Meet Some Prop. 57 Early Release Inmates

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies inspect a cell block at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he plans to implement all the reforms suggested by a commission in the wake of allegations that a culture of violence flourished in his jails. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

We extensively chronicled how the Prop. 57 campaign was sold on the lie that only “non-violent” criminals would be released early from their lawfully imposed state prison terms. The decision on who gets the early release is now in the hands of the Board of Parole, whose release decisions show an appalling disregard of fact and reality. Some examples of these early release decisions are highlighted below.

Paul Karl Anderson — With a criminal history that begins in 1981, and included felony convictions for assault and thefts, Anderson upped the ante in 1995 when he robbed a bank with a weapon and then held a hostage upon being tracked down by federal marshals.  The Board of Parole granted early release from the sentence imposed for his bank robbery/hostage taking because they determined Anderson does not “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Rodney Hansen — This inmate’s current prison stint results from a conviction for threatening his ex-girlfriend by tossing a knife at her feet, then threatening to kill both himself and her. Prior convictions since 2007 included possession of a firearm and residential burglary. Nonetheless, the Board of Parole found this inmate should be released early because he does not “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Recole Mitchell — Mitchell was sent to prison for convictions of possession of a loaded firearm in 2016, and threatening to kill his mother in 2015. Despite a lengthy criminal history that begins in 2003 and included two separate convictions for carrying a loaded firearm, the Board of Parole granted Mitchell an early release because they decided Mitchell does not”pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Paul Silvas — Sentenced to prison in 2015 for stabbing the family dog to death, Silvas had a prior history of violence as evidenced by his 2008 conviction for assault with a firearm. While he incurred five disciplinary actions since being sent to prison, the Board of Parole found that Silvas “shows compliance with institutional rules” and released him early on the grounds that he does not”pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Governor Brown promised the public that only non-violent offenders would be released under Prop. 57. A bank robber/hostage taker, a gun-toting felon who threatened to kill his mother, a knife-wielding felon who threatened to kill his girlfriend, and a dog killer are probably not who the public expected back into their communities. But the public need not fret. After all, the Board of Parole has determined that none of them pose “an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

The ADDA has joined crime victims, law enforcement, business owners and public safety leaders working to pass the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018.” We will soon be circulating petitions to put on the ballot the measure that will:

  • Reclassify currently “non-violent” crimes like rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child under 14, and other serious crimes as “violent” – to prevent the early release of inmates convicted of these crimes
  • Reform the parole system to stop the early release of violent felons, expand parolee oversight, and strengthen penalties for parole violations
  • Reform theft laws to restore accountability for serial thieves and organized theft gangs
  • Expand DNA collection to some low level convictions in order to solve violent crimes like rape and murder-and to exonerate those wrongly accused
  • Learn more about “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” at www.KeepCaliforniaSafe.org.

resident of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

As problems mount, California Democrats cling to their favorite boondoggle

High speed rail constructionWhen the father of the current governor of California was governor, he was a driving force behind the highway building boom that gilded the already Golden State. Aggressive road construction and free-flowing water were Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Sr.’s lasting legacies. By contrast, Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. is looking at a legacy tarnished by a bullet train that will cost far more than projected, won’t thin out today’s jammed highways, and will never run on time.

Politicians like flashy new projects: a European-style bullet-rail line is more glamorous than maintaining battered transportation arteries and adding desperately needed highway capacity. But California’s 800-mile, high-speed rail plan is well on the way to becoming a legendary boondoggle. News that $35 million allocated for utilities costs had been transferred on an “emergency” basis to pay train contractors are one reason why Republican state assembly member Jim Patterson called for an emergency audit. “What are your plans to complete the project?” demanded Patterson last month of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “Describe to us how you’re managing costs. Please explain to us why and how you are transferring hundreds of millions of dollars just to keep the construction going?”

Democrat Al Muratsuchi, chairman of the legislature’s Audit Committee, rejected the request on procedural grounds. His reasoning: because the legislature wasn’t in session, committee members and the public would be denied “the opportunity to have a say in the decision.” The rejection, combined with the train’s mounting troubles, makes it look like there is something to hide.

Muratsuchi has reportedly told Patterson that he can submit the request again in January, when the legislature is in session—in other words, when lawmakers will have an official opportunity to say no, or, if the request is granted, to spin whatever inconvenient news the audit turns up. Muratsuchi might think that Patterson is looking for a “gotcha” revelation to make headlines, but concern about the cost and progress of the rail line is well founded—from budget estimates and cost-containment policies to contingency planning if funding dries up. “We owe it to the people to demonstrate that the High-Speed Rail Authority isn’t going to skip town and leave us with a partially built track,” Patterson said. “Californians deserve to know what Plan B is—it’s time for a reality check.”

At about the same time that Patterson’s audit requested was denied, the High-Speed Rail Authority announced that its environmental reviews, which were supposed to be done by 2018, won’t be finished until 2020—just the latest delay in a project that has had too many to count. The Los Angeles Times reported in September that the 119-mile Central Valley segment alone is already $1.7 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule.

Policymakers sold the high-speed rail project to voters nearly a decade ago, in a ballot measure that promised a 220-mph super train that would blast passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a tidy two hours and 40 minutes. Independent analysts say that the ride will likely take at least three hours and 50 minutes and as long as four hours and 40 minutes—or only an hour less than it currently takes to drive.

So it might not be very fast—but at least it will be cheap, right? Wrong again. Projected fares have risen along with the projected travel times. What was once estimated roughly as a $50 ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco had inflated to $105 by 2009, according to the project’s business plan. The latest estimate: an $86 fare, which one can readily imagine going higher still by the time the train is operational.

Ridership estimates have steadily fallen. Voters were told that by 2030, the system would carry 65.5 million to 96.5 million riders a year—figures about three times higher than independent projections. At the lower numbers, not enough commuters will fill the seats to relieve the grinding congestion on the roads.

California has already spent more than $3 billion on a project with an estimated cost that has bounced around from the original $33 billion to $43 billion, then up to as much as $117 billion, before settling, at least for now, at about $68 billion. Some pressure is building to junk the project—to take a smaller loss now, that is, rather than a much larger one in the future. Letting the bullet train die would probably require a ballot initiative redirecting the project’s allocated but unspent funds to more useful projects—such as increased highway capacity. And that’s something that Californians could actually use.

California ‘Road Diet’ Antagonizes Drivers Still Stuck in Traffic Gridlock

traffic-los-angelesQuick, name the place where drivers suffer through maybe the worst traffic on Earth while policymakers are committed to making it altogether intolerable. Yes, of course it’s California.

Earlier this year, Inrix, a transportation analytics firm, ranked Los Angeles as the city with the worst traffic in the world, as measured by annual “peak hours spent in congestion.”

Southern California drivers who commute regularly to Los Angeles experience this gridlock every day. They spend an average of 104 hours “in congestion in 2016 during peak time periods.” Inrix says that sitting in traffic costs the average driver in the Southland $2,408 a year in lost productivity, and fuel burned while idling or creeping along in slow-moving parking lots.

Los Angeles also had “10 of the 25 worst traffic hotspots in America,” according to Inrix, “costing So Cal drivers an estimated $91 billion over the next 10 years.”

While California drivers slog through grueling traffic, policymakers have been putting them on a “road diet.” Joel Kotkin of Chapman University says “the notion animating the ‘road diet’ is to make congestion so terrible that people will be forced out of their cars and onto transit.”

The governor’s office has pursued road diets, as well as the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose. San Francisco has been putting its drivers on various, and often costly, road diets since the 1970s. The Reason Foundation says that in addition to its Vision Zero effort “to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025,” Los Angeles “is still planning to implement over 40 road diet projects” across the city.

Further antagonizing California drivers is the $52 billion fuel tax hike that lawmakers passed to repair the state’s cracked and battered infrastructure. Is there a dime available for expanding highway capacity to open gridlock? Apparently not. But don’t be surprised if considerable portions of the revenue are spent on “transportation” projects that will not improve automobile travel. Transportation analyst Wendell Cox says that California lawmakers “don’t have any problems spending money on roads” as long as the funds aren’t used “to make drivers’ experiences any better.”

It’s not out of the realm to imagine that lawmakers will also try to siphon off some of the revenue to repair the high-speed train wreckage.

In addition to increasing the typical California family’s financial burden by nearly $800 a year, according to Reform California, the fuel tax hike is also organizationally incoherent, as are other elements of the state’s transportation policies. Consider:

  • How much of that $52 billion will be raised over 10 years if policymakers are able to eliminate vehicles with internal-combustion engines that burn the fossil fuels subject to the tax hike and replace them with electric vehicles? As the forced transition to EVsthat Brown and Democrat Assemblyman Phil Ting favor overlaps with the final years of higher fuel taxes, revenue will fall.
  • If the objective of road diets is to get drivers off the roads, won’t that also hurt revenue?
  • And if it’s a policy goal to remove cars from California roads, won’t the mandatory transition to EVs actually require a less than one-for-one replacement ratio? In other words, replacing every internal-combustion vehicle with an electric vehicle won’t decrease the number of cars. Will policies change from efforts to subsidize EV sales to discouraging them?

Public policy should be consistent, coherent and just. Not muddled, contradictory and heavy-handed. It should never be used to herd people, to compel them to conform to politically favored behaviors. But this is what we get from the government we have in California. It’s as lousy as the traffic congestion.

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

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Cities Spiking Taxes to Pay Spiking Pension Costs

Calpers headquarters is seen in Sacramento, California, October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

California cities are being forced to spike taxes to pay for spiking public employee pension funding costs.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has just reported that its $344.4 billion defined benefit pension plan, which covers most state and local government employees, has fallen from a $2.9 billion surplus in 2007 to a $138.6 billion deficit as of June 2016. The rate of funding decline accelerated over the prior year by $27.3 billion.

With the pension plan’s funded ratio — equal to the value of plan assets divided by present pension obligations — having fallen to 68 percent, far below what actuaries call the 80 percent minimum for adequate fund, CalPERS is demanding that cities increase payments.

A recent report warned that CalPERS’ poor investment return of just 4.4 percent over the last decade could be further reduced by large and politically motivated “environment, social and governance” investment strategies. These so-called ESG strategies have drastically underperformed other pension plan returns, which explains why CalPERS is “in the midst of a plan to lower its investment return assumptions to 7% from 7.5% by July 1, 2019.”

CalPERS will pay out $21.4 billion in benefits to retirees and beneficiaries in 2017, a 5.5 percent increase from 2016 and more than double the $10.3 billion in 2007. But most of the 1.93 million retirement system members and 1.4 million health care participants who receive administration services from CalPERS are associated with local governments that are directly responsible for paying spiking benefit costs.

At the September CalPERS meeting in Sacramento, eight cities told the pension plan’s trustees that they are experiencing spiking pension funding costs. Representatives from the largest local governments in the Sacramento area claimed that pension funding costs are set to spike by 14 percent next fiscal year.

The city manager of Vallejo, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, said that the city’s police pension funding costs are expected to jump from about 50 percent to 98 percent of payroll over the next decade. Both Lodi and Oroville officials stated that they have had to cut a third of their staff over the last decade.

El Segundo mayor pro tem Drew Boyles told the CalPERS board last month that his city’s CalPERS required pension contribution will be $11 million next year, or about 16 percent of the general fund’s revenue. But the cost in five years is expected to hit $18 million, or 25 percent of general fund revenue. He blamed the increase on funding for police and fire pension costs that are set to spike from 50 percent to 80 percent of payroll.

The California legislature passed SB 703, which will allow Alameda County and its local cities to raise about $148.9 million by exceeding the 2 percent local sales and use tax rate cap. The City Council of El Segundo plans to spike the local sales tax by an additional 3/4-cent to 10.25 percent to generate $9 million to pay for spiking pension funding costs.

All the local government representatives that have been addressing CalPERS’ monthly meetings complain that even after eliminating of services, slashing infrastructure spending, and planning for layoffs, they will still be forced to raise taxes to fund pension costs.

Despite California already being the highest-taxed state in the nation, the California Tax Foundation warned in June that Sacramento politicians were proposing another $16.9 billion in “targeted taxes and fees.” If passed, much of that tsunami of new cash could end up at CalPERS to fund pension shortfalls.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

It’s Time for the California Republican Party to Fight

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

The Democratic Party and the city of San Francisco are officially dead. The acquittal of illegal alien, Jose Garcia Zarate, who shot Kate Steinle on the San Francisco pier in cold blood, has now officially killed the party of the common man and woman. A jury of her peers found him not guilty and this was a crystallizing moment to understand there is a clear choice – of life and death – between a Republican and a Democrat. Whereas Democratic San Francisco protected Mr. Zarate, the Republican Justice Department issued an arrest warrant. This isn’t about “sanctuary cities,” or stricter immigration reform, this is about protecting American citizens versus Democrats – the party of the left – who seemingly only lust for power and control reminiscent of Marx, Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin. The days of Scoop Jackson, FDR, Truman and Kennedy died in that San Francisco courtroom when the drug dealing, six-time-deported, zero-skilled, Mr. Zarate was acquitted.

It’s time for the Republican Party to stop wasting their majority in Congress and the CRP to stand up and fight, because you’ll never hear illegal immigrant advocates shed a tear for Ms. Steinle who collapsed and died in her father’s arms. Those are the Democrats who run California that decided it wasn’t a problem for her to die this way.

However, men like Republican consultant, Mike Madrid, who is now helping Antonio Villaragoisa’s gubernatorial campaign are also the problem. If he wants to cash a liberal Democrat’s checks then go become one, because he’s in the same class as McCain, Romney, et al who still believe that Democrats are just like us; but don’t have the ability or temerity to understand what ordinary people are up against anymore. We don’t have the option to opt out of the very laws that are supposedly passed on our behalf. And the Democratic supermajority in the legislature isn’t doing anything to protect staffers and female lawmakers from sexual harassment; Minority Leader Pelosi has now been accused of protecting sexual predators for decades.

Here is what Democratic policies that have run California and most major cities across America into the ground wrought on the citizenry’s backs for generations. San Francisco and other Democratic progressive cities have the “worst housing inequality in the nation,” according to Wendell Cox. Meaning, there are less homes to purchase at higher prices, which obliterates individual and family incomes while stagnating the economy of those cities. San Francisco Unified School District is becoming a real-estate investor to alleviate housing shortages by spending $44 million to develop the Francis Scott Key annex for teachers who can’t afford San Francisco homes or rental units.

Joel Fox has debunked Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez’s solution for the growing California homeless problem: taxing homeowners’ equity. Fox has detailed how taxing homes won’t solve the problem, possibly make it worse, and that Los Angeles now has the worst homeless problem in the U.S. The problem is so severe the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved in August a program to pay L.A. County homeowners up to $75,000 to house homeless people on their properties.

Natural gas is the most effective, clean, scalable, abundant and job-creating energy available. However, California is moving from this form of energy into unstable, unreliable and intermittent renewable energy, causing California to have the highest energy costs in the U.S. And California’s energy policies are killing fossil fuel investments and driving jobs out of the state according to the Frasier Institute. Moreover, AB 32, the global warming law isn’t causing emissions to dip, instead it’s the weather, but the environmental leaders in the Democratic Party, led by Tom Steyer, would never acknowledge this fact.

Our public schools – not all of them – but the majority are “unaccountable” and failing while the legislature wants higher taxes for “better schools.” No public official or school board has ever definitively defined what constitutes a “better school.” Unfortunately, the California School Dashboard revealed:

“Fifty percent of California schoolchildren can’t read at grade level, and for African American (AA) children, almost seventy percent failed to read at grade level.”

The CRP should make this the number one issue aggressively going after AA families and voters by showing the Democratic and teacher union-led California schools are failing you, your families and your children. If Democrats lose a sizable bloc of AA voters, they lose California, and eventually they lose the country.

As President Clinton’s first presidential campaign famously stated, “It’s the economy, stupid,” which propelled Clinton to the presidency. This issue still resonate, particularly when California’s economy is ranked 35th in the nation. Chris Reed writes, “California job creating incentives fall short – again,” and Dan Walters in CalMatters exposes disturbing budgetary facts facts that Mac Taylor, the Legislatures’ top advisor disclosed in November:

“Governor Brown, lawmakers and voters have made the state’s longer-term situation potentially even worse since off-budget debts, especially for pensions and health care for retired state workers have increased.”

To Brown’s credit he is now attempting to rectify the pension issue while defying his Democratic base in the process. Brown realizes cities like Los Angeles have underfunded pension liabilities totaling over $9 billion, and other California cities hold hundreds of billions in pension debt that will cut government services and raise taxes – otherwise bankruptcy is a strong possibility. Even once-thriving Ventura County is now losing jobs while government employment rises. The pension and job loss issues are where the CRP can gain crucial votes in deep blue California.

There are a myriad of other issues that Democrats are pushing that will hurt most Californians from the economic devastation the high-speed rail in the Central Valley will bring to having the highest taxes, worst roads, and over a trillion dollars needed for infrastructure improvements and construction. Additionally, California is ranked at the bottom or near bottom in business-friendly policies and the Democrats answers is to make suing President Trump, “a team sport.”

At one time Pat Brown, who built water systems, world-class highways and the best universities in the world, exemplified the Democratic Party. That isn’t the case anymore; instead a gentrified class of technology billionaires, climate enthusiasts and entertainment executives litter the Democratic Party; while Democratic-supporting unions ask for more tax payer dollars with less to show for their gains. California has real problems and if the CRP doesn’t stand up and support candidates who understand these issues and fight for them in the upcoming mid-term elections than they are doomed to irrelevancy that will spread across the U.S.

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

Jerry Brown Blames Climate Change for California Fires

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is destroyed by brush fire as Santa Ana winds help propel the flames to move quickly through the landscape on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California Governor Jerry Brown blamed climate change for the California fires that have devastated the state this fall during a visit to assess the damage in Ventura County on Saturday.

“This is the new normal,” he said, as quoted by the Orange County Register. “We’re facing a new reality where fires threaten peoples’ lives, their properties, their neighborhoods and cost billions and billions of dollars. We have to have the resources to combat the fires, and also have to invest in managing our vegetation and forests and all the ways we dwell in this very wonderful place — but a place that’s getting hotter.”

However, climate scientists are more skeptical, noting that climate change could be one of a variety of factors.

A comprehensive look at the question by Southern California Public Radio — hardly a conservative outlet — found that there was considerable debate about the factors that made this year’s fires particularly bad.

One factor was high winds, whose connection to climate change is “still up for debate.” Another factor was the state’s recent drought, which persisted in the part of Southern California where the Thomas fire — now in excess of 150,000 acres, with only 15% containment — struck. (Ironically, last winter’s heavy rains caused brush to grow rapidly, giving fires plenty of fuel to burn.)

An important factor in the fires of the past week was that people are building homes in areas that are naturally prone to wildfires, or where naturally dry conditions mean that the kinds of building materials and vegetation that people prefer to use in cities and suburbs are a fire hazard.

Brown has frequently cited climate change as the cause for natural disasters before, only to be corrected by scientists, who suggested he was guilty of “noble-cause corruption” — i.e. distorting science in service of a cause that many scientists support.

Last year, both Brown and then-President Barack Obama falsely linked wildfires across the western United States to climate change. And last month, Brown told a conference at the Vatican that the world needed “brain washing” on climate change.

Aside from the Thomas fire, firefighters have made significant progress in their struggle against some of the other fires burning across the region. The Skirball fire near the 405 Freeway, which brought traffic to a standstill in Los Angeles on Thursday, was at 75 percent containment as of Saturday afternoon, according to Southern California Public Radio. The Lilac fire, which killed several dozen horses on Thursday, was fully contained by Saturday evening, according to the Register.

“The Creek Fire was now 80% contained, and the Rye Fire was 65% contained” as of Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Officials say there have been no deaths associated with the Southern California fires.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Will Bay Area political crowd trump LA yet again?

Gavin newsomIt’s been a fait accompli that Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and current lieutenant governor, will be California’s next governor after the iconic Jerry Brown heads off into the sunset next year. Moonbeam is a hard act to follow, having served as the state’s youngest and oldest chief executive, but it’s too bad California can’t at least muster a feisty and contentious political debate before crowning another Bay Area pol as successor.

You know, where politicians actually debate issues, take varying political stances and give voters a choice rather than a coronation.

It’s hard to understand Southern California’s inability to exert much clout at the highest levels of California government. Brown is from Oakland. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the former state attorney general who got here start under the tutelage of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, already is touted as the inevitable Democratic nominee for president.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose slim accomplishments certainly are on par with those of Harris, is mostly garnering skepticism for his possible presidential run. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is from Marin County and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon is, of course, from Los Angeles, but he’s too busy dealing with an unfolding sexual-harassment scandal in his own chamber to have the time for a serious shot at her U.S. Senate seat.

De Leon and the low-key Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, have the top legislative spots, but they’ve mostly rubberstamped the governor’s priorities. No one would suggest that either man is a true power broker – or is on the fast track to the governor’s mansion or the U.S. Capitol. There’s little doubt that Southern California politicians play second fiddle to their Bay Area counterparts and don’t even put up a fuss about it.

They rarely set an agenda that’s distinct from the one set by their Bay Area betters, so perhaps that explains why a region with so many people can’t seem to keep up with the power of an area that’s far less populous. San Francisco Democrats and Los Angeles ones are both progressive – but their priorities should not be interchangeable. The demographics and economies are vastly different between the state’s two megalopolises.

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll offers some mixed news for Southlanders. For instance, Newsom’s latest lead is far lower than expected. He is favored by 23 percent of surveyed voters, with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also a Democrat, coming in a surprisingly close second at 18 percent. The other contenders, including the two lackluster Republicans (John Cox and Travis Allen), are in single digits. With the top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters face off in the general election even if they are from the same party.

In the Senate race, Feinstein is besting de Leon by a two-to-one margin, and around half of the voters surveyed had never even heard of de Leon, which is perfectly understandable given his underwhelming tenure in the Capitol. De Leon did throw a really cool $50,000 party at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2014 to celebrate his inauguration as Senate president pro tempore, but apparently the “glitz-fest,” as the Sacramento Bee called it, didn’t help any lasting name identification.

On the surface, Villaraigosa’s competitiveness in the gubernatorial race does offer hope that a Southern California politician could once again lead the state. But don’t get your hopes up. He admirably has taken on the teachers’ unions to advance school reform, but he also touched the third rail of politics, when he called for “changes” to 1978’s property-tax-limiting Proposition 13. Instituting a “split roll,” for instance, would dramatically increase the tax bill paid by commercial property owners.

This is more than a policy problem. Villaraigosa’s path to the governor’s mansion involves rallying Southern Californians, Latinos and remaining conservative and Republican-oriented voters. The latter comprise a falling 26 percent of voters, but it’s a significant enough block to create a path to victory. But attacking Prop. 13 tax protection is a nonstarter for that group.

Last November, former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez seemed to embrace a similar political strategy (Latinos, mod Dems, Southern Californians, Republicans) to take on Harris for the U.S. Senate race, but despite her more moderate positions, her Latina background and SoCal credentials, Sanchez could only muster 38 percent of the vote. Unless, Villaraigosa expands his appeal, he is likely to face a similar fate.

“It looks just like the Harris race that it’s preordained that the candidate from the Bay Area will get the position rather than a qualified Latino candidate from Southern California,” said Alan Clayton, a San Gabriel Valley-based redistricting expert. “The political class in California protects its own, and they are significantly from the Bay Area.”

For Southern Californians to have a greater voice in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Southern California Democrats have to speak with a more regional voice – one that focuses on public-sector reform, fiscal responsibility and on working-class concerns (jobs, housing, etc.) rather than the often-bizarre fixations of San Francisco liberals. Until then, expect a county that’s more populous than 40 other states to remain the lapdog to the Bay Area political establishment.

Steven Greenhut is a Sacramento-based writer. 

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Sued by Students & Parents for Failing to Teach Literacy

School educationA group of parents and students has filed what it hopes will be a landmark lawsuit against the State of California for its public schools failing to teach literacy.

Public Counsel and the prestigious Law Firm of Morrison & Foerster sued the State of California, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for their collective failure to provide every child in the state access to literacy as required under the California Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of parents of students at two Los Angeles schools and one Stockton school, alleges that it is an urgent civil rights crisis that California has the three worst-performing schools and 11 of the 26 worst-performing public school districts in the nation for the ability of students to read and write.

Based on California’s testing standards, the suit states that “under-performing schools throughout California have student bodies consistently achieving less than 10 percent, and frequently less than 5 percent, proficiency in core subjects like reading and math.” To put the crisis in perspective, only 8 children out of the 179 students tested at Los Angeles’ La Salle Elementary were found to be proficient by state standards.

A Los Angeles Unified School District report from an attendance task force found that 800,000 students, or about one out of every seven enrolled students, was “chronically absent” for at least 15 days per year and at risk of dropping out.

Lead attorney Mark Rosenbaum stated that California has 13 percent of the worst-performing U.S. school districts. He added: “Public education was intended as the ‘great equalizer’ in our democracy, enabling all children opportunity to pursue their dreams and better their circumstances. But in California it has become the ‘great unequalizer.”

Rosenbaum referred to the state’s own literacy experts’ report, which concluded in 2012 that “there is an urgent need to address the language and literacy development of California’s underserved populations…”. Despite continuing concerns over the last five years, Rosenbaum argued that the state took no meaningful corrective actions.

During the five-year period following the grim literacy report, per-student spending on California K-12 educational programs did jump by 66 percent, from $9,370 per student in 2012-2013 to $15,521 per student for the 2017-18 school year.

But that concerted effort to improve student literacy was torpedoed in late 2015 by President Barack Obama’s signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requiring school evaluations to include at least one “non-academic factor.” ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, which relied almost exclusively on regular student testing for grade-level reading and math skills.

Unable or unwilling to improve literacy test scores, the California Board of Education in September of last year voted unanimously to undermine the testing by incorporating other non-academic factors in rating schools that include graduation rates, college preparedness, and rates at which non-native speakers are learning English.

Under the new educational evaluation system adopted by the Board of Education, each California school will not receive an overall literacy rating, but rather receive year-to-year comparative results for how it performs across categories of different student groups.

The Los Angeles Times called the vote the end of a long philosophical shift away from judging schools using only their test scores, “as more people agree that numbers alone can never capture the complexity of classrooms.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

The Delusion of Eric Garcetti for President

Photo courtesy of Eric Garcetti, Flickr.

Someone may be putting something in the Los Angeles water supply. In the past months, two unlikely L.A.-based presidential contenders — Mayor Eric Garcetti and Disney Chief Robert Iger — have been floated in the media, including in the New York Times.

But before we start worrying about how an L.A.-based president might affect traffic (after all this is the big issue in Southern California), we might want to confront political reality. In both cases, the case for our local heroes’ candidacies is weak at best, and delusional at worst.

The Disney fantasies

The Iger case is, if anything easier to dismiss. Iger can sell himself, like Trump, as a business success story, and with probably far-fewer questionable business transactions. Yet Iger, trying to run as a progressive in an increasingly left-wing Democratic Party, will face numerous challenges that dwarfs those faced by Trump.

Iger, for example, will have to run against the sad record of his company’s self-serving interference in Anaheim. Disney is generally a low-wage employer, and, in Orange County, this can be seen as contributing to the enormous disparity between cost of living and low salaries. I don’t suggest that companies should be primarily social justice warriors, but when a corporate executive runs, he’s going to be subject to their scrutiny.

Other problems also abound. For example, in 2016 the firm laid off 250 of its Orlando tech employees, replacing them with H-1B visas holders from an Indian outsourcing firm, and then, insisted that some train their replacements before being laid off. Let’s just say that won’t play well if Iger had to run against populists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or even Joe Biden.

Should mayors run the world?

If Iger suffers from Mouse made illusions, Garcetti gets his from urbanist circles, who increasingly maintain that mayors should run the world. This may seem strange given that core cities account for barely a quarter of our major metropolitan population. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, most of regional growth takes place well outside the urban core. The slow growing city, which was first claimed to have reached four million people in 2008, has still not achieved that number according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Unfortunately for Garcetti, L.A. makes a hard sell as an exemplar for the economic future. Some cities like New York and San Francisco, have enjoyed robust expansions of employment in the past decade, but not Los Angeles. Overall, notes a recent survey in Wallet Hub of 150 cities in the country in terms of job prospects, ranked Los Angeles 115th well below less hyped places as Irvine, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario and even Fontana.

Garcetti’s has tried to sell L.A.’s “silicon beach” as a hot tech location but, despite the success around the now faltering Snapchat, overall STEM growth over the past decade has been slightly negative. Remarkably for a one-time tech behemoth, the county now has less STEM employment per capita than the national average. At the same time, rankings of inequality and poverty, as measured by urban theorist Richard Florida, place the L.A. area, which includes the surrounding communities, dead last among the 20 largest metros. Overall the poverty rate in both the city proper and in the riot zone is higher now than before the 1992 riots.

Has Garcetti’s density agenda paid off elsewhere? One in four Angelinos, according to a recent UCLA study, spend half their income on rent, the highest again of any major metro.

Garcetti’s backers praise pro-density policies and hail him as a crusader against sprawl. But ordinary citizens are less enthused about his policies for narrowing streets, which has not only slowed traffic but also seen an increase in accidents; congested traffic also tends to generate more greenhouse gas. Garcetti gets kudos for his transit fixation but last year Los Angeles accounted for almost one-quarter of the strong national decline in transit ridership; in the period spanning his first term, Los Angeles lost 113 million annual rides, 16.6 percent of its 2014 ridership.

Deep blue visions on the national stage.

Of course, Mayor Garcetti is not to blame for all L.A.’s troubles, which have been festering for decades. His culpability lies with doubling down on failed policies. If someone is running for the highest office in the land, it’s nice to have something to brag about other than speculative high rises in the inner core and the arrival of two football teams, both scheduled to play in Inglewood.

The good news may be neither of these people are going anywhere. Both Garcetti and Iger seem unlikely to outdo California’s favorite daughter, Sen. Kamala Harris, in the early primaries. She may have little to show for her time in office — except for a genius for grandstanding — but her multi-cultural allure, to coin a phrase, trumps that of white male heterosexuals in today’s identity crazed Democratic Party.

Basically, my old New Yorker’s advice to both these guys is: “fuggedaboutit.” America may be nutty enough to nominate a Californian, but it won’t be either of you.

Originally published in the Orange County Register.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

Nepotism scandal embroils recently gutted state tax board

Tax formSACRAMENTO – The California Board of Equalization was stripped of most of its powers over the summer, after a series of audits and news reports exposed myriad spending, accounting and management problems. But the renamed, and greatly diminished, tax agency continues to be the source of state audits and troubling scandal.

The latest comes in a special investigation report published last week by the State Personnel Board, an agency charged with enforcing California’s civil-service-related statutes. The report, prompted by anonymous complaints about the BOE’s hiring practices, found that the agency “has a large number of employees who have personal relationships with other BOE employees and work in the same department or division.”

The findings could lead to the dismissal of three state employees. It also poses deep challenges for the agency and its successors. Approximately 90 percent of the BOE’s 4,767 employees will continue doing their existing jobs under the auspices of a new Department of Tax and Fee Administration, which handles tax collections, and a new Office of Administrative Hearings, which will adjudicate tax disputes between businesses and the state.

The State Personnel Board’s survey found that 835 of these employees – comprising 17.5 percent of the former BOE’s work force – have “personal relationships” with other staff members. The board defined such relationships as “associations with individuals by blood, adoption, marriage, registered domestic partnerships or cohabitation.” The survey, the personnel board cautioned, did not capture the entire workforce, so that percentage could be higher or lower.

The numbers don’t tell the entire story, however. The report detailed several specific examples that were investigated as part of the audit, and which provide details about how such questionable hiring takes place.

In one investigated case, auditors looked at allegations that a tax consultant expert in BOE member George Runner’s office “used his position of influence to encourage the hiring of his son.” The son later voluntarily resigned the position. The report argued that “employees acted in bad faith by not intending to observe the spirit and intent of civil service laws” because the hire apparently “was the result of preselection.”

In another investigated case, the personnel audit found that the daughter of an assemblyman was allowed to submit an application for a public-information officer position even though her application was submitted after the deadline had passed. It stated that Board of Equalization Member Jerome Horton and his chief of staff had pushed for the daughter’s hiring even though “she received the lowest rating for the interview by both interview panel members.”

The Sacramento Bee identified the assemblyman as Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove. The audit argued that the appointment was not made in good faith and called for “corrective action.” Horton told the newspaper that he was simply trying to assure that the assemblyman’s daughter was treated fairly – and didn’t learn of the hire until after the fact.

In a third case, the audit argued that the “voluntary demotion of an employee” from an information-officer position in the Sacramento office to an office technician in the New York office was improper. The report states that “the evidence overwhelmingly supports a finding” that the person’s transfer “violated civil service merit principles and the law.” That case involved BOE Member Diane Harkey and her office. The report called for the employee’s dismissal.

In yet another instance, the report found that a job applicant, whose spouse also worked for BOE, was hired for a position even though he had “not waited the requisite six months between exams.” The audit called for his appointment to be voided.

The report pointed to the significance of these specific incidents. Officials “observed that the culture of BOE was one in which board members and their staff and executives were perceived as having significant influence and power over civil service personal matters” and that “favoritism or perceived favoritism toward employees having personal relationships with other employees had a dispiriting and stressful impact on overall employee morale.”

The State Personnel Board report also found that the BOE engaged in a hiring rush right before the governor’s pension-reform law went into effect, as the Bee explained. The “findings identified deficiencies in 23 of the 27 recruitment packages reviewed” and deemed those 23 appointments to be “unlawful” for a variety of reasons, according to the report.

The new California Department of Tax and Fee Administration prohibits nepotism, which it describes as “favoritism by those with power or influence to appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for relatives or persons with whom they have personal relationship.” It states that this situation “is antithetical to merit-based personnel system.”

The rules are clear. And the report offers several specific correctives. The big question now is how the state will handle the broader matter – that such a large number of employees in its tax bureaus have “personal relationships” with other employees.

In his November 13 letter to the State Personnel Board, the tax agency’s director Nick Maduros largely concurred with the report’s findings, but said the agency is working on developing a “more complete and accurate picture of the extent of employee personal relationships moving forward.” He will work with the state human resources agency, CalHR, “to develop a corrective action plan” for relationships that run afoul of the new anti-nepotism policy.

In the meantime, the personnel board’s executive officer, Suzanne Ambrose, told the Bee that she expects more anonymous tips from other state agencies. This could be just the tip of a broad state-governmental scandal that goes much deeper than the dealings of a now-gutted tax agency.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com