Tag Archives: municipal government

Nearing The Economic Cliff

The unemployment statistics for October at the state level were released today, and as it turns out California lost the third-most jobs in the nation at 26,400.  Only Washington and Florida lost more.  This puts the unemployment rate in the state at 8.2%.  This is a 2.5% increase from one year ago, the largest year-over-year increase since 1982, the last major recession.  Worse, in regions of the Central Valley, that number is much higher.  Unemployment in Fresno County is 11.2%.  In San Joaquin County, 11.1%.  In Merced County, 11.7%.  In Tulare County, 11.8%.  And in Stanislaus County, 11.8%.  Those are desperate numbers.

The loss of income tax revenue along with the dip in property taxes thanks to cascading foreclosures is leading more cities to the brink of bankruptcy.

Now two more California cities – Rio Vista and Isleton – are considering bankruptcy protection as an option as they face large budget shortfalls and staggering debt.

While experts caution against ringing the alarm bells just yet, they do say tough economic times could push municipalities already on the brink over the edge.

“I think it’s quite possible municipal bankruptcies could become somewhat more common but will still be very rare,” said Jason Dickerson, budget and policy analyst at the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. “There are more municipalities that will look at what it means.”

We need a massive fiscal stimulus as soon as humanly possible.  And that needs to include aid to state and local governments, particularly here in California.  We are right on the edge.

State Legislature Attempts to Eliminate All Local Campaign Funding Limits?

Even though Loni Hancock’s Clean Money bill, allowing for a pilot program to attempt public financing for state elections, was turned into a two-year bill, meaning it won’t be eligible for passage until 2008, I was under the impression that campaign finance reform was making some progress in the state legislature.  And while this shocker legislation is more about the state exerting control on local municipalities more than anything else, it certainly puts a damper on public financing efforts, as it would virtually eliminate any local limits on contributions.

Legislation that opponents said would eviscerate local governments’ ability to limit the size of campaign contributions was approved Tuesday by a state Senate committee.

The bill, backed by a powerful coalition that includes the Democratic and Republican parties, labor unions and the National Rifle Association, cleared the Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee on a 3-0 vote.

Special interests and the state parties want to dictate what they can spend on campaigns at the local level, and they want to disallow any reasonable attempts by the local governments to limit their influence.  This is really a blow against federalism in the context of the state vs. the local governments, and I find it distasteful.  If Santa Monica wants to experiment with Clean Money, or limit campaign contributions, why should the state disallow it?  Assemblyman Martin Garrick, the Republican sponsor of the legislation, is using truly devious logic to push this forward:

Garrick said the measure was merely an attempt to clarify current law and avoid a “patchwork of laws” preventing political parties and other statewide organizations from communicating with their members about which candidates the groups support and oppose.

“What I am assuring is that members of a membership organization like the California Teachers Association or the League of Conservation Voters can afford to freely communicate . . . with their members,” he said.

But Ned Wigglesworth, a lobbyist for California Common Cause, said the bill would open up an “enormous loophole” by preventing cities and counties from capping campaign donations that are arranged by candidates and used to pay for mailers sent by political parties to their members.

“It’s about local control over local elections,” he said. “Without such safeguards, local contribution limits would be rendered worthless.”

This would be devastating.  It may even allow organizations to avoid reporting requirements.  What the hell are we doing here?

Ron Calderon, Mod Squad member in good standing, chaired the committee that passed the bill.  Your state senator ought to hear from you on this one.  It would be a major step backward in the goal to remove the influence of big money in state politics.