What If There Is No Next Big Thing for California?


From its founding, California has been a special place, especially its ability to grow and foster new companies and industries that lead the world in their respective fields. Much of this has been driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that found a unique home here.

Of course, the first “Big Thing” for California was the Gold Rush of 1849, attracting risk takers willing to cross two thousand miles of hostile territory with no guarantee of survival, let along success. Following closely behind the prospectors were the blacksmiths, shop keepers, farmers and cattlemen to serve the exploding population.

Once fully industrialized, California maintained its reputation as the place where innovation could fully flourish. But companies and industries have a predictable life cycle and are never static. They start small, and then grow exponentially, after which they mature and stabilize. The growth period, of course, is the most dynamic. That’s when the innovators themselves and ultimately their stockholders make substantial profits and employees grow in number and income.

For the last 60 years, California has always had an industry or two in that growth cycle. First it was the oil companies and the Hollywood studios. Aerospace came next, then the first round of technology companies like Hewlett Packard, Intel and Cisco. As they matured around 20 years ago, along came the current wave of tech companies like Google and Apple to surge past them.

In serial order, one new industry after another grew up in California just as the prior wave had crested and was settling into maturity. This trend has not just benefitted the economy and employment. These industries have powered the revenue to the state for decades. The rapidly growing companies have provided a lot of people with very high incomes from stock, stock options and incentive-based employment. Because California’s revenue is so dependent on high-income earners, the recent budget surpluses have largely been driven by these enormous tech incomes.

But now, the current wave of tech companies is maturing. Layoffs at Facebook and Twitter and Salesforce are ongoing. The median income at Facebook is reportedly $394,000, which has meant lots of tax revenue for the state. Some political leaders suggest that we shouldn’t worry about the California economy and assume that there will be another big industry to grow up here to fill that hole in the budget.

But what if that doesn’t happen this time?

What if there is no next wave to replace the maturing Google and Apple? The promising industries of ride sharing and food delivery are struggling, as is autonomous driving. Maybe something like ChatGPT is coming, but there are no assurances there, either.

While there will almost certainly be some “next big thing”, we can no longer be certain that that “thing” will be California-based. Despite high taxes, high cost of everything and onerous regulations, the educated and tech savvy workforce has kept many companies here. However, now those people can be hired remotely by a business in Arizona. Or, whereas once a Californian didn’t want to move out of state, now moving the family to Florida may not look so bad. That spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that was such a part of California’s culture is eroding at the same time other places are finding their footing with creative growth.

The good news is that this future is avoidable. That culture of entrepreneurship still exists. Innovation and enterprise can still be found and grow here. It may be trite to say, but it only needs a government that will get out of its way rather than suppress its dreams. Yes, it means less regulation and lower taxes. But it also means a government focused on empowering those who produce in order to ensure that there is revenue for public services as well as providing a reasonable safety net for those in need. It may also mean more emphasis on the present local economic climate than the global climate changes estimated in the future. Remember when we had the best schools and police forces in the country? We do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

San Diego to Use $2.4 Million State Grant to Help 50 Homeless People Near Old Library

Part of the money will go toward securing the streets so the encampments do not return

In a new, focused approach to helping homeless people get off the street and into housing, outreach workers will begin engaging with about 50 people who are living in tents along six city blocks near San Diego’s former Central Library.

A unanimous San Diego City Council, with Councilmember Jennifer Campbell absent, approved spending about $2.4 million in state funds on the plan Monday.

In presenting the plan to council members, Hafsa Kaka, the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department director, said the effort will begin in about two months and will differ from traditional outreach work by providing a more intense and personal focus on each person’s individual needs.

“What happens with normal outreach, to be honest, is sometimes people will fall through the cracks,” she said. “These individuals (outreach workers) are intensively going to be following the people who have been identified.”

The grant will fund services ranging from outreach to housing for the approximately 50 people in the six-block area over the next two years, and some of the grant will be used to keep the area clear of future encampments once people are housed.

The focus will be on placing people into long-term permanent housing and also can be used to subsidize shorter-term bridge housing such as independent living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, placements with family members and supportive housing through California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM). Clients who have been referred to permanent supportive housing may be placed in hotel rooms as temporary housing.

The approximately 50 people living in encampments within the six-block area represent a fraction of the city’s homeless population. A monthly count conducted in December by the Downtown San Diego Partnership found 850 people living in East Village, which includes the E Street area that will be the focus of the new grant. In all, the count found 1,839 people living downtown on sidewalks, in tents and in vehicles in December, the fifth straight month of a record high.

San Diego was one of eight California communities awarded a portion of the $48 million Encampment Resolution Funding Program in October, with 19 other communities receiving the grant funds earlier last year. The grants are administered by the California Interagency Council on Homelessness with a goal of finding housing for people living in specific encampments.

Kaka said the majority of people in the encampments are black women, and many are seniors. The outreach will address existing disparities in access to services in those populations, she said.

The San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness has created ad hoc committees to address the growing population of senior homeless people and the disproportionately high percent of homeless people who are black, she noted.

Outreach teams will focus on F Street, E Street and Broadway between Seventh and Tenth avenues. The area includes the old Central LIbrary, the U.S. Postal Service and the Andaz San Diego hotel.

While not large geographically, some stretches have dense encampments. In recent days, the sidewalk on the north side of E Street has been filled with tents between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

District 8 City Councilmember Vivian Moreno supported the motion to allocate the funding, but said she was concerned about its focus on one neighborhood in District 3, represented by Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, while a part of downtown she represents has a growing homeless population,

“If you were to go there today with me, you would see encampments just lining up the streets,” she said about Commercial Street and other areas near the Father Joe’s Villages campus on Imperial Avenue. “They are not safe or sanitary for people camping there and it’s also not safe for people walking through the area.”

Moreno said the council had allocated $1 million to increase outreach in the area six months ago, and she questioned Kaka on how the money had been used.

Kaka said the city had submitted to the state an earlier funding application that did include Commercial Street, but it was not awarded. She said someone at the state advised her to submit an application that focused on a specific area in the next funding cycle, which led to the grant for the E Street outreach.

She also told Moreno that the $1 million allocated to outreach in her district has been put to use through People Assisting the Homeless.

Kaka said money for more outreach in other areas could come in the future, and the city and the county have discussed submitting a joint application to the state for the next round of funding.

Under the program adopted Monday, $1.2 million will be used for housing and flexible subsidies, and $950,000 will go toward outreach services for people in encampments.

The grant will provide $150,000 for support services to help people stabilize when they receive housing, and $116,500 will pay for administrative costs. Once encampments are cleared from the city, the grant will provide $30,000 to keep the area secure and prevent encampments from returning.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

Red Herring Alert: Comparing California and Japan High Speed Rail Falls on its Face

Japan’s high speed rail system, first begun in 1964, actually makes a lot of money

Well, it’s big in Japan.

That is what proponents of California’s high speed rail project say when asked about the whys and wherefores of the system. In other words, if it works somewhere else it will work here.

That argument, though, falls in the face of a rather basic fact: California and Japan are different.

It is true that Japan’s high speed rail system, first begun in 1964, actually makes money – a lot, in fact. The iconic first line, Shinkansen Tokaido, alone carries 90 million people a year and has an operating profit of about $4.4 billion dollars.  That does not include capital costs, but teasing that number out after 60 years of operation and the privatization of the route in the late 1980s is extremely difficult – suffice to say the deal has “worked” for the owners.

There are multiple other Shinkansen lines in Japan, most of which also realize an operating profit (the latest expansion to Hokkaido – the very large island north of the Japanese mainland – has proven to be problematic, tough.)

Focusing on the Tokaido line – the line typically referred to for comparison – shows a few similarities but many glaring differences. It’s distance is 320 miles, not terribly different from the 390 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Also, it takes two and half hours – again not too dissimilar – and, in a downtown to downtown comparison, is faster and more convenient than flying (though not cheaper – it’s about $100 to fly and about $160 to take the Shinkansen) just like California’s project is supposed to be.

But that’s about it.

First, there is the issue of population. The Tokaido line (with its “Nozomi” train only stopping in the largest cities and hence the fastest) runs from Tokyo to Osaka, which alone have combined populations of 17 million, compared to 11 million for LA (including the county) and San Francisco.  

In the cities along the Tokaido route there are 9 million more people; in the space between LA and SF, there are less than 3 million. For comparison, the smallest city on the Tokaido is Shinagawa at 400,000 people; the smallest city on the California system is Gilroy, at 58,000. 

All told, the average “stop population” between Los Angeles and San Francisco is about 250,000 – on the Tokaido/Nozomi it is 2,250,000.

It is these concentrations and the economies of scale they allow that drive the success of the Tokaido line – California’s system is simply not in the same league.

The Nozomi train operates 32 1,300-seat trains each way every day; pretty much on the half-hour with fewer overnight, while the two other slower (but still high speed) trains on the same system operate much more frequently and make many more stops. 

Note on the following information– when dealing with California High Speed Rail (CHSR) Authority numbers – time or money – it is a good idea to remind oneself that they have never been right before, so really really big grain – meet salt.

The CHSR system will – in its “horizon year” of 2040, operate 105 southbound and 103 northbound trains per day over the system.  Southbound, 64 trains will start in San Francisco, 20 in San Jose, and 21 in Merced.  Northbound, 42 trains will start in Anaheim, 44 in Los Angeles, and 17 will start in Merced (note – that means 86 trains will pass through LA northbound every day.)

The system will operate 18 hours per day, with six hours designated “peak;” about half of the trains will operate during those six hours, the other half during the 12 “off peak” hours.

That means LA’s Union Station will – during the morning commute – see a train going north about every eight minutes, every day.

At 1,200 (could be a bit lower, could be a bit higher as the final design is not yet set) seats per train, about 10,000 people could leave LA between 7 and 8 a.m.  For the system to hit its ridership (and therefore revenue) goals, about 5,000 have to.

Six trains will run non-stop from LA to SF and 10 will run with only stops at San Jose and Burbank – the non-stops are expected to meet the 2 hour and 40 minute time limit set by original bond; the other trains will not.

Like the Tokaido, California’s system will charge different fares for different distances traveled … sort of.

The 2020 ridership estimate report shows a ticket price (one way) of $100 from San Francisco to Bakersfield. The cost to travel to LA or even Anaheim? Also $100. It appears planners simply worked – in accordance with the original bond measure – backwards from a typical Southwest fare to set the cap.

For those traveling to/from smaller cities, the fares are obviously less. For example, San Francisco to San Jose is $26, San Francisco to Merced is $66, Los Angeles to Anaheim is $34, etc..  

While the high-speed rail has been touted as a way to make lower cost Central Valley housing more accessible, the fare rates could significantly impact that desire as it would cost about $30,000 a year to commute from Merced into the city (admittedly, it can most likely be assumed there will be some sort of farepass/frequent user program will cut that price.)

But at numbers in the thousands per month, the incentive to move out of more expensive cities becomes far less – why spend the money on train fare rather than on a more expensive, more central home if it’s going to be a wash, unless you were going to move anyway to raise a family and mow the lawn?

As to overall finances, the most the CHSR says the LA to SF system will cost is $113 billion and it will be done in 2033, four years after the Central Valley “starter kit” is done.

Exactly where the money will come from remains a bit of a puzzle, but the CHSR is hoping the Cap and Trade money it gets will be extended to 2050 (an extra $10-20 billion,) that they will find more federal funds including non-transportation grants for things such as renewable energy and “social equity.”

As to a private investor, the CHSR admits they are not quite ready for that but that once the system is running and turning an operational profit businesses will come knocking to invest.

Speaking of operational profit, the CHSR projects there is a “99.4%” likelihood it make an operational profit by 2040. It should be noted “operational profit” is just that – how much more money you bring in than you have to spend every day and is not related to the capital cost.

If – IF – the system makes the $1.4 billion it expects to in 2040, that would give it a return on capital investment of 1.4% percent.  That’s not terribly good and may make private companies think again and again and again about investing.  

In other words, if (not accounting for inflation) the CHSR simply saved its money to build the rest of the system – the San Diego, Sacramento extensions – it would take about 40 years of “profit” to cover the cost.

And those revenues figures are based on having about 1 million riders a week, about 140,000 a day, about 6,000 an hour, 100 a minute. 

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Emails Reveal Tensions in Colorado River Talks

Competing priorities, outsized demands and the federal government’s retreat from a threatened deadline stymied a deal last summer on how to drastically reduce water use from the parched Colorado River, emails obtained by The Associated Press show.

The documents span the June-to-August window the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation gave states to reach consensus on water cuts for a system that supplies 40 million people annually — or have the federal government force them. They largely include communication among water officials in Arizona and California, the major users in the river’s Lower Basin.

Reclamation wanted the seven U.S. states that rely on the river to decide how to cut 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water — or up to roughly one-third — on top of already anticipated reductions. The emails, obtained through a public records request, depict a desire to reach a consensus but persistent disagreement over how much each state could or should give.

As the deadline approached without meaningful progress, one water manager warned: “We’re all headed to a very dark place.”

“The challenges we had this summer were significant challenges, they truly were,” Chris Harris, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, said in an interview about the early negotiations. “I don’t know that anybody was to blame, I genuinely don’t. There were an awful lot of different interpretations of what was being asked and what we were trying to do.”

Scientists say the megadrought gripping the southwestern U.S. is the worst in 1,200 years, putting a deep strain on the Colorado River as key reservoirs dip to historically low levels. If states don’t begin taking less out of the river, the major reservoirs threaten to fall so low they can’t produce hydropower or supply any water at all to farms that grow crops for the rest of the nation and cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The future of the river seemed so precarious last summer that some water managers felt attempting to reach a voluntary deal was futile — only mandated cuts would stave off crisis.

“We are out of time and out of any cushion to allow for a voluntary plan,” Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, told a Bureau of Reclamation official in a July 18 email.

As 2023 begins, fresh incentives make the states more likely to give up water. The federal government has put up $4 billion for drought relief, and Colorado River users have submitted proposals to get some of that money through actions like leaving fields unplanted. Some cities are ripping up thirsty decorative grass, and tribes and major water agencies have left some water in key reservoirs — either voluntarily or by mandate.

Reclamation also has agreed to spend $250 million mitigating hazards at a drying California lake bed, a condition of the state’s water users agreeing to cut their use by 400,000 acre feet in a proposal released in October.

The Interior Department is still evaluating proposals for a slice of the $4 billion and can’t say how much savings it will generate, Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in an interview.

The states are again trying to reach a grand bargain — with a deadline of Tuesday — so that Reclamation can factor it into a larger plan to modify operations at Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam, behemoth power producers on the Colorado River. Failure to do so would set up the possibility of the federal government imposing cuts — a move that could invite litigation.

Figuring out who absorbs additional water cuts has been contentious, with allegations of drought profiteering, reneging on commitments, too many negotiators in the room and an unsteady hand from the federal government, the emails and follow-up interviews showed.

California says it’s a partner willing to sacrifice, but other states see it as a reluctant participant clinging to a water priority system where it ranks near the top. Arizona and Nevada have long felt they’re unfairly forced to bear the brunt of cuts because of a water rights system developed long ago, a simmering frustration that reared its head during talks.

Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton’s call for a massive water cut in testimony to Congress on June 14 was a public bombshell of sorts. A week earlier, with a heads-up from the federal government, the Lower Basin states talked about collectively, with Mexico, cutting up to 2 million acre-feet during a meeting in Salt Lake City, the emails and interviews showed.

But as the weeks passed and proposals were exchanged, the Lower Basin states barely reached half that amount, and the commitment was nowhere near firm, the emails showed. Adding to the difficulty was not knowing what Mexico, which also has a share of the river, might contribute.

In a series of exchanges through July, Arizona and California each proposed multiple ways to achieve cuts, building on existing agreements tied to the levels of Lake Mead, factoring in the water lost to evaporation or inefficient infrastructure, and fiercely protecting a priority system, though it was clear negotiators were becoming weary.

The states shared disdain for a proposal from farmers near Yuma and southern California to be paid $1,500 an acre foot for water they conserved. Former Central Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke responded by suggesting the farmers make it work at one-third of the price, which still was higher but closer to going rates.

In late July, Harris, of California, emailed a proposal to the Bureau of Reclamation outlining scenarios in the range of 1 million acre feet in cuts, saying it was imperative negotiators be able to “declare some level of victory.”

“Otherwise,” he wrote, “I genuinely believe that we are at an impasse, and we’re all headed to a very dark place.”

But ultimately, Arizona and Nevada never felt that California was willing to give enough.

“It was futile, it wasn’t enough. We did not trust that California was going to come through on their piece of it,” Cooke said in an interview.

By then, Reclamation privately told the states — but didn’t acknowledge publicly — that it backed away from the supposed mid-August deadline, officials involved in the talks said. Beaudreau, the deputy Interior secretary, said in an interview the deadline was never meant to create an ultimatum between reaching a deal and forced cuts.

But state officials said when it became clear the federal government wouldn’t act unilaterally, it created a “chilling effect” that removed the urgency from the talks because water users with higher-priority water rights were no longer at risk of harsh cuts, Arizona’s Buschatzke said in an interview.

“Without that hammer, there was a different tone of negotiations,” he said.

Today, the Interior Department’s priority remains ensuring Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam have enough water in them to maintain hydropower, and the department will do whatever is necessary to ensure that, Beaudreau said.

The Upper Basin states of New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado — which historically haven’t used their full supplies — are looking toward the Lower Basin states to do much of the work.

Reclamation is now focused on weighing the latest round of comments from states on how to save the river. Nevada wants to count water lost to evaporation and transportation in water allocations — a move that could mean the biggest volume of cuts for California — and some Arizona water managers agree, comment letters obtained by the AP show.

But disputes remain over how to determine what level of cuts are fair and legal. California’s goal remains protecting its status while other states and tribes want more than old water rights taken into account — such as whether users have access to other water sources, and the effects of cuts on disadvantaged communities and food security.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

California’s Litigation Dystopia

The civil-rights division’s case against Activision spotlights the vicious feeding cycle that sometimes only a federal judge can stop.

For years, the zombie-like California Civil Rights Department (CRD) has roamed the Golden State in search of brains, or, rather, of businesses it can feast on for revenue in the name of social justice. Wherever it finds a victim, the CRD draws a crowd of opportunistic plaintiffs’ lawyers, each seeking to leverage the agency’s claims on behalf of the companies’ other alleged victims.

Consider its case against Santa Monica–based video-game maker Activision. Citing the agency’s claim that the company tolerated a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture,” attorneys piled on.

On January 17, a federal judge in California drove off some of those opportunistic plaintiffs with a torch — putting an end to the sad case of two different shareholder groups trying to exploit California’s still-unproven CRD allegations, dismissing their claims for the third time, now “with prejudice and without leave to amend.”

As in all good monster movies, there’s humor and irony too.

In the summer of 2021, when CRD sued the video-game maker for its “pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture,” Activision was already headed toward a resolution of those claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), ultimately agreeing to establish an $18 million fund for the alleged victims. In spite of this — in fact, deliberately to spite this — the CRD went to federal court to try to derail the EEOC settlement six times. Each time, a federal judge told them to butt out, declaring the federal settlement “fair, adequate and reasonable” and in “the public interest.” The CRD is now trying to persuade an appeals court to allow it to prevent victims from getting the settlement funds.

Here’s where the conventional horror movie becomes comedy.

Just days before the January 17 judge’s order, the Office of the New York City Comptroller, also smelling brains, tried to join one of the doomed plaintiffs’ suits. The comptroller claimed that Activision’s workplace-harassment suits imperiled the city’s pension-fund investments in the company. In a filing that cited the CRD’s most salacious claims, the comptroller’s attorneys added the funny bit: The city’s intervention on behalf of NYC Funds was part of the comptroller’s historic interest in pursuing social justice.

Their papers specifically highlighted the heroic actions of then-comptroller Scott Stringer. “In October 2019,” the city’s attorneys asserted:

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and the NYC Funds . . . call[ed] on major companies to adopt hiring policies requiring women and racially/ethnically diverse candidates to be considered for selection to corporate boards of directors. . . . Despite this striking success, the NYC Funds soon learned just how much work there remained to do at Activision.

It’s true that Stringer persuaded Activision and twelve other companies to sign on to a voluntary agreement to abide by aggressive diversity, equity, and inclusion goals in board recruitment. But it’s also true that the comptroller threatened legal action if the company did not sign on. And it’s equally true that the NYC comptroller’s office failed to note that former comptroller Stringer had gender-equity problems of his own.

It was a strange omission in a city that knows Scott Stringer well.

*   *   *

There was a moment in 2021 when the New York City mayor’s race belonged to Scott Stringer: a progressive Democrat, the cousin of former U.S. representative Bella Abzug, and son of Ronald Stringer (the man who served as legal counsel to Mayor Abe Beame when, in 1975, New York City ran out of cash and came this close to bankruptcy).

Stringer was born to politics, in other words. Like twelve-year-old Jesus of Nazareth teaching the rabbis, he was appointed to Manhattan’s Community Planning Board at the remarkable age of 16 and was practically breastfed in the New York State Assembly where he served as a legislative assistant to then-assemblyman Jerry Nadler. Stringer slipped into Nadler’s seat when the boss departed for Congress. In 2006, Stringer was elected Manhattan Borough president.

As borough president, Stringer proved himself adept in the dark arts of signaling his virtue — a gift that would serve him well until it didn’t. In one memorable moment, in 2010, he and fiancée Elyse Buxbaum theatrically picked up their marriage license in Connecticut, the better to stand in solidarity with New York’s gays and lesbians who were, at the time, barred from marrying in the Empire State.

His political fortunes rose higher. In 2014, Stringer was elected to the city’s powerful comptroller’s office. There, instead of demanding financial rigor in a city built on profligate spending and corruption, he pushed the office into identity politics. His highest achievement was “Boardroom 3.0,” the effort to use his city’s pension-fund investments to persuade publicly traded companies “to adopt a policy requiring the consideration of both women and people of color for director and CEO searches.”

By the time Stringer announced he would run for New York City mayor, his office had helpfully cock-a-doodled his work to protect the vulnerable. “NYC Comptroller Stringer and Retirement Systems Announce Precedent-Setting Board/CEO Diversity Search Policies as part of Boardroom 3.0 Initiative,” the office declared in an April 14 press release.

So, how does a guy with those bona fides — the family connections, the job history, the performative possibilities inherent in political office — blow a race for mayor of New York that nearly everyone figured was his?

He gets accused of sexual misconduct.

*   *   *

This is how the end came. In September 2020, Stringer launched his campaign for mayor. In April 2021, a former intern accused Stringer of sexual misconduct during a campaign 20 years before.

“I am coming forward now because being forced to see him on my living room TV every day, pretending to be a champion for women’s rights, just sickens me,” she told the New York Times.

Stringer fell to third in the polls, behind Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. Two months later, following a second allegation, Stringer, well and truly toasted, abandoned his run for mayor.

Some might have been humbled. Not Scott Stringer. In the waning days of 2022, he sued one of his accusers, in a move the progressive Nation magazine called “a case study in what not to do.”

By now Stringer knows that the facts of these cases — whether they involve a major corporation like Activision or a political figure like Stringer — don’t matter nearly so much as the accusation. Often enough, the accusation itself is lethal.

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

California Shooting: 3 Dead, 4 Hurt in Ritzy LA Neighborhood

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three people were killed and four others wounded in a shooting at a multimillion dollar short-term rental home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood early Saturday, police said.

The shooting occurred about 2:30 a.m. in the Beverly Crest neighborhood. This is at least the sixth mass shooting in California this month.

Sgt. Frank Preciado of the Los Angeles Police Department said earlier Saturday that the three people killed were inside a vehicle.

Two of the four victims were taken in private vehicles to area hospitals and two others were transported by ambulance, police spokesperson Sgt. Bruce Borihanh said. Two were in critical condition and two were in stable condition, Borihanh said. The ages and genders of the victims were not immediately released.

Investigators were trying to determine if there was a party at the rental home or what type of gathering was occurring, Borihanh said.

Borihanh said police have no information on suspects. With the shooting over, the block was sectioned off as investigators scoured for evidence.

The mid-century home is in Beverly Crest, a quiet neighborhood nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains where houses are large and expensive. The property, estimated at $3 million, is on a cul-de-sac and described in online real estate platforms as modern and private with a pool and outdoor shower.

LAPD Officer Jader Chaves said the department did not know if the house had a history of noise or other party-related complaints.

The early Saturday morning shooting comes on top a massacre at a dance hall in a Los Angeles suburb last week that left 11 dead and nine wounded and shootings at two Half Moon Bay farms that left seven dead and one wounded.

Last Saturday, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran gunned down patrons at a ballroom dance hall in predominantly Asian Monterey Park, where tens of thousands attended Lunar New Year festivities earlier that evening. He drove to another dance hall but was thwarted by an employee. Many of the dead were in their 60s and 70s.

Tran later killed himself as police closed in on the van in which he sat.

On Monday, a man shot and killed four people at the mushroom farm where he worked, then drove to another farm where he had previously worked and killed three people there, authorities said. Chunli Zhao, 66, is in jail and faces murder charges in what police called a case of workplace violence.

The killings have dealt a blow to the state, which has some of the nation’s toughest firearm laws and lowest rates of gun deaths.

Click here to read the full article in the AP News

Task Force Meets in San Diego, Debates Eligibility for California Slavery and Racism Reparations

The task force is charged with making recommendations to the legislature by June on reparations for the effects of slavery and systemic racism for Black people in the state

A state task force charged with studying and making recommendations for reparations to Black residents of California who have suffered harm from the effects of slavery and systemic racism met in San Diego Friday and discussed at length who would be eligible.

The meeting, which continues Saturday at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center at the SDSU campus, comes less than six months before the task force is to issue its final conclusions.

The task force of nine members, including San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe, has been meeting regularly for the past 18 months around the state. The work is complicated and extensive: an interim report issued in June runs to nearly 500 pages. It is also groundbreaking, the first time any state in the country has tackled the issue of historical reparations for Black citizens.

The task force has already made some key decisions. The biggest, in March, was to determine that eligibility for any future payment would be limited to Black state residents who are descendants of enslaved people, or of a free Black person living in the U.S. by the end of the 19th century.

That standard would exclude some individuals, such as Black people who came to the U.S. after the end of the 19th century.

Among other issues the task force is hashing out, economists are attempting to quantify the economic losses stemming from redlining, mass incarceration, environmental harm, and other categories.

The task force is also expected to recommend non-monetary steps the state should take. These could include issuing a formal apology from the state, and deleting language in the state constitution that prohibits slavery, or involuntary servitude, except to punish a crime. That allows prisoners in the state to be paid low wages, advocates say.

The task force was created under Assembly Bill 3121, a bill authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego. Now Secretary of State, Weber addressed the task force at the start of the meeting, urging them to finish the work on time. “If you don’t push it forward, it loses momentum,” she said.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

More Than a Million Undocumented Immigrants Gained Driver’s Licenses in California

On a recent night, by the Miramar Reservoir in San Diego County, a man named Erwin sat at a picnic table scrolling through dozens of texts from his wife. He read aloud her warnings about police patrolling a road near their home.

“‘There’s a lot of cops out tonight,’” he read. “Cops everywhere.’ ‘Be careful; lots of cops.’ ‘Too many cops.’ 

“Every time I want to get a burger or juice or anything like that and I leave the house, she will text me ‘There’s a lot of cops. Be careful,’” Erwin explained. “It’s a reality that we live in. We adapt our life and our every day to it.” 

Erwin, who asked not to use his last name for fear of deportation, is a 27-year old business manager, husband and father of a 6-month-old baby girl. He’s also a Congolese immigrant whose visa expired. His wife, a U.S. citizen, fears what would happen if police stop him. 

Although California is a sanctuary state — with protections for immigrants who lack documentation authorizing them to be in the United States — there are loopholes and law enforcement sometimes works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Beyond that, Erwin worries a traffic stop might escalate. “Believe me, in my country, I would never have to worry about getting pulled over and being scared that they’re going to shoot me,” he said. 

Erwin wants to swap his foreign driver’s license for a California one.

“Before I didn’t have a family, so I could risk it,” he said, “but now I have my family and I drive my kid everywhere we go. So I decided to get right and get the driver’s license, so it’s less of an issue if I get pulled over.”  

A license to drive

Erwin has made multiple attempts to obtain an AB 60 driver’s license. It’s a special license that lets undocumented California residents legally drive, but with federal limitations.

Proponents say the special license was a boon to immigrants and the state’s economy. But critics, and even some immigrant advocates, say it has drawbacks and risks, since law enforcement and immigration officials can access it. Nevertheless the state is expanding its flexibility, giving IDs  to more undocumented residents.

California lawmakers first passed AB 60, called the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act, in 2013, as part of a broad effort to adopt more inclusive policies toward immigrants, to decriminalize their daily lives and maximize their contributions to the economy, experts said. 

Since the law took effect in 2015, more than a million undocumented immigrants, out of an estimated 2 million, have received licenses, and more than 700,000 have renewed them. 

Besides California, 18 other states have followed suit. 

“With AB 60, what we did was recognize the needs of many hard-working immigrants living here and contributing so much to our great state,” said Luis Alejo, the former Assembly member from  Watsonville who authored the bill. Now he is a county supervisor for Monterey County. 

Undocumented immigrants in California contribute $3.1 billion a year in state and local taxes; nationally they contribute $11.7 billion in taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington D.C. research entity.  

New legislation signed in September will make other California ID’s available in January to undocumented immigrants who don’t drive or who can’t take the driver’s test. Backers of that measure say residents most likely to benefit are the elderly and people with disabilities. 

“IDs are needed for so many aspects of everyday life, from accessing critical health benefits, to renting an apartment,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, deputy director of programs and campaigns at the California Immigrant Policy Center, a sponsor of the law. 

Experts say more flexible ID laws may do more than help people on an individual level. Eric Figueroa, a senior manager at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said licenses enable undocumented immigrants to look for better jobs and gain better protections from employers trying to steal or withhold wages.

“It helps build the economy broadly — by unlocking people’s potential — and it helps the workers by giving them more options,” he said.

Erwin uses family connections to remotely renew his Congo license — a privilege he noted not everyone has. Being able to drive allowed his family to move to a better neighborhood and him to find better employment in a suburb about 25 miles away, he said. 

No one has studied how many people have garnered better jobs as a result of the special licenses. Alejo said many of his constituents describe “profound economic impacts,” but he agrees more research is needed. 

Some opponents of the licenses say their economic benefits are likely negligible. Instead it is encouraging illegal migration to California, they say, which further strains the state’s budget to provide education and other services. 

More than that, it makes undocumented residents too comfortable, critics argued. 

Before the special licenses, immigrants said they feared routine traffic stops and drunk-driving checkpoints, where their vehicles could be impounded for not having a driver’s license. Many also could face deportation proceedings after being contacted by police. 

“Community members used to share that they always used to have to buy beat-up cars because they always knew it would get impounded,” said Erin Tsurumoto Grassi, policy director at Alliance San Diego, a community organization focused on equity issues. 

“Folks were always losing their vehicles because they didn’t have a license. They didn’t have the ability to have a license,” she said. 

Some opponents of the special license law claimed it would make roadways less safe, because some immigrant drivers wouldn’t be able to read traffic signs in English. 

But a 2017 study by the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford University showed those safety concerns were speculative. The rate of total accidents, including fatal accidents, did not rise and the rate of hit-and-run accidents declined, which likely improved traffic safety and reduced overall costs for California drivers, researchers said. 

The study, which documented a 10% decline in hit-and-run accidents, ran in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2017. 

“Coming to this as scientists, we were immediately shocked by the absence of facts in this debate,” said Jens Hainmueller, a Stanford political science professor and co-director of the lab. “Nobody was drawing on any evidence; it was more characterized by ideology.” 

Other research by Hans Lueders, a postdoctoral research associate for the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University, found AB 60 did not improve insurance premiums nor increase the share of uninsured drivers.

Are license holders safe?

Questions persist about whether the special licenses make recipients easier targets for immigration enforcement.  

Some immigrant advocates initially opposed the new licenses because they looked different from other driver’s licenses. On the front of the cards’ upper right side is “Federal Limits Apply” instead of the iconic gold bear of California. On the back the cards say: “This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes.” 

Alejo said legislators had intended to protect people from immigration enforcement, so they wrote certain protective measures into the original AB 60 bill. They added language prohibiting state and local government agencies from using the special license to discriminate against license holders or for immigration enforcement.

Yet some advocates point to reports of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accessing the databases of state and local law enforcement agencies and of state departments of motor vehicles. 

In December 2018, the ACLU of Northern California and the National Immigration Law Center published a report detailing multiple ways federal immigration agencies get access to motor vehicle records. After that, the California Attorney General’s Office implemented new protocols to protect immigrants’ DMV information from ICE and other agencies. 

A chilling effect

Dave Maass, director of investigations at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there is always going to be a risk someone will misuse data on undocumented people.

“I wouldn’t say that people should feel 100% safe,” he said.” I would just say that the risk has been lessened quite a bit … but that does not mean the risk has totally gone away.”  

In recent years there has been a large drop-off in the number of immigrants applying for AB 60 licenses. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, 396,859 immigrants applied for the licenses in fiscal 2014-15, but only 68,426 applied in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022. 

Advocates said that may be because most people who wanted a license applied for it already,  or because education and outreach about the law have lessened over the years. 

Cheer said news of ICE accessing California databases could have a chilling effect on  immigrants’ willingness to interact with government. 

“It does create more of a trust deficit with government agencies whenever there is a story about ICE having access to California databases or information in California databases,” she said. 

Being seen

On the other hand, there’s an added benefit to the new licenses, Cheer said: immigrants now have a feeling of being included and acknowledged as residents of California. 

“I feel like that’s a very important psychological piece, in the sense of ‘This is who I am. I have an ID to show you who I am,’” she said. 

Erwin said he carefully weighed the possibility that he would be effectively giving ICE his home address against wanting to have the proper paperwork, so there would be no excuse for a police officer to escalate a traffic stop with him. He decided one risk was worth reducing the risk of the other.

For some immigrants, the passage of the license law didn’t come soon enough.

Dulce Garcia, an attorney and advocate for immigrants, recently described at a San Diego public forum on immigration enforcement what happened when police stopped her brother who was undocumented. 

Police cited Edgar Saul Garcia Cardoso for driving without a license and when he appeared in a courthouse in January 2020 to face the consequences, ICE detained and deported him, within hours, to Tijuana, she said.

There he was kidnapped, held for ransom and tortured for eight months, Garcia said. 

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

State bar Acts on O.C. lawyer

Attorney who advised Trump on overturning election is charged with ethics violations.

The State Bar of California filed disciplinary charges Thursday against Orange County attorney John Eastman, accusing him of multiple ethics violations stemming from his actions while advising then-President Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election.

The charges could be the first step to Eastman losing his California law license.

Eastman, a former professor and dean at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, emerged as a key legal advisor to Trump in the weeks after Joe Biden won the presidency.

Eastman helped develop a legal and political strategy promoting the false claim that the results were tainted by fraud and misconduct by election officials, according to a 35-page charging document filed by the State Bar.

In the months that followed, the U.S. attorney general and others told the Trump campaign that there was no evidence of widespread fraud that could have affected the outcome of the election. Dozens of courts dismissed cases alleging fraud.

Still, the State Bar alleges, Eastman continued to work with Trump to promote the lie of a stolen election.

Eastman must be held accountable for his role in “an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy,” George Cardona, the State Bar’s chief trial counsel, said in a statement.

An attorney’s highest duty is abiding by the federal and state constitutions, and Eastman violated that duty, Cardona wrote.

The 11 disciplinary charges against Eastman include failure to support the Constitution and laws of the United States, misrepresentation, seeking to mislead a court, and making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption.”

State Bar officials said they intend to seek Eastman’s disbarment before the State Bar Court.

In a Substack post, Eastman said the State Bar filing is “filled with distortions, half-truths and outright falsehoods.” In the post, which seeks funds for his legal defense, he also asks for prayers.

Eastman’s attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement that his client “disputes every aspect of the action that has been filed against him by the State Bar.”

“The complaint filed against Eastman that triggered today’s action by the State Bar is part of a nationwide effort to use the bar discipline process to penalize attorneys who opposed the current administration in the last presidential election,” the statement said. “Americans of both political parties should be troubled by this politicization of our nation’s state bars.”

The State Bar alleges that Eastman wrote legal memos — one in December 2020 and another on Jan. 3, 2021 — advising Vice President Mike Pence that he could declare that election results in seven states were in dispute.

This would have led to electoral votes going uncounted and could have opened the door for Trump to remain president.

In the second memo, Eastman asserted that the “election was tainted by outright fraud (both traditional ballot stuffing and electronic manipulation of voting tabulation machines),” according to the state bar filing.

Eastman knew or should have known that the assertion was “false and misleading,” the State Bar filing said.

In a speech to tens of thousands of Trump supporters at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, Eastman said that “dead people had voted” and that electronic voting machines made by the Dominion company had altered the election results.

Eastman’s comments constituted an “act of moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption,” were “false and misleading” and helped provoke the crowd to attack the Capitol, the filing said.

Eastman has a long history in California’s conservative legal circles.

He was hired by Chapman’s law school in 1999 and was dean from June 2007 to January 2010, then continued to teach courses in constitutional law, property law, legal history and the 1st Amendment.

He retired in early 2021 after more than 100 Chapman faculty and others affiliated with the university signed a letter calling on the school to take action against him for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Thursday’s charges are the result of a lengthy investigation into Eastman’s actions that began in 2021.

In October of that year, the nonpartisan legal group States United Democracy Center filed an ethics complaint calling on the State Bar to investigate Eastman’s Jan. 6 actions.

Christine P. Sun, a senior vice president at the States United Democracy Center, said in a statement Thursday that Eastman “abused the legal system and violated the oath he swore as an attorney, in an attempt to block the will of the people and prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”

The level of detail included in the filing indicates that the State Bar is taking the allegations against Eastman seriously, said UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

California Air Board Official Received Nearly $500K Payout Last Year When He left Agency

The former executive officer of the California Air Resources Board received almost $500,000 in added pay last year — the vast majority for unused leave — when he left the agency. That additional money helped Richard Corey more than triple his total compensation from the previous year, according to data The Sacramento Bee acquired from the State Controller’s Office. Corey worked 37 years for the board, called CARB, and was appointed executive officer in 2013. He “accrued considerable vacation, personal leave and holiday time,” agency communications official David Clergen said in an email. In 2022, he took home $623,238.

Corey did not respond to an email requesting comment. He left the agency in June. Three months later, he joined AJW, a company that advises clients on issues related to energy, the environment, and navigating government regulations. When reached by phone, an AJW representative offered to send Corey an email instead of transferring the call. It is not usual for government employees to leave their jobs with large payouts. In 2018, the state paid out nearly $300 million for banked time off, a Los Angeles Times analysis of payroll data found. The newspaper found more than 450 state workers who pulled in six-figure checks when they left their jobs that year. The value of leave is based on an employee’s salary level at the time it is cashed out, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises the Legislature on fiscal and policy issues. The analyst’s office reported the state’s total leave balance liability was $3.9 billion in 2018-2019.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee