Author Archives: Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

The House: Berman on Sherman and More Political Fratricide in California

What's more awkward than two belles sharing the same stage in the same dress? Two political candidates from the same party in a knock-down, drag-out fight to the bitter finish in November!

What's more awkward than two belles sharing the same stage in the same dress? Two political candidates from the same party in a knock-down, drag-out fight to the bitter finish in November!

Granted, California was not a swing state in the presidential election. We’re so dominated by Democrats, it’s hard to imagine anybody so much as blinked when Barack Obama won here. And Dianne Feinstein’s next term in the U.S. Senate? Even loyal Republicans were calling that one for her before the ballots were published.

But even in a True Blue state like this one, there was plenty of blood spilled in the California delegation to the House of Representatives. Between the way Congressional districts were redrawn after the last US Census and the state’s new top-two primary system, the stage was set for some high-pitched theater in two Republican districts and six Democratic ones. You might think that Democratic Party leaders would gather in some smoke-filled room somewhere in California and make the decisions required to avoid one party member going up against another. That’s not how it played out.

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Election Road Trip: What Does Silicon Valley Want from Government?

“From the City to the Valley.” This transit map reflects the modern reality that “Silicon Valley” has grown to include the entire San Francisco Bay Area.Credit: Stamen Design

In downtown San Jose, the cavernous, cool ZERO1 Garage is the conceptual epicenter for a wide-ranging art exhibition. Seeking Silicon Valley is an artistic exploration that includes 100 exhibits at 45 museums, galleries, and studios across the Bay Area.

Jaime Austin is one of the curators. Forty years ago, “Silicon Valley” referred to a small clutch of high tech companies in the Santa Clara Valley. Today? “It’s a network of freeways, a network of people, a network of technology, a network of companies and a network is something fairly abstract,” Austin says. “Silicon Valley, at least to me, is really more of an idea, than it is a place.”

Austin stands in front of what looks like a Bay Area public transit map — except the transit is anything but public. It’s a map of corporate bus routes that more than 44-thousand people use to commute to Google, Apple, Facebook and the like. The map (by Stamen Design of San Francisco) is jaw-dropping for its size and complexity — and for what it says about the way Silicon Valley has grown over the last 40 years.

“You know, the idea of San Francisco and Silicon Valley being two different types of cities with two different types of industry is no longer true. The greater San Francisco Bay Area is now interconnected. Because we really are one giant ecosystem.” Austin says.

“That’s one place where government can be a driver — is in providing some sort of guarantee for markets that we think are crucial and that won’t exist otherwise.”

That ecosystem is also one of the nation’s biggest economic drivers. Like it or not, Silicon Valley has a relationship to cultivate with government. Internet industry analyst and author Larry Downes says some of the most intractable political issues trickle down as big business problems across the world of High Tech. Take for instance, patent law. Continue reading

Election Road Trip: Silicon Valley Republicans — Wandering in a Political Wilderness

Boris Feldman tries to woo a potential voter to the GOP. (Image Courtesy Boris Feldman)

Boris Feldman tries to woo a potential voter. (Image Courtesy Boris Feldman)

For Election 2012 The California Report has been hitting the road to talk to voters in various parts of the state —  previously we’ve visited Riverside and Fresno. Today we turn to Silicon Valley. You might think the famously entrepreneurial business culture of Silicon Valley naturally fosters Republican sentiments, but the Republicans we talked to say they’re wandering in the political wilderness.

The Santa Clara County Republican Party recently held a fundraiser for Johnny Khamis, the GOP-endorsed candidate for San Jose City Council District 10. About 25 people showed up to rub shoulders over platters of hors d’oeuvres from Costco. If Khamis were to win, there would be two Republicans on the 10-member council.

“I go knocking on doors in my precincts every day,” Khamis tells me, “and some of them will ask me straight up: ‘Are you a Republican or Democrat?’ And I tell ‘em, ‘It’s a nonpartisan race.’ And then they say, ‘So what are you? A Democrat or a Republican?’ And I say, you know, ‘I’m a Republican,’ and if it’s a Democrat,  a lot of them will, um, slam the door in my face. Occasionally. OK, not a lot of them. But occassionally. It happens.”

“The Republicans in California have to completely recast the party or they’ll be in a permanent minority.”

Here in Santa Clara County, Republicans account for just 23 percent of registered voters. Compare that with 30 percent statewide. It’s fair to say Republicans are feeling outnumbered in many parts of California, but Helen Wang of San Jose says she  feels like she has a target on her forehead.

“That’s how I feel,” she says, laughing. “Because usually nobody supports me at all.” Continue reading

Analysis: Gov. Brown’s ‘Gun to the Head’ Campaign For Higher Taxes

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown hopscotched around the state, making sure at each stop to make a pitch for Proposition 30 and threatening multibillion dollar cuts to education if voters don’t approve the initiative’s temporary taxes this November. I interviewed longtime state-government observer John Myers, political editor at KXTV in Sacramento, about Brown’s campaign.

Edited transcript:

RACHAEL MYROW: You recently blogged that the governor’s campaign reminds you of the infamous January 1973 cover of National Lampoon: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

JOHN MYERS: Yeah, and I also wrote that it may be a little over the top to make the comparison. But the point is that when you look at the way the governor has rolled out this campaign in the early stages — and he’s now had an event in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco — it’s very much a campaign geared towards what happens if Proposition 30 fails. He hasn’t talked a lot about all the great things that will happen if it passes. And that’s typically what you have in a ballot measure campaign. People say “Vote for us, because great things will happen.” This has been a campaign of saying, “If you don’t vote for us, doomsday comes.” And doomsday in this case, is the $5 billion to $6 billion in automatic spending cuts to schools that were written into the state budget if Prop 30 fails. That’s a very different kind of political campaign.

MYROW: This week USC released a poll that offers a couple of interesting insights. First, and this is probably the part Gov. Brown likes, a majority of those polled would vote for Proposition 30.

MYERS: They would. If you look at this poll, and if you look at all of the polls that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, the governor’s measure, which, again, would temporarily raise income taxes on the wealthiest and sales taxes on everyone, it has always polled in the low 50s, which of course is a majority of those being polled. But historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day, and so this is actually a low number.

MYROW: I was quite taken by another interesting tidbit from this poll: people ranked school funding fifth as a spending priority. This is after the economy, after jobs, after the state budget deficit and wasteful government spending.

Historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day.

MYERS: Yeah, it’s interesting, one of the folks from USC who were talking to reporters about this poll made the comment that they really feel as though voters are in a triage mode. The economy has been tough, unemployment has remained high, and voters’ historic priorities about spending and government may be shifting somewhat, or at least temporarily shifting. And clearly there’s an issue of wasteful government spending — they asked these folks in this poll about things like high-speed rail, the ongoing controversy about the hidden money in the state parks bank accounts, and the governor has tried to insist that these things have nothing to do with Proposition 30. But this poll does raise some questions about whether voters feel as though government is mismanaging the money it has, and maybe they don’t want to give any more money to government.

MYROW: This week the governor argued a state as big as California should be able to pursue more than one funding priority at the same time. “We have to be able to jump rope, chew gum and do five other things. Otherwise, we’re not going to make it,” Brown said.

Audio: Jerry Brown defends Prop 30 in a minute-and-a-half flat

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Now it appears that he sees himself in a fight to the political death with Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, who has spent millions pushing Proposition 38, which would raise taxes to fund K-12 and makes a point of saying, “This money doesn’t go to Sacramento. It goes to your local schools.” But I wonder, is this really an either-or situation, the way the governor seems to be presenting it. Why not presume voters could approve both propositions?

MYERS: People who I’ve talked to, election law experts, say, “Yes, the voters can approve both of these measures.” But, whichever one would get the most “yes” votes would probably be the only one that would go into effect. And, if in fact, Ms. Munger — the wealthy civil rights attorney — her measure went into effect, with tax revenues only for schools, then those schools could still suffer a $5 billion to $6 billion automatic trigger cut, because that’s what was drawn out in the budget if Prop. 30 fails. So, there’s a legal problem there.

But but there’s a political argument, too, that’s difficult. Which [is] if you’re the governor, are you telling people to vote for both? They don’t like taxes, but hey, here’s double taxes, in a way. And we should point out the polling is that Prop. 38, this Munger K-12 tax measure, does not have majority support in any poll I’ve seen. It is below the 50 percent threshold, and at this point it could just be a political argument. The voters really may not say ‘yes’ to that.

Not So Simple Math: Support for Silicon Valley K-8 Teachers in an Era of Budget Cuts

The Ten Commandments of Arithmetic: no place here for fuzzy math like you see in politics. (Credit: KQED/Rachael Myrow)

This November, California voters will be asked to weigh in on two ballot measures that affect education funding. Proposition 38 promises to raise money for K-12 schools with a broad-based income tax hike. Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Brown, would also raise taxes, but to a slightly different end: bolstering the state budget and avoiding massive education cuts.

Of course, lots and lots of funding has already been slashed. The distance between where we are and where we want to be in education is profoundly troubling to many voters in California – not just parents hoping to get their kids into a top university.

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