California ballot has record number of local revenue measures

As reported by Reuters:

A record number of local tax and bond measures will fill the California ballot this November, including over $32 billion of proposed funding for education, infrastructure and homeless services.

Some 650 local measures will go before voters, including 427 revenue measures. That is considerably more than the number proposed during any of the last five gubernatorial or presidential elections, according to data compiled by the local government finance consulting firm

Previously, the most measure-packed election was in November 2014, with 268 local revenue measures.

California is one of 24 states that allow initiative rights to its citizens. Voter-approved measures are used to raise revenues for specific construction projects, change tax policy, or create new laws.

In the Golden State and nationwide, a boom in bond proposals follows years of federal cutbacks to state and local programs, continued low interest rates and years of unmet infrastructure needs. …

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Warriors’ Move To San Fran Faces Well-Funded Opposition

warriors.arenaThe record-setting Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA champions, have become one of the most beloved sports teams in recent California history. San Francisco politicians have embraced the team’s planned move from Oakland to San Francisco’s Mission Bay area, especially because the team’s wealthy owners are willing to pay for 97 percent of the $1 billion cost of a new 18,000-seat arena (illustration at right). On Tuesday, the city-county’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project’s environmental impact report, and the team hopes to have the area built in time for the 2018-19 NBA season.

So everything is looking positive for the Warriors coming back to San Francisco? Not exactly. Critics have assembled a multimillion-dollar legal fund to fight the project at every turn, and a classic NIMBY battle between well-funded interests looms.

The main opponent “came out of nowhere” in April. The San Francisco Business Times had details:

A group of University of California, San Francisco, donors is threatening to sue or push a ballot measure against the Warriors’ potential Mission Bay arena over parking and traffic concerns. …

The group, a nonprofit called the Mission Bay Alliance, worries that arena traffic will bottle up to ensnarl ambulances headed to nearby UCSF Medical Center and threaten the neighborhood’s ability to grow as a biotechnology hub. Its proximity to AT&T Park and possible overlapping game days will exacerbate that, the group says.

Sam Singer, who is representing the alliance’s public relations efforts, [said], “The alliance wants to see the (arena) and office towers halted completely. If that doesn’t happen through the EIR and public participation process, the alliance will consider a lawsuit and going to the ballot to stop the stadium.”

Poll suggests public not sold on arena

On the eve of the supervisors’ vote, the Mission Bay Alliance released a poll of 540 voters that showed much less support than the Warriors have asserted. This is from a statement on the alliance’s website:

Based on what they know today about the proposed arena plan in Mission Bay, fewer than half of voters say they support it:

Support – 49 percent

Oppose – 42 percent

Don’t know – 10 percent  …

Once voters became aware of the facts surrounding the proposed arena and the expected regional impacts, including traffic gridlock, the lack of parking and clogged emergency access for adjacent UCSF hospitals, support for the arena plummeted even more:

Support – 38 percent

Oppose – 59 percent

Don’t know – 3 percent

Parking and traffic ranked as the two most problematic impacts, with 65 percent of voters concerned about traffic gridlock and 67 percent about a lack of parking in and around the arena. … [The project] does little to alleviate the burden the arena will put on regional transit like BART and CalTrain.

Being a popular champion helps sway debate

But the Warriors and the city leaders who back them up on the planned move could benefit tremendously from timing. San Diego voters agreed to help pay for PETCO Park for the Padres in the city’s downtown area in November 1998 — a month after the team won a rare National League title and advanced to the World Series.

The contrast is sharp with present-day San Diego and seemingly broad opposition to having local governments help the Chargers pay for a new NFL stadium. Other factors certainly come into play. San Diego’s reputation as “Enron by the Bay” has faded, but the city’s years of financial struggles have left scars. The city is debating a huge infrastructure program, prompting questions about why $200 million that might go to fix pocked roads and add fire stations would instead help a billionaire build a stadium. But it hasn’t helped the let’s-hold-our-noses-and-accept subsidies crowd that the Chargers have been hugely disappointing since their 14-2 season in 2007, rarely living up to expectations.

The Warriors, by contrast, sharply exceeded expectations in 2014-15, when they won their first NBA championship in 40 years. This season, meanwhile, they got off to the fastest start of any team in NBA history. That could be an ace in the hole for team owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.

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Restoring California Competitiveness

California was a place originally known for its opportunities, beauty, wilderness, open roads, Gold Rush mentality, freedom, and innovation. Eureka, the state’s motto, means “I have found it!”  But this place of dreams is now the land of wishful thinking: a consummate nanny-state of over-regulation, command and control.  From the profoundly and absurdly huge ideas (saving the planet from climate change while China and India march to a different tune) to the silly (mandating fitted sheets in hotel rooms).  And we’re so over-regulated, that I guarantee, right now, you are breaking some California law this very minute.  (Did you install your CO2 monitor required in every home July 1? No? $200 fine is on its way.)

Where unemployment at over 12% is one of the highest in the nation–two million people out of work–the state’s bond ratings flirt with junk status, and private investors are wary of a constantly changing and uncertain regulatory environment.  Where governors from other states proactively seek and invite the relocation of our best businesses.  And what’s to stop business from leaving? California has ranked 49th or 50th on numerous national lists as the worse place to do business for the last several years.  According to Dun & Bradstreet, 2,565 businesses with three or more employees have relocated to other states since January 2007 and 109,000 jobs left with those employers.

How can we restore California’s competitiveness?

With less.

Less government, less regulation, less mandate, less taxes.  We need to “let my people go!” as Moses would say.

One of the most difficult challenges posed by legislators to the weary regulated community is to name which offending regulations to change.  There are so many—each individually and independently approved with such good intentions—but piled one on top of the other, have produced a morass of laws and prohibitions that stifle investment, strike fear into the hearts of small business start-ups, and ultimately kill jobs before they’re even offered.

How many folks lost the opportunity for employment because—instead of hiring–thousands of hotels must now buy replacement fitted sheets for flat sheets?  Yes, that’s the law now proposed.

Let my people go.  Let my people work.  Simply, until businesses can predict with relative certainty what regulations they will be subjected to, (and litigated) and what their tax burden will be, at all government levels, they will not invest or grow or hire.  If business isn’t investing, growing or hiring, the state isn’t receiving tax revenues.  If business isn’t investing, growing or hiring, public employee pensions like CalPERS aren’t earning fair returns on their portfolio, entirely invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate:  in BUSINESS!  The more elected leaders forget these time-honored facts, propose more taxes to fund government, or favor the flavor of the day in eco-thought without regard to economic benefit, the more this state will sink into a black hole of red ink.

To return California to economic competitiveness, every regulator at every level must do one thing now:  any proposed regulation must be subjected to an independent economic impact analysis.  What laws will it affect?  What jobs will it create/destroy/impact?  What other departments or agencies have competing or conflicting regulations?  What is the true cost/benefit analysis?  How does this relate to competing/complicit federal regulations?  You get the picture.

The independent economic impact analysis must be paid for by the agency or lawmaker proposing the law.  Don’t have funding to do this?  Don’t propose the regulation.  The economic impact analysis must be done by an outside, independent company—not by the lawmaker or agency in-house.  This analysis must be on the same level of sophistication as a CEQA environmental impact report for a proposed real estate development project, including formal public review, peer review and comment processes.

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the metropolitan planning organization for two-thirds of the state’s population—recognized this year that planning for future growth meant nothing without a strong economy.  Earlier this year, under the work of seven economists, developed its first ever Southern California Economic Recovery and Job Creation Strategy ( concentrating specific recommendations to expand the region’s economic base and increase the flow of funds driving the regional economy.  Fundamental to the strategy is the maxim that “stronger economic growth will help every community.”

To their members’ credit, SCAG approved this strategy unanimously.  190 cities and counties–with the strong support of the business community–threw down the gauntlet with job-creating action strategies that include:

(1) Oppose new legislation that negatively impacts jobs in the private sector;


(2) Support legislation that allows agencies…the flexibility to finance early delivery of project and at the same time create jobs;


(3) Eliminate or reduce regulations that inhibit expedited project delivery; and


(4) Require new state regulations be accompanied by an independent economic impact analysis…Any legislation considered to significantly impact jobs would be opposed;


This is outstanding work that recognizes California’s return to competitiveness begins with jobs that result from less government.  The State has both the need and wherewithal to develop a comparable strategy to create jobs, stimulate the economy, reduce regulations, and ultimately increase California’s competitiveness. Let my people go.


(Lucy Dunn is President and CEO, Orange County Business Council)