Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

Exit Interview: Jerry Brown Stresses Elder Wisdom

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

jerrybrownfinalAs he leaves office Monday, after serving a combined 16 years as governor of California, Jerry Brown’s summation of what makes for great executive leadership boils down to one quality: experience.

In an final interview as governor with Calbuzz over the weekend, the 80-year old Brown reflected on what he’s learned about political and policy leadership — with ideas, insights and implications both for incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom and for Democrats seeking the White House in 2020 – that amounts to a veneration of elder wisdom akin to cultural practice in the Far East.

“I think experience, making mistakes, going through it all, I think that’s very helpful and kind of undercuts the idea that it’s time for a change or that we need a young person in there,” he said, when asked  what he knows now that he didn’t know after his first two terms ended in 1983. “Well, you need a young spirit but you also need an old hand to get through the difficulties that you face.”

Young spirit; old hand. That is the aurea mediocritas of Brown’s accumulated wisdom from serving as chief executive of America’s largest state for longer than any in history.

“You need innovation and you need freshness, but I just think being able to size up the problems, the people – you can’t learn that in a couple of years. Certainly, as a young person not only did I not know as much,” Brown said, noting that he was not taken as seriously in his 20th century terms as he might have been by older legislators. “Now I’m the oldest and most experienced and that’s where authority can do the job more effectively. Those are just artifacts of time.”

jerryatranchWill Jerry play in 2020? Brown, whose job approval among Democrats is near 70%, has yet to decide how he plans to affect the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, although he confirmed to Calbuzz that he will not be a candidate himself.

“I’m moving to the ranch,” he said of his homestead in Colusa County. “But I’m available for consultation at all times.”

When Calbuzz suggested that Brown could run as a favorite son candidate in California’s March primary, and thereby deliver the state’s humongous delegation at the Democratic National Convention in late summer, he didn’t offer much interest in the notion — although he did not dismiss it entirely either:

“You can keep flogging that one for a while, I guess,” he said.

gavin2What Prince Gavin needs to know. More broadly, Brown’s reflections on experience and the state of politics offered insight into his concerns for Newsom and for the Democrats seeking the presidency.

“The governor has got to be able to say ‘no.’ And you can’t say ‘no’ all the time. And I think we’re running out of ‘yesses’ that are easily paid for,” he said. “I’ve been able to balance the ‘nos’ and the ‘yesses’…I think it’s more polarized and I think compromises are out of the way. So, I’d say it’s going to be more daunting in one sense” for the new governor.

“But of course, if you dial back to 2011, that $27 billion deficit looked totally daunting,” said Brown, who – after raising taxes and containing new spending — is leaving California with a rainy day fund of about $14 billion as part of a projected surplus of nearly $30 billion, barring recession.

“Each governor faces his own issues and I would say the biggest issue is avoid big screw-ups,” Brown said. “And so far, we haven’t had any. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for two more days.”

joebiden2020Leaning in on Biden. Although he was not prepared to take sides in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, Brown’s observations about experience also suggested that he, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have said in recent days, is leaning toward 76-year-old Biden, the former Vice President.

“You gotta know stuff,” Brown said. “I mean, how you gonna deal with the Russians positively as well as on issues where we’re in dispute? How you gonna deal with the Middle East, China and world trade – these are, I can tell you from my vantage point here as governor, this stuff is really complicated, more complicated than it was 30 years ago therefore you do need older people.”

The governor, who has studied in Japan and traveled in India and China, expressed an even more global view of the value in governance of time-tested knowledge and maturity: “The Chinese, you know, they run people through mayor, governor and up through the Politbureau. We just take anybody who can win a primary. But at some point the amateur hour is going to prove not up to the task when you deal with more experienced world leaders.”

Does that mean he will be supporting Biden?

“Well, I’m not going to give you my diagnosis of each of these candidates. But I can tell you right now I was a more effective governor in my 70s than I was in my 30s. So, whatever that says for the presidency, I think it means a lot. I know a lot. I’ve made thousands of appointments, I’ve had hundreds of serious arguments, I’ve seen things happen that I didn’t expect. So, I know how to read the tea leaves, the signs of the times and that does take experience.”

So the No. 1 qualification for a great executive is experience?

“Experience, but also openness, sensitivity to people and to issues. To run for office you have to be ambitious and being ambitious means you’re thinking about yourself a lot.

“But if you’re totally wrapped up in yourself you miss cues, you miss understanding situations, so you need openness you need having been on the field of battle for years and years. I think even (John F.) Kennedy – he lucked out on the Cuban missile crisis –but when he was talking to (Nikita) Khruschev in Berlin, he screwed it up. Same thing with Bay of Pigs. And Bush got us into the war in Iraq…There’s not one magic bullet. You need wisdom, you need insight, you need experience and then you need to get elected, which takes a whole other bundle of skills.”

jerrygandalfA satisfied self-assessment. As for his own governorship, Brown retires with a sense of satisfaction and joy.

“I don’t think there’s anything that I could have done that I didn’t do,” he said. “I got the gas tax, I got the income tax, I got the water bond – we’ve got a few things going, the high-speed rail and the (water) tunnels but those things take many, many years to come to fruition…

“I don’t know, reforming the prisons – I’d like to see that continue. A lot of these efforts, like the local control formula, the ground-water management, all that is generational – it’s not going to happen in a year or even in one term. These are long term efforts. Certainly, in the prison system, after I left (the governorship the first time) the 12 prisons in California were turned into 35 prisons, which is the biggest over-shoot ever in California history. And trying to roll that back is extraordinarily difficult. I did some, but I’d like to see more.”

Intriguing historical question: bottom line, does he think he was as good a chief executive as his late father, Pat Brown, considered one of the best governors in state history?

“I don’t really like those comparisons. I think I’ve been a good governor. Most people believe that. And I do attribute a lot of that success to the business cycle and the fact that I’ve had continuous growth every year that I’ve been governor. The total of three million new jobs, the $800 billion in new gross domestic product is incredible. So that’s a fortune platform, to say the least, on which to launch my governorship. Yes, I think my experience, practice makes perfect. The force was with me.

“And we’ll see how it works when you ride into that recession – Gray (Davis) ran into that, (Arnold) Schwarzenegger ran into that.

“And (George) Deukmejian, by the way, who made the colossal mistake of overbuilding the prison system, he enjoyed great popularity. And I always wondered why was he so popular, you know he wasn’t that dramatic or charismatic, but the economy grew virtually during his entire governorship and then just collapsed when (Pete) Wilson got there. He had that eight-year growth cycle and I’ve had the eight-year growth cycle. And both of us, if you look at the surveys, are the two most popular governors. Even (Ronald) Reagan was below 50% and a lot of it is the vagaries of the business cycle.”

So does he think his old man would be proud?

“Oh yeah, I think he would.”

Well that’s got to be a good feeling.

“It is a good feeling. I get a good feeling just being governor and doing all the things that I do. I enjoy it. It stimulates the mind, it challenges one’s capacity to deal with other people and confront issues and problems. It’s a challenge that stimulates a response that you don’t get from anything that I know of.”

California-Electoral-CollegeCalifornia in national politics.

For years, Californians complained that their presidential primaries in June came so late in the electoral cycle that by the time our massive vote was cast, it was too late to influence the outcome.

Flyspeck states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina always winnow the field before California with its huge party delegation – about 11% of the total needed to win the nomination and a fifth of the electoral votes to win the White House — even had a voice.

So last year, California moved its primary to March 3, still after the lead-off states, but early enough in the cycle to exercise some clout. With early absentee voting, Californians will start casting ballots about the same time as the Iowa caucuses.

The downside — for Democrats anyway — is that few of the contenders who are likely to run in a multi-candidate field will have the resources or name recognition to mount a serious bid for California’s cache of primary votes. With proportional representation at stake, it’ll be hard but expensive to resist.

California’s early primary, then, is likely to give an edge to potential candidates like Biden, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders who are already known to California voters. Their supporters don’t mind.

But for those who want California to be a genuine force in picking through the candidates, the very size and breadth of the state actually may mitigate against being able to check out the wide field, with possible bids from Eric Garcetti, Sherrod Brown, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and more.

How then, to assure that California can throw its weight around?

That’s why Calbuzz will keep flogging the strategy of electing Jerry Brown as a favorite son who can take the bulk of the state’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention and decide who gets the nomination. Yes, it’s a return to the old-school practice of wielding influence very late in the process, but in this wide-open electoral year that would be worthwhile.

His father, Pat Brown, ran as a favorite son three times – in 1952 where he took just 10% against Estes Kefauver – and in 1960 and ’64, when he delivered California to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Based on his father’s experience and changes in how party nominees are chosen, Brown himself said “this favorite son business is chancy…it’s a nice idea, but we’ve got a lot of candidates today and the favorite son role has virtually disappeared.

“But I’ll be talking to all the candidates and see…sometimes, when they don’t feel they can win, they like the favorite sons to hold the delegations for them. But that was a former era and I think conditions have fundamentally changed.”

The Harris people would likely see this as a “Stop Kamala” movement. It needn’t be. But it would force any potential California candidate – like Harris or Garcetti – to prove her or his appeal beyond California, which any Democrat will win in November anyway.

“It’s an interesting idea and it would be a good way to showcase all that he has led on. But a favorite son candidacy would be pretty limiting to someone with his experience, leadership and forward thinking.,” said longtime Brown political adviser Joe Trippi.

“On the other hand,” added Trippi, “does anyone think Jerry is done trying to impact and drive the debate on the issues he cares about?”

Not hardly. Run, Jerry, run.

Op-Ed: Why Californians Don’t Win the White House

Monday, December 17th, 2018

ericgarcettiBy Garry South
From The Hill

We’ve barely recovered from the 2018 mid-terms, but the air is already thick with speculation about whether a candidate from California will enter the 2020 race for president. And some potential candidates are making moves that encourage that speculation.

Freshman U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is writing a book and crisscrossed the country on behalf of Democratic candidates. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has traveled to Iowa and other states. Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the Democrats’ public faces in the Russia probe, is toying with a run, and billionaire Tom Steyer is a regular mentionable.

kamalaharrisIt makes sense to figure that someone from the Golden State will run for president. Bigger than Canada or Australia, California offers 55 electoral votes – one-fifth of the 270 needed to win the Electoral College. The state’s 2020 primary has been moved up to March, and California sends a behemoth delegation to the Democratic National Convention. And two presidents have been elected from the state, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 (both Republicans, interestingly).

Tilting at Windmills Nevertheless, recent history offers some cautionary tales. Over the past 40 years, most California presidential candidates have lost – and for three of the most notable, their failures affected their standing in the state and their political futures.

Consider Gov. Jerry Brown, who, during his first iteration as governor, twice ran for president. In 1976, less than two years into his first term and just 38, Brown sought the Democratic nomination for president and won a handful of states, but ended up with only 300 delegates, behind both Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter and Arizona Rep. Morris Udall.

jerryandlindaCalifornians indulged Linda Ronstadt’s boyfriend his fling in 1976, but they turned on him in 1980, when he challenged a sitting Democratic president.  Against Carter, Brown won only 10 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. Californians didn’t like Brown’s inattention to their critical issues and in the state’s Democratic primary gave the sitting governor a meager 4 percent of the vote.

Two years later Brown faced retribution from California voters when he ran for the U.S. Senate. Although he had won his 1978 re-election by 20 percent, Brown lost the Senate election to San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, whose only previous statewide outing had been finishing fourth in the 1978 GOP primary for governor. To boot, the Democrats lost the governorship to Republican Attorney Gen. George Deukmejian.

cranstonCranston’s Folly California U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston was the first to launch a bid for president in 1984. Although respected in the Senate, Cranston at 69 was a gaunt figure with orangish hair. He won some straw polls based on his fervent advocacy of a nuclear freeze, but finished a weak fourth in the Iowa caucuses and dropped out after drawing just 2 percent of the vote in New Hampshire.

Cranston had first been elected to the Senate in 1968 and had won re-election by hefty margins in 1974 and ’80, but his dalliance with the presidency left him mired in campaign debt and his quixotic bid was not viewed positively at home. Partially as a result, he barely won his seat again in 1986 against moderate GOP Rep. Ed Zschau of Silicon Valley. Six years later, Cranston retired.

Jerry Brown refashioned himself as a 1-800 populist for president in 1992. In a large field including the ultimate nominee, Bill Clinton, Brown did manage to last until the national convention where he spoke. But in the California Democratic primary that year, Clinton handily beat Brown 47-40 percent. It would be another 14 years until he ran statewide again, for Attorney General in 2006.

petewilsonThe Wilson Debacle Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who rode an anti-immigrant proposition to a re-election victory in 1994 promised voters he would serve out his full term. Instead, he decided to run for president. Wilson, who had been a moderate, pro-choice Republican, lurched to the right on issues like immigration and affirmative action, seeking to burnish his bona fides with conservative GOP primary voters across the country.

It didn’t matter. His campaign was plagued with missteps and misfortunes. Conservative primary voters in other states still viewed Wilson as governor of “La La Land.” And Republicans back home were unhappy that his out-of-state travel left Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis as acting governor. Wilson dropped out of the race in September of ’95, before a single vote had been cast.

Despite his huge re-election win just the year before, Wilson’s popularity never recovered – a Los Angeles Times poll in ‘95 showed that only 30 percent of California Republican voters thought he should have run for president. He drove Latinos away from the GOP. And his absenteeism and low approval ratings set up Davis to win a 20-point victory in the 1998 governor’s race over Wilson’s endorsed candidate.

A gaggle of other California elected officials also took a stab at the White House over this period of time, including Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty in 1972, Irvine Mayor Larry Agran in 1992, and Rep. Duncan Hunter in 2008. None of them registered so much as a blip on the political radar screen, so that’s eight out of the last nine Californians to run for president who have crashed and burned, versus one (Reagan) who actually won.

gray-davisDavis No Go Why have a majority of California candidates fared so poorly? I have a couple of theories. In 1998, I managed Gray Davis’ successful campaign for governor. Davis won huge landslide victories in both the primary and general. As chief executive of the largest state while still in his 50s, he was immediately the subject of speculation about a possible presidential run.

I never thought Davis wanted to run for president, but during the first two years of his term, he was riding high, with fawning national press coverage and approval numbers in the 60s. Even a plurality of Republicans said he was doing a good job. The governor’s political team polled and conducted focus groups to help shape our messaging and policy agenda. But even when he was at the apex of his popularity (before a recall election removed him from office in 2003), voters in focus groups regularly panned his prospects as a potential presidential aspirant. Even participants who praised his actions as governor would make remarks like, “Nooo, not for president!” or “Are you kidding?” and roll their eyes or chuckle.

In my view, this had less to do with Davis himself than with the residents of this mega-state, who tend to believe that someone elected governor or senator ought to first and foremost do their day job, and be satisfied that they represent the largest state with one of the world’s biggest economies.

There’s also that trusty biblical saying: “A prophet is without honor in his own country.”

garrysouthIt’s a free country and California elected officials with presidential aspirations have every right to go for it. But they also should soberly assess the fates of others that have taken the plunge, and the collateral damage done to their careers and standing in the state, where voters have historically been unkind to public officials running off to Iowa and New Hampshire.

Garry South is a veteran Democratic political strategist based in California, who managed Gray Davis’s successful gubernatorial campaigns in 1998 and 2002, and played a central role in Al Gore’s 2000 presidential winning primary and general election campaigns in California. This article was originally published in The Hill.


Calbuzz Reprise: Our Memo to GOP on Relevancy

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Nearly a decade ago, we offered some suggestions to the GOP to help it become relevant again. They have rigorously ignored us and now, after watching the Blue Tsunami in California, just might listen. So we’re re-posting our piece from 2010.

After watching the California Republican Party implode in the 2010 election – spectacularly in the cases of Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor and Carly Fiorina’s run for U.S. Senate – Calbuzz has some unsolicited advice for the state’s Grand Old Party.

Just as Democrats in Washington are being urged to re-calibrate after the spanking their party got in some parts of the country, Republicans in California need to do a little re-calibrating themselves.

Before we offer our pearls of wisdom, however, let’s dispense of the howling response we expect from some of our friends in the right-wing peanut gallery (we name no names, Flash) who will surely hurl the “liberals” canard at Calbuzz and say we just want the Republicans to become Democrats.

Not true. We don’t want Republicans to become Democrats — we want Republicans to become relevant.

So that there is a vigorous contest of ideas in California politics. Right now, Republicans are so trapped in their ideological hall of mirrors that they have become a distorted caricature of themselves. They can thump their chests and win big attaboys at the California Republican Assembly convention. But they utterly  fail to reflect the impulses of the vast majority of California voters who tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

Republicans believe in smaller government, lower taxes, reduced regulation, economic growth, individual freedom and law and order, to name a few GOP values.

They should continue to stand and fight for all of those. But they need to build all that into a platform that begins with a realistic growth agenda. Investments in roads, bridges, dams and/or levees, water projects, schools and universities, redevelopment projects, ports – all these things and more – are wholly consistent with their philosophical world view. Their fixation on opposing everything the Democrats propose is hurting them more than it is helping them.

Republicans could become leading advocates of an economic rebound strategy that relies on Silicon Valley innovation, green jobs, high-tech research and development. They could integrate this with increased exports for a growing agricultural sector and a healthy and expanding service economy.

They don’t have to continually serve the interests of the wealthiest 2% of California families – they can focus of the struggling middle class. And they need to remember that California is not Kentucky or Alaska or any other state where the so-called “tea party” is a big deal. In California, tea party ideology is a non-starter.

It’s time for leaders of the California Republican Party to rethink their general strategy and the specifics of their agenda. Here’s where they should start:

1.  Change your position on a “path to citizenship.” You can and should strongly favor securing the borders against illegal immigration. That’s a matter of defending our sovereignty and integrity as a nation.

The political reason you fear changing on citizenship is that you’re afraid that if all those illegal Mexicans and other Latinos become U.S. citizens, they will bolster the Democratic Party. And that’s certainly a valid fear of a potential outcome.

But it needn’t be that way.

Just as the Republican Party was the Northern standard-bearer for the abolition of slavery in the 1850s and 1860s, so could the California Republican Party become the advocate for citizenship for honest working men and women who have come to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Nine in 10 Latinos in California — and a healthy majority of independent voters — support a path to citizenship for people who have been working here illegally for two years or more. Get on their side. Make them your allies.

You know who will be unhappy? Big labor, pro-choice forces and culturally liberal Democrats who want to keep Latino voters in their corner. Latino Catholic culture is quite conservative on family issues. You don’t have to moderate on too many of these. But you drive Latinos away with your anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric. Your current policy just panders to the politics of resentment and makes you look bad. Time to move on.

2. Get on board with green jobs and environmental conservation. By arguing that people must pick either environment or economic development, you’re creating a false choice. And voters know it.

Plenty of Republicans – from the late David Packard to George Schultz – have proved that you can be a rock-ribbed Republican and also in favor of preserving and enhancing the environment. Of course environmentalism has to be balanced against other competing interests – like healthy agriculture, water supplies to cities and reasonable, controlled growth in and around urban areas.

But you have made fighting environmental regulation a cause. Your political calculation is that the business forces in your camp cannot tolerate stepped-up regulation and enforcement. But that’s old-school thinking. Only retrograde – and politically poisonous – corporations are afraid of the New Environmental World Order. You should make this part of some sort of 21st Century capitalism project, or something. Don’t let old school enviros control this vote rich sector.

3.  Develop your bench. Start grooming young, bright, articulate Republicans in cities, counties, Assembly districts and elsewhere.

Send them off to advanced management training at Harvard or Stanford. Introduce them to business leaders, venture capitalists, university presidents, foundation chiefs, leading journalists and party funders. Get them involved in key issues and causes.

Teach them about practical politics and polling and other insider skills as well. Train them in how to talk to reporters. Help them learn to think on their feet, to answer questions without betraying their ignorance and how to talk with ordinary people without sounding like they’re preaching or talking just from a list of talking points. Do what big-time college athletic programs do – recruit district by district.

4.  Reconsider your stance on abortion. There’s got to be a way to move to the center on this question where you support a woman’s right to choose in line with Roe vs Wade without endorsing or even supporting abortion.

Don’t give up your commitment to the idea that abortion is a moral choice. But recognize that it’s a moral choice that individuals have to make – not one that can be legislatively controlled.

You can be in favor of life and in favor of reducing the number of abortions. Be for, not against, family planning, like Barry Goldwater was. In a sense, become libertarian on the issue. You may never get the endorsement of the most ardent pro-choice groups, but you can neutralize the power of the issue. And if you can recruit pro-choice Republicans, all the better.

Your goal should be to build a coalition based on the overarching goal of reducing the number of abortions, but without all the wasted breath on  abstinence and all the hysterical opposition to teen sex education.

5. Sound sensible, not strident. The problem with the tea party rhetoric that some of you find so attractive is that it sounds like the ravings of a crazy old uncle who really ought to be locked in the attic.

The vast majority of California voters are moderate, independent-minded, pragmatic people. They don’t much care if an idea comes from a Democrat or a Republican. They just want it to make sense.

They’re not against government; they just want government to work on their behalf. They’re not opposed to all taxes; they’re opposed to taxes that seem unfair, onerous or overly broad. They want to control the borders but they also want to be fair to people who have worked hard to make a living, no matter where they come from.

They’re not pro-abortion but they want women and their doctors — not Assembly members and state senators — to make choices about the life and death of fetuses. California voters are tired of people running for office who sound like they think they know everything and whose answers are purely ideological.

You need to have a hard head. But you also need to demonstrate a soft heart. And maybe a touch of humility.

Gas Tax Necessary – But Waayyy Insufficient

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 4.07.04 PM (1)By Patrick Atwater
Special to Calbuzz

California’s history has been defined by visionary public works, from the world’s largest port to the nation’s first freeways to pioneering aqueducts to best in class public universities.

The digital revolution has transformed countless industries yet, by and large, a time traveler from the 50’s would find the operational practices of California government strangely familiar.

Nothing equal to the development, over a century ago, of professional water utilities or universal public schooling — institutions that implemented nearly ubiquitous access to clean water and essentially eradicated illiteracy in America — has been developed for the digital era.

California can and should lead the world in building the great public works of our era — public technology that tackles our big challenges as a state.

During the gold rush, the Argonauts were those traveled by ship from every corner of the world to take their chance in the fields. Today California government can and should hire thebest and brightest technologists from across the globe — modern Argonauts– to set a new standard of excellence in public service.

Gas tax and the future. The current debate about the gas tax offers an illuminating example. The reality is that superficially both the left and right are right about the gas tax but, at a deeper level, completely wrong. Yes we do need more funding to fix our roads and yes we do need more efficient management of those funds.

The harder truth is that neither the gas tax funding nor the efficiencies being debated are nearly enough to fix California’s $137 billion road maintenance deficit. The scariest thing about that number is that it’s only a coarse estimate; the true size of our problem is unknown.

The quality of California’s roads is assessed through a cargo cult of obsolete standards from the seventies. Cities often don’t even measure their own street quality, instead hiring a consultant to guesstimate the conditions of their roads based on neighboring cities.

Even measuring the actual conditions falls short.

Often cities will hire consultants to literally eyeball street quality via “windshield surveys” — aka driving around. The current leading practice of using military grade lasers to measure street smoothness suffers from multi-year lags and does not account for bike lane infrastructure, a growing need in California’s cities.

The image below shows a bit of the bike path I take to work that the City of Los Angeles rated as “good.” Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 4.15.08 PM

The cambrian explosion in low cost sensors highlights the opportunity for California to pioneer new approaches to managing our city streets. The simple GPS, accelerometer and camera technology available in every smartphone provides the foundation to see the literal ground truth.

Transformation needed. The question is whether we will have the creativity and courage required to modernize how our government operates and leverage that digital technology. A group of leading public technologists and myself have articulated a set of Open California Principlesthat highlights the immense opportunity to improve how basic public services are delivered.

Regardless of your political persuasion, we all benefit from quality roads and every human needs access to clean water. Realizing that potential acquires an urgency given the civilization-scale calamities we face. Governor Brown put the situation pointedly in his 2018 state of the state address.

“Our world, our way of life, our system of governance — all are at immediate and genuine risk. Endless new weapons systems, growing antagonism among nations, the poison in our politics, climate change. All of this calls out for courage, for imagination and for generous dialogue.”

The world urgently needs a symbol of hope, a leading example of how openness to new ideas and new people from new places is critical for a successful society. California can and should lead on global challenges like climate change. Yet our big public problems in road repair, housing and innumerable other areas highlight the urgency of getting our own house in order.

The New Frontier. Those basic problems also highlight the new frontier.

Today more than just material riches, California can lead a gold rush in good government, taking early heroic public technology work started by the Obama administration and cities across the country to the next level. Many interests vested in the status quo will complain. Modernizing obsolete public institutions will involve lots of turf wars and conflicts with parochial bureaucratic tribes.

California at its best has always been about its common future, the belief that here a better life is possible for everyone. Living up to that dream, we should be willing to pioneer the next chapter in California history with the boldness of our ancestors. Please join the discussion on the Open California Principleswith the courage, imagination and generous dialogue that future deserves.

Patrick Atwater is the Executive Director of Applied Research in Government Operations (ARGO), a public data infrastructure nonprofit who’s big claim to fame is delivering California’s first ever measurements of Governor Brown’s historic new water efficiency legislation. He can be found online @patwater. 





PPIC Poll: Why Feinstein is Crushing Kevin de Leon

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

feinstein-newThe just-out poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that, with two Democrats on the ballot because of California’s top-two primary system, more than half of Republicans (52%) and a quarter of no-party-preference independents (26%) say they won’t vote for anyone for U.S. Senate.

Which is unfortunate for state Senator Kevin de Leon, given that he has totally surged ahead of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, um, but only among Republicans, conservatives and Trump supporters who plan to vote for Senate in November.

Overall, Herself is still crushing Mr. Sacramento Big Shot,  40-to-29% among likely voters, which becomes 52-to-37% if you exclude the 23% of likelies who say they won’t cast a ballot in the race.

KDL’s Right Wing Base Confirming the paradoxical findings from last week’s (all rise) Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics State Poll, the closest thing de Leon’s has to a “base” is among the 37% of likely voters who approve of President Donald Trump (the vast majority of them Republicans). Which is big fun, given that the singular rationale for de Leon’s flailing candidacy is that the Senior Senator from California isn’t tough enough on Trump.

In the de Leon-Trump cohort, de Leon leads the incumbent about two-to-one – 25-to-13%. Sadly, for the ex-state Senate Majority Leader, 54% of those who approve of Trump say they won’t vote in the Senate race at all. Among the 61% majority of likely voters who disapprove of Trump, i.e. those de Leon is actually trying to appeal to, Feinstein crushes de Leon 57-to-32%.

Feinstein leads 60-to-27% among liberals and 44-to-38% among moderates, but de Leon has conservatives 24-to-19% — another odd finding, given his support for Medicare for all, down-the-line backing of labor and other liberal causes; Which suggests that right-wingers have no idea who he is, but figure he’s better than Feinstein, who they regard as a crazed liberal.


Democrats for DiFi De Leon’s other shred of good news from PPIC is that he has pulled about even with Feinstein among Latino likely voters, which is to say his natural base, with 38% compared to her 40%. But among Democrats (whose executive party board, omg, endorsed de Leon), Feinstein leads 60-to-30% and she edges him among independents 33-to-28%. Among Republicans, de Leon leads 21-to-18%.

De Leon’s standings also likely have less to do with his own campaign than it does with Feinstein’s status as the senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where she has been a high-profile, leading voice against arch-conservative and accused sexual molester Judge Brett Kavanaugh — Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Which de Leon also insists she’s doing all wrong.

That Feinstein’s lead, which was 22% in July in the PPIC poll, has been cut in half is hardly surprising, given that some Republican, conservative and Trump approving voters have flocked to him as a way to vote against Feinstein, highly visible in national media as an anti-Trump leader. As every school child knows, Feinstein is considerably more moderate on most issues compared to de Leon. But in a Fox News worldview, the former San Francisco mayor is a leader of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy and de Leon’s her opposition. The enemy of my enemy, etc. etc.

Gov Race and More In other PPIC news, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is running well ahead of Republican challenger John Cox, 51-to-39% — Shocker! – with a straight-line party split (Democrats 86-to-8% for Newsom; Republicans 85-to-9% for Cox) and a small lead (42-to-37%) among independents.

The collapse of the Republican Party in California and Newsom’s strong base in the Bay Area and Los Angeles where Democrats dominate, renders the governor’s race all but unattainable for a non-celebrity GOP contender with scant resources.

In addition, PPIC said, “A slim majority of California’s likely voters oppose Proposition 6, the measure on the November ballot to repeal recently enacted increases in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. Proposition 10—which would expand the authority of local governments to enact rent control—is also trailing.”

Generally speaking, when propositions don’t have strong majorities this close to an election, they’re likely toast. In the history of propositions in California, “No” beats “Yes” about two-thirds of the time.

PPIC interviewed 1,710 California adult residents on cell phones and land lines September 9–18. The margin of error is ±4.8 percent for the survey’s 964 likely voters.