Some wag proclaimed: "A democracy is a system where a fellow who didn't vote can spend the rest of the year kicking about the candidate the other fellows elected.'
I recommended last month Dr. Emily Murase of Lakeshore Acres, Lowell High School, Bryn Mawr College, Stanford University for District 7 Supervisor, plus second and third choices, Stephen Martin-Pinto and Joel Engardio. I reiterate my recommendation of Dr. Murase as first choice. I now add in District 1, the Richmond, David Lee, an SF State professor, steady founder of an entity encouraging Asian Americans to participate in politics, and father of two college students, one of whom attends my alma mater, Dartmouth College. His contestants are products of the politics industry in San Francisco, tax-eating City Hall aides. They're in the avaricious "City Family"; David Lee is not. If I lived in The Richmond, I'd vote only for David Lee. For City College’s Governing Board, I recommend Victor Olivieri, SF Veterans Affairs Commission President and fiscal disciplinarian!
State Proposition 14 authorizes $5,500,000,000 in state general obligation bonds to continue stem cell research by nonprofit and private entities. Vote “Yes.”
Proposition 15 is a Trojan Horse to repeal Proposition 13 regarding property valuation for property tax impositions. It sounds benign to increase taxes on commercial land and buildings and pour more money into cities, counties, and special districts, I note opposition by the state NAACP, the California Small Business Association, and California Senior Advocates League because it's the admitted first step in dismantling Proposition 13, which stopped skyrocketing property taxes on Social Security, pension, and military veterans in 1978. Vote "No."
Proposition 16 restores quota systems in public university admissions, public contracts, and public employment. In 1996, we passed Proposition 209, which prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment based upon race, sex, color, or national origin in public employment, public education, or public contracts. That's why Californians for Equal Rights call the ban on discrimination and preferential treatment “. . . a fundamental part of the American creed."
Proposition 17 allows convicted murderers, rapists, pedophiles, kidnappers, gangsters, and human traffickers to vote before completing their sentences. In 1974, voters approved restoring voting rights to convicted felons after they complete their sentences, including parole. Leave it that way. Vote “No.”
Proposition 18 allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they're 18 by the next general election. It's contrary to California's Constitution and federal law. A 17-year-old can't join a school field trip without signed permission from a parent or guardian, because age-related brain development relates to reasoning, analyzing, and understanding cause and effect. 17-year-olds are subject to specific restrictions on driver licenses until their 18th birthday. California's primary election includes tax and bond measures which don't create taxes for 17-year-olds. Don't change constitutional law. Vote “No.”
Proposition 19 abolishes constitutional provisions adopted by voters in 1986 and 1996 by removing Proposition 13 protections. It mandates reassessment to market value of property transferred by parents to children, including some transfers from grandparents to grandchildren. Parents may now transfer a home of any value without increasing property taxes. Proposition 19 compels reassessment at market value of property transferred from parents to children unless the children make it their principal residence. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst predicts this would cost California families about $2,000,000,000 yearly in higher property taxes. It's a political mistake by Sacramento politicians and isn't on the ballot by popular voter demand. Vote “No.”
Proposition 20 is a crime victim-initiative to restore criminal laws like felony sentences for 22 violent crimes and serial thefts by habitual criminals. Vote “Yes.”
Proposition 21 usurps local control of rents by permitting local governments to impose rent control on residences over 15 years old and increases in rent-controlled properties of 15% over three years once a new tenant arrives. As noted by the American Legion State Commander and California Council for Affordable Housing, voters defeated this two years ago. It does nothing to solve California's housing shortage, eliminates homeowner protections, and reduces home values by up to 20%. It's opposed by the NAACP and California Senior Advocates League. Vote “No.”
Proposition 22 constitutes an initiative statute to enable app-based drivers and others to work as independent contractors for rides and grocery deliveries. Drivers support Proposition 22. Vote “Yes.”
Proposition 23 represents another initiative which establishes state requirements for kidney dialysis clinics, and requires a physician or nurse to be present for such treatment. That's elemental, and I'm voting for Proposition 23.
Proposition 24 will cost $10,000,000 annually for a new state agency, California Privacy Protection Agency, requiring businesses to correct inaccurate personal information, prevent businesses from sharing personal information, and limit use of information about race, religion, genetic data, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. I'm convinced by Proposition 24’s merits to. Vote “Yes.” Lastly, but important,
Proposition 25 repeals a 2018 statute ending pretrial release from jail by defendants’ posting bail or on their own recognizance. Proposition 25 replaced federal and California constitutional bail with an algorithmic computer-generated modeling administered inconsistently by 58 different county Superior Courts. That's why the NAACP, crime victims, and lawyers who practice criminal law as prosecutors or otherwise recommend repeal of the 2018 elimination of bail. Proposition 25 constitutes a referendum which means a "No" vote to repeal the legislature's ignorant statute. Every accused criminal has a lawyer appointed by the court at taxpayer expense or retained privately. Defense attorneys will seek release of their clients without bail and present witnesses to support such requests in a court proceeding which permits a judge to decide whether the prosecutor's request for pretrial bail is justified. The test is whether evidence persuades the judge the defendant will appear in court for pretrial proceedings and eschew criminal conduct before trial. If an accused doesn't appear for a court proceeding while on bail, the bail provider must forfeit the bail and/or bring the accused to court to avert forfeiture of his or her money. If a defendant released without bail doesn't appear in court, county law enforcement must, at taxpayer expense, find and re-arrest the defendant. Bail represents a constitutional, practical court-ordered method in criminal cases. States which abolished bail for this cockamamie algorithm have regretted it. Vote “No” on Proposition 25.
September 24, 2020
"An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry." So stated George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) in 1866.
In California, that is true with not only presidential and state legislative candidates, but Board of Supervisors candidates and ballot measures, state and local, galore. Mailed ballots will be transmitted to only registered voters (we hope) on October 5, 2020. It's timely to provide my time-honored, sometimes-respected recommendations.
First, I correct my own sorrowful version of fake news from July by informing readers there are "only" 13 state ballot measures, not 25. Second, I provide no wisdom on the presidential candidates because California's a one-party state and my vote as a registered Independent doesn't matter. I begin with November 3rd City and County ballot measures, Propositions A to L and District 7 Board of Supervisors election, ignoring District 1 because major candidates are dreary members of the "City Family", meaning outsiders needn't apply!
I provide no wisdom on the presidential candidates because California's a one-party state and my vote as a registered Independent doesn't matter. I begin with November 3rd City and County ballot measures, Propositions A to L...
I recommend rejection of Proposition A, a general obligation bond of $487,500,000 basically for homelessness and street resurfacing. The latter logically should be paid by California's gasoline taxes, highest in the nation. Our economy is in a deep recession, the unfunded pension liability is $3,600,000,000, and cost per employee pension benefits amounts to 25% of salary per employee next year, for 38,000 City employees, who four years ago garnered an average $108,774 in salary and $49,864 in benefits.
Proposition B would create one more City government department and two new commissions, Public Works Commission and Department of Sanitation/Streets Commission. The City Controller estimates additional costs of $2,500,000-$6,000,000 annually. Stop bureaucracy. Vote "No."
Proposition C removes citizen requirements for serving on City commissions, and if San Francisco allows 16-year-olds to vote, they'd be eligible. Vote "No."
Proposition D would establish yet another commission and a new City office for an independently-elected under state law sheriff, namely, Office of Inspector General and Sheriff Oversight Commission. Our Controller estimates $4,000,000-$10,000,000 yearly in new taxpayer costs. Vote "No."
Proposition E amends the Charter only by removing a minimum staffing requirement with complicated biannual recommendations for the number of cops. Reject it. It's stupid at a time of declining active cops who are regularly condemned for protecting us by enforcing laws.
Proposition F increases small business exemptions from the gross receipts tax and eliminates remaining payroll taxation with a new gross receipts tax on technology and financial services. I'll vote "Yes."
Proposition G constitutes another Board of Supervisors "special." It lowers the voting age in municipal elections to 16. Four years ago, voters rejected that. Please do it again. Vote "No."
Proposition H deserves passage, assuming City Hall executes its required reduction in red tape for business permits. Vote "Yes."
Proposition I represents another illogical San Francisco tax. When you buy real estate, a house or building, how long does it take the Recorder's Office at City Hall to file the deed? Ten minutes? (I fought the original real estate transfer tax unsuccessfully as a Supervisor in the last century.) Proposition I increases the tax on property sales over $10,000,000 for "social housing." Because state law prohibits Supervisors who never saw a tax they didn't like from imposing a local income tax, devices like this are propounded. Defeat it and demand the transfer tax be abolished.
Proposition J signifies unfairness. It's a parcel tax for classroom technology and school district salary increases. A parcel tax is the same amount for billion dollar corporate parcels, like Salesforce.com, Inc. and 555 California Street (partially owned by "Bone Spur" Trump) as a cottage in the Outer Sunset. It's not based upon property value; it's grossly unfair. Vote "No."
Proposition K removes voter requirements for 10,000 real estate housing units on municipal land. It identifies no locations or funding. Its supervisorial sponsor may be the most biased anti-voter approval Supervisor. Defeat it by voting "No."
Proposition L adds gross receipt taxation on companies whose highest-paid employee earns more than a hundred times the median salary of other employees. Our Supervisors want to reduce the gross receipts tax on one hand, but sock it to businesses regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission, voting stockholders and a directorate which rewards competence and performance. Vote "No."
Also on the local ballot is a 1/8th percent sales tax increase (Proposition RR) in the three counties which jointly operate Caltrain, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. Sales taxation is regressive. Before the pandemic, Caltrain's farebox recovery ratio was 73.5%, highest in the Bay Area, and twice as many San Franciscans used it as did so 10 years ago. So long as Supervisors Peskin and Walton stop mucking around with San Mateo County Transit District management of Caltrain, a "Yes" vote is justified to keep Caltrain operating.
I'll cover all 12 state ballot measures next month, but I emphasize voting "No" on Proposition 16, which would repeal a 1996 California constitutional prohibition against discrimination or preferential treatment in public employment, public education, or public contracting on the basis of race, sex, color, or national origin. Vote "No" also on Proposition 25, a referendum to repeal 2018 legislation which banned cash bail in criminal law cases and substituted mandatory use of a technological algorithm for a Superior Court judge to decide whether a defendant will appear for all court proceedings and won't commit crimes in the meantime.
Walt Whitman once wrote: "I know nothing grander, better exercised, better digested, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in humankind, than a well-contested American national election." That inspires me to recommend voting for supervisoral candidates Dr. Emily Murase, Joel Engardio, and Stephen Martin-Pinto. More next month.
In the 1960s, Yale University professor Allan Bloom noted ". . . the closing of the American mind," referring to grievance-mongering, identity politics, and empty sloganeering. Professor Bloom would identify easily, too many present American minds. I refer first to the heralded notion of "defunding" police. As predicted in a June 9 Wall Street Journal editorial, ". . . political drive to defund police" risks a return to the high-crime era of the 1960s and 1970s that damaged so many American cities. That applies to San Francisco, which suffers supervisors who berate police and ostracize them politically. At least half the supervisoral candidates in District 7 refuse any campaign contributions from the police and sheriffs' unions. Law enforcement remains a local obligation. Here, the defunders control. Watch crime increase.
Simultaneously, questionable police conduct has intimidated county prosecutors like those in Solano County, who requested the California Attorney General replace the Vallejo Police Department and District Attorney to investigate a potential destruction of relevant evidence regarding the killing of a male last month.
...in Florida, interior designers need 1,760 training hours for a state license, while police officers need only 770. In Louisiana, a manicurist needs 500 hours for a state license, and a police officer needs 360 hours to execute law enforcement responsibilities. Barbers need 1,528 training hours in North Carolina, but police officers need only 620 hours.”
Most people don't understand the criminal law system. The Attorney General rarely appears in Superior Court, the state's trial court. If a Superior Court conviction is appealed, the Attorney General represents the People of the State of California, the plaintiff in every criminal case. That means the Attorney General's lawyers are well qualified in appeals of criminal convictions, but not actual trials. The mainstream media ignores that historical fact and nature of the California Department of Justice.
The comparable ignorance of courtroom procedure regarding bail for an accused appears also mystifying in light of dreadful 2018 legislation eliminating bail in favor of a computer-driven algorithm supposedly capable of advising Superior Court judges of the odds of an accused reoffending before trial or failing to appear for pretrial hearings. Bail is not ordered by a trial judge without a hearing if one is requested by the defendant's lawyer or the District Attorney. At such hearing, the defendant can produce testimony and other evidence to persuade the trial judge he or she will appear for pretrial court proceedings and not commit any crime before trial. It's an open process, used by any criminal lawyer worth his or her salt!
Fortunately, California voters will be able on November 3, to repeal that legislation with Proposition 25 (yes, there will be 25 state ballot measures). Together with the state chairwoman of the NAACP and United Crime Victims, I'm one of the three voter information handbook argument sponsors for passing Proposition 25. (People are befuddled to learn the NAACP supports repeal.) In San Francisco, deputy sheriffs are not police officers in the commonly understood sense because San Francisco is a City and County. We have a Police Department, unlike the 57 other California counties in which the sheriff performs police duties in unincorporated areas. Here, the sheriff manages our jail and provides bailiffs in San Francisco Superior Court, deputies at San Francisco General Hospital, and other city activities for security purposes.
Incidentally, CNN reported last month that in Florida, interior designers need 1,760 training hours for a state license, while police officers need only 770. In Louisiana, a manicurist needs 500 hours for a state license, and a police officer needs 360 hours to execute law enforcement responsibilities. Barbers need 1,528 training hours in North Carolina, but police officers need only 620 hours. Is that bureaucracy or stupidity?
A depressing aspect of American culture (besides "cancel culture," which I'll discuss next month) is our educational system and what biased teachers and left-wing college faculty have accomplished over the last six decades. The story of political party one-sidedness in universities is well-known, but the results in attitude toward freedom of expression and threats to a free press increase. A Harvard professor observed in May: "To determine what is factual and true, we rely on certain building blocks. Start with education. Then there's experience . . . above all, we rely on evidence." The idea of objective fact is undermined "all in pursuit of political gain." He identified a systematic effort "to disqualify traditional independent arbiters of fact" from court proceedings, historians, scientists (see "Bone Spur" Trump's public denunciation of Dr. Anthony Fauci), medical professionals, subject matter experts of every type.
Meanwhile, a 2020 poll found only 63% of adults contend they are "extremely" or "very" proud of being an American, the lowest since 2001. Republicans, 76% in 2019, show only 67% are extremely proud and merely 24% of Democrats are extremely proud. A November 2018 poll found that 76% of Republicans agreed that rights of the unborn should be protected, but 49% also agreed the government should not "prevent a woman from making her own decision."
The stock market appears unpredictable, but remember the advice of humorist Will Rogers before he died in an Alaskan plane crash in 1935: "Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it."
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
July 20, 2020
A wag once noted: “The only people who don’t have to pass the Civil Service exams to work for the government are taxpayers.” Last month, a lengthy Wall Street Journal article discussed the strangulation of many cities in the United States, citing the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb, and location of the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League where the coronavirus pandemic compelled cancellation of a concert, a professional rodeo, and National Hockey League games while the city continued to repay $10,700,000 on arena bonds for 2020 alone. Glendale owes another $12,700,000 for Camelback Ranch-Glendale, location of a spring training field for major league baseball, which closed last March.
Another arena built with bonds repaid by local property taxpayers in Maryland Heights, Missouri for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues requires annual debt payment of $3,600,000, and the value of the bonds on the bond market has declined from 109 cents on the dollar in early March to 68 cents by May 21. Authorities in Jackson County, Missouri noted diminution of county tax revenue for debt payments on a stadium for the Kansas City Royals of the American League and the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League. The Oakland Athletics refused in April a $1,200,000 rent payment to taxpayer-funded Oakland Coliseum. That has since been resolved with a major break for Alameda County taxpayers by the sale of the Oakland Coliseum by Alameda County and Oakland to the Oakland Athletics. Oakland is probably the worst managed city in the Bay Area with high crime rates, disrespect of the law, and significant lack of creditworthiness. In 2012, a community athletics center and ice hockey arena in a Minneapolis suburb defaulted on debt payments, which incurred a reduction of its credit rating to junk and rendered borrowing expensive.
...the attitude of professional sports team-owning billionaires that local taxpayers must provide stadiums for their professional sport businesses, an attitude that led the San Francisco 49ers to the City of Santa Clara, which succumbed to the false attraction of an NFL team, and the end of San Francisco taxpayer financing of a San Francisco Giants’ playpen.”
The foregoing recitation reminds me of the attitude of professional sports team-owning billionaires that local taxpayers must provide stadiums for their professional sport businesses, an attitude that led the San Francisco 49ers to the City of Santa Clara, which succumbed to the false attraction of an NFL team, and the end of San Francisco taxpayer financing of a San Francisco Giants’ playpen. Understanding public funding rules and fundamental principles form a predicate for citizen views and public official decision-making. Besides today’s generational gap, too often private profit and nonprofit entities and officers demonstrate informational deficit, even ignorance of tax history. That’s true with Proposition 13, as exemplified by cries from teachers’ unions and others that it’s “outmoded.” Property taxation represents California’s historical means of financing, not state or federal government, but local governments, namely, cities, counties, school and special districts. Every tax should possess a rationale. Property taxes defray costs of general governmental services such as police, fire, education, public health and welfare, with the tax revenue comprising most of the entity’s general fund. Property taxes aren’t collected by the state, which relies mostly on state income tax and sales taxation. State law bars local government from imposing income taxes. Property taxation doesn’t support city streets or state or interstate highways, which should be funded by users through gasoline taxation. Of course, today’s fixation with electric vehicles and bicycles means those users pay nothing for city streets, county roads, and state and federal highways. Proposition 13 is as valid today as it was in June 1978 for fixed income and pension homeowners as it was upon passage in June 1978. Residential property generates no owner income unless and until it is sold. Beware of the effort in November to change Proposition 13 and increase and create new taxes for San Francisco taxpayers.
The current fad and demand to remove statues in San Francisco and elsewhere was analyzed by the Chancellor of Oxford University on BBC last month in commenting upon a student demand to remove a bronze statue of Cecil Rhodes as a symbol of “institutional racism” and “white slavery.” Oxford is the world’s second oldest remaining university. In San Francisco, we witnessed last month removal of statues of Francis Scott Key, President Ulysses Grant, and Father Junipero Serra. Oxford’s Chancellor characterizes the student effort to obliterate the creator and payor of the now-called Mandela Rhodes Scholarships, utilized by such notables as President William Jefferson Clinton, as “murdering history.” He reminded his 22,000 students and us: “Education is not indoctrination. Our history is not a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should have been according to our contemporary views and prejudice.” Discrimination at a university should be based upon intellect. Dostoyevsky observed: “Facts aren’t everything; at least half the battle consists in how one makes use of them.”
President Calvin Coolidge relevantly declared in the 1920s: “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” If that reminds us of our current ostentatious President, be grateful to “Silent Cal.” Harry S. Truman was a different kind of president, without lavish hotels, golf courses, gambling casinos, and office buildings. A symbol of his non-strident greatness relates to the manner in which he lived after leaving the White House on January 20, 1952. Truman once stated: “My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a poor house or a politician, and to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.” Offered corporate directorships and positions at large salaries, he refused, noting: “You don’t want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.” While President, he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. After leaving the presidency, his income was a U.S. Army pension from World War I service in France that amounted to $13,507.72. After disclosure that President Truman paid for his stamps, the U.S. Congress enacted a bill providing him an “allowance” and later a retroactive pension of $25,000. Once President Dwight E. Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess Truman drove home to Independence, Missouri by themselves to live in a house inherited by Bess from her parents. Except for Harry Truman’s presidential years, his wife and he lived there their entire married lives.
Offered corporate directorships and positions at large salaries, (Truman) refused, noting: “You don’t want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.” ... Compare that to the Trumps, the Kushners, the Bidens with son Hunter, U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein...”
Compare that to the Trumps, the Kushners, the Bidens with son Hunter, U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein with sales of millions of dollars in stocks after confidential briefings three months ago on the spreading pandemic.
The University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously last month to abolish for admission Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and ACT requirements. So did the California State University’s governing board. Last January, the American Legion Magazine reported that for the first time in the Gallup Poll’s 18-year history of asking how proud young people are to be Americans, less than half stated “extremely proud.” A recent survey concluded that only one in six Americans could pass a basic U.S. history quiz. Just half can identify when the Civil War occurred. Sixty percent of Americans couldn’t name nations we fought in World War II. Just 26% could name the three branches of government. Only 40% could identify any of the First Amendment guaranteed freedoms, but 43% knew the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices and merely 37% could identify their member of the U.S. House of Representatives. As noted by some writers, a democratic society can’t survive without knowledge of our history and birthright.
Because of interested questioners, I announce early my recommendations for elective offices November 3, 2020. Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee finishes his permissible terms January 8, 2021. I’ve endorsed Dr. Emily Murase, a former elected Board of Education member and Lakeshore Acres neighbor, and Ben Matranga, who demonstrated his fiscal discipline by his compelling, but futile, voter information handbook argument against Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s oppressive tax on empty stores. (I don’t know any vacant store owner who willfully refuses to rent, and if postponed enforcement of the illogical tax ends this or next year, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and San Francisco Taxpayers Association will sue its legality.) I’ve also endorsed for the Community College District Board of Trustees Alan Wong, a Lincoln High School graduate and California National Guard member, on expectation that he will initiate an investigation of wasteful, perhaps even illegal, expenditures by the recently-resigned president and his henchman, both of whom possessed records of misconduct in Southern California community colleges. City College is a marvelous educational institution, notwithstanding dismal administration and lackadaisical governance. Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced last month a charter amendment to require $20,000,000 per year transfer of money from the City and County of San Francisco’s general fund to City College, with provision for increases automatically in future years. Unknowledgeable or deliberately ignorant, City Hall officials forget that City College constitutes a separate governmental district under state law, with its own source of state law funding and its own elected governing body that resulted from a 1972 charter amendment by the late John J. Barbagelata and me. Political capitulation by City College elected trustees has resulted in ten campuses, instead of the single Phelan Avenue “Oxford on the Hill.” Selling most of those properties would restore fiscal City College strength for students, faculty, and San Francisco taxpayers.
Finally, I note another foolish effort to attack City Hall corruption, namely, creation in our charter of an elected Public Advocate, with responsibility to execute duties of the District Attorney, Ethics Commission, and even City Attorney regarding thievery already exposed by U.S. Attorney David Anderson. The proposed office would enjoy a budget of almost $1,000,000 annually, adding to the approximately $2,000,000 allocated by City Hall to the District Attorney for such prosecutions, the Ethics Commission’s $4,000,000 expenditures, and the City Attorney’s “integrity unit” appropriation of over $2,000,000. Only a lawyer could be elected Public Advocate, with a two-term limit of four years each.
Such tendentious legislation reminds me that Thomas Jefferson observed: “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
In a time of medical, economic, and political uncertainty, a San Diego legislator, Shirley Weber, espouses discrimination, preferential treatment, and institutional racism based upon race, sex, color, or national origin for admission to public colleges and universities, public employment, and governmental contracts. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 awaits action this month or next in the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. English statesman Edmund Burke declared in 1790: “Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the position of being no policy at all.” Weber’s bill amends the California Constitution, Article I, Section 31 by repealing California’s prohibition against racial or gender discrimination or preferential treatment. In 1996, I introduced a bill, allowing California voters that November to enshrine equal opportunity constitutionally. After it failed, an initiative for voter approval qualified as Proposition 209 for the November 1996 election and was approved, 55% to 45%, “a vote for color blind government, and, especially, color blind admissions to the University of California,” as noted last month by colleague, then-State Senator Tom Campbell, my co-chairman of the Proposition 209 campaign.
The University of California has been called “the original practitioner of affirmative action” by many, who also note that today UC Berkeley and similar historical practitioners of affirmative action are hostile campuses for dissenting speech. Proposition 209 represented California propensity to strive for equality. In 2019, Asian Americans constituted 27.26% of UC applicants; 39.72% enrolled. Latino Americans represented 28.82% of applicants, with 25.45% enrolling. African Americans comprised 5.58% of applicants; 3.8% enrolled. UC bureaucrats contend practicing “benign” use of color to admit more African Americans and Latino Americans is justifiable. As former State Senator and Congressman Campbell demonstrates, if you grant preference to some applicants because of their race, that limits others of different color or race. In 1996, African Americans constituted 3.7%; today they constitute 3.87% of UC students. Latino Americans were 13.4 in 1996; they’re now 25.45%. Asian Americans were 36.1% in 1996; they’re 39.72% now, while whites constituted 38.4% in 1996, and are only 19.29% currently. Proposition 209 achieved its state constitutional purpose. In 2014, the State Senate approved a measure to repeal Proposition 209. The Assembly didn’t pass the bill after Asian American parents organized spirited opposition, which they will do again, as they have at Harvard University, if ACA 5, motivated by Democratic Party two-thirds control of both Assembly and Senate, is passed. (Asian American Harvard students and parents sued that private institution in 2018 over racial discrimination in Harvard’s admissions practices, losing in the U.S. District Court in Boston and appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals to secure a pending reversal of such decision.)
Remember that a majority statewide vote in November would still be required to eliminate Proposition 209 and institute reverse discrimination. ACA 5 may, because of the pandemic and aborted legislative session reach the ballot this year. If it does, I hope Californians will join me in rejecting it.
Amidst the pandemic, various politicians who forget history and human nature clamor for universal mail-in voting. As John Lott, Jr. reminded Wall Street Journal readers last month, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” That wasn’t President “Bone Spur” Trump commenting; it was the Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by former President Jimmy Carter in 2005. American history reveals, states required secret balloting commencing in 1880 and concluding only in 1950 because of America’s history of vote-buying! Lott and a University of Florida researcher discovered voter turnout decreased 8 to 12% after adoption of the secret ballot. Carter’s commission noted: “Citizens who vote at home, at nursing homes, at the workplace, or in church are more susceptible to pressure, overt and subtle, or to intimidation. Vote-buying schemes are far more difficult to detect when citizens vote by mail.” In the 1997 Miami mayoralty election, 36 persons were arrested for absentee ballot fraud. The election was nullified, reoccurred, and the prior result was reversed. In 2017, a Dallas city council election investigation revealed about 700 fraudulent mailed ballots signed by the same witness using a fake name. Norway and Mexico don’t ever allow absentee ballots for their residents. Don’t be fooled by efforts to reduce ballot probity. As Thomas Jefferson observed: “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes, a propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
A wit named Gerald Barzon observed: “Taxation with representation isn’t so hot either.” I convey that point in light of continuing unbalanced national budgets submitted by President Donald “Bone Spur” Trump to the U.S. Congress while the national debt has increased to over $23,000,000,000,000! COVID-19 will cause another $1,000,000,000,000 deficit on top of the budget Trump submitted in February containing over another $1,000,000,000,000 annual deficit for the first time since 2012.
Meanwhile, a fractured City Hall last month disclosed corruption by Department of Building Inspection director Tom Hui, who resigned after suspension by Mayor London Breed. That long-festering city bureaucracy is almost Trumpian in scale, reflecting eloquently City Hall corruption since its unjustified creation in the 1990s by then-Supervisor Angela Alioto’s legislation and a deal with the rogue leader of the Residential Builders Association (Joe O’Donoghue). Prior thereto, building permits and inspection were done by the Department of Public Works. So-called “permit expediters,” a fancy term for City Hall fixers like Walter Wong, didn’t exist. Alioto and O’Donoghue established a new commission to perpetuate blindly practices leading to the end of the gravy train for Hui.
Last year, the State Senate fortunately refused to approve Senator Scott Wiener’s complex bill to allow high-rise apartment buildings in single-family local neighborhoods ... Wiener’s attempted usurpation of local control was denounced by L.A. Senator Bob Hertzberg who charged Wiener’s bill with demeaning “people who have done nothing more than make homes for themselves, raise a family, and play by the rules.””
You want more? Former Deputy City Attorney Joanne Hoeper was wrongfully discharged by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in 2014 as Chief Trial Deputy after she reported the City Attorney’s Office Claims Unit was paying building contractors to repair private sewers which didn’t need repair. In February, the California Court of Appeal affirmed Hoeper’s jury verdict of $5,000,000 against the City Attorney, who had hired a downtown lawyer charging $875 per hour to defend him against Hoeper’s justified illegal firing suit before a San Francisco jury.
On Franklin Street, the school district superintendent warns staff (not students or parents) of a budget “shortfall” of $31,800,000 for the current school year, and $63,000,000 by 2020-21. At the same time, Board of Education members ignore the multi-million-dollar cost of iniquitous busing of pupils to schools outside their neighborhoods. And, those members want the Board of Supervisors to submit to voters this November a $200,000,000 general fund appropriation for the school district, disregarding the separate sovereignty of the school district from the City and County of San Francisco. (California voters last month rejected a provision to borrow $15,000,000 in bonds for California’s public schools.)
Happily, another journalistic commentator, Sally Stephens, last month implied that San Francisco should license bicycles and their operators. A former West of Twin Peaks Improvement Council leader, Stephens opined in The Examiner that closing Market Street from Van Ness Avenue eastward won’t have much effect on residents, although the MTA Board Chairman last month informed the public he wants to prohibit automobiles from Valencia and other streets. Since 1922, motor vehicle owners have paid for road construction and maintenance by gasoline taxation. It started at $0.02 per gallon. It was, and should be, a user fee. Bicycle owners, however, using those roads in San Francisco and elsewhere, have paid nothing, not even a cheap license fee. Bicyclists constitute the most demanding Californians as gasoline taxes pay for them to use our streets. Their arrogance is unremitting.
Last year, the State Senate fortunately refused to approve Senator Scott Wiener’s complex bill to allow high-rise apartment buildings in single-family local neighborhoods on an 18-15 vote, with 6 abstentions. Wiener’s attempted usurpation of local control was denounced by L.A. Senator Bob Hertzberg, who charged Wiener’s bill with demeaning “people who have done nothing more than make homes for themselves, raise a family, and play by the rules.” I acknowledge also Bay Area senators, Jerry Hill from San Mateo County, Steve Glazer from Contra Costa County, and Bill Dodd from Napa County as part of the 15 opposing senators. The unsavory Wiener effort won’t, however, end. Last month, two Assembly bills, AB 725 and AB 1279, were introduced with Wiener as co-author by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland and Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica. (About 70% of the City of Los Angeles is zoned for single-family homes.) I urge readers to submit written opposition to both bills at the State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Lastly, in February, an analyst at the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany, New York discussed in The Wall Street Journal a New York state law which maintains a teachers’ union contract, despite any expiration date, until a new collective bargaining deal is reached. It’s called the Taylor Law, and census data disclose that annual per-pupil expenditure on K-12 public education in New York is $23,091 – “the highest in the country.” The Empire State spends about 43% more on each public school student than even Massachusetts with unionized teachers. Virginia public school students, without such a collective bargaining agreement for teachers, boasts higher test scores than New York students in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with per-pupil expenditures less than $12,000. Maybe SF Unified School District leaders could utilize those experiences.
The late U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan, a Democrat, on March 7, 1976, declared: “Somehow, liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth, namely, a healthy skepticism of the power of government agencies to do good.”
As the March 3, 2020 primary election looms large or small, depending upon your outlook, my voting recommendations clamor (in my mind) for expression. It was once observed: “An election year is when a lot of politicians get free speech mixed up with cheap talk.” The local measures and candidacies in our “one-party” jurisdiction include three judgeship elections without incumbents. I’ve interviewed and endorsed three candidates whose credentials justify success.
Pang Va Ly, Esq. is a remarkable woman, Chinese-American, born in Vietnam. Her parents succeeded through Lutheran church sponsorship in escaping Vietnam by water for Springfield, Missouri with their five children. Ms. Ly graduated from University of Missouri and then Missouri School of Law. She practiced law in the county prosecutor’s office, then a national law firm in St. Louis, married, and moved to San Francisco. Her husband and she live in Dolores Heights. After a stint as an assistant district attorney, she was appointed by the San Francisco Superior Court judges as a court commissioner. For over three years, she has presided in Small Claims Court, Traffic Court, and special courts at 400 McAllister Street.
Dorothy Chou Proudfoot, Esq. constitutes the far better candidate for a second vacant Superior Court office, with strong experience as a Marin County prosecutor and Rent Board administrative judge.
Kulvindar “Rani” Singh, Esq. merits support for the third vacant judicial office. She was promoted to supervising attorney in the district attorney’s office, compiling about 20 years of trial experience. I recommend Ms. Proudfoot and Ms. Singh unreservedly. (If you practice “diversity and inclusion,” Proudfoot is Chinese. Her husband, Mr. Proudfoot, is from a Scottish family. Singh is Indian.)
The remaining legislative offices on the ballot aren’t worth attention, except perhaps to ensure Republican John Dennis succeeds in attaining general election status in November by placing second behind Nancy Pelosi to thwart a radical Democratic candidate who would deprive voters of any realistic choice in November.
Of four local ballot measures, only two warrant affirmation, namely, Proposition C, which provides retiree health benefits for former San Francisco Housing Authority employees. Proposition A is a City College $845,000,000 potpourri bond for “job training, repair, and earthquake safety.” With interest over 30 years, taxpayers, including renters, will pay $1,500,000,000 or more, depending on interest rates.
I don’t trust City College administration or board of trustees, except Ivy Lee, to spend taxpayer money judiciously, without waste. I’m voting “No.” Proposition B is in the same category as an “earthquake safety and emergency response” $412,000,000 bond, which means over $720,000,000 with interest, payable by taxpayers to bond owners. Lacking confidence in City Hall administration, I recommend a “No” vote. Let’s see City Hall complete the vaunted Van Ness Avenue Muni Railway and Central Subway projects before authorizing additional debt.
Proposition D emblemizes the most illogical tax of all, assessing a levy on commercial property owners with empty space for more than 182 days per year, starting at $250 per linear foot in 2021, increasing to $1,000 in 2023. It applies to 40 neighborhood commercial districts, including Lakeside Village, Geary Boulevard, and Noriega. I don’t know landlords who purposely allow commercial vacancies for more than 182 days annually. Legality of this proposed tax is doubtful after a California Court of Appeals decision involving the City of Rialto in Southern California. Reject Proposition D, which requires 66-2/3% approval to pass. Proposition E, sponsored by Tenants and Owners Development Corporation, effectively continues a policy enacted by voters in 1986. I supported that policy then; I do so now. Vote “Yes” on E.
Besides presidential and legislative candidates, there’s but one state ballot measure, cutely labeled Proposition 13, which authorizes $15,000,000,000 in state general obligation bonds for public education facilities. It will cost about $740,000,000 per year, including interest, to repay over 35 years. That means more state general fund taxes. Hidden in the language is a doubling of legally allowable local education bonds to increase local borrowing by more than 60% to qualify for money from this unworthy state bond. As stated by opponents: “Unlike the original Proposition 13 from 1978, this Proposition 13 puts all taxpayers at risk of higher taxes.” Thanks to former Governor Jerry Brown, the state possesses a $25,000,000,000 surplus which could be used for the same purposes without borrowing. Vote “no” on Proposition 13.
One last note: After the incumbent supervisor from the Richmond District announced she wouldn’t seek reelection, the “City Family” struck again. A political aide to a San Mateo assemblyman who’s only worked for government as a City College and Recreation and Parks Department flack, and aide to a former supervisor, a present supervisor, and a former district attorney, announced her candidacy, endorsed by her incumbent boss. Another City Hall tax-eater, defeated in 2016 for the same office, and a “Senior Advisor” to the Mayor, considers running as I write. District election of supervisors, an ignoble idea, supposedly was intended to produce everyday citizen candidates, not government hacks. It’s farcical. Thomas Jefferson wisely stated: “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes, the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Former President Herbert Hoover responded to a 1964 interview: “Honesty is not the exclusive property of any political party.” We don’t elect local officials in California on the basis of a political party, but Mr. Hoover’s answer applies federally with an incumbent president confronting certain articles of impeachment and a predictable U.S. Senate trial January 2020. (Mr. Hoover’s opinion is undoubtedly irrelevant in California, which has only one political party for all intents and purposes.)
Besides personal pleasure over strong passage of Proposition F, which exposes name, rank, and amounts of contributions to so-called “independent expenditure” committees for city offices, the most arresting election result was the contest for district attorney. A 39-year-old radical Deputy Public Defender was elected. His name is Chesa Boudin. His antecedents are intriguing: Both parents were active members of the Weather Underground, convicted and imprisoned for felony murder in driving the getaway car for accomplices who shot dead two police officers and a security guard while robbing a Brinks truck of bank funds in 1981. He is also the grandson of a deceased New York City lawyer, Leonard Boudin, who represented many, if not most, of the Communists in metropolitan New York and other Eastern areas during my public school years, college, law school, Air Force, and beginning practice of law in California.
My concern with Mr. Boudin will also be his alacrity and consistency in pursuing corruption criminality in city government, which his elected predecessor (Gascon) utterly failed to do ...”
Our new District Attorney, who has tried to jury verdict numerous criminal cases at the Hall of Justice, unlike two of his opponents and establishment favorites, gives expression to pursuing “corporate landlords” and prosecuting Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should they “kidnap” San Franciscans. The Police Officers Association expended about $700,000 in those tricky capital expenditures to defeat Mr. Boudin. A respectful relationship with police officers is indispensable for public protection. My concern with Mr. Boudin will also be his alacrity and consistency in pursuing corruption criminality in city government, which his elected predecessor (Gascon) utterly failed to do after seeking and obtaining from a compliant Board of Supervisors and Mayor an appropriation of $2,918,078 three years ago for an “Internal Investigation Bureau,” consisting of six prosecutors, six investigators, and two support staff. (The unopposed City Attorney similarly secured taxpayer money for a “Special Integrity Unit,” which has produced no court civil actions regarding corruption.) The Ethics Commission constitutes a similar waste of taxpayer funds emblemized by its inaction and burying of misconduct complaints from private citizens. I hope for aggressive action by Mr. Boudin, who will have the benefit of recommendations and aid from retired Assistant Public Defender and Ethics Commission Chair Peter Keane, Friends of Ethics leader Larry Bush, former Common Cause area president, Charley Marsteller, and others.
After adopting a foolish resolution by Supervisor Catherine Stefani last September instructing us to change our vocabulary in describing criminals, criminal proceedings, convictions, and jail and prison sentences emanating from the Hall of Justice, the Board followed with another Stefani resolution declaring the National Rifle Association a “domestic terrorist organization and urging other cities, states, and the federal government to do the same.” The resolution also urged San Francisco to “assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have with this domestic terrorist organization; . . . and take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with (San Francisco) from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization.” After filing a suit attacking the resolution, the NRA decided to save its money by dismissing the case.
San Francisco Supervisors manifestly know nothing of free speech law reflected in a 27-page order by the United States District Court, Southern District of California, in a suit by a gun show operator at Del Mar Fairgrounds, the State Agricultural Association in San Diego, after Del Mar’s board of directors voted a one-year moratorium at the Fairgrounds in September, 2018. The moratorium was to study potential “safety concerns.” The suit was based upon violation of the First Amendment. The court enjoined the moratorium, declaring it accorded “preferential treatment to shows featuring speech on all issues aside from these gun-related subjects.” The court noted that attacking the content of a gun show which includes lectures, demonstrations, safety training, target shooting, gunsmithing, appreciation of guns as technological artifacts and study of historical objects, plus exchange of products related to lawful use of firearms. The Fairgrounds failed to appeal the injunction, and I predict the court early next year will grant judgment to the gun show operator.
Continuing City Hall antics, Supervisor Sandra Fewer, practitioner of public language vulgarity on election night at Mr. Boudin’s headquarters, has introduced an ordinance to establish a San Francisco “public bank.” Never mind that only one public bank (North Dakota) has successfully existed in over 100 years in the United States. City government does so well with the Municipal Railway, the Central Subway Project, the reconstruction of Van Ness Avenue, and emergency fire protection supply in local reservoirs, it surely can operate a profitable public bank. No wonder 30 people have started a recall, however futile it likely will be, of Supervisor Fewer, the lady with the potty mouth.
Enough already. Let’s hope for the best in 2020, and a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah for all.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Upon his August 19, 1977 death, commentators recalled comedian Groucho Marx’s alleged observation: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” Local taxpayers experience the dysfunction of 11 Supervisors (each paid over $140,000 per year) and one Mayor (paid nearly $336,000 annually) unable to enact an ordinance “reforming” an allegedly ineffective mental healthcare system. Instead, each wants to force voters to enact an ordinance by two competing ballot measures next March. A Charter amendment requires voter approval by a ballot measure; an ordinance does not. Instead, Supervisors Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen eschew an ordinance in favor of passing the buck to voters. So does Mayor London Breed. What do we pay them to do?
…a police sergeant in Fresno exclaimed that it’s useless to issue a citation or arrest a person who would undoubtedly be released immediately from county jail (that’s certainly true in San Francisco). Bear in mind stealing anything less than $950 is now a misdemeanor, not a felony, usually resulting in no punishment.”
Additionally, city government already contains 122 boards and commissions. I don’t just mean the Planning Commission, Fire Commission, Police Commission, Public Utilities Commission, Recreation and Park Commission, and Civil Service Commission of the 1932 Freeholders Charter revision. I mean continuing establishment of costly commissions. Last month, Supervisor Shamann Walton proposed a March 2020 Charter amendment to create a Sheriff’s Commission. The same Supervisor Haney plus Supervisors Walton, Hillary Ronen, Gordon Mar, and Aaron Peskin espouse a “Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing!” Why? Maybe because it makes them feel better to add bureaucracy.
As I write, local election results are unknown, including the sickening process of replacing the former district attorney who resigned last month to take his prosecutorial ignorance to Los Angeles County to oust a two-term incumbent, Jackie Lacey, who’s actually tried and convicted hundreds of criminals in her stellar career. We do know more public funding has been given San Francisco politicians, which Columnist Dan Walters noted three years ago is the “holy grail for Common Cause and other political reform advocates.” No study has ever shown public financing reduces private campaign contributions, or those understandably bewailed “independent expenditure” committees whose identities mystify voters. In 1988, two other California legislators and I successfully sponsored Proposition 73, banning taxpayer money for state and local elected office candidates. The California Supreme Court later ruled that charter cities like San Francisco are exempt from such prohibition. (Six California charter cities have adopted public financing.) In 2016, legislators passed a bill to allow non-charter cities and the state itself to adopt public financing despite a Legislative Counsel opinion that doing so “would require voter approval in order to become effective.” The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and I thereafter sued to invalidate that legislation. We won. I’m confident the California Court of Appeal will affirm that Sacramento County Superior Court decision. Instead of litigating and trying to undermine the initiative system, why doesn’t Common Cause and its allies present a ballot measure to voters next year and demonstrate belief in the rule of law?
That’s a rule repeatedly ignored by the legislature. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom approved Senate Bill 225 by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, D.-Los Angeles, which astonishingly makes illegal aliens in California 18 years of age or older eligible for appointments to state boards and commissions. Consider that such persons can’t vote (yet!) and dodge federal immigration officers in this “sanctuary” state, but can now implement laws enacted by the legislature and governor. Simultaneously, a police sergeant in Fresno exclaimed that it’s useless to issue a citation or arrest a person who would undoubtedly be released immediately from county jail (that’s certainly true in San Francisco). Bear in mind stealing anything less than $950 is now a misdemeanor, not a felony, usually resulting in no punishment. On the other hand, the political sophisticates and “progressives” who advocate death of the bail system illuminated this past summer their hypocrisy and ignorance after a San Francisco Superior Court judge released from jail without bail a man accused of battery, attempted robbery, and false imprisonment by attacking a woman entering her apartment building on Beale Street. Such hypocrites ignore the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which grants the accused criminal the right to a speedy public trial, and the Eighth Amendment, which declares that excessive bail “shall not be required . . .,” and the California Constitution, which establishes in Article I, Section 12 the right to release on bail which must not be excessive and in an amount considering the seriousness of the accusation, defendant’s previous criminal record and defendant’s probability of appearing at trial or any pretrial hearing. When the stupidity of such no-bail release was revealed regarding this defendant who has no local address, the Mayor and several Supervisors condemned Superior Court Judge Christine Van Aken. The most “progressive” district attorney candidate last month characterized the money bail system as morally, fiscally, and intellectually bankrupt, implying “. . . wealth determined criminal justice outcomes . . .”. Contrary to that deputy public defender, the wealthy defendant doesn’t buy his/her “way out of jail regardless of how dangerous they [sic] are.” Every judge I know conducts a hearing regarding a defendant’s constitutional entitlement to release with or without bail. As Earl Newsom noted in 1963, however: “Today’s public opinion, though it may appear as light as air, may be tomorrow’s legislation – for better or for worse.”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
It was H.L. Mencken, the polemicist of my youth and before, who pronounced: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” That’s relevant to the November 5 San Francisco election with six ballot measures and a few contested public office elections. The most important is District Attorney, and I repeat my even stronger recommendation of Nancy H. Tung, Esq. for that position. The other three candidates show less than stirring dedication to enforcing criminal laws and respecting police officers who perform dangerous tasks in protecting society. These candidates have uttered policies of constraining San Francisco police in their arduous responsibilities and have miscast, like so many media commentators, the constitutional place of bail in criminal law. Moreover, they’ve ignored the subject of City Hall corruption, like the incumbent District Attorney who secured taxpayer money in 2017 from a compliant Board of Supervisors and Mayor for his new “Internal Investigation Bureau,” consisting of “six attorneys, six investigators, and two support staff” and a $2,918,078 budget! (Have you seen prosecution of even one corruption case by Gascon?)
...they’ve ignored the subject of City Hall corruption, like the incumbent District Attorney who secured taxpayer money in 2017 from a compliant Board of Supervisors and Mayor for his new “Internal Investigation Bureau,” consisting of “six attorneys, six investigators, and two support staff” and a $2,918,078 budget!”
There’s no contest for City Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff, Treasurer, or Community College Board. There are three Board of Education aspirants for two seats. None will revitalize a governing board emblemized by disdain for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its meetings. I’ve endorsed Ivy Lee for the Community College Board and recommend Paul Miyamoto for Sheriff and Jose Cisneros for Treasurer. The Mayor is realistically unopposed, although I note Joel Ventresca of the Sunset and my City Hall past is a candidate. The only supervisoral contest is in the Haight-Ashbury, outside the purview of this newspaper’s mission. I don’t know the four candidates, two of whom espouse “divorcing” streets from autos so bicyclists can gain complete use!
The most important ballot measure is Proposition F, spearheaded by former Ethics Commission Chairman Peter Keane, Jon Gollinger, Friends of Ethics President Larry Bush, and members Charley Marsteller and Bob Planthold. It achieves what two Ethics Commissioners refused to do last year, preventing 2018 submission of the measure to voters and leading to Keane’s instantaneous Commission resignation. It requires reporting of campaign contributions and financial sponsors of campaign advertisements or, piquantly, shedding “Sunshine on Dark Money.” Supervisors Mar, Mandelman, Ronen, Fewer, and Haney sponsored Board of Supervisors submission to voters. Please vote “Yes” on F.
I recommend voting No on Propositions A, C, and E. Proposition A constitutes enormous taxpayer debt in the principal amount of $600,000,000, plus interest for 30 years that’ll add another 80%, for general obligation bonds which can’t be sold without approval by two-thirds of those voting. It contains the usual “citizens committee” to watch how the money is spent. Such citizen committees are ineffectual in my decades of observing them. Proposition C represents a voracious effort by Juul, a multi-million dollar “e-cigarette” business to induce youth and adults into addiction. As an opponent of “big tobacco” during my legislative years, I’ve hindered similar efforts and ask voters to do so now. I recommend “No” on Proposition E, which benefits, in complex manner, difficult to understand housing entities that constantly lobby City Hall. I think Proposition D merits support as a “mitigation tax” on giant corporations to lessen traffic congestion, which we suffer traveling downtown, south of Mission, 19th Avenue, Park Presidio, or the Embarcadero. So does Proposition B, which reorganizes a City Hall department for disabled people.
I’m pleased to report creation of a new political party in California, namely, the Common Sense Party. Onetime colleagues Tom Campbell, a former Republican, Steve Peace, a Democrat, John Pimentel, a Menlo Park wind energy entrepreneur, Julie Meier Wright, California Department of Commerce director under Governor Pete Wilson of San Diego, Dan Schnur, an Independent like Campbell and me and Director of the USC School of Public Policy, and others secured Secretary of State approval in August to begin collecting 66,000 voter signatures to qualify for California elections in 2020. It’s a party based upon fiscal discipline and social tolerance. Campbell is Acting Party Chairman, and Debbie Benray, a naturalized citizen formerly from Mexico is Acting Vice Chairwoman. We’ve amassed over 15,000 signatures. There’s no deadline, but we aspire to qualify in 2020 to run three or four legislative candidates in districts without incumbents. After qualification, the Common Sense Party will hold a convention, adopt a platform, and elect permanent officers. I cordially invite membership at email@example.com.
As the son and husband of legal immigrants, I laud a July letter to the Wall Street Journal noting that Congress, especially Democrats, appears “determined to provide taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants.” A 2015 Rasmussen Report demonstrated 53% of registered Democrats would allow tax-paying illegal aliens to vote. That alarms me because another writer points to local, state, and federal government costs of providing education, welfare benefits, healthcare, and detention to illegal aliens. To enforce immigration laws doesn’t make us nativists who favor native residents. We support legal immigrants, legal immigration and border control. But, as Henry Adams observed, “Practical politics consist in ignoring facts.”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
An anonymous wit declared: “Capital punishment is when the government taxes you to get capital so that it can go into business in competition with you, and then taxes the profit on your business in order to pay its losses.”
Government is surely in the rail transit business, which essentially disappeared in the post World War II era with the advent of capacious air transportation. Examples abound in California and in San Francisco, which last month endured illogical action by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) on a 4-3 vote of naming the Central Subway station at the end of the line nearly in Chinatown after now deceased “insider”Rose Pak.
Last month, the Assembly Speaker, and other legislators, announced that remaining funds should best be given to Caltrain for its electrification and the Los Angeles Basin commuter train, Metrolink, for similar improvements. He proposed legislative action, ignoring the fact that the approximately $4,500,000,000 of California taxpayer-approved general obligation bonds remain from the November 2008 action of California voters, and that the law requires voter approval of diversion of such money from the high-speed rail bond issue. The legislature and governor cannot ignore voters.”
MTA did so in the face of adopting two years ago a policy of naming stations only for geographical location, which is logical because, for example, who besides political “insiders” can identify Rose Pak? She was a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in the 1970s who was arrested by police after attacking physically a man whom she interviewed for a story after he failed to provide responses suiting her “storyline.” As announcer in the 1990s for the Chinese New Year’s Parade, she regularly insulted parade participants passing the reviewing stand, usually political adversaries. She violated the law regarding eligibility for low income tenant treatment in securing a nifty condominium apartment in a city project near Rincon Annex. She actively aided the People’s Republic of China in its cruelty to disfavored groups such as Falun Gong, a spiritual movement in China and now the United States, whose body parts are used by Communist China imprisonment of Falun Gong members after they’re executed. At the MTA hearing last month, written evidence was circulated that non-English-speaking Chinese people testified in support of the Rose Pak station renaming in return for lunch, beverages, and $25!
MTA’s action could be reversed by an initiative ballot measure, which I’ll happily support. Meanwhile, the Central Subway project itself won’t be completed this year and is overspending available funds, both local and federal. Hardworking Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez noted the project’s federal financing appears precarious, and the MTA continues to purvey false information that is three years old about the project costing $1,600,000,000, or $1,000,000,000 per mile. The true cost estimate now appears over $2,600,000,000, but the bureaucrats stonewall taxpayers even after the resignation last month of MTA’s General Manager who will ravish Oakland taxpayers as Assistant City Manager. The project’s general contractor, Tutor-Saliba Corporation, is infamous in California and San Francisco for gouging projects with change orders and other tactics in recondite fashion, while the Rose Pak MTA avoids action to stop it.
Simultaneously, the now-misnamed California High-Speed Rail project, unelectrified, purveys its false information. It hasn’t laid a single foot of track between its alleged first segment from “Merced to Bakersfield”, which genuinely is only from Madera to Wasco, 30 miles or so north of Bakersfield, where you’d transfer to a shuttle bus. The U.S. Department of Transportation three months ago demanded return of $2,500,000,000 from the Federal Rail Administration and canceled a $929,000,000 grant for failure to perform. Last month, the Assembly Speaker, and other legislators, announced that remaining funds should best be given to Caltrain for its electrification and the Los Angeles Basin commuter train, Metrolink, for similar improvements. He proposed legislative action, ignoring the fact that the approximately $4,500,000,000 of California taxpayer-approved general obligation bonds remain from the November 2008 action of California voters, and that the law requires voter approval of diversion of such money from the high-speed rail bond issue. The legislature and governor cannot ignore voters. (That’s the subject of a pending suit by taxpayers in the California Court of Appeal on 2017 legislative diversion.)
The District Attorney’s race is the most important November 2019 ballot item. I’ve withdrawn my endorsement of Leif Bautch II after he disclosed he opposes use of tasers (instead of guns) by police officers, and believes holding police “accountable” is his highest brochure priority. (The Police Officers Association also withdrew its endorsement of him.) Our Police Department, like other cities, can’t recruit enough police officers. We have about 300 fewer police officers than our Charter requires. The last Police Academy class graduated less than half the recruits who began. Simultaneously, the establishment candidate, Suzy Loftus, as one-time president of the Police Commission, reduced public comment from three to two minutes. As author of 1996 legislation requiring public comment at local commissions on each item and at commencement of each meeting, I’m repulsed by such treatment of San Franciscans. Additionally, as legal counsel to the Sheriff, she failed to stop abusive treatment of jail inmates by deputy sheriffs. I reiterate my strong recommendation of Nancy Tung, a former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney and current Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, for election. Unlike the incumbent, Nancy Tung has tried scores of criminal cases to juries. It shouldn’t be a close choice.
Thomas Jefferson, in a November 1802 letter, declared: “If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
Poet Paul Valery declared in the Los Angeles Times last month: “Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.” San Francisco voters face an important election regarding the rule of law on November 5, 2019. The incumbent District Attorney, a 2011 political appointee who, while admitted to the State Bar of California, has never tried a case in a courtroom, won’t seek another term. There are now four choices: the two best with genuine experience in criminal law and belief in law enforcement are Leif Dautch and Nancy Tung. The two worst are Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin, a champion of illegal immigration which results in more work for public defenders at taxpayer expense, and Suzy Loftus, the City Hall establishment favorite, weaned on the public trough as the Sheriff’s attorney, who doesn’t prosecute crimes.
DA Candidates: Chesa Boudin, Leif Dautch, Suzy Loftus, Nancy Tung
Dautch, a four-year veteran of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and Harvard Law School graduate, is now a Deputy Attorney General in San Francisco, trying cases the State Attorney General must prosecute because of a conflicted county prosecutor. Tung, a one-time San Francisco Deputy District Attorney, has been an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney for several years, realizing that office constitutes the second best district attorney’s office in the nine-county Bay Area, exceeded in results only by the San Mateo County District Attorney, Steve Wagstaffe. Dautch neatly observes about prosecutorial failures of the incumbent District Attorney and the candidacy of a Deputy Public Defender, that San Francisco “doesn’t need two public defenders.”
Public financing doesn’t shrink the influence of large campaign contributions through independent expenditure committees. It doesn’t reduce campaign spending (see Mayor London Breed’s 2018 expenditures of $2,251,065).”
Loftus last month wrote a mind-boggling column in The San Francisco Examiner that she would reverse the sorry record of the current District Attorney in failing to pursue sexual violence cases like rape and assault. Her bromide includes mental health, social services, and “crisis lines . . . community-based services, and protective orders.” She eschews “increasing rates of conviction” as solving an asserted sexual violence epidemic in San Francisco. She is afraid to identify the inept incumbent District Attorney as responsible for failures to prosecute sexual violence cases. She informs people she was president of the San Francisco Police Commission. That’s true; ask San Francisco police officers their opinion of her tenure. Proof is in the pudding: the Police Officers Association refuses to endorse her candidacy.
Meanwhile, the forgiveness of gross receipts taxes of billion dollar technology companies on Market Street has resulted in more wealth for corporate executives, but hasn’t changed upper Market Street to a desirable place to walk. Now customary homeless persons still occupy sidewalks and illegally cross Market Street, deposit excrement, and beg for alms from those brave enough to traverse the area. Every generation of politicians, including the current bunch of majority “progressive” Board of Supervisors members, has to learn you don’t build a desirable city (or county or state) by cutting deals with business barons to abolish or decrease tax responsibilities in return for locating here. It’s not only San Francisco; three months ago, New York City’s leaders finally decided not to give Amazon $3,000,000,000 in corporate welfare and billionaire socialism for building a new headquarters across the East River from Manhattan in Long Island City. The San Francisco tax cut for billionaires ends this year, fortunately. As noted in The Wall Street Journal, such political giveaways are based upon “a pernicious theory of civic welfare that presumes private development is New York’s primary goal, the truest measure of urban vitality and health, with money the city’s only real currency.”
This year also resulted in City Hall, through the Ethics Commission, changing San Francisco’s public financing system by using a 6-to-1 “matching rate”, meaning taxpayer money to candidate-raised money from private sources. Spending over $1,000,000 of your tax money this year on worthless candidates (and more next year) represents a failed proposition, namely, giving fervent politicians tax revenue to propagate their campaigns reduces overall campaign spending. Public financing doesn’t shrink the influence of large campaign contributions through independent expenditure committees. It doesn’t reduce campaign spending (see Mayor London Breed’s 2018 expenditures of $2,251,065). It doesn’t reduce advantages of incumbency. It’s false public policy at taxpayer expense. Yet San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other charter law cities in California pursue the Holy Grail. Fortunately, state law because of a voter initiative written by the late State Senator Ross Johnson, a Republican, Senator Joe Montoya, a Democrat, and me, an Independent, in 1988 prohibits all 460 general law cities from public financing of local campaigns for public office.
Remember late Louisiana U.S. Senator Russell D. Long’s 1986 wisdom: “A tax loophole is something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it is tax reform.”
Former Supervisor and Judge, Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
The late James Byrnes, a United States Senator from South Carolina and later Secretary of State under President Harry S. Truman observed in the 1940s: “The nearest approach to immortality on earth is a government bureau.”
In 1931, San Francisco voters approved a new Charter which reduced Board of Supervisors membership from 16 to 11, elected citywide, and paid $2,400 per year, without membership in the Retirement System but with membership in the publicly-funded Health System. The Charter also barred supervisors from interfering in administrative matters or trying to influence votes of city boards and commissions. Only the voters could increase the supervisors’ salary. Voters did so by doubling it to $4,800 in the 1950s and then $9,600 in 1964. All supervisors but one in my 15 years of service from 1972 until 1986 worked in a business or profession because it was a part-time responsibility, because a Mayor and a Chief Administrative Officer devoted full-time to managing San Francisco government.
A nonprofit Los Angeles group investigation showed that in his 2016 campaign for the State Senate, Wiener accumulated $574,276 from almost 700 donations from developers, real estate attorneys, brokers, architects, lobbyists, and other real estate insiders. Should he ever be elected to the U.S. Congress, I’d expect Wiener to foster legislation granting the United States Government control over local zoning and planning processes!”
After failed supervisorial efforts to remove voters/taxpayers from setting salaries the second time I was President of the Board of Supervisors in 1982 dollars, I asked Budget Analyst Harvey M. Rose to advise me what cost of living increases since 1964 would amount to in 1982. His answer was $23,924 per year. I immediately introduced a Charter amendment to increase the salary accordingly. Voters easily approved it that November. In the 1990s, after I left the Board, a should-be-forgotten supervisor trumpeted Charter “revision,” including voter approval of supervisor salaries. The Civil Service Commission, which would supposedly survey comparable legislative entities in the Bay Area to ascertain a “prevailing” salary. Unfortunately, voters were induced to approve such nostrums.
Since that time, voters unwisely created district election of Supervisors. Instead of answering to approximately 850,000 San Franciscans, presently our heroes represent about 77,000 people, and are term limited. Nevertheless, they’re now members of the Retirement System, and last month the Civil Service Commission ignored staff recommendations and granted Supervisors a 12% salary increase to $140,000 annually, plus a yearly cost of living increase the next four years thereafter. Marvelous! Try to reach any of them or their 3 aides on a Friday afternoon
For those interested in the “land grab” legislation proposed by State Senator Scott Wiener (Senate Bill 281), be advised the bill was not heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee, and, therefore, cannot be considered until next January, at which time it’d need approval by both that committee and the whole State Senate to reach the Assembly. A similar “land grab” was attempted 10 years ago by the ignominious Leland Yee and Daly City, which obtained an appraisal of the market value of Agricultural District 1-A’s 68 acres. Over 11 years ago, it was already $149,000,000. As amended, Wiener’s measure would require payment of current market value to the state, which owns the property, by San Mateo, Daly City, and San Francisco taxpayers. Daly City, whose Historical Society fiercely opposes the bill, is reputedly near insolvency. Simultaneously, Wiener’s Senate Bill 50, which would override local zoning to encourage high-rise apartment buildings in single family housing neighborhoods, was “parked” in the Senate Appropriations Committee for 2019. A nonprofit Los Angeles group investigation showed that in his 2016 campaign for the State Senate, Wiener received $574,276 from almost 700 politico donations by developers, real estate attorneys, brokers, architects, lobbyists, and other real estate insiders. Should he ever be elected to the U.S. Congress, I’d expect Wiener to foster legislation granting the United States Government control over local zoning and planning processes!
A beleaguered Dolores Heights neighborhood taxpayer invites attention to a City Hall effort to establish a “Green Benefit District,” as a so-called “community benefit district,” levying an assessment on neighborhood property owners to fund cleaner sidewalks, streets, common areas, plus improved public safety. Each property owner will be assessed accordingly, whether residential or commercial. The 2019-2020 prospective San Francisco budget exceeds $11,500,000,000. The assessment would raise $1,000,000, of which 33% would be spent on overhead. A Green Benefit District was formed covering Dogpatch. The executive director, appointed by ex-Mayor Lee to a Board of Supervisors vacancy covering Telegraph Hill and North Beach, Julie Christensen, then promptly defeated for election by Aaron Peskin, receives $120,000 per year as the Dogpatch District Executive Director. Don’t Dolores Heights residents, who can’t deduct from their income taxes the proposed “assessment,” unlike business owners, already pay taxes for the services respecting sidewalks, streets, common areas like parks, and police and fire departments?
Let’s hope the City Hall “family” doesn’t attempt to organize a “Green Benefit District” in Richmond, Sunset, or West of Twin Peaks neighborhoods.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
H. L. Mencken in The American Mercury in May 1930 declared: “The legislature, like the executive, has ceased to be even the creature of the people; it is the creature of pressure groups, and most of them, . . . are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation . . . The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle - a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game . . . If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of chiropractic, astrology, or cannibalism.” That applies to State Senator Scott Wiener, who aspires to destroy our historic Cow Palace.
Last year, Wiener prosecuted legislatively a measure to ban gun shows in the Cow Palace. His bill emanated from pressure by people espousing gun control and disdain of the Second Amendment. He was thwarted by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., who vetoed his legislation, observing that the Cow Palace Board of Directors is composed of people from the community, consisting of San Mateo County and San Francisco residents only. This year, the same politician introduced Senate Bill 281, not just to render gun shows illegal in the Cow Palace, but to abolish the Cow Palace by transferring its valuable 68 acres to a “joint powers authority” composed of Daly City, San Francisco, and San Mateo County. This land grab contained no payment to state taxpayers for such real estate conveyance. All but two acres of the Cow Palace are in San Mateo County, which last month declined to pass a resolution supporting S.B. 281 despite entreaty by the Board of Supervisors member from Daly City, D. J. Canepa. (S.B. 281 was amended by the State Senate Government Organization Committee to require payment of market value by Daly City, San Francisco, and San Mateo County, one of whose supervisors observed to me that there isn’t an acre of unimproved land in San Mateo County worth less than $1,000,000!)
Wiener’s intent is to transfer it to wealthy land use developers under the guise of solving the “housing crisis.”
The legislative author has disseminated such falsehoods as “the bill is not controversial” and that the Cow Palace board members don’t represent San Francisco or San Mateo County residents. In fact, one member resides in Daly City, which has always been involved with the Cow Palace. Its police department, fire department, and “SWAT” team, plus the California Highway Patrol, the Muni, and American Medical Response all train at the Cow Palace.
A historical refresher needs recitation. The Cow Palace constitutes California Agricultural District 1A; there are 54 agricultural districts in California and another 23 county fairs and expositions. Ten years ago, the state budget, because of economic conditions, ceased funding agricultural districts. The Cow Palace, constructed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and opened in 1941, had to generate enough revenue to cover operating expenses. It has done so brilliantly, now possessing over $4,000,000 in cash reserve. It has hosted political conventions, circuses, ice hockey, basketball, track and field, and boat shows. It now generates rent from the traditional Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock Show, the Junior Livestock Show, 4H shows, the Great Dickens Fair, dog shows, a reptile show, flower shows, a circus, auto exhibitions, AIDS Lifecycle fundraising weekend, Salesforce and Facebook corporate events, and cannabis events.
Despite denial that his bill would result in destruction of the improved Cow Palace and surrounding animal stalls and space, Wiener’s intent is to transfer it to wealthy land use developers under the guise of solving the “housing crisis.” Despite language in S.B. 281 which states it isn’t a precedent for other agricultural districts or county fairs, such language is precatory, easily overcome by subsequent legislation grabbing other state and county agricultural exposition properties for developers. Except for the naked land grab, S.B. 281 is moot as to its original purpose: On April 16, 2019, the Cow Palace Board voted unanimously not to re-lease the premises in 2020 to the gun show operator, whose lease expires December 31, 2019.
Those gun shows have never resulted in sale of a firearm used in a reported assault, much less a death, because state and federal laws control purchases, meaning scrupulous background checks and prevention of possession of a purchased gun at the Cow Palace for 30 days or more, without any physical transfer of a weapon at the Cow Palace.
Finally, the Cow Palace is engaged in negotiations with an adjoining private property owner and Daly City to develop jointly approximately 15 acres west of the Geneva Avenue entrance for housing and a supermarket. Wiener’s destructive approach, including another bill (S.B. 50) usurping local control over zoning ordinances by California cities, would abolish a history of not just rodeos and 4H events, but availability of the acreage for emergency shelter and rescue after earthquakes and other physical disasters, as well as legendary appearances by President John F. Kennedy, the Reverent Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Beatles!
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a friend: “If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.” That emblemizes San Francisco’s most wasteful (and unhappy) current transportation project, the Municipal Railway’s Central Subway Project, now 10 years in length.
MUNI tax-eaters publicly represent the current cost as $1,600,000,000, which is more than half a billion more than the original proclaimed cost. A better sobriquet is the “billion-dollar-per-mile subway” since it’s only 1.6 miles long from south of Market to Chinatown’s border through Union Square. MUNI chose California’s worst taxpayer enemy, Tutor Perini Co., to build the Central Subway. Its completion is broadcasted as December, but I’ll wager it’ll be 2021 after revelation last month of contract disputes between Tutor Perini and MUNI following revelation last year of 3.2 miles of construction using the wrong type of steel track. The time-saving over use of the #30 bus, assuming the Central Subway one day opens, is a reputed matter of a few minutes.
San Francisco is not the only repository of taxpayer abuse. Honolulu snagged about $9,000,000,000 from federal, state, and city taxpayers for a 20-mile train from suburbs west of Honolulu to downtown, with an original estimate of $5,000,000,000 in 1991. It imposed a surcharge on Oahu business receipts after the elevated train project needed more money. Federal transportation gurus concede only a 65% chance of completion by 2025. Work commenced before environmental studies and planning were completed, about 100 contracts were signed before final approval from the Federal Transit Authority occurred, and now must be re-written.
I am reminded of probably the worst Bay Area public transit project in history, propounded by Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) over 30 years ago to institute trolley car service through San Jose. From commencement, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission staff knew VTA rail was unjustified, but was forced to recommend it to the U.S. Department of Transportation for federal funds by San Jose politicians oblivious of taxpayers. (Unfortunately, I was in the State Senate and didn’t have a vote anymore at MTC, of which I had been chairman in the early 1980s). Fare box recovery ratio measures proportion of operating expenses covered by ridership fares, typically expressed as a percentage. BART service to San Francisco International Airport, for example, obtains fare box recovery of over 70%, the highest of any public transit service in the Bay Area. In 2016-17, Caltrain reached 65% fare box recovery ratio, but MUNI’s fare box recovery was but 28%, and VTA was 10%! That means taxpayers subsidize 90% of VTA riders’ service. While BART currently has many problems resulting from homelessness, fare box cheating, broken escalators and elevators, its fare box recovery in fiscal year 2016-17 remained over 70%.
I don’t know the author, but someone claimed: “There is one fixed rule in government: the less it’s worth, the more it costs.”
As California’s new Governor prepares for his first state budget, let’s remember that about 1% of state income tax payers pay nearly half of the total, based upon our country’s highest state income tax rate of 13.3%. As Fresno State Professor Victor Davis Hanson pointed out last month, new federal income tax law limits deductions for state and local taxes to $10,000, which constitutes an incentive for California’s 1% to move to states without a state income tax, like Nevada or Florida. Hanson further reminds us that during the drought, politicians alleged global warming meant snow and rain would be decreased and that low-elevation reservoirs for retaining water during wet years like 2018-19 were unjustified. That’s now resulted in millions of acre-feet of snow and rain flowing to the ocean. Suppose the drought returns next year. Hanson further identified California as “facing a perfect storm of homelessness.” Generous welfare benefits and warm climates attract the homeless, so nearly one third of the country’s welfare recipients live in California, where vagrancy and public health laws aren’t enforced.
Last month, three S.F. Supervisors announced planned introduction of an ordinance to close Juvenile Hall based upon declining juvenile crime and inmates. Not a word was publicly uttered by any of our three heroes about using such land to build housing for the homeless, assuming closure is justified. Instead, there were references to a park, landscaping, and “public spaces.” I wouldn’t be surprised if tuberculosis and typhus from people on the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco and other large California cities occur because health code enforcement seems politically incorrect.
I don’t know the author, but someone claimed: “There is one fixed rule in government: the less it’s worth, the more it costs.”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
H. G. Wells in The Outline of History in 1921 observed: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” Last November, a flurry of articles about the sorrowful assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk 40 years ago encouraged various theories and alleged facts. Some were educational; others were revisionist. Concurrently, another book on that subject was published. Its author, Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, wrote Cult City: Jim Jones, Harvey Milk and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco, but couldn’t secure a book review from any San Francisco newspaper. (Maybe the content wasn’t politically correct for liberal San Francisco.)
It’s time to record genuine history rather than historical debasement books like Season of the Witch. San Francisco’s first experiment with district election of supervisors was voter-enacted in November 1976, resulting in election of Harvey Milk in the so-called Castro Street area (he had run unsuccessfully citywide) and Dan White in the Portola in 1977. Previously, custom and practice, although not law, resulted in the highest citywide vote-getter being unanimously elected Board president for two years. With district supervisorial elections, that practice was abandoned. I secured the highest number of votes in our district, unopposed. Dianne Feinstein of Pacific Heights received about half my 20,000 total votes. Based upon my closest political friend retiring supervisor John Barbagelata’s suggestion, I agreed to allow her to be elected president in return for endorsing me in 1978 for mayor. (She never did.) She induced new district supervisors to provide her a majority. For White’s vote, she agreed to support his opposition to a zoning change in Roman Catholic Archdiocese property on University Mound to convert a home for unwed prospective mothers into a facility for delinquent boys. Most residents of that district objected to that, and appealed the Planning Commission rezoning to the Board of Supervisors.
I publicly opposed the rezoning. White told me Milk would oppose the rezoning. Knowing Milk’s predilections, I expressed skepticism to White. The following week, the neighborhood appeal failed, Milk voting against it, White, Supervisor Lee Dolson, Feinstein, and I voting for the appealing neighbors. White then ruefully admitted to me I was correct in predicting Milk’s vote.
Later, White voted against a Milk-sponsored ordinance banning discrimination in employment of homosexuals. I supported it. It passed.
Subsequently in 1978, White, a former fireman, was inveighed by the Pier 39 developer to open a potato skin food business on Pier 39. It proved difficult for his wife and him to operate the business successfully while he was a supervisor. In November, before Thanksgiving Day, White delivered his resignation to Mayor Moscone. Downtown businesses and public employee unions persuaded White to change his mind. (Additionally, state law required resignation of a county supervisor to be filed with the Board of Supervisors clerk, not the mayor.) Milk urged Mayor Moscone not to allow White’s return. White learned of such effort. As Flynn notes in a November 26, 2018 magazine column, White’s assassinations weren’t based on Milk’s homosexuality; they occurred because of his desired reappointment. Those are facts, not political revision.
Why should private corporations use taxpayer money to increase their customers, like the local property tax exemptions granted wealthy technology companies for Market Street office buildings? I think commercial property-owning businesses on Taraval Street and Geary Boulevard would like similar treatment.”
* * *
Unnoticed in San Francisco and California, last summer a Pennsylvania township with surplus from increased property tax collection disgorged itself for taxpayers’ benefit. Middletown Township conveyed 14,361 checks for $68 each to all owners of improved property. It resulted from controlling expenditures and delinquent tax collections. Hallelujah. Now, abolition of taxpayer business subsidies and use of taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct cases by state and national legislators and public officials could correct injustice to taxpayers. The Independent Institute notes that California legislators, public universities, and state agencies “secretly settled sexual misconduct claims using taxpayer money – about $11.3 million over the past three fiscal years.” Settlements ranged from $500 to $10,000,000; seven exceeded $500,000. Over the last 25 years, the Legislature has paid over $2,800,000 in 2017 taxpayer dollars.
Meanwhile, taxpayers continue to subsidize electric vehicle buyers. The federal government gives buyers a $7,500 subsidy. That began under President Obama in 2009. The Pacific Research Institute discovered from 2014 Internal Revenue Service records that 79% of federal electric car tax credits were obtained by households with adjusted gross income exceeding $100,000. California bestows $15,000 per electric vehicle on purchasers in state income tax credits. Moreover, last month the Wall Street Journal noted total carbon dioxide emissions from electric vehicles can exceed conventional vehicle emissions. Why should private corporations use taxpayer money to increase their customers, like the local property tax exemptions granted wealthy technology companies for Market Street office buildings? I think commercial property-owning businesses on Taraval Street and Geary Boulevard would like similar treatment. Maybe that’s why Lord Bryce in London in 1921 declared: “A political career brings out the basest qualities in human nature.”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
“We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road, but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much . . . feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.”
That’s not the mandate of contemporary political commentators and philosophers, but Woodrow Wilson, speaking at Princeton University June 9, 1907. Once upon a time, presidential campaigns were relatively short. Not now in the era of Trump, especially for Democrats like an unknown congressman from Texas who was vanquished two months ago for U.S. Senate, or another similar type unknown except in Alameda County and the San Francisco Chronicle, and rookie U.S. Senate members, including one from San Francisco.
Forgotten is Kamala Harris’ conduct 16 years ago. Before election as San Francisco’s District Attorney in November 2003, she benefited from appointment to the $97,000-per-year California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board by then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 1993, and the next year to the even higher-paying California Medical Commission. The February 23, 2003 San Diego Union-Tribune observed that those two state boards were frequently condemned by taxpayers for “allow[ing] politically connected people with no expertise . . . to earn large salaries for jobs that are less than full-time.” The erstwhile Bay Guardian’s Savannah Blackwell noted that Harris had no experience at the age of 30 to “qualify her to oversee the work of 15 staff members who negotiate Medi-Cal reimbursement rates with state hospitals.” Additionally, she was paid by taxpayers as an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney. In 1998, her California Medical Commission salary soared to $99,000 a year. Given a six-figure job by then-District Attorney Terence Hallinan as a San Francisco deputy prosecutor, she rewarded her benefactor by running against him in 2003 after San Francisco adopted public financing with clear eligibility rules, including a maximum amount of campaign spending. In her case, it was $211,000.
After spending $1,150,000 compared to Hallinan’s $362,000, she was the subject of an Ethics Commission complaint (that wasn’t a new experience: in 2000, she was paid $8,000 to manage the unsuccessful reelection campaign of Amos Brown and failed to notify the public of the mailing of two political brochures within the time legally required). Eventually, in 2003, Harris was charged by the Ethics Commission with violating her promise not to spend more than $211,000 on her District Attorney’s campaign. Her violation of the public financing law was clear, but instead of fining her the maximum penalty of $275,000, the Ethics Commission assessed her a mere $34,000. The law also permitted her disqualification. As Savannah Blackwell wrote in September 2005 for the former SFProgressive.com: “By law, Harris should not even be the city’s District Attorney.”
Most recently, taxpayers funded the December settlement of a harassment suit against a top aide in her U.S. Senate office for $400,000. As California’s most knowledgeable political commentator, Dan Walters, wrote in Cal Matters on December 18, after Harris claimed ignorance of the suit or settlement, “it seems incredible that Harris would have been kept in the dark about a harassment allegation against one of her closest aides, and the secret payoff that made it go away. That’s especially true since Harris has made sexual harassment a touchstone in preparing for a presidential run.”
As a U.S. Senator, of course, Harris is eligible for Washington elite access to an obscure, lucrative Social Security alternative under which one monthly payment ($11,334) equals a whole year’s sum of ordinary Social Security payments. That’s ten times over the average Social Security payment. Including Al Gore, about 351 former congressmen and congresswomen collect such benefit. Deployment of taxpayers’ money also occurs locally. The California Fair Political Practices Commission last month fined BART a modest $7,500 for failing to file campaign expenditure statements in 2016 for a $3,500,000 bond. Public agencies a
Forgotten is Kamala Harris’ conduct 16 years ago. Before election as San Francisco’s District Attorney in November 2003, she benefited from appointment to the $97,000-per-year California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board by then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 1993, and the next year to the even higher-paying California Medical Commission.”
re prohibited from using taxpayer funds for political campaigns. Unfortunately, FPPC authority doesn’t include whether such activity was legal in the first place because it can only apply sanctions for undisclosed public agency campaign spending. BART spent $7,791 of taxpayer money to produce videos and send texts to promote the bond measure, which won easily. Meanwhile, local district attorneys and the State Attorney General declined to sue agencies that use public money for political campaigns criminally. In my 27 years in elected public office, I witnessed one such criminal action by the San Mateo County District Attorney, the best prosecutor’s office in the nine Bay Area counties. State Senator Steve Glazer of Orinda has requested the Attorney General to investigate the violation and promises legislation to expand FPPC power. Last month, the FPPC also decided there’s probable cause the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors spent over $800,000 of taxpayer money to campaign for a 2017 homeless services ballot measure. The lesson? Pity the poor taxpayer.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In the aftermath of last month's elections, I'm reminded of the unusually effected scare tactics presented to local newspaper readers who expect accuracy in reporting and opinion-writing. As observed by a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Constitution Day this year, Thomas Jefferson in 1789 wrote: "Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Bear in mind, however, 71% of Americans can't identify the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, according to a 2012 Xavier University report, and 10% of college graduates, according to a 2015 American Council of Trustees and Alumni poll, thought Judith Sheindlin (aka Judge Judy) is a U.S. Supreme Court justice, while only 32% of college graduates could name all three government branches, and 33% can't name a single branch, according to the 2018 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey.
New York City granted Amazon $1,500,000,000 in cash and property tax credits ... Kansas and Missouri spent $500,000,000 in tax incentives for companies, thus taking money from schools and infrastructure. Once government grants corporation A property tax forgiveness, why shouldn't it grant the same exemption to corporation B, and C, etc.?”
As I have previously reminded readers, California's gasoline tax was instituted in 1922 as a user fee for the specific and sole purpose of employing proceeds to build and maintain state highways, county roads, and city streets. That's good government. Instead, the California legislature and governor last year collaborated to enact a 12-cents-per-gallon tax increase, the proceeds of which would also be used for public buses and other forms of transportation, which will be paid for by vehicle drivers and certainly not as a user fee. The California Attorney General wrote as deceiving a summarization of state Proposition 6, which would have repealed the use of gasoline taxes for non-highway, road, and street purposes. That summary is by law the Voter Information Pamphlet information presented to voters. California courts have been reluctant to interfere in litigation to stop the falsifying of the Attorney General's summarization. Proposition 6 opponents spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat it because they're the road construction, engineers, designers, and unionized workers who receive the taxes paid by drivers.
Regarding transportation, on August 8, 2018, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that California spends ten times more on electric car subsidies than on clearing dead trees, which result in flammable groundcover – $335,000,000 for electric car subsidies and only $30,000,000 for clearing 60,000 acres of forests. Similarly, governments use taxpayers' money to confer on massive corporations like Amazon billions of dollars, as New York City did last month for a "second headquarters" for Amazon. San Francisco waived property taxes for technology corporations on Market Street. New York City granted Amazon $1,500,000,000 in cash and property tax credits. As pointed out in The Week, Kansas and Missouri spent $500,000,000 in tax incentives for companies, thus taking money from schools and infrastructure. Once government grants corporation A property tax forgiveness, why shouldn't it grant the same exemption to corporation B, and C, etc.? It's the antithesis of good government.
So is San Francisco city government behavior. Last week, one Supervisor declared intent to establish yet another new office for curing alleged "racial" inequality. She'd call it the "Office of Racial Equity", avowedly to end alleged discrimination in employment practices at City Hall and housing policies. That means more office space, more city employees than even the current 30,000, and more taxpayer subsidization.
On the state level, legislators henceforth needn't live in the district each represents. Senate Bill 1250 enables politicians to claim residences outside their district. While the U.S. Constitution contains no residency qualification for House of Representative members, Governor Jerry Brown signed such bill after pardoning a former legislator who was elected in a district outside his residence. The honest method to effectuate such a policy, contrary to the California Constitution, would be a constitutional amendment for voters to approve. That, however, means the rule of law in a "sanctuary state" which refuses to recognize illegal immigration in jails and prisons.
As a new governor commences his responsibility next month, people ask me what to expect. I'm not a soothsayer. I can't answer. I know California has the highest poverty rate in the country, laws benefiting criminals and illegal aliens, releases of criminals from detention, erasing criminal records. That's the incentive for native San Franciscan Nina Salarno Besselman of Crime Victims United announcing institution of a 2020 initiative to reverse the public safety damage of alleged "criminal justice reform." That includes restoration of the money bail system instead of a computer-based "risk assessment" which is plainly defective. California possesses over 4,000,000 illegal aliens, and the National Economics Editorial estimates they can pay $3,500,000,000 in taxes, but cost California about $30,300,000,000 yearly. That's 17.7% of California's annual budget, with welfare, food stamps, meals, free immunization, low-cost housing, in-state tuition fees, and, potential 2019 legislation to permit candidacies for elected public offices.
Meanwhile, the Festival of Lights (aka Hanukkah) begins December 2 for eight days, and Christmas still occurs on December 25. Jingle Bells to all. Have a Happy New Year.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In 1921, H.G. Wells declared: “Human history becomes more and more erased between education and catastrophe.” Some readers may still be puzzled by the wealth of ballot measures and candidates, even in this one-party city and one-party state. I think it’s important to vote against Proposition 3, which was qualified for the ballot by a distasteful system of its author raising money from entities and individuals who will benefit economically if it passes. If state legislators acted in such fashion with ballot measures, they’d be denounced and maybe prosecuted for bribery. The California Court of Appeal, however, in the 1990s, decided it was constitutionally permissible for a private citizen to practice “pay to participate” in invalidating legislation sponsored by me and signed by then-Governor George Deukmejian. Also dangerous to housing construction incentive is Proposition 10, which merits a similar negative vote, and again, I recommend strong support for Proposition 6, repealing a 12-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and increased registration fees. I do so not because a gas tax increase isn’t warranted; it is warranted, but I do so because the proceeds will be spent on projects other than highways, roads, and streets. It’s a distortion of the reason we’ve paid gas tax since 1922, and it’s financed by the construction companies, engineers, building trade unions, and others who will benefit from its billions of dollars.
He … marched in parades, and spoke at nearly 150 meetings in the Klan uniform. He was also FDR’s first nominee to the Supreme Court and championed the Bill of Rights against the states.”
As a lawyer and retired judge, I was keenly attentive to last month’s confirmation proceedings respecting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Neither his opponents nor Justice Kavanaugh demonstrated good judgment and appropriate conduct. The concealing by Senator Dianne Feinstein of the accusatory letter from a woman alleging Justice Kavanaugh assaulted her at a high school gathering in 1982 when he was 17 and she was 15 resulted in the most vicious set of public hearings and closed door maneuvering in decades. Forgotten by the commentators and journalists was the case of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. On August 12, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated Democratic Senator Hugo Black of Alabama to the Supreme Court. He served over 30 years and was hailed as a supporter of civil liberties and the First Amendment. Forgotten by the “talking heads” and Democratic leaders is that Justice Black, after his appointment, was exposed as a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. He joined it in September 1923, and resigned in July 1925. In September 1926, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Justice Black was given a life membership in the Klan, which was anti-black, anti-Catholic, and anti-Jewish. Justice Black later claimed he joined to prevent the Klan from being too extreme. He was a man who never graduated high school, but graduated the University of Alabama Law School Phi Beta Kappa, marched in parades, and spoke at nearly 150 meetings in the Klan uniform. He was also FDR’s first nominee to the Supreme Court and championed the Bill of Rights against the states. Now, will Justice Kavanaugh be another Justice Black? I wasn’t overly persuaded by his accuser referring to events 36years previously, but if I had been a U.S. Senator, I would’ve had a difficult time voting to confirm him. Why? His display of anger indicated a non-judicial temperament. As pointed out by a Wall Street Journal reader, he was belligerent, hostile, intemperate, self-pitying, insulting, and political (recall his reference to the Clintons). I don’t care about his political background. I care about his judicial record and temperament. I was a fierce trial lawyer with a temperament to match, but as a judge, I was temperate. Some lawyers who knew me as an opponent were surprised. I can’t imagine using the phrase “what goes around comes around” as Justice Kavanaugh did during one of the public hearings. Let’s hope that he performs as a protector of the First Amendment and other constitutional provisions and accumulates the proud record of Justice Hugo Black even to the point of carrying a copy of the Constitution in his pocket.
Last fall, San Franciscan historian Ken Maley from Telegraph Hill asked me if I realized November 11, 2018 would be the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I. An immigrant from a farm in Russia (now in Belorussia), my father immigrated legally to the U.S.A. in 1912 as a 15-year-old. By May 1917, he’d finished Brooklyn School of Pharmacy, then a two-year course, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Shipped to France with the American Expeditionary Force, he was naturalized that fall and, after the Armistice, was one of 100 soldiers selected for the American mission to Armenia in January 1919, a 90-day investigation of the Armenian genocide in which over 1,000,000 Armenians were murdered. World War I means much to me. I’m delighted to be Co-Chairman of the World War I Armistice Centennial Commemoration at the War Memorial Veterans Building, which will culminate November 11 after the 11 AM Veterans Day parade from Fishermans Wharf to Civic Center, bell ringing at 11 AM (the time of the World War I Armistice in 1918), a memorial service at Grace Cathedral Church on Nob Hill, and a reception at the War Memorial ending at 6 PM. San Francisco was chosen by the U.S. World War I Historical Commission as one of 100 recognized commemoration cities. With retired Marine Corps Major General Mike Myatt as Co-Chairman, citizens have raised $100,000 for poster, banner, and photographic World War I displays since May in the War Memorial lobby, which will remain through 2019 to commemorate the centennial of the establishment of the American Legion. Besides General Myatt and Ken Maley, retired Lieutenant Colonel Wallace Levin, a War Memorial Board of Trustees member and director of the Veterans Day parade, the Committee consists of American Legion leaders, history professors, and World War I historians. Few San Franciscans realize that the War Memorial Veterans Building and the Opera House on the land between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, Hayes and Grove Streets resulted from World War I after transfer of such land by the University of California to the City and County of San Francisco in 1921. Thereafter, the War Memorial opened in 1931, the Opera House in 1932, with proceeds for construction from a general obligation bond approved by San Francisco voters circa 1922. San Francisco wanted to honor World War I veterans and did so in perpetuity. God Bless America.
Former Supervisor and Judge Quentin Kopp lives on the Westside.
Dr. Charles Krauthammer, an extraordinary man, who trained as a psychiatrist, later a political commentator, and, lastly, a paraplegic, observed in May 1982: "If we insist that public life be reserved for those whose personal history is pristine, we are not going to get paragons of virtue running our affairs. We will get the very rich, who contract out the messy things in life; the very dull, who have nothing to hide and nothing to show; and the very devious, expert at covering their tracks and ambitious enough to risk their discovery." I thought of that in connection with the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy of Sacramento, who was the best protector of the First Amendment since Justice Louis Brandeis. (As I write, confirmation by the U.S. Senate is pending, but may be concluded by our publication.)
…the Transbay Terminal Authority approved a contract with the builder of the sinking Millennium Tower, requiring the Transbay Terminal Authority to pay the legal fees of the wealthy Millennial Tower builder in lawsuits by condominium purchasers whose property value is adversely affected by the leaning structure – and, no, it's not in Pisa!”
Last month, I mentioned the self-congratulatory dedication of the Transbay Terminal, another San Francisco project years behind schedule and tens of millions of dollars more expensive than represented to taxpayers for over a decade. I noted with approval Supervisor Aaron Peskin's astute observation that without Caltrain or California high-speed rail using the Terminal, it'll be the most costly bus terminal in California history. Subsequently, we learned that under the administration of an unqualified executive director, the Transbay Terminal Authority approved a contract with the builder of the sinking Millennium Tower, requiring the Transbay Terminal Authority to pay the legal fees of the wealthy Millennial Tower builder in lawsuits by condominium purchasers whose property value is adversely affected by the leaning structure – and, no, it's not in Pisa! Millions of dollars of attorneys' fees will be borne by taxpayers, not the owners of Transbay Terminal adjacent structures, such as Salesforce. Ineptitude and deceit of taxpayers emblemize this sorry saga about such real estate project which will never honor the promise to taxpayers that tracks would be extended 1.3 miles from Fourth and King Streets to the Terminal. Finally, on September 25, those transportation wastrels closed the bus terminal completely because of cracked beams.
Last month, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed a dangerous bill which effectively eliminates California's bail system for accused criminals. A defendant's right to bail is guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Sections 12 and 28(e) of the California Constitution. Governor Brown has now eliminated bail in favor of relying upon pretrial assessments of an accused's propensity to threaten public safety and alleged victims and appear at all required criminal court hearings, using a flawed algorithm from a wealthy Texas foundation of a man who garnered billions from the Enron collapse. The legislation was so drastically amended that prior supporters like the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Defender Jeff Adachi opposed it, along with the Alliance of California Judges and California District Attorneys Association. The proponents typically know nothing about criminal court practices. Since I was a Board of Supervisors member in the 1970s, San Francisco's Superior Court has operated a pretrial diversion program, evaluating an accused likelihood of law-breaking and fleeing before trial for purposes of release without bail, usually subject to reporting by telephone every 24 or 48 hours to that office. The same system exists in 45 other counties. Judges conduct hearings every day, receiving sworn testimony from defendants, family members, and friends, as well as reviewing prior records of arrest and convictions, plus information about residency and employment in San Francisco or the Bay Area. Defendants' court-appointed or privately-employed attorneys and prosecutors can argue about bail amount or release without bail before trial. So-called "bail reform" advocates are mostly amateurs who don't appear in criminal court every day like lawyers and judges. Moreover, Governor Brown's action will require millions of dollars of taxpayer money to implement.
Precluded by Ethics Commission rules from furnishing opinions about city ballot measures or candidates, I express recommendations for state measures and candidates only. I'll vote "Yes" on Propositions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12. Propositions 1 and 2 represent bonds to facilitate housing construction. Propositions 3, 4 and 8 address health, namely, a safe water supply, hospital care for children, and kidney dialysis for Californians. Proposition 5 ensures protection for grandparents and parents in transferring residences to children without incurring exorbitant property tax increases. Proposition 6 repeals the 2017 distorted 12-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase of the Legislature, which foolishly enables the money to be used for activity other than building and maintaining highways, roads, and city streets. It's not the money which motivates my Proposition 6 endorsement, it's misuse of the money we would pay as motorists. Proposition 7 authorizes maintenance of Daylight Saving Time in California. (Proposition 9 was removed from the ballot.) Proposition 10 merits defeat. It ends over 25 years of rational rules controlling rent upon tenant departure, thus permitting San Francisco landlords to charge "market" rent upon a lease's end. Propositions 11 and 12 enhance human life by assuring availability of ambulance service at all hours and guaranteeing animal protection.
Finally, I'm excited about electing Steve Poizner, Insurance Commissioner, and Marshall Tuck, Superintendent of Public Instruction. In this one-party state, all Democratic candidates from Governor to Assembly are assured of success. Like me, Steve Poizner is an Independent whom I've known for 20 years, a person of integrity and business accomplishment. Tuck is a competent Democrat, independent of the education establishment and teacher union. Another U.S. Senator, Daniel P. Moynihan, observed: "The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it's so rare" and Edwards R. Murrows' observation in 1954: "No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are his accomplices" constitute useful thoughts as you mark your election ballot.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
Deceased one-time U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan of New York observed on March 7, 1976: "Somehow liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth, namely, a healthy skepticism of the power of government agencies to do good." On the November 6, 2018 ballot will be an initiative (Prop 6) to repeal a 12-cent 2017 gas tax increase by the Legislature and Governor. The last state gas tax increase resulted from my 1989 Senate legislation, raising the tax by 8 cents per gallon by 1993. That money was used as intended for building and maintaining highways, roads, and streets. The 2017 increase renders California's gas tax the highest in the nation and flaunts the 1922 legislative decision to finance highways, roads, and streets by a "user fee." Such user tax revenue should be deposited in the State Highway Fund, not the General Fund, not used for public transit, the DMV, or California Highway Patrol. Before 1922, highways were funded by general obligation bond issues three times, which meant borrowing money and repaying it with twice the principal in interest debt. In 1988, to avoid a gas tax increase, a Republican governor attempted another state bond issue, which voters rejected. Within the last decade, however, state politicians have used gas tax revenue for purposes other than highways, roads, and streets, including state general fund spending. Caltrans cannot be trusted with efficiency; California's highway construction costs per lane mile are 62% over the national average, engineering costs 42% more, and maintenance workers obtain a third more than the national average. The 2018-19 state budget shows motor vehicle-related taxes and fees of $30,800,000,000, of which the Legislative Analyst estimates only $8,600,000,000 for streets, roads, and highways, including $1,100,000,000 on transportation bonds, some of which were used for non-highway purposes, like a new Orwellian category named "active transportation," whatever that means. Legislators last year diverted $1,000,000,000 from gas tax revenue to the General Fund, thus stealing more than $400,000,000 annually from city streets and county roads, and transferring much of it to "cap-and-trade." Bear in mind the Legislative Analyst four years ago concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 full-time employees costing more than $500,000,000 per year.
The vaunted Transbay Transit Center, usable only by buses, constitutes essentially a real estate project for big names like Salesforce, with an underground "train box" that bled state taxpayers $400,000,000 from the 2008 High-Speed Rail Authority general obligation bond issue and will never be used.”
The vaunted Transbay Transit Center, usable only by buses, constitutes essentially a real estate project for big names like Salesforce, with an underground "train box" that bled state taxpayers $400,000,000 from the 2008 High-Speed Rail Authority general obligation bond issue and will never be used.
Last month's homeric political event was opening the Transbay Terminal, originally represented to taxpayers as a modern facility for Caltrain and high-speed rail, plus buses. Past and present politicians celebrated with vanity a project begun over a decade ago, which far exceeded its public cost representations. The general manager of the Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) conferred upon morning newspaper readers a polemic about our public transit systems, with the usual pap. The vaunted Transbay Transit Center, usable only by buses, constitutes essentially a real estate project for big names like Salesforce, with an underground "train box" that bled state taxpayers $400,000,000 from the 2008 High-Speed Rail Authority general obligation bond issue and will never be used. Why? Extending Caltrain tracks 1.3 miles underground from Fourth and Townsend Streets will cost over $4,000,000,000 in non-existing money, never mentioned by MTA's justifiably embattled general manager because of embarrassment. His other bloated project, the Central Subway, peddled as a $1,600,000,000 undertaking, which The Wall Street Journal five years ago dubbed the billion-dollar-a-mile subway, will cost $2,500,000,00, an unspoken truth.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin correctly notes that without high-speed rail and Caltrain, the Transbay Terminal "will go down as the most expensive bus terminal in the history of humankind." The so-called high-speed train under construction near Madera to Wasco in Kern County (not Bakersfield) isn't high speed; it's conventional diesel rail from state government, which deludes the public and media. Moreover, state law now prohibits tracks dedicated to genuine high-speed rail on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Los Angeles Basin. State taxpayers have been deceived. The emperor has no clothes.
Many citizens have complimented me upon suing the U.S. Secret Service for refusing to comply with my February request for public records demonstrating the amount of taxpayer money spent on agents who devoted over a week to Donald Trump, Jr.'s trip to India to foster purchases of Trump properties there. As a taxpayer, I resent spending federal revenue on Trump, Jr.'s private business. Obviously, obtaining those records will enable taxpayer litigation to recover for the Federal Treasury money wasted on private business activities in India. I'm informed records of other taxpayer waste on Trump, Jr.'s business trips will expose more disgraceful misuse of tax extractions. Consider also former President Barack Obama's business deals at taxpayer expense. The Obama Presidential Center was originally publicized as funded with private money. No more. Illinois taxpayers will expend over $174,000,000 for reconfiguring roadways and public transit. Illinois politicians want $139,000,000 more in federal money. The Obama Center won't be operated by the National Archives and Records Administration. Presidential archives won't even be deposited there. The Obama Center paid the City of Chicago $1 for "rent" of 19.3 acres of city land. It's no wonder William Randolph Hearst opined: "A politician will do anything to keep his job, even become a patriot."
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
A wag once opined: “Some politicians are elected because of their gift of gab, and then defeated because of their gift of grab.” I trust that won’t apply to three statewide candidates whom I recommended last month for your thoughtful consideration and were chosen under California’s unusual system of sending to the November 6, 2018 general election the highest two qualifiers, rather than by respective parties. In order of ballot appearance, retired Superior Court Judge Steve Bailey of El Dorado, a Republican, runs this fall against incumbent Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Steve Poizner, like me an Independent, runs for Insurance Commissioner, and Democrat Marshall Tuck faces Democrat Tony Thurmond, another Democrat, for Superintendent of Public Instructions, a non-partisan office. It may be early, but I reiterate my recommendations for November 6, and I’ll later analyze other state and federal campaigns.
... last month’s announcement that the incumbent supervisor in the Sunset District indicated that she would not run for re-election in November. Within one day, an aide declared her candidacy. The aide registered to vote in San Francisco only on March 27, 2018 and was raised in Los Angeles.”
The state system of disregarding political parties for the November run-off reminds me of San Francisco’s “ranked choice” voting for Mayor and Board of Supervisors. The latter will, I fearlessly predict, result in corruption accusations sometime in the future because human nature invites unsavory arrangements between candidates who exchange second and third place votes. San Francisco is also manifestly disserved by a practice of anointing political successors. I note last month’s announcement that the incumbent supervisor in the Sunset District indicated that she would not run for re-election in November. Within one day, an aide declared her candidacy. The aide registered to vote in San Francisco only on March 27, 2018 and was raised in Los Angeles. Such event, labeled as favoritism by some commentators, will be tested by six other eligible candidates who timely filed declarations of candidacy. Supervisors are limited to two four-year terms. The policy theory was that such system would encourage everyday citizens, not aspiring politicians, to lead San Francisco legislatively. That’s a fallacy.
Meanwhile, the annual state Budget Act was enacted last month, together with so-called “trailer” bills. Those are allegedly intended to implement spending purposes of the Budget Act. Such custom and practice is gravely abused by the Legislature, which achieved passage of non-budget-related bills with little or no public hearings. There’s a depressing example in the 2018-2019 Budget Act which contains a 17-word trailer bill that would allow local public officials to suppress disclosures to voters about how their property taxes will be affected by bond measures on the ballot between now and 2020. The best political commentator in California, Dan Walters, accurately calls it “sneakiness.” As readers know, bonds constitute loans to public entities which are repaid by property taxes, usually over 30 years, with principal and interest that generally double the bond expense.
Meanwhile, local Assemblymember David Chiu introduced last spring legislation to restore the failed Redevelopment Agency in cities and counties. Redevelopment is a pseudonym for eminent domain, taking private property allegedly for public benefit. Begun over 60 years ago in California, it allows a board of supervisors or city council to decide an area is “blighted” for purposes of buying or seizing the neighborhood properties from owners, then reselling same to developers for better-appearing 20th Century housing. It was a “do-gooder” theory which instead resulted in seizure of private property and its resale at bargain prices for such purposes as automobile row, high-rise office buildings, shopping malls, and even country clubs. Those uses produced not only property taxes, but sales taxes. Meanwhile, school districts suffered loss of property tax revenue in the process. Assembly Bill No. 3037 was approved by the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development, but stopped in the Committee on Appropriation – for now. Note that Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. accomplished three years ago legislation abolishing redevelopment agencies, but facile developers, politicians, and nonprofit housing entities continue to proclaim the wonders of a system which enabled government to seize private property and deliver it to wealthy City Hall favorites at prices as low as a dollar per parcel (yes, that occurred during redevelopment’s legal status in California).
I note Independence Day for all Americans and encourage leaders to think of forebearers who declared and fought to sustain this independent, democratic nation of legal immigrants. I’ll be speaking at a Lutheran church in Pacifica led by Reverend Tom Nibbe, a Marine Corps veteran, and praying for our future well-being in tumultuous rhetorical times, which include President Donald “Bone Spur” Trump and his perpetual mainstream media critics. (Note: Independence Day reminds me Mr. Trump obtained five draft deferments during the Vietnam War because of those pesky bone spurs!)
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
Was it Diogenes who declared: “If a man carries his own lantern, he need not fear darkness”?
Reiteration appears inevitable in the face of the June 5 California election. Therefore, I reiterate my three most-prized recommendations: I urge readers to vote for retired Superior Court Judge Steve Bailey for Attorney General, Steve Poizner for Insurance Commissioner, and Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction. That gives you a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent, thereby covering all bases. Judge Bailey was principally a criminal defense lawyer for 25 years before election to the El Dorado County Superior Court and is unmistakenly the most experienced and balanced of three other candidates. Steve Poizner, a registered Independent like me, served as Insurance Commissioner in 2007 until 2011, accepts no campaign donations from insurance carriers or brokers, and represents integrity of the highest nature. Democrat Marshall Tuck is free of obligation to the California Teachers Association or charter school proponents and is not a career politician, unlike the incumbent or his principal challenger.
The myth that SPUR is a “think tank” conceals its membership roster of contractors, architects, and recipients of taxpayer and toll payer dollars. Stop their rip-off by rejecting Regional Measure 3.”
Absent from last month’s recommendations was my feeling about Regional Measure 3. It constitutes unfair governmental taxation, flying in the face of logic, history, and fair treatment. It proposes toll bridge increases from $5 to $8 on six of the seven bridges crossing San Francisco Bay owned and operated by the State of California and a Bay Bridge increase to $9 during peak hours, $8 on weekends, and $4 all other times by 2025. Tolls, like gasoline taxes, constitute user fees, paid by users of the public transportation facility. In fact, motorists at the time the Bay Bridge and others were opened received governmental promises that tolls would cease once the bonds used for construction were paid. That was untrue. Regional Measure 3 now proposes to use an estimated 4.45 billion dollars to pay for 35 projects not constituting maintenance or improvements of the seven State-owned bridges. About 70% would finance mass transit projects, 25% would foster roads and highways, and 3% would benefit bicyclists, who pay no tolls or other fees, and pedestrians. A user fee, it is not.
The State Legislature and Governor already last year bastardized the gasoline tax with increases not simply for highways, roads, and streets, but for public transit and other non-user purposes. California three times in the early 20th Century used general obligation state bonds to pay for motor vehicle facilities before political leaders recognized that was unfair to those not using streets and highways. Thus, in 1922, the Legislature and Governor enacted a 2-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax upon the clear principle that those who use streets and highways, not the rest of society, should pay for their construction and upkeep. That’s the principal reason an initiative to repeal the politicized gas tax increase has been circulated for the November 2018 statewide election. Note that the Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and SPUR, which falsely proclaims itself as an “urban-planning think tank,” support Regional Measure 3. They’re contributing vast amounts of money to its passage. Why? Because their membership builders, engineering firms, and designers will obtain most of the contracts for the contemplated projects. The myth that SPUR is a “think tank” conceals its membership roster of contractors, architects, and recipients of taxpayer and toll payer dollars. Stop their ripoff by rejecting Regional Measure 3.
One other election highlight warrants comment. By a small majority, San Francisco voters approved a 2016 measure which allows aliens to vote in Board of Education elections this November. Some of those aliens may be illegal residents. Under state law, it’s possible that local aliens’ names and addresses could be obtained by federal authorities like Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to detect illegality. Only aliens with children under 19 can vote in those elections. Afraid of detection of illegal aliens by federal immigration officials, the Board of Supervisors approved legislation last month, compelling the Department of Elections to warn all such aspiring alien voters that illegality of presence could be discovered. Laws sometimes boomerang on those who are supposed beneficiaries. The same Board of Education also began a process of removing public school names no longer politically acceptable, authorizing an alleged panel of experts to investigate and submit recommendations this fall. By this month, such proposal may have received approval. In 2016, Board of Education member Matt Haney tried to promulgate abolition of the name of George Washington High School. In the face of riveting opposition from the Washington High School Alumni Association and others, he turned tail. One of the targets identified last month by a colleague is Fairmount Elementary School in Glen Park, which faces identity extinction in favor of politically correct Dolores Huerta. In today’s San Francisco political climate, nothing is safe from revision to suit those who abhor history. The orthodoxy of San Francisco politics sometimes interferes with Diogenes’ observation.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
Even though my First Amendment rights have been lost on city elections as an Ethics Commission member (and now Vice-Chairman following retired Golden Gate University School of Law dean and Chief Deputy Public Defender Peter Keane's resignation after a vote double-cross by the current Chairman), I still retain such right regarding state and federal elections. A savant once observed: "It's useless to try to hold some people to anything they say while they're madly in love, drunk, or running for office," and, don't forget: "Everybody makes mistakes. That's why we keep having political elections."
Unlike the local ballot, there's only five state ballot measures. Proposition 68 authorizes $4,000,000,000 of general obligation bonds for state and local parks, so-called climate adaptation projects, natural resources, water quality, and flood protection projects, while reallocating $100,000,000 of unused general obligation bonds for the same purposes. I'll vote against it, because only $1,300,000,000 is actually specified to improve parks in an unequal geographical manner, lacks sufficient funding for critical deferred park maintenance, and relies upon a state department which bamboozled citizens in 2012 with a threatened closure of 70 parks, for which there was sufficient money to operate. Interest costs will double the $4,000,000,000.
I will, however, vote for Proposition 69, which shouldn't be necessary, but requires expenditure of gasoline taxes for transportation projects. I don't believe in utilizing the gas tax, a user fee, for public transit or bicycle lanes (bicyclists pay nothing for roads built by motorists); my vote represents a compromise to preclude more misapplication of gasoline tax revenue.
Proposition 70 deals with the so-called "Cap-and-Trade program," constitutes an arcane procedural issue and mandates a two-third majority legislative approval for spending Cap-and-Trade revenues. It shouldn't be in the State Constitution, and it authorizes over $730,000,000 for a high-speed rail project, which isn't even electrified high speed and violates 2008's Proposition 1A. Even the League of Women Voters opposes it. So does the California League of Conservation Voters and Coalition for Clean Air. Reject it.
It's useless to try to hold some people to anything they say while they're madly in love, drunk, or running for office," and, don't forget: "Everybody makes mistakes. That's why we keep having political elections.”
Proposition 71 is a procedural constitutional change respecting a later effective date for voter-approved ballot measures. I'll support it.
Proposition 72 amends the Constitution to allow the Legislature to exclude the value of a new rainwater capture system from a property's taxable value. There's no argument against it in the Voter Information Guide and no vote against submitting it to voters by the Legislature.
Now, let's get to candidates, starting with the U.S. Senate. My candidate is a Los Angeles civil rights lawyer friend, Pat Harris. Friendship is thicker than water. For Governor, I'll vote for Republican John Cox. (Maybe someone can explain why neither Newsom nor Villaraigosa nor Chiang is in the Voter Information Guide!) I'll support Libertarian Tim Ferreira for Lieutenant Governor, not the Socialist Gayle McLaughlin, Democrat Alex Padilla for reelection as Secretary of State, Democrat Betty Yee for reelection as Controller, and Democrat Vivek Viswanathan for Treasurer. I'm an early endorser of Republican Steven Bailey, a fellow retired Superior Court judge from El Dorado County for Attorney General, and fellow Independent Steve Poizner for Insurance Commissioner. Finally, I endorse taxpayer advocate Mark Burns for Board of Equalization, an entity which should have been abolished 20 years ago in favor of a California Tax Court, and Marshall Tuck of Novato for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Staying with state issues, beware of Assemblyman David Chiu's Assembly Bill 3037. It wrong-headedly restores redevelopment agencies under the guise of solving California's housing needs. Even renowned California musician David Crosby understands redevelopment enables big government to seize private property and deliver it to wealthy, city government favorites at prices as low as a dollar per parcel. San Francisco's Recreation and Park Commission foolishly eliminated a now-deceased San Francisco redevelopment agency's chief executive's name from a downtown plaza because of what redevelopment did to the Western Addition and South of Market. During its heyday, redevelopment was used to foster golf courses, automobile rows, at least one country club, and hotels and restaurants by big shots under the rubric of replacing "blight." "Blight" was in the beholder's eyes, namely, city councils, or in our case as a city and county, the Board of Supervisors. Crosby observed last month "the little guy doesn't stand much of a chance . . ." under redevelopment. Governor Jerry Brown should be proud of his abolition of redevelopment. He mustn't allow its rebirth under AB 3037.
Finally, all four incumbent San Francisco Superior Court judges should be reelected. Their opponents from the Public Defender's office are simply trying to create false impressions about the performance of these Superior Court judges and should be rejected in such effort.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
General Obligation Bonds
Prop 68 NO
Prop 69 YES
Prop 70 NO
Date of Effect
Prop 71 YES
Prop 72 No Recommendation
U.S. Senate Pat Harrris
Governor John Cox
Lt. Governor Tim Ferreira
Secretary of State Alex Padilla
Controller Betty Yee
Treasurer Vivek Viswanathan
Attorney General Steve Bailey
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner
Board of Equalization Mark Burns
School Superintendent Marshall Tuck
An anonymous wag once declared: "While living in a democracy, you can say what you think without thinking." Another savant observed: "Freedom not to listen is just as precious as freedom of speech." I concur. If those declarations remind readers of any public figure from Donald J. Trump to the ex-mayor of Burlington, Vermont, now a United States Senator, I fully understand.
Pointing out that American males' participation in the labor force "is at Depression-era lows," the authors identified widespread opioid abuse, inner city homicides, half of all American children born out of wedlock, and more than half are raised by single mothers. The column caused letters, statements, and petitions from students and professors at Penn and elsewhere attacking the column as racist, white supremacist, xenophobic, and hate speech. ”
With my eldest grandchild in college, and past service on my alma mater's Alumni Council, I am increasingly saddened by the state of academic freedom in today's America, together with the diminution of history, Western civilization, and English language concentration in high schools, colleges, and universities. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) surveyed 1,100 such institutions last year and concluded that only 81% of the surveyed institutions required students to take a single course in composition, only 3% mandated an economics course, 85% required undergraduates undergo a basic science class, 58% required a college-level course in mathematics, and 12% didn't compel students to undergo a single course in any of those subjects.
Then, the problem exists of allowing unpopular speakers at college campuses. Astonishingly, student protests at Brandeis University caused cancelation of the world premiere of a play based on the life of comedian Lenny Bruce. Protesters attacked the play's portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement. The theater professors agreed, announcing that the play "may cause discomfort, including the legacy of Lenny Bruce" and additional educational programming must accompany such play. Last November, Knox College, a liberal arts institution in Illinois, canceled a production of Bertolt Brecht's play The Good Person of Szechwan, proclaiming any performance should not result in "the emotional distress of students" agitated by perceived racial insensitivity. ACTA's President wrote in the Boston Herald that both Bruce and Brecht were once attacked by right-wingers. Bruce was prosecuted in 1961 for "obscenity"; Brecht was summoned before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947 because of the radical content of his writing. Brandeis University is named for Justice Louis Brandeis, historic guardian of the First Amendment!
The National Association of Scholars claims that hatred of America is now instilled in American schoolchildren from an early age, not as "hatred" itself, but in words such as "social justice," "multiculturalism," "resistance," or similar language suggesting aversion to people who exploit everyone else. Probably, the best and most courageous analyst of free speech on American college campuses is Professor Amy Wax at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In the Wall Street Journal last February, she reported the reaction to a column she wrote with a University of San Diego Law School professor for the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9, 2017, entitled "Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country's Bourgeois Culture." Pointing out that American males' participation in the labor force "is at Depression-era lows," the authors identified widespread opioid abuse, inner city homicides, half of all American children born out of wedlock, and more than half are raised by single mothers. The column caused letters, statements, and petitions from students and professors at Penn and elsewhere attacking the column as racist, white supremacist, xenophobic, and hate speech. Five law school professors accused the authors of praising the 1950s. Later, 33 professors recommended students report any "stereotyping and bias" they might perceive from Professor Wax. She reminds us: "The American way is to conduct free and open debate in a civil manner. We should return to doing that on our college campuses and in our society at large."
Like San Francisco, California is now a "sanctuary" jurisdiction. Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed such legislation last year. How times change. In 1975, his first year as Governor, Brown opposed immigrants entering the U.S. as refugees, despite federal approval. South Vietnam and Cambodia were defeated by Communists in April, 1975. Hundreds of thousands of refugees sought entry. Mario Obledo, founder of the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund and Brown's Secretary of Health and Welfare, tried to prevent refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base and explored suing the Federal Government to stop such immigration. Supporting Brown were U.S. Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and the late George McGovern of South Dakota.
As always, the truth about aliens is malleable, and politicians are trimmers; they love illegal aliens as part of their politics. As the son of a legal immigrant and husband of another legal immigrant, I scratch my head in dismay.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
An anonymous writer once observed: "Maybe we were better off when charity was a virtue instead of a deduction." Another writer observed: "Real charity doesn't care if it's deductible or not."
Friends and acquaintances have mostly ceased asking me about my experience and opinion of service on the San Francisco Ethics Commission since September 2016 as an appointee of the Board of Supervisors. I refrain no more because of failure of a necessary four-fifths majority of the five-member Commission to approve restoration of anti-corruption laws which were approved by voters in 2000, then repealed by Board of Supervisors action in 2003. Bear in mind that the Charter law over 20 years ago requires a four-fifths approval of Commissioners to submit a proposed strengthening of ethics requirements to the Board of Supervisors for submission to voters or submission to voters by the Commission itself.
The nonprofit entities succeeded in stopping the prohibition of behest payments in the proposed ordinance in favor of simply a disclosure of "behest" donations by contractors, planners, architects, and developers to designated charities. As I stated last December, how many citizens possess an interest in reading City Hall ethics forms? Not very many, in my long experience.”
|Ethics Chair, Peter Keane|
One of the major provisions of the high-sounding Anti-Corruption and Accountability Act propounded last year for Commission adoption barred so-called "behest" donations to a local elected or appointed official's favorite charity in return for favorable treatment to the donor on a permit, a license, or other city government benefit. That incited nonprofit entities to bombard Ethics Commission members and staff with catastrophic objections, claiming they (the nonprofit corporations) never tried to exercise undue influence and such act by the Ethics Commission would diminish donations substantially. I can recall the venerated pastor of Glide Memorial Church in the 1980s pleading with his chosen candidate for mayor to withdraw from the run-off in November, 1987, against future Mayor Art Agnos, based upon fear that Agnos' election would cause termination of taxpayer money flowing to the Glide Memorial Church.
Friends of Ethics, a volunteer city organization receiving no taxpayer money, discovered as of February 13, 2018 $798,566,250 has been paid to nonprofit entities for fiscal year 2017-18, that $191,790,256 remains to be paid by June 30, 2018, a total of almost $1,000,000,000 from taxpayers, and that the estimate of the percentage of San Franciscans working for a nonprofit entity is 17%, according to the Mayor's Workforce Office, and the number of grants annually is 2,277, with the number of recipients much lower because many receive a large number of grants.
The infestation of nonprofits is remarkable. Friends of Ethics through its President, Larry Bush, reported the most recent Internal Revenue Service filing for 2016 of the nonprofit "Friends of City Planning" included Peter Cohen from Council of Community Housing Organizations, who testified repeatedly at the Ethics Commission against a prohibition on "behest" payments, S. Osborn Erickson, major developer and behest donor, and Larry Nibbi, another major "behest" donor are just three of the nonprofits' members who regularly need permits from the Planning Commission. Cohen's organization doesn't even provide benefits in the form of housing or medical treatment or recreational activities; it's an association of nonprofit housing entities which supposedly do provide direct benefits to San Francisco residents.
The nonprofit entities succeeded in stopping the prohibition of behest payments in the proposed ordinance in favor of simply a disclosure of "behest" donations by contractors, planners, architects, and developers to designated charities. As I stated last December, how many citizens possess an interest in reading City Hall ethics forms? Not very many, in my long experience. Moreover, the same nonprofits succeeded in deleting a clause conferring the ability of a citizen to sue for such ethics and conflict of interest violations if the City Attorney or District Attorney refuses to act after 90 days of a complaint to the Ethics Commission. It's called a "private right of action." Over 10 city ordinances bestow that power upon taxpayers if city officials fail to act and allow recovery of their attorney fees and court costs. State law contains numerous such provisions, but the nonprofits were able to claim that unidentified but well-heeled entities and individuals would find ways to harass charities with frivolous lawsuits. Thus, there's no private citizen empowerment to enforce the now-insipid Anti-Corruption Act.
The culmination occurred February 16, 2018 at the Ethics Commission meeting, with two Commissioners voting against even conveying a weakened law to the Board of Supervisors, after one had told Chairman Peter Keane he would support him. That led Peter Keane to resign from the Commission immediately, a saddening event. (Mr. Keane was Chief Deputy Public Defender for 25 years, a law professor, and then Dean of the Golden Gate University School of Law, still teaching at Hastings Law School.)
Best laid plans have gone awry.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Albert Camus predicted the death of Europe in 1957 in a lecture at the University of Uppsala, Sweden: "My conclusion will be simple. It will consist of saying, in the very midst of the sound and the fury of our history: 'Let us rejoice. Let us rejoice, indeed, in having witnessed the death of a lying and comfort-loving Europe and it being faced with cruel truths.'"
The California High-Speed Rail Authority exists because of legislation I sponsored as a State Senator in 1996, and then approval by 52% of California voters in November 2008 of a $9,950,000,000 state general obligation bond issue to build it. High-speed rail began operating in 1964 in Japan in time for the Olympic Games. It's an electrified system on steel rails with steel wheels. In 2008, California taxpayers were promised a genuine high-speed rail system as exists in 11 nations in Asia and Europe, with the first segment from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours 40 minutes, a system which couldn't be operationally subsidized by taxpayers. That was realistic. Most high-speed rail systems in France, across the English Channel, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China operate in the black. Most were built with private investors, together with public funds. One essential is operating on track dedicated only to high-speed rail, not shared with commuter or freight service.
Construction of the Central Valley's non-electrified segment began last year with the typical political ground-breaking ceremony to misrepresent the bastardization of high-speed rail. It began even though all the right-of-way by eminent domain from farmers and ranchers was not secured. It still isn't. Yet the Governor in his State of the State message last month rhapsodized over the project, with the fiction that it's true high-speed rail, ignoring "cruel truths.”
After a term of four years on the Authority governing board, I departed as Governor Jerry Brown returned to the State Capitol in 2011. The Authority board had decided the first segment would travel the San Francisco Peninsula, then over the San Luis Pass to Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles, using the U.S. Highway 99 trail, rather than Interstate 5, which possesses no cities with potential ridership for revenue to pay operating expenses. That meant acquisition of an additional 50 feet of right-of-way on the Peninsula to avert sharing the Caltrain right-of-way. In the aforementioned countries, to cover costs, high-speed rail must operate 10-12 trains during peak hours of 7:00-10:00 a.m. and 4:00-7:00 p.m. It's impossible with Caltrain now needing four trains per hour during those periods.
In 2011, with Brown appointees, including its chairman, the Authority changed the plan presented to taxpaying voters in 2008, deciding to build a diesel energy service from Merced to Bakersfield with approximately $3,600,000,000 from President Obama's "stimulus" legislation, and a total estimated cost of about $6,900,000,000. In 2008, the Authority board contemplated funding from the state bond, plus federal and regional funds from areas along the route which wanted high-speed rail for commercial development and consequent employment increases. The estimated cost was about $32,000,000,000. Now, the non-electrified segment actually from Chowchilla to Wasco, about 30 miles north of Bakersfield (the Authority will bus passengers to downtown Bakersfield) is over $10,100,000,000, the remaining state bond money is approximately $7,000,000,000, federal funds are expressly barred by Congressional legislation, dedicated right-of-way is barred by state legislation, no regional investment exists, and private equity firms are absent.
The estimated current cost to reach Los Angeles from San Francisco is over $69,000,000,000. Governor Brown has diverted "cap and trade" state revenue to the project and, now, it's revealed the cost of the state bond (principal and interest) is being paid from gas tax revenue in the State Highway Fund. (Because of interest, those costs reportedly are about $18,000,000,000.) Construction of the Central Valley's non-electrified segment began last year with the typical political ground-breaking ceremony to misrepresent the bastardization of high-speed rail. It began even though all the right-of-way by eminent domain from farmers and ranchers was not secured. It still isn't. Yet the Governor in his State of the State message last month rhapsodized over the project, with the fiction that it's true high-speed rail, ignoring "cruel truths." Moreover, 2017 legislation increasing the gas tax and motor vehicle registrations for roads is the subject of a proposed initiative ballot measure for repeal in either June or November, 2018. While the Governor accurately minimized litigation against high-speed rail, which occurred mostly on environmental grounds, a suit set for hearing on February 8 in Sacramento County Superior Court alleges unconstitutionality of 2017 legislation which rips, without voter authorization, $715,000,000 from the 2008 bond issue to donate to Caltrain for its $3,000,000,000 electrification project, having ripped in 2016 $400,000,000 from the 2008 state bond measure to build a $400,000,000 "train box" in the San Francisco real estate project known as the "Transbay Terminal," which will be for buses, not railroads. Oh, those cruel truths!
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7