California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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Mark Baldassare: PPIC Comment: From CA Crisis to Innovation


Reproduced from PPIC website


From Crisis Comes Hope for Innovation

By Mark Baldassare, president and CEO,
Public Policy Institute of California

This opinion article appeared in the
Sacramento Bee on February 24, 2009

Like earthquakes, wildfires and droughts, California’s budget crises are perennial plagues in this state, though budget problems are happening with more predictability.

In 2003, a budget deficit of $38 billion resulted in the history-making recall of Gov. Gray Davis, who was replaced by action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger. This year, the sequel played for nearly four months as California state legislators scrambled to fill a $40 billion-plus budget gap.

Why is the world’s eighth-largest economy so prone to budget dramas, and what will be the political repercussions of the latest fiscal meltdown in California? Unlike other large states, California requires lawmakers to operate under three tough conditions: a two-thirds vote for passing state budgets and taxes, legislative term limits, and the citizens’ initiative process. Let’s look at the impact of these conditions.

First, the two-thirds vote threshold sets a very high bar for bipartisan compromise, often leaving tax increases and spending cuts off the table in favor of budget gimmicks and borrowing as lawmakers search for a two-thirds consensus. The track record in this decade readily calls into question the belief that a two-thirds vote leads to sounder fiscal policies.

Second, term limits have stripped the legislative bodies of two important ingredients needed to forge complex budget deals: a deep bench of fiscally knowledgeable legislators and long-term, trusting relationships. In the two decades since term limits took effect, the Legislature has struggled to pass a budget on time.

Third, the initiative process has made it easy for voters to restrict lawmakers’ abilities to raise revenues and make spending decisions – most famously through Proposition 13. In the past 30 years, the voters have enacted many ballot measures that lock in spending and tax decisions, leaving the Legislature with less wiggle room for making adjustments.

Another key factor in producing large budget gaps is that California’s fiscal system has not kept up with the new economy. The state today relies too heavily on volatile personal income taxes and capital gains as revenue mainstays. We also focus revenue collections narrowly on a state sales tax for goods even as we have moved to a service-based economy. We dramatically lowered the property tax and vehicle license fees without indentifying sources for replacing the money or lowering spending. Efforts to improve government efficiency and create a rainy day budget fund have remained on hold for years.

However, there is a silver lining in the current fiscal crisis. Recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California finds that Californians are, for the first time, amenable to lowering the two-thirds majority vote for the state budget and taxes. This shift in opinion comes just five years after voters soundly rejected a ballot measure that would have changed the two-thirds threshold to 55 percent.

Currently, a flurry of activity is springing up around reform and restructuring proposals. Today, business and civic leaders will gather in Sacramento to discuss plans for a state constitutional convention that could overhaul the entire governance system. The Legislature will soon hold informational hearings on reforming the initiative process. Moreover, the governor and Legislature have convened a bipartisan commission on tax reform, which is scheduled to provide its recommendations by April 15.

In 2003, the budget crisis focused Californians on changing their political leadership. This time, under a much more severe economic downturn, Californians are attacking the state’s fiscal problem in another way – with a multitude of reform plans. Last fall, voters surprised the political establishment by passing an independent redistricting measure. Now, fiscal proposals and an open primary measure are headed for the ballot as part of the budget agreement. Will these reforms lead to a more efficient, effective, and responsive government? Stay tuned. Given the burst of creativity and the desire for change, California is becoming an incubator for innovati


De Anza College Euphrat Art Museum Art Exhibit, Focus on Silicon Valley, through end of April


In February 2009, the Euphrat Museum of Art opens its   doors to a brand new exhibition space.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead
February 17 – April 16 (EXTENDED TO END OF APRIL!!!!), 2009
Closed Spring Break, March 30 – April 4
Reception with the Artists: Tuesday, March 11, 5:30-7:30pm.

The exhibit has been extended to accommodate the CSA conference at De Anza on April 24th!!!!

The Euphrat Museum of Art at De Anza College serves a culturally diverse, technologically sophisticated, urban community undergoing rapid economic and social changes. Looking Back, Looking Ahead is an eclectic look at Silicon Valley’s varied and colorful growth through visual media and shared narratives. This inaugural exhibition honors our past and looks to the future as we weave together the stories of artists and the stories of Silicon Valley residents and groups in an effort to understand the fascinating community that we are situated in. This is Silicon Valley. This is our story, your story.

Artists include: Paul Pei-Jen Hau, Agnes Pelton, Thai Bui, Rene Yung, Angela Buenning Filo, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, C

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San Francissco CounterPulse Bicycle History Tours March 14 Eco South; March 28 Dissent; April 26 Transit; May 26 Eco North


Bike Tour: Ecological History (South)

Sat. March 14, noon, $15-50, benefitting Shaping San Francisco

This trip through San Francisco’s lost sand dunes, ponds, creeks and coastline will focus on the city south of downtown and SOMA, traversing the Mission, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Bayview, and the southeast coastline, including several new public parks. It’s a social, historical and critical 4-hour tour through the city’s ecological past and present.

Bike Tour: Dissent

Sat. March 28, noon, $15-50, benefitting Shaping San Francisco

Covering everything from literary dissenters to urban riots and protests, this tour examines sites of conflict and unrest, the social movements and upheavals, that have shaped San Francisco since its origins. It’s a social, historical and critical 4-hour tour through the city’s contrarian past and present.

Bike Tour: Transit

Sun. April 26, noon, $15-50, benefitting Shaping San Francisco

Discover lost freeways, ghosts of train routes, and a vivid account of how San Franciscans moved around this peninsula through time. Hear about the violent strikes that shaped public transit, the graft and corruption that conquered the Outside Lands. It’s a social, historical and critical 4-hour tour through the city’s transportation past and present.

Bike Tour: Ecological History (North)

Sat. May 17, noon, $15-50, benefitting Shaping San Francisco

This trip through San Francisco’s lost sand dunes, ponds, creeks and coastline will focus on the city from downtown north, covering the heart of the city, the waterfront and Yerba Buena cove, Telegraph Hill, Black Point, and Crissy Field in the Presidio… It’s a social, historical and critical 4-hour tour through the city’s ecological past and present.

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San Francisco CounterPulse Talks on the City and May Day Celebration March 25; April 8; April 29; May 1

TALKS! Toxic San Francisco: Presidio to Hunter’s Point

Wed. March 25, 7:30pm, Free A Nature in the City co-production

Where are the unremediated superfund sites in the city? What are the known toxins in the city’s ground and what is the city or its residents doing to ameliorate these timebombs? We’ll focus on the former military bases at the Presidio and Hunter’s Point (Doug Kern, and Sol Bloom, ARC)

TALKS! Anti-War Then and Now

Wed. April 8, 7:30pm, Free

We’ll take a look back at military resistance to the Vietnam War, including the mutiny of sailors on the Coral Sea, infantry refusal to follow orders on the battlefield etc., and hear from Iraq vets about the state of anti-war activities in the current conflict.

Transition City: Permacultural Transformation

Wed. April 29, 7:30pm, Free A Nature in the City co-production

Redesigning urban life off the grid. How can urban dwellers begin immediately to move towards self-sufficiency? We’ll have several permaculture practitioners presenting step-by-step recommendations for the next six months, a 1-year and a 3-5 year transition…K. Ruby (Inst. Of Urban Homesteading), Novella Carpenter (Ghost Town Farm), Kevin Bayuk (SF Permaculture Guild), Laura Allen (Greywater Guerrillas)

May Day Festival CounterPULSE’s 4th Anniversary

Fri.-Sun., May 1-3, 8pm
$30-100 sliding scale, $150 VIP table for two with free drinks

Twenty-five of the Bay Area’s hottest dance companies, theater companies, spoken-word artists and musicians unite over three days to raise money for CounterPULSE— it’s our BIGGEST birthday ever! Post-show dancing ’till 12am on Fri. & Sat. with DJ’s Durt & Bunnystyle.

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Is it Time To Re-write California’s Constitution? Article by Robert Cruickshank

On the topic of rewriting California’s constitution, Robert Cruickshank, of the Courage Campaign, has written an online blog for the Courage Campaign, which has been republished by the California Progress Report.  From the blog:

The spectacle of Abel Maldonado blackmailing the Legislature to accede to his demands as the price of passing a budget last week showed the need to eliminate the 2/3 rule. It is the first change, the tree that blocks the tracks, the door that opens that path to all other changes. But it has become clear that California needs even deeper reform to solve the present crisis and meet the needs of a 21st century state. Periods of major economic change usually are accompanied by constitutional change – hell, even the US Constitution itself owes its existence to the severe economic crisis of the 1780s, one of the worst in American history.

That’s why the Courage Campaign, where I work as Public Policy Director, is joining the Bay Area Council and a diverse coalition of organizations to sponsor a Constitutional Convention Summit on Tuesday in Sacramento (you can register at Repair California).

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Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A. at the Hammer Mar. 8

The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles will present a new exhibition, opening Mar. 8, 2009, entitled “Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A.” The show will be the fifth in the Hammer’s biannual invitational exhibition series highlighting work created in greater Los Angeles.

From the Hammer’s website:

Nine Lives features over 125 works, much of it new, by nine artists spanning four generations —Lisa Anne Auerbach, Julie Becker, Llyn Foulkes, Charles Irvin, Hirsch Perlman, Victoria Reynolds, Kaari Upson, Jeffrey Vallance, and Charlie White. The works include video, paintings, drawings, photography, textiles, and two new sculptural installations. As all of the artists live and work in L.A., Nine Lives embodies many of the psychic complexities and paradoxes of the city – it is at once beautiful and frightening, refined and unruly. The reinvention of oneself is central to several of these artists’ practices. These mesmerizing artists create characters and tell stories of fantasy and science fiction, building alternate worlds grounded on their obsessions. Popular culture and mythology are common themes, as are alternative lifestyles, and subcultures. The luxury of space and privacy that Los Angeles affords allows them the freedom to tinker, research, and explore their obsessions which often parallel Hollywood’s dream factory.

The Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: 310.443.7000

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Screening: “Trading Dirt with Simon Rodia & Allan Kaprow” Feb. 25 in Santa Monica

The 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica will present a screening Feb. 25 of “Trading Dirt with Simon Rodia & Allan Kaprow” (40 mins.), a film by Rosie Lee Hooks and Paul. S. Rogers, followed by a conversation with Rosie Lee Hooks, art historian Marlena Donahue, writer Jori Finkel and Suzanne Lacy.

From the 18th Street Arts Center website:

“Trading Dirt with Simon Rodia & Allan Kaprow” was created for the Allan Kaprow “Art As Life Exhibition” at MOCA Geffen Contemporary in Spring 2008. The film intercuts vintage footage from the film ‘Watts Towers” by William Hale with contemporary images of the Watts Community. The production also refers to the historic “Happenings” work of Allan Kaprow, bringing together two Southern California historic moments in art while exploring the generosity of artists, giving back, and the real meaning of community.

Location: The 18th Street Arts Center, 1657 18th Street, Santa Monica, 90404

Weds., Feb 25, 7pm

Click here for more info