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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« October 2005 | | December 2005 »
November 30, 2005

Governor makes it official

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just introduced his new chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, the former executive director of the California Democratic Party and a onetime top aide to former Gov. Gray Davis.

“I make decisions a lot of times that are out of the ordinary,” Schwarzenegger said in an understatement. “I never get stuck in a mold.”

Schwarzenegger said he made about 30 calls today to friends and supporters to tell them about his decision, and “95 percent” of them reacted positively.

Kennedy, currently serving as a member of the Public Utilities Commission, said she thought it was time for moderates like her to “put up or shut up” in order to move the state beyond partisan gridlock.

“I believe in this man,” she said. “I believe in what he’s trying to do for the state and where he’s trying to take California.”

She added:

“This is not about being against Democrats. This is about being for change.”

Schwarzenegger thanked his current chief of staff, Patricia Clarey, for her service, and said she would work through December during the transition to Kennedy. He said Clarey told him last summer that she intended to leave the administration shortly after the Nov. 8 election. She was not at the press conference.

UPDATE: FlashReport publisher and former Republican Party executive director Jon Fleischman says he has received 600 emails protesting the Kennedy appointment -- and one phone call from the governor explaining himself.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:32 PM

Another Kennedy?

I think the governor's decision to hire Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff is a smart move. The former Democratic Party operative and aide to Dianne Feinstein and Gray Davis is driven, dogged, and smart, knows the Capitol inside and out and presumably wouldn't be taking the job unless she were dedicated to Schwarzenegger's success. The fact that she is a Democrat simply furthers -- and emphasizes -- what has been an ongoing trend with Schwarzenegger hiring people with whom he feels comfortable, regardless of their ideology. This administration has already been the most bipartisan, in terms of personnel and appointments, of any in recent times, despite significant spin to the contrary.

Right-wingers who are gnashing their teeth at the moment need to remember that, except on economic issues, Schwarzenegger has never been a conservative. He supports abortion rights and gay rights, and takes environmental advice from a real Kennedy: RFK Jr. His most important adviser, meanwhile, has always been his wife, Maria Shriver, a Democrat and Kennedy family member.

That's not going to change no matter who is on his staff. And on economic issues, Susan Kennedy of late has been sounding a lot more like Milton Friedman than like her former bosses. She is a Democrat who believes her party has lost its way in always looking first to government regulators rather than individual initiative and free markets to solve problems. Sounds like a perfect fit for Schwarzenegger to me.

The early speculation is that hiring Kennedy will hurt Schwarzenegger with Republican voters. I don't buy it. Most voters will never know who is in the governor's inner circle. And virtually all voters will judge Schwarzenegger on his results, not on his choice of advisers. If Kennedy helps Schwarzenegger accomplish the goals he has set for his administration, she will help him get reelected.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:40 AM

November 29, 2005

Tight times in Tracy

Here is an interesting article on what amounts to a moratorium on new construction in the city of Tracy, which for years was the poster child for the booming bedroom communities east of the Bay Area. Voter-approved growth limits mean that almost no new houses will be built in the city until at least 2013. Wonder what that will do for the affordability index.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:40 AM

November 28, 2005

Cunningham resigns

Here is the early wire story on the guilty plea and resignation of San Diego Congressman Duke Cunningham.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:48 PM

Maybe because it's still in the oven

Gov. Schwarzenegger hasn't even rolled out his rumored big public works bond proposal, and already the pundits are declaring it half-baked. Here's a sampling from the Bee's Dan Walters, the LA Weekly's Bill Bradley and Jonathan Coupal writing for the online FlashReport.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:07 AM

Angelides: disclose donors

Phil Angelides is going to call today for stricter rules requiring disclosure of private donations used to underwrite foreign trips by the governor. Good for him. Schwarzenegger pledged to be a force for open government. Using private money to pay for his trade trips flies in the face of that pledge.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:01 AM

Maria and Alessandro

David Kopel takes up the case for Tookie Williams' clemency at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:42 AM

November 27, 2005

Electronic voting machines

Depending on how this test goes, the results could be politically explosive.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:12 PM

November 18, 2005

October unemployment: 5.2 percent

The state's unemployment rate inched up to 5.2 percent in October, even as employers created a net of 6,800 new jobs in the month, the Employment Development Department reported. About 23,000 new jobs were created in leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, construction, education and health services, trade and transportation, and natural resources. About 16,000 jobs were eliminated in government, information, professional and business services, other services and finance. The full report is in pdf form here.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:26 PM

October revenues up $478 million

State revenues in October were $478 million, or nearly 10 percent, above the forecast. Most of the gain came in personal income tax revenues. Revenues for the fiscal year are now up $1.7 billion above the forecast. These numbers seem to be in line with the optimistic new forecast of the legislative analyst earlier in the week. The finance department report for October is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:19 PM

November 17, 2005

Just what we need

A proposed ballot measure that has just entered circulation would make Election Day a state holiday and entitle school employees to a paid day off.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:05 PM

Our hot tubbin' gov

Did anybody else wince at this quote in yesterday's Gary Delsohn story about the Schwarzenegger-Shriver relationship:

"My agenda is not geared around women's equality or anything like that," he said. "It's more about trade. This is not going to interest her to talk about intellectual-property protection. It's not going to interest her to talk about selling more wine. That's not her thing...A lot of people don't understand that about our relationship, but I can tell you, it makes it interesting when we sit around in the Jacuzzi at night and talk and when the kids are already asleep. ... 'Hey, what did you do? What did you learn?' I love that," he said.

The substance is bad enough, but what about the setting? Sitting around in the Jacuzzi. Can't get any more Cali cliche than that.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:39 PM

Court rules pension bond illegal

Here is some bad news for the governor -- and good news for California taxpayers. A Sacramento Superior Court judge has ruled that a bond measure Schwarzenegger wanted to use to pay the state's obligation to the pension fund for one year is illegal because it was not submitted to a vote of the people. The state Constitution says that any such debt exceeding $300,000 must be approved by the voters. The Schwarzenegger administration tried to argue that this debt was not created by the Legislature and the governor but imposed on them by the California Public Employment Retirement System, and thus was not subject to the voter-approval requirement in the constitution. The court said no such exemption exists for the state, and furthermore, the obligation to the retirement system was brought about by the Legislature and the previous governor's decision to increase benefits. If this ruling stands, it will blow a $550 million hole in the governor's newly rosy budget outlook, but that is just as well. The state should not be paying current obligations with borrowed money, and that's what this would have done. The governor's position in this case has always stood in strange contrast to his argument that Proposition 57, last year's deficit bond, was necessary because the deficit bond he inherited when he became governor had not been submitted to the people, as required by the constitution. His lawyers tried to argue that the pension debt was different. But that never rang true. The action was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of an Orange County taxpayers group.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:27 PM

November 16, 2005

Google and the future of advertising

Anyone with an interest (that's me) or even a curiosity about the future of newspapers ought to read this article about Google's plans for software that will make it possible to search for anything anyone has uploaded to the company's Web site. It appears to be the first move in a plan by Google to get into classified advertising, which remains something like a third of most metro newspapers' revenue. That revenue is already being drained away by services such as eBay and Craig's List. If Google jumps in, watch out.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:39 PM

LAO forecast: great news for governor

The LAO's new long-term forecast for the state's fiscal picture is here.

The bottom line is that her forecast could not be any more favorable for the Schwarzenegger Administration. Revenues are up, significantly, and expenditures are running a bit below forecast.

HIll projects that the state will end the current fiscal year with a positive balance of about $5.2 billion. That's $1.3 billion that was already budgeted as a reserve, plus about $1 billion more than had been assumed in higher revenues from prior years, and $2.9 billion in higher revenues in the current year.

She also projects that the ongoing, structural shortfall, which hasn't gone away, will shrink to $4 billion in the 2006-07 budget year, for which the governor will propose a budget in January.

What this means is that the governor, without tapping into his deficit bond reserve, raising taxes, or reducing projected spending, could propose a budget that uses this year's surplus to cover next year's shortfall, and have money to spare—about $1.2 billion in reserve. Interestingly, this scenario would include full funding for Prop. 98 (as currently defined) -- including the first funding for Schwarzenegger's long dormant Prop. 49 expansion of after school programs.

Basically, the three-year workout that he has said was his goal all along has nearly come to pass.

Now there is still the little problem of that structural shortfall, which keeps shrinking but won't quite go away.

Hill projects that in 07-08, it will again be at the $4 billion level, before slowly fading each year to almost nothing by 2010-11, even if the state takes no corrective action, i.e raising taxes or cutting projected spending.

The most likely prospect is that Schwarzenegger, or whoever is governor in January 2007, will use the last of his deficit bond to cover the shortfall one more time, and they will just keep fudging things from there, a few trims, a few fund shifts, until the books finally balance.

The one caveat, and it is not a small one, is that the state remains in a very precarious fiscal position. If a recession hits or if revenues simply fall short of what Hill is projecting, the structural shortfall starts growing again, to a point where it could not be managed.

Hill's forecast seems much brighter than the hints the governor's people were putting out a week ago. I suspect they just want to use very conservative projections to keep the heat on the Legislature to not start increasing spending again, so that the shortfall number keeps shrinking, perhaps faster than Hill's projection suggests it will.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:41 AM


Hundreds of marchers backed by the signatures of 10,000 parents, students and other residents of mostly poor South Los Angeles demanded Tuesday that the Los Angeles Unified School District relinquish control of a large, troubled high school -- aptly named Jefferson -- and turn it over to a charter school operator who wants to run it for the community. The school district is resisting but is trying to negotiate a truce that would break the school into smaller units, each run by a different outfit. Pretty soon a smart politician, could be from either party, is going to see that there is a massive groundswell building against ineffective, bureuacratic control of our public schools. The groundswell is strongest in the poorest communities where the schools, for whatever reason, are doing little more than warehousing the students on their way to a dysfunctional adulthood. When are the Democrats who claim to represent these people going to see that running the schools from Sacramento or downtown Los Angeles is not working, and that they need to do everything they can to tap into the energy of these parents who are desperate to create a better life for their kids? Republicans get this, but, unfortunately, won't act on their good instincts because they fear that decentralizing the schools will only further empower the teachers unions that have fought against reforms and accountability. As these Los Angeles parents realize, charter schools remain the best option for cutting through this knot and returning control of the schools to parents and the communities where it belongs while retaining oversight and accountability at the regional and state levels.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:24 AM

Lockyer, Girardi and Sempra

Bill Lockyer is set to announce today a lawsuit against San Diego-based Sempra Energy alleging that the firm manipulated electricity supplies to drive up prices during the California crisis. The LA Daily News, meanwhile, has an interesting story here suggesting that the timing of Lockyer's suit appears to play into the hands of a trial lawyer who has been a major Lockyer contributor and is suing Sempra in a separate case involving natural gas supplies.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:26 AM

November 15, 2005

Feinstein: Alito backs off abortion comment

Here is an AP story on Feinstein's meeting today with Judge Alito. They talked about his 1985 statement that there is no constitutional right to abortion, and she says he backed away from it.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:33 PM

Violent crime rate lowest since '72

A new report from the attorney general on crime in California is available here. The rate for violent crime fell 5 percent in 2004 compared to 2003, to its lowest level since 1972. Property crime increased slightly, on the strength of a mini-surge in auto theft.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:04 PM

The Reiner Initiative

John Myers reports here that Rob Reiner and friends have gathered 1 million signatures for their subsidized preschool initiative, enough to qualify it for the June 2006 ballot. Reiner wants to pay for his program with the same upper-income tax that legislators want to use to pay for higher K-12 spending and Phil Angelides wants to use to balance the budget, i.e. pay for health, education and welfare that the state is already providing with money it does not have. You can't spend this money on preschool and also spend it to increase K-12 spending or balance the budget. But I don't expect anyone on the left to acknowledge that reality in the campaign ahead.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:15 AM

Local tax and fee votes

Local government finance guru Michael Coleman posts a roundup here of all the tax, fee and bond proposals that were on the Nov. 8 ballot and how they fared. In general, voters seem to like tourism taxes and school bonds. Utility tax hikes did not fare as well.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:02 AM

The technology party

I'm impressed by the strategy behind this Nancy Pelosi speech. I've long felt that both parties have neglected the potential in portraying themselves as the technology party -- which implicitly means the party of the future. It's smart politics, and some of it might even be good government.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:45 AM

Stop the presses?

Daniel Gross opines here on why he thinks Knight-Ridder, the owner of the San Jose Mercury News and many other newspapers, will have a hard time finding a buyer.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:22 AM

November 14, 2005

Clean Money

Supporters of the California Clean Money Act -- public financing for political campaigns -- plan to make a big push for their bill, AB 583, when the Legislature reconvenes in January, and they say they're looking for a new, dedicated source of revenue to fund it.

Here are my thoughts.

First, while I have never been a big fan of public financing, I think its time may have come. The defeat of Prop. 75 last week suggests that public employee union money will continue to be the primary source of funding for California Democrats for the foreseeable future. To a lesser degree, Republicans are prisoners of corporate money. While we often compare the public employee money to corporate money as if they were opposite sides of the same equation, they are not quite that. Corporate money tends to be from a much more diverse set of interests with a variety of goals. No one company has nearly the influence on Republican legislators that, say, the CTA has on Democrats. And business gives more to Democrats than the unions give to Republicans. Much of the time, when the public employee unions are pushing something in their narrow interest, almost nobody is pushing back on the other side. Did any individual company oppose the pension bills that went through a few years ago? The state, its people and its businesses would be better off if we find a way to elect Democrats who feel free to say no to the public employee unions. And the only way to do that is to wean them off that money, to match the union money with our money. The funny thing is that public financing has always been pushed by the left, as a way to free Republicans from corporate money. But in California I think it might play out differently.

For the revenue source, I'd suggest a 1 percent increase in the bank and corporation tax. (That's one percent of what they pay already -- not a percentage point on the rate, which would be a much larger increase in the total tax.) The corporations tax now brings in about $10 billion a year. A one-percent increase would yield about $100 million. I'd use that money to finance legislative races. Again, the business community, which normally squawks at both tax hikes and public financing of campaigns, should like this idea. It would be money well spent.

As for the method of distributing it, I'd prefer something as decentralized as possible. I like the "patriot dollars" concept that proposes using individual vouchers to allow each citizen or registered voter to direct his or her chit to a candidate of their choosing. I think this method has the added bonus of potentially re-engaging the public in government and civic affairs. When you feel like you have some money at stake, even a small amount, you tend to pay closer attention. The downside of this method is that each chit would be so small that, in practice, candidates would have to be well known before they could persuade citizens to transfer their chits, which gets us right back to where we are today. So another method might be more practical.

Many people would like to couple public financing with new limits on union and corporate dollars. That wouldn't break my heart. But I am philosophically opposed to such limits because I think they violate the right to free speech, and I think they just drive that money to hidden corners where it is more difficult to track. I would simply add the public money to the mix and hope it gave legislators some freedom from their normal impulse to kow-tow to contributors.

Finally, I would put a sunset on it. If all it did was add to the money-raising arms race, you'd want it to go out of business on its own rather than waiting for lawmakers to repeal it.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:57 PM

'Running a family like a business destroys it'

Some interesting stuff out there today from my favorite blogging economists.

Russell Roberts here on one of my favorite topics, business, profits and social responsibility.

Tyler Cowen here on universal health insurance, and reaction to his recent assertion that "we can't take care of everyone."

And Alex Tabarrok here on Bill Cosby, black people and shoes.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:49 PM

Are the airlines price gouging too?

A couple of weeks ago my wife flew from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. and back for less than $200. Over the weekend I was talking with a friend who was looking to book the same flight during the Christmas holidays. The price at the same airline for the same trip was now over $400. Why? Because more people want to fly over Christmas than during the last week of October. With demand higher, the airlines can charge more for the same product, even though their costs have probably not changed a whit during that time. Imagine, more than doubling the price of your product, just because more people want it and you control the scarce resource. Funny how we have come to accept wild price fluctuations in airline fares, but much smaller blips in the price of gasoline drive us crazy.

NOTE: If you think the air fares are themselves going up because of fuel costs and not demand for seats, think again. The round-trip fare from Sacramento to DC during the first week of December is $160.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:16 AM

November 13, 2005

Rising cost of health care

For some reason my series of blog items on what's behind the rising cost of health care is bugging people. But the fact remains that new buildings, new technology and higher wages are the main drivers of higher costs per procedure, and greater demand for medical services overall acts as a multiplier on all those increased costs. In other words, we're getting better stuff, and more of it, delivered by people who are paid more every year. Anyway, here is the latest, a strike at a San Francisco hospital ends with a 16 percent pay raise over four years for the service workers. No problem with that. I'm sure they deserve it. But remember the next time you hear about the rising cost of health care that those costs don't rise in a vacuum -- we get things in return.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:45 PM

November 11, 2005

Khachigian: gov will win in 06

Ken Khachigian, the former Reagan speechwriter, told me earlier this year that he thought the governor blundered by forcing a special election without first spending a year trying to educate the voters and cajole the Legislature into passing his reforms. I guess you could say that Tuesday's results proved him right. But he's not gloating. Instead, he's offering insights and advice for the gov going forward. His brief piece is worth reading.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:55 AM

Workers' comp

The workers' comp reforms passed in Sept. 2003 and April 2004 might turn out to be the most dramatic pieces of legislation in recent times. Together they have already combined to lower the cost of treating injured workers and their benefits by 50 percent, and, eventually, most of those savings should find their way into the rates charged by insurers, saving the people who create jobs in California billions of dollars. Representatives for injured workers say the legislation went too far. Perhaps. But one thing is clear: no other legislation in recent history has accomplished its stated goals so well. It's worth remembering in light of Tuesday's results that the second part of that workers' comp reform package never would have been enacted if Schwarzenegger had not credibly threatened to take the issue to the voters.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:46 AM

Surrender or retreat

Dan Walters says Schwarzenegger surrendered to the Democrats in the Legislature Thursday. I don't quite see it that way. I would describe it more as a tactical retreat, pulling back in hopes of regrouping to fight another day.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:32 AM

Attorneys union oks pension changes

Members of the union that represents state attorneys have ratified a new contract that increases their pension plan contribution to 6 percent of pay and lets new employees opt for higher salaries in lieu of particpating in CalPERS.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:55 AM

November 10, 2005

Good-bye Nissan

The Washington Post, via Instapundit, on Nissan's flight from California to Tennessee.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:45 PM

Early thoughts on the next budget

Liz Hill is expected to kick off the annual budget season next week with her five-year fiscal forecast that puts the state's economy, budget, revenues and spending in perspective. At last count Hill was projecting a $6 billion gap between spending and revenues in the 2006-07 budget year. That probably still holds, though it could drop a notch if Hill believes recent revenues that have come in higher than expected are likely to continue on that pace for the next year. Remember, Hill's number is an operating deficit for that 12-month period. It doesn't take into account the $1.3 billion that was budgeted as a reserve, nor the $1 billion-plus in higher revenues that already have come in. If you count that money and the $3.7 billion in bond money the governor also has in reserve, he presumably could do next year's budget without reducing spending from their currently projected growth levels.

But I am hearing from folks around the governor that we should expect some pretty stiff cuts from projected levels, especially in health and welfare (nobody expects him to touch education spending next year). That must mean that the administration is either preparing a fairly conservative revenue forecast or planning on a budget that does not use the remaining bond money.

Either or both approaches would be laudible as a matter of fiscal integrity. As a political matter, they might be more problematic. If Schwarzenegger proposes deep cuts in health and welfare programs in January, he better be serious about following through, and they better be part of a comprehensive plan that -- finally -- brings the budget back into balance on a permanent basis. Because as we saw last January, first impressions tend to stick with voters. And if their first impression this time around is that the governor is "attacking" the sick and the poor, that might be just enough to finish off his reelection hopes, even if he later pulls back. Californians may want to control spending in the abstract, but they clearly have a problem doing so when the real-life effects of that approach is put before them.

In the past, governors have proposed cuts in January that they knew they would withdraw in May. Doing so next year would be political suicide.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:49 AM

Ad buys: $90-million plus

A media consultant's study says more than $90 million was spent on television ads in the special election in the five biggest media markets, about $30 million by the governor and his allies and $63 million by his opponents. About $30 million was spent in the final two weeks alone.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:28 AM

November 9, 2005

Problem solving

Since the message from voters Tuesday is that they want problems solved by the Legislature, not at the ballot box, I'm guessing that now the legislative leaders will take that to heart and come back with proposals to meet the governor halfway on the issues he raised, many of which voters have said in polling they believe are legitimate problems. Here are some ideas for middle ground that I bet the governor would be happy to support in the new era of solving problems in the Capitol:

An independent redistricting commission with new lines that don't take effect until 2012.

A spending limit that doesn't give new powers to the governor.

A measure to require unions to get annual permission from members before deducting political donations from their paychecks and requires corporations to get clearance from shareholders for their political spending.

An end state micromanagement of hiring and firing rules for teachers, entrusting that topic to the adults who are elected to run local school districts.

A hybrid pension plan that would give new hires a basic defined benefit and a 401K style benefit on top of that, standardize local benefits to end the bidding wars and require voter approval for future benefit increases.

Other ideas?

Posted by dweintraub at 7:52 PM

Polling accuracy

These two charts are from SurveyUSA. I have not checked the math, but they purport to average the “error rate” by the six pollsters that surveyed the special election. The first chart looks at only the five props that SurveyUSA polled, and how all the pollsters did on those measures. The second chart looks at each outfit's rate for all the props they polled. Note that many pollsters would quibble at the use of the word “error” since they consider their surveys to be snapshots in time which, unless taken on election day, can never be said to be wrong. Also note that the much maligned Field Poll does pretty well using either measure. And see my added note below regarding the PPIC.


Field 3.36
SurveyUSA 5.32
PPIC 5.76
Stanford/KN 5.96
Polimetrix 6.24
LA Times 7.44


5 SurveyUSA 5.32
8 Field 6.05
7 Polimetrix 7.20
8 LA Times 7.85
8 Stanford/KN 8.80
7 PPIC 9.57

NOTE: Mark Baldassare at PPIC notes in an email that the poll used in this comparison for the first chart came out of the field 16 days before the election, and some of the results in the second chart reflct a poll that was completed 50 days before the election. He is right that it's not fair to compare those results to polls that were done within days of the vote. But it's also true that the media and political players cite his polls as reflecting the state of mind of the voters right up until Election Day, so it's worth reminding folks that, in most cases, the data they are citing is quite old.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:52 PM

'Bread and circuses'

Here's a preview of the Angelides campaign for governor, from his remarks today on Tuesday's election results.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:18 PM

Wishful thinking

The consensus from pundits and pols this morning seems to be that Californians rejected the idea of governing by ballot box and sent a message to the governor and the Legislature to solve these problems in the Capitol. That may indeed by the message people intended to send. But it's doubtful it will be the message received in Sacramento. The governor went to the ballot because Democrats wouldn't negotiate with him on his proposals. He offered his ideas in January, invited the Democrats to negotiate, and held out the possibility of a special election if they did not. They called his bluff and when he showed his hand, he had nothing. If you're a Democrat in the Legislature, the message from that result is not that you should negotiate with the governor, be more accommodating. It's just the opposite: hold the line. Give no ground. Before, Schwarzenegger at least had the threat of going over their heads directly to the people. Now that option is gone, at least for the time being. Why would they take that development as a signal that it is time to compromise?

Posted by dweintraub at 7:09 AM

Lost centrism

Republican consultant Dan Schnur says Schwarzenegger didn't lose this year by veering to his right so much as by ignoring his left.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:43 AM

November 8, 2005

San Benito: no on everything

San Benito, with 100 percent of its precincts counted, has all eight measures going down. Results here. Some of the county's results are signficantly more negative than the statewide numbers at this point, but there's still time for them all to converge.

UPDATE: They did converge! Not as dead on the mark as other recent elections, but still probably more accurate as a predictor than any other county, especially over the span of several elections. Here are the latest results as of 6:20 a.m.:

Prop. 73
Statewide: yes 47, no 53
San Benito: yes 47, no 53

Prop. 74
statewide: yes 45, no 55
San Benito: yes 42, no 58

Prop. 75
statewide: yes 46, no 54
San Benito: yes 44, no 56

Prop. 76
Statewide: yes 38, no 62
San Benito: yes 34, no 66

Prop. 77
Statewide: yes 41, no 59
San Benito: yes 39, no 61

Prop. 78
Statewide: yes 42, no 58
San Benito: yes 40, no 60

Prop. 79
Statewide: yes 39, no 61
San Benito: yes 38, no 62

Prop. 80
Statewide: yes 34, no 66
San Benito: yes 36, no 64

Posted by dweintraub at 11:42 PM

No on 79, 80

Who would have thought that California voters would vote 60% against two measures that promised cheap drugs and cheap power? Almost lost amid the wreckage of the governor's campaign for reform, that's the current margin against Props. 79 and 80.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:03 PM

San Benito: gov behind on all four

With 60 percent counted in bellwether San Benito, the gov is behind on all four.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:56 PM

San Benito: yes on 75

Half of the vote is in from San Benito -- my bellwether -- and the governor is leading only on Prop. 75. Prop. 74 is close.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:29 PM

Hog Wild


The California Nurses Assn. -- the governor's chief labor nemesis for the past year -- isn't letting up just because the voting is about to end. They're camped out next door to his election night party at the Beverly Hilton, and they've roasted a pig (symbolizing corporate greed) in his honor.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:53 PM

Pat Clarey

Jon Fleischman has a long and interesting post here on what he says is the imminent departure of Schwarzenegger chief of staff Pat Clarey, complete with a list of potential successors. It's well worth reading. But the governor's people are saying today that Clarey will not be fired in any post-election bloodletting, that she will be going back to the Capitol office after her stint on the campaign staff. Of course her long-rumored departure might be just around the corner. But I am told it won't happen overnight. We'll see.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:04 PM

Voting early and often

Before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went to vote in Los Angeles Tuesday morning, his staff sent an advance team to check on the details. One thing to make sure of: Is the governor's name on the voter roll? It was, but there was a problem. He was listed as having already voted. A call went out to a Sacramento lawyer who does political work for the governor. The lawyer got in touch with the county registrar. Word came back: the governor was recorded as having voted at a touchscreen kiosk set up by the county for early voting. Schwarzenegger's people said he had done no such thing. More investigation. The verdict: when they were testing the voting system before the election, county workers punched in Schwarzenegger's name, and forgot to undo their handiwork. The registrar went into the system and added the governor back to the precinct rolls. He was allowed to vote.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:43 PM

Keep your eye on San Benito

When the returns come in tonight, you could, like me, look for clues in the absentee vote and then watch for the big counties to report one by one. Or you could just hope that tiny San Benito reports early, check their results and call it a night. For some reason, that Central California county has been a bellwether for the state in recent years. As San Benito goes, it seems, so goes California.

Although San Benito’s demographics don’t quite match the state (it is about half white, half Hispanic with few other ethnic groups), and it is a largely agricultural county with no major urban areas, the county’s 25,000 registered voter base just happens to closely mirror California’s, with 45 percent of its voters Democrats, 34 percent Republican and 17 percent decline to state. And since at least 2002, their vote in every statewide election has reflected the statewide total, sometimes with eerie precision. No other county matches San Benito’s record for accurately reflecting the California results. The much bigger counties of Sacramento and Santa Barbara come close, but fall short.

Here are the data:

2002 governor’s race

Statewide: Davis 47%, Simon 42%
San Benito: Davis 49%, Simon 42%

* * *
2003 Recall
Statewide: Yes 55%, No 45%
San Benito: Yes 55%, No 45%

* * *
2003 Governor
Schwarzenegger, 48.6%
Bustamante, 31.5%
McClintock, 13.5%

San Benito:
Schwarzenegger, 48.7%
Bustamante 31.8%
McClintock, 13.9%

* * *
March 2004 ballot measures
Prop. 56 (state budget/tax increase threshold)
Statewide: Yes 34%, No 66%
San Benito: Yes 37%, No 63%

Prop. 57 ($15 billion deficit bond)
Statewide: Yes 63%, No 37%
San Benito: Yes 59%, No 41%

* * *
Nov. 2004 President

Statewide: Kerry 54%, Bush 44%
San Benito: Kerry 53%, Bush 47%

Nov. 2004 key ballot measures

Prop. 63 (tax millionaires for mental health)
Statewide: Yes 54%, No 46%
San Benito: Yes 53%, No 47%

Prop. 64 (civil justice/lawsuits)
Statewide: Yes 59%, No 41%
San Benito: Yes 61%, No 39%

Prop. 66 (sentencing, three strikes changes)
Statewide: Yes 47%, No 53%
San Benito: Yes 47%, No 53%

Prop. 71 (stem cell)
Statewide: Yes 59%, No 41%
San Benito: Yes 62%, No 38%

Prop. 72 (health insurance)
Statewide: Yes 49%, No 51%
San Benito: Yes 47%, No 53%

Posted by dweintraub at 10:26 AM

Results watching

The Field Poll projections along with the earlier SurveyUSA exit poll of absentee ballots provide a handy reference for watching the results as they come in tonight. Virtually every poll done in this election suggests that 76 and 77 will be dead on arrival tonight. Propositions 74 and 75 are said to be also going down, but by closer margins. It is entirely possible that 74 and 75 will be leading, at least narrowly, in the first absentees that are counted. If the polls are right, those leads will begin to wither quickly and ultimately disappear sometime during the night or, if the races are close, in the days ahead. If 74 and 75 are trailing even in the early returns, that would suggest it's going to be a very short, and disappointing, night for the governor. If, on the other hand, 77 shows any sign of life in those early numbers, then that would be the first indication that the polls were missing something.
Also, this election is likely to be highly polarized, with the Central Valley and Southern Cal outside of LA coming in for the governor and the Bay Area and Los Angeles for his opponents. So the early results could be tilted one way or the other depending on which counties are reporting in first.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:57 AM

Field: 43% turnout

Here is the Field Poll turnout projection: 43 percent of registered voters, with 40 percent of them -- a new record -- casting their vote by absentee ballot.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:48 AM

November 7, 2005

Mystery Pollster on the polls

Check out Mystery Pollster's analysis of all the special election polls, completed before the latest two from SurveyUSA and Stanford.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:55 PM

Migden out

Capitol Weekly reports that Carole Migden is out as chair of Senate Appropriations. Her story is that she needs to have more time to work on Steve Westly's campaign for governor. Huh?

Posted by dweintraub at 4:33 PM

Stanford poll

And here is the latest Stanford/Knowledge Networks online poll, showing 74, 76, and 77 losing with 75 still narrowly ahead.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:12 PM

SurveyUSA exit poll (of absentees)

Here is a brand new SurveyUSA poll that has 75, 76, and 77 going down with 74 too close to call. While that is certainly plausible, be advised that the partisan breakdown of the sample is 44% D- 34% R, which seems a bit heavy on the Democrat turnout.

Interesting wrinkle: they have results for people in their survey who say they have already voted. In effect, an exit poll of absentees. The governor does better with them. He's far behind among those who say they have not yet voted.

Here are the results from absentee voters:

Prop. 74
yes: 52
no: 48

yes: 50
no: 50

yes: 44
no: 55

yes: 47
no: 52

Posted by dweintraub at 4:00 PM

The UNternet

Here is a Foreign Poilicy discussion on the UN effort to take control of the Internet.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:50 PM

Why vote?

Russell Roberts on the irrationality of exercising your franchise.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:46 PM

November 5, 2005

42 percent turn-out?

I am guessing that the official projection might be too high. Not by a lot, but high.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:35 PM

Celebrity smack-off

Warren Beatty tries to crash a Schwarzenegger rally.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:34 PM

November 4, 2005

'You're wrong'

The governor gets an earful at an LA special electon forum.

UPDATE: This probably explains some of the hostility.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:04 AM

November 3, 2005

'Sheer stinking dishonesty'

Are the deceptions flowing forth in this campaign any worse than usual? I think so, as I said in this column. And I'm not the only one. The San Diego Union Tribune in this piece uses phrases like "sheer stinking dishonesty," "astounding claims," "equally odious collection of lies" and "rancid deceit" to describe the campaign against Props. 74-77.

Here's the closing line of their piece today:

"...So long as it might win votes, there is virtually no argument too deranged or dishonest for the desperate defenders of California's failing status quo. Up is down, black is white, right is wrong. Come Tuesday, don't let the unions get away with this perverse crusade."

Posted by dweintraub at 3:31 PM

November 2, 2005

Rocky Mountain high

This probably isn't a good omen for Schwarzenegger.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:34 PM

Tax increase 2006, cont.

An emailer reading my post yesterday on the likelihood of a tax increase next year reminds me that earlier this year I encourged Republicans to consider raising taxes on the upper income crowd to beat Rob Reiner to the punch. With Reiner now fully engaged in qualifying his state-controlled, subsidized preschool for all measure for the June ballot, won't the same logic apply in the spring? Good point. There may come a time, shortly before the June election, if the polls show the Reiner measure ahead with no chance of losing, that Republicans might have to consider jumping in line ahead of him. His measure is written to say that if the Legislature raises the same taxes he is trying to raise, and does it first, his pre-school program won't be implemented until 2010. So the governor and the Legislature could decide to take that money and use it to pay for services the state is already providing without the money to pay for them. It would not be a temporary tax increase, but it would be a temporary float for the general fund before the preschool program goes into effect. Given that most Republicans will oppose the Reiner measure on principle -- against raising taxes and against state control of preschool -- it will be interesting to see if they are willing to set aside one of those principles for the greater good in the face of the inevitable.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:59 AM

Polls galore

New poll results this morning from the LA Times and SurveyUSA. The Times has all four of the governor's measures losing. SurveyUSA, which had all four winning handily a month ago, now has 74 and 75 too close to call, 77 losing and 76 all over the map, depending on how the question is asked.

Here's a round-up of results from the five polls that have polled in California at least back to the 2003 recall. Three are traditional, live phone polls -- LA Times, Field and PPIC. Two use new techniques. SurveyUSA uses recorded voices asking the questions, and the Stanford/Knowledge Networks poll uses an online questionaire given to a pre-screened sample of voters.

LA Times
74: 45-47
75: 40-51
76: 31-60
77: 34-56

74: 44-50
75: 40-50
76: 32-60
77: 35-51

74: 46-48
75: 46-46
76: 30-62
77: 36-50

74: 49-50
75: 50-49
76: see below
77: 44-53

On 76, SurveyUSA asked the question three different ways. The first was bare bones on a spending limit. The second mentioned that it would give the governor new powers to cut spending. The third added that it would give the governor the power to cut schools. With each added detail, the measure did worse.

Version A: 49-49
Version B: 42-56
Version C: 36-61

Stanford/Knowledge Networks
74: 53-47
75: 64-36
76: 45-55
77: 55-45

Posted by dweintraub at 6:36 AM

November 1, 2005

Something old, something new

Well if the gov wins three out of four or otherwise does well next week, it's going to be a repudiation to traditional pollsters and a validation of the new, offbeat methods. So far the traditionalists -- Field and PPIC -- have him consistently down and doing worse. The new-fangled polls have him doing better. SurveyUSA uses recorded voices to question voters and very short, snappy questions. Now there is this Stanford poll that uses a scientifically selected sample who give their opinions on-line by filling out a simulated ballot. It also has the governor's slate doing well. Both SurveyUSA and the Stanford outfit polled in the recall, by the way, and both pretty much nailed it.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:16 PM

Beatty: gov out to protect the rich

Warren Beatty cuts a radio ad for the nurses bashing Schwarzenegger. The message: get out and vote. You can hear it here.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:46 PM

California government before and after Prop. 13

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. has released a study by the Center for Government Analysis on the growth of state and local revenues and expenditures since Proposition 13 was passed in 1978. The study is not a comprehensive comparison of total state and local spending before and after 13, a task that would require sorting out all the transfers back and forth over time. But it does seem to have value in providing numbers for each level of government in isolation: the state, counties, cities, schools and special districts, in inflation-adjusted, per-capita dollars. For the schools, for instance, it says that revenues for K-12 per pupil, adjusted for inflation, have grown by 30 percent since Prop. 13 was passed.

I'd love to hear from anybody who has the time to read the entire report and has comments on the accuracy of its data and conclusions and the soundness of its methods. Also: has anybody seen a similar work done by anyone else?

Posted by dweintraub at 2:15 PM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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