Biggest Threat to Taxpayers in 2020: $16.6 Billion in Local Taxes & Bonds

California taxpayers, who already pay the highest state income tax in the nation, could soon pay billions of dollars in higher taxes – after voters cast their ballots this November.  

And the biggest tax increase on the November ballot might surprise you.  

In November, voters will consider local tax and bond measures with a staggering annual price tag of more than $16.6 billion, according to an analysis by California Political Review of more than 240 local tax and bond measures on the November ballot compiled by the California Taxpayers Association. That staggering figure exceeds Democrats’ high-profile efforts to undermine California’s landmark Proposition 13 by imposing a split-roll property tax.  

The biggest threat to taxpayers on the November ballot is at the local level, but as I caution in my book “Taxifornia,” most voters overlook the impact of local tax and bond measures. 

Local tax measures range in size from Measure O, an 8 percent hotel tax to generate between $2,000 to $10,000 for the city of Tulelake, to Measure RR, a $7 billion general obligation bond proposed by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Local governments say that higher taxes are needed as a one-time offset to avoid cuts to government services. More often than not, they go to pay for raises for high-paid government employees.  

In 2016, the city of Westminster demanded voters approve a one-cent sales tax increase to avoid drastic budget cuts. The following year, the City Council went on a spending spree: granting a half-million dollars in raises for management employees and giving a $3,000-cash bonus to every member of the city’s union workforce. Meanwhile, the city’s highest paid employee collected $392,794.95 in pay and benefits in 2019, according to Transparent California.  

Across the state, local taxpayer advocates are fighting back.  

“Just like the roads tax, library tax, fire tax and parks tax before it, Measure O reminds us once again that the Board of Supervisors cannot live within its means,” argues Daniel A. Drummond, executive director of the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association, who is fighting a quarter-cent sales tax increase in Sonoma County. 

“Either we continue to approve new sales tax increases every election cycle or we finally say enough is enough,” he concluded. 

Bad Apples or “Systemic Racism” in Police Departments? Well, the facts are it’s bad apples.

The main stream media has been quick to find divides and controversy about the roots of racism in statements by Trump Administration and other officials in addressing the widespread looting and violence that has sprung out of the otherwise rightful and legal public protests of the killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis. Liberal officials and the media focus on what they call “systemic racism” as causing the death of Floyd and other people of color at the hands of scoflaw police officers; while National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has referenced “bad apples” in police departments being the culprits.

The distinction is important because it goes to the response. If there are bad apples in police departments (and the evidence shows there are bad apples in police departments), as in all walks of life, you need to root them out, especially in police departments, and not hire them in the first place.

Yet extending the question to “systemic racism” takes us to another place. Systemic racism implies that there is much more than just “bad apples” as a root cause of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. It means, essentially, that nearly everyone not of color is racist, and that the racist majority in control are making racist decisions routinely in managing police departments and everything else, and people are being killed because of it.

Jeri Williams Police Chief

It is hard to believe that a nation that was 72% white as a result of the 2010 Census would have elected a black president in 2008 and 2012 and still be systemically racist or driven by “white supremacy.” It also seems an incredible charge that major cities and police departments in our nation foment or tolerate “systemic racism.” These cities are almost entirely controlled by liberals, with people of color in prominent positions of leadership and power. It is hard to believe a claim by politicians and the media that a city led by a strong black Mayor, such as Chicago, where African-American David Brown also serves in the top job of Superintendent of Police, allows for “systemic racism.”

A survey of the 20 biggest cities in America reveals people of color populate most of the positions of power. If there is “systemic racism” in these cities, it would be because people of color who control these cities are enabling it. Among the biggest 20 cities, the top police officials of Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, Charlotte, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Seattle are African-Americans. Of these, the black chiefs of Phoenix, Dallas and Seattle are also women. Add that the top police officials of Houston, San Jose, Jacksonville, and El Paso are Latino. Over half the leaders of police departments in our nation’s largest cities are people of color.

People of color not only lead the majority of the nation’s largest cities police forces; 80% of these cities top political leadership are also Democrats. Of the top 20, 16 are led by Democratic Mayors, many of them quite liberal, and only 4 are managed by Republican Mayors, (San Diego, Jacksonville, Fort Worth and El Paso).

It defies credulity that the leadership of America’s top 20 cities, led by Democrats and people of color, many of which have seen police departments essentially hand-cuffed while horrible looting and property destruction of small business at the hands of rioting on the back of the George Floyd protests, are engaging in systemic racism. If systemic racism is indeed being either embraced or enabled in these cities, it would logically have to be empowered by liberals and people of color; and not Republicans, hardly “White Supremacists” and surely not President Trump.

Trump is much more favorable than Pelosi, new national poll averages.

According to the most recent Real Clear Politics average of major polls, President Donald Trump is far more popular than Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This highly unreported development is rather significant. According to Real Clear Politics, as of the end of March, Nancy Pelosi’s favorable rating stood at 37.7%, in comparison to Trump’s much higher favorability of 44.5%. That is a big difference in voter sentiment! Even worse for Pelosi, Real Clear Politics averages show that Pelosi has a HIGHER unfavorability rating than Trump, at 52.3%, compared to 51.3%. And on top of this, the gap between Pelosi’s favorability and unfavorability, a key indicator for political pros, is 14.6 points – more than twice that of Trump.

What accounts for Pelosi’s drop in favor? Well, a failed and reckless impeachment, which dominated her legislative agenda for the last year, must have played a role; in addition, her foot-dragging on getting the House of Representatives to approve the Coronavirus response and stimulus package, and then trying to stack the legislation with earmarks and irrelevant “Green New Deal” bells and whistles, while people are suffering, may also have had a negative affect on her popularity. However you attribute it, Nancy Pelosi is one of the most unpopular Speakers in history and currently one of the most unpopular politicians in Washington, D.C.

“Angry Nancy Pelosi” by Edalisse Hirst, courtesy elalisse, Flickr

Brian Jones spending taxpayer funds for ads during election campaign

State Senator Brian Jones is spending taxpayer funds on ads and promotional events of himself during an election campaign.

State Senator Brian Jones, a Republican candidate for Congress in San Diego County’s hotly contested 50th District, has used taxpayer funds to distribute announcements, host promotional events, and blitz social media with targeted advertisements in the middle of his congressional campaign and just weeks before voters cast ballots, a California Political Review investigation has revealed.

The California government-funded communications – ostensibly to promote more than a half-dozen events – displayed Jones’ name prominently and repeatedly, giving the state lawmaker a critical, and controversial, tax-payer backed advantage in his congressional campaign.

It is unclear how much money in taxpayer funds Jones has spent on self-promotion. California Political Review has filed a Legislative Open Records Act request to identify all taxpayer-funded expenditures by Jones’ State Senate office on promotional activities, social media ads and campaign-style mailers.

State Law Bans Campaigning with Taxpayer Funds

Jones’ actions are raising serious legal and ethical questions at a time when state officials have stepped up enforcement of illegal campaigning with public resources.

Under state law, it is illegal for elected officials “to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity.” In addition to a ban on direct spending for advertisements and mailers, the provision includes a ban on government employees’ work hours and the use of other government assets, such as computers, video cameras, and office buildings.

Over the past year, Jones’ Senate office has purchased Facebook advertisements that have resulted in as many as 137,000 impressions with Jones’ name, likeness and image.

Last fall, after he had formally announced his campaign for Congress, Jones spent between $100 and $199 of government funds on sophisticated Facebook advertisements to promote a November “legislative open house” event, The ads, which ran for a full month, included 10 references to Jones and garnered as many as 6,000 impressions.

According to publicly-available records posted on Facebook’s Transparency page, Jones has used at least $500 in government funds to sponsor social media advertisements, a figure that does not include the production cost, staff time, venue fees, or amount of money spent other forms of voter contact.

“We need to get our spending under control,” Jones promises on his campaign website under a heading on his Fiscal Responsibility.

Brian Jones Copies Tax Hike Playbook

Jones’ actions echo recent scandals in which government officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco have been caught using government resources to promote tax increases.

In 2018, the Fair Political Practices Commission found that Bay Area Rapid Transit officials had violated state law by using government resources to campaign for Measure RR, a $3.5 billion bond measure and property tax hike on the 2016 General Election ballot.  The FPPC asked the state attorney general and local prosecutors in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco to bring criminal charges against BART officials.

“BART used YouTube videos, social media posts, and text messages to promote Measure RR,” the FPPC wrote in its December enforcement action.

In 2017, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against the County of Los Angeles for spending more than $1 million to promote Measure H, a half-cent sales tax increase.

“While public funds can be used for informational material that is balanced, it cannot engage in electioneering,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the Los Angeles Times.

Last year, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a similar complaint challenging Los Angeles Unified School District’s use of public resources to support passage of Measure EE, a school parcel tax.

Prop 73: Voters Ban Newsletters and Mass Mailings

It is not known whether Jones also distributed physical mailers as part of his taxpayer-funded promotional campaign. However, Jones’ state office distributed a flyer for an East County Town Hall event in August. Buried in fine print at the bottom of the flyer was an important disclaimer: “Printing and/or redistribution of this flyer, other than by email, is prohibited.”

By including the disclaimer and transmitting the flyer electronically, Jones’ office had exploited a loophole in state law. Proposition 73, a 1988 voter-approved ballot measure, explicitly bans state and local officials from sending newsletters and mass mailings at public expense.

Although the social media advertisements and promotional flyers do not directly reference his congressional campaign or the March 3rd primary, campaign experts say that the taxpayer-funded advertisements provide little-known candidates, such as Jones, with an unfair, government-funded advantage by boosting name identification.

“Your name is the name of the game,” State Senator Quentin L. Kopp, a co-author of Prop. 73 famously quipped.

Hypocrisy: Jones Claims to Be Taxpayer Watchdog

This isn’t the first time the state lawmaker has been accused of abusing taxpayer funds for his own personal benefit.

In 2016, an Associated Press investigation revealed that, while serving in the State Assembly, Jones had collected $840 in per diem payments for days when he didn’t show up for work. Under state law, per diem payments are intended to compensate lawmakers for living expense while performing official duties in Sacramento, such as attending a floor session or committee hearing.

While spending government funds on self-promotion, Jones has sold himself to voters as a fiscal conservative and taxpayer watchdog. He has frequently published YouTube videos criticizing government spending with the tagline, “Are you kidding me!”

“Taxpayer dollars being spent throwing big parties during working hours,” Jones says in one such video. “Are you kidding me!”

Homelessness Epidemic – New Poll Reveals Rising Public Anger of L.A. Residents

Sixty-three percent of Los Angeles County residents believe “homeless” people should not be allowed to degrade residential and business property and sleep in streets.

Sixty-five percent believe police should be more involved with “homeless” in cleaning up streets and addressing broader health crisis.

FINALLY a relevant poll from LA Times.

California’s “homeless” crisis will not be abated until we are able to use words like “vagrancy,” “panhandling,” and “trespasser” again to more realistically describe what is going on and the proper legal tool to address it. Truly homeless, especially women and children, should be sheltered immediately. But studies overwhelmingly reveal it is not as much a “homeless” crisis as an addiction epidemic, largely among working age men, many of whom also have petty crime rap sheets. Sexual offenders are among them.

When the general population starts getting “woke” to this reality, government can start using the proper tools to fix it. It will take much effort given court rulings that have denigrated property rights and anti-vagrancy laws that once kept the streets more sanitary. But the health crisis, such as the medieval plague surging in downtown LA and potentially residential communities, has started to change attitudes on tolerating “the homeless” and given more focus to exactly who and what we are talking about.

Newsom disapproval rating at 44% now higher than approval of 43%

Here is what the respected PPIC poll has to say about recent polling on Gavin Newsom and California Democrats: “Closer to home, Governor Newsom and the legislature are getting mixed reviews in their first year of making policy together. Among likely voters, 43% approve and 44% disapprove of the governor, while 38% approve and 51% disapprove of the legislature. Since the beginning of the year, disapproval has increased significantly for the governor (+15 points) and the legislature (+8 points). Today, more than six in ten Democrats approve of the job that the governor and legislature are doing, compared to fewer than four in ten independents, and less than two in ten Republicans. If their ratings remain in the doldrums, the governor and legislators will have little sway over Californians’ ballot choices next year.“

California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, in the same Public Policy Institute of California poll, had a high 48% disapproval, and according to one report is currently estimated to gain not one delegate from California to the Democratic National Convention, because of single digit poor polling in her home state for President.

Something is going on in California when the Democratic Governor has a higher negative than positive rating, the Democratic U.S. Senator is getting no serious traction in her race for President in her home state, and the Democratic controlled state legislature is disapproved by a majority of voters. Is it sky-high gas prices? Power black outs? Rampant, disease spreading vagrancy masked as “homelessness”? Whatever it is, things are not looking good for Newsom and Harris and their friends in Sacramento.

Warren opens big lead in California

According to the UC Berkeley/IGS statewide poll of the upcoming Democratic party primary election in California, Senator Elizabeth Warren has opened a big 8 point lead, at 29% followed by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Home state senator Kamala Harris is flailing at a distant 4th with just 8% of the vote.

The poll results may be accessed here:

Poll: Trump’s approval rating hits highest point of presidency

President Trump‘s approval rating has surged to the highest level of his presidency, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll

The survey, which was released Sunday, found that 47 percent of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing in the White House, a figure that represents a 5-point increase from April.

Read full article here:

Half of Americans call Mueller Investigation a “Witch Hunt” – USA Today poll

WASHINGTON – Amid signs that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference may be near its conclusion, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds that trust in Mueller has eroded and half of Americans agree with President Donald Trump’s contention that he has been the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Support for the House of Representatives to seriously consider impeaching the president has dropped since last October by 10 percentage points, to 28 percent.

Real the full story here:

Thank you CPR readers, for another great year!

The editors and writers at California Political Review join me in thanking you, our readers, for making this another successful year of our service to you.

In 2018, California Political Review saw record participation since creation of this on-line presence in 2011.  In 2018, we enjoyed over 1,600,000 “Page views” from readers like you, and an average 4,200 Page views per day, a new and remarkable yearly high.  Also, in total since 2011, CPR has received 7,200,000 Page views and has published over 59,000 reader comments!

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Thank you again and have a terrific 2019!