Category Archives: California Blog

When Challenges Highlight Shortcomings

homelessness

In difficult times, we say “This too will pass.” Difficulties do pass, and our lives do return to normalcy (albeit at times a new normalcy). However, returning to normalcy usually means returning to a status quo. Often, the status quo is a variable that contributed to the difficulties in the first place.

The Just Vote No Blog recommends this article published today in California Political News & Views: COVID-19 Highlights Shortcomings.

The status quo in California includes massive homelessness, drug use, economically vulnerable residents, and inferior government schools among other ills. Enormous amounts of money, effort and focus are allocated to those ills, leaving social and economic structures poorly attended.

Thus, returning to normalcy might not be a good thing, unless that normalcy includes an effort to change the status quo.

There are Two Californias: Why Pretend there is Only One?

Scales of justice

In California, residents of the coastal cities are different from those who live inland. There is a similar divide between people who live in coastal states and people who live in inland states. Do these two factions enjoy equal say?

Inland states, less populous than coastal states, enjoy equal say in the U.S. Senate, where all states are represented by an equal number of Senators. However, residents of inland California have zero say, since the California Senate structure is based on population, exactly the same as the California Assembly. The needs of inland Californians might be entirely different from those of coastal Californians, but the inland people must live under rules developed and approved by the populous coastal people.

It was not always that way. At one time California operated under the U.S. Senate model, and all its Senatorial districts were represented by an equal number of state Senators. In those days farmers in the Central Valley had a change to compete with their big-city brethren.

That all changed in 1964 when an activist U.S. Supreme Court under the leadership of “Living Constitution” advocate Earl Warrant, declared in Reynolds vs. Sims that all state Senate seats needed to be allocated based on population.

One of the first things the newly empowered big-city folks did was to change the California Legislature from part time to full time. That happened in 1966. A full-time legislature is usually defined as one that meets throughout the year, while a part-time legislature meets for a portion of the year. For reference, today we have 10 full time state legislatures out of 50.

1966 marked the birth of the professional California politician, without other means of support, who keeps recycling through the state’s political system. It started the exponential growth in the volume of bills micromanaging every nook and cranny to be found. Staff, salaries, benefits, taxes, fees all grew as well.

For those readers interested in the first part of the new reality – Reynolds vs Sims, and the resulting neglect of farmers in the Central Valley – here is a link to an article in the California Political News & Views. Note that in his introduction to the article, publisher Steve Frank, mentions the ruinous results of California moving to a full-time legislature:  All California is Not Alike.

Would Even Bigger Government Fix California?

Big Government

The California Secretary of State cleared for signature gathering voters’ initiative 19-0012, that would do the following if passed:

* Replace the current partisan bicameral legislature with a non-partisan unicameral one.

* Increase the number of legislators from 40 State Senators and 80 Assembly Members to 250 legislators intended to represent by 2024 80,000 to 100,000 persons for each legislator.

* According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, if passed this initiative would incur a one-time cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the State Capitol in Sacramento to accommodate the new legislators, incur ongoing increased building maintenance costs of a few million dollars annually, and incur state costs of millions of dollars per year to oversee elections.

What are the Real Changes?

The substantive changes this initiative if passed would implement would be,

* A significant growth in government.

* A significant growth in legislators writing laws to govern California residents.

* A significant growth in costs, and thus presumably taxpayer obligations.

Can the Changes Accomplish Objectives?

Whether this initiative would accomplish its objectives might be questionable.

* There would be no change in California’s proportional representation based on population. Thus, the populous coastal areas would continue to dominate sparsely-populated inland areas.

* The hope that much smaller districts would afford residents better control of their representatives might be a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Representatives Without Representation

This Nation was born over the rallying cry “Taxation Without Representation!” Today perhaps the rallying cry should be “Representatives Without Representation!”

The Just Vote No Blog has often noted a new trend: Ideological legislators whose actions are based on what they believe is needed from their point of view, not based on what their constituents need or want.

We are not speaking here about unconstitutional proposals, which legislators should indeed reject. We are talking about ordinary things described in the Just Vote No Article Who Are California Legislators Working For?

Government Growth is Not The Solution But the Problem

Whether smaller districts at significantly increased costs would change the present ideological bent of legislators is something voters need to think about when considering increasing the size of our legislature.

Our Founding Fathers advocated a lean Federal government that focused on specific enumerated obligations.  They did not opine on how states should govern, as long as states operated withing the bounds of the Federal Constitution.

California’s government is anything but lean.  The volume of laws and regulations attempting to control every aspect of California residents’ lives is mind boggling.  Could residents in a smaller district control such a tsunami?

BART Considers Free Tickets to Remedy Dwindling Ridership

News from the San Francisco Bay Area’s rapid transit system is that ridership off-peak hours and weekends is dwindling, which impacts the BART District’s financial bottom line. In response BART is considering targeting that ridership with free and discounted promotional tickets, as well as a means-based ticket program.

Such response from marketing professionals is often routine. However, such response from BART is bizarre.

49% of people who responded to BART’s survey question “Why not ride BART on Weekends?” indicated concern about crime on BART (26%) and homelessness on BART (23%). There appears to be no follow up question whether if tickets were free potential riders would ignore these concerns, even if they could imagine the possibility of more homeless people and more people bent on crime also taking advantage of free rides.

BART ridership 2

BART Board Meeting February 13, 2020: Rebuilding Ridership

35% of respondents to the question “Why not Commute on BART?” indicated stations were too far from where the respondents lived. Would free tickets overcome that concern, even when BART officials eye removing “park & ride” spaces to get commuters out of their private vehicles, and even when there might not be viable ways for BART riders to reach stations other than by personal vehicle?BART survey

BART Board Meeting February 13, 2020:  Rebuilding Ridership

BART is not alone as a transit agency in its loss of revenue, but it serves as example of ravages inflicted by a cluster of intractable problems plaguing California:

* High costs of construction, operations and personnel leave little room for services such as providing sufficient security guards to ensure safety and custodians to ensure cleanliness.

* Astronomical housing costs that force people to move as far into suburbs as California’s stringent urban boundaries rules allow, where principal transit lines do not reach and local transit is scarce or non-existent.

* Large and growing numbers of homeless individuals that seek shelter in transit stations and ride public transit, especially during off-peak hours.

Homelessness is particularly problematic. Numbers are so large that they affect all social and economic sectors. Although BART finances are precarious, the agency can no longer focus on delivering effective transportation riders would be pleased to use. BART is now expected to divert resources away from transportation and toward dealing with homeless – and often mentally and emotionally impaired – individuals in stations and trains.

California officials fondly envision the death of the personal vehicle and the birth of a regional transit network serving Bay Area residents. At present, such vision falls under the category of cognitive dissonance.

Not Just Water Conservation Bills

Drought

Western states like Arizona, Nevada and California do suffer from droughts, necessitating at time severe water conservation measures.  However, at present California is the only state that has chosen to deal with its water challenges mostly by imposing draconian and now permanent restrictions on water use.  Meanwhile the state’s water infrastructure, such as reservoirs and canals, is either mostly neglected or on environmentalists’ chopping blocks.

The Just Vote No Blog recommends AB 1668 and SB 606:  Far From Just Water Conservation Bills, published today in California Political News & Views.

The article questions whether California legislators are searching for solutions to the state’s water shortages, or are simply thirsty for control over their constituents.  Why are legislators charging residents the highest taxes in the nation, and then letting the states’ infrastructure go to ruin?

California residents need to challenge AB 1668 and SB 606 before these bills become fully implemented during the next two years.

Where You Need Antifa’s Permission to Speak

riot

Some articles succeed in presenting such a vivid picture of events readers feel they are witnessing the happenings themselves. Mimi Soros (no relation) and Catherine Hart wrote one such article, published in the California Political News & Views.

They were trying to attend a College Republicans event featuring Ann Coulter, and were blocked by Antifa and other left-leaning activists. This sad situation happened at the University of California Berkeley campus – once home of the Free Speech Movement – but it could have happened in any progressive-leaning town in the U.S.A.

We seem to be entering an age in which we will all need permission to speak.  Does it stop at speech?  How about needing permission to exercise our religious beliefs, to defend ourselves against intruders or attackers, to travel, what else?

PG&E Shuts Off Power for Non-Payment – Who Would Have Thunk It!

A bus stop at Bayview neighborhood

Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether folks in San Francisco, especially its public officials, are serious in what they say or spoofing.

A graduate student recently produced an “equity report,” which was presented to the City’s Local Agency Formation Commission.  The report’s primary concern was how PG&E, the City’s embattled utility company was handling the billing of San Francisco’s community-owned CleanPower.  The report contained data on where and how often PG&E shut off power for non-payment.

To everyone’s astonishment, distress, and concern, the data showed that more power shut offs for non-payment occurred in poor neighborhoods where people of color live than in more affluent neighborhoods (where supposedly more white people live?).

According to one of the City’s principal newspapers, the San Francisco Examiner, Sandra Fewer, chair of the Local Agency Formation Commission, also one of the City’s Supervisors and recently responsible for spearheading the formation of an Office of Racial Equity said that she had not thought of power shut-offs as an equity issue (presumably now she does?).

When viewed as an equity issue, the fact that poor people sometimes do not have enough money to pay their bills prompted a predictable response:  implement rebates or debt forgiveness and implement prohibition of shutoffs in household where there are children 12 years of age and younger.

In other words, CleanPower could spread customer costs across more well-off sections of the city so that poorer sections can have power even when residents do not pay for it.

On second thought, perhaps it is evident that San Francisco residents and officials are not spoofing.  As newly-elected District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, a self-described Democratic Socialist says,

We need to rethink what’s possible for San Francisco. We need a Green New Deal for San Francisco starting with clean public power instead of PG&E.

Pictured above: a busy transit stop in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood from a SFGate 2011 article on efforts to revitalize the area.