State Senator Accuses Caltrans Of Being Too Car-Centric

Gov. Gavin Newsom may have to step in to resolve a dispute between a state agency and a high-profile lawmaker over “Complete Streets” – a core concept of modern “smart growth” planners that holds streets should provide safe access and use not just to vehicles but to pedestrians and those using other types of transportation.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, says Caltrans is trying to sandbag his “Complete Streets” measure, Senate Bill 127. While it doesn’t impose any formal requirements on Caltrans, the bill does require the agency to study adding improvements that accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and transit when fixing an existing road or building a new one.

The bill has passed the state Senate, the Assembly Transportation Committee and, last week, the Assembly Appropriations Committee on largely party-line votes. It seems likely to reach Newsom’s desk after the full Assembly approves it within the next two weeks.

Caltrans sees proposed rule as very costly

But Wiener was unhappy enough with a Caltrans communication on the expected cost of his measure that he depicted the agency as underhanded in a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Caltrans said compliance costs would be so high – $4.5 million per mile of blacktop and more than $1 billion a year – that it would be unable to meet its road improvement obligations that are part of the 2017 law increasing the state’s gasoline tax. The agency also said Wiener’s measure would make it impossible to satisfy the conditions of grants from the Federal Highway Administration.

Wiener wrote two weeks ago to David Kim – secretary of California State Transportation Agency, which oversees Caltrans – that this cost estimate was so “severely inflated” that it “undermines the agency’s credibility.” He said evidence from local governments suggested that SB127’s costs would be from $20,000 to $600,000 per mile, depending on the nature of the project.

Wiener also told the Chronicle that Caltrans appears to think it would be obligated to put up bike lanes on all its projects when in fact the main priority is the “little towns all over California where their main street is a state highway. … That’s where businesses are. That’s where people are walking around. That’s where the school is. Some of them don’t have crosswalks.”

Caltrans an early fan of ‘Complete Streets’

But Caltrans’ history undercuts Wiener’s claim that its high estimates are being driven by outdated views that see roads as being for cars and cars only. Caltrans was one of the first state transportation agencies to embrace “Complete Streets” in 2008. In a 2015 interview with Governing magazine, Malcolm Dougherty – then Caltrans director – touted the agency’s commitment to the concept.

And in 2017, Dougherty used a Caltrans news release to tout the exact sort of “Complete Streets” project – on State Route 62 in Joshua Tree – that Wiener called his priority.

The news release quoted Dougherty as saying the project “used funds from a current construction project to restripe the downtown section of Joshua Tree with bike lanes and diagonal parking in order to more safely move vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists through the downtown business district … [providing] meaningful improvements that create streets which move all users safely and efficiently along and across the roadway.”

Dougherty resigned his Caltrans post last year. His replacement, Caltrans engineer Laurie Berman, is a strong proponent of “Complete Streets” as well. She told a Streetsblog writer in November that while she had worked at Caltrans, her agency had “gone from being heavily criticized for not knowing anything about ‘Complete Streets’ to establishing a Center of Excellence, and providing tools that we can all use, statewide, to move forward together and build facilities that are useful to everyone.”

Berman reports to Kim.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

The Real Reason Behind the Drive to Unionize Charter Schools

Want to know another reason California’s teachers unions are desperate to unionize charter schools? They want the leverage to force these schools to participate in CalSTRS, because CalSTRS charges all its participants the same pension contribution rates.

This is a truly amazing, grotesquely unfair, astonishing scam. It means that new schools have to pay for the every financial mistake that CalSTRS ever made, and they’ve made plenty. CalSTRS is only 64 percent funded. CalSTRS is $107 billion in debt – that’s $238,000 per active member. Better get more active members!

Even CalPERS, the largest public employee pension system in the U.S., and one that has engaged in its own share of accounting gimmicks, doesn’t make its financially responsible participants pay for the negligence of its financially irresponsible participants. Every agency that relies on CalPERS has its funded ratio individually calculated. If a local governing board managed to negotiate financially sustainable benefits, or increased their contributions, or otherwise managed to do something right, they have a higher funded ratio, a lower liability, and make lower payments.

Not so with CalSTRS.

A grim gallop through the latest financial reports for CalSTRS will vividly illustrate just how royally CalSTRS will abuse any newcomer to their system, and you don’t have to look very far. Page two of the report for 6/30/2018 has a table displaying the 38.7 percent contribution rate – expressed as a percentage of pension eligible payroll – that participants pay. Employers pay 18.13 percent, the state kicks in another 10.33 percent, and the members – through payroll withholding – pay 10.25 percent.

Altogether, taxpayers – that is, the local employer plus the state – pay 28.5 percent of payroll to fund CalSTRS. That’s a lot, and the reason it’s so much is because CalSTRS has to collect extra to pay down that $107 billion unfunded liability. How much of the contribution is for that?

Good question. On page 4 that question is answered in the section entitled “Normal Cost Rate for CalSTRS 2% at 62 Members.” The relevant passage reads: “As of June 30, 2018, the Normal Cost Rate for the CalSTRS 2% at 62 members is 17.863%. We recommend the board adopt this rate.”

Got that? If you are entering the CalSTRS system with a fresh set of employees, without the baggage of missed earnings forecasts, or the history of scandalously undercharged contributions, you should be paying 17.9 percent of pension eligible payroll into the pension system in order to deliver a “2% at 62” pension to your employees. If the employee pays half of that via payroll withholding (they’re paying 10.25 percent currently, which is more than half), then the employer only has to come up with 9 percent.

Instead, if you join CalSTRS as a new agency participant, the required contribution is 38.7 percent of payroll, or 28.5 percent for the employer after taking into account the 10.25 percent contributed by employees via payroll withholding. That’s a pile of money. It more than triples the employer’s pension contribution, from 9 percent to over 28 percent. For nothing.

It isn’t as if CalSTRS didn’t know what they were facing. Scroll down to page 47 of the 6/30/2018 financials for CalSTRS and have a look at the table entitled “Historical Aggregate DB [Defined Benefit] Program Contribution Rate.” This is damning evidence. In 2009 CalSTRS knew they needed to raise their contribution rate to 32 percent (the green line), but they kept their actual collected contributions barely over 15 percent, less than half what was needed. Over the next few years they raised their required contributions marginally, not breaking 20 percent until 2014, then suddenly ramping them up to 25 percent in 2015, and then finally they began to charge over 30 percent of payroll, but not until 2017, eight years after they knew they had a huge problem.

This dismal failure to face financial reality is reflected in the growth of the unfunded liability for CalSTRS, as disclosed on page 24 of their financials. Back in 2008, CalSTRS was 87 percent funded, but one year later, in 2009, it was only 78 percent funded. By 2010 that had dropped to 71 percent, and the fall continued all the way through 2017, when they bottomed out (hopefully) at 63 percent funded.

Why did CalSTRS wait so long? And why, when participating in CalSTRS is a choice that new charter schools still have, would any of them, anywhere, ever want to make that choice?

Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president. The views presented here are strictly his own. This piece first appeared in Flash Report.

California following New York’s Energy Policies Will Lead to Blackouts

According to the book, Human Tide by Paul Morland the world’s population between Year 1 to 1700 was static; then went to 600 million by 1800, and by the late 1920s populations exploded in the U.S., U.K., Europe and Asia. Current global population is approximately 7.6 billion people, and we can thank the exploration, production and use of fossil fuels for human longevity, innovation and global health at scales never before seen in human history. 

When over 6,000 products come from a barrel of crude oil such as makeup, plastics, and every part of the supply chain for solar panels and wind turbines its easy to understand how intertwined petrochemicals, and deep earth minerals are with history moving in a forward, progressive direction.

However, the French philosopher Auguste Comte supposedly said, “demography is destiny,” which normally isn’t the case, but if California follows New York’s headlong rush into renewables (solar and wind) our demographic shifts towards foolish renewable energy policies voted into existence will bring a new destiny that should never take place in New York or California. Energy only works when it is affordable, reliable, scalable, affordable, and flexible; only fossil fuels and nuclear power plants currently meet this criteria.

Adding chaotically, intermittent renewables –as the main source of electrical generating power – always leads to higher electrical prices for ratepayers, but more importantly, blackouts, which New York experienced last month. Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute predicted in a 2017 report, blackouts were in store for New Yorkers over embracing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s energy policies. These are the same ones Governor Gavin Newsome, the California Legislature, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are currently enacting. 

California already sells excess electricity off the grid from renewables at a massive loss to neighboring states. Senate Bill 100 envisions California relying only on renewables for its electricity by 2045, and Mayor Garcetti is closing three, reliable, natural gas-fired power plants. One California nuclear power plant recently closed, and Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant is set to cease operations by 2025. Millions of Californians will be foolishly plunged into electrical blackouts over these decisions without understanding the consequences.

Governor Cuomo is bent on only receiving electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, which is beginning to wreck New York’s once, reliable grid after a recent blackout. This isn’t simply a domestic issue: Australia is now coping with blackouts through overreliance on renewables and energy battery storage systems, which aren’t technologically feasible. This issue caused a political crisis in Australia. South Australia like New York returned to the Dark Ages. Even the U.K.’s grid crashed in early August – causing an electrical blackout – when wind turbine farms collapsed, leaving millions of British ratepayers and businesses without power.

New York State Independent System Operator (grid overseer), General Electric experts, and the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance all warned New York policymakers over the folly of believing renewables would ensure grid stability. But renewable backers persisted, and pulled the plug on Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Governor Cuomo also won’t allow new gas pipelines into the state while banning hydraulic fracturing (fracking) dooming southern New York to poverty.

Does this sound familiar? California is making the same energy, policy decisions, and like New York they attack utility operators, threatening additional regulations and stripping of their licenses while taking away the operator’s ability to use natural gas and nuclear power. Then the utilities and grid operators get blamed when blackouts take place to satisfy environmental constituencies that vote politicians into office who do their bidding on renewable polices that enrich said environmentalists.

These are political decisions to satisfy the “green clergy,” as Joel Kotkin of Chapman University has called these environmental, “smart growth,” billionaire overseers for years. It’s overly coy and naïve to simply believe or say renewable advocates are energy rent seekers wanting taxpayer subsidies, or political spin doctors who gain from voter culpability on the issue when it is actually more complex, yet simple at the same time.

There isn’t a grid in California or anywhere else in the world that can handle “mass load shedding,” or the inevitable chaos that comes from the sun and wind harnessed into electricity. Maybe one day a smart grid will be built, and deployed that has weeks of energy battery storage systems in place, and the ability to load share anywhere the grid is connected – from say, Los Angeles to New York. Otherwise expect brownouts, blackouts, and possible loss of life over expanded renewable energy use.

Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Court ruling upholds ban on public funding of political campaigns

It’s no secret that California, perhaps America’s most progressive state, is controlled by a political establishment openly hostile to the interests of taxpayers. Taxpayer victories over the state’s liberal power structure are rare, but they do happen.

Last week, taxpayers prevailed in a long running lawsuit involving public funding for political campaigns. The dispute began in 2016 when the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, Senate Bill 1107, which purported to amend a part of the Political Reform Act of 1974.

The Act itself was previously amended in 1988 by Proposition 73, an initiative measure that expressly prohibited public funding of political campaigns. SB1107 attempted to reverse the ban by permitting public funding of political campaigns under certain circumstances.

There was just one problem: Initiative statutes, laws that are approved by voters, cannot be amended by the California Legislature except by a vote of the people or under circumstances permitted by the initiative itself.

To read the entire column, please click here.

The “Gathering Storm” of a Big Ballot Battle

If you don’t think the coming split roll measure on the November 2020 ballot intended to raise business property taxes is going to be a lollapalooza of a battle, you have not picked up the signs. To use a Churchill-like title the British Prime Minister put on the first volume of his World War II history, we are now in a period of a  “gathering storm.”

The full campaigns have not officially begun. Indeed, by reintroducing a new split roll initiative that is expected to substitute for the split roll initiative that already qualified for the ballot, proponents have not yet reached the signature gathering stage. Yet, foundations are being built for the political battles to follow. 

There is the California Teachers Association, a major supporter of the new split roll initiative, that is currently running television ads that call for smaller class sizes, more school nurses and a lot more school counselors. The ad is called “Advocacy.” 

To pay for these items and more, the split roll campaign, once in gear, will lead with educators calling for the need for more money that can be captured if commercial property is taxed at full market value.

To be fair, the CTA has frequently over the years in between political campaigns produced radio and television ads to promote its positions. In that way, it is educating the public for any solution they devise presented to voters at the ballot box.

It is a strategy that I have often commented on and praised on this site, while urging the business community to follow the CTA’s example. 

The California Business Roundtable, which has announced its intent to oppose the split roll and the burden it will cause businesses, is funding educational mailers to residents and a website that promote the value of Proposition 13 for state homeowners and businesses. 

Like the teachers’ “Advocacy” ad, there is a follow-up message in store. Cracking the taxpayer protections of Proposition 13 won’t necessarily stop with commercial property and will increase California’s cost of living for all.

Consider these early messages like the dropping of leaflets on the populace prior to the bombing campaign that will follow.

On top of that both sides are reeling in and announcing endorsements more than one year before voters will even consider the Prop 13 change proposal.

The signs are there that this will be an epic struggle. The storm clouds are gathering.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

CHP Scandal Could Spread State-Wide

The California Highway Patrol’s overtime scandal – in which more than 100 officers from its East Los Angeles branch may have inflated their overtime while helping Caltrans workers stay safe while doing freeway maintenance work – could explode into a statewide scandal. That’s contrary to claims made when the scandal first emerged in February, when CHP officials said a survey of other commands turned up no similar false claims.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and a team of attorneys are representing more than 30 of the accused CHP officers. According to a Los Angeles Times report, 14 accused officers are facing termination while 90 more are still being investigated. Cooley says about 40 in total are at risk of being fired.

The main allegation facing officers: That they would seek eight hours of overtime pay after only being needed by Caltrans to work half that many hours or less on protection details.

Overtime spiking called common across state

But in court documents and in comments to the Times, Cooley says he can establish several points countering the CHP’s claims about the case. The most serious: The practice of padding such overtime is common in many of the 103 CHP commands around the state, according to former CHP officers. This would mean that Caltrans was overcharged by far more than the $360,000 that CHP has already documented.

Cooley also alleged that several middle- and upper-level CHP officials, including one who helped launch the East L.A. probe, engaged in the same questionable overtime billing practice when they were lower-ranking officers from 2007 to 2009.

The CHP is so far resisting releasing related documents requested by Cooley’s team and the media, saying the information is related to the ongoing investigation of the scandal.

But the involvement of another state agency with its own reputation to protect makes it seem unlikely that CHP can keep the lid on the scandal, as it tried to do on other internal problems earlier this century.

In February, Caltrans Director Laurie Berman announced that the agency’s inspector general would do a thorough audit of the CHP-Caltrans relationship.

“Caltrans takes violations of the law very seriously and illegal activity of any kind is not tolerated within the department,” Berman said in a statement to the Times. “If it is determined there was Caltrans employee misconduct, disciplinary action will be taken.”

Caltrans has not disclosed a timetable for when the inspector general’s audit will be released.

Scandal echoes those seen in Schwarzenegger years

The scandal marks the end to a decade of relative quiet for California’s largest law-enforcement agency. Among the allegations against the CHP during the Schwarzenegger administration:

  • In 2009, the Ventura County Star reported that there was strong evidence that CHP officials impeded a hate-crimes investigation of a local CHP officer involved in a racially charged incident after officers held a party at an Oxnard hotel.
  • In 2006, the Sacramento Bee reported that the CHP spent nearly $50 million on helicopters and motorcycles that were not open to competitive bidding. The companies given the contracts – Eurocopters and BMW, respectively – had courted top CHP officials with gifts and meals.
  • In 2004, the Bee reported on the “Chiefs’ Disease” phenomenon in which 80 percent of top CHP officials filed for medical disabilities in late career, enabling them to get much more generous pensions. Because police discipline records were then confidential, Bee reporters confirmed the scandal through worker’s compensation claims filed by the CHP executives.

A CHP attorney threatened the Bee with a lawsuit if the records were used in the Bee’s reporting, saying the records were confidential. The Bee went ahead with the story, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to eventually force out then-CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Tech Lobby Failing to Change CA Online Privacy Law

With the California Legislature in the final three weeks of its session, big tech companies and business lobbies have so far had little success in getting changes to the California Consumer Privacy Act. The landmark online privacy law – enacted in summer 2018 – takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The law parallels a sweeping measure adopted by the European Union that took effect in May 2018. It gives consumers the right to know who is collecting what data on them from their online browsing and provides them the choice of opting out from collection.

Defenders of the state law say the reason it has been targeted so vigorously is because tech firms know that California often influences what other states or even Congress does. These companies prefer the present anything-goes data accumulation landscape allowed under federal law. The Golden State law did appear to inspire 24 states to consider online privacy laws this year, according to Pew’s Stateline research site, though few have been enacted so far.

Critics: Flaws will hurt bottom lines, customers

But critics say they are going after the law because it is poorly crafted and could both drive companies out of business and reduce the ways that online information gathering actually helps consumers by connecting them to goods and services they are likely to want. Among the criticisms offered by the California Chamber of Commerce and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business:

  • The limits put on what “personal information” can be gathered are so broadly written that they apply to broad swaths of information that can’t be linked to individuals but that can help businesses develop marketing strategies.
  • The provision banning businesses from the sale of information gathered online is so broad it will make it difficult for businesses to use information that it has gathered directly and legitimately from use of their websites to determine what customized content to provide customers.

Legislation that would address these concerns has not advanced. 

Local agencies fear effect on public health, tax collection

The Bay Area News Group also reported on the failure of a bill that would have allowed government agencies to have access to consumer information for a variety of priorities, including helping government officials “to collect child support, find people exposed to infectious diseases, locate foster children’s family members, determine social service eligibility, and collect delinquent taxes and judgments.”

One measure – Assembly Bill 25 by Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park – has made progress. It would make clear that the law doesn’t cover employees acting within the scope of their basic job duties. As a co-sponsor of the original law, Chau had more credibility than some of the lawmakers’ who appeared to be proposing changes at the tech industry’s behest.

AB25 passed the Assembly on a 77-0 vote in May and an amended version was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 8-0 vote last month. But it has not been considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee since its referral.

Dramatic late-session moves could resurrect some of the more controversial bills seeking to narrow the Consumer Privacy Act. But an official with the Electronic Frontier Foundation told the Bay Area News Group that come Jan. 1, the foundation expected that “the same bill [adopted last year] goes into effect.”

Why focus is likely to shift from Sacramento to Albany

The tech companies and lobbying groups could soon shift their attention from California, the richest state in terms of GDP, to New York, the third richest.

In 2020, lawmakers there are expected to consider perhaps the most far-reaching online privacy law in the world. One likely provision would make it a “fiduciary duty” for companies to use the data they accumulate in ways that advance the customer’s best interests. Depending on how this is interpreted, this could mean the end of the present model of micro-targeting of consumers through information gained from their online searches and activity – at least in New York state.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Take me out to the OLD ball game

“Summer time, and the livin’ is easy,” as Billie Holiday memorably – and truthfully – sang. So easy in fact, that it leads to a departure from the usual, political nature of these musing to spend a few minutes talking about the sorry state of our national pastime, baseball.

I started paying attention to baseball in 1959, the second year the Dodgers were in Los Angeles and the year they won the World Series. That was the first sport I really followed, and baseball and the Dodgers have remained my first love in sports. Unfortunately, my first love has been cheating on me, as she bears precious little resemblance to the maiden that stole my 9-year-old heart.

Baseball in L.A. in the 60’s and 70’s was a glorious affair. Until 1962 the games were played in the Coliseum, and the only way to shoehorn a diamond in that stadium was to have home plate at the entrance to the tunnel leading to dressing rooms, a left field “fence” closer than many high school fences at 201 feet away (topped however by another 50 feet of screen), while the right field fence was a Herculean distance of 440. The distance to straight away center field was measured in miles, I believe.

Added to that you had the magic voice of Vince Scully announcing every game every night on the radio. Scully was and is the Michelangelo of his trade. Genius is not sufficient for his talent. Many a night he lulled me to sleep as I listened to his dulcet tones “well hello everybody where ever you are, and what a beautiful night for baseball” from the transistor radio hidden under my pillow.

On top of that you had a team of heroes who were by and large just plain, approachable “guys.” Oh sure, they had athletic ability mere mortals could only dream of, but their salaries were not stratospheric, their lives were not cushioned or coddled by agents, and they were usually active members of the larger community their team played in. These were the days before free agency, and my school chums and I took pride in being able to recite from memory the starting line-up each opening day. This was not as tough as it sounds, as before free agency starting lineups rarely varied from year to year, and sometimes from decade to decade.

The journey of my first love from innocence to harlotry can be traced to those ultimate sports evils, free agency and the use of “algorithms” instead of human judgment. Free agency changed baseball from a sport to just another corporation, and unless baseball finds an antidote it will eventually kill the game as it currently exists. Multi-million dollar salaries, resulting in unaffordable ticket prices, will put the stake through baseball’s heart.  Additionally, the free-agency inspired rapid turnover of star personnel reduces most fans to rooting for a logo, not individual players. The players compound the malady by thinking that organizational loyalty means their agent, not their ballclub.

The use of algorithms or “sabermetrics” or whatever they are currently called has replaced the managers’ brains and often decades of baseball experience with computer readouts. As an example, starting pitchers today are strictly limited to a certain number of pitches – usually in the 90-95 range, before they are replaced. Why? Because that’s what “the numbers say.” Gone is the “art,” the “human factor,” replaced by the descendants of HAL in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This craziness resulted in a Dodgers pitcher being removed last year before the start of the 9th inning even though he was pitching a no-hitter! Why – because HAL said so.

In the words of Colonel Sherman T. Potter – horse hockey. The greats of yesteryear – Koufax, Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Warren Spahn, etc, didn’t have pitch counts. They pitched until they completed the game or the opposition was smacking the ball around the diamond and over the fences. I happen to have the L.A. Times Sports pages from all four games of the 1963 Dodger-Yankee World Series. How many pitches did the Dodgers’ Koufax, Drysdale, Podres, or the Yankees’ Whitey Ford, Al Downing and Jim Bouton throw in each game? Nobody knows – because nobody bothered to keep count of a statistic much less relevant than the judgment, eye and “gut” of the manager and pitching coach.

It’s all just too much, and I despair of a cure for my first love, unless greedy players, corporate owners, and self-righteous umpires realize that reform, even at the cost of some valued perks for all of them, is preferable to the game becoming the dull, docile, plodding exercise it too often is today.

Take me back. Take me back to when I knew the Duke, Maury, Sandy, Drysdale, Johnny Roseboro and the Sherry brothers would be in Dodger blue year after year. Take me back to the Coliseum and its impossible left field screen, so I can watch Wally Moon hit his “moon shots” over it with a perfect 9-iron swing of the bat.  I want to see Koufax once again strike out 18 hated Giants in one game, see Drysdale shut out the Yankees on 3 hits in the World Series, and marvel at how Walter Alston became one of baseball’s winningest managers, apparently without ever raising his voice.

Most of all, take me back to the time when baseball players were real people, not faceless, soul-less corporate employees, in town for a year or two until a better offer comes along.

Does this mean I’m getting old? Perhaps, though I prefer the possibility that modern life has become too successful, too complicated, too fast and too big for America’s grand old game. 21st century America probably wouldn’t sit still for the game that wooed and won me as a kid.

Still, as I sit outside on these long summer evenings, in my memory I hear Vince Scully painting his unforgettable wordscapes of the boys of summer and their game. Summer time and the livin’ was  easy, and glorious. Take me out to the OLD ball game.

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.

—-

For another perspective on this topic, you’ll enjoy this column by my colleague Quin Hillyer.

California’s Mandatory Ethnic Indoctrination

Image converted using ifftoany

California’s state legislature is on the verge of mandating an “ethnic studies” course in order for a student to graduate from high school. Why not? Today in California, K-12 public school student enrollment is only 23 percent “White not Hispanic.” Based on current immigration and fertility statistics, California’s demographics will eventually become America’s demographics.

If America were the melting pot it used to be, this would not be a concern. If America engaged in color-blind but merit-based immigration policies, this would not be a concern. But America is not screening immigrants for job skills and education, and America today is, at least as the American Left would have it, no longer a melting pot, but a “salad bowl.”

It should come as no surprise that the “salad bowl” philosophy informs every word of the California Dept. of Education’s proposed curriculum guidelines for ethnic studies classes, . Unlike carrots that absorb the juice of the beef and the aroma of the garlic in a fine pot of stew, California’s salad bowl vision is a strictly separatist entree, with lettuce and tomatoes and artichoke hearts all mixed, but not the least bit blended.

Even promoting a salad bowl model of American culture instead of a melting pot might seem like not such a big deal, but that really depends how the ingredients are described in the cookbook, and what sort of dressing is poured over the ingredients. According to California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum, the ingredients are either oppressors or victims, and the dressing is steeped in the spices of envy, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, revenge, along with a heaping helping of weirdness.

The funny thing is, it’s a very small percentage of ingredients in California’s ethnic studies salad bowl that are oppressors. It’s not all of the whites, constituting 23 percent of the salad ingredients, who are oppressors. A majority of whites, specifically women and anyone who is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual), get excluded from the “oppressor” category. Only the cis-hetero-white-males remain, barely topping ten percent of the student population.

The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum has to be seen to be believed. A good place to start is the bibliography, where one may view the new vocabulary that will be inculcated into the minds of California’s teenagers. Here is a sampling:

Selections from California’s Ethnic Studies Glossary

Accompliceship – the process of building relationships grounded in trust and accountability with marginalized people and groups. Being an accomplice involves attacking colonial structures and ideas by using one’s privilege and giving up power and position in solidarity with those on the social, political, religious, and economic margins of society. This is in contrast to the contested notion of allyship which is often performative, superficial, and disconnected from the anticolonial struggle.

Androcentric – the privileging and emphasis of male or masculine interests, narratives, traits, or point of view, often in spaces where power is wielded.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – is a global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions….

Capitalism – an economic and political system in which industry and trade are based on a “free market” and largely controlled by private companies instead of the government. Within Ethnic Studies, scholars are often very critical of the system of capitalism as research has shown that Native people and people of color are disproportionately exploited within the system.

Chicana/o/x – A contested social and political identity chosen by people living in the United States with Mexican and indigenous ancestry. The term with the ‘x’ is pronounced with an ‘-ex’ sound at the end of the word.

Cisgender – a person whose chosen gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth.

Cisheteropatriarchy – a system of power that is based on the dominance of cisheterosexual men.

Classism – is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups.

Critical race theory (CRT) – while manifesting differently, CRT is often engaged to offer a critical analysis of race and racism within a particular discipline, field, system of power, culture, etc. CRT draws on a collection of critical frameworks to better understand how race and racism are interwoven into the fabric of American society.

Cultural appropriation – the adoption of elements of a culture (i.e. clothing, jewelry, language/slang, iconography, textiles, sacred traditions, etc.) other than your own (often historically marginalized groups), without knowledge or respect for the original culture.

Gender – western culture has come to view gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options— men and women. Instead of the static binary model produced through a solely physical understanding of gender, a far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect resulting in a multidimensional array of possibilities. Thus, gender can also be recognized as a spectrum that is inclusive of various gender identities.

Herstory – is a term used to describe history written from a feminist or women’s perspective. Herstory is also deployed when referring to counter narratives within history. The prefix “her” instead of “his” is used to disrupt the often androcentric nature of history.

Hxrstory – pronounced the same as “herstory,” hxrstory is used to describe history written from a more gender inclusive perspective. The “x” is used to disrupt the often rigid gender binarist approach to telling history.

The Four “I”s of Oppression – the four “I”s of oppression are: ideological oppression (an idea, concept, or theory whose qualities advocate for or can be interpreted as causing harm or upholding the views of a dominant group at the expense of others), institutional oppression (the belief that one group is superior than another and that the more dominant group should determine when and how those on the margins are incorporated into institutions within a society), interpersonal oppression (how oppression is played out between individuals), and internalized oppression (the internalization of the belief that one group is superior to another).

Race – a social construct created by European and American pseudo-scientists which sorts people by phenotype into global, social, and political hierarchies.

Whiteness – a social construct that has served as the foundation for racialization in the United States. Whiteness is the antithesis of Blackness, and is commonly associated with those that identify as white. However, Whiteness is much more than a racial identity marker, it separates those that are privileged from those that are not. Whiteness can manifest as a social, economic, political, and cultural behavior and power. For example, the “standard” or cultural “norm” are often always based on whiteness and by extension white culture, norms, and values.

Xdisciplinary – The term signifying that Ethnic Studies variously takes the forms of being interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, undisciplinary, and intradisciplinary, in diverse academic and everyday contexts. The holistic, humanistic, loving and critical praxis approach for teaching Ethnic studies.

What Does It All Mean???

It is easy to mock these convoluted terms and their twisted logic. If “race” and “whiteness” are “social constructs,” and if “gender” isn’t “binary” but is rather a “far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect resulting in a multidimensional array of possibilities,” then why is the “Cisheteropatriarchy” so problematic? Why make students obsess over their victimhood, if race and gender are merely “social constructs”?

Some of the concepts expressed in this glossary reveal the ideological agenda behind this curriculum. “Social justice” is expressed as “the equitable distribution of resources (rights, money, food, housing, education, etc.) to every individual regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, or nationality.” “Net worth by race” is defined as “the disparity or inequality of wealth among races, specifically when it comes to financial capital in resources, income and savings.”

This points to an agenda – to the extent students aren’t learning at the same rates, to the extent various communities aren’t earning the same income, or experiencing the same rates of crime, or any other aggregate disparity, “social justice” will demand restitution. And of course, “white supremacy” (an “operationalized form of racism that manifests globally, institutionally, and through systems of power”) will be to blame.

Criticism of California’s Ethnic Studies Curriculum

While right-of-center pundits have openly mocked the bizarre vocabulary and leftist indoctrination contained in the proposed curriculum, it has attracted criticism from all quarters. Even a Washington Post article lead off with quotes from critics who “accuse it of espousing bias against Israel and Jews, defining capitalism as a “form of power and oppression” and promoting a “far-left-wing political agenda.”

Examining the sources of leftist criticism may spark amusement among conservatives, because much of the criticism stems not from the basic premise of the curriculum, which is that most Americans are victims of oppression, but that their favored victim group was not included among those victims. As reported by the Los Angeles Times: “the draft sparked opposition among many Jewish groups, who have been joined by organizations representing Armenians, Greeks, Hindus and Koreans in calling for changes.”

In response to an outpouring of negative comments, committee members have described the curriculum as a “work in progress,” and that “there would be some changes made.” The follow up will be an amazing exercise in hypersensitivity – otherwise known as “engaging with stakeholders” – wherein, amidst a cacophony of bloviation, California’s woke leftist education experts shall painstakingly balance the claims of every imaginable aggrieved group. Eventually they will excrete a final ethnic studies curriculum that includes every conceivable victim.

And that’s what they’ll be teaching in California’s schools. Will capitalism still be described as “a form of power and oppression”? Probably. What probable victim would want to exclude that cause for restitution?

Alternate Ways to Teach Ethnic Studies

As America turns multi-racial with stunning rapidity, maybe teaching some sort of ethnic studies is a good idea. But the premises that underlie California’s proposed version of ethnic studies are all wrong, because it is written by leftist agitators who have taken over virtually all of California’s public institutions, certainly including public education.

To properly teach ethnic studies, a small subset of the instruction might deal with significant differences in customs that it would be helpful for members of different communities should know about each other. More practical and less ideological courses offered, for example, to nurses and others who work with the public are careful to include this sort of instruction.

Similarly, another useful portion of an ethnic studies curriculum might do a broad survey of the historical legacies of various parts of the world where students of different backgrounds came from. To the extent something like this isn’t already offered in a history class, it could enrich the curriculum in an ethnic studies class.

But the dominant message that should inform an ethnic studies class in California’s high schools, and everywhere else in America where these classes may eventually be offered, needs to be positive and uplifting. For that reason, such a class should not pander to the bitter sentiments and careerist pimping of the victim industry, whose mission is to instill destructive self-pity into every member of every race or gender that isn’t “cis-hetero-white.” Rather, students should be encouraged to take individual responsibility for their success or failure in life, regardless of their race or gender, in the most tolerant, enlightened society in the history of the world.

Moreover, an ethnic studies class aimed at high school students should not be proclaiming capitalism to be an “engine of oppression.” It should be examining capitalism, with honesty and balance, as an economic system that has, despite imperfections, proven the best way to deliver prosperity, innovation and freedom.

An ethnic studies class does not have to be saturated in pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, nor steeped in anti-Western, anti-White, anti-Western propaganda. As California, and America in due course, transitions to becoming a fully multi-ethnic nation, teaching these falsehoods to a multi-ethnic student body is the worst way to create a harmonious society, whether it’s a sweet tasting salad or a savory stew.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Three Major Hurdles to Fixing California’s Housing Crisis

Earlier this summer, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a $214.8 billion state budget that included $2 billion in new spending to address California’s housing and homelessness crisis. While Governor Newsom and the state legislature should be applauded for their efforts, we must also acknowledge that California cannot spend its way out of the housing affordability crisis that has engulfed the state.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to alleviating the state’s housing woes. California’s housing crisis is the result of decades of legislative and regulatory actions at both the state and local levels which have constrained, and in many instances outright stopped new home construction. If measurable progress on housing affordability is to occur, there are several key legal hurdles which must be overcome.

First and foremost, there needs to be a serious effort by Governor Newsom and the state legislature to mend – not end – the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Signed into law in 1970, CEQA was created to ensure that certain environmental protections were in place with new development projects, such as housing. Despite its original intent, CEQA has evolved from a tool into a trap, ensnaring practically all new housing, regardless of how locally necessary or environmentally friendly.  

From senior retirement communities to homeless shelters, hundreds of CEQA lawsuits have crushed sorely needed new housing proposals. CEQA abuse has become so widespread that based on a study by the law firm Holland & Knight, between 2012 – 2015, close to 14,000 housing units in the Southern California region (minus San Diego) were targeted by CEQA lawsuits. 

Along with the need to reform CEQA, the state must also make significant changes to prevailing wage requirements for new home construction. Prevailing wage is essentially the average hourly pay for construction work within a specific geographic region, and it applies to a wide variety of trades including carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. 

Under state law, home builders are required to pay prevailing wage on most low-income housing developments receiving public financing, thus leading to a substantial increase in costs. A report from the California Homebuilding Foundation found that prevailing wage requirements can mean as much as a 37 percent increase in construction costs, which equates to about $84,000 for a typical new home. 

To avoid adding additional hurdles to housing growth, it’s imperative that any new prevailing wage requirement fully recognizes, with metrics, the economic realities of each geographic region throughout the state.

Finally, there needs to be an increased opposition against overly restrictive local land-use laws often adopted as a result of pressure by residents intent on stopping new housing. According to the California Building Industry Association, approximately two-thirds of cities and counties in the state’s coastal metropolitan areas have adopted growth control laws which severely limit new housing opportunities. 

In those cases where new housing developments are approved, residents will often seek to curtail new home construction by placing “slow growth” or “no growth” measures on the ballot. Cities including Costa Mesa, Thousand Oaks, and Redondo Beach are among several Southern California municipalities that have passed voter-approved initiatives which effectively limit new housing.

It’s because of these types of legal impediments that the Building Industry Association of Southern California formed the nonprofit Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, which has worked tirelessly to protect the home building industry from laws and regulations aimed at preventing new housing.

There is only one way out of California’s housing crisis, and that’s to ensure that home builders can do business in a legislative and regulatory environment where actual construction can take place. 

Jeff Montejano serves as CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California. Headquartered in Irvine, the Building Industry Association of Southern California is a leading advocate for thousands of building industry leaders who are committed to a better future for California by building communities, creating jobs and ensuring housing opportunities for everyone.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily