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California Editorial Rdp

December 26, 2018

Dec. 24

The San Diego Union-Tribune on blaming California DMV, not ‘motor voter’ law, for problems:

The 2015 law sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, that automatically registers residents to vote when they go to the state Department of Motor Vehicles to get or renew a driver’s license or state ID has been plagued with problems. DMV clerks have registered up to 1,500 people who are not citizens and made 70,000-plus errors on voter details. This has led state Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, to introduce a bill that would scrap “motor voter” instead of waiting for the completion of an audit that will include recommendations on how to improve the program.

Better to wait. These issues clearly stem from DMV incompetence. Besides the “motor voter” fiasco, the agency’s failure to anticipate the workload created by a new obligation that it issue federal “Real ID” cards that will be required in 2020 to board domestic flights has led to massive lines. Last week, DMV disclosed that it had been warned by the federal government in November that it had botched this obligation by requiring just a single form of documentation. That means 2.3 million residents who obtained the cards may have to provide further proof of their identity. No wonder DMV Director Jean Shiomoto abruptly retired this month. Increasingly, it’s apparent her permanent replacement should be a capable outsider, not a DMV lifer.

Regardless of who will oversee DMV, “motor voter” is a good idea that greatly promotes involvement in democracy. This law must be fixed, not junked.


Dec. 24

San Francisco Chronicle on Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom mostly doing the right thing with his assets:

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has done the right thing and decided to separate himself from his business assets. Almost.

Newsom, who assumes California’s highest office next month, has announced he will transfer control of his businesses to a blind trust.

The trust will be run by one of Newsom’s family friends, Shyla Hendrickson, an attorney with a long background in investment management.

Newsom also pledged to divest from all common stock he owns in publicly traded companies, and to prohibit the state executive branch from doing business with his wine and entertainment companies while he’s in office.

He’ll continue his practice of releasing his tax returns, as he has done for many years.

These are sound choices, some of which go above and beyond the letter of state ethics laws.

Newsom is certainly drawing a distinctive contrast between himself and President Trump. He’s even drawing a contrast between himself and the outgoing governor, Jerry Brown, who declined to release his tax returns while he was in office.

It’s also a big relief that Newsom, who initially hedged on what he’d do with his considerable business interests, has agreed to put his assets in a blind trust. A blind trust is generally considered the gold standard in terms of ethics for government officials.

But Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, still need to announce details about her nonprofit, the Representation Project, which funds her documentaries and educates the public about gender stereotypes. Her nonprofit has received funds from PG&E and AT&T in the past — both companies that will be eager to score points with the governor.

Finally, Newsom isn’t the only California governor to hand over his blind trust to a pal — Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, handed over control to his friend and longtime financial adviser.

Schwarzenegger earned criticism for doing so. Newsom, too, should have realized that the cleanest break between himself and his businesses would have involved handing over control to a well-regarded professional who’s not already within his social circle.


Dec. 23

The Mercury News on governor’s deal ensuring a failed legacy on water issues:

The so-called “Grand Bargain” on water announced by Jerry Brown this month accomplishes one purpose: It guarantees that the governor will have done nothing to improve California’s water crisis during his eight years in office.

It’s a sad legacy for what Brown listed in 2011 as one of California’s most pressing issues.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom would do the state a big favor by striking a new course that focuses on the co-equal goals of protecting the health of the Delta and stretching our water supply by increased recycling, new water treatment, more efficient irrigation systems, restoring groundwater supplies and other alternatives.

We will never understand why Brown did not tackle the California water crisis with the same, sensible approach he brought to climate change. Instead, he ignored the advice of independent scientists and jumped into bed with the Trump administration to broker a deal that doesn’t provide adequate flows for the Delta — and will be tied up for years in lawsuits unless Newsom intercedes.

Brown cut a deal with the same president who famously declared during a 2016 campaign rally in Fresno that “there is no drought” in California because the state has “plenty of water” but is “taking the water and shoving it out to sea.” It’s absurd.

Scientists — including the prestigious National Academy of Sciences — widely agree that reduced flows in the Delta result in salt water intrusion from the San Francisco Bay. Conversely, sending more water through the Delta flushes out the salt water and ensures a supply of fresh water for all Californians, city dwellers and farmers alike.

The State Water Resources Control Board voted earlier this month to do just that, calling for hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water from the San Joaquin watershed to be sent to the Delta.

But Brown’s $1.7 billion deal, negotiated behind closed doors, asks Central Valley farmers to surrender a smaller amount of water than the state water board seeks. The governor is trying to offset the environmental damage that would do by asking water agencies to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on habitat restoration. Improving fish habitat is worthwhile, but pouring more water through the system is a more important goal. Brown’s proposal should be a non-starter for anyone who cares about the long-term health of the Delta, which supplies nearly two-thirds of the state’s fresh water supply.

Chuck Bonham, the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Sacramento Bee that the compromise represents “collaboration over conflict.”

Collaboration? That’s laughable: Environmentalists, the fishing industry and residents living in and around the Delta certainly don’t feel like their interests were considered. They are already rising up in opposition to Brown’s deal.

California could have been well on its way to solving its water crisis if the governor had taken a more innovative approach. It’s essential that Newsom distance himself from Brown’s compromise and make protecting the Delta’s fresh water as important as increasing the state’s water supply.

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