California’s Mandatory Ethnic Indoctrination

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California’s state legislature is on the verge of mandating an “ethnic studies” course in order for a student to graduate from high school. Why not? Today in California, K-12 public school student enrollment is only 23 percent “White not Hispanic.” Based on current immigration and fertility statistics, California’s demographics will eventually become America’s demographics.

If America were the melting pot it used to be, this would not be a concern. If America engaged in color-blind but merit-based immigration policies, this would not be a concern. But America is not screening immigrants for job skills and education, and America today is, at least as the American Left would have it, no longer a melting pot, but a “salad bowl.”

It should come as no surprise that the “salad bowl” philosophy informs every word of the California Dept. of Education’s proposed curriculum guidelines for ethnic studies classes, . Unlike carrots that absorb the juice of the beef and the aroma of the garlic in a fine pot of stew, California’s salad bowl vision is a strictly separatist entree, with lettuce and tomatoes and artichoke hearts all mixed, but not the least bit blended.

Even promoting a salad bowl model of American culture instead of a melting pot might seem like not such a big deal, but that really depends how the ingredients are described in the cookbook, and what sort of dressing is poured over the ingredients. According to California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum, the ingredients are either oppressors or victims, and the dressing is steeped in the spices of envy, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, revenge, along with a heaping helping of weirdness.

The funny thing is, it’s a very small percentage of ingredients in California’s ethnic studies salad bowl that are oppressors. It’s not all of the whites, constituting 23 percent of the salad ingredients, who are oppressors. A majority of whites, specifically women and anyone who is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual), get excluded from the “oppressor” category. Only the cis-hetero-white-males remain, barely topping ten percent of the student population.

The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum has to be seen to be believed. A good place to start is the bibliography, where one may view the new vocabulary that will be inculcated into the minds of California’s teenagers. Here is a sampling:

Selections from California’s Ethnic Studies Glossary

Accompliceship – the process of building relationships grounded in trust and accountability with marginalized people and groups. Being an accomplice involves attacking colonial structures and ideas by using one’s privilege and giving up power and position in solidarity with those on the social, political, religious, and economic margins of society. This is in contrast to the contested notion of allyship which is often performative, superficial, and disconnected from the anticolonial struggle.

Androcentric – the privileging and emphasis of male or masculine interests, narratives, traits, or point of view, often in spaces where power is wielded.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – is a global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions….

Capitalism – an economic and political system in which industry and trade are based on a “free market” and largely controlled by private companies instead of the government. Within Ethnic Studies, scholars are often very critical of the system of capitalism as research has shown that Native people and people of color are disproportionately exploited within the system.

Chicana/o/x – A contested social and political identity chosen by people living in the United States with Mexican and indigenous ancestry. The term with the ‘x’ is pronounced with an ‘-ex’ sound at the end of the word.

Cisgender – a person whose chosen gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth.

Cisheteropatriarchy – a system of power that is based on the dominance of cisheterosexual men.

Classism – is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups.

Critical race theory (CRT) – while manifesting differently, CRT is often engaged to offer a critical analysis of race and racism within a particular discipline, field, system of power, culture, etc. CRT draws on a collection of critical frameworks to better understand how race and racism are interwoven into the fabric of American society.

Cultural appropriation – the adoption of elements of a culture (i.e. clothing, jewelry, language/slang, iconography, textiles, sacred traditions, etc.) other than your own (often historically marginalized groups), without knowledge or respect for the original culture.

Gender – western culture has come to view gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options— men and women. Instead of the static binary model produced through a solely physical understanding of gender, a far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect resulting in a multidimensional array of possibilities. Thus, gender can also be recognized as a spectrum that is inclusive of various gender identities.

Herstory – is a term used to describe history written from a feminist or women’s perspective. Herstory is also deployed when referring to counter narratives within history. The prefix “her” instead of “his” is used to disrupt the often androcentric nature of history.

Hxrstory – pronounced the same as “herstory,” hxrstory is used to describe history written from a more gender inclusive perspective. The “x” is used to disrupt the often rigid gender binarist approach to telling history.

The Four “I”s of Oppression – the four “I”s of oppression are: ideological oppression (an idea, concept, or theory whose qualities advocate for or can be interpreted as causing harm or upholding the views of a dominant group at the expense of others), institutional oppression (the belief that one group is superior than another and that the more dominant group should determine when and how those on the margins are incorporated into institutions within a society), interpersonal oppression (how oppression is played out between individuals), and internalized oppression (the internalization of the belief that one group is superior to another).

Race – a social construct created by European and American pseudo-scientists which sorts people by phenotype into global, social, and political hierarchies.

Whiteness – a social construct that has served as the foundation for racialization in the United States. Whiteness is the antithesis of Blackness, and is commonly associated with those that identify as white. However, Whiteness is much more than a racial identity marker, it separates those that are privileged from those that are not. Whiteness can manifest as a social, economic, political, and cultural behavior and power. For example, the “standard” or cultural “norm” are often always based on whiteness and by extension white culture, norms, and values.

Xdisciplinary – The term signifying that Ethnic Studies variously takes the forms of being interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, undisciplinary, and intradisciplinary, in diverse academic and everyday contexts. The holistic, humanistic, loving and critical praxis approach for teaching Ethnic studies.

What Does It All Mean???

It is easy to mock these convoluted terms and their twisted logic. If “race” and “whiteness” are “social constructs,” and if “gender” isn’t “binary” but is rather a “far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect resulting in a multidimensional array of possibilities,” then why is the “Cisheteropatriarchy” so problematic? Why make students obsess over their victimhood, if race and gender are merely “social constructs”?

Some of the concepts expressed in this glossary reveal the ideological agenda behind this curriculum. “Social justice” is expressed as “the equitable distribution of resources (rights, money, food, housing, education, etc.) to every individual regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, or nationality.” “Net worth by race” is defined as “the disparity or inequality of wealth among races, specifically when it comes to financial capital in resources, income and savings.”

This points to an agenda – to the extent students aren’t learning at the same rates, to the extent various communities aren’t earning the same income, or experiencing the same rates of crime, or any other aggregate disparity, “social justice” will demand restitution. And of course, “white supremacy” (an “operationalized form of racism that manifests globally, institutionally, and through systems of power”) will be to blame.

Criticism of California’s Ethnic Studies Curriculum

While right-of-center pundits have openly mocked the bizarre vocabulary and leftist indoctrination contained in the proposed curriculum, it has attracted criticism from all quarters. Even a Washington Post article lead off with quotes from critics who “accuse it of espousing bias against Israel and Jews, defining capitalism as a “form of power and oppression” and promoting a “far-left-wing political agenda.”

Examining the sources of leftist criticism may spark amusement among conservatives, because much of the criticism stems not from the basic premise of the curriculum, which is that most Americans are victims of oppression, but that their favored victim group was not included among those victims. As reported by the Los Angeles Times: “the draft sparked opposition among many Jewish groups, who have been joined by organizations representing Armenians, Greeks, Hindus and Koreans in calling for changes.”

In response to an outpouring of negative comments, committee members have described the curriculum as a “work in progress,” and that “there would be some changes made.” The follow up will be an amazing exercise in hypersensitivity – otherwise known as “engaging with stakeholders” – wherein, amidst a cacophony of bloviation, California’s woke leftist education experts shall painstakingly balance the claims of every imaginable aggrieved group. Eventually they will excrete a final ethnic studies curriculum that includes every conceivable victim.

And that’s what they’ll be teaching in California’s schools. Will capitalism still be described as “a form of power and oppression”? Probably. What probable victim would want to exclude that cause for restitution?

Alternate Ways to Teach Ethnic Studies

As America turns multi-racial with stunning rapidity, maybe teaching some sort of ethnic studies is a good idea. But the premises that underlie California’s proposed version of ethnic studies are all wrong, because it is written by leftist agitators who have taken over virtually all of California’s public institutions, certainly including public education.

To properly teach ethnic studies, a small subset of the instruction might deal with significant differences in customs that it would be helpful for members of different communities should know about each other. More practical and less ideological courses offered, for example, to nurses and others who work with the public are careful to include this sort of instruction.

Similarly, another useful portion of an ethnic studies curriculum might do a broad survey of the historical legacies of various parts of the world where students of different backgrounds came from. To the extent something like this isn’t already offered in a history class, it could enrich the curriculum in an ethnic studies class.

But the dominant message that should inform an ethnic studies class in California’s high schools, and everywhere else in America where these classes may eventually be offered, needs to be positive and uplifting. For that reason, such a class should not pander to the bitter sentiments and careerist pimping of the victim industry, whose mission is to instill destructive self-pity into every member of every race or gender that isn’t “cis-hetero-white.” Rather, students should be encouraged to take individual responsibility for their success or failure in life, regardless of their race or gender, in the most tolerant, enlightened society in the history of the world.

Moreover, an ethnic studies class aimed at high school students should not be proclaiming capitalism to be an “engine of oppression.” It should be examining capitalism, with honesty and balance, as an economic system that has, despite imperfections, proven the best way to deliver prosperity, innovation and freedom.

An ethnic studies class does not have to be saturated in pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, nor steeped in anti-Western, anti-White, anti-Western propaganda. As California, and America in due course, transitions to becoming a fully multi-ethnic nation, teaching these falsehoods to a multi-ethnic student body is the worst way to create a harmonious society, whether it’s a sweet tasting salad or a savory stew.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Three Major Hurdles to Fixing California’s Housing Crisis

Earlier this summer, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a $214.8 billion state budget that included $2 billion in new spending to address California’s housing and homelessness crisis. While Governor Newsom and the state legislature should be applauded for their efforts, we must also acknowledge that California cannot spend its way out of the housing affordability crisis that has engulfed the state.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to alleviating the state’s housing woes. California’s housing crisis is the result of decades of legislative and regulatory actions at both the state and local levels which have constrained, and in many instances outright stopped new home construction. If measurable progress on housing affordability is to occur, there are several key legal hurdles which must be overcome.

First and foremost, there needs to be a serious effort by Governor Newsom and the state legislature to mend – not end – the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Signed into law in 1970, CEQA was created to ensure that certain environmental protections were in place with new development projects, such as housing. Despite its original intent, CEQA has evolved from a tool into a trap, ensnaring practically all new housing, regardless of how locally necessary or environmentally friendly.  

From senior retirement communities to homeless shelters, hundreds of CEQA lawsuits have crushed sorely needed new housing proposals. CEQA abuse has become so widespread that based on a study by the law firm Holland & Knight, between 2012 – 2015, close to 14,000 housing units in the Southern California region (minus San Diego) were targeted by CEQA lawsuits. 

Along with the need to reform CEQA, the state must also make significant changes to prevailing wage requirements for new home construction. Prevailing wage is essentially the average hourly pay for construction work within a specific geographic region, and it applies to a wide variety of trades including carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. 

Under state law, home builders are required to pay prevailing wage on most low-income housing developments receiving public financing, thus leading to a substantial increase in costs. A report from the California Homebuilding Foundation found that prevailing wage requirements can mean as much as a 37 percent increase in construction costs, which equates to about $84,000 for a typical new home. 

To avoid adding additional hurdles to housing growth, it’s imperative that any new prevailing wage requirement fully recognizes, with metrics, the economic realities of each geographic region throughout the state.

Finally, there needs to be an increased opposition against overly restrictive local land-use laws often adopted as a result of pressure by residents intent on stopping new housing. According to the California Building Industry Association, approximately two-thirds of cities and counties in the state’s coastal metropolitan areas have adopted growth control laws which severely limit new housing opportunities. 

In those cases where new housing developments are approved, residents will often seek to curtail new home construction by placing “slow growth” or “no growth” measures on the ballot. Cities including Costa Mesa, Thousand Oaks, and Redondo Beach are among several Southern California municipalities that have passed voter-approved initiatives which effectively limit new housing.

It’s because of these types of legal impediments that the Building Industry Association of Southern California formed the nonprofit Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, which has worked tirelessly to protect the home building industry from laws and regulations aimed at preventing new housing.

There is only one way out of California’s housing crisis, and that’s to ensure that home builders can do business in a legislative and regulatory environment where actual construction can take place. 

Jeff Montejano serves as CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California. Headquartered in Irvine, the Building Industry Association of Southern California is a leading advocate for thousands of building industry leaders who are committed to a better future for California by building communities, creating jobs and ensuring housing opportunities for everyone.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Kamala Harris Holds More Fundraising Events in California

U.S. Senator and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris is predictably going to the well of California Democratic donors to boost her war chest in her bid for president of the United States.

Trump Victory Spokesperson Samantha Zager reminds us of why Harris is a dangerous choice to lead the country:

“Whether she is flip-flopping on government-run healthcare, supporting rights for illegal immigrants over U.S. citizens, or downplaying her disastrous record as California Attorney General, it is obvious Kamala Harris is only interested in scoring political points for her presidential bid. As Harris sinks lower in the polls, voters are sending a clear message: they do not want a Kamala Harris presidency.”


  • Kamala Harris cosponsored Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-For-All legislation, only to later say she was “uncomfortable” with it.
  • Tulsi Gabbard called out Kamala Harris during the second Democrat debate for her record as California Attorney General.
  • During the first Democrat debates, Kamala Harris raised her hand when asked if she would offer health insurance to immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally.
  • Harris has plummeted in national polling recently.

California’s Controversial Gig Economy Bill

Presidential candidates are slowly starting to talk about the gig economy. Not in the vague way they express disdain for a business model that exploits workers. No, they’re starting to take sides, weighing in on one of the most consequential legislative battles taking place in the country: the fight over California bill AB 5.

The sweeping bill, backed by labor unions, would make it much harder for companies to classify employees as independent contractors, a common practice that has allowed businesses to skirt state and federal labor laws. The law would essentially rewrite the rules of the gig economy, and businesses of all kinds are panicking. lt’s why Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Postmates, and other well-known gig companies have launched aggressive lobbying and public relations campaigns to defeat the bill.

The bill passed the state Assembly earlier this summer and is now held up in the Senate as business groups beg for exceptions and compromises. In the past few weeks, 2020 contenders have stepped into the fray. …

Click here to read the full article from

Privacy Risks of New Vaccination Bill

With crucial votes due soon on a bill to make it more difficult for parents to get vaccine exemptions for their children, opponents are emphasizing a different criticism of the measure. Instead of continuing to focus on vaccine safety, they say one of its provisions is an ominous and unreasonable invasion of privacy.

Most of the attention paid to Senate Bill 276, by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, has dealt with its broad parameters. It would require the state Department of Public Health to review all vaccine exemptions at individual schools if fewer than 95 percent of students are immunized. That’s the minimum percentage that public health officials say is necessary for “herd immunity” from infectious diseases. The department would also investigate doctors who issue five or more exemptions in a year.

But Pan’s bill also requires parents seeking exemptions to provide their children’s medical records if public health officials choose to investigate whether exemptions were properly provided. A recent San Francisco Chronicle story noted how much this galled some parents.

“Who’s to say they won’t use that information for something else in the future?” Allison Serrao, an Orange County mother of three, told the newspaper. “It’s really scary to me as a parent. It crosses a lot of lines.”

‘Loophole’ blamed for shielding doctors

Supporters of the bill note that the state already deals with confidential medical records – such as by tracking sexually transmitted diseases – without problems. Some see the privacy complaints as an attempt to preserve what they consider a “loophole” that has let doctors who issued dubious exemptions off the hook.

That’s because under the 2014 law, also introduced by Pan, that ended “personal belief” exemptions – approved after a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland – parents can impede investigations. They can refuse to answer questions from investigators and decline to allow release of their children’s medical records.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported on the phenomenon of scores of doctors being accused of authorizing invalid medical exemptions but almost never being punished.

As California Healthline reported last month, the state can sue for access to doctors’ medical records. This year, the state Department of Consumer Affairs – which oversees the California Medical Board – has sued to obtain records from two physicians in the Santa Rosa area and two in Sacramento.

Only one of nearly 200 complaints upheld

But such actions are relatively rare. As of early August, only one state physician out of the nearly 200 accused of wrongly writing exemptions over the last four years has faced sanctions, according to the Chronicle. And the only reason that officials were able to build a case against Dana Point pediatrician Bob Sears was because one of the parents of a child he gave an exemption to objected to the decision and provided investigators with medical records. That led to Sears being put on probation by the Medical Board in 2008.

Pan’s bill was approved 24-10 by the state Senate on May 22. In the Assembly, the bill was weakened after Gov. Gavin Newsom questioned whether it would set up an unwieldy bureaucracy. The modified version of SB276 passed the Assembly Health Committee 9-2 on June 20.

To become law, the modified bill must pass both the full Assembly and the Senate by Sept. 13, when the current legislative session ends. 

The vaccine fight is playing out as U.S. public health authorities struggle with measles outbreaks in New York and Washington states. The problem is even more severe in nations as varied as Italy, Israel and the Philippines. Worldwide, there has been a 300percent increase in measles cases since last year.

This article was originally published by

San Francisco the Perfect Host for Democratic National Committee Meeting

Democratic party delegates congregated in San Francisco this past weekend for their national committee summer meeting. As the Republican National Committee pointed out, they couldn’t have picked a better location:

“It’s only appropriate the Democrats chose San Francisco for their summer meeting this year. As the home to some of the most destructive ‘progressive’ policies in the nation, including higher taxes and government overregulation, this is the perfect opportunity for voters to see what they would be getting into with a Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren presidency.” – RNC Spokesperson Samantha Zager

Interesting reading on San Francisco:

  • According to the San Francisco Chronicle, as of May 2019, San Francisco saw the number of homeless people in the city rise by 17% since 2017, “despite creating hundreds of new shelter beds and spending more than $300 million annually on homelessness.”
  • According to the City-Journal, “San Francisco is the nation’s leader in property crime.” Many law enforcement officials believe this is due to Proposition 47, “which in 2014 downgraded possession of illegal narcotics for personal use and theft of anything under $950 in value from felonies to misdemeanors.”
  • San Francisco Gate explains that the “San Francisco housing market is so expensive that it’s driving people out in droves,” going on to explain that the “median home sale price is $1.6 million,” and “60% of tech workers say they can’t afford homes.”
  • Attributing to many of the city’s problems, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, is the fact that “the city has so many rules and regulations that it has become nearly impossible to build anything.”

A Victory for California Taxpayers

This past week a direct attack on Proposition 13 was resoundingly voted down by the California State Assembly. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 would have changed a key element of Prop. 13 by lowering the current two-thirds vote needed to pass local bonds and special taxes — including parcel taxes — to just 55 percent.

Bond debt and parcel taxes are paid by adding extra charges to property tax bills, sometimes for decades, which are not subject to Proposition 13’s one-percent cap. The two-thirds vote requirement is a crucial taxpayer protection because while everyone gets to vote on these local measures, only property owners pay for them.

If ACA 1 had been approved by two-thirds of each house of the state Legislature, it would have gone on the ballot, where it would have needed only a simple majority to pass. That would have changed Proposition 13 to allow tax increases for anything defined as “infrastructure” to pass with the approval of only 55 percent of the electorate in any (or every) subsequent election.

Taxpayers face a treacherous landscape in California. Legislative Democrats have more than super-majority control over the Assembly, meaning seven Democrats could oppose ACA 1 and it still would have passed. Taxpayer advocates, led by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, were outnumbered by about 15 to 1 in the halls of the Capitol as lobbyists for local government entities including cities, counties, special districts and firefighters raced from office to office looking for last-minute support.

To read the entire column, please click here.

2020’s Big Tax Increases Might Not Be a Sure Bet

Earlier this year, I wrote about the #Build2020 plan put forward by Assembly Democrats to make it easier to raise taxes at the local level for special taxes and general obligation bonds to pay for things like libraries, hospitals, parks, and other politically-appealing infrastructure projects.

This week, the measure was taken up for a vote on the Assembly floor.  Surely, with 61 Democrats out of 80 in the Assembly, ACA 1 should have had no problem securing the two-thirds vote needed to move it out of the lower house.  Think again.

In fact, ACA 1 received just 44 votes in Monday’s vote – 10 shy of the 54 votes required for passage.  Indeed, virtually every Democrat facing a potentially tough re-election campaign in 2020 failed to support ACA 1.  Several “moderate” Democrats joined them to sink the proposal.

What explains the unexpected negative vote for ACA 1?  Perhaps some Democrats are rethinking their push for higher taxes amidst growing talk of a recession and the push for billions collectively in new taxes on the 2020 ballot.

Some at the Capitol and outside interests have been pushing ACA 1 and a host of other tax increase measures thinking that the prospect of higher-liberal voter turnout in the March presidential primary and November general election will propel these tax measures long sought by liberals to victory.

How else does one explain backers of a proposal to gut Proposition 13 and impose a split-roll property tax system, which has already qualified for the ballot, announcing plans to abandon their original proposal in favor of an amended measure.

Why are they going to the trouble of collecting more than 1 million signatures a second time for another ballot measure?  Unsure of the passage of the original measure, they amended it to remove politically problematic provisions or add new “sweeteners” to try and gain more electoral support or neutralize opposition.

Even ACA 1’s author, Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, took pains to frame the debate as not being a tax increase.  During the floor debate, she said, “to be clear, nothing in this bill increases anyone’s taxes.  Nothing in this bill requires a local government to propose a funding measure to its voters.”

Surprisingly, Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, chair of the powerful Assembly Rules Committee, openly spoke out against ACA 1 during the debate.  Recounting his experiences as a young legislative staffer in the 1970’s when Prop. 13 was first enacted, he said that, “I remember the fear of people of the cost of taxation going through the roof and impeding my ability to buy a home.”

Speaking of today’s housing crisis, he noted that, “in the current time, I know young couples, outstanding couples, self-employed couples with good jobs, worried about buying a home in California.”

Cooley and other moderates know that lack of significant action to increase home building and lower housing costs, coupled with crushing property tax increases that could put homebuying out of reach for many working class Californians, might not be a recipe for electoral success – even in liberal California.

Of course, no bill is “dead” at the State Capitol until session adjourns for the year on September 13.  It’s likely that ACA 1 will come back for another vote sometime soon.  But Monday’s vote is the first sign that 2020’s big tax push may not be the slam dunk that some in Sacramento thought it would be.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute

San Francisco’s Political Leadership Has Squandered a Fortune

In 2009, San Francisco’s municipal budget totaled $6.5 billion — $8.6 billion in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation and population. San Francisco’s budget for 2019 is an eye-popping $12.2 billion, a 10 percent increase just since 2018. The city has failed to match this staggering budget growth with a similar increase in capital investment or services, however, providing an object lesson in the limits of what money can do.

Companies like Google, Salesforce, and Uber, headquartered in and around the city, pour sky-high salaries and stock-option windfalls into the local economy, which has seen real estate values — and the cost of everything else — soar. City coffers overflow with tax revenue. Though the effect has been most pronounced for the past decade, it extends as far back as the first dot-com boom, 20 years ago—in 1999, the city budget was $4.2 billion, equivalent to $7.7 billion today. The excess budget above inflation and population growth over those 20 years totals an astonishing $23 billion.

What has San Francisco done with this wealth? Not much. The Municipal Transportation Agency (“Muni”), which runs the busses and metro, has struggled with failure after failure this year. The housing shortage in the city is so bad that it is driving people to live in cars and even boats. Homelessness is up 14 percent in the past 6 years. Dirty streets, with needles and worse on the sidewalks, were an issue in last year’s mayoral race. A city seemingly rich enough to pave its roads with gold finds them covered in trash.

San Francisco has squandered its fortune. Proclaiming itself a “Transit First” city, density and geography make it one of the U.S. cities best suited for public transport. The city could have used its $23 billion excess to build dozens of miles of subway. Instead, it dug just 1.6 miles of the Central Subway, still not open. San Francisco did build a downtown train station, the Salesforce Transit Center, billed as the “Grand Central of the West”—except that it didn’t fund a tunnel to the station, so no trains go there yet, only busses.

San Francisco politicians also claim to care about affordable housing. Even at the inflated rate to build such housing in the Bay Area — up to $700,000 per unit — $23 billion could have built 33,000 units in the past 20 years. The total number of subsidized units in the city was only about 33,000 in 2018, and just 3,741 of them came from city programs like public housing or the mayor’s office. The rest came from federal, state, or private investment.

San Francisco also claims to care greatly about green energy and rising sea levels. With $23 billion, it could have installed solar panels on every building in the city at no cost to the owner, with almost $16 billion to spare for coastal defenses. Instead, San Francisco offers an anemic $1,500 credit for a typical solar installation, and seawalls have gotten no further than an “action plan” and a “vulnerability and consequences assessment.”

It wasn’t always this way. In the 20 years from 1917 to 1937, San Francisco dug the Twin Peaks and Sunset tunnels that remain central to its metro system; completed the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides some of America’s cleanest water; and built both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, which connect it to the region and sustain its jobs. All these projects are still used daily.

There have been some success stories. The city’s OneSF capital plan has been making long overdue improvements to streets and sewers. The Public Utilities Commission has completed several major seismic upgrades to the Hetch Hetchy water system, helping prepare for the eventual major earthquake. Two parks bonds, in 2008 and 2012, led to spectacular renovations of city parks and playgrounds. But these largely represent good governance and incremental improvements, not the fruits of billions of dollars of spending. With no grand projects to point to, it’s reasonable to wonder where all the money has gone.

Municipal employment has eaten up a large share. Salaries and benefits account for almost 45 percent of the budget, averaging $175,004 per employee, in a city where median household income is $96,265. The city employs 31,830 people, one for every 28 residents and six employees for every city block. The $873 million spent on grants—payments to nonprofits or other groups for various social services—almost equals the total spent on capital projects and facilities maintenance combined.

The larger issues, however, are political indifference and bureaucratic mismanagement. San Francisco carries principal debt of $3.63 billion, which could have been paid down since 2015 with millions to spare. Instead of making this long investment in the city’s financial future, San Francisco’s leaders have grown used to revenue that grow without effort and issued more than $1 billion of additional debt. The current budget is now burdened with $1.6 billion of debt service.

The paltry results from exceptional budget growth are also a story of mismanagement. The Central Subway, though one of the most expensivesubway projects in the world, has almost run out of money; its opening was recently delayed another 18 months. Last year, Muni made critical upgrades to the century old Twin Peaks tunnel, requiring additional busses to substitute for trains during the work. Muni didn’t plan for the extra drivers and took them from other routes, leaving the city short on service and causing a system-wide “meltdown.” The “Grand Central of the West,” despite having no tunnel or tracks, still cost $2.2 billion; it closed only six weeks after opening, due to structural cracks. The city spent $2 million to build a public bathroom at $4,700 per square foot, a construction cost similar to high-rise luxury condos. As successful as the OneSF capital plan has been, searching for a list of projects on its website returns the message, “the requested page could not be found.” San Francisco demonstrates that throwing in more money will compound mismanagement, not solve it.

The story of San Francisco’s budget over the past two decades shows that the city’s leadership doesn’t really value many of the issues—transit, affordable housing, clean energy—that it says it does. Given how little the city has done with its incredible windfall, year after year, it’s not clear what it values at all.

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

California’s Troubled Recycling System Takes Another Hit

California’s already-troubled recycling system took another blow this month with the closure of Ontario-based rePlanet, which operated 284 recycling centers, the most of any recycling company in the state.

But despite complaints from environmentalists about 2 million recyclable containers a day being thrown away in the Golden State and from consumer advocates upset that state residents are losing $25 million in deposits a month, no fix is on the horizon. That’s even though there is general agreement on what would revive recycling: increasing the reimbursement rates that the California Department of Resources Recycling (CalRecycle) pays recycling centers that take in single-use glass, plastic and metal bottles. Legislation to increase rates appears stalled in Sacramento.

Another proposed solution is to increase the 5-cent deposit per small plastic or glass bottle to 10 cents, as Oregon and Michigan have done. Those states have 90 percent recycling rates, far better than the 75 percent rate reported in California before rePlanet shut down operations.

Fallout from China’s decision to stop buying recyclables

About 1,000 centers have closed since the state lowered reimbursement rates in 2016. Recycling in California and across America took a giant hit in late 2017 when China – by far the world’s biggest market for recyclables – stopped its program, concluding that processing other nations’ waste was not a good use of resources.

Given California’s history as a pioneering environmental state, green groups like Californians Against Waste are incredulous that state leaders like Gov. Gavin Newsom and predecessor Jerry Brown see fixing recycling as a low priority.

But China is far from the only player in the recycling debate which is rethinking recycling. Brown opposed increasing reimbursements on the grounds that it was time for the state to develop a “modern” version of recycling. 

In a policy debate with echoes of the present flap over whether dockless electric scooters actually help the environment, a growing number of economists are skeptical about whether recycling makes sense. They say the resources needed to process separate streams of waste use up considerable energy, especially because the industry has never been able to address the problem that most non-deposit plastic products placed in recycling bins aren’t recyclable. And with improvements in landfill liners and design, previous views of dumps as toxic sites have lost ground.

Another claim heard in the late 1980s when California and many other states launched recycling programs – that landfills were running out of room – no longer has many believers. 

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that since 2010, one landfill had been built and 36 landfills had been expanded in the state.

New York Times economics columnist John Tierney wrote in 2015 that “all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing.” 

Environmentalists see single-use plastic as huge problem

But this view of recycling as inefficient, expensive and not particularly helpful to the environment is rejected by greens and by many Democrats who have taken on a new goal of ending all single-use plastics. They see plastic – which can last hundreds of years – as a huge pollution problem. That plastics are made from fossil fuels is also considered a major shortcoming. This view drives environmentalists’ goal of ending all single-use plastics – not just straws and utensils but consumer packaging. 

Senate Bill 54 – the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act – would commit California to a 75 percent reduction in single-use plastics by 2030. With 12 co-authors, the bill passed the Senate in May and won initial support from the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on generally party-line votes.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to go even farther. He has promised to eliminate the “ludicrous” and “outdated” practice of sending garbage to landfills.

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