It Is Forbidden

From ketchup to construction materials, California lawmakers’ impulse to ban is inexhaustible.

There is nothing so useful, so convenient, so inoffensive that it can’t be banned in California. Los Angeles, the largest city in a state that started the fast-food boom, has decided that condiment packets should be treated as a suspicious substance. They haven’t been banned outright, but customers can get ketchup, mustard, relish, and other spreads in their takeout orders only if they request them. The ordinance applies to restaurants with 26 or more employees (apparently a magic sum in the Golden State). It also forbids workers from handing out napkins and plastic utensils with takeout orders unless customers ask for them. By April 2022, all L.A. restaurants will have to comply.

Two months later, the entire state will come under the same limitations. The recently passed Assembly Bill 1276 prohibits “a food facility from providing any single-use foodware accessory or standard condiment, as defined, to a consumer unless requested by the consumer.” The law will apply to both dine-in and takeout orders.

Somehow, we are told, California’s inexhaustible urge to ban virtually any item humans have found worthwhile will help the world avoid the disaster of man-made global warming. “If we are to overcome the extreme climate challenges we face, we will have to alter or otherwise transform all our habits relating to fossil fuel products, including plastics, and our essential natural resources, like forests,” said L.A. councilman Paul Koretz, who coauthored the city’s ordinance. (Note: California produces only about 1 percent of global greenhouse emissions.) Or perhaps the ban will just help clean things up, since Californians are evidently careless and unrepentant litterbugs. “Plastic utensils and condiment packets create unnecessary trash, pollute waterways and harm marine life. CA is changing that!” tweeted assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, co-author of AB1276, last month.

Condiments, napkins, and plastic utensils are joining a lengthy list of consumer products already banned or restricted, including single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, Styrofoam food containers, sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered automobiles (to end by 2035), new gas stations (in Petaluma and Novato), natural gas connections in new homes (which began in Berkeley), and plastic shampoo bottles in hotels.

Just as rust never sleeps, neither does the political impulse to forbid. In Los Angeles, for instance, the city council’s Public Safety Committee has approved a plan to expand Fire District 1, a tract that includes many of the city’s high-density commercial zones. The move “would effectively ban timber and wood-frame construction in much of the city,” says Pacific Research Institute fellow Nolan Gray. The prohibition would include “many rapidly growing neighborhoods near transit,” forcing developers “to use concrete and steel, building materials that come with substantial added financial and environmental costs.” The stated intent is to improve fire safety, but the move will provide no clear benefits while raising construction costs, Gray says. A Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety review determined that expanding Fire District 1 would raise building material costs by at least 10.6 percent and possibly as much as 47.1 percent. The sharply rising home costs that are sure to follow will price even more people out of a housing market that’s already among the nation’s most expensive.

Unlike most California prohibitions, the building-material ban isn’t a vehicle for virtue-signaling. According to Gray, it’s “being advanced by and for business and labor interests in the concrete industry, which has aggressively promoted the measure as a way to ban competition.” This comes as no surprise, since California policymaking is often shaped by powerful union interests. But bans are bans, and those who must live with their consequences don’t much care what motivates them. For them, the hassle is the same.

This article was originally published on the City Journal

California Crime Crackdown Inevitable in 2022

Commentary

crime wave is stalking California. Some of the latest in a long line of incidents:

  • The Seasons 52 restaurant at South Coast Plaza was held up.
  • Thieves attacked Louis Vuitton and Sacks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, smashing windows but unable to get inside.
  • In Walnut Creek, a flash mob of 80 thieves robbed a Nordstrom store and assaulted two employees.
  • Thieves hit the Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco’s Union Square, robbing and “ransacking” it, according to one account.

We’ve seen this before, during the “permissiveness” of the 1960s. The liberal Warren Court put a lot more limitations on police and prosecutors. It was named after Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former California attorney general and governor.

That crime wave was part of the reason Ronald Reagan was elected governor in 1966 to replace liberal Gov. Pat Brown. Amid violent protests on California university campuses, much like today’s Antifa riots, Reagan took action. During riots in 1969 at UC Berkeley, he ordered in the California National Guard and threatened, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.”

Voters later elected to the attorney general position such tough-on-crime candidates as Evelle Younger in 1970 and George Deukmejian in 1978, both Republicans. The latter became California’s governor in 1982, narrowly defeating Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Tom Brown. Deukmejian was a major proponent of the death penalty, a contrast to his anti-death penalty predecessor, Jerry Brown.

Click here to read the rest of the article at the Epoch Times

The SALT Fight Is Coming To a Head

In April, this column reported on the great SALT controversy and how it impacts California taxpayers. SALT stands for “state and local taxes,” and for many years prior to President Trump’s term in office, taxpayers could deduct those taxes from their federal tax returns without limitation. But in 2017, Congress enacted Trump’s tax reform, which limited the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers could deduct up to $10,000. Whether limiting the SALT deduction is good or bad tax policy is not nearly as interesting as the politics behind it.

The adoption of the limitation by the Republican-led Congress was broadly perceived as a big middle finger to high-tax states such as California. Whether a pretext or not, states with modest income tax rates, or no income tax at all, complained that their residents were essentially subsidizing residents of profligate, big-spending states.

But moderate- to high-income taxpayers in California and other high tax states lost a valuable deduction on their federal returns. Suddenly they felt the full pain of high state income tax rates and property taxes. Frantic state politicians began plans to lessen that pain. For example, immediately after passage of the tax reform law, California floated the idea of a semi-voluntary “charitable deduction” scheme to give high-wealth Californians some relief. It would have created a “charitable” fund within the general fund so high-earning taxpayers could claim a deduction for “donating” the equivalent of what they owed in state taxes. But the IRS, in an opinion letter, quickly shot down that idea.

More successful was a method adopted by many states to provide relief for certain “qualified entities,” consisting mostly of small businesses organized as partnerships, LLCs or S corporations. While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s workaround embodied in Assembly Bill 150, it provided little relief for citizen taxpayers.

Click here to read the full article at the Pasadena Star News

Drought Has Big Impacts on California Agriculture

IN SUMMARY: California’s serious and prolonged drought is having serious and prolonged impacts on California’s agricultural industry, the nation’s largest.

As California experiences a second year of drought, with no end in sight, the effects on California’s largest-in-the-nation agricultural industry are profound and perhaps permanent.

State and federal water agencies have cut deliveries to some farmers to zero while others, thanks to water rights dating back more than a century, still have access to water.

Farmers are reacting to shortages in three, often intertwined ways — suspending cultivation of some fields or ripping up orchards for lack of water, drilling new wells to tap into diminishing aquifers, and buying water from those who have it.

All three have major economic impacts. They are driving some farmers, particularly small family operations, out of business altogether, accelerating the shift to large-scale agribusiness corporations with the financial resources to cope, changing the kinds of crops that can be profitably grown, and supercharging the semi-secretive market for buying and selling water.

Get a veteran journalist’s take on what’s going on in California with a weekly round-up of Dan’s column every Friday.

By happenstance, all of these trends are occurring just as the state begins to implement a 2014 law aimed at limiting the amount of water that farmers can pump from underground aquifers.

A couple weeks ago, the state Department of Water Resources announced that it had rejected as inadequate the underground water management plans of four San Joaquin Valley agencies, including the huge Westlands Water District, indicating that the state will be aggressive in enforcing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“We’re not going to accept a plan to do a plan,” Paul Gosselin, deputy director for the California Department of Water Resources, Sustainable Groundwater Management Office, told the Sacramento Bee. “We’re looking for very concrete, measurable changes to address these deficiencies.”

If anything, however, farmers are drilling more wells to cope with the current drought, the Bee also reported.

“I could work seven days a week if I wanted to,” Fresno County well driller Wesley Harmon told the Bee. “In my area, everybody’s pumping. You can’t blame the farmers. They’re trying to make a living, they’re trying to grow food for everybody.”

The drought is obviously one motive for drilling hundreds of new wells that must go ever-deeper as the water tables drop from overpumping, sometimes leading to the collapse of land above. But another is that farmers know a crackdown is coming and are doing what they can before it arrives.

The Public Policy Institute of California has estimated that full implementation of the groundwater sustainability act could force 750,000 acres of California farmland out of production, or “fallowed.”

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters.org

The U.S. Imposes Travel Restrictions in Response to New COVID-19 Variant. Again.

The U.S. is once again imposing travel restrictions to stem the spread of yet another COVID-19 variant. Today, travel restrictions snap into place for noncitizens traveling by air from South Africa and seven other African countries in response to the spread of the newly discovered omicron variant in that region.

This new variant was discovered by South African scientists last week. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a “variant of concern” on Friday.

That same day, President Joe Biden announced his latest round of travel restrictions, which he described as a “precautionary measure” that would give his administration more time to learn about the new variant.

The White House hasn’t said when these travel restrictions might be lifted. Biden, in a statement issued Friday, said only that “we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.”

He encouraged people to get vaccinated or, if already vaccinated, a booster shot. The president also urged other countries to lift intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines as a means of boosting the global vaccine supply.

Other countries affected by the travel restrictions include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.

The new restrictions are already producing chaos. The Washington Post reports on how canceled flights to and from the affected countries are leaving people stuck abroad or forcing them to cancel their plans to visit family.

The Post notes that the U.S. had lifted travel restrictions on 33 countries just a few weeks prior. Biden’s latest move is yet another blow for the travel industry and those who had hoped that pandemic-era border controls would be a fading policy.

Dozens of other countries are also imposing restrictions on travel in the face of this new, quickly spreading variant.

Cases of people infected with the omicron variant have been reported in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Israel, and Australia. On Sunday, Canada reported its first two omicron cases.

There are still many open questions about omicron, including how severe its symptoms are, how transmissible it is, and how well existing vaccines or prior COVID-19 infections protect people against this new variant.

The South African doctor who first noticed the omicron variant has said that all the cases she’s seen have been pretty mild, reports CNBC. Disease experts who spoke to The New York Times say that omicron might be more transmissible than even the very infectious delta variant.

Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna are currently testing whether their existing COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the omicron variant.

Thus far, the WHO has said that it’ll take several weeks before we have more clear answers to many of these questions.

Here we go again.

Click here to read the full article at Reason.com

Hundreds of San Diego Police Officers Unvaccinated as City prepares To Impose Mandate

The city plans to send notices of termination to employees who are not in compliance

SAN DIEGO — Brandon Gibson knows just how serious COVID-19 is. He beat back the disease two months ago.

“It kicked my butt,” he said. Yet he quit the San Diego police force earlier this month after 10 years because he is not ready to get the vaccine, an imminent condition of employment for city workers.

“I am not an anti-vaxer,” Gibson, 45, said in a recent interview.

He appreciates science, he said, but he has concerns about serious side effects — which health officials say are rare — and doesn’t agree with the city’s mandate.

People rallied against a vaccine mandate for law enforcement officers and firefighters at San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza on Oct. 22.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“It’s really infringing on our freedoms,” he said. “It’s my body; it’s my choice.”

So he quit.

Whether Gibson will be an outlier among the San Diego Police Department’s 1,982 rank-and-file officers will soon be evident. Wednesday is the deadline for all city employees to show proof of vaccination or request a religious or medical exemption.

According to city figures, around 60 percent of officers were vaccinated as of Nov. 17.

Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday will ask the City Council to move forward with the mandate, which the city announced in late August, despite an impasse with the San Diego Police Officers Association over the requirements.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego-Union Tribune

Metro Riders Cite Rise in Crime

As ridership rebounds, reports of violence, including five killings, are up even from pre-pandemic levels.

As she waited for a Metro train in Hollywood, Maritza Mancilla shielded herself behind the escalator bringing passengers down into the fluorescent-lighted underground.

She wanted to see the newcomers before they could see her.

The 55-year-old, who relies on public transportation to get to her job as a housecleaner, has seen fights break out on the train. She’s seen a man attempt to open the car doors while they were in motion. At the Hollywood/Western Metro station earlier this year, a man exposed himself to her.

“If I could work from home, I would,” she said.

With the pandemic easing and lockdowns lifted, a return to normality has come with benefits: increased economic activity, more people going back to work and school, plus holiday gatherings and social interactions.

But on the Los Angeles public transit system — where ridership has rebounded to about 843,000 weekday daily riders from a pandemic low of about 363,800— normal has also brought with it a rise in crime.

In 2021, through September, reports of violent crimes were up 25% from the same time last year and 9% from 2019, according to L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority data.

Some crimes, such as aggravated assaults, are exceeding pre-pandemic levels even though bus and rail ridership hasn’t fully recovered.

Although still rare, homicides jumped from one in 2019 to three in 2020, the first full year of the pandemic. So far in 2021, five people have been killed in stations or on public transport, including a 28-year-old womanfatally shot on the train while on her way to work.

While most people ride public transit without incident, the issue of crime recently sparked a clash between L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Metro board members over the future of law enforcement on the system. At a news conference to argue for the extension of his department’s contract with Metro, the sheriff rattled off a list of eight violent crimes, dating back to 2019, including shootings, stabbings and sexual assaults. He referred to the incidents as “the level of carnage” happening on trains.

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, who sits on the Metro board of directors, said he saw Villanueva’s compilation of violent crimes “as a public acknowledgment that he failed to prevent these crimes.”

Black Friday ‘Flash Mob’ Robberies Put LAPD on Tactical Alert

Los Angeles police late Friday were on citywide tactical alert after a wave of smash-and-grab “flash mob” robberies at high-end stores.

And in Lakewood, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives were investigating a possible smash-and-grab robbery at a Home Depot after people stormed into the store Friday night and fled with sledgehammers and bolt cutters, according to authorities and a store employee.

The Los Angeles Police Department declared the alert around 8:30 p.m. Friday and lifted it at 2 a.m. Saturday. The alert followed a string of robberies in the area early in the evening, including an incident at 5:30 p.m. in which at least 10 men robbed a store at 130 S. La Brea Ave., pushed employees onto the ground and fled, said LAPD Officer Mike Lopez.

Lopez said that another attempted robbery on La Brea Avenue around 5:30 p.m. ended with an employee being sprayed with some kind of chemical agent, and another robbery was carried out at gunpoint in the 7800 block of Melrose Avenue.

Los Angeles police also took three people into custody Friday afternoon in the area of Melrose Avenue and Gardner Street after pulling over a vehicle for a traffic violation and spotting clothing with security tags “in plain sight,” connected to another theft, Lopez said.

Friday’s tactical alert follows a series of robberies in which groups have swooped in on stores across Los Angeles — including a Nordstrom at the Grove shopping center and several stores at the Beverly Center in the Beverly Grove neighborhood — and fled with thousands of dollars in merchandise.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the incident at Nordstrom on Tuesday, where as many as 20 people stole $5,000 worth of merchandise after smashing a display window, police said.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Reform CA Files Ethics Complaint Against Lorena Gonzalez Over ‘Employment Negotiations’ as Next Labor Leader

Watchdog group demands immediate resignation of Assemblywoman Gonzalez

The California Labor Federation, one of the largest and most influential union groups in California, voted to recommend Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) as their next leader on Tuesday in a non-binding vote, the Globe just reported Wednesday.

Politico ran a story late Tuesday night confirming “employment negotiations” have been occurring between Gonzalez and the powerful California Labor Federation.

However, many saw the articles and asked how a sitting elected Legislator can legally negotiate a future job with a labor group that regularly lobbies her on labor legislation?

Reform California announced Wednesday it has filed an ethics complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) demanding an immediate investigation, as well as enforcement actions, against Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez after news reports confirmed “employment negotiations” have been occurring between Gonzalez and the California Labor Federation.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“I am filing this complaint and requesting an immediate investigation be initiated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) into possible violations of the California Political Reform Act (CPRA) by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez,” Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California, said in the complaint.

“Late last night, the news outlet Politico confirmed ’employment negotiations’ have been occurring between Gonzalez and the powerful California Labor Federation.”

“Gonzalez quickly took to Twitter after the story broke to claim she has not yet accepted the job – but provisions in the California Political Reform Act (CPRA) make that immaterial to whether she has run afoul of state ethics laws,” Reform California noted.

Reform California explains the legalities:

“In fact, a state official who simply negotiates employment with a potential employer is covered under the law. Under subdivision (c) of Regulation 18747 of the CPRA, ‘a public official is ‘negotiating’ employment when he or she interviews or discusses an offer of employment with an employer or his or her agent.’”“Once it is established that a state official has engaged in conduct that triggers subdivision (c), Section 87407 of the CPRA applies: ‘No public official, shall make, participate in making, or use his or her official position to influence, any governmental decision directly relating to any person with whom he or she is negotiating, or has any arrangement concerning, prospective employment.’”

It is no secret to anyone involved in state politics that Gonzalez, who was CEO and Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO for five years prior to being elected to the Assembly in 2013, has been one of the most reliable legislative advocates for the California Labor Federation. She is on record sponsoring and voting for their legislation and utilizing her office to influence state agency activities, DeMaio said.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga Mall Hit In Latest Rash of Flash Mob Robberies

A Canoga Park mall was the scene of a flash mob-style robbery Wednesday night, similar to one pulled off at the Grove earlier this week.

Around 7 p.m., three to five suspects entered a Nordstrom in the Westfield Topanga mall and stole nearly $25,000 worth of designer bags, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspects entered the store, which was open at the time, and sprayed a security guard with a chemical substance before fleeing the scene in a green Ford mustang.

The security guard was treated and released at the scene by the Los Angeles Fire Department, Deputy Police Chief Alan Hamilton said in an interview with RMG News.

It was unclear at the time if the suspects were armed with more than the chemical spray, Hamilton said.

Click here to read that the rest of the article at the Los Angeles Daily News