Why some cities won’t be paying Los Angeles’ new homeless tax

800px-Helping_the_homelessLos Angeles County’s sky-high sales tax will rise not once, but twice, this year.

In recent elections, Angelinos voted two new tax hikes upon themselves — one to fund transportation (Measure M) and the other to fight homelessness (Measure H).

As a result, the county’s 8.75 percent tax rate jumped to 9.25 percent on July 1. It’ll rise even further — to 9.5 percent — on October 1.

Of course, some cities in Los Angeles County have even higher tax rates. Seven of them — Compton, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pico Rivera, Santa Monica and South Gate — have rates of 10.25 percent that are among the highest in California, if not the entire nation.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Rather than increase their tax rates another quarter cent on October 1 like the rest of the county, those seven normally tax-loving cities will get a free pass — at least for now — in funding the fight against homelessness.

The seven cities will, of course, benefit from the estimated $355 million in annual tax payments the measure will raise but they will do so only by the courtesy of taxpayers in other cities. It’s a subsidy, plain and simple.

Why was Measure H drafted this way?

It appears to have been a rather clumsy attempt to dodge a state law capping local sales taxes. The law requires localities to limit voter-approved “district” sales taxes to 2 percent (on top of the state rate of 7.25 percent) unless they obtain specific legislative authorization.

Los Angeles County has received legislative approval twice in the past to increase this limit for transportation-related taxes. For some unknown reason, Measure H proponents didn’t want to bother with this step.

But the poor planning came back to bite them. Proponents claimed the new tax would take effect July 1, at the same time as Measure M. That would have been a lot simpler for everyone, including business owners who must now go through the trouble of reprogramming their registers twice to adapt to the rate increases.

Since the Measure H language was both unprecedented and legally questionable, the Board of Equalization rightly refused to collect the tax until the Legislature specifically voted to authorize it.

These delays have pushed back the start date of Measure H, resulting in lost funding for the fight against homelessness, and more confusion and headaches for taxpayers.

Even more troubling is the dangerous precedent this sets statewide. Will other local governments soon craft tax proposals that exempt politically-favored constituencies?

We believe the cap on local sales taxes exists to protect taxpayers and should be respected. Not every good cause merits a tax increase.

Governments are hungry for more taxpayer revenue, and seem increasingly impatient to add more and more taxes. They are also becoming more creative at disguising their efforts, and using public dollars to pay for them. The Fair Political Practices Commission, for example, is conducting an investigation into whether the county of Los Angeles illegally spent taxpayer dollars for political advocacy in its campaign for Measure H.

Before asking voters to approve more and more taxes, shouldn’t local governments identify and eliminate ineffective taxes that haven’t accomplished their promised goals?

If taxpayers are concerned about how local governments spend their money, then that question is certainly worth asking. If not, how else do we ensure taxpayers receive value for the dollars they are already paying?

George Runner is vice chair of the California State Board of Equalization. Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

Re-regulating Markets is No Solution to State Housing Crisis

house-constructionBy almost all accounts, economists, academicians, social scientists, policy makers and industry experts agree that at the root of California’s housing problems is a profound lack of supply.  Accordingly, what’s needed as a solution, these notables say, are more incentives for the private development sector to do what it does best:  build.

However, judging from the bills coming out of the state Legislature, lawmakers – all of whom have well-advertised bills to “solve” the state’s housing crunch – don’t seem to have a clue, particularly in the state Assembly.  They want more control, more power, more government.

Take AB 1506 (Bloom), for example.  Before it was withdrawn for lack of support, AB 1506 would have ushered in to California a well-documented policy scam:  rent control.  Rent control has failed everywhere it’s been tried.  It persists, in communities like Manhattan and Los Angeles where it’s been around long enough to become normal but where the mismatch between incomes and rent is profound. 

What rent control has done is to artificially hold housing prices down.  But, what it has also done is to discourage investment in housing by limiting what an individual can earn on his or her investment.  Moreover, by limiting the income one can recoup from renters, rent control has led to more and more properties falling into disrepair as maintenance and other property improvements are further deferred.

Another Assembly offering, AB 1521 (Bloom), actually passed the lower house.  AB 1521 would give an individual the first right of refusal to purchase a rental property thereby limiting the price and extinguishing market forces.  More government control.

The Assembly also said yes to AB 1505 (Bloom), which for the first time in California, says that market-rate housing can’t be built in the state until an “affordable housing” component is provided.  This requirement means a newly built market-rate home or apartment must be severely discounted to prices or rents well below the market, regardless of what it cost to build – leading to higher-priced housing overall, as builders try to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, the state Senate believes it has the problem licked – boasting in a recent press release:  “Senate Passes Package of Bills to Address California Housing Crisis”.  The Senate package contains lots of legislation – mostly toothless tigers.  But, a centerpiece of that reform package contains SB 277 (Bradford) – the Senate mirror to AB 1505.  It, like its Assembly twin, means local governments can demand deep discounts before new housing is approved.

(Imagine being a homeowner and being told by government that you have to lower your price before you can sell your house.  Yet, that’s essentially what both AB 1505 and SB 277 do.)

But, the latest re-regulation initiative may be coming from the local level of government.  Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl – no friend of housing during her 14 years in the state Legislature – recently admonished her colleagues, on the Board and elsewhere, and called for more governmental regulation of housing:

“I want to challenge my colleagues at all levels of government to squarely face the realities of our housing market” Kuehl said.  “For far too long policymakers nationally, in the state, and locally have prioritized real estate profit over a healthy housing market.  Weak housing and rent control regulation combined with shortsighted land use planning has turned L.A. County into the most unaffordable place to live in the entire country.”

In the past, Kuehl has called for county-wide rent control, even though the ordinances in the Cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood have helped bring about the current housing shortage plaguing the region.

California already has the most substantial housing regulations in the nation.  If you want to build here, prepare for five to seven years – and several thousands of dollars per unit – being added to your plans before they are approved.  If you want to rent out your property, the government’s going to tell you what pets to admit and for whom, whether or not your tenants can smoke, when a tenant can vacate the apartment, whether or not your property is a nuisance and what will remedy the situation, what pesticides you can use both inside and outside rental units and, in some jurisdictions, what rents you can charge.  And, that’s just for starters.  More government, more control.

Rome is burning – and what your state and local lawmakers are proposing to put the fire out is more of the same.

onsultant specializing in housing issues.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Teachers Unions Losing Long War Over Parental Choice

LAUSD school busSupporters of charter schools, homeschooling and other forms of school choice are so used to fighting in the trenches against the state’s muscular teachers unions that they often forget how much progress they’ve made in the last decade or so. Recent events have shown the degree of progress, even if they still face an uphill — and increasingly costly — battle.

The big news came from a local school-district race, although it wasn’t just any school district but the second-largest one in the nation. Charter-school supporters won two school board seats (there’s still some vote counting in one of them) in the massive Los Angeles Unified School District, and handily disposed of the union-allied board president. The race was followed nationally, and set the record for the most money spent on a school-board race in the United States, ever.

The total cost was estimated at $15 million, with charter supporters spending $9.7 million, according to estimates from the Los Angeles Times. Typically, choice supporters get eaten alive by the teachers’-union spending juggernaut. It’s usually good news if our side can at least raise enough money to get the message out, but it’s a shocker — in a pleasant way — to find the charter folks nearly doubled the spending of the union candidates.

Various reformers, including Netflix cofounder and Democrat Reed Hastings, invested serious money in the race. He donated $7 million to one charter group, the Times reported. Another top donor was former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a moderate Republican, who spent more than $2 million. Once again, we saw that this was not some right-wing attack on unions. Victory didn’t come cheap, but it’s hard to understate the importance, from a reform perspective, of having a major school board run by a pro-charter majority.

LAUSD’s school Board President Steve Zimmer led the board in March to make a controversial — and largely symbolic — vote in favor of one of the more noxious school-union-backed bills to get a hearing in the state Capitol. Some charter supporters say Senate Bill 808 could be the death knell for most of the state’s charter schools, yet Zimmer’s support for it appears to have badly damaged his re-election chances. That’s another good-news event.

SB 808 is a brazen attempt to bring charter schools under the total control of local school districts, many of which are hostile to their very existence. According to the Senate bill analysis, “This bill requires all charter school petitions to be approved by the governing board of the school district in which the charter school is located, prohibits a charter school from locating outside its authorizer’s boundaries, and limits the current charter appeal process to claims of procedural violations.”

If educators wanted to create a charter school within any district in California and that district is run by a union-controlled school board that hates charters, then there would no longer will be any real workaround if the bill passes. That’s because the bill would wipe out appeals to the county and state level, except for some minor procedural matters.

Furthermore, the bill would let school boards decommission or reject charter schools if they are a financial burden. As the 74 Million blog reports, “that argument could be made about any charter, as state funds follow students as they leave school districts.” The bill allows the board to revoke a school’s charter upon a variety of broad findings, including any improper use of funds or “sustained departure” from “measurably successful practices,” or “failure to improve pupil outcomes across multiple state and school priorities…”

So, one instance of improper use of funds could shut down a school. Imagine if that standard were applied to the LAUSD itself, given its scandals. Charters succeed because they have the freedom to have a “sustained departure” from the failed union-controlled teaching policies. Under this bill, the core of their success could be cause for their shut down. And no school can always improve pupil outcomes in every category. These things take time, and measurements can be subject to interpretation.

In other words, the bill would place the fate of California’s charter schools in the hands of those most committed to their destruction. Given that the makeup of school boards can change every election, it would destroy any security parents could have in these schools: one successful union board election could mean the beginning of the end for the school, as union-backed boards use these new “tools” to dismantle the competition.

But there is good news. The bill was recently shelved, turned into one of those two-year bills that is technically alive but going nowhere fast. The Democrats control the state Capitol and the California Teachers’ Association arguably is the most powerful force under the dome, but many Democrats representing low-income districts aren’t about to mess with successful charters.

In other words, charter schools have come into their own, and we’re probably well past the point that the unions could so directly stomp them. They’ll do what they can to harass and hobble them, but such frontal attacks remain symbolic. And the courts continue to have their say, and frequently end up siding with the charter-school movement.

For instance, in late April the California Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Anaheim parents who want to use the state’s parent-trigger law to turn a traditional public elementary school into a charter school. Under the trigger law, a vote by 50-percent of the student body’s parents can force low-performing schools to change the administration or staff, or revamp themselves into a publicly funded charter with more teaching flexibility.

The school district was adamantly against the change and made various challenges to a 2015 court decision approving the trigger. This is another victory for charter schools in California, although it has to be dispiriting to parents who have to continually fight in the courtroom while their kids get older. It’s been two years since the court approved changes at the school, which already has delayed improved education for two more class years.

But the court’s decision is still encouraging news, as the cultural sands shift in favor of educational alternatives, especially for low-income kids.

California candidates already are lining up for the 2018 gubernatorial race to replace Jerry Brown, who has been friendly to charters. One of the candidates is Delaine Eastin. She’s a close ally of the teachers’ unions. In the early 2000s, when she served as the superintendent of public instruction, Eastin tried to essentially outlaw homeschooling throughout the state.

California’s education code doesn’t directly mention homeschooling. The state’s compulsory education law mentions only an exemption for “children who are being instructed in a private full-time day school by persons capable of teaching … .” Homeschooling parents have long embraced a state-approved work around: They register as small private schools with their respective county boards of education.

Under Eastin’s leadership, however, those homeschools were required to file with the state Department of Education rather than the counties. And then Eastin sent a letter to district officials explaining that homeschooling as it is generally understood (parents without a teaching credential who teach their kids at home) “is not authorized in California, and children receiving homeschooling of this kind are in violation of the state’s truancy laws.”

Yet I talked to Eastin recently and she said she recanted her position long ago after getting quite an education from homeschooling parents. She even described herself as a supporter of charter schools. As with everything, we must follow Ronald Reagan’s advice for dealing with the Soviet Union (“trust, but verify”). But what does it say when one of the most dogged allies of unionized public schools now takes a position acknowledging the importance of parental choice?

It says that we’re making progress. It’s frustrating, plodding and expensive. But such progress should keep charter supporters encouraged as they head into the next round of battles.

This column was first published by the California Policy Center.

Olympics likely headed to L.A. – but in 2024 or 2028?

OlympicsAfter a recent International Olympic Committee fact-finding investigation went well, Los Angeles officials are extremely confident that California’s largest city will host a Summer Olympics for a third time after previous turns in 1932 and 1984. They just don’t know if it will be in 2024 or 2028.

The other city that’s a finalist for the 2024 games – Paris – has also impressed IOC evaluators. And with it increasingly difficult to find new cities and nations willing to spend billions of dollars to prepare for the games – Los Angeles and Paris were the only serious competitors for 2024 – the IOC will begin formally considering the idea to simultaneously award both the 2024 and 2028 games at a committee hearing next month. IOC President Thomas Bachappears supportive of picking both cities and bringing the 2028 selection process to an abrupt end.

A final decision is expected on Sept. 13 at a meeting of the full IOC board in Lima, Peru. But with the financial disaster of the 2016 Summer Olympics fresh in memory – the $12 billion tabbankrupted the Rio de Janeiro state government – the attraction of picking and locking down cities with most or all of the needed infrastructure in place is obvious.

The man who helped organize Chicago’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics also sees other factors making a double pick attractive.

“If they don’t select both cities … then you’re going to have two cities, both previous host cities, both major markets for sport and Olympic sport in particular, disappointed. And in the case of the U.S., you’re going to have a series over the past 12 years where the top three cities in the country and three of the top markets in the world have put forth high-quality bids and been rejected,” John Murray, a corporate executive and consultant, told USA Today. “In the case of Paris, [you’re going to have] a world-class city for sport and tradition dating back 100 years and having them be disappointed on a global scale. I think that doesn’t bode well for anybody.”

The Sept. 13 decision could be momentous for Los Angeles in the long run as well. The IOC could begin following a policy like the NFL’s with the Super Bowl and consistently award the Summer Games to a handful of mega-cites – Los Angeles, Paris, London, Beijing – which have hosted previous games.

Democratic Socialists launch late push to derail bid

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and other left-wing groups are trying to mount an 11th-hour campaign to undermine Los Angeles’ Olympic bid. A recent article in The Nation, the progressive publication, celebrated the creation of the NOlympics LA coalition and touted the energy and determination of organizers.

One of them, Los Angeles social justice activist Jonny Coleman, told The Nation, “We oppose the bid on principle. The process is inherently undemocratic and does not take into account the needs of the host city’s residents beyond those who are already rich and powerful, and stand to become even more so from the games.”

But with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and powerful political and business interests in sync in seeking the return of the Olympics, NOlympics LA’s chances seem slim.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Los Angeles Charter School Advocates Win School Board Majority

LAUSD school busCharter school advocates in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) won a major victory Tuesday as two of their candidates won seats on the school board, giving them the majority.

Steve Zimmer, president of the LAUSD – the nation’s second-largest school district – lost in District 4 to teacher and attorney Nick Melvoin. Kelly Gonez also won a tight race in District 6 over Imelda Padilla, who was backed by the teachers’ unions.

Gonez and Melvoin will join incumbents Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez, creating the first-ever four-member majority of charter-school supporters on the board, reports the CBS local affiliate.

The school board races involved millions of dollars in campaign spending, the Los Angeles Times reports, with the candidates expressing frustration at times over the amount of outside spending from charter school advocate groups and unions making an impact on the campaigns.

According to the Times report:

Outside groups funded by charter advocates painted Zimmer as a charter school foe. Anti-Zimmer mailers characterized him as a gun-happy militant, a protector of pedophiles and the mastermind of the school district’s iPads-for-all debacle.

Groups bankrolled by public employee unions tried to link Melvoin, 31, to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and President Trump, both of whom are extremely unpopular in Los Angeles.

Neither of these portrayals were accurate. Zimmer has voted many times to approve new charter schools and Melvoin is a Democrat who has been critical of the Trump administration’s education policies.

The unions reportedly spent some $2.5 million on Zimmer’s campaign and more than $2.34 million on that of Padilla. Charter school promoters spent upward of $5.69 million on Melvoin’s campaign and $3.3 million on that of Gonez.

Charter school advocate Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings – a Democrat – donated $5 million to California Charter Schools Association Advocates, which managed much of the spending for the charter candidates.

LAUSD has the highest number of charter schools and charter students of any other school district, though charters still only represent 16 percent of enrollment.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Academia and the media have learned nothing since the L.A. riots

Los Angeles riotsAnother five-year anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, another opportunity for media glorification of racial mayhem. The New York Times outdoes itself this year with a fawning profile of one of the sadists who stomped and bludgeoned trucker Reginald Denny nearly to death on April 29, 1992, as Denny tried to maneuver his truck through the already anarchic intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles.

Henry Keith Watson, an ex-con who had just assaulted an Asian man, stood on Reginald Denny’s neck and head as others kicked him. Watson never served any time for his participation in this grotesque explosion of racial hatred. The Times notes admiringly that Watson apologized to Denny on a talk show.

That forced contrition — an apology was a condition of his probation sentence as well — was short-lived. “Now, 25 years later, Mr. Watson is not in the mood to say sorry,” Times reporter Jennifer Medina writes. Of course not. Why should he be? Watson “called himself ‘an angry black man’ one afternoon this week as he sat on the porch of his home,” Medina reports. “As he has done each anniversary, he is selling Florence and Normandie T-shirts and throwing a block party on Saturday” — a natural way to commemorate a conflagration that took over 50 lives and caused an estimated $1 billion in property damage. The Times does not bother speaking to any of the thousands of victims of that racial mayhem, instead foregrounding Watson’s complaints about ongoing “oppression.” “Nothing has changed, nothing,” Watson grouses. A friend of Watson’s, Nathan Smith, who was on parole in 1992, predicts that another riot is likely. Back then, Smith says, “We all felt like, ‘We’ve been telling you we’re angry and you’re not listening, so now we’re going to show you.” “Showing you” consisted of burning down businesses that have struggled to survive constant robberies and assaults on their employees and have only succeeded due to a fierce work ethic. “Showing you” also consisted of pulling drivers from their cars and mutilating them. Even if there were some legitimate “you” that is responsible for the social chaos of the ghetto, it is certainly not a Korean convenience store owner or a construction worker returning from work.

The familiar “nothing has changed” complaint embodies the entitlement mentality. Its logic is the following: “We destroy the businesses that have served us for decades; we unleash savage violence against every ethnic group other than our own. So why aren’t things better now in our neighborhoods? Government and society owe us reparations in response to our feral rage against other people’s livelihoods and lives.” But a riot is inevitably going to make the local situation worse. Mainstream businesses will be even less willing to move into a riot zone; property values, already depressed by high crime, will plummet further. Though governments usually do respond to riots with cash and programs, such intervention is not going to make any difference unless individuals in the community make better personal choices: paying attention in class, studying, not committing crime, staying in a job, and not having children out-of-wedlock.

The University of California’s massive diversity bureaucracy also got into the game of riot whitewash. UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, is sponsoring a student art competition to commemorate the “social rebellion.” Students can submit performance art, poetry, or visual art to “critically examine the root causes of this historic event … and its relevance to contemporary issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Do not expect any installations featuring the charred remains of torched business. To gain “inspiration” for their art works, the competitors had to attend at least one panel in an April 28 conference on the “Los Angeles uprisings,” also organized by the Vice Chancellor of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. That conference assembled ethnic studies professors and racial activists; no first responders were included.

One victim of the riots did squeak in, but only because she adopts the mandatory view of racial violence. Carol Park’s memoir of helping to operate her widowed mother’s gas station in Compton, “Memoir of a Cashier: Korean Americans, Racism, and Riots,” frankly describes the anti-Korean racism regularly directed at her and her mother. Park’s mother barely escaped unharmed from the gas station on the first night of riots. When she returned home, she told her children to do their homework but otherwise said nothing about the spreading violence. That admonition tells you everything you need to know about the “oppression” that allegedly lies at the root of ethnic economic differences. Park attributes anti-Korean hatred and rioting, however, to widespread “racial discrimination” and “governmental neglect.”

Jerry Kang moved over from the UCLA law school to become UCLA’s first Vice Chancellor of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; as a law professor, he studied “implicit bias.” Kang’s starting salary as Vice Chancellor in 2015 was $354,900, undoubtedly socked away in West Side real estate and financial instruments out of the range of looters. Today Kang busies himself with “building equity” for UCLA’s allegedly oppressed students, who, with their access to boundless academic resources, number among the most advantaged people in human history. Kang’s “equity” mission for privileged students is as delusional as celebrating riots as “social uprisings.” Instead, such violence should be denounced as murderous rampages that threaten civilization itself.

California Squashes Its Young

MillennialsIn this era of anti-Trump resistance, many progressives see California as a model of enlightenment. The Golden State’s post-2010 recovery has won plaudits in the progressive press from the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, among others. Yet if one looks at the effects of the state’s policies on key Democratic constituencies — millennials, minorities and the poor — the picture is dismal. A recent United Way study found that close to one-third of state residents can barely pay their bills, largely due to housing costs. When adjusted for these costs, California leads all states — even historically poor Mississippi — in the percentage of its people living in poverty.

California is home to 77 of the country’s 297 most “economically challenged” cities, based on poverty and unemployment levels. The population of these cities totals more than 12 million. In his new book on the nation’s urban crisis, author Richard Florida ranks three California metropolitan areas — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego — among the five most unequal in the nation. California, with housing prices 230 percent above the national average, is home to many of the nation’s most unaffordable urban areas, including not only the predictably expensive large metros but also smaller cities such as Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. Unsurprisingly, the state’s middle class is disappearing the fastest of any state.

California’s young population is particularly challenged. As we spell out in our new report from Chapman University and the California Association of Realtors, California has the third-lowest percentage of people aged 25 to 34 who own their own homes—only New York and Hawaii’s are lower. In San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the 25-to-34 homeownership rates range from 19.6 percent to 22.6 percent—40 percent or more below the national average.

No big surprise, then, that California’s millennials are more likely to stay at home with Mom and Dad into their thirties. Approximately 47 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 lived with parents or other relatives in 2015, according to the American Community Survey — but in California, the figure is 54 percent. California’s younger generation, particularly in the cities, seems increasingly destined to live as renters.

The biggest losers from California’s housing crisis are, ironically, the very people whom progressives claim to care about most: the poor and minorities, who also constitute most millennials. Hispanics, now approaching a majority of the state’s population, account for 43 percent of the 25-to-34 cohort. Rates of homeownership for African-American and Hispanic Californians have dropped at four times the rate of Asians and non-Hispanic whites in the last 10 years, while minority homeownership in the Golden State now lags most of the country, notably Texas and the southeast.

Much of this can be traced to California’s long-standing bias against suburban development. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions remains an obsession. But unless the rest of the country (or the world) adopts California’s strict emissions rules, the state’s regulations are likely to have little or no impact on climate change. Recently passed legislation will make things worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gases, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030. This represents the ratcheting up of a regulatory regime that will slow California’s already-torpid rate of issuing building permits, which is well below the national average.

California’s housing policies pose a profound long-term threat to the state’s social stability and economic viability. The state has seen a net loss of about 1.7 million domestic migrants since 2000. After slowing during the Great Recession and its aftermath, out-migration is again growing, even in the booming Bay Area. Some 29,000 more people left the Bay Area than arrived in 2016. The San Francisco metropolitan area saw net migration plunge from plus-15,000 in 2013 to minus-12,000 three years later.

Contrary to some reports, the people leaving California are not predominantly poor and uneducated. IRS data show that California’s outmigration between 2013 and 2014 was concentrated among middle-aged people with higher average incomes than households that stayed in California or moved there. This trend contrasts dramatically with Texas, arguably the state’s strongest economic competitor.

Here again, new policies will only make things worse. The Bay Area’s 2040 regional plan calls for concentrating 75 percent of new housing development on barely 5 percent of the region’s developed land mass. One alternative plan assumes that 78 percent of new housing in the Bay Area would be multi-family and 22 percent single-family (detached and attached). The regional Air Quality Agency has drawn up intrusive plans, seeking to levy tolls on all freeways, ban gas stoves, and urge less meat consumption.

Young people overwhelmingly prefer single-family houses, which represent 80 percent of home purchases nationwide for people under 35. If millennials continue their current rate of savings, notes one study, they would need 28 years to qualify for a median-priced house in San Francisco—but only five years in Charlotte and just three in Atlanta. This may be one reason, notes a recent ULI report, why 74 percent of Bay Area millennials are considering moving out in the next five years.

Regional planners and commercial chambers should indeed look to California as a model—of exactly what not to do. The state’s large metro areas are no longer hot growth spots for millennials, who are flocking to suburbs and exurbs elsewhere. Since 2010, the biggest gains in millennial residents have been in low-density, comparatively affordable cities such as Orlando, Austin, and Nashville. Ultimately, the battle for California’s future — and much of Blue America’s — will turn on how these regions meet the challenge of providing housing and opportunities to a new generation of workers and young families. A California that works only for the wealthy and well-established is not sustainable.

America’s “youth culture” was invented, more or less, in California in the 1960s, from the surfing spots of L.A. and Orange County to the countercultural hotbeds of the Bay Area. But today, California is turning on its young, with policies that ensure that most millennials will never fully “launch,” leaving many destined either to move elsewhere or become wards of an ever-expanding welfare state. The Golden State can still create an environment for growth and family formation — but only if it reclaims its historical role as the nation’s beacon of opportunity and youthful enthusiasm.

Los Angeles Seeks to Stop Oil and Gas Boom

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has introduced a motion to end oil drilling and production near public places in a measure that could kill America’s next oil and gas fracking boom.

Over the objections from the oil industry, Wesson introduced a motion on April 19 to conduct a study regarding how the Department of City Planning, with the assistance of the city attorney and the city’s petroleum administrator, could change the city’s zoning code to require a setback for oil and gas activities within public and residential facilities.

Wesson’s motion stated, “The closer oil and gas wells and storage facilities are to sensitive land uses, the higher the risk that the health and safety of nearby residents could be threatened.” And in a call to action, Wesson added, “Due to the ongoing health impacts experienced by residents from neighborhood drilling activity, it is imperative that we identify and implement a meaningful, long-term solution.”

Despite Wesson’s claims about health risks, the Center for Disease Control found that from 2003–2013 as the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry doubled the size of its workforce and increased drilling rigs by 71 percent, the annual occupational fatality rate in the industry decreased 36.3 percent, to 1,189 deaths over the decade. About 40 percent of fatalities were due to transportation accidents, and 26 percent was due to equipment accidents. The CDC found illnesses and fatalities from all environmental exposure were extremely low.

Wesson and his environmental lobbying allies claim they are only seeking a 2,500-foot setback, or about a half mile. But with California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources website revealing that there are about 3,000 active wells, tens of thousands of inactive wells, and underground pipelines running throughout the city, the proposed setback would essentially ban oil and gas activity in almost 100 percent of Los Angeles.

The new city-level effort follows a failed 2014 national initiative that was led by California environmental groups including Earthjustice, California Communities Against Toxics, California Safe Schools, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Comite Pro Uno, the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, and many more.

The California sponsors attempted to have the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issue a new regulatory order under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act that would allow all oil and gas production wells and associated equipment to be listed as an “area source” of toxic pollution, if the EPA Administrator “determines that emissions of hazardous air pollutants from such wells present more than a negligible risk of adverse effects to public health” in any combined metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 1 million.

Give that the definition of “negligible” according to the dictionary.com website is: “so small, trifling, or unimportant that it may safely be neglected or disregarded,” the EPA would have been able to ban all oil and gas drilling, production and refining in the 54 combined metropolitan statistical areas in America that have a total population of at least 206 million, or about two-thirds of the entire U.S. population.

The 1,750-square-mile Monterrey Shale Formation that covers the entire Los Angeles Basin is potentially the richest shale oil reserve in the United States. Since water is key to the shale hydraulic fracturing drilling process, Breitbart News predicted that a state economic boom would take off as soon as California experienced its next cyclical rainy season.

With all California reservoirs already above historic levels, record snowpack levels in the Sierras, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting a National a very wet El Niño during the 2017-18 water year that begins on November 1, the L.A. City Council motion could kill a potential local economic boom.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Los Angeles Needs Trump’s Help To Get 2024 Olympics

OlympicsAt a time of intense bad blood between the Trump administration and the state of California, a new Legislative Analyst’s Office report stressed the importance of years of local-state-federal cooperation in preparing for a possible 2024 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is vying with Paris to host the games. Budapest, Hungary, withdrew its application a month ago, leaving the two finalists. The International Olympic Committee is meeting in September to formally award the games.

Traditionally, the ability of host cities to count on heavy support from their federal government is considered a crucial point in IOC deliberations. It’s why President Obama traveled to the IOC meeting in Denmark in 2009 in an effort to demonstrate U.S. government support for Chicago getting the 2016 Summer Olympics. The games ultimately were awarded to Rio de Janeiro, but the president’s support was considered important in the run-up to the vote.

Whether Trump will support Los Angeles’ 2024 bid – or whether Los Angeles officials would want his support – is unclear. But the LAO report notes the importance of federal support if Los Angeles succeeds with its bid. Examples:

  • It cited the need for heavy coordination of local and state public safety efforts with federal efforts which will be overseen by the Secret Service and assisted by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the FBI, the Coast Guard, FEMA and the FAA.
  • It noted the importance of addressing the impact of Trump’s proposed travel ban on individuals from six nations (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). It quoted the U.S. Olympic Committee as saying U.S. officials had promised to “ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States in order to participate in international athletic competitions,” but not the State Department itself.
  • It cited the value to the Olympics of having the president and Congress back Los Angeles projects on the $100 billion infrastructurewish list that Gov. Jerry Brown revealed in February after the Trump administration discussed plans for a long-term $1 trillion national infrastructure program. That includes “expanding and improving the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) purple line, the Metro project to connect the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) central terminal area to the Crenshaw/LAX and green Metro line, and the orange bus rapid transit (BRT) line.”
  • It recommended that federal funding be sought to help deal with extraordinary security demands and noted that the cities of Cleveland and Philadelphia had received $50 million and $43 million, respectively, to deal with the costs of hosting national political conventions in 2016.

Worries about Trump-California friction may be premature

As Politico recently reported, so far the Trump administration has worked well with the state of California on emergency disaster declarations, so perhaps any concern about federal-state friction is premature.

There’s also the possibility that Trump doesn’t serve a second term, which is when most key Olympic preparations will be made.

But with a president as unpredictable as Trump has seemed, friction seems possible – especially given that the list of prominent California Democrats who has had harsh things to say about Trump includes Brown, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a wide array of House members and top state lawmakers.

Most recently, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Monday that the Trump administration’s plan to withhold Justice Department grants to immigration sanctuary cities was “nothing short of blackmail.”

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Veterans Live in Safer Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

veteransNational statistics on veterans are grim. As of November 2014, an average of 550 veterans return every day (that is 200,000 troops each year). They have a hard time readjusting. The unemployment rate of veterans since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is higher (11.1 percent) than non-veterans (around 8.6 percent). Twenty percent of veterans between 18 and 24 years old are unemployed. That is so even with the aggressive recruitment by federal agencies, where almost half of all new employees come from the services. It’s estimated that 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line.

All of the difficulties take a physical and social toll. Mental illness and substance abuse are widely reported. As of June 2011, 20 percent of all suicides nationally are veterans. Almost 20 percent of homeless people are veterans. As of November 2015, more than 10 percent of the death row are veterans.

There is cause for optimism. Looking at data from the L.A. Mapping Project, compiled by the Los Angeles Times, one can generalize that veterans who live in America’s second largest city tend to live in fairly safe neighborhoods. More so than those who live in neighborhoods with fewer veterans. For example, the three neighborhoods identified as having the highest proportion of veterans – Green Valley (19.5 percent), Elizabeth Lake (18.4 percent) and Lake Hughes (18.4 percent) – have no incidences of violent crime in 2017.

The three neighborhoods accounted for the lowest percentage of veterans – Central-Alameda (1.8 percent), Chinatown (1.3 percent) and University Park (1.0 percent) – have moderate levels of per capita violent crime (61.4, 18.4, and 38.1 incidences per 1,000 residents, respectively). The average violate crime rate in the 207 neighborhoods is 27.7 incidences per capita. Eight neighborhoods have over 100 incidences of violent crime per capita. Vermont Vista (155.1 incidences per capita and 6.6 percent veterans population) has the highest violent crime crate.

Creating a model using the data, one can observe that the more veterans there are living in a neighborhood in L.A., the lower the violent crime rate. More specifically, for every 1 percent increase in the percentage of veterans living in a neighborhood, there is a decrease of 2.6 incidences of violent crimes.

For example, 101 veterans currently live in Chinatown, the fitted model predicts that 7.1 percent of the neighborhood’s population need to be veterans (an increase of 448 veterans) for the violent crime rate to be eliminated. Gramercy Park, which has 115.5 incidences of violent crimes, needs 44.4 percent of its population to be veterans (3,179 veterans, or an increase of 2,240) to eradicate violent crimes. If Hancock Park (violent crime rate 27.2 incidences per capita, close to the city mean), wants to eradicate violent crime, the municipal government would have to see that 10.4 percent of it residents come from the veteran population. That is 822 veterans, or a 326 increase from the current 496 veterans living in the neighborhood.

But a note of caution. The causation of the two variables can run in either direction, or in both ways. A neighborhood’s violent crime rate may change because veterans moved into the neighborhood (street gangs, murderers, etc., may withhold their crime sprees out of fear of the veterans), or veterans moved into a neighborhood because they saw that it had a low violent crime rate and that it was safe. As with many social phenomena, both scenarios are possible.

This has policy implications. Veterans, like all people, prefer to live in safe neighborhoods. In L.A., neighborhoods with no recorded violent crimes in 2017 have at least 9.6 percent veterans in their populations. It is good incentive for the municipal government to lower crime rates, for example through gentrification, to create safer homes for veterans readjusting to civilian life.

Another implication is attracting veterans to neighborhoods with higher crime rates, if it is true that veterans thwart off violent criminals. The municipal government can experiment with tax breaks for veterans who move to neighborhoods that are traditionally plagued with violent crimes – for example, choosing those neighborhoods above the mean crime rate.

As with most prescriptions in public policy, introducing veterans into a neighborhood to reduce crimes should not be seen as a silver bullet solution. Crime control requires a blend of preventative measures (e.g., education, public campaigns), police mobilization and deterrence in conjunction with the criminal justice system. Veterans, by playing a part in affecting on all three factors, should be rewarded for it.

Gary Lai was the founder and director for ten years of the anti-poverty campaign TKO Poverty.