California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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Why California can’t be governed; Op-Ed in L.A. Times

Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine, who cover California politics at, published an op-ed in the L.A. Times on Thurs., June 25, about the six factors they see that make California ungovernable.  They list Prop. 13, budget initiatives, gerrymandering, term limits, boom and bust taxation, and the two-thirds votes required in the Assembly and Senate to pass a budget.  Although this list is not new, the op-ed pulls a lot of pieces together. The writers also end with a note of optimism, in the sense that they believe the public is now demanding, and enacting, measures that will help solve the problem.  From the conclusion of the article:

So what can be done about the dysfunction? In the next few weeks, a blue-ribbon commission is set to recommend sweeping changes in the tax system to stabilize revenue collections. Voters last fall approved Proposition 11, which takes away the Legislature’s power to draw its own districts in favor of an independent commission. Next year, as they elect a new governor, Californians also will vote on a system of “open primary” elections aimed at aiding moderates, and they also will probably decide on one or more initiatives to dump the two-thirds budget vote requirement.

California Forward, a bipartisan good government group financed by major foundations, is crafting proposals to conform government systems and processes to modern management methods. And the business-oriented Bay Area Council is pushing initiatives for a state constitutional convention, the first since 1879, to wipe the slate clean and build a new, rational structure for state government.

“The seriousness of the problem has reached a crescendo,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The public is making a statement, loud and clear, that they expect action.”

For the entire article, click here.

–Frank Gruber

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Frank Gruber: In Search of a Fourth Urbanism

CSA’s very own Frank Gruber writes on the recent Denver New Urbanism conference for today’s edition of the Huffington Post.–ed

Frank Gruber

Frank Gruber

Posted: June 25, 2009 12:04 PM

In Search of a Fourth Urbanism

It’s been two weeks since the annual New Urbanism Congress in Denver, giving me time to reflect on what I learned there and on what’s going on with urban design and planning. To begin with, the signs indicate that we are at a turning point; it could be true that, as President Obama said in February, “[T]he days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over.”

The numbers, as Peter Calthorpe might put it, tell the story: both as they relate to demographics and as they relate to money (i.e. financing). The only contra-indicator is that there are so many cheap houses out on the fringes that repopulating foreclosure-land may absorb growth that might otherwise occur in cities.

If conventional suburban development (CSD) is our civilization, it has had its discontents for a long time. Criticism of the postwar suburb arose along with it. Initially this critique was more cultural than based on urban form, but architects and urban designers began to articulate their criticism once the concurrent destruction of the existing city became apparent and the environmental movement arose to decry the loss of farms and nature.

Anti-CSD, or pro-urban, design theories have always, at least until now, fought a rearguard action against both sprawl and continued urban disinvestment (which in many industrial cities and towns has now become massive abandonment). The social/economic/political forces favoring sprawl have been overwhelming, and the factors disfavoring the city — many of them resulting from the fact that cities have been where generations of poor and undereducated rural migrants both domestic and foreign have encountered the modern world — have also rendered insignificant whatever benefit can be realized from what might constitute “good design.”

But now the balance in favor of CSD may shift, and it’s worth considering what the alternatives are, or at least what alternatives are being talked about. One must keep in mind, of course, that as was the case with CSD itself, urban form in America does not necessarily or even typically follow any theory.

Indeed many urbanists refuse to identify themselves with any big ideas, and for several reasons. Many if not most planners and architects consider themselves practitioners first, and prefer to approach each project on its own merits. Many still suffer from a hangover from the fiasco of Modernist urbanism, and they hesitate to associate themselves with anything that smacks of a comprehensive view.

For nearly a decade, however, Douglas Kelbaugh, an intrepid professor at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, has proposed that there are in fact three schools of urbanism currently viable, and many others have accepted Prof. Kelbaugh’s terminology at least for discussion purposes. Two of the urbanisms have accepted names: New Urbanism and Everyday Urbanism. The third has a name of Prof. Kelbaugh’s devising: Post Urbanism.

(Note: Another purported urbanism came out of Prof. Kelbaugh’s work in Michigan; it’s called “ReUrbanism” by its proponents and reflects a rediscovery of traditional urban form. But the term hasn’t gained much traction and to my mind ReUrbanism is too close to New Urbanism to be considered a separate theory. Just to confuse matters further, the word “reurbanism” is also used to describe the repopulating of American cities in general.)

New Urbanism is the best known of Prof. Kelbaugh’s three urbanisms, and as discussed in my prior Huffington posts from Denver, it works both with broad principles and with local projects. Like Modernist urbanism, New Urbanism is an idealistic movement, but its idealism is based on recovering old urban forms rather than creating new ones. Although New Urbanists typically feel besieged, others outside the movement describe their success in terms like “near hegemonic.” (I’m quoting John Kaliski, an “Everyday Urbanist” (as described in the next paragraph), who actually was being complimentary to New Urbanism when he used those words to describe its success.)

Everyday Urbanism is a much smaller but still influential theoretical framework that arose from the work of three urban planners all then based in Los Angeles: Margaret Crawford, John Chase and John Kaliski. In their 1999 book Everyday Urbanism they celebrate vernacular architecture and the coping tactics of street life. The Everyday Urbanists deny having a specific urban design practice that determines any particular results; they focus instead on process — the involving of local residents in design decision-making — with the goal of creating an inclusive, democratic, non-dogmatic urbanism that would improve the quality of neglected urban environments.

The third movement Prof. Kelbaugh has defined is what he calls “Post Urbanism,” but which I believe can be more descriptively (and accurately) labeled as “Spectacle Urbanism.” This is the city-building around the world associated with “star” architects (or “starchitects” if you want to be negative about it) who have designed mega-projects in such places as Beijing or Dubai. The ideas of Post Urbanism are most associated with Rem Koolhaus, who writes as well as designs. If Post Urbanism can be summarized in one thought, it would be that context doesn’t matter.

My problem with these three urbanisms is that they do not describe what I see as the best examples of city building occurring today. Nor do I see the good examples of urbanism today arising simply from an ad hoc response to circumstances. In Part 2 of this piece I’ll go in search of a fourth urbanism.

Frank Gruber writes a weekly column on local politics, which often involve land use issues, for the Santa Monica Lookout News, a news website. His first book, Urban Worrier: Making Politics Personal, has just been published by City Image Press.


California Media Collaborative Rethinks News Media Deployment

From David Simon, formerly of the Baltimore Sun, to Joe Rodriguez of the Mercury News, reporters, media executives, and observers suggest that we either need to bail out the newspapers, change corporate practices, or invent some a form of media or expand an existing one to distribute the news in a responsible and orderly way.

This post comes to us from Louis Freedberg, the founder and director of the California Media Collaborative, an inter-sectoral project to try and rethink the deployment of news media. They have a new project for investigative journalism on issues facing our state. Take a look at Freedberg’s announcement below.–ed.


Dear Friends:

I wanted to pass on some good news.

As many of you know, over the past year my colleagues and I at the California Media Collaborative have been developing a plan for a new reporting venture in California, in response to the multiple crises facing the news media

We have now joined forces with the Center for Investigative Reporting, the nation’s oldest investigative journalism organization, which is also making California a major focus of its work.  CIR is led by Robert Rosenthal, the former managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Together we will be launching a new California-focused reporting venture at CIR, with major support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation. We’ll be hiring a small group of reporters to do in-depth, watchdog and investigative journalism, focusing on issues such as education, immigration, criminal justice and the impact of the recession on  Californians.   Much of it will be data driven in order to show how state level issues affect people in their own communities, and we’ll be using Web-based technology in new and creative ways.

Many of these ideas were first discussed at the landmark Travers Program conference at UC Berkeley to which many of you made such valuable contributions about 18 months ago.

This project is at its core a collaborative one  – which will mean collaborating not only with other media outlets, but with non-profit organizations, academic and public policy institutions, foundations, civic leaders and others who care about how Californians will be informed and engaged on critical issues facing the state and the nation.

I also encourage you to take a look at the Collaborative’s blog site, as well as CIR’s website,  We are developing an entirely new Web site for our new California initiative.  In the meantime, the blog site is intended to be an online convenor of discussion and comment on the state of the news media in California — and to highlight new media innovations.   Please participate!

I look forward to being in touch with you as we move forward with this exciting opportunity


Louis Freedberg

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UC Berkeley Labor Center June and September Trainings

UC Berkeley Labor Center

The UC Berkeley Labor Center has three upcoming trainings, one in June and two in September.

Strategic Research Training

This two-day introductory workshop is intended for beginning union researchers and Labor Summer graduate student researchers interested in working in labor. The training provides participants with an introduction to the concepts and methodologies of union campaign research. Participants will become familiar with library and field research tools that are used in organizing and collective bargaining campaigns. They will see how research can support organizing campaigns, and they will used public records to research actual employers in the context of a strategic campaign.

Wednesday & Thursday, June 17-18, 2009
Location: UC Berkeley Campus, place TBA
Limit: 15 union participants

<!–Check back in spring 2009 for more information and to apply.

–>Apply Online
About the 2009 workshop PDF

For more information contact:
Sandra Laughlin
(510) 642-4072

Strategic Campaigns Workshop

This five-day workshop is for organizers and negotiators, who will enter the workshop with a problem and emerge with a workable plan for launching a campaign to win victories for members and the union.

Monday-Friday, September 21-25, 2009
Application due: August 28, 2009

Location: Fresno

Check back in spring 2009 for more information and to apply.

About the 2008 workshop PDF

For more information contact:
Cheryl Brown
(510) 642-1851

Online Media Training

Learn how to use online tools to organize workers and community members, and garner media attention. This two-day workshop will cover best practices for traditional online tools such as email alerts, websites and online newsletters, and will also introduce emerging online tools and tactics such as blogging, podcasting and social networking, among others.

Thursday & Friday, September 24-25, 2009
Location: Labor Center

Check back in spring 2009 for more information and to apply.

For more information contact:
Andrea Buffa
(510) 642-6371

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Western History Association Conference October 7-10. Graduate Student Travel Award.

Wester History Assn Banner

This post from Laurie Arnold comes to us via Robert Cherny and H-California.

Go here to learn more about the Western History Association.

Dear Colleagues,

The Trennert-Iverson Scholarship Committee and the Western History
Association would like to remind you about the Trennert-Iverson graduate
student travel award. This award provides $500 in travel support for
graduate students (MA or PhD) to attend the Western History Association
Meeting, held this year in Denver from October 7-10.

In addition, the cost of conference registration and tickets to the
welcoming reception, the graduate student social hour, and the Presidential
luncheon will be included in the award.

To be considered for this award, please send a letter of interest, a vita,
and a letter of support from a faculty advisor to each member of the
committee. Committee members and mailing addresses can be found at this

More information about the Western History Association, including
conference information, can be found here:

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact
Laurie Arnold, Chair of the Trennert-Iverson Scholarship Committee, at<>

Best wishes,

Laurie Arnold, PhD
Assistant Director
Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts
University of Notre Dame
101 O’Shaughnessy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
574.631.4264 (p)
574.631.4295 (f)

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New Book on Prop. 13 from IGS at UC Berkeley + Companion Conference Online

Our colleague, Ethan Rarick, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Service at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, sends us information on IGS’s publication of this new book on Prop 13. Ever timely, revisiting Prop 13 is especially critical now with rumbles of a constitutional convention and new tax policies reverberating through the state. The book contains articles from several friends of the California Studies Association.

In addition to the book, take a look at IGS’s recent conference on Prop 13: the conference is available on several video sites linked from this site where  you can also view slide presentations. IGS has other publications here.

Cover image
After the Tax Revolt:
Proposition 13 Turns 30

Jack Citrin and Isaac William Martin, editors

A New Examination of the Legacy of a California Political Milestone

In 1978 California voters shocked the political world by approving Proposition 13, a strict limit on local property tax rates. No state had ever approved such a far-reaching constitutional limitation of the power to tax. And Californians did not just approve it; they embraced it, rejecting dire warnings of doomsday from the state’s political, business, and academic leaders. Voter turnout was the highest recorded for any off-year election in the history of California and the tax cut won in a landslide, with 65 percent of the vote. Thirty years later, Proposition 13 remains firmly entrenched in California’s constitution, but what has it meant for politics and public policy in the state?

On June 6, 2008, the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of Proposition 13, a group of scholars, journalists and policy experts gathered to assess the legacy of this groundbreaking measure. Their mandate was a simple one: assess what we have learned about the political, economic, and fiscal consequences of Proposition 13 over the last 30 years.

After the Tax Revolt: California’s Proposition 13 Turns 30 is a result of that conference, and an attempt to summarize the state of our knowledge about the consequences of this critical event in the history of California and the United States. This collection of essays constitutes a cutting-edge and timely review of one of the most important reforms in California history, and will be crucial for anyone trying to gain a full understanding of politics and policy in the Golden State.

Order at or by calling 510-642-1428

Contributors include:
Mark DiCamillo, Field Poll
David Doerr, California Taxpayers Association
William Fischel, Dartmouth
Joel Fox, Fox and Hounds Daily
John Fund, Wall Street Journal
David Gamage, UC-Berkeley
Jean Ross, California Budget Project
Terri Sexton, California State University, Sacramento
Steven Sheffrin, UC-Davis
Kirk Stark, UCLA

About the Editors:
Jack Citrin is Heller Professor of Political Science and the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
Isaac Martin is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

Ethan Rarick
Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service
Institute of Governmental Studies
University of California, Berkeley
111 Moses MC 2370
Berkeley, CA  94720