California Redistricting: Four Key Questions

California’s independent redistricting commission reaches a key milestone by releasing its preliminary congressional and legislative maps for public comment. But many changes are likely before final districts are adopted in late December for the 2022 election.

It took weeks of long, late-night meetings full of wonky debate and digital line drawing — as well as a haiku and at least two songs as public comment. 

But on Nov. 10, California’s independent redistricting commission reached a key milestone: Its first official maps are out. 

The citizen panel voted unanimously to release preliminary congressionalstate Senate and state Assembly districts for public comment. 

The commission’s work is far from done, however. It acknowledges that these preliminary maps are far from perfect, and that it will need the six weeks before its Dec. 27 court-ordered deadline to fix them before adopting final districts for the next decade, starting with the 2022 elections. On its schedule: At least four public input meetings starting Nov. 17, then 14 line-drawing sessions between Nov. 30 and Dec. 19.

“It’s messy. It’s very slow,” commissioner Linda Akutagawa said just before the Nov. 10 vote. “But I do believe that it is a process that has enabled as many people who seek to be engaged in this process to be engaged.”

The commission is working toward “final maps that will best reflect everybody,” added Akutagawa, a no party preference voter from Huntington Beach who is president and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics. 

Some key questions as the 14 commissioners start their next phase: 

How much could the maps change?

A lot, commissioners concede. 

While they’re required to follow a specific set of criteria, with equal population numbers being the highest priority, there are different ways to achieve those goals. 

The draft maps that were approved Wednesday night are generally along the lines of the final round of “visualizations” that the commission worked on this week. They include reworked congressional districts in Northern California, the Central Valley and San Diego in response to public feedback. 

For example, the progressive city of Davis was moved from a U.S. House district with politically conservative, rural areas in Northern California in earlier maps into a more urban, liberal district that includes parts of Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties

To meet its self-imposed deadline so it could avoid meetings around Thanksgiving, the commission also put a pin in several areas that need further work, including congressional and legislative districts in Los Angeles. 

Who are some early winners and losers?

The commission responded to concerns about earlier maps that combined two congressional districts represented by longtime African American representatives into one, and kept them separate in the latest maps. Commissioners were also able to keep the Hmong community united in congressional maps, and kept Native American tribes mostly united in Congressional and state Assembly maps. 

The commission also addressed concerns from community members in Orange County’s Little Saigon by ensuring they were in the same state Senate district. San Joaquin County community leaders who wanted less divided districts are also likely happy with the draft maps.

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Meanwhile, voters in and near Tracy who were disappointed with being grouped into a congressional district with the Bay Area were relieved to see their city placed back with the Central Valley. 

But other areas and advocacy groups are on the losing end so far.

Inyo and Mono counties, where officials asked to be kept together, were split in congressional and Senate districts, as was the city of Santa Clarita in Senate maps. 

Advocates say that proposed state Assembly districts divide Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities in San Francisco.

“Losers” also include voters in Sacramento County, which hasn’t been as vocal in the process and is in danger of being sliced into several congressional districts, according to Jeff Burdick, a political blogger and 2020 congressional candidate.

And the uncertainty surrounding the districts is making it difficult for candidates and campaigns to get going for the June primary, some political professionals told Politico.

Click here click to read the full article on CalMatters.org

Bubble Watch: Investors are 51% of Southern California’s Homebuying Surge

Median price paid by local investors? $898,000

Bubble Watch” digs into trends that may indicate economic and/or housing market troubles ahead.

Buzz: Half of Southern California’s homebuying surge this summer can be tied to a big jump in the purchasing pace by investors.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed Redfin estimates of investor activity locally and in 40 major metropolitan areas in the third quarter, defined as purchases made by entities with corporate-sounding names or descriptions. 

The Trend

Surging home prices with gains of 30% in two years have clearly been a draw for investors to the four counties covered by the Southern California News Group.

nvestors bought 8,900 residences in the summer or 17.7% of all purchases. These weren’t fixer-uppers, by the way, as the typical sales price for these deals was $898,000.

Compare that with one year earlier, when homebuying was swiftly rebounding from a locked-down spring. Investors bought 6,758 homes in the summer of 2020, or 14.6% of the market. That’s a 32% jump in investor purchases.

Or look at ballooning bets this way: Local investors bought 2,142 more homes this summer vs. 2020’s third quarter — or 51% of the region’s 4,228 overall sales increase.

The Dissection

Let’s start by saying that if this Southern California speculator surge looks bold, it’s tame when viewed using a national yardstick.

Click here to read the full article at the Orange County Register

California Drought: Proposed Ballot Measure Would Fast-Track Construction of Dams, Desalination Plants and Other Water Projects

California has not built enough new reservoirs, desalination plants and other water projects because there are too many delays, too many lawsuits and too much red tape.

That’s the message from a growing coalition of Central Valley farmers and Southern California desalination supporters who have begun collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would fast-track big water projects and provide billions of dollars to fund them — potentially setting up a major political showdown with environmentalists next year shaped by the state’s ongoing drought.

The measure, known as the “Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022,” needs 997,132 signatures of registered voters by April 29 to qualify for the November 2022 statewide ballot.

If approved by a majority of voters, it would require that 2% of California’s general fund — about $4 billion a year — be set aside for projects to expand water supplies. Those could include new dams and reservoirs, desalination plants, recycled water plants, and other projects like upgrading canals and pipes.

The money would continue flowing each year until 5 million acre-feet of new water supply was created, an increase of about 13% in the roughly 39 million acre-feet used in an average year by all the state’s residents, farmers and businesses. That could take several decades and cost $100 billion, according to an analysis by the non-partisan State Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“We think conservation has an important role to play,” said Edward Ring, a spokesman for the campaign, known as More Water Now. “But you can’t get there any more just with conservation. If you want to be resilient against a prolonged drought, you have to have new supplies.”

Click here to read the full article at Mercury News

School Walkout: ‘Government Is Not A Co-Parent’ Rally At State Capitol Monday

‘Bow to the state or they will take everything from you’

The “Government Is Not A Co-Parent” rally At California’s State Capitol Monday was vast. The “Statewide School Walkout” rally was exactly what it professed it would be: moms, dads, children, grandparents, teachers, and concerned citizens, showed up en masse at the Capitol armed with homemade signs to protest public schools and teachers unions, which pushed to keep schools closed, forced kids into distance learning, and wearing masks all day, and now Gov. Newsom’s mandatory vaccine for children.

“Medical freedom” was/is at the root of the rally. The Globe spoke with parents whose children are otherwise fully vaccinated, but say Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and a violation of their medical freedoms.

Speaking at Monday’s rally was Matthew Oliver, owner of House of Oliver wine lounge & restaurant in Roseville, CA. Oliver, a father of five, has protested the business and school lockdowns since the beginning in March 2020. “Welcome to the parent revolution,” Oliver said to loud cheers from the crowd.

“They tried to silence us, and tell us we didn’t matter,” Oliver said. “They tell us our voice doesn’t have power, but it does. Our governor and Legislature need to hear our voice.”

Oliver told the crowd that “now is the time to stand,” otherwise “silence is an endorsement.”

Ponderosa High School teacher Michael Wilkes was put on administrative paid leave after teaching classes while not wearing a mask. Wilkes, a father of three children, has achieved national attention for his stand.

Wilkes said it is important to stand up for individual freedoms and our love of liberty. “They are attempting to divide us over our own children – the tyranny of the powerful over the powerless – bow to the state or they will take everything from you.”

In a recent interview with WCSI, he said he encourages debate in his classes. “He said parents are growing tired of these mandates and pointed to last week’s protest in Sacramento as evidence,” WCSI reported. “The (October 26) protest included parents who lashed out against the Newsom vaccine mandate.”

Wilkes said the district is conducting an investigation and he may lose his job.

At the heart of the protest was Ponderosa high schooler Lexi, who said this all started one day she lowered her mask down below her chin, as many other students had. That went without incident, so she stopped wearing it altogether, and came to school without a mask for one entire week before one of her teachers sent her to the school administrators. Lexi said she walked into the office and none of the administrators were wearing masks. She called them on it, but they told her they only have to wear masks when students are present.

She was given few choices other than to comply with the mask mandate or she could be transferred to online learning. “My education should matter more than a mask,” Lexi said. The administrator told her he agreed, but said he couldn’t do anything without losing his job. Lexi told him to stand up for himself and the students, but fear of losing his job was too great. “It’s okay, I’ll stand up for you too,” Lexi told the administrator at her school. She left Ponderosa High School.

Click here to read full article at the California Globe

California Gas Prices Soar to Record High

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in California reached a record high on Monday.

The statewide average increased to $4.68 a gallon Monday, according to figures from the AAA, Fox 11 reported.

“This new average surpasses the previous record of $4.67 set in Oct, 2012,” the outlet continued:

The average price of regular gasoline in California is $1.27 higher than the current national average of $3.41, according to AAA. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County rose seven-tenths of a cent Monday to $4.672, moving within 3.3 cents of the all-time high.

The average price rose 1.4 cents Friday, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service. It is 7.9 cents more than it was one week ago, 20.8 cents more than one month ago and $1.523 higher than one year ago.

In a social media post on Thursday, oil and refined products analyst Patrick De Haan said average gasoline prices in California were at all-time record highs, “beating out both 2012 and 2008 records. $4.68/gal today statewide average”:

Supreme Court Could Legalize Open Carry in California

The Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” soon could be restored to California. Time magazine described the issue at hand in hearings before the court at hearings on Nov. 3. The court “majority appeared to question the constitutionality of a century-old provision in New York state that requires people to prove they have a special need for self-protection if they want to carry a concealed handgun outside of their home.”

California imposes similar restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun. If the New York law is ruled unconstitutional, that likely also would blast away California’s similar restrictions. Although the court is unpredictable, so nothing is definite until the final wording is released.

A big problem with such state restrictions on concealed carry is their arbitrary nature toward honest, law-abiding citizens. (Not at issue is whether criminals can carry concealed weapons; bans on that would remain in place.)

In California, county sheriffs decide who can and cannot get a permit. The rules vary greatly. The liberal coastal county sheriffs generally impose tight restrictions, while rural inland sheriffs generally allow anyone who is a law-abiding citizen, and takes a gun safety course, to be granted a permit.

But the restrictions also vary with the sheriff. The late Sandra Hutchens, while sheriff of Orange County from 2008-19, was highly restrictive. But her successor, Don Barnes, ran and won in 2018 on a platform of advancing gun rights. He recently wrote on his personal website, “In my view any law-abiding citizen who seeks a permit has the right to have one issued.” He said that, since he became sheriff, the Orange County Sheriffs’ Department has issued more than 10,000 permits to residents; Orange County’s population is 3.2 million. “Not one person has misused their permit.”

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

How Dirty Are California’s ‘Green’ Policies?

Of all 50 states, it would be difficult to match California’s posturing as a “green” state with the nation’s most stringent environmental policies. Burdensome laws and regulations are imposed by elected officials and bureaucrats who try to outdo each other by burnishing their environmental bona fides. But how much of this posturing is really posing? Worse yet, how many of these policies actually damage the environment?

The pursuit of effective environmental policies requires clear thinking and critical analysis that transcend sound bites and superficial conclusions. Regrettably, that doesn’t happen often in California and here are the most glaring examples.

First on the list is California’s High-Speed Rail Project. This project was justified almost entirely on environmental grounds. A carbon-free rail project (false) that could travel from L.A. to San Francisco in about two hours (false) and would replace thousands of cars on the road (false) sounds great, but sober international transportation experts now doubt the project will ever be completed.

In the meantime, the massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with construction and the destruction of valuable farmland in the Central Valley exposes HSR for the truly environmentally damaging effort that it is.

Second, for some strange reason, California does not count hydroelectric power as a “green” energy source. This makes no sense whatsoever and deters the development of additional projects that are reliable (not dependent on sun or wind) sources of carbon-free energy.

Third, in California, it is accepted as gospel that urban transit is better for the environment than individual automobiles. Whether that is true depends on innumerable factors that make broad pronouncements suspect. Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation is an expert in all matters involving surface transportation and has this to say about transit today: “But what I want to question is the premise that shifting huge sums to mass transit and passenger rail would make America greener. There’s growing evidence that it would not. For example, cars are presumed to be more polluting (both conventional emissions and CO2) than mass transit—but that is no longer so.”

Click here to read the entire article at Whittier Daily News

The High Cost Of Driving In California Is No Accident

How about some gas facts?

In late October, the highest price for gasoline in the country was a “mind-numbing $7.59 a gallon” for regular, $8.50 for premium in Gorda, on California’s central coast.

The average prices for regular, mid-grade, and premium are highest in California, $4.60, $4.78, and $4.90 a gallon, respectively, according to AAA. Prices are rising nationwide, but those numbers are still far in excess of the U.S. average of $3.40 a gallon.

The average gasoline price in Los Angeles had risen for 18 straight days through Oct. 29.

Late October was also when gasoline prices in San Francisco reached an all-time high, passing “the previous record of $4.743 per gallon, set over 3,300 days ago in 2012,” says Gas Buddy.

California shows up as an outlier far out of sync with the rest of the nation in the Gas Buddy price heat map.

Two days before Halloween, “parts of California,” most of them in the northern half, “recorded their highest average gas prices ever,” KTLA reported.

None of this is due to bad luck or unhappy coincidences. Nor can “profiteers” or speculators be blamed for the surge. The high prices are by design. The factors driving prices them are the products of deliberate policymaking:

  • California has the highest motor fuel taxes in the country – 67 cents a gallon, says the Tax Foundation, using American Petroleum Institute data. Second highest are in Illinois, 60 cents a gallon. The national median is about 30 cents a gallon.
  • Due to “big-government energy policies,” California drivers pay a 37% premium for gasoline compared to the national average. Backing off these mandates would have saved drivers $9.6 billion in 2020 over 2019.
  • Carbon cap-and-trade policy adds more than 14 cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline in California.
  • The state’s low carbon fuel standard increases prices 22 to 24 cents per gallon.
  • As requirements of cap-and-trade and the low carbon fuel standard become more demanding, their costs will continue to add up, reaching a range from 89 cents to $2.10 a gallon.

Let’s end with a quiz. Who said: “Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe”?

No, it wasn’t a California official. It was Steven Chu, a Berkeley-trained, Nobel-winning physicist who taught at Stanford, and was serving as the Obama White House’s secretary of energy when he made the statement. The words just happen to sound a lot like those a Sacramento lawmaker would string together.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Child Vaccinations Begin in California with Toys and Gifts

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Scavenger hunts and blow-up animals greeted children at some of California’s vaccination sites Wednesday as children aged 5 to 11 got their first COVID-19 shots a day after the federal government approved kid-size doses of the vaccinations.

One enthusiastic 11-year-old summed up his experience in a word: “Amazing!” said 6th grader Raghab Vist. “I’ve been waiting a really long time to get vaccinated.”

Vist and his father, Hemant, who went to a vaccine clinic in San Jose, spoke of all the things they looked forward to doing again — eating in a restaurant, taking a train and traveling to family favorites like Disneyland. “It’s a very important milestone for us,” his father said.

As part of an ambitious plan to offer coronavirus vaccinations to California’s 3.5 million children in that age group, the state intends to offer the vaccines at locations including school clinics, pharmacies, pediatrician offices and county sites, many of which will launch in the coming days. Health officials said they are expecting 1.2 million initial doses of the pediatric vaccine.

Santa Clara County, the home of Silicon Valley where San Jose is located, starting doling out shots early Wednesday, and appointments quickly booked up. The county expects to receive about 55,000 doses this week and will open additional clinics at 80 school sites and send out mobile vaccine teams to low-income neighborhoods.

“We know that a lot of parents are anxious to get their children vaccinated with the holidays coming up,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, who oversees the county’s mass vaccination program. “We received our shipment of vaccine yesterday, and we didn’t have any good reason to sit on it. So we said, let’s get this show on the road.”

Many of Santa Clara’s county sites were decorated with kid-friendly motifs like animals and included games like scavenger hunts, while others handed out coloring books, prizes and stickers to newly vaccinated young people.

Click here to read the full article at ap.com

California Pension Fund to Award $1.1 Million Record-Breaking Bonus to Investment Chief

CalSTRS is preparing to award a record-breaking $1.1 million bonus to its one of its top executives following the 27.2% investment return the pension funded recorded in 2020-21 financial year.

This proposed bonus, combined with with his pay of $590,000, would mark the highest compensation on record for CalSTRS Chief Investment Officer Christopher Ailman, according to a public pay database kept by the State Controller’s Office.

It also appears to be the first million dollar bonus at either of California’s two major statewide pension funds. Former CalPERS Chief Investment Office Yu Ben Meng earned about $850,000 in performance incentives in 2019.

It won’t be the last.

CalPERS has been considering offering pay incentives that would reward longevity in a chief investment officer. It adopted a plan this spring that would offer up to $2.8 million in salary and incentives for its next chief investment officer if that executive stays at least five years.

Ailman has led the investment office at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System since 2000, overseeing investment strategy for a fund that provides retirement benefits to about 975,000 people.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System and CalSTRS award bonuses to their chief investment officers based on multi-year formulas. The formulas moderate their bonuses in big years like the past one, but also can yield substantial pay incentives in years when the pension funds miss their earnings targets.

Click here to read the full article on the Sacramento Bee