Monday, April 27, 2020




          First there were the “geriatric police,” cops who occasionally stopped senior citizens near the beginning of this spring’s coronavirus pandemic and told them to get home and stay home, with no one quite sure what right they had to enforce such a condescending, age-discriminating policy, however well-meant.

          Then Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti threatened to institute “neighborhood police,” saying if the folks who elected him don’t behave in ways he pronounces good for them, he’ll force them not to go outside their neighborhoods for an indefinite period.

          These were both the result of decrees stemming from emergency powers the Constitution grants public officials for use only in times of extreme emergency.

          No one responsibly suggests this spring has not been a time of public health emergency. Hospitals have been crammed with victims of the rogue coronavirus. Convention centers and basketball arenas were converted into temporary hospitals.

          Death and disease tolls are totted up daily in ways unseen since the Vietnam War, and in numbers exponentially higher than even those myriad casualties.

          That means many measures taken under emergency rules are justified. Then come edicts in other categories. Where, for example, did Gov. Gavin Newsom get the power to authorize state Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the California Judicial Council to change this state’s bail laws, as he did without so much as a token public hearing or Zoom social media session?

          Of all the many measures state and local officials imposed on tens of millions of Californians, none appears to have less legal justification than this one.

          Few would seriously protest other measures the court system adopted on its own, even if there were no checks or balances on its choices. Defendants now can appear by remote technologies for pretrial criminal hearings. Time frames are extended for many temporary restraining orders. Electronic depositions are now OK in civil lawsuits. Courts have given up for the nonce their power to make eviction orders, no matter the cause.

          These are mostly matters of judicial procedure, and the more sophisticated electronics become, the less some of these measures appear to intrude on basic American rights.

          But then there are bail bonds. Among the changes the Judicial Council made without a peep from Newsom was a statewide emergency measure forbidding judges to set bail in any but the most serious felonies, like murder and rape. For misdemeanors and so-called “lower level” felonies, including child abuse, there now will be no bail required.

          The justification is a desire to thin out jail populations and create for inmates something like the social distancing enforced on the rest of the populace. The thinking: without such distancing, jails can become like petri dishes where the virus might infect and kill prisoners in droves.

          But bail itself is a matter of hot public debate, a policy issue on which Newsom took sides last year when he signed a bill ending bail for virtually all criminal defendants. Immediately, the bail bond industry raised millions of dollars and qualified a referendum for November’s ballot that would rescind that law. Once the measure qualified for the ballot, the law was put in limbo, and bail remained as before, pending the voters’ say-so this fall.

          Now, the proposed new policy is getting a trial run without even one public hearing. If crime rises in this time of myriad empty stores and offices, voters will quickly realize that no-bail is bad public policy. If there are no new problems from the “minor” criminals who will be given their freedom pending trial, then it’s possible public sentiment, which previously favored keeping the old bail system, will turn around to register a ‘no’ vote on the referendum.

          Whatever the outcome, no one can seriously challenge the court system’s new rules, if only because of this classic Catch-22: the only place for such a challenge would be the very court system that set those rules.

          All of which raises legitimate questions about just how much democracy Californians ought to be willing to cede even during emergencies that inevitably arise in a state subject to frequent earthquakes and wildfires.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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




          Californians have shown with great clarity during the coronavirus pandemic that if they’re convinced something needs to be done, they’ll cheerfully do it even when it’s uncomfortable and terribly expensive.

          So when Gov. Gavin Newsom in a mid-March first-in-the-nation move ordered most of this huge state’s citizenry to stay home in a quasi-quarantine condition in hopes of limiting the spread of the virus, they complied, with few exceptions.

          But now, with far less ambient panic in California’s air, there are cracks in that united front. Demonstrators in places as diverse as San Diego, Newport Beach and Sacramento have turned out in respectable numbers demanding an end to the lockdown. It’s true, some of those demonstrations are orchestrated by ultra-conservative national organizations.

Many protesters ardently back President Trump, who calls for a gradual “opening up” of America. They demand restoration of all rights to freedom of movement and association, never mind social distancing. Some of the demonstrators had been seen on the state Capitol steps before, protesting last year’s new laws making it a bit tougher to get children exempted from vaccination requirements.

          The month of March saw nothing like that after Newsom issued his first order. This was partly because the governor was open about estimates of the potential extent of viral spread, contagion and fatalities.

          But Newsom, who gets high poll marks for most of his conduct this spring, now must contend with two things he helped create: One is the fact staying home meant California has seen far less contagion and death than predicted. This lessens the panic that first gave him free rein.

The other is that as the crisis persisted and one emergency executive order followed another, often in fields only peripherally related to the virus, Newsom gradually lost the aura of transparency that created the early unity.

          Usually, when important new laws are passed in California, they follow a series of public hearings and much discussion. Not so with Newsom’s sudden edicts on everything from blocking evictions for non-payment of rent to freeing felons from jails and prisons early to prevent their becoming infected when those same felons didn’t previously worry about protecting anyone else. There were also orders to rent or buy hotels for housing thousands of the homeless and other decrees authorizing suspension by the courts of virtually all bail requirements for the duration.

        Most of these moves lacked the detailed explanation that went into the original stay-home order.

          Newsom has also been closed about how he’s spent much of the 7 billion state tax dollars consumed so far in the crisis, especially about his contract to buy almost $1 billion worth of personal protective equipment, including millions of face masks, from a Chinese company previously blacklisted by some federal transit agencies. It turns out no one knows when this stuff will show up, or many conditions of the huge deal. But we do know the state was gouged.

          It’s all been justified – with a warranted shot at President Trump – by the fact that the federal government has not unified national purchases or production of masks, face shields, gowns and rubber gloves, thus creating ferocious competition between states and hospital systems for vital equipment. That encouraged price gouging that’s illegal in most crises.

          There’s also the question of where Newsom and other governors get the authority to issue myriad fiats and decrees without so much as the right for anyone to petition the government for redress. The Constitution gives governors, presidents and mayors vast leeway to protect public health and safety in emergencies, as when then-Gov. Pete Wilson paid contractors large bonuses for completing bridge rebuilds ahead of schedule after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

          But all previous emergencies were finite, with known needed corrective measures (as with evacuations in the face of wildfires) or definite time frames.

          There are no time lines here, Newsom and other governors telling their constituents they can’t know how long current orders will be enforced because as yet there is no vaccine for the coronavirus.

          The bottom line: While the governor was open about what he did, he enjoyed near-unanimous support. He needs to get back on the transparency track, or California will see more and more cracks in its harmony.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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

Monday, April 20, 2020




          Gov. Gavin Newsom repeatedly calls California a “nation state,” employing a phrase not used by any other governor in memory.

President Trump mocks the federal system, first saying emergency responses are up to individual state governors, not the central government, and then saying the opposite, that he has “total authority.” He first suggests that medical suppliers ignore orders from states whose governors “don’t treat us right” and then claims he’s taking care of everyone.

These are new things in America. They could enlarge the existing, very small movement for a “Calexit,” secession from the union by California, progenitor of the world’s fifth-largest economy.

For sure, pandemics don’t happen often, but when they become devastatingly large, they can dramatically change the course of human history. So it was when the Antonine Plague of 165 AD killed over 5 million persons and decimated the Roman army, leading to the first barbarian victories over that empire’s vaunted legions.

          It happened again with the Bubonic Plague of 1347 to 1353, which many historians say delayed the Renaissance a century by killing off many young artists and politicians whose work hinted at what actually came about 100 years later. Smallpox killed off most American Indians, making it far easier for white Europeans to spread across this continent.

          No one can be sure today’s coronavirus pandemic will have similarly historic effects. But so far, it has killed more than 35,000 Americans, the number growing from moment to moment.

          Speculation abounds on how the pandemic might change this country. For example, the ApartmentList website, closely tracking national housing trends, predicts rents will fall and the long pattern of urbanization will pause.

          There’s also a possibility coupling the virus and President Trump’s style of leadership as it rages might even alter America’s continental borders, static since the Civil War.

The Yes, California! organization tried and failed to put a preliminary secession ballot initiative on the 2018 midterm election ballot. Had it gotten a vote, and won, it might have led to an actual vote on this state going its own way.

          Now that movement’s current prime organizer, Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, reports that his and other blogs are seeing unusual numbers of pro-secession posts from individuals not linked to the movement.

          Ruiz says often Trump gives his movement impetus, even though he tends to walk back many of his pronouncements within hours or days.

          “Trump has already talked about cutting off travel to and from California,” Ruiz said. “Then he threatened to cut off parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut with a strictly-enforced quarantine letting nothing and nobody move in or out of that area for two weeks.”

          He backed off the Tri-State quarantine after Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it would be “a declaration of war” on his state.

          Gavin Newsom hasn’t used words as strong as those, but took this state on a path starkly different than any Trump previously recommended.

          And when Trump suggested that businesses, churches and individuals return to normal life by April 12, Easter Sunday, one normally conservative California columnist suggested California should instantly declare independence if Trump did that. Trump backed off that idea, too.

          For sure, Trump’s inconsistent, ego-driven leadership style in this crisis promoted a rift between states and the federal government, one that secessionist Ruiz may try to exploit.

          “Everyone in the Calexit movement would agree that the only way to guarantee the ‘proper’ government reaction to this crisis would be for California to have full control over its resources and borders,” he said. “We think Californians know that already, but just won’t say it publicly. We think the governor is already aware that his people think that way. He just won’t say it blatantly.”

          In fact, when asked about Calexit during an interview while he was a candidate in 2018, Newsom adamantly opposed secession.

          But, says Ruiz, “we’ve seen the pickup in people talking about secession (on social media) and then thousands of other Californians ‘liking’ their posts.”

          Plainly, it may be years before the full after-effects of the coronavirus are known. One of those just might be a California future vastly different from its past and present.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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




          As Californians shelter at home, eagerly awaiting the eventual reopening of myriad businesses and hoping for the quick rehire of millions of the virally unemployed, at least they can be thankful state legislators had the good sense early this year to bury a proposed law called SB 50.

          That was the effort by San Francisco’s Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener to make most of this state as densely populated as the Castro District he has long called home, filled with aged wooden walk-up apartment buildings.

          It has taken the coronavirus pandemic to demonstrate just how dangerous Wiener’s concept could have been. The ultra-liberal former city official wanted to mandate construction of high-rise apartments and condominiums within a half-mile radius of light rail stops and three- to five-story structures all along frequent bus routes everywhere in California.

          Never mind what that would have done to existing neighborhoods. Part of Wiener’s motive was his frequently-expressed scorn for single-family homes on separate lots, backyards and all.

          Even before the pandemic, a Spanish research institute published research in the highly respected Science magazine showing that the denser a neighborhood and the more noise pollution its residents must endure, the greater likelihood of strokes and other cardiovascular episodes. This phenomenon is probably related to stress, the researchers reported.

          Now the contrast between the toll COVID-19 has taken in California, with about 12 percent of America’s population, and New York City, with about one-fortyieth of the national populace, demonstrates even more clearly how pernicious Wiener’s concept could have been.

          Yes, in the absence of federal leadership, California reacted faster than almost any other state to the viral threat, ordering most businesses to close, shutting down virtually every venue where the public gathered and ordering the entire citizenry to shelter in place.

          New York ordered the same measures only a few days later.

          The results: New York City alone, with only a fraction as many residents as California, has seen about one-fifth of all American coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, California has had less than 5 percent of the nation’s virus toll.

          The California numbers nevertheless number in the tens of thousands. But New York City had well over 100,000 cases at the same time California had 20,000.

          Early action probably spared California a lot of misery. But the few days of additional open mixing in New York are not enough to explain the huge difference in caseload during the crisis.

          Many epidemiologists have said dense populations act like petri dishes, allowing micro-organisms to survive and thrive. There is nowhere in America as dense as New York City, with its myriad skyscraper office and apartment buildings. There is also no place in America as reliant as New York City on densely-used subways and buses.

          By contrast, California’s thousands of neighborhoods are far more loosely populated. Wiener and others call that urban sprawl. If there’s density in transport here, it’s on traffic laden freeways, where commutes of 15 miles can often take an hour for motorists alone in their cars. Except when most Californians are hunkered down in their homes, waiting out a quasi-quarantine. You won’t be infected if you’re alone and enclosed.

          In general, the sprawling lifestyle that drew the majority of Californians or their parents here during the last century buffered the spread of the virus. “Physical distancing is working,” says the health director of Los Angeles County. “It has worked to date…it reduce(s)…the number of infections.”

          It’s true that California has plenty of dense office towers and vast numbers of condos in areas zoned for multi-family occupancy. So it is likely no accident that those areas experienced the highest per-capita tolls in this pandemic. Caseloads in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego clearly demonstrate this.

          So any future moves by Wiener or other lawmakers to mandate making California denser than it already is must be evaluated in the light of the series of frequent viral epidemics the world has seen over the last two decades.

          Which means the current problem should serve as both a warning and an affirmation for California and the death knell for the concept of densifying this state.


    Email Thomas Elias at 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

Monday, April 13, 2020




          All sorts of demands have been made upon Pacific Gas & Electricity Co. as its bankruptcy proceeding staggers toward a June 30 deadline for emerging as some sort of new entity, if that entity is to share in a consumer-paid state fund that will cover many utility liabilities in future company-caused wildfires.

          But one demand has been conspicuously lacking while fire victims demand adequate restitution, Wall Street banks maneuver for financial security and some kind of control over the company, while insurance companies seek refunds for their payouts to homeowners and businesses.

          Until just a few weeks ago, no one in any way involved with the proceedings had even mentioned personal responsibility.

          No one, in fact, has ever taken personal responsibility for any of the misdeeds of either PG&E or any other California utility that have lately resulted in well over 100 deaths.

          In the modern era, this lack of accountability began with the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion for which PG&E was later convicted of negligence in federal court, the reason why the company is still on criminal probation today, even as it’s also in bankruptcy court.

          That blast killed eight persons directly and aftereffects may have caused other deaths. Then, in 2018, PG&E’s poor maintenance helped spark the Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed 85 persons while destroying the city of Paradise and much of its surrounding area. The company has pleaded guilty of manslaughter for this.

          Other deaths in other utility-caused fires have occurred sporadically before and since, from the 2007 Witch Fire in San Diego County to the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned from the outskirts of Simi Valley in Ventura County to the Malibu coastline.

          In no case has any private utility – not PG&E, not San Diego Gas & Electric Co., not Southern California Edison Co. – identified a single person responsible for decisions leading to the faulty maintenance that at least partially triggered those blazes.

          This lack of personal responsibility has to end, and the most convenient vehicle for ending it right away should be PG&E’s bankruptcy proceeding.

          Sure, Gov. Gavin Newsom has demanded the ouster of PG&E’s entire board of directors and its top corporate officers, and that might happen. But getting dumped from a lucrative directorship or a high-paid executive slot is not like doing jail time.

          Now comes a proposal from Mike Aguirre, a consumer attorney and a former elected city attorney of San Diego whose efforts slashed more than $1 billion from consumer payments for the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shut down in 2012 because of an Edison blunder.

          Aguirre suggests that as a side agreement in any PG&E emergence from bankruptcy, corporate leaders be held personally responsible for corporate claims of good maintenance and brush clearance around power lines.

          He suggests that legislators alter the state’s utility code so the chief executive of any electrical company, public or private, must certify regularly that fire mitigation plans are presented accurately to the public and that those plans have been fully carried out, in the precise manner they were approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

          Failure to do this would be a misdemeanor, regardless of whether or not an out-of-control wildfire ensued. Violations would be punishable by fines up to $10,000 to be paid by the individual CEO, not his or her corporation, by a one-year term in the county jail, or both.

          This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the first time anyone has suggested personal responsibility within monolithic utilities, where it’s often hard to track the makers of decisions that sometimes led to deaths. The fatalities from San Bruno and the spate of wildfires of the last few years plainly fit the definition of manslaughter, as PG&E’s plea shows, but no person has been prosecuted for that, because no individual has been held to answer for whatever caused the disasters.

          Adopt the Aguirre formula and faces could finally be matched with corporate decisions that cost lives and property.

          The betting here is that if and when this happens, utilities will suddenly start behaving far more responsibly than they have in the century-long era of anonymous decision-making.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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




          Before the pandemic, all my clients were asking for new leases for office space. Now they’re all asking how to get out of their leases.” A prominent Los Angeles real estate lawyer speaking earlier this month.

          It turns out that all those bills the Legislature passed over the last 18 months to make denser housing commonplace in California for relief of the longtime housing crunch may suddenly be rendered irrelevant by a virus.

          For the longer Californians shelter at home to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus plague the more obvious it becomes that all the office buildings that rose in the major cities of this state over the last decade stand a decent chance of becoming high-rise white elephants.

          Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom spent much of the last two years lecturing California citizens and cities that they must OK construction of 3.5 million new dwelling units before the end of 2025 to slake California’s thirst for housing.

          That would have been a pace of about 700,000 new units per year, roughly five times what was actually built in Newsom’s first full year as governor and far more units than there are financially qualified buyers.

          Yes, the state did have about 150,000 homeless as of January, but few of them can afford even so-called “affordable” housing.

          Enter the shelter-in-place tactics Newsom and local health officers decreed in order to shake off the pandemic, which has afflicted many more than 20,000 Californians (the number rises by the hour) and killed hundreds of us.

          Countless corporations, from telemarketers to newspapers and law firms, have sent their white collar workers home to use kitchen and dining room tables while cubicles stand empty. Millions of square feet of office space, maybe billions, are idle.

No dummies, some executives now realize they never really needed all that office space. And some workers are coming to understand they don’t really need to spend hours each day fighting traffic jams. Companies can save billions in rent money, while workers can save immeasurable stress if this new reality lasts beyond the reopening of commerce which may begin next month. If that Los Angeles real estate lawyer’s clients are an indicator, many will try to escape leases.

What happens then to all that office space? Already the owners – including real estate investment trusts (REITs) whose shareholders suddenly see their stock values plummeting and dividends drying up – are near panic.

Said one multi-billion-dollar REIT (or is it really worth that much now, with tenants refusing to pay rent and government edicts preventing evictions?) in a letter to stockholders, “The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted the viability and valuation of almost all types of commercial real estate.”

          The solution to that REIT’s problem is obvious – and it’s also the answer to California’s housing problem: Sell off a lot of that office space as apartments and condominiums.

          To a large extent, the suddenly vacant square footage sits in existing buildings. Converting several floors of many, many buildings into living units would not require new construction, nor would it seriously change the nature of any neighborhood.

          That was the chief objection of cities and neighborhoods to SB 50, the nearly-successful effort by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco to force building of high rise living units near transit stops and the busiest bus routes in almost every California city.

          Putting new apartments and condos into existing office space solves those issues, while also placing a large share of the new residents near transit stops and job centers, just as Wiener wanted.

          Sure, the conversions would require a lot of plumbing, electric and drywall work, but new laws signed by Newsom would grease the path to the needed building permits and myriad new jobs would appear just when they are most needed. Meanwhile, many building owners would get their money out pretty soon, plenty of affordable new housing could quickly appear and the housing shortage could end.

          That’s a very expensive solution to the housing crisis, in terms of human suffering and lives lost. But at least it offers a silver lining for an ultra-tragic pandemic.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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

Monday, April 6, 2020




          Ancient Egyptians first observed that only when we eliminate traditions do we discover why they first became traditions.

          That’s a warning state officials must heed this spring, as they shape a sharply reduced state budget where many programs will likely be slashed or eliminated. To rephrase the Egyptians: Eliminate a state program and you eventually learn why it was set up. This can be a very hard lesson.

          So it’s been this spring, as California coped with the many consequences of ex-Gov. Jerry Brown axing a $200 million program featuring sophisticated mobile stand-by hospitals complete with sleeping quarters for staff and a stockpile of ventilators during the budget-cutting festival he presided over after assuming office for the second time in 2011.

          The process of eliminating the program – which received virtually no notice while it existed a decade and more ago – came to light via a joint investigation by the Los Angeles Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

          This emergency ready-response program included three 200-bed tent hospitals that could be brought to disaster scenes anywhere in California on flatbed trucks and set up to provide care within 72 hours of receiving notice. Each covering an entire football field, they included X-ray machines and intensive care units.

          The program and its elimination as an economizing measure puts the governorships of Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a new light.

          Schwarzenegger, sullied by a long-ago affair with his housekeeper that was revealed right about the time he left office and Brown took over, is often remembered as a lightweight. But during the national avian flu outbreak of 2006, Schwarzenegger spurred his then cash-strapped state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the portable hospitals.

          “In light of the pandemic flu risk,” the once and future movie muscleman said then, “it is absolutely a critical investment. I am not willing to gamble with the people’s safety.” How right he was.

          But Brown took precisely that gamble. Now it’s clear we all lost. In a classic penny wise and pound foolish move, he abandoned the program, seeing its most valuable equipment distributed to hospitals around the state, while its tens of millions of N95 facemasks and more than 2,000 life-preserving ventilators seem to have virtually dissolved.

          Brown refused comment to the reporters who revealed this travesty. No wonder.

          For he was a governor who reveled in a reputation for foresight, sagacity and parsimony. He traveled the world as the foremost American spokesman for fighting climate change once Donald Trump became president. He accepted full credit for solving the state’s budget crisis and producing repeated multi-billion-dollar surpluses after sponsoring a successful 2012 budget-balancing ballot proposition.

          His refusal to discuss gutting the emergency hospital program is consistent with his repeated refusal to reveal private conversations and emails with utility executives while he and his appointees steadily favored them over customers in crises like the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

He never acknowledged his obvious conflict of interest in dealing with utility issues while his sister earned hundreds of thousands of dollars as a board member of Sempra Energy, parent company of both the San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and the Southern California Gas Co.

          Brown somehow evaded most criticism for this.

          But the worldwide coronavirus crisis now affecting every Californian has put the consequences of his action on the mobile hospitals – far from his biggest budget-cutting move – into bas relief.

          With those hospitals up and running, perhaps Gov. Gavin Newsom would not have had to beg Trump to send the USNS Mercy hospital ship to Los Angeles. If the gear in the hospital program had been kept up, perhaps hospital nurses wouldn’t have had to use the same masks for entire days, rather than dumping and replacing them after visiting each of their patients.

          So Brown lacked the foresight Schwarzenegger showed in setting up the program. Which means the ancient Egyptian warning is correct again: Years after this program was eliminated, we now know exactly why we needed it. That may make it high time to reevaluate the gubernatorial tenures of both Brown and Schwarzenegger.

          Which ought to caution Newsom as the virus forces him to start slashing the state budget this spring.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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




          There is no doubt this is a slow-growth era for California, historically the center of fast American population expansion. In excess of 200,000 more individuals moved from California to other states over the last 10 years than arrived here legally from elsewhere in this country.

Growth will be even slower in the immediate wake of the coronavirus crisis, which has also brought this state’s economy to a virtual standstill.

          Meanwhile, live births and undocumented immigration more than made up for the migration deficit, with California actually gaining about 1.3 million residents over the last decade and now very close to a populace of 40 million.

          That’s the smallest growth rate for California since officials started keeping figures around 1950. It could cost the state one of its 53 seats in the House of Representatives if the U.S. Census verifies these figures via its supposedly comprehensive survey this spring and summer.

          The Census measure of population occurs every 10 years; it actually began in February in a remote Inuit village in Alaska. The count moved to the continental United States in March, but anti-coronavirus tactics brought it to a virtual standstill, with door-to-door canvassers furloughed.

          There were indications Californians thought more about politics than usual around the time of the March 3 primary election. Had that been sustained, it promised to help the state, especially if Californians took seriously the possibility of losing not just one, but two congressional seats should the count come in below expectations. The virus quickly broke any such trains of thought.

          But it’s not only representation in the Capitol at stake in this canvass. The size of federal grants for highways, sewers, health care, welfare, fire and police protection and even fishery maintenance, among many other things, hinges on Census population findings.

          No one ever seriously questioned the integrity of Census counts until this year, when President Trump and his appointees tried to insert a citizenship question into the Census questionnaire in a plain attempt to scare off undocumented immigrants fearful their information would not be kept confidential, as the law requires.

          The U.S. Supreme Court actually concluded fear arousal was the Trump motive for pushing the citizenship question, and the high court nixed it.

          When things get going in earnest, this should help Census takers motivate illegal immigrants to get counted, vital because the Constitution mandates a complete tally of every human being in the nation, not just citizens.

          California’s officials will have no direct role in the tally, but long before the federal government began hiring more than 25,000 temporary workers to do its job here, the state earmarked over $180 million to encourage all Californians to get counted. Much of the money went to Latino community organizations promising to get word to their clients and members that it’s OK – even good for them – to participate.

          That would certainly be good for California, home to about one-third of all undocumented immigrants now living in this country.

          But other states – most notably the No. 2 and No. 3 population states of Texas and Florida – are making no similar effort. That non-effort includes 24 states, virtually all controlled by Republican governors and GOP-dominated legislatures.

          Republicans in Texas, Florida and some others don’t want their counts maximized by encouraging the undocumented to participate. They fear a complete count could set up new congressional districts in heavily-Latino areas that might turn their legislatures and congressional delegations Democratic.

          This contrast in how states are treating the Census count has great potential for California. The fewer persons counted in other places, the more representation and federal funding comes here.

          The contrast in how states are handling the Census reveals strong fears held by the current leaders of many states over their new and undocumented residents. One Latino member of the Texas Legislature opined that his state’s voting not to spend anything for promoting the Census shows that Republicans in charge there “are concerned if you have a more accurate count, it would put them at a disadvantage.”

          That’s likely correct, and now only time and the count will tell how much the GOP’s fears might help California.

    Email Thomas Elias at 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