Celeb-Heavy Los Angeles Suburb Gets Tough On Water Wasters

In a wealthy enclave nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains that is a haven for celebrities, residents now face more aggressive consequences for wasting water — including the threat of having their water flows slowed to a trickle if they repeatedly flout conservation rules.

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District northwest of Los Angeles offers a bold example of how local authorities across drought-stricken California are trying to get people to use less water, voluntarily if possible but with the threat of punishment if they don’t comply.

Before restricting water flows, the district hopes to spur savings by giving households a real-time look at their water use and stepping up fines for those homeowners who exceed their allotted “water budgets.”

District officials hope their approach will be a wakeup call for residents of the affluent neighborhoods, where most water is used outdoors use to keep expansive yards looking verdant and pretty and for pools.

Flow restrictors are rarely-used tool primarily reserved for people who repeatedly fail to pay bills. Now, the Las Virgenes district is warning that they could be installed on the water connections to homes that have been fined for overuse for three months. In the past, flow restrictors were a possibility after five months of fines, but the district never used them.

“What we’re trying to do is conserve water now so that we can stretch the limited supplies we have available,” said Dave Pederson, the district’s general manager.

California is experiencing the effects of climate change, with drought conditions present for most of the last decade. After two exceptionally dry years left the state’s reservoirs at or near record lows, a string of recent winter storms improved conditions. But most of the state is still in severe drought.

In July, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom asked residents to voluntarily cut 15% of their water use, but useage had declined only 6% as of November. The state water board last month imposed a series of mild homeowner water use restrictions, such as waiting two days after storms to water lawns. The board could take more significant steps later in the year if the drought intensifies.

California’s local districts provide water service, regulate use and enforce penalties. The Las Virgenes district serves about 75,000 people communities of Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Calabasas and Hidden Hills — an area that in recent years has attracted a growing number of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Will Smith.

Like much of inland Southern California, the region rarely gets any rain outside the winter months. It’s wealthier than most other parts of the state, with a typical Calabasas home selling for more than $1.5 million, according to the online real estate marketplace Zillow.

Despite calls for conservation, water customers in the area increased useage in August and September and then met the state’s 15% reduction goal in October before again missing the target in November.

Collectively, customers greatly exceeded their water budgets last year and one of the biggest issues the district faces is “the ability for affluent customers to significantly exceed their water budgets consistently since money is not a deterrent,” said Michael McNutt, the district’s spokesman. He declined to provide names of the district’s biggest water users.

Click here to read the full article at AP

California Throws More Money at COVID-19 Contact Tracing, But Is It Too Late?

One expert says that because omicron spreads so quickly, the millions spent on contact tracing could be better spent on more effective masks and more testing

Intensive contact tracing has helped contain COVID-19 outbreaks in some Asian countries. People test positive, they quarantine, and the folks they’ve had contact with are tracked down and asked to — or, in some nations, forced to — quarantine as well.

The U.S. has spent billions on contact tracing, and California alone will have spent $300 million on it through the next fiscal year. But researchers have found that 2 of 3 people with confirmed COVID-19 in the U.S. were either not reached or wouldn’t name contacts when interviewed, and public health authorities haven’t been able to monitor enough cases to stem the tide.

Now, as the pandemic enters its third year, the highly contagious omicron variant spreads like fire through dry grass. The incubation period can be as short as two days. The Centers for Disease Control recommends isolation for as little as five days. More people are testing at home — cases authorities don’t even count in their tallies — and some officials are throwing their hands up and suspending contact tracing.

“(T)he sheer speed of omicron’s transmission means people are exposed, infected and then contagious before the local health department can even identify an outbreak, much less get word to those who are exposed,” said officials in Oregon’s Multnomah County. “Because of that dynamic, contact tracing has become much less effective at lowering COVID-19’s risk, especially when cases are surging so high and when spending time in any indoor public space is essentially considered an exposure for anyone who isn’t up-to-date on their vaccines.”

Financial commitment waning

The financial commitment to contact tracing in California appears to be waning, but remains. The governor’s proposed budget shows that $258.3 million was spent on contact tracing over the first two years of the pandemic, with another $38.9 million going forward through the end of the next fiscal year.

The current and future spending breaks down to a projected $20.6 million this fiscal year, and $18.3 million next fiscal year, said Sonja Petek, principal fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“Contact tracing remains one of our many key tools in responding to the spread of COVID-19,” said a statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press office. “It’s also an important measure utilized in high-risk and congregate settings. Contact tracing assists with notifying exposed people for possible post-exposure treatment, testing, and quarantine in a timely manner.”

Overall, Newsom’s budget proposes $110 million to increase public health and humanitarian efforts at the California-Mexico border — including vaccinations, testing, isolation and quarantine services — “and expanded statewide contact tracing activities to help keep Californians safe and slow the spread.”

Currently, 268 state employees have been redirected to contact tracing efforts, the governor’s press office said. But experts aren’t sure the investment will bring great returns — at least not right now.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Chicago Teachers Strike Out

If teachers won’t teach, they should be fired.

In December, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urged school leaders “not to retreat from in-person learning,” and said schools should not be considering remote options. Just last week, President Biden echoed the sentiment, stating that “schools should remain open despite the ongoing nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.” Even the ultimate doom and gloom purveyor Anthony Fauci insists that despite the rising cases of the omicron variant, “reopening schools for in-person learning is the right call given widespread vaccinations among teachers and the negative effects on students of not attending in-person.” Additionally, Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, notes that her public health team “compared data on public school children who were attending school remotely to data on private school children who were attending school in-person and found that the children, as well as staff, going in-person with coronavirus protocols in place were actually at lower risk of contracting the virus.” Arwady’s sentiments are borne out by that fact that while public schools suffered through union-driven closures, Catholic schools in major cities have been continually open for in-person instruction since September 2020 with no harmful effects to teachers or students.

It’s no secret that transmission rates from minors are low, particularly among younger children. The BMJ, a peer-reviewed medical trade journal published by the British Medical Association, is skeptical that school closures reduced COVID-19 cases at all. Looking at the big picture, there’s more risk of death to children riding in a car than there is from catching COVID-19. Evidence also suggests the omicron variant is no worse for kids than catching the common cold. The same holds true for vaccinated teachers. And with schools nationwide having received $190 billion specifically to deal with Covid-related issues, you’d think when schools were set to open after Christmas break, all would be good, right? Well, no.

Ignoring reality, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten explained in a recent tweet, “We need adequate staff & the safety measures in place including testing, masking, ventilation. There is a lot of stress.”

Stress?!

Other “essential” workers are expected to continue to provide service during this trying time. Cops, sanitation workers and firemen don’t get to stay home with no repercussions. Why should teachers? Also, when teachers go to a supermarket, they expect to get service. They wouldn’t like it one bit if the guy who stocks the produce shelves decided he was too “stressed” to come to work.

No matter. The Chicago Teachers Union, one of the most rabid in the country, decided to poll its teachers on reopening, and on January 4th, 73% of them decided to nix in-person instruction, insisting they would only teach online. In addition to 350,000 children who were yet again barred from going to school, the lives of thousands of parents were disrupted with no warning. (Though school was cancelled, the school buildings did remain open for other services, including meals and vaccination clinics.)

The response to the walkout was fast and furious. Mincing no words, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot called the strike illegal and said, “If you care about our students, if you care about our families, as we do, we will not relent. Enough is enough. We are standing firm and we are going to fight to get our kids back to in-person learning. Period. Full stop.” And for good measure, she added, “I will not allow them to take our children hostage…. Why are we here again when we know that the safest place for our children is in school? Why are we here again when we know that our schools are safe?”

Then came the kicker. Lightfoot locked teachers out of online classrooms, and said the no-show educators would not be paid for the time they were not in the classroom.

The aforementioned Randi Weingarten, who never misses an opportunity to comment on, well, anything, beclowned herself yet again, asserting in a tweet, “Let’s be clear here regarding Chicago schools – No one wants schools closed.” She also praised educators, whom she laughably insists “have been herculean.”

Back in the real world, in addition to Lightfoot, Chicago Public School system officials claimed that the strike by the city’s teachers is illegal. (All teacher strikes should be illegal, but I will tackle that issue another day.) Labor lawyer Burt Odelson, who represents several suburban school boards, agrees. He asserts that the union failed to go through the proper channels, which is laid out in the collective bargaining agreement. “It’s an unauthorized wildcat strike. It’s the employees telling the boss, ‘we’re doing what we want! Pay us anyway. And, if you don’t succumb to what our terms of employment are, too bad!’ That’s exactly what it is. It’s a wildcat strike.”

Well, after much wrangling the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates and the school district have reached a tentative agreement, pending acceptance by the rank-and-file. As reported by Fox News, the agreement, which still requires a rank-and-file vote, “will allow schools to return to remote learning if 25% of staff test positive for COVID-19. It also secures access to increased testing and personal protective equipment, and enhances contact-tracing measures at all public schools.”

The union honchos are not happy with the settlement. CTU Vice President Stacey Davis Gates groused during a press conference Monday, “This mayor is unfit to lead this city, and she is on a one-woman kamikaze mission to destroy our public schools.” Gates added that union once again has “had to create infrastructure for safety and accountability in Chicago schools, saying members have been held in hostage negotiations.”

One can only assume that Lightfoot’s strong words and actions were a big factor in ending the work stoppage.

Click here to read the full article at Frontpagemag.com

Newsom Budget: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The governor’s budget is a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly. We won’t see a real state budget until it emerges from the smoke-filled backroom following the May revise, but that didn’t stop Gov. Gavin Newsom from gleefully announcing to reporters how he would like to spend the windfall of other people’s money in a 400-page “summary” presented last week.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of his proposal.

The Good.

The governor’s budget puts more money into the reserve accounts, accelerates the paydown of state retirement liabilities, eliminates some budgetary debt, and allocates 86 percent of the discretionary surplus to one-time spending rather than ongoing liabilities that has so often happened in past years.

That’s good because the good times won’t go on forever. While the budget projects healthy returns for the next couple of years, it notes that “[s]tructural (non-pandemic) downside risks to the forecast remain, including the challenges of an aging population, declining migration flows, lower fertility rates, higher housing and living costs, increasing inequality, and stock market volatility.”

That’s important because the top 1% of California taxpayers pay more than 50% of the state’s income tax revenues. The state is currently riding high on the wealthy’s stock market gains, but as the Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates, the party could be coming to an end, and soon.

The Bad.

The bad is that an already bloated bureaucracy is getting even more bloated. Under the requirements of Proposition 98, increases in spending for public schools and community colleges will be dramatic and, as has been much talked about in these pages recently, California’s public schools aren’t hurting for cash as it is.

According to the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, in inflation-adjusted constant dollars, per-pupil spending in California for public elementary and secondary schools in 2017-18, the most recent year for which statistics are available, was $13,129, the highest ever.

Under the governor’s budget, schools would see more than $20,000 per student, putting California in the top five of states in education spending – with little to show for it.

Even worse is the fact that there is little in the budget to address waste, fraud and abuse generally, not just in education. There is nothing to prevent another fiasco like we saw with the $20 billion in fraudulent claims paid by the Employment Development Department; still no accountability with the bullet train project and, in fact, the boondoggle is getting billions more.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Double Dealing: Legal, Illicit Blur In California Pot Market

LOS ANGELES (AP) — On an isolated farm, greenhouses stand in regimental order, sheltered by a fringe of trees. Inside are hundreds of head-high cannabis plants in precise rows, each rising from a pot nourished by coils of irrigation tubing. Lights powerful enough to turn night into day blaze overhead.

In the five years since California voters approved a broad legal marketplace for marijuana, thousands of greenhouses have sprouted across the state. But these, under their plastic canopies, conceal a secret.

The cultivator who operates the grow north of Sacramento holds a coveted state-issued license, permitting the business to produce and sell its plants. But it’s been virtually impossible for the grower to turn a profit in a struggling legal industry where wholesale prices for cannabis buds have plunged as much as 70% from a year ago, taxes approach 50% in some areas and customers find far better deals in the thriving underground marketplace.

So the company has two identities — one legal, the other illicit.

“We basically subsidize our white market with our black market,” said the cultivator, who agreed to speak with The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity to avoid possible prosecution.

Industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is all too commonplace, a financial reality brought on by the difficulties and costs of doing business with a product they call the most heavily regulated in America.

For the California grower, the furtive illegal sales happen informally, often with a friend within the tight-knit cannabis community calling to make a buy. The state requires legal businesses to report what they grow and ship, and it’s entered into a vast computerized tracking system — known as “seed to sale” monitoring — that’s far from airtight.

“It’s not too hard” to operate outside the tracking system’s guardrails, the grower said. Plants can vary widely in what each one produces, allowing for wiggle room in what gets reported, while there is little in the way of on-site inspections to verify record-keeping. The system is so loose, some legal farms move as much as 90% of their product into the illicit market, the grower added.

The passage of Proposition 64 in 2016 was seen as a watershed moment in the push to legitimize and tax California’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry. In 2018, when retail outlets could open, California became the world’s largest legal marketplace and another steppingstone in what advocates hoped would be a path to federal legalization, after groundbreaking laws in Colorado and Washington state were enacted in 2012.

Today, most Americans live in states with at least some access to legal legal marijuana — 18 states have broad legal sales for those 21 and older, similar to alcohol laws, while more than two-thirds of states provide access through medicinal programs.

Kristi Knoblich Palmer, co-founder of top edibles brand KIVA Confections, lamented that the migration of business into the illegal market was damaging the effort to establish a stable, consumer-friendly marketplace.

“To have this system that now appears to be failing, having people go back into the old-school way of doing things … it does not help us get to our goal of professionalizing cannabis and normalizing cannabis,” she said.

In California, no one disputes the vast illegal marketplace continues to dwarf the legal one, even though the 2016 law stated boldly that it would “incapacitate the black market.” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was lieutenant governor at the time the law was approved, called it a “game changer.”

But California’s legalization push faced challenges from the start. The state’s illegal market had flourished for decades, anchored in the storied “Emerald Triangle” in the northern end of the state. Not since the end of Prohibition in 1933 had an attempt been made to reshape such a vast illegal economy into a legal one.

In October, California law enforcement officials announced the destruction of over 1 million illegal plants statewide but said they were finding larger illicit growing operations. In the cannabis heartland of Humboldt County, many illegal growers are moving indoors to avoid detection. Investigators are making arrests and serving search warrants every week, but with so many underground grows “we may never eliminate the illegal cultivation,” Sheriff William Honsal said in an email to the AP.

California’s illegal market is estimated at $8 billion, said Tom Adams, chief executive officer of research firm Global Go Analytics. That’s roughly double the amount of legal sales, though some estimates are even larger.

Click here to read the full article at AP

Lobbyists Told State Insurance Chief They Represented Company at Center of Campaign Scandal, New Filing Says

Two former state lawmakers now working as lobbyists spoke personally with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and his senior deputy, contrary to what state officials have said in a public-records lawsuit unfolding now in a Los Angeles courtroom.

In a sworn declaration filed last month, former state Assemblyman Rusty Areias said he told Lara in 2019 that he had been hired by the workers’ compensation firm Applied Underwriters and may be reaching out to Lara in the future.

At the time Applied Underwriters was seeking state approval from Lara’s office for a change in ownership.

Areias said in the declaration that he spoke repeatedly with Deputy Commissioner Bryant Henley, one of the senior Department of Insurance officials who intervened in department
proceedings to benefit Applied.

“During the course of assisting the clients on this matter, I had multiple phone calls with Bryant Henley of CDI regarding CIC and Applied Underwriters,” Areias said in the sworn declaration filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

CIC is an acronym for California Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Applied. CDI stands for the California Department of Insurance.

“In our telephonic conversations, Lazlo Komjathy at CDI was always on the line but never said anything,” Areias said. “In these calls I informed Henley and Komjathy, among other things, that I was representing CIC and Applied Underwriters.”

The declaration is significant because state insurance regulators typically are not supposed to take up the cause of companies they regulate. Henley at least twice overruled administrative law judges who decided cases in favor of Applied policyholders.

Henley also was the official in charge of responding to the California Public Records Act requests filed by a group called Consumer Watchdog.

Consumer Watchdog in 2020 sued the Department of Insurance for emails and other communications related to Applied Underwriters after The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2019 that Lara had accepted thousands of dollars in political donations from insurers, despite promising during his 2018 campaign not to do so.

At the time, Lara publicly apologized for accepting political contributions from people associated with Applied or other insurance companies, and he returned more than $80,000 to insurers and other donors with business before state regulators.

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

Gascón Policy Is Again Assailed

D.A.’s refusal to try minors as adults draws new flak as sentencing nears in sex abuse by person who’s now 26.

A 26-year-old woman who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Palmdale could be sentenced to a short stay in juvenile hall or granted probation at a court hearing this month, sparking another round of outrage over Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s criminal justice reform platform.

The complicated case of Hannah Tubbs has drawn increasing frustration from law enforcement officials and politicians in recent weeks, who say the situation once again highlights the problem with Gascón’s blanket ban on trying juveniles as adults.

Tubbs, who identifies as female, was two weeks shy of her 17th birthday when, prosecutors say, she walked into the women’s restroom of a Denny’s restaurant in 2014, grabbed a 10-year-old girl by the throat and locked her in a stall, court records show. Tubbs then shoved her hand down the girl’s pants and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors say, stopping only after someone else entered the restroom.

The case drew widespread attention at the time, and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors issued a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. But Tubbs was not linked to the crime until 2019, when her DNA was entered into a database after she was arrested on suspicion of battery in Idaho, said Lt. Richard Ruiz of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau.

Prosecutors filed charges against Tubbs in early 2020, shortly after Gascón took office. The reform-minded prosecutor has flatly refused to try juveniles as adults, citing scientific studies showing that adolescent brain development isn’t complete until age 25 and asserting that young offenders can still be rehabilitated in juvenile custody whereas they would only be hardened in adult prisons.

But Tubbs’ criminal record extends beyond the Denny’s attack and into her adult life.

She has been arrested for battery, drug possession and probation violations in Idaho and Washington, where she also has a pending misdemeanor case, Ruiz said.

Tubbs was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Kern County and faced a prior allegation of sexually assaulting a minor, which did not result in a prosecution, according to Ruiz and a review of court records. Several calls to the Kern County district attorney’s office seeking additional information on both cases were not returned.

A final determination on Tubbs’ case was supposed to have been made earlier this month, but hearings were delayed because the defendant is in quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure, Ruiz said. In the interim, proponents of a renewed effort to recall Gascón from office and area politicians have seized on the case as evidence that the district attorney’s policies are harmful.

“It’s useless to catch criminals like [Tubbs] if we don’t follow through and seek justice for victims such as the 10-year-old girl [she] sexually assaulted. She bears the burden of a lifetime of trauma,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes Palmdale, said in a statement. Tubbs “will be offered therapeutic interventions under the auspices of ‘restorative justice’ … and possibly granted only probation or parole. Where is the justice for [her] young victim and her family?”

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a frequent critic of Gascón, has also complained about the case online and had scheduled a news conference to discuss the matter this week with recall leaders and crime victims’ organizations, but the event was canceled.

In an interview, Gascón said the case was complicated by the gap in time between the attack and Tubbs’ capture, her criminal record and the effect the attack had on the victim.

The young girl has since moved away from California and remains in therapy, according to an impact statement read in court last month, and Gascón said the victim did not want to testify at trial.

The Times reviewed an e-mail that said Tubbs has been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and might also qualify as “developmentally disabled,” factors that would raise legal questions about her culpability.

One of Tubbs’ public defenders declined to discuss the case, insisting they were barred from doing so by state law.

The district attorney also expressed concern that Tubbs herself would be victimized if held in an adult facility as a transgender woman, and noted a probation report actually recommended Tubbs be sentenced to home confinement. Instead, Gascón said, prosecutors asked for Tubbs to be kept in custody for two years where she could receive treatment and therapy.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

California Suspends Some Disability Claims, Citing Fraud

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — After stealing the identities of death row inmates and even a sitting U.S. senator to make off with billions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment benefits during the pandemic, scammers have now moved on to impersonating doctors to dupe California officials into giving them disability checks.

State officials on Monday said they had suspended 345,000 disability claims while they worked to verify the identity of about 27,000 doctors whose credentials were used to file disability claims for purported patients.

The Employment Development Department said most of those suspended claims were likely fraud attempts. But some of them are legitimate claims from people who can’t work because of an injury or are taking paid maternity leave. Now, those people’s checks have stopped while state officials try to sort out the mess.

“Here we are once again when this big bureaucracy that can’t tell the difference between the honest and the corrupt,” said Assemblymember Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno. He said many of his affected constituents “are at their wits ends because they are simply running out of money. They are at the end of their financial rope.”

The Employment Development Department oversees claims for both unemployment and disability benefits in California. State and federal officials relaxed rules for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, which had the unintended consequence of making it much easier for scammers to file fake claims.

In California, criminals used stolen identities to steal at least $20 billion in unemployment benefits since March 2020 as the state approved fraudulent payments in the names of death row inmates and even U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Now, state officials say organized criminals are stealing doctors’ credentials to file fake disability claims. The state is using a computer program to verify the identity of these doctors to find those fake claims. They do this by sending the doctors an email from an official government account asking them to verify their identity by using a computer program known as ID.me.

That’s a problem for Martha Mariscal, who says her doctor doesn’t use email. Mariscal hurt her foot and hasn’t been able to work at her grocery store job. She hasn’t received her disability check since December and has now exhausted her savings.

Mariscal said she hasn’t been able to reach anyone at the Employment Development Department. And, since her doctor’s office doesn’t use email, they have yet to receive anything from the state to verify her claim.

“We’re just in limbo, just waiting for their mercy,” she said.

Click here to read the full article at AP

How State GOP Can Get Out Of Wilderness

Republicans need better candidates and an agenda beyond kowtowing to Trump.

Barring something extraordinary, like, say, being caught on videotape dynamiting the Golden Gate Bridge, Gavin Newsom will be reelected as California governor in November.

And even if Newsom were to be jailed and convicted of such a nefarious assault on the Bay Area landmark, it is virtually certain he’d be succeeded by one or another of his fellow Democrats.

It’s been a decade and a half since a Republican won statewide office in California and more than a quarter of a century since the once-dominant GOP controlled either legislative chamber.

The ranks of Republican lawmakers in Sacramento are so shrunken that they have about as much say over legislation as the shrubbery growing outside the Capitol.

None of which is good for California.

Politicians and political parties need serious competition to hold them in check, keep them honest and avoid arrogance and overreach.

For our system of self-government to keep working, voters need to feel as though they have a voice and stake in the actions of their elected leaders.

Millions of Californians, who either identify as Republican or conservative, feel unheard and unseen in Sacramento, bobbing like red pinpoints in an ocean of blue. That alienation was a major impetus behind last year’s fruitless and extravagantly wasteful effort to recall Newsom and feeds the perpetual — if fanciful — talk of breaking off a chunk of rural California and creating a 51st state.

So what will it take for Republicans to regain relevancy and for California to once more benefit from a healthy and competitive two-party system?

The short answer is winning the governorship, not just electing more lawmakers to the Assembly and Senate, or to other statewide offices — though that would certainly help.

“In California, governor is an exceedingly powerful position,” said Marty Wilson, a former advisor to Pete Wilson and no relation to the ex-governor. “You’ve got a media platform. You make appointments. You can raise money for yourself as well as other candidates.”

Not least, a Republican chief executive could rebrand the party and improve its acrid image in the state.

Even before Donald Trump came along and warped the GOP into something resembling a zombie cult, the national Republican Party was seen in California as increasingly harsh, intolerant and beholden to its white Southern base. That guilt by association has hurt any candidate running statewide under the party banner.

Winning the governorship will require a different kind of Republican than most of those put forth over the last two decades — which is to say one capable of winning over more than a limited slice of the electorate.

California is a Democratic state, but not a flamingly liberal one. When Republicans got behind gubernatorial candidates who appealed to voters at or near the center — George Deukmejian, Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger — they succeeded. (Notably, the first time the politically moderate Schwarzenegger ran was in the 2003 recall election, a free-for-all of 135 candidates on a single ballot, avoiding a Republican primary he might well have lost.)

More often, the party has rallied behind gubernatorial hopefuls — the hapless Bill Simon Jr.,vapid John Cox,combustible Larry Elder — who excited the most ardently conservative Californians but were too inept or extreme for a majority of voters to swallow.

In theory, when — or if — things get bad enough under one-party Democratic rule, a meaningful number of voters will be amenable to giving Republicans another look. Call it the wreckage-and-ruin road to party redemption.

“A Democratic screw-up would open the door,” said Jack Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican National Committee staffer. But even then, he said, “It takes a quality Republican to walk through it…. Somebody who’s qualified, reasonable and pays attention to governance.”

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Rewarding Failure In The K-12 System

California spends a lot on education. Ever since the passage of Proposition 98 in 1988, which guarantees to education a minimum of 40% of the general fund, per-pupil spending on K-12 has risen faster than any other category of state appropriations. And yet, for all that new money, the state’s education monopoly continues its history of failure to deliver a quality product.

Just last month, this column cited the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, showing that in 2017-2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available, per-pupil spending for the state’s K-12 public schools was $13,129 in inflation-adjusted 2019-20 dollars, the highest ever. Measured in the same constant dollars, per-pupil spending was $9,594 in 1999-2000.

California is quickly rising in the ranks in spending according to multiple metrics and we are now at least 17th highest in the United States. And many of these statistics are pre-pandemic, before the state plowed even more money into the system.

Where it excels in spending money, California lags in educational outcomes due to a clear hostility to meaningful education reforms. For decades, reformers have unsuccessfully advocated for more school choice, merit pay for teachers, advancement based on merit rather than seniority and the ability to fire bad teachers including some credibly accused of crimes against children.

The “reforms” coming out of the union-dominated Legislature will only make matters worse. The latest iteration of this is Senate Bill 830 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, that would change the way schools are funded. Under current law, schools get financial support based on a formula that includes average daily attendance. This bill would eliminate daily attendance from the formula, and with it the financial incentive for school personnel to attempt to get students in the building.

To read the entire column, please click here.