Governor Jerry Brown insisted for weeks that he could strike a compromise deal with Republicans to close a $26 billion budget deficit. But when closed-door talks with centrist GOP senators broke down, it apparently killed any hope of winning support for Brown's proposed tax-extension measures. That fact became abundantly clear last Friday when state Republican leaders, who took over negotiations for the centrist GOP 5, and are much conservative, gave Brown a seven-page list of demands.
The Republican hard-line stance quickly led to another breakdown in the talks. The GOP leaders said they wanted the governor to give in to their demands or they wouldn't vote to put his tax-extension measures on the June ballot. The Republican list included cuts to public-employee pensions, a state spending cap, saving redevelopment agencies, and ending teacher seniority in layoffs. Brown pleaded with Republicans to be more reasonable and to greatly streamline their list, because time was running out for a June election. But Republicans seemed in no mood to back down.
Brown had sold himself to voters last year as a seasoned hand who could fix the partisan divide in Sacramento. But last week the governor appeared to be coming to the same conclusion that legislative Democratic leaders had reached weeks ago: They would have to go it alone on any tax measures.
But Brown also seemed to realize that the way forward is fraught with peril. If he and Democrats put the tax measures on the June ballot without at least two GOP votes in each house of the Legislature, then Republicans and anti-tax groups will sue them in court, arguing that such a move requires a two-thirds majority vote under the state constitution.
As a result, Brown was said to favor a ballot-initiative drive for a November election. But there isn't much time for that either. And a spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer noted that waiting that long to balance the budget would require the state to issue IOUs to stay afloat and would probably force the shutdown of state-financed construction projects.
A November election also would prohibit Brown from calling his proposal "tax-extension measures," because the taxes he wants to extend expire July 1. Polls have shown that Californians object less to existing taxes than to new ones.
However, a new survey showed that support for Brown's tax-extension measures is slipping and that they were probably headed for defeat. The poll, from the respected Public Policy Institute of California, revealed that only 46 percent of likely voters statewide said they planned to vote for the measures — down from 53 percent in January. Experts noted that ballot measures with less than 50 percent of the vote before a campaign begins typically lose. "Whichever way I look," Brown told reporters in a moment of candor, "I see bears in the forest."
Quan Picks New Administrator
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan selected former city Fire Chief P. Lamont Ewell to be Oakland's interim city administrator, replacing Dan Lindheim. Ewell was Oakland's fire chief during the 1990s, and then served as an assistant city manager and acting city manager, before moving on to city manager positions in San Diego, Santa Monica, and two other cities. Ewell will fill in until Quan can find a permanent city administrator. She said her first choice backed out after receiving a huge raise, and that her second got cold feet because of the state's budget mess. Quan also has asked Lindheim to stay on to handle several major proposed projects, including a new A's ballpark in Jack London Square.
FBI Investigates Harris
The FBI is investigating Elihu Harris, the ex-chancellor of the Peralta Community College District, for his role in steering a $950,000 no-bid contract to his friend and business partner, Mark Lindquist, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported. Federal agents also questioned Peralta Vice Chancellor Sadiq Ikharo, who administered the contract. Last year, the Peralta board decided to not renew Harris' contract as chancellor after the Contra Costa Times published a series of investigative stories about the Harris-Lindquist connection and lavish trips Harris took on Peralta's dime.
Berkeley Bowl Stays Non-Union
Berkeley Bowl will remain non-union for the foreseeable future. Last week, employees at the Oregon Street store voted 82 to 73 against membership in United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5. In June 2010, the workers, who were union members, voted 99 to 74 to decertify the union. But the National Labor Relations Board said store management had interfered unfairly with the election and scheduled the new vote. Union organizers, however, said they would not give up in their fight to restore the union at the store.
Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby said that the city's main private security contractor, ABC Security, may have violated local campaign finance laws when it donated $1,800 to various Oakland politicians last year when its $2 million contract was up for renewal. ... After voting to levy $1-million-a-day fines against PG&E for failing to turn over gas pipeline records, state regulators reached a tentative pact with the utility to cap its total fines at $6 million. Consumer advocates immediately denounced the proposed settlement as a "backroom deal." ... PG&E also released its opt-out program for its controversial SmartMeters, but the proposal comes with a big catch: It requires consumers to pay high monthly penalties if they choose to not have one of the devices on their home.