CAGOP Should Not Burn Up the Recall Jungle

The latest hot rumor, circulating among the disaffected rebels, the insiders, and the wanna-be insiders (guilty), is that the California State GOP is going to endorse Kevin Faulconer as the official Republican candidate in the upcoming Newsom recall election.

Officials at CAGOP have dismissed this rumor as unfounded, claiming the process has just begun and the outcome is uncertain. Apparently the party’s rules committee will convene later this week, and then the party’s executive committee will meet over the weekend. If these committees approve an endorsement process, then candidates will be asked to each collect 200 endorsements from among the roughly 1,400 party delegates. Since party delegates will be permitted to endorse more than one candidate, this was represented as a reasonable requirement.

But coming at the last minute, this is not reasonable. It’s also a flawed strategy. GOP voters who feel burned may stay home on September 14.

Candidates with strong ties to the state party organization and established relationships with party delegates will have a decisive advantage acquiring delegate signatures, especially since the petitions themselves, apparently, won’t be available until the party decides they’re going forward with an endorsement selection process. Therefore, if they’re only given a week or two to go track down delegates, it is possible that candidates that have already invested a lot in this contest will be froze out of even being considered.

One of the things that may elude officials at CAGOP is that in order for the recall ballot’s question one (should […] Read More

Fixing California, Part Nine – The Prosperity Economy

The policy topics considered in this series—energy, water, transportation, housing, law enforcement and the homeless, forestry, and education—have all been hijacked by ideologues.

Because of this, and regardless of the relevance, climate change and racism are the two broad and urgent themes that dominate policy discussions and decisions on these issues. And in all cases, these alleged crises are used to distort policies and derail projects. They become the primary focus, limiting options, enabling impractical and expensive schemes, and always with a pessimistic outlook. This series has offered a different set of perspectives through which to view these topics: abundance, pragmatism, and optimism.

There are other big challenges that dominate the political dialogue in California and throughout America. It is a broad and diverse list. But the seven topics chosen, if properly addressed, fulfill a practical goal. They give back to Californians—all Californians—something that’s been missing for decades: a prosperity economy where anyone willing to work hard can afford to live a secure life.

The governing ideology in California today is corporate socialism hiding behind the moral imperatives of fighting climate change and combating racism. California today is run by an alliance of special interests—tech monopolies, public-sector unions, leftist billionaires, extreme environmentalists, and social justice warriors—who are crushing the middle class. Their motivations differ, and their intentions may not be so explicit, but their actions share the same goal. Environmentalists believe the middle-class lifestyle is ecologically unsustainable. Social justice warriors believe the middle […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Eight, Restoring Quality Education

Pragmatism. Abundance. Optimism. If these are the principles that should guide public policy in California—and they are—what the public schools offer is the exact opposite.

Instead of pragmatism, they offer partisan ideology.

Instead of emphasizing the ability, indeed, the obligation, for a modern and prosperous society to deliver abundance, the message is that we must ration everything we use, and treat employment as a zero-sum game, where jobs and opportunities are allocated by race and gender instead of in recognition of merit and passion.

And instead of an optimistic view of the future, the mandated curricula are steeped in pessimism: the climate emergency, the crisis of systemic racism, the catastrophe of capitalist enslavement, a sordid national history., and an oppressive, exploitative society.

It isn’t necessary to engage in yet another in-depth recitation of how California’s public schools have devolved into indoctrination chambers, failing low-income students most in need of a decent education. Rebellion is in the air.

Suffice to say, classroom discipline is replaced with “restorative justice.” Teacher accountability, now more than ever, gives way to “tenure” and a job for life. Measuring academic achievement with standardized tests has become racist, and as redress, the University of California will no longer consider applicants’ SAT scores. Learning multiplication tables and other practical quantitative skills gave way to “Common Core.” Timeless classics may alienate or even threaten young readers, so reading material is selected based on the race and gender of the authors. Lessons in basic concepts of […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Seven, Forest Management

Nobody knew how the fire started. It took hold in the dry chaparral and grasslands and quickly spread up the sides of the canyon. Propelled by winds gusting over 40 miles per hour and extremely dry air (humidity below 25 percent), the fire spread over the ridge and into the town below. Overwhelmed firefighters could not contain the blaze as it swept through the streets, immolating homes by the hundreds. Even brick homes with slate roofs were not spared. Before it finally was brought under control, 640 structures including 584 homes had been reduced to ashes. Over 4,000 people were left homeless.

Does this sound like the “new normal?” Maybe so, but this description is of the Berkeley fire of 1923. In its time, with barely 4 million people living in California, the Berkeley fire was a catastrophe on par with the fires we see today.

When evaluating what has happened nearly a century since the Berkeley fire, two stories emerge. The story coming from California’s politicians emphasizes climate change. The other story, which comes from professional foresters, stresses how different forest management practices might have made many of the recent fires far less severe—and perhaps avoided entirely.

Specifically, California’s misguided forest management practices included several decades of successful fire suppression, combined with a failure to remove all the undergrowth that results when natural fires aren’t allowed to burn.

Back in 1923, tactics to suppress forest fires were in their infancy. But techniques and technologies improved apace with firefighting […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Six, Homeless and Law Enforcement

The homeless population in California now tops 160,000, concentrated in Los Angeles County, but growing in every major city and in smaller towns up and down the state. Despite throwing tens of billions of federal, state, and local spending at the problem, the number of homeless increases every year. Expensive housing is part of the problem, and increasing the supply and lowering the cost of homes might help.

It is a huge mistake, however, to claim that a shortage of housing is the primary cause of homelessness in the Golden State. After all, during 2021 an estimated 103,000 new housing units were built in California, slightly more than half of them homes and the rest apartments. Meanwhile, California’s total population actually declined by 182,000 people, the first time that’s happened in over a century.

There must be more to this puzzle than housing, and there is: California’s homeless problem is caused by the inability of law enforcement and health professionals to deal effectively with criminals, substance abusers, and the mentally ill. If these people were taken off the streets and treated appropriately, the remaining homeless could easily be accommodated by existing shelter programs. Solving the homeless crisis requires reassessing the underlying assumptions informing the policies of recent years, rethinking the nature and meaning of compassion, and recalibrating where tolerance ends and law enforcement begins.

As it is, the so-called “housing first” policy has been a disaster. It has spawned a Homeless Industrial Complex of developers, […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Five, Affordable Market Housing

Everyone’s heard it by now. California’s got a housing shortage, with prices within 50 miles of the coast among the highest per square foot in the world. The median price of a mid-tier single-family dwelling in Santa Clara County—better known as the Silicon Valley—is now $1.4 million. Statewide, the median price of a home in March was $759,000, up nearly 20 percent from just one year earlier. According to Zillow, the national median price of a mid-tier single-family dwelling is $287,000, barely more than one-third what the same home costs in California.

There’s a perfect storm of factors causing this imbalance, which is rapidly spreading across the rest of the country. Santa Clara County’s foreign-born population is an astonishing 38.5 percent. In California overall, 27 percent of the population is foreign-born. These millions of immigrants are bidding up the prices of housing in California.

At the same time, and with increasing voracity, major hedge funds are buying homes. It’s a savvy diversification strategy. Home prices go up because people are buying them, and investment portfolios chasing yield can ride the bubble for as long as demand exceeds supply, depending on inflation to give them a soft landing if and when the market finally cools. According to a real estate consulting firm based in Southern California, one in five homes sold in 2020 were purchased by investors. In Orange County, 3.5 percent of all residential parcels are owned by corporations with portfolios of 200 or […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Four, The Transportation Revolution

Reading California’s “Transportation Plan 2050” is a depressing journey into groupthink. Like everything coming out of the one-party bureaucracy, it is the bland product of endless meetings between “stakeholders” with the only common thread being a terror of contributing anything that might violate the pieties of climate alarm and the desperate need for “equity.” The result is a Stalinesque exercise in mediocrity, without even requiring a Stalin.

Actually, mediocre may be too light a term to describe this document, because mediocre implies something relatively inert. But the recommendations this document offers in 154 pages of mind-numbing detail, will serve to increase the momentum of policies that are guaranteed to further impoverish Californians.

California’s “Transportation Plan 2050” is consistent with a mentality that must be defeated. It is a dark vision of the future, where people will be priced out of owning and operating independent vehicles or flying, and public expenditures on transportation will be focused on modes of mass transit that are rapidly headed for obsolescence. It is a vision of the future where people of average income will be forced to live in multi-story apartment buildings and take mass transit everywhere they go, not by choice, but by economic policies and government spending choices that leave them no alternative.

As with water and energy, the conventional wisdom that governs current planning is exactly the opposite of what is coming. The conventional wisdom is that abundance—in this case in the form of inexpensive, uncongested transportation options—is impossible. But, as […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Three, Achieving Water Abundance

As Californians face another drought, the official consensus response is more rationing. Buy washers that don’t work very well. Install more flow restrictors. Move down from a 50 gallon per person, per day limit for indoor water consumption to 40 gallons per person per day. For California’s farmers, recent legislation has not only lowered what percentage of river flow can be diverted to agriculture, but now also restricts groundwater pumping. The impact is regressive, with consequences ranging from petty and punitive to catastrophic and existential.

Wealthy homeowners pay the fines and water their lawns, while ordinary citizens are forced to obsess over every drop. Corporate farm operations navigate the countless regulatory agencies while family farmers are driven insolvent. And the worse it gets, the more the story stays the same: We have wasted water, destroyed ecosystems, and now we must embrace an era of limits. But this is a perilous path.

Maybe the consensus model of water management in California works for corporations that want to consolidate the agricultural industry. Maybe it benefits developers who want to build apartments with no yards, where the interiors are equipped with “water sipping” (lousy) appliances. Maybe the public utilities prefer a model where they don’t have to build new infrastructure because per capita consumption is driven down. Maybe the “smart growth” advocates for “infill” love the idea they can sell high density more easily because if everyone uses half as much water, twice as many households can […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Two, The Electric Age

If energy were abundant, clean, and sustainable, nearly every other daunting challenge facing humanity would be much easier to solve. Insufficient water? No problem. Pump more water around via inter-basin transfers and build more desalination plants. Can’t convert the transportation sector to all-electric vehicles? You can if energy is abundant. Generate all the electricity you need.

Energy solves almost every other resource-related challenge facing humanity. The more energy the better. As with water, energy abundance brings with it not only more practical options in almost every economic sector, and at a lower price, but it brings resilience as well.

On the other hand, pushing all excess out of the system via conservation mandates that amount to increasingly severe rationing leaves the system—and everything that depends on it—vulnerable to catastrophe under what might otherwise be a minor disruption.

The strategic goal of California’s energy planners is for the state to become “carbon neutral” as soon as possible. They view this both as an existential necessity and an achievable utopian dream. To accomplish this, California’s determination to be the first developed economy in the world to go fully electric is well established. Governor Gavin Newsom has decreed via executive order that new passenger car and truck sales have to be all-electric by 2035. In this he has the enthusiastic support of the state legislature. At the same time, the legislature is making it nearly impossible to install gas appliances in new homes. Expect that effort to only intensify in the […] Read More

Fixing California – Part One, The Themes That Make Anything Possible

For conservatives across America, California has become the cautionary tale for the rest of the country. Anyone who actually lives in the Golden State, and enjoys the best weather and the most beautiful, diverse scenery on earth, knows there are two sides to the story of this captivating place. Nevertheless, the story keeps getting worse.

For every essential—homes, rent, tuition, gasoline, electricity, and water—Californians pay the among the highest prices in the continental United States. Californians endure the most hostile business climate in America, and pay the highest taxes. The public schools are failing, crime is soaring, electricity is unreliable, water is rationed, and the mismanaged forests are burning like hell. Yet all of this can be fixed.

The solutions aren’t mysteries. Deregulate housing permits. End the disastrous “housing-first” policies and instead give the homeless safe housing in inexpensive barracks where sobriety is a condition of entry. Repeal Proposition 47, which downgraded property and drug crimes. Build reservoirs, desalination, and wastewater recycling plants. Build nuclear power plants and develop California’s abundant natural gas reserves. Recognize that the common road is the future of transportation, not the past, and widen California’s freeways and highways. Let the timber companies harvest more lumber in exchange for maintaining the fire roads and power line corridors. Implement school choice and make public schools compete with private schools on the basis of excellence. Done.

It isn’t quite that simple, of course, and in the articles to follow in this series, each of these issues will be […] Read More