Tag Archives: legislation

Transportation Funds Suffer Some Major Bait & Switch

Bait and Switch

Central Valley State Assembly Member Jim Patterson made news a few days ago by calling attention to funds being diverted from lane widening on Route 99. Patterson attributed the halting of road work to Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-19-19 signed September 20, 2019, which states in part:

The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) is directed to invest its annual portfolio of $5 billion toward construction, operations and maintenance to help reverse the trend of increased fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector. CalSTA, in consultation with the Department of Finance, is also directed to align transportation spending, programming and mitigation with the state’s climate goals to achieve the objectives of the state’s Climate Change Scoping Plan, where feasible. Specifically the Governor is ordering a focus for transportation investments near housing, and on managing congestion through innovative strategies that encourage alternatives to driving.

With uncharacteristic speed, the State Transportation Agency published on October 4 its 2020 Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan (ITSP), proposing to repurpose “uncommitted funds” from several current projects, including Highway 99 work, and retain “$61,331,000 in uncommitted 2020 ITIP programming capacity to be held in reserve for priority rail projects and other priorities aligned with Executive Order N-19-19.”

Since Assembly Member Jim Patterson’s clarion call, other entities have taken up his warning that California has just witnessed a major case of bait and switch and other cases will soon follow.  For example,

ABC30.com reported Highway 99 expansion funding cuts elicit angry reactions.  This news segment featured Assembly Member Jim Patterson saying,

This is classic bait and switch. We were promised streets, roads and highways and we are getting everything but.

In an Opinion piece in the San Bernardino Sun of October 13, The Gas Tax Bait and Switch, Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said,

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that has redirected gas tax money to fund railway systems and other projects, rather than repairing and upgrading the state’s broken highways and roads. The governor and Caltrans claim that the diversion of funds is justified by the need to do something about climate change.

Like Assembly Member Jim Patterson, the Just Vote No Blog expects to see a lot more cases of Bait & Switch in the name of climate change.

Proposition 13 Set for Another Jab

 

Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann
Howard Jarvis, Paul Gann and supporters celebrate the victory of Proposition 13 in 1978.

Proposition 13, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1978, turned out to be not a mere voters’ initiative, but a cultural symbol defended by some and despised by others.

By placing a property tax cap on certain properties, Proposition 13 significantly reduced sources of revenue for a state that considers taxes lifeblood itself.

Never mind that the state devised a myriad other sources of revenue, and today stands #11 out of 50 in level of taxation – the focus remains on the loss of property taxes resulting from Proposition 13. Never mind that a 1976 court decision removed fiscal responsibility from school districts – the narrative remains that Proposition 13 destroyed local control of schools.

Because Proposition 13 enjoys some fierce defenders, the opposition has settled for incremental jabs rather than outright repeal. A significant blow will be attempted in the November 2020 election. The proposal would leave the cap on residences but remove it from commercial and industrial buildings in what has been called split-roll property tax assessment.

The California teachers’ union and others who view Proposition 13 as abhorrent are building a campaign war chest to support the 2020 proposal. Their narrative remains as it was in 1978.

The Just Vote No Blog recommends an article on California Political News and Views that provides a different narrative – Proposition 13 News: Split-Roll Proposal, Again.
If voters are to vote wisely, they need to acquaint themselves with the opposing views inherent in all proposals.

Cities, Hostage to the Drug-Homeless Complex

Drug injection needles on the street

Today’s guiding principles in the purported War on Homelessness are remarkably similar to those of the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs. Unsurprisingly, the result of all three responses to challenges is the same – homelessness, poverty and drug use flourished.

When a significant number of people stand to benefit from “fighting” a particular challenge, that challenge will grow. Think of the army of bureaucrats employed by the countless government agencies and government-enabled non-profits that make up these three Wars. They need their jobs to feed their families just like the rest of us.

So, they develop policies divorced from realities. The War on Poverty ignores the fact that people respond to free services by decreasing remunerative efforts that once enabled them to pay for those services. The War on Drugs ignores the insidiousness of the underground market. Today’s War on Homelessness, especially in populous progressive cities like San Francisco, ignores the principal reason for homelessness.

As the article posted on the Just Vote No Blog a few weeks ago, Homelessness: Is Housing the Problem? pointed out, most of today’s homelessness is a product of drug abuse, not a product of lack of affordable housing.

An informative website, The City Journal, in its Autumn 2019 publication carried an article by Heather Mac Donald entitled, San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless. The Just Vote No Blog recommends this article.  Although Ms. Mac Donald’s suggested solution could be interpreted to mean it’s a good thing for cities that act irresponsibly to spread their costs regionally, she reports in excellent details what the homeless interviewed on the streets are saying. They readily admit that “Everyone is on drugs here.”

An inadequate supply of affordable housing is not the first thing that comes to mind when conversing with San Francisco’s street denizens. Their behavioral problems—above all, addiction and mental illness—are too obvious.

Yet, as Ms. Mac Donald points out, the City continues to spend millions of taxpayers’ cash on condoning and normalizing drug use. San Francisco supplies thousands of free injection needles that are openly used in vast homeless encampments. Police are discouraged from interfering with drug sales visible to all passersby. Taxpayers are saddled with funding Poop Patrols the sole function of which is scooping human feces from sidewalks.

This scenario, although painfully entrenched in San Francisco, is supported in many other cities in the U.S. and abroad.  The enabling policies are advocated by the principle of “harm reduction,” a strategy largely funded by George Soro’s Open Society Foundations“Harm reduction” in this case applies to those addicted to drugs, not to the sober.

As long as “compassion” dictates everyone live under such conditions, and as long as speech and thought enforcers are at the ready with invectives as soon as anyone objects, the homeless, in the midst of their own misery, will continue to hold cities like San Francisco hostage.

Tech Villas-Not Your Old Company Towns

Scotia a company town
Pacific Lumber Mill company town of Scotia, CA, called “The Last Company Town.”

Nobody likes to pay almost half of one’s wages for housing, but that is what is happening to so many California residents. Reasons for the astronomical housing costs vary according to whom one asks. However, regardless of reason, the situation is now promoted as a “crisis,” and duly exploited as such.

Of concern to the Just Vote No Blog is that the housing crisis is at the heart of today’s central planning, which renders residents and voters increasingly powerless in land use and housing decisions.

A Brief Background

In The Curious Case of Housing Legislation, the Just Vote No Blog noted the history behind today’s network of housing bills. The state’s evolving efforts to remove land use and housing decisions from voters is one of the evident aspects of such history. Here are some reminders:

The seminal Assembly Bill 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, started the ball rolling by mandating the reduction of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Climate crisis soon morphed into a land use crisis that required dense job/housing development along narrow corridors throughout the Bay Area, ostensibly to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions produced by workers commuting from homes in the suburbs.

Predictable pushback from neighborhoods, cities and counties not wanting to lose their chosen quality of life encouraged increasingly stronger state mandates. SB 330 and AB 1487 are the latest high-profile bills bent on removing housing decisions from cities and counties.

SB 330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, introduced in February by Senator Nancy Skinner and approved by the legislature September 6, has the general objective to “prohibit a county or city, including the electorate exercising its local initiative or referendum power, in which specified conditions exist, determined by the Department of Housing and Community Development as provided, from enacting a development policy, standard, or condition, as defined…..”  Thus, the electorate is summarily dismissed.

AB 1487, the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Housing Finance Act of 2019, introduced in February by Assembly Member David Chiu is currently active and in desk process.  This bill is a game changer.  Voters, no matter how disempowered by mandates such as SB 330, at present can still vote down tax proposals that finance mandates they do not like. AB 1487 makes that strategy more difficult. This bill establishes a new agency, the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, run by bureaucrats removed from the wrath of voters, with the power to place tax proposals on region-wide ballots, and to determine pass/fail on an aggregate region-wide basis.

Progression Towards Powerful Public-Private Partnerships

The plethora of housing bills in the style of SB 330 and AB 1487 passed into law during the past few years calls for a good deal of cash, perhaps more than the creative financing that could be achieved by the Housing Finance Authority would be able to raise on its own. Thus, enter powerful private players interested in housing development for reasons of their own, willing to forge partnerships with public entities. As one would expect, tech companies like Google and Facebook are becoming major players.

Google, Facebook and other deep-pocketed tech companies are at present investing in housing, a dream come true for housing advocates. They are also encouraging the California legislature to pass legislation that will streamline housing production (more on this later), since investors do not like lengthy bickering over what or where housing is built.

Of course, private influence in public affairs is nothing new. Neither is privately-funded housing developed with government blessings — company towns like Hershey, Marktown, and Pullman are examples. However, today California is witnessing not just tech-towns developed for tech workers, but also the much broader endeavor of using tech money to fund housing for the general population.

Recommended Articles on Public-Private Partnerships

A San Francisco Bay Area publication, 48 Hills, has been deeply concerned about the waning power of voters in land use, housing and transportation decisions. A series of articles by researcher and journalist Zelda Bronstein, published in 48 Hills, explains in great detail how a private entity, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is poised to affect housing policy. In the first two installments published May 29, 2019 and August 29, 2019 of the series (there might be more to come), Ms. Bronstein zeroes in on Senate Bill 330 and Assembly Bill 1487.

The articles are rich with information that Bay Area residents will find useful in understanding who is becoming in charge of their neighborhoods.

Continue reading Tech Villas-Not Your Old Company Towns

AB 1487 is Scheduled for Some Lipstick

Assembly Member David Chiu, author of AB 1487, and his colleagues in the California legislature have removed all hint of what the bill would specifically do if signed into law. Now, in essence, the bill simply says that a new agency is being created with power to raise, administer, and allocate funding as it sees fit for affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay area.

Not much of what was said of Assembly Bill 1487 when it was first introduced in February 2019 applies. “Stakeholders and local leaders” are at present meeting with legislators to re-construct the peripherals of the bill. Of course, the core feature remains: Establishment of the Bay Area Housing Financing Authority, an agency that will initially share staffing with the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and that will have power to raise tax money from all counties in the Bay Area.

BAHFA as MTC’s Other Self

The proposed new agency will serve as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s other self, with the additional coveted ability to raise funds.

MTC, the Bay Area’s version of a federally-mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization, has what one might call a checkered past. Its major feats are finalizing the construction of a span of the Bay Bridge damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake after years of delays and billions in costs overruns, and implementing central planning via Plan Bay Area (approved in 2013 by MTC Commissioners, but never by voters). Today, MTC doles out considerable sums under its various centrally-planned transportation and housing projects, but it does not have power to raise fund. It will indirectly should AB 1487 pass.

So, now the prospects are excellent for MTC’s other self, the Bay Area Housing Financing Authority, routinely to raise taxes regionally in the fashion of Measure AA.  As the Just Vote No Blog noted in With AB 1487 There is No Opt Out, in 2015 Measure AA passed by the aggregate votes of all counties without possibility of any county opting out.

An Alternative to Putting Lipstick on AB 1487

AB 1487, last amended July 11, 2019, is currently an active bill in Floor process. A third reading in the Senate is scheduled for August 26, 2019.

Individuals and organizations concerned about BAHFA’s undue influence in the operation of their city or county should remember that the agency’s success in raising money depends entirely on the willingness of taxpayers to part with their hard-earned cash.

The possibility of residents becoming aware of how much control they will cede to a regional agency such as BAHFA and deciding to vote “No” on BAHFA funding proposals might give legislators some pause in moving forward with their plans. For those opposed to mandated central planning, aiming for such pause might be more effective than accepting BAHFA as fait accompli and merely attempting to negotiate damage control with legislators.

Putting lipstick on a piggy will not make it any pettier.

Addendum:  The Transformation of NeighborhoodsParkmerced - CopyParkmerced, a traditional privately owned residential community in the heart of San Francisco that houses over 3,000 residents, has developed Parkmerced Vision.  Under the plan, the garden homes surrounding green spaces will be demolished to make room for taller, denser buildings.  Some applaud the plan, others despise it. The transformation of neighborhoods is occurring for good or bad all over the state.  A regional housing agency such as the proposed Bay Area Housing Financing Administration is intended to accelerate the process by injecting public funds for subsidized housing.

 

Time for Congress to Solve the Border Crisis

Are We Paying Congress to Bicker or to Deal With the Nation’s Challenges?

Right after the Mueller Report, the more sanely-inclined among the U.S. population Border Patrolhoped that Congress would go back to work. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Taxpayers are paying Congress to bicker. Congress is not working with the Administrative Branch in developing an effective foreign policy. It is not addressing the nation’s unsustainable level of debt. It is not producing a realistic immigration policy. The latter is the most egregious inattention of the current members of our Federal Legislature.

Theatrics Won’t Help

Tears, fake or real, are not going to solve the problem of what to do with thousands of undocumented people who presented themselves voluntarily at the U.S. border. Mainstream media profiting from the dialog of “caged children” will not address why parents would subject their children to such conditions. Demonstrations and sign waiving will not speed up the process by which the case of each detained individual can be reviewed and decided upon. Constant harangue on the subject of impeachment will not ease the crowding, the unhealthy conditions, the diseases, the tragic deaths. It will not give relief to exhausted border agents.

Such theatrics are useless in remedying the border crisis because none of it offers effective or lawful solutions or contribute to productive dialog.

Disorderly Patchwork is Not Sustainable

Because Congress has failed to develop effective and lawful solutions acceptable to the nation as a whole, the Administrative branch has felt compelled to resort to what has proven to be disorderly patchwork.

Perhaps making undocumented people as uncomfortable as possible and scaring them as relentlessly as possible might discourage more from attempting to enter the country. However, one would need to ask whether such efforts bring desired results, are sustainable, or present the nation in a positive image before the world.

ICE raids on individuals who have lived peaceably in the U.S. for decades might instill enough fear that some of them might leave or advise relatives not to come. But the tactic also results in advocates rallying their forces to protect immigrants, sometimes including the ones who have not lived in peace.

Endless busloads of detainees dropped by Border Patrol agents into various communities certainly serve to show what border agents are going through, but is equally unsustainable:

“They’re catching 3,000 to 4,000 people across the whole southwest border a day,” DeSio [Ralph DeSio, spokesperson for the San Diego office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection] said. “You could fill a stadium with these people in a few days. The enormity of this is flying over many people’s heads.”  Orange County Register, as quoted in GOPUSA, May 27, 2019.

In the progressive mind, and in the mind of many libertarians who believe in freedom of movement, the border crisis could be easily solved by simply not making much of an effort to apprehend those crossing the border without U.S. authorization. Maybe that is what Native Americans did back in the 16th Century when the Pilgrims started to arrive – for a while.

“Now, in Coachella, the places that can offer shelter are at capacity. Meanwhile, the Greyhound station in Indio, where many migrants hoped to catch a bus to get to their families didn’t have enough capacity to transport so many people. After that,” Amaya [Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Services Center] said, “agents started taking people further north, to San Bernardino … It’s a capacity issue more than a political issue …”   Orange County Register, as quoted in GOPUSA, May 27, 2019.

Yes, it is a capacity issue.

Time for Voters to Take Action

It is time for the people in each precinct, county, township or parish to hold their legislative representatives’ feet to the fire. Demand Town Halls and demand representation. Once representatives have orders from their constituents and understand their job is on the line if they do not perform, they will start working on solutions based on realistic and amicable negotiation.

Of course, the folks back home need to also remain flexible, and they need to eschew bickering themselves. This nation has ultra progressive areas that stand by their immigrant populations and ultra conservative areas that emphasize the need for law and order. Thus, any effective immigration reform would need to be the result of compromises. But a solution that is not perfect to each taste is better than the unhappy turmoil we have now.

With AB 1487 There is No Opt Out

What is California Assembly Bill 1487?

Authored by Assembly Member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), this bill enacts the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Housing Finance Act, which authorizes the creation of a region-wide housing authority with powers to “raise, administer, and allocate funding for affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay area.”

Thus, the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) would act as a permanent agency, the purpose of which would be to place on the ballot of all nine Bay Area counties concurrently identical ballot measures proposing fees, taxes and bonds to finance construction of affordable housing, preserve existing rent-controlled housing, and to provide tenant protections.  BAHFA would be one more regional agency operating under the wing, and sharing staff with, the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

CA Housing JuntaThe passage by the California legislature of numerous housing-related bills during the past four or so years made it possible for developers to receive ministerial stream-lined approval of housing developments throughout the state – regardless of city or county zoning rules.   (Pictured are Senator Scott Wiener, Assembly Member David Chiu, and Senator Nancy Skinner, the more prolific affordable housing advocates in the California State Legislature.)

Fees, taxes and bonds approved regionally by voters under AB 1487 would help finance development projects regionally – regardless of whether voters in each individual county voted to approve such measures or not.

Examples of the success of such region-wide measures enabled by state legislation are Measure AA (enabled by AB 746) approved regionally by voters June 2016, and Regional Measure 3 (enabled by SB 595) approved regionally by voters June 2018.

AB 1487 is currently housed in the Senate Appropriations Committee. As of today, no hearing date has been indicated. Perhaps legislators are having second thoughts about the viability of AB 1487? After all, the Appropriations Committee was the one that summarily placed Senate Bill 50 (the bill some have labeled WIMBY – Wall Street in My Back Yard) in hibernation.

Highlights of AB 1487

* The findings and declarations in Section 64501, i.e. why the bill’s author thinks his bill should be enacted, follow the by-now required mantra that there is a grand housing crisis due in essence to cities and counties failure to provide “enough” housing, and therefore, legislation needs to be enacted overriding local laws and regulations.

The housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay area is regional in nature and too great to be addressed individually by the region’s 101 cities and 9 counties.

However, the current process is anything but regional; instead each city and county is each responsible for their own decisions around housing …

Regional funding is necessary to help address the housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay area by delivering resources and technical assistance at a regional scale …

* The version previous to amendments made to AB 1487 on July 10, listed in great detail the powers of the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority. The current version does not. In other words, the door is left wide open as to what the Authority would be empowered to do. Here is what is left of the list of powers, in Section 64514, including the bills applicability to any other agency that might replace the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The board may make and enforce rules and regulations necessary for governing the authority, the preservation of order, and the transaction of business.

In exercising the powers and duties conferred on the authority by this title, the board may act by resolution.

It is the intent of the Legislature that the powers granted to the authority and the executive board under this title shall be transferred to a future regional agency if an agency is established to replace the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments and integrate regional transportation and housing funding and policy decisions within the San Francisco Bay area under one governing board, subsequent to a robust public engagement process at the regional level.

* Because California legislators have labeled the current high-cost housing in the state a crisis – not state and regional land-use policies unbeneficial to the general public – they can enact legislation that overrides any and all local laws and regulations. For example, AB 1487 specifically indicates the bill is not subject to either the orderly reorganization of city and county governments, or the relative independence of charter cities.

The formation and jurisdictional boundaries of the authority are not subject to the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (Division 3 (commencing with Section 56000) of Title 5).

The Legislature finds and declares that providing a regional financing mechanism for affordable housing development and preservation in the San Francisco Bay area, as described in this section and Section 64501, is a matter of statewide concern and is not a municipal affair as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution. Therefore, this title applies to all cities within the San Francisco Bay area, including charter cities.

California’s Acme Co.

Acme CoRemember Willie E. Coyote? He tried so hard to defeat the Road Runner, but he consistently used products manufactured by the Acme Co. that failed to operate at all, exploded prematurely, or otherwise caused Willie Coyote the worst of harm. Some folks just don’t learn….

If after half a dozen or so years, say from the implementation of Plan Bay Area, and after numerous state mandates purportedly intended to make housing more affordable, California still sports the most unaffordable housing in the nation, then it would appear the state is facing a Willie E. Coyote vs. The Road Runner struggle.

The main characters in the struggle: On one side homeowners who worked hard to purchase a single-family home in a nice and quiet neighborhood, and wish to keep their neighborhood nice and quiet, as well as their home values astronomical. On the other side newcomers who want to live in those neighborhoods, whether the neighborhoods remain nice and quiet or not, and whether they can afford the market cost of those neighborhoods.

The supporting characters: Legislators at all levels of state government understand that clustering job-creating businesses as well as homes within narrow areas increases the value of both, which translates into higher state GDP and higher revenue from property taxes. Couple that with residents in the quiet nice neighborhoods that do not want job-creating businesses anywhere near them.

So, everybody in California seems to be a fan of the Acme Co. Will AB 1487 reach the finish line and thus change the entire character of city and county land-use planning? Will California residents realize AB 1487 offers no opt out for cities and counties?

The Ballot Box is the Ultimate Decider

AB 1487, as all affordable housing bills, will surely come with a price tag, because somebody has to pay for somebody to benefit.  In the case of AB 1487, the price tag will be in the billions,

The San Francisco Bay area faces an annual funding shortfall of two billion five hundred million dollars ($2,500,000,000) in its efforts to address the affordable housing crisis.  Section 64501 (e)

So far, legislators have not succeeded in doing away with voters’ rights to weigh in on tax proposals. Therefore, the expectedly huge amount of taxes needed to fund AB 1487 would have to be approved at the ballot box.

Since the bill does not offer residents an opt out, the ballot box will become the only venue available to those opposed to the bill to just say no.

Update July 13, 2019

It now has surfaced that on July 9, two days before the scheduled hearing before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, the sponsors of AB 1487 wrote a letter “To Whom it May Concern” saying they are “temporarily hitting the pause button…” on AB 1487 to allow for more time for feedback from the two main Bay Area bureaucracies deeply involved in land-use issues, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments.  The Marin Post has a good article about the letter.

Good time for voters to use the “pause” to provide their own feedback.