Can GOP Take Advantage Of California Voter Displeasure With Democrats?

Judging from the results of last November’s slate of ballot initiatives in California, one might imagine that the state is poised to make a turn to the right. California voters rebuffed one ballot attempt to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, for example, and another to scrap the cash bail system and replace it with an algorithm cooked up by Silicon Valley. An initiative that would have allowed the state to raise commercial property taxes also went down to defeat. Voters approved Proposition 22, reversing a recent state law that forced gig-economy companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their casual workers as employees. Perhaps most encouraging to the Right, a bid to reinstate affirmative action in state hiring—illegal since 1996—failed by almost 15 points.

But these results probably don’t justify the hopes in some quarters that bluest California is, at least in some sense, moving rightward. To understand why requires a closer look at the history of the ballot measure in California and its role in state politics today.

California voters adopted a ballot-initiative system by referendum in 1911, under Progressive governor Hiram Johnson. (A referendum is framed by the legislature and given an up-or-down vote by the people, while a ballot initiative originates with the people.) The momentum behind the system’s introduction emanated from movements further to the left. It was a Christian Socialist, John Randolph Haynes, who marshaled socialist groups, the temperance movement, and union forces to install the ballot-initiative system, against opposition by the Southern Pacific Railroad and the then-conservative Los Angeles Times.

After the 1950s, the Democratic Party definitively ended the Republican domination of state politics. Republicans might win the governor’s office, as they did under Ronald Reagan and would again in the 1980s and 1990s, but a yawning gap in voter registration, unbroken from the late 1940s to today, put the state legislature beyond the GOP’s grasp. By the late 1970s, the state Democratic Party had also learned how to hinder ballot initiatives from generating a formidable Republican voting coalition.

California’s landmark Proposition 13 on property taxes is a classic example. In response to dramatically rising property values, which were increasing taxes and squeezing middle-class homeowners, Orange County businessman Howard Jarvis led a “taxpayers’ revolt,” championing an initiative capping property taxes and sharply limiting how fast they could increase. The successful initiative, passed in 1978, inspired similar movements in other parts of the United States.

The measure presented an easy rallying point for the Republican Party and its base of middle-class homeowners. Too easy, in fact: Democratic governor Jerry Brown was quick to appreciate the extent of homeowner fury propelling Jarvis’s initiative and its possible political implications. Accordingly, Brown sought not to resist but to redirect middle-class rage to his own proposal—a more moderate cap. When that effort failed, Brown pledged to uphold Prop. 13, and did. Years later, during his run for a fourth term in office in 2014, Brown called it a “sacred doctrine.”

Having failed to turn the taxpayers’ revolt to its advantage, the California Republican Party made a concerted effort in the 1990s to organize a coalition of voters supporting ballot initiatives on hot-button political issues. The most notable of these was Proposition 187, a 1994 measure, passed by a 20-point margin, which banned illegal immigrants from access to social services.

During a period when alarm about immigration levels was widespread, including among many liberals, Republican governor Pete Wilson had trailed in the polls in his reelection campaign against Kathleen Brown, Jerry Brown’s sister. Prop. 187 presented the ambitious Wilson, who had his eye on a presidential run, with the opportunity to use immigration as a “wedge issue.” By presenting his candidacy as synonymous with the measure (TV spots ran with his name next to Prop. 187), Wilson coasted to a second term, beating challenger Brown by 15 points. Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, up for reelection in 1994 as well, tacked hard to the right on immigration, and won. Republicans even won a slim majority in the state’s lower house, for the first time since 1970, as Democrats narrowly held the upper house. The measure seemed to have revived the fortunes of California’s Republican Party.

But just a few years later, journalists began writing obituaries for the GOP in the state. The Democratic advantage in the state legislature grew steadily to supermajority levels, while statewide office for Republicans became possible only under anomalous conditions, such as the Wild West–style recall of hapless Democratic governor Gray Davis in 2003. The strategy of using ballot initiatives like Prop. 187 to juice the GOP’s potential had failed.

What happened? One common explanation sees California Republicans’ 1990s-era flirtation with populism as a kind of hubris. Even by the standards of the 1990s, Prop. 187 was harsh, and it was unlikely to hold up to legal challenge (it was eventually ruled unconstitutional). One provision denied the children of illegal immigrants access to public schools—in direct contradiction of Supreme Court precedent. California was in the midst of a rapid demographic transition from majority to minority Anglo, and many observers assumed that Prop. 187 had alienated Hispanic voters and aligned them with the Democrats.

More recent research, however, has shown that 1994 was not a watershed moment for California’s Hispanic voters, whose gradual shift leftward had begun earlier and did not pick up marked speed at this point. Instead, a combination of the long-standing structural dominance of the Democratic Party—backed today by the largest accumulations of capital in the state—and the increasingly combative, socially conservative posture of the national Republican Party complicated the traditional California Republican strategy of running as the “nonpartisan” choice.

Pete Wilson also shares some of the blame. His backing of Prop. 187 was out of step with his moderate record, a move intended to burnish his hardline credentials for a presidential run in 1996. Wilson’s national campaign lasted barely a month; he cut an embarrassing figure, having lost his voice after throat surgery, and he had exhausted the generosity of conservative donors, having relied on them simultaneously for his gubernatorial reelection campaign and the campaign for Prop. 187. To immigration hardliners, he was an arriviste; to moderates, an opportunist. When Prop. 187 faced its inevitable court challenges, Wilson made a show of appealing the rulings, but he did not attempt to use a rare Republican majority in the lower house to introduce legislation that would temper its harshest aspects, thus giving it a chance of passing constitutional muster. All he managed was feigned shock when his Democratic successor, Gray Davis, dropped California’s appeal.

The Republican Party was left in disarray. Moderates scrambled to restore the party’s pragmatic California image, as immigration fears began to subside. Hardliners were more convinced than ever that the party had gone soft on the issues that mattered.

Meanwhile, on the left, Davis’s gesture in dropping the state’s appeal of the Prop. 187 ruling prompted an important discovery by California Democrats. Their advantage in statewide elections was now so considerable that they felt emboldened to mount legal challenges to reverse popular initiatives that contradicted their program, including on contentious social issues. For example, during his second stint as governor, in 2013, Jerry Brown felt confident enough in his electoral power to direct officials to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after courts struck down the successful Proposition 8, which had banned the practice. Other methods were available, too: officials could satisfy the letter of a law while disregarding its spirit, or the legislature could keep proposing referendums to oppose an unwanted ballot initiative until one produced the desired result.

Governor Gavin Newsom has recently shown that even these niceties aren’t always necessary. In 2016, asked to rule on capital punishment, the people of California voted to maintain and expedite the death penalty with Prop. 66. The inevitable court challenge managed only a slight watering-down of the measure. No matter: entering office in 2019, Newsom simply issued an executive order placing a moratorium on executions, reversing the popular decision with a stroke of a pen.

Far from being an impediment to the Democratic Party’s dominance in California, the ballot initiative has actually become an advantage. Right-wing donors exhaust themselves supporting ballot initiatives instead of backing candidates, contributing to the poor performance of statewide Republicans—which, in turn, feeds back into the donor preference for ballot initiatives as a political Hail Mary. And even when majorities support a conservative-backed initiative, liberal courts or executive action can defang the measure.

For California voters, the ballot initiative has thus become a largely symbolic vehicle for expressing discontent with Democratic Party policies—a constitutional release valve for the off-gassing of accumulated pressure. This conclusion comes with a certain irony for the heirs of Haynes and progressive champions of the ballot-initiative system: the institution they conceived as a check on the power of entrenched parties has now become another weapon in their arsenal.

What about another element of the progressive package of political reforms: the recall election? It’s a hot topic in California politics. Revelations of massive fraud in California’s welfare system have tarnished Newsom’s image, as did his opulent dinner in early November with health-care lobbyists in contravention of his own Covid-19 lockdown mandates, lending momentum to a recall effort. The memory of Gray Davis’s ouster in 2003 and his replacement by moderate Republican politician and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger have generated a sense of opportunity in Republican circles.

With an anti-Newsom recall campaign having gathered the necessary signatures, the state will hold an election on September 14, giving voters an up-or-down choice on retaining Newsom and, at the same time—in a quizzical protocol—a vote for his successor in case he is recalled. If a “no” verdict carries the day and Newsom is toppled, whichever of the likely dozens of names of would-be successors grabs the most votes—perhaps with a small plurality of 30 percent or less—will be installed in the governor’s chair, even with a small plurality of perhaps 30 percent or less. Newsom will be hoping to cling to office on a combination of portraying the recall (amusingly enough) as a right-wing attempt to suborn democracy, and goodwill from a recent barrage of social spending: rounds of checks for poor Californians, rent relief, and universal pre-K initiatives.

In 2003, the low barriers to entry for candidates in recall elections made the campaign against Davis into a political circus, featuring dozens of outlandish candidates, including a pornography actress and a sumo wrestler. In that environment, Schwarzenegger’s name recognition all but guaranteed him the governor’s mansion.

None of the 46 contenders (at last count) to replace Newsom commands Schwarzeneggerian stature, and no mainstream Democrats have risked Newsom’s wrath to toss in their names. Still, the latest poll has Newsom on a knife’s edge, his 50–47 percent lead among likely voters nearly within the margin of error. Newsom missed an administrative deadline to have his party affiliation placed on the ballot, which—for voters who are Democrats but are not politically attentive—might prove consequential.

Leading current polling is a trio of Southern California Republicans: Larry Elder, longtime libertarian talk-radio host, at 18 percent, followed by former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox, whom Newsom beat out for the governorship in 2019, both at 10 percent. All three are more or less moderate and none seems obviously unfit, though Elder has no political background and Cox has experience only in losing elections. Transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, another candidate, is currently enjoying a trip to Australia and polling at just 3 percent. By far the largest subgroup of voters, 40 percent, want Newsom out but have no opinion on who should replace him.

Though for the moment the incumbent still seems likely to survive, a real chance now exists that Elder—or someone else—might be catapulted into office. But with only a year left until fresh elections in 2022, whoever might replace the current governor would have little time to prove his competence, and might well be vulnerable to turn a borrowed office back in a year’s time to a vengeful Newsom, or to his successor, as Sacramento’s anointed.

Like the ballot initiative, the recall process does not seem to be the shortcut to overcoming the structural dominance of California Democrats that it may at first seem. The internal politics of the state Democratic Party should remain far more central in deciding the fate of the Golden State than will any improvised challenges from across the aisle.

Nick Burns is a contributing writer at The New Statesman. His essays have been published in American AffairsNational Review, and other periodicals.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

East Bay City To Look At Allowing Undocumented Residents To Vote In Local Elections

The city of Richmond is moving ahead to explore whether it can allow undocumented residents to vote in local elections, such as school board contests.

On Tuesday, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to direct the city attorney to conduct a sweeping review of the city’s charter along with legal research to determine whether it can allow noncitizens to participate in local elections. Councilman Nathaniel Bates was absent.

Councilmembers Claudia Jimenez and Eduardo Martinez and Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III introduced the proposal earlier this month, saying undocumented immigrants “are denied public voice via voting rights” despite the “significant contributions” they make to the community and the economy. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

California State University Makes Getting COVID Vaccine Mandatory On Campuses

The California State University statewide system announced on Tuesday they would be joining the growing list of entities and require that those students returning to campus this fall must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

All faculty, staff, and students are covered under the new requirement and must give vaccination certification to their school by September 30th. While a few exemptions will be offered, they will only be based on medical and religious reasons.

Initially, CSU was only planning required vaccinations following FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, a recent spike in cases due to the Delta variant almost entirely infecting those who have not been vaccinated.

“The current surge in COVID cases due to the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant is an alarming new factor that we must consider as we look to maintain the health and well-being of students, employees and visitors to our campuses this fall,” said California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro in a statement on Tuesday. “Receiving a COVID vaccine continues to be the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus. We urge all members of the CSU community to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and announcing this requirement now allows members of the CSU community to receive multiple doses of a vaccine as we head into the beginning of the fall term.”

“The FDA has not yet given full approval and we’re getting closer to the beginning of the academic term. Just as importantly, the increasing spread of the highly infectious Delta variant really prompted a change in view. We are making sure that at each campus, we will have aggressive efforts to vaccinate our students, faculty and staff. Many of our campuses had clinics on site and others entered into partnerships with other organizations. I anticipate we will continue to enhance those efforts.”

A more general announcement by CSU added that “For students who plan to continue their studies but do not wish to come to campus during the fall, it is expected that most campuses will have a more expansive offering of virtual courses as compared to before the pandemic, though resource limitations do not allow for a campus’ or even a program’s full offerings to be made available virtually.”

CSU joins state, UC, others in requiring vaccine to work, study

CSU now joins a growing list of California institutions that is mandating that employees, a well as others with a long-term association with an institution, such as students, have to vaccinate in order to return. Last month, an order by San Francisco to require vaccinations for all city workers started a snowball effect that added other institutions and organizations in making the vaccine mandatory. Influenced by the delta variant spike, The University of California (UC) system introduced a policy almost identical to CSU’s two weeks ago, with Governor Gavin Newsom announcing on Monday that all California state workers will be required to be vaccinated.

Despite being implemented on Tuesday, the details of the mandate are still being worked on. For example, CSU has no clear disciplinary process for those who refuse to be vaccinated, only a vague warning that says, “Any student or employee who does not provide certification may be denied access to Campus/Programs.”

Faculty labor unions, who would likely block any firings or major disciplinary action for non-vaccinators, are also currently negotiating what would happen to faculty members in different scenarios.

While many student and faculty groups showed approval for the requirement on Tuesday, many noted concern over the vague punishments that could be levied against them.

“This is scary,” Antoine Springer, a parent with two unvaccinated CSU students, said to the Globe Tuesday. “Our entire family does not want to take it because it hasn’t been approved. To us, this was just a rushed vaccine that people are taking on a limb that it is all ok. And now we have no idea if our kids can even attend this year without being thrown out. They want to increase the number of people of color in universities, and here they are barring people who don’t vaccinate – a large portion of whom are people of color. To a lot of us, this feels almost like targeting.”

CSU’s decision was backed by all 23 CSU University presidents on Tuesday. More mandatory vaccination requirements are expected to be announced by more public and private organizations in the coming weeks.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Recall Effort Picks Up Steam As Vote Nears

With Californians just weeks away from receiving their ballots for the Sept. 14 recall election, two recent polls indicate a more competitive contest than past polls have up to this point.

On Tuesday, the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies released its latest survey of registered and likely voters.

On the one hand, polling of registered voters placed support for the recall at 36%, the same level of support as the IGS poll found in April and January.

On the other hand, among likely voters, the IGS poll found that 47% of Californians would vote for the recall versus the 50% who would vote against it. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register

Venice Beach Doesn’t Have a Homelessness Crisis

It has a quality-of-life enforcement crisis.

Last weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran an article on homelessness in Los Angeles. The article framed the problem of street vagrancy as almost entirely a result of insufficient housing. “The state needs to create 1.2 million more homes for low-income residents and those experiencing homelessness—which would cost roughly $17.9 billion annually,” the author, Jaime Lowe, reports. California needs to be smarter about building houses and apartments, but the facts Lowe uncovers don’t point to new housing as a solution to street homelessness.

The article zeroes in on Venice Beach, part of the Venice area of Los Angeles. Venice Beach is a once-gritty area that’s now “gentrified.” Except: it wasn’t that gritty. Twenty-five years ago, Lowe reports, the going rate for a house was $300,000. In 1996, the median home price in the U.S. was $112,000. If Venice Beach was ever the itinerant artist’s paradise that nostalgists depict it as, that was a long time ago. Today, the same house in Venice Beach goes for $2 million—a sign that its residents ought to consider some well-planned construction so that theirs doesn’t become a stagnant community.

In any case, though, such new housing won’t fix the homeless crisis. Nowhere in her 6,000-word article does Lowe find an example of the archetypal homeless person of casual understanding: a down-on-his luck, working-class man or woman who had a house in Venice Beach—whether rented or owned—and lost it after getting fired, having a spouse die, or suffering a disability or illness. That’s not to say that such cases don’t exist, but they’re certainly not the norm for the hundreds of people who have pitched tents and cardboard boxes or built plywood shanties along the beach, boardwalk, and sidewalks.

The homeless individuals featured in the article are all long-term transients afflicted with substance addiction, mental illness, or both. One young man tells Lowe that he came to Venice Beach from Washington State last year, “hoping for a new life apart from his estranged wife and children.” He appears to have no disability preventing him from working; he paints artwork to sell. He’s less a romantic artist than (likely) a child-support deadbeat who left someone else with the burden of making a living for his offspring. An older man, 64, says he’s been homeless for three decades, after “his family banished him because of his alcoholism.” The star of the story is a 19-year-old woman who goes by the name of “Angel.” She was recently arrested for weapons possession and recently refused government shelter inland, preferring the beach.

The story characterizes efforts to build housing for such individuals as facing a “fierce NIMBY pushback,” but it’s no mystery why Venice residents would oppose such measures as a 140-unit shelter building along the area’s main boulevard. It would be one thing if local officials could promise that after the area accepted the building, no one would ever sleep, defecate, or urinate on public property again. But nowhere does the article acknowledge that 140 new units—or 500, 1,000, or 10,000—in a resort town of 40,000 housed residents would not solve the problem. A beachfront community is by definition isolated from large employers in diverse industries. There’s little mass transit. This is a place where people buy property to relax or retire, not to invest in factories, warehouses, white-collar office buildings, or large-scale retail stores. Venice Beach is thus not the best place for a person with a short or nonexistent employment history and limited education to find an entry-level job and start to move up.

Venice Beach, then, faces not a displaced-persons problem but a transient problem. Owing to its nice weather, well-meaning volunteers who give out food and clothing, and Los Angeles’s lax approach to encampments, addicts and other lost souls are drawn there from around the country.

What kind of market housing could Venice Beach build that would be affordable to a 19-year-old woman with no job? The Times article is striking in its lack of curiosity about Angel’s background. A 19-year-old was a minor child not long ago. Where did she come from? If she could not live with her parents or guardians because of severe abuse, didn’t that town, city, or state have social services that would have put her into foster care or young-adult supportive housing and subsidize her college education or vocational training? Does her hometown have the same supposed severe housing shortage as Venice Beach does?

It’s dishonest to blame NIMBYs for this crisis or to paint local residents who don’t want to be harassed by vagrant men as somehow privileged. If Los Angeles does build subsidized, below-market housing around Venice Beach, why should that housing not go to people who already have stable jobs in the area, or who are interested in finding one—with a small fraction reserved for people who, at the very least, agree to start weaning themselves from alcohol and drugs, to learn skills needed for employment, and to pass each part of a mandated multistep program?

Rather than attempt to spend tens of billions of dollars a year to house the nation’s transients, California would be better off using limited resources to attempt to connect and re-integrate people like Angel into their home communities until they have the resources to start a new life by themselves. But to embark on such a strategy, Los Angeles would need a stick to go with the carrot. That could go something like this: the city will put you into temporary shelter if you have no other place to go, and it will get you inpatient mental-health and addiction treatment if warranted, but it will not offer transients with no long-term ties to the community any long-term housing—and no, you can’t live in a tent on a beach.

Nicole Gelinas is a City Journal contributing editor, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street—and Washington.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Housing Policy – The Tax Implications of SB 9 and 10

The Legislature has gone into summer recess leaving a lot of unfinished business.

When they return, among the most controversial proposals left unresolved are bills addressing the state housing crisis.

While no one disputes the need for more housing, the broader policy issue is whether state micromanaging of local land use decisions is in the public interest.

There are several bills circulating in the capitol, but the two that have drawn the most public wrath are Senate Bills 9 and 10. Taxpayer advocates and neighbor associations oppose both SB9 and SB10 because of the potential loss of local control and higher taxes.

Senate Bill 9 permits “by right the development of two units on single-family lots” and allows “[subdivision of] a parcel that is zoned for single-family residential use;” that “in conjunction with the two-unit provision” could “result in a total of four units on the lot.” This is a reintroduction of last session’s SB 1120.

Senate Bill 10 would “authorize a local government to adopt an ordinance to zone any parcel for up to 10 units of residential density per parcel, at a height specified in the ordinance, if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area or an urban infill site.” It would override HOA agreements and voter initiatives that prohibited or limited such development in those areas. Last year’s version of this bill was SB 902.

Although not obvious, there are property tax implications with these proposals.

While owner-occupied single-family residences in single-family residential zoning will likely not see any reassessment from SB 9 and SB 10 thanks to Proposition 13, there’s a possibility that a tenant-occupied home would not have this protection. It’s also possible that an owner-occupied single-family residence that is not located in single-family residential zoning could similarly face a challenge to the valuation when it is sold.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Serious COVID-19 Cases On The Rise In L.A.

Los Angeles County health officials reported 2,089 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, with hospitalizations rising as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread.

There are 716 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 452 on July 16, officials said. The county also reported four new deaths, bringing the total to 24,628 fatalities since the pandemic began early last year.

On Saturday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned that the Delta variant was “one of the most aggressive and infectious respiratory diseases known and currently makes up over 80% of sequenced cases in L.A. County.”

Although cases remain at a lower point than they have been during any of the previous surges, the rate of increase between July 3 and 16 was 135%. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Newly-Released Casebooks Provide Insights on California Government

After several years of work, my two casebooks on California government have been published this summer. The first casebook, “Cases and Materials on Direct Democracy in California,” was published by Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company. The second casebook, “The California Legislature and Its Legislative Process: Cases and Materials,” was published by Carolina Academic Press.

Both of these casebooks are the first of their kind, exploring in-depth California’s three forms of direct democracy, as well as the California Legislature’s powers and authority, as well as the state legislative process. They are intended to provide readers with a thorough understanding of direct democracy as it is used in this state, as well as the California Legislature and the process of enacting laws.

These casebooks are intended for college and law students, as well as practitioners. They have similar formats in that they both review the relevant state constitutional and statutory provisions and key appellate court decisions that interpret and explain many of the constitutional and Government Code provisions. There are also explanatory materials throughout the casebooks for many of the areas covered, as well as commentaries reflecting current legal issues. For the benefit of readers, and course instructors who use the casebook, many of these explanations, and all of the court decisions, are followed by notes and questions to provide further insights and prompt additional thought and discussion about the cases and materials covered.

In addition to the explanatory materials, numerous appellate court cases are included throughout the casebook. The cases included were chosen because they will help explain the relevant areas of law, and the cases are written clearly with analysis of the facts and law to demonstrate to students how the courts reached their decisions.

The Direct Democracy in California casebook is published by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company and can be purchased by following this link:

The California Legislature and Its Legislative Process casebook is published by Carolina Academic Press and can be purchased by following this link:

More of California’s Big Cities on the Way to Becoming Next Detroit

Two waves have rolled through California in 2021. One so hot that high temperature records were set throughout the state. The other so chilling that stores have shortened their hours and even closed altogether to avoid it.

By now, the video of a shoplifter last month filling what appears to be a plastic garbage bag of the items of his choice at a San Francisco Walgreens, then pedaling off on a bike as customers and a security guard watched, has gone viral. Its capacity to shock, however, has since been surpassed by the video of at least 10 thieves running out of the San Francisco Neiman Marcus in open daylight on July 6 taking with them as much stolen merchandise as they could handle.

The Walgreens suspect was eventually caught – while “clearing shelves of cosmetics and placing the merchandise into a duffel bag” at another store, police said. The Neiman Marcus thieves remain free.

Retailers’ response to the shameless thieving in San Francisco has been to close stores – Walgreens has shuttered 17 in the city – or shorten business hours – Target believes forgoing four hours of sales is preferable to losing tens of thousands of dollars to theft, and is now closing its stores in at 6 p.m. rather than 10 p.m., because “for more than a month, we’ve been experiencing a significant and alarming rise in theft and security incidents at our San Francisco stores,” a company spokesperson said.

“Crime,” says the self-identified photographer and reporter who posted the Neiman Marcus video on Instagram, “is legal basically” in District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s San Francisco.

Truth is, it’s tough all around in California. Across the Bay, Oakland Police fought their way through “12 hours of nonstop chaos” over the July 4 weekend. Between 6:30 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. Monday there were seven shootings in the city. A 48-year-old man died, the city’s 67th homicide of the year. A 35-year-old male was shot and killed the morning of July 6, found at a homeless camp. Later in the evening, another man was shot and killed while driving home. There were only 39 homicides in Oakland by this time last year.

To the south, San Jose Police recently recovered nearly $100,000 worth of allegedly stolen goods. A suspect was arrested in May, and officials believe he is “the middleman for an underground network for stolen goods,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Still farther south, the growing brutality recalls another era remembered for its violence. Los Angeles officials reported in June that homicides in the city had increased to 162 from 129 over the same period in 2020, while shootings reached 651 compared to 434 last year. Though reported sexual assaults and robberies have fallen, overall violent crime is up by 4.3%, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, with aggravated assaults growing 9.5%. Over the July 4 weekend, Los Angeles police “recorded 12 murders and the Sheriff’s Department another four,” says Los Angeles magazine.

The capital has not been spared, either. Sacramento is ranked 10th by the National Retail Federation in its list of cities with the worst retail crime. (Three California cities are in the top 10, with San Francisco fifth, Los Angeles No. 1.) But violence has risen, too. “As of June 2, there were 24 homicides in the city this year, compared to 16 through the same period last year,” the Sacramento Bee reports. “Through May, there were at least 200 firearm-related assaults, more than a 120% increase over the first five months of 2020.”

Meanwhile, San Diego police are asking for the “public’s help to fight the ‘disturbing surge’ in violent crime.”

Earlier this year, the question was asked by PRI in the Daily Caller if San Francisco and Los Angeles could become the next Detroit due to rising crime.

Given the recent trends in San Jose, Oakland and others, perhaps the question now should be could any, or all, of California’s major cities become the next Detroit? (Gamblers should still put their money on San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the district attorneys have been so lax in prosecuting crimes that both are targets of recall efforts.)

The historical narrative says that Detroit was one of America’s greatest cities. At one time it ranked as the fifth-largest municipality in the country, and the global capital of automobile manufacturing. Its name was synonymous with progress. It was often said that as General Motors goes, so does the nation.

But in the present, “Detroit’s violent crime leads the nation,” according to the local media.

“Progressive” economic and regulatory policies – identified by economist Thomas Sowell as “increasing taxes, harassing businesses, and pandering to unions” – have wrecked nations and can do the same to cities. While these factors contributed to Detroit’s decline, they were not, however, solely responsible. The Motor City was hollowed out in part by the flight of residents fed up with the crime. Sowell said the riot of 1967, which killed 43, injured nearly 1,200 and damaged more than 2,000 buildings, “marked the beginning of the decline of Detroit to its current state of despair.”

Don’t think it can’t happen here.

Proposition 47, “pushed by George Gascón,” then San Francisco’s district attorney, now the top prosecutor in Los Angeles, and passed by voters by a 60-40 margin in 2014, rolled out the welcome wagon for thieves. Among its several provisions was to allow shoplifters to steal as much as $950 in merchandise without being charged for a felony. It created a class of criminals who have been “going into stores with a calculator so they can make sure that what they steal is worth less than $950,” says Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Robin Shakely.

It has also created conditions in which an ordinary shopping trip can turn into a dangerous encounter with thieves.

While shoppers have been sharing aisles with shoplifters, the “defund the police” movement has “inspired” some policymakers to surrender to the extortionist demands of rioters. The Los Angeles City Council, for instance, has slashed the Police Department’s budget by $150 million. Oakland cut its police budget by $17 million.

Not all, though, have yielded to the mob. San Francisco Mayor London Breed proposed last year shifting $120 million away from law enforcement, but it appears funding will be instead increased in coming years. Sacramento is considering a $9.4 million increase on police spending, and San Diego has passed a budget that sends more money to law enforcement, despite pressure to starve the department of resources.

What could have possibly caused an apparent re-evaluation of the campaign to defund the police?

Could be that videos of thieves playing on a loop was a persuasive argument against demands to treat criminal behavior as a nuisance that, like a cracked sidewalk, just has to be tolerated.

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.

SF Bars Now Requiring Proof of Vaccination

COVID-19 numbers in the Bay Area have been trending up and bars in San Francisco are reacting accordingly.

If you’re planning to visit the city this weekend, you might want to carry your vaccination card as many bars are now requiring to see proof of immunization.

Aside from your ID card, bars such as 7 Stills Brewery and Distillery started asking for proof of vaccination only if dining inside their establishment.

“Proof of vaccination either means you have your actual card or photo of your card. But that’s only inside,” said manager Texas Enkil. “Outside you can dine or drink in our beer garden, no proof of vaccination required.” …

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