Archives for category: California

Ken Rice was an elected member of the Oakland Unified School District from 1997-2000. That was before the billionaire disrupters decided to take control of Oakland and turn it into their own petri dish for “reform” (i.e., privatization). Rice wrote the following description of the recent school board election, in which grassroots organizations stood together and beat the candidates of the out-of-district/out-of-state billionaires. He is a member of Educators for Democratic Schools (EDS), an Oakland-based organization composed primarily of retired public school teachers, administrators and school board members. When Ken Rice ran for school board, his race cost $12,000. Due to the intrusion of big money, grassroots groups are always outspent and usually overwhelmed. But Rice explains here how Oakland parents and educators fought back and won.

He writes:

Apparently Money Isn’t Always Everything–$300,000 Beats $900,000 In The Oakland School Board Elections!

In nearly 20 years of privatization push into Oakland, this is the first time since 2003 that Oakland schools will be returned to local control by a school board that values and embraces authentic public education. Remaining hopeful for the future, and look forward to strengthening and improving Oakland’s schools.” ~ Diane Ravitch 

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the petri dish for school privatization for the past two decades, might have an answer.  I ran and was elected to the Oakland school board and served one term (1997-2000).  I raised $12,000.  My opponent raised about the same amount.  In those days the school board elections were neighborhood races funded by local supporters. There was no out of state money or PACs involved. 

That began to change about ten years ago:  huge donations from individuals and foundations began to pour into Oakland school board races.  The money was funneled through the California Charter School Association and GO (Great Oakland Public Schools), a pro-charter organization.  The money also came from Michael Bloomberg, the Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, Laurene Jobs (Steve Jobs’ widow), and several more.  The goal was to elect a pro-charter, Board of Education. Unsurprisingly, the pro-charter organizations were successful.  

The Oakland school board has approved about 65 charter school applications over the last twenty years–many of them in the last 12 years.   Of those charters, about twenty have closed their doors—in some cases during the academic year, causing great dislocation to families who had to find another school for their children mid-year.  OUSD now has 30% of its 50,000 students in charter schools—the highest percentage of students in charters of any school district in California. 

What is surprising is what happened in the 2020 election.  For the first time in memory no incumbents were running for any of the four of the seven school board seats up for election.  Thus, there was a possibility of greatly changing the make-up of the school board, whose majority has opted for policies of charter school approval, school closures and lack of responsiveness to the greater Oakland educational community.  This was an opportunity to flip the board . . . and flip it did!

The charter community recognized this opportunity, and poured almost $900,000 into electing their candidates for the four open seats! Yet when the votes were counted, three of their four candidates lost.

Trying to understand how and why this happened can provide an insight into the educational landscape of not only Oakland, but urban cities nationally.  While it might be early to know for certain why the charter candidates were defeated, we can make some educated guesses.

Strong Local Candidates

Two of the three candidates who won had deep Oakland roots.  Two had been teachers (one in Oakland, one in San Francisco) and the other had worked in Oakland’s after school programs.   Two had been community activists around school issues for years.  

Oakland elections are calculated by ranked choice voting (RCV).  When the RCV was tabulated, Sam Davis, the candidate in District 1 received 62% of the vote.  Sam built a stellar campaign focused around school communities. He held zoom meetings with each school community in his district hosted by a combination of parents and teachers who worked in those schools.  VanCedric Williams, in District 3, got 61%.  VanCedric, a public school teacher for almost twenty years, had strong support from the teacher’s union as well as other unions. Mike Hutchinson in District 5 got 56%.  Mike had run for the Board previously, networked with other education activists nationwide, and had built a reputation of challenging Board policies by going to Board meetings for years and reaching out on social media. 

Backing of the Teacher’s Union

Last year, teachers in Oakland led a successful strike. The union’s ability to drum up enthusiasm with their members was one contributor to that success.  Teachers recognized that if their future demands were to be met, they needed to have a responsive Board.  Specifically, the current Board was considering a plan that would close up to 24 schools in Oakland, mostly in Brown and Black communities.  At the same time, none of the 44 charter schools in Oakland were under threat of closure.  Teachers made the connection between a charter friendly board and school closures of the public schools and were determined to change the direction of the district’s “blueprint”.

Teachers phone banked, texted, walked to drop off literature, and held zoom meetings in support of the three candidates who won.  As Sam Davis noted, many voters tend to rely on their friends and neighbors who know something about the schools.  The friends and neighbors were telling each other to vote for the candidates they trusted.

Backing of Other Groups:  Building a Coalition

The three candidates were endorsed by the Democratic Party.  This wasn’t an accident.  Educational activists pushed the local democratic clubs to endorse candidates who would not be friendly to charters and wouldn’t owe their election to big money.  These clubs, in turn, pushed the local Democratic party.  In California the state Democratic party has taken a critical stance towards charter schools, and this was replicated locally.  Organizers noticed that as people walked to the polls on election day, many of them carried the Democratic Party door hanger with them. Some of these candidates were also endorsed by :

  • The Alameda Central Labor Council
  • SEIU 1021
  • State Assemblyperson Rob Bonta
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond
  • Network for Public Education

Also, other community organizations like Educators for Democratic Schools, Democratic Socialists of America, and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club helped to call, text, and walk precincts.

The Word is Out

You can fool some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, or so Lincoln believed.  Over time, the general public has begun to understand that there is an attempt to buy their votes.  As I dropped off a flier at one home, a parent came to the door and asked, with hostility, “This isn’t the candidate who is getting all that money from Bloomberg, is it?”  Several media sources reported on money from Bloomberg ($500,000 from Bloomberg alone!) and others pouring into Oakland.  

After recovering from the astonishment that anyone would spend that kind of money for a school board election, voters became leery of candidates receiving those huge amounts of money.  In District 1 where I live–and the charter candidate received nearly $300,000!–I found glossy fliers in my mailboxes more times than I could keep track of.

It is profoundly disturbing and a huge threat to our democracy that this big money trend has filtered down to local school board races. The Oakland community fought back against the billionaires’ spending advantage, and when the new board is seated in January, it will have a clear pro-public school majority.  With appealing candidates and strong ground games, Oakland voters have shown that big money can be defeated. While Oakland will never go back to the days when a local neighborhood candidate spent only $12,000 to be elected, this recent victory over out of state billionaire bucks and their agenda sends a clear signal that our community will not be bought.

(Ken Rice is former OUSD board member, a member of Educators for Democratic Schools and currently has a daughter attending an OUSD school.) 

The school district of Burbank, California, is embroiled in a bitter debate about book banning. The books in questions are about racism, and black parents are complaining that the books are racist. Among the books that parents want removed are: Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of the most censored books in American literature; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

I wrote a book about censorship of language on tests and in textbooks and of books used in school. It is called The Language Police. I recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the history of these practices.

The Los Angeles Times describes the controversy:

During a virtual meeting on Sept. 9, middle and high school English teachers in the Burbank Unified School District received a bit of surprising news: Until further notice, they would not be allowed to teach some of the books on their curriculum.

Five novels had been challenged in Burbank: Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” Theodore Taylor’s “The Cay” and Mildred D. Taylor’s Newbery Medal-winning young-adult classic “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.”

The challenges came from four parents (three of them Black) for alleged potential harm to the public-school district’s roughly 400 Black students. All but “Huckleberry Finn” have been required reading in the BUSD.

The ongoing case has drawn the attention of free-speech organizations across the country, which are decrying it as the latest act of school censorship. The charge against these books — racism — has been invoked in the past, but in contrast to earlier fights across the country, this one is heavily inflected by an atmosphere of urgent reckoning, as both opponents and defenders of the novels claim the mantle of antiracism.

The debate within the district comes after a summer of mass protests calling for an end to the unjust treatment of Black people. As a result, many institutions and school districts like BUSD are taking a hard look at themselves, their policies, curriculums and practices, in many cases publishing antiracist statements. And while book banning has a long history in America, the situation in Burbank — once a sundown town that practiced racial segregation — is freshly complicated.

In the abstract, it’s a dispute about the meaning of free speech and who gets heard. More specifically, it’s about what should be taught to the district’s roughly 15,200 enrolled students — who are 47.2% white, 34.5% Latino, 9.2% Asian and 2.6% Black — and how Burbank can move forward on race boldly but sensitively...

A week after teachers learned of the removal, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a letter to BUSD urging the district to allow teaching of the books while the challenges are under review. On Oct. 14, PEN America released a petition calling for the same.

“[W]e believe that the books … have a great pedagogical value and should be retained in the curriculum,” read letter from the NCAC.

Books written by or featuring people of color are “disproportionately likely to be banned,” said James Tager, PEN’s deputy director of free expression research and policy. “That is a decades-long trend that advocates and observers have seen.”

Big real estate interests managed to defeat Prop 15, intended to raise taxes on commercial real estate to produce billions for public schools.

The Los Angeles Times reports:


California voters have rejected Proposition 15, a ballot measure that sought to force large businesses to pay higher property taxes but likely fell victim to concerns about its economic impact on employers and consumers amid the pandemic-sparked recession.

The defeat, projected by the Associated Press on Tuesday, came with unofficial results showing almost 52% of votes were cast against the measure — a level of opposition that remained consistent through the early counting of ballots on Nov. 3 and the week that followed. While returns won’t be certified until early next month, the AP analysis concluded that there are unlikely to be enough ballots remaining to change the outcome.

“California voters understood the very real threat Proposition 15 presented to small businesses, farmers and consumers,” Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said in a written statement. “Voters in California smartly recognized that enacting the largest tax hike in California history would have been devastating to jobs, our economy and California’s future competitiveness.”

Since its inception, Proposition 15 was a fight about a different ballot measure — Proposition 13, the 1978 landmark initiative that created a tight cap on property values and tax rates. The new proposal’s supporters spent years crafting their plan to strip high-value business properties from the protections provided by Proposition 13, arguing that it had allowed powerful corporations to avoid paying property taxes they could easily afford. The November ballot measure could have generated as much as $11.5 billion a year for public schools and local government services once fully implemented.

Where Proposition 13 sets the value of a property by its purchase price and caps the annual tax at 1% of the value, Proposition 15 would have generated new tax revenue by allowing more frequent valuations of commercial and industrial property holdings worth $3 million or more. Some lower-valued properties would have also been swept into the system because their owners have large portfolios of property across California.

Proposition 15 was explicit in its protection of residential property tax rules, though some of its opponents ominously warned that it was the first step toward a complete overhaul, or outright repeal, of Proposition 13...

Voters were not swayed by the promise of new, substantial tax revenue. Approximately 40% of the revenue would have been sent to K-12 schools and community colleges, while the remaining 60% would go to counties, cities and special districts for services such as law enforcement and fire suppression. The Berkeley poll found that less than a majority of middle-aged voters and those who described themselves as moderates or conservatives believed the new tax revenue was needed.

Howard Jarvis, chief sponsor of the controversial Proposition 13, signals victory as he casts his own vote at the Fairfax-Melrose precinct. June 6, 1978 photo by Ben Olender/Los Angeles Times. For From The Archives.
[Howard Jarvis, sponsor of Prop 13, which starved California’s schools]

While the homeowner tax protections of Proposition 13 have remained strongly popular over the last four decades, liberal interest groups and labor unions believed few voters realized that the low-tax rules also applied to multimillion-dollar corporations. Numerous studies revealed that many of these companies, many headquartered in Southern California and the Bay Area, operate in facilities where land values have changed very little since the 1970s — even as new businesses and homeowners alike pay taxes on property assessed more closely to market value.

Business groups that funded the opposition effort — contributing to a campaign with combined donations of more than $125 million — sought to divert attention away from large corporations and focus on Proposition 15’s potential impact on small businesses. Their advertising campaign hammered away at the fact that business owners who lease their location are often required to pay some, or all, of the building owner’s property taxes.

Jane Nylund, parent activist in Oakland, reports on the good news from that district. Oakland has been the Disrupter/Reformer playground for nearly twenty years. For most of those years, billionaire Eli Broad picked the superintendents.

Jane Nylund writes:

Good morning, the good news out of Oakland is that our grassroots campaigns for 4 school board seats beat back Bloomberg and his privatization machine. The board flipped 3 out of 4 seats, to elect the following:

District 1-Sam Davis

District 3-VanCedric Williams

District 5-Mike Hutchinson

District 7-Clifford Thompson

In addition, Oakland’s Measure Y, which passed by a whopping 77%, will provide $750 million for new school building construction/rehabilitation for our crumbling infrastructure. 

Measure QQ, giving 16 and 17-year olds the right to vote in school board elections, also passed by a wide margin.

In nearly 20 years of privatization push into Oakland, this is the first time since 2003 that Oakland schools will be returned to local control by a school board that values and embraces authentic public education. Remaining hopeful for the future, and look forward to strengthening and improving Oakland’s schools. 

Danny Feingold, publisher of Capitol & Main, explains why voters in California should right civil wrongs by voting for Proposition 15, 16, and 21.

He writes:

Proposition 15 would make amends for one of the most far-reaching ballot measures in American history — 1978’s era-defining Prop. 13. With its landslide passage, Prop. 13 not only upended California’s revenue stream for public education, it ushered in a taxpayer revolt that spread to cities and states across the country. In the rush to lower property taxes, California crippled one of the best K–12 public education systems in the nation while also starving local government of the funds needed for a host of essential programs.

How many libraries in poor communities closed for lack of funds, eliminating a critical refuge for both children and adults? How many programs had to turn away those in need, day after day, year after year, while frozen-in-place commercial property taxes padded the coffers of mega-land owners.

Like Prop. 15, Prop. 16 — which seeks to overturn California’s ban on considering race, sex or ethnicity in public employment, contracting and education — is politics as redemption. It speaks to our current reckoning with the persistence of racism, and our willful delusion that systemic discrimination is a thing of the past.

California’s passage of Prop. 209, in 1996, outlawed the use of affirmative action by state government, effectively pulling the rug out from under a generation of people of color. The passage by voters of Prop. 209 was undergirded by a patently false narrative: that affirmative action was no longer needed to combat racial bias, and furthermore, that it amounted to reverse discrimination. 

The lie that buttressed Prop. 209 was quickly revealed: Black enrollment at state universities plummeted, while women- and minority-owned businesses lost hundreds of millions of dollars in potential contracts. In the nearly 25 years since the measure was enacted, economic inequality in California has steadily risen, with disproportionate impacts on populations that were targeted by Prop. 209. In our rush to pretend that entrenched racism had been eliminated, more damage was inflicted on people of color, with impacts that are impossible to fully calculate.

Read more here:

If you live in Sacramento, you have an opportunity to flip the board because four of seven seats are up for grabs.

Fortunately, there is an excellent pro-public school slate with four outstanding candidates, each of whom has been endorsed by Sacramento City Teachers Asociatuon, SEIU Local 1021, the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento County Democratic Party.

The billionaire boys (and girls) club wants to buy the school board. Don’t let them.

Vote for :

Lavinia Grace Phillips for District 7

Lavinia Grace Phillips, a social worker for Sacramento’s Child Protective Services and the president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association is running for SCUSD school board in Area 7. The incumbent is Jessie Ryan.

Jose Navarro for District 3

Jose Navarro, is an information technology specialist who works for California’s Franchise Tax Board. He is a member of SEIU Local 1000. He is running for the SCUSD school board in Area 3. The incumbent is Christina Pritchett.

Chinua Rhodes for District 5

Chinua Rhodes, is a community organizer with Mutual Housing California. He currently serves on the City of Sacramento’s Parks and Community Enrichment Commision and the SCUSD LCAP. He is running for the SCUSD school board in Area 5. The incumbent is not running.

Nailah Pope-Harden for Area 4

Nailah Pope-Harden, is a community organizer and statewide climate policy advocate. She is a Sac City schools graduate. She is running for the SCUSD school board in Area 4. The incumbent is not running.

Oakland has been a playground for the privatization industry for many years. The state took control of Oakland in 2003 because of a budget deficit and removed its school board. Billionaire Eli Broad selected its new superintendent (and his successors), and reformers took charge, opening charter schools and promising revolutionary improvement. Their goal was to turn the public schools into a “free market.” Five years after the takeover, Oakland had 32 charter schools and 111 regular public schools. Needless to add, there was no dramatic improvement in Oakland. Today, Oakland has the highest proportion of students in charter schools of any city in California.

Tom Ultican wrote here about the saturation of Oakland by billionaire privatizers, who just can’t leave the district alone and are determined to pour in more resources until there are no public schools left.

Four advocates of public schools are running for the school board.

They are: Sam Davis (District 1), VanCedric Williams (District 3), Mike Hutchinson (District 5) and Victor Valerio (District 7).

Tom Ultican posed this question:

Community based schools run under the authority of an elected school board have served as the foundation for American democracy for two centuries. Feckless billionaires operating from hubris or theological commitment or a desire to avoid taxes or a pursuit of more wealth are sundering those foundations.

Will activists of good will be able to throw off the yoke of billionaire financed tyranny and defend their public schools in Oakland?

If you live in Oakland, please support these candidates.

In the Public Interest, a nonpartisan group dedicated to protecting public services and the common good, writes about the school board election in Santa Clara County, California. The intervention of outside money makes it difficult for ordinary citizens to be competitive in local races:

California: Charter school politics is influencing the Santa Clara County Board of Education Area 1 race, with charter school proponents making large contributions to incumbent Grace Mah. “Charter school political action committees and representatives have contributed more than $200,000 to Mah’s campaign in the last three weeks, many of them large donations that came in after the most recent reporting period. The Charter Public Schools Political Action Committee (PAC) has made two large donations: $75,000 on Sept. 28 and $105,000 on Oct. 13, according to campaign finance reports. Other contributions came from Santa Clara Charter Advocates for Great Public Schools ($5,000) and Champions for Education PAC ($20,000) as well as members of the boards of directors of Rocketship Public Schools, ACE Charter School and Bullis Charter School in Los Altos. Mah’s campaign raised about $80,000 through Sept. 19, bringing her current reported total to about $290,000.”

Palo Alto Online reports that “campaign contributions in this race further underscore the charter school divide, with Mah receiving significant support from pro-charter organizations and Baten Caswell receiving large amounts from vocal critics of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, whose next renewal will come before the board in 2022.”

California has been underfunding its public schools for years. The state has vast wealth but low taxes for commercial real estate, due to Prop 13, which was enacted in 1978 as part of a taxpayer revolt. It froze taxes on commercial real estate at 1975 levels.

Who are the plutocrats funding the fight against Prop 15? Investigative journalism Capital & Main followed the money.

As reporter Bobbi Murray shows, the tax system is badly skewed and vastly profitable properties are under taxes.

Prop. 15, the second of 12 initiatives to appear on California’s ballot, would establish a “split-roll” system to tax corporate and commercial property at presently assessed values instead of at rates based on purchase prices set by Proposition 13 in 1978. Chevron, for example, has saved over $100 million a year on taxes, as its property is assessed at 1975 rates.

At 1.8 million square feet, the sprawling Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, the headquarters of the Walt Disney Company media conglomerate, is also assessed at 1975 rates and gets taxed at roughly $5.60 per square foot.

Comparable rates in the area range from $150 to $200 per square foot—some older properties are still assessed at $10 to $30 a square foot.

Prop. 15 would reset the tax system in a way that could add billions to state coffers. A recent California Legislative Analyst’s Office assessment showed that, should Prop. 15 pass, “Overall, $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion per year in new property taxes would go to local governments. Sixty percent would go to cities, counties, and special districts. The other 40 percent would go to schools and community colleges.”

Homeowners and small business owners would not be affected by Prop 15.

Homeowner property tax rates are not affected by Prop. 15—there is no adjustment to the present homeowner tax structure… Small business owners with fewer than 50 employees wouldn’t see a tax hike, provided their combined commercial holdings in California are worth less than $3 million. The text of the initiative says a new tax structure would be phased in over several years—the earliest that most storefront shops would be reassessed is 2025.

The No campaign has been largely focused on stirring fears among homeowners that somehow passage of Prop. 15 will raise their property bills.

Small businesses would actually get a boost from a provision that eliminates an existing state tax on equipment investment. Under the current system, if you run a coffee shop and need to buy new stoves and refrigerators, you pay taxes based on the value of the expenditure. Prop. 15 would eliminate the tax for any expenditure under $500,000.

The No on 15 campaign, financed by wealthy businesses, has resorted to scare tactics and lies.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative has contributed to the Yes on 15 campaign.

Jacques Leslie, a regular contributor, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about Prop 15:

Proposition 15, the November ballot measure that addresses California’s rickety property tax system, has been in the works for five years. Its creators could have had no advance knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19’s crippling of the state’s economy has underlined the importance of the initiative.

Proposition 15 would amend the state Constitution and deliver a sharp poke to one of the state’s most famous experiments in legislation via ballot measure: Proposition 13, the 1978 taxpayer-revolt initiative that stabilized state property taxes for many but also hobbled the state’s revenue base.

Proposition 15 is a partial repeal of Proposition 13, but the key word is “partial.” It applies only to commercial and industrial property, and only to holdings worth more than $3 million. If it passes, the assessment on such property would rise annually based on market value instead of being capped at a 2%-increase a year. (The tax rate would stay the same, 1% of the sale price of a property.)

This limited reform could generate proceeds as high as $12.4 billion a year, according to a February study by three USC researchers. Local communities would receive 60% of the revenue; schools would get 40%.

That money could turn out to be indispensable. Because of COVID-19, California is facing a $54-billion budget deficit over 19, California is facing a $54-billion budget deficit over the next year. State revenues are expected to drop by a staggering $41.2 billion compared with a pre-coronavirus projection in January. Los Angeles estimates a budget shortfall up to $400 million, with concomitant cuts in city services.

Proposition 15’s deep-pocketed opponents will portray the measure as an all-out assault on Proposition 13, an attempt to raise homeowners’ property tax. But, in fact, it would have no effect on the tax bills of most Californians. The measure exempts all residential and agricultural property, and because it targets only high-value commercial and industrial property, the owners of your local café and dry cleaners will probably be unscathed as well.

On the other hand, Disneyland, whose property tax is still based on its assessment when Proposition 13 passed, would have to pay more. In fact, the USC study found that most of the increase in state revenues would come from properties worth at least $5 million. A study released by Proposition 15 supporters this week shows that just 10% of the state’s of the state’s corporate properties — that is, the biggest ones — would generate 92% of the revenue raised by the initiative.

Besides improving the state’s bottom line, passage of Proposition 15 would have a huge symbolic effect. Before 1978, California invested generously in its future, and earned big dividends for its residents. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, the state built highways, dams and aqueducts, and its educational system earned a reputation for excellence. But Proposition 13 marked a retreat from public investment. Now California’s infrastructure is outdated, the state is ranked as the fourth-most-unequal state in the union and its school expenditures-per-pupil have dropped from 14th in 1978 to 39th. Propositition 15’s passage would mark the end of an era of magical thinking: You can’t have the benefits of government without revenues to pay for them.

Most important, Proposition 15’s reforms could go a long way toward overriding some of the most pernicious side effects of Proposition 13. For example, the initiative would eliminate the competitive tax advantage that longtime commercial property owners hold over recent buyers, which are often business startups. New businesses, a key to innovation (and in the wake of COVID-19, economic recovery) would face one less major obstacle in California.

The initiative would also stimulate new housing at a time when the state desperately needs it. Under Proposition 13, properties deliver so little revenue to municipalities that cities have encouraged retail business starts instead of housing development, because more retail means more sales taxes. Proposition 15 would prompt development of vacant urban land by increasing taxes on speculators who hold onto empty properties because their tax burdens are so low.(A 2018 UC Santa Cruz study found that vacant properties with near-market- value assessments were five times more likely to be developed than properties with 1970s and early 1980s assessments.)

The initiative would also close what has been a gaping loophole in Proposition 13 that has added to its worst effects. New, market-value property assessments of commercial properties kick in under current law only when majority ownership changes. That has enabled publicly traded corporations to avoid new assessments even though their stock ownership may have rolled over many times, and it allows landowners to buy and sell and yet maintain lower assessments by dividing purchases among enough entities so that none holds majority ownership. Companies such as Chevron, Intel and IBM own land whose assessments are still based on 1975 values, while nearby properties are assessed at values as much as 50 times higher, according to the initiative’s organizers.

That has enabled publicly traded corporations to avoid new assessments even though their stock ownership may have rolled over many times, and it allows landowners to buy and sell and yet maintain lower assessments by dividing purchases among enough entities so that none holds majority ownership. Companies such as Chevron, Intel and IBM own land whose assessments are still based on 1975 values, while nearby properties are assessed at values as much as 50 times higher, according to the initiative’s organizers.

When Proposition 13 passed, rising real estate values were pushing California homeowners’ property taxes so high some lost their homes. It solved that problem but created others, adding to the state’s epic gap between rich and poor. Without the virus, Proposition 15 ought to have won because it is just. Now it is also urgent.

A week ago, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop 15 and said it was about restoring fairness to the state’s broken taxing system.

Jack Hassard, a professor of science education, scoffs at Trump’s claim that California could avoid forest fires by raking leaves on the forest floor. The cause of the raging fires, he writes, is climate change. Trump has declared that climate change is a hoax so he can’t admit what scientists agree is a growing environmental crisis.

This interesting post quotes Trump’s exchange with California officials. It’s painful to read because Trump is so clearly stupid.

By the way, Governor Newsom pointed out that the federal government owns 57% of California’s forest. The state owns less than 5%. If Trump wants leaf-raking, he should hire people to do it on federal lands.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Trump ignored the fact that the federal government manages much of the forested land in the West. Of the 33 million acres of forest in California, roughly 57% is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service or federal Bureau of Land Management, according to a report by the state’s Little Hoover Commission. State and local governments control only 3%, while the rest is private.

Read more here: