Are Mandatory California Water Cutbacks Coming Soon?

Back in 2014, when I was in my past life working for elected officials, I found myself engaged in one of the more annoying parts of the job – “volunteering” on political campaigns.

One day, my volunteer efforts took me to a neighborhood in San Bernardino.  Knocking on doors, it struck me that despite California experiencing a severe drought emergency, it was as if there was no drought in Southern California.

In Sacramento, we were asked to severely cut back our residential water use.  Once, when my gardener forgot to adjust the automatic sprinkler controls to account for the new restrictions, the “water police” left a nastygram on my front porch.  At the time, neighbors were even being encouraged to turn in neighbors who were not following the rules. Meanwhile in San Bernardino, there were green lawns everywhere and many houses on each block were watering the sidewalk.

Fast forward a decade and apparently, they’re continuing to water the sidewalk.

Gov. Newsom in July issued a call for Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15 percent, while also adding several counties to a regional drought state of emergency.  Yet the Los Angeles Times reported last week that, “water use across much of Southern California dropped by just 0.1% overall, and rose by 0.7% in Los Angeles and 1.3% in San Diego.” This compares to a 16.7% water usage reduction in the North Coast in July and an 8.4% drop in the Bay Area.

Freed from the shackles of the recall election, might Gov. Newsom soon respond to the lack of response to his voluntary call and take executive action ordering big mandatory residential water restrictions statewide?  History suggests the answer is yes.

In 2015, then-Gov. Jerry Brown responded to the type of sidewalk watering that I saw in Southern California and ordered a mandatory 25 percent water cut. Californians largely did their part in reducing residential water usage – and they’re continuing to do their part.

The bigger question is whether such massive residential water cutbacks really make a difference or are even needed.  After all, as Newsom noted in July, Californians are using 16 percent less water today than in 2013, before the previous drought began.  In Sacramento, residential water use is down about 25 percent since 2013.

As Steven Greenhut writes in the PRI book Winning the Water Wars, “total urban water (residential, commercial, governmental) uses comprise around 10 percent of the state’s total water supplies . . . so taking a conservation-heavy approach only creates diminishing returns – and has a de minimis or insignificant effect on water supplies.”

Greenhut writes that the choice facing Californians surrounding our water future is a straightforward one:

Does the state want to build the infrastructure and embrace the other innovations and policies needed to provide us all with plenty of affordable water?  Or does it prefer a world of scarcity and skyrocketing prices, where government planners issue rationing edicts and farmers must let vast acreage go fallow?

Newsom clearly has embraced managing scarcity as his philosophy on water.  As someone who has never met a government action he didn’t like, you can count on new water restrictions soon coming down the pipeline and likely via executive order.

But many Californians are still wondering – after passing a water bond in 2014 with sufficient funding to build two new above-ground storage projects, why haven’t these critical projects been built yet?  After all, had Sacramento followed through, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing the prospects of new mandated water cutbacks this year – or in any future year when state rainfall totals decline.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

YouTube Is Blocking All Anti-Vaccine Content

YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country.

As part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533

Misinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube was contributing to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world. Vaccination rates have slowed and about 56 percent of the U.S. population has had two shots, compared with 71 percent in Canada and 67 percent in the United Kingdom. In July, President Biden said social media companies were partially responsible for spreading misinformation about the vaccines, and need to do more to address the issue. …

Click here to read the full article from MSN.com

Two More California Cities Preparing To Ban Flavored Tobacco and Vape Products

Californians have heard the constant anti-vaping ads, claiming that flavored nicotine vape products disproportionately attract teen users and need to be outlawed.

In 2019, San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed into law a vaping ban, passed 11-0 by the county board of supervisors, on the sale of e-cigarettes and all relevant paraphernalia. Steven Greenhut with the R Street Institute has written extensively about the attempts – and successes – of government to control and even ban vaping. “Welcome to tolerant San Francisco, where you have every right to live as you please as long as you choose only to do the things that are socially acceptable,” Greenhut said. “If you want to shoot up or take a dump in the street, that’s OK given that you are a victim of society. If you want to, say, smoke tobacco or vape, forget about it.”

Greenhut even recounts a trip to San Francisco where he was walking down the street smoking a cigar and was hard-timed for it. “I was far from any other human being and close to the world’s biggest air filter (the Pacific Ocean), and yet someone hectored me,” Greenhut said. “Had I been smoking weed, no one would have dared to say a word — nor should they have, given that marijuana is appropriately legal here. Welcome to tolerant San Francisco, where you have every right to live as you please as long as you choose only to do the things that are socially acceptable.”

And now, both Los Angeles and San Jose are expected to hold votes on proposed tobacco flavoring bans very soon in an attempt by anti-tobacco campaigners to get ahead of next year’s referendum on the statewide tobacco flavoring ban passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020.

If the proposed ordinances pass in both cities, it will come with controversy given new research showing some very adverse effects of tobacco flavoring bans for actual cigarette consumption.

It also could come against the backdrop of FDA action either allowing, or banning, vapor giant Juul from continuing to market its products.

According to Yale University researchers:

“after the [2018 San Francisco tobacco flavoring] ban’s implementation, high school students’ odds of smoking conventional cigarettes doubled in San Francisco’s school district relative to trends in districts without the ban, even when adjusting for individual demographics and other tobacco policies.”

Yale researcher Abigail Friedman explained: “While neither smoking cigarettes nor vaping nicotine are safe per se, the bulk of current evidence indicates substantially greater harms from smoking, which is responsible for nearly one in five adult deaths annually. Even if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health.”

A more recent Oxford University Press-published study found similar results, that “if ‘vape product sales were restricted to tobacco flavors,’ one-third of US vapers aged 18 to 34 say they’ll switch to smoking.”

In 2019, Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D. and senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, and Jeff Stier, J.D., a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center published an article at the Pacific Research Institute concluding the vaping hysteria and disinformation campaign will lead to more tobacco deaths. Miller and Stier said the not-so-hidden agenda behind the scare is to fool lawmakers into thinking e-cigarettes are as dangerous or more dangerous than “combustible cigarettes,” causing them to regulate these lower-risk alternatives inappropriately. This, too, will prevent smokers from quitting.

The conclusion that flavoring bans push people to conventional, carcinogenic cigarettes is one that New York University expert Ray Niaura also finds credible. In a recent interview, Niaura said that with flavoring bans, “Not only younger vapers, but older vapers run into difficulties either getting the products or getting the products they like, and then unfortunately, it’s still easy to get cigarettes almost anywhere. So it’s not surprising that people turn back to those products when the restrictions become really tight on vaping products, the availability of vaping products, flavor bans, etc. My worry is that it’s a retrogressive kind of strategy [banning flavors as a backdoor to banning all vaping products], that you get in the front door with this issue regarding kids and then you keep pushing until you ban the products outright. The irony is the Tobacco Control Act basically says that you cannot make cigarettes illegal, so if you ban all these products, cigarettes will still be legal. Do we want a world where we are just left with cigarettes?”

This article was originally published by the California Globe

Gender Quotas for Boards Heads to Trial in California

California will have to defend its first-in-the-nation requirement that companies include women on boards of public companies at a trial.

Judicial Watch, the conservative advocacy group, and the California attorney general’s office each failed to persuade a judge to rule in their favor on the constitutionality of the measure. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis decided there are issues that can only be resolved through a trial, which she set for Oct. 25 without a jury.

The group claims the use of taxpayer funds to enforce the rule is illegal under California’s constitution. Enacted in 2018 amid the #MeToo movement, the law required public corporations to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by 2019, and to have two or three female directors by the end of 2021 depending on the size of the board. Penalties for violations range from $100,000 to $300,000. …

Click here to read the full article from Bloomberg.com

Gov. Newsom’s Spin On Jobless Claims

There are days when those of us who follow the news feel as though we’re living in a parallel universe. What else could explain the wildly divergent news stories about California’s employment figures?

On September 17, the state’s July unemployment figures were released and the reaction from Gov. Gavin Newsom was a lot of positive spin. Here is what his press office released: “California continues to lead the nation’s economic recovery, creating 44% of the nation’s new jobs in August and ranking third in the nation in rate of job growth this year. These 104,300 new jobs, the fifth time this year of six-figure job growth, represent new paychecks for Californians and new employees on payroll for businesses.”

First, it is important to note that, while the figures are correct, the premise is not. Yes, the 44% new job creation is true, but that hardly means that California is “leading the nation’s economic recovery.”

This rose-colored view of California’s economic recovery is proof of the old adage that there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics. What is lacking in this release is both context and perspective.

For those desiring a no-spin perspective of California’s true state of unemployment and other economic metrics, the California Center for Jobs and the Economy (CCJE) produces comprehensive analysis that is far more revealing than politically driven press releases.

As if responding directly to the governor’s statement, CCJE prefaces its report on the July figures with this: “While both the jobs and employment numbers have been better in recent months, they are not yet at levels that would see quick recovery in the state economy.”

To read the entire column, please click here.

California Adopts Vote-by-Mail System for All Future Elections

California voters will continue to automatically receive ballots in the mail in all future state and local elections, under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday.

After experimenting with a universal vote-by-mail system during the coronavirus pandemic — resulting in near-record high turnout — California will now become the eighth state in the U.S. to make the change permanent.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections’ integrity and transparency,” said Newsom in a statement announcing his intention to sign Assembly Bill 37. …

Click here to read the full article from KQED

California Colleges and Public Schools Ordering More Vaccine Mandates Than Most Other States

Public Universities and community colleges across California have mandated COVID vaccines for staff and students in order to attend or teach classes. In August, the California Department of Public Health issued a public health order requiring all school staff to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week.

“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic,” said Governor Newsom.

Notably, a state-by-state look at colleges requiring COVID-19 vaccines shows a rather distinct line in the sand. The complete list of higher education institutions mandating vaccination for the fall 2021-22 semester appears to break along political lines rather than health and safety lines:

ARIZONA: Dine College, Prescott College

CALIFORNIA: Allen Hancock College, American Jewish University, American River College, Berkeley City College, Cabrillo College, California College of the Arts, California Institute of Integral Studies, California Institute of Technology, California Jazz Conservatory, California Lutheran University, California State University (Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Chico, Dominguez, East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy, Monterey Bay, Northridge, Polytechnic University at Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin Delta College, San Luis Obispo, San Marcos, Stanislaus), Cerro Coso College, Chabot College, Chapman University, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont Graduate University, Coast Community College District (Coastline, Golden West and Orange Coast), Coastline College, College of Alameda, College of the Redwoods, Cosumnes River College, Cypress College, De Anza College, Delta College, Folsom Lake College, Foothill College, Fresno Pacific University, Fullerton College, Golden Gage University, Golden West College, Harvey Mudd College, Holy Names University, Humboldt State University, Laney College, La Sierra University, Los Angeles Community College District, Los Rios Community College District, Loyola Marymount University, Menlo College, Merritt College, MiraCosta College, Moreno Valley College, Norco College, North Orange County Community College District (Cypress, Fullerton, North Orange Continuing Education), Occidental College, Orange Coast College, Otis College of Art and Design, Pepperdine University, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Porterville College, Riverside City College, Samuel Merritt University, Sacramento City College, San Diego Community College District, San Diego State University, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Clara University, Santa Rosa Junior College, Scripps College, Southern California Institute of Architecture, Southwestern College, Stanford University, State Center Community College District, University of California system (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz), University of the Pacific, University of La Verne, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, Whitter College

FLORIDA: University of Miami (employees only)

IOWA: Grinnell College, Highline College

TEXAS: Paul Quinn College, Rice University, Southwestern University, St. Edward’s University

Washington State, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, have lists as long as California’s. You can see then entire list of colleges and universities by state at the University Business website.

The Globe has been contacted by staff members at Los Rios Community College and Sacramento City Unified School District opposed to the new mandates. Many students and staff are planning a protest at Los Rios on September 30 over the mandates. Employees call it an abuse of power and are working with attorneys, planning to file a class-action lawsuit, CBS Sacramento reported.

Other states already have class action lawsuits working through the courts. The New Civil Liberties Alliance filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Michigan State University’s vaccine mandate for employees with naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19. 

More than 4,000 CSU Sacramento students who have not self-certified that they are vaccinated, received a letter saying they won’t be allowed on campus unless they prove their vaccination status, or legal exemption, CBS Sacramento reported.

In August, the Los Rios Community College District Board of Trustees voted to require COVID-19 vaccinations of all students and teachers, and offered a cash incentive of $100 to students for taking the vaccine. And if students take the second vaccine, they receive another $100.

“So, for all our students who are hesitant, there’s a really good incentive to go out and get that first shot and then follow up and get the second shot as well,” Brian King, Chancellor of Los Rios said, CBS10 reported. “The recognition that the Delta variant is having such a dramatic impact on our public health, our board decided on August 3rd to establish a requirement that all of our students and staff to have at least their first shot by October 1.”

The Los Rios Community College District offered no other options.

This week the Sacramento City Teachers Association labor union presented a proposal to the Sacramento City Unified School District that includes mandatory vaccinations for all district students and staff, and mandatory weekly Covid testing for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

“Despite limited Covid testing, SCUSD has reported an average of 19 new Covid cases every school day since classes began September 2,” the SCTA said.

In addition to mandatory vaccination and testing, “the SCTA proposal would require the district to follow health and safety recommendations from the state and county health departments and the California Department of Occupational Health and Safety. SCTA’s proposal requires recommendations from the state and county to be disclosed.”

Interestingly, the SCTA noted that the district has 200 vacancies among certificated teachers, “and since classes began on September 2, this has left an average of 39 classes a day (with approximately 1170 students) without either a regular or substitute teacher in the classroom.”

The SCTA proposal explains the mandate in detail:

The All District staff and students shall be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID by January 1, 2022, except those staff or students who have a medical exemption that keeps them from being vaccinated.

Prior to January 1, 2022, and pursuant to Governor Newsom’s August 11, 2021 Executive Order on vaccinations for school employees, staff must show proof of vaccination, or be subject to regular testing. Bargaining unit members will be required to provide proof of vaccination to the District by August 30, 2021. Bargaining unit members may submit proof of vaccination by going to the District’s vaccine portal at https://www.scusd.edu/vaccinations. Bargaining unit members who are vaccinated after August 30, 2021, may request to present vaccination proof at a later date through the District’s vaccination portal.

“There is currently no testing option, and no consideration has been given to natural immunity,” one of the Los Rios protesters told the Globe. “The District has made it very clear that staff and students who have not received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by October 1st, will be subjected to a disciplinary process. Students will “not be allowed access to District facilities,” and staff members will “probably be terminated,” to paraphrase their official statements.”

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

COVID Outbreaks Plague LAPD and Fire Agencies

Public health officials have identified more than 200 coronavirus outbreaks at police or fire agencies throughout Los Angeles County since the start of the pandemic, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The 211 outbreaks, accounting for more than 2,500 cases between March 2020 and last month, represent 9% of total workplace outbreaks across the county, the newspaper reported Sunday. However, they have continued to occur regularly even as vaccination rates increased among police and fire personnel and the number of individual coronavirus cases per outbreak has fallen since last winter.

The data showed 38 outbreaks at public safety agencies were identified in April of this year — the most in any month since the start of the pandemic. A month later, 35 outbreaks — the second most — were recorded by the county Department of Public Health. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

California Is Clueless About Homelessness

“More money, more problems” might as well be the slogan for how San Francisco and Los Angeles approach homelessness.

Voters in both cities recently approved billions of dollars in new spending for supportive housing and services for homeless residents. Although the intentions are good and the resources are there, projects in both cities have suffered from major delays and cost overruns. Meanwhile, their homeless populations continue to grow.

San Francisco’s “safe sleeping” open-air tent encampments were supposed to get homeless people out of crowded, dangerous indoor shelters while still providing them with meals, showers, security, and social services. The funding for these sites came from Proposition C, a 2018 ballot initiative that imposed the largest tax increase in San Francisco’s history, raising $300 million for homelessness services.

The initiative won at the ballot box with 60 percent of the vote, even though most of the city’s political leaders came out against it. They argued that the tax hike was excessive and that the plan for spending all that money was vague and lacked accountability.

Those warnings proved prescient. Under Proposition C, the city is spending around $61,000 annually on each “safe sleeping” occupant, or $5,083 per month. By comparison, the median monthly rent for an apartment in San Francisco is $2,913.

In contrast with Proposition C, Proposition HHH, which Los Angeles voters approved in 2016, had the enthusiastic backing of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who saw it as the cornerstone of his plan to turn back a rising tide of homelessness. The $1.2 billion bond initiative included a much clearer spending plan and required that the city controller release an annual audit of its progress. It was supposed to build 10,000 new units of affordable and supportive housing over 10 years.

The city controller’s reports have shown that Los Angeles can spend homelessness dollars about as effectively as San Francisco. Five years after Proposition HHH’s passage, the city had managed to build only about 700 of the 10,000 promised units. In a recent ruling, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter said the city’s “inaction” on homelessness likely violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Both cities struggle with restrictive land use regulations that raise the costs and completion times of housing projects. Those rules have blocked private development and pushed rent prices up. The same red tape is now tripping up city officials who are trying to build shelter for the homeless.

This article was originally published by Reason.com.

9th Circuit Overturns Skid Row Order

A federal appeals court on Thursday unanimously overturned a judge’s decision that would have required Los Angeles to offer some form of shelter or housing to the entire homeless population of skid row by October.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who issued the homelessness order in the spring, failed to follow basic legal requirements. It was a sharp rebuke of Carter, who has focused intently on homelessness, regularly venturing into encampments at all hours of the day, engaging with a wide array of officials responding to the crisis and issuing rulings on the subject in both Los Angeles and in Orange County, where he lives.

The ruling Thursday applied to only one slice of the sprawling lawsuit — the order to clear skid row of tents — but it called into question its broader underpinnings.

The panel said most of those who sued the city and county of L.A. had no legal right, or standing, to bring the case. Carter deployed “novel” legal theories that no one had argued, and ruled on claims that no one had alleged and on evidence that was not before him, the 9th Circuit said. …

Read the full article from the L.A. Times.