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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« November 2005 | | January 2006 »
December 30, 2005

Higher ed subsidies

The president of Miami University of Ohio shares my take on the inefficiency of higher ed subsidies and has a radical solution to address it.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:49 PM



December 29, 2005

University fees

Gov. Schwarzenegger's announcement, or leak, of the news that he will propose no fee hikes for California's higher education systems next year is brilliant politics but not necessarily smart budgeting or even a just policy.

Fee increases are widely seen as a burden on poor and middle class students, but if coupled with more generous financial aid, they don't have to be. Instead, relatively lower fees are a boon to the wealthy, whose childrens' educations are then more heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. An ideal financial policy for higher ed would be to settle on a portion of each system's costs that the state believes should be borne by students and by the taxpayers, and then stick to it. Those students who can't afford that fee level should get aid to cover their costs. And the fees should be predictable, not rising rapidly in bad fiscal times and held flat or reduced in good times.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:00 AM



December 27, 2005

Epstein on Hollywood

Edward Jay Epstein has much, much more on the future of the movie industry, and, in my view, more evidence for why the fight over the merger of two theater chains is very last century.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:09 PM



December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year...

Blogging will be light for the next few days.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:22 AM



December 22, 2005

Theater chain merger

Bill Lockyer has approved a merger of two movie theater chains, Loews and AMC, with conditions. Is it just me or does applying anti-trust law to the theater business seem like an anachronism? Hollywood revenues are way down, people are watching films on DVDs on big screens with great sound in their living rooms. In a few years we will be routinely downloading them onto our computers and handheld devices. Once that happens, people will be making their own independent films and distributing them without the need for the middlemen. Is the merger of two theater chains really a legitimate state interest in this day and age? Was it ever?

Posted by dweintraub at 10:33 AM



December 21, 2005

Agriculture

This is the ninth in the series of charts I am preparing as I work toward my annual column presenting my California Quality-of-Life index. This one is on California agriculture and shows the trend in production and farm income over the past five years.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation. I've received tons of good ideas so far, most of which ask for more data, more detail, more charts. More work! I probably won't be able to answer most of those requests in this column. But I like the idea of drilling down into the data and looking at other angles and plan to continue this project on the blog in the new year.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

California agriculture is booming.

The value of the production from California's farms soared between 2003 and 2004, from $30.2 billion to $34.3 billion. About half of that increase came from crop output and the other half from animals, though the value of crop production overall is three times greater than that from animals. Net farm income, meanwhile, increased by 45 percent, from $8.4 billion to $12.2 billion. Farm income was $5.9 billion in 2002. The top five products in 2004 were dairy products, greenhouse/nursery, grapes, almonds and cattle.

agimage.gif

The latest California agriculture fact sheet from the USDA can be found here.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:27 PM



Health insurance

This is the eighth in the series of charts I am preparing as I work toward my annual column presenting my California Quality-of-Life index. This one is on health insurance coverage in California over the past decade.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation. I've received tons of good ideas so far, most of which ask for more data, more detail, more charts. More work! I probably won't be able to answer most of those requests in this column. But I like the idea of drilling down into the data and looking at other angles and plan to continue this project on the blog in the new year.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

This one might surprise some people. The number of people covered by either private or government health insurance is steadily climbing in California, and the percentage of the population covered has remained about the same for a decade. Ten years ago, 25.5 million Californians had health insurance while about 6.7 million were going without. In 2004, 29.1 million Californians had coverage, and the number going without was back at 6.7 million after rising to as high as 7.4 million in 1998 and then declining to 6.4 million by 2002. The big change over time has been the share with private health insurance. That number declined from 70 percent in 1987 to 60 percent in 1994, went back up to 65 percent in 2002 and settled back down at 62 percent in 2004. Still, I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that a greater share of the California population has private coverage today than 10 years ago.

healthimage.gif

These numbers and many more are available at the Census Bureau web site.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:22 PM



Education

This is the seventh in the series of charts I am preparing as I work toward my annual column presenting my California Quality-of-Life index. These two charts show the trend in academic performance on key standards since the state began testing and tracking those numbers in 2001.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation. I've received tons of good ideas so far, most of which ask for more data, more detail, more charts. More work! I probably won't be able to answer most of those requests in this column. But I like the idea of drilling down into the data and looking at other angles and plan to continue this project on the blog in the new year.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

It's difficult to pick a couple of pieces of information to capture everthing that is going on, or not going on, in the public schools. But 4th-grade language arts and 7th-grade math serve as decent barometers because the state expects all students to know how to read by the time they get to 4th grade, and 7th grade math completes the basic preparation before students go onto algebra and other advanced studies.

Test scores in both categories jumped in 2005 after a couple of years where they were stagnant. Some experts believe this was due in part to the introduction of a new version of the standards test. We'll have to see a few more years of data before we know.

In 4th-grade language arts, 47 percent of all students and 32 percent of students from low-income families were rated proficient or better on the state's standards. That compares to 33 percent and 16 percent in 2001. That's as far back as the data go for this test.

langartsimage.gif

7th grade math

Scores also jumped in math, though not as dramatically. This year, 37 percent of all 7th graders and 23 percent of economically disadvantaged students were proficient or better in basic math. That compares with 30 percent and 16 percent in 2002, when the state began compiling these numbers.

mathimage.gif

The full test results are available by year at the California Department of Education web site.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:40 PM



Employment

This is the sixth in the series of charts I am preparing as I work toward my annual column presenting my California Quality-of-Life index. This one is on jobs in California, showing the trend over the past decade.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation. I've received tons of good ideas so far, most of which ask for more data, more detail, more charts. More work! I probably won't be able to answer most of those requests in this column. But I like the idea of drilling down into the data and looking at other angles and plan to continue this project on the blog in the new year.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

The number of nonfarm California jobs grew by about 186,000, or 1.3 percent, between November 2004 and November 2005. Total employment, at about 14.8 million, has finally surpassed the pre-recession peak of about 14.7 million in November 2000. Compared with 10 years ago, there are about 2.6 million more payroll jobs in California.

employmentimage.gif


Here is the data for employment, back to 1985.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:13 PM



Audit questions Secy of State spending

The federal audit of former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's administration of federal Help America Vote Act money is complete, and the state may have to repay more than $3 million. The audit is here, in pdf form.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:46 PM



Care not Cash

Here is an interesting story via AP on San Francisco's controversial "Care not Cash" program and how it's moving the homeless into housing and off the welfare rolls. The program was the brainchild of centrist Mayor Gavin Newsom long before he became famous for trying to legalize gay marriage by fiat.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:18 PM



December 20, 2005

Crime in California

This is the fifth in the series of charts I am preparing as I work toward my annual column presenting my California Quality-of-Life index. This chart shows the trend in violent and property crime rates in California over the past 10 years.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

The violent crime rate continued its steady decline in 2004, the latest year for which complete figures are available. The rate dropped from 569 crimes per 100,000 to 540 crimes. Homicide and rape continued to decline while there were bigger drops in robbery and aggravated assault.

The property crime rate edged up again in 2004, rising from 1,929 crimes per 100,000 people to 1,946 crimes. All of the increase came in motor vehicle theft, which jumped from 670 per 100,000 to 688. Burglary and larceny-theft rates remained steady.

The total number of violent crimes in 2004 -- 197,432 -- was about the same as it was in 1984, although California has added about 11 million people since then. Violent crime peaked in 1992 at 345,508.

crimeimage1.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 9:54 PM



Poverty in California

Here is the fourth of the series of charts I am preparing as part of my annual California Quality-of-Life index column. This one shows the change over time in the poverty rate.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

California's poverty rate edged up in 2004, according to the latest numbers available from the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate went from 13.1 percent to 13.3 percent, continuing a slow upward trend since the rate bottomed out at 12.6 percent at the end of the dot-com boom. California's poverty rate was 17.9 percent in 1994. And compared with that year, California today has about 1 million fewer people in poverty despite having a population that has grown by 4 million people, most of them immigrants and their children.

povertyimage1.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 7:22 PM



Air pollution

Here is the third in the series of charts I am preparing as part of my annual Quality-of-Life index column. This one shows a common measure of air pollution.

Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

On air pollution, the verdict is mixed. In coastal areas such as San Diego and San Francisco, the national standard for 8 hours is almost never exceeded anymore. Ventura is trending down but is still higher, and the Los Angeles area, except for 2003 has been treading water between 84 and 96 days. The Central Valley areas around Sacramento and points south have also been trending down but are still quite high. I believe these numbers are affected by the weather, so it is better to look at a range of years than simply one by itself.

ozoneimage.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 4:27 PM



Home ownership

Here is the second of several charts I am preparing this week as I put together my annual California Quality-of-Life index. This one is on California's home ownership rate. Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

California's home ownership rate crept up in 2004. the most recent year for which the US Census has numbers. The rate climbed from 58.9 percent to 59.7 percent, but the state fell behind Hawaii and is now second from the bottom among the states, ahead of only New York, at 54.8 percent. The District of Columbia is the lowest, with a rate of 45.6 percent. The national average is 69 percent. California has lagged the national average by about 10 percentage points for at least 20 years.

homesimage001.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 3:38 PM



McPherson delays Diebold certification

Secretary of State Bruce McPherson has denied certification to a Diebold Election Systems Inc. electronic voting system because of questions about its security. McPherson told the company in a letter today to have the source code for its security cards reviewed by the federal government. If that review is completed successfully, he said, he will then consider granting state certification.
You can download the letter here.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:41 PM



Cal Journal will stay dead

The foundation that was trying to revive the California Journal, once the premier politics and public policy magazine covering the state, announced today that the Journal will not be coming back. The press release says the magazine needed about $850,000 annually to stay in business and could meet only half that budget with advertising and circulation revenues. They hoped to raise the rest in donations, but couldn't do it.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:33 PM



Angelides upbeat on infrastructure

I listened in on Phil Angelides' press conference this morning and was surprised to hear him sounding like his old wonky and sensible self rather than the partisan attack dog he's become since October 2003. He made a bunch of solid points about the state's plans for moving forward with a major infrastructure push. Among them:

--The state should start with an assesment of its needs, not a number of dollars it wants to spend. And that should start with the Schwarzenegger Administration fulfilling its obligation to produce a five-year plan describing California's public works needs and how they should be met.

--The state should build projects already authorized by the voters but not yet built. Angelidies says there is at least $17 billion in the pipeline that hasn't been spent because state agencies are not ready to go ahead with their projects.

--Not all of the need should be filled by the general fund. Some of the costs should be borne by people who benefit from the projects, like farmers whose land is protected by Central Valley levees nd the shippers who use the ports. Strangely enough, this is a point also raised recently (without specific examples) by libertarian-leaning Republican Tom McClintock.

--New projects should favor environmentally responsible policies by helping rebuild worn out inner cities and suburbs and not subsidizing suburban sprawl.

With these and other points having been made, Angelides was actually quite upbeat about the idea of rebuilding California's infrastructure and suggested that even a $30-billion plus package was reasonable if it is done prudently.

"This is very doable," he said.


Posted by dweintraub at 11:43 AM



California welfare cases

This week I am going to be posting several charts I am preparing as I put together my annual California Quality-of-Life index. Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the data or my presentation.

Email me at
dweintraub@sacbee.com

Below is a chart showing the trends in population and welfare caseloads. Welfare caseloads began declining rapidly in the mid-1990s thanks to the economic boom and, later, the welfare reforms that set time limits on welfare and tried harder to move recipients into jobs. The caseload data in this chart are from the old AFDC program and the current CalWORKS program. As you can see, in 1995, the population was about 31.7 million and there were 920,000 families on welfare. In June of this year the population was 6 million larger, and the number of cases on welfare had dropped by half, to about 488,000.

california welfare cases_27893_image001.gif


Posted by dweintraub at 10:08 AM



Graz v. Schwarzenegger

Interesting stories today about the tiff between Schwarzenegger and the leaders of his hometown of Graz over the execution of Tookie Williams. At first I thought Schwarzenegger's response sounded petty and childish, but it sounds like his letter is a bit more sophisticated than that. I guess his point is that it's hypocritical of Graz to make a big show of removing his name from the local stadium while still using his name and likeness to promote their town in other ways. Hard to argue with that. Here is the story from today's Bee.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:15 AM



The builders

It looks like this is mega-bond week. Phil Angelides plans a press conference this morning to give the treasurer's perspective on the state's ability to borrow -- or not. And the business-labor Alliance for Jobs weighs in Wednesday with its recommendations on what the state should do. Who knew that infrastructure could be so sexy?

Posted by dweintraub at 9:09 AM



Sunshine policy

Here is my column on how Schwarzenegger is still going around the Legislature when he can to push big policy changes. He's just doing it in a different way.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:22 AM



December 19, 2005

California Nano-tech

Controller Steve Westly and Rep. Mike Honda commissioned a report on what California needs to do to make itself a center of the intriguing new nano-technology industry. The 36-page report is here, in pdf form.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:57 PM



New communications director

Capitol Weekly reports that Schwarzenegger has hired Adam Mendelsohn as his new communications director, replacing Rob Stutzman, who is moving to the campaign team.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:30 PM



December 16, 2005

Candidate web pages

The California Voter Foundation has a handy web page here with links to candidates running for statewide office in 2006.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:17 PM



December 15, 2005

LAO reviews new state contract w/ lawyers

Part of the fall-out from the after-the-fact uproar over the last prison guards' contract was a bill that requried the legislative analyst to review every new memorandum of understanding agreed to by the administration. The first one has now been done, on the new contract with state attorneys, and it's a great addition to the discussion. You can find it here. The compact report lays out who is in this bargaining group, how their salaries compare now to other state workers (but not, unfortunately, to the private sector), how much their benefits cost and what they are, and, most importantly, how much the new contract is likely to cost the taxpayers. In this case, while most of the attention when the contract was signed was on pension concessions to which the union agreed, the LAO points out that the the deal is still going to cost about $40 million more per year when fully implemented, or about 10 percent over two years.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:23 PM



New home sales dive

The sale of new homes plunged in November to the lowest level for that month since 1997, the Bee reports, confirming what we have been hearing anecdotally for a while.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:39 AM



Blog storm

Capitol Weekly on the Rise of the Blogs -- California style.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:07 AM



December 14, 2005

Non-resident tuition

John Myers reports here on a lawsuit filed today that could force the state to charge non-resident tuition to illegal immigrants in public colleges or stop charging it to non-residents from other states.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:09 PM



Blogging a compromise

Former aides to Clinton, McCain and Bush have blogged a compromise Social Security proposal that would reduce the growth in benefits, raise the cap on payroll taxes and create individual accounts while, they say, returning the program to solvency. It's certainly worth a look. I am also wondering if their process might be a model for bridging some of the gaps in California's policy circles.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:06 PM



December 13, 2005

Sharing the wealth

Here is a pdf file with the breakdown on how revenue from a proposed $2.60 per pack increase in the cigarette tax would be spread among the various groups backing the initiative, which will likely appear on the November ballot. If approved, the measure would raise an estimated $2.3 billion annually.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:12 PM



DOF: November revenues on target

Revenues were up $145 million for the month, a total of about $1.9 billion for the fiscal year to date. The report is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:28 PM



Euros outraged by Williams execution

Shocked? Read the whole story here.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:01 AM



Williams executed

Stanley Tookie Williams was put to death by lethal injection early this morning after his appeals were rejected and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied a request for clemency.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:06 AM



December 12, 2005

The hollowed-out city

Joel Kotkin on New Orleans as a symbol for what ails urban America:

This collapse of responsibility and discipline goes against the entire grain of urban history. From republican Rome to the golden ages of Venice, Amsterdam, London, and New York, cities have flourished most when they have served as places of aspiration and upward mobility, of hard work and individual accountability. By becoming mass dispensers of welfare for the unskilled, playpens for the well-heeled and fashionable, easy marks for special interests, and bunglers at maintaining public safety and dispensing efficient services to residents and businesses, many cities have become useless to the middle class, and toxic for the disorganized poor. Today’s liberal urban leadership across America needs to see the New Orleans storm not as just a tragedy, but also as a dispeller of illusions, a revealer of awful truths, and a potential harbinger of things to come in their own backyards.

Kotkin also has a great companion piece at the American Enterprise Online that compares New Orleans and Houston and the two very different paths they took to become what they are today.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:22 PM



Clemency denied

Gov. Schwarzenegger has denied clemency to convicted murderer Stanley Tookie Williams.

Here is a pdf file of the full decision.

Here is a long clip of Jesse Jackson reacting to the decision on CNN, via The Political Teen. An excerpt:

"To kill him is a way of making politicans look tough."

Posted by dweintraub at 12:44 PM



The car tax cut

My colleague Dan Walters is writing a 10-part series on the mistakes that led to Schwarzenegger's rapid descent from one of the most popular governors ever to a man fighting for his job. In part 2 today, Walters says Schwarzenegger's first act -- rolling back an increase in the car tax -- was his first mistake. Dan's point is that the governor blew a $4 billion hole in the budget that he is still wrestling with today. Can't argue with that. But I'd offer a couple of points to consider. First, you can't assume that without the car tax cut the budget gap would be $4 billion smaller now. It's likely that if that money had been in the budget, it would have been much harder for Schwarzenegger to win the spending trims that he has enacted, so while the state would have more money, it would also be spending more, and the gap might be exactly what it is today. Second, as a political matter, renouncing such a high-profile campaign promise on day one would have not only been cynical, it would have obliterated any good will the new governor had as he took the job, and thus he never would have had the high approval ratings that allowed him to have a downfall. If you think the car tax cut was a mistake, the better argument might be to say that he never should have made it the centerpiece of his campaign. But once he did and was elected, I don't think he could have credibly walked away from it.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:49 AM



December 9, 2005

Governor names Republicans to two key jobs

The governor has appointed Fred Aguiar as his cabinet secretary and Dan Dunmoyer to a new position as deputy chief of staff for policy development. Both are Republicans. Aguiar, a former legislator currently serving as Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, will replace Terry Tamminen, who moves to an undefined job as an advisor to the governor. Dunmoyer is a former legislative aide and insurance industry lobbyist. The position he is filling is a new one.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:10 PM



Other shoe

The governor has appointed Peter Siggins, his former legal counsel and acting chief of staff, to the First District Court of Appeal, and elevated Ignazio Ruvolo from associate justice to presiding justice of that court.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:34 PM



'One of the more conservative'

Here is a short profile from law.com of Carol Corrigan, the justice Schwarzenegger has appointed to the state Supreme Court. It says she is one of the more conservative justices on the first district on criminal justice issues. I guess we can start a list now of major decisions the governor makes that do not appear to have been pulled to the left by Susan Kennedy.

Note: The first draft of this post incorrectly quoted the item as saying she was one of the "most conservative" members of the court.

UPDATE: An emailer sends along an LA Times story from Oct. 21, which I can't find a link to online, where Corrigan describes herself as a "centrist" in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor.

The relevant excerpt:

Corrigan, 57, a former prosecutor, described herself as a "centrist."

"I think I would probably be a centrist any place I found myself," she said

Deukmejian appointed Corrigan to the Alameda County Municipal Court in 1987, and former Gov. Pete Wilson elevated her to the Superior Court and then the Court of Appeal.

Corrigan said she changed her voter registration from Democrat to Republican in the mid-1990s because "that seemed the most accurate designation" at the time.

"I haven't changed," she said. "I think the political environment may have changed, and it continues to evolve in this country."

Asked which present or former U.S. Supreme Court justices she admires, Corrigan cited Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "I think she is a centrist … a real consensus builder," Corrigan said.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:22 AM



Corrigan named to state high court

Gov. Schwarzenegger has appointed appellate court justice Carol Corrigan to the California Supreme Court to succeed Janice Rogers Brown.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:18 AM



December 8, 2005

Circular firing squad

Still upset at the governor for bringing some of the state's top Democrats into his camp, the state's oldest -- and most conservative -- volunteer Republican organization has decided to ask the California Republican Party to reconsider its endorsement of Schwarzenegger for governor next year.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:27 PM



Help wanted

First nurses, then teachers, now farmworkers. Labor shortages are becoming a big story in California.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:35 AM



Crowding out

I guess this is supposed to be good news, that only 9 percent of employers say they will immediately drop prescription drug coverage for retirees when the new federal plan goes into effect. Some poeple thought the number would be higher. I suspect it will be higher, very soon, and I'm struck by such a clear example of how a new social program crowds out benefits that had been offered voluntarily by the private sector. Maybe that was the idea.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:32 AM



Sutter Hospital expansion

Sacramento's left-leaning City Council deserves kudos for having the guts to approve this Sutter Hospital expansion even as the SEIU tried to hold it hostage to the union's organizing efforts. Hey, when the new complex is built, there will be even more health care jobs for the union to try to bring into its fold.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:28 AM



Health access for kids

With or without a Democrat as his chief of staff, the governor was going to focus next year on a number of issues that Democrats in the Legislature would like to pursue. Children's health care is one of them. The biggest question in the Capitol will be whether the Democrats come to the table to negotiate on those issues or freeze out the governor in hopes of denying him bragging points for making incremental progress.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:25 AM



Citizenship-at-birth

I used to think the our citizenship-at-birth policy was a mistake that helped fuel illegal immigration. But lately I'm becoming convinced that the more European custom of denying automatic citizenship to the children of immigrants is wrong because it inhibits assimilation and walls off immigrant communities for generations.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:23 AM



Reiner exits stage left

I was never really sold on the Meathead v. Terminator idea. It's looking more and more like the governor's opponent is going to be a plain old Democratic statewide official. It looks as if Reiner has learned from Schwarzenegger's experience that it's easier for an actor to get stuff done if he's not the governor.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:18 AM



December 7, 2005

Gov sees nurses up close

The governor took a trip to the hospital last night. Here's the explanation from his press secretary:

"The Governor had the stomach flu yesterday. Consequently he experienced a rapid heartbeat. His personal doctor recommended he have it checked. He went to UC Davis Medical Center at approximately midnight. Upon arrival at the Med Center the doctors determined his heart rate was normal. He was observed for a few hours and released. He's feeling fine this morning and is in the office working.

"In 1997, Governor Schwarzenegger underwent surgery to repair a hereditary valve dysfunction. Occasional rapid heartbeat is common following this type of surgery."

Posted by dweintraub at 10:24 AM



Getting it backwards

Republican Party leaders in California are constantly trying to persuade Democrats to join their cause, often with little success. But now that Gov. Schwarzenegger has convinced one of the state's most prominent Democrats to join not only his cause but his staff, party leaders are apoplectic. Their latest move is to demand a meeting at which they expect the governor to expain himself. These people need to learn when to declare victory.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:27 AM



Fast cars in The OC

saleen.jpg

Who knew that somebody was building cars at a factory in Orange County? Here I am standing in front of the Saleen S7, which its designer says is the fastest (and most expensive) production car built in America. Saleen Inc. also modifies thousands of Ford Mustangs a year to make them into racier versions of their former selves.

State Sen. John Campbell, a former car dealer elected to Congress Tuesday to succeed Chris Cox, held his victory party at the Saleen factory in Irvine.

Campbell won easily but was kept from gaining a majority by a strong third-party challenge from anti-immigration activist Jim Gilchrist.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:00 AM



December 6, 2005

Haynes: Kennedy is 'hazardous gas'

Assemblyman Ray Haynes, mixing metaphors, talks of football, mines and canaries in this piece that basically says he no longer trusts the governor.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:52 AM



Kennedy Democrats

Here is my column on Susan Kennedy. One other thought that is not in this piece: why is all the soul-searching over this on the Republican side? Rather than seeing Kennedy as an "enemy" in their camp, shouldn't they be looking at her as a convert, at least when it comes to the governor? And shouldn't the Democrats be wondering why two of the smartest people who worked for the last Democratic governor -- Kennedy and Daniel Zingale -- are now working for this Republican chief executive? What does that say about the Democrats who control the Legislature today?

Posted by dweintraub at 10:24 AM



Universal health care

I am very intrigued by this proposal for universal health care through a voucher system that preserves choice and the private market. Those who are inclined to oppose it from a libertarian perspective should weigh its advantages not against the best the current system has to offer but against the worst that might happen if the current system implodes because of our inability to cover everyone. Still, the question remains, other than eliminating the cost shift inherent in the status quo (charging the insured higher rates to cover the uninsured), is there anything in this proposal that would actually constrain the growth in costs that trouble us today?

Posted by dweintraub at 8:26 AM



December 5, 2005

New home for Downtown College Prep

Here is an update on Downtown College Prep, the successful San Jose charter school that caters to under-acheiving minority kids. DCP was the subject of Joanne Jacobs' book, "Our School," which I reviewed in this column. The school finally has its own campus.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:33 PM



More bad news for the gov

Mark Baldassare and the PPIC have a new poll following up on the special election. It should be posted here later today.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from Baldassare's report on the results:

"Besides a large dose of skepticism about the special election, voters apparently brought something else with them to the polls on November 8th that may help explain the ultimate outcome - a bad mood. Almost seven in 10 special election voters (68%) say things in California are generally going in the wrong direction, compared to 62 percent of likely voters in October. Only 17 percent of special election voters think they can trust officials to do what is right always or most of the time, compared to 24 percent of likely voters in August. And 78 percent of special election voters think their state government is run by a few big interests, up from 71 percent among likely voters in August.

In keeping with their general gloom, special election voters also have a markedly negative view of the performance of their governor and state legislature. Majorities disapprove of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's overall performance in office (56%), of his handling of government reform issues (58%), and of the way he is using the initiative process in making public policy (60%). The legislature fares even worse, with 66 percent of voters disapproving of its performance. Voters regard their own individual representatives more favorably, but even that approval rating (37%) falls far short of a majority.

And while few voters hold positive opinions of the governor and legislature individually, the combination is lethal: An overwhelming majority (76%) disapprove of the way the two branches of government are working together in making public policy. Only 14 percent approve of the way the two work together.

"This was a vote of no confidence for state government as a whole," says PPIC survey director Mark Baldassare. "Special election voters took their disapproval and distrust with them to the polls on Election Day. The key question heading into the 2006 election year is where will all this anger go?" Adding to the challenge... Across the state, more voters say the special election has made them feel worse than better about California politics (38% to 21%).

Posted by dweintraub at 10:46 AM



December 4, 2005

Unintended consequences

Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell take a look at Quebec's universal preschool program for clues to problems that might arise in California if the Reiner initiative passes.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:08 AM



December 3, 2005

Schwarzenegger will lose -- Fresno GOP Leader

The president of the Fresno County Lincoln Club -- the Republican fundraising arm -- says he sees "no conceivable scenario" under which Schwarzenegger can be reelected next year -- and the appointment of Susan Kennedy was the last nail, ensuring that Schwarzenegger will be unable to rally the Republican troops even if he has a "spectacular year."

Posted by dweintraub at 5:56 PM



$5 billion and change

The education lobby is asking the governor for a $5.5 billion increase next year, a 10 percent boost over current year funding.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:07 AM



December 2, 2005

More money, worse care?

This study that came out last month should be required reading for anyone who thinks competition can't lower the cost of medicine and improve care. The authors not only found wide variations in the cost of treating the same conditions in California hospitals but concluded that the biggest cost driver was the availability of resources. In other words, more doctors or more hospital beds lead to higher costs, but not better care.

An excerpt from the California Health Care Foundation:

The study finds significant variation in Medicare spending for chronically ill patients in California. For example (as shown in Figure 1), hospitals in Los Angeles received an average of 60 percent more for inpatient reimbursement for Medicare patients during the last two years of life than Sacramento-area hospitals. In fact, Medicare paid some hospitals in the state as much as four times more than other hospitals to care for patients with similar conditions.

Yet the additional care provided did not improve medical outcomes or patient satisfaction. Rather, as the volume of care increased, the quality of care and patient satisfaction actually declined.

The comparisons suggest that savings could be achieved by improving efficiency with no impact on quality. For example, Medicare could have saved $1.7 billion in the Los Angeles area alone if medical practice patterns there, the most expensive region, resembled those of Sacramento, the least expensive.

And this:

The study found that the higher use in California reflected a delivery system in which services were driven not by patient need, but by the supply of medical resources. In regions that have more hospitals, more ICU beds, more physicians, and more specialists, patients receive significantly more services at greater cost, but with no improvement in outcomes.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:27 AM



December 1, 2005

Genest no longer 'acting'

The governor today named Michael Genest as his director of finance. Genest, a former deputy in the office and once the lead fiscal adviser to the Senate Republicans, has been serving as acting Finance Director since Tom Campbell left to work on the Proposition 76 campaign.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:32 PM



Yolo wins Conaway Ranch case

A Yolo County judge has ruled that the government can force the sale of private land -- in this case a 17,000 acre tract of farms and wetlands -- in order to preserve it, even though its private owners have put forward no plans to develop it and the county won't promise that the land will remain undeveloped forever under its stewardship. Here is the Bee's account of the latest twist in the Conaway Ranch case.

And here is an op-ed from Peter Asmus on why Yolo's eminent domain action is a bad idea. An excerpt:

Given that no apparent threat exists to the property and that the current owners have a history of environmental stewardship, I have grave reservations about this specific use of eminent domain in Yolo County and how it would likely impact long-term public/private conservation efforts throughout California.

If Yolo County is successful in forcing landowners to sell their land for conservation purposes, what will stop other public agencies from applying similar "condemn to conserve" strategies in other parts of the state? In the mid-1990s, I co-authored a report for state policymakers on how to improve implementation of the federal Endangered Species Act. Among the many recommendations was the following: If private owners and proponents of projects are to be enlisted in the effort to conserve species, they need incentives and compensation for voluntary ecosystem conservation.

Seizing private property after farmers on the Conaway Ranch have developed what the California Waterfowl Association recently described as a "nationally recognized success story for wildlife-friendly farming practices" is hardly a way to create incentives for other landowners to be good land stewards.

Effective conservation planning requires trust between landowners and government. In Yolo County, thanks to the county's efforts to condemn the Conaway Ranch, that trust is eroding. Instead of working with the current landowners to continue conserving the property, the county is instead attempting to seize the property through eminent domain.


Posted by dweintraub at 9:04 AM



 
 

NEW BLOG

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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