Gov. Newsom’s Dirty Laundry – CPC Newsletter

By Jordan Bruneau
November 20, 2020

Gov. Newsom’s dirty laundry: California political news was dominated this week by Gov. Newsom’s recent dinner at the $350-a-plate Napa restaurant French Laundry for the 50th birthday bash of lobbyist and Democratic fixer Jason Kinney. Newsom’s hypocrisy is especially galling given that state public health officials told Californians this week to cancel their Thanksgiving plans.

Rule number one of crisis communications is to tell the whole truth about your misdeed immediately so that more details won’t leak out and prolong the embarrassing news cycle. Instead, Newsom offered a half-hearted apology, claiming that he broke no rules, noting the dinner was outdoors and distanced. Then the local LA Fox affiliate got its hands on an image of the celebration, showing that it was neither distanced nor outdoors. A witness said the group was so loud that the sliding doors had to be closed. (Reminder: Loud talking is verboten under the state’s gathering guidelines.)

For those keeping score at home, here’s a list of Newsom’s own guidelines that he broke:

  1. Indoor dining
  2. Party of more than three households
  3. Not socially distanced
  4. Loud talking
  5. No masks between bites

No word on whether the Happy Birthday song was sung – that would be a violation of Newsom’s no singing diktat – to the lobbyist who makes millions for his clients via his chummy relationship with Newsom. A final kicker: Representatives of the California Medical Association, members of which have been telling ordinary Californians to act responsibly and avoid gatherings, were also present at the hullabaloo.

Outgoing San Diego Mayor and potential Newsom challenger for governor Kevin Faulconer tweeted: “His kids can learn in person. But yours can’t. He can celebrate birthday parties. But you can’t. He can dine on a $350 meal at one California’s fanciest restaurants during the worst recession in generations. But you definitely can’t. Can you believe this? I can’t.”

Actions speak louder than words: Meanwhile, another other top San Francisco Democrat, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was caught on camera strolling the halls of the U.S. Capitol maskless despite being a vocal proponent of a nationwide mask mandate.

This hypocrisy is a microcosm of the left’s “do as I say, not as I do” governing approach: CPC board member David Bahnsen and president Will Swaim make this point in the latest episode of National Review’s Radio Free California. All too often, California’s politburo seem to act as if their regulations are for thee, not for me.

Pension liabilities, not Newsom’s dinner should dominate headlines: Terry Sforza, investigative reporter at the OC Registerpublished an update this week on the unfunded pension tsunami bearing down on the state. She highlights the numerous local tax and bond increases which passed in the recent election to try to address this pension debt and warns of significantly higher taxes to come:

As the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression bears down on public agencies, California’s cities and special districts are slated to pay $5.03 billion to fill outstanding holes in their pension plans in 2022, a painful hike of 43% over what they paid to fill those holes in 2019, according to data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

That’s on top of the “normal cost” they pay to cover pensions each year. And it will get worse before it gets better: Agencies will kick in even more over the next five or so years to make up for losses suffered during the last recession….

The rosier [picture], used by California officials, assumes that investments will earn returns of about 7%. That puts unfunded liabilities at $352.5 billion statewide, or the equivalent of $27,187 per household.

The darker one, used by Stanford’s Joe Nation, a former Democratic state assemblyman and professor of public policy, assumes the much lower return rate of 3.25%. That pegs unfunded liabilities at nearly $1.1 trillion, or $81,634 per household.

If that hole isn’t filled up with meatier earnings and heftier contributions from public agencies and their workers, taxpayers will be called upon to fill it directly.

Placentia shows a path forward, but cities and districts must act fast: Not every local government is setting small financial fires and stoking them with bad regulations. CPC contributor Edward Ring noted in a three-part analysis this summer how the City of Placentia has pursued an innovative way to cut its pension costs by creating a fire department independent of CalPERS, the state’s pension system. This move has allowed the city to set firefighters up with less-expensive defined contribution, 401k-style retirement benefits, which will generate significant savings.

Worried that this independence could be the start of a trend, CalPERS officials lobbied Sacramento to pass legislation (AB 2967) barring other cities and districts from making similar moves. In his latest contribution, Ed reveals new data showing the success of Placentia’s independent fire department. He suggests other cities and districts consider following Placentia’s lead before AB 2967 takes effect at the beginning of next year:

With over three months of operations now behind them, it is possible to review early results of Placentia’s experiment. According to the city’s “final quarterly update” on Placentia’s Fire and EMS Services, released on October 20, in their first three months of operation, the new independent fire department serviced 40 percent more daily calls than the prior year with OCFA, reduced local response times by over 3 minutes when compared to OCFA, and reduced the need for mutual aid from neighboring cities by 85 percent.

Texas Dreamin’: Last week, I highlighted venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale’s move to Texas. This week, he has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal explaining his reasons for decamping:

The harsh truth is that California has fallen into disrepair. Bad policies discourage business and innovation, stifle opportunity and make life in major cities ugly and unpleasant.

Forty years ago my parents came to California because you could accomplish anything in the Golden State. Government policy facilitated the entrepreneurial spirit. Dreamers and doers could thrive. The burst of activity in tech, finance, medicine, energy and many other industries lasted for decades. But now a state like Texas provides these opportunities without the problems and baggage California has accumulated.

California Democrats are catching up to what we’ve been saying for months about classroom closures: CPC has been pointing out the major consequences of classroom closures, especially for low-income families and minorities, since the spring. Politico has a story this week that California Democrats are finally starting to share this perspective:

As the pandemic wears on, more Democrats are sounding the alarm after staying silent earlier this fall. They are increasingly distressed that California’s approach has widened the gap between low-income communities of color and wealthier white families.

Frustrations hit a new level in October, when Newsom said his own children had returned to private school in Sacramento — while public school students in the surrounding neighborhoods remained home. Now leaders in the governor’s own party are turning on him, saying the status quo has left the state with crisis-level inequity.

California’s system amounts to “state-sanctioned segregation,” Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), the chair of the state Assembly Education Committee, said in an interview — a frank declaration for a Democrat consistently supported by the California Teachers Association.

You know who helped build that segregated education system? Teachers union member, advocate, and mouthpiece Patrick O’Donnell. Actions fail him. Words fail me.

Conservatives are the Red Menace? Last weekend, the LA Times took a page from the NY Times’ playbook (without giving credit) and turned over its letters to the editor page to Trump supporters. The letters themselves were run-of-the-mill. None mentioned Trump’s major accomplishments in holding off a bailout for blue-state government union pension funds, dramatic tax cuts especially for small businesses and sole-proprietors, and deregulation, which led to a pre-pandemic economic boom and a significant reduction in income inequality – especially for racial minorities.

In other words, if the paper actually wanted to publish a defense of Trump, it could have done a better job. (Not to mention publish the page before the election.) Even these lukewarm defenses of Trump, however, were more compelling than the letters the Times devoted in response, which barely surpassed the critical reasoning of “Orange man bad.”

More interesting than the letters themselves, however, was the preamble by the letter editor Paul Thornton. 

During the Cold War, a “red telephone” was said to have kept American leaders in constant contact with their Soviet counterparts. We know now there was never a red phone, just a hotline, but that’s beside the point: What’s important is that even at the height of tensions, Moscow and Washington understood the need to keep open direct lines of communication lest they stumble into disaster. Consider today’s letters page my “red telephone”…

The LA Times equating Trump supporters with the Kremlin is the perfect microcosm of the mainstream media’s antipathy toward conservative readers over the last four years. Thornton explains away this bias by claiming that Greater Los Angeles is liberal. Yet Trump won a combined 2.76 million votes in LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. That’s more votes than he got in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico combined.

Want more “direct lines of communication” with conservative voices? Here’s an idea: Welcome the views of these millions of voters, not as an infantilizing and demeaning one-off, but regularly on your opinion page!

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