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A Supporter and Opponent Explain Prop. 31’s ‘Community Strategic Action Plans’

 

Sacramento Capital. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Proposition 31 might win the battle for the longest and most complex ballot measure. At more than 8,000 words Prop. 31 is an opus to California Forward‘s attempt to restructure and rebuild California’s government from the core. To do that it outlines nine main changes:

  1. Establishes a two-year budget cycle
  2. Permits the governor to make unilateral budget cuts during fiscal emergencies
  3. Requires all bills to be published three days prior to a vote
  4. Forces lawmakers to identify a funding source for new programs or tax deductions
  5. Requires performance reviews
  6. Defines specific goals for the state budget and all local government budgets
  7. Allows local governments to establish “Community Strategic Action Plans”
  8. Allocates $200 million a year in sales tax to those plans
  9. Allows local governments to transfer local property taxes among themselves.

Whew, that’s a lot.

But one component of the initiative is particularly opaque: What are these “Community Strategic Action Plans”? What are they supposed to do? KQED called California Forward’s Executive Director Kristin Connelly to ask her specifically about the plans. California Forward wrote and sponsored Prop. 31. Continue reading

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

What’s at Stake for Obama’s Health Care Law in California This Election?

Photo by Gabriela Quiros, KQED Science

On KQED Public Radio’s The California Report Magazine on Friday, Scott Shafer talked with Marian Mulkey, the director of the Health Reform and Public Programs Initiative at the California HealthCare Foundation, a health-policy think tank (and a funder of the show).

Edited transcript:

SCOTT SHAFER: First of all, the Affordable Care Act has gradually been getting phased in nationwide. Give us a sense of what’s been happening up to now, right here in California.

MARIAN MULKEY, CALIFORNIA HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION: California has implemented many of the early provisions of the Affordable Care Act, making some new extensions of coverage available, for example, to young adults, assuring that pre-existing conditions are covered for children, and implementing many of the early programs — one for people with pre-existing conditions is in place and covering people already.

California has taken steps in terms of planning and establishing a state-based exchange, which is the marketplace by which people will be able to view their choices, identify what’s available for them and access federal subsidy support for buying coverage.

SHAFER: And it’s fair to say California has been further out in front on that than pretty much any other state?

MULKEY: Yes, California was early in determining it wanted to have a state-based exchange and moved quickly, immediately after the passage of the law in 2010 to start one up and to make some initial decisions. Continue reading

In San Jose, Voters Ponder Raising Minimum Wage by 25 Percent

Aerial view of downtown San Jose.

Aerial view of downtown San Jose. (Helene Labriet-Gross/AFP/Getty Images)

What started as a San Jose State University class project has morphed into a real politics. In November, San Jose voters will vote on Measure D [PDF] — which would raise the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 an hour.

Both sides claim their arguments are simple. If you think $8 an hour is not a livable wage in San Jose, then you should vote yes. If you think hiking the minimum wage by 25 percent would cost jobs, then vote no.

But like most things in life and politics, nothing is really that simple, as evidenced by the Measure D debate on KQED’s Forum Wednesday morning. One of the main arguments against Measure D is that it would make San Jose an island of higher minimum wage and would put San Jose businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Continue reading

District 3 Debate: Garamendi v. Vann

No question: redistricting has shaken up the political landscape in California. The newly-drawn District 3 stretches from Rio Vista and Fairfield in the south to Colusa and Willows in the north. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) is running for re-election, but was displaced from his incumbency in District 10 when the new district lines were drawn.

Both Garamendi and his challenger, Republican Kim Vann were guests Friday on KQED’s Forum.

Vann, a former Colusa County supervisor, focused her comments almost exclusively on supporting businesses through the entire discussion. When asked how she would create jobs, she pointed to her record.

“I’ll do it the very same way I’ve done it as a county supervisor,” she told Forum host Dave Iverson, “get government out of the way, make sure that the businesses understand what the rules are, not constantly changing the game and changing rules through over-reaching regulations. Making sure we have a good, solid tax code that people can understand.” Continue reading

Occupy One Year Later: Going Local

By Katrina Schwartz

Click below to listen to the radio story.

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Community College of San Francisco student Janice Suess has taken the organizing skills she learned during Occupy and put them to work advocating for student rights. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)

Community College of San Francisco student Janice Suess has taken the organizing skills she learned during Occupy and put them to work advocating for student rights. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)

A year ago the Occupy movement grabbed a national spotlight, shifting the political debate to focus on economic inequality. Those expecting the movement to translate into national electoral politics — as the Tea Party movement has done — have been disappointed. Many Bay Area Occupiers say their political awakening has driven them to fight for change in their own communities, instead.

Janice Suess, 19, moved to San Francisco a little over a year ago. Shortly after moving into her apartment, she heard the Blue Angels would be flying, and decided to head out to take some pictures. On her way back, she saw a crowd gathering in front of the San Francisco Federal Reserve. She was curious.

“I thought it was kind of peculiar so I went up and just asked someone what was going on. And they said it was the Occupy Movement and I was like, ‘Whoa, what is this?,'” explained Suess. 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.

In San Jose, Once a Class Project, Now a Major Political Battle

by Peter Jon Shuler

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What was once just a class project has taken on a life of its own, with business and labor lining up against each other in campaigns run by seasoned professionals.

As we reported Tuesday, San Jose voters will decide in November on a minimum wage measure that  started as a student class project at San Jose State University. Measure D would raise wages from $8.00 an hour to $10.00 and is gaining support from a growing coalition that includes labor unions and non-profit organizations like Catholic Charities and United Way.  Business groups, on the other hand, have said they plan to spend more than a million dollars in opposition.

Albert Perez, Diana Crumedy and Saul Gomez, students who started San Jose minimum wage measure. (Peter Jon Shuler/KQED)

Last January, San Jose State students taking a class on social action kicked off the petition drive for the measure, after being the first to sign. They had just spent nearly a year fundraising, conducting public opinion polls and going out into the community to gather support. And within just five weeks, they collected more than enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for San Jose’s November ballot.

Sociology professor Scott-Myers Lipton designed the class to help students make the leap from merely thinking and talking about issues to engaging in the political process.

“Our culture doesn’t do a great job in asking our students much more than this idea of voting,” he says. “And so how do we impact social policy? That’s not a question they’re familiar with or I think that the students feel they can actually have a say in.”

Myers-Lipton says instead of feeling helpless or railing against social problems, his students identify the issues that concern them then learn concrete ways to take action. This class developed the minimum wage measure based on their own struggles to get by on $8.00 an hour. Continue reading

San Jose’s Measure D Would Raise City’s Minimum Wage 25%

By Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

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In November, San Jose residents will vote on whether or not to become one of the few cities in the nation to raise its minimum wage above the state level. If approved, Measure D would raise the city’s minimum wage from the state floor of $8.00 an hour to $10.00. San Francisco has a similar ordinance on the books, currently mandating hourly pay of at least $10.24.

The roots of the initiative go back to San Jose State University students, who were struggling to make ends meet. Elisha St. Laurent is a behavioral science major and the single mom of a 5-year-old boy. She expects to graduate next June.

Alisha St. Laurent(left) signs a petition from Leila McCab (right) to raise San Jose's minimum wage at San Jose State. Photo by Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

“I work at an electronics store and we make minimum wage there. So it’s definitely not an easy thing being a part-time employee and then a full-time student,” she says.

But many businesses have lined up against the measure, and opponents say they’re ready to spend more than a million dollars to defeat it.

That campaign has brought together some surprising allies. John Hogan is CEO of TeenForce, a non-profit group that helps foster-youth and other minors acquire work experience. So you might think he’d be in favor of raising their pay.

“Yeah, it’s probably ironic that I’m running a youth jobs program and I might be against this — which I am,” he says.

Hogan calls Measure D the wrong solution to a real problem. Although he thinks the minimum wage should be higher, he doesn’t believe it should be a a city-by-city decision. And he says it will create more obstacles for the kids his organization helps. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading