Trump demands $3.5 billion back from ‘disaster’ high-speed rail project

donald-trump-2President Donald Trump is demanding California return billions of dollars to the federal government following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to scale down the state’s costly high-speed rail project.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump called the project a “’green disaster.’”

California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump added. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now.”

Newsom at his State of the State Address on Tuesday put the brakes on the $77 billion high speed project, an endeavor that voters authorized at the ballot box in 2008 with a plan to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News

Gavin Newsom Cuts Jerry Brown’s Twin Tunnels to One

Delta TunnelsCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday in his first “State of the State” address that he would be cutting the California WaterFix, also known as the “Twin Tunnels,” from two tunnels to one.

It was the second major blow to the legacy of his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, after Newsom announced just moments before that he was canceling the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The California WaterFix aims to route water from the Sacramento River underneath the California Delta directly to the pumping stations further south that supply water to the state and federal water projects, which in turn bring water to farmers and cities across the dry southern portion of the state. The diversion is intended to reduce risk to endangered fish populations in the Delta and to bring fresher, more reliable water to consumers downstream.

But the cost of the project continued to rise, reaching an estimated $17.1 billion last year, prompting speculation that the twin tunnels might have to be reduced to one. The project also provoked opposition — not just from local communities in the Delta who faced being surrounded by construction for years, but also from some farming and environmental groups who worried the tunnels would not actually reduce the rising salinity of water in the Delta.

Late last year, the entire project was put on hold when the Delta Stewardship Council, a state body that enforces compliance with an environmental management plan for the Delta, threatened to find that the Waterfix violated requirements. The state withdrew its certification for the tunnels, but planned to re-apply.

Then Newsom said Tuesday:

I do not support the Water Fix as currently configured. Meaning, I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.

The status quo is not an option.

We need to protect our water supply from earthquakes and rising sea levels, preserve delta fisheries, and meet the needs of cities and farms.

We have to get past the old binaries, like farmers versus environmentalists, or North versus South. Our approach can’t be “either/or.”  It must be “yes/and.”

As the Sacramento Bee noted, Newsom’s decision would save money but also “likely means WaterFix would require a fresh set of environmental reviews before it can proceed, translating into additional delays for a project that’s been in the planning stage for more than a decade and will take an estimated 15 years to build.”

Newsom also announced that he was replacing the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Felicia Marcus. Marcus is a former attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and critics charged that she was too partial to environmental interests. Last year, she pushed through the Bay-Delta Plan, which restricts water from the San Joaquin River watershed to farms and cities, and has resulted in a slew of lawsuits. Newsom favored a more consultative approach, and has replaced Marcus with moderate Joaquin Estevel.

In his address, Newsom also pushed for a tax on drinking water to pay for water supply to disadvantaged communities.

The overall effect is to cancel, or cut, Gov. Jerry Brown’s most important legacy projects. Last December, before leaving office, Brown appeared before the Sacramento Press Club and “predicted that California’s high-speed rail project would be built, as would his ‘twin tunnels’ project to bring water from north to south,” Breitbart News reported at the time.

With his first speech to the legislature, Newsom has already undone Brown’s expectations.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

Gov. Newsom Downgrades Bullet Train and Delta Tunnel Plans

High speed rail constructionWhen Gavin Newsom was running for governor last year, he adopted “courage for a change” as his slogan.

It could be – and was – interpreted two ways: that he wanted to change the direction of California, or that he was disparaging outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s reluctance to confront the state’s pithiest issues.

Newsom seemingly embraced both versions Tuesday in his first State of the State address, a very long and detailed laundry list of the state’s ills and how he intends to deal with them that directly and indirectly refuted Brown.

Most starkly, Newsom downgraded two of his predecessor’s pet legacy projects, twin tunnels to carry water beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a statewide bullet train system.

He rejected WaterFix, as it’s been dubbed, and instead offered support for one tunnel while seeking compromise among California’s perpetually warring water factions. However, shrinking the project would require starting over on many years of planning twin tunnels, thus giving opponents of diverting water from the Delta new opportunities to kill it. Moreover, it’s questionable whether lowering the project’s capacity would make it pencil out for its sponsors, principally Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District.

Newsom also hit the pause button for compelling farmers south of the Delta to cede more water by calling for a compromise agreement and changing the chairmanship of the State Water Resources Control Board, whose water diversion plans had angered farmers.

The bullet train project fared even worse in Newsom’s declaration that “as currently planned (it) would cost too much and take too long.”

Casting aside Brown’s obvious love for a statewide system linking Sacramento and San Francisco in the north to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south, Newsom called for completing just the roughly 100-mile-long initial San Joaquin Valley segment, from Merced to near Bakersfield, and making it a high-speed system.

However, electrifying the track now under construction and buying high-speed trains to run on it would be an enormously expensive gesture for such short service. More likely, the stretch of track, when completed, will be folded into the region’s existing Amtrak service.

Newsom’s declarations on the water tunnels and the bullet train were the biggest nuggets of news in his speech, most of which was devoted to issues he had raised in the campaign, in his inaugural address and in his first budget.

He hit all the big bullet points, from California’s housing crisis to the increasing threat of wildfires and the bankruptcy of utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric, and pronounced that all could be solved by collaboration and new thinking. And, of course, he took the obligatory potshots that the governor of a deep blue state is expected to take at President Donald Trump, particularly on Trump’s insistence on building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The border ‘emergency’ is a manufactured crisis,” Newsom declared – quite accurately. “And California will not be part of this political theater.”

A day earlier, he had announced that he would withdraw most of the National Guard troops that Brown, albeit reluctantly, had committed to guarding the border.

All in all, Newsom set an ambitious agenda for his governorship, the sort of multi-point plan that Brown had often denigrated. And in doing so, the new governor set a high mark for his political future.

Achieving all he seeks would propel him into White House contention sometime after 2020. Failing, for whatever reason, would make him a footnote in California’s political history.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

California to pull plug on billion-dollar bullet train

High Speed Rail ConstructionCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday he is pulling the plug on the state’s massive high-speed rail project from Los Angeles to San Francisco that was more than a decade behind schedule and billions in the red.

“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”

Newsom added that while California has “the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield,” “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.”

The embattled $77-billion bullet train has been an embarrassment for the Golden State and has been plagued by problems almost from the start.

The idea, long championed by Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, is years behind schedule with the latest estimate for completion set for 2033. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

State Threatens Encinitas With Lawsuit Over Housing Policy

Encinitas housingGov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has put another coastal town on notice that it must meet state mandates to add a significant amount of units affordable by low-income families – reflecting the newly elected governor’s view that a lack of housing is one of California’s biggest problems.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the city of Encinitas, state housing official Zachary Olmstead said the city needed to ”amend or invalidate” a 2013 ordinance approved by voters that said developers had to get voters’ blessing if they wanted to increase the density of their projects or make zoning changes. The letter noted that this law and other city actions had the effect of blocking Encinitas from meeting state requirements that it add 1,141 affordable units. The city of 63,000 has few such units now.

While the Encinitas City Council once seemed as strongly anti-growth as the public, state threats under the Jerry Brown administration led the council in 2016 and 2018 to seek voters’ approval of what’s known as a Housing Element plan, failing both times. The plan is a formal document submitted to the state that outlines what projects will be built so that the city meets its commitment to “accommodate the housing needs of Californians of all economic levels.”

Like Huntington Beach, Encinitas could face lawsuit

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a similar state-approved plan. It is among the richest cities in the country. As of the latest Zillow data, the median average home price is $1.05 million, and the latest RentCafe data puts the average monthly rent at $2,056.

While the 2013 city law targeted by the state has already been suspended until 2021 by a Superior Court judge as being pre-empted by state law, that wasn’t viewed as going far enough by state officials. Olmstead’s letter cited the cumulative effect of a “complex set of regulations” that make it impossible for new projects that would help the city comply with state requirements.

If Encinitas officials don’t change course, the letter warned that state grants might be withheld, including for transportation projects funded by the Legislature’s 2017 increase in state vehicle taxes – and that the Newsom administration would ask Attorney General Xavier Becerra to sue the city for defying state law.

In a case involving the same issues, the state and the city of Huntington Beach filed lawsuits against each other last month in Orange County over whether Huntington Beach is breaking state housing laws. Becerra says 2017 legislation passed in Sacramento clearly empowers his office to sue to enforce plainly written state mandates. Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, however, says as a charter city – one with its own voter-approved de facto constitution – Huntington Beach has the authority to reject some state edicts that infringe on the city’s right to self-govern its “municipal affairs.”

Can charter cities claim exemption from mandates?

A League of California Cities primer on the rights of charter cities offers ammunition for Huntington Beach’s claim. It notes that with “some exceptions,” charter cities control land-use and zoning decisions. But a 1975 Loyola University of Los Angeles Law Review analysis cited by the league said ambiguous language in state law left it unclear precisely when charter city ordinances took precedent on land-use issues.

Encinitas is a general law city not eligible for charter city protections from some types of state interference. But if Encinitas officials proposed and city voters approved a charter city amendment in a special election, Encinitas could become a charter city within months.

Last year, after disputes with the state, officials in Menlo Park in Silicon Valley considered a quick push for charter city status before putting the issue on hold for the time being.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Gov. Newsom to Reduce National Guard Presence at Border

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is slated to pull several hundred National Guard troops from the state’s border with Mexico on Monday in an apparent rebuff to President Donald Trump’s characterization of the region being under siege by Central American refugees and migrants, according to reports.

The move comes despite his predecessor’s agreement – along with other past and current border state governors – to send troops to the border at the Trump administration’s request. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown originally approved the mission through the end of March, but qualified that the state’s troops “will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”

Newsom’s plan will require the National Guard to immediately begin withdrawing troops but still give it until the end of March to do so. According to excerpts from his Tuesday State of the State address, he will call the “border emergency” a “manufactured crisis,” and will say that “California will not be part of this political theater.” …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Does California Even Know How to Fix Its Housing Problem?

Housing apartmentNew Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget asks for $500 million to boost construction of housing for “moderate income” Californians. Housing, he said while introducing his first budget, “is the issue.”

He is correct. Everyone is aware of the grim state of housing in California. But no one, at least those with enough political influence to shift policy, seems capable of putting forth changes that will make a bit of difference.

It would help if policymakers stopped targeting segments of the housing market for special attention, as Newsom did with his $1.75 billion request for housing initiatives that includes $500 million for middle-income housing and $300 million for a low-income home-building program.

Though a focus on “affordable housing” might seem a good starting place, it’s a distraction.

Yes, those at the lowest income wealth levels are hurt the most in an environment in which even the middle class is increasingly priced out of the market. But a preoccupation on expanding “affordable housing,” defined by the federal government as housing costing less than 24 percent of an area’s median income, will not end the suffering.

What California needs are homes of all types: large, single-family houses on big lots, medium-sized houses on modest lots, small homes on small lots, McMansions, suburban tract homes, high-rise apartments, townhomes, condominiums, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and granny flats.

The fixation on “affordable housing” misses an important trickle-down effect. Though it’s typically assumed building new homes for higher-income households does nothing to increase the supply of lower–end housing, documented evidence refutes that claim. According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, “facilitating more private housing development in the state’s coastal urban communities” — where the practice of NIMBYism is a most vicious art — “would help make housing more affordable for low–income Californians.”

“Building new market-rate housing,” the LAO continues, “indirectly increases the supply of housing available to low–income households in multiple ways.”

New housing causes existing housing to become less desirable, and therefore drives down prices. It also “eases competition between middle- and low-income households.” As more affluent households that had decided to stay in low-income neighborhoods due to limited housing choices are able to move up, their homes become available for lower-income households.

Focusing on affordable-housing programs has only a limited effect, says the LAO, as it is “extremely challenging and prohibitively expensive.” The annual funding commitment would be “roughly the magnitude of the state’s largest General Fund expenditure outside of education (Medi-Cal),” which spends roughly $20 billion a year in General Fund dollars.

California policymakers truly have odd ideas about how to relieve the housing crunch. More than a dozen cities have rent-control laws, which make the problem worse by taking out the incentive to build.

A few politicians think that price-gouging laws applied to rental housing will be helpful, while others call for more public housing funds, convinced the state can spend its way out of the crisis.

Some lawmakers believe raising the cost of real-estate transactions is the answer. Yet, hiking residential and commercial property taxes, and forcing contractors to include below-market rate housing in their developments are two more ideas that are incorrectly considered to be correct pieces to the housing puzzle.

Meanwhile, Oakland’s city hall operates under the delusion that forcing landlords who want to move into their own home to pay their tenants as much as $9,875 for the privilege of doing so is a reasonable solution. The city’s Uniform Relocation Ordinance clearly an illegal seizure of private property by the government.

It’s no surprise that a few other cities have similar ordinances. The penalty in San Francisco can be as steep as $19,897.15 per unit, and it would have been much higher — $50,000 — had not the First District Court of Appeal ruled against the higher fee in 2017, rightly blaming the city’s rent-control laws, not homeowners, for the city’s housing shortage.

What’s particularly galling about California’s housing misery is that lawmakers in both parties know the only remedy is to remove government hurdles to building. Yet those holding the political power to make corrections move in the opposite direction. Until they sharply change course California will continue to be a hard place to live.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute

Will Gavin Newsom be tougher on guns than Jerry Brown?

Gun Open CarryCalifornia Democrats on Monday outlined a plan to enact new forms of gun control, and they’re hoping Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign firearm restrictions that his predecessor vetoed last year.

Standing alongside former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head at a 2011 Tuscon event, Democrats in the Legislature called for more gun restrictions.

So far, they’re proposing Assembly Bill 165, which would provide training to police officers on the use of gun violence restraining orders, and Senate Bill 61, which would limit firearm purchases to one gun per month.

“Stopping gun violence takes courage, the courage to do what’s right, the courage to new ideas,” Giffords said at the news conference. “I’ve seen great courage when lives are on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone, we must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight. Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.” …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Gov. Gavin Newsom – What To Expect

Gavin Newsom budgetJerry Brown became the youngest governor in California history in 1974 largely thanks to his father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, who governed the state from 1959 to 1967. Now, new California governor Gavin Newsom has ascended to office enjoying something of an “extended-family” relationship with the Browns. In 1943, businessman William Newsom, Gavin’s grandfather, helped Pat Brown win his race for San Francisco district attorney. In 1960, Governor Pat Brown awarded the concession for the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics to Newsom and John Pelosi, father-in-law of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In 1975, new governor Jerry Brown appointed another William Newsom, the son of Pat Brown’s pal, to a judgeship in Placer County, and in 1978, Brown appointed the same Newsom to the state Court of Appeal.

Will Gavin Newsom carry on the Jerry Brown style of governance? Yes and no. He’s on record saying that “there’s no greater political mind in our lifetime than Governor Brown,” and he certainly seems to have Jerry’s progressive side down. But so far, he shows little of the former governor’s more skeptical side. Despite his zeal for big government, high taxes, and bullet trains, Jerry Brown — especially in his second two-term stint (as the oldest governor in California history) — sometimes functioned as an effective goalie against bad legislation. On his way out the door, for example, Brown vetoed SB 320, which would have required state universities to offer abortion drugs. Brown also remained skeptical of single-payer health care. “Where do you get the extra money?” Brown asked reporters in 2017. “This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown,’” Brown explained, “which makes no sense.”

By contrast, on his first day in the governor’s office, Newson announced plans for a government-funded single-payer health system. Newsom also announced that he would seek to reinstate the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, responsible for “widespread consumer misery” in California, according to health reporter Emily Bazar. He signed an executive order making the Department of Health Care Services responsible for negotiating all drug prices for Medi-Cal and ordered the establishment of a California surgeon general to work on “reducing health-related inequality in the state.” Newsom’s plans included no cost estimate—the stumbling block that Brown identified in 2017.

Brown scaled back some of the rules and perks that have contributed to the state’s $400 billion pension debt. By contrast, Newsom’s first budget calls for $7.8 billion in payments, above what is required by law, to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). He’s not likely to do anything at odds with California’s government-employee unions, which proclaim that the state legislature is “our house.” The new governor plans no change to the state’s high income and corporate taxes and even wants to slap a tax on drinking water. He and his allies are already targeting Proposition 13, the state’s 1978 cap on property-tax hikes.

In 1996, voters passed Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, barring racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment, and contracting. Newsom opposes it, charging that it has “undeniably had a devastating toll on the demographic makeup of our student body.” It hasn’t, and as Thomas Sowell noted in Intellectuals and Race, after Proposition 209’s passage the number of African Americans and Hispanics graduating from the UC system increased, and the number graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher rose 55 percent.

During Brown’s final weeks in office, the State Supreme Court denied seven of his clemency requests, calling them an “abuse of power.” Last September, Brown ignored testimony from victims and signed SB 1391, which bars prosecution of 15-year-old juveniles as adults, whatever the gravity of their crime. Newsom plans to keep moving in this direction, taking the Division of Juvenile Justice out of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “Today is the beginning of the end of juvenile imprisonment as we know it,” Newsom said at recent event in Stockton. “Juvenile justice should be about helping kids imagine and pursue new lives — not jumpstarting the revolving door of the criminal justice system.” Brown used similar language in his signing message for SB 1391.

Brown ran for president three times; Newsom is said to have an eye on the White House, too. In the New Yorker, Tad Friend described Newsom as “tall and lithe and still boyish at fifty-one, with teeth that Tom Cruise would envy and hair lacquered with Oribe gel.” During the campaign, Newsom “sported his trademark look: a white Ermenegildo Zegna shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a blue Tom Ford tie.” In San Francisco, according to wife Jennifer, Newsom was known as “Mayor McHottie,” by women and gay men alike. According to Friend, Newsom wants to “embody Bobby Kennedy’s grainy glamour, to provide moral clarity in a bewildering hour,” but whether he’ll become “President McHottie” remains to be seen.

Is California closer to closing private prisons with Newsom at helm?

PrisonCalifornia Democrats think 2019 is their best chance yet to accomplish a long-held liberal goal: shuttering the state’s private prisons.

Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed in his inaugural address “to end the outrage that is private prisons,” and now state lawmakers are mounting a renewed effort to turn that applause line into reality. They’re painting the move as an act of resistance against one of the Trump administration’s most important corporate partners.

But with California’s corrections system still far over capacity, some state leaders are questioning how far they can go in casting aside the private prison industry.

The state’s use of private prisons jumped after a federal court ordered officials to reduce perilous overcrowding in 2009, when inmates were crammed into gymnasium bunk-beds and the suicide rate was nearly double the national average. The prison population has dropped precipitously since then, but California currently has more than 4,000 inmates in private facilities, about half in-state and half in Arizona, costing the state millions of dollars a year. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News