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IN THIS ISSUE – “This Comes Due for Newsom At Some Point”
GOVERNOR & STATE BUDGET
- Newsom Criticized for “Swinging At Every Pitch”
- Governor Budgets a Hefty Personal Staff Increase
- Water Tax Proponents Keep Pressure On Legislature
POLITICS & VOTERS
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 JUNE 7, 2019
Amid the swirl of big name presidential candidates who descended on San Francisco recently for the Democratic Party’s state convention, Gov. Gavin Newsom made sure there was a place in the spotlight for him.
When he wasn’t schmoozing in the hallways with delegates, or hosting a fund-raiser for his favored candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, at the home of billionaires Gordon and Ann Getty, he took to the podium and urged his fellow Democrats to “take a look around” at his defiantly progressive agenda as they prepare to take on President Trump.
“We are nothing less than a progressive answer to a transgressive president,” he said.
Touting the state’s diversity and liberal policies, he added, “others are talking about it, we’re doing it.”
Indeed, Mr. Newsom’s ambitions as governor read like a liberal’s holiday wish list. Bigger health care subsidies for the poor and medical coverage for more undocumented immigrants, steps toward his goal of universal health care. Then there’s free community college, longer parental leave, college savings accounts for kindergartners. All are part of a promise to nurture Californians from “cradle-to-career.”
Five months into his tenure, Mr. Newsom is hopscotching the state on a health care tour one day, announcing a task force on homelessness another — all while promoting California as an alternative to President Trump’s agenda and speaking out on a host of national issues, from immigration to abortion.
But his approach has drawn criticism for lacking focus and trying to appease too many groups at once. “Swinging at every pitch” is how some describe him. His big plans for spending risk squandering a large surplus if the economy tanks, and set him apart from his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown. Mr. Brown was famously disciplined, preferring to devote his full attention to just a small number of issues, like climate change and criminal justice. Mr. Newsom, by contrast, is making grand promises that critics say could be difficult to deliver on.
All of Mr. Newsom’s ambitions — he has also vowed to spend more on homelessness, tackle the housing crisis and eliminate taxes on tampons and diapers — will be challenged if the economy takes a tumble.
Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist in Sacramento who was an aide to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said, “This comes due for Newsom at some point. And that will be his true test. How does a progressive governor manage through a downturn of tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue. There’s been a lot of big, bold talk. And there’s potential for some political falls down the road.”
As the presidential race kicks into gear, California finds itself in the spotlight in a way that it hasn’t in years, placing attention on Mr. Newsom as a sense of his governance starts to emerge. The shift forward by three months of California’s presidential primary, to March, means candidates will spend more time campaigning here, mixing with ordinary voters as they fight for the state’s delegates, rather than just flying in and out for fund-raisers in California’s gilded enclaves.
California may be a symbol of liberal values, but it’s also a symbol of the failures of liberal policy. It has the highest poverty rate in the country, housing costs are out of reach for many, and squalor and deprivation plague the streets of the biggest cities. And the criticism has not come only from the right, where California is a frequent target on Fox News and from Republicans in Washington. Recent opinion pieces in the Washington Post, The New York Times and The New Yorker have called out California for its failure to extend prosperity to more people.
For now, Mr. Newsom’s broad, liberal agenda is made possible by two things: a buoyant economy that has produced a growing budget surplus — as much as $21.5 billion, plus a separate $16.5 billion “rainy day” fund — and a super majority of Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature.
“We have not had a governor this progressive arguably in the history of this state,” said Bill Whalen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who worked as an aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican.
Mr. Newsom’s path is being closely watched by the national Democratic Party as a measure of how far liberal governance can go in a time of prosperity. It comes just as many presidential candidates are proposing policy ideas that California is trying to implement. Already, Mr. Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty, announced in March, injected the issue into the presidential race.
“I can assure you I wasn’t asked to do one or two things,” Mr. Newsom said in an interview, referring to his campaign last fall. “I was asked to do 20 or 30 things. Everywhere I went. ”
“I’m not naïve, I read history, I read the punditry, I listen to the columnists. People say, ‘Just focus on one or two big things.’”
But, he continued, “we dove into all that because it needs to be addressed.”
On a recent morning, Mr. Newsom’s sleeves were rolled up, and he was digging into his budget, surrounded by an inner circle of advisers. California’s economy is humming, pouring revenues into the state coffers. He said he wanted to give some of that money back to working families, in the form of a tax credit — an idea, aides noted approvingly, that had once been championed by Republicans like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Newsom was disappointed, though, with how his advisers proposed to brand his earned-income tax credit: “California EITC, a cost-of-living refund.” He said it sounded too wonky, just the sort of language, he said, that had alienated Democrats from ordinary Americans.
“Not a human being on planet Earth understands EITC,” he said. “Policy wonks are why Trump’s president.” (He lost the argument.)
It is proposals like the tax credit that Mr. Newsom and his aides point to as indications of how essential California is to the Democratic Party’s direction just as the presidential campaign gathers steam.
“Things are actually happening here,” said Ann O’Leary, Mr. Newsom’s chief of staff. “Kamala Harris is out there, she has a big EITC expansion,” she said, “well, we’re doing it right now. Cory Booker is out there with baby bonds. Well, we’re going to do that right now. Elizabeth Warren, her big proposal is on child care. And we’re really doing it comprehensively.”
“Eat your heart out, guys,” Mr. Newsom said of the candidates. “People say, ‘What does the Democratic Party stand for?’ I say, ‘Come out to California.’”
But California, given its size as the largest state, has long held outsized influence regardless of who the governor is. It is far from certain, too, whether Mr. Newsom will succeed in his goal of shaping the party’s agenda; while candidates are talking about similar policies, they are not holding up California as the example. And it is too early to say how far left the party will be pulled during the presidential campaign.
Neera Tanden, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and president of the Center for American Progress, a research and policy organization in Washington, D.C., placed Mr. Newsom’s administration in a national context. “The way I look at Gov. Newsom is he has the opportunity and responsibility to demonstrate how progressive governance can work,” she said.
“I think there will be a big question hanging over the national debate over the next two years about whether Democrats can deliver on prosperity,” she said. “There will be lots of attacks from conservatives. Being able to deliver a progressive agenda against a backdrop of a state that is growing, that is still having innovation, is really important.”
Ms. O’Leary is among a number of aides working for Mr. Newsom who previously worked for Ms. Clinton or President Barack Obama. She acknowledged the criticism that Mr. Newsom’s administration has taken a scattershot approach to governing, but said that many of the initiatives are about tackling the problem of how expensive life has become in California.
“We are at a moment in time where people will remember what he did or he will be part of the problem,” said Ms. O’Leary. “We now have over 60 percent of young people in California say they cannot afford to live in California. They can’t imagine how they are going to make it or stay in California.”
Daniel Zingale, who worked for three former governors — Mr. Brown during his first period in office in the 1970s, Gray Davis and Mr. Schwarzenegger — before becoming a communications aide to Mr. Newsom, said he had urged his new boss to focus his attention on a few key issues.
“I was just pointing out that there was a political advantage to having signature issues,” he said. “That’s just a political fact. But he made a more compelling argument that we live in these times of the fierce urgency of now, on a whole bunch of issues.”
Mr. Newsom makes no apologies for talking about many things, or for being a different style of leader than Mr. Brown. Mr. Newsom’s office is sparsely decorated: There is signed sports memorabilia; a photo of his late father, William, a judge, with Senator Robert Kennedy; and a decades-old snapshot of him and Ms. Harris at Tosca Café in San Francisco (“literally, we were kids,” he said).
Reflecting on how he sees his role as governor, he speaks in grand terms that inspire some, and grate on others.
“You can’t legislate spirit and pride,” he said. “I think about Reagan a lot, because this was his office. If there was one thing he captured, was a sense of pride. We talk about the California Dream. There’s the American Dream and the California Dream. That’s it. No other state is attached to a dream. We’ve lost a little of our self-confidence. And I want to restore that.”
In his proposed $213 billion state spending plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spend more on plenty of programs, from health care to early childhood education.
He also wants a big boost for his own office budget.
Newsom is planning to spend 22 percent more to staff the governor’s office than his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, creating new positions and revamping old jobs to bring in more senior advisers on such high priority policy areas as wildfires.
Other new and updated positions have gone to political allies, such as an agricultural liaison recommended by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a new job for failed Democratic congressional candidate Jessica Morse.
The increase, from $20 million to $24.5 million, will bring the governor’s office closer to a pre-recession size. In the last year of his term, Schwarzenegger had a nearly $22 million budget and 202 staff positions. By the end of his tenure, Brown had 108.
“We were finding savings everywhere we could,” said Dana Williamson, who served as one of Brown’s top aides. “We had, in modern times, a pretty small staff.”
If the Legislature approves, Newsom will bring the number of staff in his office to 132.
His office declined to provide a list of the additions, saying it is too difficult to compare the organizational structure with the previous administration.
Here’s what we know about what he’s changing:
More senior advisers
Newsom has appointed an array of senior advisers in specific areas, such as higher education and immigration, a change from Brown, whom Williamson said had a smaller number of senior advisers with broader portfolios.
Rhys Williams, who served as Newsom’s chief of staff when he was lieutenant governor, is now serving as his adviser on emergency preparedness and management. Williams helped craft Newsom’s March executive order to expedite 35 forest and brush-clearing operations in parts of the state susceptible to fires.
Newsom has three senior advisers for early childhood, implementation of early childhood development initiatives and cradle to career. They’ve helped Newsom craft the early childhood spending in his budget, such as its funding for home visits.
Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said an expanded cabinet staff will “make state government work better for the people it serves – from taking aggressive actions to combat the cost crisis families face to more quickly and effectively reacting in times of crisis and disaster.”
In January, Newsom’s office touted the appointment of pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris as the state’s first surgeon general. So far, she’s gone on a tour of the state to gather feedback on what policies would most help communities in California access health care. She’s also working with Newsom on his efforts to move the juvenile justice system from the corrections department to the Health and Human Services Agency to focus on rehabilitating incarcerated kids.
His administration plans to add at least two positions in Burke Harris’ office within the Health and Human Services Agency.
New field offices for constituent services
Click said the governor will create new field offices that will stretch from San Diego through the Central Valley and Northern California, representing both inland and coastal communities. Regional representatives will handle constituent affairs, he said, bringing the governor’s office “closer to the communities it serves.”
Office of the First Partner
Newsom wants to use $700,000 from his proposed budget for the new Office of the First Partner, his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s preferred title. Brown eliminated the corresponding Office of the First Lady during the recession.
Siebel Newsom’s office will have seven positions under Newsom’s proposed budget.
Jobs for political allies
Some new appointments have political implications.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for example, asked Newsom in a January letter to appoint wealthy Modesto farmer Bill Lyons to lead the State Water Resources Control Board. Newsom instead created a job for Lyons in his cabinet – agriculture liaison. Unlike an appointment to the State Water Resources Control Board, the job doesn’t require Senate confirmation.
“Governor Newsom has been clear that rural communities and hard-working Californians in the agricultural industry will have a greater voice in his office than in past administrations,” Newsom spokesman Brian Ferguson said in an email. “Having a dedicated Agriculture Liaison allows our office to gain important insights from this community.”
Ferguson said Lyons’ role will “support the work already being done” by Newsom’s Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross.
Water policy insiders and political scientists said Lyons’ appointment was a smart political move. Giving the new job to Lyons avoided slighting Feinstein — an important Democrat ally — while pleasing San Joaquin Valley farmers angry about the water board’s plan to cut their water supply.
Newsom also avoided tensions with environmentalist groups that would have urged lawmakers to oppose appointing Lyons to the water board.
“This is a savvy example of a governor splitting the difference between policy aims and political aims,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego.
In another example, Newsom appointed former congressional candidate Jessica Morse to a new position – Deputy Secretary of Forest Resources Management at the California Natural Resources Agency. She doesn’t have past forest management experience.
The position is a revamped version of the previous assistant secretary of forest resources management position, said Natural Resources Agency spokeswoman Lisa Lien-Mager.
Under Newsom, the position has a broader role in coordinating forest management across different agencies and outside organizations. One of Morse’s key responsibilities has been minimizing environmental damage from Newsom’s 35 expedited forest management projects, which are exempted from the California Environmental Quality Act, Lien-Mager said.
“This governor has put an emphasis on forest management and wildfire prevention,” Lien-Mager said. “We really wanted to make sure we were making every effort possible to protect the cultural and natural resources.”
A coalition of California residents affected by unsafe drinking water held a symbolic “water strike” at the Capitol, pressing lawmakers to fund a plan that would clean up their water sources.
More than 1 million Californians lack access to clean drinking water, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. An additional 2 million people are vulnerable to contamination, according to the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Coalition.
“We cannot claim to be the Golden State when we have 1 million Californians without access to clean and affordable water,” said Daniel Peñaloza, City Council Member from Porterville in Tulare County. “This is an injustice and a disgrace.”
Newsom in January released a budget proposal that included a new $140 million water tax to fund infrastructure projects in communities with unsafe water. The “fee,” as the governor’s proposal called it, would have cost all Californians on public water systems an additional $11.40 a year.
He promoted his plan with his first trip out of Sacramento following the budget’s release, when he took his cabinet to a community in Stanislus County that has long struggled with unsafe drinking water.
“It’s a disgrace that in a state as wealthy and resourceful as ours that a million-plus people don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water,” he said during the January visit.
The proposal was met with opposition in the Senate, where lawmakers rejected the governor’s planfor a monthly charge on ratepayers and instead recommended paying for a water-system improvements with $150 million from the state’s general fund.
Opponents of the water fee say that imposing an ongoing tax for a “one time infrastructure problem” is unnecessary when the state is enjoying a budget surplus.
This week, Newsom’s administration and lawmakers are negotiating a final budget and it’s unclear which plan will emerge. State law requires them to pass a final budget by June 15.
Demonstrators at the rally urged lawmakers to prioritize permanent access to safe drinking water for all Californians. The bilingual rally, held in English and in Spanish, was co-hosted by the Community Water Center and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
Lining the grass lawn of the Capitol’s North Steps were posters listing communities affected by unsafe drinking water and the contaminants found in their water. Many of them were schools and school districts.
For Melynda Metheney, a 32-year-old resident of Tulare County, fighting for clean water means supporting “communities that don’t have the resources or finances” to maintain their water systems. She and her family lacked access to safe drinking water for over a year when the main well in her town of West Goshen collapsed in 2012, exacerbating an ongoing nitrate contamination.
“We couldn’t even take showers with our water,” she said. “We couldn’t even boil our water to cook and clean with. We couldn’t touch it.”
Many Californians affected by unsafe water, like Metheney, must front additional costs to purchase bottled water.
“Our families are paying double for water,” said Lucy Hernandez, 50, also from West Goshen. “It’s [the state’s] responsibility to provide us with safe drinking water since we are paying a huge water bill every month.”
Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, according to Kelsey Hinton, the communications manager at the Community Water Center.
“Some of our communities have been waiting a decade for a solution to this problem,” she said, “which is why we’re here in support of passing a safe and affordable drinking water solution by June 15.”
Long Beach Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez handily defeated her Republican challenger in the race for a state Senate seat—a result largely expected Tuesday due to the heavy Democratic tilt of the 33rd district.
With mail-in ballots and all precincts counted, Gonzalez, a Democrat, won the seat with 69% of the vote, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder. Guerrero received 31% of the vote.
The councilwoman and her supporters celebrated early at the Hotel Maya, where Supervisor Janice Hahn and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara—who vacated the Senate seat when he won election in November—gave speeches, among others.
Gonzalez said she is ready for the challenge of representing Long Beach in Sacramento.
”I’m not afraid, I’m not shy,” she said Tuesday night. “I’m bold and excited to not only represent Long Beach but the entire Southeast region.”
The 33rd District includes cities along the 710 freeway, including Vernon to the north and most of Long Beach to the south, with a population of nearly 927,000.
Gonzalez was the top vote-getter in the March primary special election with over 31% of the ballots cast in her favor. However she fell short of receiving the votes needed to avoid a runoff due in part to a crowded field of candidates that included several Democrats. Guerrero received 14% of the vote to secure second place and force the runoff.
Gonzalez was the frontrunner during the entire campaign, garnering endorsements from multiple elected leaders including Lara and Mayor Robert Garcia. She also received support from labor and environmental organizations, among others.
She continued to face heavy criticism that began ahead of the March primary, specifically the more than $1 million spent in support of her campaign by a big oil-backed independent coalition.
Gonzalez denounced the money, which paid for advertising on billboards, television and online.
The councilwoman also faced backlash for refusing to debate Guerrero (she denied a request to debate at the Long Beach Post). Both candidates took part in a forum in early May.
Gonzalez ran on a platform that included protecting the environment and advocating for healthcare reform, much like her predecessor, Lara, who introduced a bill seeking to create a single-payer system in the state. The bill ultimately failed, with critics saying that it was too expensive for a state this size to take on such an overhaul of the state’s healthcare system but Gonzalez has not ruled out reviving such discussions.
Gonzalez will serve the remaining two years of Lara’s Senate term.
Brian Dahle won Tuesday night’s special election for California’s 1st District Senate seat, earning the seat representing a wide swath of the state’s northeastern tier from Redding to Placerville by six percentage points.
The assemblyman from Bieber defeated his Republican opponent, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, 53.1 percent to 46.9 percent – a lead of roughly 8,000 votes – according to the California Secretary of State’s Office. About 133,000 votes were tallied in the election-night reporting, which are preliminary.
Just after 11 p.m., Kiley conceded the race in a Facebook post, saying the remaining votes weren’t enough to cover the ground gained by Dahle as results trickled in Tuesday night. He congratulated Dahle, adding “I wish him the best in his new position.”
Dahle, who spent election night with campaign staff and supporters in Redding, told the Record Searchlight that he was “very humbled by the people that turned out” in balloting Tuesday.
“I’ve represented Shasta for six years,” he told the Record Searchlight. “People that know me know that I’m for my community. … In Shasta County, we saw a lot of crossover votes from Democrats who know they’re going to get a Republican who (will work with them).”
Voting largely followed each assemblyman’s district, as much as it was split between Dahle’s rural constituents and Kiley’s suburban stronghold.
It was in the capital region where Kiley held significant leads, as expected. Sacramento County results, which were concentrated in the Folsom area, showed Kiley outpaced Dahle by more than 40 percentage points. El Dorado and Placer counties, which completed their reporting around 11 p.m., showed Kiley with roughly 10- and 20-point advantages, respectively, against Dahle.
But it was in the smaller North State counties – Alpine, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou and, largest of these, Shasta – where Dahle garnered his strongest support. In Shasta County, for example, the largest bloc of votes outside of the capital region, Dahle surged to a 4-to-1 advantage over Kiley once reporting reached 100 percent.
Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article231192083.html#storylink=cpy
Labor leader Rusty Hicks was elected the next chairman of the California Democratic Party, a win cemented by support from many elected officials and most of the state’s major labor organizations, who hope he can steer the party out of an internal crisis in time for the 2020 elections.
At the state party convention, Hicks, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, bested Bay Area activist Kimberly Ellis, who finished second in balloting late Saturday. He will succeed former party Chairman Eric Bauman, who resigned last yearafter a series of sexual harassment allegations.
With 57% of the vote, Hicks dominated the race. Ellis, who lost to Bauman by just a few dozen votes two years ago, received 36% of the vote while Daraka Larimore-Hall, the party’s vice chairman, trailed with just 6%.
Speaking to supporters at the W Hotel in downtown San Francisco, Hicks, a Texas native and Afghanistan war veteran, said he was “reporting for duty.”
“Coming out of the labor movement, I believe in the collective. I don’t believe in the individual,” Hicks said with more than a dozen elected officials standing behind him. “In order to see a change in the White House, we’re going to have to have a real change in the California Democratic Party, and that starts with us standing together tonight.”
Hicks, 39, has been praised by his backers as a skilled political strategist and a steady, even-keeled leader in the labor movement. He served as political director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor under Maria Elena Durazo, rising to president after she was elected to the state Senate in 2018.
Party insiders said Hicks’ victory is the first step toward stabilizing the organization, preparing it for the March presidential primary and to help oust President Trump.
“There’s a deep breath of relief from Democrats who are happy that the party is going to be in good hands and have a strong chair that can help fulfill the party duties,” said Doug Herman, a Democratic consultant who was supporting Hicks. “It’s a direct reflection of the fact that Rusty represented stability and the course that the party delegates were looking for and that the party needs.”
But some left-leaning activists are worried that Hicks’ centrist pitch would chafe against their goals.
“I am deeply afraid that Rusty will shiv us in the back on climate,” said RL Miller, chairwoman of the party’s Environmental Caucus, who spent the weekend pressing presidential candidates to sign a pledge that they wouldn’t take campaign money from oil companies.
Hicks’ election is considered a victory for many in the party establishment, particularly elected officials who had expressed reservations about Ellis’ platform. Her support of publicly financed elections raised concerns among leaders that she would further limit corporate donors or ban them altogether, a move that could handicap the party financially.
“Whoever is the chair of the party is also the banker,” said Kevin de León, who was state Senate president pro tem in 2017 when Ellis narrowly lost her first race, ran for U.S. Senate last year against fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein and is now running for Los Angeles City Council. “You’re not just the voice or the face [of the party], but you have to be trusted with a tremendous amount of resources.”
De León said he “had some concerns” when Ellis ran two years ago and decided to endorse Hicks, a longtime friend, in this year’s race, adding that he called delegates to lobby them to support him.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), who had declined to endorse a candidate in the race, celebrated with Hicks on Saturday night, saying, “The two words that are important tonight are ‘Rusty Hicks.’”
It was a deflating loss for supporters of Ellis, whose campaign had centered on driving a more progressive agenda to inspire women, people of color and younger voters.
“They are looking for something more than just a machine that elects Democrats,” Ellis said in an interview during the campaign. “They’re looking for a place where they can dedicate their time, treasure and talent toward advancing their shared values.”
Ellis would have been the first woman to lead the state party in more than 30 years and the first black woman to chair the organization.
Hicks’ victory comes on the heels of a campaign that centered on how best to steer the party forward after months of turmoil.
In November, after several state party staff members and activists accused Bauman of unwanted touching and making crude sexual comments, he resigned as chairman. The state party now faces three lawsuits alleging discrimination and retaliation in addition to allegations that party leaders ignored Bauman’s alleged misconduct. An attorney for Bauman said he denies the claims in the lawsuits.
Hicks said he has plotted out a plan for his first 100 days as party leader, including increasing efforts to train grass-roots activists and to reach out to conservative and moderate areas of California, including the Central Valley.
On Sunday morning, the final day of the convention, Hicks told delegates that his first order of business would be to help the party recover from what he described as a “contentious campaign.”
Sunday also featured pitches from the final batch of Democratic presidential contenders who descended on the Bay Area over the weekend to win over party activists.
The crowd, which had thinned out after its marathon session the day before, warmly greeted Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who maintains a strong base of support from his 2016 presidential run.
Sanders unleashed an implicit attack on former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner, who did not attend this weekend’s confab. Lashing out at Biden’s pledge to bridge partisan divides, Sanders argued that the path to victory does not include finding “middle ground” on issues such as climate change and immigration.
“In my view, we will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign and unless we give millions of working people and young people a reason to vote,” Sanders said.
Former U.S. housing secretary Julian Castro, meanwhile, spoke about law enforcement accountability, teasing a forthcoming plan on police conduct reform and reciting the names of minorities killed by police officers.
For a second day, convention delegates showed their left-leaning inclinations, drowning out Maryland Rep. John Delaney when he described “Medicare for All” — a proposal to expand the availability of healthcare — as bad policy and politics.
Straining to be heard over the loud and prolonged booing, Delaney told them, “This is a battle of ideas, my friends.”
Less than a year before California’s presidential primary, Democratic likely voters and those who lean Democratic are divided on a key question: Is it more important to nominate the candidate whose views align with their own or the one who seems most likely to defeat President Trump? Older voters are more likely to say that the ability to defeat Trump is more important, while younger voters are more likely to think it is more important to nominate a candidate with views similar to theirs. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
Among likely voters who identify themselves as registered Democrats or as independents who lean Democratic, 48 percent say it is more important to choose the candidate most likely to beat Trump, while slightly fewer—42 percent—say it is more important to choose the nominee whose views align with theirs.
Among those age 18 to 44, about half (51%) choose a candidate with similar views (43% able to defeat Trump). Among those age 45 and over, 52 percent prioritize the candidate’s ability to defeat Trump (37% candidate whose views align with theirs).
Overall, two-thirds of California’s likely voters (65%) say they will definitely or probably choose a candidate other than Trump. This view is held overwhelmingly by Democrats (93%) and by a strong majority of independents (66%). But an overwhelming majority of Republican likely voters (82%) say they would definitely or probably vote to reelect Trump if the election were held today. Similarly, there is a partisan divide among likely voters on approval of Trump: 84% of Republicans approve of how Trump is handling his job as president, compared to far fewer independents (43%) and Democrats (8%).
“With the 2020 presidential primary looming large in California, Republicans overwhelmingly want to reelect Trump, while most Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are divided about what they are looking for in a candidate to defeat Trump,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.
Asked to choose the attributes that are most important in a presidential candidate, half of likely voters (52%) prefer experience and a proven record, while 39 percent opt for new ideas and a different approach. Democrats who are likely voters are divided on this question, with 49 percent saying experience and 42 percent saying new ideas, while majorities of Republican (60%) and independent (53%) likely voters prefer experience.
Californians Divided on Impeachment, Largely Along Party Lines
Roughly two months after special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, most Californians (57% adults, 58% likely voters) say the investigation did not clear Trump of all wrongdoing. (The survey was conducted before Mueller’s public remarks about the investigation on May 29.) There is a strong partisan divide. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (84%) and a majority of independents (55%) say the report did not clear Trump, but 77 percent of Republicans say it cleared him of all wrongdoing. Nationally, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53 percent of adults believe the Mueller investigation did not clear Trump.
While Democrats nationwide appear to be divided on impeachment, a strong majority of Democrats in California (66%) say Congress should begin proceedings against the president, while just 39 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans say so.
Overall, Californians are more likely than the nation as a whole to say impeachment proceedings should begin. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 37 percent of adults nationwide think Congress should seek impeachment, compared with 49 percent in California.
“Most Californians believe that the Mueller investigation did not clear Trump of wrongdoing, but they are more divided on impeaching the president,” Baldassare said.
Californians are split on whether Russian interference undermined the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election: 42 percent (44% of likely voters) believe it did, while 47 percent (50% of likely voters) say it did not rise to that level. Looking ahead, however, most Californians (54% adults, 56% likely voters) do think that possible interference by Russia and other countries threatens the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
Census Seen as Important—Most Have Concerns about Confidentiality
California will have a lot at stake in the 2020 US Census—the count will affect political representation and federal funds. Californians recognize the importance of this census, with three-quarters (75%) saying it is very important to participate.
The Trump administration wants to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census. Opponents argue that such a question would depress the count among immigrants who might be fearful about revealing their status. The US Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on the issue. Relatedly, 63 percent of Californians are concerned that the Census Bureau will not keep 2020 Census answers confidential. This concern is highest among Latinos (74%) and African Americans (70%), followed by Asian Americans (64%) and whites (52%). US-born Californians (58%) are less likely than foreign-born residents (71%) to be concerned that the Census Bureau will not keep answers confidential.
“While three in four Californians say that participating in the 2020 US Census is very important, many have concerns that their answers will not be kept confidential,” Baldassare said.
Majority Concerned about Effect of Wildfire Costs on Utility Rates
The bankruptcy of PG&E in the wake of the Camp Fire has been among the most contentious and consequential issues facing California’s new governor. Amid great uncertainty about the impact of the bankruptcy, an overwhelming majority of Californians (78%) say they are concerned about rising electricity bills because of utilities’ responsibilities for wildfire damage costs.
Californians hold mixed views on Governor Newsom’s handling of the PG&E bankruptcy and utilities’ responsibilities for wildfire costs. Only 32 percent of adults and 28 percent of likely voters approve; 30 percent of adults and 35 percent of likely voters disapprove, while the largest shares (38% adults, 37% likely voters) say they don’t know.
“Three in four Californians are concerned that their electricity bills could increase as a result of wildfire damages, while just one in three approve of Governor Newsom’s handling of the PG&E bankruptcy and utilities’ responsibilities for wildfire damages so far,” Baldassare said.
In contrast, larger shares approve of the governor’s handling of wildfire prevention and response (44% adults, 41% likely voters) and of the job the governor is doing overall (45% adults, 47% likely voters).
Overwhelming Majority Favor Requiring Vaccinations
As the US confronts its worst measles outbreak in more than 20 years, the California Legislature is considering a bill (Senate Bill 276) that would tighten the state’s already strict school immunization law. SB 276 would create a standardized form for parents seeking to medically exempt their children from vaccination and would require state review and tracking of exemption requests.
An overwhelming majority of adults (73%) think that parents should be required to vaccinate their children. Asked about child vaccines to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella, 62 percent of adults say these vaccines are very safe, and another 27 percent say they are somewhat safe. An overwhelming majority (79%) are concerned that the recent outbreak of measles will become more widespread (43% very concerned, 36% somewhat concerned).
“Many Californians are concerned that the recent outbreak of measles could spread and believe that vaccinations for the disease are very safe and should be required,” Baldassare said.
Worried about Housing, Most Favor New Rules for Local Governments
As state leaders consider a number of proposals to promote housing affordability, 52 percent of adults and 45 percent of likely voters say their housing costs cause a financial strain. Across regions, Orange/San Diego has the highest share of adults saying this (58%), followed by the Inland Empire (55%), the San Francisco Bay Area (54%), Los Angeles (51%), and the Central Valley (43%). The cost of housing is far more likely to place a strain on renters (67%) than on homeowners (36%).
Solid majorities support two state policy proposals intended to create more affordable housing: 62 percent favor requiring local governments to change zoning for new development from single-family to multi-family housing near transit and job centers, and 61 percent favor requiring localities to approve a certain amount of housing before receiving state transportation funding. However, fewer than half (47%) favor reducing state regulation of development through changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Homeowners are less likely than renters to support changing zoning laws (51% to 72%), tying transportation funds to new housing (50% to 71%), and changing CEQA (40% to 54%).
Solid majorities of Californians (63% adults, 66% likely voters) believe that homelessness is a big problem in their part of California, including majorities across political parties (70% Democrats, 66% independents, 58% Republicans), regions, and demographic groups.
Governor Newsom’s revised budget proposal, released in mid-May, includes a mix of spending that totals $1 billion to address homelessness. After being read a summary, an overwhelming majority of adults (74%) and a strong majority of likely voters (68%) favor this spending.
“Californians across party lines view homelessness where they live as a big problem,” Baldassare said. “The governor’s plan to spend a billion dollars on this issue has strong support.”
A nonstop parade of storms barreled across the Sierra Nevada in winter. Then, spring hit and winter weather persisted with unseasonably cold systems piling up snow all the way through Memorial Day weekend.
The marathon stretch of unsettled weather means the reservoirs are brimming, the rivers are rushing, the waterfalls are spectacular, and people are still skiing in fresh powder in Tahoe.
But perhaps the most noteworthy outcome is a remarkably gargantuan snowpack blanketing the mountain range straddling California and Nevada. Right now, it’s even bigger than the 2017 snowpack that pulled the state out of a five-year drought.
As of May 30, the snowpack measured 202 percent of average, according to the California Department of Water Resources which compiles data from about 100 stations across the range. At this time last year, it measured 6 percent of average, making this year’s 33 times bigger than last year. In 2017, the snowpack measured 190 percent of average.
State officials consider the most important snowpack measurement to be the one taken around April 1 because that’s when the sun is at its highest point, temperatures warm, and storm activity subsides.
“That’s basically the measurement we look at because that’s when the snowpack usually peaks,” said Idamis Del Valle, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. “And then after that the sun’s higest position in the sky contributes to rapid melting. This year, that didn’t happen and we had late season snow.”
This year’s April 1 reading put the snowpack at 176 percent of average, making it the fifth-largest on that date, with records going back to 1950.
“I’d say it’s not normal,” said Chris Orrock, a spokesperson for the California Department of Water Resources. “But it’s good for California.”
The Sierra snowpack is one of California’s most important water sources, with its spring and summer runoff feeding rivers and reservoirs, watering crops, filling bathtubs and water glasses. Mountain snowpack provides about 30 percent of the yearly fresh water supply for California. Orrock says this year’s massive snowpack will help with the water supply and also outdoor recreation.
“The good news is there will be plenty of water for fishing, boating, white-water rafting, even skiing, all that stuff.”
In the Tahoe Basin, Squaw Valley has seen its third-snowiest season going back to 1970 and the resort plans to stay open until at least July 5. In May alone, the resort recorded 37 inches on the upper mountain above 8,200 feet.
Three feet is impressive for May in California, but it’s not the resort’s highest-ever May total. “In 2011, we received 56 inches in May,” says Squaw spokesperson Alex Spychalsky. “That came at the tail end of our snowiest season on record, 2010-2011, when we received a season snowfall total of 810 inches.”
This year, the resort has recorded 719 inches since the start of the season.
To the south in the Central Sierra, Mammoth has also been pummeled with snow and will be running lifts through early July and possibly beyond.
But while the snowpack has benefits, it also presents serious dangers. California officials are preparing for flooding, especially in the more flood-prone and narrow San Joaquin watershed, where rivers such as the Merced that runs through Yosemite swelled in 2017.
“That’s where we’re mostly concerned about, but there’s always concern everywhere,” says Orrock. “If you get abnormal warm rain and with these reservoirs being so full, we have to be ready for everything. Each reservoir has their manual and if they have so much water coming in, they have to let so much water out.”
And while we may be worrying about the state having too much water this summer, Orrock says soon we could be back in a situation where there’s not enough.
“Let’s look at the past 10 years and we had the historic drought from 2011 to 2016, and then we had 2107 that was a historic precipitation year, but the snow pack wasn’t as much as this year,” he said. “Climate change has led to changes. There’s such variability in California’s climate now, we go from one extreme to another.
“It’s not if the next drought is going to come, it’s when.”
The news is bad. The number of people living in Los Angeles County without a permanent home is up 12% across the board. The rise in the City of Los Angeles was 16%, though some city council districts saw much higher increases than others.
That comes a year after local leaders touted a slight decrease in the 2018 annual homeless count and despite massive investments by taxpayers to help solve what has become a regional crisis.
So what’s going on?
Here’s the bottom line: The available services are not enough to keep pace with the number of people falling into homelessness.
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimates that in the time between their count in 2018 and count in 2019, nearly 55,000 people living in Los Angeles County became newly homeless. During the same time, LAHSA and other public programs housed 21,631 people, and another 27,080 people managed to end their homelessness on their own without public intervention.
But there are simply too many people for the system to keep up.
All of this is despite a growing operation to end homelessness in Los Angeles County. Voters approved Measure H in March of 2017, and by now the quarter cent sales tax is raising almost $400 million annually for a case management system that, in 2018, moved more than 20,000 people from the street into housing.
A three-day annual survey of homeless people living in shelters, in vehicles, and on the street found that nearly 59,000 people fall asleep in L.A. County on any given night without a permanent home. Last year the number was just short of 53,000 people.
The core driver of the increase, experts say, is a protracted housing affordability crisis that drives regional inequality. Where income in richer households is increasing enough to keep up with housing costs, the same is not true for poor households who have less disposable income to start with.
And that’s reflected in the latest homeless count, which found people being forced into the street at a quickening pace. Why? Wages have simply not kept up with the rising cost of living. According to LAHSA, about a quarter of the people on the street today became homeless for the first time in their lives in the past year, and about half of those people cite economic hardship as the primary cause.
“There are an enormous number of people who are essentially hanging on by their fingertips,” said Peter Lynn, LAHSA’s executive director.
Approximately one-third of all the renting households in Los Angeles and Orange counties pay more than half of their income on housing, according to Harvard’s Joint Center For Housing Studies. In L.A. County, about 600,000 people — 6% of the county’s population — live in households where 90% of all income goes to housing, according to the Economic Round Table.
For that matter, the percentage increase in Los Angeles County was actually less than most other urban counties in California. (For reference, most counties count every other year, and the most recent numbers are from 2017; Los Angeles County’s overall increase since 2017 is 7%, since the county saw that small decrease last year.)
Here’s a breakdown of those increases between 2017 and 2019;
- InOrange County, volunteers counted 43% more homeless people
- InSan Bernardino County and Riverside Counties, numbers increased 23% and 22% respectively
- InVentura County, the increase was 28%
- San Franciscosaw a 17% increase
- InAlameda County, home to Oakland and Berkeley, homelessness rose 43%
- InSanta Clara County, home to San Jose and Silicon Valley, it jumped 31%
- In the Central Valley, Kern Countyreportedly saw a 50% jump since 2017
- InSan Joaquin County, the increase was 69%.
The only major urban California county to show a decrease was San Diego, where homelessness reportedly dropped, though it should be noted that the county changed its methodology.
WHO ARE OUR HOMELESS NEIGHBORS?
They are — by and large — longtime Southern California residents. That hasn’t changed, even though politicians and others often assert that Southern California’s homelessness crisis is caused by homeless people coming from somewhere else.
Three-quarters of homeless people report they were living here when they lost their home, and more than two-thirds have lived in L.A. County for more than ten years.
At the same time, about 19% of the people LAHSA surveyed became homeless in a different state — a percentage that has remained pretty steady in the last few years. So, yes, some of the homeless population came here from other places, but most people on our streets are longtime locals.
Homelessness is a national problem that’s increasingly visible in most American cities, though most severe on the West Coast.
Another common assumption is that most people on the street ended up there due to substance abuse or mental health issues. Demographers estimate that about 71% of people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County are neither mentally ill, nor coping with substance abuse problem. LAHSA says about 29% do report those issues — although it’s worth noting that researchers have found the stress of being homeless can trigger problems with addiction and mental health.
Last year, officials were caught off guard by a jump in senior homelessness, which was up again but not as steeply. The survey found a 7% increase in people age 62 or older, This year, the count found a 24% rise in homeless youth, defined as people under 25.
The gender breakdown is similar to the previous years. About two-thirds of all those on the street are male, just under one-third are female, and about 2% ID as transgender or gender non-conforming.
Racially, homelessness affects people from all races, but disproportionately affects black people. Though black people make up about 9% of L.A. County’s total population, black people are 33% of the county’s homeless population. Latinos represent about half of the county’s overall population, and 36% of those on the street. White people, about 28% of the county’s population, make up about 25% of the homeless population. About 1% of L.A. County’s homeless population are of Asian descent, and about 3% identify as another race or multi-ethnic.
There are thousands of people in housing today who wouldn’t have been if not for an intervention by Los Angeles’ sprawling network of service organizations and public agencies.
At the same time, the larger economic factors that drive people into homelessness are proving very challenging. Providing formerly homeless people with rental subsidy vouchers, for example, is an oft-used strategy, but those people are competing with everybody else for a finite number of housing units.
In 2018, only about 53% of those lucky enough to get a Section 8 rental voucher were successful in finding a rental unit before the voucher expired, according to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. The success rate for the HUD-VASH program, a federally funded subsidy for veterans, was lower — only 45%. The low success rates have authorities at the local and state level moving to outlaw voucher discrimination.
Building new below-market rental buildings for folks with low-incomes is increasing, just not fast enough. The rate at which affordable units are being built barely offsets the number of older buildings where affordability requirements are expiring. Overall, the California Housing Partnership estimates that Los Angeles County is short more than 516,000 affordable units, available to people who earn less than the region’s average income.
The expansion of a low-barrier shelter system is also moving slowly, beleaguered by high construction costs and challenges deciding where to physically site the facilities, as LAist reported earlier this week.
Altogether, it’s discouraging news.
“Either we step up and deal with homelessness, or we will be knocked down by it,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Everyone has to get in this on terms that make sense so we can arrest this crisis and hopefully turn things in a more positive direction. Were it not for Measure H, the unfortunate news we are receiving would have been much worse.”
L.A. County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure H by almost a 70-30 margin.
There is space for individuals to get involved. That can involve simply talking to your own homeless neighbors, joining a neighborhood homeless coalition, or volunteering at a service organization in your own part of Southern California.
At the same time, without addressing the systemic causes of homelessness — the deep economic precariousness shared by a huge portion of American public — the problem is unlikely going to be resolved. According to research by Jennifer Wolch, now the dean of U.C. Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, our modern crisis has its roots in the politics of the 1970s and 1980s.
“The persistence of homelessness over 40 years is unbelievably depressing. It is not that we don’t understand or have evidence about why people become homeless, or can’t find solutions,” said Wolch. “The stinginess of today’s welfare programs are rooted in the notion that if people are not under some form of surveillance, they will misuse what many people consider ‘public “charity’ — rather than restitution for the damage done by market economies.”
|The idea is straightforward. We want to build a playlist of songs that are about, evoke or otherwise have some connection to California. We’re calling it the California Soundtrack — though that’s subject to change as it, like any good playlist, evolves.|
|And that’s where you come in: Each week, we want to add a new song recommended by a reader — the more diverse, the more creatively they fit the theme, the better.|
|California has always been a mythic home and destination in pop songs: a place of sunswept euphoria and decadent pleasures, of organic purity and stylist-assisted Hollywood artifice. There isn’t one pop California: There are contradictory multitudes, as natural Northern California instincts and world-of-illusion Southern California fantasies coexist and cross-fertilize.|
|Coastal geography makes California the predestined home of surf-rock; car culture has made it a realm of leisurely, isolated sonic luxury. Urban pressures made it a laboratory for gangsta rap; suburban boredom made it a haven for punk, and the state’s Southern border has made it a gateway for subtle and overt influences from Mexico and points south.|
|Here are five songs that, for this New York City lifer, summon visions of California from afar:|
|The Beach Boys: “Good Vibrations” (1967)|
|California is never mentioned in the lyrics of “Good Vibrations,” but its aura is unmistakable: in the “way the sunlight plays upon her hair,” in the exultant vocal harmonies that the Beach Boys had made inseparable from surf-rock, in the production’s euphoric blend of reverence, momentum, innovation and yearning. The way so many voices rush in, the swoop and quiver of the electrotheremin and the multiple sections packed into the song’s three-and-a-half minutes all add up to pure California optimism.|
|The Grateful Dead: “Ripple” (1970)|
|“Ripple” is a psychedelic string-band benediction. The melody seems to simply roll off Jerry Garcia’s acoustic guitar, with David Grisman’s mandolin glimmering above it like reflections from a mountain stream. Robert Hunter’s lyrics offer sympathy for every lone traveler’s journey as they hint at biblical psalms and Zen koans; the chorus has 17 syllables like a haiku (though divided differently). A wordless singalong at the end shares the consolations of that melody with a gathering of friends.|
|Joni Mitchell: “California” (1971)|
|Homesickness defines “California,” written by a Canadian songwriter who had made Southern California her new home and had found an admiring peer group among the songwriters around Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon. The verses are set in Europe, as the singer hops from France to Greece to Spain, enjoying dalliances and parties but always looking back toward her adopted home; when she sings “California” in the chorus, her voice giddily leaps up an octave. The accompaniment is sparse and precise — dulcimer, guitar, pedal steel guitar — and the longing is palpable, as she wonders, “Will you take me as I am?”|
|Black Flag: “Rise Above” (1981)|
|For some young rockers, the California dream had curdled by the early 1980s. Hope could hardly sound more furious than it does in “Rise Above,” the terse punk manifesto that helped make Black Flag the spearhead of California hard-core in the early 1980s. It announces itself with a hurried beat and a screech of feedback, then bears down on jumpy, heavily distorted guitar chords to launch shouts of defiance: “We! Are Tired! Of your! Abuse!/Try! To! Stop us! It’s! No use!”|
|Kendrick Lamar: “good kid” (2012)|
|There’s a bitter sense of urban California history in Kendrick Lamar’s songs, particularly his first album, “Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City.” He raps about his birthplace, Compton, the city in Los Angeles County made infamous in the 1990s by the producer Dr. Dre. Decades later, things are still desperate with poverty and gang violence. The sound of “Good Kid” harks back to the smooth grooves of Dr. Dre’s G-funk while Lamar’s rhymes consider both the persistence of gang activity in the neighborhood and the racial profiling that misjudges individuals: “I recognize that I’m easily prey,” he raps.|