Friday, October 29, 2021

SB 9, 10: THE REBELLION BEGINS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
       “SB 9, 10: THE REBELLION BEGINS”

 

       It was inevitable from the moment Gov. Gavin Newsom in mid-September signed this year’s two most important housing bills into law: There will be a rebellion.

 

       Not only did poll numbers make this obvious – about two-thirds of Californians opposed the extreme densifying measures SB 9 and SB 10 before Newsom signed them – but so did the fact that backers deliberately obscured key parts of these bills.

 

       Now their opponents aim to nullify these two measures that would take almost all zoning decisions away from city councils and county boards and essentially place them in the hands of Wall Street investors and developers with big bankrolls.

 

       They plan to do this via a ballot initiative now in the final stages of getting its ballot summary and official name, a job done by the office of state Attorney General Rob Bonta. Bonta, a Newsom appointee and a supporter of SB 9 and 10 while a legislator, has said nothing about the proposed initiative, whose advocates so far call it “Stop the Sacramento Land Grab.”

 

Should Bonta give the initiative a misleading name or summary, he would be subject to lawsuits, which have previously forced changes in titles and summaries. So there’s pressure on the attorney general to get it right. Once these formal tasks are done, backers led by a group called Californians for Community Planning will have 180 days to gather the 1.3 million-odd valid voter signatures needed to place it on the ballot.

 

       The initiative represents a change in tactics for opponents of legislative proposals that have passed and been signed into law despite public outrage. Usually, those wanting to get rid of a new law they see as destructive use referenda that simply cancel the new law when they succeed.

 

       But this measure aims to do much more. It seeks to prevent legislators from ever again passing anything like SB 9 and SB 10.

 

       SB 9 would allow almost all single family properties to be cut in half, with both new parcels eligible for two new housing units, plus an “additional housing unit,” or “granny flat.” So where there is now one home, there could soon be six. There is no limit on how many such conversions could occur in any neighborhood.

 

       This was sold in the Legislature as a way for homeowners to get rich quick, since the potential total revenue from their properties could be much higher now than from selling a single house. But then there’s the obscured part of SB 9: To do a subdivision, a property owner must first pay off any loans on the parcel. Anyone unable to pay off his or her mortgage can’t do this. But they can sell to massive real estate buyers like Zillow and Wall Street banks, which have lately gobbled up thousands of California properties while anticipating something like SB 9.

 

       All over California, this could disfigure neighborhoods by making them unrecognizably dense, especially since there’s no requirement for new parking in any of these new structures. It’s much the same with SB 10, which cancels all pre-existing local land-use initiatives and laws and demands that all properties within half a mile of a rapid transit stop or major bus route be opened for buildings with up to10 units.

 

       Despite the claims of proponents that such measures could not be applied in wildfire areas, they are not excluded. Meanwhile, neither SB 9 or SB 10 mandates any affordable housing.

 

       So there is fear of gentrification in some places and a dread of overbuilding in many other neighborhoods.

 

       Say the sponsors of Stop the Sacramento Land Grab, “Sacramento politicians (many elected with donations from developers) and special interests are incentivizing over-development of market-rate housing, without…emphasis on creating more affordable housing or mixed-income communities.”

 

       So it’s no wonder there’s a rebellion. Few Californians ever expected this state eventually to copy New York’s density, which the current new laws aim to do.

 

       That’s why this proposed initiative looks like it can’t miss. For the vast majority of Californians aspire to single-family housing even if they can’t afford it now. Which means the current laws would destroy much of the California Dream. That’s why they need to be nullified, as the new initiative would do.

 

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    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.

LET’S STOP NAMING THINGS FOR PEOPLE

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
         “LET’S STOP NAMING THINGS FOR PEOPLE”

 

        The U.S. Postal Service can be justifiably criticized for a lot of things. One is the 2011 decision to begin allowing images of live people on United States stamps. 

 

        This relatively new policy puts into bas relief some of what’s happened in California over the last 18 months, when a lot of things named for persons living or dead have been renamed or removed because the honorees had feet of clay.

 

        It’s not merely hazardous to name things for live people, but also to name them for the dead.

 

        That’s because true saints are rarities in America and everywhere else. Junipero Serra, a leader of the Spanish mission era in early California history, is a one example. Back in the 1990s, while he was beatified and sainthood awaited, Pope John Paul, himself now a saint, visited San Francisco and speechified on Serra’s virtues. Protesting throngs closed down San Francisco’s busy Geary Street as they objected to sainthood for Serra, who the crowds believed helped enslave myriad Native Americans, orchestrating their forced labor for missions, their farms and other enterprises.

 

        He achieved sainthood anyway. But in the last few months, as more history emerged and Native Americans and Latinos became more vocal and political, several statues of Serra have been pulled down.

 

        High schools and streets still bear his name, but it’s a good bet some won’t much longer.

 

        Then there was the Richard M. Nixon Freeway (California 90) between the San Diego Freeway (I-405) and Marina del Rey in Los Angeles County. Named for the then-President when it opened in the early 1970s, this road quickly lost its name when Nixon’s role in the Watergate scandal emerged.

 

        This happens in academe, too. Until recently, many buildings and other items on the Stanford University campus were named for founding school President David Starr Jordan. Jordan’s place in history is assured, but not his name on university properties. Once it became widely known he was an early advocate of eugenics, a plan to “improve” the human race by letting some people reproduce while sterilizing others, Jordan’s name quickly came off most places it once adorned.

 

        The same for 1920s-1940s USC President Rufus Von KleinSmid, who built his campus and its athletic programs into formidable forces. Also an advocate of eugenics, a theory that became a key part of Nazi Germany’s efforts to “purify” its populace, Von KleinSmid’s name has been removed from most of its former perches.

 

        And what about Serranus Hastings, who gave his name and plenty of money to San Francisco’s Hastings College of the Law, alma mater of Vice President Kamala Harris? That name won’t last much longer, now that it’s become clear Hastings organized a set of Native American massacres, complete with bounties.

 

Now comes Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles city councilman and termed-out former county supervisor under indictment for allegedly conspiring with a USC dean to get his son Sebastian admitted as a scholarship student and named a professor. In return, millions of dollars in county contracts were supposedly funneled to USC. A bridge now carries his name, but for how long?

 

        And in far Northern California, the gorgeous Patrick’s Point State Park has reacquired its Yurok Indian name of Sue-meg State Park. Why? The point’s former namesake, 1850s-era settler Patrick Beegan, stands accused of murdering multiple Yurok tribesmen.

 

        Put all this together and the hazards of naming things for prominent people becomes very clear, even if they helped create many projects and institutions.

 

        The realization is fast dawning that we usually don’t know enough about individuals, living or dead, prominent or not, to trust they are worthy of honors they sometimes bestow on themselves or are awarded by others.

 

        It might have made a nice retirement gift for David Starr Jordan to have his name affixed to several Stanford sites, but decades later, this became an embarrassment for the university.

 

        So let’s begin a new policy as soon as possible: Give parks and buildings and freeways names descriptive of their location and nature, not someone’s name.

 

        For if there’s one thing we know about human beings, it is that none of us is perfect.

 


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    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

Monday, October 25, 2021

EASTERN PUNDITS – AND THEIR MISTAKES – ABOUT TO LAND IN CALIFORNIA

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “EASTERN PUNDITS – AND THEIR MISTAKES – ABOUT TO LAND IN CALIFORNIA”

 

        Want a good chuckle? You usually have to wait four years between the exhibitions put on by flocks of East Coast pundits who land in California each presidential election year.

 

        But with the September recall election that unsuccessfully targeted Gov. Gavin Newsom as a catalyst, this bunch will begin arriving here just about the time the first winter blizzards hit their home roosts. If you think that’s coincidence, guess again.

 

        This has been happening for at least 50 years, with past participants including journalistic and political legends like David Broder, James Reston, George Will, Karl Rove and many more.

 

        Rove, a longtime Republican campaign manager who dabbles in punditry, was a classic example of someone parachuting into California and getting things all wrong. He wrote in 2004, “If you’re a Republican and you play in California, all kinds of things are possible.” Mostly losing, both money and votes. On Rove’s advice, ex-President George W. Bush spent $18 million here that year only to lose handily to Democrat John Kerry. Wasting that money in solidly Democratic California almost cost Bush the White House in what would have been a huge upset.

 

        Then there was the New York Times, which in a boldface headline before the 2003 recall election called it “loco.” And yet…it made Arnold Schwarzenegger a national political force for almost 10 years.

 

        Things have been little different this year. The anti-Newsom recall, of course, attracted its share of Eastern commentary. The New Yorker magazine, in its Sept. 10 backgrounder on that election, tried to portray the backdrop to the vote. It described “commercial airliners spraying retardant” on wildfires. Sorry, folks, there wasn’t a Delta or Southwest flight in sight as superscoopers (hollowed out DC-10s) dropped planeloads of water (but little retardant) on the blazes.

 

        The same story said recall elections and initiatives here were created in 1911 to “curtail rampant corruption (from) railroad companies and labor unions…” In fact, labor unions in the early 1900s were persecuted in California, and barely survived. Actual culprits of the time, in addition to railroads, were the big banks.

 

        The New Yorker, like some others it aped in this story, said the 2003 recall was “fueled by anger over the California electricity crisis of 2000-2001.” Actually, that recall – first suggested in this column on Dec. 2, 2002 – aimed to halt corruption by then-Gov. Gray Davis, who frequently linked state spending on needed projects to political donations from local businesses and others benefiting from the projects.

 

        It said the success of the petition drive that placed the Newsom recall on the ballot was due largely to contributions from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. There were a few of those, but any analysis that does not mention the court decision allowing four more months than usual for gathering signatures misses a key reason this recall went so much farther than most such attempts.

 

        So what can we expect from the flood of punditry bound to see print and the national cable TV airwaves this winter? For one thing, expect a buildup for some of the unsuccessful, but ever persistent, Republicans who ran as replacement candidates for governor in September. There will likely be profiles of former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who excited almost no one last summer even if he did make interesting policy suggestions like a huge middle-class tax cut, and YouTube blogger Kevin Paffrath, who gained some recognition as the leading Democrat in the replacement army.

 

        Expect the national corps also to get interview time with both Newsom and the likes of replacement leader Larry Elder, neither of whom likes to be interviewed often by California’s own pundits.

 

        There will be predictions of a tough race for appointed Democratic U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, who most likely will coast to a six-year term of his own in the seat once filled by Vice President Kamala Harris.

 

        And there will be talk of a mass desertion from Democratic ranks by Latino voters (there will likely be some attrition, but no mass movement).

 

        In all, it will be much ado about very little, but at least it will get some journalists out of that deep winter snow they so detest.

 


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    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

WHEN IDEOLOGY COLLIDES WITH REALITY

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “WHEN IDEOLOGY COLLIDES WITH REALITY”

 

        There can be few better examples of ideologically convinced politicians running head-on into reality than a new California law known in the Legislature as AB 1346.

 

        This bill, signed into law in September by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is the personification of today’s faddish hostility to everything fossil fuel by the Democrats who dominate California government.

 

        These ideologues want to ban natural gas appliances from new construction. They want new cars to be all electric before 2040, even if few have the range to travel from one end of California to another without long stops for recharging. And they are getting their way.

 

        Their latest step in this direction is so extreme that

even the new law’s backers weren’t quite sure it could be accomplished in the two-year time frame they called for. So they included an almost unprecedented “out” for some of the gasoline- or natural gas-powered devices they seek to ban: If the technology doesn’t exist to replace the affected machines with all-electric ones by 2024, the old types can be used and sold until such technology appears.

 

        News reports on this bill said it bans new gas-fueled lawn mowers, leaf blowers, off-road engines, pressure washers, chain saws, weed trimmers and even golf carts. Few mentioned it also bans gas-powered generators.

 

        Some of that technology exists right now. Electric lawn mowers have been around for a generation or more. Electric leaf blowers exist in brands as well-known as Toro and Ace Hardware, for just two examples. They are not as powerful as their gasoline-powered counterparts, but make far less noise.

 

        So don’t expect lawn and garden shops to carry gasoline mowers or leaf blowers beyond the next two years. But do expect runs on them during the last few months of 2023, as homeowners and contractors seek to stock up before the ban takes effect.

 

        One form of irony here is that especially in times of electricity shortage, “peaker” power plants, most running on fossil fuel natural gas, will be producing much of the juice powering all the allegedly emission-free electric machines now mandated.

 

        But the biggest irony and lack of realism in this one-size-fits-all law comes with generators. These machines produce electric power that’s more vital today than ever before, in part because of unpredictable, inevitable “public safety power shutoffs” in the state’s many fire-prone regions.

 

        While there are a few solar-powered generators on the market, they are not very useful after sundown.

 

        That’s one reason many hospitals, homes and businesses in potential wildfire areas have stocked up on gasoline-powered generators. Even if an electric-powered generator existed today, to be useful it would have to produce far more power than it burns. If there were such a machine on a large scale, it might be the solution to every energy shortage in the world.

 

        Meanwhile, gasoline-run generators are right on the list with the other banned items. It’s a pretty solid bet that the “until technology exists” exception in this law will have to apply to generators.

 

        The plain intent of the new law is to push technology to new horizons. California has done that before, establishing cleaner-car standards that produced the catalytic converter, electric cars and more even when manufacturers insisted it was impossible. Once they realized that if they didn’t produce these things, new companies would and existing brands would lose out on the California car market, companies like General Motors, Toyota and Honda came up with vehicles that met California standards in a timely way.

 

        But what about generators? One reader from Hanford, a contractor, noted in a letter that hotels, assisted living homes and other major facilities are required to maintain existing generators – gasoline or diesel – for fire safety and to survive power outages.

 

        Said the reader, “Somebody better look at the reliability of any new technology before jumping on this bandwagon. In these situations (and in public safety power shutoffs), you are dealing with someone’s life.”

 

        The reader is correct. This new law will clearly work for machines like lawn mowers and leaf blowers. But ideology drove its authors to make it too broad for public safety, and their convictions will soon collide with reality.

 

       
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    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

Monday, October 18, 2021

ETHNIC STUDIES: WHY DID AB 101 BECOME LAW WITH FEW COMPLAINTS?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021 OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

    “ETHNIC STUDIES: WHY DID AB 101 BECOME LAW WITH FEW COMPLAINTS?”

 

        There was little public complaining early this fall when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 101, making a semester of ethnic studies a graduation requirement for all California high schools beginning later this decade, also creating a statewide model curriculum.

 

        Newsom’s signature followed his 2020 veto of a draft curriculum that drew a huge outcry because it contained obvious biases and falsehoods. The rejected curriculum was then substantially rewritten and improved.

 

        But that did not resolve all its problems. For example, Williamson Evers, a former U.S. assistant secretary of Education, and other opponents blasted the new model curriculum as anti-capitalist, anti-white and “burdened by faddish ideology.” It could lead students to learn as “fact” that American society has always been divided pretty universally between oppressors and victims, said Evers and some others. It also encourages children to identify strongly as group members, and never mind individual qualities and achievements.

 

        Jewish groups noted the new curriculum was forced to include seven “guardrails” to prevent it from purveying widespread promotion of anti-Semitic tropes present in the rejected first draft, ranging from the false claim that Jews ran most of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to claiming they gave up much of their identity to assume “white privilege” in modern America.

 

        “The fact that no less than seven ‘guardrails’ were deemed necessary for preventing AB 101 from facilitating…anti-Semitism is itself a stunning indictment of the bill and the dangers it poses for (Jews),” said Tammi-Rossman Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, which tracks anti-Jewish activity in academe.

 

        The guardrails, she noted, do not stop local school districts from hiring authors of the extremely flawed, unfactual original version to write their own local programs. Nothing requires local districts to use the state curriculum, with its protections and corrections.

 

        But Rossman-Benjamin’s is among the less powerful and influential of Jewish groups. More prominent are outfits like the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center in the San Francisco Bay area, among other groups.

 

        As vocal as Rossman-Benjamin was and despite written opposition from thousands of Holocaust survivors and 74 Jewish groups, major Jewish organizations like the Wiesenthal Center and Jewish federations in both San Francisco and Los Angeles stayed largely silent as Newsom signed AB 101, although an earlier Wiesenthal Center publication said it “remained concerned.”

 

        A possible clue about the relative silence could be found in a Newsom press release issued two days before the bill signing. This announced formation of a new “Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education,” complete with a list of organizations it will fund.

 

        These included $10 million to the Wiesenthal Center, $2.5 million for expansion of the Holocaust Museum LA (run by the Los Angeles Jewish federation), $1 million for renovation of the Tauber Holocaust Library and Archives in the Bay area, part of San Francisco’s Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and other grants totaling about $40 million.

 

        The proximity of the two events suggested to some that there may have been linkage between those grants and the muted reaction of major Jewish organizations when Newsom signed AB 101.

 

        It would be na├»ve to believe that mere field trips to Holocaust-related museums could counteract years of teaching anti-Semitic tropes like those in the original state ethnic studies plan. Some of those are likely to show up in local curricula of school districts that hire the original authors to write local programs for use at all grade levels.

 

        For example, one district alone (Hayward Unified) allocated $40 million for some of those failed authors to write such a program and to hire teachers for it. So a single district’s planned spending matches the statewide budget for Newsom’s nascent anti-genocide program.

 

        For sure, the signing of AB 101 pushes future ethnic studies curriculum battles to the local level in California’s more than 1,000 school districts. Rossman-Benjamin has noted that the Jewish community and other opponents “lack the bandwidth (and manpower) to fight these battles in every district.”

 

        Meanwhile, Newsom appeased African American and Latino groups unhappy with his 2020 veto of the original ethnic studies plan, while the largest Jewish organizations said little or nothing.

 

        Newsom now claims to have assured that all kids will soon start learning about their own ethnic histories, but has made official a program that still contains historical errors and biases, with strong potential for many more such problems.

 

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     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

NURSING HOMES FACE A NEW LIFE-OR-DEATH CRISIS

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “NURSING HOMES FACE A NEW LIFE-OR-DEATH CRISIS”

 

        The COVID-19 crisis is over at California’s hundreds of nursing homes. Or is it?

 

        Like nursing homes around the nation, this state’s skilled nursing facilities and the somewhat similar assisted living homes were the state’s most tragic dying grounds during the height of the pandemic.

 

        They accounted for almost 48 percent of Covid deaths here and elsewhere, yet their residents make up just a small fraction of the overall populace. The advanced age of most nursing home residents put them at more risk from the virus than younger people and tens of thousands of them died at alarming rates.

 

        But that’s largely over. The advent of vaccines from companies including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and the government’s prioritizing immunizations for the elderly has cut the Covid-related death rate among nursing home denizens by 96 percent.

 

        That did not relieve the other, ongoing crises still taking their toll in nursing homes and related facilities.

 

        Visitation is still limited there (and in virtually all hospitals) to one guest per day in most locations. For many nursing home residents, this means seeing their grandchildren or their remaining friends either through ground-floor windows or electronic services like Skype or Facetime – a recipe for extreme loneliness and disorientation that has prevailed since Day 1 of the Covid lockdowns.

 

        Plainly, the lack of visitation (almost absolutely banned through the worst of the pandemic) did not keep death out of the homes. While guests did not affect the residents, infected and contagious staff members did.

 

        So it became urgent to hire solid staff willing to get vaccinated and maintain lifestyles featuring masking and social distancing. But the pay for these staffers – many of them compelled to work multiple jobs – did not rise appreciably.

 

        A worker shortage results. Like many other businesses, nursing homes now find themselves short of help.

 

        A national survey of more than 700 members of the American Health Care Assn. (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living, trade groups for the homes, found that 94 percent of nursing homes have had a staffing shortage during the last month, with 81 percent of assisted living communities reporting the same.

 

        Jobs are going begging. But for the most part, these are not extremely high-paying posts. That’s in part because the homes try to maintain healthy profit margins and in part because most homes cater to Medi-Cal or Medicaid patients, for whom payments lag far behind what most home-care companies or luxury retirement homes charge.

 

        The AHCA says payments from those government-run programs cover just 70 percent to 80 percent of the actual cost of care.

 

As a result, most homes are short-staffed. For residents who are not ambulatory, this can mean multiple consecutive entire days spent in bed, often with no visitors and minimal outside human contact. That’s because staffers frequently are too overworked to do the hard physical labor of helping people out of their beds and into wheelchairs or getting them to seating in lobbies.

 

Says the AHCA, “Without a fully-funded Medicaid program (Medi-Cal is the California version of Medicaid), providers will continue to struggle to become competitive employers.”

 

That’s especially true in a dog-eat-dog labor market with hundreds of thousands of easier jobs available, from store clerks to Uber drivers.

 

As solutions, the AHCA recommends loan forgiveness

for new college graduates who work in long term care, tax credits for licensed nursing personnel in the homes, childcare assistance and affordable housing for nursing home workers.

 

That’s a menu not among the highest priorities today in either Sacramento or Washington, DC.

 

But lawmakers should make these kinds of incentives just as high a priority as they made getting nursing home residents vaccinated last winter, when large cadres of health care workers were sent into the homes to administer shots.

 

If at least some of these tactics are not deployed, and

soon, untold tens of thousands of nursing home residents will be doomed to unnecessarily dreary, lonely lives in a long-lasting but little publicized side-effect of the pandemic.


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     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

  

Monday, October 11, 2021

TAXING THE UNVAXXED: IT’S WORKING

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “TAXING THE UNVAXXED: IT’S  WORKING”

 

        Two months ago, California was in the middle of the pack among states when it came to per-capita COVID-19 caseloads and death rates. The same for its vaccination rate.

 

        Then this concept sunk in: It was time to tax the unvaxxed. This meant higher payments for the unvaccinated populace in some cases; many companies – for just one type of “tax” – compelling unvaccinated employees to pay more for group health insurance than those who are fully vaccinated because Covid hospitalization costs were endangering the insurance plans.

 

        But it’s not just money that’s moving the California numbers. It’s also threats to careers, promotions and basic livelihoods, forms of taxation not easy to measure with cash numbers.

 

The idea took hold not merely among government agencies, many of which set deadlines for their employees to get vaccinated, some making vague threats against recalcitrant vaccination delayers or refusers.

 

The San Diego Police Department is one of these. As many citizens expressed reluctance to interact with unvaccinated officers, the department had to do something.

 

It set a Dec. 1 deadline for officers to be vaccinated unless they can demonstrate a legitimate religious objection or medical reason not to be inoculated, or else. With no significant organized religion in California objecting to vaccination (even Christian Scientists are going along), it will be difficult to establish a religious objection.

 

The department has not yet said what “or else” means; the implication is that firing is a strong possibility. Yes, there are other police agencies in San Diego County not yet being so tough, but there’s every reason to believe they will have to get that way if they expect to face and serve a cooperative citizenry.

 

Then there was the state’s Sept. 30 deadline for all health workers to be fully vaccinated or lose their jobs, unless they had a verifiable medical excuse.

 

This one seemed like a no-brainer, since health workers from doctors and nurses to in-home providers like traveling physical therapists deal regularly with patients who already have weaknesses that the virus has no compunction about exploiting.

 

Since the deadline was announced, health care systems from Los Angeles to San Francisco and Sacramento now show employee vaccination rates well above the statewide percentages.

 

The Sacramento Bee reported the other day that the area’s three largest health care systems –  Kaiser Permanente, UC Davis Health and Sutter Health – boasted employee vaccination rates of 97 percent, 100 percent and 91 percent respectively. Those numbers are far ahead of statewide vaccination figures and significantly higher than the health systems reported before deadlines were imposed and shots made easier to get.

 

Nursing home employees are also affected. One reason nursing home casualties were so high at the peak of the pandemic was that staffers brought the virus with them when they went to work. But vaccination rates are climbing among them now, with caseloads in nursing homes declining commensurately.

 

Then there are public schools, where the probability is high for a state mandate that all teachers and others who come into contact with students will soon have to be vaccinated if they want to stay in their jobs. Covid vaccines are already part of the required panoply of inoculations kids over 12 must get before they’re eligible for school, public or private.

 

        When the federal Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccines for children aged 5 to 12, they will be added in. So there’s every indication the Delta variant of the virus that has struck hard at the young can be defeated, or at least reduced to flu-like manageable proportions.

 

        All this is happening here, and not in places like Florida and Texas because officials here have not let themselves be hindered by shibboleths that hold down vaccination rates there and in other states with similar Covid-denying officials.

 

        And reluctant professional basketball players like Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors may not have liked the idea of getting vaxxed, but the realization he would not otherwise be allowed to practice or play in California convinced Wiggins. His “tax” for staying unvaxxed could have amounted to more than $10 million, a pretty good-sized levy and a strong motivator.

 

        The bottom line: Taxing the unvaxxed has worked, is working and will work.

 


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    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

’DON’T CALIFORNICATE US,’ OTHER STATES BEGIN SAYING

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
     1720 OAK STREET, SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA 90405
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “’DON’T CALIFORNICATE US,’ OTHER STATES BEGIN SAYING”

 

        Memo to all those Californians now thinking seriously of moving to another state, thus cashing out on their high-priced homes, avoiding high prices on their new homes, but risking higher property taxes and utility bills in those new locations, while avoiding many of California’s regulations on things like indoor smoking and plastic straws:

 

        Your new neighbors might not be so happy to see you move in.

 

        Sure, whoever you buy that next house or condo from will be delighted to greet you. But everyone else? Not by a long shot.

 

        Anti-California sentiment began as early as the 1980s, when migrants from this state began moving to neighboring Oregon, driving up real estate prices and creating traffic headaches as more and more arrived.

 

 

        Oregonians began putting up signs beside roads near their southern border. “Don’t Californicate Oregon,” they read – and still do in some places.

 

        Now that sentiment has spread to a significant number of other Western states. One candidate in 2020’s election for mayor of Boise even suggested building a wall around his city to keep newcomers out, stymied mainly by the fact it would have cost $26 billion.

 

        Some states would apparently be glad if the Constitutional guarantee of free movement between the states were amended away. Some of the Republican politicians who govern Texas, for example, have suggested their domination could end if too many Californians migrate to that relatively-affordable housing state and vote Democratic.

 

        Their rhetoric doesn’t quite match that of Wayne Richey, an auto-body repair man defeated last November in his run for Boise mayor. “It’s not just a California thing,” he told a reporter. “It’s new people. They’re driving up the price of housing here so much that people I know are moving away.”

 

        Actually, 21,272 Californians moved to Idaho between July 2017 and July 2018, the latest period for which U.S. Census information is available. During the same time, 5,262 persons left Idaho for California. So this state’s net out-migration to Idaho was 16,010 during a single year. That’s just one state, helping account for California’s slowest-ever decade of growth during the last 10 years and for its net loss of 40,000 persons during 2018 to out-migration.

 

        Those Californians helped make Star, ID, 17 miles northwest of Boise, the fastest-growing city in both Idaho and America.

 

        Some California officials point out that the out-migration of Californians isn’t quite as unprecedented as it may seem. The state Finance department, for example, noted that federal defense spending cuts in the mid-1990s spurred an even larger exodus.

 

        Some of the California outflow making other states nervous stems from the efforts of those same states. Take Texas, whose former governor Rick Perry spent many years making radio and TV commercials touting the advantages for businesses that moved from California to the Lone Star state.

 

        The biggest fish to bite at this pitch, which included huge property tax exemptions and civic aid in building new plants and facilities, was Toyota, which relocated its U.S. headquarters from the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance to the Dallas suburb of Plano.

 

        Perry never figured that many of the Toyota executives and workers moving to Texas might vote Democratic. Some lean that way, and they contributed to a narrow electoral escape in 2018 for Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a campaign that made Democratic rival Beto O’Rourke a national figure.

 

        The annual inflow of about 60,000 Californians to Texas shows few signs of abating. Combined with more political activity from the almost 3 million Latinos in Texas, they have given the Lone Star state a faintly purple hew.

 

        Similarly, an influx of Californians working for aerospace companies that opened facilities in Phoenix and Tucson over the last 15 years has been a major factor in changing Arizona from a solidly Republican state to an electoral tossup.

 

        So the change in California’s longtime pattern of fast growth may be as bad news for some of the emigrants’ new neighbors as it seems to politicians in the state they’ve left behind, which is about to lose one seat in Congress for the next decade.

       


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    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

Monday, October 4, 2021

MORE FIRE PROSECUTIONS, BUT STILL NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2021 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “MORE FIRE PROSECUTIONS, BUT STILL NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY”

 

        There were headlines all around the state late last month, when local prosecutors filed criminal charges including several counts of manslaughter in Shasta County over deaths in the 2020 Zogg fire, at least partially ignited because of negligence by the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co,

 

        That fire blazed for about two weeks starting in late September 2020, burning more than 56,000 acres in Shasta and Tehama counties.

 

        Chances are the legal outcome this time will be similar to what followed the Camp fire that destroyed the Butte County town of Paradise, the Woolsey fire that decimated much of Malibu and other cases dating back as far as the 2007 Witch fire in San Diego County:

 

     In all those cases, utility companies like PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have admitted fault, some racking up dozens of criminal convictions – but none for executives or employees who made the key decisions leading to fire ignition.

 

 

        The most recent such case prior to the Zogg fire came in Sonoma County, where District Attorney Jill Ravitch filed 33 criminal charges last spring against PG&E over the 2019 Kincade fire.

 

        In every case, utility executives said they cooperated fully with state investigators trying to pinpoint the exact cause of ignition.

 

        When the Shasta County charges arose, new PG&E CEO Patti Poppe made a similar statement, adding that “We’ve accepted CalFire’s determination that a tree contacted our electric wire and started the Zogg fire… But we did not commit a crime.”

 

        An interesting contention for a company that has filed dozens of guilty pleas over the 11 years since its negligence caused a massive natural gas explosion that killed eight in the Crestmoor neighborhood of San Bruno.

 

        But just like the Zogg fire case, no prosecutor ever went after any individual PG&E decision maker. Yet, someone decided which trees to clear away from the company’s Shasta County lines – and which to leave standing or untrimmed.

 

        The county’s court filing essentially says as much, noting PG&E’s “statutory and regulatory duties to mitigate fire risks by removing hazardous trees from around their electric lines.”

 

        OK, but as Howard Cosell famously wondered in an inadvertent radio clip during a 1970s-era football game, “Who goofed? I’ve got to know.”


        In the case of California’s years- long plague of wildfires with higher intensity, area and temperatures than any before them, that’s a vital question. Call it personal responsibility.

 

        Many dozens of Californians now lie dead and many thousands are struggling to rebuild homes and lives in the wake of these fires, but the people responsible for preventing them have suffered not a bit. No one has had a personal conviction. No one has spent so much as an hour in jail for all the convictions; no one has even been demoted or seen salary cuts because of the harm.

 

        Yes, possible penalties in the Zogg fire, like others, can include fines and remedial measures. The companies may even pay off some of those who suffered damages. But they easily make up those expenses in their regular rate increases.

 

        Who decided to let that tree stand? And why? These key questions have not been answered in any of California’s fires of the last few years except those set by individual arsonists.

 

        Yet, for all we know, people whose actions caused immense death and destruction are getting promoted regularly, serving on local school boards and city councils and are otherwise treated as responsible citizens – when they are not.

 

        Gov. Gavin Newsom was suddenly handed a unique opportunity to do something about this the other day, when the president of the state Public Utilities Commission, Marybel Batjer, resigned effective at year’s end, with five years left on her term.

 

        The new question for Newsom, who along with Batjer, has long favored utilities over their customers, is whether he will appoint someone to this powerful post who is dedicated to protecting consumers, or yet another faceless bureaucrat ready to go along and get along with utility executives while never using the commission’s great powers to investigate who’s really responsible for billions of dollars of damage and scores of lives lost.

       

       

 

   -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

SACTO DEMS DUMP PROP. 13 REFORMS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “SACTO DEMS DUMP PROP. 13 REFORMS”

 

        For more than 40 years, Democrats in Sacramento have talked fervently about reforming the 1978 Proposition 13 and some of its landmark limits on property taxes, but time and again they’ve done nothing when presented with real opportunities for positive change.

 

        What would be positive change in this context? Anything that breaks up the destructive fantasies preserved by the reluctance of most in the state Legislature to change anything at all about Prop. 13. This recalcitrance extends even to administrative rules adopted not in the ballot initiative, but rather by lawmakers in the year or two after it passed.

 

        The mass of voters has similar reluctance to alter Prop. 13, hence rejection of last year’s Prop. 15, which would have created a “split roll” taxing commercial and industrial property at higher rates than residences.

 

        Right now, Prop. 13 limits property tax on any sort of real estate to 1 percent of the 1975 assessed value or 1 percent of the most recent purchase price if the property has changed hands. This levy can subsequently increase by no more than 2 percent each year.

 

        It’s easy to gloss over the words “change hands” in that description, as it seems obvious that changing hands means a shift in who controls a property.

 

        But that’s not how Prop. 13 works. Rules set by the Legislature less than a year after the measure passed define a new owner as a person or entity that owns more than 50 percent interest in a property. This means, for example, that a married couple can each buy a 40 percent interest in a house, but still pay the same tax bill as if they’d owned the place for many years. It’s the same for partnerships and corporations.

 

        Changing this rule would not be a change in Prop. 13 itself. But Jon Coupal, head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. (named for Prop. 13’s prime author), has always opposed it.

 

        Yet, as long ago as 2004, former Democratic state Sen. Martha Escutia of eastern Los Angeles County asserted the change would produce between $1.5 billion and $12 billion for schools and city and county governments. That cost has only risen since then.

 

        Coupal asserted when this dispute began that “Prop. 13 opponents can only point to a handful of alleged abuses of the law.” But some of those are major, including shopping malls, a winery, large luxury hotels and myriad houses now used as rental properties.

 

        The notion of treating actual changes of control like full changes in formal ownership for tax purposes had another chance this year, but Democrats in the Legislature voted it down.

 

        While previous efforts to make this obviously-needed revision in the definition of ownership all were carried by Democrats, this time the idea was sponsored by Orange County Republican state Sen. Patricia Bates. Her bill, known as SB 706, would have altered the definition of “change of control” of a corporate entity owning property to include situations where 90 percent or more of ownership changes hands within a three-year period.

 

        That’s a lot easier on new property owners than Escutia’s original plan where change of control was defined as a new party acquiring decision-making power or a similar 2010 plan by then Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco.

 

        Escutia cited one hotel in Santa Monica where 100 percent of ownership changed, but there was no reassessment of the property because no one new individual or entity owned more than a 50 percent interest. In that case alone, Bates said, Los Angeles County loses over $1 million in tax revenue every year.

 

        She added that the state plainly needs to “close a loophole that allows businesses to game the system and avoid being taxed on the full value of the property they buy.”

 

        The existing law does nothing but help the rich get richer, yet even the mild reform Bates proposed got no traction among Democrats who control Sacramento. It was quickly rejected by the state Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee.

 

        Which is too bad, because small as this proposed change would have been, it represented a step toward fairness, a concept that seems of little interest to the current Legislature.

 

     -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