No Way to End California’s Homelessness Crisis

In late January, a survey conducted by Data for Progress, a progressive activist group, found that an overwhelming majority of Californians favor increasing taxes on corporations to fund “a range of efforts to help” alleviate the homelessness crisis in California.

But California is already home to one of the highest state corporate income tax rates and one of the least competitive business climates in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. Not only would imposing additional burdens make the state even more unfriendly to business than it already is, more revenues will not solve the crisis.

There are more than 150,000 homeless people in California, enough to fill the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium, combined. It’s an appalling statistic, up by nearly 40,000 since its 2014 low point, and is the highest homeless count we saw while researching our new book “No Way Home: The Crisis of Homelessness and How to Fix It with Intelligence and Humanity.”

While breathtaking, that number doesn’t fully illustrate the problem in California. This, however, might help: Though the state makes up 12% of the U.S. population, 27% of all homeless persons live in California. Further, while homelessness is rising in California and a few major metropolitan areas such as New York City and Seattle, it is declining most everywhere else. Clearly, California is doing something wrong.

Rising homelessness is a humanitarian concern. It also produces public nuisances, such as the homeless blocking sidewalks, building entrances, and other public spaces. Mounting homelessness is also a threat to public safety and health due to swelling crime rates, open drug use, and the spread of illnesses, including medieval diseases that had been virtually eradicated in the modern world.

To their credit, officials all across the state recognize the problem. But they’ve tried to solve the puzzle by throwing taxpayer money at it. Over the last three years, California has spent at least $13 billion on homelessness programs, while hundreds of millions more have been indirectly spent as hospitals and law enforcement are devoting more of their time and resources interacting with the homeless.

The results of the Data for Progress poll taken two months ago – nearly seven in 10 Californians strongly (40%) or somewhat support (29%) hiking taxes on “wealthy corporations” to “address the state’s homelessness crisis” – will only encourage them to spend more.

Unfortunately, the current approach is, at best, suspect. A February report from the state auditor says California “continues to struggle to coordinate its efforts to address homelessness,” its “approach … is disjointed,” and the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, set up in 2017, “cannot coordinate existing state and federal funding because it lacks expenditure data from state agencies.”

More of the same isn’t the answer.

A new approach is needed. To cut through the state bureaucracy, California should rely on private efforts to minimize homelessness. Private organizations are typically better equipped than the government to make real differences in the lives of the homeless because they tailor programs to meet the specific needs of individual homeless and can adapt where government cannot.

There are many successful examples that California could learn from. For example, Shelters to Shutters, a Virginia nonprofit, forms partnerships between private businesses and nonprofits that connect people experiencing situational homelessness with housing and job placement. In Nashville, the organization has collaborated with apartment management companies to place the homeless in entry-level jobs while also providing them with housing in the communities in which they work.

Another private nonprofit, Crossroads Welcome Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, leverages the safe place it provides the homeless during the day to connect them with services that can address their needs. The center offers bag storage, transportation, email and internet access, and a sitting room that keeps people off the streets.

California should reallocate the billions it’s spending to simply manage the problem toward supporting innovative nonprofits that have the demonstrated ability to sustainably address the causes of homelessness, be they economic, substance abuse, or mental illness.

Implementing more effective homeless programs is necessary, but not sufficient. Thanks to the state’s burdensome taxes and regulations, living in California is simply unaffordable. Further, recent court rulings are making it increasingly difficult for cities and localities to help the homeless. Comprehensive reforms that address these problems will reinforce the benefits created by more efficient homeless programs and significantly improve life on California’s streets.

Surveys continually show that Californians are fed up with out-of-control homelessness. And rightly so. Raising taxes and increasing spending is nothing more than a continuation of the state’s current failed policies. Instead, California should give deregulation and private sector know-how a chance.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute. Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D. is a Sr. Fellow in Business and Economics at the Pacific Research Institute. They are the authors, with Joseph Tartakovksy and Christopher Rufo, of “No Way Home: The Crisis of Homelessness and How to Fix It with Intelligence and Humanity” (Encounter Books, 2021)

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Would Villaraigosa Run Again For Governor?

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa popped in to speak to a Loyola Marymount University class earlier this year, offering up a story about the pandemic and his career.

When some people ask if he’s glad he’s not governor or mayor during the tumultuous period of the health crisis, Villaraigosa responds with a dirty look, he told the students, according to a video of the class.

“I say, ‘Obviously, you don’t know me,’ ” Villaraigosa said, sounding as feisty as when he would spar with reporters at City Hall news conferences. “Because if you did, you would know I want to be right in the middle of all of it.”

He could soon get his chance. Three years after his underwhelming performance in the California governor’s race, Villaraigosa is being talked about as a possible Democratic candidate in the likely recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Resolution To Censure Maxine Waters Over Her ‘Get More Confrontational’ Remark

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Monday that he would introduce a resolution to censure Rep. Maxine Waters for comments she made over the weekend in Minnesota that Republican lawmakers said stoked further violence.

“This weekend in Minnesota, Maxine Waters broke the law by violating curfew and then incited violence,” he said on Twitter. “Speaker Pelosi is ignoring Waters’ behavior — that’s why I am introducing a resolution to censure Rep. Waters for these dangerous comments.”

His tweet came hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to Waters’ defense on Monday, saying that Waters did not need to apologize for her comments.

When asked whether Waters (D-Calif.) incited violence with her comments, Pelosi told a reporter, “No, absolutely not.”

On Saturday, Waters told demonstrators in Brooklyn Center, Minn., where Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer last week, “to stay on the street” and “to get more confrontational.” Her remarks came ahead of closing arguments on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

“Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the civil rights movement,” Pelosi said. “I myself think we should take our lead from the George Floyd family. They’ve handled this with great dignity.”

Republicans were quick tofire back after Waters made her comments. On Sunday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said she would introduce a resolution to expel Waters from Congress, an effort that will likely fail in a Democratic-led House. Later that day, McCarthy said on Twitter that he would take action against Waters if Pelosi did not.

“Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past,” McCarthy wrote. “If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week.”

GOP lawmakers also took to the Senate and House floors on Monday to voice their displeasure over Waters’ behavior. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico.

Vaccine passports in California?

Now that more than 7.5 million Californians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Newsom administration has set a goal of reopening the state’s economy by June 15. So what does the state plan to do when it comes to proving that people are vaccinated?

State health officials said Tuesday that verification of immunization or testing may be required before some large events are allowed. But so far, they haven’t issued any guidelines or advice for businesses on how to do that.

A theater, for example, could create a section of vaccinated people who may sit shoulder to shoulder for a performance, while requiring unvaccinated people to socially distance in a separate section. 

A convention center could hold a conference for more than 5,000 people — but only if it establishes that everyone has been vaccinated or tested, according to a state order.

How will those venues verify who’s vaccinated and who isn’t? And what about travel? Public health experts, regulators and businesses are wrestling — in a highly politicized environment — with logistical, ethical and legal questions about how and whether to verify COVID immunization status. 

For now, California has no plans to create a statewide vaccine passport or other credential. But private businesses, especially airlines, could require them in the near future.

Here are answers to six questions you may have about vaccine passports. 

What is a vaccine passport, and what are their pros and cons? 

A vaccine passport or credential verifies that the person carrying it has been fully immunized against COVID-19. A related “health pass” also could verify immunization, or could confirm a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 and some subsequent immunity. 

Supporters of vaccine passports say they can help reopen the economy more quickly, portraying them as a temporary fix needed only until enough people have been immunized to reach herd immunity. The travel industry, including airlines and cruise lines, is particularly keen to get countries to ease restrictions on international travel and has said vaccine passports could help. 

Critics say that credentials based on health status — especially if they’re digital-only — reinforce racial and economic inequities already seen throughout the pandemic and raise civil liberties and privacy concerns. 

The U.S. debate over vaccine passports has a distinctly partisan tinge, with many conservatives decrying them as government overreach. 

Does the U.S. government require any kind of vaccine passport? What about other countries?

No. White House officials have said repeatedly that the federal government will not create any kind of national vaccine passport. There is no federal mandate to be immunized against COVID-19. 

However, federal officials are working with private companies to create privacy and equity standards for private passports that are now being developed, the Washington Post recently reported

Other countries or regions are planning or already have developed national vaccine passports or health passes, including Israel, China, Japan and the European Union. Some of these countries are linking the digital passports to their national health care systems or immunization registries. 

Requiring proof of vaccination for travel isn’t new: A number of countries mandate yellow fever or other vaccinations for incoming international travelers, and the United States requires numerous vaccinations for new immigrants.

Will California require any kind of vaccine passport? 

California’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said Tuesday that the state has no plans to develop its own vaccine passport.

Despite this, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Republican from Rocklin, tweeted Tuesday that he plans to draft legislation “to stop the madness of vaccine passports before it starts.”

However, the state also sent some mixed messages: Businesses by June 15 “may return to usual operations…with limited public health restrictions, such as….testing or vaccination verification requirements for large-scale higher-risk events,” according to the state’s announcement.

In addition, the state would specifically require conventions of more than 5,000 people to verify attendees’ vaccination or negative COVID test status. “Unless testing or vaccination status is verified for all attendees, conventions will be capped at 5,000 persons until October 1,” according to the state order.

Ghaly said state officials will monitor private sector development of passports for privacy, equity and fairness.  …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org

Capitol Lawmakers’ COVID Hypocrisy in Full View on Packed Southwest Flight

Since March of last year, lawmakers in the State Capitol have shunned allowing the public to participate in the legislative process. Early on in Gov. Newsom’s statewide lockdown, legislators completely recessed and did not conduct any state business. Eventually they came back to work but fully masked and socially distanced. Some lawmakers wear two masks in empty hearings.

Legislators have been loathe to allow the public to attend and speak at hearings, preferring the public call in on the phone, or if they must attend in person to do it on the Capitol CCTV from another hearing room altogether. It’s a totalitarian way to “govern.”

So Thursday when Greg Burt with the California Family Council sent the Globe this photo, we had a good laugh at the hypocrisy of these lawmakers.

Greg Burt on Southwest Flight. (Photo: Greg Burt)

“Should I be worried this is going to be a super spreader event,” he messaged. “I saw 7 state legislators on this plane to Orange County. But legislators still will not let people visit them at the capitol. And they only let 15 people into a hearing yesterday although they had seating for 150 or more. This is what hypocrisy looks like. This southwest flight is full.”

And then he Tweeted his message.

“Legislators I saw: Sen. Umberg, Sen. Newman, Asm. Quirk*, Sen. Bates, Asm. Nguyen, Sen. Choi. I don’t blame the Republicans for this. Dems control the capitol,” Burt messaged.

He makes a good point. We are forced to stand in line 6 feet from anyone. We can’t reasonably attend hearings in person. State Capitol CHP order anyone on the grounds outside to wear a mask – no doubt under orders from legislative leaders.

But these same legislative leaders and elected lawmakers think nothing of cramming themselves onto a crowded Southwest 737 flight of 143 passengers – shoulder to shoulder – breathing that recycled air.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pinned Tweet still orders: “CA, you are now REQUIRED to wear a mask in public spaces. We’re seeing too many people with faces uncovered. Wearing a face covering is critical for keeping people safe and healthy, keeping businesses open and getting people back to work. Do your part. Wear your mask.” …

Click here to read the full article from the California Globe.

Half of California Adults Have at Least One Vaccination Shot

More than half of California adults have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, a promising milestone that comes as the state is now inoculating as wide a swath of its residents as possible.

To date, 52.2% of Californians 18 and older have been at least partially vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That level of coverage ranks 11th among all states, federal figures show, and is higher than the proportion of adults who have received a dose in other heavily populated states — including Pennsylvania, 51.8%; New York, 51.3%; Texas, 45%; and Florida, 44.8%.

Nationwide, 48.3% of adult Americans have received at least one shot. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Caitlyn Jenner for Governor of California?

What on Earth makes Caitlyn Jenner believe she’s qualified to be governor of California?

She’s an Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete, a former spokesperson for Wheaties; she posed for the cover of Playgirl magazine, has appeared in all sorts of TV shows including “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and is an activist on behalf of transgender rights.

That’s a lot of stuff for one person’s resume. But nothing on it screams out “Gov. Jenner.” She has no electoral or policymaking experience. Call me narrow-minded, but neither throwing javelins nor peddling breakfast cereal is meaningful preparation for running post-COVID California.

Nevertheless, when Axios reported earlier this month that Jenner was exploring a run to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom (assuming the recall election moves forward), her candidacy was taken seriously by a number of political professionals — simply because she’s really, really famous. “I think she’d be a formidable candidate,” said former GOP Rep. Mimi Walters. Former GOP Chairman Jim Brulte called her “viable.” …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Here’s where the Democratic and Republican parties are growing most in California

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Republican Party grew in California last year. At the same time, Democrats expanded their dominance as the largest party in the state.

Political experts say the growth of both parties — with a simultaneous decline in the number of independents — is the result of growing polarization in the state’s electorate and a belief on both sides of the divide that the opposing party poses an existential threat.

The Chronicle analyzed registration numbers across California and found that voters in almost every county gravitated toward the two major parties starting after the 2018 elections and running through the November 2020 presidential vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Facing Down Fear of a Mega-Drought

Four years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of California’s historically severe drought by lifting various emergency restrictions. “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” the governor intoned. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” Brown was right about the next drought now that 99 percent of our state is facing abnormally dry conditions, with more than two-thirds of it in an actual drought situation.

In fact, this latest dry spell has led to hyperbolic predictions about a coming mega-drought. No one knows what Mother Nature will bring next rainy season. This rainy season is at a close, however, and the Sierra snowpack is only 59 percent of normal, while the state’s reservoirs are again less than half filled. It doesn’t matter if California is facing a mega-drought or just a garden-variety drought of the type that comes and goes every decade or so.

The state simply needs to do more than promote conservation and even rationing — or to exaggerate fears of drought to highlight its concerns about climate change. Unfortunately, their goal isn’t to fix a basic infrastructure problem or find new ways to funnel more water into our plumbing systems, but to use short-term dry spells to say, “See, we told you so about the climate crisis,” and lobby for more intense emission standards.

“Drought has scorched western North America for the better part of two decades, withering crops, draining rivers and fueling fires,” according to an article last April in Smithsonian magazine. “Scientists now warn that this trend could be just the beginning of an extended mega-drought that ranks among the very worst of the past 1,200 years and would be unlike anything known in recorded history.”

Last year wasn’t particularly dry, but now that the West is facing low rainfall again, this concept is all the rage. Just Google “mega-drought” and you’ll be stunned by the amount of reading material. Such a drought could be coming, of course, but when environmentalists compare a drought that hasn’t fully arrived to historic, civilization-changing droughts from the Dark Ages, one has a clue that something more than water policy is in the offing.

Frankly, conservation already is a way of life in our relatively arid state. “California’s urban water suppliers exceeded the statewide conservation goal, saving over 59 billion gallons (about 182,000 acre-feet) compared to the same period a year ago. June conservation efforts put the state on track to achieve the 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal by Feb. 2016, as called for by the Governor in his April 1 executive order,” Western Farm Press reported near the end of the last drought.

Since then, urban water users have continued to meet aggressive conservation targets even during years of hearty rainfall. In one typical example, residents of the San Jose area voluntarily reduced their water usage by 20 percent below 2013 levels through 2019 — and reduced their water usage by 16 percent below those levels last year, according to a recent Mercury News report.

A new law mandates individual indoor water-use targets of 55 gallons per day by 2023, with those targets falling to 50 gallons by 2030. Despite inaccurate claims to the contrary, the state won’t punish California residents or police their showers, but it could fine local water districts that miss the targets. The policy game is to keep reducing the targets. There are no limits on lawn-watering now, but it’s not hard to see how we might arrive there.

Californians have been remarkably thrifty, but to no avail. We use less water individually than the residents of many other states, despite the environmentalist finger-wagging about swimming pools and green lawns. The problem isn’t the public, but a state government that has squandered the last four years doing little about rebuilding our water-infrastructure backlog, boosting storage capacity, or permitting new desalination facilities.

On the last point, Gov. Gavin Newsom, to his credit, supports a proposed desalination facility along the Orange County coast (although it would be nice if he used more of his clout to secure the latest permits). State-imposed roadblocks have delayed the project for years, even though a similar facility in Carlsbad can meet 9 percent of San Diego County’s water needs. Projects such as these can make a real dent in our water supplies.

One recent column opposing the project offers this alternative: “There are plenty of things we can do to ensure that Southern Californians have enough water to thrive. Cisterns and rain barrels could be placed adjacent to every building to capture rainwater.” The writer also calls for the usual policies of drought-resistant landscaping, water recycling, and high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. I quote from the piece because it reiterates common misconceptions.

Residential consumers use only 5.7 percent of the state’s water resources, and, as noted above, they have conserved more water than anyone expected. Around half of the water flows out to the Pacific Ocean, with 40 percent going to agriculture. Eking more savings with more-efficient showerheads isn’t going to mean anything. Environmentalist writers can be expected to tout these non-solutions, but what’s the excuse for a governor and lawmakers?

As another drought comes upon us, California lawmakers need to embrace a simple and cost-effective suite of policies that feed more water into the system, rather than using it as an excuse to prattle about climate change and march toward water rationing.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He is author of the 2020 book Winning the Water Wars. Write to him at [email protected]

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Merchants of Revolution: California’s Ethnic Studies Initiatives Train Children In Marxist Theory

California public schools are embarking on a new experiment: education as social justice. Earlier this year, the state Department of Education approved an ethnic studies model curriculum, and individual school districts have begun to implement programs that advocate “decolonizing” the United States and “liberating” students from capitalism, patriarchy, and settler colonialism.

This will likely come as a surprise to most California residents, who may be familiar with the movement’s euphemisms—“ethnic studies,” “educational equity,” “culturally responsive teaching”—but do not understand the philosophical and political premises of these programs. As the state and many school districts begin to implement the state ethnic studies curriculum, however, details are emerging.

I have obtained documents from one such program, the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Ethnic Studies Initiative, that paint a disturbing picture of the ethnic studies curriculum and the activists leading the charge. According to the documents and to sources within the district, the Office of Education held a series of teacher-training sessions on how to deploy ethnic studies in the classroom. The leaders, including district staff, an advisor for the state Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, and a professor from San Jose State University, encouraged teachers to inject left-wing politics into the classroom and to hide controversial materials from parents.

According to slides and contemporaneous notes from the session, the Santa Clara Office of Education began the presentation with a “land acknowledgement,” claiming that Santa Clara County and the public school system “occupy the unceded territory of the Muwekma Ohlone Nation, the sovereign nation and original people of the skies, land, and waters.” The premise of this ritual, which has become common in progressive organizations, is that the American government, founded by white settlers, is an illegitimate colonial power that should return the land to the Native American tribes.

Next, Jorge Pacheco, president of the California Latino School Boards Association and advisor for the state Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, presented the movement’s conceptual framework. Pacheco explained that the ethnic studies curriculum is based on the work of Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, who invented the concept of the “pedagogy of the oppressed,” which holds that students must be educated to understand their oppression and develop the practical skills, or “praxis,” to challenge and eventually overthrow their oppressors. Pacheco acknowledged that the Marxist underpinnings to ethnic studies “scare people away” but insisted that teachers must be “grounded in the correct politics to educate students.”

Pacheco then argued that the United States is a political regime based on “settler colonialism,” which he describes as a “system of oppression” that “occupies and usurps land/labor/resources from one group of people for the benefit of another.” The settler colonialist regime, Pacheco continues, is “not just a vicious thing of the past, but [one that] exists as long as settlers are living on appropriated land.” The white colonialist regime of the United States is a “parasitic system” responsible for domestic violence, drug overdoses, and other social problems. In a related PowerPoint slide, Pacheco presented examples of this oppression, including “men exploiting women,” “white people exploiting people of color,” and “rich people exploiting poor people.”

What is the solution? Pacheco argues that teachers must “awaken [students] to the oppression” and lead them to “decodify” and eventually “destroy” the dominant political regime. The first step in this process is to help students “get into the mind of a white man” such as Christopher Columbus and analyze “what ideology led these white male settlers to be power and land hungry and justify stealing indigenous land through genocide.” Pacheco describes this process as transforming students into “activist intellectuals” who “decodify systems of oppression” into their component parts, including “white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, genocide, private property, and God.”

Teachers must be careful, though: Pacheco and the other panelists suggested that local educators hide this revolutionary pedagogy from administrators and families. “District guidelines and expectations are barriers,” said one panelist. “[We] have to be extra careful about what is being said, since we can’t just say something controversial now that we’re in people’s homes [because of remote learning].” In addition, teachers must acknowledge that they, too, can become oppressors in the classroom. “Inherently, [it is the] oppressor who sets the rules.” Teachers must “recognize [their] own privilege and [their] own bias” in order to align themselves with the oppressed and work toward dismantling systems of oppression.

The goal, according to the presenters, is to “develop, pilot, and refine an adaptable and scalable Ethnic Studies program design plan and curriculum that can serve as standalone courses or be integrated into core content areas.” This is already happening. Last month, the California Department of Education approved the statewide curriculum, which will bring the “pedagogy of the oppressed” to schools throughout the state. But for the movement’s leaders, the goal is to go further. At the end of the presentation in Santa Clara, Pacheco argued that schools should start transforming children into “activist intellectuals,” beginning in first grade. “[It’s] never too young,” he said, arguing that educators should be “cashing in on kids’ inherent empathy” in order to reshape their ideological foundations.

This is a dystopian project. As these pedagogical theories make their way into the classroom, California schools will be teaching millions of children to hate their own country. They will be oriented toward the work of “decolonizing,” “deconstructing,” and “dismantling” their own society. The ethnic studies activists grasp the destabilizing nature of their project—and believe that it provides them leverage for their broader political ends. During the Santa Clara presentation, Pacheco and the other instructors provided the audience with a handout quoting Freire: “Critical consciousness, they say, is anarchic. Others add that critical consciousness may lead to disorder. Some, however, confess: Why deny it? I was afraid of freedom. I am no longer afraid!” Though they are coy about their ultimate intention, the ethnic studies activists seek, at a minimum, a moral revolution—and, out of such tumults, political revolutions often follow.

California voters may not realize it, but they have installed a radical movement in the state educational bureaucracy.

Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal. Sign up for his weekly newsletter and watch his latest documentary, America Lost, which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” This article is part of an ongoing series on critical race theory.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.