All posts by Brian Leubitz

Riding Off Into the Sunset

Archive mode Activated!

As you may have noticed, this blog is no longer active. And hasn’t been for several years. I’ve been debating what to do with all of this content for a California gone by, but I suppose it’s all just history now. (But Governator Fans can have at some of that sweet content. What a weird time in our history.)

I’m working on setting up some form of archive for it. As a baseline, you can use to see many previous archives of the site. But, I’m hoping that I can get something more robust set up.

It was a wild ride, wasn’t it?

PG&E Isn’t safe. enough already.

PG&E isn’t try to start fires. They just keep doing it. Or should I say that their shoddy maintenance and cost cutting keeps starting fires. Sometimes people die for their negligence. Sometimes it’s just people’s homes. But PG&E’s negligence seemingly causes tragedies every year.

PG&E equipment sparked the 2021 Dixie Fire according to investigators. PG&E faces criminal charges in the 2020 Zogg FirePG&E started the massive 2019 Kincade Fire. PG&E pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2018 Camp Fire. PG&E was convicted of multiple safety violations stemming from a 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno. A Nevada jury found PG&E guilty of 739 counts of criminal negligence for failing to trim trees near its power lines.

Yet for some reason, the California PUC last year approved PG&E’s annual safety certificate, which allows them to access a massive ratepayer-based fund to pay damages. So, PG&E starts fires, ratepayers pay.

They need to get their annual safety certificate again soon. Let’s hope this time the CPUC (and Gov. Newsom) do a bit more study on that this year. They must do more to prevent fires, and our institutions must do more to hold them accountable.

Sonoma Sheriff Goes His Own Dubious Way on Health Order

The Sonoma County Sheriff decided that he is more important than the Board of Sups and the county Health Officer. In a highly political and rather Trumpy Facebook post, the Sheriff announced that his dept will not enforce the order because… transparency? 

For a full response, I highly recommend fully reading Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins facebook response, but here is a  relevant snippet:

While there is no guide to pandemic era leadership, there are some things that are pretty clearly a bad idea. These include purposefully sowing fear and confusion in the community, pointedly undermining the vested authority of other officials, and creating counterproductive divisiveness in government — without at least first giving collaboration a try.
The Sheriff’s action was three for three.

Note that he posted this without alerting the Board of Supervisors or other county officials. Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa PD Chief has already announced that they will continue enforcement, as have other county police departments. (

This decision sows confusion at an already difficult time. West County, which relies on the Sheriff for all law enforcement, had a very difficult weekend with visitors coming to the beach and parking/relieving themselves wherever they wanted when they saw facilities were closed.

This sets an awful precedent at a time that Sonoma County, and all the counties are trying to open up. Even now, some counties are having to move towards tightening up because of new community spread infections. Now is not the time for sheriff departments to go rogue. We are all in this together, but there must be better communication. The one thing we do not need is law enforcement personnel substituting their own judgement for that of our health officials.

For what it is worth, the Sheriff’s facebook post basically only says that they will no longer arrest and book people for solely health order violations. Which, from the traffic and widespread violations on Sonoma County Coast that I saw this weekend, there was no real enforcement anyway. This facebook post seems to be something of an announcement of political values rather than anything actually substantive. But what it clearly does is spread confusion and encourages further violations of the health orders.

This Sheriff was first elected in 2018, so he has a couple of years before facing election again.

The Budget Crises Return

UPDATE: So, the Governor’s May Revise is out. It’s bad, but maybe not as bad as it could be. But that “not as bad” part is reliant on the federal government pitching in to help stave off some of the cuts.

The biggest cuts, due to Prop 98, come to education, where spending will fall from 81.1 billion to 70.5 billion. It also calls for a 10% pay cut for all state workers, and delaying payment to the pension funds.


Back in the heyday of Calitics, I got a lot of experience writing about the various budget battles. But once the voters passed a ballot measure to increase taxes, and then reconfirmed that a few years later, that seemed like a thing of the past. We had a big surplus, built up a big rainy day fund under Gov. Brown and then Newsom, and could even ride out an economic downturn, or a natural disaster like an earthquake or a bad wildfire season.

But then came COVID-19, and all of a sudden, the budget crisis is back like it is 2009-10.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to reveal his plan Thursday for plugging an estimated $54.3 billion, coronavirus-created hole in the state budget. … Four months ago, Newsom revealed a $222.2 billion spending plan that included a nearly $6 billion surplus…(AP)

Frankly, $54.3 billion is not cutting the fat territory. The Legislature has identified areas to save, but given that we don’t know how long the pandemic will last, how deep the job losses will get, any numbers still seem speculative. And even if we dumped all the rainy day fund, and delayed expenses for the next two years, they were only able to identify $94billion…including $33 billion that the federal government has not yet authorized.

And that, of course, brings us to Mitch McConnell, who is NOT fond of, um, the states. His position has morphed several times, so it is difficult to actually pinpoint at any given time. He seems to be negotiating via conservative radio with his idiotic statements about “blue-state bailouts.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took him to task on that particular line of argument, pointing out that New York sent $116Bn more than it got from the federal government, while McConnell’s Kentucky took $148Bn more than it sent the feds. But I’ll leave others to lambast McConnell, there’s plenty of smart content out there on that subject already.

The biggest difference between the budget crises of the first decade+ of this century and the current crisis are the Democratic supermajorities. There will be no Abel Maldanado this year, after all, those seats are now held by Democrats. That is not to say that there won’t be fights between “moderates” in the Legislature and the more progressive legislators.

Gavin’s natural policy background puts him smack dab in the middle, and so today’s announcement will be informative on the direction of the state during the crisis. Stay tuned…

Newsom’s May Revise thinks big…and little

The updated proposal unveiled Thursday builds on the $209 billion budget the governor laid out in January. It keeps in place spending to expand health coverage for undocumented immigrants and $1.75 billion to spur housing construction.

Sac Bee

And he has some big plans to help California families, including directing $130 million of the revenue raised from marijuana taxes to childcare.

California’s generational changing of the guard showed in the governor’s office on Tuesday as Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled out proposals to lift taxes on diapers and menstrual products—ideas his predecessor vetoed—and reiterated his desire to spend billions of dollars from the state budget to expand services for kids.


There are also some rather big goals on this front: additional maternity/paternity leave, expanding the EITC, and additional childcare spending. All that being said, he doesn’t have a way to pay for all of his “stretch goals”, apparently speaking in Kickstarter lingo. So the initial goal is to start by dipping a few toes in the water and seeing how he can incorporate something like 6 months of combine leave into a long term budget plan.

Of course, all this will be changed once it passes through the legislature. But Gov. Newsom is probably a bit closer to the center of the Democratic Supermajority than former Gov. Brown, so we may see a little smoother process this time around.

Schlapp a Socialist? Conservative Union presents hilarious scorecard


While others debate whether to punch a neo-Nazi, Matt Schlapp and the American Conservative is seemingly questioning whether they can slap a socialist. Today they released their “conservative scorecard.”

It’s hilarious. Let’s peek at a few of the bill descriptions:

  • “Socializing Rideshare Services by Imposing a 5 Cent Tax on All Rides.”
    • (SB 1376 – Hill) – Apparently a 5 cent tax to fund accessibility will bring the hellfire of socialism down upon us.
  • “Expanding Automatic Voter Registration.” (AB 1407 – McCarty)
    • Sure, sound innocuous enough, but you know how the Right hates when people vote. So, yeah, they hate when you make it easier for young people to vote, and this does just that by automatically registering them to vote when they get their first driver’s license. Their thoughts? “ACU opposes automatic registration programs which weaken ballot integrity and makes it easier to commit voter fraud”. Umm, what voter fraud? You mean this North Carolina Republican voter fraud? Yeah, automatic registration has nothing to do with that.
  • “Interfering in Private-Sector Business Operations by Mandating Gender Quotas” (SB 826 – Jackson) –
    • This one is the landmark legislation to require parity on corporate boards. But, to the ACU, progress on diversity is just the government trying to hold corporations back. So, yeah.

All this is to say, guess what: Republicans are all very conservative! Democrats are all socialists. And they helpfully provided that their “best” Democrat was Rudy Salas, and that their “worst” Republican was Brian Maienschein. Except that Asm. Maienschein is now a Democrat, so, whoops.

Anyway, if you need a reminder of just how far the Right has drifted, you can see their scorecard here (PDF).

California Looks to Set Rules for Police Use of Force

The use of deadly force by police officers has a few bright lines. Most would agree that officers can use force when a suspect has a gun in a threatening position. And most would agree that officers shouldn’t shoot where no immediate danger exists. But between those borders exists a vast area in which to define reasonable use of force. California looked last year to become the first state to define that in legislation. However, that stalled and so the Legislature is back at it.

As it currently stands, there are two separate proposals. One, backed by law enforcement groups, would require that each department have a defined policy on alternative forms of force and de-escalation. The other, backed by civil rights groups, would be far more strict:

Last year’s police shooting of unarmed vandalism suspect Stephon Clark in Sacramento inspired the proposal that would allow officers to kill only if there is no reasonable alternative, such as verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation. …

But the committee’s chairman, Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, said a tougher standard will do little good without buy-in from law enforcement organizations. They’re supporting a radically different plan, which lawmakers also will consider, requiring that every department have policies on when officers should use de-escalation tactics and other alternatives to deadly force.


It’s past time that . While the end result is likely to be somewhere in between, it is long past time that California engage in this conversation and find some action that will do something to reduce these incidents.

Judge strikes down high capacity magazine ban

Prop 63, which was passed with highly visible support from Governor (then LG) Newsom, included a ban on high capacity magazines. That was struck down yesterday:

A federal judge on Friday declared unconstitutional a key provision of California’s Proposition 63 that banned possession of high-capacity gun magazines often used in mass shootings, ensuring that the voter-approved prohibition will remain tied up in court for some time to come.

SF Chronicle

The opinion, which is sure to be appealed, reads like the opposite of what just happened in New Zealand. As in Australia, when encountered with the reality of a mass shooting, they responded with action to protect themselves. Here, the gun lobby will not permit that. The judge went on to call mass shootings rare, while emphasizing how many times women were saved from peril because they had more than 10 bullets.

All this is despite the fact that guns when deployed in self-defense (real or imagines) do more damage to innocents and the owners themselves, than criminals. For more details, read this article on Politico citing actual examples, or this Scientific American article about the actual research on the subject. But the gun lobby wants to take it on faith that guns make us safer. They do not. And so they block sensible safety measures.

And yet, we have all the evidence that mass shootings happen all too often. Nothing changes, and so we just continue the cycle. The bloodshed continues, the NRA and the gun manufacturers make more money while we continue to see gun violence.

Sen Wiener pushes for California estate tax

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-SF) announced plans for a California estate tax to partially replace the one repealed by the Republican Congress in DC. Under the plan, the approximately $1 Billion would go towards income inequality issues, where California leading the nation in the dubious category.

“It’s a way of not having a permanent nobility in the U.S.,” Wiener said. “We should help low-income, working families accumulate wealth so that they can send their kids to college, so that they can buy a home, so that they don’t go bankrupt if they have an unexpected medical expense.” (SF Chronicle)

The estate tax does just that: it reduces the “monied families” of our nation, and is was one of our country’s most effective means of reducing income inequality. But alas, the Republicans crowed about family farms being lost to the estate tax, which is just an old debunked myth that they keep trotting out, and repealed the tax entirely in the Trump tax scheme to save his family some money.

And the estate tax gets results. According to the CBPP, “evidence shows the estate tax likely has little or no impact on overall private saving, and it has a positive impact on overall national (private plus public) saving because of the revenues.”

Unfortunately, those revenues are not to be after the Trump family rescue plan was passed, but Sen. Wiener and the Democrats here in California are hoping to put an estate tax on the ballot for the presidential election next year. It will not bring that money back, nowhere near it really, but at least California can do its own small part.

A Changing of the Guard

Perhaps we don’t get big high wooly hats like they do at Buckingham Palace, but today will see a big transition for California. As in 2017 when Kamala Harris replaced Sen. Boxer, the transition from Brown to Newsom will be more than one of age or style, but of a real change in California politics.

Jerry Brown with Dianne Feinstein and Gavin Newsom in 2004.

Gavin Newsom is nobody’s radical. In many ways, he borrows a lot from Gov. Brown’s political style. A little from the left, and a little from the center(-right). A plan for a massive increase in funding for early childhood education, with a hard “sobering” look at high speed rail.

That is not to say that Newsom isn’t generally progressive. When he takes office today, he will surely be pretty close to the most progressive governor in the nation. But like Brown, Gavin likes balance and a sound financial platform.

Unlike Brown, Gavin Newsom likes a bit of flash and some excitement. He likes a grand sweeping vision. And he’ll have plenty of chances for grand action, in responding to climate change, the housing and homelessness crisis, and making healthcare more affordable.

There are a slew of news stories about the differences between Gavin and Jerry, some more accurate than others. (SF Chronicle, AP, Politico, NPR, etc.) The press likes coming up with drama, and so a transition is a good source of clicks. And no doubt that the change from Brown to Newsom will bring changes, but the most profound will have to be a greater expectancy of a truly progressive state. The Governor elect’s job is now to follow up on that.

Of course, he isn’t the only one being sworn into office today. We will also get the first statewide LGBT elected official in Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and a full slate of Democratic leaders across the board.

You can watch the Governor’s swearing in ceremony on many news websites, though he has already released excerpts of his speech.

Incoming California Gov. Gavin Newsom will draw immediate battle lines Monday with President Donald Trump in his inaugural address, portraying California’s “progressive, principled” policies as the antidote to the White House’s “corruption and incompetence.” … “People’s lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe — they all hang in the balance,” Newsom plans to say, according to excerpts of his speech released by his office.

SF Gate, 1/7/19