California On Path To High-Tech Feudalism

“We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta. California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta,” declared then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. “Not only can we lead California into the future . . . we can show the nation and the world how to get there.” When a movie star who once played Hercules says so who’s to disagree? The idea of California as a model, of course, precedes the former governor’s tenure. Now the state’s anti-Trump resistance—in its zeal on matters concerning climate, technology, gender, or race—believes that it knows how to create a just, affluent, and enlightened society. “The future depends on us,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at his inauguration. “And we will seize this moment.”

In truth, the Golden State is becoming a semi-feudal kingdom, with the nation’s widest gap between middle and upper incomes—72 percent, compared with the U.S. average of 57 percent—and its highest poverty rate. Roughly half of America’s homeless live in Los Angeles or San Francisco, which now has the highest property crime rate among major cities. California hasn’t yet become a full-scale dystopia, of course, but it’s heading in a troubling direction.

This didn’t have to happen. No place on earth has more going for it than the Golden State. Unlike the East Coast and Midwest, California benefited from comparatively late industrialization, with an economy based less on auto manufacturing and steel than on science-based fields like aerospace, software, and semiconductors. In the mid-twentieth century, the state also gained from the best aspects of progressive rule, culminating in an elite public university system, a massive water system reminiscent of the Roman Empire, and a vast infrastructure network of highways, ports, and bridges. The state was fortunate, too, in drawing people from around the U.S. and the world. The eighteenth-century French traveler J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur described the American as “this new man,” and California—innovative, independent, and less bound by tradition or old prejudice—reflected that insight. Though remnants of this California still exist, its population is aging, less mobile, and more pessimistic, and its roads, schools, and universities are in decline.

In the second half of the twentieth century, California’s remarkably diverse economy spread prosperity from the coast into the state’s inland regions. Though pockets of severe poverty existed—urban barrios, south Los Angeles, the rural Central Valley—they were limited in scope. In fact, growth often favored suburban and exurban communities, where middle-class families, including minorities, settled after World War II.

In the last two decades, the state has adopted policies that undermine the basis for middle-class growth. State energy policies, for example, have made California’s gas and electricity prices among the steepest in the country. Since 2011, electricity prices have risen five times faster than the national average. Meantime, strict land-use controls have raised housing costs to the nation’s highest, while taxes—once average, considering California’s urban scale—now exceed those of virtually every state. At the same time, California’s economy has shed industrial diversity in favor of dependence on one industry: Big Tech. Just a decade before, the state’s largest firms included those in the aerospace, finance, energy, and service industries. Today’s 11 largest companies hail from the tech sector, while energy firms—excluding Chevron, which has moved much of its operations to Houston—have disappeared. Not a single top aerospace firm—the iconic industry of twentieth-century California—retains its headquarters here.

Though lionized in the press, this tech-oriented economy hasn’t resulted in that many middle- and high-paying job opportunities for Californians, particularly outside the Bay Area. Since 2008, notes Chapman University’s Marshall Toplansky, the state has created five times the number of low-paying, as opposed to high-wage, jobs. A remarkable 86 percent of new jobs paid below the median income, while almost half paid under $40,000. Moreover, California, including Silicon Valley, created fewer high-paying positions than the national average, and far less than prime competitors like Salt Lake City, Seattle, or Austin. Los Angeles County features the lowest pay of any of the nation’s 50 largest counties.

No state advertises its multicultural bona fides more than California, now a majority-minority state. This is evident at the University of California, where professors are required to prove their service to “people of color,” to the state’s high school curricula, with its new ethnic studies component. Much of California’s anti-Trump resistance has a racial context. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the administration numerous times over immigration policy while he helps ensure California’s distinction as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. So far, more than 1 million illegal residents have received driver’s licenses, and they qualify for free health care, too. San Francisco now permits illegal immigrants to vote in local elections.

Such radical policies may make progressives feel better about themselves, though they seem less concerned about how these actions affect everyday people. California’s Latinos and African-Americans have seen good blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and energy vanish. According to one United Way study, over half of Latino households can barely pay their bills. “For Latinos,” notes long-time political consultant Mike Madrid, “the California Dream is becoming an unattainable fantasy.”

In the past, poorer Californians could count on education to help them move up. But today’s educators appear more interested in political indoctrination than results. Among the 50 states, California ranked 49th in the performance of low-income students. In wealthy San Francisco, test scores for black students are the worst of any California county. Many minority residents, especially African-Americans, are fleeing the state. In a recent UC Berkeley poll, 58 percent of black expressed interest in leaving California, a higher percentage than for any racial group, though approximately 45 percent of Asians and Latinos also considered moving out.

Perhaps the biggest demographic disaster is generational. For decades, California incubated youth culture, creating trends like beatniks, hippies, surfers, and Latino and Asian art, music, and cuisine. The state is a fountainhead of youthful wokeness and rebellion, but that may prove short-lived as millennials leave. From 2014 to 2018, notes demographer Wendell Cox, net domestic out-migration grew from 46,000 to 156,000. The exiles are increasingly in their family-formation years. In the 2010s, California suffered higher net declines in virtually every age category under 54, with the biggest rate of loss coming among the 35-to-44 cohort.

As families with children leave, and international migration slows to one-third of Texas’s level, the remaining population is rapidly aging. Since 2010, California’s fertility rate has dropped 60 percent, more than the national average; the state is now aging 50 percent more rapidly than the rest of the country. A growing number of tech firms and millennials have headed to the Intermountain West. Low rates of homeownership among younger people play a big role in this trend, with California millennials forced to rent, with little chance of buying their own home, while many of the state’s biggest metros lead the nation in long-term owners. California is increasingly a greying refuge for those who bought property when housing was affordable.

After Governor Schwarzenegger morphed into a progressive environmentalist, climate concerns began driving state policy. His successors have embraced California “leadership” on climate issues. Jerry Brown recently told a crowd in China that the rest of the world should follow California’s example. The state’s top Democrats, like state senate president pro tem Kevin DeLeon, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, and billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, now compete for the green mantle.

Their policies have worsened conditions for many middle- and working-class Californians. Oblivious to these concerns, Greens ignore practical ideas—nuclear power, natural gas cars, job creation in affordable areas, home-based work—that could help reduce emissions without disrupting people’s lives. Ultra-green policies also work against the state’s proclaimed goal of building more than 3.5 million new housing units by 2025. In accordance with its efforts to reduce car use, the state mandates that most growth occurs in already-crowded coastal areas, where land prices are highest. But in cities like San Francisco, the cost of building one unit for a homeless person surpasses $700,000. California’s inland regions, though experiencing population gains, keep losing state funding for decrepit highways in favor of urban-centric, mass transit projects—yet transit use has stagnated, especially in greater Los Angeles.

The state, nevertheless, continues its pursuit of policies that would eliminate all fossil fuels and nuclear power—outpacing national or even Paris Accord levels and guaranteeing ever-rising energy prices. Mandating everything from electric cars to electric homes will only drive more working-class Californians into “energy poverty.” High energy prices also directly affect the manufacturing and logistics firms that employ blue-collar workers at decent wages. Business relocation expert Joe Vranich notes that industrial firms account for many of the 2,000 employers that left the state this decade. California’s industrial growth has fallen to the bottom tier of states; last year, it ranked 44th, with a rate of growth one-third to one-quarter that of prime competitors like Texas, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida.

Similarly, the high energy prices tend to hit the interior counties that, besides being poorer, have far less temperate climates. Cities like Bakersfield, capital of the state’s once-vibrant oil industry, are particularly hard-hit. High energy prices will cost the region, northeast of the Los Angeles Basin, 14,000 generally high-paid jobs, even as the state continues to import oil from Saudi Arabia.

California’s leaders apply climate change to excuse virtually every failure of state policy. During the California drought, Brown and his minions blamed the “climate” for the dry period, refusing to take responsibility for insufficient water storage that would have helped farmers. When the rains returned and reservoirs filled, this argument was forgotten, and little effort has been made to conserve water for next time. Likewise, Newsom and his supporters in the media have blamed recent fires on changes in the global climate, but the disaster had as much to do with green mandates against controlled burns and brush clearance than anything occurring on a planetary scale. Brown joined greens and others in blocking such sensible policies.

Few climate advocates ever seem to ask if their policies actually help the planet. Indeed, California’s green policy, as one paper demonstrates, may be increasing total greenhouse-gas emissions by pushing people and industries to states with less mild climates. In the past decade, the state ranked 40th in per-capita reductions, and its global carbon footprint is minimal. Renewable energy may be expensive and unreliable, but state policy nevertheless enriches the green-energy investments of tech leaders, even when their efforts—like the Google-backed Ivanpah solar farm—fail to deliver affordable, reliable energy.

It’s not so surprising, given these enthusiasms, that progressive politicians like Garcetti—who leads a city with paralyzing traffic congestion, rampant inequality, a huge rat infestation, and proliferating homeless camps—would rather talk about becoming chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Reality is asserting itself, though. Tech firms already show signs of restlessness with the current regulatory regime and appear to be shifting employment to other states, notably TexasTennesseeNevadaColorado, and Arizona. Economic-modeling firm Emsi estimates that several states—Idaho, Tennessee, Washington, and Utah—are growing their tech employment faster than California. The state is losing momentum in professional and technical services—the largest high-wage sector—and now stands roughly in the middle of the pack behind other western states such as Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. And Assembly Bill 5, the state law regulating certain forms of contract labor, reclassifies part-time workers. Aimed initially at ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft, the legislation also extends to independent contractors in industries from media to trucking.

At some point, as even Brown noted, the ultra-high capital gains returns will fall and, combined with the costs of an expanding welfare state, could leave the state in fiscal chaos. Big Tech could stumble, a possibility made more real by the recent $100 billion drop in the value of privately held “unicorn” companies, including WeWork. If the tech economy slows, a rift could develop between two of the state’s biggest forces—unions and the green establishment—over future levels of taxation. More than two-thirds of California cities don’t have any funds set aside for retiree health care and other retirement expenses. The state also confronts $1 trillion in pension debt, according to former Democratic state senator Joe NationU.S. News & Report ranks California, despite the tech boom, 42nd in fiscal health among the states.

The good news: some Californians are waking up. A recent PPIC poll found that increasing proportions of Californians believe that the state is headed in the wrong direction—a figure that exceeds 55 percent in the inland areas. And voters dislike the state legislature even more than they dislike Donald Trump. Newsom’s approval rating stands at 43 percent, placing him toward the bottom among the nation’s governors. A conservative-led campaign to recall him is unlikely to succeed, but surveys reveal growing opposition to the new tax hikes proposed by the legislature. There’s a growing concern about the state’s expanding homeless population.

And a rebellion against the state’s energy policies is already under way. Recently, 110 cities, with total population exceeding 8 million, have demanded changes in California’s drive to prevent new natural gas hookups. The state’s Chamber of Commerce and the three most prominent ethnic chambers—African-American, Latino, and Asian-Pacific—have joined this effort.

Californians need less bombast and progressive pretense from their leaders and more attention to policies that could counteract the economic and demographic tides threatening the state. On its current course, California increasingly resembles a model of what the late Taichi Sakaiya called “high-tech feudalism,” with a small population of wealthy residents and a growing mass of modern-day serfs. Delusion and preening ultimately have limits, as more Californians are beginning to recognize. As the 2020s beckon, the time for the state to change course is now.

Originally published in the City Journal

Joel Kotkin is editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University.

Fire insurance renewal mandate may bankrupt insurers

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s recent decision to put a one-year moratorium on insurance companies refusing to renew policies on homes in areas adjacent to recent devastating wildfires has garnered widely mixed reaction.

Lara’s decision ensures roughly 800,000 homeowners can have policies renewed. It’s allowed under Senate Bill 824, which Lara shepherded to passage in 2018 while a state senator representing Bell Gardens. An estimated 350,000 policies had not been renewed in California since the beginning of 2015.

“This wildfire insurance crisis has been years in the making, but it is an emergency we must deal with now if we are going to keep the California dream of homeownership from becoming the California nightmare,” Lara said in a statement.

Lara has won praise from consumer advocates who say insurers are too quick to cancel policies held by homeowners who have dutifully paid premiums for years without ever filing claims. He’s also gotten kudos for his November decision to expand the state-overseen FAIR program, which is run by a pool of insurers and provides bare-bones insurance to homeowners otherwise unable to get policies. Beginning in April, FAIR is supposed to offer plans that cover $3 million in damages, up from the present $1.5 million.

But an analysis by The New York Times suggests that Lara has misjudged the risk that insurers face in an era of hotter, drier weather and that the industry could be on the road to ruin. It noted that the $20 billion that insurers offering policies in the state lost because of devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018 “wiped out a full quarter-century of the industry’s profits” from California operations, according to the Milliman consulting firm.

Lara told the Times that all he was doing was “hitting the pause button on non-renewals” to stabilize the home insurance market and let insurers and regulators catch their breath and carefully evaluate future steps.

Parallels seen to Hurricane Andrew, Northridge earthquake

But Milliman actuary Eric Xu compared the massive losses suffered by insurers since 2017 to the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992, when insurers lost a similar amount and about a dozen went bankrupt.

Karl Susman, owner of a Los Angeles-based insurance agency, told the Associated Press that the present crisis reminded him of the fallout from the Northridge earthquake in 1994, which led many insurers to either stop renewing earthquake insurance policies or to get out of the field entirely. He questioned whether the historic model of home insurance was “sustainable” in California, given fire risks. 

Home insurers in the state requested about 80 rate hikes in 2018, far more than the norm. But the hikes are generally rejected unless it can be established that they are needed because of demonstrated risk – not the higher risks that insurance actuaries expect because of a hotter climate.

“That works, until it doesn’t,” Rex Frazier, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, an insurers’ trade association, told the New York Times. He questioned how the industry could survive unless it was allowed to factor in future risks.

Insurers have grumbled but otherwise taken no formal steps to challenge Lara’s moratorium on non-renewals, which is in effect until Dec. 5, 2020. 

But the insurance companies which pool to provide the FAIR “insurance of last resort” program are openly defying Lara. FAIR officials were supposed to provide an operational plan by Dec. 14 of how they would expand the program and increase coverage limits, as the insurance commissioner had ordered. Instead, they sued Lara just before the deadline, saying he had grossly overstepped his authority.

This article was originally published by

California’s Considers Banning Gas-Powered Mowers and Blowers

The next frontier in California’s battle against pollution: lawn equipment.

State air regulators are laying long-term plans to phase out gasoline-powered devices like leaf blowers and lawn mowers, saying they can produce more noxious emissions than cars.

Plenty of Bay Area cities are already acting: At least eight have banned gas-powered blowers, and more restrict their use during times of day or up to a certain noise level. Novato may soon join the list.

“What I think we need to realize is that we have to do something different for climate change in the world,” said Novato Mayor Pro Tem Pat Eklund, who proposed a ban on gas lawn mowers and leaf blowers in December. …

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

California Vaping Bill Would Ban All Flavored Tobacco Sales

Days after concerns over youth vaping led the Trump administration to announce a partial ban on many e-cigarette pods, California lawmakers on Monday introduced a much stronger measure to outlaw store sales of all flavored tobacco products in the state.

The proposal would go far beyond the federal government’s plan, announced Thursday, for a temporary ban on many candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarette products that could be lifted if companies can convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the pods are safe.

Senate Bill 793 would prohibit flavored products not covered by the federal ban, including menthol-flavored cartridges and refillable, tank-based vaping systems that can be filled with flavored chemicals. It would also outlaw flavors for combustible cigarettes and cigars, as well as for chewing tobacco and hookah pipes. …

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

More Californians Consider Leaving

In the ‘80s, a punk rock band, The Clash, had a catchy little hit entitled, “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” As Californians start a new decade, many are asking themselves the same thing.

For a few, the decision to leave is easy because of better job opportunities or the desire to escape California’s high cost of living. But for many, it is a difficult choice. Older Californians often stay because this is where their children and grandchildren are. But recent college graduates who would prefer to stay in California for the lifestyle and recreation are nonetheless compelled to move because of ridiculously high housing costs.

While California has the highest level of net domestic out-migration in the nation, totaling well over one million people in less than eight years, the decision to leave the Golden State remains personal and no one factor will be determinative for most people.

Hard decisions compel people to weigh the pros and cons of bailing out. But here are some of the considerations:

To read the entire column, please click here.

Rep. Maxine Waters call with Greta Thunberg was really a ruse by Russian trolls

The call starts innocently enough: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) warmly greets the voices on the line, whom a staffer identifies as Greta Thunberg and her father, Svante. They share a laugh about Waters’s nickname, “Auntie Maxine.” The congresswoman praises her young caller for her climate change activism.

“You have made quite a big, big, big, big thunder on this issue. I am really, really very proud of you and the work that you’re doing,” Waters is heard saying.

The congresswoman and her staff thought they had connected with Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who was recently named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” In reality, two 30-something Russians, Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, were on the other end of the line. The duo describe themselves as comedians and pranksters, but they are widely suspected of having ties to the Russian government. …

Click here to read the full article from the Washington Post.

California’s New Online Privacy Law Creating Confusion

Enacted in 2018 over the vigorous objections of Silicon Valley tech giants, California’s first-in-the-nation online privacy law took effect Jan. 1, 2020. But with the staff of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra still far short of finalizing an enforcement framework, it’s unclear what effect the California Consumer Privacy Act will have in the short term.

The law’s most important provisions appear straightforward. Californians can ask companies which collect information online what information they have on them. Companies must delete this information upon request. Websites with third-party trackers must make it easy for consumers to opt out of having their information sold by having a visible button allowing them to quickly do so on their home pages.

But echoing the warnings of the California Chamber of Commerce, there’s confusion on how much information companies can retain on their customers – as opposed to information on those who have visited websites or use phone applications. There are also questions about what constitutes the sort of data that consumers should be able to control.

Facebook, Google have different view of law’s scope

“Companies have different interpretations, and depending on which lawyer they are using, they’re going to get different advice,” privacy software executive Kabir Barday told the New York Times.

This is plain in the contrasting plans of California’s two most high-profile tech firms.

Facebook told advertisers in early December that it had no plans to change data-collection policies because it doesn’t believe that “routine data transfers” about consumers fit the definition of selling data contained in the California law, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Google, however, has put up a website that says the company welcomes the California law and will fully adhere to its intent of letting consumers control their personal data. The company is telling advertisers that consumer data can only be used for fraud detection or to measure online views of ads – and never to try to ascertain the buying habits or product searches of individuals.

Meanwhile, the Experian credit-reporting service told Becerra’s office that it strongly objected to having to provide consumers with “internally generated data” about them, arguing that such information is proprietary and isn’t akin to snooping on individuals’ online search habits and histories.

The Evite company that lets people send out personalized online invitations to parties or events has taken a different tack: using its privacy policy page to make the case to users that the information it collects is used in benign ways that benefit users and improves the services Evite offers.

The law does not apply to businesses with annual revenue of less than $25 million that do not buy or sell personal information on at least 50,000 people a year.

Becerra expects to have guidelines finished by summer

Becerra issued draft guidelines for how the law would be implemented in October. His office is now evaluating the complaints and comments it got from privacy activists, affected companies and others. The goal is to have the regulations in place by the middle of the year.

A key question going forward is how hard Becerra will come down on the 100-plus “data broker” firms in the U.S. which accumulate and sell the most personal of information yet have managed to escape much attention. An investigation posted by the Fast Company media website last March detailed how “if you use a smartphone or a credit card, it’s not difficult for a company to determine if you’ve just gone through a break-up, if you’re pregnant or trying to lose weight, whether you’re an extrovert [and] what medicine you take.” Jewelry sellers, for example, can get customized lists of which consumers have a history of buying expensive gifts on Valentine’s Day.

The firms’ ability to provide such detailed, specific information could be widely curtailed if enough consumers opt out of sharing their personal information – at least if they’re based in California or a state or nation with similar rules. But since such data mining can be done about Americans by companies based in nations with no such rules, it’s certain to continue. A likely future policy fight is over whether California companies should be banned from obtaining such personal information from firms that don’t honor online privacy laws like the Golden State’s.

This article was originally published by

California’s In a Hole – Time To Stop Digging

For those of us who have been here long enough, we have seen how our once Golden State has disintegrated beyond recognition. For those familiar with military jargon, “FUBAR” is certainly apt for the state of our state. California, the United States’ testing ground for all ridiculous uber-progressive policies, is unrecognizable from as recently as a decade ago.

The liberal-instigated crisis du-jour is the issue of homelessness. Psychiatrists, educators and political scholars struggle day and night to figure out the answer to the homelessness crisis.  The solutions elude them for one basic reason – they don’t want to confront the bare facts.

The answer is pretty simple. Over the last 20 years, California has been controlled by the Democrat party. And for 20 years, the quality of life in California has plummeted. On top of that, it seems as if the taxes will never stop rising. Democrats supply of wrecking balls to apply to our state seems endless.

Los Angeles and San Francisco are just two examples of failed Democrat governance. Streets are full of homeless people. Feces, urine, garbage and heroin stained syringes litter the streets of these cities. The city of San Francisco employs individuals who are known as the “Poop Patrol,” and pays them almost $184,000 a year including salary and benefits, to steam clean the city’s sidewalks, according to Business Insider.

Democrats would like to twist the narrative to the benefit of their interests. But when you look at the facts, their policies are racking up failures faster than Saddam Hussein’s army in “Operation Desert Strom.”  Following the advice of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he was President Obama’s Chief of Staff to “never let a crisis go to waste,” Democrats want to make the homeless issue another excuse to raise taxes and implement more government control in the housing sector. They firmly believe that the homeless issue is caused by increasing costs of housing. But that is only partially true, and ignores the Democrats roll in raising regulations which add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of new homes.

The main driver of homelessness, as even many of the more honest folks who work with the homeless, is that half or more of the individuals living in California’s streets suffer with severe mental illness. Even if you built these individuals a home and gave them the keys, they still would not be willing or able to support themselves.

To be able to solve the issue, we must first look at what is causing it. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 109, a bill that revised California’s prison system because it was “overcrowded.” Brown allowed for the release of “non-violent” criminals back into the streets. A large number of these individuals who were let out have nowhere to go. To make it worse, many of them are suffering from mental illnesses and drug addictions. So what do they do? They live in the liberal’s brave new world – they live  on the streets,  poop on the streets, inject their drugs on the streets and then dispose of the used syringes on the streets.

But  even the Democrats soon realized that these individuals would suffer  starvation since they could not support themselves. Democrats, not wanting to be held responsible for that, did the usual liberal maneuver and introduced legislation – in the name of compassion of course – making the problem worse.

In November of 2014, Californians passed the The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, aka Prop 47. Prop 47 reclassified theft of items under “$950 or less as exclusively a misdemeanor”, even if the theft is committed every single day. So the homeless were told – yea some might say encouraged – to steal $950 worth of goods every day from the stores in our communities and get away with it. 

In 2017, California Democrats passed Senate Bill 180, which aims at amending the penal code section that relates to drug offenses. The goal is to depopulate the overcrowded prisons. Predictably, S.B 180 is an utter failure. The only thing this bill accomplishes is putting a further strain on law enforcement officials who want to make our communities safer. Under the bill, law enforcement can’t send repeat drug offenders back to prison. These repeat drug offenders, many of whom are homeless, continue to commit drug offenses, often in public areas where children play.

Instead of paying attention to issues that Californians actually face every day, Democrats chase left wing narratives and play at peoples’ emotions. Democrats essentially banned the use of plastic straws in an effort to “save the environment,” even though plastic straws constitute less than one half of one percent of our flow of waste.

Americans are starting to see straight through this lie. If Democrats actually cared about the environment, they’d do something about all the trash, feces, drugs and syringes that stain the sidewalks of once beautiful cities like San Francisco. While children have no other choice but to play in parks that are riddled with feces and used syringes by homeless people, the Democrats could care less. 

They have been in control of California for more than twenty years now, and clearly, their governance is driving our state downhill. There’s an old saying that the first rule when finding yourself in a hole is to stop digging.  Here’s hoping that California voters realize the deep and expanding hole they are in and stop digging by replacing their legislators next year and governor in 2022.

David Ter-Petrosyan is a student at Glendale Community College studying Economic Philosophy. He is a delegate to the California Republican Party.

GOP Political Grifters Grub For Money – Help Adam Schiff

The online dictionary defines “grifters” as “chiselers, defrauders, gougers, scammers, swindlers, and flim-flam men. Selling a bridge and starting a Ponzi scheme are things a grifter might do.” As Rod Serling used to say to start most “Twilight Zone” episodes, “submitted for your approval” is the strange case of apparent political grifters Omar Navarro and Jennifer Barbosa.

Navarro was unknown (blessedly) in 2018 when he became the GOP nominee against Maxine “Mad Max” Waters for Congress. Mad Max was such an easy target for conservative ire that Omar was able to raise over a million dollars. Omar repaid his donors trust by spending large sums on himself in the form of a “salary,” rent on his apartment, etc. The amount used effectively actually campaigning against Waters was the proverbial ant-fart in a hurricane, as witnessed by Navarro’s 22.3% of the vote. But hey – he got free rent and a nice salary along the way.

Fast forward to this year, and Omar the money incinerator is back again and expanding his horizons with allies in two more Congressional districts.  His former girlfriend is running as a Republican against Nancy Pelosi, and a current … uhm … associate,  Jennifer Barbosa, is running as a No-Party-Preference (NPP) candidate against Adam Schiff.

Most notable about Navarro’s candidate/former girlfriend running against Pelosi is that she had a restraining order filed against him, and he was arrested in San Francisco earlier this month for stalking her. This got Omar a free stay in the Frisco hoosegow, one of the few overnighters that Omar’s campaign didn’t pay for. Many suspect that the original plan in the district was to replicate Navarro’s sleight of hand from ’18 and spend much of the contributions received – and lots of national conservatives could be tricked into contributing – on personal items instead of campaigning against Pelosi.

Far more potentially damaging is Navarro’s oleaginous dealings in the Schiff race. The consensus Republican candidate is local attorney Eric Early,  He’s been endorsed by the California and Los Angeles Republican Parties, local GOP volunteer groups like the California Republican Assembly (CRA) and local GOP hero former Supervisor Mike Antonovich. Early received almost a million votes when he ran for Attorney General in 2018. The remnants of Congressman Jim Rogan’s organization are solidly behind him. Early is a serious candidate and threat to Pencil Neck Schiff.

Barbosa on the other hand appears to be either a tool or a fool – and either way no conservative interested in defeating Schiff should support her. She has not been active in politics or in the community at large. She is a total unknown. But she has been on Navarro’s payroll before, and while campaign finance reports for this year aren’t due until January 31, betting that contributors’ money is still flowing to her or Omar for personal use would not be, shall we say, a long-shot wager.

And frankly none of this would matter except that the race against Schiff – while still in the “long shot” category – is also in the “winnable” category because the Pencil Neck has alienated large portions of his constituency by becoming the most visible driver of the Democrats’ Impeachment Clown Car. I was at my local community’s Christmas parade a couple of weekends ago. Schiff was in it and got roundly booed along the route. 

Like most ultra-liberals I’ve observed in my 50+ year political career, Pencil Neck has over-reached and alienated a large portion of the “normal folks”  who occupy our political middle ground. He can be taken down. But it will take a smart campaign, something neither Navarro nor Barbosa are capable of running.

So is Barbosa a tool – running to split the opposition vote against Schiff and/or directly damage Early with attacks – or a fool – running to justify Omar-ish compensation from the campaign in the form of rent checks, salary checks, etc? Are she and Navarro actually political grifters or just inept, greedy political wannabes? Whatever the answer, serious people should stay as far away as possible.

Here’s hoping voters in the 28th Congressional district and conservative donors nationwide do not buy the bridge that Navarro and Barbosa are selling.

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.

California’s Real “Train to Nowhere”

A major feature of the urban renaissance of the past three decades has been the rise of “light rail” transit systems. After major federal sponsorship of “Great Society Subway” projects in the 1960s and 1970s (Washington, D.C.’s Metro, San Francisco’s BART, and Atlanta’s MARTA), cities turned away from building expensive underground rail lines in the 1980s. Instead, they constructed cheaper aboveground lines, running smaller trains. In the 30 years after San Diego opened its system in 1981, light rail spread to some 20 cities, including Minneapolis, Charlotte, and Houston. Even Los Angeles, car culture’s queen city, developed a light-rail system that serves more passengers than its subway.

Opened in 1987, San Jose’s Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) was an early leader of light rail’s expansion. But the VTA will become a leader of a different sort when it closes the Almaden branch of its system at the end of this year, due to poor ridership. Not counting some heritage trolly lines, the VTA’s Almaden branch is likely the first passenger rail line to close in almost half a century. Its 2.2 miles of single-track line and two stations — rail infrastructure worth tens of millions of dollars — will soon stand idle.

Why, in a growing and economically thriving city, would a commuter line shut down? The Bay Area is becoming famous for its housing and transportation issues, including choking traffic. San Jose is the self-proclaimed “capital of Silicon Valley,” and tech firms, along with the employees who commute to work for them, have been flooding the region for decades. Ridership on the Caltrain commuter rail system—which runs through VTA territory on the way to San Francisco—has almost tripled in 15 years, with per-mile ridership approaching New York’s Metro North. In this environment, it’s hard to understand why any part of a light rail system could close.

One reason: San Jose’s system is the epitome of style over substance. The city believed that it needed a light-rail system to modernize itself, so it built one without a master plan, and without paying attention to the nuts and bolts of what makes transit work. Most transit systems run lines along major corridors out of downtown—connecting jobs, shopping, and workers. VTA’s network wanders haphazardly, with few riders or destinations, along circuitous routes and aimless branches beside highway medians and old freight corridors.

Consider Stevens Creek Boulevard, which runs eight miles west from downtown San Jose to jobs-rich Cupertino, passing employment centers like Valley Fair Mall. The 42-mile VTA system has no tracks on this street. And going in the other direction, it’s not much better: on the roads, it’s three and a half miles along Santa Clara Street to Alum Rock—but the VTA train travels almost 14 miles to cover this distance, going first north, then south.

California’s High Speed Rail project has been dubbed the “train to nowhere,” in part because construction began in the Central Valley—not an entirely fair characterization, given that any connection between San Francisco and Los Angeles must use the valley. But with its anemic ridership for such a major investment, San Jose’s VTA rail system—and particularly its Almaden spur—is the real train to nowhere. And it has too many parallels around the Bay Area: San Francisco is building a subway under Stockton Street, though nearby Geary Street has more bus riders; VTA planning ignores Stevens Creek Boulevard and Santa Clara Street in favor of middling extensions to roundabout lines; BART, after years of constructing and proposing extensions to far corners of the Bay Area, is just realizing that two-thirds of its ridership comes from the region’s core. Bay Area leaders and transit planners are looking to put a $100 billion transportation bond on the 2020 ballot; one hopes that they will pay more attention to designing projects that stand the test of time.

Phillip Sprincin is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.