California Should Stick To The Basics

In this time of New Year’s resolutions, here’s one for California: Stick to the basics. Unfortunately, our elected leadership believe that any problem needs a government solution. This mindset has caused California to lose focus away from important functions that are properly within the purview of government.

Here’s a short list of matters that our public institutions can and should address. Quickly forgotten, especially among modern progressive politicians, is that the first responsibility of government is to preserve liberty.

Second, no one disputes that government has a responsibility to protect its citizens. At the national level, we have a formidable military force and intelligence agencies to counter threats to the nation from foreign interests. At the local level, citizens expect their cities and counties to provide adequate police and fire protection.

Third, Americans also believe that education is a public function, especially in the primary grades. But here again, there is a wide divergence of views on the best way to educate our children. Public charter schools offer an independent alternative to established district schools. Quality education is available from private schools, and homeschooling is becoming more popular. This trend is a direct indictment of the failure of public education in many places.

There are more areas where direct government involvement is warranted. Public health, especially in the era of a pandemic, requires some government direction. That does not entail, however, heavy-handed edicts unmoored from legitimate legal authority.

At the state level, our elected leaders and bureaucrats have failed miserably to deliver on the most basic of government functions. The fraud in the disbursement of unemployment benefits has reached $2 billion. And our leaders can’t blame that level of malfeasance on the emergency nature of the pandemic.

To read the entire column, please click here.

The Coalition That Will Realign California

Poor governance, beginning long before the bungled response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a recall campaign that may very well put California Governor Newsom into a fight for his political life in the Spring of 2021. If a suitable challenger emerges to replace Newsom, he could end up in well deserved political exile. But what’s happening in California today is bigger than Newsom’s failures as a governor, and it’s bigger than any single politician who may replace him.

Across several areas of policy, the Democratic party, led by Gavin Newsom, has not merely alienated, but enraged millions of Californians. The key to political realignment in California is not only to offer these groups a political agenda that incorporates solutions to all their grievances, but does so in a manner so coherent, so practical, and so promising, that a common solidarity is generated which transcends all the ways California’s ruling class has thus far divided them.

The groups that can come together to transform California and change its political landscape fall into four obvious groups, with potential allies in other groups. The four core groups are parents of children going to public schools in low income communities, small business owners throughout California, residents of farming and logging communities, and religious conservatives who are mostly Christian but include Sikhs, Moslems, and others.

Grassroots opposition to Newsom’s Democratic party in California is only consistently found among farming communities, small business owners, and religious conservatives. It’s not enough to ever win a statewide contest. Hard core populist support for Democrats in California comes primarily from millions of white liberals, living in inherited homes, who pay minimal property taxes and are hence immune from the consequences of an out-of-control public sector bureaucracy, along with the government employees that work in that bureaucracy. The critical swing constituency, currently solidly in the Democratic camp, are black, Latino, and Asian voters.

Guiding the agenda of California’s Democrats are a ruling elite, small in number, but wielding incredible power. Among these elites are government union leaders, liberal billionaires from Hollywood to the Silicon Valley, extreme environmentalists, and the social justice vanguard. The money and influence these elites bring to California politics cannot possibly be matched by the opposition. But all the money in the world cannot make up for the fact that their policies have made life miserable for millions of ordinary Californians.

Unifying the Alienated Constituencies

Lowering the cost of housing and energy will have strong appeal to every Californian household that is at or below the median income. It will also appeal to small business owners who pay high rents, have high utility bills, and have to support a workforce that needs to afford California’s high cost-of-living. For starters, this means keeping Diablo Canyon open, keeping California’s natural gas grid intact, and requiring renewable electricity providers to guarantee an uninterrupted year-round supply of energy, and price those true costs into their competitive bids to the utilities. It also means reversing draconian zoning mandates that have drawn boundaries around California’s urban areas and prevented them from growing outward.

School choice will appeal to California’s approximately 4.0 million households with school age children. School vouchers will have universal appeal among households at all income levels, since middle income homeowners that want to avoid public schools will no longer have to pay twice – once through property taxes for the public schools, then also via tuition for the private school. Needless to say, turning the entire public school system on its head and breaking the teachers’ union monopoly would earn the enthusiastic support of religious conservatives, who are thoroughly fed up with some of the nonsense that passes for education in California’s public schools.

Restoring appropriate laws to discourage public intoxication, petty theft and vagrancy, combined with spending public funds on cost-effective homeless shelters in less expensive parts of cities, could end California’s homeless crisis in a few months. Californians living and suffering in the midst of this debacle only need to make their voices heard, and the inexplicable public support for idiots like the newly elected Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon will evaporate overnight.

California’s farming and logging communities do not have the numerical clout of its small business community or its households with children, but the issues they are passionate about are issues that affect every Californian. Farmers want more water. Loggers want to see a revival of the timber industry. And the infrastructure projects necessary to create water abundance would benefit all Californians, just as the revival of the timber industry would thin the overgrown forests and prevent additional summers where half the state is blanketed in killer smoke.

A unifying political alternative to California’s current Democratic agenda would borrow from what California’s Democrats used to represent. Back in the Governor Pat Brown era, Democrats genuinely supported big infrastructure. They completed the most extensive system of dams and aqueducts in the world. They built a magnificent network of freeways. They built the finest public university in the world. And they did all of it cost-effectively and projects only took few years from concept to completion.

It will be interesting to see if the Biden presidency delivers on his campaign theme of “Build Back Better.” Pragmatists in California, regardless of party, realize there could soon be a torrent of federal money coming into California. But where will it go? Will it repair the dams and aqueducts and build new ones? Will it resurface and widen the freeways? Or will it be used to prop up bloated public sector budgets and accomplish next to nothing?

Apart from federal pork, Californians who want to live in a business friendly, affordable state with good K-12 education options and responsible forest management probably cannot expect much from the Biden administration. But if Californians themselves demand these reforms, they can transform the Democratic party, or destroy it, both in California and nationally.

In any case, it may not be Republicans that lead the political realignment of California. Any group of politicians that will express these reforms clearly and coherently can marshal a new and unbeatable coalition. Under the unifying theme of a pragmatic, comprehensive agenda, politicians can run without the support of any party and they can win. Build enabling infrastructure. Open up more land for residential and commercial development. Fix the schools. Thin the forests. Roll back overdone, punitive, job-killing regulations. Enforce necessary laws to preserve public order. Stand up to the fanatics and the opportunists that have been blocking these common sense measures for decades.

That message will attract a supermajority of California’s voters. It is an inspiring agenda embracing optimism and hope, liberty and prosperity, and it benefits everyone.

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Globe.

The Illogical California Lockdown Orders

Get ready to stay home indefinitely, my fellow Californians. Gov. Gavin Newsom has suggested that the stay-at-home order he issued Dec. 3 will likely be extended well into January.

So for a few more weeks — at least — most Californians won’t be able to engage in a wide range of activities, from indoor and outdoor dining and worship services to overnight camping in state parks. Many cities and counties have imposed their own restrictions on top of the state’s.

These restrictions aren’t merely crippling California’s economy and harming residents’ mental health. They’re also riddled with inconsistencies and often unjustified by public health data.

Take Los Angeles County, which until recently had closed all playgrounds and barred small outdoor meetings, even though the risk of contracting the coronavirus outdoors is quite low. According to a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine database of more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases, only 461 — 2.3% — were linked to fully outdoor settings.

Meanwhile, outdoor restaurant dining, a relatively safe activity, is currently banned in much of the state. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant called L.A. County’s outdoor dining ban an “abuse” of power. Bars and restaurants represented just 3.1% of nonresidential outbreak locations in the county, according to court data. Renowned defense attorney Mark Geragos, a restaurant owner himself, recently filed a lawsuit against Newsom challenging the bans.

School closures are also unjustified by the “science” so many lockdown enthusiasts fetishize. More than 99% of California’s kindergarten through 12th grade students live in purple tiered counties, where in-person learning is generally prohibited, even though children rarely catch the virus in the classroom. Brown University economist Emily Oster analyzed infection rates among nearly 200,000 students in states with open schools. Over two weeks in September, she discovered an infection rate of just 0.13% among students and 0.24% among adults.

At the same time, indoor retail stores can legally remain open for the holiday rush — but are supposed to operate at 20% capacity. Malls statewide are reportedly violating such restrictions.

In other words, Californians can pile indoors to complete their Christmas shopping in fairly risky conditions but haven’t been able to go to school or dine outside in relatively safe conditions.

It’s hard to take the stay-at-home hectoring from California’s political class seriously, given that they’ve been setting such a poor example. Indeed, as Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed have shown, it’s never been easier to get a table at the ritzy French Laundry restaurant in Napa County!

It’s not just right-wingers condemning the arbitrary nature of the state’s stay-at-home orders.

“This seems so counterproductive. In LA, you’re not (technically speaking) allowed to go on a masked, distanced jog with one friend? Few people are going to abide by those rules and you lose your claim to being science-driven,” tweeted Nate Silver, editor in chief of the data-based news site FiveThirtyEight.

Popular podcaster, former Obama speechwriter, and Los Angeles resident Jon Favreau has called communication about the rules from his county “atrocious” and delivered with “an overly officious chiding tone.”

Prolonged stay-at-home orders simply aren’t sustainable. Millions have lost their jobs. During the first wave of such orders this past spring, California’s weekly unemployment rate shot up from 5% more than to 15%. Today, it hovers above 8%. The number of people who are food insecure is up more than 2 million because of the pandemic.

All the uncertainty and joblessness has also sparked a mental health crisis. By July, 44% of Californian adults had symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders. In San Francisco, drug overdose deaths have actually exceeded those from the virus in 2020.

People will find ways to congregate with or without restrictions, because their sanity depends on it. If they’re barred from safe places like playgrounds and sports fields, they’ll gather indoors in each other’s homes, which will only prolong the spike in cases.

No Californian wants the coronavirus to spread unimpeded. But overly harsh and inconsistently applied rules that wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods can’t be the solution.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO and the Thomas W. Smith fellow in health care policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All” (Encounter 2020). Twitter: @sallypipes

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

How to Beat Gavin Newsom in a Recall Election

With nearly 900,000 signed recall petitions already collected, four active recall committees now operating, and belated but significant press coverage shining a spotlight on the effort, the chances that Gavin Newsom will be in a fight for his political life in the Spring of 2021 has gone from a longshot to a distinct possibility.

In an article published by NBC News entitled “Recall effort against California governor an attempt to destabilize the political system,” Newsom spokesperson Dan Newman called the recall effort “a distraction and a circus.” Newman also characterized the recall proponents as “a ragtag crew of pro-Trump, anti-vaccine extremists, along with some ambitious Republican politicians who would like to be governor,” and warned that a recall election could cost taxpayers “upward of $100 million.”

Any candidate willing to stand against Newsom in a special recall election could start right there. They could explain that the money Newsom and his party’s policies have wasted, the wealth they have vaporized, and the hard won prosperity they have expropriated, makes $100 million a trivial price to pay for a course correction. A victorious challenger begins by quantifying the economic cost of policies imposed on Californians by Newsom. They then offer bright and bold alternatives that remove these oppressive burdens and restore opportunities to normal Californians.

The first step would be to point out the tragic cost of the extreme reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of quarantining the elderly and medically vulnerable, Newsom quarantined the entire population. This prevented Californians from acquiring herd immunity, and allowed the virus time to mutate into alarming new variants that may be used to justify lockdowns lasting years. Meanwhile, the damage to California’s economy includes over 2.6 million jobs lost. So far, less than half of those jobs have been regained.

A conservative, back-of-the-envelope estimate of the cost of this policy would be to take the average annual salary in California, which is $63,000, times one-million jobs lost for one year. That would be $63 billion. Compare that to the $100 million cost of a “distraction and a circus” necessary to get rid of the governor that caused this catastrophe.

And then there are the fires, caused not by “climate change,” but explicitly by the policies of California’s one-party state legislature that all but destroyed the timber industry. If the annual harvest of timber in California were tripled, back to the level it was before the Sierra Club and their allies declared war on logging, the amount of timber being removed from California’s forests each year would be equal to the amount of annual growth. This would restore California’s forests to health, and would cost nothing.

Instead of seeing millions of acres of overgrown, neglected forests burn in super fires every year, costing billions and displacing thousands of people, we would see thousands of new jobs, and the timber companies would maintain fire roads and fire breaks, as well as trim the growth along transmission line corridors. But when the latest round of infernos terrorized California last summer, what did Newsom do? Called for more electric cars. That is the act of a clown. That is what you might expect of a “distraction and a circus.”

There’s no end to the nonsense that Newsom and his party have concocted. After already wasting well over $5 billion, they want to redirect the rest of the nearly $100 billion earmarked for the bullet train into “light rail.” That’s $100 billion vs. $100 million for a special election. Note to innumerate journalists: One billion is one-thousand million. Finding a politician that will put money into freeways and smart roads instead of mass transit in the age of COVID for a mere $100 million is a cheap date.

What about housing and the homeless? Consider the staggering economic cost of overpriced housing. If the median price of homes in California were $250,000, like they are in Texas, instead of an obscenely overpriced $600,000 which is California’s median, people could afford to buy homes, housing stock would increase, and more people could find shelter. Roughly 500,000 homes are sold every year in California. That means that instead of paying around $935 per month (30 year fixed at 3%), each year another half million new Californian homeowners are paying around $2,250 per month. The difference adds up to another $10 billion per year, compounded every year, coming out of Californians’ pockets for the privilege of living here. And the beneficiaries? Exiles, who took the money and ran to other states, where they’ll spend their winnings starting a new life somewhere they feel welcome instead of oppressed.

As for California’s homeless, 150,000 strong? Their numbers keep rising, despite tens of billions already spent on “supportive housing” that costs over $500,000 per unit. Newsom presides over this racketeering scandal, which only benefits politically connected “nonprofit” developers, their for-profit vendors, and public sector bureaucracies, and does nothing to reduce the numbers of homeless.

The cost of energy is another way that Newsom and his gang have oppressed Californians. California’s notoriously corrupt Public Utilities Commission has been systematically decommissioning clean natural gas and nuclear power plants in favor of far more expensive solar and wind power. Now they are pushing to deny gas hookups in new homes. As this monstrous scam quietly gathers momentum, special interests line up for a piece of the action: along with the entire “renewables” industry, add all those high tech firms and appliance manufacturers that intend to create “connectable” washers, dryers, dishwashers, heaters, air conditioners, water heaters and refrigerators to “help” consumers manage their consumption. The cost to retrofit every one of California’s 13 million households? If all seven of these major appliances could be purchased for under $10,000 – and that’s a laugh – it would “only” cost California’s consumers $130 billion.

When calibrating the economic and social costs of the Gavin Newsom administration, the state of California’s public schools has to rank at or near the top. Governor Newsom is wholly owned by the teachers’ unions. This is the reason he has supported legislation designed to undermine charter schools, it’s why he blocks any other attempts at education reform, and it’s why he hasn’t pushed harder for California’s public schools to reopen. Thanks to politicians like Gavin Newsom, there is a generation of youth that are not getting the education they deserve. The cost of this policy failure is incalculable.

The Winning Strategy

Beating a governor like Gavin Newsom ought to be easy, but it will require a candidate with the courage to promote bold solutions. For example:

Open California back up for business. Focus on protecting the vulnerable instead of locking down an entire population. Demand legislation to restore responsible logging in California’s forests. Support infrastructure projects that offer practical value to all Californians – more water storage, more roads and freeways, and clean, cost effective, conventional energy from natural gas and nuclear power. Explain that housing will not become affordable until cities are allowed to build again on California’s abundant open land, perhaps in the places currently earmarked for solar farms. Expose the homeless industrial complex boondoggle and call for supervised, no-frills homeless encampments to be built in areas where land is inexpensive. Change the laws to restore penalties for hard drug use, public intoxication, petty crime, and vagrancy, and watch most of the homeless problem evaporate overnight. Push for school vouchers, so parents have absolute choice over where to send their children to get an education, and the teachers union monopoly on public education is broken forever.

Along with bold policies, however, a successful candidate must run a bold campaign.

That would begin with the unshakable belief that what they are proposing is something that every ordinary Californian wants, especially low and middle income Californians. The successful candidate should prioritize campaigning in low income neighborhoods. They should enlist the support of conservative activists in the black and Latino communities, but not as an afterthought, or as one item on a vast strategy checklist, but as the core strategy. They should be physically present in these communities in every venue they can find. They should be visible on social media with a focus on these communities. And they should repeat, over and over, not pandering sops to the various identity groups they address, but their bold policy agenda for that is designed to benefit everyone.

The political elite in California is a hereditary aristocracy. Brown, Pelosi, Getty, Newsom. A tribe, connected by blood and money. Newsom, the poor soul, might be aptly compared to Czar Nicholas, a weak man who was forced by fate to govern a fading empire. Then again, California isn’t exactly fading, at least not yet. Instead, the recent explosion of Silicon Valley wealth has buttressed what was already a formidable coalition of aristocratic old money, powerful environmentalist pressure groups, and a public sector bureaucracy coopted by union negotiated pay and benefit packages that largely immunize them to the punitive cost-of-living their policies have inflicted on everyone else.

This is the story that has to be told to Californians of all colors, genders, origins and incomes. Because it is a story of oppression by a corrupt and self-interested ruling class, and all their rhetoric about “equity” and “inclusion” is a brilliant distraction from the real issues. With any luck, Gavin Newsom is about to stand trial for crimes against the common man. If that happens, the right candidate can beat Newsom, if they are unafraid to tell the whole truth, offer the hard choices, and explain how much better life can be in the Golden State.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

San Francisco’s Business Owners Hoodwinked Into Building Makeshift Housing for the Homeless

With the Covid-19 shutdown dragging on for months, and business owners and employees struggling to stay afloat, San Francisco’s restaurants, cafés, bars, and fitness centers were permitted to create patios, or “parklets,” so that they could operate outdoors. This option offered a critical lifeline. Running the gamut from modest to elaborate, the parklets soon became ubiquitous. They stretched by the hundreds along sidewalks and into streets and alleyways in every district in the city. Small-business owners and their staffs finally had some revenue coming in, and their communities rejoiced in any semblance of normal life returning.

Then, on December 6, the doors were abruptly shut on outdoor dining and health clubs. Business owners were forced to abandon the parklets that they had painstakingly designed and constructed. Many had decorated them beautifully for the holidays, counting on operating until Christmas. Since San Francisco hospitals were not overrun with Covid patients, California had given restaurants and gyms at least a few weeks to continue serving the public. Nonetheless, San Francisco mayor London Breed and public-health director Grant Colfax preemptively closed the parklets with a Stay at Home order. Almost overnight, activity in the now-abandoned spaces changed dramatically.

“My parklets are now being used as bathrooms,” says Brian Cassanego, owner of The Wine Jar and Noir Lounge. “Some guy was camping in one. I find empty cans of beer, needles. The parklets have become homeless shelters and drug dens. Even when we deep clean, which will cost us more money, who will want to sit in them when we are allowed to come back?”

Cassanego is asking neighbors to keep watch over his parklets when he can’t be there. He’s hesitant to board them up completely, explaining that it would make the city look awful. “It’s heartbreaking,” he says. “It’s hard to fight back, to get up and plan for another day. Pre-pandemic, I got threatened with $1,000 fines if I didn’t clean up homeless messes. They’re beating restaurants down.”

The city has approved $5,000 grants to reimburse small-business owners who invested in parklets, but the funds are not for everyone—they appear to “prioritize minority-owned businesses and businesses that advance the City’s equity goals.” Even if Cassanego turns out to be eligible, the cash will fall short. Before the cold weather started, he spent $2,000 on heaters and had a roof constructed to fit over the tables—for another $5,000. All told, the parklets set him back upward of $15,000. With his business closed, Cassanego’s bills and debts are piling up.

Empty parklets across the city are becoming magnets for transient people. A large percentage of those experiencing homelessness suffer from substance-abuse disorders or psychological illnesses. Rory Cox, CEO of Yubalance Fitness and founder of San Francisco Small Business Alliance, says that frightening incidents are occurring. For example, when one business owner asked a person not behaving rationally to leave the parklet, the person sprayed him in the face with pepper spray; the business owner spent five hours in the emergency room. Used syringes are frequently found inside the structures. Vandalism too, is a burgeoning problem, so when the businesses are permitted to reopen, expensive repairs will be necessary.

Elected officials and city departments continue to laud “shelter in place” hotels as a solution to homelessness. Rooms (with meals and services) cost the city $7,500 to $8,000 per month, per person, even as San Francisco descends deeper into an alarming budget deficit. Sanctioned encampment sites don’t work well, to put it kindly, but that’s not stopping supervisors from advocating that more be established.

Meantime, seven navigation centers — homeless shelters with wraparound services that the city opened with great fanfare — sit empty. These buildings, the latest of which cost the city $12.5 million, can be adapted to meet Covid restrictions, but they remain shuttered. Modular housing that could be constructed quickly and inexpensively has been rejected, mostly because labor unions oppose it.

Despite promises, legislation, and great expense, inept city leaders can’t seem to help the most destitute get off the streets. Instead, under an ongoing lockdown, it is the parklets, bereft of workers and customers, that act as de facto homes for this population. Certainly, any place that will help shield a body from wind, cold, and rain is preferable to being exposed to the elements. Compared to nothing, even a parklet with walls and an overhang can be an attractive alternative. San Francisco’s small-business owners could be forgiven for feeling hoodwinked: shelling out their own money to keep their businesses going, they have unwittingly created homeless accommodation apparently more desirable than anything the city offers.

Erica Sandberg is a widely published consumer-finance reporter based in San Francisco and the author of Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families. As a community advocate, she focuses on homelessness and crime and safety issues.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

The New California Traffic Laws Coming in 2021

With 2021 only days away, many California agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, are giving drivers within the state fair warning on new laws going into effect in the new year. The CHP in particular highlighted three new laws in a recent press release, noting that each of the new laws will be bringing a large change to current laws.

California Globe sat down with former Department of Transportation road analyst and current traffic law expert witness Justin Teecher about what the new laws mean and how they will affect Californians.

Assembly Bill 2717, authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), would exempt people who rescue an endangered child aged 7 or below from an unattended vehicle from criminal or civil liability starting on January 1st. The child would have to be in an unattended situation in a vehicle under conditions “that reasonably could cause suffering, disability, or death”, with AB 2717 noting that it could dangerously hot conditions, dangerously cold conditions, a lack of ventilation, or other endangering condition.

However, action could only take place once other steps are taken, including calling 911, ensuring the vehicle is locked, that there is no other way in the car, and having a “good faith” belief that the child is in imminent danger.

“AB 2717 is pretty much there because of a rise of the number of kids being left in cars alone,” noted Teecher. “There’s been horror stories of kids dying in the car. Before this bill was passed in California, the law wasn’t as tough and didn’t give good Samaritans or those who saw this sort of thing enough protections.

“And in some places outside of California, the law is actually harsher if you do this sort of thing to a dog or something. The bill pretty much allows people to save them by breaking into the car, but only after all other options have been exhausted.”

Also coming into effect on January 1st is Assembly Bill 2285. Authored by the Transportation Committee, AB 2285 will extend the “Move Over, Slow Down” law that has drivers on highways move over a lane and slow down when driving by a stopped emergency or first responder vehicle to local streets and roads.

While stopped emergency or first responder vehicles must show lights to be in effect, the law will apply to vehicles ranging from emergency vehicles such as ambulances and police cars to other first responder vehicles such as tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles. Any violations of the law will result in a $50 ticket.

“Another common sense law,” Teecher explained. “We all know the law with emergency vehicles  coming down the road you pull all the way to the side of the road to let them pass. Same principle here, except that traffic can continue. It’s being put into place because of a lot of accidents where cars went the speed limit without slowing down near these pulled over vehicles and hit them or clipped people near them because there wasn’t enough time for them to go fully around.

“It’s nothing really controversial, just more of correcting a mistake really. It was unanimous all the way, so even the lawmakers saw that.”

Greater non-hands-free cellphone violations on the way this summer

In July, another bill will also take effect. Assembly Bill 47, authored by Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), will strengthen the hands-free mobile phone law. While using a handheld cell phone or other similar device is already illegal under California law, AB 47 would add a point to a person’s driving record for all second-time offenses made within 36 months. Except in hands-free cases, talking or texting while driving will be covered under the new bill, as will all devices regardless of being hands-free for all drivers under the age of 18.

“A lot of states are really pushing harsher penalties on talking while driving, or texting while driving, laws,” added Teecher. “California is no exception. One point for a second offense may not sound like a lot, but it can cause all-out bedlam for insurance rates. Not to mention that a single point may be the straw that broke the camel’s back and cause a license suspension. So, while it may not seem like it at first glance, this will wreck many people’s records, insurance rates, license legality, and so much more.

“And it’s a simple fix – stay off your phone, Bluetooth it, or if it’s doubling as a GPS, pull over and fix it there. The law just got much more serious.”

AB 2717 and AB 2285 are to come into law on January 1st, with AB 47 to be enacted on July 1st.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

A Winning Political Agenda for California

When it comes to California’s political dysfunction, over and over, the story’s already been told. Failing schools, crumbling infrastructure. Highest taxes, highest unemployment, and highest cost-of-living. Hostile business climate. Crippling, punitive regulations and fees. Widest gap between rich and poor. Burning forests, lawless streets. Record numbers of homeless. Unaffordable housing. Water rationing, electricity blackouts. And on and on. We get it.

When it comes to California’s political hierarchy, again it’s a familiar story. Progressive liberals run almost everything. The political spending by government unions and leftist billionaires, overwhelmingly favoring housebroken incumbents, leave reform minded challengers decisively outgunned. The political bias of literally all the online and legacy media leave principled conservatives without a voice.

This is the context through which it is indeed surprising and impressive that California’s conservatives logged some significant wins in the November election. Critics downplay these victories – including flipping four U.S. Congressional seats and beating back a partial repeal of Prop. 13 – and instead remind everyone how California remains a one-party state, with progressive liberals still in absolute control of the state legislature, all higher state offices, and almost every city and county. But California’s conservative challengers had far less money, and they faced relentless media hostility. It’s a wonder they ever win anything, anywhere.

So what’s next for California’s conservatives? Or more to the point, what’s next for all Californians who agree regardless of their party affiliation that life in California could be better, much better, and that current government policies are to blame?

For starters, conservatives cannot identify a problem without simultaneously proposing a solution. And a unifying theme that should accompany proposed solutions is that nearly everyone wants the same result, regardless of their party ideology. That would mean acknowledging that progressive liberals – at least the idealists among them – have always had good intentions. But their policies have failed and it’s time to try something new.

Equally important, conservatives need to propose big solutions. Incrementalism is boring, costs too much to sell (because it’s so boring), and takes too long to make a difference. Conservatives needs to propose dramatic changes in policies that will terrify the progressive liberal elite. They need to propose solutions that will attract billions in opposition political spending, and then highlight how much money the opposition is spending to stop their ideas. They need to literally use the heavy spending by the establishment opposition as a weapon against them.

Solving the Problem of Failing Schools

The issue where principled conservatives can immediately seize the initiative and build a populist movement with the potential to immediately grow into an electoral supermajority is with public education. The teachers’ union has squandered much of its political capital by insisting on a near total lockdown of K-12 public schools in California, at the same time as private schools and a significant number of public charter schools have remained open.

The performance of California’s public schools was already dismal, especially in low income communities, even before COVID came along, but the innovations spawned during the shutdown have made the case for school choice more compelling than ever. Everyone in California wants K-12 schools to successfully educate children. Why not issue vouchers that parents can redeem as homeschoolers, or in micro-schools and pod-schools, or for private academies, parochial schools, charter schools, or traditional public schools. All that might be required for accreditation would be for the student body to reach or surpass minimum standards each year on standardized achievement tests. The case for vouchers is compelling.

California’s public schools receive approximately $15,000 per student per year from taxpayers. This equates to a $300,000 per year budget for one classroom with 20 students. That sort of budget will lease a pretty good classroom and a pretty good teacher, with plenty left over for educational materials. But even without vouchers, there are several ways that reforms can fundamentally transform and improve educational opportunities in California in both K-12 and college education. Here are a few:

1 – Create a voucher system for K-12 education, whereby every household with school age children is issued vouchers they can redeem at the school of their choice.

2 – Repeal legislation and regulations that restrict the formation of charter schools.

3 – Authorize through legislation the ability for homeschools, micro schools, pod schools, and distance learning programs to operate under the auspices of charter schools.

4 – Implement the work rule reforms sought after in the Vergara case – longer time before granting tenure, merit over seniority in layoffs, streamlined ability to terminate incompetent teachers.

5 – Restore the primacy of the SAT test in governing admission to public colleges and universities.

6 – Bring back vocational training programs in California’s high schools and junior colleges.

7 – Restore immutable discipline standards to make California’s high schools safe learning environments, expel disruptive students into special schools where they can be helped appropriately.

8 – Abolish all “diversity, equity and inclusion” programs as part of a headcount cut of at least 50 percent of nonfaculty personnel at public colleges and universities.

Education reform is the key to empowering the next generation of Californians, but there are other compelling issues that can be honestly promoted as nonpartisan solutions that will benefit all Californians. California’s neglected infrastructure is a prime example, because the quality of California’s water, energy and transportation infrastructure is what enables economic growth and broadly distributed prosperity. The challenge with infrastructure that it requires several fundamental shifts in policy that are difficult to distill into a coherent package for voters. But one at a time, conservatives can advocate a transformative agenda for water, energy and transportation, with the priority falling on water.

Solving the Problem of Neglected Infrastructure

Conservatives should back a $50 billion water bond, with the proceeds used to increase the annual water supply by at least 5 million acre feet. The bond would be crafted to allocate 100 percent of the funds to either the production, collection, or distribution of water. For example, California’s aqueducts and levees would be restored. Southern California’s urban water districts would achieve nearly total water independence through a combination of desalination plants and treatment plants with the capacity to convert 100 percent of wastewater to potable water. The various proposed surface storage projects, including PachecoSites, and Temperance Flat reservoirs would be fully funded and expedited. The height of Lake Shasta Dam would be raised the proposed 18 feet. In this grand bargain, water abundance would be achieved in California, allowing environmentalists and farmers to receive their desired allotments, and urban users would no longer face rationing.

Here is a hypothetical list of the specific expenditures that would increase California’s annual supply of water by over 5 million acre feet:

1 – Build the Sites Reservoir (annual yield 0.5 MAF) – $5.0 billion.

2 – Build the Temperance Flat Reservoir (annual yield 0.25 MAF) – $3.0 billion.

3 – Raise the height of the Shasta Dam (increased annual yield 0.5 MAF) – $2.0 billion.

4 – So Cal water recycling plants to potable standards with 1.0 MAF capacity – $7.5 billion.

5 – So Cal desalination plants with 1.0 MAF capacity – $15.0 billion.

6 – Desalination plants on Central and North coasts with 0.5 MAF capacity – 7.5 billion

7 – Central and Northern California water recycling plants to potable standards with 1.0 MAF capacity – $7.5 billion.

8 – Facilities to capture runoff for aquifer recharge (annual yield 0.75 MAF) – $5.0 billion.

Total – $52.5 billion. Increased supply – 5.5 MAF.

On the issue of energy, conservatives can pursue a strategy that doesn’t seek to completely derail California’s commitment to renewables, but makes obvious and necessary adjustments. For example, conservatives should fight to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in operation till the end of its useful life, which with regular upgrades could be several more decades. Conservatives should reverse the growing, misguided moves by progressive environmentalists to restrict the use of natural gas. And conservatives should require renewable energy providers to guarantee to any public utility customer a continuous, year-round supply of energy, and build that into their pricing, so that renewables do not unfairly drive other energy providers out of business.

When it comes to transportation, conservatives can reliably expect grassroots support to mothball the bullet train project, but conservatives should at the same time propose the funds that would have been allocated for high speed rail be redirected into transportation projects. Nearly all of California’s interstate highways need to have lanes added and resurfacing. Why isn’t I-5 three lanes in both directions from LA to Redding? What about Highway 99 and Highway 101? Conservatives should also advocate for more research and development of “smart lanes” or “hyperlanes” where high speed electric cars can run on autopilot. That innovation, along with passenger drones, is just around the corner, and if California is determined to be a leading edge state, developing these next generation roads for next generation cars is far more prescient than high speed rail.

Solving the Problem of Affordable Housing and Helping the Homeless

The other big issue, arguably bigger than everything mentioned so far, is housing and the homeless, and the interrelated issue of how to take back the lawless enclaves across California where tens of thousands of homeless have congregated. The first step is to rebalance the housing market. Conservatives must make it clear that “infill,” or “smart growth,” whereby nearly all the growth in housing stock occurs within the footprint of existing cities, is not going to solve the problem. Using taxpayer dollars to build subsidized multi-family dwellings in established neighborhoods is a divisive, futile exercise that only benefits opportunistic developers who build them at a cost of around $500,000 per unit. There are terrific alternative solutions that would actually work.

For less money, the enabling infrastructure of roads, parks, and utility conduits can be extended onto open land on the urban fringe. Why are the rolling hills east of San Jose still cattle ranches? If they’re so steep, why does San Francisco even exist? Why aren’t new towns springing up along the entire Highway 101 and Interstate 5 corridors? It’s just grazing land. You could build ten million homes on big lots in these areas of California, and you would barely make a dent in the remaining open space. Conservatives need to advocate laws that clear out the obstacles to constructing entire new cities. Conservatives need to make absolutely clear to voters that the reason homes cost so much is because of excessive laws, regulations, fees, and politically contrived scarcity of available land. Housing is indeed a human right, but the obligation of government is not to construct free housing, but to create the regulatory environment where private, unsubsidized builders can again make a profit building affordable homes. They do it in Texas. We can do it here. For example:

Ways housing could be more appropriately developed in California:

1 – Eliminate all forms of government subsidies, incentives or waivers to any developers. All players in the housing industry should be unsubsidized, and playing by the same set of rules.

2 – Stop requiring diverse types of housing within the same development or neighborhood. Mixing high-density, subsidized housing into residential neighborhoods devalues the existing housing, and this social engineering is unfair to existing residents who have paid a high price to live there.

3 – Roll back the more extreme building codes. Requiring 100 percent of homes to be “energy neutral” or include rooftop photovoltaic arrays, for example, greatly increase the cost of homes.

4 – Lower the fees on building permits for new housing and housing remodels. Doing this might require pension reform, since that’s where all extra revenue goes, but until permitting costs are lowered, only billionaire developers can afford to build.

5 – Speed up the permitting process. It can take years to get permits approved in California. Again, the practical effect of this failure is that only major developers can afford to build.

6 – Reform the California Environmental Quality Act as follows: prohibit duplicative lawsuits, require full disclosure of identity of litigants, outlaw legal delaying tactics, prohibit rulings that stop entire project on single issue, and require the loser to pay the legal fees. Better yet, scrap it altogether. Federal laws already provide adequate environmental safeguards.

7 – Make it easier to extract building materials in-state. California, spectacularly rich in natural resources, has to import lumber and aggregate from as far away as Canada. This not only greatly increases construction costs, it’s hypocritical.

8 – Increase the supply of land for private development of housing. Currently only five percent of California is urbanized. There are thousands of square miles of non-farm, non critical habitat that could be opened up for massive land development.

9 – Engage in practical, appropriate zoning for infill and densification in urban cores, but only after also increasing the supply of open land for housing, and only while continuing to respect the integrity of established residential neighborhoods.

The issue of housing segues naturally into the issue of the homeless, now estimated at around 150,000 in California. Experts on the homeless divide them into three groups, the “have nots,” the “can nots,” and the “will nots.” The have nots are people who have had a series of economic or medical catastrophes and usually with some help from friends or friendly agencies they get back on their feet. But the majority of unsheltered homeless in California belong to the other two groups. The “can nots” are people who are disabled or mentally ill. They are typically incapable of living independently. The rest, constituting the majority of the unsheltered homeless in California, are “will nots.” These are people who have been attracted to, for example, the beaches of Southern California, where they can live on the streets year-round, taking advantage of free food in the shelters, a vibrant drug scene, and laws that have effectively decriminalized theft up to $950 per day, as well as possession and consumption of virtually any recreational drug including methamphetamine and heroin.

The solution to the problem of California’s homeless starts by recognizing that the obligations of compassion do not extend to tolerating theft, intoxication, or vagrancy, much less physical drug addiction as a “lifestyle.” People who live this way do not need indulgence, they need help. The current practice of building shelters on some of the most expensive real estate on earth, without even performing background checks or requiring sobriety, is a disgraceful waste of money. There are very specific steps that can be taken, as follows:

1 – Challenge the ruling Jones vs the City of Los Angeles in court, with the objective of redefining “permanent supportive housing” as inexpensive tents and community kitchen and bath facilities, located in the least expensive parts of counties. This will make it possible for homeless people to be relocated to safe shelter immediately, instead of having to wait until tax subsidized developers build them “supportive housing” at a cost of $500,000 per unit (or more). Any politician that runs for office that does not commit to overturning or dramatically clarifying the Jones ruling does not care about the homeless and is not serious about solving the problem.

2 – Revise the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967 that made it nearly impossible to incarcerate the mentally ill. It is not compassionate, nor is it a constitutional obligation, to permit someone who is obviously deranged to live on the streets where they are easy prey for criminals and perpetually tormented by mental illness. At the very least, these victims need to be taken off the streets and moved to facilities where they can be observed and treated if necessary. If they are not found to be seriously mentally ill, they can be placed in inexpensive shelters.

3 – Sponsor a referendum on Prop. 47 which downgraded drug and property crimes. It is absolutely impossible to police California’s streets if criminals are allowed to steal up to $950 of property every day, and never face more than a misdemeanor charge. Similarly, it is a recipe for chaos to tolerate public consumption of opiates and amphetamines and other hard drugs. Conservatives must emphasize that it is not compassionate to allow people to descend into the hell of addiction, and when drug addicts move into public spaces and become disruptive, it is reasonable to arrest them.

It is important to emphasize that California’s homeless problem will be significantly reduced if the supply of housing is increased and appropriate penalties are restored for vagrancy, petty theft and possession of hard drugs. Once housing is more affordable and once the “will not” contingent of homeless realize the party is over, California’s population of unsheltered homeless will become manageable. They can then be helped in facilities built in inexpensive areas, so that all of them can be accommodated, and the money that is saved can be used to treat their substance abuse, their mental illness, and provide job training.

Solving the Problem of Wildfires

There are a lot of issues that matter very much to some Californians, but the choice of issues here are those that matter very much to all Californians. Another example of such an issue is prevention of wildfires. This issue – how to prevent catastrophic wildfires – like all those already mentioned, has an obvious solution. And as with the other issues, there are powerful special interests that don’t want anything to change.

The problem is we have become expert at fire suppression, at the same time as we’ve reduced our timber industry to a fraction of its former size. The result are overgrown, stressed, tinder dry forests. The solution to preventing catastrophic wildfires, at least in California’s conifer forests where most wildfires occur, is to revive the timber industry. Modern logging practices do not destroy forest ecosystems, and in fact can be beneficial to the ecosystems. California’s timber industry needs to expand from the current annual harvest of 1.5 billion board feet to 4.5 billion board feet.

If the size of California’s timber industry were tripled, the amount of wood being harvested from the forests would almost be equal to the rate at which the forests grow each year. Using a mix of clear cutting on a 50 to 100 year rotation, combined with so-called “uneven age management” in more sensitive areas in order to preserve important groves and other valuable ecosystems, California’s overgrown forests could be quickly restored to health. There are many benefits to such a transformation:

1 – The clear cut areas, never more than 1-2 percent of the forests, would provide temporary meadow which actually helps wildlife populations.

2 – The logged areas are immediately mulched with new trees planted in furrows that follow the elevation contours, meaning all storm runoff percolates into the aquifers.

3 – The properly thinned forests no longer use up all the precipitation. Currently, the trees in California’s overgrown forests drink all the rain, often allowing none of it to run into the streams or percolate into the aquifers, and they’re so dense they’re often stressed and dying anyway. If California’s forests were thinned down to healthy historical norms, millions of acre feet per year would be added to California’s water supply.

4 – The timber companies, at their expense, will thin the forests, maintain the logging roads which are also fire breaks and used by firefighting crews, and cut away trees and brush that encroach on power lines. Currently all of those roads, fire breaks, and transmission corridors are overgrown because the timber companies have been chased out and there aren’t funds to do this maintenance from any other sources.

5 – Thousands of good jobs will be created, and instead of costing taxpayers money, it will generate tax revenue.

California’s fire seasons exemplify much of the political dysfunction that grips the state. And confronting the special interests that prevent progress does not require denying the values that these special interests have used for years to maintain their credibility with voters. It doesn’t harm the forests to bring back logging. Wildlife biologists have argued the exact opposite, that modern logging will save the forests, not only from wildfires that literally threaten to obliterate California’s overgrown forests, but even by revitalizing the ecosystems so wildlife can thrive.

The Coalition that Conservatives Can Build If They Offer Bold Solutions

This theme, that we want the same things the progressive liberals say they want but have failed to provide, offers conservatives power and credibility that money can’t buy. By not only identifying the failures of the ruling liberal establishment, but by taking on the exact same challenges and offering practical, obvious solutions, conservatives can build a populist supermajority in California.

Imagine the excitement that candidates can generate when they announce their commitment to legislation and ballot initiatives that will solve the biggest bipartisan challenges facing Californians. School vouchers will liberate millions of school children from a failing public school system that is under nearly monopoly control of the teachers’ unions. Overnight, competitive schools will be opened, offering a diversity of programs so that every parent has the freedom to choose a curriculum that will maximize the chances for their children to learn and have a bright future. Parents that homeschool or form micro-schools will get reimbursed, making that option feasible for far more parents. Private schools as well will thrive, as parents who couldn’t previously afford the quality of a private school will now have that opportunity.

Imagine the enthusiasm that will greet a serious proposal to create water abundance in California. $50 billion in general obligation bonds is plenty of money to increase California’s annual water supply by 5 million acre feet, since additional financing could come from revenue bonds attached to the ratepayers who would purchase the water, along with federal assistance. Imagine the relief Californians will feel when electricity bills stop rising inexorably to keep pace with renewable portfolio mandates, simply because Diablo Canyon stayed open, we didn’t destroy our natural gas infrastructure, and renewable electricity producers had to price the cost to provide continuous power into their contracts with the utilities. Imagine being able to drive safely up and down California’s widened and resurfaced freeways for less cost than what was proposed to be squandered on the bullet train.

It gets better. Imagine being able to afford homes again. Imagine that anyone with a decent job could once again afford to purchase a new home on a spacious lot, instead being a mortgage slave merely to own an overpriced home on a lot so small you can’t fit a swing set or trampoline in the back yard. Imagine new cities and suburbs up and down Interstate 5 and Highway 101. Imagine all those beautiful residential suburbs spared the divisive stress of having multi-story, multi-family, tax subsidized apartment buildings sprinkled randomly into the neighborhoods to house people who in a fair society could find a job and buy a home of their own.

And better still, imagine homeless drug addicts and alcoholics getting treated in facilities that are safe and inexpensive, instead of being allowed to destroy their lives while eating in shelters nestled in the middle of beachfront communities where people work like hell to pay their mortgages. Imagine the mentally ill taken off the streets and given treatment. Imagine California’s neighborhoods, parks, shopping districts, public squares, transit systems, sidewalks, alleys, underpasses and beaches given back to the local residents, shoppers and tourists.

And finally, imagine a state where a revived timber industry along with streamlined procedures for controlled burns and building firebreaks and removing biomass means a state where the air isn’t fouled for weeks on end every summer, as cataclysmic infernos drive thousands from their homes and rack up billions in damages.

This is an agenda that will attract every parent of a K-12 student in California. It will attract business and labor interests who want the economic growth. It will attract every family that wants to live in a home with a yard without having to go broke to do it. It will attract every person who doesn’t want to live with water rationing, or unreliable and expensive electricity, or endure clogged freeways. It will appeal to homeless advocates, if they’re honest about what needs to be done, and it will gain the passionate support of every resident of every community currently besieged by homeless encampments.

This agenda is not ideological, it is practical. It mingles libertarian solutions, such as using the private timber industry to solve the problem of forest fires, with government solutions, such as issuing general obligation bonds to guarantee abundant water. While it is certain to enrage some environmentalists, others will acknowledge key facts in favor of this agenda: new suburbs in the age of electric cars and telecommuting do not cause climate change, nor does nuclear power, there is plenty of open space in California to accommodate a few thousand additional square miles of urban civilization, timber extraction is the only practical way to thin overgrown forests and hence save them, and abundant water means, for example, we can refill the Salton Sea, we can send bigger freshwater pulses down the rivers and through the delta, and we can replenish our aquifers.

The biggest foes of this agenda will be the teachers’ unions. Good. Make the fight about this fearsome gang of leftist agitators who care more about indoctrinating children to harbor racial resentment than about encouraging them to take individual responsibility for their lives. The California Teachers Association is the most powerful political special interest in California, although in recent years the leftist billionaires of Silicon Valley are challenging them for the top spot. But these tech billionaires can also be targets of this fight. Why are the Big Brother tech billionaires, along with the entire leftist establishment headed by the California Teachers Association – and the Sierra Club – being allowed by California’s voters to do everything wrong?

Conservatives can offer freedom, enlightenment, prosperity, abundance, and safety – everything that progressive liberal ideology has taken away from Californians. They can adopt a platform that embraces school vouchers, infrastructure investment and practical approaches to water, energy and transportation challenges, regulatory reform to stimulate urban expansion and affordable new suburbs, sensible and cost-effective solutions to the homeless crisis, and a revitalized timber industry to curb the risk of wildfires and create thousands of jobs.

Conservatives can offer solutions. They can be bold. They can go on the attack, on behalf of all Californians. And they can win, to everyone’s tremendous benefit.

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REFERENCES

How to Save California’s Forests, October 2020

The Battle for California is the Battle for America, October, 2020

How to Realign California Politics, September 2020

The Wondrous, Magnificent Cities of the 21st Century, March 2020

California’s Progressive War on Suburbia, February 2020

The Boondoggle Archipelago, November 2019

The Density Delusion, August 2019

America’s Homeless Industrial Complex – Causes & Solutions, July 2019

The Opportunity Cost of Shutting Down Diablo Canyon, July, 2019

California’s Regulatory Hostility Prevents More New Homes, July 2019

Defining Appropriate Housing Development in California, February 2019

Towards a Grand Bargain on California Water Policy, August 2018

California’s Transportation Future – The Common Road, July 2018

California’s Transportation Future – Next Generation Vehicles, May 2018

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Policy Center.

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The Fate Of California Hangs On Georgia

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

So why should Californians care about a runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia occurring Jan. 5? The answer is simple. The outcome of that election will have major implications for national politics and that includes profound impacts on California. Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Georgia will not stay in Georgia.

It is rare that two Senate seats are up for grabs in a single state simultaneously. And because the outcome will determine control of the U.S. Senate, it has focused the political attention of the entire nation on the Peach State. In one of the races, Republican Kelly Loeffler will be facing Democrat Raphael Warnock to retain the seat to which she was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp. In the other, Republican incumbent David Perdue will be up against Jon Ossoff, a wealthy Democrat who failed to win a seat in the House of Representatives in a 2017 special election after spending millions of dollars in the most expensive congressional race in American history.

Currently, the United States Senate is under Republican control with a 50-48 advantage. If Loeffler and Perdue win, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will retain the gavel with a 52-48 majority. If just one wins, the Republicans will still control assuming no defections on major issues. However, if the two Democrats win, the Senate will be at a 50-50 tie with the newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding votes.

If the latter occurs, Democrats would be in complete control of Washington, ruling both chambers of Congress and the White House. For California, that would mean some major changes that progressives would likely celebrate.

First, Democrats could very well bail out those states that have shown no spending discipline. California, New York and Illinois are high on that list because their pension costs are out of control.

Progressives could also force through major labor legislation that limits opportunities for freelance work and grants new powers to unions that could effectively undercut “right to work” laws in many states. Public sector unions would see their political wishes granted.

To read the entire column, please click here.

A Rapid Homeless Sheltering Alternative

The Sacramento central city and other neighborhoods are being overrun by homeless vagrants in both business and residential areas. Many of those homeless have acute drug and mental problems.

Further, a great deal of money has been expended without a real impact on this city’s homeless situation over the past several years.

In Sacramento, an October “temporary shelter” homeless housing ordinance now touted by Mayor Steinberg is still pending, which would force homeless encampments into all neighborhoods without normal Planning Commission review or approvals, while removing the neighborhood avenues to object.       

Further, Governor Newsom’s $800 million Project Homekey plan to purchase properties such as motels for homeless housing has been a marked failure in taking all but very small numbers of homeless people inside from California streets, with no noticeable impact in Sacramento.    

Federal emergency COVID funds have been used to provide local homeless housing, but only for a very short period of time which is now expiring.

Solution

There is no need to wait until the completion of the city temporary shelter ordinance Mayor Steinberg promotes, and which may take months to achieve.

In the Sacramento area “cabin communities” can be immediately established on local government controlled properties at three former military bases and Rancho Seco. Each property can accommodate numerous “cabin communities” of the successful Oakland model.

A community would have 40-60 homeless residents, allowing the onsite managers to know each individually. This presents obvious advantages over a huge site with more than a hundred residents. Each resident can be COVID tested to allow two per cabin.

Numerous cabin communities in close proximity allows concentration of services, yielding cost saving efficiencies over the diffused homeless locations scattered all over the city, as envisioned in the pending city “temporary shelter” ordinance.

Cabin units can readily be moved as needs change, and do not permanently impact a particular area, plus they can be readily incorporated into projects addressing longer term solutions.   

Oakland moved entire areas of homeless into cabin communities, meaning residents already were acquainted, smoothing that transition. And the public squalor can be abated so businesses and neighborhood residents can return to normal.

Also, those with substance abuse or other problems were housed in cabin communities specialized in dealing with such situations, saving money by allowing specialized services where most are needed, rather than the wasteful “all services at all locations” model.

The Oakland precedent has established legal conformity to the requirements of the federal 9th Circuit Court Martin vs. City of Boise, that can also be applied in Sacramento and the rest of California.

In Sacramento, a two resident, one hundred and twenty square foot cabin unit, projected cost is $12,000 to $15,000 depending on amenities, as materials have increased in cost due to covid caused supply chain shortages. This is a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars each Project Homekey room costs, or typical housing provided by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency.   

One cabin unit supplier has offered to create a fabrication facility in Sacramento, also providing employment to some homeless, giving them an employment record for jobs elsewhere. They would also market to other northern California jurisdictions, and seek to expand into full scale manufactured housing, providing more local employment.

Los Angeles, Wrong Again

Los Angeles provides a fine example of how not to accomplish an effective homeless cabin example, costing far too much and taking much too long. They have purchased thirty-nine 63.75 square foot cabin units, each costing $130,000, while a second cabin unit project projected to open in April will cost a mere $82,000 per unit.

California’s Self-Inflicted Mental Health Crisis

Nine months into California’s pandemic restrictions and no one knows how things will end. Are most of us going to succumb to “poverty… depression … (and) suicide” brought on by being locked down? Or will history validate those who insisted that the only course was to “cancel everything”?

No one should be surprised the country is more depressed than it has been in 20 years, a period that includes multiple terrorist attacks on our own soil, and the Great Recession, which hit California hard if not harder than any other state.

“Americans’ Mental Health Ratings,” says the headline from a Gallup poll report, “Sink to New Low.”

Opinion

In Gallup’s latest assessment of Americans’ mental state, the polling firm found it “is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades.” Only 76% of U.S. adults rate their mental health positively, meaning excellent/good. That’s a nine-point decline from 2019.

The poll, taken between Nov. 5 and Nov. 19, when government boundaries were looser relative to what they are today, also found that those who said their mental health or emotional well-being is “excellent” had fallen to 34 percent from 43 percent.

While Gallup said the decline has been “undoubtedly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to profoundly disrupt people’s lives,” it left open the possibility the election and race relations might be factors, as well. But that’s either an intentional misdirection or a mistaken assumption. Elections and rocky race relations aren’t new. It’s the loss of our freedom that we haven’t encountered before.

More Than 33 Million Californians Living Under Stay-at-Home Order

As it’s not unreasonable to argue California was the fountainhead of the Great Recession, neither is it irrational to believe that the mental health fallout from the lockdowns has been more difficult on Californians than others. Other parts of the country have been shut down, but this state has been on a particularly short leash. No state has held captive more of its residents.

More than 33 million of California’s nearly 40 million residents are living under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. That’s 4 million more than the entire state of Texas, the second most populous state. Churches, restaurant owners, local lawmakers, and the “unjustly confined” have sought relief through the courts.

Before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday in favor or restaurant owners, calling the county’s outdoor dining ban an abuse of power, Angela Marsden, the now famous owner of the Pineapple Hill Grill & Saloon in Sherman Oaks, and an unofficial spokesperson for the desperate, said on Fox News that the current “closure is going to devastate L.A.”

“We’re going to die from poverty, we’re going to die from depression, we’re going to die from suicide if somebody doesn’t do something.”

She told hold host Neil Cavuto that she has “two employees that have lost people that are close to them to suicide in the last two months.”

Anecdotes are not hard evidence, but professionals in the field know when behavior is out of the ordinary. Dr. Chris Colwell, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, said months ago “we’re seeing between eight to 10 (patients) a day that are expressing suicidal ideations,” as people are driven to emergency rooms seeking help.

Being Vigilant During a Pandemic Is Warranted but Going Too Far Has Costs

It’s not just the isolation of lockdowns that’s taking a toll. The uncertainties of closing, then reopening, then closing again produces a nasty whipsaw effect.

“Back and forth of a lot of mixed emotions. We are happy for a little bit and then we hear the next day another stay-at-home order and we are hit with a wave of fear again,” psychologist Andrea Zobras said, not in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but in July.

Just as officials began backtracking on a brief summer reopening, the San Francisco Chronicle said that “the percentage of people with reported symptoms of anxiety disorder has increased by about 9 percentage points from late April to mid-July to almost 39%.” At the same time, “the proportion of people with reported symptoms of depression has jumped by about six percentage points to 31% of respondents in California.”

Again, this wasn’t noted in the fall but after only a few months of restrictions.

Being vigilant during a pandemic is warranted but going too far has costs. Officials need to be looking at more than case numbers when they make the rules the rest have to live by. The medicine we’ve been forced to take has some cruel side effects.

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

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.