January 4, 2019 – News & Notes

IN THIS ISSUE – From Latin Bon Mots to Techie Newspeak

CHANGING GOVERNORS

CALIFORNIANS COUNT

PUBLIC POLICY POTPOURRI

WELCOMING 2019, CALIFORNIA-STYLE

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.

Stay current daily!  For our focused updates via Twitter: @jrgualco / @robertjgore / @gualcogroup

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FOR THE WEEK ENDING JAN. 4, 2019

A Jerry-to-Gavin Dictionary

With Gov. Jerry Brown on his way out, soon to be replaced by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California’s political landscape is shifting. So, too, is its political lexicon.

While Brown was known for sprinkling (or occasionally dousing) his speeches with Latin bon mots and scholarly references sure to send reporters rushing to Google, Newsom brings his own unique way of speaking to governor’s mansion, one that draws equally from Silicon Valley newspeak and the most quotable bits of Jerry Garcia and Kendrick Lamar.

For their fans, the two Democratic leaders’ distinct approaches to the English language speak to their intelligence and thoughtfulness. But for the uninitiated, it can be downright confusing. We’re here to help.

Brown’s Final Act: Swears in Supreme Court Justice

California Supreme Court Justice Joshua Groban, a lawyer and longtime aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, was sworn into the state’s highest court Thursday in Sacramento.

The ceremony marked Brown’s fourth appointment to the state Supreme Court and gave the seven-member bench a Democratic majority.

“We live in a highly chaotic, ever-changing and ever-confusing world,” Groban said in prepared remarks at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building. “But I’m happy to report that I’m joining an institution whose fundamental purpose, at core, is to provide stability and consistency amidst this chaotic place we live. I look forward to doing that with a sense of reflection, respect, fidelity to the law and compassion.”

None of Brown’s appointees, Groban included, have judicial experience. Groban served as legal counsel to Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and joined the administration as a senior advisor to the governor, overseeing the appointments of some 600 judges over the last eight years. Prior to working with Brown, Groban, 45, practiced law for more than a decade.

In perhaps his final public appearance before his successor, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, takes office next week, Brown pushed back on notions that he stacked the court. 

“I don’t want this to be known as a ‘Brown court,’” the governor said before administering the judicial oath of office. “First of all, the so-called ‘Brown appointments’ do not agree with themselves and nor should they. They are individuals. They will differ. It’s not anybody’s court.”

The governor called the court a “high calling” and said Groban possesses the values for the job.

“Probably, next to my wife, I’ve talked to no person as much as I’ve talked to Josh Groban,” Brown said.

“I think you’ve talked to him more,” California’s First Lady Anne Gust Brown interjected.

“I can’t tell you what the hell he’s going to do,” Brown later quipped. “I warned him, don’t screw up, at least not at first.”

https://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-may-2018-joshua-groban-aide-to-gov-jerry-brown-1546551220-htmlstory.html?utm_source=CALmatters+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b0659b09ab-WHATMATTERS_NEWSLETTER&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_faa7be558d-b0659b09ab-150181777

Newsom Takes Office in Hot Water

In the final weeks of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, his appointees on a state board ordered some powerful water districts to cut their historic river diversions to protect endangered salmon populations.

It was a major move by a panel that in the past has often been leery of flexing its regulatory muscles.

But while the State Water Resources Control Board was demanding more water for fish, other Brown appointees were busy crafting deals that could ultimately mean less water for the environment.

Despite a flurry of activity, Brown is leaving plenty of unfinished water business as he heads to his ranch in the Sacramento Valley.

Brown-backed plans to build two giant water tunnels still need key state permits. The water board is in the midst of adopting new flow standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. Federal agencies are revising Endangered Species Act protections in the delta, the center of California’s vast water system.

After Gavin Newsom moves into the governor’s office, the state’s position could change on all of those initiatives.

Newsom has previously said he favors a scaled-down tunnel project. Whether he reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the Trump administration — or fights it.

“I’m sure we’re going to get a different view and philosophy from the Newsom administration. But I also expect they will respect decisions made under the Brown administration,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has played a key role in those decisions.

Metropolitan gets roughly a third of the Southland’s water supply from the delta in the form of State Water Project deliveries. That means that flow requirements and endangered species protections in the delta and its huge watershed influence how much water goes into the California Aqueduct for the 444-mile trip south.

So even though Metropolitan is not directly affected by the state board’s December order to leave more water for migrating salmon in three tributaries of the San Joaquin River, MWD is advocating settlements that would pare those requirements, as well as avert tougher ones in the offing for the Sacramento River basin and the delta itself.

“We’ve been throwing flow at the fish for a couple of decades and they’ve gotten worse every year,” Kightlinger argued. “What we really need to do are non-flow measures, such as acquiring habitat, restoring marshlands, setting back levees, creating better food supply for the fish … more predation control measures.”

The state board would have to approve any settlements. But it is not involved in the negotiations with diverters, which have been conducted by directors of the state Water Resources and Fish and Wildlife departments.

The state is also consulting with federal agencies in a periodic review of environmental limits on the delta pumping operations that are part of the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

The projects will “basically be making the case for different types of outflow at different times of year based on the science we’ve been conducting,” Kightlinger said.

Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said proposed changes in the pumping operations could involve fewer restrictions and more exports. “But I want to be really clear that DWR has not made any commitments on that front. I want to be really, really clear about that.”

Combine the potential for settlements and relaxed pumping limits in the delta, and environmental flows through the delta and out to sea could actually wind up lower than they are today.

“There was the big effort to present this grand bargain, in part to stop the water board from adopting these new standards, but in part to try to build political momentum for what appears to be a bait and switch,” said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

The settlement framework “does not appear to be addressing the most fundamental part of restoring the health of the delta, which is increased water flowing through the delta to Suisun Bay and San Francisco Bay,” he added.

Nemeth defended the proposed settlement, saying proponents will have to show that habitat improvements tied to some additional river flows will provide enough environmental benefits to satisfy the water board.

“I think [the system] needs water and physical restoration,” she said. “What is the right combination that … provides comparable or better benefits,” to the board’s flow standards.

So much water is diverted by farms and cities upstream of the delta and pumped from the delta itself that the average volume of flows out to the bay is about half of what it once was.

That has distorted hydrological patterns and altered salinity levels, making the delta more hospitable to a host of invasive aquatic species than native fish. Diversions have so depleted the San Joaquin River and its tributaries that once-abundant salmon runs have all but disappeared.

New flow standards — part of a long overdue update of a water quality control plan for the delta watershed — are intended to halt that decline.

Whether they are implemented or diluted by accords will ultimately be up to the board, whose members are appointed by the governor to four-year terms.

Newsom will have only one board opening to fill soon after he takes office. Marcus’ term expires in January.

Marcus has said she is open to voluntary agreements, but also led the panel’s 4-1 adoption of the first round of flow requirements in the face of threatened lawsuits and loud protests by river users.

In coming weeks, the water world will be watching to see if Newsom steers a new course. His spokesman declined to discuss Newsom’s positions, saying Brown was still the governor.

“It remains to be seen,” Kightlinger said. “But you can’t do long-term things if each administration starts from scratch.”

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-pol-ca-water-decisions-20190104-story.html

It’s Official: California Losing Population to Other States

The U.S. Census Bureau and the state Department of Finance issue annual population estimates each December and they don’t always agree on how many human beings occupy California.

During the previous decade, following the 2000 census, their estimates were as much as one million persons apart – largely because of different calculations of state-to-state migration.

Since 2010, however, they have been fairly well in synch and last month, they were very close.

The Census Bureau estimated California’s population, as of July 1, at 39.6 million, while the Department of Finance tabbed it at 39.8 million.

Both sets of numbers underscored, however, one of California’s most important demographic trends – the slowing of the state’s once-soaring population growth rate.

Waves of immigration and two baby booms pushed the state’s post-World War II population growth rapidly upward.

It tapered off during the 1970s as the first baby boom ebbed, but picked up strongly in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to surges of immigration, legal and otherwise, from other nations and a second baby boom.

During the 1980s, California’s population increased by one-fourth, from about 24 million to 30 million, for example. But growth began to slow in the late 1990s and has been decelerating ever since.

Immigration has slowed to a trickle, and California now loses more people to other states than it gains.

Birthrates have declined sharply and as the first baby boom generation ages, the state’s death rate is increasing.

Annual growth rates are dropping, from 0.9 percent in 2010-11 to just 0.4 percent in 2017-18, according to the Census Bureau.

Since the 2010 census, which found 37.3 million Californians, the state has added just 2.3 million people, the Census Bureau data confirm, for an overall growth of 6.1 percent. That’s virtually identical to the nation’s, 5.96 percent, and puts California in some danger of losing one of its 53 congressional seats, which will be redistributed after the 2020 census.

“If the next census does a poor job of reaching traditionally hard-to-count populations and immigrant communities, more than 1.6 million Californians could be missed and the state could easily lose a seat,” the Public Policy Institute of California says in a recent report. “This scenario assumes a generally inaccurate count, similar to the 1990 Census, and a 10 percent undercount among households with one or more undocumented immigrants.

“Undercounting traditionally hard-to-count populations and immigrant communities could affect how political districts are redrawn within the state, shifting representation away from poorer areas with larger communities of color and toward wealthier and less racially and ethnically diverse parts of the state.”

The Trump administration has proposed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and also appears to be cutting back on outreach to the hard-to-count populations cited in the PPIC report.

In response, California is challenging the citizenship question in court and will spend millions of dollars to encourage census participation.

However, even a vigorous and accurate census will not change demographic trends. Even if California doesn’t lose a congressional seat, the fact of slowing population growth remains – and it will have myriad effects beyond reapportionment, some good and some not so good.

It will, for instance, slightly ease the state’s housing crisis and the demand for public services. But it also will mean stagnation in the number of taxpaying workers and customers for goods and services and, when coupled with the aging factor, make it more difficult for employers to fill jobs.

Demography, it’s been said, is destiny – as California will demonstrate.

Dept. of Finance population study:

http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Estimates/E-2/documents/PressReleaseJul2018.pdf

Despite Population Drain, Golden State Still Leads US in Billionaires

Tales of the rich supposedly fleeing the state’s high income taxes are hardy perennials, but California still leads the nation in billionaires, and recent studies have found that, among higher earners, California has experienced a net gain.

Under the state’s progressive tax structure, 46 percent of state income taxes are paid by the top 1 percent.

LeBron James has been, in theory at least, a California taxpayer for several months now. How grateful should the rest of us in the Golden State be to him for his contribution?

As an illustration of the state’s fiscal dependence on the wealthy, and perhaps as solace to the shivering fans James left behind in Cleveland, let’s count the ways.

First, what is a California 1 Percenter? It’s those making at least $580,429 a year, according to the state Department of Finance.

And the average earnings of the 1 percent? $1.9 million. That’s 23 times more than the average California filer’s $83,256 income.

Celebrities, moguls and techies don’t just pay out of their paychecks, but any time they cash in on their investments. As a result, California’s income taxes are much more volatile because the state treats capital gains, partnership income and dividends, interest and rent—all the ways the rich make their money—the same as wages.

That volatility has spawned debate in Sacramento about whether California needs tax reform. Newsom warns that when the economy catches a cold, “our budget is going to catch the flu.” (Check out our tax explainer for a primer on where California’s tax dollars go.)

Newsom says there are a variety of approaches to help stabilize the state budget, including a sales tax on services, changing property taxes, adding an oil severance tax, and adjusting income tax rates. While he acknowledges the risk, he hasn’t endorsed any plan yet.

But all else being equal, we can make this back-of-the-envelope calculation:

Over the course of his four-year $153.3 million contract, James could pay more than $20 million in California income taxes. That’s about $1 for everyone in the state workforce. It’s also more than double what he would pay in Ohio if he kept his residency there.

Thanks, LeBron!

Now, how do I know James will file as a California resident? Well, I don’t know for sure and the Lakers haven’t called me back. But circumstantial evidence suggests the bean counters at the California Franchise Tax Board will figure it out.

“They know everything,” quips Larry Pon, a CPA based in Redwood City. “This one client said he lived in Florida but the FTB agent asked, ‘How he’s in Florida, when I see ATM withdrawals in Sunnyvale and credit card charges in Palo Alto?’ Another guy claimed he wasn’t a resident California but there’s a passport stamp showing the day he arrived in California.

“There’s a lot of evidence of where you are and California is going to get its share of taxes.”

Where you are taxed is generally based on residency and work. California checks off both. There’s his $21 million mansion in Brentwood. Then there’s his second $23 million mansion in Brentwood. And his son, LeBron James Jr., attends a private school in Santa Monica—you can catch the video of LeBron Sr. in the stands at his basketball game on YouTube.

Even as a part-year resident, he’ll pay on the games he’s played in California since signing with the Lakers in July. All professional athletes pay to the states where they have games, says wealth manager Rob Seltzer of Seltzer Business Management in Century City.

“If he decided to stay in Ohio, he would then have California residency for the 41 home games he has with Lakers, as well as for the games that he plays on the road with the Clippers, the Warriors and other California teams,” Seltzer says.

Assuming he is a Californian, he’ll get taxed at the state’s top tax rate of 12.3 percent plus another 1 percent on income in excess of $1 million. However, he will get to claim some credit for taxes paid to other states. For example, his games in Portland, Phoenix and Denver will be taxed at 9.9 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

Complicating matters for James—and a lot of wealthy Californians—is the loss of a highly prized tax deduction that’s thought to have played a role in flipping seven of 14-GOP-held congressional districts to Democrats.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, put a $10,000 annual cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). By comparison, the Pew Charitable Trust found Californians claimed an average of $18,438 in SALT deductions.

Anti-tax advocates see such rules as incentives for the wealthy to move to states with lower taxes. Tax preparers say it’s hard to be so definitive. California’s warm weather and quality of life makes it an attractive place to live. It’s also an attractive place to do business as the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

On Friday, state demographers announced more people came to California than left, bringing the total population to 39.8 million.

“For however business unfriendly that California is, its appeal on so many other levels overrides those negatives,” Seltzer said.

When clients complain about their tax returns, Pon says, he tells them: “Look, this state made you a lot of money.”

“I hear people dissing California,” he said, “but it’s like, ‘Look, you became a billionaire because of California. You would not have been a billionaire if you were in Reno, Nevada.’”

Prosecutors “Finally” Pursue Public Agencies Campaigning

Commentary from CalMatters

Although state law specifically prohibits public officials from using taxpayers’ money for political campaigning, they have been doing exactly that throughout California.

Local governments hire “consultants” to poll voters on what tax and bond measures they would find acceptable, to draft those proposals accordingly and, finally, to run so-called “information” campaigns to persuade voters to approve them.

It’s so blatant that firms seeking lucrative contracts openly boast of their successful campaigns, eliminating any doubt that they are truly political operatives.

The practice has ballooned because local prosecutors and the state attorney general’s office ignore complaints about its illegality. Indeed, local district attorneys often benefit from the higher taxes.

Finally, however, we may be seeing some effort to sanitize this very stinky phenomenon which, if left unchecked, will only become more commonplace.

Last month, the state Fair Political Practices Commission took a potentially significant action against the Bay Area Rapid Transit District for doing what it and other local governments have been doing.

The FPPC voted unanimously to impose a $7,500 fine on BART for failing to report its spending on a bond issue as a campaign contribution. It also asked the attorney general and Bay Area district attorneys to prosecute the transit district for violating the law prohibiting the use of public funds for political campaigns.

“It’s not the total (amount) of what was used; it’s the concept of misusing public funds,” FPPC chairwoman Alice Germond said at the commission’s December meeting. “We want to send a warning and not create a precedent that it’s a minor, ‘slap on the wrist’ kind of thing.”

The action stems from a proposed $3.5 billion bond issue, Measure RR, that voters in the three-county district approved two years ago by a 70 percent margin. The “information campaign” for the bond included a video, featuring Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green, that the FPPC said was acceptable, while concluding that two other videos and text messages to voters were clearly advocacy.

BART paid a public relations firm, Clifford Moss LLC, $99,000 to craft its measure before the item was placed on the ballot, and the same firm then directed the supposedly independent campaign for the bond measure.

The FPPC acted on a complaint from Jason Bezis, a Lafayette attorney. It’s similar to complaints that have been filed about other local bond and tax measures, including those in Los Angeles County, by taxpayer advocacy groups.

After the FPPC acted, a BART spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, told the Bay Area News Group that the campaign errors were “accidental.”

“We have been and will continue to be committed to following the law,” Trost told BANG. “We accept their finding.”

While state law allows agencies to publish accurate information about their proposals, they are not allowed to advocate their passage, and that’s the line that BART and other agencies have obviously and arrogantly been crossing.

If they use public money for campaigns, they will, the FPPC implies, be treated like other financiers of political campaigns and be required to file reports. If they file such reports, however, they will be admitting, in effect, that they are violating the law prohibiting such spending.

That’s where the prosecutors should come into the picture. They should do their duty, enforce the law and seek personal fines from the officials involved. And the Legislature could, and should, invalidate any local measure that’s passed when those officials ignore the law.

Key Issues for California Emissions Goals

The Legislative Analyst’s Office is required to annually report on the economic impacts and benefits of California’s statutory greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals—limiting GHG emissions statewide to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The state has implemented a range of policies intended to help meet these GHG limits, hereafter referred to as climate policies or programs. These policies have a wide variety of economic effects—both positive and negative.

This report provides a conceptual overview of these effects, as well as some key issues to consider when designing and evaluating state climate policies. Specifically, we (1) provide a general overview of the state’s GHG limits and the major policies that are being implemented to achieve those targets, (2) describe the general types of economic effects associated with these policies, (3) identify key challenges in estimating the magnitude of these effects, and (4) discuss key issues for the Legislature to consider in regards to future climate policy design and evaluation.

https://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/3911?utm_source=laowww&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=3911

Cities Strive to Avoid Becoming San Francisco

Seattle does not want to become San Francisco, a fate that has come to refer exclusively to the city’s worst traits: its $5,000-a-month rents, its homeless encampments and the ever-present dissonance between those two. 

As San Francisco’s troubles have grown more vivid, so too has its status as other cities’ worst nightmare. In PortlandOakland and Sacramento, residents and pundits have voiced dread at becoming The Next San Francisco, where the middle class is disappearing.

San Francisco is worried, too — about becoming Manhattan. That fear has lurked for decades behind every new proposed skyscraper. And now cranes are erecting them all over downtown. The new Salesforce Tower sits at the center of the construction zone, 1,070 feet tall and butting into every vista in the city.

Surely there is nothing left to fear in New York, a place that already has tall buildings and high rents. But the pending arrival of Amazon in Long Island City, as Vice recently put it, has some residents on edge about “becoming Seattle on steroids.” The specter captures the particular mix of high housing costs, tall buildings and tech bros.

Our deepest anxieties about the future of where we live are embodied in other cities — in Portlandification, Brooklynification, Manhattanization. The comparison is seldom a compliment. You don’t want to become Manhattan (too dense), Portland (too twee), Boston (too expensive), Seattle (too tech-y), Houston (too sprawling), Los Angeles (too congested), Las Vegas (too speculative), Chicago (too indebted).

San Francisco has come to stand for the most specific set of horrors. It is the place where extreme poverty and tech wealth occupy the same block, while the schoolteachers and firefighters all live two hours away.

Consider other nuances: Portlandification can be Brooklynified, as happens when ambitious media-savvy types commercialize twee. Manhattanization has evolved over time. It once meant building up. Now it increasingly refers to building only for the rich.

Seattle-ization, meanwhile, is a particularly dire diagnosis: The high housing costs and tech riches there have remade the city with startling speed.

Denver seemed to imply no obvious meaning until The Kansas City Star’s editorial board assigned it one last month. “Stop the Denverization of Kansas City,” its headline said. Befuddled readers in Denver realized their city was now a synonym for gentrification — at least, among cities not yet expensive enough to worry about San Francisco-ization.

There are, in other words, multiple models to creating what others see as an urban dystopia. It’s much harder to point to cities that have gotten all of this right — the growth without the congestion, the tech jobs without the homeless crisis, the affordable housing without the sprawl.

We could use a word for the condition of becoming such a place. MaybeMinneapolisization?

“Forgotten in Rural California” – USDA Phasing Out Low-Income Housing Program

The town of Winters lies 30 miles from California’s capital of Sacramento and half that far from three other cities with a combined population of almost a quarter-million people. Despite its proximity to urban areas, Winters, with 7,300 residents, qualifies as a rural area under federal guidelines, and like small towns across the state and country, it faces an acute shortage of affordable housing.

The municipality has designated 235 housing units for low-income residents. Six apartment complexes account for that total, including Winters Senior Apartments, where Kathleen Griffin moved in three years ago.

The two-story, 38-unit building, tucked into a leafy neighborhood a few blocks from the city’s tidy downtown, provides subsidized housing through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The agency’s rural housing service supplies financial aid to low-income tenants that typically covers 70 percent of their rent.

For Ms. Griffin, who pays a third of the $820 monthly rent on her one-bedroom apartment, the assistance enabled her to return to her hometown and look after her elderly mother, who lives nearby. Before the unit opened at the Winters complex, she had languished for months on the waiting list of another subsidized apartment building while she stayed with a relative.

“We feel a little forgotten here in rural America,” Griffin says. A retired mental health counselor, she copes with severe neck, back, and knee pain and survives on a monthly $1,000 disability payment. “Without this building and without the rent help, I’m not sure how I’d get by.”

Housing advocates across the country share a similar concern, as the precarious state of low-income housing in rural areas threatens to deteriorate over the next decade – and from there descend into a full-blown crisis.

The USDA’s rental housing inventory comprises 416,000 subsidized units with an estimated 435,000 residents. Two reports this year found that, in the absence of more federal funding and better planning, the program will shed some 20,000 units by 2027. At that point, analysts predict, the loss rate will accelerate through 2050 with up to another 380,000 units expected to exit the program, gutting the overall supply by 90 percent or more.

“We want to sound the alarm,” says Lance George, director of research for the Housing Assistance Council, a nonprofit advocacy and policy group based in Washington, D.C., that conducted one of the studies. “In many small communities, these properties are the only kind of affordable housing. If they disappear, there are no other options.”

The separate reports from the council and the Government Accountability Office identify maturing mortgages and early repayment of loans on USDA properties as the primary causes of the program’s troubles. The agency has seen its housing stock decrease by 29,000 low-income units in the past decade and has lacked funding to build new housing since 2011.

The projected drop-off in affordable housing would hit hardest in the Midwest and Southeast, where two-thirds of the agency’s properties are located. At the same time, California could lose nearly 27,000 units, more than any other state.

The country’s most populous state seldom receives mention in discussions of rural issues, and likewise, the plight of rural areas seldom receives mention in discussions of California’s affordable housing shortage. Yet advocates warn of the fallout in Winters and other small towns statewide if the USDA program unravels.

“The impact will be gigantic,” says Rob Wiener, executive director of the California Coalition for Rural Housing in Sacramento. “Without these properties, those residents will have nowhere to live.”

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2018/1231/It-s-like-we-don-t-exist-California-s-invisible-rural-housing-crisis

Is Silicon Valley Really Over the Boys Club?

A year ago, Silicon Valley investors looked around and saw their mostly-male world in free fall. Harvey Weinstein was no longer the Hollywood kingmaker — he was a rapist. Matt Lauer was not just a friendly morning television host — he was a serial predator. Some of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley were on edge. Unvetted accusations flowed, as did the schadenfreude: The hushed question at cocktail parties and coffees went, “Hey, do you know who is next?”

Silicon Valley was gripped by a sexual harassment crisis born out of a diversity crisis and rooted in a cultural crisis. 2018 was meant to be a year of cleansing and progress.

“What got us here is crisis,” says investor Jenny Lefcourt of Freestyle VC.

But what is “here” now?

A year after tech investors surveyed the post-Weinstein reckoning and pledged to do better, there is some cautious optimism across Silicon Valley about how the industry has treated diversity issues, according to interviews with two dozen people involved in the response.

Behind the scenes, though, there are simmering reasons to worry: Venture capitalists’ own investors fear they are still backing serial sexual harassers who have evaded the industry’s best attempts to catch them. Some male venture capitalists for some reason see the diversity push as more of a public relations challenge than a legitimate critique. And some activists worry that focusing on diversity for diversity’s sake is leading firms to “tokenize” female investors, with

Freada Kapor Klein, an elder stateswoman in Silicon Valley, saying that this strategy will “predictably fail.”

Diversity in venture capital matters perhaps more than any part of the tech industry because of just how much weight investors carry in Silicon Valley. The people who control the cash — mostly, for decades, small partnerships of white men — determine the types of entrepreneurs that are backed. This, in turn, shapes the types of products that we use in our daily lives.Plus, investors are some of tech’s biggest celebrities, with profiles and influence that outstrip even their hefty wallets.

So, what has happened? Firms removed high-profile alleged sexual harassers like McClure, Pishevar and investor Justin Caldbeck. Some have announced a rapid-fire spate of hires and promotions for women investors.

But one year after the height of the drama, the stats speak for themselves: Progress is only modest.

“There is no one-year-in high-five,” said Aileen Lee, the de facto leader of the movement and a partner at Cowboy Ventures.

The number of women in check-writing roles has seen a bump, but it’s not much. American venture capital firms have added 30 new female senior investing partners in the last ten months, according to All Raise, a nonprofit founded by Lee trying to diversify the industry, which analyzed publicly shared hiring news. (Specifically, the group looked predominately at tech-focused firms without a corporate parent and with more than $25 million in assets.) Firms hired more women in the second quarter of this year than any quarter in at least the previous five years.

https://www.recode.net/2018/12/31/18157815/silicon-valley-diversity-one-year-venture-capital-analysis

“I am Jewish. I wear glasses. I am bisexual — and I’m the Rose Queen…”

Commentary from the LA Times

Part of the tradition feels antiquated — the titles, the etiquette lessons, the matching outfits. But, I have come to understand, these conventions are pieces of a tradition that also gives young women a powerful platform and asks only that we represent ourselves honestly.

In our role as ambassadors, we volunteer with local charities and speak to more than a hundred organizations about what is most important to us. Princess Rucha Kadam encourages young women to pursue computer science and addresses the unequal treatment she has faced in the field because of her gender. Helen Rossi speaks about using community service and advocacy to cope with an incurable disease. Sherry Ma talks about her work on her school’s newspaper and yearbook, and the value of responsible journalism in our world today. I speak about my experience in research labs and about the importance of scientific literacy.

Every day, young children approach us and tell us that they hope to study science, or that they will find ways to help others, or that they want to speak up for themselves, as we are doing. I am lucky to be part of this group of smart, independent, ethical young women.

Still, I am aware that while today’s Royal Court celebrates accomplishment and inclusion, it hasn’t always been that way and that the tradition hasn’t always belonged to all of Pasadena.

Once the exclusive bastion of a narrow segment of society, the traditions of the parade have changed gradually. The first African American Rose Queen was named in 1985. The Tournament of Roses had its first female president in 2006. The first African American president, Gerald Freeny, is serving this year. And in 2026, the association will be led by the first president who is part of the LGBTQ community. With each passing year, the Rose Parade and Royal Court look a bit more diverse, a bit more like America.

The 2019 Royal Court is one of the most diverse in the tournament’s history. We are of many different religious, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Personally, I am happy to be the first Rose Queen to wear glasses on the float (even though they clash with the crown), and the first Rose Queen to talk about being Jewish. I feel an additional responsibility, to myself and to this tradition, to share that I am bisexual.

I never considered that my sexual orientation might be of interest to anyone but my family and my closest friends. But in this new, very public position, I feel it’s important to present myself authentically, especially to those who look to the Royal Court as a representation of our community. While I am almost certainly not the first member of the LGBTQ community on the court, I hope that by saying so publicly, I might encourage others to be proud of who they are.

On Jan. 1, I will be waving to everyone from our parade float, but especially to those out there who need a little extra courage to be themselves. And I’ll be waving to their family and friends, who cheer them on, because I understand that acceptance also takes courage. I can’t wait to see you at the Rose Parade. But more to the point, I hope you see yourself in the Rose Parade too.

Louise Deser Siskel is a senior at Sequoyah High School in Pasadena. She will attend the University of Chicago in the fall.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-siskel-rose-queen-20181231-story.html#nws=mcnewsletter

And the Color of the Year is…

Vibrant, yet mellow, the 2019 Color of the Year is Living Coral, which Pantone says embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.

Pantone adds:

In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.

Representing the fusion of modern life, Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.https://www.pantone.com/color-intelligence/color-of-the-year/color-of-the-year-2019

By | 2019-01-14T09:53:07+00:00 January 14th, 2019|Air Quality|