Thursday, September 16, 2021

WHITHER FEINSTEIN: TO RETIRE OR NOT?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “WHITHER FEINSTEIN: TO RETIRE OR NOT?”

 

        One thing for sure: If Gov. Gavin Newsom had lost the recall election, if replacement candidate Larry Elder now awaited taking over the state’s top political job shortly, there would be no doubt about what Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein must do: resign.

 

        With the ultra-conservative, Donald Trump-loving Elder in the wings and Feinstein’s age (88) making health problems or disability possible anytime, the pressure on the 29-year incumbent senator would be enormous to step down while Newsom could still appoint her successor.

 

        But Newsom survived, and handily, so the pressure on Feinstein eased. But it’s not gone and Newsom is up for reelection next year, figuring to face some of the same Republican rivals who tried to topple him this summer, plus the possibility of a challenge from some significant fellow Democrat.

 

        Feinstein over the last year has also heard from others a lot of the same “too old” talk spewed by fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, her reelection rival in 2018.

 

        Back then, the shrill Los Angeles councilman de Leon, a former state Senate president, realized he might never again have a statewide voice like he did at that moment and that 2018 might be his only shot at the U.S. Senate seat he eagerly covets.

 

        So the entire thrust of his campaign was “It doesn’t matter what Feinstein does. The mere fact she’s 85 is enough reason to dump her.”

 

        That’s an argument never made against more aged male senators like J. Strom Thurmond or Daniel Inouye,  while Feinstein has lately been reviled by her party’s far left.

 

        They see as a negative her tendency to make things collegial rather than continually contentious. They see her getting along with Republicans like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley and South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham as an extreme negative even though those connections helped her shepherd into law liberal items like desert protection and coastal oil drilling moratoria.

 

        But now Feinstein’s performance –beyond the press releases her office pumps out far more regularly than those coming from her far younger new colleague Alex Padilla – is often perceived as lacking.

 

        Feinstein hasn’t been seen in public much lately, goes one complaint, so how can anyone know if she’s physically OK or mentally competent? She’s become even more friendly with Republicans, goes another gripe, even hugging Graham last fall and complimenting him on his conduct of hearings that confirmed the newest Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee.

 

        These complaints led Feinstein to allow Illinois’ Dick Durbin to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee where Supreme Court confirmations are staged, rather than taking the job that could have been hers.

 

        Even Feinstein’s longtime Senate colleague, the retired Democrat Barbara Boxer, allowed the other day that retirement might be a good idea for Feinstein. “If Sen. Feinstein were to call me today and ask my advice,” Boxer told a reporter, “I would say only you can decide this. But from my perspective, I want you to know I’ve had very productive years away from the Senate doing good things. So put that into the equation.”

 

        This wasn’t exactly a demand for instant retirement as it might have been had Newsom been fired by the voters and Feinstein’s presence therefore made Democrats fear their razor thin Senate control was seriously threatened.

 

        By comparison, those same Democrats are far louder in their demands that 82-year-old liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer step down and allow President Biden to appoint his replacement while Democrats can still assure a Biden nominee of at least getting a hearing – something Republicans denied to Barack Obama appointee Merrick Garland the last time a Democrat was president and Republicans controlled the Senate.

 

        Regardless, a Feinstein retirement would likely give California somewhat more energetic representation than it now has in the Senate, where her critics correctly observe she hasn’t been seen in many committee hearings lately.

 

        But Boxer ably summed up the way things stand now: With no immediate threat of a Republican replacement if something happens to her, this choice will be Feinstein’s alone. If she opts to depart soon, 2022 could become California’s most active political year ever, with elections for governor and two slots in the Senate.

       

 

     -30-      
     Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com

NEWLY NOTICED DAMAGE FROM FIRES, DROUGHT

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “NEWLY NOTICED DAMAGE FROM FIRES, DROUGHT”

 

        It’s always easy to see direct effects of both the unprecedented spate of wildfires that has hit California over the last five years and the advent of this state’s newest multi-year drought.

 

        Those include burned buildings, lung problems from direct smoke inhalation and lingering smoke and ash in the air of distant locations. Plus, ground subsidence, more expensive food as irrigation water becomes scarcer and more expensive, and brown lawns in almost every city and town.

 

        But unseen, less obvious ill effects of both drought and the wildfires intensified by dry conditions are now turning out to be about as pernicious as the more visible direct effects seen on television news shows nightly.

 

        Drought, for one thing, always leads to more groundwater pumping in the Central Valley, where farmers deprived of water supplies from both the state Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project turn straightaway to tapping underground aquifers.


        Yes, in a way that’s an obvious drought effect, as the spouts of irrigation pipes that once barely peeked out from the earth’s surface now sit several feet over ground level, plain measures of subsidence easily visible to drivers along major highways like U.S. 99 and California 152.

 

        But a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey this fall shows that intensive underground pumping has also sped deterioration of groundwater quality over widespread areas. “This could lead to more public drinking water wells being shut down if costly treatment or cleaner water sources to mix with ground water are not available,” reported Zeno Levy, a USGS research geologist.

 

        In short, many Central Valley cities draw water from underground when they don’t get surface supplies derived from snowfall runoff originating in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They get water from the same underground supplies farmers also use.

 

        The problem, as revealed by 30 years of studying nitrate concentrations in Central Valley wells, is that those chemicals increase in drinking water when more groundwater is drawn. A USGS chart shows how most public drinking water wells start out taking water from levels far below where nitrates are most common. But as neighboring farmers’ wells draw more from those deep levels, the depth at which nitrates are thickest steadily drops and the unhealthy chemicals can eventually make their way into drinking supplies.

 

        This turns out to be a regional problem, even with groundwater pumping more intense in some locales than others. The USGS doesn’t say so, but it’s a problem that could lead to some cities becoming ghost towns unless supplemental potable water is trucked in, and in large quantities.

 

        Then there are the side effects of fires. A new Stanford University study, for one example, finds that pregnant women exposed to smoke from wildfires have an increased chance of giving birth prematurely. The study found that about 7,000 California preterm births between 2007 and 2012 were probably caused by such exposure.

 

        Premature birth leads to incomplete development of babies, which heightens risk of a variety of neurodevelopmental problems, stomach and lung complications and sometimes even early death.

 

        And a reader in Magalia, near the ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed most of the Butte County town of Paradise, reports that benzene has been found in some local drinking water supplies.

 

        Benzene in drinking water has been linked to various cancers including non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and acute myelogenous leukemia. Reported the reader, “Months after the Camp Fire evacuation ended, the grandson of a well-known and adored retail manager was born. Weeks later, he was diagnosed with two forms of childhood leukemia.”

 

        For sure, tens of millions of dollars have already been paid to victims of benzene exposure from motor fuels and other sources. If it now turns out that benzene from burning natural substances has infested drinking water, an entire new source of damage claims against fire-causing utility companies like Pacific Gas & Electric will emerge, and it will be look out below for those firms.

 

        What’s clear is that the cataloging of side effects of both drought and wildfires has barely begun. Which ought to add even more urgency to this state’s often-incomplete and inadequate fire prevention efforts.


-30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

CRITICAL ETHNIC STUDIES BACKDOOR APPROACH HITS UNIVERSITIES

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

      “CRITICAL ETHNIC STUDIES BACKDOOR APPROACH HITS UNIVERSITIES”

 

        Ethnic studies classes are nothing new on the many campuses of the California State University system, but they are about to become a graduation requirement for everyone expecting to get a CSU undergraduate degree.

 

        Those courses are increasingly under the sway of authors of the rejected version of California’s ethnic studies model curriculum for elementary and high school students.

 

        Some of those same authors are also writing and influencing the new ethnic studies programs being commissioned by local school districts, each able to adopt an individualized version of such programs, to be included in coursework of virtually every classes taught by those districts.

 

        It’s a form of guerrilla warfare, with the inaccurate version of ethnic studies rejected and rewritten before the state adopted its model curriculum figuring to sneak gradually through the back doors of thousands of classrooms and into the minds of millions of schoolchildren.

 

        The rejected version painted virtually all whites as oppressors throughout history, with all other ethnic groups their victims. In reality, human history has been much more complex. One example:  European whites did run the African slave trade that brought most blacks to the Americas. But it could not have worked without help from Africans who warred on and forcibly enslaved other Africans, then brought them to ports where they were sold to European slavers. So whites were far from the only ones in the slave trade, which still persists in large scale in much of the Moslem world – something almost never mentioned in critical ethnic studies.

 

        The same rejected version ironically portrayed Jews as privileged oppressors despite their eons of persecution in every imaginable manner from slavery to expropriation to mass expulsions and genocide to state- and church-sponsored burnings at the stake.

 

That’s why early versions of the California ethnic studies plan were rejected. But now many local school board members voting millions of dollars to write new curricula for local schools and allocating more millions for hiring teachers to purvey the rejected misinformation have no idea which version of history reflects reality and what is self-serving fantasy from the authors of the state’s rejected first draft.

 

        This is happening not only in local districts, but also at the college and university level, where some students are being taught distorted history making whites and the tiny Jewish minority among them into the vilest of villains.

 

        Nowhere is this better exemplified than in a UCLA class taught by Ethnic Studies Asst. Prof. Loubna Qutami, titled “Palestine in Comparative Ethnic Studies Frameworks.”

 

        This is the same Qutami who wrote on a blog several years ago that she had “decided to commit my whole self to Palestine.”

 

        She has also written that her mother’s family was forcibly driven from the Israeli city of Haifa during the 1948 Israeli war of independence which saw Israel invaded by armies from seven Arab states, including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan.

 

        Asked via email which frameworks her class would cover, Qutami did not respond. Nor did she answer when asked how she might react if a student informed her in class that Haifa’s Arabs were not expelled in 1948, the city having long had a large Arab population.

 

        Nor would she say how she might treat a student from Israel who enrolled in her class.

 

        It’s difficult to understand why this course taught by someone who has declared herself a strong partisan in the Israel-Palestine conflict should be subsidized as objective learning by taxpayers on the UC campus in most demand among graduating high school seniors.

 

        But the consequences could eventually go much farther. Classes much like this one, promoting anti-Jewish “alternative facts,” were commonplace for decades in German schools, laying the groundwork for the Holocaust.

 

        Violent effects of curricula like this, which could soon be widespread, at state university levels, might not be felt for many years to come.

 

But their influence would likely be strong, as they are “educating” many of the folks who will teach ethnic studies for the foreseeable future.

 

In the meantime, they could poison the academic atmosphere in California not merely for Jews, but for other whites like Armenian-Americans and Irish-Americans who fought discrimination for generations.

 

    -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

THIS RECALL SPURRED SOME FRESH IDEAS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2021 OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

        “THIS RECALL SPURRED SOME FRESH IDEAS”

 

        Until the campaigning got serious in the recall election that unsuccessfully targeted California Gov. Gavin Newsom, this state had not for years heard very many new and creative ideas for solving its many problems.

 

        But suddenly during the recall, the air was full of them. Sure, the campaign season saw a lot of old ideas rehashed, but there were also new thoughts.

 

        On water shortages, the usual bromide solution has long been “build more and higher reservoirs and dams to capture more rainwater and snowfall runoff.” That idea got plenty of airing during the campaign among the 46-person corps of wanna-be replacement governors.

 

        But there was a new idea, too, this one coming from YouTube financial advisor Kevin Paffrath of Ventura. Build a tunnel across most of America to bring Mississippi River water to parched California. That, he said, could relieve the Midwest’s frequent flooding while also slaking this state’s never-ending thirst.

 

        Never mind that the idea was quickly and legitimately laughed off because few of the many states en route would agree to hosting a massive new pipeline tunnel, while most states along the big river’s path would object to losing any of their water.

 

        Still, it was a new idea, the first fresh thought in California water circles since the late Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn campaigned in the 1970s for towing calved icebergs here from Antarctica and then draining their melt into the state’s water systems.

 

        For sure, both ideas are more inventive than merely enlarging reservoirs when there isn’t enough water available to fill them at their present capacity.

 

Democrat Paffrath, who finished second among replacement candidates, showed more moxie than other hopefuls by crashing some of his rivals’ rallies. He also had other creative ideas. Example: make non-violent criminals do unpaid public service work right where they committed their crimes, like cleaning streets and painting over graffiti. He also advocated paying students over 18 to finish high school and attend college or trade school and proposed a two-week limit for granting new building permits to developers willing to pay for an accelerated timetable.

 

        And he suggested tunneling under existing roads and freeways to create more capacity and ease traffic.

 

        These might not all be practical ideas, but they were refreshingly original.

 

        Most Republican replacement hopefuls were far less inventive, but still expanded on older ideas, like former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer pushing to clear much more deadwood from forests to give wildfires less fuel. Never mind that this interferes with natural forest life cycles. Faulconer also wanted to let parents decide whether their children should repeat a school grade level because of learning lost in remote teaching during the pandemic shutdowns and he advocated holding utilities more responsible for damage from wildfires they cause.

 

        Celebrity candidate Caitlyn Jenner advocated reviewing all state regulations and eliminating any that have outlived their usefulness. This sounds good, and ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried it, but it did not fly, almost most regulations remaining in force.

 

        And Green Party candidate Dan Kapelovitz advocated ranked choice voting, now used to avoid runoff elections in local elections in Oakland and San Francisco. This saves money and time, but produces weak, unpopular mayors in both cities. He also advocated full personage status for animals, arguing that if court decisions like Citizens United can give corporations such standing, why not animals? Voters were left to wonder how animals might exercise their freedom of speech.

 

        Some Republicans like Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines wanted to overturn the 2014 Proposition 47, which lowered many former felonies to misdemeanor status with little or no punishment. But like any voter initiative, that law can be overturned by another public vote, if that’s what the voters want.

 

        Plenty of candidates advocated more affordable housing, but none even mentioned the obvious solution of converting the billions of square feet now idled in office buildings whose former workers now operate from home.

 

        It added up to one of the most free-thinking campaigns California has seen, with far more interesting ideas raised than in “normal” elections.

 

        Maybe some versions of these ideas would actually work. That possibility can be tested in the regular elections coming up next June and November.

 

     -30-       
Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

THE LAST RECALL OF ITS TYPE?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “THE LAST RECALL OF ITS TYPE?”

 

        Californians would be well advised to remember well this month’s recall election aimed at firing Gov. Gavin Newsom and replacing him with someone who drew far fewer votes than the no side did on the ballot’s other question.

 

        That’s not because this was a particularly memorable campaign. It wasn’t, except for all the errors by target Newsom and the pack of replacement candidates hounding him. These range from a candidate abusing a bear in order to establish himself as “beastly” to the incumbent neglecting to name his political party on the ballot.

 

        But this kind of special election will likely never be repeated on a large scale in the same format because more than 100 years after the Progressives of the early 20th Century devised it, legal scholars finally realized the current system is unfair and probably unconstitutional on its face.

 

        Nevertheless, expect the several local recall efforts now underway to continue under the old rules.

 

        Yes, the lone lawsuit filed this year trying to stop the recall on legal grounds went nowhere, largely because judges are generally loath to step into strictly political matters.

 

        That alters neither the system’s obvious flaws nor the strong likelihood state legislators will fix them, if only to make life easier for themselves if they should someday be recalled, as happened to one current state senator, Josh Newman of Fullerton, in 2018.

 

        Like Newsom, Sen. Newman was not among candidates folks could vote for at the same time they voted yes or no on the very idea of a recall.

 

        Two years later, Newman came back and whipped Republican Ling Ling Chang, who led the 2018 replacement vote, by about 11,000 votes.

 

        In that recall election, the “no” side on the recall question got more than 66,000 votes, while Chang received a few more than 50,000. By 16,000 votes, the district preferred Newman to Chang, but Chang got the job because, like Newsom, Newman could not be listed among potential candidates.

 

        It was different in the 2003 gubernatorial recall, when then-Gov. Gray Davis got 4.07 million-plus “no” votes on the recall question, but movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled more than 4.2 million to lead the replacement field. Unlike Chang, Schwarzenegger won fairly solidly, so the constitutional issue never came up.

 

        It arose this fall, first raised in high profile by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley law school, in a New York Times op-ed. Wrote the dean, “The most basic principles of democracy are that the candidate who gets the most votes is elected and that every voter gets an equal say…” That very nearly did not happen this time.

 

        Until very late in the process, most polls showed the vote nearly even on the recall itself, a “no” essentially a vote for Newsom. No replacement candidate came near Schwarzenegger’s 2003 performance.

 

        If the “yes” side on the recall question had won, while the eventual replacement winner got less votes than the “no” side on that question, that would have meant two things: Newsom essentially would have been desired by more voters than the figure replacing him, and a vote for Newsom counted less than a vote for the replacement winner.

 

        This appears to fly in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark one-person, one-vote decision and even if defeated on the yes-or-no question, Newsom would appear to have had grounds for a constitutional lawsuit seeking to stay in office.

 

        As unlikely as the high court would be to accept such a case, the message is clear:

 

        This system must change, especially with recall petition campaigns and elections growing more common as time goes by and more voters feeling disgruntled and poorly represented.

 

        All it would take is one small change to the current system and things would be constitutionally hunky-dory: Place the incumbent on the candidate list. Another potential change: Setting up a runoff vote for cases where no replacement candidate wins a majority vote.

 

        There’s every reason to expect state legislators will make at least the change inserting the recall target’s name onto the candidate list, if only to help themselves if and when their own recall moments arrive.

       

        -30-

       

     Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to www.californiafocus.net

NEWSOM SURVIVES, BUT MAY BE WEAKENED

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “NEWSOM SURVIVES, BUT MAY BE WEAKENED”

 

        The conventional wisdom is that beating back the recall election that targeted him actually strengthened Gov. Gavin Newsom. There is talk of an easy reelection next year, possibly followed by a run for the Senate in 2024 or even a 2024 presidential run.

 

      But this election wasn’t as easy as the final numbers make it seem, and Newsom made myriad mistakes while eventually managing to thwart the attempt to fire him 14 months before the end of the term he won in 2018.

 

        What’s more, while Newsom figures to top the Democratic slate next year, he might face tough opposition in the June primary election.

 

        If the recall demonstrated anything, it was that Newsom has made many enemies since his 2018 election by a near-record 62-38 percent margin over Republican John Cox.

 

        Partly that could be chalked up to the pandemic, in which he made public health-motivated moves like ordering the vast majority of the populace into lockdowns within their homes – if they had homes. He closed businesses and churches, shut down most public transit and generally disabled everyday life in California, all via executive orders enabled by a state of emergency he called without consent or input from the state Legislature.

 

        This brought accusations of dictatorial, one-size-fits-all behavior.

 

        Despite all this, Newsom managed to keep all previously well-known Democrats off the ballot’s replacement governor list.

 

        He may not do so well at disciplining his party next spring. Newsom could face challenges from the likes of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, his defeated 2018 primary opponent, and he might be challenged by newcomers like Kevin Paffrath of Ventura, the 29-year-old financial blogger who won more votes than any other Democrat among the corps of replacement candidates.

 

        There will surely be plenty of Republican opposition in the June vote, too. That election will run on the “Top Two” system sometimes called the “jungle primary,” where the two leading vote-getters face off again in the November general election even if one of them wins a majority in the primary.

 

      Republicans who might run again next year certainly include talk show host Larry Elder, the leading replacement candidate who opposes virtually all government regulations as he is a GOP figure. In the recall, Elder promised to end all state restrictions on public gatherings and any government vaccination and masking mandates.

 

        He ran, in short, as the anti-Newsom from the day he forced his way onto the ballot over objections from the Newsom-appointed secretary of state, who noted some incomplete portions of tax records he was compelled to make public.

 

        Another Republican likely to show up for the primary is former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who ran a very conventional campaign this year and must get more imaginative to have a significant chance next spring. Faulconer also could use a charisma transplant.

 

        Cox, too, might take another shot despite his abysmal showing in the recall. The San Diego County businessman faced one humiliating moment during a debate when he was interrupted and served a subpoena in a legal case alleging he owes one firm about $100,000 from bills run up during his losing 2018 run.

 

        There’s also Kevin Kiley, a Republican state assemblyman from the Sacramento suburbs who ran during the recall as essentially the purest of the GOP possibilities. Kiley was given to purveying the occasional disprovable half-truth during his run.

 

        This didn’t get many votes in 2021, but things could be different in June, when the electorate may be far larger than this month’s.


Any of these Republicans could also run for the U.S. Senate against appointed Democratic U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla.

 

        Newsom remains the central figure in all this. Just as in 2018, he overcame admitted moral failings in the recall election, but things like his too-large and too-inside birthday dinner for a lobbyist pal may rise up again and strike him down if there are other major Democrats and not just Republicans in the June field.

 

        All of which means that even though we know who will serve as California governor for the next year, things remain unsettled beyond that. For Newsom most likely emerges from the recall somewhat weakened, rather than strengthened like most other politicians who survive recall elections.

 

 -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Thursday, September 2, 2021

EXPECT A REBELLION AGAINST KEY HOUSING BILLS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “EXPECT A REBELLION AGAINST KEY HOUSING BILLS”

 

        Self-congratulations flowed easily the other day among ultra-liberal state legislators after they passed the two most far-reaching housing bills of this year and this century.

 

        These are Senate Bills 9 and 10, whose aim is to end single family zoning in most parts of California and allow far more housing density at the will of property owners, even in most fire zones. About the only limit on this freedom to create urban blight is a floor on the size of affected lots. If your property is smaller than 2,400 square feet, you are not free to subdivide it at will.

 

        For the last four years, this assault on neighborhoods has been a pipe dream of Scott Wiener, the increasingly radical, pro-developer Democratic state senator from San Francisco. The state Senate’s president, Democrat Toni Atkins of San Diego, is almost equally involved.

 

        Before they break their arms while patting themselves on the back, these two lawmakers might want to examine the new realities of California's referendum politics.

 

        Even more than it has been since the initiative era began in the early 1970s, this state is a populist place. When lawmakers pass a widely disliked bill, voters now are likely to rise up and strike it down, just as disgruntled voters also created the recall movement against Gov. Gavin Newsom.

 

        Few bills in recent years have been more widely unpopular than SB 9 and 10 among dedicated voters who participate without fail in every election.

 

        More than three dozen city and county governments in all parts of California took official stances against the two bills. Not only do they promise to blight existing neighborhoods, scores of elected city council and county board members said, but the two bills ignore the obvious and far less intrusive solution to California’s housing shortage: make housing from the billions of vacant square feet now languishing without renters in office buildings.

 

        This would create more units much faster than the haphazard new construction called for in SB 9 and 10, without expanding existing footprints or destroying anyone’s home environment.

 

        Meanwhile, the two bills figure to be precisely that destructive to many folks who have invested their life savings in homes they love.

 

        SB 9, for example, allows any lot currently zoned R1 for a single home to be split in two, with two duplexes on each half. Add to each half a “granny” unit previously authorized by the state and you could have six units where there is now one. All without any affordability requirements.

 

        Developers would get even richer. Building trades unions love this, too, for the jobs it would create. Both special interests lobbied for this bill and will exploit it to the hilt. Picture developers with fat bankrolls prowling through neighborhoods while flashing their wads. Or Wall Street expanding its current expansive housing purchases.

 

        Then there’s SB 10, allowing up to 10 units on any lot or parcel if a city council OKs it, regardless of any land-use plan voters may have passed. Once this bill is signed, city and county officials whose campaigns are often funded by developers and construction unions can override any local initiative that limits building, no matter how large its vote margin may have been.

 

        One real aim of this, speculated Palo Alto Councilman Eric Filseth, a former mayor, might be to discourage local land-use initiatives altogether. “Who’s going to mount the time and expense of a voter initiative if they know some government branch might simply set it aside?” he said in an email.

 

        But wait: Homeowners can do the same thing to these two bills that bail bondsmen did last November to a bill that passed handily with the aim of ending cash bail in California: They can run a referendum to kill it, and such an effort has already begun.

 

 For sure, any measures that draw as much civic opposition as SB 9 and 10 are guaranteed to be challenged. Once a referendum against any bill qualifies for a vote, that new law can’t be applied until after the vote on the referendum.

 

        Which means it’s not yet panic time for homeowners who want to preserve their neighborhoods.

       

-30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net