California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari did a stunt spending a week homeless in Fresno looking for a job, then wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal. It turns out--shock!--that getting a job isn't as easy as asking for one, and--double shock!--relying on our patchwork safety net doesn't exactly deliver results or human dignity.
Kashkari supposedly spent six nights sleeping outdoors getting rousted off park benches by cops, and getting his meals from a homeless shelter during his supposedly fruitless job search. His upshot? That California is over-regulated and over-taxed, that he didn't need government programs, that all he needed was a job, and everything would have been just fine. No, really. He wrote that.
I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think. Five days into my search, hungry, tired and hot, I asked myself: What would solve my problems? Food stamps? Welfare? An increased minimum wage?
No. I needed a job. Period. Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job. Even though my homeless trek was only for a week, with a defined endpoint, that statement became much more real for me. A job was the one thing that could have solved my food, housing and transportation problems.
California's record poverty is man-made: over-regulation and over-taxation that drive jobs out of state...
Any normal person would have come away from the experience saying, "Whoa, there but for the grace of god go I." Or perhaps "what the hell is wrong with the economy that no one will even hire me for $9/hour to sweep floors or wash dishes?" But not Republicans like Kashkari. They immediately assume that taxes and regulations must be to blame for all of it.
But Kashkari's experience would have been far more instructive if he had actually gotten a minimum wage job. It would have been far more interesting to have seen Kashkari's reaction to trying to find an apartment, decent food and workable transportation on $9 an hour. Methinks just "getting a job" wouldn't have really solved his problems.
Maybe that can be his next stunt. He could even learn from Democrats who have documented their own time "living the wage" that just having a job doesn't really cut it.
Former Senate candidate and HP CEO shows some signs of presidential interest
by Brian Leubitz
If you ask a bunch of Republicans who they think will be their presidential nominee, you will get, well, a bunch of different answers. And without that seemingly strong candidate to scare away others, a lot of prominent Republicans are looking into it and starting to hang out in Iowa and New Hampshire. Like, say, a former losing Senate candidate in California:
Fiorina slipped into the Granite State last week to promote her new political group, dubbed UP for "Unlocking Potential." Its mission is to engage women with new messages and combat the gaping gender gap that's hobbling Republicans in races up and down the ballot. In addition to headlining a breakfast last Thursday for more than 200 GOP activists in the business and political spheres, Fiorina attended a GOP gala the night before honoring Joe McQuaid, the conservative publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest and most influential newspaper.(US News)
Now, considering the current rumored field, it is hard to say that Fiorina is any less qualified than such notable statesmen as Rick Perry and Chris Christie. In fact, I think you could make a pretty strong case for her against most of the Republican field. But, in many ways that is damning with faint praise.
In 2010, Fiorina lost to Barbara Boxer by 10 points, 52-42. That was a 5 point swing from the drubbing that Bill Jones took in 2004, and she outperformed Meg Whitman who spent a lot more money. That being said, the campaign was never close to seriously threatening Sen. Boxer's position. California is clearly not the nation, but from the demon sheep ad to the "weather" ad, it is clear that Fiorina would be far from a leader we can believe in.
The thing that ultimately do her in is the fact that her place in the field is not really known. Is she a secret moderate playing a right-winger, or a right-winger playing as a moderate? If you look hard enough, you can find evidence of both. And in a primary dominated by the Tea Party, can she make a place for herself?
At least one thing is clear, 2016 will be an interesting campaign cycle.
The Secretary of State has begun posting the random sample updates for Tim Draper's initiative to divide the state into six Californias. You can find the most current update at http://www.sos.ca.gov/election... but I'll summarize today's for you.
According to the report, Draper turned in 1,038,836 raw signatures. He needs at least 807,615 of them to be valid for his measure to get on the ballot. That's 77.7% of his raw count. Keep that number in mind; we'll need it later.
First the SoS does (or rather, the counties do) a random sampling. Each county verifies 3% of the raw signatures at random (or 500, if greater, or all of them, if fewer) and projects from that a validity rate. If they project that he has at least 888,377 valid signatures (110% of the requirement, and 88.5% of the raw count), then the measure qualifies. If they project that he has fewer than 767,235 valid signatures (95% of the requirement; 73.9% of the raw count), then it doesn't qualify. If they project a number somewhere in between those two limits, they have to check every signature.
As of 1:24pm today, results are in from Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, and Sutter counties. In Sierra County, they checked all 208 signatures and found 159 (76.4%) to be valid. In each of the other counties they had to check 500 signatures. The validity rates were 67.4 (Solano), 64.6% (Sonoma), and 77.8% (Sutter)(*). Overall, out of 1,708 signatures checked, 1,208 were found to be valid, for an overall validity rate of 70.7%.
Now 1,708 is less than two-tenths of a percent of the signatures Draper collected, and it could be that he'll have a higher validity rate in the rest of the state. But if Sutter turns out to be his best county, Six Californias won't be on the ballot.
PAC received $11 million of anonymous money for Prop 30 and Prop 32.
by Brian Leubitz
It turns out that everything comes around in the end.
The political arm of the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) filed official termination papers on Monday, six months after agreeing to hand over $300,000 in campaign cash to state officials for accepting what turned out to be the largest anonymous donation to a political effort in California history. (KQED / John Myers)
If you don't remember exactly what happened, check the dark money tag. Long story short, a few payments, totaling over $10 million, were dropped into the SBAC accounts right before the November 2012 election to fight for Prop 32 (unions) and against Prop 30 (Brown's tax measure). Common Cause filed a complaint, and the FPPC eventually came down with the biggest fine ever.
Now, the fine would have worked out just fine if those meddling good government types hadn't gotten in the way of the profligate spending right before the election. That fine is just another cost of buying an election, if you have that kind of money. But, in the end, the problem was that the money played directly into the campaign message that the Prop 32 opponents (including me) had been stating for the past 6 months. While the SBAC was able to spend a lot of money right before the election, it could be argued that the earned media was just as valuable for the other side.
Closing down a PAC isn't really that big of a deal, because it isn't hard to open another one. If Joel Fox or his compatriots have any big plans, there is no doubt that a similar group will be up and running in a few days. Nonetheless, it does mark something of a turning of the page on the 2012 election.
Neel Kashkari seems to be a bright man doing his best Don Quixote for the California GOP. He knows he isn't going to win without some sort of major Jerry Brown catastrophe. But, the party apparatus is thrilled that he defeated right wing nativist Tim Donnelly. Apparently so much so that GOP scribe George Will took to the pages of the Washington Post to declare that he is Goldwater 2.0:
Today, in this state where one in eight Americans lives, and where Democratic presidential candidates can reap 55 electoral votes without spending a dime or a day campaigning, the Republicans' gubernatorial candidate has an agenda and spirit similar to Goldwater's. Neel Kashkari is not, as some careless commentary suggests, an anti-Goldwater, diluting the state party's conservatism. He is Goldwater 2.0, defining conservatism a half-century on.
This is, we report more in sadness than in anger, bullshit.
Maybe George had too many martinis wherever he was staying in Menlo Park when he wrote about Goldwater's nomination at the "unfortunately named Cow Palace" "fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco." Or maybe he just had to come up with something to write off his trip out to the hustings. But he has no point, at least not one he shared with his readers.
Because: The widely known political imp Tyrion of Kashkari has not for one minute shown an interest in re-branding his party. He's desperately trying to make a case against a governor who balanced the budget and calmed the hyperpartisan dysfunction in Sacramento (with the help of voters who passed his tax measure, gave the Legislature the power to pass a budget with a majority of votes and approved measures to boost centrism).
To be honest, at many points it seems like Kashkari is running to get famous more than anything else. Not that I begrudge a campaign on a low budget, but after the fourth time guest hosting KFI's John and Ken Show, shouldn't somebody say something? I'm not sure Kashkari has the it in him to become a flamethrowing media personality, but you could see him landing a gig somewhere on TV or radio after all this is over. He hasn't really made any effort to change the hearts and minds of the still very much right-wing GOP base. He just was a slightly better option, and was able to squeak past Tim Donnelly by gathering 19.4% of the vote in the primary. There are a lot of people who voted for Donnelly, and they aren't going anywhere.
In the end, Kashkari is basically running around trying to do whatever he can to get noticed. The latest polls have him down 52-32, and he will never have the money to compete with the governor on the air waves. So, he goes where he can find a bit of free media and tries to maximize whatever he can get. That's about all you can do in a race like what he's facing. It is a daunting and thankless task, but he signed up for it.
Hey, Charlie Brown knew Lucy was going to move that football, but he still went for it, right?
New poll shows Californians want to lead on responding to climate change
by Brian Leubitz
In a PPIC poll just released this evening, Californians said that they want action on the environment. As you can see from the graph, Californians think the time to act is now.
About two-thirds of Californians (68%) support the state law, AB 32, which requires California to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Strong majorities have favored this law since the survey first asked about it in July 2006, but a partisan divide has emerged on the question. While most Democrats, Republicans, and independents favored the law in 2006, support since then has increased 14 points among Democrats (from 67% to 81% today) and dropped 26 points among Republicans (from 65% to 39% today). Support has dipped slightly among independents (from 68% to 62% today). A strong majority of Californians (65%) favor the state making its own policies to address global warming.
Why the big drop in Republican support? Ah, that would be the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is gone. AB 32 was as much his doing as the sponsors of the bill, current Sen. Pavley or former Speaker Fabian Nunez or anybody else. Now that he's out of office, there just isn't that big name Republican support and so the cratering should be no surprise.
Many see the drought and long-term warming trends as serious challenges for the state:
Majorities of Californians are at least somewhat concerned about four possible impacts of global warming in the state. More than six in 10 adults are very concerned about droughts (64%) and wildfires (61%) that are more severe. Fewer Californians express this level of concern for heat waves that are more severe (44%) or rising sea levels (32%). The share saying they are very concerned about droughts that are more severe is up 15 points since last July (49%) and is at a new high (previously 60% in July 2007). Concern about more-severe wildfires was similar in the past.
There is a lot more environmental data here for those that care to look through the cross-tabs, they can be found at PPIC's website. You'll find questions on the carbon tax (58% support), more detailed questions on cap and trade(51 %support), KeystoneXL (53% support) and a whole lot more.
Now, as for elected officials, don't expect any big changes come November. Gov. Brown has a 53% approval rating, with just 28% disapproving. And he holds a 52-33 lead over Republican Neel Kashkari. The Legislature isn't fairing quite so well, with a 38% approval rating, but that is slightly up from May's 36%. And President Obama has a 50% approval rate here in California.
Senator called for nationwide adoption of the failing electoral system
by Brian Leubitz
A few days ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had something to say about
California, which probably mirrors the diversity of America more than any other state, was racked by polarization until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that adopted a "top-two" primary system. ... While there are no guarantees, it seems likely that a top-two primary system would encourage more participation in primaries and undo tendencies toward default extremism. It would remove the incentive that pushes our politicians to kowtow to the factions of their party that are most driven by fear and anger. For those of us who are in despair over partisanship and polarization in Congress, reform of the primary system is a start. (NYT Op-ed / Sen. Chuck Schumer)
Quickly I'll say this: Chuck Schumer hasn't actually looked at how Top-2 has worked here in California. If he had, he would know just how much of a disaster it was. Yes, our polarization decreased after 2010, but you know what else happened in 2010? We elected a Democratic Governor and huge majorities in the Legislature, culminating in supermajorities in both houses. Oh, and we got rid of the 2/3 requirement for our budget.
I was going to write a lot more about this subject, but then friend of Calitics Paul Hogarth wrote an in depth post that is now appearing on the front page of Daily Kos.
But the "top-two" primary also created a whole new host of problems that has led to abysmal voter turnout, Republican-vs-Republican general elections and the rise of corporate Democrats in the state legislature. Oh, and the Tea Party is still a relevant factor in the state.
Paul goes on to point out a number of good examples of just how badly Top 2 performs in real life. If you are a regular reader, you can probably recall most of them, but his post is a great primer whenever somebody speaks fondly of Top 2. Share it abundantly.
Stanford Law Professor is first of two picks that Brown will make
by Brian Leubitz
Gov. Brown will replace Justices Baxter and Kennard this year, and today he announced his first pick, Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar .
Cuellar, 41, was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and for years crossed the border by foot to attend school in Texas. He moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was 14 and obtained his bachelor's degree from Harvard College, his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford.
In selecting Cuellar, Gov. Jerry Brown said: "Tino Cuellar is a renowned scholar who has ... made significant contributions to both political science and the law. His vast knowledge and even temperament will - without question - add further luster to our highest court." (LA Times)
Baxter was widely considered one of the more conservative of the seven member court, so the replacement will likely shift the court leftward. While we can only speculate how a Justice Cuellar will rule, the fact is that Brown will have 3 of the 7 justices by next year. With another Brown administration very likely comes the very real possibility of a Brown majority on the court. And with his current appointment pattern, perhaps a very intellectual California Supreme Court as well.
Former speaker concedes to allow election to move forward
by Brian Leubitz
The trouble with elections decided by less that 500 votes is that you are basically within the margin of error. It isn't the same kind of error you get in a poll, but the point remains. There are just going to be mistakes somewhere along the line. That's the nature of the process. But John Pérez has decided that in the interest of moving the election forward to concede.
While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the General Election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic. Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner. (John Pérez release)
Yee thanked the former speaker and is looking forward to the general election:
"I want to thank Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez for doing the right thing in recognizing that the recount was unlikely to reverse the outcome of the June primary election. This allows us to move forward and to be united for the November general election. John A. Perez is an outstanding leader who has played an important role in helping to put California back on sound fiscal footing. He ran a strong and positive campaign and will have a long career of leadership and public service."
Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU did a little slideshow that shows our death row looking more like the early bird special at the local buffet. For a variety of legal and pragmatic reasons, we just don't perform executions anymore. And now that is increasingly likely to stay the case for the foreseeable future:
A conservative federal judge from Southern California may have done what progressives have been trying to do for years: end the death penalty in California.
The July 16th order by Judge Cormac J. Carney (PDF), in the case of Jones v. Chappell, is an astonishing document. It takes no position on the morality of the death penalty, or whether it's inherently cruel for the state to take a life. But it repeatedly spanks the State of California for turning the process of executions into such an unpredictable fiasco that inmates - and the families of victims - have no idea whether, or when, a condemned man will die. (48Hills / Tim Redmond)
A few things before I continue. First, if you aren't reading 48Hills, you should be. I don't always agree with Tim on some of the local San Francisco issues, but he brings a great insight on local politics. Next, if you are interested in this issue, it might be worth the time to read the whole decision linked above and here. Now, Judge Carney was appointed by Gray Davis before getting the George W Bush appointment to the federal bench, but he was still a Bush appointee FWIW. (Also, he was a former USFL player!)
As Tim points out in his story, the decision is about process. We have sentenced 900 people to death since 1978, and only 13 have been executed. Certainly the deterrent effect is not what we are going for here. And because we underfund public defender services, death penalty appeals take years upon years to complete. That's not even to mention the questions of how we perform (or don't) the executions.
In 2012, California voters very narrowly retained the death penalty, 52-48, by rejecting Prop 34. But how much longer before those numbers flip? And even if we are inclined to retain it, are we going to adequately fund it? Perhaps it won't be too long until we get another crack at a similar measure on the ballot.
State Water Board issues mandatory conservation order
by Brian Leubitz
We all know that the state is in a pretty serious drought. But while most of the state has at least made some headway in conservation efforts, it just hasn't been enough. I see you, SoCal, grinning sheepishly in the corner.
The new rules, approved by the State Water Resources Control Board on a 4-0 vote, impose new restrictions on outdoor water use starting Aug. 1 that could result in fines of up to $500 per violation.
Gov. Jerry Brown in January asked Californians to slash their water use by 20 percent. But a new state survey released Tuesday showed that water use in May rose by 1 percent this year, compared with a 2011-2013 May average. (Merc News / Paul Rogers)
Now, this isn't all just household users. Perhaps it would be easier if that were the case, but water usage is a big mess of different parties and factions. Agricultural water use has been slightly decreased, mostly by force, but it still isn't enough. Commercial use, like pressure washing, needs to be reduced as well. And, we all need to strive to take shorter showers and reduce water in every way that we can at home.
Because enforcement is up to local water authorities, many people won't really notice any changes. But some are already up in arms. Like, say, the famously powerful lobbying group of BigPressureWashing. I kid, but this law directly impacts these users and their jobs. And here in SF, where local authorities are now taking a data-driven approach to poop on our sidewallks power-washing can be #KindOfABigDeal.
We can all do more to reduce water usage by using common sense, simple water-saving techniques. Maybe El Nino will save us next year, but we have to plan to be in a drought for a while. Better start saving now.
Measure splitting the state looks set to appear on ballot
by Brian Leubitz
I'll admit that I sort of thought this was some sort of joke that would never make it to the ballot. I was surprised when word filtered out that serious signature gathering was moving forward in the spring and summer. Apparently that has now borne fruit:
Tim Draper said he will file the signatures in Sacramento on Tuesday morning. State officials still need to review the petitions to ensure the initiative can qualify.
"California needs a reboot," Draper's campaign said in a statement on Monday. "With six Californias, we can refresh our government." (LA Times)
Well, he's got the awkward technology lingo thing going on, but just because you can say "reboot" doesn't mean it is a good idea. An LAO report from earlier in the year showed a bunch of flaws in the proposal including higher costs and greater inequalities. Yes, Silicon Valley would be a dynamic and wealthy state, but what about the rest of the state(s)?
And then there is the whole question of this being entirely powerless until Congress acts. With the Senate divided, would either party want to roll the dice on 10 new Senators?
In the end, Draper will spend his few millions on this, the state will pay to count these votes, and not much will happen.
It's been a long time, but we did it! Positive cash!
State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly cash report for the month of June, and announced that the state's General Fund -- the primary account from which California funds its day-to-day operations and programs -- ended the fiscal year with a positive cash balance for the first time since June 30, 2007. A positive cash balance means that the state had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.
Now, this is more of a symbolic milestone than anything else. The Controller can shift money around so that there isn't a huge cost to the taxpayers of having a general fund deficit on one particular day. And the close of a fiscal year isn't really that much different than any other day.
That being said, this still speaks volumes about where we have come from over the past two years. Since the majority vote budget rules and the Prop 30 tax increases passed, we are on solid footing. We still need to do more to focus on what comes next when the Prop 30 taxes expire, as a simple expiration would just put us back to the boom/bust cycle that we've seen for the last 20 years.
San Francisco voters will have a chance to vote on a $15 minimum wage proposal this November in a gradually increasing wage compromise announced last month:
The mayor, city supervisors and business and labor leaders came together on the compromise - even the Chamber of Commerce was on hand - but service industry representatives warned the plan would be hard on restaurants and other hospitality-related businesses.
The compromise announced at City Hall would increase the city's current hourly base pay, $10.74, to $12.25 next May 1, then to $13 in July 2016 and $1 each subsequent year until it reaches $15 in 2018. That would bring the annual pay for a full-time minimum-wage worker to $31,000. (SF Chronicle)
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, unions are working to get a requirement of a $15 minimum wage for city contractors:
Currently, Los Angeles has a living wage ordinance that requires that city contractors pay at least $12.28 per hour without health benefits, or slightly less with health benefits, according to its Bureau of Contract Administration website.
The Coalition of LA City Unions, which includes unions representing more than half of city workers, wants to raise that minimum to $15, Chairwoman Cheryl Parisi said Tuesday. It also wants to set the same bar for city employees.(LA Times)
Now, both of these proposals are not nearly as dramatic as some in the social justice movement would like. There is concern on the lower end of the labor market that some employees could be squeezed out. However, the data on these questions is very mixed, and in fact shows no statistical proof that minimum wage. As you can see from the chart to the right, all of the studies basically say that there will be very little economic impact. It may confound many of the free-market people, but data is data.
Maybe you see races decided by 484 votes for some City Council races, or in some some states in exceptionally close elections. But in a California statewide election? That razor's edge is extremely rare:
A month after the primary election, Democrat Betty Yee finished 484 votes ahead of John A. Pérez for second-place in the state controller's race, officials announced Monday.
Lake County Registrar Diane Fridley used nearly all of her allotted 28 days to certify the results in the down-ballot contest that sparked a daily ritual of political junkies refreshing their web browsers. (SacBee)
Just how close is that? It is 12 thousandths of a percent of the vote total. Or approximately the same as the vote difference in Florida in 2000 (percentage wise).
Pérez can seek recounts of specific precincts, but there is always the risk of going the other way. There is no guarantee of picking up votes in any one precinct. Because Lake County took so much time, there is a limited decision period for Pérez to decide if he wants to seek that recount. But as of right now, Betty Yee looks to be the favorite over Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen in November.