Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘CSU’



Taxes and Taxidermists: Your Money At Work

Friday, January 21st, 2011

A Google search of the words “taxes” and “quotations” yields 2.3 million results, and a wide-ranging, scrupulously sketchy scientific survey shows that 95% of them fall into one of two categories: 1) traditional, if tired, sentiments of the garden variety kvetching and caterwauling mode; 2) traditional, if tired, cheap one-liners, some of which still retain their zip.

“Taxes grow without rain,” goes the Jewish proverb, which set the template for several centuries worth of bellyaching jokes by public wits, from Mark Twain (“What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector?  The taxidermist takes only your skin”) to Will Rogers (“Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even”) and the late, great Arthur Godfrey (“I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is, I could be just as proud for half of the money”).

Digging deeper into this trove of popular wisdom, however, intrepid Calbuzz researchers also discovered a handful of famous comments that posit a contrary, and now quaint, community-minded notion:

“Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society,” said Franklin Roosevelt, a belief concisely seconded by Oliver Wendell Holmes – “I like to pay taxes – with them I buy civilization” –and thirded much more loquaciously (quite naturally, since he was French) the 18th century economist and statesman Turgot: “The expenses of government, having for their object the interest of all, should be borne by everyone, and the more a man enjoys the advantages of society, the more he ought to hold himself honored in contributing to those expenses.”

All this comes to mind as new/old Gov. Jerry Brown has stirred up a very basic, and crucially important, statewide public policy debate, namely: exactly what kind of government do Californians want and expect, and exactly how much are they willing to pay for it?

Behind all the in-the-weeds arguments about IHSS caregiver rates, CSU per-unit fees and gas tax swap extension legislation lurks the fundamental contradiction, disclosed in countless opinion surveys, that Golden State residents demand and desire a deep level of public services, while fiercely rejecting the laws of arithmetic requiring them to dig deep to finance them.

Argumentum ad populum.

As Tom Meyer illustrates today, the good citizens of Arizona have recently endured a pragmatic and painful lesson in the consequences of having a raging psychotic walking freely in their midst, not to mention brazenly buying high-powered weapons.

As recriminations and debate about who is at fault for the horror and slaughter inflicted on innocent families by Jared Loughener – Rush Limbaugh! Karl Marx! Bad parents! – taxpayer-funded government services (the kind no doubt administered by lazy, loafing bureaucrats), which once might have responded to the clear, numerous and public warning signs that the killer was mentally melting down, are scarce and getting scarcer.

“It’s a perfect storm here in Arizona,” Matt Heinz, a Tucson physician, state legislator and friend of the gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, told the WashPost.  “Services are being slashed and burned. Potentially in the next few months we’ll be releasing thousands of folks from their relative stability. Our community resources are strapped beyond belief. And the state, which you’d think would be the safety net – we’ve lit the net on fire.”

Taxidermists, indeed.

You, too, can win big prizes: Issue driven and solution oriented, Calbuzz always aims to do our part. So today we’re presenting the first of what we hope is a series of innovative ideas from you, Our Loyal Readers, to help ease California’s fiscal woes.

Got an original idea for cutting state expenses or raising revenues? Email it to calbuzzer@gmail.com and win two – count ‘em, two! – free Calbuzz buttons with our famous redheaded-guy-with-his-finger-in-the-socket logo.

Our first Big Idea from Capitol employee Sarah Weaver:

I work a few floors above where former GAS had his smoking tent.  Now that it’s gone, I respectfully suggest that GJB should put a Zen garden down there.  The Astroturf looks weird, and I think we’d all be entertained watching him draw lines in the sand.

Entertained, hell. Let’s charge admission and rake in big bucks for the general fund!

Top honors for Sacramento scribblers: Sacbee’s Kevin Yamamura, whose daily budget coverage is a must-read, offers a good look at how some special interests are still doing well…The hypocrisy-puncturing Dan Morain calls out lawmakers who constantly bray about cutting taxes but never stop shoveling it into their pie holes with both hands while feeding at the public trough (Warning: contains large dosage of Actual Reporting)…Nice piece by Cap Weekly’s John Howard on how the Silver Fox is changing Capitol  atmospherics…Timm Herdt provides all you need to know to follow the brain-numbing debate about de-funding redevelopment agencies…Last word on the importance, or lack of same, to the Arizona massacre of Palin-style face-ripping political speech goes to Frank Rich …When nothing else will do but a good reader on the history of U.S. adventurism in Africa: Adam Hochschild on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

No F*&%ing Way! That’s the title and the point in a sharp new ad about the GOP attack on health care by Move On. Might not be a big hit in the heartland, but then again, maybe it strikes a chord.

Dr. H. Secret Decoder Ring Memo to Flash: Some free management advice:  Never contract out your wet work - always do it yourself. “Bet you won’t say that to my face!” Really? Seriously? Where do you find these guys – Miss Joslin’s Ding Dong School? Next up: “Wah! He hit me!”

Calbuzz picks: Steelers and Packers (pained as we are — Buckeyes — to pick either of these evil empires).

Guest POV: Arnold Is the Elephant in the Room

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

By Susan Rose
Special to Calbuzz

With all the hype about the California governor’s race, and insider jabber from outfits like Calbuzz, the media is paying insufficient attention to  Governor Schwarzenegger’s final months in office.

Sadly, the man can do a lot more damage to the state before his term ends.

From the time he took office in 2003, Arnold’s style of governance has been a combination of insults, bullying, threats and failures. From the beginning, he was unable to use the bully pulpit to break Sacramento’s political gridlock, as he had promised during his campaign.

Each year’s budget process has seen a tsunami of cuts, from parks to poor people’s health care. The governor’s manipulative tactics were most recently demonstrated by his budget proposal to defund the state Parks Department unless the Tranquillon Ridge oil proposal is approved, a highly controversial deal among California environmentalists.

This year California faces a looming $20 billion deficit. Completing his last budget cycle in office, Arnold is moving from cutting major programs to eliminating many of them unless the state gets a huge load of federal dollars. Only on Fantasy Island could anyone imagine Washington bailing out California.

A few examples of the governor’s draconian proposals to get us out of the quagmire he dug for the state: elimination of Calworks; In-Home Supportive Services; Healthy Families Programs; California Food Assistance Program and Adult Day Care Center benefits. Once again the poor, the sick, the disabled and the elderly are his target, as a reading of his proposed 2010-11 budget shows.

Other Schwarzenegger-era changes are reflected in the demise of our once highly regarded educational institutions. The UC and CSU systems are experiencing major increases in tuition, fees, faculty furloughs, loss of academic programs and a reduction in student admissions. Likewise, at the elementary level, school days and years are being shortened, teachers fired and class sizes increased. This is not the kind of change Californians voted for in 2003.

For many, it has been unclear who is managing our state government. Who is making these decisions? On Jan. 17, 2010 the LA Times answered that question with a front page story that fully described the role of Susan Kennedy, his chief of staff, as Schwarzenegger’s alter ego.

Kennedy, the one time liberal activist with strong Democratic Party credentials, was hired by Schwarzenegger in 2005 to run his office.  Neither political party was thrilled. In the process of retooling Team Schwarzenegger, Kennedy has taken control of steering the ship of state.

In light of Schwarzenegger’s acting career, it is easy to describe his administration in terms of a Hollywood B movie ,with Arnold as the lead. From the time he announced his plan to run for Governor on the Jay Leno show on Aug. 7, 2003, Californians in fact have been forced to watch the Terminator play a role, unfortunately on that did not end with his election.

A seven-year balance sheet of the Schwarzenegger- Kennedy years shows a few progressive environmental victories, stacked up against the worst economic social crisis since the Great Depression. Today, the paucity of leadership in the governor’s office has put California behind most states in the fields of education, business, technology and innovation.

Upon taking office, the Governor kept a campaign promise and rolled back a vehicle license fee that had been approved by his predecessor Gray Davis. Kenneth T. Rosen’s piece, “California’s Fiscal Crisis: Some Simple Solutions,” estimates $28 billion in revenue has been lost during the last six years, an amount that would have largely staunched California’s slide into economic despair, and possibly prevented it altogether.

An oil severance tax could also have eased state budgetary pain, but his dogmatic opposition to progressive tax increases, coupled with his movie start approach to governance, reflect a lack of compassion for the health and well being of those who elected him.

As if this is not enough, the Governor is leaving us with a parting gift: an $11 billion bond to “fix” California’s water system, a special interest grab bag that will add another $60 million a year to the state’s debt service burden, already the fastest growing item in the budget..

In short, the governor has fiddled while California burned, always more interested in appearing on Sunday talk shows than in real governance. It could have been avoided. That is the legacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Calbuzz contributor Susan Rose is former two-term member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

Golden State Green Gurus Get Down

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Matt Kettmann mug shotBy Matt Kettmann
Special to Calbuzz
More than 500 of California’s leading advocates of green just concluded the 8th annual Sustainability Conference, one of the most important environmental conventions in the state. Sponsored jointly by the UC, CSU and Community College systems, the green gaggle spent five days at UCSB hearing from big thinkers, sharing success stories and complaining collaboratively about what’s preventing total world eco-domination. Here’s an on-the-scene review of conference highlights by Calbuzzer Matt Kettmann, senior editor of the Santa Barbara Independent who  writes about the environment for Time, and Indie intern Susannah Lopez.

Sustainability Saves People: Keynoter Dave Newport, director of the environmental center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, provided an alternately funny and grim overview, using color-coded maps to show growing global environmental inequalities, with Africa and India suffering the most.

He also quantified costs of climate change, saying that 300,000 people die each year amid $125 billion in economic losses: “This chunk of rock is going to be just fine,” he said of the earth. “What we’re really doing is killing the people on it.”

The solution lies in “making sustainability social” by making direct connections between eco-movements and immediate human impacts, he added. Example: purchasing organic, locally grown food reduces carbon emissions due to less driving, financially benefits farmers and improves consumer health. “The best way to preserve the environment through sustainability is to focus on people first,” Newport said.

Water, water everywhere: UC San Diego’s Jan Kleissl uses wireless monitors on rooftops and fields to track “evapotranspiration” on campus, where 366,000 gallons of water a day go for landscaping. The idea is to reduce the amount of water wastefully poured into the ground by using data to increase awareness of how much of it quickly leaves the ground.

Josiah Raison Cain, a UC Davis expert on using water flow to “make less-bad cities,” explained that current design methods try “to force water to move through our cities which are inherently out of sync with the way water wants to flow.” This attitude leads to flooding, heat waves, and other manmade problems.

He proposes to “intercept” water through better designs, which include living roofs and living walls. Among other projects: a fancy off-the-grid environmental education institute in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point and the state’s agriculture department building in Sacramento, which uses chicken coops under solar panels on the roof and rotating live walls of greenery to feed resident goats.

Water into wine: It takes six bottles of water to make one bottle of wine, a problem that the planned Robert Mondavi Institute for winemaking, beer brewing, and food sciences at UC Davis will address, by using “cleaning-in-place” systems, according to David Block, vice chair of viticulture at the campus. The systems were pioneered by dairy farmers and pharmaceutical companies, they require less water and chemicals, are faster and more reliable. Plus: guilt-free wine consumption.

Composting Bruins: UCLA’s dorms and dining halls are rapidly reducing waste, in compliance with a UC system goal of zero waste goal by 2020. UCLA emphasized composting in awarding their new waste collection contract to Athens of Los Angeles; the company sponsored tutorials, trained staff in recycling, and organized students to form the Waste Watchers to track tossed foodstuffs – seems the average student throws out more than a cheeseburger’s worth per day. The lesson, according to UCLA’s Rob Gilbert: “You have influence as a large buyer on how the corporations do things.”

What Higher Ed is doing: A panel unfortunately titled “Rethinking Diversion Rates and Innovations in Waste Management,” featured members of UCSB’s Laboratory Research and Technical Staff (LabRATS) who described their web-based surplus inventory program, modeled on eBay and Craigslist, that extends the life of campus resources by connecting those with extra electro junk to those who need said junk. More here.

Santa Monica College Professor Pete Morris said the institution leads the way in community college greening, which they’ve achieved by progressing in an “organic, non-linear way.” They’re working on getting more rigid, though, because hard-fought efforts to formally establish an environmental science/ studies track at the community college level have been shot down, an unfortunate development given the large number of students interested in green majors.

What Higher Ed Isn’t Doing: Chico State’s Scott McNall, who spoke on “institutionalizing sustainability,” said universities should be more aggressive in teaching the next generation a new value system, incorporating ideas about sustainability into all disciplines: “This is not about recycling cans and bottles,” he said. “It’s about recycling our values.”

Halli Bovia, sustainability coordinator at Chico State, called for “a chancellor’s mandate in our system for climate policy.” Unlike the UC system, which has a climate action plan and other sustainability requirements, Bovia said CSUs are lacking such guidance. “We need to have some continuity if we’re going to be effective at all,” she said.

The Hunt for Green Jobs: Los Angeles Trade Tech, which integrates sustainability into courses from green construction, sustainable land-use, and real-estate development to alternate fuel systems technology and sustainable design architecture, was recommended for those seeking green jobs.

The L.A. Community College District has a renewable energy and sustainability program, which focuses on reducing energy and water consumption, and reducing our carbon footprint. The district features renewable energy technology studies, including concentrated solar power, wind, bio-mass, geothermal, hydrogen, and electrical energy.

Beware Greenwashers: The new popularity of green products has generated a wave of “greenwashing” scammers, warned Alicia Culver, owner and executive director of the Green Purchasing Institute. She explained a product’s environmental impact is defined in “shades of green,” through factors like amount of recyclable content, bio-based content, or mercury content. She noted the increasing popularity of EPP’s, or Environmentally Preferable Products, which demonstrate a reduced negative or increased positive impact on human health and the environment when compared to competing products.

Car Share Everywhere: After a year of contract negotiations, both the UC and CSU systems have signed contracts with ZipCar for campus ride-sharing programs, one of the larger sustainability programs to bridge the higher ed divide.

Living Roofs – Who Knew? Cain of UC Davis described the “cascading manifests” of living roofs. They’re great places for growing food in a greenhouse, especially for massive-acre-big buildings stores, he said, noting that “two major national (grocery) chains are very interested in this process.” Living roofs cool homes, trap water, and grow food, and also attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and, Cain hopes, migratory bird species; common house cats are decimating the latter, which Cain hopes can find sanctuary on living roofs. Tweet that.

Analysis: How Different are UC and CSU?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

By Tanya Schevitz
Special to Calbuzzucberkeley

Frustrated with “egregious” executive pay hikes, questionable policy decisions and student fee increases by the University of California, State Sen. Leland Yee has stirred up a controversy with a plan to give legislators more control over the university.

UC leaders object to his proposed constitutional amendment, which would strip the system of the autonomy it has had since 1879, saying it would allow Sacramento politics to disrupt a higher ed system that is the envy of the world.

Yee points to the strife over compensation and disclosure practices which has dogged UC in recent years as evidence the system needs more oversight. But critics of his proposal say financial oversight can be handled through the state budget, while the Legislature exerting more institutsanjosestateionalized control raises the specter of intrusion into academic freedom.

“You make your list of what is working and just simple muffler shop logic is, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” said UC spokesman Peter King.

At the core of the issue is the disparity in oversight of the state’s two public institutions. Both university systems have governing boards (25 trustees at CSU and 26 regents at UC) with the majority chosen by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. In addition, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the assembly sit on the boards by virtue of their offices.

The key difference is that the Legislature has broad authority over the California State University system, allowing it to enact statutes affecting its policies. But UC’s autonomy, granted in the original state Constitution, means the Legislature can only “urge” the 10-campus UC system to comply with its desires.

lelandyee1Yee’s measure, if placed on the ballot by lawmakers and approved by voters, would give the Legislature the same sway over UC it has over CSU. This could mean affecting changes that range from limiting executive pay to more extreme policies, like deciding what industries should be banned from funding research.

Critics of the plan, arguing that UC already complies with most legislative demands, said his proposal would take one of the state’s more successful enterprises and put it in the hands of state leaders who have run the state into near poverty.

Supporters dismiss that criticism as “sound bite” hysteria. They argue that the Legislature has not abused its oversight authority with CSU. That system’s 23-campuses are overseen by their own governing board, and the Legislature does not interfere in most of its most policies, said Adam Keigwin, Yee’s communications director.

“All we are saying is that there should be some accountability here,” Keigwin told Calbuzz. “Now, if you don’t like something that happens at UC, too bad. We can pass statutes and it applies to CSU but our hands are tied with UC.”

Keigwin insists that the constitutional amendment is not intended to take policy leadership away from the appointed UC Board of Regents, and that any proposed changes would have to pass through the legislative process before being imposed.

However, in a press release announcing his measure, Yee listed “questionable conduct” by UC that included the system’s use of tobacco industry funding for research, exactly the kind of issue that critics say would put UC at the mercy of legislative meddling, and interfere with academic freedom.

The history of the UC system provides some guidance.

Daniel Coit Gilman, UC’s second president, resigned in 1875 stating that “however, well we may build up the University, its foundations are unstable, because dependent on legislative control and popular clamor,” according to a 1977 UCLA Law Review article by Professor Harold Horowitz. Soon after Gilman’s resignation, UC was granted autonomy through the 1879 Constitution.

Some CSU leaders, well familiar with mandated Legislative oversight, say it would be a mistake to impose the same on UC. Because of its required ties with the state, CSU has had to deal, for example, with everything from legislative regulations on what kind of cars to buy its police officers to extra hurdles instituting new academic programs.

Karen Zamarripa, CSU’s assistant vice chancellor for advocacy and state relations, said that legislators are not familiar enough with the institutions to set policy, such as the level of raises that should be allowed. That should be left to the governing boards, which she noted at CSU has members appointed by the governor and approved by two-thirds vote by the state senate. At UC, confirmation of regents requires only a majority vote by the state Senate.

Zamarripa said that she has seen very few instances where UC has not complied with legislative requests. Although the state’s share of UC’s budget has shrunk dramatically – to about 15 percent of its overall $19 billion budget – the system still depends on legislative-approved state funds. This means that lawmakers can simply pull on those purse strings, if they want something done.

“What they really want to do is get into the micromanagement of the organization, and that has not been helpful for us,” Zamarripa said. “I’m not sure what they get here except to interfere in areas that are not appropriate. They have control of UC’s budget and they can publicly pressure them.”

UC’s autonomy has concrete impacts in recruiting academic and research talent, as well. Instead of being part of the state retirement program, UC has its own retirement system, which has been a major tool in recruitment and retention.

The controversial bill, SCA 21, is authored by Senators Yee, (D-San Francisco), Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), and introduced in the assembly as ACA 24 by Assembly members Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge). It faces a long road, requiring approval of two-thirds of the Legislature and then a vote of the people. So its passage is uncertain.

However, former UC Regent Velma Montoya predicted that, “UC likely will learn how much it has fallen in favor with legislators, and by extension with voters, by not sufficiently cleaning house.”

California Economy Will Slide Without Huge Boost in College Grads

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

By Tanya Schevitz
Calbuzz Education Correspondent

California faces a shortage of nearly one million college-educated workers by 2025 that will further devastate its economy unless education leaders act quickly to boost college graduation rates, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California report. Without these workers, employers will abandon the state in large numbers while start-ups will shun the state, the researchers said.

The report, “Closing the Gap: Meeting California’s Need for College Graduates,” notes that California already ranks low nationally in the percentage of its population with college degrees. The state is likely to slip further, at a time when well-educated Baby Boomers are retiring and populations of demographic groups with traditionally low college attendance rates are soaring, PPIC researchers Hans Johnson and Ria Sengupta reported.

Doom and gloom reports about California’s education system are a dime a dozen, but what makes this one different is that Johnson set forth a series of reasonable and measured steps to address it.

Far from the usual white paper call for huge new spending initiatives in education, the PPIC report offers a practical agenda for chipping away at a major problem, while acknowledging that sweeping new investments are unlikely at a time of economic turmoil, budget shortfalls and ever-increasing costs, with public universities and colleges already increasing class sizes and slashing student support systems.

Some of the state’s most skeptical education policy experts applauded the proposals in the report.

“None of this is rocket science,” Steve Boilard, director of higher education for the Legislative Analyst’s office, told Calbuzz, adding that he was uncharacteristically impressed by the report and its suggestions. “What we have to do is have a more productive education system.”

For example, the researchers said, raising the state’s college attendance rates slightly, from 56 to 61 percent, and modestly increasing transfer rates to four year universities would boost the number of college educated workers by 500,000 a year by 2025. Even more importantly, universities must improve their success rates with students they already have; raising the graduation rates of current students would yield major results to help head off the migration of jobs elsewhere, Johnson said.

In another recommendation, PPIC found that many students accepted into the 23-campus California State University are simply unprepared for college study. As a result, CSU in recent years has given an early placement exam to provide students a heads-up that they need more preparation before enrolling. This and related programs could help boost CSU’s graduation rate enough to yield an additional 200,000 graduates by 2025, benefiting employers and California’s battered economy.

Noting there are 1.6 million students in the community college system, researcher Johnson said even a modest increase in transfer rates could make a big difference. After years of hand wringing and little action in this area, and against a backdrop of steady reductions in transfer slots and cuts in programs like counseling, there are signs that higher ed officials are beginning to address the problem:

Although UC reduced overall freshman enrollment this year, the system added 500 seats earmarked for transfer students, while CSU has worked to bring more rationality to its confusing system of determining which community college courses are eligible for CSU credit. Also, all three higher ed systems recently established a taskforce to craft strategies for increasing the numbers of transfer students.

While the policy prescriptions seem relatively easy and straightforward, getting them enacted is quite a different matter.

Said the analyst Boilard: “It really just is having the political will.”

Tanya Schevitz is a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who uncovered widespread abuse in the University of California’s compensation and disclosure practices while on the higher education beat. Her investigative reporting resulted in significant changes in university policies and practices.