Finding a friend in Oregon, Newsom’s lawsuit pays off and the Nazi next door

Good Morning, California. 

This is Ben Christopher, filling in for Dan Morain. Don’t worry, loyal Dan fans, the main man will return on Monday.

“In 1978 then-Gov. Jerry Brown said, ‘I don’t believe there is one credible observer who thinks Proposition 13 will endure over the long period.’ Well, Jerry, sorry to disappoint. Here’s to another 41 years!”—Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, with a celebratory tweet to mark the anniversary of Proposition 13, a ballot measure that put a constitutional cap on state property tax increases, sharply curtailed the ability of state and local governments to introduce new taxes, and dramatically changed just about every aspect of California governance.


"Seeing an old friend"

Oregon may join California's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lonely California could be getting a new stateside partner in its cap-and-trade market.

  • After nearly a decade of stalled efforts to unite the West under a single carbon-trading program, Oregon will decide this month whether it wants to follow in California’s footsteps, CALmatters environment reporter Rachel Becker writes.
  • The bill, HB 2020, would set ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reductions over the next 30 years and establish an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to help the state meet them.

Rajinder Sahota, who oversees climate programs, including cap and trade, for the California Air Resources Board: “It’s like us going back and seeing an old friend. … It’s very exciting to see them get this far. I know how hard they’ve worked.”

Oregon’s bill, if it passes, won’t automatically link a new cap-and-trade market in Oregon with California and Quebec’s joint carbon-trading program, but that’s the ultimate goal. But experts say the stakes of getting this right are high.

  • Big greenhouse gas producers across the economy, like power plants and heavy industry, can work toward emissions targets by upgrading their facilities, or by using credits.
  •  Each credit allows a company to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases, and the number of credits the state issues drops every year.

But questions are growing in environmental circles about the effectiveness of market-based cap-and-trade programs in tackling climate change.

Danny Cullenward, policy director at climate change think-tank Near Zero and member of the Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee: “If it continues to not go well, it’s going to increase resistance to these programs among the climate activist community whose support is essential.”

Unions and parking deals

Cal State employees pay less for parking than students.

Across California State University, students pay more for parking so that faculty members, staff and administrators can pay less.

Meghan Waymire, a student at Cal State Fullerton: “Only faculty and staff have those unions. Students don’t have those same representatives.”

How much more are student paying?

  • The average semester parking permit for students across CSU is $171.81.
  • The average for faculty members is $68.33, $70 for staff and $166.92 for administrators.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber proposed AB 532 to reduce student parking fees, but it stalled this year.

  • Instead, in a proposal backed by the CSU employees union, the state will audit the current system to better understand the university’s parking fee structure.

David Balla-Hawkins, CSU Employees Union: “I think what students need to be attentive to is what’s going on with the money they’re paying for parking permits. What’s it being used for? And that’s what the state audit is going to answer.”

The bill may be dead, but the fight continues.

Weber: “We will probably try to figure out a path forward in the future for this bill … because it did open up the eyes of a lot of people.”

Steyer wades in

Tom Steyer supports Gov. Gavin Newsom's clean drinking water plan.

You may know him best as that really rich guy who has been talking about impeaching President Trump before it was cool among Democrats in Congress, but Tom Steyer is out with new, simpler political campaign: to clean up California’s drinking water.

In a new ad that will target tax-wary lawmakers across the state, the hedge fund manager-turned-progressive activist is calling for Californians to support Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to fund $140 million in infrastructure improvements with a monthly fee.

  • More than 1 million Californians lack access to clean drinking water, according to the governor’s office. 
  • The proposed tax would range from 95 cents to $10 per month per user, plus additional fees on big polluters in agriculture.

A group of Central Valley residents and environmental justice activists held a “water strike” protest at the Capitol earlier this week. NextGen California, the group founded by Steyer, is part of the same coalition.

  • The “water tax” has been political catnip for Republicans, particularly given the state’s flush fiscal coffers. That’s put the fear of electoral retribution into the hearts of many Democrats from politically moderate and ag-dependent communities.
  • Remember Josh Newman? His former colleagues sure do. Newman used to represent northern Orange County in the state Senate until voters yanked him from office in a GOP-funded recall election, a punishment for his vote on the state gas tax. (He’s running for his old seat again next year).

No surprise that Steyer’s new ad will be blasted at Sacramento, the Central Valley, Orange County and certain sections of Los Angeles and Orange County. 

Robin Swanson, speaking on behalf of NextGen California: “Legislators, we want to make sure they see it.”

Cities get their houses in order

Jurupa Valley's housing plan has received state approval.

It’s official: Two more California cities now have new plans to build more housing—and maybe all it took was the prospect of a costly legal battle with the state.

The Southern California cities of Jurupa Valley and Paramount are the latest communities to have their “housing element” plans pass muster with the Department of Housing and Community Development.

  • In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the state to sue the City of Huntington Beach, arguing that it violated a rarely enforced housing law that requires each city to help meet its region’s need for new units.
  •  That rough legal treatment of the tony beachside community was meant to serve as a warning to the then-47 other cities that weren’t in compliance.

Message received? John Moreno, the city manager of Paramount, says the city’s recent progress on the plan has nothing to do with the governor’s legal strategy.

Moreno: “Regardless of recent actions taken to prompt cities to complete their plans, Paramount has been working toward this goal over the last few years to thoughtfully address these challenges that the whole state is facing.”

But since the state’s lawsuit, five cities have fallen in line and 10 more have submitted their new plans for approval.

  • Newsom’s housing department pointed to the news as “significant progress” toward meeting the governor’s ambitious housing goals.

Given the slew of housing bills that met their Legislative demise in recent weeks (“drowned in a bath of blood,” to borrow a colorful description from the Los Angeles’ Times Liam Dillon), the governor will need all the progress he can get.

In the meantime, Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park is considering a citywide moratorium on development. The freeze would ban all new commercial and hotel construction as well as any new dense housing on the city’s eastern bayside.

  • That would threaten the future of Willow Village, a Facebook-sponsored mixed-use development that aims to house 1,500 people and which was proposed in response to local complaints about large tech companies not providing sufficient housing.

University blues

USC's School of Social Work is facing money troubles.

When the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work took its curriculum online a decade ago, enrollment in the program exploded, quickly becoming the largest in the world.

Now the school is massively overextended and underfinanced, facing “a budget crisis so severe that nearly half of the staff may lose their jobs,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

  • How did this happen? Pick a cause:

The Los Angeles Times: “Hiring teachers and administrators for the online program proved costly. Fees for the company that runs the digital learning platform ate up more than half of the online tuition revenue. Other, less-costly programs came on the market.”

It’s been a lousy news cycle (or three) for USC, one of the country’s premier private universities:

  • The university is at the center of a nation-spanning college admissions scandal.
  • The former dean of its business school was ousted for his handling of harassment complaints, leading to a high-profile spat between the school’s donors and trustees.
  • The former head of its medical school stepped down after the Los Angeles Times reported that he regularly used drugs on campus.

More bad news for another California university: Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would no longer be funding fetal-tissue research, reported the New York Times.

One UC San Francisco lab that conducts research on HIV will lose a $2 million grant. University chancellor Sam Hawgood said the lab’s research could only be done “through the use of fetal tissue to find a cure for H.I.V.”

From the HHS: “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration.”

Neighborhood character

El Sobrante resident Steven Johnson's driveway includes a concrete swastika.

Remember when the city of Hillsborough sued its own resident for populating her front yard with life-sized statues of dinosaurs and other prehistoric megafauna? Hillsborough should count its blessings.

Meet Steven Johnson of El Sobrante, the Harley-riding Bay Area suburbanite who decided to install a giant, concrete swastika on his front lawn. And the neighbors are, understandably, upset.

  • Johnson told the East Bay Times that he’s “not a worshiper of Nazis” but simply likes the design, which he called a “Tibetan symbol.”
  • Swastikas are in fact a common icon in many religious traditions, but since the 1930s, the symbol has been most commonly associated with the Third Reich. Obviously.

Johnson: “That Nazi (stuff) happened like 80 years ago. … Get over it, I guess.”

Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, beginning the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe. 

NBC Bay Area reported that Johnson also had a swastika sticker on his motorcycle. But at least one neighbor said he wasn’t overly concerned.

Vince Poehnelt: “I consider the guy harmless. … Maybe he’s a little too lazy to be a full-blown neo-Nazi.”

Commentary at CALmatters

Christian Giller, California Association of Air Medical Services: Inexplicably, the state budget process has left out support for air ambulance. The emergency services provided by air ambulances could disappear if a funding stream that expires at the end of this year is not replaced in the pending state budget.

Please email or call Dan with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you Monday.

Latest in Newsletters

Homeless encampments like this one in Santa Cruz contribute to rising public concern about homelessness and housing in California. Photo by Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel


Bad teeth, college costs, voters’ dim view of homelessness, and presidential campaign money


Elbows fly in the Capitol over Steve Ballmer’s plan for a Clippers arena in Inglewood


Building trades’ rift widens with Newsom


Gavin Newsom takes aim at PG&E, while the GOP barks at Newsom over road money


Assessing Gavin Newsom’s first legislative session, why no microgrids, and a hole in California’s gun laws


Newsom vents on blackouts as PG&E begins restoring power, Becerra’s privacy rules, and an idea for homeless courts