Category Archives: California Blog

In Defense of the Governor’s Partying While We Dine Alone

California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued numerous directives, instructions and guidelines regarding COVID-19, all describing in great detail what residents of the state can and cannot do. One activity specifically verboten is partying indoors by members of several households. One suggestion especially idiosyncratic is wearing a mask while dining — admittedly a difficult scenario to visualize, leaving one to feel obliged to wear a mask between bites.

Therefore, California residents were justifiably confused when news broke that Governor Newsom on November 6, attended a dinner, along with several other guests, in celebration of the birthday of lobbyist Jason Kinney. The venue was the elite Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry.

Enter U.S. Congressman for California’s 4th District, Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican whose libertarian streak is known to liberty-loving communities. On November 19, on the House floor, Congressman McClintock delivered a speech in defense of Governor Newsom’s maskless cozy dinner.

The speech is must-read

Mr. Speaker:

I rise this morning in defense of Governor Gavin Newsom who recently defied his own idiotic Covid edicts as he partied at one of the few restaurants that he has not yet forced out of business. I defend him because he was doing what we all once did in a free society: make our own decisions over what risks we are willing to run and what precautions we are willing to take according to our own circumstances to protect our own health.

Yes, Covid is a nasty bug and a quarter of a million Americans have died while having it. But this isn’t the Bubonic Plague. The CDC’s best estimate is that if you are under 49, your chance for surviving Covid – it you get it – is 99.92 percent. Even for those over 70 the survival rate is 94.6 percent.

Forty percent who get it don’t even know they have it. Yet we have allowed our officials to ruin our quality of life over it – destroying countless businesses, throwing tens of millions into unemployment, robbing our children of their educations and shredding our most cherished rights as Americans.

Governor Newsom’s night of partying should be a wake-up call to every American.

Every time we step outside our homes, the risks we face multiply. A free society assumes that its citizens are competent to assess those risks, balance them against the avoidance costs, and to manage their decisions in a generally responsible way. It’s called common sense, and it’s a necessary prerequisite for self-government and liberty.

The choices of an octogenarian with emphysema might be very different from those of a healthy governor in California. Only a fool would claim the omniscience to make an informed judgment for every person in every circumstance in every community. Sadly, this crisis has revealed that fools abound in public office and that a fool with power can quickly become a petty tyrant.

Which brings us back to Governor Newsom. These government nannies love to tell us that they’re just following the science. What does the science tell us? It tells us that Covid poses virtually no risk to children but can be severe among the elderly. So, what did these lockdown leftists do? They closed all the schools and ordered infected patients into nursing homes!

The science tells us that outdoor transmissions of the virus are extremely rare and that 80 percent of infections occur in people’s homes. So what did these lockdown leftists do? They closed our beaches, parks and campgrounds and ordered people to stay at home!

The science tells us that obesity is a contributing factor to the severity of the disease. So what did these lockdown leftists do? They closed all the gyms and kept the liquor stores open!

These lockdowns haven’t saved lives. The states with the most stringent lockdowns generally have the highest mortality rates from Covid. Utah stayed open while next door, Colorado shut down. Utah currently has half the Covid mortality rate and 3/4 the unemployment rate as Colorado. But the lockdowns have cost countless lives from suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and deferred health screenings and treatments.

Recently, Governor Newsom demanded that restaurant diners replace their masks after every bite, but also minimize the times they take them off. I guess that means take very big bites. Thanksgiving dinners are allowed in California, but only when they are held outside, guests are seated six feet apart, and they last no more than two hours. It’s all right to use the bathroom, but only if it is frequently sanitized. Otherwise, presumably you’ll just have to use the bushes. And for God’s sake – NO SINGING!

I have wondered how much longer the American people are going to tolerate this nonsense?

So let us not criticize Governor Newsom. Perhaps he has just offered us all deliverance from his own folly.

Nor should we criticize the California legislators who ignored travel and quarantine restrictions to junket to Hawaii. Nor should we ridicule Speaker Pelosi for choosing not to wear a mask in a hair salon that was forced to close for the rest of us.

Good for them. They’re demonstrating by their own actions the freedom that every American citizen needs to reclaim from these very same people. The governor SHOULD make his own decisions about running his own life. I only ask that he and his ilk would stop telling the rest of us how to run ours.

Rule Makers Need Not Be Inconvenienced

Congressman McClintock touched upon a truth that must not be ignored. Politicians often belong to elite circles that thrive in the acquisition of power. Their default modus operandi is “For your own safety and the safety of your neighbors, follow my rules.” There is no covenant that the rule maker follow those same rules. Power grows as constituents are rendered increasingly fearful and receptive to obedience in exchange for perceived protection. Rule makers need not be inconvenienced.

(Featured picture posted by Fox News)

Taxes Disguised as Fees Raiding Your Pockets

The California Supreme Court accepted for review on October 14, 2020, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association vs. Bay Area Toll Authority. Those who recall the 2018 epic battle pro and con Regional Measure 3 (RM3), which raised bridge tolls by $3, might not be surprised.

The Court granted and held the HJTA case pending disposition of a similar case, Zolly v. City of Oakland. So, it will be a while.

The basic issue with RM3 is whether it is a fee – as supporters claim – or a tax — as opponents point out. RM3 passed with 55% voter approval. Article XIII, Section 3 of the California Constitution requires two thirds approval for passage of a tax.

Article XIII, Section 3 is the Constitutional Amendment approved by voters November 2010 as Proposition 26. Prop 26 was intended to put a break on the proliferation of taxes and fees emptying the pockets of California residents.

Difference Between a Tax and A Fee

Article XIII, Section 3 says any charge is a tax except what the Section specifically says is a fee:

“(b) As used in this section, “tax” means any levy, charge, or exaction of any kind imposed by the State, except the following:

(1) A charge imposed for a specific benefit conferred or privilege granted directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the State of conferring the benefit or granting the privilege to the payor.

(2) A charge imposed for a specific government service or product provided directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the State of providing the service or product to the payor.

(3) A charge imposed for the reasonable regulatory costs to the State incident to issuing licenses and permits, performing investigations, inspections, and audits, enforcing agricultural marketing orders, and the administrative enforcement and adjudication thereof.

(4) A charge imposed for entrance to or use of state property, or the purchase, rental, or lease of state property, except charges governed by Section 15 of Article XI.

(5) A fine, penalty, or other monetary charge imposed by the judicial branch of government or the State, as a result of a violation of law. “

(Article XI, Section 15, of the California Constitution refers to “revenues derived from taxes imposed pursuant to the Vehicle License Fee Law.”)

The Problem With RM3

Regional Measure 3 exacts a charge to motorists crossing the Bay Area’s State-owned bridges. But revenues derived from that charge are not limited to benefiting motorists by building highways or fixing potholes. The bulk of RM3 revenues benefits users of other modes of transportation, like public transit riders, bicyclists, and walkers.

RM3 is intended to fund a wide variety of improvements to Bay Area mobility. Therefore, the measures’ charge to motorists exceeds the cost of benefits received by motorists.

The use of revenues derived from RM3 make the measure clearly a tax, according to Clauses 1) and 2) of Section 3, Article XIII.

Proponents’ Argument

What argument could proponents of Regional Measure 3 make in view of Clauses 1) and 2)?

Aside from arguments that amount to we want the money, proponents argue that RM3 falls under Clause 4), a charge to enter or use state-owned property. They also argue that Clause 4) is not subject to the relationship of charge to payer vs. benefit to payer as are Clauses 1) and 2). Clause 4) does not have the wording on charge vs. benefit that Clauses 1) and 2) have.

Enter Zolly vs. City of Oakland

Robert Zolly, owner of an Oakland apartment building, joined two other small-property landlords in suing the City of Oakland. The lawsuit claims that the city’s fee for hauling garbage far exceeds the cost of hauling said garbage. Indeed it does, because the haulers’ franchise costs are included in the garbage-collecting fee. A portion representing the haulers’ franchise pass through is placed in Oakland’s general fund to cover expenses not related to garbage collection.

The Court sees a comparison between using garbage-hauling fees to fund general city services, and using bridge tolls to fund public transit and other modes of mobility. A strict adherence to Article XIII, Section 3 would render such use of funds unconstitutional.

Bigger Issues

Regional Measure 3 is the brainchild of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). MTC is an agency easy to dislike. Its commissioners are appointed, not elected. However, MTC’s power to determine the destiny of the San Francisco Bay Area keeps growing.

Although MTC is a transportation agency, it is deeply involved in housing policy. Its Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) has been a powerful influence behind state and local legislation dealing with evictions, rent caps, rent assistance, and other housing-related mandates.

There is a crucial difference between Regional Measure 3 and Measures 1 and 2. RM3 carried a mandate that all nine Bay Area Counties had to place RM3 on their ballots whether they liked it or not, and passage was based on votes aggregated from all nine counties. More of this strategy should be expected, as indicated by plans to place Faster Bay Area on a future ballot. RM3 contributed to the ongoing blurring of what a legal voters’ jurisdiction is supposed to be.

Your Pockets Are At Peril

There are pitfalls inherent in the kind of “regional planning” exemplified by RM3. If the Court sides with RM3 proponents, extracting money from Bay Area residents will become a lot easier. Proposals for tax increases disguised as fees will rain upon all our heads.

SF Bay Area: Pitch Dark at Noon!

Here in California things are getting “curiouser and curiouser.” Like Alice falling through the rabbit hole and facing the challenges of Wonderland. On Wednesday, September 9, 2020, things in the San Francisco Bay Area got really curiouser.

“Oh my”, we all said when we woke up. “Where is the sun?” Still by noontime, the skies were darker than eventide – except for a fearsome reddish-orange glow. “The fires,” we all said.

“The fires,” we say in somber tones. Climate change, and it’s all our fault.

Maybe those dark skies might also be related to poor forest management, but who knows. All we know is maybe next come the locusts.

The San Francisco Chronicle carried great pictures of the event. Worth seeing. One of the pictures is featured here.

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.