State Legislature Continues Assault On Local Zoning Decisions

With the introduction of the latest housing density mandate, AB 725 in the California state legislature, the battle between state control and local control in California intensifies. At the same time, the pandemic crisis and its economic consequences add additional complexity to an already complex issue.

The debate over California’s housing policies offers an unusual combination: vehement disagreement between two bitterly opposed groups, yet within both groups are factions holding thoroughly divergent political ideologies.

This probably should come as no surprise. California’s housing crisis, and the policies that created it, incorporate big, challenging issues: income inequality, how to treat the homeless, environmental protection, public finance. Libertarians and leftists, along with Republicans and Democrats, are lining up on both sides of the debate, confounding easy categorization.

A grassroots organization fighting to preserve local control over residential zoning decisions is Livable California, founded by SF Bay Area activists in opposition to state legislation that would override local control of zoning laws. In less than two years, Livable California has grown its direct statewide membership to well over ten thousand, and has networked with allied groups that have hundreds of thousands of members.

If you follow the money, however, Livable California’s opposition, California YIMBY (“Yes in my backyard”), is far better funded. Receiving millions in support mostly from Bay Area tech moguls, California YIMBY and allied organizations lobby for state legislation mandating high density housing, as well as sue cities that resist existing state laws mandating high density.

Needless […] Read More

What Democratic Party Rule Will Do to America

Recent and ongoing events, historic by any standard, have emphatically refuted anyone who thought a black swan event could not possibly disrupt America’s 2020 election. Recent events might also suffice to remind us that yet another Black Swan event could transpire before the November election, creating additional political disruption.

Regardless of how America’s public health and economic fortunes withstand this current ordeal, most establishment media along with the social media monopolies are firmly in the camp of the Democrats. They will present everything that happens between now and November in a manner to favor Democratic candidates and harm Republicans.

It’s hard to win when nearly every special interest group in the nation is getting its pockets greased by policies supported by Democrats, and every one of them is using every financial resource they’ve got to elect more Democrats.

What’s astonishing isn’t that Republicans still cling to a razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate, it’s that there are any Republicans left, anywhere.

With billions of dollars pouring in from leftist billionaires, multinational corporations, and public-sector unions, the Democrats have set ambitious goals. The liberal website Vox identifies no fewer than 11 U.S. Senate races they claim Democrats could take and unseat incumbent Republicans. The politically neutral Cook Political Report ranks four races for the U.S. Senate, in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina, as “toss-ups.” As reported in The Hill, “changing demographics” (along with a stupefying amount of out-of-state money) have put North Carolina […] Read More

Post-Coronapocalypse Pension Reform Checklist for California

In a perfect world, California’s state and local public employees would receive exactly the same retirement benefits as federal employees. They would receive a modest defined benefit, a contributory 401K, and they would participate in Social Security.

Unfortunately, in California, while some state and local public employees are offered 401Ks, and many participate in Social Security, all of them rely inordinately on a defined benefit pension. Far from being modest, even the most minimal examples of defined benefit plans for California’s state and local government workers provide roughly twice the value of the typical defined benefit offered federal workers. And where there’s twice the value, there’s twice the cost.

In reality, however, twice the cost would be a bargain. It’s much worse than that, and very little has been done. In 2013, the PEPRA (Public Employee Pension Reform Act) legislation lowered pension benefit formulas in an attempt to restore financial sustainability to California’s public employee pensions. But these revisions, which resulted in defined benefit formulas only about twice as generous as the federal formulas, only applied to new employees.

California’s Pension Systems Were Crashing Before the Coronapocalypse

Two years ago, and after more than eight years of a bull market in the stock market indexes, CalPERS, which is by far the largest pension system in California, had already announced that contributions from participating agencies were going to roughly double. They posted “Public Agency Actuarial Valuation Reports” that disclosed the details per agency.

At the time, in partnership […] Read More

Is Gavin Newsom California’s Denier-in-Chief?

California’s newly elected governor, Gavin Newsom, gave his first “state of the state” address on February 12, and it was a speech more noteworthy for what he didn’t than for what he did mention. Were Newsom’s sins of omission the conscious choice of a seasoned politician, or is he in denial, like so many of his California leftist cohorts?

Before criticizing the content, and the omissions, of Newsom’s speech, it’s necessary to make something clear: Nobody can deny California’s accomplishments; its great universities; its vibrant, diverse industries; its global economic and cultural influence. But California’s accomplishments are in spite of its state government, not because of it. That cannot be emphasized enough.

Newsom began by saying Californians had to make “tough calls” on the issues of transportation, water, energy, migrants, the homeless, healthcare, and the cost-of-living. He proceeded next to make no tough calls.

Forget About Fixing Roads, Let’s Build Half a Bullet-Train With respect to transportation, Newsom made no mention of California’s crumbling, clogged freeways and connector roads. To be fair to Newsom, when you don’t have to commute day after day during rush hour—and even when you do drive, you have a driver so you can sit in the back seat of a very quiet, very smooth ride, and conduct teleconferences—you don’t really think about “roads” the same way the rest of us do. So understandably, Newsom chose to talk about high speed rail, and even on that topic, he hedged his bets. He proclaimed the project would […] Read More