Claremont students’ missive misses the mark

Claremont CollegeBlack students at Pomona College and neighboring schools in Claremont, California, have published an open letter declaring their hostility to free speech — other people’s free speech, that is. The letter shows that the faculty of the Claremont colleges are failing in their most basic educational duties.

The manifesto, written by “We, few of the Black students here at Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges,” was triggered by a statement on academic freedom by outgoing Pomona College President David Oxtoby. Oxtoby’s statement in turn responded to a student blockade that tried to shut down a talk on policing I was supposed to give at Claremont McKenna College on April 6. Leave aside for a moment the signatories’ unblemished ignorance regarding free speech and the role of unfettered discourse in creating their own liberties. Viewed purely formally, the letter is a major embarrassment to the faculty of Pomona and the Claremont colleges.

It is filled with excruciating solecisms (“Though this institution as well as many others including this entire country, have been founded upon the oppression and degradation of marginalized bodies, it has a liability to protect the students that it serves”); garbled regurgitations of High Theory (“The notion of discourse, when it comes to discussions about experiences and identities, deters the ‘Columbusing’ of established realities and truths [coded as ‘intellectual inquiry’] that the institution promotes”); and sheer head-scratchers of incomprehensibility (“To conclude our statement, we invite you to respond to this email by Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 4:07 PM [since we have more energy to expend on the frivolity of this institution and not Black lives].)”  (Gnawing question: Why not a 4:08 PMdeadline?)

Does this student writing demonstrate the value of a Pomona education? Several of the co-signatories are graduating this year or the next. Are their professors satisfied with their command of the English language? What grade would this incoherent tract receive if turned in as a term paper — a D? Or, more likely, an A? Faculty undoubtedly fear correcting the writing of “marginalized students,” lest they suffer the same scourging as UCLA Education Professor Val Rust did when he tried to induct some of his Critical Race Theory students into the protocols of academic prose.

The content of the letter, such as it is, should alarm the faculty as well (at least those faculty who have not inspired “We, few’s’” tortured efforts at Foucauldian post-modernism). The students appear to argue that the ideal of free speech is based on a mystifying and oppressive concept of unitary truth, and that such a concept solidifies white supremacy: “The idea that there is a single truth—‘the Truth’—is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment . . . This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”

“We, few of the Black students here at Pomona, etc.” have it exactly backward.  Free speech is the best tool for challenging hegemonic power.  Absolute rulers seek to crush non-conforming opinion; the censor is the essential bulwark of tyrants.  Without the Enlightenment and its challenge to unquestioned authority, “We, few of the Black students” would not even be at the Claremont colleges, because those secular, independent colleges might not even exist.  (It would be interesting to know how many Enlightenment philosophers “We, few” can even name; it is of course virtually certain that they have read none.)  Freedom of the press and of speech was essential in the fight against slavery and Jim Crow; how do “We, few of the Black students here at Pomona, etc.” think that those battles could have been waged without the First Amendment rights that the “We, few” now think they despise?

Moreover, “We, few of the Black students” only pretend to be postmodern relativists. They are fully confident that they possess the truth about me and about their oppressed plight at the Claremont schools. An alternative construction of their reality—one, say, that pointed out that as members of fantastically rich, tolerant, and welcoming American colleges, they are among the most privileged human beings in history—would be immediately rejected as contrary to the truth and not worth debating.  “We, few” would also reject the alternative truth that far from devaluing Black students, the administrations of the Claremont colleges have undoubtedly admitted many with levels of academic preparation far below that of their white and Asian peers, simply to fulfill the administrators’ own self-righteous desire for “diversity.”

Typical of all such censors and petty tyrants, “We, few of the Black students” now want to crush dissent. They ask the Claremont University Consortium to take action, both disciplinary and legal, against the editors of the conservative student paper, the Claremont Independent, for the open-ended sins of “continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.” These are the demands not of relativists but of absolutists determined to solidify their power.

As for “We, few’s” gross misreading of my work, it shows that reading skills are in as short supply at the Claremont colleges as writing skills. My entire argument about the necessity of lawful, proactive policing is based on the value of black lives. I have decried the loss of black life to drive-by shootings and other forms of street violence. I have argued that the fact that blacks die of homicide at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined is a civil rights abomination. And I have tried to give voice to the thousands of law-abiding residents of high-crime areas who are desperate for more police protection so that they can enjoy the same freedom from fear that people in more wealthy areas take for granted.

The ungrammatical list of attributes that “We, few of the Black students” say disqualify me from speaking—“Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live”—unsurprisingly displays the ignorance already familiar from the rest of their letter, since I was an early and documented opponent of the Iraq war and all such efforts at regime change. The other epithets are not worth responding to.

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

Border Wall Politics & Gang Shootings in Santa Ana: Jim Lacy on Fox Business – VIDEO

In this segment from Fox Business News’ “Varney & Company” broadcast April 21, California Political Review publisher Jim Lacy engages Stuart Varney on gang violence in Santa Ana, and liberal lawmakers in Sacramento who want to punish businesses that help build the Trump Administration’s border wall in San Diego County.

http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5406364428001/?#sp=show-clips

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Did Sacramento break the law in transportation tax rush?

los-angeles-freewaysDid lawmakers break the law when they passed Senate Bill 1, the transportation tax increase?

There’s a quaint provision in the California Constitution that reads, “A person who seeks to influence the vote or action of a member of the Legislature in the member’s legislative capacity by bribery, promise of reward, intimidation, or other dishonest means, or a member of the Legislature so influenced, is guilty of a felony.”

By the time Gov. Jerry Brown finished twisting arms and greasing palms to pass a massive transportation tax hike, that antique language was on the curb like a broken grandfather clock waiting for a bulky-item pickup.

Brown and legislative leaders promised a billion dollars for specific local projects in the districts of wavering lawmakers, and one termed-out Republican senator made a deal for a law to protect people in his profession — civil engineering, not the profession you’re thinking of — from liability in construction lawsuits.

It’s not easy to prove a quid pro quo, Latin meaning “something for something.” People don’t typically leave a written record that says, “I’ll vote for this if you vote for that.”

But one thing is different this time. In November, California voters passed Proposition 54, a measure aimed at guaranteeing transparency in state lawmaking. Prop. 54 says bills must be in print and online in their final form 72 hours before the Legislature votes on them.

The transportation tax increase, SB1, was posted online on April 3. If the Legislature was going to meet its self-imposed deadline to pass the bill on April 6, not one word of it could be changed before the vote.

So all the wheeling, dealing, greasing, and “promise of reward” had to go into a separate bill.

And it did.

SB132 contains a billion dollars of “that” which was negotiated in exchange for a vote on “this.”

Not only is it in writing, there are many statements on the record from lawmakers that their vote for the transportation tax was explicitly tied to a promise from the governor and legislative leaders that the “thats” would be delivered.

Are the deals spelled out in SB132 a violation of the law under Proposition 54? They are effectively amendments to SB1 that were written into a different bill. If that’s legal, then the 72-hour requirement that voters just added to the state constitution has already been thrown to the curb with the rest of the grandfather clocks.

Before the truck comes to pick up the garbage, we should retrieve that language about bribery and reward and see if it applies to outgoing Sen. Anthony Cannella’s deal to condition his vote for SB1 on the passage of SB496, a bill Cannella authored to protect “design professionals,” including civil engineers, from lawsuits stemming from future work. “Anthony is a civil engineer,” Cannella’s official bio states.

Maybe you’re thinking it won’t pass. He was ahead of you. Language was added to the billion-dollar spending bill, SB132, to make it “operative” only if SB496 is enacted.

In addition to the billion dollars of “reward” written into SB132 on April 6, the bill was amended on April 5 to add $1 billion for “augmented employee compensation.”

Yes, another $1 billion of “compensation increases and increases in benefits” for state workers was slipped in while everyone was wondering where the state spent all our transportation taxes.

Talk about being taken for a ride.

Susan Shelley is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

The #NeverTrump Crowd Owes President Donald Trump An Apology

donald-trump-3Before launching into this piece I know wonderful conservatives who are part of the #NeverTrump ideologues. I also have close, personal friends – even mentors – who are still part of this movement; but now for the good of the country, California and professional reputations I implore all of you to let prudence be your guide. Stop your continued misguided, ridiculous and frankly embarrassing behavior and admit he is a great, conservative president who actually stands up and fights for what is best for the United States and California.

Let’s review what President Trump accomplished in one week. He got Judge (now Associate Justice) Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court, and according to Senator Tom Cotton (a former member of the 101st Airborne, served in Iraq and Afghanistan), “Restored America’s credibility in the world,” after striking Syria over their chemical weapons attack. Senator Cotton further remarks:

“It’s also telling that the strikes in Syria occurred while President Trump dined with President Xi Jingping of China since the president has repeatedly expressed his concerned about North Korea and expects China to restrain Pyongyang.”

No fan of President Trump, Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, echoed the same sentiments as Sen. Cotton, that Trump understands the rough and tumble world of international diplomacy. He one-upped President Xi by making him wait an hour for his arrival at their recent summit the same way Ronald Reagan first greeted Gorbachev on a cold winter day wearing only a suit while Gorbachev was bundled in a heavy top coat and scarf. Trump understands what Obama didn’t, and the Chinese have begun changing their behavior after the summit, when it was reported by Reuters that China is turning back North Korean coal (North Korea’s main export) from their docks.

“But wait,” the #NeverTrump crowd will say, “Donald Trump is an ally of Putin and aligned himself with his crude behavior against American interests by wanting normalized relations with Russia.”

Sen. Cotton takes issue with that line of reasoning from the #NeverTrump crowd when he further stated in an op-ed for the New York Times (not the biggest President Trump fans by the way):

“Russia’s geopolitical standing has taken a severe blow. Mr. Putin was powerless to protect his client in Damascus. Moscow now faces a Hobson’s choice of empty words of condemnation or escalation on behalf of a global pariah, which risks further American action. After years of Russian aggression being met by empty American words, now Mr. Putin finds his credibility at stake.”

Or, as my former graduate school professor Victor Davis Hanson recently opined about “redline threats” in a brilliant article titled, “Ancient Laws, Modern Wars,” when smaller nations (Russia, China, North Korea, Iran) believe deterrence is nothing more than hollow words – which the former administration gave the U.S. and the world – then wars such as World War I are the outcome. Words need forcible actions and this president and his secretary of state are proving that on a daily basis.

Even a former high-ranking Obama administration official despaired over the moral depravity and ineptitude of her former colleagues and boss who knew chemical weapons were still in Syria, lied about it anyway, and did nothing to stop this latest chemical attack – except having the Treasury Department:

“Quietly introduce last minute treasury sanctions against Syrian officials involved in chemical warfare. Assad in particular.”

In other words, President Obama’s administration, led by former Secretary of State John Kerry (Kerry said, “100 percent of chemical weapons are out of Syria”), knew Putin and Russia had done nothing about Assad’s chemical weapons, continued the myth, or are such gross incompetents they had no idea that Putin’s government didn’t keep their promises to remove Assad’s chemical weapons.

That would mean the 16 U.S. government intelligence agencies, “that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities considered necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the nationals security of the United States,” never spoke with, wrote a memo of, or even had an underling relay that information (chemical weapons still exist in Syria) to President Obama, his national security team (led by Susan Rice), or former Secretary Kerry.

But the Republican purists and #NeverTrump crowd will still argue and debate President Trump’s merit as a leader, policymaker and how he isn’t presidential enough for their liking. As Dennis Prager articulates in a recent column: “Purists Kill Whatever They Believe In,” whether health care reform (Obamacare is still law costing hundreds of billions in taxes, wages and premiums), no hope of tax reform (also costing hundreds of billions), or not having the ability, reasonable level of competency and skill to actually govern, which purist Republican are demonstrating right now in California and the U.S. Congress.

Why wouldn’t he go to Twitter to bash his own party and the press? Given the above example does any reasonable person believe he will receive fair coverage by the press and his own party at this time?

Ironically, his tweets of Sweden being overrun by terrorist-immigrants and President Obama spying on him have more truth than falsehoods to them. Read Eli Lake’s piece in Bloomberg on Obama officials spying on Trump transition team members where NSA Susan Rice was behind breaking the law and high-ranking national security officials (Deputy Defense Secretary Evelyn Farkas) admitted to spying on the incoming administration along with high-ranking officials from the National Security Council, Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA.

But Trump is a buffoon and un-presidential, correct? Now the Swedish Prime Minster has said, “His country will never go back to the days of mass immigration,” after the failed asylum seeker (who launched the recent Swedish terrorist attack) was let in Sweden without being vetted. The #NeverTrump crowd and Republican purists owe President Trump their deepest gratitude for their safety, because he doesn’t seem so wrong after all – now does he? And whom do you trust – the eloquent, former law school professor or the rough and tumble real estate developer?

Yet Republican policymakers are still blaming President Obama while not working with Trump for their inability to pass any of the above changes. This was confirmed by Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Ok.) to Politico when he said, “Clearly President Obama gave us a common focus. Now that he’s gone, we have to govern.”

Congressman Lucas and his ilk should be voted out of office. Either govern or at least support the president, because members like Congressman Lucas and California State Republican Senator Anthony Cannella are killing the Republican Party while making the case for the continuation of leftism perpetuated by the Democratic Party.

Using the reasoning that the enemy of the good is the perfect, here are a few questions for the #NeverTrump crowd: Who else was going to beat Secretary Clinton? I voted for Cruz and supported Rubio wholeheartedly until he dropped out of the race, but if it weren’t for Trump in Florida, Rubio loses, to the detriment of Florida and the country. Were Drs. Thomas Sowell and Victor Davis Hanson wrong for supporting Trump? Are they stupid, unwise, without domestic or international knowledge or simply non-prudent bumpkins? Not hardly.

Final question for The National Review and The Weekly Standard folks and California policymakers who didn’t support Trump, and still lost: After your high-priced and overpaid columns, speeches, lectures, luncheons, dinners, conferences, radio and television appearance along with week long cruises around the world, where you are all speak and no action, what would you have done if Hillary Clinton had won and the Democrats were in control?

Because for 99.9 percent of the world under assault from the U.S. and California Democratic Party over social issues (abortion, gay marriage – support it or else – transgender rights – also support it or else, and global warming – unfortunately, support it or else) not to mention the disaster that is taking place around the world echoed by Victor Davis Hanson and for California, written extensively by Joel Kotkin over its forthcoming financial and societal meltdown there are few options over our intrusive, leviathan government. What are your answers? As opposed to we hate Trump’s tweets and he isn’t Reagan?

Trump is confronting Russia, China, North Korea and Iran the way Reagan confronted Russia. Secretary Tillerson is exactly what is needed to deal with those four bastard countries. The day of niceties red-reset buttons with Russia are over.

Here’s what today’s Democrats are giving us: Higher taxes, horrible racist, crime-infested cities, poor infrastructure, failing universities and public education, higher taxes, global warming policies costing trillions and most Republicans go right along with it like lambs to the slaughter. Is it any wonder the country elected Trump? Paradoxically, these same Republicans and the #NeverTrump crowd still haven’t repealed Obamacare, cut taxes or begun rebuilding the military – it’s been Trump – and it’s why you owe him an apology. Begin working with him, and start preparing for the foreign policy disaster that is coming our way when California implodes and China/North Korea, Russia or Iran attacks us.

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.

The Green Guillotine

Hermosa BeachIf you’ve ever wondered what happens when Berkeley-grade environmentalists finally seize control of all the levers of government power, let me introduce you to my town of Hermosa Beach, California.

The first thing they do is come for your carbon.

They want you to stop burning it. Immediately.

Environmental purists believe that burning carbon in any of its various forms ultimately causes the seas to rise and the polar caps to melt. They believe carbon emissions cause the rainlessness that is turning central California into fallow hardscape.

Hermosa’s newly elected political leadership decided to take a stand against carbon and recently unveiled a blueprint to reach the city’s goal of being “carbon neutral” by 2030. In green-speak, “carbon neutrality” means achieving zero net carbon emissions by eliminating greenhouse gasses (i.e., carbon dioxide) and purchasing “offsets” (i.e., trees) for whatever they can’t. Their roadmap to achieve this goal is called PLAN Hermosa.

Predictably, the first step towards “carbon neutrality” calls for getting rid of the city’s cars. According to PLAN Hermosa, transportation accounts for 54 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city, so it is important to “disincentivize conventionally fueled automobile use.”

Hermosa Beach politicians aren’t bold enough (at least not yet) to issue a diktat banning gasoline burning automobiles from the city’s streets, so they do the next best thing – they make it hard for their residents to use them. PLAN Hermosa calls for the elimination of parking spaces and charging more for the ones that remain. In the densely populated beach city where parking is already at a premium and 95 percent of the working population drives to their place of business, this will be a significant imposition. But bicycling is good for you, and the ice floes and polar bears aren’t going to save themselves.

PLAN Hermosa also says that natural gas has to go because it’s the next biggest source of greenhouse emissions after cars. A draft of PLAN Hermosa “mandated” all homes in the city that currently use it (almost all of them) for heating and cooking convert to “biogas technologies and electrification of heating and cooking appliances.” Commercial buildings that use it (almost all of them) would be forced to retrofit with renewable energy sources at the time of sale or before any major renovations.

Given that “electrification” means homes and businesses will be forced to draw power from plants that generate most of it from fossil fuels, this is an obscenely expensive, self-congratulatory gesture.

The drafts of PLAN Hermosa are peppered with the word “mandate,” which means there’s no choice. City forces will presumably identify homes in Hermosa Beach (again, almost all of them) that use gas stoves and force homeowners to replace them with electric ones. It would be one thing if the city paid for the conversion, but given the state of the city’s finances homeowners will likely bear the cost. For the Hermosa’s businesses, consumers will pay for achieving carbon neutrality through higher prices. Either that or they’ll shop elsewhere.

Notably absent from PLAN Hermosa is a discussion of how the city will enforce these green “mandates.”

What will the city do to homeowners who refuse to convert? Typically, violating the municipal code is a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and jail time. Will the city fine homeowners who keep the outlawed ovens, or will it throw recalcitrant “climate deniers” who refuse to do their part to combat global warming in jail? (This might seem like oppressive government overreach to most, but don’t forget President Obama’s DOJ contemplated legal action against “climate deniers.”) Either way, the city will have to do something, because a mandate without enforcement is merely a suggestion.

Hermosa Beach’s green political activists also know eliminating residents’ demand for carbon is only half the battle; they must also cut-off the supply. Like the DEA dusting Colombia’s coca fields with herbicides to stem the production of cocaine, Hermosa Beach’s politicians will choke-off the supply of climate-killing carbon through “Community Choice Aggregation.” This is a state-approved plan that allows cities to create a municipal utility to purchase and sell energy from green sources. In other words, when Hermosa residents fire-up their new electric stoves the power will come from solar panels and wind turbines. Some estimate the set-up cost could be as much as $1,000,000. Residents and businesses will automatically become customers of the new utility unless they choose to “opt out.”

The idealistic French revolutionaries who seized control of their country brought liberté, égalité, fraternité to the French people – and eventually, the guillotine. When the green Jacobins took control of Hermosa Beach they brought a regime of taxpayer funding, symbolism, and government coercion to residents. The last two, symbolism and government coercion, are to environmentalism what fuel and oxygen are to fire. Cost – especially when it’s other people’s money – isn’t a consideration. Green idealism currently rules Hermosa Beach, and where idealism rules the guillotine isn’t far behind. But in Hermosa Beach, at least it will be solar powered.

Patrick “Kit” Bobko is a former two-term City Councilman and Mayor of Hermosa Beach, California. Kit was also a Republican candidate for Congress in 2011. Kit is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a proud Air Force veteran. He currently practices law in Los Angeles.

On Legal Marijuana, Congress Should Stay Sessions’ Hand

Buds are removed from a container at the "Oregon's Finest" medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon April 8, 2014. Over 20 Oregon cities and counties are moving to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries ahead of a May deadline, reflecting a divide between liberal Portland and more conservative rural areas wary about allowing medical weed. Portland, Oregon's largest city, already has a number of medical marijuana clinics and has not moved to ban them. Picture taken April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES - Tags: DRUGS SOCIETY POLITICS HEALTH) - RTR3KMHE

The Trump administration has stayed relatively quiet on the subject of state measures to legalize recreational marijuana. However, recent statements from Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would suggest a change in tone from candidate Trump’s earlier statement that he’d be willing to let states chart their own course on marijuana policy. Although such a change in policy will likely prove ineffective, the uncertainty it creates only goes to highlight the necessity of congressional action to give states the necessary leeway to pursue their own reforms without relying on executive indulgence.

Since the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996, some 28 states have legalized medical use of marijuana, and eight have passed full legalization, with half of that number coming in the last election. While those eight states passed their reforms at the ballot box, a number of other states are considering legalization bills in the current legislative session. Naturally, this change in the legal landscape has accompanied a shift in public opinion. According to Gallup, support for legalization has gone from about 25 percent in 1995, the year before Proposition 215, to 60 percent late last year.

All of this has occurred with varying degrees of forbearance on the part of the federal government. The Clinton and Bush administrations pursued fairly aggressive policies toward dispensaries and even patients in medical marijuana states, and the Obama administration continued the trend. Then, in 2013, the Obama DOJ issued the Cole memo, which instructed federal authorities to lay off those who were in compliance with state law. This relative détente has held up to the present. In fact, this approach of ad hoc federalism enjoys solid public support. A Quinnipiac poll from February found 71 percent of Americans opposed federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have legalized, and even among Republicans that figure stood at 55 percent to 36 percent against.

Of course, this shift from the long-dominant prohibitionist orthodoxy hasn’t been without controversy. In 2011, just after legalization passed in Colorado and Washington, Hillary Clinton maintained that there was “too much money” in black market marijuana for it to be legalized, and Ed Feulner, former president of the Heritage Foundation and member of Trump’s transition team, just this past fall called for a re-declaration of the War on Drugs, explicitly including marijuana. In that piece he singled out data from Colorado showing increases in “marijuana related” emergency room visits and hospitalizations, as well as “pot-positive” traffic fatalities. However, as detailed in a report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety in March 2016, the data don’t lead so readily to alarmist conclusions. In fact, Colorado’s own governor, John Hickenlooper, has gone from musing about undoing legalization if only he had a magic wand to guarded optimism.

Despite the ominous statements from administration officials, Trump himself apparently struck a more accommodating tone in a meeting with state governors in late February. Even though he made no explicit mention of marijuana, he signaled a willingness to let states pursue their own policies without fear of federal interference. Given the impossibility of policing a combined population of 70 million in the states that have legalized with the roughly 5,000 special agents of the DEA, it would seem like an easy call for the administration to prioritize investigations of otherwise violent traffickers over hounding commercial growers and retailers complying with state law. Furthermore, letting legalization run its course in the states might be one of the best ways to undercut the black market. In an NPR report from 2014, one Mexican grower they interviewed reported that the wholesale price per kilo had fallen by more than half, and, per the Washington Post, overall seizures at the border had fallen from 4 million pounds in 2009 to 1.5 million in 2015.

The current disconnect between federal marijuana policy and the ongoing reforms at the state level is untenable. Rather than revert to the tried and failed prohibitionist approach, it’s time for Congress to codify the current ad hoc federalism of Obama’s second term and give the states and their burgeoning marijuana industries the breathing room they need. In so doing, they will sap the strength of the cartels, create jobs, and allow law enforcement to turn its attention to more important work.

Dan Spragens is a criminal justice reform intern at Reason Foundation.

More sleight of hand with gas tax hikes

gas prices 2If Gov. Brown and members of the California Legislature think that the backlash against the car and gas tax increases will subside any time soon, they are mistaken. The controversy continues to dominate both traditional and social media and, in fact, the more that taxpayers learn about these transportation tax hikes the angrier they get.

Our political elites are learning that taxes on cars and gasoline remain very unpopular because they fall disproportionately on the working Californians — which is where the majority of voters reside. And the resentment might only grow when the taxes actually kick. Just wait until the bills from the DMV start showing up in the mail starting in January of next year and the gas tax increase starts even earlier in November of this year.

There are times when Californians are simply resigned to pay higher taxes imposed by Sacramento, but this might not be one of those times. Many are calling for a referendum of the tax hikes only to be disappointed with the news that, under the California Constitution, a tax increase can’t be repealed via a referendum. Nonetheless, it is possible that the tax package can be rolled back via an initiative and some groups are pondering that course of action. Other interests want more immediate action and are openly discussing recall efforts against some legislators who supported the tax package. …

To read the entire column, please click here.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Political Scams Are the Norm in California

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Con artists deceive their victims by manipulating emotions and exploiting vulnerabilities. Some con artists are so skilled, their victims are unaware they’ve been scammed. Once a con artist gains your trust, it’s highly probable you’ll be the victim of a scam.

The same is true of some politicians.

Californians pay close to the highest amount of taxes in the nation and continue to demand better roads in return. Despite being overtaxed, we continue to drive on the worst roads in the nation. Politicians tell us they can improve our transportation infrastructure if we simply pay an additional $52 billion in taxes and fees.

Another egregious example is the state’s so-called Fire Prevention Fee — an illegal tax passed by the Legislature in 2011. The name indicates that taxpayers are getting fire prevention services in order to generate widespread support. However, in reality the tax only backfills a budget cut; no new fire prevention services have materialized. Sadly, these types of political scams have become common.

Consider the elimination of California’s Enterprise Zone Program in 2013. Although not without complications, the 42 enterprise zones provided economic incentives aimed at spurring job creation and business investment in economically distressed areas of the state.

At the time, I argued it didn’t make sense to eliminate these vital economic development zones. It made more sense to make the entire state an enterprise zone by promoting policies that would spur job creation and innovation. But like most good ideas in California politics, it was ignored. The governor replaced the enterprise zones with his “Economic Development Initiative,” consisting of:

(1) Manufacturing sales tax exemptions

(2) New hiring credits

(3) The “CalCompetes” income tax credit

Governor Brown’s plan was touted as “revenue-neutral,” meaning higher taxes paid by businesses in the former enterprise zones would be offset by the new tax incentives. The California business community as a whole would pay no more taxes than before.

Sounds fair, right?

Yet as state revenues grew, something almost predictable happened. The revenue loss from the three new programs fell far short of the revenue gained by eliminating the Enterprise Zone Program. The net result is that Californians are paying more taxes than before; the estimated additional burden to taxpayers is $1.2 billion and growing.

That’s a massive tax increase – one that Californians never had a chance to vote on, despite Gov. Brown’s promise to put tax hikes on the ballot.

Although state revenues have grown nearly 50 percent since 2008, there never seems to be enough money for the priorities of liberal politicians. Time and time again taxpayers who don’t receive value for their current tax dollars are asked to pay more.

Tax-and-spend politicians often make big promises to move their political agendas, then fail to act in the people’s best interests. Like con artists, they never seem to tire of finding new ways to extract money from their victims. But if their victims realize they’ve been had, perhaps they’ll be less likely to fall for the next scam.

George Runner is Vice Chair of the California State Board of Equalization

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Sacramento Pushes Rent Control in Response to CA Housing Problem

house-constructionDebate over California’s housing situation ratcheted up amid conflicting data and a flurry of new legislation designed to mitigate high prices and low supply.

Analysts have separated into two camps around Golden State real estate, one more bullish than the other. “Two recent reports — from Fitch Rating, a Wall Street credit reviewer, and Arch MI, a seller of mortgage insurance — attempt to gauge the stability of regional housing markets by tracking changes in real estate metrics vs. other economic measurements,” the Orange County Register reported. “Using a California prism, the studies draw wildly different conclusions. Fitch concludes California housing is among the most overvalued housing markets in the nation. Yet California is not on Arch MI’s list of riskiest places to own.”

“California was one of 10 states with overvalued housing by Fitch’s standards. Four states had the same pricing mismatch as California: Florida, Hawaii, Oregon and Utah. Next states on the dicier scale — 10 percent to 14 percent overvalued — were Arizona, North Dakota, Nevada and Texas […]. Idaho was in the worst shape at 15 percent to 19 percent overvalued. But Arch MI saw California with riskiness below the norm. California’s risk of falling home prices is ‘minimal’ or a 2 percent change of depreciation in the next two years. National risk by this math is 4 percent.”

Searching for answers

Along with an analytical split surrounding a possible housing bubble, residential options in California have been opening a gulf of their own. “California is one of the most unequal states in the country, and its housing market is similarly bifurcated, offering both multimillion dollar houses and rent-controlled apartments, but less and less of a foothold for people in the middle,” the American Interest observed. “This is a key reason so many working class families have left the Golden State in the past 25 years.” In a recent report issued by Bankrate.com analyst Claes Bell, “California ranked as the toughest state in the nation for first-time home buyers, who typically would be in the millennial age bracket of 18 to 34,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Policymakers grappling with the state’s compounded housing challenges have no shortage of plans to pore over — over 130 bills touching upon the issue, the Times noted. “Reams of statistics support the depth of the problem: California’s homeownership rate is at its lowest since World War II, a third of renters spend more than half of their income on housing costs and the state has nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless residents — despite having 12% of the overall U.S. population,” the paper noted in a breakdown of some leading legislative contenders — which range from proposals to expand low-income rent-controlled units to increasing tax credits to pushing easier and less traditional permitting.

Back to rent control?

The push toward increased rent control has been spearheaded by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. “Bloom wants to repeal the state law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, named after a moderate-leaning Democratic former state senator from the Central Valley and a short-time Republican assemblyman from Orange County,” the Sacramento Bee recalled. “During 1995, Jim Costa, now in Congress, and Phil Hawkins, who served just two years in the state Assembly, became the face of a disputed political campaign lodged largely by landlords and real estate interests to weaken – statewide – the ability of cities to pass strong rent-control laws. It came nearly two decades after the rent-control movement, born in cities like Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berkeley, was spreading across the state.”

In core metro areas across California, rents have risen dramatically — in part reflecting an influx of wealthier residents to downtown urban neighborhoods, but also fueling a domino effect of hikes further down the affordability chain. “Statewide, average rents have increased 60 percent over the past 20 years. In 2016, median rents in the Bay Area and Los Angeles area ranged from $2,427 to $4,508, according to a housing report from the California Department of Housing and Community Development,” the paper added. “Nearly half of California’s households rent, and 84 percent of them are considered ‘burdened,’ spending 30 percent to 50 percent or more of annual income on rent.”