All posts by Brian Leubitz

A Few Chats on the Radio About Legislation

I’ll be talking on the airwaves about some of California’s progressive legislation

by Brian Leubitz

Governor Brown has been pretty busy recently signing a slew of legislation (as well as vetoing a few bills). At 10 on Friday Morning on KALW’s Your Call, I’ll be talking about some of that legislation with Rose Aguilar and a couple of other panelists to discuss the week in the media.

I also appeared on KPFK’s Uprising Radio with Sonali Kolhatkar this morning. You can listen to that segment here. I would also suggest that you review the long strange anti-union cost-cutting measures that will see a reduction in the long-term stability of KPFK, Pacifica Radio, and the Uprising show.

Let’s talk legislation!

Governor Vetoes AB 465 Banning Mandatory Employment Arbitration

Bill by Asm. Roger Hernandez would have blocked most mandatory arbitration provisions in employment contracts

by Brian Leubitz

When I was 15, I got my first real job. I was a bagging clerk in a grocery store hired just before the Thanksgiving rush. I thought the tips for carrying bags out to the car were amazing. In my first shift, I made just under $5/hour from my employer, and about the same in tips. I was over the moon.

What I wasn’t thinking about was that contract I just signed. I had gone to the nearest employer that would hire a 15-year-old, the grocery store down the street, and filled out their form. After a brief interview, I signed whatever paperwork they gave me and I was on my way to go put some stuffing in a plastic bag. There are few circumstances where one party has a greater power imbalance than an employment contract. I wanted the job, and I probably would have signed anything. (Sorry Kyle Broflovski).

I bring this up because on Sunday, the governor vetoed AB 465, which would have gone a long way towards addressing this imbalance of power:

Assembly Bill 465 would require that any employer enforcing an arbitration agreement would need to prove that the employee knowingly and voluntarily approved the document, and it was not required to get their job. (SacBizJournal)

Now, the Governor did have some good points about the Federal Arbitration Act and the jurisprudence surrounding it in his veto message. It is complicated and there are some attempts in California at leveling the playing field for arbitration. But the Supreme Court has given it a hallowed place. Why? Well, businesses love it, of course.

But the underlying problem remains, businesses have all the power, and choose to insert these clauses for a reason. They have familiarity with the process and can control outcomes more. Maybe AB 465 needs some seasoning and clarity surrounding the jurisprudence, but this protection would be a big benefit for workers.

Calitics Transitions

by Brian Leubitz

In August 2005, I worked with a number of amazing folks to push forward a community blog about California politics. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it allowed as many people as cared to get together to talk about progressive politics, goals for organizing, and a few unrelated topics as well. And we had a great team to build the site over the years, just to name a few: Dante Atkins, Robert Cruickshank, David Dayen, Lucas O’Connor, Julia Rosen Chaplin, and Jeremy Woodburn.

Over 15,000 posts, and nearly 50,000 comments, later, it is time for a change. Soapblox, the software provider behind Calitics for the past ten years, is shutting down. The software, originally developed by Paul Preston and then very capably managed by the good folks at Warecorp, was critical to the development of this site and many other progressive community blogs. (Take a peek at the Hillbilly Report’s recap of the recent history of Soapblox)

So, over the weekend, this site will be transitioning to WordPress. (Or if you are reading this, it has already switched over.) All posts, comments, and user data will be preserved, but links may change. Fortunately, wordpress and google will be able to search if you are looking for something back in the archive. User information should remain, but you may need to reset your password if you would like to log in.

And as you have probably noticed, I’ve sort of taken a hiatus from the task of day to day blogging. I’ve been busy with a range of projects, which initially made it hard to keep up my writing. But the greater issue is that once you get out of the daily rhythm of writing and doing all the other tasks of maintaining a site like this, it becomes hard to return to it. I don’t plan on this being the end of Calitics, but it will be a different type of site. Going forward I’ll do a bit of writing on Calitics, but if anybody else wants to help guide Calitics going forward, send me an email (brian AT I’d love to chat with you.

At any rate, keep watching the Calitics Twitter feed and Calitics facebook page for more information. I plan on keeping those updated and posting some thoughts on the state of California politics every now and then.



Gov. Brown quickly signs Vaccines Bill

Bill eliminates most non-medical exemptions

by Brian Leubitz

While SB277 may have drawn a lot of attention and vocal minorities to the Capitol (and anywhere else legislators congregated). But after the recent passage of the legislation, Governor Brown wasted no time in signing the bill yesterday.

SB 277 requires all children entering day care, kindergarten or 7th grade to be vaccinated, although the legislature included a specific exemption if a child’s physician concludes that immunization is not recommended for reasons including family medical history. …

Sen. Pan, speaking on KPCC’s AirTalk on Tuesday, said he was pleased that Brown had “listened to the science, listened to the facts about vaccination.” Brown, he said, has “taken a very important step in assuring we stop the erosion of community immunity in California and that we prevent diseases that should stay in the history books.”(KPCC)

You can listen to that AirTalk program here. The governor’s full letter is the right from the Chronicle’s Melody Gutierrez.

Justice Kennedy Pens 5-4 Decision for Marriage Equality

Decision makes marriage equality the law of the land across the nation.

by Brian Leubitz

You can find many words on the marriage decision plastered all over the interwebs. But I wanted to point out the closing of Justice Kennedy’s decision in the 5-4 Obergefell decision.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered. (Obergefell v Hodges)

As many have stated, marriage equality isn’t the end of the fight for LGBT rights or civil rights more broadly, there isn’t such thing as the end of that fight. We’ve seen too much over the past weeks and months to think that is the case. Even within the LGBT community, there are a litany of lines that are arbitrarily drawn, yet the results are all too real.

Yet, for one day, love wins. And that makes this a good day. And for my fellow San Franciscans, what a happy #SFPride this will be.

Budget Deal Reached?

Legislature passed bill yesterday with $750mil over Gov.’s budget

by Brian Leubitz

Yesterday, the Legislature passed a budget as was required by the Constitution (and 2010’s Prop 25) to keep their paychecks coming.

Senate Budget Chair Mark Leno acknowledged there’s no deal yet with Gov. Brown but says he’d challenge anyone who calls this spending plan a “sham.”

“This budget, fiscally responsible, pays down more debt – faster; puts more money in our rainy day fund; puts more money into public education; and begins – if minimally – to reinvest in the needs of the people of the state of California,” Leno said on the Senate floor Monday. (Capitol Public Radio)

That was all well and good, but both the Senate and Assembly leaders acknowledged that the budget they passed wouldn’t actually become law. The Governor wanted to slice a few million off of their budget, and wasn’t going to sign the measure they passed.  

But they may have now reached a deal:

The Democratic governor is expected to hold a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. …

The deal is expected to include additional money for child care and preschool programs, but likely not as much as legislative Democrats originally sought, a source said.(David Siders / SacBee)

Details are still emerging, but it appears that the Legislative Democrats got at least some portion of what they wanted in their own budget. How much still remains to be seen.

The Mighty Bay Bridge?

The New Bay BridgeAnother rod fails testing

by Brian Leubitz

When you spend $6.5 billion on something, you expect it to last a few years, even if it is one of the world’s widest bridges. (That $6B+ price tag also set a Guinness record!)

Caltrans officials downplayed the failure, stressing that 99 percent of the 407 rods that underwent testing passed, and said that the cause will need to be determined by further tests in a materials lab. But the failure of a second rod leaves the possibility that more rods could eventually fail.

“Hydrogen embrittlement and corrosion occurs over time,” said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and one of three people on a committee overseeing the east span construction. “They could last 20 years or 50 years, but with this bridge, we want 150 years.” …

“This bridge is safe, and it’s going to perform well in a major seismic event,” he said. “The engineers are saying it’s terrific.”

Some independent experts are not convinced, however.

“That would suggest it did not strip, but that it fractured,” said Bernard Cuzzillo, a Berkeley mechanical engineer. “Because a fracture results in a sudden release of elastic energy, which causes a pop or a bang sound. Stripping is a slower failure and typically does not result in an audible sound.” (SF Gate)

Tollpayers will now be paying for a few million dollars worth of additional testing to give us all confidence, but doubt abounds. The rods are intended to grant additional stability during a seismic event, so perhaps it is natural that even one failure brings about a little nervousness in drivers using the bridge.

But the one certainty we have with the new eastern span is that this won’t be the last we hear about corrosion and botched grouting.  

What is Carly Fiorina Running for?

Carly FiorinaPundits already discounting the failed Senate candidate

by Brian Leubitz

It is never good when an officer in your own party in your home state says this about your candidacy:

California GOP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said Monday she could envision Fiorina’s campaign propelling her to a cabinet post or even a vice-presidential nomination.

“But I don’t know a single person who thinks she’ll be our presidential nominee,” Dhillon said. (Josh Richman/BANG)

Perhaps she is using the campaign as a way to elevate her national profile for a cabinet gig. But that seems an awfully expensive and laborious task just to raise one’s profile.

She’s failed at HP, though I do give her credit for um, reducing costs while she was there. She’s a failed Senate candidate here in California, and now she is looking to also become a failed presidential candidate as well?

You have to admire her tenacity against all the odds in this somewhat quixotic run, but at least I have high hopes for more Demon Sheep videos:

San Francisco’s Political Machine Gears Up for an Ed Lee Campaign

Run Ed Run sign though @MayorEdLee says he won't run #sfmayorDespite an earlier commitment that he would not run for Mayor, Ed Lee looks set to launch a campaign

by Brian Leubitz

Ed Lee wasn’t ever really in the running to be interim Mayor of San Francisco after Gavin Newsom moved on (and up?) to Sacramento. He kind of appeared from nowhere.  Lee was actually in Asia during the time of the selection, and seemed more concerned with keeping his position as City Administrator than becoming Mayor.  And besides, he said he had no interest in running a political campaign.  He had never been that kind of political creature. The Board of Supervisors had no choice but to take him at his word.  They were getting a lot of pressure from all quarters to select Lee rather than Sheriff Mike Hennessey.

And at every opportunity since then, Lee has denied that he’s running for Mayor.  But, as I am sitting here right now, there can be very little doubt that Lee will run for Mayor.  And he’ll likely win.

To understand how Ed Lee became Mayor, you have to understand the political machine in San Francisco.  Of course, we probably don’t have time to explain the entire scope of that machine, but I suppose the underlying statement would be to never underestimate Willie Brown.  Despite the vision of the elder statesman and observer that he puts on in his “Willie’s World” column and his public appearances, Brown is still a shrewd participant in the political process.  More than anybody else in the City, he knows how to make things happen.  

Together with Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, Brown pushed the so-called moderate supervisors to block any progressive candidate for mayor, somebody like former Mayor Art Agnos.  And while Sheriff Hennessey is very well respected throughout the City, he was never really part of the apparatus of state.  Pak and Brown weren’t sure what to expect from him.  On the other hand, not only did they know they had a capable administrator in Lee, they also knew that he was both affable and moderate.  Somebody who through his personal connections could reach out to a number of communities in the City.  And they knew they could get him re-elected in November.

All that is not to say that Lee was lying at the beginning of the year when he said he wasn’t going to run.  I have complete faith that he believed it at the time.  Political campaigns in San Francisco are bloodsport, and Ed Lee circa January very likely had no interest in going through that wringer.  But time can change things, Brown knew as much.  San Francisco is used to the bloody politics, but still hopes for something different.  Lee is clearly competent, and has been able to build consensus. He hasn’t been rigid in ways that Gavin Newsom was, but still was able to build a budget that he could believe in.  With this consensus, a feeling of harmony developed at City Hall and all of sudden Lee was getting comfortable in Room 200.

And then there is the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign.  Run by a few powerful consultants, including David Ho, who had worked on several progressive campaigns in the past, but had been central to a growing rift in the progressive community, the campaign became omnipresent.  You can now hardly walk down a street in the City without seeing the stylized drawing of Lee’s moustache. It now has quite the list of supporters, but it was hardly a grassroots movement.  The campaign is an astroturf project that has now been there long enough that some grass has grown on top of it.  To be sure, Lee has a good deal of supporters, and by all means they should encourage him to run.  But an Ed Lee run for mayor will necessarily change the atmosphere in City Hall.

At this point, there can be few questions left as to whether Lee is considering a run, something he said that he was not doing a few weeks back.  Months ago when the Run, Ed, Run signs began appearing, Lee could have stifled that conversation, but did not.  He kept his options open, and now he is seriously considering it before the filing papers are due in mid-August.  Lee has been rumored to making calls, and those rumors are now public:

Lee has been talking to all the people you would expect him to talk to over the past few days, my sources tell me, letting them know that he’s seriously considering it and looking for support. It’s a little late to be lining up big endorsements; a lot of people have already signed on with one of the other candidates. But he’ll be happy with co-endorsements and second-place endorsements — and given his connections, he’ll be able to raise substantial amounts of money quickly. (SF Bay Guardian

There are certainly reasons for Lee to consider running.  As Tim Redmond points out, many people, especially moderates and those close to Lee, are saying that the strongest candidates now are Lee and SF Sen. Leland Yee.  And a Yee mayorship is something that would be unacceptable to many in the City.  Redmond, the Bay Guardian’s executive editor, is also right that Lee won’t garner many first choice endorsements having entered so late, but he’ll have the name ID, money, and just enough on the endorsement front to be competitive.

And today, Sen. Feinstein weighed in:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is calling on Mayor Ed Lee to run for a full four-year term, saying she believes “San Francisco needs his steady leadership and unifying presence in City Hall.”

In a statement released to us late Tuesday, Feinstein said that despite Lee’s earlier pledge not to run, “his responsibility is to the people of San Francisco, and the voters alone should determine whether this talented public servant should continue on the job.”

Feinstein cited the former city administrator’s success with both the budget and pension reform, and her own “unusual circumstances” in becoming mayor after the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone.(SF Chronicle)

Feinstein has spoken to Lee about this privately over the past few months as well.  The Chronicle has been quietly rooting along in its news section, though editorializing against a run.  And Pak makes no bones about her intentions:

“When this is all done, I’m going to send a box of chocolates to Chronicle Editorial Editor John Diaz,” said Lee booster Rose Pak, referring to an editorial a week ago Sunday urging Lee not to run.(SF Chronicle)

Lee is a good Mayor, and there are far more objectionable candidates, both credible and not so credible than him.  Yet, as the Chronicle editorial points out, a campaign would drastically change the atmosphere in City Hall.  This is, after all, San Francisco politics.  Nothing is easy.

Lee has stated his intention not to run, but he still has time before the deadline.  If he intends to go back on previous statements, he should do so as soon as possible to let the City honestly evaluate all candidates. I suppose it may just be time to resume the blood sport.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility;

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger. . . .

–Shakespeare, Henry the Fifth