California Editorial Rdp
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California Editorial Rdp

Jan. 22

Santa Cruz Sentinel on Kamala Harris and California:

It’s elementary physics — Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Thus, in this age of Trump (rage of Trump?), we have an already crowded field of Democrats running for president in 2020. It’s no surprise that this chaotic, xenophobic, truth-challenged and pandering to white fears presidency has brought forth a field that includes a growing list of declared and soon-to-be declared challengers.

The distinct smell of political weakness emanating from the White House has sharpened the senses for many of these would be commanders in chief, and the 2018 midterm elections where Democrats picked up 40 House seats just added pungency.

And who knows what mortal sins are still to be committed in the next year or so by Donald J. Trump, whose excesses know no bounds and whose political judgment has proved increasingly self-defeating.

Among the more intriguing challengers is California’s own Sen. Kamala Harris, who, taking a page from the Barack Obama playbook, is not wasting any time in reaching for the stars. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris declared her candidacy Monday on the day honouring Martin Luther King Jr., appropriate for a woman born of a mother from India and a Jamaican father.

Harris is a study in political ambition, with her eye on the prize for several years. This is borne out by the work done of her political team in successfully shepherding a state bill that moved up the California presidential primary to March 3, 2020. This early date replaces the June primary for California and finally gives state voters a significant say in the presidential sweepstakes.

In addition, early voting will start . really early, on Feb. 3, 2020 (that’s right, a little more than a year from now), which also is the date of the Iowa caucuses.

So does this mean California and an ostensible favourite daughter, Harris, will have the edge in determining the next Democrat to be nominated for president? Will California get to strike the decisive blow against a president truly loathed by a majority of residents?

Not quite so fast. For one thing, a number of states will be holding primaries on March 3, 2020. If a candidate, say Harris, did well in California, but flopped in Texas or any of the at least seven other states currently holding primaries that day, it might not matter what happens in the Golden State.

But Harris is well positioned to do well here, even if her poll ratings don’t show a commanding advantage, yet.

She is a prodigious fundraiser and it will take a lot of money to campaign in California. She is a woman and a minority who will be running in a state that is among the most diverse and liberal in the country. Her heritage will contrast most favourably with Trump’s appeal to white nationalists.

And she’s already won three statewide elections.

Harris also faces challenges. While she has moved even more to the left since arriving in Washington D.C. in 2016, her earlier career as a prosecutor — Harris is a former San Francisco district attorney and state attorney general — is already drawing criticism from the even-farther left driving the Democratic train these days.

More conservative voters might not like that she hails from San Francisco, that citadel of cultural excess so deplored by many in Middle America. Moreover, her relative lack of experience and what has occasionally come off as political expediency in staking out anti-Trump positions as a senator might scare away some voters.

Then again, consider her possible opponent.

It was said of Hillary Clinton in 2016 that she fell short on the likeability scale, which was no doubt misogynistic bias against a female candidate running against a truly unlikeable opponent.

Harris has shown, however, that she is more than “likable enough,” to borrow a 2008 Clinton brush off from Barack Obama. She is positioned to be a formidable candidate — and one who is smart and determined enough to stand out from the field in 2020.

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Jan. 22

San Francisco Chronicle on BART improvements experiencing major delays:

Bay Area Rapid Transit’s management keeps insisting that the system is getting better — if only it could convince the people supposedly enjoying the improvements.

Unfortunately for BART officials, though, the passengers stubbornly refuse to get on board with their optimistic outlook. The latest biannual customer satisfaction survey of about 5,000 BART riders found 56 per cent saying they are somewhat or very satisfied with service, which represents a precipitous drop from 69 per cent in 2016 and 84 per cent in 2012.

More damning, particularly given high demand for alternatives to the region’s overwhelmed roads, BART is losing customers. It’s seen a more than 3 per cent decline in average daily ridership since 2016, which speaks to discontent that can’t be fully captured by a survey confined to current customers.

Familiar failures of order and safety continue to drive dissatisfaction, with commuters’ perceptions of fare evasion, personal security, police presence, and train and station cleanliness ranking among the worst weaknesses. The agency’s latest quarterly performance review shows that 3.8 serious crimes were committed on the system for every million trips, up from 3.2 a year beforehand and fewer than two as recently as three years earlier, contrary to trends outside the system. Customer complaints have increased to about 10 per 100,000 trips; that figure was under eight the prior year and under six as of three years earlier.

The agency can point to recent efforts to fill police vacancies, tackle rampant fare evasion, and keep stations and trains cleaner. What it can’t point to is much in the way of results.

Newly elected BART board member Janice Li told The Chronicle that there is “no sugarcoating” the survey. That task apparently fell to board President Bevan Dufty, who argued that the findings reflect ingrained impressions rather than current conditions: “We’re doing the right things,” he said. “I’m absolutely confident of it.” Confidence, however, is not what BART’s free-falling reputation should inspire.

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Jan. 18

The San Diego Union-Tribune on California needing to resist 911 fee, water use tax:

Last June, a McClatchy investigation found that 360,000 California residents were served by unsafe water systems with high levels of toxins, primarily in rural agricultural communities. Last November, as a massive wildfire threatened the rural town of Paradise in Northern California, some residents may have died because they never got warnings from an outdated emergency alert system.

Both these problems must be addressed. Luckily, the state government is so flush with revenue that new Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019-20 budget both offers expanded services and hefty contributions to prepay unfunded pension liabilities. With the unsafe water systems, already-approved state bonds also may be able to help out.

Instead, Newsom wants to fund needed fixes with regressive new levies. He’s embraced a call for a first-ever tax on water consumption and wants to add a “911 fee” on phone bills to help pay for an improved emergency communications system.

While both levies would initially be small, that doesn’t make them defensible. Here’s hoping enough of Newsom’s fellow Democrats grasp the incongruity of one of the most heavily taxed states increasing taxes while running a substantial budget surplus. It’s not just a bad look. It’s a bad idea.

The Associated Press

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