As City-State Housing War Heats Up, One Rich California Enclave Gets a Pass

The guerrilla war between Gov. Gavin Newsom and some of California’s 482 cities over housing policy is heating up.

The state has imposed quotas on local governments to provide – on paper – enough land for much-needed housing, particularly projects for low- and moderate-income families, and streamline permits for projects.

While most are complying, albeit with some reluctance, others are trying to thwart the mandate. Resistance is strongest in small suburban cities dominated by wealthy residents who live in spacious homes on very large lots and don’t want dense condo or apartment projects to spoil the bucolic atmosphere of their neighborhoods.

That said, the sharpest conflict in California’s housing war pits a not-so-wealthy Orange County city, Huntington Beach, against the state. The city has basically declared it won’t meet the state’s demands, and Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta are suing to force compliance.

“The City of Huntington Beach continues to attempt to evade their responsibility to build housing, but they will simply not win,” Newsom said last week, just before Huntington Beach formally declared its rebellion. “City leaders have a choice – build more housing or face very real consequences – including loss of state funds, substantial fines, and loss of local control.”

“The city has a duty to protect the quality and lifestyle of the neighborhoods that current owners have already bought into and for the future sustainability of Huntington Beach,” City Councilman Pat Burns wrote in a letter to his colleagues prior to their action. “Radical redevelopment in already-established residential neighborhoods is not only a threat to quality and lifestyle, but to the value of the adjacent and neighboring properties.”

Afterwards, Newsom’s office tweeted, “Tonight, Huntington Beach leaders decided that their residents don’t need affordable housing. This is a pathetic pattern by politicians more focused on taking down pride flags than on real solutions. CA needs more housing. Time for Huntington Beach to start acting like it.”

It’s at least noteworthy that the affluent suburbs seeking ways around their quotas, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, are overwhelmingly Democratic in their political orientation while Huntington Beach is a Republican stronghold.

Interestingly, while the battle over land use and housing continues elsewhere, residents of arguably California’s most exclusive community don’t have to worry about multi-family housing projects spoiling their ambiance because of a quirk in the law.

That would be Montecito, home to celebrities galore, including Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, Ellen DeGeneres and, most recently, expatriate British Prince Harry and his wife, actress Meghan Markle.

Montecito lies next to the Santa Barbara but is not a city. Rather, it is an unincorporated community governed by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

The county’s cities have their own quotas, but all of its unincorporated territory is folded into one quota of 5,664 units. The county’s plan, unveiled last month, identifies potential building sites, mostly near the cities of Santa Barbara and Santa Maria and the communities of Orcutt, Goleta, Isla Vista and Carpinteria.

Some of the sites are vacant while others are occupied, including some shopping centers and churches. None is in Montecito or an adjacent enclave called Summerland, even though the county’s inventory of vacant land includes about a dozen parcels, some of them fairly large, in those two communities.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Race to Zero: Can California’s Power Grid Handle a 15-Fold Increase in Electric Cars?

As California rapidly boosts sales of electric cars and trucks over the next decade, the answer to a critical question remains uncertain: Will there be enough electricity to power them?

State officials claim that the 12.5 million electric vehicles expected on California’s roads in 2035 will not strain the grid. But their confidence that the state can avoid brownouts relies on a best-case — some say unrealistic — scenario: massive and rapid construction of offshore wind and solar farms, and drivers charging their cars in off-peak hours.

Under a groundbreaking new state regulation, 35% of new 2026 car models sold in California must be zero-emissions, ramping up to 100% in 2035. Powering these vehicles and electrifying other sectors of the economy means the state must triple its power generation capacity and deploy new solar and wind energy at almost five times the pace of the past decade. 

The Air Resources Board enacted the mandate last August — and just six days later, California’s power grid was so taxed by heat waves that an unprecedented, 10-day emergency alert warned residents to cut electricity use or face outages. The juxtaposition of the mandate and the grid crisis sparked widespread skepticism: How can the state require Californians to buy electric cars if the grid couldn’t even supply enough power to make it through the summer?

At the same time as electrifying cars and trucks, California must, under state law, shift all of its power to renewables by 2045. Adding even more pressure, the state’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, is slated to shut down in 2030.

With 15 times more electric cars expected on California’s roads by 2035, the amount of power they consume will grow exponentially. But the California Energy Commission says it will remain a small fraction of all the power used during peak hours — jumping from 1% in 2022 to 5% in 2030 and 10% in 2035.

“We have confidence now” that electricity will meet future demand “and we’re able to plan for it,” said Quentin Gee, a California Energy Commission supervisor who forecasts transportation energy demand.

But in setting those projections, the state agencies responsible for providing electricity — the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator and the California Public Utilities Commission — and utility companies are relying on multiple assumptions that are highly uncertain.

“We’re going to have to expand the grid at a radically much faster rate,” said David Victor, a professor and co-director of the Deep Decarbonization Initiative at UC San Diego. “This is plausible if the right policies are in place, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s best-case.” 

Yet the Energy Commission has not yet developed such policies or plans, drawing intense criticism from energy experts and legislators. Failing to provide enough power quickly enough could jeopardize California’s clean-car mandate — thwarting its efforts to combat climate change and clean up its smoggy air.

“We are not yet on track. If we just take a laissez-faire approach with the market, then we will not get there,” said Sascha von Meier, a retired UC Berkeley electrical engineering professor who specializes in power grids. The state, she said, is moving too slowly to fix the obstacles in siting new clean energy plants and transmission lines. “Planning and permitting is very urgent,” she said.

The twin goals of ramping up zero-emission vehicle sales and achieving a carbon-free future can only be accomplished, Victor said, if several factors align: Drivers must avoid charging cars during evening hours when less solar energy is available. More than a million new charging stations must be operating. And offshore wind farms — non-existent in California today — must rapidly crank out a lot of energy.

To provide enough electricity to meet total demand, California must: 

  • Convince drivers to charge their cars during off-peak hours: With new discounted rates, utilities are urging residents to avoid charging their cars between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. But many people don’t have unrestricted access to chargers at their jobs or homes.
  • Build solar and wind at an unprecedented pace: Shifting to all renewables requires at least 6 gigawatts of new resources a year for the next 25 years — a pace that’s never been met before.
  • Develop a giant new industry: State officials predict that offshore wind farms will provide enough power for about 1.5 million homes by 2030 and 25 million homes by 2045. But no such projects are in the works yet. Planning them, obtaining an array of permits and construction could take at least seven to eight years.
  • Build 15 times more public chargers: About 1.2 million chargers will be needed for the 8 million electric cars expected in California by 2030. Currently, about 80,000 public chargers operate statewide, with another estimated 17,000 on the way, according to state data. 
  • Expand vehicle-to-grid technology: State officials hope electric cars will send energy back to the grid when electricity is in high demand, but the technology is new and has not been tested in electric cars. 
  • Increase electricity production by up to 42% in 2035 and, under a recent scenario, as much as 85% in 2045, according to California Energy Commission estimates. Generation capacity — the maximum that must be installed to meet demand throughout a given year  — would need to triple by 2045.

Day and night charging

Climate change has already stressed California’s energy grid, especially during hot summer months when residents crank up air conditioners in the late afternoon and early evening. 

Providing electricity during those hot summer evenings — when people use the most — will be a challenge, said Gee of the California Energy Commission.

“That’s what we’re particularly concerned about,” he said. “We have enough electricity to support consumption the vast majority of the time. It’s when we have those peak hours during those tough months.”

The total electricity consumed by Californians is expected to surge by 96% between 2020 and 2045, while net demand during peak hours is projected to increase 60%, according to a study commissioned by San Diego Gas & Electric. 

Southern California Edison worries that if drivers charge during late summer afternoons, electric vehicles could strain the grid, said Brian Stonerock, the utility’s director of business planning and technology. Edison’s service area includes the desert, where customers rely on air conditioning, and their peak use times are when solar power is less available as the sun goes down.

Concerns about the grid “are quite a big deal for us,” he said. “We don’t want people to be confused or lose confidence that the utility is going to be able to meet their needs.”

But for many drivers, charging during the day or late at night is not a problem: Most electric cars have chargers that can be automatically turned on after 9 p.m. But for some drivers, especially those who live in apartments or condominiums, charging during those hours may not be an option. 

That’s because — unlike filling a gas tank — charging an electric car takes much longer. Drivers may not have a reliable place to park their cars for long periods of time during the day while they work or late at night when they’re home. To encourage daytime charging, Victor said the state must drastically boost the number of fast chargers and workplace stations.

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

GOP Voters Favor DeSantis

Poll of Californians has Trump trailing for 2024 nod

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has surged to a lead among California Republicans over former President Trump for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, a poll released Friday found.

About 37% of GOP voters backed DeSantis, while 29% preferred Trump, according to the new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. These numbers are a near mirror image of the support for the two in an August poll conducted by Berkeley.

Other hopefuls trailed far behind, with none receiving more than 7% in the poll.

California matters to Republican presidential contenders despite its overall Democratic majority. Nearly 2.3 million voters cast ballots for Trump in California’s March 2020 primary, the most in any state in the nation.

DeSantis has taken a particularly strong lead among Republican voters with a college degree, who back him by more than 2 to 1 over Trump. The former president has the support of Republicans who did not attend college, and the two run close to even among those who have some college experience but not a four-year degree.

Among California Republicans who voted for Trump in 2020, DeSantis leads by 11 percentage points in the new poll; he trailed Trump by 14 points among such voters six months ago.

“There is serious defection among his ranks,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the IGS poll. “These voters are now on board with DeSantis more than Trump. That’s fairly significant.”

The poll results come just over a week before DeSantis is scheduled to visit Southern California, with speeches in Orange County and at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, spots where he will meet with well-heeled Republican donors and party leaders.

The survey also illuminated Californians’ complicated views about President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in a state where fellow Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1 among registered voters.

Although Biden’s approval ratings improved in recent months, with 57% of the state’s voters now praising his job performance, the same share of voters don’t want the 80-year-old to run for reelection next year.

Even with Harris’ California roots, nearly 6 in 10 of those surveyed were not enthusiastic about her running for the White House if Biden decides to not seek another term. She grew up in the Bay Area and served as San Francisco’s district attorney, the state’s attorney general and California’s U.S. senator.

“Usually, it’s the case that people in your own area are most positive about you, and people outside of your area learn more about you and eventually get on board. That hasn’t been the case for Kamala,” DiCamillo said. “In fact, looking at … the enthusiasm [voters have for her running] for president, in the Bay Area, it’s less than it is in Los Angeles. That’s telling to me. She’s never had a real strong base of support in the Bay Area, and it’s true the entire two-year period of following her as vice president.”

Regardless of those qualms, barring an unprecedented political shift, California’s 54 electoral votes will easily wind up in Democrats’ column in the November 2024 presidential election. Biden leads DeSantis by 23 points among the state’s voters in a hypothetical match-up and beats Trump by 30 points, according to the poll. In 2020, Biden bested Trump by 29% in California.

The state’s presidential primary, which will occur in March next year, could be pivotal in deciding the Republican nomination. California will once again have the largest delegation at the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where the party will officially select its nominee.

In addition, the state is home to an enormous group of wealthy donors. In 2020, Trump and his supporting groups received more than $92 million from California donors, making the state the third-largest home of his financial backers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The numbers are significant undercounts because they do not include contributions to political action committees or individual donations under $200.

This is one major reason why prominent Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are among the White House hopefuls who have visited the state since the last presidential election.

Haley recently announced a 2024 presidential bid; Pence, Pompeo and others are believed to be eyeing a bid.

Along with Trump and DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo and Haley were among the 11 Republicans included in the potential presidential field in the Berkeley IGS poll.

DeSantis is scheduled to speak at the Reagan Library as well as at a fundraiser for the Orange County GOP on March 5. Although it’s unclear whether he is raising money for committees supporting his electoral efforts, DeSantis will meet and mingle with major GOP donors at the events, which are taking place in citadels of wealthy and well-connected conservatives, according to sources familiar with his plans.

The polling shows why such regions may be essential to the DeSantis campaign if he runs. Republican voters who are more educated and wealthier are far more likely to support the Florida governor over Trump.

GOP college graduates backed DeSantis over Trump, 39% to 21%, in the poll, while Republicans with a postgraduate education preferred DeSantis over Trump by nearly 3 to 1. By contrast, Republican voters with no more than a high school education preferred Trump over DeSantis, 45% to 30%.

There were similar disparities among voters with different incomes, with GOP voters in wealthier California households being far more likely to support DeSantis than Trump.

White voters without a college education have long been Trump’s strongest supporters, and his weakness among college-educated voters, which emerged during the 2016 election, helped Democrats win in former conservative bastions such as Orange County that year — the first time the county supported a Democrat for president since the Great Depression. That dynamic was evident in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential contest.

The poll indicates that the college divide is splitting Republican ranks, echoing other surveys that have shown that division nationally.

That could benefit DeSantis in states such as California, in which college graduates make up a large share of the electorate. But it could boost Trump elsewhere in the nation, including parts of the South and the Midwest, where non-college-educated voters dominated GOP primaries.

Voters who stopped their education after high school or didn’t receive their high school degree account for 18% of the Republican electorate in California but made up just over 1 in 3 GOP voters nationwide in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

DiCamillo said GOP voters who have a high school degree or didn’t complete it have remained consistent in their support for Trump, which makes sense because they were the foundation of his base.

“But the other segments are moving,” he said. “That’s the vulnerability Trump has this time around … at least in California.”

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Nazi salute, antisemitic lessons and conspiracy theories embraced by the likes of Kanye West taught at a Hayward high school

A 10th grade teacher has been placed on leave after teaching antisemitism — two months after it was initially reported to the school.

A Hayward high school teacher accused of spreading antisemitic conspiracies and making the Heil Hitler salute during classes has been placed on administrative leave this week after students complained to the district about the lessons late last year.

Though students alerted both school and district staff about English teacher Henry Bens’ curriculum in December, the teacher continued to instruct his 10th graders until this week, according to teachers and students at Mt. Eden High School. The school is now on break, but according to the Hayward Unified School District, Bens will not be returning to the classroom on Monday.

The controversy comes amid an alarming rise in antisemitism fueled recently, in part, by celebrities such as Kanye West and NBA star Kyrie Irving. Last year, Irving promoted an extremist documentary film that the Hayward teacher later featured on social media.

“He told us: You’re willfully blind,” said one of his students, 16-year-old Myldret Vazquez. “He said he was going to help us uncover the other side of the story.”

As first reported by the Jewish News of Northern California, Bens taught Elie Weisel’s Holocaust memoir, Night, alongside photocopies of The Hidden Tyranny, an antisemitic text by Holocaust-denier Benjamin Freedman. According to Vazquez, Bens told students to alternate reading portions of the material out loud and guided them to highlight specific sections.

At first, Vazquez was confused: She was being told that a secret organization of Jewish people was controlling the mass media, blackmailing American presidents and instigating war. Vazquez left class determined not to read on — but, worried that there would be a test on the topic, she finished the assignment when she got home.

“I continued to read through it, and I began to understand it a little bit more,” Vazquez said. “And then I was like, ‘Is that possible?’ ”

Ultimately, Vazquez decided it was not. She let Carmelita — her dachshund puppy — rip up her copy of The Hidden Tyranny. But Ruchita Verma, a senior at Mt. Eden who tutors 10th graders at the school, said she’s heard multiple stories of students believing Bens’ instruction.

“Students were saying, ‘Well you know, the Holocaust wasn’t even real,’ ” said Verma, referring to a story she’d been told by another classmate. “(They said) ‘What my teacher (Bens) is telling us is what we should all look into.’ ”

Bens did not respond to repeated requests for comment via phone call or email. The school district is now conducting an investigation into his instruction. Lauren McDermott, who leads communications for the Hayward Unified School District, said she did not know if or when Bens will return to Mt. Eden.

“We take these allegations very seriously, and the teacher alleged to have made such statements and used inappropriate materials is currently on a leave of absence,” said the district.

But according to Heather Eastwood, another English teacher at Mt. Eden, the administration repeatedly said they couldn’t do anything about Bens’ curriculum because of “academic freedom” — the idea that teachers have a right to express ideas without interference or professional disadvantage.

“They’ve also been saying they can’t do anything to discipline him because the union will protect him,” Eastwood said. “I said to an administrator: That’s the same thing as saying you’re not going to prosecute someone for a crime because they are going to have a defense attorney. That’s not how it works.”

Some students also feel something should have been done sooner. Two 10th graders who had complained about Bens were moved to another classroom, but those who remained also began to speak up. They recorded his lectures, took photos of their assignments and spoke out at school board meetings, urging the district to take action on not just The Hidden Tyranny assignment but other things the teacher said in class. And they created a Google Form to poll their classmates about their experiences in Bens’ lessons.

“Multiple students have come forward to share that they are in a learning space in which their teacher performs the Hitler salute,” Verma told the school board last week. “We are asking for you to help make our school a better place by ensuring our students are in safe classrooms.”

Vazquez said Bens made that salute multiple times in the classroom and — referring to alleged Israeli war crimes during a lecture on Palestine — asked students to consider what they would do if Bens broke into a house, killed all the men and raped all the women.

“If I was alive during Hitler’s time, I would have an interview with him,” said Bens in an audio file that was recorded by his students. “I would let him share his views.”

She also said the teacher told his students he was worried that everyone on Earth would become gay and that, ultimately, the population of the world would die out. Multiple LGBTQ+ students were in the classroom for that conversation, Vazquez said.

Bens’ social media profiles highlight materials — including Hebrews to Negroes, a film largely accepted as antisemitic — that are connected to the Black Hebrew Israelite religious sect. Black Hebrew Israelites do not align themselves with Judaism but claim that African Americans are the descendants of an ancient tribe in Israel. And though not all Black Hebrew Israelites are antisemitic, extremists within the movement “believe white Jews are perpetuating identity theft,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Bens, who is Black, is a pastor at Congregation Rehoboth in Alameda, a synagogue that celebrates shabbat and uses Hebrew characters in its religious readings, as documented by its Facebook live streams. In the “About” section, the synagogue states they are followers of Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus.

The Black Hebrew Israelite movement has grown in America since West and Irving latched onto some of its more extreme ideologies. After Irving shared the film Hebrews to Negroes on social media last year, he was suspended by the Brooklyn Nets for eight basketball games. He returned to the court in November, and outside the stadium, a group of Black Hebrew Israelites marched in celebration.

“We are the real Jews, and that’s some good news,” the crowd chanted.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, West’s influence has led to at least 30 antisemitic incidents since October of 2022, building on a spike nationwide. During 2021, antisemitic assaults, harassment and vandalism hit an all-time high in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The organization recorded a total of 2,717 incidents throughout that year — a 34% increase from 2020.

“We hear on a weekly basis about really disturbing antisemitic incidents that take place here, even in the Bay Area,” said Teresa Drenick, the ADL’s deputy regional director. “But to see a teacher in one of our public schools assigning and teaching from a text of this nature, that shocked all of us.”

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Time to Talk Details on California Oil Profit Penalty

Today, four months after Gov. Gavin Newsom called upon the Legislature to tax the excess profits of oil producers in California, we may finally get some details about the proposal.

Or we might not. 

A Senate committee is slated to hold its first hearing on the “windfall profits penalty” proposed by the governor and introduced by Oakland Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner. The hearing is only meant to be “informational” — an opportunity for lawmakers to hear from experts about what drives the state’s gas prices and what the Legislature can do about it. But the back-and-forth could give us a hint about how much appetite there is for this still very hypothetical tax.

The bill was introduced in early December with vague placeholder language that refers to imposing a “penalty” on an unspecified “maximum gross gasoline refining” profit. Proceeds from the penalty would be refunded to Californians.

  • What’s in a word? Not labeling the tax a “tax” is no accident; California law requires two thirds of the Legislature to pass a tax, but only a majority to impose some fees. 

The language of the bill hasn’t changed since Dec. 5, and some Capitol watchers are growing impatient. Newsom’s promises of sticking it to Big Oil is “just talk,” scolded L.A. columnist George Skelton earlier this month. “It’s past decision time,” columnist Tom Elias wrote two weeks ago. 

What’s the hold-up? Newsom said it’s no surprise it’s taken time to work out the details when asked last week by my colleague Alexei Koseff, blaming the delay on the oil producers themselves and on the sheer magnitude of the task.

  • Newsom: “The fact that oil companies aren’t even showing up to hearings…the fact that this is novel, no other state in history has done it.”

Whatever the proposal turns out to be, California’s big business interests are already against it. Last week, the California Chamber of Commerce blacklisted the bill by branding it as its first “job killer” of the 2023 session. 

California Republicans are worried about the price of gas, too. In a Tuesday letter signed by all 26 GOP legislators, they urged Newsom to act now ahead of higher prices at the pump as the summer holiday travel season approaches. But in contrast to Newsom’s profit penalty, they put forward a very different prescription

Newsom wasn’t having it: “Republicans are avoiding the core problem: an industry that operates with zero accountability and too much power over prices of a commodity essential to most California families.”

According to AAA, the average price in California on Tuesday for regular unleaded was $4.74 a gallon, $1.07 more than the national average.

As UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein has written, a number of factors explain that difference: 

  • About 70 cents can be explained by higher taxes and the state’s cap-and-trade program, which funds transportation infrastructure and many of the state’s climate-oriented programs
  • Another 10 cents comes from the rule that only certain smog-cutting blends of gasoline can be sold in the state
  • The remaining difference, which soared to as much as $1 last year, is explained by neither taxes nor regulations.

What’s the cause of that “mystery” surcharge? Expect to hear plenty of theories at today’s hearing.

Electric vehicles: CalMatters is writing a series of stories on California’s road to more electric cars and trucks. Starting in 2035, no gas-powered vehicles will be sold in the state. Do you have questions about this transformation? Submit them here.  

Also, if you live in one of these zip codes (94022, 94027, 94301, 94028, 94024, 90402, 92657) and would be willing to talk to a CalMatters reporter about your experience, email   

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Get Ready For Car Insurance Rates To Go Up In California

Regulators OKd some big increases after a long COVID break, and more are pending.

Some California drivers will be getting a nasty surprise when they open their car insurance bills this year.

That’s because California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara approved some big rate hikes in the last six months, ending a long COVID break after insurance companies complained they were losing money and cutting back in the nation’s largest vehicle market.Higher rates for Geico, Mercury and others are just now showing up in insurance renewal letters that customers receive.

And more increases are in the pipeline, consumer advocates say, even as some insurers have yet to refund customers for premium overcharges during the early months of the pandemic when people were driving less and getting into fewer accidents.

“These insurance companies still owe consumers from the COVID era,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica nonprofit that sponsored Proposition 103, the 1988 voter initiative that limited how much insurers can charge for auto, home and casualty insurance. “The commissioner should not be granting rate hikes when he still hasn’t been able to compel them to give rebates for the times when we weren’t driving,” Court said.

Californians are paying an average of $2,291 in car insurance premiums this year, up $101 from 2022, according to a Bankrate analysis that found premiums rising nationwide as people drive more miles, drive less safely and wreck increasingly expensive cars.

Rate increase approvals, which gathered steam in December and January, have been granted to insurers representing more than 20% of the market, according to Consumer Watchdog’s tally. Geico, Mercury and Allstate received 6.9% increases, while some smaller insurers got larger hikes.

An additional 97 premium rate increases have been requested, the consumer group said, ranging from a 4.5% hike to nearly 20%. The most common request is 6.9%because anything larger than that can trigger a public hearing. Some of the biggest names on the pending list include State Farm, Progressive, Farmers and the American Automobile Assn.

Geico, the state’s second-largest auto insurer, after State Farm, got a 6.9% rate increase in December, which will mean a premium boost averaging $125 a year for the company’s 2.1 million policyholders.

Some drivers will be hit harder than others, said Consumer Watchdog attorney Daniel L. Sternberg, particularly those insured by companies that are using a driver’s job and educational background in determining that person’s rate.

Consumer Watchdog in recent years has challenged rate increase filings by Geico, Mercury, AAA and Allstate for charging higher base rates for lower-income workers than for professionals with a college degree.

Using Mercury as an example, Sternberg said the January approval of a 6.9% increase allows “unfairly discriminatory rates using five separate education- and occupation-based rating tiers which working-class Californians without a professional occupation and advanced degree will pay up to 18% higher premiums.”

The insurance industry says rate increases are overdue.

Insurers in September said California’s auto insurance market was on the brink of a crisis because they were paying out more in claims than they were collecting through premiums in 2022. Geico last year closed California sales storefronts in favor of online sales, and others have talked about slowing growth in the state.

California waited longer than any other state to raise auto premiums after the pandemic eased, said Denni Ritter, a vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Assn.

In their return to the roads, California drivers have been driving faster and, increasingly, while intoxicated, Ritter said, leading to accident injuries that are more severe, and they’re wrecking cars that have higher repair costs than in the past.

“So unfortunately, those are causing costs to really skyrocket in the auto insurance realm,” Ritter said, causing a 25% increase in insurance costs in 2022 while premiums grew 4.5%.

As for those refunds, Californians are still waiting for about $3.5 billion of the $5.5 billion that Consumer Watchdog estimates policyholders are owed for pandemic-era overcharges.

The matter still hasn’t been fully resolved, say the state’s insurance officials, who argue that rate hike decisions aren’t interfering with unfulfilled rebates.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

School District Audit Deals Another Blow to Stockton’s Civic Reputation

Stockton has long had a reputation for crime, poverty and civic malfeasance and suffered another blow last week when a searing audit of the city’s school district was unveiled.

Auditors portrayed a system consumed with internal discord that ignored basic rules of financial management and squandered millions of dollars on questionable no-bid contracts – money that should have been used to improve the education of 34,000 overwhelmingly poor students.

The audit was conducted by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), an agency that monitors the financial health of California’s public school systems and helps stabilize those in trouble. It found dozens of instances in which money was paid to outside contractors without competitive bidding and/or in violation of the district’s own policies.

The centerpiece of FCMAT’s report was a $6.6 million contract given to a company, Alliance Building Solutions, in 2021 for a system to disinfect the district’s schools through the use of ultraviolet rays. One of the district’s trustees, Scot McBrian, arranged a meeting of district officials with the company at a private party hosted by Stockton’s former mayor, Anthony Silva, and advocated the adoption of its system.

From that initial contact, FCMAT says, the district – without ever determining a need for disinfection – went through several irregular processes, culminating in the contract with IAQ Distribution, an Allied subsidiary that at the time had not registered as a business with the state. Although the company was paid – using federal funds meant to overcome the educational ravages of COVID-19 – only small pieces of the contracted work were ever completed.

FCMAT found similar irregularities in contracts the district awarded to nine different law firms.

“Based on the findings in this report, there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that fraud, misappropriation of funds and/or assets, or other illegal fiscal practices may have occurred in the specific areas reviewed,” FCMAT concluded. “Deficiencies and exceptions noted during FCMAT’s review of (Stockton Unified’s) financial records and internal control environment increase the probability of fraud, mismanagement and/or misappropriation of the…assets.

“These findings should be of great concern to the Stockton Unified School District and the San Joaquin County Office of Education and require immediate intervention to limit the risk of fraud, mismanagement and/or misappropriation of assets, or other illegal fiscal practices in the future.”

This, as noted earlier, is not Stockton’s first civic disgrace. In 2012, the city declared bankruptcy after borrowing heavily to build a marina, a basketball and hockey arena and a baseball stadium of dubious utility. The city also took on more debt to make contributions to the pension system for city employees.

Routinely, Stockton is ranked near the top in crime among California cities and several local officials have been caught up in criminal investigations.

Silva, the former mayor who apparently instigated the school system’s disinfection contract by hosting a party at his home to bring school officials and company representatives together, is one of those officials.

Silva, who ran an organization called Stockton Kids Club, was elected mayor in 2012, the same year the city declared bankruptcy. In 2016, he was arrested for providing alcohol to underage boys and recording them playing strip poker. A year later, he was charged with grand theft, embezzlement, profiteering, misappropriation of public funds and money laundering, and in 2019 pleaded guilty to one charge in a plea deal.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California AG’s wife recuses herself from state DOJ budget

California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s wife has recused herself from matters related to the state Department of Justice as part of her duties leading a legislative subcommittee that oversees his budget.

Assemblymember Mia Bonta, a Democrat, announced the recusal in a statement posted online Sunday. She heads Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5, which oversees public safety spending — including that of the state’s justice department, which is led by Rob Bonta.

Mia Bonta’s statement emphasized that while she believes there is no legal or ethical conflict in her role, she has recused herself so Californians “have absolute confidence in the legislative process.”

KCRA had first reported the possible conflict of interest and repeatedly pressed Mia Bonta on the issue.

The budget subcommittee is scheduled to discuss the Department of Justice’s budget on March 27.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon had appointed Mia Bonta to the subcommittee position and noted that the Assembly and Senate must agree on a budget, which then must be either signed or vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Dealership’s Sale Ends Era of Cal and His Dog Spot

Worthington’s family sells the last car lot still bearing the quirky salesman’s name.

Make no mistake about it, bub, Southern California is car country.

So automobile dealer Calvin Coolidge Worthington decided to have a little fun, attract attention and empty his lots with “My Dog Spot” TV commercials featuring a live, snarling gorilla.

The commercials, in which he also used other animals as a dog named Spot — a penguin, camel, elephant, bear, lion, hippopotamus and tiger — helped him build an empire of 27 dealerships that sold more than 1 million cars.

Many of those commercials were filmed under the large “Worthington Ford in Long Beach” sign at the dealership he bought in 1963.

Now that sign has come to mark the end of an era. Worthington’s family said they have sold the 3-acre business, the last dealership still bearing the name of the legendary car salesman who died in 2012.

“It’s very sad,” Nick Worthington, Cal’s grandson, said in an interview with ABC7. “Our employees have been with us 40-plus years. It’s a part of everyone’s childhood and life growing up here. It’s hard to close that book for everybody.”

On Saturday, Shawn Abdallah, finance director at the dealership, said news of the sale “came as a shock, although there had been rumors for a couple of months that something like this was in the works.”

“The rumors were confirmed on Thursday,” he said, “when Nick had everyone gather in a conference room here for an important message.

“He said, ‘You probably heard the rumors, and today I am here to confirm them,’ ” Abdallah recalled. “He was very emotional. And yeah, there were tears all around.”

The buyer, Nouri/Shaver Automobile Group, plans to keep all Worthington Ford employees, but they will have to reapply for their jobs, Abdallah said.

The iconic blue “Worthington” sign overlooking Bellflower Boulevard, Abdallah said, “won’t be taken down until March 1.”

In the meantime, visitors don’t have to go far to see reminders of the stunts used by the Oklahoma transplant to make the hard sell during a 65-year career that made him an icon of quirky Southern California culture.

The showroom of gleaming new Ford models, for instance, features a floor- to-ceiling photograph of Worthington cheek-to-cheek with a tiger: the most personable of all the animals that helped him build a cult following.

It’s a reminder of a quirky era when automobile salesmen here, in the capital of car and freeway culture, dressed like Napoleon, wore halos and adopted exotic animals for a sale.

Worthington’s signature gimmicks were the “Dog Spot” ads, which first appeared on-air in 1971. They were originally intended to be spoofs of two competitors: Ralph Williams and Fletcher Jones.

Williams had launched an ad campaign with a German shepherd named Storm, and Jones appeared on TV cuddling puppies.

“I decided I’d mimic them,” Worthington recalled in an interview. So he borrowed a gorilla, chained it to a car bumper and let the cameras roll.

Trying to appear unruffled, the lanky pitchman with a cowboy hat and ear-to-ear grin launched that characteristically folksy tactic with welcoming words: “Howdy, I’m Cal Worthington, and this is my dog Spot.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Loses Nearly 700,000 Residents Since 2020

The California exodus is no surprise to most – except maybe Gov. Gavin Newsom under whose scurrilous control the 700,000 residents chose to leave for freer states

The California exodus to other states is even worse than we realized; the state’s population dropped by more than 500,000 people between April 2020 and July 2022, with the number of residents leaving surpassing those moving in by nearly 700,000 the Los Angeles Times reported.

This news isn’t new – the Globe has been reporting for several years about California’s exodus of businesses to economically friendlier states, and residents seeking economic freedom and liberty.

In 2021, the Globe reported that California ranked as one of the top Outbound migration states, along with four other blue Democrat-run states, while the top Inbound migration states were all red Republican states:

Top Outbound States

Illinois – 68%
Michigan – 63%
New Jersey – 63%
California – 60%
New York – 59%

Top Inbound States 

Arizona – 68%
South Carolina – 60%
Tennessee – 59%
North Carolina – 58%
Texas – 58%

Worth noting is that in 2018 California was one of the top Inbound destination states, according to  Allied Van Lines Company data. By 2020, only two years later, California’s inbound migration was 40%, while its outbound migration was nearly 60%, which leads us to California’s bleeding residents and businesses today.

“The primary reason for the exodus is the state’s high housing costs, but other reasons include the long commutes and the crowds, crime and pollution in the larger urban centers,” the LA Times said. “The increased ability to work remotely — and not having to live near a big city — has also been a factor.”

They forgot to include the hundreds of thousands of homeless populating LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, and smaller cities, the highest taxes in the nation, a failing electricity grid and rolling blackouts, wildfire “season,” government ordered water shortages, half of the state’s small businesses closed from Covid, 76,000 prisoners let out of state prisons, California’s failing public schools ranked at the bottom of all of the states at number #48.

Last week, Utah’s Governor told California residents who are looking to join the recent population exodus into red, Republican-led states like Utah should stay in California. “We’re having the opposite problem, this last census confirmed that Utah was the fastest-growing state in the last ten years,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told reporters outside the White House after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy discussed ways he will encourage people to move to his state,” Fox News reported.

Gov. Spencer wasn’t being provocative – he explained that Utah doesn’t have the necessary housing and infrastructure yet to accommodate so many new residents.

What a nice problem to have.

Los Angeles and San Francisco counties lost the most residents. This is no surprise either as Los Angeles and San Francisco had the harshest, most draconian Covid restrictions, masking, lockdowns, school closures and vaccine mandates. Los Angeles and San Francisco counties also have the most crime.

In fact, San Francisco County and the State of California are still operating under Covid emergency orders – three years after declaring the Covid State of Emergency, or nearly 1,100 days later. San Francisco initially declared its emergency order in late February 2020 – ahead of Gov. Newsom’s March 4, 2020.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) just announced Thursday that it will will finally end their COVID-19 public health emergency declaration at the end of the month, on the same day as Gov. Newsom’s vowed to end to the California Covid State of Emergency.

People can’t live like that – wondering if on any day the county public health or state Department of Public health tyrants would impose new masking mandates, or impose vaccine or booster mandates again. Or their children would be required to mask in school, as many schools districts threatened.

In late December 2021, the Globe reported: “with California Governor Gavin Newsom extending his emergency powers and a ‘State of Emergency,’ enforced mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and lockdowns for nearly two years, almost 400,000 Californians picked up and moved to red states opened for business and education – and no mask or vaccine mandates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

“New Census Bureau population data show that California’s population decreased in 2021 by -367,299, or 1% of the population.”

Between 2020 and 2021, a total of 33 states saw population increases via inbound migration, while 17 states saw population decline via outbound migration. New York, California and Illinois suffered the largest population declines. Texas, Florida and Arizona enjoyed the largest numeric growth, and Idaho, Utah and Montana enjoyed the largest percentage growth.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe