Will Bringing Back Redevelopment Create Additional Affordable Housing?

A bill that would revive redevelopment as a tool for local governments passed the state Legislature in the final days of the summer session on party-line votes.

Now the question is whether a so-far noncommittal Gov. Gavin Newsom will accept the claims that Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, has enough safeguards to prevent redevelopment from going as astray as the version that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature killed in 2011.

That version allowed local redevelopment agencies to divert a slice of property taxes to use on projects meant to spur the economies of “blighted” neighborhoods. If the projects boosted property tax revenue, the additional increment would go to the agencies for new projects. In 2010, some 400 redevelopment agencies diverted 12 percent of all California property taxes for their use.

‘Scams providing windfalls to cronies’

But by 2011, many investigations had found that redevelopment funds were routinely diverted to pay for City Hall salaries and that many of the projects that did get funding were those pitched by politically connected developers. Then-state Controller John Chiang said many redevelopment projects were “scams providing windfalls to political cronies.”

Many healthy businesses with prime locations had been declared “blighted” so cities could use eminent domain to seize them and hand them over to car dealerships or big-box stores which would generate the sales taxes that are a key source of revenue for city coffers.

And on top of these issues, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said there was “no reliable evidence” that redevelopment helped the economy. Instead, it attracted businesses that would have opened elsewhere without subsidies offered by local government – shuffling economic activity around, not spurring it.

New version would emphasize housing

In interviews and committee meetings, Beall has argued that a much-more focused version of redevelopment that gives at least half of diverted funds to subsidized low-income housing – up from the previous 20 percent – can help California with its housing shortage. The new program would also fund transit-oriented projects and play its old role of helping poor neighborhoods boost their economies. 

To prevent past problems with cronyism, a state oversight group would have to certify projects met basic standards before funding could be diverted.

The bill would initially allow $200 million in property taxes to be diverted annually with a phased-in upper limit of $2 billion a year. About $5 billion a year was being diverted when redevelopment was shelved by the state in 2011.

While running for governor in 2018, Newsom was supportive of reviving some form of redevelopment. But he included no funds for a new program in his initial state budget and has told reporters that his budget already includes record funding for affordable housing.

Meanwhile, while it didn’t get as many headlines as some other problems did, redevelopment’s record with creating affordable housing in California was also poor to mixed.

Old version often generated no new units

In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that, “At least 120 municipalities – nearly one in three with active redevelopment agencies – spent a combined $700 million in housing funds from 2000 to 2008 without constructing a single new unit … .  Nor did most of them add to the housing stock by rehabilitating existing units.”

Where did the money go? The Times cited many examples of redevelopment agencies buying property that was never subsequently developed.

It also found that “nearly three dozen cities, including Monterey Park and Pismo Beach, reported spending most of their affordable housing money over the decade on ‘planning and administration’ – but never built a single unit.”

Beall’s bill passed the Senate 29-9 and the Assembly 55-19.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Donald Trump Proposes Federal Homeless Task Force for Los Angeles, San Francisco

President Donald Trump promised to address the homelessness issue in major California cities, as he traveled to the state for a series of political fundraisers.

He suggested the creation of an “individual task force” that would address the problem.

“The people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up,” Trump said. “And we’re looking at it, and we’ll be doing something about it.”

The president spoke to reporters on Air Force One on the trip to California and confirmed that he would speak to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about the problem.

“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco, and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” Trump said.

He said that he spoke to foreign business investors in California who were so frustrated with the homelessness problem that they were ready to leave. He also expressed concerns about the spreading diseases in tent cities. A recent outbreak of Typhus in Los Angeles has also raised the alarm among residents.

“Our policeman that are on the beat are getting sick. They’re actually sick,” Trump said. “They’re going to the hospital. We can’t let that happen.”

Reports last week noted that the president was looking at a number of options to deal with the problem, including possibly invoking the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to declare an emergency or moving the homeless in Los Angeles to a FAA facility.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Assembly Bill 1451 is an Attack on Direct Democracy

The tools of direct democracy — initiative, referendum and recall — are a powerful check against intransigent or corrupt politicians. These powers are enshrined in the California Constitution for reasons that are just as compelling in 2019 as they were in 1911. That’s when Governor Hiram Johnson, seeking to constrain the absolute control the railroads had over the state Capitol, pushed to give ordinary citizens a “legislative battering ram” — using the language of the Supreme Court — to address issues that for whatever reason the legislature refuses to address.

Political elites abhor direct democracy. From their perspective it allows the great unwashed and unsophisticated to deal with matters such as taxation, victims’ rights, insurance and most importantly political reform. These are issues over which politicians strongly desire to exercise a legislative monopoly. The latest assault on Californians’ rights to initiative and referendum is Assembly Bill 1451, introduced by Asm. Evan Low, D-Campbell, which has already cleared both houses of the California Legislature. Gov. Newsom should veto it.

AB1451 erects roadblocks to initiative qualification by requiring that at least 10 percent of the petition signatures come from unpaid sources and also by banning paid signature gathering on a per-signature basis. While backers claim that this will reduce fraud, this justification doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

According to the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Investigation Unit, between 1994 and 2010, the EFIU opened 240 cases for falsifying petitions, of which 46 were sent to district attorneys for prosecution, resulting in less than 35 convictions. During that same timeframe, over 100 initiatives were placed on the ballot requiring tens of millions of signatures.

Supporters also argue that eliminating paid-per-signature gathering and moving to compensation based on an hourly rate will help decrease money in politics. The opposite is true. By removing the financial incentive to collect signatures in the most efficient manner possible, the initiative process will further be skewed to special interests. …

To read the entire column, please click here.

California’s New Rent Control Law Will Set Back Housing Construction and Affordability

Less than a year after California voters rejected rent control in a statewide ballot proposition, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation imposing it. For rental units 15 years or older, rent increases will be limited to 5 percent annually. The negative consequences of the new law are extensive. Older buildings, likely to require the most maintenance, will fail to recover costs—leading to “shabbification.” New construction, desperately needed in a state with an estimated housing shortage of millions of units, will also dwindle. Developers confront a future with limited returns on investment. And, as always with rent control, incumbent renters—assured cheap housing, regardless of their income—will benefit, while newcomers see only “no vacancy” signs.

How to explain such a policy? Legislators, no doubt, hear complaints from tenants struggling with rising rents, but California’s ill-advised action has deeper causes. The state has failed to convince, or coerce, local governments to permit the construction of new, relatively low-cost housing—or much housing at all. The Yimby (Yes in My Backyard) movement, led by State Senator Scott Wiener, sought to provide financial incentives for municipalities to permit new building along transit lines and commercial corridors. But municipalities have shown limited interest in “up-zoning” to permit housing other than single-family homes. Mostly zoned for one-family properties, places like San Jose have some of the nation’s highest housing prices.  

Persuading localities to change—or at least to relax so-called exactions, or required public improvements imposed on new developments—remains challenging. Homeowners benefit mightily from the status quo, as prices for one-time starter homes shoot over $1 million—and Proposition 13, a tax cap that ensures home values rise as property taxes remain stagnant, insulates them from dynamics that, in most parts of the country, compel empty-nesters to consider moving out. The roots of NIMBY-ism are bipartisan: environmentalists impose rules and costs, while older homeowners shield themselves from market forces and shift local costs to the state, through income and sales taxes. Rent control is a conspiracy of entitled incumbents. Now count entitled tenants among them.

Change should begin with an effort to persuade locals that some construction is crucial, especially to retain longtime residents and recruit employers. Encouragingly, some localities have started permitting construction of “accessory-dwelling units”—so-called granny flats—that let incumbent homeowners move out and sell their home but live on the same site. What won’t break the logjam is a push to site subsidized “affordable” housing in affluent communities. Socioeconomic sorting is a fact of life, and the middle class reacts badly to having the poor as neighbors. From their perspective, townhouses, two-family homes, and other rungs on the housing ladder are far preferable.

Meantime, shambolic housing policies such as California’s latest version of rent control will only make everything harder. It will likely take a crisis—perhaps an exodus of businesses and residents—to force change. 

Howard Husock, a City Journal contributing editor, is the author of the new book, Who Killed Civil Society: The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

California Government Ignores the Will of the People

To borrow a term from the legal world, prima facie evidence indicates the governor and legislature have little regard for what the voters think and choose to go their own way. It can be seen with the governor’s moratorium on the death penalty and the legislature’s decision on rent control.

Governor Newsom’s position on the death penalty is well known. He worked on a 2012 initiative to end the death penalty, made clear his goal was to end the death penalty in California, and soon after being sworn in as governor, Newsom signed an executive order to prohibit carrying out death sentences while he is in office.

Yet, voters expressed a different view.

In the 2016, voters approved Proposition 66 to speed-up the death penalty process while rejecting Proposition 62 to abolish the death penalty. Voters also shot down a death penalty abolition initiative in 2016.

But, the governor said we’ll do it his way.

This week, the California Supreme Court said death penalty cases could move forward despite Newsom’s order on the death penalty. The justices were following the law.

Similarly, voters had a chance to offer their verdict on rent control by voting on Proposition 10 in 2018, a rent control measure put on the ballot by initiative.  Thumbs down on that ballot measure, too, with a nearly 60% no vote.

Along comes the legislature less than two years later to pass AB 1482 that would establish a statewide (albeit temporary) rent control in California. 

You think elected officials would give deference to the voters on policy issues which voters took time to study and vote upon. If officials feel that their arguments on the death penalty and rent control are stronger today than when the voters spoke, they should go back to the ballot with a new request. Until then, the voters’ wishes must be upheld.

There’s even an example of dodging the public will at the local level that I touched on yesterday when it came to the legislature passing a bill to allow local governments to establish public banks.

Los Angeles voters turned down a measure placed on the ballot by the city council on the 2018 ballot to establish a city bank. Along came a state bill to allow local governments to get involved in banking and Los Angeles officials officially added their support for the bill. While voters of the city said no to such a proposal, not long after, city officials jumped at an opportunity to go around the voters.

When government authorities ignore voters’ clearly stated positions, the foundation of the state’s democracy is weakened and respect for governments on the state and local levels is lost.

Joel Fox is editor and co-publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily, where this article was originally published.

The Enemies of American Infrastructure

Between 2008 and 2019, China opened up 33 high speed rail routes, connecting 39 major cities along four north-south and four east-west main lines. The 18,000 mile network runs trains at an average speed of around 200 miles per hour. By 2030, the Chinese expect to double the mileage of their high speed rail network by expanding to eight north-south and eight east-west main lines. In less than 20 years, the Chinese have completely transformed their rail transportation network.

This is typical for the Chinese. China is also building three new airports – offshoreDalian, along the north coast opposite the Korean peninsula, Xiang’an, on the central coast facing Taiwan, and Sanya, off the coast of Hainan Island in the strategic South China Sea. All three airports are to be built to the highest international levels, with 12,000 foot runways able to accommodate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. All three are built on “reclaimed land,” i.e., the Chinese intend to bulldoze a few mountains into the ocean and flatten them into runways. And all three, from start to finish, will be built in under ten years.

China’s ability to construct big infrastructure, fast, is beyond debate. The Three Gorges Project, the largest dam in the world, created a deep water reservoir an astonishing 1,400 miles long. Its hydroelectric capacity of 22.5 gigawatts is the largest in the world. This massive construction project was done, from start to finish, in 12 years.

While China Builds, America Litigates

To argue that Americans don’t need high speed rail, or massive new airports on ocean landfill, or yet another massive hydroelectric dam, is beside the point. Americans can’t do any big projects. A perfect example is the Keystone Pipeline, which if it’s ever completed, will be capable of transporting 830,000 barrels of oil per day south from the tar sands of Alberta to existing pipelines in Nebraska. This pipeline has been tied up in permitting delays and litigation since 2008. Eleven years later, not one mile of pipeline has been built.

Even with aggressive support from the Trump administration, will Keystone ever get built? Not if an army of environmentalist plaintiff attorneys have their way. According to a recent report by PBS, as soon as a judge dismissed the most recent lawsuit against Keystone, another lawsuit was filed. Another construction season has been lost, another year of delay. Quoting from the article: “Representatives of a half-dozen other environmental groups vowed to keep fighting in court and predicted the pipeline will never be built.”

While Americans are divided over whether they support construction of the Keystone Pipeline, everyone supported quickly constructing towers to replace the World Trade Center towers lost in the attacks of 9/11/2001. One may assume that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, designs, bids and permitting were fast-tracked, yet it took over five years before construction began. Freedom Tower, the dazzling replacement to the twin towers, didn’t open until 2014, over 13 years after the 9/11 tragedy.

By contrast, the Empire State Building was built in 14 months. And while Freedom Tower is undoubtedly constructed to higher modern standards, that should be offset by equally more advanced construction practices. A more current example would be the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This mega-structure, more than twice the height of Freedom Tower, was built in just under six years.

America’s inability to build anything big has almost nothing to do with the quality of American engineering, or capabilities of America’s construction industry. Blame lies exclusively with American politicians, judges, government bureaucrats, and plaintiff attorneys. Nobody wants to throw away all environmental protections, but the process now in place of permit delays and litigation has paralyzed the nation. It has become extreme. Americans are wearing out infrastructure that was built decades ago. Thanks to permit delays and litigation, the costs of replacements and upgrades are prohibitive.

President Trump, who made his billions in the construction business, has done as much as he possibly can to cut regulations on builders, but without support from Congress or the courts, change is incremental. In late 2017, when announcing regulations he was eliminating, Trump stood in front of two piles of paper. One set of stacks, barely reaching his knees, represented the federal regulations in place in 1960. The other set of stacks, over seven feet in height, represented the totality of federal regulations in effect today. These regulations, upheld and expanded by courts and bureaucrats, serving as fodder for their delays and extortionate demands, are the reason America can no longer build anything big.

Unaffordable Homes? Thank Permitting Delays and Endless Litigation

Even housing starts are tied up in knots thanks to federal regulations, although differing regulatory environments in various states make a big difference. In California – which will be America if Democrats regain the White House in 2020 – it is nearly impossible to build homes.

A particularly egregious example of what California has in store for the rest of America is the proposed Tejon Ranch housing project that has been embroiled in permitting delays and lawsuits for over 25 years. This massive project, a planned community of over 19,000 badly needed new homes, would straddle Interstate 5 in the northwest corner of Los Angeles County. The developers have committed to set aside ninety percent of the land as a nature preserve, after which the NRDC, the Sierra Club, and the Nature Conservancy all withdrew their objections. But it only takes one: The “Center for Biological Diversity” has filed yet another lawsuit, and another year is lost.

Americans could build so much more, for less money, and in far less time, if balance were restored to the process of approving construction projects. The cost of permitting delays and litigation can literally double or triple the costs of construction, or worse. California’s Carlsbad desalination plant was constructed at a capital cost of $17,000 per acre foot of annual capacity; modern desalination plants in Israel (that require less electricity) are being constructed at a capital cost of just over $4,000 per acre foot of annual capacity, less than one fourth as much.

Everywhere on earth, nations are building big infrastructure and providing affordable housing for a fraction of what it costs in America.

If these environmentalists, bureaucrats, and plaintiff attorneys actually believe in saving a planet and a people desperately threatened by “climate change,” they’re being awfully impractical. How can Americans possibly build seawalls to protect them from the storm surges of a rising sea, or desalinate seawater to take pressure off the drought stricken rivers, if projects take decades instead of years, and cost many times what they might cost in other nations?

How, for that matter, since the environmentalists and the open-borders crowd are birds of a feather, can America add hundreds of millions to its population through a massive wave of immigration that hasn’t abated in over 30 years, yet make it nearly impossible to build homes or enabling infrastructure?

Competitive Abundance vs Rationed Scarcity

The prospects for abundance instead of rationed scarcity are good, if Congress and the courts were to support the president and enact meaningful reforms to a host of environmental regulations that have gone way too far. Nuclear power, clean fossil fuel, desalination plants, upgraded roads with high-speed “smart lanes,” high-rise agriculture, flying cars and spaceports. Entire new cities with millions of beautiful homes on spacious lots – none of this is out of reach. But it requires the kind of freedom that developers enjoyed in the 1960s, tempered to modern sensibilities, but with balance.

The consequences of not reforming America’s stultifying regulatory climate go beyond denying the American people a life of affordable abundance, delivered by competitive development of land, energy, and water resources. They spell the end of American preeminence, because while Americans spend trillions to pay unionized government bureaucrats and environmentalist attorneys, the Chinese are spending equivalent trillions on cost-effective infrastructure, with plenty left over to develop hypersonic missilesbrilliant pebblesparticle beams, etc.

Joel Kotkin, editor of NewGeography.com and perhaps California’s smartest Democrat, just published a column entitled “Will the Democrats End Up Saving California’s Republican Party.” He argues that “their [the Democrats] flawed, draconian positions on what to do about climate change have made things worse for ordinary Californians by raising housing and energy prices as well as chasing employers out of the state, but with only mediocre results.” In his conclusion, he explains what’s needed – in California and in the rest of America: “You need a positive program centered on reining in pensions, reform of schools, better attention to roads, promoting new houses in redundant commercial areas as well as the periphery and cuts in the cost of energy. Focus on these issues would expose Democrats as creatures of special interest — teachers unions, public employee groups, the renewable energy lobbies — whose power hurts middle-class homeowners, a group which has been drifting away from them for a generation.”

Kotkin’s analysis is accurate. “Public employee groups” and “the renewable energy lobbies” are special interests. If not one and the same, they are allied with the government bureaucrats and environmentalist attorneys who amass power and money every time they stop or delay another infrastructure project or housing development. They are sapping American wealth, oppressing the American people, and empowering hostile regimes around the world.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Bill Would Expand Medi-Cal to Undocumented Immigrants

Democratic legislators are advancing a bill that aims to provide free health care to low-income undocumented seniors — an idea that they floated earlier this year, but which failed to make it into the state budget because of concerns over its cost.

The bill, authored by Los Angeles Democrat Maria Elena Durazo, would expand Medi-Cal—the state’s version of federal Medicaid  for low-income residents — to undocumented immigrants age 65 and older starting next July. That would inch the state closer to providing health care to all immigrants in the state illegally.

It faces a floor vote in the Assembly and then, if it passes, would return to the Senate for a final vote before landing on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Legislators are in a mad scramble this week to wrap up all bills by the Friday deadline…

If California were to expand Medi-Cal to cover undocumented seniors, it would make it even harder for those on the program to find a doctor and get care, said Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, a free market think tank based in the Bay Area. In addition, she predicted that any expansion would lead the state to raise taxes to cover the cost, all while boosting the incentive for people to migrate illegally.

Pipes sees this as an incremental work-around in response to failed Democratic attempts to get state coverage for all undocumented immigrants. A bill to expand coverage to all undocumented immigrants stalled earlier this year.

“It’s not fair to those who are taxpayers and those who are middle- and lower-income and have a lot of stress in paying for healthcare. Why would they need to pay more to subsidize these people?” Pipes said. “They (legislators) didn’t get the $3.4 billion to cover all of them. So this is a stepping stone in getting there.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

California Senate Passes Gig Employment Bill That Threaten Uber, Lyft

California lawmakers passed a watershed gig employment bill early Wednesday morning, paving the way to dramatically change the way companies like Uber and Lyft do business.

The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), would require gig economy workers to be treated as employees rather than contractors.

The bill received a 29 to 11 vote in the California State Senate and now moves to the State Assembly, where it is expected to easily pass.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who also needs to sign off on the bill, has publicly voiced his support for the legislation. “I am proud to be supporting Assembly Bill 5, which extends critical labor protections to more workers by curbing misclassification,” Newsom wrote in a recent Sacramento Bee editorial.

AB5 has the potential to upend numerous Silicon Valley companies that depend primarily on independent contractors.

Companies as diverse as ridesharing services Uber and Lyft, as well as food delivery services like DoorDash, would have to re-classify many of their drivers as employees, potentially adding significant costs such as benefits.

Those costs could be passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices.

The bill is also seen as an important step for labor activists who hope to unionize drivers.

“AB 5 is only the beginning,” Edan Alva, a driver with Gig Workers Rising, told USA Today. “I talk daily to other drivers who want a change but they are scared. They don’t want to lose their only source of income. But just because someone really needs to work does not mean that their rights as a worker should be stepped all over. That is why a union is critical. It simply won’t work without it.”

Despite the bill’s passage, shares of Uber and Lyft rose in intraday trading Wednesday.

Gov. Newsom told the Wall Street Journal that he’s still in discussion with Uber, Lyft and other affected companies about potential negotiations on the bill.

Uber and Lyft had pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars to fight the legislation. In August Uber proposed a minimum wage for drivers, a move seen as an attempt to combat the California bill.

Follow David Ng on Twitter @HeyItsDavidNg. Have a tip? Contact me at dng@breitbart.com

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

New California Law Bans School Suspensions for Defiance

Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 419 into law, which extends the current K-3 ban for suspensions for “defiant and disruptive” behavior to grades 4-8. The law suggests that “restorative justice practices, trauma-informed practices, social and emotional learning, and schoolwide positive behavior interventions and support, may be used to help pupils gain critical social and emotional skills” as a way to right the wayward student. At least the Kumbaya statute doesn’t pertain to violence, robbery and other more serious offenses … yet.

Wrongness abounds here. First, the law excuses anti-social behavior with a kiss on the wrist. Defying your teacher with no real consequence will simply lead to more-of-same, with new disruptors encouraged to join the “Let’s give Mr. Chips the finger” club. And good kids will suffer as the disruptive ones eat up valuable class time with their antics.

The impetus behind the bill appears to be race-based. While black students made up 5.6 percent of the total enrollment in California for academic year 2017-18, they accounted for 15.6 percent of total suspensions for willful defiance, according to the state education department. Of course, it goes unmentioned that black kids actually commit a disproportionate amount of the suspense-worthy offenses. Black teachers get this. A recent Fordham Institute teacher survey, showed that they, more than white teachers, feel suspensions aren’t used enough.

But school discipline, you see, like so much in education, is subject to big government meddling, emotion and social justice fads, and all too often the extremists get their way. After the Columbine murders in 1999, “zero-tolerance” policies became the new national trend-du-jour. This overreactive lurch led to outrageous consequences – like a 7-year-old Maryland boy being suspended in 2013 for chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and saying, “Bang, bang.”

Then, making a U-turn, President Obama and his Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” on school discipline in 2014. The missive asserted that there was a racial component to school suspensions because blacks were far more likely to be suspended than other ethnic groups. The suggestion here, of course, is that white teachers and administrators, most of whom are white, tend to be racist. But the racial bean counters never get around to explaining why, according to one study, the racial disparity exists even in schools where black principals and staff predominate. Another study of suspension rates showed that having all-black rather than all-white teachers reduced the risk of being suspended by a mere two percentage points.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley notes, the Obama administration sent school districts “guidance” letters that threatened federal action if black suspension rates weren’t reduced. “The letter stated that even if a school’s suspension policy ‘is neutral on its face—meaning that the policy itself does not mention race—and is administrated in an evenhanded manner,’ the district could still face a federal civil-rights investigation if the policy ‘has a disparate impact, i.e., a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.’”

Broward County, Florida’s school system led the nation in promoting and implementing this big-government policy shift, serving as the exemplarfor Obama’s guidance. Broward’s efforts to end the “schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline” by reducing in-school arrests for drugs, assault, and weapons charges were celebrated by social-justice and criminal-reform advocates around the country. But as Manhattan Institute fellow Max Eden writes, it was precisely this preference for social justice over safety that allowed Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, to avoid arrest in Broward County, “despite years of criminal behavior on school grounds, and countless red flags regarding his unstable and psychopathic personality.”

So what should we do? First, as one who has seen many students suspended during my stint in middle school, I can tell you that in most cases the action is useless. After a suspension, I always asked the offending students how they spent their time when they were out of school. By far, the most prevalent response was a shrug, accompanied by, “Watched TV.” Hardly cruel and unusual punishment. A better solution would be to ditch suspensions and, instead, if kid breaks the school’s rules, make him come to school early or stay late, or possibly expose him to some lectures on Saturday morning. Perhaps then, flipping off the English teacher may lose some of its joyous luster. And importantly, any criminal student behavior should involve law enforcement.

But more than anything, the way forward must be local. Very local. Let each school – administration, teachers and parents – figure out how to handle behavior problems. A school district could help by setting down some loose guidelines. But the state and most definitely the feds need to stay far out of it. A dust up between a teen and a teacher in Idaho should not have to be subject to the whims of social justice warriors and government bureaucrats three time zones away.

 *   *   *

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network– a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center.

State Housing Crisis Worsening Despite New Laws

For the third straight year, the state Legislature has approved major legislation meant to accelerate housing construction in California to help stabilize or reduce the cost of shelter. But will the latest – Senate Bill 330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 – fare any better than past legislation in improving the housing picture in the Golden State?

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, is optimistic, saying in a news release that its enactment would help create the housing California “desperately needs.” Her bill is meant to force local governments to speed up the processing of building permits and limit fees on housing. It also forbids cities and counties from reducing how many homes can be built. SB330 easily won final legislative approval last week.

But there was similar optimism about past measures. Most notably, Gov. Gavin Newsom has used new powers to aggressively target local governments which don’t build enough housing, especially units with rents or mortgages within reach of families with average incomes or less.

Multifamily permits off 42% from 2018

Yet while this has produced headlines with the Newsom administration’s January lawsuit against Huntington Beach over its refusal to add more affordable units and with threats against other cities, it doesn’t appear to be boosting housing construction in any notable way.

State data shows residential building permits dropped by 12 percent in the first five months of 2019 compared with the same span in 2018. And the statistics were far grimmer for less expensive multifamily housing units, which plunged 42 percent.

Builders and housing experts who contributed to a recent Sacramento Bee print symposium on the news of declining residential construction were not optimistic. Two fundamental problems – one much noted, one less appreciated – are not going away, they said.

Tia Boatman Patterson, Newsom’s top housing adviser, said there continue to be bottlenecks at the local level in getting housing through bureaucratic hoops.

Sometimes there’s what appears to be defiance. The New York Times recently reported that California cities “with some of the state’s highest rents, including Atherton, La Canada Flintridge, Los Altos Hills and Rancho Palos Verdes, issued no multifamily construction permits from 2013 to 2017.”

Cash-strapped cities increasing fees

But some participants in the Bee project said the problem isn’t just getting local governments to live up to their obligations and to stop dragging their feet in granting permits and approvals. Many cities and counties are so fiscally stretched because of the rising costs of pensions and other expenses that they’re increasingly adopting new or higher fees on housing projects – even as developers beg for relief.

Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, even said these fees were on their way to being a bigger obstacle that the California Environmental Quality Act.

But there was also some pushback at the notion that NIMBYs were the biggest problem. Instead, some argued that it’s the fact that between the high cost of land and regulations that can add $200,000 to the cost of a single-family home, building housing in California is riskier and less appealing for developers than most other states. This decades-old problem may have been overshadowed by other housing issues of late, but it’s a consensus view of builders that has never gone away.

The executive director of the League of California Cities, Carolyn Coleman, noted in her contribution to the Bee that more than 450,000 homes had received final approval from local authorities but the vast majority weren’t being built.

The takeaway: Even when local bureaucratic obstacles are overcome, adding housing in California is a difficult proposition.

Newsom has not taken a position on SB330, but his signature is considered likely. It passed the Assembly 67-8 and the Senate 30-4.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com