Posts Tagged ‘local redevelopment agencies’

Brown Goes Public With Tax Plan Vote Demand

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Blunt, feisty and funny, Gov. Jerry Brown called out Republicans Monday night, aggressively challenging them to allow Californians to vote on his proposal to extend $12 billion in temporary tax increases – or have the guts to put  forth their own, all-cuts budget plan.

With a civil but tough tone, he also directly confronted the statewide coalition of local officials who are furiously campaigning against his bid to eliminate redevelopment agencies, saying that “core services” like education, police, fire and health care for the poor are more crucial than their real estate developments projects; positioning himself directly in the political center, he also urged Democrats and liberal advocates for education and social welfare programs to make their own sacrifice, by accepting the $12 billion of cuts he wants.

As a political matter, Brown aimed his 1,722 words, not at the state office holders who crowded into the Assembly chamber to hear him, but at millions of voters beyond the Capitol.  Seeking to build popular support for what he repeatedly called his “honest” strategy to erase a $25 billion deficit, he clearly made the calculation that the time had come to frame the political debate in public, after weeks of low-key, backroom talks with lawmakers.

From the time I first proposed what I believe to be a balanced approach to our budget deficit – both cuts and a temporary extension of current taxes – dozens of groups affected by one or another of the proposed cuts have said we should cut somewhere else instead. Still others say we should not extend the current taxes but let them go away. So far, however, these same people have failed to offer even one alternative solution.

While Brown embroidered his 14-minute State of the State address with appeals for bipartisan cooperation to restore the “exceptionalism” of the California dream, his central message was clear, focusing on turning up the pressure on Republicans to abandon their hold-our-breath-til-we turn-blue stance against providing the handful of votes needed to put a tax measure on the June ballot.

“That’s his style,” said Robert Huckfeld, political science professor at UC Davis and director of the UC Center in Sacramento. “To his credit, he doesn’t pull his punches and he tells it like he sees it.”

“You don’t often see politicians speak that way,” agreed UC Davis environmental science professor Mark Schwartz. “But he’s got nothing to lose and he’s got to get something done.”

The money quotes:

Under our form of government, it would be unconscionable to tell the electors of this state that they have no right to decide whether it is better to extend current tax statutes another five years or chop another $12 billion out of schools, public safety, our universities and our system of caring for the most vulnerable…

When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people.

In the ordinary course of things, matters of state concern are properly handled in Sacramento. But when the elected representatives find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It is time for a legislative check-in with the people of California.

Formally dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, Brown in his plain-spoken words and firm demeanor took on the role of the tough-love truth-teller he had promised during his campaign for governor. Sounding like the adult in a roomful of squabbling adolescents, he pleaded for an end to silly partisan gamesmanship:

This is not the time for politics as usual…

If you are a Democrat who doesn’t want to make budget reductions in programs you fought for and deeply believe in, I understand that. If you are a Republican who has taken a stand against taxes, I understand where you are coming from.

But things are different this time. In fact, the people are telling us–in their own way–that they sense that something is profoundly wrong. They see that their leaders are divided when they should be decisive and acting with clear purpose.

Responding for the California Republican Party — but not necessarily for all the Republicans in the Legislature — CRP Chairman Ron Nehring proclaimed,  “We are determined to fight this unaffordable tax hike, no matter how many ways the Democrats try to soft sell it. Should the governor ever get around to embracing the serious, structural reforms our state needs, we’ll be equally supportive in those efforts.”

Nor were Brown’s allies on the labor left willing to fall in line. Art Pulaski, leader of the California Labor Federation priased Brown’s “vision for long-term recovery that’s been painfully absent in recent years,” but he decried “deep cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, health care and higher education {that] threaten to undermine his vision to rebuild California.”

A few other observations:

The influence of Anne: In his first turn as governor, Bachelor Brown  built a well-earned reputation for rudeness, as he routinely and dismissively dispensed with the niceties of politics. As a 72-year old married to the savvy former business executive Anne Gust, his approach last night was  civil and courteous, despite its tough message. He thanked lawmakers for their “cordiality and good will,” repeatedly invited them to share ideas with him and declared that he looked forward to “working with all of you,” doing a good job of at least faking sincerity.

Ad libs: A year and a half ago, Calbuzz recounted a LMAO appearance Brown made on CNBC   in which he broke the fourth plane, holding a white sheet of paper in front of his face and inviting reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera to truncate the interview after she ascribed craven political motives to a case he had brought as attorney general and tried to shine on his attempt to discuss its merits.

In his speech last night, Brown again broke through the bounds of convention, departing from his text  several times to deliver one-liner asides to the assembled politicians, in the manner of a comic telling jokes to the band: At one point he literally called attention to the elephant in the room: “I want to see some Republicans clapping,” he said as stone-faced GOP lawmakers sat on their hands; “That’s ambiguous,” he cracked at another point, after saying public pensions should be “fair to both taxpayers and workers alike.”

The vision thing: As he did in his inaugural address, Brown coupled his unvarnished description of the state’s budget woes with a high-minded appeal to the romantic ideal of California, leavening his message of painful choices with an optimistic view of the future:

Wherever I look, I see difficult choices. But I also see a bright future up ahead and a California economy that is on the mend…

We have the inventors, the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists and a vast array of physical, intellectual and political assets. We have been called the great exception because for generations Californians have defied the odds and the conventional wisdom and prospered in totally unexpected ways. People keep coming here because of the dream that is still California, and once here, their determination and boundless energy feeds that dream and makes it grow.

Bottom line: While not as trenchant as the inaugural, the SOS was notable for its pull-no-punches candor — a top-notch performance.

Final count: eMeg $159 million, Krusty $36 million; 4.4-to-1 Whitman over Brown. She spent about $38.50 per vote; he spent about $6.60 per vote…But if you add in the primaries, the grand total for eMeg was $178.5 million and for Brown it was $36.7 million.

Secret Battle on Pinocchio Hat; Flash Nixes Tax Vote

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Now it can be told: At a crucial point in the race for governor, an internal campaign debate among Jerry Brown’s top advisers broke out over a hard-hitting TV ad that portrayed Republican rival Meg Whitman as Pinocchio, Calbuzz has learned.

The key tactical question at stake in the behind-the-scenes political battle: Whether or not to put a little yellow Tyrolean hat with a golden feather on top of eMeg’s head in the spot.

We’re not making this up.

In a wide-ranging investigation, our Department of High-Impact Probes and Overstuffed File Cabinets ferreted out the story via a series of confidential interviews with High-Powered Political Sources.

Because of the extreme sensitivity of the matter, Calbuzz scrupulously applied Bob Woodward’s rules for wide-ranging investigations, promising our sources anonymity in exchange for their pledges of candor, with the agreement that we would tell the story in the omniscient third-person voice, with direct quotations more or less aligned with reality.

Sources gave this account:

Shortly after Labor Day, Whitman unleashed an ad with Bill Clinton hitting Brown on his most vulnerable soft spot saying he was a tax-and-spend liberal who could not be trusted. Brown compounded the problem by insulting Clinton’s proclivities at a public event. But after Brown apologized to Clinton for his loose lips, Elvis put out a statement saying the charge he’d made in the 1992 debate clip Whitman was using was in fact based on an erroneous CNN report.

Newspapers, TV and radio outlets and online sites all reported that the Whitman ad was simply not true. But eMeg stood by the ad, arguing that it was accurate. Brown’s people needed to say Whitman was lying — in the nicest possible way, of course.

No Relation to Steve Glazer

Their consensus on how to answer, suggested by adman David Doak, was a 15-second spot that pictured eMeg as Pinocchio, with her nose growing during the ad to the size of a baseball bat, as a narrator recounted some of the lies she was telling about Brown.*

The ad was quickly produced by Joe Trippi’s shop with the enthusiastic endorsement of candidate Brown (who to this day never tires of claiming credit for it, or of confronting complete strangers to demand they tell him whether they saw it during the campaign) through the use of not-very-sophisticated graphics technology that made Meg’s nose get longer and longer.

Then the trouble began.

When the media team turned in the ad, alarm bells went off in the head of campaign manager Steve Glazer. He was deeply troubled by one crucial detail: was placing the little yellow hat on Meg’s head too demeaning to her?

Demeaning?” one source who liked the ad replied to Glazer’s question. “Steve, we’re making her nose grow four feet – how could it be more demeaning than that?”

Still, when Glazer’s concern was communicated to Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, Brown’s Oakland command ordered up another version of the spot that did not have the little hat on Meg’s head.

“You gotta be kiddin’ me,” one source thought to himself.

Nonetheless, alternative versions were produced, as the difficult question – hat or no hat – continued to divide Team Brown. Finally, a coast-to-coast conference call was convened, and the issue was put directly to Brown’s most senior media strategist.

“Do you think the hat is too demeaning?” he was asked.

Long seconds passed, while the fate of the entire Brown effort – along with the future of California – hung in the balance.

“No,” the Washington-based strategist said.

The rest is history.

The ad went on the air on September 14, and Meg’s negatives kept growing and growing, not unlike her Pinocchio nose, as Brown steadily built a lead. The most astonishing thing about the story may be that the Armies of Whitman did not issue a snarky statement about the hat — practically the only thing they didn’t whine about during the entire race.

* (For the record, the ad was actually kind of a rip-off of our oft-used Pinocchio-Meg graphic, not to mention totally derivative of a stock campaign ad that goes back to at least 1988).

Redeveloping redevelopment: Tom Meyer today nails the full-on absurdity of the outrage over the governor’s move to shutter the operations of local redevelopment agencies that’s being voiced by local political hacks and real estate developers across the state.

Armed with the new PPIC poll, which shows two-thirds of Californians agree with him on the issue, Brown is playing a strong political hand, notwithstanding the heavy breathing and harrumphing by a coalition of mayors who called on him this week to protest the long overdue bid to end the redevelopment scam of skimming property tax revenues for the purpose of empire building and skid greasing for way too many sleazy projects in which oleaginous developers and greedy politicians engage in mutual back scratching in an atmosphere of soft corruption.

Latest evidence of how we’ll all manage to do just fine without redevelopment’s ’50s- and ’60s-era land use theory and practice comes in a dandy piece by Jim Miller of the Press-Enterprise.

In an impressive display of Actual Reporting, Miller checked the mandated state reports filed by a batch of agencies and found they “list few, if any, jobs created and little in the way of new construction or building rehabilitation.” Best stuff: the hemming and hawing by officials desperate to explain away the story told by the very documents they filed themselves, including this gem from John Shirey, president of the (all rise) California Redevelopment Association:

Unfortunately, those reports often get filled out by finance people because most of the report is financial,” Shirey said. “Finance people, they’re not in sales. They don’t take advantage of the chance to put down accomplishments.

“If it doesn’t get picked up by the redevelopment staff, then you see what you see, which is a lot of blanks,” he said.

So we see.


No-diversity university: Here’s how bad the sexism was at last weekend’s big Berkeley conference on the governor’s race: Even Calbuzz noticed.

Somewhere between the first panel, featuring eight white guys, and the final panel, featuring seven white guys, we took a demographic stroll through the lineups for all of the two days of presentations. Counting panelists and moderators, here are the stats:

31 men
5 women
34 white people
2 minorities

Apparently, we weren’t alone in raising our untrimmed eyebrows at the disconnect between the conference population and that of, you know,  California. Soon after the event ended, some pretty pissed off political women started posting this video on their Facebook pages, and it’s now careening far and wide across the internets.  More from the estimable Joe Garafoli.

Flash tells why Brown’s tax measure should not be on the ballot

In response to the post on Calbuzz last week arguing that lawmakers should place on the ballot Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend, for five years, certain tax increases that were passed in 2009, we asked our friend Jon Fleischman, editor and publisher of the conservative FlashReport (whom we likened to a feudal yeoman), to present the other side. Here’s his argument.

The main reason why legislators should not put a tax increase measure on the ballot is that raising taxes is a bad idea, and the idea of placing a measure before voters in essence plays “kick the can” for four or five months, when problems should be addressed now.

Based on the fact that voters rejected the last seven tax-increase measures before them, and in fact rejected these exact tax increases (but for a shorter duration) in a 2009 special election, the Legislature should not be going to the public again. This is a democratic republic, and our elected representatives should do their jobs.

It is also important to look at the politics of a special election on raising taxes. The reality is that all of the various special interest groups (with the state’s cash-heavy public employee unions at the front of the line) will spend literally tens of millions of dollars to influence voters.

It will be a full-scale effort to use any means possible to connive overtaxed Californians into taxing themselves even more. Unfortunately the ability of taxpayer protection groups to raise the kinds of funds it takes to seriously debunk the landslide of misleading ads is very limited. That is why it is critical to hold the line against a ballot measure at all costs.

An additional consideration for Republican legislators is that after seven years of Arnold Schwarzenegger being the top Republican in the state (we saw some of the effects of the impact of that this last November), we need to restore the brand name of the Grand Old Party. Once a party that voters knew would oppose higher taxes, now that message is unclear. Nothing could be more damaging to a party trying to regain relevance that to abandon such a core issue.

You can be absolutely certain that a well-financed campaign for those tax increases on a special election ballot would make a huge deal over the “bi-partisan cooperation” to place the tax increase before voters. It would completely undermine the ability of the minority party to make the case for making a change in who is in charge of the Capitol.

If the left wants the public to vote on higher taxes, they can qualify a ballot measure (the unions can do that with just a fraction of their campaign funds). But at least if they go that route, it will be made clear to voters that Republicans had no part in it.

PPIC: Voters Want Budget-Fix Taxes on the Ballot

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California has found that two-thirds of likely voters say it’s a good idea to hold a special election on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend fee and tax increases to help cover the state’s $25-billion budget deficit. More than half the voters say they’d support the measure.

The findings confirm private polling reported by Calbuzz last week that suggest the principal reason why conservative anti-tax jihadists don’t want to put Brown’s measure on the ballot is that they’re afraid it will pass.

According to PPIC, 66% of likely voters – including 73% of Democrats, 64% of independents and even 55% of Republicans – approve of putting Brown’s proposed extension of fees and taxes on the ballot.

Moreover, 54% of voters – 65% of Democrats, 60% of independents but just 37% of Republicans – favor the extension of personal income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees.

The survey also confirmed findings from polling by Jim Moore for the California Issues Forum that when the elements of Brown’s proposal are characterized as tax increases rather than extensions, voters recoil: 70% reject raising personal income taxes, 64% are against increasing sales taxes and 62% oppose increasing the vehicle license fee. The only tax increase with popular support – 55% — would be an increase in taxes paid by corporations. As we said last week, should Brown’s proposal make the ballot, the battle will be between those who call his plan an “extension” of taxes and those who call them tax “increases.”

In response to the part of Brown’s budget proposal that has generated the noisiest and most orchestrated blow-back, PPIC reported voters favored, by 63-26%, “phasing out funding for local redevelopment agencies and eliminating state tax benefits for enterprise zones in order to redirect that tax revenue to local governments for schools and other local services.”

[Coincidentally, Moore reported on Wednesday that another survey, just completed, found that by 73-20% voters favor Brown’s proposal to “eliminate local redevelopment agency programs that now use property tax revenues for development projects and instead use the money for schools, police and fire services.”  In both PPIC’s and Moore’s polls, Democrats (68% PPIC; 77% Moore) were even more supportive of eliminating redevelopment agencies than independents and Republicans.]

PPIC found that a slight plurality of voters – 45% — favor patching the state’s budget hole with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, compared to 41% who favor mostly spending cuts and just 8% who support mostly tax increases.

Yet when asked about specific budget areas, 62% of voters say they’d support higher taxes to maintain current funding for K-12 public education, 51% for higher education and 46% for health and human services. Just 14% would support increasing taxes to maintain funding of prisons and corrections.

PPIC reported that when read a description of Brown’s proposed budget, 58% of likely voters say they are generally satisfied, including 64% of Democrats, 57% of independents and even 49% of Republicans.

Nearly three-fourths of voters – 73% — favor the governor’s call to shift responsibility and funds to local governments for various programs now run by the state. The idea is popular across party lines and throughout the state.

On the other hand, only half the voters now support the idea of giving local jurisdictions the ability to pass increased taxes with a 55% vote instead of a 2/3 majority. There’s a partisan divide on that question, with Democrats in favor 61-32%, independents leaning 50-41% in favor and Republicans opposed 61-33%.

While they like his budget proposal, Brown’s approval rating among likely voters is just 47-20% favorable, with 33% undecided. That a third of the voters have no opinion suggests that the governor has done little to reach out beyond the state capital to sell his budget plan – a reflection of his decision to work with legislators and interests groups before turning to the public broadly.

PPIC also reported:

Californians are feeling better about the direction of the state and their own financial futures, but most are still not feeling good. A majority (54%) continue to say that things in California are going in the wrong direction. However, the share of those who see things going in the right direction—38 percent—is up 22 points since October and the highest percentage since September 2007. Most independents (58%) and a large majority of Republicans (81%) remain pessimistic about the direction of the state. But for the first time since September 2007, Democrats are more likely to say the state is going in the right direction (51%) than in the wrong one (39%).

Turning to economic conditions in California, a majority of adults (56%) expect bad times financially in the next 12 months. But the percentage expecting good times—36 percent—is up 11 points since October. Despite their sunnier view of the economic outlook, most (86%) still believe the state is in a recession, with 48 percent viewing it as a serious recession.

PPIC surveyed 2,004 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from January 11–18, 2011. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The margin of error is ±3.5 percent for all adults and ±4.2 percent for the 987 likely voters.