March 7

The Press-Enterprise on Marc Steinorth's exit being another nail in the California Republican coffin:

Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, announced last Friday that he will not seek re-election to the state Assembly and on Monday announced plans to run for San Bernardino County supervisor.

Steinorth's announcement, coupled with the already competitive nature of the district, very likely means that state Republicans will lose yet another Assembly seat, further diminishing their position in the Legislature.

The 40th Assembly district seat, which has been held by Republicans since 2012, nearly went to the Democrats in 2016 when Steinorth prevailed over his Democratic challenger by a little more than a percentage point.

With Supervisor James Ramos running for the seat this year, a path to victory for Steinorth was already difficult to imagine. This was especially true given Steinorth's weakened position among Republican activists following his decision last year to join a handful of Republicans in support of cap-and-trade legislation.

That legislation has drawn considerable backlash among Republicans who perceive it as harmful to consumers and businesses alike. With Steinorth now running against fellow Republican Janice Rutherford for county supervisor, we will see how this impacts his own personal prospects at the county level. But, at the state level, it is apparent that state Republicans have a challenging road ahead of them.

With the probable loss of yet another Assembly seat, state gubernatorial candidates suffering from a lack of name recognition and intraparty squabbles between Republicans, it is difficult to imagine the coming years boding well for the party of limited government and low taxes in California.

In all, Steinorth's efforts to work across the aisle seem to have done him, or his party, little good. In a largely one-party state where Democrats dominate the Legislature, California Republicans are seen by many of their voters as nothing more than a bulwark against the excesses of Sacramento.

Having failed in that singular responsibility, this election, seen by pundits as a particularly problematic one for the GOP, will prove a tough sell for local Republicans. But for those in this state who still believe in limited government and low taxes, it is the argument that must be made.

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March 7

The Orange County Register on keeping the city of Anaheim out of Disney labor dispute:

A proposed ballot initiative requiring Disneyland Resort and any large hospitality business receiving subsidies from the city of Anaheim to pay an $18 minimum wage seeks to wrongly involve government in a situation that could use less government involvement.

Because, whatever valid criticisms there are to make of Disney and subsidies generally, the minimum wage won't solve the problems proponents want solved.

Introduced last week amid contentious contract negotiations between Disney and unions representing Disney employees, the initiative looks to use the whims of the public and the force of government as a means of extracting what hasn't been voluntarily agreed to between private employers and private employees.

The ballot measure is the culmination of several months of efforts by the unions and Disney critics to cast Disney as an especially egregious employer that underpays employees and doesn't contribute its "fair share" to Anaheim.

In recent months, critics have worked to frame Disney as particularly responsible for, among other things, addressing the high cost of living in Orange County, poverty in the city and even Anaheim's large unfunded pension liabilities.

As we argued in an editorial last year, these problems are not unique to Anaheim and Orange County, nor are they one company's burden to resolve. But that's what the unions want the public to believe.

"We are not attacking Disney," said Christopher Duarte, president of Workers United Local 50. "But if taxpayers are going to subsidize a large corporation, then that corporation should pay a living wage and not contribute to poverty."

Criticism of taxpayer subsidies to Disney and other companies are well deserved, but to argue that one inappropriate government intervention justifies further intrusions leads us down the wrong path and does nothing to resolve underlying problems.

We can't ignore the vast amount of research on the impacts of forcible minimum wage hikes. While those fortunate to remain employed might see the benefits of higher pay, many could see reduced work hours. Others will never get hired in the first place.

The proposed initiative seeks to burden employers for the failings of state and local government to make California a thriving, affordable place to live and work.

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March 6

San Francisco Chronicle on faster track for transit-friendly housing:

BART's oft-delayed trains look downright speedy next to the painful pace of housing development around its stations. Take the affordable-housing complex Casa Arabella, the second phase of which broke ground on a parking lot near Oakland's Fruitvale Station last week. The occasion, as The Chronicle detailed, arrived nearly a quarter-century after plans for the area transit village took shape.

Housing around BART stations and other mass-transit hubs, as it turns out, isn't so different from housing throughout California: disdained by surprisingly plentiful, powerful and vocal constituencies and therefore in all too short supply. And yet neighborhoods served by train stations are among the most logical places for high-density housing development that won't compound traffic and pollution.

Promising new legislation by Assemblymen David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Timothy Grayson, D-Concord, seeks to address the relative scarcity of BART-accessible housing by requiring the system to adopt zoning standards that promote residential development and forcing cities to go along with them. The bill, AB2923, also would mandate that developers devote at least 20 percent of projects to affordable housing and, in a potentially counterproductive concession to organized labor, pay union-level wages.

BART's board has set a goal of producing 20,000 housing units on its parking lots and other properties by 2040, but opposition from commuters and communities has hampered such ambitions. Controversy and delays have also dogged developments near stations such as MacArthur and Coliseum in Oakland, Glen Park in San Francisco, and Walnut Creek. Of course, more such development will require BART to replace surface parking or ensure that stations can be easily reached by bus and other alternatives to driving.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has introduced a broader and more contentious bill to speed transit-friendly development. SB827 would overrule local zoning restrictions to allow denser residential development up to half a mile from BART and other commuter rail stations and within a quarter-mile of frequent bus service, affecting large swaths of the Bay Area and beyond. Wiener recently announced amendments to the legislation designed to protect existing affordable housing from demolition.

Both measures take on the difficult but necessary task of countering shortsighted local opposition to the sort of smart housing development the region and state desperately need.

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March 6

Santa Maria Times on getting back to the education summit:

Quick, name the most-educated state in America.

If you said California, you are wrong. Way wrong, in fact. Of 50 states graded in a recent WalletHub education-status survey, California finished in the middle of the pack, literally — 25th place overall.

Which is fairly discouraging, considering: First, the amount of tax dollars spent on public education, and second, the fact that for many years California's schools were the nation's gold standard of public education.

WalletHub conducted its survey using metrics in more than a dozen areas, generally categorizing everything from the share of adults with at least a high school diploma, to the gender gap in education attainment.

Here was the first shocker — California ranks dead last when it comes to the percentage of the total population holding a high school diploma.

At the other end of the spectrum, California is tied with five other states for having the smallest gender gap in overall educational attainment. That is encouraging news indeed, given the pay gap that exists between men and women doing the same work.

The top five states in the survey, in order, are Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont and Colorado.

As we've come to expect, impoverished Southern states brought up the rear in overall rankings. Mississippi was last in educational attainment. The bottom-feeders are states that struggle with the most basic of funding responsibilities, especially with regard to public education.

Other than being tied for the top spot in the gender-gap category, California also scored well with a second-place ranking in average university quality.

But beyond those two categories, the survey makes it abundantly clear that California is struggling when it comes to educating its citizens, both children and adults.

But wait a second, you may be thinking, with its history in the high-tech sectors, Silicon Valley and all that, wouldn't California be among leaders in the percentage of people holding under-graduate and advanced degrees?

The short answer is — no. California ranks 14th in both bachelor and advanced degree holders. Not bad, but certainly not what one would expect from a state as high-tech-oriented as California.

The states with the most highly educated workforce are clustered in the Northeast, with Massachusetts holding the top spot.

Surveys are a little like economists. You put 50 of them in a room and ask everyone the same question, and you'll likely get 50 different answers. It's all a matter of perspective.

But such research does tend to shed light on problem areas, and the WalletHub effort makes it clear that if California wants to get back on top, it needs to do some fundamental repair work.

The spotlight of public attention has lately been focused on schools for all the wrong reasons, chief among them the mass-murder shooting at a South Florida high school that sent shock waves throughout society.

The attention has rightly been on the victims, the accused shooter, and the guns. Lost in this shuffle is what such disruptions do to education, the actual schooling of America's young people. The massive teacher strike in West Virginia is also a major distraction, more political than educational.

This nation and its citizens must not lose sight of the real goal, which is to give our youngest generations the opportunity to achieve a quality education. If that means turning high school campuses into de facto armed bastions, so be it.

The WalletHub education attainment survey is an eye-opener, especially for California. This state and its economy cannot afford second-class education. We must get back on top.

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March 1

The Modesto Bee on immigration enforcement being heartless, punitive and lazy:

This what immigration enforcement looks like in Donald Trump's America:

—A mother of three U.S. citizens, who has lived mostly in Modesto for the past 30 years, is being ordered to Mexico, despite the fact her cancer could kill her if deprived of medications.

—An adjunct professor in Kansas City for 30 years went for his annual check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and never came home to his wife and three U.S. citizen children. Only an intervention from a U.S. congressman allowed this sole provider to return home — for now.

—Last weekend, ICE agents were in an Atwater convenience store when four men walked in to get coffee before heading off to work. The agents left the store, but waited in the parking lot where they arrested three of the men. The fourth, who has a green card, says the agents mocked and laughed at him; he called them bullies. In all, 12 people were picked up across Northern California.

—Some 750,000 young people who have lived in America most of their lives - staying in school, getting jobs, serving in the military, paying taxes - remain in limbo. At the behest of President Trump, Republicans last month torpedoed negotiations to extend their protection against deportation.

Immigration enforcement in America has taken a wrong turn. It's at once heartless, punitive and lazy. Heartless because it tears apart families; punitive because California, which dared to confront cruel inequities by becoming a symbolic "sanctuary" state, is being prioritized; lazy because ICE agents appear to be going after the easiest targets.

ICE says it's targeting undocumented immigrants who are a danger to national security, but its own figures show the truth. The real spike in arrests are of immigrants without any criminal record - people buying a cup of coffee or checking on their immigration paperwork. In the last quarter of 2017, the number of non-criminal deportees hit 13,548 - nearly triple from the same three months in 2016.

Then there's the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals dilemma. Every time a common-sense solution is proposed - by Republicans, Democrats or both - Trump makes sure xenophobes in Congress kill it. He sees Dreamers as bargaining chips for his ego wall and a means to end the very immigration policies that allowed his in-laws to come to America.

After ICE threatened 22 people whose right to work was protected under DACA, a federal judge ruled the action "arbitrary and irrational" as it deprived residents of their right to earn a living without a hearing. The U.S. Supreme Court was right to reject Trump's request for a quick ruling so he could more rapidly start deporting the Dreamers - including roughly 12,000 in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. The delay isn't a permanent fix - much less a path to citizenship - but it keeps Dreamers safe from deportation until the end of 2018.

Congress has been useless. Rep. Jeff Denham has been willing to work toward a compromise, but his efforts have gone nowhere. A bill introduced by 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans is stuck in a committee. We still believe Dreamers would be better served if Denham joined two other Republicans and signed a discharge petition to force an up-or-down vote on the House floor.

Some conservatives blame the FBI for ignoring the Florida shooter to prioritize other, less-important crimes. But when ICE goes after people with a coffee addiction rather than more serious criminals, those same people applaud.

Immigration is a deeply divisive issue, and an example of an America that has lost its way.