Thursday, May 20, 2021






        For the last 11 years, Democrats have controlled every statewide office in California, while gradually building their majorities in both houses of the state Legislature to levels significantly above the two-thirds needed to make Republicans irrelevant.


        But the instant the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom qualified for a vote this fall, things changed for the state’s Democrats.


        Virtually unopposed and uncontrolled for years, they have passed one extreme liberal measure after another, from a ban on cash bail that was later canceled by the voters to massive spending on housing for the homeless, many of whom are not interested in moving there, and much more.


        They have overridden some local zoning authority and some lawmakers are now trying to pass measures that would all but end single family zoning in the state, an effort to eliminate what they deride as “urban sprawl,” a phenomenon many homeowners call breathing room.


        Now comes the recall, and suddenly the Democrats who dominate in Sacramento are being forcibly reminded that California voters on the whole are not super-lefties who want to deprive people of their vision of the mythical California Dream.


        For even if its success is rendered unlikely by the sheer dominance of the Democratic Party in voter registrations, the recall raises the possibility that Californians could elect a Republican governor, with veto powers over many liberal proposals for at least a year. That power could last longer if such a Republican should be reelected next year, the way movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger was in 2006, three years after becoming governor via the recall of ex-Gov. Gray Davis.


        This looming possibility might have legislative Democrats thinking seriously about some of their proposals, things like forcing the University of California to give up its hospitals’ links to Dignity Health facilities around the state or compelling cities and counties to allow apartment buildings of up to eight units on every piece of land, regardless of what local citizens or officials might want for their communities.


        In short, if Democrats are smart, they will moderate their views and their aims during the runup to the recall vote.

        This will be especially true if polls begin to show some lessening of the current approximate 10 percent edge no votes on the recall have among likely voters over yes votes.


        It is certainly true there is no recall candidate in the wings who can match the appeal the 2003 Schwarzenegger had to young and old because of his movie persona. But if the yes side gains traction among even a few Democrats, all bets will be off.


        All it would take for that to happen would be another hypocritical Newsom gaffe like his oversized, indoor dinner at the ultra-expensive and exclusive Michelin-rated French Laundry restaurant in Napa County last fall, where he was joined by influential lobbyist pals. At the time, state rules promulgated by Newsom prohibited gatherings of the size and configuration of his.


        That one incident did more to bring about the recall than any other single Newsom action or position. Imagine the impact if the governor commits a similar indiscretion now.


        With Newsom, in part because his buddies include some of San Francisco’s super-wealthy elite, this is a possibility.


        If there’s one thing the ultra-liberal Democrats who now control Sacramento could not stand, it would be having a Republican governor willing to veto their pet social-engineering proposals. So any day now, expect them to wake up and realize they must curb some of their enthusiasm for awhile for fear of forcing Newsom to choose between vetoing their bills or weakening his own chances of beating back the recall.


        There’s also the possibility the recall itself may lose, but a couple of those on the list of candidates for replacement governor perform well enough to become a credible threat to Newsom’s reelection a year later.


        That would be unprecedented, but with a recall, precedents don’t appear to matter very much.

    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






        From Sacramento comes word that the median price for a single-family home in California skyrocketed by 24 percent over less than one year, topping $810,000 in May, a rise of almost 30 percent from the previous year.


       At the same time, one developer of “affordable” housing in Southern California revealed that the average cost of a two-bedroom unit in a new four-story, 48-unit building that will target low-income families, comes to $729,265. Much of that tab will be picked up by local taxpayers, and the building is pretty typical of so-called affordable housing all around California.


        Such buildings, the developer said, will likely “increase affordable housing opportunities for families who often have difficulty finding appropriately sized housing” in the region.


        Even if thousands of buildings like this one were constructed around the state over the next six years, they wouldn’t come close to solving California’s housing shortage, which some experts say is the main reason median prices keep rising steeply. Gov. Gavin Newsom plumped during his 2018 campaign for building 3 million new units by 2025, a total that won’t even be approached.


        Rather than focusing on ways to really resolve the state’s housing problem – and thereby deal simultaneously with the homeless crisis which now sees more than 160,000 individuals sleeping outdoors or in mass shelters every night, winter or summer – state and local officials persist in trying to build ever more expensive new structures.


        That’s happening, unreasonably, while the potential solution involving very little new construction stares these same local and state “experts” in the face.


        The answer is simple, and will resolve problems for many disparate interests. It’s also inevitable, even if many state legislators and developer interests refuse to see it.


        That solution has been obvious since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, when thousands of businesses sent their white collar workers home to do their jobs at the same time the businesses themselves started campaigning to get out of long-term leases.


        Because many of those companies are delighted to let employees stay home post-pandemic, thus cutting their real estate costs, billions of square feet of former office space are now vacant, most of it likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

        Law firms, stock brokerages, insurance companies, internet firms – essentially office-based businesses of all types – are dumping their leases, moving to smaller quarters and enjoying the fact their employees appear to be just as efficient away from the office.


        Polls indicate about two-thirds of onetime office workers prefer to stay home, where they can set their schedules more independently and save money on both child care and commuting costs.


        That leaves building owners holding the bag. Many are real estate investment trusts whose shares are sold as investments to folks expecting regular dividend payments. The main way for them to recover their investments in office towers and other buildings will be to turn them at last partly into residences, as this column first suggested in April 2020, when the trend became obvious to anyone looking.


        The current office vacancies do not exist just in California. The New York Times the other day headlined a long-ish story on the office-conversion scene there “Eerie Emptiness in New York.” Quite a contrast to the many previous tales of overcrowded Manhattan.


        Once buildings are converted either wholly or in part to residential units, much of the housing shortage will disappear.  It’s a far cheaper and easier task than building billions of new square feet, often in places where existing residents don’t want them.


        That means fewer lawsuits, less disruption of established neighborhoods, more convenience for most residents. It also means fewer construction jobs, although there will still be plenty of work involved in drywall, carpentry, electricity and plumbing shifts, plus construction of new elevators. But the buildings’ profiles and footprints will not change, giving neighbors little to gripe about.


        The real question here is why legislators and local city council and county board members keep pushing more and more new construction, which is obsolete and hard to sell even before it’s built. The answer most likely lies in campaign donations from developers and building trade unions.


        So once again, it’s money interfering with inevitable progress and problem solving.    

    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 plenty of reason for Californians to despise the state’s Public Utilities Commission, the five-person appointive body that sets electric, natural gas and some water prices, while controlling other practices of big utility companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.


        Here’s just one example: After CalFire investigators found PG&E negligence in 2017, 2018 and 2019 caused several of the largest and deadliest wildfires in California history, the PUC rubber-stamped Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to dun consumers more than $13 billion for costs of future fires PG&E and its brethren are likely to cause.


        Why did this happen? Quite possibly because PG&E has been a major donor to Newsom’s political campaigns almost from the time former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown started him in big-time politics with an appointment to his city’s board of supervisors.


        This has not yet become an issue in the recall drive to oust Newsom, but when candidates to replace the governor get wind of a recent poll, it just might. The survey, sponsored by a group called RecallCPUC found this spring that 64 percent of Californians want to get rid of the commission.


        The group, said termed-out former Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of the San Fernando Valley area in Los Angeles, will likely try to assign most PUC functions to various existing state agencies, all under direct or indirect control by the governor. That is not yet final; an initiative is planned for the fall 2022 ballot.


        It’s actually not a bad idea to remove the five present commissioners, who serve staggered six-year terms and are virtually impossible to dislodge once appointed by a governor and confirmed by state legislators.


        For this agency has spent most of the last century in the pocket of the utilities it is supposed to regulate. Time and again, the commissioners favor the companies over their customers, leaving California electric rates the highest in the contiguous 48 states.


        No one knows for sure where the PUC’s powers would migrate under the nascent ballot measure, but if, as now seems likely, it would put most PUC functions under control of the governor, things could be even more political and campaign donation-driven than they are now.


        A better solution – and there’s still time to get this into the initiative – would make the commission elective.

        Similar things have been done, most recently with the state insurance commissioner, who until the late 1980s was under the governor’s purview.


        Back in 1988, California’s car and property insurance rates were highest in the nation. Then a consumer group called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (now called Consumer Watchdog) and its leader Harvey Rosenfield ran an initiative that made the insurance commissioner an elected officer.


        Since then, California insurance rates have risen slower than those in any other state, saving customers more than $100 billion over 32 years.


        It’s now high time to regulate utility companies as firmly as insurance firms and to make utility commissioners responsible to the public and the voters they were supposed to serve all along.


        No industry has been cozier with those regulating it than utilities, which regularly get large rate increases, deserved or not. Debacles like the massive wildfires, the Southern California Edison blunder that caused the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion never dent these companies’ ever-rising rates and guaranteed income.


        Newsom promised during his 2018 campaign that he would “not be timid about this or anything else. (Ex-Gov.) Jerry Brown said reform is overrated. I say it’s underrated.”


        Then Newsom proceeded in the opposite direction, appointing one PUC member after another to behave like utility lapdogs.


        All this leads to the reality that Californians are ready to see the PUC taken down a peg or three from its current exalted, almost untouchable position.


        The best way to do this is to make the powerful agency political – that is, subject to the will of the voters. It could be done as soon as the fall of next year.



    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








        If Republicans are banking on the fall recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom as the key to eventually recovering their status as a major force in California’s public affairs, perhaps they had better guess again.


        That’s the clear implication of the latest voter registration figures released the other day by the state’s top election official, the appointed Secretary of State Shirley Weber.


        The numbers do show a bit of a bounce for the GOP, up .6 percent – that’s three-fifths of a percentage point – from 2019, the state’s last year without a scheduled general election.


        But that slight gain – the first for Republicans in many years – did not come at the expense of Democrats, who gained 3 percent in the latest numbers, fully five times as many new registrants as the GOP. Rather, the Republican gain stems from a decline in voters refusing to state a party preference, now at 23.7 percent of all California voters, a drop from their previous 28 percent.


        The results of registration drives by both major parties leave the Democrats at 46.2 percent of all those registered, the party coming closer to majority status than it has in generations.


        Slight as they appear, these changes carry vast implications for the recall because they involve many thousands of voters. Republicans became less popular in California than ever before, even if they did pick up a few more registrants.


        As a result, the GOP-inspired recall would need an almost unanimous yes vote among all non-Democratic voters to reach a majority. That’s very unlikely, when no-party-preference (NPP) voters in past elections broke sharply toward the Democrats and against Republicans.


        The numbers also emphasize the need for Newsom and his allies to keep all major Democratic figures in line and off the list of potential replacement governors that will be part of the two-question recall vote: one question will ask whether voters want Newsom dumped, the other who should replace him in case voters approve an ouster.


        Also clear from the registration numbers is that the 2020 election, for the most part a referendum on then-President Donald Trump, saw more voters take sides between the big parties, rather than gravitating toward the middle as many did over the 10 years since California adopted open primary elections allowing all voters to back any candidate they like for a given office, regardless of party.


        With a smattering of American Independent, Peace and Freedom and Green party adherents among the non-Democrats now registered, Republicans would likely need a strong turnout of their own voters going unanimously pro-recall, while also getting virtually all NPP nods in order for the recall to fly. Plus at least some Democrats.


        Those eventualities appear unlikely just now.


        Yet, there are Republican strongholds in California that strongly favor the recall. Lassen County in Northern California is one. The GOP gained 6 percent in registration there over the last two years, now holding a 3-1 margin. But that county has just under 31,000 residents, many of whom signed Newsom recall petitions.


        This gives Lassen less than half the electoral clout of the small Los Angeles County city of Bellflower, for just one example, and demonstrates why Republican dominance of rural areas never gives them much of a policy voice.


        All of which means Newsom is probably safe in this fall’s vote, and likely will emerge even stronger for his probable 2022 reelection run.


        Even though almost all Republicans detest Newsom, few fear him in the way Democrats and some others were terrified in 2020 of a second Trump term when he would know he would never again need to face the voters.


        That fear was one significant reason why a fair number of formerly NPP voters declared a choice between the parties.


        There is no such factor at work in the recall, and the presence of Republicans only on the replacement governor list would likely make it certain that almost no one but registered Republicans votes to fire Newsom.


        Which is why the latest voter registration figures bode poorly for the GOP not only this year, but for many more to come.

    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, May 17, 2021








        If politicians wanted to kill rooftop solar energy production in California, they could not find a better vehicle than a proposed new law known as Assembly Bill 1139.


      This is a brainchild of Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, previously best known for authoring AB 5, another destructive bill she pushed into law in 2019 only to see her legislative colleagues a year later rescind many of its onerous provisions. AB 5 was despised especially by folks it was supposed to help.


        The newest Gonzalez project is – like AB 5 – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Where AB 5 originally required companies using contract workers to convert them to regular employees who could then be unionized, AB 1139 purports to stabilize conditions for California residents installing solar panels atop their homes.


        AB 5 caused or threatened to cause an end to the jobs of thousands of Californians, from freelance writers to court reporters to musicians. Similarly, AB 1139 would likely stifle rooftop solar installations around the state, home to about half of all such projects nationally.



        Here are four things AB 1139 would do in the name of bettering home-based solar power:


n It would end the state’s current policy of requiring electric utilities to ensure that “customer-sited generation continues to grow sustainably.” That’s a massive change in state policy. It would concentrate all renewable energy efforts in the hands of big utilities including California’s largest utility, which has been convicted of corporate crimes as serious as manslaughter.


n It would end the current guarantee to homeowners who install solar that net metering will remain stable for 20 years after systems go in. This means the price homeowners get for excess energy they contribute to the general electric grid will drop.


n And it calls on the scandal-ridden state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create new net metering rules within two years to set payments to solar owners for excess power at the level currently paid for wholesale power. That, say solar advocates, would cut payments to homeowners who install solar by about 80 percent.


     This is a utility company pipe dream come to life, something for which the electric providers have spent years lobbying the PUC.


        Essentially, AB 1139 disincentivizes homeowners who might otherwise want to install solar panels, the cost of which has dropped by about 70 percent over the last 10 years.


        The unanswered question here is why Gonzalez would sponsor this bill, which has already passed one Assembly committee and is now headed to another which Gonzalez chairs, where passage is allegedly greased.


        Questions repeatedly submitted to her office have gone unanswered.


        The reality is that this bill helps no one but profit-driven privately-owned monopoly utilities, like the multiply-convicted Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.


        For the state’s overall commitment to reach 100 percent reliance on renewable energy by midcentury would not change. If home-produced power levels off or is reduced, pressure will increase pressure to expand or build more huge solar-thermal electricity farms in the state’s vast desert areas, says Jennifer Tanner of a group called the Indivisible California Green Team.



        The utilities won’t build most of these plants, but they would construct added transmission lines to bring the new power from the desert to their grids.


        Building more hundreds of miles of transmission facilities atop what already exists would cost many billions of dollars. Do it and utilities would reap billions in added income over at least 20 years because they are guaranteed a fixed rate of return – often about 14 percent per year– on investments in new facilities.


        This inevitably leads to higher rates for consumers, who will also provide – through their monthly bills – money to repay with interest any loans the utilities take for adding transmission capacity.


        One reason some advocates of the massive solar thermal facilities give for de-emphasizing rooftop solar, as AB 1139 definitely would – is the claim that only the wealthy can afford it. But today’s lower prices for solar panels mean see 43 percent of new installations done by lower- and middle-income homeowners.


        All of which makes this one of the most anti-consumer, anti-homeowner and anti-green proposals ever seen in Sacramento.



    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







        “All politics is loco,” the New York Times headlined during California’s 2003 recall campaign.


That never looked more true than in mid-May, when gubernatorial recall replacement candidate John Cox campaigned with a Kodiak bear to demonstrate his “beastly” qualities, then complained loudly because the bear got more attention than he did.


Or when reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, running as a “compassionate” right-winger, griped that seeing too many homeless drove a fellow airplane-owning neighbor at a small airport to move his plane out of state.


But there’s more than mere strangeness to the recall fever that’s swept much of California since it became plain that Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a bid to dump him.


        Sure, Cox and his rented bear pulled a successful publicity stunt, his claims about Newsom errors and how Cox can fix them drawing far more attention than such a Harold Stassen-like repeat candidate could get on his own.


        And yes, Jenner, a transgender TV reality star who won the Olympic decathlon in her former gender, drew plenty of ink with several TV appearances and a gauzy commercial.


        Plus, the roll-call of candidates to replace Newsom will apparently include at least one or two porn stars, just like the list did during the 2003 recall of ex-Gov. Gray Davis that made a “governator” out of movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger.


        There has also been some game-playing with facts. One example: Republican candidates Cox and Kevin Faulconer both excoriated Newsom in late April for his alleged “release” of 76,000 felons – including violent ones – from California prisons. But none had been released early at the time those claims were made. Instead, the state Department of Corrections expanded a good behavior program to make 76,000 prisoners eligible for slightly sooner than normal releases.


        But no one had been set loose when the candidates complained, inmates still needing to demonstrate good behavior and finish rehabilitation programs before getting lowered sentences. The prison system said it will be months, maybe years, before even one felon is released early.


        Yet, recall fever involves more than looney tunes. Unlike the last attempt to unseat an elected governor, this one is spurring other major recall attempts around the state.


        Perhaps the two most significant are in Los Angeles County. Both are still gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot.


        One effort targets Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, a vocal advocate for the homeless. Bonin has pushed his city to place temporary housing centers in many areas, spurring outcries in several locales.


        In the Venice portion of his district, vocal homeowners and apartment dwellers objected loudly when temporary supportive housing arrived in their midst. Some also appealed to city boards to prevent conversion of a Ramada Inn on a busy boulevard to temporary housing. The appeal failed.


        At the same time, a local council in the affluent Pacific Palisades, also in Bonin’s district, opposed putting a tent village in a beach parking lot down a steep hill from the main part of the area.


        If Bonin should be recalled, there could be major consequences all around California. This would warn other local officials that okaying new quarters for the homeless in almost any residential or commercial location might lead to their political demise.


        Another significant recall-in-progress hits at Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, who ran successfully last year promising to ease criminal sentencing and eliminate cash bail. Some Gascon critics claim he won mainly because the husband of former D.A. Jackie Lacey was arrested on firearm charges after pointing a gun at unruly demonstrators outside the couple’s home. Lacey also took heat for allegedly being soft on police violence.


        Critics say Gascon went far beyond his campaign promises in ordering his many hundreds of deputies not to seek death penalties. He also told deputies not to try for sentencing enhancements for most repeat offenders.


        Should Gascon be recalled and removed, it would carry implications for the 2022 election bid of appointed state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who shares many Gascon beliefs, and for other ultra-liberal D.A.s.


        All of which means recall fever may have strong meaning for many others besides Newsom and the dozens who will try to replace him.



    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, May 10, 2021






        Californians could have been excused if they reacted with a ho-hum the other day, when Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch filed 33 criminal charges against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for injuring six firefighters and endangering public health with smoke and ash from the 2019 Kincade fire that burned for two weeks.


        The blaze destroyed 374 buildings and homes and caused almost 100,000 people to flee as it burned 120 square miles, some of which was not in wild or forested land.


        Why react indifferently when a utility company faces criminal charges for the wrongdoing and negligence that caused this blaze, for which PG&E has accepted government findings assigning it blame?


        That’s easy: Utility companies have been convicted or “taken responsibility” for plenty of fires and other disasters they admittedly helped cause over the last 10 years. So far, not a single corporate executive has served even one second of jail time for all the damage done. Surely, someone must be responsible for all these corporate crimes. Actual humans had to be making decisions, for example, when California’s privately owned utilities misused approximately $65 billion customers paid for alleged facility maintenance between the mid-1950s and 2015. But no one took personal responsibility. No one ever has.


        It was that way when San Diego Gas & Electric caused the 2007 Witch fire that killed two and injured 55 firefighters. Similarly, no one at Southern California Edison paid any personal price for the 2017 Thomas fire that burned from near Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County all the way into the city of Ventura. And no one went to jail last year when PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 manslaughter counts in the 2018 Camp fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in Butte County.


        It was the same after the 2010 PG&E gas pipeline explosion that killed eight in the Crestmoor residential neighborhood of San Bruno, resulting in a felony negligence conviction for the company, still under criminal probation for that failure.


        In each case, the utilities paid fines, but recouped them soon after in their next round of rate increases granted by the ever cooperative and submissive (to utilities) state Public Utilities Commission.


        It’s high time this changed and that paying fines and  damages for fires and other “accidents” caused by utility company neglect and incompetence becomes something more than a routine cost of doing business, the way it has been lately.


        Of course, Gov. Gavin Newsom greased things greatly for the companies by helping write and then signing off on SB 1054, which created a $13.5 billion state Wildfire Fund to help utilities pay for future damages they cause. Customers are regularly dunned on their bills to fund this gift to irresponsible regional monopoly companies that have yet to demonstrate why they deserve to hold those monopolies. The same customers, now wearing their taxpayer hats, have also funded a new half-billion-dollar wildfire prevention fund, which Newsom and his cronies in the Legislature hailed as a great advance.


        But this was no advance; rather, it was just more enabling of criminal companies and their executives.


        Will some of those executives face anything new in the upcoming Kincade fire trial?


        D.A. Ravitch and her staff and hired experts went to the ignition site of the Kincade fire “as soon as it was safe,” and found the inferno began when a cable broke in high winds, causing molten material to drop onto dry vegetation below.


        That old cable should have been replaced long before it arced and fell. Someone, somewhere decided not to do this. That person ought to be held responsible.


        Newsom and the Legislature can devote all the money and manpower they like to wildfire prevention and planning, but it won’t alter the utilities’ longtime practice of negligence and irresponsibility until people making the decisions understand they will be held to account personally when their terrible choices cause terrifying consequences for people they are paid to serve.



    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






        On first glance, and also at first gloat, it appeared that California’s impending first-time-ever loss of one seat in Congress might ensure that Democrats lose the small majority they now hold in the House of Representatives, letting Republicans veto almost everything President Biden might want to do.


        But conventional wisdom and first gloats are often not what they seem. The details sometimes end up overcoming false initial assumptions.


        First, the gloats. One came from state GOP chair Jessica Millan Patterson, she who never had a critical word for ex-President Donald Trump even as he led her party to staggering electoral defeats in California.


        Said Patterson, “California Republicans have a better vision (than Democrats) and we’re going to…take back Congress and make the right Californian (Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy) speaker of the House.”


        Maybe so, maybe not. Republicans crowed for much of the last six months that razor-thin victories in four House races last year portend future big gains for the GOP.


        That’s where the details come in. One of those details is that Democrats now outnumber Republicans almost 2-1 among registered voters in this state, an unprecedented margin. Almost one-fourth of the electorate still refuses to declare a party preference when signing up to vote. The majority of no party preference voters (NPPs) have consistently chosen Democrats over Republicans in past elections.


        These details matter because of the shuffle that will come from dividing California into 52 congressional districts, not 53. Geographically, every district in California will get slightly larger. In big cities, this could mean district lines shift by a few blocks. In rural areas, the change could amount to miles. No one knows exactly where new district boundaries will lie, pending the arrival of more Census information this summer.


        And there’s another detail to consider: While California did not lose population over the last decade, gaining about 6.4 percent (just behind the national rate of a bit more than 7 percent), there was movement, mostly from coastal areas with the most expensive real estate to inland areas where homes generally cost less.


        Some district lines must now move eastward to

accommodate those changes.

        To assess the likely impact of these shifts, go back to the nearly 2-1 deficit the GOP suffers among registered voters.


        When geographic lines shift, they always toss some voters into districts held by politicians those voters never previously knew or supported. Most voters getting shuffled will be Democrats or NPPs. So along with the slight geographic changes, clumps of voters will also be thrown from one district into another.


        This means the electorate in districts the GOP flipped narrowly last year – margins varied from about 300 votes to about 8,000 – will be different from what it has been.


        The most important difference will be that, on average, each district will likely see a slightly higher percentage of Democratic voters than before. Because of today’s registration numbers, that’s inevitable when voters displaced by the disappearance of one district get distributed into others.


        Shifts in the electorate will also occur because of that west-to-east population movement. Will the current 8th District, covering the High Desert area of San Bernardino County and stretching toward Mono Lake, remain as solidly Republican as it is today? Or will the new district in that area (perhaps bearing a different number), soon contain parts of the city of San Bernardino, adding a component of Democrats?



        Even the non-partisan state redistricting commission can’t yet know the answers, because no one has precise information on which to base a new configuration.


        All of which means the Republican gloating about the Census (whose results so far contain few surprises) may be premature. For the margins by which they recovered those four previously longtime GOP-held districts may no longer exist under the state’s new reapportionment plan.


        So Democrats might have a chance to gain ground in the House, rather than losing control. Any shift back to the Democrats in just two or three of the districts they briefly held could have national consequences in a narrowly divided Congress.



    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, May 3, 2021







        The ultimate goal of city and county agencies trying to solve California’s homeless problem is to get this transient populace into permanent housing.


        But it turns out many of the homeless don’t want the kind of permanent units that are becoming more available as local, state and federal governments devote ever more money to getting them off the streets.


        No one knows precisely how many of the state’s approximately 161,000 homeless prefer to keep sleeping in tents and under tarps, as about two-thirds of the California homeless do each night. But dealing with the encampments so common along sidewalks and beneath freeway bridges can often seem like playing with silly putty: When authorities squeeze encampments by shooing occupants away and cleaning up messes they leave, the camps often reappear somewhere else within days, like silly putty oozing through the gaps between a child’s fingers.



        Meanwhile, homeless-aid agencies keep building, buying and renting more housing aimed for the homeless. Short-term housing has arisen in several parts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and other cities. Permanent housing is becoming more available.


        The mayors of California’s 13 largest cities demanded $20 billion the other day to create more of each.


        But much of the permanent housing – some in older buildings and hotels bought up by governments – can go begging. In San Francisco, for one prominent example, 70 percent of homeless persons offered permanent spots in refurbished quarters were reportedly turning them down, as of mid-April.


        As a local newspaper reported, that was also the rate of declines at a former hotel purchased by a San Francisco city agency for $45 million and converted into 232 units. This building features communal bathrooms. Homeless individuals pay 30 percent of their income as rent.


        The cause may be the shared facilities or the rent, but most of those offered these quarters chose instead to stay in shelter-in-place hotels open for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rooms there often have private baths and provide meals, but it’s temporary.


        Meanwhile, some other programs are free only for those over 65 and Covid-negative.


        Some homeless advocates lament the alleged poor quality of permanent housing offered, saying bad ventilation plus lack of Wi-Fi and other amenities explain many move-in refusals.



        Still, homeless agencies appear flummoxed by the rejection rate for permanent housing they’re now able to offer, something only recently available. Did they expect a population plagued by instability and a high component (about 20 percent) of serious mental illness to turn overnight into planners interested in delayed gratification?


        Said Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the interim director of San Francisco’s anti-homelessness agency, when reporting to the city’s board of supervisors, “We have never had shelter in many ways that’s nicer” than the available permanent housing.

        In some places, homeless persons moving into new interim or permanent housing must undergo psychological counseling and adhere to drug-free lifestyles, rather than the free-wheeling, sometimes criminal life of the streets, where stolen goods are often fenced in homeless encampments and 16 percent of the homeless suffer from substance abuse.


        Meanwhile, thousands of brand-new permanent units with many amenities are in the pipeline.


        These cost an average of more than $400,000 per unit, paid for mostly with local bond money. But when money from one of those bonds, a $1.2 billion local Los Angeles measure passed in 2016, is gone, odds are it will be difficult to pass new bonds.



        For authorities have alienated many thousands of local voters who never expected housing for the homeless to appear near them. Plus, this problem seems never to shrink, no matter how much new housing is built, with arrivals from other states joining families newly afflicted by financial woes to replenish the homeless population.


        If there’s a solution, it may be to deal with underlying psychological and economic factors leading to homelessness, rather than putting more and more money into housing development.


        Is the answer to reopen or rebuild mental health facilities shut down by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan in the 1970s? Is it to erect new towns in presently vacant desert parts of the state? Maybe both? So far, no one has a solution that pleases everyone.

    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 the signatures that qualified the Gavin Newsom recall election for a statewide vote began arriving in big numbers at county recorder’s offices around California, the governor soon realized he could no longer ignore the threat.


        Rather, it was time for him to speak up, and also to begin seeing this as the opportunity of a lifetime to establish a brand as a courageous, defiant Democrat who will not be intimidated.


        That’s why just two days before the St. Patrick’s Day deadline for submitting signatures, Newsom began emailing past supporters regularly to declare he will not take the clear threat to his job and his future lying down.


        “I’m going to fight because there’s too much at stake in this moment,” he declaimed. “I am not going to be distracted from the critical work (needed) to move us forward in California. That means getting more vaccines in people’s arms, more people back to work and more kids back in the classroom.”


        By listing those three categories, he essentially announced he would take on every theme the recall organizers have raised against him.


        One charge is that he hasn’t gotten coronavirus vaccines out fast enough. Yet, by the time signatures were verified, more than two-thirds of all adult Californians had received at least one shot, a higher percentage than in any other state. Sure, Newsom admitted in his State of the State speech a month earlier, he’s made mistakes. But California, with 12 percent of the national populace, has suffered less than 10 percent of the national death toll.


        With 143 deaths per 100.000 population, California has done far better than Republican-run states like Massachusetts, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Dakotas, all with death rates exceeding 210 per 100,000 persons. That comparison grows more favorable to California every day.


        Has saving lives been worth the economic sacrifice? That depends on the priority you place on human life vs. people’s earnings.


        Newsom also started sending kids back to school en masse in early April, partly enabled by more than $6 billion in state funding he pushed through the Legislature.


        Would any of the leading Republicans in the current recall replacement field have done as well? No one can be sure, but none has presided over an effort even close to the size of what Newsom organized.


        Also, none of the significant entrants, those with followings including more than their friends and neighbors, is a Democrat. That’s important in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2-1. For this recall to win, it will have to draw a big majority among no party- preference-voters, but in every recent election, a majority of them went Democratic.


        That leads Newsom and the state’s Democratic Party organization to label the effort to oust Newsom “the Republican Recall.” Major national figures from all wings among the often fractious Democrats are publicly opposing the recall, even though a rejuvenated Newsom could interfere with their own president ambitions.


        Among the recall opponents are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who drew 37 percent of the vote in last year’s California presidential primary election; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who came in third last year; appointed California Sen. Alex Padilla; Orange County Rep. Katie Porter and Georgia’s voter registration leader Stacey Abrams.


        Said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, once a Stanford tight end, “Defeating this cynical Republican recall will be one of the most important priorities for Democrats this year.”


        Newsom, thus, has already done much of what he needed to do to emerge as his party’s hero, rallying its major figures, getting vaccinations out and pinning the toxic-in-California Republican label on the effort to dump him.


        Now he merely needs to affix the Donald Trump tag onto it, too. Given the links between the ex-president and GOP hopefuls like John Cox, Kevin Faulconer and Richard Grenell, that shouldn’t be too hard.


        For sure, if other Democrats are already calling this a Republican power grab, it won’t be long until Trump – the least popular Republican presidential candidate California has seen since Barry Goldwater in 1964 – is involved, like it or not.



    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