UC Berkeley takes issue with Seattle minimum wage study

Minimum wage fight for 15In 2013, to shore up support for a plan to rapidly increase Seattle’s minimum wage, city leaders agreed to let a team of University of Washington researchers have access to troves of confidential payroll information so they could evaluate whether the wage hikes were helping or hurting low-income hourly workers.

The decision came as similar debates were playing out in California over state leaders’ decision to phase in their own long-term minimum-wage hike, from $8 in 2014 to $15 in 2022, with businesses and some economists warning of unintended consequences.

In July 2016, as Seattle was on its way to raising the minimum wage from $9.47 in 2014 to $15 in 2017 – a 58 percent hike – the UW report came out and painted the effects of the 2015 increase to $11 as being minimal. This prompted sighs of relief from the business community and cheers from supporters of the wage hike plan. Most reviews of previous modest minimum wage hikes had similar results.

But the release of an updated report on Monday offered a much grimmer picture. It found that after the minimum wage reached $13-per-hour last year, employers began cutting low-wage jobs and limiting hours to such an extent that the average minimum-wage employee lost about $125 a month despite higher hourly pay. This has led both to I-told-you-sos from economists who had warned that huge wage hikes could backfire and to sharp attacks on the study, in California as well as the state of Washington.

“Their findings are not credible and drawing inferences from the report [is] unwarranted,” UC Berkeley economist Michael Reichtold the Los Angeles Times. Reich was co-author of a study of Seattle’s minimum-wage hike released last week by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment that reached much more upbeat conclusions about the Seattle experiment.

Several economists cautioned against leaping to conclusions about a study that had not yet been peer-reviewed. They also warned of not disregarding past research that reached different conclusions and pointed out arguable shortcomings in the UW study’s methodology.

Economists see ‘shoot the messenger’ factor in reaction

But in some academic quarters, the reputation of the University of Washington researchers and the sheer volume of evidence they had on how Seattle labor markets were functioning produced strong defenses of the study – and criticism of those who were quick to trash the report.

“This strikes me as a study that is likely to influence people,” MIT economist David Autor told the Washington Post after reviewing its findings. He said he found it “sufficiently compelling in its design and statistical power that it can change minds.”

In a Facebook post shared far and wide on the popular Marginal Revolution website, Texas A&M economist Jonathan Meer praised the comprehensiveness of the research and joined Forbes magazine in knocking the credibility of the UC Berkeley labor center, saying its “previous work on the minimum wage is so consistently one-sided that you can set your watch by it, that unsurprisingly finds no effect.”

Meer also said it was no accident that the labor center and Seattle City Hall released the upbeat report before the downbeat report was released,  knowing it would get national attention.

“I find that whole affair abhorrent. Seattle politicians are so unwilling to accept reality that they’ll undermine their own researchers,” Meer wrote. “I don’t envy the backlash this team is going to face for daring to present results that will be seen as heresy. I know that so many people just desperately want to believe that the minimum wage is a free lunch. It’s not.”

Several California cities have raised or are in the process of raising their minimum wages even faster than the state, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. So far, these local efforts haven’t been evaluated with the thoroughness of the University of Washington’s survey of Seattle’s job market.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Does Berkeley’s Teachers Union Support Free Speech to Suppress Free Speech?

“There is no free speech for fascists. They do not have the right to organize for genocide.”
–  Yvette Felarca, as reported by Frances Dinkelspiel writing for Berkeleyside, Nov. 2, 2016

Most anyone who follows current events is familiar with the riots at UC Berkeley that stopped a planned February 1st appearance by Breitbart editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Fewer people may be familiar with Yvette Felarca, an activist and organizer with the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), a “coalition to defend affirmative action, integration and immigration rights and fight for equality by any means necessary.” Mother Jones, who probably would not opine to this effect without strong evidence, in 2005 called BAMN “a Communist front-group.”

If you watch this recent television interview with Felarca on KTVU Oakland, or her recent interview on Fox News, you will see she is carefully making a case for violence against “fascists.” In her Fox interview, Felarca defines fascism this way: “A fascist is someone who is organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups, and a movement of genocide.” She goes on to say – regarding Yiannopolous – “he should not be allowed to speak in public, to spread his racist, misogynistic, and homophobic lies. No, he does not have the right to do that.”

UC Berkeley, 2/02/2017. Free speech tactics aimed at suppressing free speech.

The UC Berkeley riots are not Felarca’s first experience with street activism. As reported by the Daily Californian, “The Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on administrative leave Sept. 21 [2016] after she was filmed physically attacking a self-proclaimed white nationalist during a protest in June.”

You got that right. Felarca is a humanities teacher at a public middle school. And six weeks after being placed on leave, Felarca returned to the classroom.

So here’s the question. A representative from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers was present at the Felarca’s reinstatement meeting, and presumably was involved in the negotiations between Felarca and the district. And as Felarca’s attorney puts it, “We continue to … fight for her free speech right and academic freedom. We also seek damages for the violations on her rights … to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected.”

To fight for her “free speech.” Free speech that attacks any alleged “movement of genocide.”

Would a spokesperson from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers care to comment on the free speech rights of teachers who oppose the position their union takes on abortion? Because apparently, in the world of California’s public education system, people who engage in provocative speech that challenges left-wing truisms can be accused of building a “movement of genocide,” whereas people who consider millions of terminated pregnancies to be actual genocide are silenced by their unions.

One may believe abortion is murder or one may believe it is an inalienable woman’s right. One may believe that Milo Yiannopolous is a dangerous agitator, or one may believe he raises important counter-arguments to the conventional wisdom of the left. But regardless of personal sentiments and principles, can anyone deny that the teachers union takes political stands that not all their members will agree with?

Consider this quote from former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett: “In California, and with the support of CTA, we have fought back three attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose, including measures that would have endangered the lives of teenage girls. Currently, California is one of only ten states that have no additional restrictions on reproductive health.”

Polarization is nurtured when people feel victimized by institutionalized hypocrisy and double standards. Felarca and her movement engaged in violent suppression of free speech because they claim – with no evidence – that Yiannopoulos is a genocidal fascist. Does the teachers union condone her activities? And if not, are they willing to make a statement?

Meanwhile, with their political support for a woman’s right to choose well documented, every year in California the teachers union forces collects millions, if not hundreds of millions, in agency fees from members who – with ample evidence – consider mass abortions to be genocide. And they condemn the activities of teachers who oppose their position.

If this is not a double standard, then the term has no meaning.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

Berkeley Bans Fraternity, Sorority Parties over Sexual Assault Allegations

UC BerkeleyThe University of California Berkeley’s Greek system has imposed a ban on all fraternity and sorority parties, following reports of two sexual assaults last week at off-campus frat functions.

The new restrictions are also a response to several sexual harassment incidents in the news lately,including the high-profile case of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman outside of a party.

“We needed to take some time off and really assess our situation,” Interfraternity Council President Daniel Saedi, a 21-year-old senior at Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times. “These are grave acts of violence that are occurring. They have no place anywhere in this country, let alone on college campuses.”

There is reportedly no timeline for the ban which Saedi referred to as “relatively unprecedented.”

The UC Berkeley Fraternity Council posted the announcement on its Facebook page:

The members of the Executive Board of the Interfraternity Council at the University of California, Berkeley, on behalf of our 1,500 constituents, wish to express our condemnation of the vile and unjust incidents that have recently occurred in our community. While we have no reason to believe that these were committed by fraternity men on this campus, it is still disheartening and alarming that they have occurred on fraternity property. We wish to reiterate our pledge to eliminate sexual violence from our community and reaffirm our commitment to our members and students of Berkeley to provide a safe environment for all.

At the same time, we recognize the immense courage it took for the survivors to report these crimes and will do everything in our power to respect their privacy and their wishes. The IFC has voluntarily decided to suspend all social events until we can reevaluate our risk management practices and care for those who have been affected.

According to the Times, Berkeley police said that two female students reported assaults at off-campus fraternity parties last weekend. Further, Berkeley’s crime statistics reportedly indicate 22 reported rapes on-campus or in student housing and four rapes that were reported off-campus last year.

Berkeley’s Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, announced in August that he would resign from his post once a replacement is found. Dirks had faced criticism over his handling of a series of sexual abuse complaints on campus as well as being the center of several scandals.

The Times points out that in 2014, Emory University in Atlanta’s Interfraternity Council similarly voluntarily issued a self-imposed suspension of all their social activities after a reported sexual assault on the campus.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/california

How UC-Berkeley Can Dig Out of Financial Hole

UC BerkeleyDesperate times call for desperate measures. So it was in June, when the University of California-Berkeley created Ideaction, a website for friends of Cal to pitch their money-raising ideas for the university. Suggestions have rolled in: charge for valet parking, host furniture sales, repurpose Memorial Stadium for clubbing, and so on. These submissions would be amusing if not for the fact that Berkeley and the UC system face a larger problem, which no amount of parking transactions or furniture sales can fix.

The University of California system has long faced financial challenges and controversies, many of which are self-inflicted at the campus level. In 2015, for example, after the system received an increase in state funding, it promptly gave its highest-earning administrators a raise over student objections. The current situation at Berkeley is particularly acute: Berkeley has what outgoing chancellor Nicholas Dirks described as a “substantial and growing” $150 million deficit, which imperils its long-term solvency and growth. Solving that budget crisis won’t be easy, given declining state funding, an in-state tuition freeze, and annual increases in merit pay and cost-of-living adjustments.

Instead of hunting for creative, untapped revenue sources or making piecemeal changes, Berkeley administrators need to turn inward and take a comprehensive look at their own spending choices. How did the situation become so dire? Any sober analysis of the institution’s budgeting makes the indulgences — particularly on administrative spending — immediately apparent.

Berkeley’s excesses start at the top: Chancellor Dirks, who recently announced his resignation, earns an annual salary of $532,226 — ten times the median American household income. The university spent more than $200,000 on his image consulting and more than $1 million on renovations to the chancellor’s University House, including almost $700,000 for a fence and $90,000 for new Persian rugs. Dirks himself came under investigation for allegedly misusing funds. Below him, Berkeley has lavished spending on full-time administrators, growing the ranks by 56 percent between 2005 and 2015, to a total of 1,281 people. There are now almost as many administrators at Berkeley as there are faculty — one for roughly every 21 undergraduates.

An analysis conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni of publicly-available data found that between 2009 and 2014, Berkeley’s administrative spending grew faster than that of any other institution in the UC system, at a rate dramatically outpacing instructional spending growth. Both physical and human resources are squandered. As is true at nearly all UC campuses, tenured and tenure-track faculty generally teach a maximum of four courses per year, often fewer. Many classrooms sit empty, especially on Fridays and the whole of the summer. Berkeley’s renowned research reputation doesn’t preclude a modest increase — appropriately rewarded — in teaching responsibilities. Even one more course every other year would make a huge difference. That, and the full use of classroom and lab space, would open opportunities for deserving California students and bring a robust stream of new tuition dollars to the campus, without further taxing the public.

Research has shown that colleges and universities could save as much as 10 percent of their instructional costs simply by reorganizing curricula. Berkeley can follow the example of its Pac-12 colleague, Arizona State University. By consolidating related departments, ASU has already saved more than $13 million without eliminating any faculty positions. For example, it once had separate departments for biology, plant biology, microbiology, and molecular and cellular biology; today, it has a truly interdisciplinary School of Life Sciences. Berkeley is ripe for similar innovation.

A $150 million deficit is daunting but not insurmountable, though it requires changes that may be uncomfortable. The cost of inaction as budget shortfalls loom would be far more harmful, especially at a time when overstretched students, families, and taxpayers have already seen their tuition bills rise by more than 30 percent over a five-year period. UC–Berkeley is a remarkable institution with more than 480,000 living alumni, but to preserve its tradition of academic excellence, university and system leaders must finally address long-festering financial problems. Its challenge now is to become a model for academic excellence and management responsibility.

Dr. Michael Poliakoff is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

This piece was originally published by City Journal Online.

Are Environmentalists Losing Influence in Legislature?

kevin de leon 2California environmentalists have long been one of the most powerful forces in the Legislature. But in 2015, the centerpiece of the green agenda — a provision in a broader measure that would have mandated a 50 percent reduction in gasoline use in the state by 2030 — stalled in the Legislature despite heavy prodding from Gov. Jerry Brown and appeals from then-Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. The development was such a break from the norm that it won heavy coverage from The New York Times, which called it “a major setback for environmental advocates in California.”

Now there’s a fresh sign that environmentalists’ clout may be on the wane. De Leon has stunned green groups by endorsing a moderate incumbent — Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino — who opposed the push for a sharp cut in gasoline use over another prominent Inland Empire Democrat, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes. As Calwatchdog reported earlier this year, Brown was indirectly blasted by one of de Leon’s leadership team, Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who said she was backing Brown’s opponent because “she was a principled human being.”

In a strange twist, the document making the rounds in media circles showing de Leon’s endorsement of Brown contends that Leyva and all his fellow Senate Democratic leaders agree with him.

“I support Eloise Reyes. Period. Somehow the pro tem must have misunderstood my position, although I thought I was quite clear,” Leyva told The Los Angeles Times.

Whatever the logistical problems with de Leon’s endorsement, it amounts to a striking rejection of environmentalists’ argument that they know Brown’s district better than she does. This view was voiced again this week by one of Reyes’ consultants, Leo Briones, who told the Times, “Cheryl Brown can have every special interest and every Sacramento politician … but she still is a legislator that does not represent progressive values or her district when it comes to issues of working families, of consumers, of guns and public safety and the environment.”

Green official: Brown a ‘nice person,’ bad lawmaker

This argument was offered by a high-profile environmentalist in a January Sacramento Bee story that rubbed some minority lawmakers the wrong way:

“There’s no doubt Ms. Brown, who’s a very nice person, has not been representing her constituents when it comes to environmental issues, particularly clean-air issues,” Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips told the Bee. “She’s collected too much money from the oil industry and let that guide too many of her votes.”

As Calwatchdog reported then …

Phillips, who works out of Sacramento, is a white UC Berkeley graduate who used to work for the Environmental Defense Fund. Brown, who turns 72 next week, has been a fixture in the Inland Empire African-American political establishment for more than three decades. She co-founded a weekly publication that focuses on black issues in 1980 and has worked on a wide variety of African-American causes in western San Bernardino County.

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, told the Bee he didn’t care for how environmentalists were treating his fellow African-American lawmaker. “I think it’s a tone-deaf approach. … The environmental community, and the broader environmental coalition, needs to figure out whether or not it’s going to be a collaborator and … work with black California on policy, and shared political goals, or if it will be an adversary.”

Ridley-Thomas is a vocal supporter of de Leon’s efforts to have a Superfund-type cleanup of the Exide battery plant in Vernon.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Sacramento ethics law getting long-due overhaul

Image converted using ifftoany

After 42 years of regulating the state’s political ethics, with countless updates and tweaks, the Political Reform Act is due for an overhaul — and stakeholders are set to begin the process next week.

On Thursday, July 14, Fair Political Practices Commission Chair Jodi Remke and John Mayer, president and CEO of California Forward (a government and political reform advocacy group), will host a webinar to kick off the first of two rounds of public participation to create a comprehensive overhaul of the act.

Incumbents and candidates complain of an overly complicated system. The FPPC receives between 15,000-to-20,000 requests every year for advice from candidates and public officials.

Numerous legislative and voter-approved updates have left an “overly complex, cumbersome and sometimes contradictory” law, Remke said.

“This process is designed to simplify and streamline the act without weakening it or losing any accountability,” Remke said.

Law students at UC Berkeley and UC Davis have also contributed to the process by reviewing the law and making recommendations to the FPPC. And California Forward will help raise public awareness of the coalition’s efforts.

The Political Reform Act was passed in 1974, just two months before President Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal, with the protracted scandal highlighting the need for political ethics legislation.

The law created the FPPC and regulated campaign finance, among other things. The original ballot summary is here:

“Requires reports of receipts and expenditures in campaigns for state and local offices and ballot measures. Limits expenditures for statewide candidates and measures. Prohibits public officials from participating in governmental decisions affecting their ‘financial interests.’ Requires disclosure of certain assets and income by certain public officials. Requires ‘Lobbyists’ to register and file reports showing receipts and expenditures in lobbying activities. Creates fair political practices commission. Revises ballot pamphlet requirements. Provides criminal and civil sanctions for violations. Enacts and repeals statutes on other miscellaneous and above matters.”

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Wrongful convictions cost California taxpayers $282 million over 24 years, study finds

As reported by the Washington Post:

A California research project tried to do something no one’s ever done: determine the total cost of wrongful convictions. That cost being not just the settlements paid to innocent defendants, but the unnecessary costs of prosecuting and incarcerating them, plus the total legal bills of their criminal trials and appeals.

Beginning the project in 2012 and working backwards to 1989, the study found 692 people who were convicted of felonies in California but whose cases were later dismissed or acquitted on retrial. Those people spent a total of 2,346 years in custody and cost California taxpayers an estimated $282 million when adjusted for inflation, according to the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, which released the study last week.

Now for some scale: Those 692 failed convictions over 24 years were part of a California system that convicts more than 200,000 people every year. Some may argue, the report notes, that 692 mistakes over more than two decades “reflects an acceptable rate of error. We reject the proposition that an acceptable rate of error can apply to proceedings that impact people’s lives in the way that criminal prosecution can…Just as with airline safety and medical mistakes, the acceptable rate of error is zero and that should be the goal.”

The researchers also note …

Click here to read the full story

Hyperliberal UC Berkeley Won’t Pay Higher Minimum Wage

Famous nationwide as a bastion of liberalism, the University of California-Berkeley has chosen to ignore a local ordinance raising the minimum wage, claiming an exemption as a state agency.

California’s minimum wage is $9 an hour for all workers, but on October 1 the city Berkeley implemented a local ordinance raising it to $10, seeking to improve conditions for low-skill workers in a city with a high cost of living. However, the city cannot compel state government entities to pay the higher wage, and so UC-Berkeley, the city’s largest employer, has exploited its state affiliation to keep paying 25 percent of its student employees less than the city minimum, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed.

The school isn’t alone. Several other cities in California, including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose have approved local statues increasing their minimum wage above the state minimum. In San Francisco, where the minimum is $10.74, San Francisco State University has used its exemption to keep 44 percent of student employees paid less than that.

Not all colleges are avoiding the minimum wage hikes, however. Both San Jose State University and the City College of San Francisco have complied with heightened minimum wages.

Berkeley city council member Jesse Arequin told Inside Higher Ed that while the city couldn’t compel UC-Berkeley to do anything, “We were hoping they would follow the letter and the spirit of the law.”

“$10 an hour is not enough to support yourself in Berkeley or the Bay Area,” he said.

UC-Berkeley has been famous for the liberalism of both students and faculty ever since the days of the campus’s Free Speech Movement during the 1960s. In 2012, individuals associated with the University of California (which Berkeley is the flagship campus of) were the biggest bloc of donors to President Obama’s reelection.

(RELATED: Contributors affiliated with University of California, Harvard are Obama’s No. 1, No. 4 donor groups) 

The school has defended itself, telling the local East Bay Express that “budget constraints” require that it keep student wages down. However, the UC system has recently given big pay boosts to some of its top executives, leading many to criticize its claims of a money shortage. For example, earlier this year, UC-Berkeley vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele received a pay increase of $75,000, raising his base salary from $375,000 to $450,000. That raise could have paid for a higher minimum wage for 220 student employees working 20 hours a week over a 17-week semester.

This article was originally posted on the Daily Caller News Foundation.