Category: Dan Walters

Nov 01 2012

Shouldn’t California Politicians Emulate the Oakland A’s?

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[youtube]http://youtu.be/lOXNyWUVRNc[/youtube]

Sacramento Bee California political columnist makes the point in the video above.

California politicians should do MORE with LESS – just like the Oakland A’s who field successful baseball teams with low payrolls – but better management.

Think that will ever happen in California politics?

Color me cynical…..

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Aug 20 2012

Two Weeks to Go in California Legislative Session

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[youtube]http://youtu.be/2iTvYW1x0J4[/youtube]

Dan Walters in the above video looks at the last ten days of the California Legislative session.

What issues will be taken up besides the 200 plus bills already being considered?

Public employee pension reform will be tossed a bone with a reduction of “airtime” in order to satisfy some of Governor Brown’s concerns about passing his tax increase measure, California Proposition 30, in November.

The trial lawyers would love to change MICRA and up the medical/dental malpractice pain and suffering damages limits. This may get some serious reform with limits being increased to satiate the lawyers. It will also force more physicians and dentists to retire or leave California.

The big unions and Governor Brown will probably try to reverse the reforms Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted on Workman’s Compensation Insurance. This will mean increased costs for employers.

Most of these end of term measures will only exacerbate California’s state budget deficit, hurt the business climate and the push for tax increases to sort everything out will drive the narrative going into the Fall election season.

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Jul 24 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 24, 2012

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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks to Beverly Oncology and Imaging CEO Ruth Lopez Novodor during a small-business roundtable during a campaign stop at Endural LLC, Monday, July 23, 2012, in Costa Mesa, Calif. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

Good Tuesday morning!

The California Legislature is not in session for a summer recess.

The California Assembly has adjourned until August 6, 2012 and the California State Senate is also in adjournment.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

Some investors worry Fresno might be California’s next bankrupt city

The recent bankruptcy filings of three California cities have U.S. investors worried that Fresno could be next to go down this road, according to a major Wall Street financial house.

Vikram Rai, strategist with Citigroup Inc., said bond investors are increasingly asking about the financial health of Fresno out of concern that the city will seek court protection from its debt obligations and that millions of investment dollars will be lost.

Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes have filed for bankruptcy protection this summer.

“Investors worry about contagion,” Rai told the Bee. “Many California cities are in a tough situation.”

Fears about Fresno in the trading world were reported in Citigroup’s investment strategy report, which this month said that “the harsh spotlight (of potential bankruptcy) has shifted to Fresno.”

More layoffs coming at Cisco Systems

Continuing to trim expenses amid growing competition and the sluggish economy, San Jose networking giant Cisco Systems (CSCO) said Monday it will lay off about 1,300 employees, a year after announcing 6,500 job cuts.

The layoffs come as Cisco’s sales have been relatively flat the past four quarters and some analysts doubted that they reflect a general weakening of the overall tech economy. However, others said the soured economic climate could have been a factor.

“We’re seeing slowing demand for IT equipment across the board,” said Brent Bracelin, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities. Asked if it’s possible that Cisco might have to let more of its workers go, Bracelin said, “it depends on how much demand slows.”

Cisco’s own explanation gave few details.

“We are performing a focused set of limited restructurings that will collectively impact approximately 2 percent of our global employee population,” according to Cisco representative Kristin Carvell, noting that the company had 65,223 workers as of May when it reported its third-quarter earnings.

She added that the layoffs “are part of a continuous process of simplifying the company, as well as assessing the economic environment in certain parts of the world.”

Dan Walters: Prop. 32 will be a test for California voters

Warring factions will spend untold millions of dollars on political propaganda to sway California voters on Proposition 32 this year, and while each denounces the other as a pack of scoundrels, neither likes the media’s capsule description, “paycheck protection.”

Twice before, in 1998 and 2005, voters rejected measures that would restrict unions from collecting political funds via payroll deductions, so backers came up with a new wrinkle in 2012.

They expanded it into a ban on direct contributions to political candidates from both unions and corporations, while continuing to prohibit payroll deductions without specific permission from union members or corporate employees.

That means, its sponsors say, that it’s an evenhanded restriction on both labor and management, so the term “paycheck protection” no longer applies.

ut opponents contend that the corporate restrictions have loopholes so the real effect is still to curb union political power. And they prefer the term “special protections act.”

Whatever the term, it’s clearly part of a nationwide effort by conservative groups to hamstring union political influence. Several other states have adopted similar laws, and anecdotally, they appear to have sharply reduced the political money that unions, especially public employee unions, can collect.

The real issue for voters, therefore, is whether they believe unions have an unfair advantage in gathering money from payroll deductions to spend on friendly politicians, or whether restricting such fundraising would unfairly limit their ability to participate in politics.

El Monte seeks sugary-drink tax to shore up budget

Faced with a crippling combination of low revenues, high labor costs and decreasing funding from the state, El Monte is moving to declare a fiscal emergency and seek a tax on sugary beverages sold within the city.

The moves come as the city attempts to stave off the financial problems facing a number of cities across California. So far this summer, three cities — Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes — have moved to seek bankruptcy protection, and Compton officials announced the city could run out of cash in a matter of months.

El Monte officials said they are not at the edge of bankruptcy but need the sugary drinks tax revenue as a protection against insolvency down the road. In a sign of growing concern, Fitch downgraded portions of El Monte’s debt in May.

“People are looking for who’s the next one [to declare bankruptcy]. El Monte is not the next one … not today, not now,” Finance Director Julio Morales said. “What we’re doing is financial planning. We’re trying to take the right steps.”

The declaration of a fiscal emergency, which El Monte’s council members will consider at a meeting Tuesday, would allow the city to hold a special election this fall for the tax proposal, Morales said. If approved by voters, the tax would collect one cent per ounce of “sugar sweetened” drinks sold. It could generate as much as $7 million in total annual revenues, according to a city report.

The San Gabriel Valley suburb, which has a population of more than 113,000, was hit hard by the Great Recession. Car dealerships that had provided a steady stream of tax revenues struggled. Several folded.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: Parks scandal could hurt Brown’s tax measure

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Jul 23 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 23, 2012

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San Francisco, California

The California Legislature is not in session for a summer recess.

The California Assembly has adjourned until August 6, 2012 and the California State Senate is also in adjournment.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

Pool report: Mitt Romney tells SF fundraiser “somebody’s got to do something for California”

GOP Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, addressing a crowded campaign fundraiser in the Democratic bastion of San Francisco, told laughing supporters Sunday, “Boy, somebody’s got to do something for California…the right leadership would make a difference here.”

Romney made the comments during a half hour address to donors at the Fairmont Hotel, one of his three fundraisers in the Bay Area Sunday. Both his Fairmont fundraiser and two held in private homes in Woodside and San Francisco were hosted in part by former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, the Hewlett Packard CEO, who was singled out for applause by Romney and a received a standing ovation at the Fairmont stop.

The former Massachusetts Governor, who like President Obama had suspended campaign events in the wake of the Colorado movie theater massacre this week, told backers that “our hearts are with many of the people who lost loved ones” in the Aurora mass killings, and praised Obama’s stop in Aurora to meet with victims entirely appropriate.

Here’s the full and unedited pool report of tonight’s Romney fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel, as provided by the local print pool reporter allowed to cover the event, Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune:

Romney entered the Fairmont Hotel’s Gold room at 5:32 p.m. to a cheering, standing ovation.

Barack Obama, Mitt Romney back to raise money in California

President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will return to the Bay Area on Sunday and Monday — back to buck-rake once again in donor-rich California.

Obama is scheduled Monday to raise money at a dinner at the Piedmont home of developer and real estate investor Wayne Jordan and his wife, activist Quinn Delaney. Tickets were listed at $35,800 per person.

Obama is also scheduled Monday to attend a larger fundraising reception at the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland.

Mitt Romney focuses on economy in Bay Area speech

Promising to avoid partisan attacks in the wake of Friday’s movie-theater massacre in Colorado, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke to campaign contributors Sunday about his own five-step plan to fix America’s economy.

Speaking to about 250 supporters who’d paid from $2,500 to $10,000 each to attend a reception at the Fairmont Hotel, the former Massachusetts governor praised President Barack Obama’s last-minute trip to Aurora, Colo., as appropriate and befitting his office.

The audience observed a moment of silence for the Colorado victims. “We turn to a power greater than our own to understand purpose, and if not to understand at least to be able to soothe the wounds of those who have been so seriously hurt,” Romney said.

Romney noted the audience included about 25 members of Gold Star and Blue Star families — those who’ve lost relatives in military service, and those who have relatives currently serving. He observed “the great sense of unity that comes in this country as we recognize those who serve our country.”

Turning to the economy, Romney said “there is that entrepreneurialism in the American spirit which, if tapped, will allow us to reboot our economy, and soon.”

To tap it, he said, he first would tap into America’s “massive new resources, both in oil and gas.”

Second, Romney said, he would pursue more foreign trade, which he said “puts more Americans to work in higher-paying jobs.”

Republican Party in California Is Caught in Cycle of Decline

This would seem a moment of great opportunity for California Republicans. The state has become a national symbol of fiscal turmoil and dysfunction, the Legislature is nearly as unpopular as Congress and Democrats control every branch of government.

But instead, the state party — once a symbol of Republican hope and geographical reach and which gave the nation Ronald Reagan (and Richard M. Nixon) — is caught in a cycle of relentless decline, and appears in danger of shrinking to the rank of a minor party.

“We are at a lower point than we’ve ever been,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the United States House of Representatives. “It’s rebuilding time.”

Registered Republicans now account for just 30 percent of the California electorate, and are on a path that analysts predict could drop them to No. 3 in six years, behind Democrats, who currently make up 43 percent, and independent voters, with 21 percent.

“It’s no longer a statewide party,” said Allan Hoffenblum, who worked for 30 years as a Republican consultant in California. “They are down to 30 percent, which makes it impossible to win a statewide election. You just can’t get enough crossover voters.”

“They have alienated large swaths of voters,” he said. “They have become too doctrinaire on the social issues. It’s become a cult.”

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: Good news on job growth but ‘long row to hoe’

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Jul 19 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 19, 2012

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California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, displays signed legislation authorizing initial construction of California’s $68 billion high-speed rail line at Los Angeles’ Union Station Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The California Legislature is not in session for a summer recess.

The California Assembly has adjourned until August 6, 2012 and the California State Senate is also in adjournment.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

CA Senate announces plan to freeze pay — after awarding raises

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced plans Wednesday for a one-year pay freeze for Senate employees, but the move comes in the wake of a recent pay hike for hundreds of the chamber’s aides.

The proposed Senate pay freeze also comes as most state workers are taking a nearly 5 percent pay cut as part of budget cuts designed to save the cash-starved state government billions of dollars.

Steinberg plans to ask the Senate Rules Committee to approve the pay freeze at its next meeting Aug. 1, said Rhys Williams, Steinberg spokesman. The action would take effect immediately. The freeze would not affect pay raises tied to promotions.

Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said that his chamber has no plans to announce a pay freeze, but it will continue to respond to California’s budget crisis by trimming and transferring 15 percent of its budget to other state agencies. This year, $22 million will be sent, Waldie said.

Assembly awards pay raises to more than 100 staffers

The California Assembly has awarded raises to roughly 150 legislative staffers this year, even as lawmakers voted to cut pay for most state workers to help balance the state budget.

Although officials declined to provide exact figures late Wednesday, they said the pay hikes affected about 60 Assembly employees who were reclassified and about 90 workers who had not received merit raises for at least three years.

Most of the increases were between 3% and 5%, with those on the lower end of the salary scale receiving the largest pay increases, said Jon Waldie, chief administrative officer of the Assembly.

A list of Assembly staffers’ salaries can be found on the chamber’s website.

The raises are part of a policy established by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) in December, when roughly a quarter of the lower house’s employees received pay increases. Most of those workers had not received raises for at least three years. Lawmakers must request the raises for their employees and pay for the increases with their own office budgets.

“It’s a policy that’s sound,” Waldie said. The raises “are going to people who haven’t had increases in three years.”

San Bernardino declares fiscal emergency, approves bankruptcy

The City Council took what several members called the hardest decision of their professional lives Wednesday, formally declaring a state of fiscal emergency and directing staff to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

The two votes, both 5-2, came eight days after the council first voted to allow City Attorney James F. Penman to file for bankruptcy protection to help it escape a $45million deficit and a shortage of cash on hand that officials said would leave them unable to pay employees Aug. 15.

The intervening week brought heavy attention to the issue from across the nation and particularly in San Bernardino, and council members said they had been flooded with messages.

The week of information and attention shifted two votes: Councilman Fred Shorett, who voted against filing last week, approved it Wednesday, while Councilman John Valdivia switched from abstaining to opposing. Councilman Chas Kelley continued to oppose bankruptcy.

“The horse is out of the barn – the whole world knows we’re insolvent,” Shorett said. “I will be supporting going forward with Chapter 9 and fiscal emergency.”

Many of those who spoke to the council said moving forward with bankruptcy was the only responsible position, but they criticized how the city has gotten to this point.

California’s ‘Charter’ Cities are Under the Microscope

The last three large California cities to seek bankruptcy protection or announce they plan to had seen their housing values, tax revenue and employment crumble. They also have something else in common: They all are so-called charter cities.

Now another California city, Compton, says it may have to file for bankruptcy by September. It, too, is a charter city. Some say that’s no coincidence.

Of the state’s 482 cities, 121 have their own constitutions, or charters. That gives them more leeway in governing their affairs, including the freedom to set their own rules about elections, salaries and contracts.


Governor signs funding for high-speed rail

At a ceremony in Los Angeles, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday morning to allocate $7.9 billion to the California High-Speed Rail, committing the state to the project despite poor prospects for future funding.

This initial round of funding was in doubt up until the Legislature’s final vote this month. Critics of the high-speed rail plan have blasted it for rising costs, for unrealistic ridership projections and for barreling through homes, businesses and prime Central Valley farmland.

In the end, however, just enough legislative Democrats supported the plan, saying the state faced a greater risk if it didn’t move forward with construction, even though the state doesn’t know how it will pay for the entire project, which is now pegged at $68 billion. No Republicans in the Legislature supported the funding.

On Wednesday, Brown, a vocal supporter of the high-speed rail, praised the project for its economic impact.

“This legislation will help put thousands of people in California back to work,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “By improving regional transportation systems, we are investing in the future of our state and making California a better place to live and work.”

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: Jerry Brown taking a chance with bullet train

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