Gov. Brown Expands Access to Sterile Syringes for Drug Users

From the LA Times:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed two bills that will expand access to sterile syringes for drug users in an effort to combat the spread of hepatitis C and HIV.

The first bill, SB41, written by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), allows people to buy syringes at pharmacies without a prescription. California was one of the few states where this was illegal, other than a few pilot program areas.

The second bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), allows the state to authorize needle exchange programs in areas deemed high risk for the spread of disease.

(Read Full Article.)

California’s Quarterly Tax Revenue Falls Below Projections

From Bloomberg Businesweek:

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) — California’s revenue for the fiscal year that began three months ago has fallen $705 million below what Governor Jerry Brown and Democrats projected, approaching a level that may trigger automatic university spending cuts and higher community college fees.

September revenue came in $301.6 million below estimates, Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, said in a report today. July was $538.8 million less than forecast, Chiang said Aug. 9. Revenue in August was $135 million more than expected.

The $86 billion general-fund spending plan Brown signed in June included a series of cuts activated if higher revenue doesn’t materialize. The first, if the shortfall is $1 billion, would trim University of California and California State University budgets each by $100 million and increase community- college fees by $10 million.

(Read Full Article.)

California Bans Tanning Beds for Youth

From the LA Times:

Californians under age 18 will no longer be able to use ultraviolet tanning devices, according to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday. SB 746, which goes into effect Jan. 1, supercedes the existing law that prohibits people under age 14 from using UV tanning devices and requires consent from a parent or legal guardian for people 14 to 18 years old who want to use one.

Though 30 other states have some age restrictions on UV tanning device use, the California law is the first in the country to set such a high age requirement.

(Read Full Article.)

Leadership on Large Development Project in Irvine

I witnessed firsthand on August 30 an amazing display of calm, deliberative and ultimately decisive leadership by Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang.  The only agenda item  for the Irvine City Council was a major development project—Great Park Neighborhoods by FivePoint Communities.  At stake, nearly 5,000 homes surrounding the Great Park, transportation improvements, bringing 16,500 jobs to the City and contributing more than $865 million in local infrastructure investment.

Three people testified in support:  business leader Tom Nielsen, former State Senator Marian Bergeson, and yours truly on behalf of OCBC.  Not one person appeared in opposition, yet the public hearing lasted for more than six hours with two council members out of the five taking the majority of time peppering staff with questions about the plan.

Questions they already knew the answers to.  Questions they would have already asked in personal council briefings. Questions that, to this ear, seemed to be “gotcha” questions.  But they were questions well-answered, I might add, by a well-prepared city staff and development team.  City staff had done its homework and represented the residents of Irvine very well, assuring the public of the significant public benefits of the project.

Mayor Kang heard it all.  He skillfully led his fellow council members into a thoughtful motion to approve the project, subject to conditions to satisfy most of the questions asked, and called for a vote.  Amazingly, the council voted three to two to support the project, with two Republicans—Steven Choi and Jeffrey Lalloway—supporting Democrat Mayor Sukhee Kang!

I suspect that is the first time bi-partisan support occurred in Irvine over the Great Park.  An historic vote and none too soon.

The project deserved unanimous council approval.

California’s economy is suffering, and so are its people. We have the second highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12.4%.  And it is no secret that Irvine is the heart of Orange County’s economy.  As Orange County leads Southern California out of the recession, a lot of credit goes to Irvine, a jobs magnet, a housing innovator.

Nationally recognized investment advisors PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Company) visited OCBC recently and shared a dire prediction: there is a 30-35% chance of re-entering the recession. They emphasized that recovery of the housing market is critical to the nation’s recovery.  Irvine, of course, is ground zero for housing:  not only has The Irvine Company started successfully building and selling new homes again, but FivePoint Communities’ project furthers the objective, and these companies then give confidence to other communities to begin to dust off the plans and start building again—a major boost to any economy.

Equally as important, said PIMCO: politicians need to stop bickering and start working together on practical solutions to the country’s economic problems.  We need to replace the “teenagers leading our country with adults,” they said.

The back-and-forth political carryings-on are still daily fodder for the press in Sacramento and Washington.  Fortunately, here in Orange County, we have an example of an elected official who understands what it means to lead in tough times.  He and his council brethren know that in this economy, with so many folks out of work, those who have the ability to create a job have a duty to do so.

Kudos to Mayor Kang.  And thank you.

 

(Lucy Dunn is the president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council.)

GOP Wins Two Important Special Elections

Tuesday was a good day for two GOP congressional candidates in special elections, one in Nevada and one in New York. Do these victories give Republicans even more momentum going into next year’s presidential elections? What does this mean for Democrats? More analysis on that later day, for now, here is a brief synopsis of the news coming out of both Nevada and New York.

From New York (Wall Street Journal):

Democrats suffered an embarrassing setback Tuesday in a congressional election in New York City, where voters in a district they had held for nearly a century elected a Republican who framed his candidacy as a rebuke to President Barack Obama.

The GOP candidate, Bob Turner, was declared the winner Tuesday night over Democrat David Weprin in an out-of-season contest to succeed Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned following a scandal over sexually charged messages he sent to women he met online.

With almost all of the election districts reporting, Mr. Turner had 54% of the vote to Mr. Weprin’s 46% in the 9th congressional district that includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

A former television executive with no political experience, Mr. Turner had sought to make the race a referendum on Mr. Obama’s record, and it propelled him to victory in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1.

In Nevada (From RGJ.com):

Republican Mark Amodei, a former state GOP chairman and state senator, easily defeated Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall on Tuesday to become the U.S. representative for most of Nevada, including Washoe County.

“I’m looking forward to going back and getting to work right away … and getting that message delivered and turning that tide,” Amodei said during a victory speech before more than 250 supporters at a Reno casino.

Marshall called Amodei about 9 p.m., with about 42 percent of the vote counted, to concede the U.S. House District 2 race to her Republican foe. A Democrat has never won the 2nd District since it was created after the 1980 census.

Los Angeles teachers union obstructing reform for LA schools

Larry Sands, writing forCity Journal California, outlined how the faltering LA Unified School District will have a hard time getting reforms enacted because of opposition from the powerful teachers union:

A major study on teacher quality makes clear just how sclerotic the Los Angeles Unified School District has become—but while the diagnosis and prescriptions are clear, the prognosis is far from certain. The National Council on Teacher Quality’s 58-page report, “Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in LAUSD,” was commissioned by the United Way and several civil rights groups and paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While the report focuses on Los Angeles, many of its findings are applicable to other school districts around California, where collective bargaining agreements have hamstrung administrators and state laws supersede local policies.

Such studies are vital because they spotlight problems and prescribe a course of action, but they’re only half the battle. The other half, of course, requires implementing needed reforms. New LAUSD superintendent John Deasy welcomed the report, but he knows as well as anyone that the most effective reforms would require fundamentally revising the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the United Teachers of Los Angeles—something that the union and its bought-and-paid-for board of education are simply unwilling to do.

The report, published in June, urges major changes to the union contract and to state law. Teacher evaluations should be overhauled, along with tenure rules and work schedules. Rules should be changed that assign teachers to particular schools based on seniority considerations. Compensation should reward performance, not just advanced degrees and years of experience. Another prescription would incorporate standardized test scores into teacher evaluations—a reform already in effect in Washington, D.C., Florida, Maryland, and Colorado. And the report recommends delaying tenure or permanent status until a teacher has been in a classroom for four years, instead of the two years the current contract stipulates.

Unlike most other teacher contracts, L.A. Unified’s arrangement with UTLA specifies that though full-time employees must work a full eight-hour day, those eight hours needn’t necessarily be in the classroom with kids, or even at school. According to the contract: “The varying nature of professional duties does not lend itself to a total maximum daily work time of definite or uniform length.” The report concludes that the contract lends itself to abuse and that teachers should be at their worksites for a full eight hours.

The report also advises giving principals considerably more power to hire teachers of their choosing and making it easier for administrators to get rid of incompetents. At the moment, what the report calls “perverse incentives” compel principals to overlook poorly performing teachers, which, over time, makes it even more difficult to get rid of them. “For example,” the report notes, “the online evaluation system includes a pop-up warning telling principals who have selected ‘needs improvement’ for three or more of the 27 indicators to contact Staff Relations and present documentation to reinforce the ratings.” In short, if a principal thinks a teacher needs to improve, he’ll need to receive approval from the district’s human resources bureaucracy before he can act. Who needs that kind of aggravation?

The report is particularly tough on seniority. California is one of only 12 states in which the most recent hires get pink slips first—regardless of teacher quality—when layoffs become necessary. The report proposes that a teacher’s performance should be one of the considerations used to make such decisions.

(Click here for the rest of his piece.)

A Time for Role Reversal

When I was a kid, one of the most powerful ads I saw on TV—this must go back 40 years—showed two old men grappling with each other like wrestlers while a circle of onlookers cheered for one or the other.  The idea was to show that if old men fought wars, instead of soldiers, we might not have as many wars.

That Vietnam-era ad came to mind this week as the politicizing of the debt ceiling issue roiled markets across the globe, led to the downgrading of U.S. Treasury obligations, and threatened the fragile recovery.

It gave me an idea.

What if we brought all the service people home from Iraq and Afghanistan to run the government, and what if we sent everyone running the federal and state governments to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight on the frontlines of the war?

No matter how you feel about our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ve got to admit that our troops are superb.  They’re well-trained, dedicated, imbued with love of country, and are willing to lay their lives on the line for the rest of us.  They embody the notion that “freedom isn’t free.”

At the same time, never have we raised a more slothful, indolent, self-serving, borderline useless group of individuals as those we have somehow elected to federal and state office.

The only difference between the way government officials run the United States and the way they run Italy, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain is…um, well, nothing.  There is no difference.  The people in our nation’s Capitol have pretty much spent all of our nation’s capital.  Especially in the last few weeks, they have done the seemingly impossible—destroyed the last shreds of self-respect and dignity that the United States used to enjoy in the  community of nations.

That’s why I say it’s time for a role reversal.

If the government were run by people who loved the country, like our service people, it would be a different world.  Work would get done on time and under budget.  There’d be a spit-shine on senators’ shoes, instead of the rest of us wanting to spit on them.  The business of government would be handled as adroitly and expertly as these brave young men and women handle their missions on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, if you took these lazy slobs running the country—the real welfare kings and queens—put them in uniforms, outfitted them with weapons, and sent  them into harm’s way, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be over in a New York minute.

Think of the savings.  We’re spending billions of dollars a day in these foreign lands, and for what?  Breathes there a soul this side of David Petraeus who truly believes the Afghanistani “army” will be able to defend itself from the Taliban?  You might even have some money left over to defend U.S. borders, instead of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The trouble with war is that the people who sign on to it are seldom confronted with the reality of the battlefield.  And the trouble with government is that the people who spend our money seldom have to go out and earn it.

This reminds me of Jackie Mason’s line about Congress.  “You know why there’s a deficit?  Because the Senators are all paid salaries.  Put them on commission.  That’s why they’ve never had a profitable season.”

Most Americans whose fortunes are tied to the wild fluctuations of the stock market haven’t been sleeping well these days.  But it seems like Congress has been sleepwalking to the edge of the precipice, and into the abyss.

It’s no longer enough to send them packing for home.  Let’s send them packing for Kandahar.  And let’s take advantage of the training, acuity, and dedication of our service people, by letting them run the country.

If you take one look at the people running our country and running our states, the evidence is irrefutable.

They couldn’t make things worse.

                                               

New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin runs the Orange County, California-based business ghostwriting service, www.BusinessGhost.com.

CA State Revenues Down Over 10 Percent

State Controller John Chiang announced today that there is more bad news for the Golden State: Revenues are down over 10 percent, or $538 million, from projections. Steven E.F. Brown for the San Francisco Business Times wrote the following:

State Controller John Chiang said California’s revenue was 10.3 percent, or $538.8 million, below budget projections in July.

July was the first month of the Golden State’s new fiscal year, and the tax take was lower in many areas. Only personal income taxes were higher than budget estimates — they came in 2.9 percent, or $89 million, over estimates.

Corporate taxes were 19.3 percent, or $69.5 million below estimates while sales taxes and use taxes were 12.5 percent, or $139.4 million worse than guesses made in the most recent budget.

Both corporate taxes and also sales and use taxes were below their level in July 2010, too, though overall general fund revenue was up $39.9 million, or 0.9 percent, in July 2011 over a year earlier.

California’s budget is a series of guesses about revenue and spending for the year running July 1 through June 30. The controller keeps track of cash levels — how much money the treasury actually has.

Chiang’s office blamed the acrimonious debt-ceiling debate for creating “a great deal of uncertainty for state and local governments, the bond markets, banks and businesses, and the economy.”

In his summary of the situation, Chiang said consumer spending has been dropping, but no one’s sure whether it’s for “a genuine slowdown” or because of logistical problems from natural disasters like this year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“This is cause for concern, but not panic,” he said.

 

For the rest of the article click here.

Redistricting commission dodging questions

During its press conference Friday announcing the release of redistricting maps, the Citizens Redistricting Commission evaded tough questions and refused to explain why one commissioner, Michael Ward of Fullerton, voted earlier in the day against moving all of the final maps to the public for review.

At the podium, Ward declined to explain his vote, but in a short interview with CalWatchdog afterwards said that he had explained his concerns at the appropriate time earlier in the day and was not sure about the legal ramifications of his sharing his concerns. According to published reports, Ward said “I’m sad to find myself compelled to vote no. In my opinion, the commission failed to fulfill its mandate to strictly apply constitutional criteria and consistently applied race and ‘community of interest’ criteria and sought to diminish dissenting viewpoints.”

Ward made it clear to CalWatchdog that he stands by such concerns and is waiting to see how the process proceeds. The commission will vote to adopt what they call “preliminary final maps” in an Aug. 15 meeting. Other commissioners who spoke said that the commission has exhausted its public review process and will indeed vote to approve the new district lines for U.S. Congress, state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization.

As the commission explains on its Web site, “In November 2008, California voters authorized the creation of the Citizens Redistricting Commission when they passed the Voters FIRST Act, which appeared as Proposition 11. Prior to 2008, California legislators drew the districts.” The goal was to take partisanship out of the redistricting process, yet the new commissioners have been dogged by allegations of inappropriate political activism and conflicts of interest.

An exclusive CalWatchdog series by reporter John Hrabe “reveals that at least one commissioner, Dr. Gabino T. Aguirre, has made multiple political campaign contributions to Democratic candidates — contributions that were previously undisclosed to the Commission; a long history of political activism in support of Latino causes; and an extensive web of connections to a special interest group that has submitted its own redistricting proposals to the commission.”

Hrabe also revealed that “a second member … ,  Jeanne Raya, failed to disclose financial contributions made within the past 18 months to a state political campaign committee . …” Somehow, a commission designed to be nonpartisan and charged with designing fair election districts, allowed left-wing political activists with an apparent political agenda to be among its members and to allegedly use the process to create districts that favor their political outlooks.

Based on the CalWatchdog revelations, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro called on Aguirre to resign from the post for what he termed “gross misconduct in office.” Del Beccaro questioned the fairness of a commission that failed to disclose the political activism of its members.

When one reported asked about allegations of impropriety by Aguirre, Galambos Malloy said, “All of our commissioners have conducted themselves with the utmost integrity and impartiality.” They did not address any of the specific concerns raised by the news reports and by the Republican leadership.

The commission also has been criticized by minority activist groups for not putting together enough Latino-dominant districts and not paying sufficient attention to African-American “communities of interest,” even though the commission must legally follow the federal Voting Rights Act, which dictates rules that enhance minority voting power.

At the press conference, commissioners refused to answer tough questions and focused mainly on their own sacrifices. “If anything was sacrificed in the process, it was our personal lives,” said Michelle DiGuilio of Stockton, referring to the long hours and the time spent away from her children. Vincent Barabba of Santa Cruz added that the rewards were worth the sacrifice and told a touching story about the way that Californians have embraced their diversity.

But when it came to questions about dissent, they kept repeating the mantra about this being an open and transparent process. It seemed more like a photo op than an opportunity to provide details about the inner workings of a commission that has much to say about the future politics of this state.

Jon Fleischman, publisher of the conservative Flashreport, argued Friday morning that the “The commission is likely to spend a good portion of today patting themselves on the back for a job well done. They certainly do deserve credit for spending as much time as they did on this project over the past eight months . …  However, the process was not a smooth one at all.” Fleischman points to self-interested agendas of commission members, unclear handling of Voting Rights Act rules and cast doubts on the much-touted openness of the process.

Commissioners seem to be gearing up for legal challenges and public scrutiny, and those surely will come in the ensuing weeks. Barabba argued that if the lines are that bad, then Californians can challenge them through the state Supreme Court or can launch a referendum drive. Those challenges surely are coming, and it will be interesting to hear what Ward has to say as redistricting critics get into gear.

 

This was originally posted and investigated by our friends over at CalWatchdog.

A tale of two states: California and Wisconsin

Governor Scott Walker took office in Wisconsin on January 2, 2011. He declared Wisconsin “open for business” and initiated numerous business friendly reforms. He was immediately labeled Public Enemy #1. TV screens showed massive labor protests and the Capitol was occupied. Posters of Walker with a Hitler mustache popped up and frightening headlines were everywhere. A Huffington post article by Steven Cohen, Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute stated, “Governor Scott Walker is attempting to destroy public sector unions in Wisconsin”.

Fast-forward to August 3, 2011 –seven months into Walker’s term. The protesters and signs have disappeared. The headlines have changed. “Wisconsin has added 39,300 private-sector jobs since Governor Walker declared Wisconsin open for business,” said Scott Baumbach, Department of Workforce Development Secretary. Wisconsin has 7.6% unemployment, far below the national average. Wisconsin’s total private sector job growth of 1.7% has been almost twice the national rate.

Compare that to California. Governor Jerry Brown also took office on January 3, 2011. In January, there were 2,246,073 Californians out of work (12.4%). According to the Economic Development Department, 2,183,100 Californians remain out of work (12.1%). Underemployment and those who have given up make the figures much worse. There are no pictures of Brown with Hitler’s mustache. There are no scary headlines of Brown destroying the public sector, nor protestors occupying his Capitol. That is because Brown is seen as an agent of the public employee unions that dominate California politics.

Business is less enthusiastic about Governor Brown. Chief Executive Magazine ranks California as the worst place to do business for seven years. “California, once a business friendly state, continues to conduct a war on its own economy,” the magazine reported. Companies are “disinvesting” in California at a rate five times greater than just two years ago, said Joseph Vranich, a business relocation expert based in Irvine.

In response to announcements that PAYPAL and CARL’S JR. would take their businesses and employees elsewhere, Lt, Governor Gavin Newsome has set out to alter the “perception” that California is anti-business. Lorraine Yapps Cohen, a San Diego Conservative Examiner, responded, “Oh, this is priceless! In hopes that he would get the message that the state of California overtaxes, overburdens, over-

regulates, and overwhelms business, we discover that it is the “perception” of those maladies that need to be changed.  Not the maladies themselves!”

Will California awaken from its slumber and recognize what other states like Wisconsin have learned, or will the Golden State continue its inexorable slide to a future of never ending financial crisis like Greece and Portugal?

 

Robert J Cristiano PhD is the Real Estate Professional in Residence at Chapman University in Orange, CA, Senior Fellow at The Pacific Research Institute and President of the international investment firm, L88 Investments LLC. He has been a successful real estate developer in Newport Beach California for thirty years.