Why Is Southern California Underrepresented in State and National Politics?

SoCalRECLAIMING THE POWER-For the first time in decades, California is poised to play a significant role in determining each party’s presidential nominee. Being a reliably blue state, presidential candidates in the recent years have done little campaigning in the Golden State. As Angelenos know, whenever President Barack Obama’s entourage arrives in town, Southern California in particular has served little purpose in national and state politics other than as a source of money from the region’s Hollywood elite.

Now that this year’s candidates for president will have to actively campaign in Southern California rather than fly in just to raise money, SoCal voters must evaluate how they lost their influence in national politics and how to re-exert their political power going forward.

To Californians, Southern California generally encompasses the entire region south of the Grapevine in the southern edge of the San Joaquin Valley to include the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Orange, Imperial, San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside. The region alone has a total population of 22.6 million people, which is more populous than every state except for Texas. Despite its large geographic area and population, Southern California is noticeably underrepresented in both state and national politics.

Statewide, seven of the eight constitutional offices (governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, controller, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public education) and the two U.S. Senators are all from Northern California – Secretary of State Alex Padilla is the lone officeholder from Southern California.

Of the 52 representatives of California’s delegation to the U.S. Congress, Rep. Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the only representative from Southern California to hold a leadership position.

Compare California’s national representation with two other large states: New York and Florida. New York has three locals running for president: Donald Trump; Secretary Hillary Clinton, who represented the Empire State in the Senate; and Senator Bernie Sanders, who was born and raised in Brooklyn.

Another New Yorker, Senator Chuck Schumer, is the presumed next Senate Minority Leader.

Florida sent two of their politicians into the Republican presidential primary: Senator Marco Rubio and former governor Jeb Bush.

Additionally, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Even Wisconsin has two high-profile leaders in national politics. Paul Ryan is the Speaker of the House and Reince Priebus is the chair of the Republican National Committee.

The lone Californian in either party’s presidential primary was Carly Fiorina; however, she was based out of Silicon Valley in the north.

California’s lone representation on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy, is another NoCal native.

SoCal’s lack of representation in state and national politics contradicts the region’s rich history in politics. Two U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, built their political careers in Southern California.

Legendary Chief Justice Earl Warren, who championed civil rights in multiple historic Supreme Court cases to include Brown vs. Board of Education, was born in Los Angeles.

Despite this history, why is Southern California underrepresented in state and national politics?

Joel Kotkin, fellow of urban studies at Chapman University in Orange County, pinpoints the region’s loss in economic power at the end of the Cold War as the primary cause of the loss in political representation.

“Aerospace, homebuilding, agribusiness … large parts of the whole industrial belt got wiped out,” laments Kotkin.

According to Kotkin, when the Cold War ended, military bases closed down taking with them people and defense contractors, which decimated the homebuilding and aerospace industries.

Furthermore, environmentalist economic policies imposed by Bay Area progressives forced the energy and agriculture businesses out of Southern California.

Ultimately, the loss of a strong business community in the Los Angeles metropolitan area shifted the economic and political power of California to the Bay Area, bolstered by the technology industry in Silicon Valley.

Kotkin also cites low voter participation rates as another cause of So Cal’s lack of representation. “You have a largely poor minority population in a one party setting, so why should anyone vote?” Kotkin observes.

In the 2015 Los Angeles municipal elections voter participation plunged to an embarrassing 8.6 percent. In the 2012 presidential election, only 49.6 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County voted, compared to 57.5 percent nationally and 72 percent across all of California.

San Diego County did slightly better than LA County in their 2014 municipal elections in which 20 percent of registered voters voted.

Jennifer Walsh, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science at Azusa Pacific University, explains that the 2010 Citizens Redistricting Commission is one of the reasons for SoCal’s lack of national representation.

Walsh points to Representatives Jerry Lewis and David Dreier, who chaired the House Appropriations and House Rules committees, respectively, as examples of how the Citizens Redistricting Commission forced powerful So Cal representatives into retirement.

“Representatives, like Dreier,” Walsh explains, “faced substantial re-election hurdles in newly drawn districts, and, as a result, many, like Dreier, opted to retire rather than lose.”

Another possible cause is the financial expense required to run campaign advertisements in the country’s second largest media market.

Walsh notes, “The Los Angeles media market is one of the most expensive in the nation, so candidates for legislative positions — or even statewide offices for that matter — find rates for radio and television advertising on these media channels prohibitive.”

“In comparison,” she continues, “Northern California candidates can do more targeted advertising for the same amount of money, and, over time, this builds name recognition with the voters. So, when members of the legislature are termed out of office and run for statewide office, they have an advantage.”

Better representation in national politics is essential in order for Southern California to exert influence on the issues that are most important to the region. Policy concerns regarding international trade, immigration, copyrights and water all directly affect the interests of Southern California’s residents.

For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently stalled in Congress features language that would ease customs documentation for imports. According to the OECD, “crossing the border” increases the costs of goods by 24 percent. Furthermore, with the widening of the Panama Canal, the So Cal ports are now facing competition from ports in the Gulf of Mexico for imports from Asia. Passing TPP could alleviate regulatory burdens on imports and exports coming through the Port of Los Angeles, consequently increasing the volume of traffic at the port.

Another issue where Southern California could exert influence in national politics is on immigration. There are an estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants currently residing in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties; Congress’s failure to pass immigration reform in 2010 and 2013 means that those 1.2 million will continue to live in the shadows. A more powerful voice in national politics could advocate for legal status for those illegal immigrants in the region who are unable to contribute to the local economy because of their undocumented status.

SoCal’s burgeoning technology industries also have a direct interest in the expansion of H1B visas for high skilled labor. For the fourth consecutive year demand for H1B visas has surpassed the 85,000 allotted visasavailable causing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to award the visas by lottery. With stronger representation in leadership positions in Congress, SoCal representatives could demand the federal government to expand the H1B visas available in order to satisfy the demand for local businesses.

In order for SoCal residents to achieve favorable reforms that protect and expand economic opportunity in those industries, Southern Californians will need to become more active in the political process by electing representatives who will advocate those issues in Congress by assuming influential leadership positions.

Southern Californians also need to support candidates from their region who run for statewide office. Currently, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, whose district includes Anaheim and Santa Ana, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Barbara Boxer. Former L.A. mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, and current San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulconer, are both rumored to have interest in running for the governorship in 2018.

As the presidential campaign soon shifts to California, Southern Californians have the opportunity to demand to be more than a money source for presidential candidates. SoCal residents should wield their influence to extract commitments from presidential candidates to pursue interests relevant to the region.

Originally published in citywatchla.com


Conflict laws must be stronger for California politicians

As reported by the Los Angeles Daily News:

Aren’t there people in your immediate family other than your spouse or partner whose financial well-being you have an extraordinary interest in?

Of course there are — especially when they are your children, including your adult children who are out on their own in the world. It makes little to no difference that any money they make, unlike a spouse’s income, is not part of your own community property, doesn’t bolster your own bank account. The fact is that of course you want them to do well. You raised them, after all. Who wouldn’t want them to succeed?

That’s precisely why it’s important to ensure that those we choose to be our political leaders, whether by election or appointment, are never put in the position of being able to put their own children’s or other close relative’s monetary interests over people with whom they are not related. No one — not even a politician — can be blamed for choosing to do so. So it’s only common sense to remove even the temptation to do so …

Read full article by clicking here.

Sacramento suffers from a “drought” after record rainfall in 2011

Sacramento is suffering from a drought. At least that is what the city utilities department employees say they’ve been instructed to tell residents who call questioning the city’s strict water conservation policies.

The City of Sacramento Utilities Department sent out recent email reminders that city residents can water yards and lawns only three times a week; and can wash cars once a week on a designated day, only before 10:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., and only if an automatic shut-off nozzle is used on the hose. Laundry is also to be done before 10:00 a.m. and after 7:00 p.m. and home vegetable gardens are also under recommended water restrictions.

I am assuming the summertime favorite Slip-n-Slide is no longer legal. And that’s too bad since Sacramento has closed most of the community swimming pools.

The city has decided that, “California is facing severe water challenges, including the effects of a third dry year in a row.”

Really? I seem to recall a very wet 2011, with record rain and snowfall.

Sacramento is located on two very large and abundant rivers — the American River and the Sacramento River — as well as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, with thousands of miles of waterways.

Drought Or Politics?

Perhaps because Sacramento needs a new sewer system, water usage could be a problem, as the website explains: ”The Department of Utilities will issue a ‘Spare the Water Alert’ when temperatures are projected to reach 100 degrees for at least three consecutive days. On those days, demand for water can stretch the City’s pumping abilities. Energy costs for treating and pumping water also are at their peak.”

But more likely than failing sewer systems, is the larger scope of California’s increasingly restrictive water policy.

Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water,” Noah Cross said in in the 1974 movie Chinatown, about the California Water Wars, historical disputes over land and water rights in southern California during the 1910s and 1920s.

But it’s more than water rights that have been dictating policy in California. Increasingly restrictive environmental policy has made it into legislation, signed into law, and is now the law of the land in California.

Residents just rarely see or know about the rule and law changes until a city tightens the rope on its citizens.

Rules and laws are not made in the open, public forum as most people think. Deals are made long before public hearings are held, and with each passing law, ordinance and rule is a disempowerment of residents.

Multiple Water Agency Associations

Examples of how water policy works can be found with the complicated water associations – ACWA – the Association of California Water Agencies; CUWA – California Urban Water Agencies; CUWCC – the California Urban Water Conservation Council. They are all non-profit organizations, and are all funded with public funds through government grants and membership fees from the water agency members.

The California Urban Water Agencies and California Urban Water Conservation Council both have online 2010 IRS 990 forms, the non-profit tax return form, available online.

Both associations are primarily supported by government grant money. Public water agency members pay dues as well.

According to Jessica Hess, the public information officer for Sacramento’s Utility Department, Sacramento takes its marching orders on water conservation from the California Urban Water Conservation Council and Association of California Water Agencies, and SB x7-7, by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. SB x7-7 was passed and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, and requires a statewide 20 percent reduction in urban water use by 2020.

It was interesting that Steinberg, a former city councilman, state Assemblyman and current Sacramento senator authored a bill which restricts his own city on water usage originating from the rivers surrounding the city. Most politicians do everything they can to help their districts and constituencies.

Known as the 20 x 2020 Water Conservation Plan, “Urban water suppliers are required to establish water conservation targets for the years 2015 and 2020,” the state’s “20×2020 Agency Team” website states.

But as with most plans undertaken by the state, this is done not just by the public agencies, but using paid consultants as well. And often, the paid consultants have financial interests in the success of the plans, or are able to control direction of the plans.

Currently there are water consultants working on desalinization plans and projects, and agricultural desalination, which according to one state water expert who asked to remain anonymous, is the same thing as the perchlorate scam, which CalWatchDog.com writer Wayne Lusvardi has written extensively on.

Some water consultants create fear about nitrate removal from water, the water expert said. Nitrates and perchlorate can have a similar effect as potential endocrine gland blockers. But according to the water expert, the easy solution is to quit drinking alcohol, eat fish twice a week, go easy on spinach, and supplement the diet with iodized salt.

The water expert said that consultants’ solutions are instead to create a “scientific” solution, to build big and small treatment plants at taxpayer expense.

The water expert said that instead of hiring employees to work for the interests of the many public water agencies associations, some consultants involved in California’s water policy have vested interests in the water issues.

(Katy Grimes is CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist. This article was first posted on CalWatchdog.)

Celebrating Fluke

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Hunters, fishermen turn out in droves to support embattled Fish & Game chief

From SJ Mercury:

Dan Richards, the beleaguered president of the state Fish and Game Commission, received an outpouring of support Wednesday from outdoor enthusiasts, many of whom accused Democratic legislators of conducting a witch hunt to oust him for killing a mountain lion in Idaho.

At a commission hearing in Riverside, a parade of hunters, fishermen and others told Richards to resist calls for him to step down. In Sacramento, meanwhile, top lawmakers delayed a vote to oust him.

(Read Full Article)

Chief justice lobbies California lawmakers on court spending bill

From LA Times:

The chief justice of the California Supreme Court was at the Capitol on Thursday lobbying against a bill that would take away some of her power over court spending, and the leader of the Senate later announced his opposition to the legislation.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye met with Senate Republicans regarding AB 1208, which would shift key budget decisions away from the state Judicial Council she heads and give them to local trial courts.

(Read Full Article)

Obama Approval Averages 45% in February

From Gallup:

President Obama’s average job approval rating for the month of February in Gallup Daily tracking was 45%, with 47% disapproving, unchanged from January.

Obama’s job approval in February exceeds the lows seen last summer, when his monthly approval rating dipped to 41% from August through October. That followed a slide from 50% in May after the successful U.S. military mission in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. However, despite the recent improvement in his score, it has yet to recover to the level seen at the start of 2011, when 49% approved and 43% disapproved.

(Read Full Article)

March primaries: A look ahead

From Human Events:

A predictably muddled Super Tuesday left Mitt Romney inching closer to securing the nomination, but also established Rick Santorum as a credible alternative, while Newt Gingrich remains a strong force in the South.  The possibility of a brokered Republican convention was upgraded from “extremely unlikely” to “highly unlikely.”  What awaits us in the remaining March primaries?

Next up, on March 10, will be caucuses in Kansas, Wyoming, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.  All of the candidates are planning appearances in Kansas, which puts 40 delegates on the table.  Rick Santorum arrived there Wednesday, while the others have events scheduled for Friday and Saturday.  As recently as Tuesday morning, Ellis County Republican chairman John Pyle told the local Daily News that the state caucuses “will be a toss-up.”

(Read Full Article)

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Republicans fear rough primary could cost them the House and the Senate

From The Hill:

Republicans are worried the long, drawn-out presidential primary could cost them the House and the Senate.

For months, Republicans had been bullish about their prospects for widening their margin in the House and picking off Democratic senators. But some are now questioning whether they could be done in if Mitt Romney limps out of the primary a severely weakened nominee.

(Read Full Article)

Photo courtesy of Rob Crawley, flickr

Super PACs Outspent Candidates in Run-Up to Tuesday

From WSJ:

In the two weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, outside political action committees supporting the Republican presidential hopefuls spent three times as much as the candidates themselves, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the latest sign of how these new “super PACs” are transforming electioneering.

The super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich spent $770,000 on his behalf in Ohio while his campaign barely spent any money on TV there.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich spent a combined $2.4 million on television ads during the last two weeks in Ohio, Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee, the contests with the most delegates Tuesday, according to a review of spending on TV commercials.

(Read Full Article)