October 26, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Opinion: This Bill is an Absolute No Brainer

 

 

 

Only occasionally does a proposed California law approach the status of being an absolute no-brainer.

          There’s just one such measure before the Legislature right now, a bill that could possibly restore a modicum of public trust in California government, even if it doesn’t go anywhere near as far as it should.

      With the Capitol under the firm control of a single party, suspicions of corruption and favoritism are common in California today. It’s for sure that Democratic Party domination pretty much assures that anyone Gov. Jerry Brown or his successor appoints to major state jobs will be confirmed with few questions.

          Take the example of Mark Ferron, now in his second three-year term on the state Independent System Operator (ISO) board of governors. This board essentially decides where California utilities buy electricity and then supervises its distribution.

          Ferron, a former Deutsche Bank investment official and later a partner at the Silicon Valley Venture (capital) Fund, contributed the maximum $25,900 to Brown’s 2010 election kitty and got a seat on the powerful rate-setting state Public Utilities Commission soon after.

An illness forced him to leave the PUC, but on his recovery Brown quickly put him on the ISO. Two open questions: Would he have gotten either job without his contribution? Would Brown even know who he is without that money?

          While on the PUC, Ferron voted consistently for whatever big utility companies wanted, so long as they complied with state laws demanding an ever-greater emphasis on renewable energy, regardless of cost. Never mind consumer concerns over prices. He’s had no significant differences with utilities while on the ISO, either, and his current term runs out Dec. 31, giving Brown just enough time to appoint him to a third term if he likes.

          Because Ferron, with degrees in mathematics and economics, had no prior background in utility regulation, it was hard to see how he qualified for the jobs Brown tossed his way – but then $25,900 has usually been enough to buy California political donors something, whether it’s a job or mere access to high officials. Money talks.

          Now comes Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced with a proposal that would ban contributions to state senators by political appointees for up to a year between the time they are nominated to a job by the governor and when the vote on their confirmation comes up in the Senate.

          This wouldn’t keep someone like the seemingly unqualified Ferron off a powerful board like the PUC or ISO, but it’s a start. Even though it leaves open the appearance of appointees buying their nominations, at least it would remove the appearance of appointees buying confirmation.

          Ferron, of course, is far from the only political donor with a political patronage job. Another is Mary Nichols, the longtime chair of the state’s Air Resources Board, which sets smog policy for cars and other pollution sources and is currently battling federal efforts to squash some California anti-smog regulations.

          Not only did she kick in $5,000 to Brown’s campaign before he reappointed her to the job she held both in his earlier administration and under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but she also gave $1,000 to a senator’s reelection campaign before her confirmation vote came up. Was there any doubt which way that senator would vote?

          These practices are common not just at the state level, but also in the federal government. So it’s no wonder many believe government is really about keeping the rich that way.

          These kinds of financially greased appointments and confirmations have gone on at other powerful commissions, too, ranging from the state’s Transportation Commission (which hands out highway repair and construction funds) and its Energy Commission to boards regulating everything from chiropractors to solid waste disposal.

          Appointees may or may not be qualified, but there’s a public perception regardless that corruption is deeply embedded in both the state and national capitals.

          The only way to change this is to take at least some money out of the picture. Gray’s bill is a start and an obvious no-brainer. Once it is (hopefully) passed, the next action ought to limit how soon governors can name big donors to powerful jobs for which they may or may not be qualified.

Related Posts

Santa Monica School Board Approves Purchases $21 Million Building

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

Santa Monica Malibu School Board votes 6-1 to purchase office building at 1717 4th Street By Toi Creel The Santa...

City Council Endorsements: Santa Monica Needs a Change

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Santa Monica City Council endorsements from the Santa Monica Mirror The following are two endorsement articles from Santa Monica Mirror...

Crime in Santa Monica Is Declining: Santa Monica Beat – October, 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Crime in Santa Monica Is Declining * 335 Homeless Residents Housed...

Forma Expanding to Main Street: Westside Food Scene

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Westside Food Scene October 22, 2020 By Kerry Slater Forma Expanding to Main Street Popular Santa Monica Italian restaurant Forma...

California Supreme Court to Hear Santa Monica Voting Rights Case

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Court to rule on future of at-large elections in Santa Monica By Sam Catanzaro The California Supreme Court will determine...

LA County Says Younger Adults and Teenagers Are Driving COVID-19 Cases

October 20, 2020

October 20, 2020

68 percent of new cases among people between ages of 12 and 50 By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County health...

Santa Monica Has Issued Over 40 Face Covering Citations

October 20, 2020

October 20, 2020

City expanding COVID-19 compliance efforts with the addition of “Health Ambassadors”  By Sam Catanzaro The City of Santa Monica says...

Grand Jury Indicts Former Angel Employee in Tyler Skaggs’ Fatal Overdose

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Fort Wayne grand jury indicts Eric Prescott Kay on drug distribution and drug conspiracy charges By Sam Catanzaro A federal...

YogaWorks Studios Closing Amid Pandemic: Santa Monica Beat – October, 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * YogaWorks Studios Closing Amid Pandemic * Carjacking Suspects in Custody All...

Edify TV: More Bike Lanes for Westside

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

A Westside city is adding more miles of protected bike lanes. Learn more in this video made possible by Santa...

Outgoing Santa Monica Police Chief Set to Receive Nearly $100K of Severance Pay

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Santa Monica City Council approves retirement agreement for outgoing chief Cynthia Renaud By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica’s outgoing police chief...

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy: A Natural, Effective Solution for the Flu

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

By Dr. Mahboubeh Hashemi, ND and Dr. Matthew Cavaiola, ND  As fall and winter are fast approaching, many people, and...

Edify TV: Deal to House Homeless People Near Freeways

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

After months of negotiations, the City and County of LA reached a $300 million deal to house thousands of homeless...