Changes in the wind

Mar 28, 2011

The board membership of California's mammoth public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, are getting a new look. The evolving corruption scandal at CalPERS is one reason and the severity of the state's fiscal crisis is another. Ed Mendel at CalPensions takes a look.


"Should the makeup of the governing boards of the two big state pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, be changed? The issue edged into the spotlight last week, pushed from the shadows by rising government pension costs and a CalPERS corruption scandal."


"It’s not the major overhaul advocated by some, where the traditional stakeholder board of management and labor representatives is replaced by a board majority chosen for their expertise in finance and investments."


"That kind of change happened in San Diego, one of the first public pension meltdowns, and in San Jose, where Mayor Chuck Reed successfully pushed pension reform ballot measures last fall."


Gov. Brown and lawmakers, snared in interminable negotiations over the state budget, are sparring over whether a spending cap should be imposed, a lid on spending pegged to cost of living and population growth.


From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "But GOP lawmakers are pursuing a new spending cap as one condition for placing tax hike extensions on the ballot to help solve a remaining $15.4 billion deficit."


"Republicans want spending to increase no faster than the rate of inflation and population growth, with extra money going primarily to reserves and debt repayment."


"Democrats believe such a restriction would lock in spending at recessionary levels and hamper the state's ability to pay for future needs, especially as health care demands are expected to rise."


As a party, California Republicans are facing a difficult political future and they believe the voter-approved "top-two" primary contained in Proposition 14 isn't helping matters. Therefore, the GOP decided to hold a mail-in primary before Proposition 14 takes effect -- no easy task.


The LAT's Seema Mehta tells the tale: "The move, made at the California Republican Party convention last weekend, was prompted by Proposition 14, which changed the state's electoral system. Under it, candidates from all parties compete in a primary, after which the top two vote-getters compete in a general election — even if they are members of the same party. The ballot measure, approved last year, was intended to create competition and loosen the grip that the state's most partisan voters have on primary elections."


"Democrats are expected to take up the matter when they hold their convention next month."


"Under the GOP measure approved last week, the candidate who wins a mail-in nomination contest will be listed as the official Republican candidate on party mailers and will have access to party resources. The plan beat out two competing proposals — one by party leaders in which a small number of insiders would anoint nominees, and one by elected officials where in most cases incumbents would be automatically endorsed."


The primary is one thing, the numbers are another: The Reeps are clearly in trouble, out of step in an increasingly blue state. Bee columnist Dan Walters takes a look. 


"First were the results of the 2010 census that confirmed anew the state's incredible demographic and cultural change. California's rapidly aging white population, an overwhelming majority a few decades ago, has now dropped to scarcely 40 percent, while the rapidly growing Latino and Asian populations are now more than 50 percent."


"The second set of numbers was a new voter registration report, showing Republicans dropping to 30.9 percent, their lowest level in recorded history, while rival Democrats maintained their share at about 44 percent. The Republican losses have not been gains for Democrats but rather have fueled the sharp growth of independents to about 20 percent."


"It's not a stretch to say that the Republican Party, which once dominated California politics and was very competitive into the 1990s, has devolved into a party of rapidly aging white people, and as they disappear, its fortunes may sink further."


Down in Santa Clara, local officials are poised to get to work on a new NFL stadium to house the 49ers -- even though complaints are arising about the use of redevelopment funds. Lisa Fernandez in the Oakland Tribune tells the story.


"Construction workers are poised to install fire hydrants, move high voltage poles and conduct environmental tests on Santa Clara's site for a future 49ers football stadium, despite criticism that the city's elected leaders are playing a shell game with redevelopment funds."


"Acting Assistant City Manager Carol McCarthy said that of the $4 million the council approved last week to advance the 49ers company for work on the stadium site, she expects between $700,000 and $800,000 will be spent through December on basic improvements at the site. In a controversial move, the council scrambled last week to give the team the money before state lawmakers vote on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to disband redevelopment agencies to help balance the state budget."


"But 49ers fans shouldn't consider this a stadium groundbreaking. That still could be years off with plenty of questions looming about how the team and city will finance the $937 million project next to the Great America theme park."


Leaving the world of politics, we enter the world of terror, Iowa-style, courtesy of our "LIfe in the Heartland" file. Officials want to hold an anti-terror drill and guess who's complaining? The terrorists...


"An anti-terrorism drill based on a fictional scenario involving white supremacists angry over an influx of minorities and illegal immigrants was canceled Friday after officials of the school that was hosting the training exercise said they received threatening phone calls and emails..."


"During the last 24 hours, the Treynor school system has received threats to their employees and buildings due to the planned 'active shooter' exercise," county officials said in a statement.

"After consultation with the Treynor school district and the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office, we have jointly decided to cancel the exercise due to these threats which we must consider viable. The Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Department is now actively investigating the threats."


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