How the People Can Fix California

The deadline to file citizens initiatives for the November 2022 state ballot is this August, and not nearly enough has been done so far. Active measures submitted to the California Attorney General include the highly necessary proposition to “prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude,” along with one to “require earth sustainability training in public schools.” Because apparently we’re still coping with slavery in California, and our public schools are not already inculcating sufficient climate change panic.

Other active measures carry more substance, for example, affecting child custody cases, gambling, and medical negligence lawsuits. But even these, while important, are nibbling around the edges of policy. They will affect the lives of some people, and that may be good or bad, but everyday life in California will not change.

Meanwhile, in a state that once offered hope and opportunity to everyone, most Californians now struggle to survive. The privileged classes – seniors in homes they bought two generations ago, tech workers who learned to code, and the upper strata of public sector employees – exist to serve the elites, a generous handful of billionaires and centi-millionaires. For everyone else, life is tougher every year.

For every essential – homes, rent, tuition, gasoline, electricity – Californians pay the highest prices in America. 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. And all of this […] Read More

Government Unions and California Ballot Propositions

Californians voted on twelve state ballot propositions on November 3. On nine of these propositions, California’s government and private sector unions spent significant amounts of money, over a million in five cases, and over ten million in two cases. But of these nine, the unions only got their way on one of them, Prop. 19, which changed some of the rules on how property taxes are applied. And Prop 19 was not a high priority for the unions, with barely over $100,000 in contributions, mostly from Firefighter unions. The big bucks in favor of Prop. 19, over $41 million, came from the real estate industry.

And if it weren’t for Prop. 19, California’s unions would have logged a perfect record on November 3, losing every battle. The real story on November 3 is that California’s tech moguls, and big business, in that order, are willing and able to spend California’s unions into the ground when they decide that’s what is necessary to protect their interests. Before reflecting on the implications of that staggering fact, it’s worth having a closer look at some of the battles.

The chart shown below summarizes total spending in support and in opposition to the twelve ballot propositions on November 3. As reported by the California Secretary of State, unions, mostly government unions, spent $68 million on ballot propositions. That is based on information updated through October 17, and does not include in-kind contributions, so the actual spending was higher. The biggest […] Read More

Citizen Initiatives Transform Oxnard Politics

California’s ballot initiative process allows citizen activists to bypass politicians who are controlled by special interests. The ability for citizens today to connect and organize using online resources means it has never been easier for a determined group of individuals, without access to big donors, to nonetheless successfully qualify reform measures for the ballot and put them before voters.

A current example of this is the ongoing RecallGavin2020 campaign. This volunteer organization is already half-way towards collecting enough signatures to force Governor Newsom to defend his position in a special recall election. The 800,000 signed recall petitions collected so far, all by volunteers, is already in record territory. These volunteers have made history.

What can be done statewide can also be done locally. Back in 2019, in Oxnard, a small group of activists, led by Aaron Starr, a local executive with a financial background including a CPA, began working to qualify five reform initiatives. The audacity of their effort to qualify not one, but five reform initiatives was noteworthy at the time, as reported in a California Policy Center article “Citizen Reformers Set to Transform Oxnard’s Politics.”

With the November 2020 election over, what has happened in Oxnard sets an inspiring example for reform activists in every city and county in California. Following through on their plans, Starr’s group, dubbed the “Coalition for Moving Oxnard Forward,” have seriously disrupted business as usual in the City of Oxnard. For each of the five reform measures they proposed, they […] Read More

Using Online Resources to Qualify Ballot Measures

There is a mass delusion afflicting millions of Californians. They endure a cost-of-living nearly twice the national average, high taxes, the highest incidence of poverty, the most hostile business climate, some of the worst K-12 schools, well over a $1.0 trillion in bond and pension debt, unaffordable homes, among the highest prices in the nation for gasoline and electricity, water rationing, and they drive on congested and decaying roads and freeways.

Yet the latest PPIC poll, released this month, finds 49 percent of likely voters approve of Governor Newsom’s job performance, and 47 percent approve of the state legislature.

Meanwhile, on the streets and in the parks of every major California city, over 150,000 homeless people are permanently encamped. Literally tens of thousands of them are either insane, diseased, drug addicts, criminals, or all of the above. As working Californians attempt to keep their shops open, or walk to work, or live in peace, these homeless, who need help, not “lifestyle tolerance,” defecate, shoot heroin, and shriek in terror of schizophrenic demons. But instead of declaring an emergency, Governor Newsom just throws additional billions at what is a well documented scam, where politically favored cronies build “supportive housing” at average costs of over $500,000 per unit.

Yet this same poll finds that “fifty-eight percent of Californians are optimistic that the governor and legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot […] Read More

Local and State Initiatives – The Future of Policy in California?

Grassroots activists in California point to the initiative process as a potent and underutilized last resort, capable of ushering in sweeping reforms. They’re right, but the initiative process is equally available to California’s progressives, backed by powerful special interests. And while the activist reformers talk, the progressives act.

How else to explain the hundreds of local ballot initiatives that are marketed to voters in California’s cities and counties every time there’s an election, which in aggregate soak taxpayers for billions in new taxes every year? In November 2016, out of 224 local tax proposals, voters approved over 70 percent, adding $2.9 billion in new taxes. In November 2018, out of 259 local tax measures, voters approved another estimated $1.6 billion per year in new taxes.

The vast majority of these tax measures are sponsored by special interests who stand to gain from their passage. In fact, many if not most local tax measures are supported by elected officials representing city and county governments, and they utilize the resources of their agencies to promote these measures. As California Policy Center President Will Swaim wrote in 2016, “Despite multiple legal decisions limiting the practice, municipal officials in California may be paying outside consultants to run the campaign to sell you on your local tax measure.”

The way public agencies get away with this is under the guise of “educating” the voters about the impact of new taxes. “Education,” of course, is a word with a broad range of defensible […] Read More