Flashreport, Greenhut warnings on Fletcher vindicated 10-fold

Even before he quit the Republican Party in March, San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher had come into the cross hairs of influential Flashreport publisher Jon Fleischman and Steven Greenhut, the Sacramento-based libertarian think tanker, editor and pundit with a national following. Now, as an independent mayoral candidate in today's elections in San Diego, Fletcher has lived up to their warnings. He's essentially teamed up with public employee unions against San Diego's leading critic of the government status quo, rival mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. I provide the grisly details here at Cal Watchdog. [DeMaio's} assault on the San Diego City Hall status quo has produced a vicious response from individual union members and union organizations. DeMaio and his supporters were taunted and harassed while gathering signatures for a sweeping benefits reform measure that’s on Tuesday’s ballot as Proposition B. The first-term councilman, who is gay, has also been baited for his sexual orientation and subjected to an ugly whispering campaign. Last week, the city police union began airing a grossly misleading attack ad that implied DeMaio didn’t think the families of dead cops should get survivor benefits. But the perverse twist is which mayoral candidate has been the unions’ main partner in assaulting DeMaio in defense of the status quo. It’s not [veteran Democratic congressman Bob] Filner, the abrasive, in-your-face traditional 1960s liberal. It’s Fletcher, a photogenic 35-year-old Marine war hero who until two months ago was a conservative Republican with some maverick trappings. After DeMaio shocked many observers by capturing the local GOP’s formal endorsement over the more experienced [county District Attorney Bonnie] Dumanis and more conventional Fletcher, Fletcher dropped his party affiliation and insisted it wasn’t driven by expedience but by his conscience. To the cheers of New York Times columnist David Brooks, Fletcher declared he could no longer in good faith be a member of a party that was part of a dysfunctional political dynamic dominated by “extremists.” Ever since, Fletcher has offered up DeMaio as an example of the “extremists” who are polluting California’s body politic — even as Fletcher has supported Proposition B, the sweeping benefits reform measure largely authored by DeMaio that can fairly be described as radical. It would shift all new city hires but police to 401(k)-type retirement benefits and seek to impose a five-year cap on the “pensionable pay” of all employees. ... Meanwhile, he’s kept his opinions to himself about the extremism on display in the union-led campaigns against Proposition A, which would ban the city’s use of project labor agreements unless doing so would lead to the loss of state or federal funds, and against Proposition B. To undercut Proposition A, unions got the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to enact a law that takes state construction funds away from charter cities with PLA bans. That’s extraordinary enough, but it doesn’t compare to Sacramento’s reaction to Proposition B. The state Public Employment Relations Board, controlled by union allies, sought unsuccessfully to keep the measure off the ballot and has made clear its intention to scuttle the measure should it pass. Why? On the grounds that since some elected officials helped draft Proposition B, it amounted to a violation of collective-bargaining rights. By this bizarre standard, just about any attempt by the public to use the ballot process to directly control public employees’ pay and compensation can be deemed a violation of employee rights. For those on the outside looking in, this union bullying and intimidation may seem so grotesque and over the top that it verges on the comic. But for those who live anywhere else in California, don’t feel inclined to cackle. Today the target is unlucky San Diego, but soon it will be your community. In many ways, I remain an admirer of Nathan Fletcher. His work on Chelsea's Law was exemplary. It wasn't just a knee-jerk ramping up of prison sentences in response to a terrible crime. It was a thoughtful attempt to refocus the corrections system in a pragmatic way, a sincere attempt to target the real bad guys and get away from the warehousing of non-threats that is the preferred approach of California's prison-industrial complex. But I am baffled, sincerely baffled, if Fletcher honestly believes that his present course is the way to solve California's problems, as opposed to a way to help him climb the political ladder. Unless you're on his payroll, it's tough not to be cynical about his actions.

Will San Diegans stand up to Sacramento bullies? We'll find out Tuesday

Two ballot measures on the San Diego ballot Tuesday haven't just stirred up the ire of local unions. They've gotten the attention of union puppet masters in Sacramento, who have used the Legislature and a state agency to make clear that San Diego can't be allowed to have local control of how local government functions. Will San Diegans stand up to the bullies? We'll see. The issues are laid out in this U-T San Diego editorial: Proposition A would ban the city from requiring project labor agreements be used on construction projects, except when such bans would lead to the forfeiture of state or federal funding. PLAs dictate that governments follow costly, unnecessary union compensation practices and job rules. To try to intimidate voters in San Diego and elsewhere into voting against bans on PLAs, the union bullies who control Sacramento got a law passed that potentially could cost the city millions of dollars in state construction funds if Proposition A passes. The law, however, is legally suspect. But beyond that, enough is enough. It’s time someone stood up to Sacramento and illustrated that majority Democrats in the Legislature amount to puppets manipulated by their union masters. It’s disgraceful that Gov. Jerry Brown, who sometimes takes on unions, signed their bill into law. Proposition B would give all newly hired city workers but police officers 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of defined-benefit pensions. It would also direct elected city leaders to seek a five-year freeze on pensionable pay of city employees to keep down the long-term costs of retirement benefits for those with vested pension rights. Once again, the union bullies who control Sacramento are trying to keep San Diego voters from exercising local control of their government. The union allies who control the state Public Employment Relations Board have made clear they will try to block the measure by any means necessary. When will the insane excesses of California unions get the in-depth focus they deserve from the media? I've lived in Hawaii, a state where unions are nearly as powerful as in California, and I have seen how they operate. What happens in Sacramento just isn't the norm. It's grossly over the top. But we rarely see the media frame union power plays in a way that provides this context.

Want to hear semi-informed blather about San Diego mayor's race, state props? Go here

It was good to be back on the radio with Martha Montelongo of Gadfly Radio. Go here if you want to hear the podcast. That link should be good until Tuesday morning. For fans of my 2009-2011 show on KOGO 600 AM in San Diego, I have some news. I will have a weeknight show on the U-T TV cable channel in San Diego, probably an hour long, probably debuting in early summer. More info TK.

'Social justice' types also victims of CalPERS' arrogance, incompetence

The people running CalPERS constantly pat themselves on the back even as they join in a dishonest effort to downplay the pension crisis with disinformation and shady accounting. This is just what their most powerful patrons -- public employee unions -- want them to do. But the "social justice" set of the political left, which nominally includes unions, is also a victim of CalPERS' arrogance and incompetence. It turns out that CalPERS basically ignored directions from the Legislature that it divest its investments in firms involved in the Sudan genocide, one of the dearest causes of the celebrity and campus left. That's my CalPERS! This is from a San Diego CityBeat story from last year that just came to my attention this week. CalPERS may have changed its ways since, but the story is still a hilarious commentary on how it works: Since the mid 2000s, dozens of states have passed legislation requiring public pension funds to shed investments in companies working in Sudan as well as Iran, an increasingly hostile threat to global stability and U.S. national security. Most pension systems have reported fairly smooth transitions to what are sometimes described as “terror-free portfolios.” ... In California, the narrative goes a bit differently. At the end of December, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) staff presented an estimate of what it spends annually “complying” with mandates to divest from companies in Sudan and Iran. The total bill: $550,000. ... CalPERS has a funny definition of “compliance.” It has not divested any stock nor honored the short “do not invest” list it released in 2006, complaining it would hurt the fund. In fact, CalPERS’s board passed a policy in February 2009 stating that it would not divest from companies as the law demands, period. ... CalPERS argued that writing “engagement” letters to the companies was sufficient. CalPERS’s latest reports to the legislature, dated Dec. 31, 2010, indicate they have made little progress. As of Nov. 30, 2010, CalPERS had $23 million invested in two companies operating in Sudan which it says are immediately subject to divestment and $347 million invested in companies in Iran that also must be divested. When does the crack-up begin on the left? When do the social justice types figure out they're totally being used? When do they notice that budget cuts always punish the poor and needy much more than public employees? As a libertarian lite who wishes social issues would just disappear, I understand the view that the right's coalition is incoherent. But the left's should be seen the same way. The "social justice" set has being used as camouflage in California for years and years and years, and you'd think eventually that George Clooney, Ramona Ripston or the UC Berkeley Faculty Senate would figure this out.

Calbuzz boys, Skelton analyze state woes -- never mention unions! LOL!

The idea that unions are a bad influence on California is hardly just a conclusion of folks on the right. In 2005, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop. 75, saying barring the automatic deduction of union dues from public employees' pay would lead to a fairer balance of power at the local and state government level. The Sacramento Bee editorial page has gone after unions for being unreasonable for years; here's a recent example. Unions are so out of control that it barely raises eyebrows when union officials and allies like state Dem Party leader John Burton advocate a policy that would prevent giving anti-convulsion drugs to kids at risk of death if the person doing the giving isn't a union nurse. But guess who completely absolves unions? The Calbuzz boys, whose writing style/shtick builds off the idea that they're smarter than everybody, and the L.A. Times' George Skelton, dean of Sacramento journos. Really, guys? Not a single mention of unions in your recent dissections of California's dysfunction? Not one? Wow. Skelton's myopia is his norm. I groaned when I read the following but was hardly surprised. The real blame rests with the recession, an outdated roller-coaster tax system, the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax increases, an outmoded Proposition 13 property tax system that has shifted power and responsibility from local governments to Sacramento, legislative term limits that stunt lawmakers' growth — and political polarization. Same old Shelton. But remember that Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts, the Calbuzzers, write as if they alone understand California yet are otherwise surrounded by idiots and knaves. So how on Earth is it possible that they could write 930 words on the state's screwed-up budget and never mention the word "union"? Now I understand the theory that Proposition 13 is the root of all evil. I understand the theory that the lack of an oil extraction tax seems unfair given how other states deal with the same issue. But, holy bleep, to look at all of California's problems and boil it down to GOP opposition to higher taxes? Really? Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement. Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job. Given what happened to Nathan Fletcher's smart tax deal with Jerry Brown last fall, I understand gripes about GOP obstinance. But when one side has so much more power than the other side, it's simply bizarre to absolve the strongest supporters of the side with the great majority of power of any responsibility for the state's problems. It takes amazing tunnel vision to write 930 words about why California is screwed up and not mention unions. It takes amazing chutzpah to do this in a column in which the Calbuzzers mock other journos for their takes on the Golden State. What do they ignore? Lots of things. When times are bad, unions pressure Democrats to always make social services for the poor be the first target of budget cutting, preserving public employee compensation by any means possible. When times are good, they pressure Democrats to save extra revenue for them. In the revenue boom that lasted from 2003-2007, social services spending went up by barely the rate of inflation, while spending on schools (teacher unions) and prisons (guard unions) went up at least four times as fast. Unions have blocked teacher tenure reform and any policies that pursue teacher accountability. Unions have rigged CalPERS and CalSTRS into fighting for a crazy status quo by controlling their boards and used their clout in the Legislature to block pension reform. They've passed one state law to make it more difficult for local governments to declare bankruptcy, so as to preserve public employee compensation, and they're pursuing another law to make it even harder. They oppose letting volunteers clean up parks. They require leaders of the Legislature to block significant bills helping the economy because then they can use those bills as political chits to win concessions related to, you guessed it, protect public employee jobs and compensation. In south Los Angeles, when Latino parents wanted a charter school, someone left leaflets warning that their organizing meeting would be raided by agents looking for illegal immigrants. UTLA members are the only logical suspects. Against this backdrop, it's nutty that anyone can go 20 words without citing unions as part of the state's dysfunction, much less full essays. At least when Skelton ignores the T. Rex in the room, he doesn't do so while patting himself on the back. In their essay, Roberts' and Trounstine's self-regard rings through: The only thing worse was reading the inane Back East commentary, written by the usual assortment of Romney-sniffing blowhards, ill-informed thumbsuckers and right-wing mantra-chanters whose knowledge and understanding of California politics seems proscribed by the collected rantings of Flashreport freelancers and the world’s shortest book, viz. The Wit and Wisdom of Jon Coupal. OK, OK, it's clear, Calbuzzers, you think the pundits on the right are nitwits. But how can it not be crystal-clear, Jerry and Phil, that when you write 930 words of analysis on California's woes without mentioning unions, you are yourselves guilty of the same partisan hackery and hucksterism you see on the right? I will leave the closing argument to the L.A. Times, and the paper's Oct. 16, 2005, editorial: At many levels of government, public employee unions, aided by their political war chests, have gained control over both sides of the negotiating process. When public employee unions wield the type of influence they now do in California, too much governing becomes an exercise in self-dealing. I look forward to a sarcastic, name-calling screed against the L.A. Times from the Calbuzz guys. Not.

'Terrorists' who oppose tax hikes: Prepare for the onslaught

Here we go again. As frenzied as the tax-hike obsessives have been in recent months and years, Jerry Brown's weekend warning that the 2012-13 budget is $16 billion short is sure to ramp up their intensity. So get ready for the media/Dem onslaught, folks, and prepare to be reviled. Will Jerry Brown get lots of blame for his $4-billion-in-extra-revenue fantasy that he concocted last June? It's made a dire situation much worse. Will anyone in the media point out that contracts with gov unions that Jerry approved this fiscal year not only continue providing "step" increases for time on the job -- in other words, just for showing up -- but overall pay hikes? Will anyone in the media point out that the people with power in this state have blocked all fundamental reforms -- except the one (prisoner "realignment") that allowed them to shift costs to local governments? No, no and no. Instead, we'll see the usual one-two punch to explain all that is wrong with California. 1. Those damn Republicans who oppose tax hikes are to blame. No. They're. Not. For all the alleged insurmountable obstacles to raising taxes in California, the state has among the nation's highest income, sales and gasoline taxes; and the highest corporate taxes in the West. Property taxes are about average, thanks to Prop. 13. We should be able to live within our means. Most other states can pull this off. Which brings us to the next refrain in the Dem/media litany... 2. Prop. 13 is to blame. It ruined the state. No. It. Didn't. The limit on the annual increases has not prevented property tax revenue from going up by more than population growth and inflation for more than 30 years. Yes, the state may have a screwed-up tax structure. But that's not Prop. 13's fault. That's the fault of the status quoists in Sacramento who like things as they are, no matter what, just with more money from taxpayers. And the incredible thing about Prop. 13 is that it just showed its utility all over again during the housing bubble. Home prices in some markets nearly tripled from 1998 to 2006. Imagine the disruption in the lives of retirees and those living on fixed incomes if their property taxes had gone up that fast. Yet I think I'm the only guy in the California print media who has ever mentioned this. That's incredible, when you think about what that says about media conformity -- and stupidity. How is it not news that Prop. 13 saved millions of people from disaster? Because it doesn't fit the narrative. A more honest narrative might occasionally, yunno, note that the revenue crisis could be alleviated with economic growth, but that the Legislature and the governor only care about the sliver of the private sector economy that includes "green" jobs. A more honest narrative might also note that for the eighth year in a row, the nation's CEOs have rated California as the most business-hostile state. But those narratives will give way to the usual media-Dem juggernaut. Everything can be made right in California with higher taxes, and people who don't support higher taxes are greedy "terrorists." This is one case where I'm rooting for the "terrorists" -- my fellow "terrorists." Tom McClintock saw all this coming in September 2008 in his final major speech to the Legislature: According to the State Controller's reports, last year, our tax structure produced $96 billion in actual revenues - a record year. We budgeted $103 billion and spent $107 billion. In short, our spending exceeded our revenue by $11 billion and exceeded our adopted budget by $4 billion. This year, if the economy gets no worse, we can expect to produce $97 billion in tax revenues. Claims that the revenues will be higher are based on accounting gimmicks that mask the numbers but do not change the underlying reality. .... So I leave the Senate with this warning. I believe that last year's budget pushed this state beyond a fiscal tipping point. The unsustainable growth of spending pushed us beyond a point where neither tax increases nor conventional line item reductions can bring us into balance. ... I believe we have now also passed the point where conventional budget reductions can restore our state's finances. I believe we have now reached the terminal stage of a bureaucratic state where our bureaucracies have become so large and so tangled that they can no longer perform basic functions. "The terminal stage" has been unfolding ever since. What happens to California? It changes in sweeping, fundamental, unprecedented ways. Or it collapses.      

Stanford studies showing no correlation between spending, school quality hijacked again

The fifth anniversary of the massive Stanford-led studies of California public schools is upon us, and once again, the special interests are characterizing the report as focusing on a lack of resources. Unlike the reporters who are now writing about "Getting Down to Facts," I actually read about a thousand pages of the reports. And as I wrote back in 2007, buried in all the multiple studies, here is the lead: A review of all California school districts shows “essentially no relationship between spending and student outcomes” and that spending more is futile until “extensive and systemic reforms” are in place. In other words, the problem is much more about the stupid way money is spent than the lack of money. Here's my March 25, 2007 take on the comprehensive review of state schools. “Getting Down to Facts” – the massive new study of California's public education system – amounts to a comprehensive repudiation of the argument that all we need to improve schools is a better-funded status quo. But instead of acknowledging this, the interest groups, union officials and liberal pundits who have long defined school quality as a function of school spending insisted the study was in fact deeply sympathetic to their position. Here's what a “coalition of community-based and advocacy organizations – California ACORN, Californians for Justice, PICO California and Public Advocates” said: “[T]hese studies make it clear that California needs to make a substantial new investment in public education – in addition to system reform – to ensure all students meet expectations.” No, that's not what the studies make clear. They say unless huge reforms are in place, it's pointless to spend more. Next up on the spin front were the Sacramento Bee's Peter Schrag and California Teachers Association President Barbara Kerr. Both slagged Arnold Schwarzenegger for saying the “studies show that no amount of money will improve our schools without needed education reform. We need to focus on critical school reform before any discussion about more resources.” Schrag and Kerr sought to frame it as the governor's conclusion – not the researchers' – that reforms should come first, then funding. Bunk. The study says a review of all California school districts shows “essentially no relationship between spending and student outcomes” and that spending more is futile until “extensive and systemic reforms” are in place. Yes, “Getting Down to Facts” does say a case can be made for a big increase in spending to help underperforming schools and the millions of California kids, especially Latinos and African-Americans, who are poorly served by them. But it says reforms must come first. Saying “Getting Down to Facts” calls for vast, unfocused new education spending is like saying “A Nation at Risk” – the landmark 1983 federal report that triggered the modern school reform movement – called for vast, unfocused new education spending. Oh, wait. Now that I think about it, that's exactly what defenders of the education status quo did back then, too. I look forward to how Peter Schrag, the editorial pages of the state's newspapers and, of course, the inestimable George Skelton get things wrong this time around. Here's a link to all the studies that comprised "Getting Down to Facts." You can read them all, and you will never see a single sentence agreeing with the central premise of California education policy, which is that school quality is a function of school spending. No, it's not.

The upside to downer court ruling: John Chiang is screwed

Tuesday's tentative court ruling that the Legislature had the sole authority to determine whether the budget it enacts is "balanced" is terrible news for California because it means Proposition 25 -- the 2010 measure allowing state spending plans to pass on a simple majority of the Assembly and Senate -- has no enforcement mechanism to prevent fake budgets from being treated as balanced. We're likely to be on an even faster road to ruin as a result. But if you're looking for a reason to smile, remember this: The guy who tried to rein in the Legislature and force it to produce more honest budgets is Controller John Chiang. So much for Chiang's political future. The failure of his single major attempt to do right by California's public -- as opposed to its public employees -- has a delicious double whammy effect. It's now once again certain that the right (and taxpayers who follow the news) will never forgive his union duplicity. But unions will never forgive Chiang for his betrayal. Next stop for Chiang? May I be the first to quote the great Margita Thompson one-liner about Cruz Bustamante and suggest the union-defying Chiang has a future as a casino greeter. Let us recount just a few of the ways Chiang was a stooge for unions or the status quo or special interests before his one attempt to stick up for the public. Here's what I've written over the years: From 2008: Now it's state Controller John Chiang's turn to interfere with CalPERS on bogus grounds. Chiang, a member of the CalPERS board, this week won approval of a policy requiring the pension giant to pressure the companies it invests in to have diverse corporate boards of directors. The rationale: to help these firms "maintain a competitive edge" by utilizing a "wide range of talent and expertise." Certainly diverse leadership is a worthy goal, but having the nation's largest pension fund bully well-run companies into adopting de facto racial quotas for their corporate boards is a grotesque abuse of power. For the state controller to do so on the grounds that he's just worried about these companies' fiscal health is absurd. Our message to John Chiang: Stick to the green-eyeshade stuff. Leave the social engineering to the likes of Lloyd Levine. From Jan. 2009: Democratic officeholders know their political futures largely depend on keeping unions happy and behave accordingly. Now the state budget crisis has yielded the starkest example of this subservience yet. Controller John Chiang, a Democrat who aspires to be governor, is refusing to enforce Schwarzenegger's order that state workers take two unpaid furlough days a month beginning Feb. 1 to ensure the government has enough money to continue to perform its basic functions. Why? Chiang says it is illegal. To the contrary, established case law gives government bodies considerable leeway during emergencies. The unions challenging the furlough plan are going to need to establish that such an emergency doesn't exist. Good luck with that. But questions about Chiang's intercession go far beyond the flimsiness of his assertion that the furlough plan is illegal. Even if it were, when did voters pass a constitutional amendment giving the controller power to veto the governor's decisions? The answer, of course, is that they never did and never would. Voters know there can be only one governor at a time. Considered in this context, Chiang's actions border on a bureaucratic coup d'état. Five months later, Chiang was at it again. Note the amazing comments of STEVE WESTLY in this excerpt. Even WESTLY knew Chiang was up to no good: Chiang is outrageous, announcing that he is again going to defy the governor and the California Supreme Court by issuing full paychecks even if a budget doesn’t pass. How can this be justified? His spokesman says the 2009 Frawley ruling was stayed pending an ongoing appeal. But the governor’s office says the controller is bound by the 2003 state high court ruling – and Chiang’s predecessor, also a Democrat, agreed. In June 2003, after initially striking a defiant tone and warning of computer problems, then-Controller Steve Westly said that if a 2003-04 budget was not adopted on time, he had no choice but to impose the pay cuts after the computer headaches had been resolved, probably in late August or September. So why is the current controller playing king instead of obeying the law? Because powerful public employee unions can kill his political career if he crosses them. The Californians who don’t work for the state deserve far, far better from John Chiang. I know Chiang has occasionally done the right thing on issues like local government pay transparency. But think about it this way: Chiang is supposed to be the state's money man, and in a five-year period in which California's budgets were so wretched that the credit agencies moved California's rating to dead last, he barely did anything to take on the powers responsible. Bill Lockyer's reputation as a Dem maverick who occasionally speaks truth to power is overrated, especially given his attempts to discredit the scary Stanford studies of pension debt. But on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being a complete union tool who has never prompted even a raised eyebrow from Steve Maviglio and 10 being a Phil Gramm 1970s pseudo-Dem, I would put Lockyer at a 3. On this 0 to 10 maverick scale, where does Chiang rate? 0.5. During a time of horrible fiscal distress, Californians deserved waaaaay better from their state controller.

Is San Diego ballot pension fight heir to Prop. 13? It could well be

In 1978, Howard Jarvis launched the U.S. anti-tax movement in California with Proposition 13, which capped annual increases in property taxes and kept people from being forced from their homes during real-estate bubbles. A generation later, the Golden State could be on the brink of launching another populist movement, one driven by anger over government compensation practices. A key battleground is San Diego. In June, voters will decide on Proposition B, the Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative. It would end defined-benefit pensions for all new city hires except for police officers, instead providing pensions similar to 401(k)s. It would prevent pay sweeteners from being added to base salary when calculating pensions, and it would require city workers to pay a bigger share of their pension costs. Finally, Prop. B would mandate a five-year salary freeze. That's the lead of my new article on the City Journal site. The conclusion: Whether [San Diego Councilman and mayoral frontrunner] Carl DeMaio becomes a twenty-first-century version of Howard Jarvis remains to be seen — but for now, in the Golden State, the young Republican has become the unions’ Public Enemy Number One. I expect national attention to San Diego politics and its mayor's race to build steadily. At least initially, this will be because of the headlines over Nathan Fletcher quitting the GOP and seeking the mayor's job as an independent candidate. Eventually, however, the pension reform initiative, DeMaio's determination to demolish the status quo, and the national resources that unions devote to beating DeMaio will become the bigger story.

The CTA's pending good deed: It's going to kill the bullet train

This Chris Reed fella, writing in the L.A. Daily News, has some good news about the California High-Speed Rail Authority: Why would the [California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers] turn on their normal allies and oppose plans for the bullet train? Because of the growing evidence that Gov. Jerry Brown thinks the only plausible way to fund the project is with the fees that heavy industries pay for the right to pollute under AB 32, the state's landmark 2006 anti-global warming law. The state Legislative Analyst's Office expects the fees from the "cap and trade" system to generate billions of dollars annually -- perhaps as much as $14 billion by 2015. There are plenty of legal precedents that appear to limit how the fees can be used. Since they are gathered to help fight pollution and reduce global warming, state finance officials say the fees must be spent for that purpose. But anyone who expects this argument to inhibit the CTA and the CFT from trying to get their hands on this immense new revenue source is hopelessly naive. .... Lawmakers in Sacramento won't get in the unions' way. Why would they start behaving honestly and ethically now? Read the whole column here. There is a very basic and obvious ploy that the CTA and CFT can use to grab AB 32 fees. Good column. I could read that guy all day and never get tired of his whining.