Kamala Harris Touts Launch of $4B Research Center in Silicon Valley

Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in Sunnyvale on Monday to laud a Silicon Valley semiconductor toolmaking company for pumping $4 billion into a research facility in the region, an investment that would create the largest such enterprise in the world.

The facility, which will be called the Equipment and Process Innovation and Commercialization (EPIC) Center, is projected to open in 2026 and create up to 2,000 engineering jobs, according to Applied Materials, the world’s largest manufacturer of the tools used to make semiconductor chips. The facility, to be built in Sunnyvale, is expected to be the size of three football fields. 

Applied Materials will invest in the facility over the next seven years and expects to apply for money from the federal subsidies in the CHIPS Act, a $52 billion package of subsidies that President Biden signed last year in part to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign chipmakers. That legislation included $13 billion dedicated to research and development. 

Harris said Applied Materials decided to invest in the research facility because of those incentives. 

Demands in the near future for better technology, Harris said, will “require a new generation of semiconductors. Semiconductors that are more compact, more efficient, more powerful and more important.”

The new facility “will potentially be a hub for collaboration” where “the brightest minds will gather to share data and expertise,” she said.

Administration officials say more than 300 companies have expressed interest in applying for the CHIPS Act funds, representing potential projects in 37 states and all parts of the semiconductor industry. Harris said the administration’s technology focus has spurred $140 billion of private investments in the semiconductor industry this year. Plans for new manufacturing facilities have broken ground over the past couple of years in Idaho, Arizona, Ohio and California, she said. 

Harris, who has traveled to meet with semiconductor executives in Japan and Singapore in an effort to lure investment in U.S. manufacturing, met privately Monday with nearly two dozen tech executives, including Gary Dickerson, CEO of Applied Materials, Mark Liu, chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Naga Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of Micron Technology. 

Dickerson said it was important to create the research center in Sunnyvale, “in the heart of Silicon Valley.” 

“By investing in manufacturing capacity, we will create a more resilient supply chain,” Dickerson said. 

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Anaheim Mayor Invites Queer, Trans Nuns Group to Angels Pride Night

Anaheim’s mayor has invited a group of self-described queer and transgender nuns that was disinvited from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night to be her guest at the Los Angeles Angels’ upcoming pride night.

“I’m inviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to join me for @Angels Pride Night at Anaheim Stadium on June 7,” Mayor Ashleigh Aitken tweeted Saturday. “Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers decision.”

Neither the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence nor the Angels immediately responded to a request for comment Sunday. It was not clear whether the group would accept the invitation, or whether they would have any official participation in the team’s June 7 event.

“I think it was a missed opportunity to really err on the side of being inclusive and err on the side of standing up for our marginalized communities, especially on the eve of Harvey Milk Day, especially on the eve of Pride Month,” Aitken told ABC7 of the Dodgers’ decision to revoke their invitation.

The Dodgers’ decision, announced Wednesday, came after complaints raised by several Catholic organizations and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who said the group — billed as an “order of queer and trans nuns” — regularly disparaged Christians.

“This year, as part of a full night of programming, we invited a number of groups to join us,” according to a statement issued by the team. “We are now aware that our inclusion of one group in particular — The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — in this year’s Pride Night has been the source of some controversy.

“Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees.”

The group had been scheduled to receive a Community Hero Award at the team’s June 16 Pride Night, honoring its efforts to promote human rights, diversity and “spiritual enlightenment.”

The Sisters issued a statement Thursday expressing “deep offense” at being uninvited to the event, calling the decision a capitulation to “hateful and misleading information from people outside their community.” The group insisted it is a nonprofit organization that “annually raises thousands of dollars to distribute to organizations supporting marginalized communities.”

“Our ministry is real. We promulgate universal joy, expiate stigmatic guilt and our use of religious trappings is a response to those faiths whose members would condemn us and seek to strip away the rights of marginalized communities,” Sister Rosie Partridge, described as the “abbess” of the group, said in a statement.

The Sisters’ website describes the organization as “a leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns.”

Other high-profile Southland supporters of LGBTQ rights also chimed in, expressing disappointment in the Dodgers’ decision.

The Dodgers’ original decision to honor the group drew criticism from various Catholic organizations. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, accused the team of “rewarding anti-Catholicism” by honoring the group.

“The Catholic League has been the leading critic of this bigoted organization for many decades,” Donohue wrote on the organization’s website. “… These homosexual bigots are known for simulating sodomy while dressed as nuns.”

He added, “Just last month, they held an event mocking our Blessed Mother and Jesus on Easter Sunday.”

Donohue said he wrote to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to protest the Dodgers’ decision to honor the group.

Rubio also sent a complaint to Manfred, saying the group “mocks Christians through diabolical parodies of our faith.”

“Do you believe that the Los Angeles Dodgers are being ‘inclusive and welcoming to everyone’ by giving an award to a group of gay and transgender drag performers that intentionally mocks and degrades Christians — and not only Christians, but nuns, who devote their lives to serving others?” Rubio wrote in his letter.

The organization Catholic Vote also condemned the group’s inclusion in the Dodgers’ event. Its president, Brian Burch, issued a statement Wednesday hailing the team’s decision to exclude the group, which he called “an anti-Catholic hate group known for their gross mockery of Catholic nuns.”

“While we continue to wonder how such a group was selected in the first place, this incident should serve as a wake-up call for all religious believers: unchecked woke corporations have no qualms about exploiting people of faith,” Burch said.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

The Left Gaslights Us on San Francisco’s Problems

Primitive projection has become all too frequently a substitute for political debate in this country.

Elon Musk lived in San Francisco until late 2021, when California’s lockdown policies, a serious uptick in crime rates, and a general decline in the quality of life prompted him to move Tesla to Texas.

He hasn’t regretted the decision. He recently commented on a Twitter feed about eleven major San Francisco retailers, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Whole Foods, closing their stores this year alone. “So many stores shuttered in downtown SF. Feels post-apocalyptic,” he tweeted. “The philosophy that led to this bleak outcome will be the end of civilization if extended to the world.”

Musk’s comments have prompted a backlash from progressives, who claim he has it all wrong about San Francisco. Last month, in the wake of the murder of Cash App founder Bob Lee, it was discovered that he was killed by someone he knew, not as part of a random act of violence. Miguel Almaguer, the local correspondent for NBC, reported that “San Francisco leaders fired back at Musk,” insisting that “the tragedy that unfolded could have happened anywhere.”

Indeed, San Francisco district attorney Brooke Jenkins lashed out at Musk for calling the city’s crime “horrific.” She said Musk’s tweets were “reckless and irresponsible” and “served to mislead the world and their perceptions of San Francisco.”

Just for the record: San Francisco lost 7.5 percent of its population between April 2020 and July 2022, a rate of decline unprecedented among major U.S. cities, including Detroit in its worst days.

Lee Ohanian, an economist at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, has calculated that San Franciscans face about a 1-in-16 chance each year of being a victim of property or violent crime. That makes it “more dangerous than 98 percent of US cities, both small and large. To put this in perspective, Compton, California, the infamous home of drug gang turf wars, and which today remains more dangerous than 90 percent of all US cities, is almost twice as safe as San Francisco.”

If that doesn’t sound like civilization being threatened, I don’t know what does.

Because of this record, the Left is pulling out all the stops in trying to distract attention from the damage San Francisco’s progressive policies have caused. Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, had the gall to author last year in the San Francisco Chronicle an article headlined “Soft-on-crime liberalism isn’t fueling San Francisco’s drug crisis. Libertarianism is.”

This is what is called the politics of projection — accusing others of one’s own flaws — and it’s being used by the Left everywhere, from explaining how inequality has grown under President Biden to accusing Republicans of opposing energy development by voting against the Green New Deal.

A 2019 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that projection confuses virtually every aspect of our politics. It makes us assume a greater degree of consensus on the big moral questions than there really is. When that consensus is shown to be an illusion, it generates more hostility as “people project their own polarization onto others.”

Sadly, the more radical someone’s politics are, the more radical they imagine everybody else’s politics to be.

Of course, projection is practiced on both the left and right sides of the spectrum. Donald Trump’s penchant for attacking his opponents by projecting onto them his own personal attributes and self-assessments has been a consistent trope of his rhetoric.

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times calls Trump a “master of projection” and noted that many Trumpian projections were uncannily predictive of his future actions as president. Examples include his roundly criticizing Mitt Romney for failing to release his tax returns and berating Barack Obama for watching too much TV in the White House and playing too much golf.

“Trump tells other people that they are what he is,” Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, noted in 2019. “It’s a common enough defense mechanism in early childhood, but as an adult, using it all the time, it is what we would call primitive.”

Primitive projection has become all too frequently a substitute for political debate in this country. When I began appearing on cable TV shows in the 1990s, most guests debated me by trying to make logical arguments. Over the years, the amount of commentary of the “insult comic” variety grew. There also grew to be fewer debates — almost all cable shows now feature only one guest at a time or a completely like-minded panel.

These trends have gone hand in hand with a collapse of confidence in the media. Edelman, the world’s largest public-relations firm, conducts an annual survey on trust and credibility. In 2021, it found that less than half of Americans said they trusted the mainstream media, and 56 percent of Americans said they agreed with the following statement: “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

CAGOP Statement on Vice President Harris’ California Visit

Growing Number Of Voters Favor Senator Feinstein’s Resignation

‘She has had quite the legacy, and now she is really tainting it by just staying in at this point’

Reports this week which found Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) health condition was actually much worse than reported led to a resurgence of California voters to signify favor for her resignation on Friday, with polls showing that even voters in Feinstein’s home city of San Francisco are polarized.

The latest push for resignation goes back to February when, shortly after announcing she would not be running again for the Senate in 2024, Feinstein returned to California to recover from shingles. While she was expected back sometime in March, this did not happen. Her absence caused problems in the Senate Judiciary Committee where a logjam of federal judge nominees began to build as she was the deciding vote given the razor thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

Last month, with Sen. Feinstein’s recovery taking longer than expected, she temporarily left the Judiciary Committee, hoping to have an interim replacement cover for her. However, Republicans rejected the plan, forcing the Committee to only approve Judges whom members from both parties could agree on. With many potential judges held back, critical Senate votes coming up that were reliant on passage with a vote from Feinstein, and concerns growing about her health, Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) began to lead the charge to get her to resign. At it’s peak, dozens of Congressional members, Senators, and leftist/liberal groups pressured Feinstein to resign.

Pressure somewhat dissipated last week when Feinstein returned to Washington and resumed her job as Senator. However, this was short lived, as it was soon revealed that, in addition to having shingles, she also had encephalitis, which is brain inflammation brought on by another illness, and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a complication of shingles that goes after facial nerves.

“While the encephalitis resolved itself shortly after she was released from the hospital in March, she continues to have complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome,” confirmed her office.

With Feinstein also appearing confused as to what she actually had, including denying that she had encephalitis and instead had the flu, many in California began to once again challenge having Feinstein in office.

Recent polls have shown that the numbers are decidedly not in her favor. A poll last month found that 64% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans want Feinstein to resign. In fact, the majority being in favor of her resigning went across the board, with every demographic including gender, age, race, and ideology want her to resign. Her “lowest” numbers came with voters making under $50,000 a year and African Americans, with only 59% of each group favoring resignation.

And this extends to San Francisco. An impromptu poll of people inside San Francisco City Hall by the New York Times on Thursday found that support is mixed, a far cry from only a few years ago when most inside were rocks of support.

“The majority, in many cases two-thirds of voters, of every demographic want Feinstein gone,” Russell Martin, a political advisor in the Bay Area, told the Globe Friday. “And now even people in San Francisco have had enough. The sad thing is, she has had quite the legacy, and now she is really tainting it by just staying in at this point. I mean, she was a popular Supervisor, Mayor, and Senator. She did so much for the city and country. And now her legacy won’t be that, but of the Senator who just lingered in there for years because she was too selfish to pass the torch. Ideologies are very different, but this is like what happened to [Former Congressman] Strom Thurmond in the 90s and early 2000s.

Click to read the full article at the California Globe

The California Reparations Commission Fails State History

Its report erases the agency and success of black Californians and ignores how others worked with them to secure basic rights for all.

California’s reparations commission has determined that slavery, as opposed to disastrous policies advanced by the political establishment for decades, is the real reason for present-day black poverty in the state. In just a few weeks, the legislature that created the task force will take up the commission’s proposal, which calls for payments to black residents of upwards of $1.2 million.

As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal in December, reading the 500 pages from the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans is like listening to Béla Bartók’s bloody Bluebeard’s Castle played on 100 kazoos.

Still, all anyone wants to talk about is the money, and for good reason — the commission proposes to create a nearly trillion-dollar fund from which qualifying African Americans may hope to receive million-dollar payments. The total cost is conservatively estimated at three times California’s annual budget.

Those sorts of eye-catching numbers have task-force supporters increasingly worried — perhaps especially Governor Gavin Newsom, whose signature created the commission that could imperil his White House ambitions. Now they’re trying to downplay the monetary awards, even acting a bit peeved that anyone would focus on something so mundane — so filthy — as mere money.

“Dealing with that legacy is about much more than cash payments,” Newsom said in a statement to Fox News. “The Reparations Task Force’s independent findings and recommendations are a milestone in our bipartisan effort to advance justice and promote healing. This has been an important process, and we should continue to work as a nation to reconcile our original sin of slavery and understand how that history has shaped our country.”

Task-force members are equally coy.

“We want to make sure that this is presented out in a way that does not reinforce the preoccupation with a dollar figure, which is the least important piece of this,” said Cheryl Grills, a task-force member and clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. “It’s really unfortunate. I’m actually sad to see that our news media is not able to nuance better. It’s almost like, ‘What’s going to be sensational’ as opposed to what’s important.”

What’s important, Grills and others say, is providing the public with an accurate record of slavery in California — slavery and its innumerable effects — and then getting California to issue a formal apology for what the task force calls the state’s “perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”

“Our history has been so buried, so erased, so denied. I think that is an essential element of our mission,” said Donald Tamaki, a task-force member and lawyer from San Francisco.

On that matter, says task-force member and state assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the commission’s mission has been accomplished. His evidence: He said he has met “a few who have read the report, and it was eye-opening for them. For people who read the interim report, to hear them say ‘I didn’t know’ was probably the most gratifying thing I could hear.”

*   *   *

But on the more modest goal of documenting the history of black Californians, the commission has utterly failed. It actually erases the agency — the success — of black Californians throughout statehood. And the report ignores the ways in which Californians of all races and ethnicities have more often worked together to secure for all Californians unalienable human rights, among these the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As I wrote in the Journal:

Begin with this: Slavery in what’s now California was banned under Mexican authority in 1837. California joined the union in 1850 as a free state. The panel briefly acknowledges this only to dismiss it, lingering instead on the 1852 passage of the California Fugitive Slave Act, under which 13 people were deported from the state. The commission briefly mentions that the reviled law lapsed three years after being passed but doesn’t mention the numerous cases of white California officials—sheriffs, judges, attorneys and others—who discovered and liberated enslaved people.

The best known of these may be the story of Biddy Mason, an account I described in that piece.

Mason was one of several slaves brought to California by a Texas farmer in 1851. When Los Angeles County Sheriff David W. Alexander learned of their presence in San Bernardino, he gathered a mixed-race posse and rode 60 miles — up and over the windswept, nearly 4,000-foot Cajon Pass — to free Mason and the others. He brought them to a downtown Los Angeles courtroom where Judge Benjamin Hayes formally emancipated them. Remarkably, Mason went on to become one of Los Angeles’s wealthiest landowners, a merchant, midwife, and philanthropist.

Similarly, the commission touches on the case of Archy Lee, a 19-year-old black man brought to Sacramento in 1857 by his Mississippi master. Here’s how the commission reports Lee’s dramatic release from bondage:

But in one example, the case of Archy Lee from 1857 to 1858, the proslavery California Supreme Court made every effort to return him to enslavement. Lee’s enslaver, Charles Stovall, forced him to go with him to California years after the state fugitive slave law had expired. But California’s supreme court justices decided that since Stovall was a young man who suffered from constant illness, and he did not know about California’s laws, he should not be punished by losing his right to own Archy Lee. It took several more lawsuits by free Black Californians, and a new decision from a federal legal official, before Lee finally won permanent freedom. . . . After free Black activists successfully rescued Archy Lee from enslavement in 1858, angry proslavery legislators tried to make these anti-Black laws even worse.

Black Californians were indeed critical to Lee’s ultimate liberation. But much — in fact, almost everything — is missing from the commission’s version of events.

The curious might start with these questions: If California’s political establishment was so hostile to black Californians, how did “Black activists” manage the trick of “several more lawsuits” and the persuasion of “a federal legal official” to liberate Lee?

The answer: They did not act alone or without resources. One of those “Black activists” was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a millionaire, high-profile philanthropist, and abolitionist. When Lee escaped from Stovall, Pleasant gave him shelter and then helped finance two state cases that came before the state supreme court’s execrable decision to remand Lee to Stovall’s custody. Lee’s attorney throughout the ordeal was Edwin Crocker, a white man, and the chairman of California’s first Republican Party gathering, in 1856.

It was arguably the partnership of Crocker and Pleasant that kept Lee free and in California through the first state-court case and subsequent appeal. When the state supreme court asserted that Lee must be returned to Stovall, it was Crocker who persuaded T. W. Freelon, a (white) federal judge in San Francisco, to overturn the state high court’s stupid ruling. And when Stovall nevertheless attempted to kidnap Lee aboard the Orizaba, a ship anchored in San Francisco harbor, white policemen carried out a search to rescue Lee. They found and freed him. Stovall returned to Mississippi sans Lee. Perhaps shaken by his near miss or lured by gold fever, or both, Lee left California for British Columbia that same year.

But to acknowledge all of this would mean trouble for a government task force determined to find evidence of systemic violence against black Californians. Despite the commission’s bias, there were such Californians as Biddy Mason and Mary Ellen Pleasant — black, independent, and financially successful women. There were also white attorneys willing to fight for black freedom in a decade of national chaos in which the rights of black Americans were in flux. More important, there were white California officials — judges, police, and others — willing to enforce laws defending black Californians. Systematically ignoring this evidence is Orwellian, an official government endeavor designed to obscure history for momentary political gain. If successful, it will rob all Californians, including black Californians, of aspirational models of the hard work of freedom — and of hard work generally.

*   *   *

The commission’s childish and dangerous account of the case of Archy Lee is a masterpiece of academic rigor compared with its complete silence on the outsized role played by Californians in the Civil War itself.

Though California entered the Union a free state, Southern apologists never surrendered their hope of one day capturing the Golden State. These fantasists foresaw the creation of a vast slave empire, fueled by California gold and run through Pacific Ocean ports, stretching not just coast to coast but globally, too — south through Mexico, Central and South America, all the way to frigid Tierra del Fuego, and westward across the Pacific Ocean to grasp all of Asia.

When the Union blocked Southern ports in the summer of 1861, Richmond’s malignant California dream became an urgent military necessity. Confederate troops massing ominously in West Texas suddenly crossed that border, invading the New Mexico Territory and establishing a regional capital in Mesilla with an outpost farther west in Tucson. From that fortress town, the rebels began probing the desert path to California.

Set against Southern ambition, some 2,000 Californians volunteered for training at Camp Downey, in what’s now Oakland. This newly minted First California Volunteer Infantry, along with regular Army units, was shipped to Los Angeles and from there stepped off on a 900-mile march across Southern California’s hellish eastern deserts toward the Confederate Army. Water and food were scarce along the route. Just as formidable were the Apache Indians; fierce defenders of their historic lands, they were a constant threat to the Californians.

Still, they marched. On April 15, 1862, at Picacho Pass, 50 miles northwest of Tucson, twelve California scouts ran into ten rebel “pickets” — guards at the westernmost tip of the advancing Confederate Army. Their engagement was brief and deadly. Irish-born Californian lieutenant James Barrett led the attack, quickly capturing three Confederates and killing another. But when he had secured one of the prisoners and swung back onto his mount, Barrett was briefly in the range of a sharp-eyed rebel sniper. Shot through the neck, Barrett bled out on the spot. Two other Californians, Privates George Johnson and William Leonard, were shot and died nearby.

The retreating Confederate pickets carried news of the advancing California Column back to their outpost in Tucson; from there, the Confederates packed up and fled back to Texas.

The Battle of Picacho Pass ended the western advance of the most malignant force in the first American century. It ended the slaveholders’ dream of global empire. But that achievement left behind the dreams of three young Californians. Johnson was just 21, Leonard perhaps 26; their bodies were returned to California and buried at the San Francisco Presidio. Barrett’s body, reportedly buried in a shallow grave, was never found. In 1928, the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society and the Southern Pacific Railroad erected a monument, near U.S. 10, to recall their sacrifice in the “only battle of the Civil War fought in Arizona Territory.”

The California Column wasn’t unique. From a state population of just 380,000, more than 17,000 Californians joined the Union ranks — “the highest per-capita total for any state in the Union,” notes the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Fewer than 300 Californians left to join the Confederacy.

Few Americans today recall the Californians’ commitment. There is no mention of it in the state’s reparations report. Here as elsewhere, the commission’s report often speaks loudest in its silences.

*   *   *

One of those silences is the commission’s refusal to explain the voluntary, post–Civil War migration of millions of black Americans to California, including to Weed, a flourishing lumber town.

But Weed was eventually destroyed, and with it the prosperous black and other migrant families that built the town. It was destroyed not by slavers or white racists or “systemic racism.” It was destroyed by well-meaning but shortsighted liberal politicians — state and federal officials who linked arms with environmental activists and began squeezing the life out of the Northwest timber industry, including Weed. Blindly privileging such remarkable species as the spotted owl over the more common human person, California state and federal regulators locked down the forests.

This overregulation of California’s lumber industry was supposed to save the planet. Instead, it has done the opposite. It began with the gradual, ceaseless piling up of federal, state, and local regulations. The pile is now so large it is a kind of monument to human arrogance, a record of the government’s doomed effort to cover every eventuality, from “forest health, wildlife habitat, water and air quality, archeological sites, [and] land use patterns” to “respect for community sentiments,” as researchers put it in a 2005 study of the decline and fall of the California timber industry. Those “growing regulations have only created costlier sales, not ‘cleaner’ ones,” the researchers concluded. In the process, these programs undermined the wealth and opportunities of working Californians, including the black Californians about whom the commission says it is most concerned.

*   *   *

The reparations task force concluded that “American government at all levels, including in California, has historically criminalized African Americans for the purposes of social control and to maintain an economy based on exploited Black labor.” Yet progressive government itself is the enemy of disadvantaged Californians. Confronting these massive failures would bring the state task force face-to-face with its own fellow ideologues: government unions, environmental-justice warriors, and progressive government officials. I’ll call back one last time to my prior piece:

Take the state’s execrable public education system. California ranks dead last in the nation in literacy. Black children are the most brutalized [by] these failures: Only 10% meet math standards and about 30% achieve English competency. Yet as test scores fall, high school graduations rise. Denied a real education, many of these children will qualify only for low-level jobs and government assistance.

The commission calls this a “school-to-prison pipeline” and blames slavery.

But the problems clearly start in the schools. In the classroom, collective bargaining gives union leaders authority over teacher hiring and firing; they use this authority to reward loyalists, punish reformers, and move failing teachers into broken schools where overwhelmed poor parents are unlikely to notice.

Click here to read the full article at National Review

S.F. and Oakland are Eyeing Big Deficits. Why Not San Jose?

The South Bay city is reporting a $35.3 million surplus

Some of the Bay Area’s largest cities are facing truly eye-popping budget deficits.

San Francisco is projecting a $290 million shortfall. Oakland, short by $177 million, isn’t faring much better. But down south, the outlook is a bit sunnier. San Jose is reporting a $35.3 million surplus.

Why such a divergence?

Economists and budget officials attribute the disparity to San Francisco and Oakland’s heavy reliance on tax revenues that are still recovering sluggishly from the pandemic’s economic gut punch. The cities blame the down year on a mixture of poorly performing key revenue streams and the drying up of federal pandemic-related funding.

San Jose, on the other hand, has come away generally unscathed by leaning on a tax base that’s largely weathered negative financial forces. Worth noting: The surplus in the FY2023-24 budget remains small when compared to its $5.2 billion total budget — less than 1%.

“We’re in a positive position,” city budget director Jim Shannon said. “It’s not like we’ve got money to burn, by any means.”

Key to the large discrepancy between the cities is the real estate transfer tax, levied when a property changes hands.

That tax pool for Oakland peaked during FY2021-22 at $138.4 million but is expected to only reach $110.4 million for the coming FY2023-24. In San Francisco, the difference is starker. In 2021, the city brought in over $500 million from the tax, while this upcoming year it’s expecting less than half of that figure.

Both cities have blamed high-interest rates and work-from-home trends as the reason for these gloomy outlooks — part of what some are fearing could result in a “doom loop” for the downtown cores, where a dwindling tax base could spur serious cuts to essential services and spark an existential economic crisis.

But in San Jose, the city only collects a small amount of this tax and is projected to receive $22 million this coming year. That’s an increase of $2 million compared to 2021.

Sales tax is also playing a role. San Francisco is expecting a meager $14 million increase compared to 2021, bringing the city to $202 million this coming year. Oakland is experiencing a similarly small bump over the same time period, a $5 million increase totaling $104 million.

But San Jose — somewhat of an outlier — is projected to receive a whopping $50 million more in sales tax than it did in 2021, a total of $336 million.

Jeff Bellisario, executive director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, said the geographic makeup of the three cities’ economies may play a role.

“San Jose’s economy is not nearly as concentrated in the downtown area when compared to San Francisco and Oakland,” Bellisario wrote in an email. “With a slow return to the office and higher commercial vacancy rates in S.F. and Oakland, we’ve seen sales tax revenues decline in those areas along with business-related taxes.”

Oakland officials also say the transient occupancy tax, which hotel guests pay, still hasn’t made a full recovery since before the pandemic. Revenues are expected to increase this coming year by about $6 million from 2021 — totaling $22 million. But that’s still behind a high of $25.9 million in 2018.

All three of the cities have experienced nearly identical population decreases — around 0.5% and 0.6% between 2021 and 2022 — according to California’s Finance Department. And, even with its nearly one million residents, San Jose has dropped out of the top 10 most populous cities in the country.

As for pandemic-related funding infusions — which includes the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — Oakland has already used all of the $188 million it received from the federal government to plug up previous shortfalls it was facing since 2020.

In San Francisco, nearly $250 million in reimbursements for COVID-19 expenses was expected from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But now, the city said it will likely only get $23.4 million because of delays.

In San Jose, the picture is a bit more hazy.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

California wasted nearly $300,000 in tax dollars on improper activities in 2022, audit says

California state agencies spent nearly $280,000 on “inappropriate expenditures” last year, including the cost to keep the personal boat of a parks and recreation supervisor in a public dock and the wasted time of a sewage plant employee who shopped for comic books during work hours, according to a state audit report.

The examples of misused state resources were among the 1,269 allegations of improper government activities investigated in 2022 by the California state auditor’s office. The report, released Thursday, summarizes some of the cases related to employee pay, paid leave, poor contract oversight and misuse of state resources.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Parks and Recreation were each cited for misuse of state resources.

Among the biggest examples of misused funds and resources was an unnamed state agency that paid nearly $114,000 in public funds to a state analyst who was put on paid leave from March 2020 to November 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency and employee were unnamed for privacy.

The audit found that the analyst could have completed her work via telecommuting, but the state agency said the equipment necessary to work remotely was too expensive. But the audit report notes that the equipment would have cost “substantially less than paying the analyst’s full salary for 20 months while she performed no work.”

A water and sewage plant supervisor with the corrections and rehabilitation department was cited for misusing resources when he used state-owned property for his private business, and for using state computers to shop online, mostly for comic books and designer clothing during work hours, according to the report.

The state auditor’s office investigation revealed that during a four-month period, the employee had visited more than 3,600 websites unrelated to his duties on 52 separate workdays — averaging about 70 site visits per day. About 55% of those web pages were online retailers such as Craigslist, Wayfair, EBay and Costco. The CDCR said it is pursuing disciplinary action.

At the Department of Industrial Relations, a supervisor whose job was to ensure that staff used only state vehicles for work was found to have been regularly using a state vehicle for his “almost-daily” commute to work for the last three years, costing the state nearly $11,000 according to the audit. The employee said he used his own vehicle only when the state-owned car wasn’t available, such as when it was receiving maintenance.

The report found that the supervisor had driven the state-owned vehicle about 19,600 miles for personal reasons.

“Despite demonstrating a clear understanding of the standards dictating appropriate state vehicle use and his responsibility to enforce these standards with his staff, he failed to adhere to the standards himself,” according to the report.

The department said it has taken steps to address the issues and billed the employee for $4,200, which was the smallest of three estimates of costs accrued. It also said GPS trackers will be installed on its vehicles.

At the California Department of Parks and Recreation, a supervisor was cited for docking his personal boat at a public dock for more than six years, costing the state parks to lose up to $36,000 in potential revenue since 2015, according to the state auditor.

The state parks department said the employee, who was required to remove the boat from the state park in early 2022, is subject to disciplinary action.

A psychiatric technician at the Department of State Hospitals was cited for nearly 400 hours of unaccountable absences from October 2018 to August 2021, costing about $12,500 in “productive time.” According to the report, the employee regularly arrived late, took extended lunch breaks and left early from work for about three years.

The department said the technician is no longer with the agency and is establishing an accounts receivable system.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

This Law Should Reveal Who’s Paying for California Legislators’ Travel. It’s Only Been Used Twice

After years of controversy over state legislators taking trips paid by interest groups, California in 2015 adopted a law intended to bring more transparency to sponsored travel.

Senate Bill 21 requires trip organizers to annually disclose any major donors who travel alongside elected officials, taking aim at the secrecy that often surrounds these policy conferences and international study tours.

Yet in the seven years since the law took effect, disclosure forms have been filed for only two events — despite legislators reporting millions of dollars in sponsored travel and dozens of trips during that period. One form was filed last year and the second only after CalMatters made inquiries. 

It’s unclear exactly why the disclosure has been such a failure.

Former state Sen. Jerry Hill, the San Mateo Democrat who pushed for the law, said he was surprised by its infrequent use. He said he crafted qualifications that he believed major travel sponsors would easily meet, requiring them to share more information with the public about who is paying for legislators’ travel — but, in hindsight, the language about when they have to file may not have been specific enough.

Many groups, including two whom Hill cited in arguments for the law, contend that they do not meet the eligibility criteria laid out in the measure, even as they spend tens of thousands of dollars or more to take legislators to far-flung locations.

“It looks like it’s being interpreted in the most favorable light for the nonprofits, and they are looking at that as a way of getting around it,” Hill told CalMatters.

If that is the case, he added, legislators should update the language to ensure the intent is clear.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It is law and it should be followed. And it’s disappointing that some have used whatever reason they can find to not follow the law.”

If any organizations are out of compliance, the state’s political ethics watchdog, which is responsible for enforcement, cannot say. The Fair Political Practices Commission has never clarified potentially ambiguous language in the rules and it depends on filers to follow them, investigating primarily if it receives a complaint. None has ever been lodged.

Jay Wierenga, a spokesperson for the commission, wrote in an email that he did not know the specifics of the situation, but “in my experience most of the folks who deal with this are sophisticated enough and/or smart enough to follow the rules and hire legal counsel to make sure they’re following it.”

Different rules for trip sponsors

California law allows elected officials to accept unlimited free travel from a nonprofit organization, as long as the trip is related to policy issues or they are giving a speech or participating on a panel. Officials must report the travel as a gift on their annual statements of economic interest filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission — and, because of the same 2015 law, disclose the destination.

But the nonprofits — often funded by corporations, unions and industry associations that lobby the Legislature and the state — do not have similar reporting requirements. Though some voluntarily share lists of donors, they are not obligated to reveal how much money they receive and from whom.

For nearly as long as these trips have been happening, they have generated criticism from opponents who believe they amount to unofficial lobbying, allowing interest groups to buy privileged access to lawmakers and regulators away from public scrutiny. 

Hill said he grew more concerned after the 2010 PG&E pipeline explosion in his district that killed eight and destroyed a San Bruno neighborhood, which led to revelations about then-California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey’s close relationship and extensive travel with companies regulated by the commission.

So the law Hill authored was meant to provide greater accountability for which interest groups are paying for travel and how these trips can serve as opportunities for influence-peddling. It requires “a nonprofit organization that regularly organizes and hosts travel for elected officials” to annually report any donors who gave more than $1,000 and also accompanied elected officials on any portion of a trip, if the group meets two criteria:

  • Travel gifts to elected officials in that year totaled more than $10,000, or at least $5,000 to a single official.
  • Spending for travel, study tours and conferences, conventions and meetings related to elected officials account for at least one-third of its total expenses, as reflected in its federal tax filings.

Over the past two years, 16 organizations exceeded the first threshold at least once, according to a CalMatters analysis of legislators’ statements of economic interest. Just two of them filed the travel sponsor disclosure, known as Form 807.

The California Problem Solvers Foundation, which supports a bipartisan legislative caucus, revealed that in 2021, the year it launched, representatives from the California Medical Association, Edison International, the Associated Builders & Contractors of California, PhARMA, Blue Shield of California, DaVita Inc., PG&E and Sempra Energy donated and attended its inaugural policy summit in Dana Point, alongside nine lawmakers.

The foundation, however, did not file the form again for last year, when it spent another $12,000 taking four legislators to a policy summit in Sonoma. A spokesperson, Nick Mirman, declined to comment.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus Leadership Foundation, which spent more than $213,000 to take 14 legislators to Israel in July, said it wrongly forgot to submit a disclosure for the trip. 

After CalMatters reached out, a representative for the foundation said its compliance attorneys discovered the error while completing its taxes. She provided a Form 807 that the foundation planned to file, showing two donors that also traveled to Israel: the Koret Foundation Donor Advised Fund at Stanford University and the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. The Fair Political Practices Commission confirmed Wednesday that it received the form.

Over the last week, CalMatters surveyed the 14 other groups about why they did not file the disclosure form.

  • Three asserted they did not meet the eligibility requirements of the law, but did not specify how in follow-up inquiries: the Governor’s Cup Foundation, which organizes an annual golf tournament in Pebble Beach; the Shared Energy Future Foundation, the charitable arm of the oil and natural gas industry; and The Climate Registry, which spent more than $37,600 to bring lawmakers to United Nations climate conferences in Scotland and Egypt over the past two years.
  • Two said they are trade associations, which are exempt from the law: the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies and the California Independent Petroleum Association.
  • Five did not respond to questions, despite repeated inquiries: the California Biotechnology Foundation, the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, the Climate Action Reserve, the Council of State Governments-West and the Foundation for California’s Technology and Innovation Economy.
  • The California Environmental Voters Education Fund suggested that five lawmakers had incorrectly reported the organization as the sponsor of their travel to a United Nations biodiversity convention in Montreal, saying it had raised the money from another group called the Resources Legacy Fund.

Ambiguity in the law

A possible issue is how broadly to construe “activities with regard to elected officials,” as the law states, when determining expenses for the one-third of total spending threshold. Hill said his intent was for that calculation to cover the entire cost of trips and conferences attended by legislators, but nonprofits may be counting only their direct payments to lawmakers.

“Hindsight is 20/20, and if the nonprofits are using that as a way around following the law, that needs to be clarified or it needs to be enforced in a way that requires them to follow the law,” Hill said.

Wierenga said the Fair Political Practices Commission has no formal advice about how to complete the form because “nobody files them, so we’ve apparently never really been asked.”

Two prominent organizations mentioned by Hill at the time as inspirations for the 2015 law — the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy and the Independent Voter Project — told CalMatters they had never met the one-third of expenses threshold.

The California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, which sends lawmakers to policy conferences across the state and on international study tours, is by far the biggest source of sponsored travel that lawmakers annually report. In 2022, the foundation accounted for about 40% of the nearly $1 million in trips that California legislators took, according to a CalMatters analysis published this month.

A tax filing for last year is not yet publicly available. But in 2019, for example, the foundation reported spending $423,114 on study travel projects and $385,949 on conferences, conventions and meetings — about 43% of its nearly $1.9 million in expenses. Other recent years have comparable figures.

Spokesperson PJ Johnston declined to explain how the foundation calculates its expenses under the criteria laid out by the disclosure law. In an email, he wrote that “your approach may not take into account the full provisions,” but did not elaborate.

“Addressing your ‘calculations’ is not our responsibility, that is not our burden,” he wrote. “Your ‘calculations’ are imbued with no official weight, verification or concurrence from any agency with jurisdiction.”

He added that the foundation has never received any questions or guidance from the Fair Political Practices Commission about the disclosure law.

“It’s frustrating. It is law and it should be followed. And it’s disappointing that some have used whatever reason they can find to not follow the law.”FORMER STATE SEN. JERRY HILL, WHO PUSHED FOR THE TRANSPARENCY LAW

Each November, the Independent Voter Project organizes a conference where dozens of legislators and corporate sponsors gather for a week of policy discussions and schmoozing at a luxury hotel in Maui. The event has long been a lightning rod for concerns about the close relationship between lawmakers and interest groups that have business before the Legislature.

Last year, the nonprofit spent $38,856 to bring 13 legislators to the Maui conference. But Dan Howle, the chairperson and executive chairman, said that event is a small fraction of the Independent Voter Project’s work — which also includes public education on the rights of no party preference voters and court challenges to laws restricting the participation of these voters in primary and general elections.

On its 2021 tax filing, the most recent that is publicly available, the Independent Voter Project reported spending $169,530 on conferences, conventions and meetings and $43,372 on travel and entertainment payments for public officials — just under a quarter of its $882,122 in total expenses for that year. Travel accounts for another $384,614 in spending, though it’s unclear whether those costs relate to “activities with regard to elected officials.”

Howle said the costs for the Maui conference — which include a dinner at the hotel restaurant, opening and closing receptions and the sponsored travel for legislators — are not as much as they may seem. His organization does not count hotel rooms for sponsors, which they pay for as part of their registration, curtailing spending that would qualify for the one-third threshold.

“We haven’t felt required to report it because we don’t reach that threshold,” Howle said. He said that the Independent Voter Project came to that conclusion after discussing the law with the Fair Political Practices Commission the year it took effect. The commission has issued no official advice.

A third organization, the California Issues Forum, also maintains that it hasn’t filed the form because it hasn’t spent enough to cross the disclosure threshold. Chris Tapio, a spokesperson, wrote in an email that the nonprofit’s “activities and expenditures have not met the statutory criteria” for filing a report.

The organization spent $15,634 to take 15 legislators to Napa, Los Angeles, and Marina Del Rey in 2022, according to lawmakers’ statements of economic interest, and $13,454 to take 13 legislators to La Jolla, Monterey and Lafayette in 2021.

Tax returns for those years are not yet publicly available. But in 2019, the organization reported spending $323,032 on conferences, conventions and meetings, and $15,072 on travel, accounting for about 27% of its nearly $1.3 million in expenses.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Agency Paid A State Worker Six Figures to Stay Home and Not Work, Report Says

A California state agency paid an employee six figures to spend nearly two years at home not working, according to a new report from the California state auditor.

The audit, published Thursday, identified wasteful spending, poor oversight and unreported leave that resulted in misuse of taxpayer dollars.

According to the report, a California agency paid an unidentified analyst nearly $114,000 in wages after placing her on administrative time off for 20 months.

“We are not naming the agency that is the subject of this report because doing so may identify or lead to the identification of the individuals mentioned in the report,” according to the report. There are also no details on what prompted the long administrative leave.

Many other departments are called out by name, including California Correctional Health Care Services, which failed to account for a registered nurse’s absences totaling 600 hours between October 2019 and November 2021. It resulted in the employee being overpaid by more than $38,000.

Correctional Health Care responded that it agreed with the report, and that it had taken several steps to fix the problem, including requesting copies of the employee’s missing timesheets.

At the Department of State Hospitals, a psychiatric technician had nearly 400 hours of absences unaccounted for from October 2018 to August 2021, costing the state about $12,500.

The Department of State Hospitals said that the technician had left the department in early 2022.

According to the report, a supervisor with the Department of Industrial Relations “repeatedly misused one of the state vehicles for his daily commute over a period of three years,” incurring $11,000 in costs to the state.

DIR said “that it recognizes the seriousness of our report and has already taken steps to address the reported issues,” including installing GPS location tracking systems in its vehicle fleet to prevent misuse, according to the report.

Finally, a Department of Parks and Recreation supervisor used a public boat dock to store his personal boat for more than six years, denying the state up to $36,000 in potential revenue. The report said that State Parks also failed to report as part of the supervisor’s taxable income approximately $67,000 in housing benefits as a result of his living in state-owned housing.

Click here to read the full article in Yahoo News