Who Stands The Most To Win – And Lose – From A Second Obama Term


As the probability of President Barack Obama’s reelection grows, state and local officials across the country are tallying up the potential ramifications of a second term. For the most part, the biggest concerns lie with energy-producing states, which fear stricter environmental regulations, and those places most dependent on military or space spending, which are both likely to decrease under a second Obama administration.  read more »

Mistaking an Aberration for the End of Home Ownership


It is well known that home ownership has declined in the United States from the peak of the housing bubble. According to Current Population Survey data, the national home ownership rate fell 2.9 percentage points from the peak of the bubble (4th quarter 2004) to the third quarter of 2011.  read more »

Fresh Winds Blowing on California High Speed Rail


For California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project, last week brought plenty of  surprises and challenges.  Dominating the headlines were the resignations of several top officials of the High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). Among them were board chairman Tom Umberg, CEO Roelof van Ark, board member Matthew Toledo, Deputy Director (Environment) Dan Leavitt and press secretary Rachel Wall. Dan Richard, a respected and trusted advisor of Gov.  read more »

Urban Development: Playing Twister With The California Environmental Quality Act

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When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation.  read more »

California's Deficit: The Jerry Brown and 'Think Long' Debate

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California has three major problems: persistent high unemployment, persistent deficits, and persistently volatile state revenues. Unfortunately, the only one of these that gets any attention is the persistent deficit. It is even more unfortunate that many of the proposals to reduce the deficits are likely to make all three of the problems worse over the long run.

Two major proposals to deal with the deficit will shape the coming debate. One is from the newly formed Think Long for California Committee; the other from the governor.  read more »

Public Pensions: Reform, Repair, Reboot

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Ill-informed chatter continues to dominate the airwaves when it comes to California public pensions. It’s a big, complex and critical issue for government at all levels in the Golden State. What makes debate so distorted is that public pensions actually differ from agency to agency — and advocates on the issue often talk past each other. Pension critics often point to outrageous abuses as if they were typical. On the other hand, pension defenders often cite current averages that understate long-term costs. All this fuels the typical partisan gridlock that Californians lament yet seem powerless to change in our state.

Credit Governor Jerry Brown for trying to overcome the polarization.  read more »

California in 2011: Suburbs Up, Exurbs Down?


I had the fortune recently to stumble on the California Department of Finance’s estimates of population change in California during the period July 1, 2010 – July 1- 2011. This is distinct from the Federal census, which tried to establish the number of people in all localities as of April 1, 2010. These California statistics are for a short period of only one year; they are not as reliable, of course, as a real census.    read more »

New Census Data Reaffirms Dominance of the South


The 2011 state population estimates released earlier today by the Census Bureau show that the South has retained its dominant position in both population and growth over the last year. Southern states accounted for more than one half of the nation's population growth between 2011 and 2000, despite having little more than one third of the population.  read more »

California: Codes, Corruption And Consensus

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We Californians like collaboration. Before we do things here, we consult all of the “stakeholders.” We have hearings, studies, reviews, conferences, charrettes, neighborhood meetings, town halls, and who knows what else. Development in some California cities has become such a maze that some people make a fine living guiding developers through the process, helping them through the minefields and identifying the rings that need kissing.

Here’s an example. This is a (partial?) list of the groups who will have a say on any proposed project in my city, Ventura:  read more »

The Best Cities For Technology Jobs


During tough economic times, technology is often seen as the one bright spot. In the U.S. this past year technology jobs outpaced the overall rate of new employment nearly four times. But if you’re looking for a tech job, you may want to consider searching outside of Silicon Valley. Though the Valley may still be the big enchilada in terms of venture capital and innovation, it hasn’t consistently generated new tech employment.  read more »