Capital News & Notes
For Clients & Friends of The Gualco Group, Inc.
IN THIS ISSUE – “It’s Kind Of Like ‘Grapes of Wrath’ In Reverse”
- Caltrans to Study Pay-By-The-Mile Technology for Motorists
- Dam Owners Ignore State Inspectors’ Warnings
- Cap-and-Trade is an $8-Billion Cash Cow for State Government
- Is the California Dream…Eastward Ho?
- Sexual Harassment @ State Capitol – Peer Pressure Forces Resignations
- Female Legislators Accuse Colleague “Huggy Bear” of Harassment
- Governor Candidate Villaraigosa Rolls Out Business-Friendly Message in Central Valley
Capital News & Notes (CN&N) harvests California legislative and regulatory insights from dozens of media and official sources for the past week, tailored to your business and advocacy interests. Please feel free to forward.
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FOR THE WEEK ENDING DEC.15, 2017, READ ALL ABOUT IT!!!
Caltrans to Study Pay-By-The-Mile Technology in 2018
Weeks into a new gas tax hike, California transportation officials said they are studying ways to charge drivers based on how many miles they drove since their last fill-up rather than the amount of fuel they use.
The California Road Charge Pilot Program report is billed as a way for the state to move from its longstanding but outmoded pump tax to a system where drivers pay based on their odometer readings.
Caltrans Deputy Director Carrie Pourvahidi said the state will send out a request early next year to technology companies for ideas on a simple communication system at gas stations or electric charging stations that can instantly tell how many miles the car has driven.
“It’d be point-of-sale technology,” she said. “We’re looking for something so simple that there is nothing (the driver) has to do.”
If the state finds technology that works, it will apply for a federal highway grant to explore how to set up a statewide system. Other states have been looking into switching to a per-mile road tax, but California appears to be the first to look at point-of-purchase technology in recent years, Pourvahidi said.
Officials say the research stems from the state’s struggles to come up with adequate per-gallon pump revenues as more cars get higher mileage.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature passed a controversial set of tax and fee increases this year that they see as a stopgap. Those fees, including a 12-cent per gallon tax increase, are being challenged by tax groups seeking a November 2018 ballot repeal.
In a report issued Thursday, state officials said this year’s Senate Bill 1 tax should succeed in “delaying the expected transportation funding shortage by a decade or more,” but contends the state ultimately will need a new system for funding road maintenance and repair.
Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, is an opponent of SB 1 and dismissed the pay-per-mile concept as well, saying the state has adequate funding already.
“It’s another terrible idea from Sacramento Democrats to reduce productivity,” he said.
The California Road Charge Pilot Program report included an overview of a just-finished road charge experiment that enlisted more than 5,000 volunteer drivers to have their mileage monitored over nine months of driving.
Most volunteers used a device plugged into the vehicle’s data port that relied on wireless technology to transmit mileage information to a state contractor. The state then sent each driver a simulated monthly invoice, and drivers sent in online mock payments.
State officials report that the project went well and is doable on a larger basis for the entire state driving population.
However, they said, a system based on paying per mile at the gas pump or charging station could be simpler, more cost effective and more readily accepted by the public. It likely will take at least until 2025 to come up with a system, the report’s authors said.
That new system will be problematic politically, though.
Rob Stutzman, a consultant who works with Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said it could create a policy conundrum for California. “Any effort to charge those users creates a disincentive to purchase alternative fuel vehicles,” he said.
Matthew Baker, policy director for the Planning and Conservation League, an environmental group, said the pay-per-mile concept could help reduce the vehicle miles traveled by California drivers, an important goal for his group, but the fee could have the negative effect of hitting lower-income communities harder.
He said the state should use revenues from a pay-per-mile system to provide more access to non-car travel modes, such as public transit, and should focus efforts as well on creating communities where people don’t have to drive as many miles in their daily lives.
Dam Owners Ignoring State Inspectors’ Warnings
Cracked concrete. Plugged drains. Unchecked tree and brush growth. Broken outlet valves.
These are some of the problems that have gone uncorrected for years at California dams in spite of being flagged repeatedly by inspectors from the state Department of Water Resources. The sample below is based on a Sacramento Bee analysis of five years of inspection reports at the 93 dams singled out for further review by state officials following the February crisis at Oroville Dam. All of the dams mentioned below are classified as “high hazard” by the state because of their proximity to people living downstream.
The inspector who showed up in September 2012 at tiny North Fork Dam, owned by the Pacheco Pass Water District in Santa Clara County, could barely hide his frustration.
“None of the requested work from (the) last inspection has been performed at the dam,” he wrote. “Work involved removal of vegetation from the dam and the spillway. I again requested the owner remove all the brush from the downstream and upstream face of the dam and from the left spillway wall. The owner assured me this work will be done.”
The shortcomings piled up, year after year. In 2014 an inspector said cracking had left the spillway’s concrete surface in “poor to serviceable condition.”
At an August 2016 inspection, inspectors got to the root of the problem: “The Pacheco Pass Water District…does not have a functioning board of directors and measures have been taken to dissolve the District,” an inspector wrote.
That appears to be changing. After a decade of inactivity, a new board was elected last December. Rob Bernosky, board secretary, said the flaws cited repeatedly by the inspectors aren’t “terribly egregious” but are being addressed. Pacheco Pass is also evaluating its long-term future, holding talks with the much larger Santa Clara Valley Water District about a possible takeover.
Lake Curry, located in Napa County and owned by the city of Vallejo, has been a trouble spot for decades. Since 1995 the state has reduced the maximum of water the reservoir can store, by about 8 percent, because of various deficiencies.
For the past three years, the state has focused on a corroded cast-iron pipe through which water is released from the lake.
Inspectors in 2014 said the pipe “varies from fair to poor condition,” and a failure could result “in uncontrolled release of the reservoir.” After a 2016 inspection, they again warned about the pipe’s deterioration.
City officials told the inspectors they were waiting on funding for repairs, and in June 2016 they submitted a plan to fix the problem. Michael Malone, director of Vallejo’s water department, said the work should be completed soon. He added that, despite the inspectors’ warnings, the city’s consultant concluded that the problem wasn’t a serious safety concern after all.
“The public is not in danger,” he said.
very three years, dam owners must demonstrate that their valves and gates can open and shut properly.
When inspectors showed up in September 2014 at Rollins Dam, in the Nevada County foothills, expecting to get a demonstration, an “electric systems malfunction” kept the valves from operating.
During a followup inspection three months later, one valve opened perfectly but the other got stuck after opening two-thirds of the way. A 2015 inspection report said the valve could open 88 percent, after hardened grease had been removed from the mechanism.
In September 2016 the Nevada Irrigation District told inspectors they were designing replacement parts for the valve, which “still cannot be fully operated,” according to the state’s report. Installation was expected to be completed last month. District officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Dave Meraz, an employee of the San Benito County Water District, had a simple statement for the inspectors who visited Hernandez Dam in July 2013: Sorry.
Inspectors had told Meraz the year before to fix multiple problems at the dam: cracks on the spillway, clogged drains and more. Meraz “agreed to make the necessary repairs and apologized for not completing the work since the last inspection,” inspectors wrote.
The problems weren’t cleared up until the March 2016 inspection. But that same inspection brought a new problem to light: Attempting to demonstrate an outlet valve for the inspectors, a dam employee was able to open the mechanism but couldn’t shut it back up.
The valve remained locked in the open position until shortly before last winter, said general manager Jeff Cattaneo.
Cattaneo said the valve, which wasn’t a safety hazard, would have been repaired sooner but the reservoir had to be empty first.
He said keeping tabs on Hernandez is tough. Located in a remote part of the county, Hernandez is 55 miles from district headquarters in Hollister. The dam has no full-time employees; it’s monitored remotely.
“It’s not like we go down there every single day,” Cattaneo said. “We go down there once or twice a month to do inspections.”
When dams are built, engineers often install devices that measure water pressure, movements within the dam caused by seismic activity, pressure changes or natural settling. Dam owners are supposed to report the data annually to state inspectors.
However, at least five dam owners went multiple years without reporting data, despite repeated complaints from inspectors. At Puddingstone and Cogswell dams, both owned by Los Angeles County, inspectors said the last instrumentation report they saw contained sensor data at least seven years old.
Foresthill Public Utilities District, owner of Sugar Pine Dam in Placer County, was told repeatedly to develop a plan for replacing its aging piezometers, which measure water pressure. When inspectors visited the dam in March of this year, five of the 16 piezometers were broken. One third of the piezometers at Guadalupe Dam, owned by Santa Clara Valley Water District, went unrepaired for three consecutive years.
All but three of the original 56 piezometers installed at Oroville Dam in the 1960s have stopped functioning, according to inspection reports.
Cap-and-Trade is a Cash Cow for State Government
Although California’s cap-and-trade program was designed to combat climate change, a new analysis predicts it could also provide significant cash — as much as $8 billion in a decade’s time — for state and regional programs.
The report issued Tuesday by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office projects a wide range of revenue generated by the sale of permits for companies to emit greenhouse gases beyond a state-ordered emissions cap. The most recent auction of those emission permits brought in more than $800 million.
The analysis warns that annual cap-and-trade revenue beyond 2020 is “highly uncertain,” and offers a possible range from $2 billion in 2018 to almost $7 billion in 2030 — the final year of the program under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed in July.
The estimate of $8.3 billion in 2027 is the high-water mark for any year in the report. Researchers cite a number of factors that make a specific prediction impossible, including future technology that allows industries to cut greenhouse gas emissions easily and thus pass on purchasing emission allowances.
“While it is clear that there will be additional revenues to the state beyond 2020, the amount that will be generated annually is highly uncertain,” the report reads.
Money collected from the sale of pollution permits is required to be spent on programs combating climate change. A portion of the money also is earmarked for the state’s high-speed rail program.
The report urges lawmakers to provide oversight for future decisions made by the California Air Resources Board, the agency that has taken the lead on climate change efforts. In particular, the analysts warn that allowing businesses to stockpile too many permits — ones bought at current low prices — could lead to excessive greenhouse gas emissions in future years, potentially even causing the state to miss its annual benchmark as soon as 2024.
Is the California Dream…Eastward Ho?
“Grapes of Wrath in Reverse”
For many Californians the question is always sitting there: Is this worth it? Natural disasters are a moment to take stock and rethink the dream. But in the end, the calculation almost always comes down to cost.
Russel Lee and his wife spent the past few years in Oakland going online to do the depressing math of how much less housing costs pretty much everywhere that isn’t California. They looked at Idaho, Arizona, North Carolina and Kentucky, but Mr. Lee, who was born in San Francisco and has lived in the Bay Area his entire life, could never quite make the move. Then the fires came.
In October, as the most destructive wildfire in state history swept through Northern California, Mr. Lee’s three-bedroom home in Santa Rosa was consumed by the flames. He lost everything: his tools, his guns, his childhood report cards. Forced to confront the decision of whether to stay and rebuild or pick up and go somewhere else, Mr. Lee finally decided it was time to go. He used the insurance payment to buy a $150,000 home outside Knoxville, Tenn., and will soon leave California for good.
“It was like ‘Welp, it’s time,’” Mr. Lee said. “It’s kind of like ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ in reverse.”
For the half-century after World War II, California represented the epitome of middle-class America on the move. As people poured into the state in search of good weather and the lure of single-family homes with backyard orange trees, the state embarked on a vast natural engineering project that redirected northern water southward, creating the modern Southern California and making the state the most populous in the nation.
Those days are long gone. For more than three decades, California has seen a net outflow of residents to other states, as less expensive southern cities like Phoenix, Houston and Raleigh supplant those of the Golden State as beacons of opportunity. California still has a hold on the national imagination: It has lots of jobs and great weather, along with the glamour of Hollywood and the inventiveness of Silicon Valley.
Last Friday was Saul Weinstein’s last day at work, and the start of his last weekend as a Californian. Mr. Weinstein, a 67-year-old commercial banker, retired and moved to Nevada. He has lived through several fires, and the 1994 earthquake that killed 57 people and shook him and millions of other Southern Californians out of bed at 4:30 in the morning.
But what finally sent him packing was money. Mr. Weinstein is selling his 2,000-square-foot house in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles, for $570,000. He paid less than half that for a similarly sized place in Pahrump, Nev., about an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas. He moved on Monday.
“When you retire you have to watch your money,” Mr. Weinstein said. “The San Andreas Fault is what they politely call ‘overdue,’ and I will be much more comfortable when I’m away from that. But if it wasn’t for the cost of living I probably would have stuck around and taken my chances.”
California was once a migration magnet, but since 2010 the state has lost more than two million residents 25 and older, including 220,000 who moved to Texas, according to census data. Arizona and Nevada have each welcomed about 180,000 California expatriates since the start of the decade. Next week, as people start decamping for the holidays, airports throughout the South and Southwest will fill up with people who are from California and are now traveling West to see the family they left behind.
Next year, Heather Birdsell is likely to be among them. Ms. Birdsell, a 33-year-old legal assistant, grew up in Orange County and now lives in a two-bedroom condominium in Lake Forest, Calif. After years of watching friends move out of state and listening to them talk about how much easier life was and how much bigger their homes were, Ms. Birdsell and her husband finally put their home on the market. They are in escrow now and plan on moving to Phoenix early next year.
“The money we make in California is more than sufficient to work in any other state,” she said. “We’re just excited about finally getting what we want and not being strapped to make it happen.”
Fire is an annual affair, and even as climate change stretches the burning season from summer and early fall clear into December, people here accept that pleasant weather and destructive forces are linked. People who live in Florida and on the Gulf Coast have made a similar peace with hurricanes.
“I think you’ll find that even people who lost houses will stay here,” said Tom Sheaffer, 54, who grew up in Ventura. The same warm offshore winds that helped spread the fire are responsible for shaping the nicely curled waves that Mr. Sheaffer surfs on good mornings.
Mr. Sheaffer’s wife, Mary Beth, said the image that she holds with her is the one of the iconic cross at Grant Park, which sits on a hillside overlooking the downtown area. The fire burned everything around it at the park and charred the cross itself. But it is still standing, and many Ventura residents are using its image with the hashtag #Venturastrong to indicate a willingness to rebuild, to get their lives back.
“That makes me cry the most,” Ms. Sheaffer said.
“We’ll get through this,” her husband said.
And in the end the state always does. California has 40 million people and has grown through much worse. San Francisco was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire and was rebuilt in time to host the 1915 World’s Fair. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the worst since 1906, was followed by the 1991 Oakland fires, followed by the 1993 Malibu fires, followed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
None of this was enough to dissuade Silicon Valley from expanding into the world’s technology capital, or to induce Hollywood to leave Hollywood. “The wrath of God has failed to deter companies from thinking this is a great place to be, although it is expensive and crowded,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.
Living here means accepting the existential threats. Out on the horizon, beyond the periodic fires, floods and landslides, lies the knowledge that at some point the next great earthquake is going to cause a staggering amount of destruction and, if it damages the water system, could render large parts of the state uninhabitable. But shortly in the aftermath of a disaster, after checking the first aid kit and refilling the fresh water bottles, Californians go back to living.
“It’s a kind of episodic mindfulness and then you retreat back to oblivion,” said Jim Newton, a journalist, historian and lecturer at the U.C.L.A. Luskin School of Public Affairs. “People talk about traffic; people talk about the price of homes.”
Right now it is the Republican tax plan that is causing people to rethink their finances and ultimately where they want to live. The plan, while still a work in progress, is almost certain to land harder on California and other heavily Democratic states if it passes. The state’s median home cost is $500,000, twice the national level, and for decades residents have softened the blow from high home prices and high state and city taxes by using generous federal deductions that lower their taxes.
Curious as to how this might change Californians’ outlook, Redfin, a national real estate brokerage firm based in Seattle, recently asked a sample of 900 homeowners if they would consider moving if they could no longer deduct state and local taxes. Some 37 percent of Californians said they would consider it. Californians looking elsewhere are already among the most popular searches on the Redfin website.
“We have real estate agents all over the country who meet their customers in airports,” said Glenn Kelman, the company’s chief executive. “They’re coming from California.”
Sexual Harassment @ State Capitol – Peer Pressure Forces Resignations
It’s a central tenet of democracy: The electorate is a politician’s ultimate boss. If voters don’t like what their representatives are up to, they can, as the saying goes, throw the bums out.
But in recent weeks, as a wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations hits politicians in several statehouses and the nation’s capitol, another force is proving to be as powerful as the electorate: peer pressure.
Two California assemblymen and three members of Congress have resigned in the last two weeks, all facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Each man initially held onto his office for days or weeks after the accusations surfaced. Their resignations came only when their political colleagues called on them to step down.
The degree of peer pressure varied in each case. Still, the resignations point to a major difference between public office and private-sector employment. In movie studios, television networks and some other corporate workplaces, executives have moved swiftly in recent weeks to fire men accused of misconduct. In politics, however, it takes more time for consequences to kick in. And that’s largely because of the collegial dynamics of a legislative body.
“It is challenging. Unlike a voter who is watching from the sidelines, when you are working day to day with someone it becomes a lot more intimate and a lot more awkward,” said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, who is leading the subcommittee tasked with updating the Assembly’s procedure for responding to sexual harassment complaints.
“We are very tied together,” she said. “We see each other all the time.”
Friedman, a Democrat from Glendale, was one of many assembly members who circulated a letter last month asking for the immediate resignation of their colleague Raul Bocanegra after several women accused him of groping. Bocanegra, a Democrat from Los Angeles, survived for weeks after the first report emerged that he had groped a staff member several years ago. When six more women came forward with similar stories, he said he would not run for re-election after his term concluded at the end of next year.
Several fellow assembly members found that timeline intolerable, and began asking each other to sign the letter asking him to step down sooner. Within days, Bocanegra tendered his immediate resignation.
A similar pattern happened in Washington, D.C., last week with Sen. Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota. He held onto his seat after the first report, in which a newscaster accused him of having groped and forcibly kissed her a decade ago. Then, after several more women accused him of groping, Franken’s fellow Democratic senators began calling on him to resign. Within 24 hours, he did.
The resignation of California Assemblyman Matt Dababneh was a little different. He stepped down Friday, four days after a Sacramento lobbyist publicly accused him of trapping her in a bathroom and masturbating.
“The allegations made against me are not true,” Dababneh wrote in his letter of resignation. “However, due to the current environment, I, unfortunately, no longer believe I can serve my district effectively.”
Though there wasn’t an organized campaign pressuring Dababneh to step down, his colleagues were disturbed by the allegation and were talking amongst themselves about it, said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, one of few lawmakers who publicly called on him to resign.
“Some folks were saying, ‘I’m going to be really uncomfortable working with him,’” said Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens. “That has to get back to him.”
She notes that politicians without allies can’t get much done. They rely on each other to vote for bills, raise money for campaigns and attend political events: “If you have no relationships, you have no political capital.”
Lawmakers are tasked with policing their peers—an expectation that some say would be better handled by an independent body. Both Congress and the state Legislature have procedures allowing lawmakers to formally oust a peer with a vote of two-thirds of the members of a house. But the expulsion process is rarely used. Most of the 20 lawmakers expelled by Congress were ousted in the 19th century because of their loyalty to the Confederacy.
Lawmakers in Sacramento have been reluctant to expel colleagues unless they have been convicted—not just accused—of a crime. In 2014, the California Senate suspended, but did not expel, three state legislators who were charged with felonies including bribery and perjury, citing their right to due process. In the state’s history, California lawmakers have expelled a colleague just five times, according to legislative historian Alex Vassar—most recently in 1905.
“The institution is built so that there isn’t the ability to just swiftly kick someone out. If you did that, you’d be actively working against the will of the people,” said Kelly Dittmar, an assistant political science professor with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
But because voters only weigh in every few years, she said, “you could wind up with someone who is problematic in office for a long time. So the middle road is to pressure them to resign.”
Democrats in Washington are now trying the tactic with Republican President Donald Trump—several have asked him to resign in response to harassment allegations that re-surfaced this week. With their minority status in Congress though, it’s unlikely the Democrats’ drumbeat has much effect on the White House.
What remains to be seen in Sacramento is whether peer pressure will lead to a resignation in the state Senate the way it has in the Assembly. Sen. Tony Mendoza has been accused of harassing young female employees by inviting them to come home with him and sending flirtatious text messages. One staff member said Mendoza brought her to a hotel room when she was a 19-year-old intern and gave her alcohol.
Mendoza, a Democrat from Artesia, denies doing anything wrong. “I am confident that a fair process will reveal that the allegations are baseless,” he wrote in a statement published on his Facebook page last month.
The Senate responded to the allegations by removing Mendoza as the chairman of a powerful committee, and making plans to hire an outside law firm to investigate harassment complaints.
“We are taking this step by step,” said Anthony Reyes, a spokesman for Senate leader Kevin de León.
This week, however, one Democratic state senator said for the first time that she thinks Mendoza should resign. Sen. Connie Leyva said she’s heard from other senators who feel the same way.
“I don’t know if there is a movement necessarily, but I have definitely heard it from some colleagues,” said Leyva, a Democrat from Chino.
She said she’s partly inspired by watching the wave of recent resignations in Washington and Sacramento: “Now that we’ve seen men stepping up and taking responsibility for their actions, I think it’s even more of an impetus for (Mendoza) to step up and do the same thing.”
Female Lawmakers Accuse Senate Colleague “Huggy Bear” of Harassment
Three current and former female lawmakers say Sen. Bob Hertzberg inappropriately hugged and touched them, including an incident that one woman says crossed the line into what she considered assault.
Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who served as Assembly speaker from 2000 to 2002 and was elected to the Senate in 2014 after a break from the Legislature, has long had a reputation for being physically affectionate. A pin he distributed at the 2000 California Democratic convention read, “I was hugged by Assemblymember Bob Hertzberg.” In political circles, he has the nickname “Huggy Bear.”
But the three women The Bee spoke to said the embraces were too long and overly intimate for their comfort. Two of them said they expressed their concerns to Hertzberg and he hugged them again anyway.
Former Assemblyman Linda Halderman, a Republican from Fresno who served one term from 2010 to 2012, shared her experience on the record because she felt she had “nothing to lose now except my privacy.” The other two women, both sitting lawmakers, asked not to be named because they did not want the issue to interfere with their legislative work or feared retaliation.
“All of my life I have greeted my friends and colleagues with a hug,” Hertzberg said in a statement. “My intentions have only been to foster a warm, human connection. I apologize to anyone who may have ever felt uncomfortable, and I will change how I greet people moving forward.”
He did not deny the allegations.
Halderman said she met Hertzberg early in her term when he came to the Capitol to teach a freshmen legislator orientation. When the first class was over, she said, he “kind of grabbed me and hugged me too long.”
“I didn’t like it, but I just didn’t think much of it,” Halderman said.
Halderman said he then started doing it repeatedly, every time he saw her in the hallway, even though she says she didn’t know Hertzberg at all.
Usually it happened when no one else was around. But at an event outside the Capitol one evening early in her term, she said he did it in front of Sen. Jean Fuller.
“The way he hugged me, and it was prolonged, it was creepy enough that Jean afterward said, ‘Do you know that guy?’” Halderman said. “I’m not cold. I just tend to be a little bit more modest and a little bit more held back. … I wouldn’t generally hug people at work, unless we were really close.”
Fuller, R-Bakersfield, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The next time Halderman saw Hertzberg in the hallway at the Capitol, she said she told him, “I’m not a hugger. I’m not really comfortable with that.”
She said he grabbed her anyway and pinned her in his arms, with one hand on her lower back, so that she couldn’t turn away from him, then he thrust his groin into her.
“It was like dirty dancing. It was gross. I was really just kind of horrified, because you don’t do that. You just don’t do that. It was so out of context and inappropriate,” Halderman said. “It was so clearly a sexual thing, rather than a friendly thing.”
Governor Candidate Villaraigosa Takes Business-Friendly Message to Central Valley
California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa talked innovation, the economy, jobs and politics during a business roundtable in downtown Bakersfield Tuesday afternoon.
The former mayor of Los Angeles was on a speaking swing through Kern County that ended with an evening fundraising event at a private home in Seven Oaks.
In the early afternoon Villaraigosa toured the Kern Community College District’s 21st Century Clean Energy Center to learn about the training programs designed to get the unemployed or under-employed into good-paying industrial jobs.
David Teasdale, director of the Clean Energy Center, showed him to a training room filled with a host of practical equipment models that can be rolled out into the teaching space for hands-on experience.
Nearby, eight students studied the basic electrical mechanics of control panel wiring.
Jim Elrod of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers explained that the program, and the demand for jobs in the alternative energy field, are driving enrollment in the union’s apprenticeship program.
Of around 130 people in that program, 60 percent started out as panel installers in Kern County’s solar energy fields.
Kern Community College Chancellor Tom Burke said that the program has trained more than 1,000 people for work.
“I think we need to replicate this,” Villaraigosa told the roundtable that convened in a KCCD meeting room following the tour. “I want to focus on jobs. Let’s create some jobs. Let’s train people for those jobs.”
He stuck to a clear, business-friendly path through the afternoon discussion – calling for political cooperation, more efficient government, local control of revenues.
Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez joined Villariagosa at the event, which also included business owners, Kern Economic Development Corp. officials, leaders from the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce and Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Kern County Taxpayers’ Association and trade and construction unions.
A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed Villaraigosa running second in the governor’s race with 18 percent of the vote behind Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat who has 23 percent of the vote.
The two men, fellow Democrat John Chiang and two Republican candidates will face off in a primary election in six months with the top two vote-getters advancing to the November general election.
Judging from Villaraigosa’s stances in Bakersfield Tuesday he is charting a more centrist course than the famously progressive Newsom.
He called for the return of the redevelopment program, leaner and more efficient, which used to allow local government to funnel increased tax revenue into incentives to spur new growth.
Villaraigosa was critical of the sharp increase in costs to middle- and low-income people that was created by the passage of the road tax.
Rich folks on the coast, who are probably driving Teslas by now, won’t be hit hard by the tax, he said, but people struggling to make it will be challenged by the change.
Government, Villaraigosa said, needs to prove it is doing more with less.
“The only way to convince people you need more is to do more with the money you’ve got,” he said.
Villaraigosa said he won’t be a governor who demonizes the oil and gas sector, and he said he will promote innovation over regulation in the state.
He said he believes the new tax plan will harm a lot of people in California and Kern County but he said that the corporate tax rate did need to be cut – maybe not to 20 percent.
“Government has to learn to innovate, not regulate,” Kern County Taxpayers’ spokesman Michael Turnipseed told him. “Be the governor of innovation.”
“If we’re going to innovate we’ve to go listen to both sides,” Villaraigosa replied. “I’m ready to do this job. I want to represent everyone, both the people who vote for me and the people who don’t vote for me.”
And he said the state’s progress will require help from all its young people either by helping them get a college education or by training them for good jobs like those in Kern County’s strong energy sector.
“If we’re going to grow smart and we’re going to grow together we’re going to have to target areas of the state with the largest percentage of disaffected youth,” he said.
And he promised to pay attention to the Central Valley.
In previous tours of the state he’s devoted large chunks of time to the state’s heartland, Villaraigosa said.
“I’ve spent the time that I have because I know that there haven’t been too many people like myself who have come here,” he said.