I’ve got bonuses for you. The first is that Newport-Mesa Unified School Board Trustee Judy Franco is being acknowledged for her long-term service. I want to wish her all the best and thank her for her dedication to the community.
Judy has been in the trenches over the decades and, when I stayed at the Hyatt San Diego several years ago for a California Republican Party Convention, she was also there for a School Trustees Conference. She has always been serious about her fiduciary role and has been a bonus to me. The Daily Pilot covers her decision to not rerun in the first piece below.
The second piece is from the Voice of OC and needs one slight clarification. The title is bogus. Of the 20 worst bills that I suggested the Governor should veto (one of the bonuses below), Senator Josh Newman (D – Fullerton) did not vote against one of them. He’s a liberal Democrat and votes with the herd. However, Sen. Steve Glazer (D – Rialto) voted against 6 of these lousy bills and is fully deserving of the moniker “centrist.” There is your inside bonus on this posturing. As always, actions speak louder than words.
The third piece shows that, although the 2017 Session has concluded, our office is still working daily on the pressing issues. My Chief of Staff, who has been a serious bonus during my tenure, was a panelist at a recent technology conference and was identified as a contributor in Government Technology.
Our efforts for transparency were thwarted last year with the introduction of SB 1251 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Upcoming SB 1251 Hearings — April 9, 2016 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016). I shared this experience in my speeches last fall (also see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1251-california-financial-transparency-act-2016). Again, we’re trying.
Talking about trying, the San Francisco Chronicle provides the fourth piece below. Although it does not mention me by name, it does address my only vetoed bill, SB 1463, so I’m throwing it in as a bonus (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017). It provides stronger clues as to why SB 1463, which did not receive one vote in opposition when it went through the Legislature, was vetoed by the Governor. Perhaps his veto message was bogus?
Now, for two additional BONUSES. The Governor had to address the Legislature’s bills by October 15. It’s time for the results.
BONUS: Governor Jerry Brown vetoed 7 (35 percent) of the worst 20 bills of the 2017 Session (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).
Although it’s not 100 percent, as these are bills written by fellow Democrats, more than two-thirds is better than his signing them all. Four of the Top 20 also made it to our “Who’s Your Daddy?” listing (noted as “WYD?” and further explained in the next BONUS). More on those results in the next UPDATE. Here are the results:
|1||AB 20||(Kalra)||Send Jobs, Not Investments to Dakota||Signed|
|2||AB 168||(Eggman)||Across the Board Salary Lowballing||Signed|
|3||AB 199||(Chu)||Construction Reduction Act||WYD?||Signed|
|4||AB 569||(Gonzalez-||Discrimination of Church by State||Vetoed|
|5||AB 890||(Medina)||Voter Suppression Act||Vetoed|
|6||AB 1008||(McCarty)||Employment Meddling Act||Signed|
|7||AB 1209||(Gonzalez-||Women Employee Reduction Act||Vetoed|
|8||AB 1269||(M. Stone)||Mobile Home Tax||Vetoed|
|9||AB 1274||(O’Donnell)||Fee Hidden as a Tax||Signed|
|10||AB 1455||(Bocanegra)||Public Employee Bargaining||WYD?||Signed|
|11||AB 1461||(Thurmond)||Food Handler Cards – Farmers Next?||WYD?||Vetoed|
|12||AB 1513||(Kalra)||Union Invasion of Privacy||WYD?||Vetoed|
|13||SB 2||(Atkins)||Killing Homes and Jobs for the||Signed|
|Middle Class Act|
|14||SB 3||(Beall)||California Legislature’s Housing||Signed|
|15||SB 5||(De Leon)||Park Bond Boondoggle||Signed|
|16||SB 54||(De Leon)||Sanctuary State Nonsense||Signed|
|17||SB 63||(Jackson)||Small Business Meddling Act||Signed|
|18||SB 149||(McGuire)||Do As I Say, Not As I Disclose||Vetoed|
|19||SB 239||(Wiener)||HIV Assualt Act||Signed|
|20||SB 285||(Atkins)||Bargaining Meddling Act||Signed|
BONUS: There is no disputing that public employee unions dominate and control the majority party in Sacramento. This year had another crop of bills at the end of Session that were so slanted to benefit unions, I decided to create a “Who’s Your Daddy?” list. It is that bad (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017 october 1, 2017 john moorlach).
Jerry Brown would not be our Governor, but for the campaign funding he received in 2010 from public employee unions to overcome billionaire Meg Whitman’s personal financial resources. So, how did the Governor do with these 15 blatant union bills? He vetoed five of them. Killing one-third of these bad bills is commendable. Here are the results (four of them were also in the Top 20 list):
‘She’s given her life to these schools’: Newport-Mesa trustee Judy Franco prepares to step aside after nearly 4 decades
By Priscella Vega
When Judy Franco was appointed to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board in 1980, she didn’t imagine that 37 years later she would still be representing Area 5.
She said she had dropped hints about stepping down at the end of her current term, but when she announced Tuesday that she wouldn’t run in the 2018 election, some observers nevertheless were surprised.
Franco, 80, said she needed to clear up rumors about why the school board may have preferred one map over another in adjusting trustee zone boundaries in time for next year’s election.
In one proposal, labeled Map B, Franco and board President Karen Yelsey’s current addresses would be in the same zone, Area 5, resulting in the possibility of them running against each other in a future election.
Some critics of the other proposal, Map G, speculated it was created to help them avoid a possible faceoff. Yelsey and Franco denied that.
“I didn’t want to make the announcement, but I was sick and tired of hearing innuendo of reasons why we chose Map G,” Franco said Friday. “It made me very angry, and the blame was somehow not put on me but on Yelsey by many people, and it’s totally untrue. It irritated the devil out of me.”
Criticism aside, Franco said she had previously promised her husband that she wouldn’t run for another term so they wouldn’t have to schedule trips around school board meetings.
Franco will complete her time on the school board in December 2018.
During her tenure, Franco has seen the district close multiple elementary schools, embrace a growing number of Latino families from Costa Mesa’s Westside, and deal with controversy surrounding a Mariners Elementary School Gold Ribbon Award and the transition from the controversial Swun Math to new math materials.
Recently the district settled a lawsuit alleging that its election system, in which the seven trustees are chosen by voters throughout the district, violates the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit led to the district decided to change the system so trustees will be elected by voters in each zone.
Franco said her career development was an organic process, beginning as a teacher, transitioning into a PTA president at Newport Elementary School and later being appointed to a seat on the school board, though she didn’t expect to stay long. But she was elected to the seat the following year and has been there since.
“It wasn’t a dream of mine, it just sort of happened,” she said. “Every time the election was coming up, I’d get phone calls from people and so I continued to run.”
During her first year as a trustee, she went into “learning and listening mode” until she found her voice, she said.
In an interview Friday, state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) called Franco “a real trouper” for the school district and the Republican Party. He said he recalled bumping into her during a conference in San Diego where he could tell she “took her job seriously and loved it.”
Two of her passions have been establishing sailing as an official sport and program in Newport-Mesa and taking on a leadership role for Youth and Government, an independent study program.
Sean Boulton, who started working in the district in 1999 and is now principal of Newport Harbor High School, credited Franco with helping establish sailing as an official sport.
“It’s a unique feature in Newport-Mesa because of her,” he said. “It takes hoops and steps to establish a sport like that, and she gave us the clarity to make it official.
“She’s given her life to these schools.”
In 2001, Franco was diagnosed with breast cancer but remained active in the district. She said she has missed about 12 meetings throughout her time on the board.
Trustee Martha Fluor, a board member since 1991, described her colleague as a mentor and a “true dedicated warrior” with an “immense amount of knowledge.”
“One of her strongest assets is that she’s truly [a] committed board member,” Fluor said. “There were times she was going through cancer treatments early on when she’d come to board meetings even in the midst of chemo and radiation.”
During her tenure, Franco said, she learned to resist criticism as long as she remained dedicated to her philosophy of making sure that programs, resolutions and motions were for the good of students.
When she finishes her final term next year, the board will be in good hands, Franco said.
“It’s a good balance with a breadth of knowledge,” she said.
Reiff: Recall Target State Sen. Josh Newman Says He’s ‘Not a Politician, Not a Lefty, a Centrist’
By RICK REIFF
Recall target Josh Newman of Fullerton says he’s “probably the least ideological Democrat in the state Senate” and dismisses as “hyperbole” attempts to portray him as a “crazy lefty” who is out of step with his traditionally Republican-leaning district.
“The irony is I’m the guy who’s targeted … I’d argue that as an Army vet, former business guy, I’m actually quite reflective of my district, which is a politically centrist district,” Newman said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs show.
Newman voted along with 25 of his fellow Democrats and just one Republican to increase gas taxes and vehicle license fees, a measure that passed with the bare-minimum 27 votes. And that has triggered a GOP-led recall campaign; those wanting to undo the Democrats’ two-thirds super-majority in the Legislature see Newman, a freshman lawmaker with less than a year in office, as the weakest link.
“The tax is an opportunity to try to overturn the result of the last election, mine,” Newman said. “It’s really about changing the balance of power in the Legislature.”
Recall backers have validated more than enough signatures for a recall, but are now in court challenging a new law that gives petition signers time to rescind their names. Newman said he supports the Democratic counter-measure because it is “clear” that “a very large, indeterminate number of people” were deceived into thinking the recall petition was actually a petition to repeal the gas tax.
Nonetheless, Newman said the Democratic moves will merely delay the Republicans. He said there will be a recall election sometime next year and “I accept the recall process.”
Newman strongly defended his vote for the gas tax: “We have a real problem. Our roads and bridges are in sub-standard condition due to 20 years of neglect.”
“I thoroughly appreciate those are precious dollars that are an additional burden to voters, motorists.” Newman said. He said he is open to ideas for spending transportation dollars more wisely, including from his Senate Republican colleague and fierce Caltrans critic John Moorlach.
But “you don’t solve one problem by ignoring another,” Newman said of his gas-tax vote.
Newman recounted his underdog campaign last year. A political novice, he out-polled favored Democrat Sukhee Kang, former Irvine mayor, in the top-two primary to advance to the general election, where he edged favored Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang.
Newman trailed Chang after election night, but prevailed over the next three weeks as votes continued to be counted from his far-flung district, which takes in parts of three counties — Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino.
“I was down and then sort of dumbstruck and then elated,” he said.
His unorthodox campaign included a bear mascot, which was Newman himself – he said he didn’t want to subject anyone else to heatstroke from wearing the heavy costume. And his campaign signs – a “Hello” name tag signed “Newman,” a cheeky reference to “Hello, Newman” from the TV show “Seinfeld” – won the national political consulting Pollie Award for best yard sign.
“I’m not a politician,” Newman said. “I didn’t have the relationships or the endorsements or the access to funds.” Especially in the primary, before sizable Democratic donations became available, “I had to figure out how to run a creative, low-dollar campaign.”
Newman said he decided to run for public office after testifying before a state legislative committee on the issue of veteran employment. He was perturbed that many lawmakers were checking their cell phones instead of listening to him:
“I came home and my wife admits, although she’s regretted it since, she said, ‘Hey, if you really want to make a difference you should think about running.’”
The show aired this week on PBS SoCal, KDOC and Cox, and can be viewed on You Tube.
Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.
California Open Data and Transparency Efforts Continue Progressing Despite Challenges
Speakers at the Data Coalition’s annual Data Demo Day say tech improvements and culture changes are coming, but much room for progress remains.
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The Data Coalition, an advocacy group for widespread standardization and publication of government data, hosted its annual California Data Demo Day on Thursday, Oct. 19, featuring panels of experts who work for and with the state’s legislative and executive branches of government.
Lance Christensen, chief of staff for California Sen. John Moorlach, sat on the legislative panel and showed up with a whole bunch of paperwork: a couple of thick blue binders, some weighty reports, another book of rules that barely fit in a pocket. He plunked it all down on the table and told the civic tech vendors, lawmakers and policy wonks in attendance that the stacks contained important public info about California’s budget info only available in outdated paper formats kept at the capitol in Sacramento. Essentially Christensen brought the props to show that despite California’s progressive values and booming tech industry, gov tech at the state level still has much room for improvement.
“If I were to say go find the budget, outside of a Google search, could you really find it?” Christensen asked the room.
He went on to note that if business owners, thought leaders or any other residents of California wanted certain budget info, “You have to drive to the capitol and spend a day picking this up.” He lifted a bulky binder to illustrate.
Indeed, a duality emerged throughout the event. Everyone in attendance — from government employees to politicians to technologists to lobbyists — voiced support for open data practices, while at the same time acknowledging that California could do a better job of execution.
That’s not to say no progress has been made in recent years. There was a sense of optimism in the discussions, a sense that state leadership is committed to doing its best to improve but is, of course, limited by challenges. The event’s keynote speaker California Sen. Richard Pan described how the failure of SB 573, which would have required the state to support open data and hire a chief data officer, had to do with politics but ultimately led to discussions that resulted in most of what the bill was asking for coming to pass, including the hiring of a chief data officer.
Pan also emphasized that the power of open data lies in not just transparency but also in its potential to improve efficiency within government.
“Through open data, we want to empower government to make decisions and see what the results of those decisions are on the public,” Pan said.
He said the best way to ensure that open data culture becomes entrenched in California is to develop better tools that the public will want to use to engage with government. Christensen, the chief of staff who brought all the papers, called for the public to show up at hearings, ask questions about why certain open data isn’t readily available and put videos of politicians answering on Facebook or other platforms where they can be shared.
Jan Ross, California’s deputy treasurer for technology and innovation, had the clearest examples of how open data practices in California are steadily improving, pointing to many of the open data and transparency efforts taking place within her department under the leadership of Treasurer John Chiang. Those efforts include the DebtWatch portal, which provides detailed information about $1.5 trillion of debt issued by state and local governments over the past 30 years.
It’s dry information, to be sure, but Ross talked about how citizens concerned with the government loaning taxpayer money in service of infrastructure and other projects could use the portal to see exactly where in their communities the money had gone, how it had made things better.
“You can see where this impacts your community and why you should care about it,” Ross said.
The challenges discussed included finances — especially for cities that did not generate as much revenue as major metros like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another hurdle, experts said, is the sheer mass of data government collects, which can be cumbersome — as can finding ways for dozens of disparate public agencies to funnel that much data into a unified format.
“If the government chooses to publish its data, to standardize its data,” said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition, “the tech community can do amazing things with it.”
Arguably, the best indicator for open data’s bright future in California was the seemingly total acceptance that more gov tech companies are popping up with simpler ways to use tech to further open data uses.
Zack Quaintance Staff Writer
Failure to adequately regulate utilities helped fuel wildfires
By Jamie Court
Corruption can kill.
The fires that laid waste to California’s Wine Country and at least 42 lives were not merely the product of a changing climate and extra-heated winds.
Early reports suggest the failure of Gov. Jerry Brown and his appointees to adequately regulate our public utilities to prevent such fires also fueled the fast-moving flames.
Investigators are examining downed power wires and exploding transformers from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which were reported on multiple 911 calls, by PG&E workers and by witnesses as the immediate cause of many blazes.
Reports from fire responders, residents and PG&E itself also point to the flames spreading so quickly because of overgrown trees too close to the utility’s power lines.
The Butte Fire in 2015, which destroyed more than 500 homes and killed two people in Calaveras County, was caused by PG&E’s failure to cut back a pine tree that hit a power line and sparked the fire.
PG&E’s negligence to identify the weakened trees led to bipartisan legislation in 2016, passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature, to reduce the risks of wildfire from overhead utility lines by clearing out dead trees. The bill required the Public Utilities Commission to identify and map high-risk wildfire hotspots due to overhead utility lines, taking into consideration local governments’ concerns, so that utilities would have to step up their mitigation efforts in those areas.
Unfortunately, Gov. Brown shockingly vetoed that fire prevention legislation, claiming that the state Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had a process in place. The furious spread of fires along trees in the path of power lines last week lays naked that claim.
PG&E itself put the blame on “hurricane-strength winds” and “millions of trees weakened by years of drought,” contributing “to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines.”
In fact, winds were only half the level of hurricane force, peaking at 30 miles per hour when the Tubbs Fire started, according to the Bay Area News Group, but overgrown trees as fuel for the fire were all too real. Attorney Frank Pitre, who sued PG&E over the Butte Fire, said it’s “the utility’s very responsibility to identify a weakened tree and remove it before it strikes a power line.”
Unfortunately, cronyism in the Brown administration has allowed a long-standing culture of neglect at PG&E to continue undeterred because PG&E and its brethren fear no real consequences.
PG&E has long been the darling of the Brown administration, supplying his top aide, Nancy McFadden, from its executive ranks, as well as his former Cabinet secretary. It’s little wonder the unanimous fire cleanup bill was vetoed when McFadden, Brown’s top legislative adviser, was a former senior vice president at PG&E who left the company with a $1 million payout.
The veto came despite the fact that explosive electric power equipment is among the top three causes of California wildfires.
Brown has also stacked his Public Utilities Commission with PG&E and utility partisans in the wake of corruption scandals that should have shaken the commission to its core.
PG&E’s former lobbyist was caught in a pay-to-play scheme with former PUC President Michael Peevey, but Brown did all he could to support Peevey and keep the pro-utility commission pro-utility. “He gets things done,” Brown said of Peevey, after the scandal broke, calling him “a very effective leader.”
We often think of public corruption as an academic, antiseptic issue. In this case, it has real-world consequences. Brown’s refusal to get tough on PG&E and other utilities has led to repeated safety issues that endanger lives.
Consider the San Bruno explosion in 2010 that claimed eight lives and leveled neighborhoods. PG&E neglected gas pipelines and kept shoddy maintenance records. It even took ratepayer money intended for gas pipeline repairs and used it for executive bonuses and shareholder dividends. Emails showed PG&E’s lobbyist worked surreptitiously with PUC commissioners to pick its own PUC judge to hear the case. It took a federal conviction this year to reveal PG&E was a criminal.
City officials in San Bruno still wonder why no one at the company was ever punished. Under PUC President Michael Picker, a top former aide of Brown’s, the commission continues to stonewall the release of documents related to the blast.
Of course, PG&E has been generous to Brown and his causes as well, shelling out six-figure contributions over his term.
The irony is Brown has made combatting climate change his signature issue, but his hostility to regulation has made California more vulnerable than ever to its ravages.
That’s a lesson the next governor should learn as prerequisite for the job.
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.