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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« September 2005 | | November 2005 »
October 31, 2005

The tax issue

John Myers analyzes the gov's latest Prop. 76 ad here. He focuses on the question of whether Prop. 76 would make a tax increase less likely or not. His factual analysis is accurate as far as it goes, but I think it misses the broader purpose of the ad, which is political and aimed at the future as much as at next week's election. The more the governor campaigns on the tax issue, the more he can claim, if the measure is defeated, that the voters have effectively released him from any no-tax pledge he made in the past. I actually think it is highly unlikely that Schwarzenegger will raise taxes next year. He won't need to. He's facing a projected $6 billion gap in the operating budget, but he'll have a year-end surplus approaching $3 billion plus $3 billion still in the bank from his bond measure. Thus, unless there is a terrorist attack, an earthquake or a pandemic, the 2006 budget should be the easiest in years. But the use of that borrowed money will mean the problem has not gone away. So January of 2007 will be the crunch time on taxes, if it ever comes. I suspect in his reelection campaign Schwarzenegger will shy away from any new pledges on taxes. So whether Schwarzenegger is reelected or defeated, by the time 2007 rolls around, whoever is governor will have a relatively free hand to propose whatever he or she wants in terms of revenue. Getting it through the Legislature would be another matter.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:38 PM



Alito's future

Election Law blogger Rick Hasen predicts that Alito will not be confirmed. He says Democrats will threaten a fillibuster and pro-choice Republicans will balk at breaking it. I disagree. I think the Miers debacle put a premium on qualifications over ideology, and gave Bush the public-opinion opening he needed to appoint another highly qualified if very conservative justice. Most voters will be getting Supreme Court fatigue about now and will say, hey, this guy is smart, experienced and can do the job, and Bush promised when he ran to appoint conservatives, so let him go. Maybe not most voters in my state. But most voters in the country. Barring the disclosure of some unknown skeleton in his closet, he'll be confirmed.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:25 PM



Security--not

Schwarzenegger's people have called a press conference for later today to complain about this assault on one of their supporters at a union rally against the governor's agenda in Los Angeles on Friday. The harassment of the woman -- including the actions of union security guard who took the woman's sign and tore it to pieces -- is abhorent. I'd hope that union organizers would condemn it as well. Emotions run high and these things do happen as individuals fail to exercise self-restraint. They need not be a symbol of the entire movement if the leadership steps up and apologizes for the behavior. Otherwise, the kind of thugish behavior exhibited on the video will come to be seen as an extension of the political brutishness the public employee unions all too often exercise inside the Capitol.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:26 AM



Feinstein mum on Alito

With each Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, Sen. Feinstein's reactions seem to be getting shorter and shorter. In her latest, on today's choice of Judge Samuel Alito, she even urges others to refrain from commenting:

"I would hope that people on both sides would hold their fire, allow the Judiciary Committee to do its work, and not take a position until that work is completed.

UPDATE: Apparently, Nancy Pelosi didn't get the memo.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:12 AM



October 28, 2005

Mortgage defaults up

Mortgage defaults increased in California for the first time in three years during the third quarter of 2005.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:01 PM



'Give me the tools'

Here's an AP story on the governor's new humble ad.

You can see the ad for yourself here.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:09 AM



PPIC: None of gov's measures winning

Here is the final PPIC poll before the election.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:06 AM



October 27, 2005

Back to school

Gray Davis takes a teaching gig at UCLA.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:15 PM



Four more forums

Here is the schedule for the four special elections forum set to be televised in local markets between now and Nov. 6.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:00 PM



Poll positions

The PPIC poll due out tomorrow has three of the gov's four measures behind and Prop. 75 in a dead heat. The governor's consultants held a briefing today and acknowledged that 76 is trailing, though they said it was behind only narrowly not by the 30 points others have shown. They say 74 is tracking dead even, and they are ahead on 75 and 77.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:50 PM



October 26, 2005

Early voting in LA

LA County begins live early voting for Nov. 8.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:09 PM



October 25, 2005

Simon out of treasurer's race

Bill Simon, the investor and philanthropist who was the Republican nominee against Gray Davis in 2002, has sent a letter to supporters informing them that he won’t be a candidate for state treasurer next year as he had planned.

In the letter, Simon cites the oft-used “personal” reasons for backing out, saying he wants to spend more time with his family. But this is one case where that might actually be true. Simon has confided in friends in recent months that the unanticipated pressures involved in caring for their developmentally disabled 17-year-old son have been all-consuming for him and his wife, Cindy. Still, Simon says he hopes to run again for public office again in the future.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:43 PM



Ratings for Monday's forum

How many people saw the special election forum last night on KTVU in the Bay Area? The station says the show got a 3.7 rating, which they believe translates into about 87,000 homes and a potential 235,000 sets of eyeballs.

UPDATE: The Chronicle's culture blogger puts those numbers in some perspective here.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:54 PM



The right-wing neighborhood

Treasurer Phil Angelides does his part to elevate the political discourse of the state with this Internet political cartoon he's releasing today. I hate to be a prude, but if Republicans continually mocked a Latino politician's accent the way the left does with the governor, wouldn't there be cries of outrage from the PC police?

Posted by dweintraub at 10:31 AM



Talking to Democrats

Upon reflection, I think I realize now why Schwarzenegger seemed different last night, despite using his stump speech lines as the basis for most of his answers in the Walnut Creek forum: he was talking to Democrats. Too much this year, Schwarzenegger has been preaching to a Republican choir and talking to Democrats and Independents as if they thought like Republicans.

Last night, for the first time, he had to look Democratic voters in the eye and explain to them why a spending limit might be in their interests, not just as taxpayers but as recipients of government services, or why it makes sense to require public employee unions to ask permission from their members each year before taking political money out of their paychecks. That slight change, a ramping down of the emotion and buzz words and a lifting up of logical argument and example, made a huge difference. Instead of just preaching, he was approaching that rarity in the political world: communication.

Alas, the handlers obviously have concluded that this is not an election about changing minds but about revving up the base, so the gov is scheduled today to do a rally in San Diego at the Republican Party headquarters.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:54 AM



October 24, 2005

My take

We’ll have to see if anybody’s watching this forum or will watch others if they are held. But if the governor is smart, he’ll barnstorm the state and do them in every city. Most voters haven’t seen Schwarzenegger since the campaign, other than in brief snips on the news. They’ve seen and heard him portrayed as an ogre, a bully, an idiot. But his command of the issues is far better than it was two years ago, and he can articulately make his case for his measures, even in the face of tough questions from voters who disagree with him. He relied on his stump speech material at times, but he wasn’t overly scripted. He mixed in humor. He used anecdotes to make his points. He wasn’t perfect. But he was close to it. His opponents weren’t terrible, but they were what they were: defenders of the status quo. If two-thirds of Californians think the state is going in the wrong direction, they’re not likely to be convinced by these folks that everything is just fine.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:39 PM



Gov's close

"We need reform,. We have a broken system. That’s why you sent me to Sacramento. To fix the broken system. Please give me the tools.”

Posted by dweintraub at 7:25 PM



Partisan? No way

A questioner accuses Schwarzenegger of paving the way for a right-wing gerrymander.

Gov: In Ohio, the Republcians are mad at me because I have endorsed their redistricting measure and the Republicans are in the majority. This has nothing to do with Democrats versus Republicans. We don't even know what the outcomes will be...

Posted by dweintraub at 7:23 PM



Power to the people

Gov: The best things in this state were created by the people. The coastal commission. Stem cell research. Prop. 13.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:20 PM



Prop. 77

Question: why not require competitive districts instead of just hoping judges will draw them that way?

Gov: The districts should be designed based on what makes sense as a district, rather than where the Republicans are and where the Democrats are. We have to draw the lines regardless of what the outcomes are.

We want to give the power back to the people. The politicians are fighting that.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:19 PM



Prop. 77

Why draw new districts now?

Gov: The system is fixed. Out of 153 seats, none of them changed party. The politicians drew the district lines, picking their own voters rather than the voters picking the politicians. Democrats and Republicans alike. Both parties sat down and carved out from themselves districts to protect themselves.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:17 PM



Expect many encores

My sense is that Schwarzenegger is doing pretty well in this format. He's going to want to have one of these every night until the election.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:14 PM



Prop. 13

Question: be politically courageous. Reform Prop. 13. The schools need more money.

Gov: The people of California have voted for Proposition 13. ..People overwhelmingly have voted for that. I met a lady, an older lady, crying the day after the election. "Thank God ….I would have lost my house." It was unfair to the people of California.

Then he adds: $3 billion for the schools this year. A record amount. Where are the record outcomes?

Posted by dweintraub at 7:13 PM



Prop. 76

Why give the gov unilateral powers over the budget?

Gov:

There seems to be some confusion. The other side says it’s a power grab….

"They don’t want change. That’s the bottom line."

He then gives a pretty good answer on the mid-year budget cuts, and how the Legislature would have 45 days to make a decision. He doesn't mention that with the current line-up, Republicans would probably side with him and block the Democrats from acting.

"There is a balance of power there."


Posted by dweintraub at 7:08 PM



Prop. 75

The governor gets several questions about 75. He says he's not going after union members, only the "union bosses."

"I think the people have sent legislators to Sacramento to represent the people, not to represent the unions."

Posted by dweintraub at 7:04 PM



Prop. 75

Question: are you tryng to silence working people, members of unions?

Gov: "I'm a union member myself."

Use the money., he says of the unions. Use ten times as much money. But use it for members. Don't take money out of peoples paychecks without permission.

"We're just saying get permission."

Follow up: corporations don't get permission from shareholders.

Governor: "They should." Says he would support that on the ballot.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:59 PM



Prop. 74

Gov gets a question from a Republican who's heard that Prop. 74 would give school districts an incentive to get rid of teachers early so they don't have to pay them more, and one from a Democrat who says states with one-year tenure to better than states with longer requirements.

Gov: "I"m not smart enough to come up with this." It was written by education leaders.

Actually, it was written by a Republican legislator.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:57 PM



Prop. 74

From a Democrat whose son had aterrible teacher. The boy came home in tears. Why not mentor new teachers?

Gov: I think it's important to help the new teachers. Support them. But they shouldn't get tenure for life after two years....We want to support our teachers but we need to make sure our children get the best education. We cannot get rid of the teacher because the unions are holding on. It's unfair. It's a broken system...

Posted by dweintraub at 6:52 PM



Prop. 74

Gov starts off not answering the questions either. He is asked how can we recruit more teachers, and he gives his stump speech for 74.

"One thing I know for sure, that is, right now the way the system works we cannot get rid of teachers who are failing our students."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:50 PM



Gov up next

After closing statements, the Dems leave and Schwarzenegger prepares to enter.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:43 PM



First Tom DeLay reference

DeMoro: We have the exterminator and the terminator.

(Even though Prop. 77 would prevent the very kind of redistricting DeLay engineered in Texas.)

Posted by dweintraub at 6:42 PM



Prop. 77

Perata is asked about the coastal district that's 200 miles long and about 200 feet wide. He says they drew it that way to protect the incumbent -- and the coast. The liberal Democrat in that seat was a big environmentalist and they wanted to keep her seat safe.

Answering another question, Perata again admits that they take the needs of incumbents in mind.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:41 PM



Prop. 77

Perata says if Prop. 77 passes there won't be time to implement it for 2006:

“It will be absolute chaos next year. Absolute chaos. Maybe that’s what the designers of this had in mind.”

Posted by dweintraub at 6:39 PM



Prop. 77

Perata gets a tough question from a San Francisco Democrat and answers with some b.s. He says he has proposed an independent commission -- doesn't say his commissioners would be appointed by legislators. He says Prop. 77 allows legislators to pick the retired judges on the panel. Not true. The judges are nominated by the judicial council and the legislator helps winnow the list, but the final panel members are picked by lot.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:36 PM



Honest answer

Perata makes a good argument for his side:

"California's budget is a mess."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:31 PM



Prop. 76

Another Democrat asks, why not use revenue-averaging to keep lawmakers from spending big surplusses?

DeMoro: It's all about giving the governor more power. We should raise business taxes instead.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:29 PM



Prop. 76

Question from Craig Robertson., Republican from Hayward, a high school teacher.

Prop. 76 forces the state to repay its debts to local government. How can you oppose a proposition that will force the Legislature to keep its promises?

Perata:
"This is really a Ponzi scheme. …All we’re doing in this particular proposition is to pit one group against another."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:27 PM



Who picked these people?

So far all of the questions have been pointed. The governor's people didn't pick this audience, but if they had, they couldn't have been any happier with the queries.

The Dems just took another question on why the public employee unions spent so much on Gray Davis when their members didn't support him, and another from a business woman complaining about high taxes.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:24 PM



Prop. 75

A Democrat from Los Altos, and another tough question for Perata: why should union members be forced to pay dues for politics?

He hands off to DeMoro.

"The corporations outspend unions 13 to 1. The governor wants to make it 13 to 0...He wants a football field with one team."


Posted by dweintraub at 6:18 PM



Prop. 75

A Republican nurse asks DeMoro, why are you spending so much money fighting the governor's proposal?

"How did teachers, nurses and firefighters become the enemy all in the sudden in California?"

The governor says it's not the nurses, it's their union. But the CNA's treasurer is a working nurse:

"She takes care of babies with cancer."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:15 PM



Prop. 74

Another question along the same lines: Isn't it too hard, too lengthy a process, to fire a bad teacher?

Perata, a former teacher, parries. He talks about how hard it is to be a teacher.

"If you’ve never been in a classroom for real with 30 or 35 high school kids it’s like live ammunition for the very first time.”

Then, back to the talking points:

"We are talking about really the wrong thing. If we wanted to have a longer tenure process where there was more teacher training…I would be all for it. This I think is really a meat ax."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:13 PM



Prop 74

The first two questions: why should teachers have any different job protection from the rest of us?

Both DeMoro and Perata turn to their talking points: this was put on the ballot to punish teachers.

Perata:
"I believe we have on the books now everything that is necessary... I think this was simply a way to punish and blame teachers for what's wrong with education."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:09 PM



Oppo time

First up: the governor's opponents. Represented by Senate Leader Don Perata and nurses union leader Rose Ann DeMoro.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:02 PM



And then, in 1983...

P1010003.JPG

Sometimes it's hard to tell the spinner from the spin-ee. Bee columnist Dan Walters, left, gives Republican Steve Poizner a thumbnail history of redistricting reform.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:33 PM



Friday night: Fight night

Word is that the governor's opposing presenter at the Fresno forum scheduled for Friday will be none other than Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Too bad they won't be sharing the stage. That would almost be worth the drive.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:30 PM



Inside-out

P1010002.JPG

Todd Harris, spokesman for the governor's campaign team (facing camera), tries to persuade LA Times columnist George Skelton that Schwarzenegger really can do more with less.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:29 PM



Spin Alley

P1010001.JPG

Posted by dweintraub at 5:25 PM



Nurses: Happy Anniversary, baby

Remember the infamous women's conference a year ago at which Schwarzenegger uttered the line he now wishes he never did -- about kicking the "butts" of the special interests in Sacramento? The nurses who took the line as an attack on them, embraced it and turned it into their rallying cry are promising to return to the scene of the crime when the gov holds the conference in Long Beach again on Thursday. Shum Preston, a spokesman for the California Nurses Assn., is in spin alley tonight doing advance work for a protest the union is sponsoring outside Thursday's event.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:14 PM



Logistics

The forum tonight is at the Lesher Theater in downtown Walnut Creek. A few reporters may be inside the hall, but since you can't tape in there, or type, not many working scribes will want to be in the audience. So the event's organizers have set up a makeshift press room at Massimo Ristorante, a little place across the street and down the block. The room has a few televisions and, allegedly, a wi-fi line, though my colleagues seem to be having trouble using it. (I brought my own connection via an EVDO-capable cellular card.) The press room also doubles as "spin alley" -- and it's lousy with the consultants, spokespeople, etc for the campaigns, who are already plying their trade an hour before start time.


Posted by dweintraub at 5:02 PM



First in a series

The gov's office informs that he will indeed face voters at least twice more before the election. He is taping an event with Univision on Tuesday and doing a live event in Fresno on Friday.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:29 PM



Watch this space

I'm planning to live-blog the special election campaign forum in Walnut Creek tonight. The event is the only one scheduled so far at which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will take questions from an audience not selected by his staff or allies. It starts at 6 p.m. and will be aired on KTVU in the Bay Area but nowhere else. Senate Leader Don Perata and Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Assn., will take the stage for the first half of the 90-minute event. The governor will appear alone during the second half. So if Monday Night Football isn't holding your interest, stop by here for a fix of political news and analysis.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:04 PM



Why less might be more

George Skelton is right when he says part of the governor's rationale for Prop. 76 is at best confusing: Schwarzenegger wants to limit spending, he says, so he can spend more on the state's infrastructure. But even if the governor has not done a good job articulating it, there is some logic to that argument. If you're constantly fighting debt, deficits and short-term shortfalls, you're never going to have the discipline to invest in your future, even if those investments are necessary to improve your long-term financial condition. Smoothing out the state's revenue swings and tweaking the Prop. 98 formulas could put the state on a more stable path going forward, allowing it to plan ahead and spend more money on repairing and rebuilding California's inadequate public works.

UPDATE: There's also an even simpler explanation (which often is the best): Prop. 76 itself mandates that in big revenue years, some of the new money be set aside and spent on infrastructure. So it does this almost by definition.

UPDATE 2: The San Jose Mercury-News endorses Prop. 76.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:29 AM



Boltin' Joe to endorse 77

Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Contra Costa County is scheduled to endorse Proposition 77 today, the first (and probably only) Democrat in the Legislature to break from the party leadership and support the measure that would take the job of drawing district boundaries away from politicians and give it to a panel of retired judges.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:36 AM



October 22, 2005

Governor pulls ads

AP says the campaign has yanked ads featuring Schwarzenegger while leaving on the air those in which others vouch for his measures.

UPDATE: The AP story was based on this one in the LA Times.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:32 AM



State lawyers union agrees to pension reforms

Attorneys could opt out of the pension system in exchange for higher pay, and pensions for new employees would be based on their final three years salary, rather than one. Also, lawyers would pay 6 percent of salary into the retirement fund, instead of 5 percent. The pact would give the attorneys raises ranging from 2.5 percent to 5 percent.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:30 AM



October 21, 2005

Births, marriage and poverty

More than half of all unmarried women who give birth in California are living below the poverty level, according to this chart from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unmarried women giving birth were three times more likely than married women to be in poverty.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:44 AM



Killer deer

yosemite sept 2005 009_edited.jpg

When we were in Yosemite a few weeks ago, my wife warned me to stay clear of this deer. They can be vicious, she said. They maul people. I laughed. She was right. As usual.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:27 AM



October 20, 2005

Connecting California

I got a chance to see a preview of the California Connected public affairs show that will air Friday night featuring the governor and the Assembly speaker. The show's producers have interwoven the dueling interviews into a back-and-forth on the issues, and the broader question of why the sides couldn't agree this year, in a way that makes it the closest thing the electorate will see to a debate between the principles. It's worth checking out. A web version will be here after it airs.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:58 PM



"All the money in the world'

Some Republicans say the gov is being too tough on the president, and Democrats want him to get tougher.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:52 PM



October 19, 2005

Ballot requests suggest higher turnout

The Chronicle reports that county registrars are seeing a surge in applications for absentee ballots.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:54 AM



SurveyUSA: props' leads shrinking

SurveyUSA, which raised eyebrows two weeks ago with an automated poll showing all of the governor's ballot measures leading, is out with another survey, this one showing those leads shrinking. You can see the whole thing here.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:15 AM



October 18, 2005

Study on 77's effects withheld

The Oakland Trib reports today that a new study by the Institute for Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley suggests that Prop. 77 would result in more competitive districts but would not help either party in the Legislature. The story says the study was due to be released today. But IGS has canceled its briefing and now says the study won't be released "pending further research."

Posted by dweintraub at 10:34 AM



New anti-76 ad

Prop. 76 opponents have rolled out a new ad today that describes Prop. 76 as a power grab. Here is the link to watch the ad.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:27 AM



Housing economics

News flash: the price of housing is largely driven by supply and demand.

So says a multi-thousand word (and very readable) cover story in the New York Times Magazine. The story shows how ever-more restrictive local zoning laws have shrunk the supply of available land on which to build houses for a growing population. And while builders say they would be happy to build with more density, and probably make more money if they did, local authorities and buyers' tastes across the nation are still moving in the opposite direction. The piece quotes experts predicting that the US market will gradually become similar to that in Europe, where the average person has half as much space and spends seven times their annual salary on a home, compared to less than four times salary currently in the United States.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:55 AM



October 17, 2005

Prop. 76 ad to feature McClintock

Here's an interesting tidbit. The Prop. 76 campaign is preparing to roll out a new ad featuring Sen. Tom McClintock, who came out of the 2003 recall with high marks for credibility from both Democrats and Republicans and is preparing to run next year for lt. gov.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:39 AM



LA Times: Yes on 75

Wow. The LA Times editorial page has endorsed Prop. 75, the union dues measure.

Key passage:

Proposition 75 opponents argue that this is unfair because there is no similar move to curtail the discretion of business lobbyists to invest shareholder resources in politics. But the analogy is flawed, given that this initiative applies only to public employee unions. It's not private businesses that sit across the negotiating table from public employee unions; it's the taxpayers and their elected representatives, acting as stewards of the public interest.

If this notion sounds almost quaint, it is, because it has become so divorced from reality. At many levels of government, public employee unions, aided by their political war chests, have gained control over both sides of the negotiating process. When public employee unions wield the type of influence they now do in California, too much governing becomes an exercise in self-dealing.

To take one example, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has acknowledged it will take a "holy jihad" to assume control of the local school district because teachers unions are so powerful in Los Angeles and Sacramento. Although the mayor opposes Proposition 75, his statement illustrates the need for it.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:35 AM



October 14, 2005

DiFi to oppose gov's agenda

Sen. Feinstein opposes Schwarzenegger's initiatives and hopes to persuade California voters to reject them, her office says.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:04 PM



Plastics

FuturePundit reports on some interesting research at UCLA that could dramatically lower the cost of solar power.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:41 PM



dot-edu

You can question the judgment of the Yes on 75 campaign for sending unsolicited political messages (spam?) to tens of thousands of California teachers. But you have to love the irony of the CTA alleging that doing so is a violation of a state law prohibiting the use of school district funds, services, supplies or equipment to support or oppose a ballot measure. The e-mails came from the campaign, not from the school districts, so it seems like a bit of a stretch to say that they used school resources to promote a political cause. Beyond that, though, should we have a discussion about the CTA union leaders who get release time for union activities? Or more to the point on Prop. 75, what about the propriety of using government resources -- the payroll department -- to collect $50 million in political contributions deducted from teachers' paychecks for the CTA to spend on campaigns this year?

UPDATE: Democratic Party political adviser Bob Mulholland offers this interesting take in response:

Dan- can't you stop your attacks on teachers and unions. Some of it reminds me of the old Soviet bosses' attacks on that Polish public employees' union- Solidarity. Solidarity helped end the Cold War and their union boss, Lech Walesa, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

My take: Wasn't virtually everyone in Poland a public employee after the state seized all means of production? And didn't Walesa help end the cold war by helping to bring down that government and restore to the Polish people their right of private property and private ownership of business? That's why he was a hero. Not because Solidarity was a "public employees' union."

Posted by dweintraub at 11:27 AM



A little levity goes a long way

I haven't been a huge fan of the governor's ads so far. Still waiting for something that really starts a buzz. In contrast, this ad for Proposition 77 struck me as one that could stand out amid the millions of dollars in commercials that will be airing between now and Nov. 8.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:16 AM



Wake up, Mr. President

On the occasion of the momentous vote tomorrow in Iraq, today we leave the friendly confines of California opinion behind and venture across the globe for a bit of econo-political analysis.

Even as Iraqi voters appear more likely to approve their constitution-in-progress Saturday, can there be any doubt that the country has been and remains crippled by its devotion to group think, or, in this case, tri-group think? Everything in Iraq, even the constitution, is weighed in relation to how it affects the power bases of the three main groups: the Shiites, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds (many of whom are also Sunnis). You almost never hear any discussion of what would be good for the average individual Iraqi, a concept which, while clearly foreign to their culture, has the potential to transform the country's politics overnight.

The real tragedy is that there exists an incredibly simple and powerful tool for accomplishing that transformation, and neither the Bush Administration nor its allies/agents in Iraq have pursued it. Think: Alaska.

For many years our oil-heavy northern outpost has had a share-the-wealth policy to distribute some of the royalties from its oil production directly to its citiizens. Every year, every resident of Alaska gets a "Christmas bonus" check from the government, its size depending on how the oil business has been doing in recent years.

Now imagine if the United States had moved to implement such a system in Iraq on Day One of the occupation. A check to every Iraqi for their oil, distributing to the masses a share of the wealth that Saddam plundered for all those years. Such a move would have demonstrated immediately that our aim was to liberate, not to enslave, the Iraqi people, and it would have cut the legs out from underneath a major argument of the insurgency, that Sunnis were going to lose out financially to the Shiites and the Kurds as the oil was divvied up. Imagine the reaction of the people every time the terrorists blew up one of those oil pipelines.

Two-plus years have been squandered, but it's not too late. The constitution remains in flux, and this week's last-minute agreement leaves open the possibility of further amendments after the December elections seat a new parliament. The idea of an "Iraqi Oil Trust" has been kicked around and remains an outside possibility. Steve Clemons, a fellow at the New America Foundation, argued for something similar days after the invasion.

Here is the math: Iraq's current oil production is about 2 million barrels per day, or 730 million per year. At $50 per barrel, that comes to about $36 billion per year, or $1,500 for every man, woman and child in the country. If a check for just, say, 10 percent of that amount went to each resident, that would be $150 a year. (The Alaska model invested a share of the revenues and the annual checks represent the earnings from those investments. That would be another way to do it, but the process would be slower, and speed is of the essence here.)

According to this CNN report, the median income in Iraq is somewhere around $150 to $200 per year, perhaps lower. A check for $150 would be the equivalent of every American getting a check for about $20,000 at the end of each year.

You think that might get Iraqis to understand that they are all in this together, but together as a collection of free and independent human beings -- and not simply as members of warring groups? The incredible poverty in Iraq and a half-century of brutal tryanny seems to have made too many Iraqis feel utterly dependent for their existance on the mosques, religious leaders and the government. It is time to truly set them free, to give them a stake in their own nation's future and in their own futures as individuals.

Note: Before you jump in and say Bush will never argue for this because his oil company buddies would lose all that money, think again. The oilies don't own the Iraqi oil and never will. They make their money extracting it and in some cases from refining and distributing it worldwide. The numbers here are based on a $50 per barrel wholesale price. There's still plenty of money in extraction and retail for the oil companies to make. In fact, the more they make, the richer the individual Iraqi becomes. No, Bush's failure to see the magic in this policy has to be based on stupidity or ignorance, not greed.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:05 AM



October 13, 2005

Kerry v. McCain

In the latest chapter in the battle of out-of-state senators and would-be presidents, John Kerry is scheduled to be in LA today to express his opposition to Prop. 75, the paycheck protection initiative. We're also hearing that while McCain was here the other day endorsing Schwarzenegger's agenda he cut an ad for the governor's campaign team.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:15 AM



LA's enrollment decline

Declining enrollment at LA Unified is bad news for district administrators in the short term, because they will get less money from the state while dealing with fixed costs that won't decline as quickly. But in the long term it is probably good news for the state. Most of the enrollment decline is coming in the elementary grades. That's confirmation that California's school-age population is about to level off, if not slowly decline. If this happens as the economy -- and tax revenues -- continue to grow, it will be easier for the state to increase per-student spending on the schools.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:12 AM



October 12, 2005

September revenues up $900 mil

The Department of Finance has posted the revenue numbers for September, which were about $900 million above the forecast for the month. For the first three months of the fiscal year, revenues are up $1.2 billion, or about 6 percent, above projections. The report is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:00 PM



Dion Nissenbaum kidnapped, released

Dion Nissenbaum, the former Capitol correspondent for the Mercury News now on assignment for Knight Ridder in Israel, was kidnapped at gunpoint today in the Gaza Strip, according to this Reuters report.

UPDATE: Dion's colleagues have been told that he has been released to the Palestinian Authority and will be picked up by the British Embassy.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:31 AM



October 11, 2005

$100 million and change

The governor's people have tallied up the money raised so far by the unions against his initiatives, accounted for transfers among the committees and say the total now tops $100 million. You can expect to hear that number thrown around a lot in the next few days. They say they expect to be outspent by about 3 to 1.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:47 PM



Lobbyists against 76

John Myers takes a look at the new ad against Prop. 76 featuring Craig Brown, who was finance director for former Gov. Pete Wilson. Myers notes that Wilson released a statement today taking a slap at his former adviser. We could also point out that Brown is no unbiased observer in this fight. He is now a lobbyist for the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. -- the powerful prison guards union that won a 37 percent pay raise and a big pension boost from another former governor: Gray Davis.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:18 PM



Fewer laws

Gov. Schwarzenegger signed fewer bills this year -- 729 -- than any California governor since at least 1967, according to legislative staffer Peter Detwiler, who tracks these numbers in an annual report. And while Schwarzenegger is not a veto machine (he apparently works his will more through dissuasion than outright rejection) he has turned back more bills in two years than Jerry Brown did in eight. You can download Peter's full report on the governors here.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:01 AM



Charter school boom

The California Charter Schools Assn. says 84 new charter schools opened this fall, bringing the total statewide to 574 schools serving 212,000 students. That's an increase in enrollment of about 18 percent at a time when traditional school enrollment is essentially flat. Charter schools are public schools run by teachers, principals and parents exempted from most of the rules and regulations ordered by Sacramento and local school districts.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:02 AM



October 10, 2005

Gov, McCain and nurses

Here is LA Times reporter Bob Salladay's "pool report" on Schwarzenegger's visit to a nurses' conference with John McCain after their joint appearance in Burbank this morning. For the uninitiated, a pool report is a memo from one reporter allowed in to an event where either the host or the politician does not want a gang of media traipsing through, for whatever reason. The selected reporter is obligated to share everything he/she sees or hears with colleagues, who usually use it without attribution to the pool member.

Pool Report

After the Sen. John McCain press conference at the Burbank Airport Hilton, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to the Festival Room next door, where about 100 nurses were having lunch.

It was the annual convention of GSG Associates Inc., a Pasadena company. GSG Associates is a statewide group of registered nurses who review workers' compensation claims looking for cost containment for businesses. Website:

www.gsga.net has more on this subject.

When Schwarzenegger entered the crowded room, the nurses applauded and cheered. The governor then looked around and asked where McCain was. The senator walked in amid more cheers and applause.

Schwarzenegger told the utilization review nurses that he "just wanted to drop by" their luncheon. "What they did with the recall is change the governor, but they did not change the system, the broken system," Schwarzenegger said.

"You all are doing a great job. I just think the world of what nurses do," Schwarzenegger said. He said in the past 10 years he has had a heart operation, a hip "replacement" and work on his shoulder.

"This is what happens when you are the Terminator," he said. "They switch body parts on you." He added to more applause: "Let me tell you, after the heart surgery, the doctors went home but the nurses stayed."

"I know they will make you think all the nurses hate me. It's obviously not true. ... But I feel very comfortable here."

McCain then spoke, saying "Americans are not happy today" and want reforms made to the political system. Approving Schwarzenegger's agenda would "send a message around America that reform is on the way." He said America has an urgent shortage of nurses.

After finishing to more applause, Schwarzenegger made his way through the crowd shaking hands with the nurses.

Schwarzenegger was confronted toward the end of the line by Paul Krekorian, the president of the Burbank Board of Education, who had slipped into the room. Krekorian asked the governor why he "broke his promise" to protect education funding under Proposition 98.

Schwarzenegger, looking intensely at Krekorian, responded that Proposition 76 would create a payment schedule to return the money to schools but that there is "no money in the budget" now. Krekorian said there was plenty of money but it is given away in corporate tax loopholes.

Schwarzenegger said he had asked Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez to find money in the budget to return the $2 billion "owed" to schools. "He couldn't find it. We can't spend what we don't have," Schwarzenegger said, before walking away. ###

Posted by dweintraub at 2:14 PM



CTA seeking $40 million loan

A sworn declaration in a lawsuit over the CTA's recent members' dues surcharge says the union already has spent the entire amount it expected to generate over three years from the $60 fee to fight the governor's initiatives and is negotiating for a $40 million line of credit. You can read the affidavit here.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:55 AM



How to spend one dollar three times

Did anybody else notice that Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez endorsed Rob Reiner's nascent initiative to raise taxes to subsidize statewide pre-school for four-year olds? Not a big surprise, of course. Except that the Reiner initiative would use the same tax source (higher rates on the wealthy) that Núñez has already said he wants to use to increase spending on K-12 education. And then there is the little matter that even the current level of spending on education and everything else is still $6 billion more than the state expects to collect from taxes this year. Since Democrats want to close that gap with taxes, too, and they only want to tax the rich, you could say that the speaker has now reserved this particular tax source to be spent in at least three different ways. Two directly and one by implication. The Reiner initiative does have a clause allowing its implementation to be delayed if the tax-the-affluent scheme is enacted by the Legislature first and dedicated to a different cause. Maybe that' what Núñez has in mind. But that approach has two problems. One, it gets the schools dependent on a revenue source that would soon disappear. And two, it does nothing to help the state afford the level of services it is already providing without sufficient taxes to pay for them.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:56 AM



San Diego's role Nov. 8

Here is my column on the San Diego mayor's election, scheduled for Nov. 8. I'm guessing that San Diego, because of this race, is going to have the highest turnout of any major city in the special election. The electorate there already was the core of Schwarzenegger's reform-oriented base. Now they're confronted with near-bankruptcy brought on by a corrupt local government accused (by Democrats) of conspiring with the leaders of the public employee unions to pass an illegal increase in pension benefits. Think that city (and region) might provide a few votes for the governor's agenda?

Posted by dweintraub at 6:44 AM



Teachers and job security

Here is a Bee story on Prop. 74 taking up the issue most often used against the measure: that it would make it harder to recruit good teachers. I'm not a huge fan of 74 because I think it only tinkers around the edges when we need much more radical reform. But like the teacher featured in the story's lead, I doubt this rap is accurate. It's been my experience that talented people don't shy away from a job out of fear that they will be unjustly fired. They just assume they'll do fine. In fact, the opposite might even be true. Teachers with great potential might be repelled from the field if they think colleagues who aren't pulling their weight are overly protected by our current laws. Teachers who go to work in private schools and most public charter schools have little or no job guarantees, no matter how long they have worked there. And these schools don't seem to have much problem recruiting.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:17 AM



McCain joins tour

Sen. John McCain is scheduled to campaign with Gov. Schwarzenegger today in Burbank and Oakland, endorsing his reform agenda.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:08 AM



October 6, 2005

Hoch to replace Siggins

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made Andrea Hoch his chief legal counsel in the governor's office, replacing Peter Siggins, who is acting chief of staff and is expected to leave the administration after the election.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:14 PM



LA mayor rips ballot measures

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa accuses Schwarzenegger of misusing the ballot initiative process.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:12 PM



Succeed, then leave?

Interesting poll from the Survey and Policy Institute at San Jose State. They find that while Schwarzenegger's approval rating has continued to decline and voters are not inclined to reelect him, a plurality still say they would like to see him succeed. I don't think I've ever seen that question asked in a poll before. The report is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:39 AM



October 5, 2005

More on September revenues

I'm now hearing that personal income tax revenues in September also overshot projections by quite a bit, perhaps as much as $400 million. And the corporate tax bump was more like $500 million. So for the month, depending on how the sales tax did, the total take could be around $1 billion more than was projected in the budget. It's way too early in the year to call this a trend, and some observers even think the corporate tax surplus might be related to rebuilding contracts after Katrina. But with Schwarzenegger facing a $6 billion or so projected operating shortfall going into the next fiscal year, a billion here and a billion there would go a long ways toward making life easier for him, the Legislature and the people of California.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:50 PM



Shot in the arm

Three prominent reform groups -- Common Cause, CalPIRG and TheRestOfUs.org -- have endorsed Prop. 77, the redistricting reform measure. These groups, especially Common Cause, have been working for fair, independent district boundaries for a long time. Perhaps their backing of this measure will help dispel the opposition argument that it's a partisan power grab -- for either the Republicans or the Democrats, depending on who is making the accusation.

From the statement by Common Cause national president Chellie Pingree:

“The current system, where self-interested politicians are responsible for drawing political boundaries, is rotten to the core. It’s time to get the fox out of the henhouse and to put an end to California’s rigged system of elections. Prop. 77 takes the power to draw legislative and congressional districts out of the hands of partisan legislators in Sacramento and puts the issue before the voters. This proposal is not perfect, none ever is. But this is an important first step and I urge the people of California to vote yes on Prop. 77."

Posted by dweintraub at 3:35 PM



Campbell leads in OC race

Sen. John Campbell leads the field with 46 percent of the vote in the race to succeed Rep. Chris Cox in Orange County. Anti-immigration activist Jim Gilchrist, running as an American Independent, has 14 percent of the vote and will be on the ballot in the Dec. 6 run-off. The results are here. And check OCBlog for updated analysis.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:09 AM



October 4, 2005

September revenues look strong

No official word yet, but it looks like September was another healthy month for state revenues. Preliminary reports suggest corporate tax revenues came in at least 20 percent higher than projected, yielding a bump of at least $400 million above what was expected for the month. Personal income tax revenues finished the month strong and appear to have at least met projections. Stay tuned for more details in the days ahead.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:10 AM



Poll shows gov's measures ahead

The Schwarzenegger camp is touting the first public poll to show the governor's initiatives leading. You can find it here. It's a SurveyUSA poll done for some California television stations. The firm's polls have taken flak in the past because they use recorded voices to question voters. But they do have a decent track record. One thing unique about this particular poll is that it uses very short, simple (but accurate) questions on the ballot measures instead of the more legalistic ballot language preferred by the established California public polls, like Field and PPIC. The biggest difference between this poll's results and earlier public polls is that this one shows independents siding with Schwarzenegger rather than against him.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:08 AM



October 3, 2005

A half million more say no to parties

Interesting numbers from the secretary of state on voter registration. As of 60 days before the Nov. 8 election, the latest party registration figures show a rapid acceleration in the yearslong trend toward a pox on both major parties.

Since 60 days before the 2003 recall election:

The number of Democrats registered decreased from 44.1 percent to 42.8 percent.

The number of Republicans registered has decreased from 35.3 percent to 34.8 percent.

The number of voters who decline to state a party affiliation has increased from 15.7 percent to 18 percent.

The state now has nearly 850,000 more registered voters than it did two years ago.

I don't see these numbers in there, but my calculations from comparing this report to a previous report show that, since the 2003 recall, the state has about 166,000 more Democrats, 220,000 more Republicans and nearly 500,000 more voters who decline to state any party.

A link to the report is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:22 PM



Another white paper opposing 77

Rick Hasen has posted this critical "white paper" from the No on Prop. 77 campaign picking apart the redistricting reform measure. My favorite part is where it says competitive districts would increase the number of disappointed voters. Why? Because if the final result in a race were 52-48 instead of, say, 65-35, then 48 percent of the voters in that district would be bothered by the result, instead of only 35 percent (my numbers here to illustrate their point). I guess that's one way of looking at it.

NOTE: This post was edited to clarify that the white paper was not Hasen's but merely something from the campaign that he posted on his blog.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:29 PM



The Fleischman blog

Orange County Republican activist Jon Fleischman this morning rolls out his new Web page and blog that features posts from a long line-up of Republican political consultants and activists. Scroll down for Dan Schnur's take on the special election, where he seems to be asking, why aren't these people acting as if the situation is as desperate as it seems? Schnur recommends that Schwarzenegger challenge legislative leaders to a televised debate on the initiatives.

UPDATE: Here is a direct link to the Schnur item.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:36 AM



Feinstein brief on Miers selection

Dianne Feinstein, who opposed the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, was fairly tight-lipped this morning about Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers, his White House counsel, to the court. Here is her first statement:

“While I am pleased the President has named a woman to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, it remains critically important that the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, indeed, the American people learn more about her positions on some of the most important issues facing our nation. This new justice will be critical in the balance with respect to rulings on congressional authority, as well as a woman’s right to privacy, environmental protections, and many other aspects of constitutional law in the United States.”

Posted by dweintraub at 9:37 AM



Social Responsibility

If you read nothing else today, read this fantastic debate among Milton Friedman, John Mackey and T.J. Rodgers about business and social responsibility. Friedman is the Nobel Prize winning economist. Mackey is the founder and CEO of Whole Foods. Rodgers is the co-founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. The exchange is from Reason Magazine.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:11 AM



 
 

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