Monday, November 27, 2023

STATE EXPANDING ITS ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2023 OR THEREAFTER


 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “STATE EXPANDING ITS ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH”

 

        For many years, the various regions making up this vast state bore distinctive looks, featuring everything from tree houses in California’s far northwest corner to Pueblo-style architecture in the deserts of eastern Riverside County.

 

        Then came San Francisco’s Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener with his ideal of dense housing everywhere, accompanied by state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s conviction that every part of California must do its share of high-rise building if the current housing shortage is to be solved.

 

        Wiener, a resident of San Francisco’s ultra-dense Castro district, never says this, but makes plain that he would like all of California to look like his neighborhood, filled with decades-old wooden apartment buildings.

 

His many results include additional dwelling units (ADUs, once known as “granny apartments”) behind or beside a large portion of newly built homes everywhere in the state and eight-story buildings in many neighborhoods formerly zoned for single family homes.

 

        The new state housing laws provide little or no room for cities to worry about their ambiance or their longtime character, both major traditional concerns for local governments. Never mind what local residents anywhere want.

 

Resist massive new housing projects and you will be labeled a NIMBY (not in my back yard) and your concerns scorned, valid or not. Never mind, also, that much of the newly-built housing stands vacant because relatively few Californians can pay either the $3,000-plus monthly rents asked in many new buildings or the astronomical condominium prices even where new units are labeled “affordable.”

 

        One of Wiener’s newest housing bills, SB 423, extends for 10 years an existing law that allows virtually automatic approvals for so-called affordable building projects almost everywhere. There is no requirement to allow new high-rise buildings only if there’s high occupancy of existing housing in the same areas. No provision for developers to finance new schools or parks. Also, there’s no requirement for owners to lower prices when units stand vacant for long periods.

 

        Now this one-size-fits-all mentality has begun to infect other policy areas.

 

        Proposed new water use rules, for one example, would require all the state’s more than 400 water-supplying agencies to develop new water-use budgets yearly, starting in 2025. These demands stem from two 2018 laws calling for the state to create new standards, including permanent water consumption goals.

 

        Making goals annual, and not perpetual, is an attempt to add some flexibility because water supplies vary greatly from place to place and from one year to the next. But there will be usage cuts everywhere starting no later than two years from now, even in places with plentiful water.

 

        No one has yet said how this can be compatible with building 2.5 million new housing units over the next eight years, as one recent estimate from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development claims must happen.

 

        Meanwhile, some new one-size-fits-all measures do make sense. Example: All ballots listing referenda aimed at canceling laws passed by the Legislature or local governments will now carry both more information about sponsors and new language describing the meaning of votes.

 

        This was spurred by the reality that in some referenda, a yes vote has meant keeping a new law, while in others, yes meant getting rid of recently-passed measures.

 

        From now on, yes and no on ballots will be replaced by “keep the law” and “overturn the law,” making it more certain voters know what their choices mean.

 

        Said Democrat Isaac Bryan of Los Angeles, the 31-year-old former Assembly majority leader, “Voters now have better tools to understand the impact of referendums (sic) and ensure their vote reflects their intent. Our democracy is stronger today than it was yesterday.”

 

        That’s one case where one size really does fit all of California, greatly improving public understanding of ballot measures.

 

        But such rationality is rare among efforts to enforce identical rules and solutions on every locale. They ignore realities of population movement and the preferences of millions who have invested life savings into neighborhoods they had every reason to believe would remain as stable as they previously were for generations.

       

   -30-

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

PUC AGAIN FAVORS UTILITIES IN SOLAR ENERGY FIGHT

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: 
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

      “PUC AGAIN FAVORS UTILITIES IN SOLAR ENERGY FIGHT”

 

        Rarely has the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seen such widespread opposition to one of its proposed actions as when it voted unanimously in mid-November to remove one of the major benefits of placing solar panels on homes and apartment buildings.

 

        That benefit: Any excess power generated beyond what a owner uses could until now be sold back to the state’s grid, meaning that rooftop solar not only took owners off the grid and exempted them from seemingly annual electricity price hikes, but also could be a source of income.

 

        Naturally, the big utilities hated this. For Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, this was not merely an expense, but lost income, plus the loss of large amounts of potential future income.

 

        It was loss of future utility income for new solar owners that decided the issue for the PUC, which has favored the big privately-owned companies over their customers in virtually every electric price dispute of the last half century.

 

        This has been true no matter whether commissioners were appointed by Democratic or Republican governors.

 

        This time, solar income issues coincided with a request from PG&E to dun customers for undergrounding more than 1,200 miles of electric lines to make them less prone to start fires in an era when most large wildfires have been sparked by arcing power lines. That alone will raise average PG&E rates by as much as $30 per month starting in January. Similarly sky-high increases for other electric companies will soon follow.

 

        But the question of rooftop solar panels was different and the exact costs to consumers remain uncertain, except for the inevitable reality they will rise considerably, atop the costs of undergrounding, which will also be done by the other big utilities. Meanwhile, the PUC never said it was handing the companies a bonus by ending their payments to solar panel owners.

 

        Rather, they said, not paying the solar owners will reduce rates for other Californians who don’t own panels and now help subsidize people who do. Commissioners also held that solar power will expand faster if it’s done via large desert-area solar farms than through citified rooftop panels.

 

        So they expanded an earlier order to cut payments to new residential solar owners, also eliminating them for apartments, schools and businesses with panels. But it's clear this won’t work out so well for other Californians no matter what the PUC claimed.

 

        What the commissioners did not say (they almost never mention this key factor) was that getting power to cities from large new solar thermal farms in desert locations, hundreds more miles of transmission lines will be required. Rooftop solar requires no such power lines.

 

        While the solar farms are owned by other companies and often subsidized by big federal grants, transmission lines are built and owned by the utilities. They cost billions of dollars, depending on the distance of a given solar farm from where it links to the grid.

 

        Privately-owned utilities fund the lines with loans or bonds whose interest is paid by consumers. At the same time, they are assured an annual profit usually ranging between 10 percent and 14 percent for each dollar they spend on capital improvements, lasting 20 years. For sure, transmission lines are capital investments. Erecting them costs about $2.29 million per mile over many hundreds of miles.

 

        This means that every $1 billion in consumer-financed dollars PG&E or Edison or SDG&E spends bringing solar power to its customers translates into pure profit of at least $100 million per year, with no risks attached.

 

        That’s the actual essence of what the PUC has now ordered, because the mere prospect of taking income out of the solar ownership equation has already cut installations of rooftop solar substantially.

 

        That's precisely what the utilities wanted. They can now expand their stated need for solar thermal power as the state moves steadily toward full dependence on renewable energy. For them, more big renewables mean more transmission lines and more profit.

 

        Which also means that regardless of what commissioners said, the latest PUC move will translate to ever higher electricity payments for almost every Californian for decades to come.

                 

  -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

Monday, November 20, 2023

REVIVE THIS BILL, LET FOSTER KIDS KEEP THEIR OWN MONEY

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2023 OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “REVIVE THIS BILL, LET FOSTER KIDS KEEP THEIR OWN MONEY”

 

        If there’s one California politician who has consistently run as a child welfare advocate, it is Gov. Gavin Newsom, father of four.

 

        So if there’s one bill he should not have vetoed this fall, it was the lone proposed law that actually promised to put money into the hands of youngsters who need it most: foster children.

 

        And yet, there was Newsom’s Oct. 8 veto message: “I am returning Assembly Bill 1512 without my signature…”

 

        Some background here: California has between 55,000 and 60,000 children in foster care at any given time. Many are disabled youths from poor families. Some have seen one or both parents die. Others have been placed there because parents cannot cope with them for any of a host of possible reasons.

 

About 20 percent of foster kids get monthly payments (ranging from $1,000 to about $2,400, depending on the child’s financial background) under the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. But across the nation, including in California, some counties take all or part of the money from those kids and use it to refund themselves for payments they make to foster parents and other expenses of caring for foster kids.

 

     So, unlike almost all non-foster kids, youngsters who have suffered the most tragedies and other difficulties often are actually paying for their own support. This can come at the expense of their future.

 

Newsom had a chance to correct this by signing AB 1512, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Isaac Bryan of Culver City. The measure would have prevented California counties from taking benefits like SSI payments away from orphaned or disabled children to cover costs of their foster care.

 

     But Newsom turned into a bean-counting bureaucrat in considering this potential law. He said he vetoed it because the question did not come up during last summer’s negotiations on the state budget. Uh-huh. As if a $19 million expense (the approximate cost of letting the kids keep their own cash) would be anything more than the proverbial drop in the bucket of a $311 billion state budget. Letting kids keep their cash for future use would add a small fraction of 1 percent to that budget.

 

     Said Newsom, “With our state facing continuing economic risk…it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications, such as this measure.” Less than one-tenth of one percent is significant?

 

        By contrast, the money that might pile up in bank accounts held for foster kids might be very significant to them once their foster care eligibility ends when they turn 18.

 

        No foster child has anything more than a high school education when that time arrives. High-paying jobs in technology and management will never be open to most of them unless they are especially determined and somehow find scholarship money, loans or part-time employment allowing them to attend college, which can increase earning power exponentially.

 

        But if foster kids have SSI money awaiting them at age 18, things can be different. Those funds can add up to tens of thousands of dollars per child, enough for modest living expenses while attending community colleges and later transferring to four-year schools. It’s also money that can prevent former foster kids from becoming homeless.

 

        Newsom has essentially foreclosed these possibilities for many fostered youngsters for at least another year.

 

        It’s not as if California would have been the first to tell counties to keep hands off that money. States like Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon did that soon after confiscations were exposed in a 2021 investigation by NPR and the Pulitzer Prize winning Marshall Project.

 

        Meanwhile, two of California’s biggest counties, San Diego and Los Angeles, backed AB 1512.

 

        Said Bryan, if counties don’t take money, “it is not lost revenue for them; this is stolen money to begin with.”

 

        The fact that Newsom didn’t recognize both this and the boost the money might give aged-out foster children boggles the mind.

 

        The bottom line: If ever a vetoed bill deserved a rerun, it is AB 1512, which appears certain to be reintroduced after the Legislature reconvenes in December. Maybe if this bill reaches his desk again, Newsom will actually live up to his child advocacy rhetoric.


-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

WHY CANDIDATE RESIDENCES WON’T BE A SENATE ISSUE

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS5
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2023 OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “WHY CANDIDATE RESIDENCES WON’T BE A SENATE ISSUE”

       

There’s no doubt that if interim Democratic Sen. LaPhonza Butler, appointed in October to occupy the late Dianne Feinstein’s California seat in the U.S. Senate, had opted to try keeping the job for the next full term, her residency would have become a major campaign issue.

 

        That’s because Butler, who lived many years in Los Angeles before moving to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2021, had to re-register to vote in California before accepting her appointment from Gov. Gavin Newsom. She moved to Maryland to do her former job as head of the Emily’s List political action committee, a 3 million-member group that raised more than $44 million for liberal female candidates in 2022.

 

        It’s true, the U.S. Constitution does not require senators to be registered voters in the states they represent, but only to be “inhabitants.” Since Butler appears to have moved back to California just before her appointment, she probably qualifies. But the whole point became moot for Butler when she opted out of next year’s campaign.

 

        Residency also could have been an issue between Democratic Congress members Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine, the current polling favorites to face off next November in the race to replace Feinstein long term. But it won’t be.

 

        Porter led Schiff by one point in one major survey late this fall and Schiff led Porter by three in another. Porter leads among younger voters in both the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll and that of the Public Policy Institute of California, while Schiff had wide margins among voters aged 50 and up.

 

        Recent entrant Steve Garvey, the Republican former all-star Dodgers and Padres first baseman, was about seven points back of the pair in both surveys, just ahead of Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland.

 

        What about the residency of Schiff and Porter? (Lee and Garvey have no such issue.) First, residency can be important. Only about 10 years ago, then-Democratic state Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood lost his seat after being convicted of listing an old residence within his district as his primary home, but a court ruled he actually lived elsewhere. Former legislator and Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon also lost his council seat soon after it was discovered he lived outside his district.

 

        Schiff’s issue with this could have been that mortgage records show he sometimes claimed a house in suburban Maryland as his primary residence, while at other times stating a 650-square-foot condominium he owns in Burbank is his primary home. In 2020, he listed the Maryland house as a secondary residence. So, which is it?

 

        Meanwhile, Porter, still on leave from a teaching job at UC Irvine’s law school, lives in the school’s University Hills housing development, where she bought a home at below market price in 2011, part of UC’s effort to make housing affordable for new faculty members. Some have questioned her right to keep living there after almost five full years in Congress. When they eventually sell, buyers of such houses cannot reap the same level of capital gains as people who buy market rate property elsewhere.

 

        Whenever Porter decides to move out, she will have to offer her four-bedroom house first to UCI faculty or staff or the university itself. But her defeated 2022 reelection opponent, Republican Scott Baugh, questioned her right to keep living there. Baugh currently seeks the seat Porter will vacate at the end of 2024.

 

        Other current non-teachers also live in University Hills, including retired faculty and surviving spouses of faculty members who have died.

 

        Said Baugh in 2022, “(Porter) should have given up this taxpayer subsidized housing benefit four years ago when she was elected.”

 

        But university policy says faculty on unpaid leaves, like Porter, can stay.

 

        Chances are that unless Garvey soon makes a charge and slugs his way into a Top Two slot in the November election, this will not become a big issue between Schiff and Porter, despite the awkward positions of both.

 

        Why? People who live in glass houses usually are wise enough to avoid throwing stones.

 

        -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

 

Monday, November 13, 2023

WHAT BLACKMAIL WON FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2023 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “WHAT BLACKMAIL WON FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES”

 

        Until a consumer advocacy group used the Public Records Act to unearth previously secret records, it was uncertain just what the insurance industry won when it blackmailed millions of Californians last summer and fall.

 

        Now it’s clear the companies won immense new freedoms from longstanding regulations that have saved California insurance customers billions of dollars since 1988, when voters passed Proposition 103 – and despite this, some firms are still not back in the market here.

 

        Here’s how the blackmail worked: Companies like State Farm, Allstate and Farmers stopped selling new property policies anywhere in California, claiming intolerable losses from wildfires. They neither specified how much they lost nor mentioned the $13 billion they clawed from electric companies to compensate for most of their wildfire payouts of the last six years.

 

        But they loudly insisted they would never again sell homeowners coverage or other property insurance here without relief. The tactic met the dictionary definition of extortion, one form of blackmail: “The act of getting something from someone through violence, threats, or other forms of coercion.”

 

        There was no violence here, but plenty of threats and coercion.

 

        To its credit, the state Legislature rejected a bill that would have knuckled under to the insurance companies.

 

        But elected Democratic Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara quickly reacted by doing just that in the form of new, eased regulations. He gave the industry what it wanted, but did not immediately reveal all the details.

 

        Now the Consumer Watchdog group, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, main sponsor of Proposition 103, has uncovered what Lara gave away under the guise of compromise.

 

        Supposedly, the companies committed to sell homeowner policies in wildfire areas up to 85 percent of their market share in non-threatened places. They could, Lara said, meet that commitment by selling bare bones policies akin to those offered by the hyper-expensive, last-resort Fair Plan.

 

        But there was a lot Lara did not say. For one thing, if his new regulations withstand legal challenges, he and future commissioners could waive the 85 percent market share commitment in wildfire areas when insurers claim they can’t do it.

 

        This information was found in emails and proposed legislative language given to lawmakers and lobbyists by a deputy insurance commissioner.

 

        It contains no solid standard of proof for potential insurance company claims that “it is not possible” to meet their commitments.

 

        Plus, insurers can reach their 85 percent level by pulling customers out of the Fair Plan and giving them the same low-coverage, high-cost policies as the Fair Plan, but possibly at even higher prices.

 

        The proposed new regulations did not say how the new industry commitments would be enforced or monitored. So Lara and future commissioners would be accepting the companies’ word for any claims they make. There is no stated penalty for failure to meet commitments.

 

        The new rules also mimic what the Legislature rejected by allowing insurance companies to set future rates via private predictions of future catastrophes, without disclosing how predictions are reached.

 

        Lara also apparently gave away some key consumer protections in Proposition 103, even though that may be illegal. One example: his plan authorizes insurance companies to pass through to customers the unregulated cost of “reinsurance,” policies the companies buy to protect against large losses. These would be limited to “California-only risks,” even though no one has proven risks are higher here than in other fire-prone states like Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Texas and Arizona.

 

        There also would be no requirement to disclosure communications between insurance companies and state regulators. Plus, there are new limits on public participation in reviews of proposed new rates.

 

        It all amounts to a massive giveaway, unprecedented except in the prior insurance industry blackmail of the 1990s that ended the companies’ obligation to sell earthquake insurance in California.

 

        All this angers Democratic U.S. Rep. John Garamendi of Fairfield, who was the first elected insurance commissioner. Lara’s plan, he said, threatens “protection of consumers against unchecked corporate interests.”

 

        No one knows how much of this will pass legal muster, but one thing is certain: While Lara denies surrendering, his almost total cave to the companies will cost every property owner in California big bucks on future insurance bills.

 

   -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 

A THIRD PARTY COULD THREATEN BOTH GOP, DEMS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY,
NOVEMBER 28, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “A THIRD PARTY COULD THREATEN BOTH GOP, DEMS”

 

        When news broke the other day about a major poll concluding that the great majority of Californians would like to see a moderate third party on the ballot next fall, most responses were shrugs and yawns.

 

        But if anyone could get a mainstream third party onto the ballot – unlike options like the extremist American Independents and Peace and Freedom Party – Democrats and Republicans might not be so cavalier about a potential new competitor. In fact, the specter of H. Ross Perot and his short-lived Reform Party still hangs over California political reality even as the likes of anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and retiring West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin make presidential candidate noises.

 

        Until Perot spent millions of his own dollars in 1992 to enter the lists against both Republican President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, California had been a pretty solid Republican state in presidential elections. Before 1992, the last Democratic presidential hopeful to carry California was Lyndon Johnson in 1964, after a campaign colored by charges that Republican rival Barry Goldwater was too much of an extremist. (Among today’s Republicans he might seem moderate; Goldwater copped to having some Democratic friends.)

 

        Before that, Harry Truman in 1948 was the last Democrat to win California. But since oilman Perot’s mostly self-funded third-party bid altered reality, no Republican candidate for president has won in California.

 

        It’s hard to know for certain whether Perot helped convert California from a red presidential state to blue. But academic studies consistently find that once voters go for a party they have not habitually supported, they often continue wandering off previous reservations. The folksy Perot attracted far more previous GOP voters than Democrats. Things were never the same again in California politics.

 

Other factors – like the fear of discrimination that the 1994 Proposition 187 struck in Latino hearts and minds and the resulting surge in Hispanic voting – played big roles, too, but it’s tough to argue against Perot’s major effect.

 

        So now comes news that California is ripe for a serious third party, a moderate alternative to both President Biden and ex-President Donald Trump, the Republicans’ current overwhelming front-runner. No one knows if a new party would pull voters away from Biden in a kind of payback for what Perot did to Bush 21 years ago. But if a new party’s nominee were a converted moderate Republican, it could wind up damaging Trump just like Perot’s party did to Bush, draining off voters who likely otherwise would go Republican.

 

        It’s possible both Kennedy and Manchin could mount significant independent runs. Some polling shows Kennedy might hurt Trump more than Biden, while Manchin would likely harm Biden more. But neither has Perot's money or by himself amounts to a political party and both face the huge task of getting on the ballot in all 50 states.

 

        Time is growing short for a real third party to rise up next year. Former Republican Congressman Tom Campbell tried in 2020 to get such a party (called the Common Sense Party) on the ballot, but failed.

 

Yet, there are all those Californians telling pollsters at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California they have trouble abiding either major party.

 

        Which might mean that if Campbell and his supporters tried again, they could get a new party qualified. But that won’t happen in time for next year’s election.

 

        If third party backers get cracking today, they might manage to win ballot status here and in many states by 2026 and run a presidential candidate in 2028. For now, though, any new party would be faceless unless it adopted Kennedy or Manchin, an unlikely prospect.

 

        But notice has been served: If Democrats keep trying to defy the voters’ will, as they did with no-cash bail and might with higher pay for fast food workers, they now know it will cause voters to react against them. And Republicans know that many voters are dissatisfied with GOP stances against popular California ideas like gun control and abortion on demand. This means unless the parties change – which they so far refuse to do – there’s plenty of appetite for a replacement party.

 

        It all makes the third party possibility well worth watching.

                       

       

-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


Monday, November 6, 2023

SCHOOL DISTRICTS THE NEWEST FRONT IN STATE VS. LOCAL TUG-OF-WAR

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

 

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
      “SCHOOL DISTRICTS THE NEWEST FRONT IN STATE VS. LOCAL TUG-OF-WAR”

 

 

        For the last several years, the dominant sentiment among Gov. Gavin Newsom, other top state officials and leading state legislators has held that one size fits all of California, when it comes to housing.

 

 

        The conviction that the state can and should dictate virtually all policy on land use and development – an area that was previously the purview of local government as long as California has been a state – lurks behind all the major new housing laws California has adopted over the last three years.

 

 

        These measures make denials of building permits almost impossible in most places even when proposed projects far exceed local plans approved by city councils, county boards and voters. So the character of many cities is changing rapidly, but vacancy signs proliferate more than ever as most persons who badly need housing can’t afford even supposedly affordable rents or purchase prices in the dense new developments.

 

 

        Now the same “we know what’s best for everyone” notion has spread to schools, where some social issues spur responses even more emotional than neighborhood-changing high-rise buildings.

 

 

        It’s too early in the school disputes for a statewide rebellion to develop, but if disagreements on how to approach gender-identity issues remain as wide as they are now, expect a ballot initiative to appear, just as an initiative to override most of the new housing laws is now seeking signatures statewide.

 

 

        The state’s conflict with some school districts began in mid-summer when the Chino Valley Unified district in western San Bernardino County adopted a “parents’ rights” policy on children’s gender identity. A court order at least temporarily delayed its effective date.

 

 

That policy would require written notice to parents within three days if a child identifies as trans-gender, becomes violent or mentions possible suicide. Under these rules, identifying as trans-gender can be as innocuous as children seeking to change the pronouns by which they refer to themselves or using bathrooms and changing rooms not matching their apparent birth gender.

 

 

        Similar rules have since been adopted by the Murietta Valley Unified district in southern Riverside County and a few others that also sought to reject a state-mandated social studies curriculum discussing the assassinated gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk,

 

 

        The legal holdup stems from direct intervention via a lawsuit by state Attorney General Rob Bonta.

 

 

        Meanwhile, Newsom said he is working with legislators to develop language for a new law to negate or mitigate policies like those adopted for Chino and Murietta schools.

 

 

        The fear of LGBTQ+ leaders and their allies like Newsom is that some children exhibiting transgender tendencies would become victims of extreme parental violence if they were “outed.”

 

 

         Opponents of the recent school district rule changes believe children only hide their trans-gender tendencies and wishes from parents if they fear such violence. They believe schools should protect children’s interests over parental authority. Meanwhile, lower court judges have differed on whether the state or local districts have ultimate authority on these issues.

 

 

        This is not a unique California situation. Florida, for example, has adopted a statewide policy almost identical to the Chino/Murietta models.

 

 

        It’s no surprise that the moves by California districts come largely in Republican areas where the GOP has stressed electing local officials like school board members, since the party has been unable to dent Democratic super-majorities in the Legislature.

 

 

        Open hostility to Democratic state officials was exemplified in July when state Schools Supt. Tony Thurmond, nominally a non-partisan official, was escorted out of a Chino district board meeting after speaking against the gender-baring rule.

 

 

        So far, Bonta has not filed more lawsuits or tried to block state funding for districts involved, as he has with several cities resisting the statewide housing laws.

 

 

        But it’s plain that the effort to create new laws prohibiting policies like those adopted for Chino and Murietta schools is a function of the same one-size-fits-all notion that dominates state housing policy.

 

 

        The issues in schools are, however, more complex and emotional than even housing, itself a hot-button issue. Right now, it’s uncertain who will eventually prevail or what will be the next conflict between state and local authority.

 

 
-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

OUTSPOKEN ANTI-SEMITISM DICTATES NEW ETHNIC STUDIES AUTHORS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS

FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

“OUTSPOKEN ANTI-SEMITISM DICTATES NEW ETHNIC STUDIES AUTHORS”

 

Rhetoric that has very recently led directly to both bigotry and violence. That describes some of what’s in two very recent writings from the University of California faculty group creating the curriculum for an ethnic studies course intended to become an admission requirement for all of UC’s undergraduate campuses.

 

This should be sufficient reason for the Legislature to hold off indefinitely on funding the high school ethnic studies graduation requirement pending under a 2021 law known as AB101. A new rewrite is clearly needed, with new authors.

 

The rhetoric in question matches much of what’s been shouted loudly in the weeks since Hamas terrorists burst into southern Israel, slaughtering, burning, raping or beheading almost 1,150 Jews in their homes and another 260 from many nations at a music festival nearby on Oct. 7.

 

       “Israel is responsible for all that’s happened,” read classically blame-the-victims signs at rallies that followed in California. These quickly morphed into “Kill the Jews,” scrawled on a UCLA building and “Jews are trash” placards on other campuses.

 

The idea that such talk won’t lead to action after it’s proclaimed alongside Palestinian slogans like “From the river to the sea,” turns out to be very na├»ve.

 

Academic actions quickly followed campus rallies and their virulent sloganeering this fall, like a Stanford University instructor separating Jewish students in a history class and labeling them “colonialists.”  Or a UC Berkeley instructor giving extra credit and grading boosts to students who attended pro-Palestinian rallies, where the Hamas butchery was excused as “part of a larger context.”

 

There was also the man taped shouting “Free Palestine” and “Kill Jews” as he attempted a violent home invasion in the Studio City district of Los Angeles.

 

Meanwhile, no protest signs mentioned one large part of the “context” claimed by demonstrators:  the Hamas charter, which calls quite simply for “killing all the Jews.” Everywhere.

 

The mass murders and hostage taking demonstrate this is not mere talk.

 

So far, most people exposed to the anti-Semitic hate rhetoric have been TV viewers free to change channels. If the same exhortations were repeated to every public school student in California, today’s steadily increasing anti-Semitic violence and vandalism would likely increase exponentially.

 

Meanwhile, the academics now designing the high school ethnic studies course twice recently made it very clear to leaders of UC they intend to present those or similar concepts to elementary and high school kids.

 

One letter, signed by 300 faculty members under the letterhead of the UC Ethnic Studies Faculty Council (ESFC), called it “deeply distressing,” that the university officially deplored Hamas’ massacre.

 

That letter was later decried by UC Regent Jay Sures, for its “falsehoods, inaccuracies and anti-Semitic innuendos.”

 

But the ESFC’s intentions had already been outlined elsewhere. Its tentative proposal for the UC ethnic studies admissions requirement, coming from many of the same folks who signed the pro-Hamas protest letter, states that anti-Zionism and eliminating the world’s only Jewish homeland are key tenets of their discipline, often known as “Critical Ethnic Studies.”

 

Countered another letter signed by officers of 115 non-UC groups in California: “UC faculty who cannot acknowledge that the Hamas massacre is terrorism and a crime against humanity and who state that anti-Zionism and the elimination of the Jewish state is a core value of their discipline must not be trusted to establish statewide ethnic studies standards.”

 

The Critical Ethnic Studies camp consistently denies it is anti-Semitic, saying it is merely anti-Zionist. But its recent words, like the actions of some instructors, make it clear that for them, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same. History says anti-Semitism has led to myriad Jewish deaths.

 

For many months, Jewish parents and others around California objected on these grounds when school districts hired members of the ESFC and other self-described anti-Zionists to write local ethnic studies curricula.

 

When AB101 passed, lawmakers said the putative course of study had “guardrails” against bigotry, including anti-Semitism. Plainly, there are paths around those guardrails.

 

This does not suggest academics and students should lose the freedom to shout whatever they wish. That’s not the same as incorporating their slogans and rants into classroom lessons.

 

Meanwhile, professors who signed the ESFC’s newest letter to administrators must by now realize they have exposed their own bigotry. By itself, that should spur a new rewrite and new authors for the ethnic studies plan.

         

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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net