sales tax collection law have also taken aim at the effort, asking radio stations to stop airing the ad amid concerns that it is “filled with false and misleading statements.” The “Amazon Tax” referendum is one of several high-profile measures currently collecting petition signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot.
Enjoy your morning!
A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.
A Times-USC poll last week showed a close contest. After registered voters were read some arguments on both sides, the so-called Amazon tax was supported by 46% and opposed by 49%.
Looking inside the numbers, two factors stood out, neither shocking.
A majority of Democrats (52%) favored collecting the tax online; the majority of Republicans (59%) opposed it. Independents were almost evenly split.
There was a generational divide: The younger the voters, the more opposed they were to online tax collections. The older, the more supportive. Specifically, 55% of people under 50 were opposed, 52% of the over-50 crowd supported it.
The conflicting political dynamic is this: The best bet is there’ll be a low turnout for the election. A low turnout normally benefits Republicans. Score one for Amazon. But younger people usually don’t bother to show up; older voters do. Score that for Wal-Mart.
Regardless of the outcome on election day, Amazon looks like a loser. First, it’s going to spend tens of millions — and probably scores of millions if it persists in fighting this tax issue in states all over the country.
More important for Amazon, its corporate brand will be smeared from one end of the state to the other. Get used to “tax cheat.”
Ask Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Mercury Insurance Group and Valero oil whether they’d again try to enrich themselves in California voting booths.
But at least this new ballot brawl should benefit one sector of the California economy.
The fire fee is conceptually similar to a new requirement that local redevelopment agencies must share their revenue to remain in business. Those agencies have been skimming about $5 billion a year off the top of the property tax pool before funds are distributed among schools and local governments.
The state must make up about $2 billion of that diversion to schools. So in effect, all state taxpayers have been subsidizing local redevelopment projects.
And then there are those college fees. One commentator went so far as to claim that when Republicans refused to go along with Brown’s pitch for additional tax revenue, they were indirectly imposing a tax on college students.
A fee is a fee, not a tax. Taxes are involuntary but fees pay for specific non-mandatory services, such as college educations.
Roughly a third of California’s adults have four-year college degrees, so they have enjoyed low-cost educations at the expense of everyone else.
One could argue, with great validity, that everyone has a stake in having a well-educated workforce, but even with the fee increases, college in California is still highly subsidized and still a very good deal.
California State University fees will still be among the lowest in the nation vis-à-vis comparable institutions, according to data from the California Postsecondary Education Commission. University of California fees will be about average. And our community college fees are still rock-bottom.
Fair is fair, and the new fees that are causing such angst are very fair.
A local ballot measure in San Jose and a statewide initiative, both only proposals at this point, would attempt to cut the cost of public pensions promised current workers, believed by many to be “vested rights” protected by court decisions.
The watchdog Little Hoover Commission, warning in February that soaring pension costs could “crush” government, said cuts to new hires would not yield enough savings and recommended legislation allowing pension cuts for current workers.
A key point: The commission and the proposed ballot measures would not cut pension amounts already earned by current workers through years of service. The cuts (in benefits or employer contributions) only apply to pensions earned after the change.
The Little Hoover Commission said the courts have held that public employees have a vested right under contract law to the pension benefits offered on their first day on the job, even if it takes five years of work to qualify for them.
But the commission said the rulings, which differ from private-sector pensions that can be cut for future work, have provided openings to modify benefits for current workers that must be clarified.
“Government agencies cannot generate the needed large-scale savings by reducing benefits only for new hires,” said the commission. “It will take years if not decades to turn over the workforce, and the government is hardly in hiring mode today.”
The backers of the proposed ballot measures are already hearing from defenders of the vested rights of current workers.
A paper on vested rights issued by the California Public Employees Retirement System this month suggests the giant system, which covers half the non-federal government workers in the state, would go to court to protect the rights of its members.
California’s fiest-ever independent redistricting commission finished drawing 177 new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization maps late Sunday after a rare conflict over racial issues.
The new maps, which will be released to the public on Friday, are expected to generate a flurry of lawsuits and at least one referendum drive, all of which would, if successful, shift redistricting to the courts for final resolution before the 2012 elections.
Created by two ballot measures, the commission is doing a job that in the past had been done either by the Legislature or the courts. Overall, its districts – if finally adopted – are expected to give the state’s dominant Democratic Party opportunities to gain two-thirds majorities in the Legislature and increase its control of the state’s congressional delegation.
The 14-member commission – five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents – spent the entire weekend on final district-by-district reviews, making dozens of mostly minor changes that sometimes involved just a few people.
Enjoy your morning!
An afternoon collection of links and comments about my home, California.
In the spring of 2010, when he applied to become a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Gabino Aguirre of Santa Paula described himself as a “community activist” who had been an “advocate for a variety of causes.”
Aguirre survived the rigorous screening process conducted by the State Auditor’s Office and was ultimately chosen as one of 14 commissioners selected from a pool that originally included 25,000 applicants.
Now, with the commission poised to adopt political district maps that are certain to displease many Californians, Aguirre, one of five Democrats on the panel, has become the subject of sharp attacks from Republican Party leaders who accuse him of being a community activist who has been an advocate for a variety of causes.
The attacks raise anew questions that the State Auditor Elaine Howle struggled with in 2009 as she developed guidelines and regulations for the selection of commissioners, a task with which she was charged under Proposition 11, the initiative that created the independent redistricting process.
Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said she believes the auditor “struck the right balance” in disqualifying those whose political connections were so strong as to make them potentially beholden to a particular party or politician while at the same time keeping the process open to those who had been engaged in civic activities.
“No one involved in crafting this commission expected you to have applicants who had zero political involvement in their history,” she said.
Indeed, a review of applications reveals a history of civic and political activism on the part of several commissioners. Some examples:
– Jodie Filkins Webber of Norco is a member of the Corona Norco Republican Women, and has engaged in voter registration and fundraising activities organized by the group.
– Maria Blanco of Los Angeles, a Democrat, was counsel to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund when it filed suit against the 2000 redistricting plan, alleging that it deprived fair representation to Latinos in the San Fernando Valley.
– Gil Otani was a member of the San Diego Planning Commission, appointed by a Republican mayor.
– Peter Yao of Claremont, a Republican and former City Council member, served on three Asian caucuses of organizations for local elected officials “because I found that Asians were poorly represented at all levels of government.”
There are parallels in all the above examples to the charges leveled against Aguirre: that he had the support of a Democratic elected official (Supervisor Kathy Long), that he had a history of advocating for increased political representation for a particular ethnic group (Latinos) and that he was associated with a civic group that took an active role in redistricting (CAUSE).
California voters made it abundantly clear that they want an open and transparent non-partisan redistricting commission process to redraw legislative lines. According to CalWatchdog, California voters aren’t getting what they asked for.
CalWatchdog launched an investigation into the past of one of the appointees to the commission, Dr. Gabianno T. Aguirre, and found that he has made multiple political campaign contributions to Democratic candidates and has a special “web of connections” with a special interest group that submitted its own redistricting proposals to the commission. This revelation comes amidst recent public criticism that the Redistricting Commission maintains a partisan slant.
In response, I have sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown and the Chairman of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission calling for Dr. Aguirre to resign or, if he fails to step down, for the Governor to remove him from the Commission. Because Dr. Aguirre has failed to disclose any of his political contributions, as well as his current advisory board membership with the Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy more commonly known as CAUSE, he has compromised the Commission’s integrity.
The California Republican Party has consistently been engaged in the redistricting process and has demanded accountability from the CRC every step of the way. We will continue to closely monitor the Redistricting Commission’s efforts and are prepared to take immediate action if their final maps do not meet the fair and competitive standards that voters expect after passing Props 11 and 20.
It’s an article of faith for most Democrats to avoid being associated with Big Tobacco.
Of the 77 Democrats in the Legislature, 54 (75 percent) have never received a single dime from tobacco companies or interests associated with them.
So, it was more than mere annoyance that Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, found his name on a list of Democrats who received tobacco money.
Yee is running for mayor in San Francisco, and the last thing he needs is to be labeled as the Big Tobacco candidate.
A study by the American Lung Association showed Yee as taking $4,300 from tobacco interests. But Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, insists that the report is wrong.
Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, sent Yee $3,300 in 2005-06 when he was running for the Senate. But Yee sent the money back, Keigwin said.
“He has a policy of not accepting tobacco contributions,” Keigwin said. “He never took any donation. They reported it as a contribution, but check our contribution filing and you’ll see he never accepted it.”
Still, there was the $1,000 he received from the California Distributors Association in the 2005-2006 election cycle.
“When he took that, he wasn’t thinking of it as a tobacco contribution,” Keigwin said. “I’m not denying they distribute tobacco. But his policy is to not take tobacco money. That means tobacco companies and manufacturers.
“If you try to include anybody with any connection with tobacco, that’s a bit extreme,” Keigwin said.
Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said that when he took $1,000 from the California Distributors Association in 2007-2008, he had no idea it has a strong affiliation with tobacco.
“I hate to say it, but I’m not as sharp on the PACs as others,” Beall said from his San Jose district office. “It’s not my priiority.”
Beall was called out on the contribution by a voter in his district, Linda York, who was outraged he’d taken the money.
A judge ruled this week that the Service Employees International Union improperly coerced workers caught in the middle of SEIU’s high-stakes turf battle with a breakaway union in California, potentially invalidating a 2010 election involving 43,500 employees.
SEIU, the nation’s most politically influential union, has been engaged in a costly fight with the former leaders of a 150,000-worker California chapter that formed a breakaway union in 2009. The split followed clashes with then-SEIU President Andy Stern over his emphasis on growing membership even if it meant giving concessions to employers.
Last fall, SEIU won the biggest standoff, an election to represent 43,500 Kaiser Permanente workers in Northern California.
The vote was a big setback for the breakaway union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, leaving it with fewer than 10,000 members. But this week, Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke ruled that Kaiser had improperly withheld pay raises from workers in Southern California who had switched to the new union and that SEIU had then improperly threatened the workers voting in the Northern California election that they, too, could have raises denied if they made the switch.
It is now up to the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to call a second election, as the judge recommends.
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