Gov. Gavin Newsom: How to Destroy California in Less than 10 Years

The one thing Newsom is good at is destroying the Golden State

Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

If I was a “progressive” governor and wanted to destabilize and destroy my state, there are certain policies I would impose, and orders I’d make, while insulating myself from my own policies:

Create a housing shortage.

Cut water off to rural areas in the state; remove dams and hydroelectric plants.

Limit water deliveries to farmers and ranchers.

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

Raise the minimum wage so high, restaurant owners are forced to lay off employees.

Pass policies killing manufacturing.

Pass policies bolstering a service economy.

Limit energy production to renewable energy only.

Limit gas and oil production creating a shortage, forcing people out of their cars and on to public transportation.

Order all internal combustion cars banned by 2035.

Mandate an all-electric state, including autos and trucks.

Install thousands of floating offshore wind turbines at a cost of $150 billion.

Legalize drugs.

Legalize sex with minors.

Legalize abortion up to baby’s birth.

Destroy the public education system by watering down actual disciplines of math and English, while sending your own children to private schools.

Promote affirmative action, racial preferences over merit.

Create fake crises – climate change, reparations.

Infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms by passing laws which nibble around the edges of the 2nd Amendment, creating defacto gun control.

Stop prosecuting crime.

Decriminalize certain crimes, resulting in emptying out state prisons.

Raise corporate taxes to discourage businesses from expanding.

Raise taxes and fees on public services and energy.

Raise income taxes on all income brackets.

Make it easier for local governments to raise taxes.

Impose a wealth tax.

Impose a death tax.

Force doctors to comply with state medical directives; punish those who refuse to comply.

Allow hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants into the state.

Provide free health care and welfare payments to illegal immigrants.

Allow illegal immigrants to vote in local elections.

Expand the size of government by hiring hundreds of thousands of state workers.

Create more labor unions jobs by expanding state government.

Encourage public schools to convince kids they are another gender; provide secret counseling to those kids; shelter kids from parents.

Limit media access in Capitol; reward compliant media.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Former L.A. Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan found guilty in sprawling City Hall corruption case

A jury delivered a swift and decisive judgment in a federal corruption case targeting former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, finding Wednesday that Chan secured bribes for himself and for former Councilmember Jose Huizar as part of a sprawling pay-to-play scheme.

Within a few hours, the jury found Chan guilty on 12 of 12 counts — racketeering conspiracy, bribery, honest services fraud and giving false statements to investigators — in a case focused on financial benefits provided by real estate developers with projects in Huizar’s district.

U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said Chan, 67, used his leadership role at City Hall to “favor corrupt individuals and companies willing to play dirty” to win approval of downtown high-rises. Residents of Los Angeles, Estrada said, deserved “much better.”

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

“With today’s verdict, we send a strong message that the public will not stand for corruption and that pay-to-play politics has no place in our community,” he said in a statement.

Chan worked for the city for more than three decades, much of it at the Department of Building and Safety, where he ascended to the top job. In 2016, he was hired by then-Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as deputy mayor over economic development, supervising the Planning Department, Building and Safety, and other city agencies. He held that job for slightly more than a year.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 10.

Chan’s attorney, John Hanusz, said his client will be filing an appeal. Throughout the trial, he argued that Chan was not part of the criminal enterprise led by Huizar, who was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison on racketeering and tax evasion charges.

Huizar admitted last year that he received a wide array of bribes and other benefits from downtown developers, including gambling chips at casinos, flights on private jets, campaign contributions, luxury hotel stays, concert tickets and services from prostitutes.

“This case was, and always has been, about Jose Huizar,” Hanusz said.

During the two-week trial, prosecutors portrayed Chan as a crucial intermediary between Huizar, who wielded huge power over downtown development projects, and Chinese real estate developers.

In one particular scheme, prosecutors said, Chan helped Huizar secretly settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former aide. Billionaire Wei Huang, owner of the Chinese development company Shen Zhen New World I, provided Huizar with $600,000 in collateral that allowed Huizar to secure a bank loan and pay off the aide, they said.

Shen Zhen, owner of the L.A. Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, later proposed a 77-story skyscraper that drew support from Huizar. The settlement money arrived at a crucial moment for the Eastside council member, who was running for reelection and facing a potentially formidable challenge from veteran former L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

That settlement payment, FBI Special Agent Andrew Civetti testified earlier this week, “was at the heart of this investigation.”

At that time, Huizar feared the sexual harassment case would end his career, prosecution witnesses said. The source of the settlement money, kept secret during Huizar’s 2015 victorious reelection campaign, did not become public until five years later, after the first set of charges were filed in the Huizar investigation.

Wednesday’s guilty verdict also encompassed Chan’s dealings with another Chinese developer who sought to redevelop the Luxe Hotel, across from the L.A. Live entertainment complex. Prosecutors said Chan, while working for the city, helped set up a company that took the developer, Shenzhen Hazens, on as a client.

While working as deputy mayor, prosecutors said, Chan worked to line up support for the Luxe project. Former Planning Commission President David Ambroz testified last week that Chan pressured him to support the Luxe project during a one-on-one meeting away from City Hall — and sounded more like a “hired gun” for the project than a deputy mayor.

After leaving city employment, Chan received payment from the developer for his work moving the project through the city approval process, prosecutors said.

“He set himself up for a big payday … once he left the city,” said Asst. U.S. Atty. Cassie Palmer during closing arguments Tuesday.

The jury also found Chan guilty of helping secure a bribe from Shenzhen Hazens — a commitment of a $100,000 campaign contribution to support a bid for City Council by Huizar’s wife, Richelle Huizar. She later dropped out of the race.

Prosecutors said the push to elect Huizar’s wife was designed to help participants in the criminal enterprise, including Chan and Huizar, retain their power over downtown development.

Lawyers for Chan repeatedly sought to undermine the government’s case, saying that key prosecution witnesses had lied to FBI agents during the investigation and should not be deemed credible. Those witnesses later pleaded guilty and are hoping for leniency at their sentencings, the defense team said.

Yet another prosecution witness, businessman Andy Wang, has never been arrested or charged, even though he provided cash in envelopes to former Councilmember Mitchell Englander inside casino bathrooms, the defense team said.

Englander was sentenced in 2021 to 14 months in prison for lying to federal authorities about his dealings with Wang, who provided him $15,000 in secret payments, as well as an expensive night in Las Vegas.

Chan, while working closely with developers, was motivated not by greed but by a desire to make L.A. more business-friendly, Hanusz said. While Huizar and his associates accepted flights to Las Vegas, gambling chips, lavish hotel accommodations and escort services, Chan received none of those things, he said.

“There was no quid pro quo in this case with Ray Chan,” Hanusz told the jury. “With Jose Huizar, there absolutely was.”

Chan is the last defendant charged in the City Hall pay-to-play investigation — dubbed “Casino Loyale” by the federal government due to Huizar’s frequent Las Vegas trips — to go on trial.

George Esparza, Huizar’s onetime aide, pleaded guilty in 2020 to racketeering conspiracy but has not yet been sentenced. He testified against Chan, as did real estate consultant George Chiang, who worked with Chan and also pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.

Shen Zhen New World I, the company that proposed the 77-story tower, was convicted in 2022 of providing Huizar a vast array of bribes. A judge later fined the company $4 million. Its owner, Wei Huang, fled the country and is now a fugitive, according to the Department of Justice.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Tiny, endangered fish hinders California’s Colorado River conservation plan

Southern California’s Imperial Irrigation District, which supplies water to farmers who grow most of the nation’s winter vegetables, planned to start a conservation program in April to scale back what it draws from the critical Colorado River.

But a tiny, tough fish got in the way.

Now, those plans won’t start until at least June so water and wildlife officials can devise a way to ensure the endangered desert pupfish and other species are protected, said Jamie Asbury, the irrigation district’s general manager. The proposal to pay farmers to temporarily stop watering feed crops such as alfalfa this summer has environmentalists concerned that irrigation drains could dry up, threatening the fish that measures the length of an ATM card.

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

“Drains are created for farmers to be able to convey irrigation runoff, and the pupfish decided it was a good place to live,” Asbury said.

Protecting the desert pupfish, listed as endangered since 1986, has been one of many vexing problems facing the Colorado River and the people and species that rely on it.

The 1,450-mile (2,334-kilometer) river provides water to 40 million people in seven U.S. states, parts of Mexico and more than two dozen Native American tribes. It’s long been over-tapped, a problem aggravated by recent years of prolonged drought. The Western states are negotiating a new long-term use plan meant to stabilize the river.

Last year, Arizona, Nevada and California offered to cut back on their use of Colorado River water in exchange for money from the federal government to avoid forced cuts. California, which gets the most water of all the states based on a century-old water rights priority system, agreed to give up 1.6 million acre-feet of water through 2026, with more than half coming from the Imperial Irrigation District. An acre-foot serves about two to three U.S. households per year.

The Imperial district envisioned a summer idling program in which farmers could turn off water for 60 days for feed crops since yields already are down at that time of year and growing requires much more water. But environmental officials worried that limiting the flow of water through irrigation drains could harm the desert pupfish. They also raised concerns about the impact on migratory birds that frequent the Salton Sea, Asbury said.

Now the district, the biggest user of Colorado River water with more than 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) of canals and drains, is in talks with state and federal officials on how it can proceed while setting up a monitoring program to ensure the fish isn’t further threatened, Asbury said.

The curious fish — the males turn blue during breeding season while females are tan or olive — was once plentiful. But with the introduction of invasive species in the Colorado River, its numbers dwindled, according to California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The fish feeds on invertebrates and snails and can handle an extreme range of water temperatures and both fresh and saltwater.

Today, it lives in a few areas in California, Arizona and Mexico, including the Imperial Irrigation District’s drains, which funnel water runoff from farms in California’s Imperial Valley into the saline Salton Sea, a drying lake with no outlet that’s a stopover point for migratory birds.

Often, the district’s drains have more fresh water than the Salton Sea, so the fish seek out those spaces, said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. The fish has proven remarkably resilient and can survive in water with low oxygen levels, high salinity and temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius).

“A lot of them do live in these really bizarre drains, these agricultural drains,” she said. “These fish are incredibly tough — they basically just try to find a space where they can carry on their lives.”

The desert pupfish is a key part of the ecosystem in the Salton Sea, feeding on biting flies and serving as a food source for birds, said James Danoff-Burg, vice president of conservation at the Palm Desert-based Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which works on desert conservation. In the summer, creeks that flow into the Salton Sea can dry out so much the fish risk getting stranded, so they are moved to special ponds as an insurance population, he said.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife declined to discuss the water conservation plan. The department said in an emailed statement that officials support water use reductions on the Colorado River and will work with other agencies to “find solutions that proactively minimize and mitigate any potential impacts to the great work underway.”

The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates major dams in the Colorado River system, did not immediately comment.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Walters: Newsom, legislators opt for gimmicks and wishful thinking to close California’s budget deficit

Gov. Gavin Newsom and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature spent their way into a massive state budget deficit by assuming that a one-time surge in revenues would become a permanent cornucopia of money to expand medical and social services.

As revenues flattened, particularly all-important personal income taxes, the gap between income and outgo could no longer be ignored. In January, Newsom pegged the deficit at $38 billion as he proposed a 2024-25 budget.

The Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabe Petek, calculated that the real deficit over the remainder of the current fiscal year and through 2024-25 is many billions of dollars higherperhaps as much as $70 billion, and warned legislators that the state faces annual deficits in the $30 billion range for the remaining three years of Newsom’s governorship.

“The state faces significant operating deficits in the coming years, which are the result of lower revenue estimates, as well as increased cost pressures,” Petek said in his analysis of Newsom’s budget. “These deficits are somewhat compounded by the governor’s budget proposals to delay spending to future years and add billions in new discretionary proposals. State revenues in the out-years would need to exceed the administration’s forecast by roughly $50 billion per year in order to sustain the spending proposed by the governor’s budget.”

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

So far, Newsom and legislative leaders are ignoring Petek’s advice and are using wishful thinking, accounting gimmicks and borrowed money to fashion a budget they will portray as balanced, but would, as Petek says, make the state’s fiscal predicament even worse in future years.

The duplicity begins with assuming that the deficit is billions of dollars smaller than Petek’s estimate. It continues with an agreement to enact “budget solutions worth $12 to $18 billion to address the shortfall” this spring.

Those “solutions” are laid out in Newsom’s budget and a “Shrink the Shortfall” proposal from state Senate leaders. They consist largely of temporarily suspending some of the appropriations in the 2023-24 budget that was adopted last June, shifting some spending from the general fund into special funds, borrowing from various pots of money and tapping into reserves.

Newsom termed it “a balanced approach that will take a significant chunk out of the projected shortfall.”

They are the sort of things that California’s politicians have embraced during previous budget crises to avoid either concrete reductions of spending or new taxes, akin to financially stressed families running up their credit cards, stiffing some creditors and tapping relatives for loans.

Were California experiencing only as temporary gap due to recession, a case could be made for a jerry-rigged budget to minimize impacts on those who depend on money flowing from Sacramento. However, the state faces what budget mavens call a “structural deficit,” meaning there is a fundamental imbalance disconnected from the state’s overall economy.

The deficit is born of Newsom’s 2022 declaration that the state was enjoying a $97.5 billion surplus, thanks largely to a $54.8 billion projected uptick in revenues. “No other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this,” Newsom bragged.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Ready to hit the road for spring break? Gas prices in L.A. County are now topping $5 a gallon

If you’re hitting the road for a spring break trip, be prepared to pay more at the pump.

As of Sunday, the California national average for a gallon of regular gas is $4.986, up about eight cents from last week and an increase of nearly 35 cents compared with the average a month ago, according to the American Automobile Assn.

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

Drivers in Los Angeles County are facing even higher prices with an average of $5.035. Across Southern California, Ventura County’s average is slightly higher at $5.051, with San Bernardino County drivers and Orange County drivers seeing average prices of slightly less than $5 a gallon.

What’s contributing to these higher prices? Crude oil prices typically rise at this time of year and have reached prices of more than $80 per barrel, which filters down to the retail level where drivers buy their gas, said Doug Shupe, Auto Club spokesman. There’s also increased demand from drivers, who are increasingly getting out of town to enjoy spring break.

“When you have so many people filling up … you’re going to have upward pressure on the pump prices, and that’s what we’re seeing now at the pumps,” he said.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Democrats Try to Preserve Disastrous Proposition 47

California Democrats are trying to preserve Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that eased penalties for theft and which is blamed today by many critics for a crime wave targeting retail stores in the state’s major cities.

Proposition 47 was sold to the public as “criminal justice reform,” but it did little to improve the state’s programs to rehabilitate criminals. Instead, it just changed some felonies to misdemeanors, including thefts under $950.

That, many Californians believe, created a strong incentive for criminal to commit petty theft, especially at retail stores, knowing that prosecutors would be unlikely to pursue charges or that any penalties would be minimal.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) introduced a set of reforms aimed at reducing property crimes, but left Proposition 47 intact. Other legislators proposed reforms to Proposition 47, or suggested it simply be repealed.

However, as the Associated Press reports, most (not all) California Democrats — at Newsom’s direction — are defending Proposition 47, and attempting to focus their legislative efforts on other policy changes:

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

Following Newsom’s directions, Democratic leaders in both chambers at the Capitol also have shut down calls to repeal the measure [Proposition 47]. Last month, the state’s new Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire, with bipartisan support, introduced a package of legislation that would target auto thefts and large-scale resell schemes and expand diversion programs such as drug courts and treatment services. Online marketplaces also would be required to crack down on users reselling stolen goods on their platforms under the proposal.

But some Democratic lawmakers said those efforts won’t be enough to make a difference. Assemblymember James Ramos, who authored bipartisan legislation to increase penalties for repeat shoplifters, said many lawmakers want to see “the pendulum swing back to the middle.” The bill would require voters’ approval.

“Prop. 47 needs to have some type of resetting,” Ramos said. “We have the opportunity now to start that dialogue.”

Click here to read the full article in Breitbart

The feds want to study giving cash to renters. Will Californians be included?

Guaranteed income has become a buzzword in California, as the state struggles to stop people from getting priced out of their homes and landing on the streets.

 Photo by Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via Reuters

The latest entity pushing to give cash directly to people in need isn’t a nonprofit or an uber-progressive politician — it’s a massive federal agency not typically known for its innovation.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is encouraging local housing authorities to experiment with giving cash directly to renters in pilot programs it wants to follow. It wants to know if this simplified method, which cuts down on red tape and puts more power in tenants’ hands, works better than its decades-old approach: a voucher system where money flows from the federal government, to the local housing authority, to the landlord’s pocket. 

If the tests succeed, they could inspire national change.

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

“This could be a significant seachange in how HUD implements subsidies,” said Jimar Wilson, vice president of the Southern California market for national housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, which is considering getting involved in the test program. 

Advocates say the pilots could help more people find housing by making landlords less likely to discriminate against renters who get federal aid. At least one California housing authority — in Silicon Valley — is very interested in participating. 

But nobody knows what these programs would look like, and, most importantly, how they would be funded. Despite advocating for guaranteed income pilot programs, HUD says it can’t use federal money, placing the idea in limbo until funding sources come forward. Santa Clara County’s housing authority has pushed back on HUD’s claim that it can’t use federal money for this purpose.

“HUD doing this and being willing to look at the role of cash aid or direct cash assistance or subsidies in this way is moving in the right direction,” said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Santa Clara County-based nonprofit Destination: Home. “What would make it incredibly perfect is if they were championing new funding for this.”

HUD published an online article in September calling for nonprofits to partner with it on cash-aid pilots, convened an in-person event in November to discuss cash aid, and has been hosting monthly virtual meetings on the topic attended by nonprofits and housing authorities around the country. 

HUD offered CalMatters an interview with one of the September article’s co-authors — then rescinded the offer two days later. Instead, a HUD spokesperson sent an emailed statement that referenced the article, November event and monthly meetings, but failed to address several of CalMatters’ questions.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has made strides to expand, streamline, and strengthen the (Housing Choice Voucher) program including continuing to explore a broad range of actions to improve and expand rental assistance for low-income households,” spokesperson Andra Higgs wrote. 

Why give people cash?

The idea of giving cash directly to people in need, known as guaranteed income, is swiftly gaining traction in California. Nonprofits, cities and counties throughout the state have launched dozens of local programs. Even Gov. Gavin Newsom recently set aside $35 million to fund a handful of programs testing the idea. Early results suggest this model has helped people become more financially stable. 

Philadelphia already is testing giving 300 renters cash instead of housing vouchers — a program HUD is keeping a close eye on

So far, cash aid programs have been limited to scattered, small-scale, temporary pilots that lack the resources to scale up. HUD jumping into the ring marks the first time a federal agency is taking a cohesive look at the model and potentially creating a path for it to influence national policy.

“That’s what’s exciting about this, the fact that the initial call has come from HUD,” said Alexa Rosenberg, who co-leads Enterprise’s economic mobility initiatives. 

HUD operates the country’s Housing Choice Voucher program (also known as Section 8), which doles out vouchers to low-income tenants who can’t afford market-rate rent. The program started in the 1970s as an alternative to place-based subsidized housing. Instead of having to rent an apartment in a building specifically designated as affordable housing, the tenant can use the voucher to pay a portion of the rent at any market-rate property. Payments under the voucher system go directly to the landlord, who first has to pass a housing inspection. Tenants pay 30% of their income toward rent, and the voucher covers the rest.  

That system, which is a cornerstone of America’s subsidized housing program, has a number of problems. People languish for years on waitlists before they get a voucher, and many never get one at all. Only about one in four households eligible for rental assistance receives it, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

For those tenants lucky enough to score a voucher, about 40% can’t use it: They either can’t find an apartment that meets HUD’s requirements or a landlord willing to accept the voucher, according to HUD data. Though California prohibits landlords from discriminating against a potential tenant based on their source of income, many still refuse to rent to voucher-holders.

“That’s what’s exciting about this, the fact that the initial call has come from HUD.”ALEXA ROSENBERG, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS, ENTERPRISE COMMUNITY PARTNERS

The direct cash program could eliminate some of those issues. The housing department  envisions allowing the tenant to inspect their own unit, rather than having to wait for an official inspection from their local housing authority. And the landlord would not have to sign a contract with the housing authority. Instead, the renter would pay the landlord directly, just like any other renter. Advocates say that could help prevent discrimination. 

Santa Clara County’s housing authority is “very interested” in participating, said deputy executive director Angie Garcia-Nguyen. Her team has been attending monthly virtual meetings hosted by HUD. 

“We thought this would be a good opportunity to learn where we have been a barrier in folks achieving housing,” she said. 

Margarita Lares, chief programs officer for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, is less convinced. She worries that without oversight, renters will spend the cash they get from this program on things other than rent — leaving their landlords in the lurch. 

Not everyone within HUD is convinced cash is necessarily the answer, either. The current voucher system is working, said Richard Monocchio, principal deputy assistant secretary of HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing. He called it “the best homelessness prevention program of all time.” While he said he has nothing against testing cash aid, he doesn’t think it will prevent discrimination, and he’s focused instead on increasing resources for the existing program. 

“I don’t want to do anything to diminish this program,” he said. “I mean, it’s the largest rental assistance program in history, and it works.” 

So, who’s paying for this?

Santa Clara County’s main hang-up when it comes to a cash-aid pilot? A lack of money. 

HUD says it doesn’t have the authority to use federal funds to pay for this experiment. Garcia-Nguyen disagrees. She says Santa Clara County, as part of HUD’s Moving to Work program — which is supposed to fund innovation — should be allowed to use federal dollars.

Without federal money, Garcia-Nguyen doesn’t see a way forward. Their average housing voucher payment is $2,200 per month. HUD envisions these pilots lasting up to four years, and experts say each one likely would need a few hundred people in order to demonstrate convincing results. 

“We’re going to need a lot of money,” Garcia-Nguyen said. 

HUD has indicated it will reconsider its position on Moving to Work funds, Garcia-Nguyen said, and now they’re waiting for the agency’s final determination. 

HUD declined to comment to CalMatters on the funding question.

“We thought this would be a good opportunity to learn where we have been a barrier in folks achieving housing.”ANGIE GARCIA-NGUYEN, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SANTA CLARA COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY

In the meantime, HUD expects nonprofits to pay for this effort. But so far, none has committed.

“We haven’t seen our members jumping at this,” said Amanda Misiko Andere, CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness, an organization made up of homelessness nonprofits.

Housing organizations generally support the concept of cash aid, but are reluctant to be the first one to throw their hat in the ring, said Jeanne Fekade-Sellassie, executive director of Funders for Housing and Opportunity. Before they commit, they want more details about what the programs will look like. 

So far, HUD’s best bet is likely Enterprise. The national housing nonprofit could act as an umbrella agency that helps coordinate the pilots — making sure they operate with similar guidelines, setting evaluation metrics and bringing together funders, said Rosenberg. 

Enterprise wants a year to plan its approach, pick locations for pilots and identify resources. Just to fund that year of planning, Enterprise will need about $850,000, Roseberg said. After that, she estimates it would cost between $4.7 million and $7.7 million to fund each pilot for between three and five years, plus an additional $2 or $3 million in infrastructure costs. She hopes they launch at least five pilots.

But Enterprise isn’t committing to anything until it has funding in hand.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Gavin Newsom calls for a ceasefire in Gaza

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday he supports President Biden’s call for a ceasefire in Gaza, citing the “ongoing and horrific loss of innocent civilian life.”

“I support President Biden’s call for an immediate ceasefire as part of a deal to secure desperately needed relief for Gazan civilians and the release of hostages,” he wrote in a letter addressed to California’s Muslim, Palestinian American, and Arab American communities. “I also unequivocally denounce Hamas’s terrorist attack against Israel. It is time to work in earnest toward an enduring peace that will furnish the lasting security, autonomy, and freedom that the Palestinians and the Israeli people both deserve.”

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

Newsom’s statement came one day before the U.S. asked the U.N. Security Council to back a ceasefire resolution, though Russia and China vetoed it. And it follows other leaders shifting to more forceful calls for Israel to change its conduct of the war. 

On March 3, Vice President Kamala Harris, the former U.S. senator from California, called for an immediate, but temporary ceasefire — the strongest statement from the Biden administration to that point. 

Following his State of the Union address on March 7, when he announced a new effort to bring in humanitarian aid by sea, President Biden called for a six-week ceasefire and a hostage-prisoner exchange. And in a call with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, the president expressed concerns about the civilian death toll and Israel’s blockade of aid delivery, according to a White House summary

And on March 14, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official, called for new elections in Israel, saying on the Senate floor that Netanyahu is an “obstacle to peace” and “has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows.” 

The governor’s statement, sent during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, comes after months of criticism by pro-ceasefire supporters that he wasn’t even-handed in his stance on the Gaza war

But in California, views have been more mixed. 

More than 60% of likely voters in California supported an immediate ceasefire in a poll released last month by the Public Policy Institute of California. But they’re more divided on whether to increase, decrease or maintain military aid to Israel and humanitarian aid to Palestinians. 

The state’s Jewish Democrats have been split over calls for a ceasefire; Newsom’s move puts him at odds with those who have opposed the idea and framed the issue as Israeli having a right to defend itself.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, who has advanced to the November election for U.S. Senate, had rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire, but said earlier this month that he would support one contingent on Hamas releasing hostages it kidnapped from Israel, adding that “the obstacle to getting that temporary ceasefire is Hamas.”

Assembly Republicans have called for a resolution condemning Hamas. And in response to Newsom’s letter, Jim Stanley, Assembly GOP leader James Gallagher’s spokesperson, accused the governor of treating Israeli hostages as “an afterthought.” 

Patrick James, former professor and director of USC’s Center for International Studies, said that the governor’s statement has little impact on the conflict itself and that it’s rare for governors to get involved in hot-button international issues. 

“They have some involvement in trade and investment policy, and yes, they even will visit other countries,” he said. “But they generally don’t talk about things like this.” 

That’s why James sees Newsom’s statement as a strategic one: “It’s about a very skilled politician, positioning himself — and I think he’s doing this brilliantly — to be the Democratic nominee if there is an emergency and Biden pulls out, or for 2028.” 

“He’s hedged his bets,” James added. “He has not come out and said, ‘I love Hamas, and from the river to the sea’ or anything that extreme. He even has said some cautiously neutral to even pro-Israeli sounding things as well.”

In the letter, Newsom acknowledged the suffering of the Muslim community — particularly those who had lost family and friends in Gaza.

“The scale of suffering in Gaza is so vast that it seems few Palestinians across the world have been spared personal loss,” he said. “And now burgeoning disease and starvation threaten to deepen the devastation, especially among children. This is unacceptable.”

Newsom added that he will “always defend your right to take part in the California tradition of peaceful protest — to publicly express your opposition to any war or government decision you oppose, including the war in Gaza.”

Officials from California chapters of the Council on American Islamic Relations and other groups have been pushing the governor for months — including at a meeting in December, where community leaders and organizers from around the state asked the governor to call for a permanent ceasefire. 

“We’re pleased to share that after many months of advocacy by various groups, including a meeting CAIR-CA convened with the Governor and Muslim leaders, this afternoon, Governor Newsom joined the resounding global call for ceasefire,” said CAIR California CEO Hussam Ayloush.

The group also praised the governor for sending medical supplies and aid to Gaza. 

But for others, the statement didn’t come soon enough. 

“I certainly welcome Gov. Newsom’s support for a ceasefire. It should be noted however, that like President Biden, Gov. Newsom is making a political as opposed to a moral, ethical, or a principled judgment,” said Yousef Baker, co-director of the Middle East Studies program at California State University, Long Beach. “Newsom and other leading Democrats need to step up and show true humanistic leadership and put pressure on the Israeli government to halt its collective murder of Palestinians.”

In a statement Friday, the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California said it appreciated that Newsom’s letter included support for its core positions on the war: the return of remaining hostages, removing Hamas from power, maximizing aid to Gazans and minimizing civilian casualties.

“We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with Governor Newsom to strengthen California-Israel ties, achieve a peaceful and secure future for both Israelis and Palestinians, counter antisemitism, and make California a safe and welcoming place for all,” the statement said.

The escalating violence and worsening humanitarian crisis followed the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the militant group Hamas, in which 1,200 were killed and at least 200 taken hostage. Later that month, Newsom added a stop in Israel on the way to a climate change tour of China. While in Israel, he met with government officials and visited the parents of a Californian being held hostage. Newsom did not go to Gaza due to security issues, and his pledge of medical and humanitarian aid for Palestinians wasn’t fulfilled until weeks after similar aid was delivered to Israel, also due to security issues.

Click to read the full article in CalMatters

California is clearing criminal records — including violent crimes — to offer second chances

It has been 13 years since Nick C. sat in an Alameda County jail at the age of 24, facing decades in prison and the prospect of never seeing his kids again.

He looks back on it as a turning point: Years in juvenile detention and a young adulthood spent dealing drugs culminated in a “bar fight gone sideways.” Charged with attempted murder, he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, according to court records. 

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

In the following years, he took anger management classes, earned a GED and worked as a dishwasher after a higher-paying maintenance job offer fell through when his background check turned up with a violent felony, he said. Then an electricians’ union gave him an apprenticeship without caring about his record. Now he works nights, has his kids back and recently bought a house with his wife. 

The final step Nick wants to take is to clear his record, the 37-year-old said on a recent Saturday morning, standing in line inside a south Sacramento church with nearly 200 fellow Californians with felony convictions. 

He was waiting for a notary to scan his fingerprints, which would generate a record of his California arrests and convictions for a nonprofit attorney to review. He said he’s stayed out of trouble since the assault, which would likely make him eligible under a recent law to ask a judge to dismiss the case and seal it from public view. His record blocks him from certain job sites, such as government construction projects, he said, so he hopes an expungement would open more professional doors.

“It’s to show my kids that my past is my past, and that’s where it’s going to stay,” said Nick, who wanted to be identified only by his first name to avoid jeopardizing job opportunities if the expungement is successful.

That’s no longer the case: Under Senate Bill 731, which went into effect in mid-2023, Californians with most kinds of felony convictions, including violent crimes, can ask for their records to be cleared. Sex offenses are the primary exception. To be eligible, applicants must have fully served their sentences, including probation, and gone two years without being re-arrested.

Passed in 2022 mostly along party lines, the law came after years of efforts to reduce the burdens that a criminal record still places on Californians’ job and housing opportunities. It was among the broadest expungement laws in the nation, including about one million residents with felony convictions, said Californians for Safety and Justice, the advocacy group that sponsored the bill. 

The law goes even further, directing the state Department of Justice to automatically seal from public view non-serious, nonviolent and non-sexual felony convictions when the defendant has completed their sentence and not been convicted of another crime in four years. That provision was supposed to begin last year, but lawmakers agreed to delay it until this July.

In the meantime, those hoping to get their convictions cleared are turning to the courts, just as the public and some Democratic leaders have taken a tougher stance on crime. Applicants have since last year filed a trickle of expungement requests with the help of legal aid attorneys, public defenders and nonprofits such as the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which provides prison re-entry services and offered the free fingerprinting in Sacramento this month. 

“They served their time, and they’ve done their own internal work and diligence to come out the other side,” Elizabeth Tüzer, the coalition’s expungement legal project manager, said of her clients. “It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a job, or be able to survive or have housing.”

For these requests, judges have the ultimate say, and can consider evidence of rehabilitation as well as any opposition from prosecutors. 

It’s not clear how many of these felony expungements have been granted. The state Judicial Council isn’t specifically tracking it, and most of the superior courts in the state’s largest dozen counties could not immediately distinguish them from other cleared cases. Since mid-2023, there have been 26 felony expungements in Sacramento County, 72 in Kern County and 48 in Riverside County, according to court spokespersons. 

The Anti-Recidivism Coalition has helped clients file nearly 200 requests statewide, Tüzer said, with about half granted so far.

The expungements, which state law calls “records relief,” don’t erase the cases entirely. 

The records will still be kept by the state justice department, which will share them with other government agencies, police and prosecutors if an ex-offender is arrested again, or with the state Department of Education if the ex-offender applies for a school job. Under the law, expungements also don’t allow someone to own firearms again, or avoid disclosing a conviction if they run for public office or apply for a job with law enforcement.

But they do mean local courts are required to block cleared cases from public searches and from the background check companies commonly used by private-sector employers and landlords. 

Saun Hough, a manager at Californians for Safety and Justice, said the benefits extend beyond those with a job application on the line. Old criminal records hinder Californians from fully participating in society in a variety of ways, he said, from chaperoning their children’s field trips to holding positions in a homeowners’ association. 

“Peace of mind, that’s the biggest of all the new doors that are open,” he said. 

For Alexis Pacheco, a friend of Nick’s in San Francisco who told him he may be eligible, expungement provided psychological relief. 

Pacheco, 39, recently won a judge’s order to seal an old felony that she said stemmed from a fight with an ex-husband. The conviction hung over her head in subsequent child custody disputes, she said, and for years after her release from jail, she worked at a storage facility in a job a relative helped her get. Her career was stagnating, she said, but she was “scared to go for more, scared they’ll run a background check.” 

She now works at a nonprofit and attends college, hoping to one day enroll in law school. To ask for her record to be sealed, she said an attorney directed her to write a letter detailing how she’s turned her life around. A San Mateo County judge granted an expungement in December, according to a court order she shared with CalMatters.

If people don’t know your story you’re just this person on paper,” she said. “When I got the letter, I cried. It’s no longer, you’re just this person.”

When the automatic felony expungement begins in July, about 225,000 Californians will qualify, said Californians for Safety and Justice, with more becoming eligible in the future as more time passes after their convictions. 

Automatic expungement eliminates the need for defendants with lower-level convictions to find an attorney, pay filing fees or go before a judge. Criminal justice reform proponents have pushed for these “clean slate” bills across the country. They’ve cited a 2020 Harvard Law Review study that found few eligible ex-offenders apply for expungement, and argued it’s fairer to instead grant relief to everyone who qualifies.

California began automatically sealing old misdemeanors in 2022, in response to a prior law. In the first six months, state records show the Department of Justice directed county courts to shield 11 million cases from public view, helping six million defendants. The agency called it the “the largest record relief carried out over such a short time period in U.S. history.” 

“Automatic record relief is ultimately about equity,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement emailed by his office Wednesday. “Individuals who have served their debt to society deserve a second chance, and they should not have to hire an attorney to get that second chance.”

As a state Assemblymember in 2018, Bonta authored a law to automatically clear cannabis convictions. He also supported the automatic misdemeanor sealing law.

To carry it out, his department booted up a computer program that every month scans through every criminal record in the state to identify those that have become eligible to be expunged. Then it sends a list of the cases to be sealed each month to the county courts where the charges were brought. The department also does this for some arrest records. 

Starting in July, that program will begin to flag newly eligible felony convictions. 

Click here to read the full article in the CalMatters

California’s $20 Minimum Wage Fast Food Bill Gets Even Messier

‘It’s so flawed, you are exempting people and additional industries from the bill’

The fast food bill, California’s new $20 minimum wage law has a “cleanup” bill, Assembly Bill 610, which is supposed to… well… clean up the mess made by Assembly Bill 1228. At least that is what we are supposed to think. But AB 610 opened a new can of worms Monday, adding many new exemptions, and it has some Capitol watchers scratching their heads on the Republican votes.

In late February, the Globe reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom facilitated the exemption for a longtime friend from high school, donor and the billionaire who owns Panera Bread, from California’s new $20 minimum wage law. The exemption was written to the Panera Bread business model: A business operating a bakery and selling bread as a standalone menu item since September 2023, was exempted from AB 1228. Greg Flynn owns more than two dozen Panera Bread locations in California. And in addition of being a high school chum, Flynn contributed at least $164,800 to Newsom’s political campaigns, we learned.

Click here to SUBSCRIBE to CA Political Review 

The Globe and other news outlets received a cheeky email from Newsom’s Deputy Communications Director Alex Stack insisting that all of the media which reported on the preferential treatment of a Newsom donor and old friend was “absurd,” and that “it appears Panera is not exempt from the law.”

It was not a good look for the Governor, who sees himself sitting behind the Resolute Desk one day.

With all of the backtracking and denials, the situation actually looks worse today. While the real scandal is that Gov. Newsom was only too happy to grant a special exemption in a terrible bill for a friend, the governor was perfectly okay with forcing all other fast food businesses in California to pay the exorbitant $20 minimum wage, and bow at the altar of Newsom’s new Fast Food Council.

Making a bad situation and legislation worse, the “cleanup” bill to AB 1228,  Assembly Bill 610 by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Los Angeles), was debated on the Assembly floor Monday over numerous additional business exemptions to the fast food $20 minimum wage and new fast Food Council – as if that will make Panera Bread’s exemption a little less sleazy.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) spoke strongly in opposition to the bad policy, and said as the cost of living continues to rise, this bill will make it much worse, and lead to even more job losses.

“It’s so flawed, you are exempting people and additional industries from the bill,” Gallagher said. He asked if the bill is so great, then why are so many exemptions needed?

He also lambasted the gut-and-amended bill, as well as the behind-closed-doors-process it took to pass AB 1228, as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s heavy hand on it. Democrat floor leadership shut him down on that line of reply.

Leader Gallagher asked why the bill needed a “clean up,” which often happens after a bad piece of legislation is hastily passed and signed into law – the supposed unintended consequences get rectified and “cleaned up” in new legislation.

So what does AB 610 now propose to exempt?

The bill language says: “This bill would exempt additional restaurants from the definition of “fast food restaurant,” including such restaurants in airports, hotels, event centers, theme parks, museums, and certain other locations.”

What are these locations? Assembly Floor Analysis says:

A “fast food restaurant” shall not include a restaurant that is any of the following:

a) Located in an airport, as defined, but excluding any military base or federally operated facility.

b) Connected to or operated in conjunction with a hotel, as specified.

c) Connected to or operated in conjunction with an event center. “Event center” means a publicly or privately owned structure of more than 20,000 square feet or 1,000 seats that is used for the purposes of public performances, sporting events, business meetings, or similar events, and includes concert halls, stadiums, sports arenas, racetracks, coliseums, and convention centers. “Event center” also includes any contracted, leased, or sublet premises connected to or operated in conjunction with the event center’s purpose.

d) Connected to or operated in conjunction with a theme park, as specified.

e) Connected to or operated in conjunction with a public or private museum, as defined.

f) Connected to or operated in conjunction with a gambling establishment, as defined.

g) for-profit corporation and its affiliates. ii) Primarily or exclusively serves employees of that corporation or its affiliates.

h) Located on land owned by the state, a city or county, or other political subdivision of the state, that is part of a port district or land managed by a port authority or port commission, a public beach, public pier, state park, municipal or regional park, or historic district, and is operated pursuant to a concession agreement or food service contract.

Think about this – AB 610 will exempt fast food restaurants in airports, hotels, event centers, theme parks, museums, gambling establishments, corporate campus cafeterias, and Publicly owned lands including ports, piers, beaches and parks concessions – not just from the $20 an hour minimum wage starting April 2024, but also from regulation by Gov. Newsom’s creepy new Fast Food Council, which the Globe has reported on as government expansion and control.

So if you own a Taco Bell on Broadway, you don’t get the exemption. But if you own a Taco Bell at the Sacramento International Airport, you’re good to go.

Even more interesting following the debate and indefensible “exemptions,” was the vote.

A number of Republicans abstained from voting.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe