Tag Archive: Dan Walters

Jan 28 2013

The California Flap: January 28, 2013

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Thousand Oaks, California

The California Legislature is in session.

Today’s schedule is here.

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

An important deadlines to remember:

  • February 22, 2013: Deadline to introduce bills.

Each member of the Assembly and State Senate are allowed to introduce up to 40 bills in this two year legislative session.

On to the morning’s California headlines:

  • Elections will bring a big shake-up on L.A. City Council – Voters across Los Angeles are poised to engineer the biggest shake-up on the City Council in a dozen years, sending seven newcomers into office in a series of contests that will unfold between March and July.Although the mayoral campaign has grabbed most of the attention this election year, with millions raised by the five leading candidates, the stakes are just as high for the city’s powerful 15-member legislative body.Term limits and other factors — illness and the election of a sitting councilman to higher office — have created the largest number of incumbent-free council races in more than a decade. Six current council members depart June 30 and a seventh — Tony Cardenas — already has moved to Congress.
  • Dan Walters: California pension funds still face huge liabilities – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has reported – with no small elation – that it has recouped virtually all of the $95 billion in investment losses it sustained during the global financial crisis.A steadfast investment strategy and a generally rising stock market are responsible for the recovery, CalPERS says.
    The good news comes just a few months after Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature enacted a pension reform plan they say will shrink the long-term liabilities of CalPERS and local pension systems.
  • Secret hearings in case of Chandra Levy slaying – A judge has been holding secret hearings in the case of the man convicted in the 2001 killing of Chandra Levy, the latest twist in a high-profile murder that went unsolved for years and captivated the public because of the intern’s romantic relationship with a California congressman.The meetings, held sporadically behind closed doors at the courthouse over the last several weeks, raise questions about what comes next in a criminal case that appeared resolved by the 2010 conviction of Ingmar Guandique. The illegal immigrant from El Salvador is now serving a 60-year prison sentence in Levy’s death, but the hearings could signal a problem with the prosecution of the case.
  • Brown puts former prisons critic atop oversight agency – Gov. Jerry Brown says it’s time for the federal courts to end their oversight of medical care and other operations within the California prison system, and he’s named a somewhat surprising ally to help him make the case.Jeffrey Beard, who testified four years ago that California’s prisons were dangerously overcrowded, began work last week as secretary of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
  • California becoming less family-friendly – Sacramento lawmakers of both parties share some responsibility. The dominant progressives’ regulatory and tax agenda continues to reduce economic prospects for younger Californians, leading many young families to exit the state. In contrast, older Anglos, the bulwark of the now largely irrelevant GOP, are committed to massive property tax breaks because of Proposition 13. Add good weather and the general inertia of age, and it’s not surprising that families might flee as seniors stay.Other factors work against parents, prospective or otherwise. The knee-jerk progressive response to our demographic problems usually entails more money be sent to the schools.But they rarely include the student-oriented reform measures such as those enacted in New Orleans (where I am working as a consultant). The poor performance of public education, clear from miserable test results and dropout rates, makes raising children in California either highly problematic or, factoring the cost of private education, extremely expensive.
  • Mickelson and the Sports Star Tax Migration – America’s top-grossing golfer Phil Mickelson drove himself into a bunker on Jan. 20 when he said that federal and California state tax hikes had made him contemplate making “drastic changes” in his life—including, it was widely assumed, moving to a no-income-tax state such as Texas or Florida. But he was only stating publicly what many professional athletes are mulling privately.
  • Obamacare & California: State media ignore coming headaches – Gov. Jerry Brown’s eagerness for California to be the first state to implement the federal Affordable Care Act is being reported matter-of-factly by state newspapers. Completely absent is any big-picture explanation of what this will mean for health providers, companies and individuals in the Golden State. We’re less than a year away from the state implementing policies that give employers a financial incentive to stop providing health coverage and that give individuals, especially the young, an incentive to not buy health insurance. I wrote about these enormous looming headaches last week for the U-T San Diego editorial page:
  • California prison reform’s unintended consequences – The prison reform law that shifted responsibility for non-violent felons from the state to the counties is also affecting the management of more serious and violent offenders who have completed their prison terms, presenting a challenge for reform supporters and potentially undermining public support for the change.Since the passage of Assembly Bill 109, also known as prison realignment, people who violate the conditions of their parole go to jail rather than prison – including those with sex offenses and other serious and violent crimes on their records.But because of jail overcrowding, some county jails can’t house people for technical parole violations — including bad drug tests and missing appointments with parole agents. That lack of consequences can make it more difficult for parole agents to compel people to stay within the conditions of their release from prison and to keep track of offenders who are released from jail early.
  • LAUSD plans to add 1,000 new campus aides for security at elementary schools – The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to make more than 1,000 new hires to bolster security at hundreds of campuses in a move some critics have called “security on the cheap.”More than 400 LAUSD elementary school campuses are slated to receive 1,087 campus aides – a minimum of two on each campus – as early as March 1, LAUSD school board president Monica Garcia told the Daily News on Friday.The $4.2 million plan comes a month after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 first-graders and six adults.

    “Another two people on each campus can help us maintain a safe environment that can ease the minds of our employees, parents and students,” Garcia said. “This way we can focus on reading and writing, teaching and learning.”

  • AEG, Koreatown developer help fund L.A. sales tax campaign – The developer of a proposed downtown Los Angeles football stadium and the company behind two planned apartment towers in Koreatown have provided about two-thirds of the funds for the group backing a half-cent sales tax increase in the city, according to the first report released in the campaign.The committee for Proposition A on the March 5 ballot reported that it had raised $185,000 by Jan. 19, with $100,000 coming from stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group. The City Council, which is seeking the tax increase to address a $220-million budget shortfall, approved AEG’s proposed stadium last year, which involves the demolition and reconstruction of a section of the city’s Convention Center.
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Nov 01 2012

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

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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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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 17 2012

Will California Be Downgraded Like Pennsylvania?

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The first online ad for California Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increase initiative

Dan Walters asks the question.

What happened within minutes Monday may just be coincidence, but if so, it’s a cosmically foreboding one.

In Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown released the first online ad of his campaign to persuade California voters to endorse his sales and income tax increase measure. One snippet declared that under Brown, “California’s bond rating is now positive.”

It was, to put it charitably, misleading. In fact, California has the lowest bond rating of any state now and, according to a recent survey by Pew’s Center on the States, the worst credit rating record over the past 11 years.

In Pennsylvania, state officials were told by Moody’s, a major bond rating agency, that the state is being downgraded because of “large and growing pension fund liabilities.”

In Petaluma, the $234 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System revealed that it earned just 1 percent on its investments during the 2011-12 fiscal year that ended June 30.
That’s a fraction of the 7.5 percent earnings assumption on which it bases its ability to pay pensions to hundreds of thousands of state and local government retirees, meaning its already large unfinanced obligations are continuing to grow.

Really the answer is obvious.

California is on a financial cliff and even passage of Jerry Brown’s tax increase in November will not solve the structural deficit problems of the California state budget.

Real reform is required, but it won’t be coming anytime soon from Brown or his public employee union supported Democrat Legislators who have massive majorities in California Legislature.

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