Betrayal—conveying infidelity, duplicity, even treachery.
Betrayal is a word that captures the seriousness of our legislator’s apparent loyalty to developers, builders, and Wall Street real estate investors, while abandoning the values and needs of their everyday, Main Street constituents. Legislators, knowingly or unknowingly, are selling out Californians for short term financial gains and personal political advancement, while parroting a hollow message about affordable housing.
Individually, we might cut them some slack. We know they work hard. They know they are trying to do the best they can and juggling conflicting demands.
However, legislators are falling dramatically short on doing their job as loyal representatives of the people who elected them.
Consider these seven examples of legislator’s short-comings:
- Failing to set and enforce standards for a reasonable scope of work. Legislators regularly have 4,000-5,000 bills to consider when they start a new session. Even with covid-19, legislators had 700 bills on their plate when they returned from an extended summer break.
- Failing to create systems and procedures that support legislators making informed votes on the legislation. In a recent meeting about housing, Marin Assembly member Marc Levine, who occasionally takes strong stands for Marin, said he was unfamiliar with the Senate housing bills. He said he would wait until they came to the Assembly Floor (Aug 17-31) and in the meantime focus on the bills in the Assembly Committees. Too many bills, not enough time.
- Failing to use confirmed numbers, accurate assumptions, and vetted solutions that match criteria for success. Legislators like Sen. Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner and Assemblyman David Chiu are fond of flaunting the enormity of the housing crisis. Yet, people are leaving the state and the 3.5M housing unit shortage was in error. Legislators have ignored the numbers to continue their “the-sky-is-falling” narrative.
- Tolerating an unhealthy culture of bullying, threats and rewards. Perhaps others have heard the stories, too, of the favoritism that runs rampant through Sacramento. If you vote to reflect your constituents’ wishes instead of the party line, you may find yourself in the far-away, smallest office cubicle and your position on a favorite committee will be yanked.
- Tolerating last minute amendments, sometimes called back-room deals and arm-twisting. “I’ll vote for your bill, if you vote for mine.” “Vote for my bill, and I’ll make you chairman of the committee.” But last-minute amendments give little time for scrutiny and public comment. Legislators also accept the practice to “gut and amend” a bill. For example, all the information in a bill about barbershop safety is deleted and substituted with a new housing bill instead.
- Failing to provide funding for cities to carry out state mandates. When a bill goes to the Appropriations Committee, the committee dismisses any measure with an annual cost of more than $150,000 that would be required from the State’s General Fund. However, the committee disregards costs to California’s 482 cities and 58 counties where staff time is required to draft new ordinances, educate city councils, establish procedures to track, monitor and report data the state requires, and so on. Legislators callously turn a blind eye to local circumstances and assume cities can levy more taxes to pay for the increased state mandates. In these economically strained times, this practice increases the risk of bankruptcy.
- Failing to be familiar with statewide policy bills. For example, 2020 proposed housing measures continue a trend to permanently change the landscape of communities and reduce sovereignty. Consider the impact of nine bills:
- Five of the bills will “upzone,” the euphemism for drastically increasing density (AB1279, AB2345, SB-902, SB-1120, and SB1385).
- Three of the bills will “streamline,” the euphemism for gutting environmental protections (SB-995, SB-1085 and SB-1120).
- Five of the bills “incentivize,” the euphemism for giving bonuses to developers at the expense of the community (AB-725, AB1279, AB-2345, SB-1085, and SB-1385).
- Three of the bills will increase density “by right,” as is being argued for the monstrous project in Novato. “By right” gives the developers rights at the expense of the community: no rights to public notice, no rights to hearings, no vote from the elected city council (AB-1279, SB-995, and SB-1120).
The truth is there is a cabal of powerful political and financial interests that have created a threadbare narrative based on the assumption that cities have caused the housing problem. Untrue. Cities don’t build housing and cities don’t fund housing.
It is shameful that legislators are passing endless bills that line developer’s pockets, serve the greed of multi-billion-dollar corporations, and undermine community choice, instead of serving the interests of middle-class and low income taxpayers.
This betrayal is repeated and deeply harmful. The silence of locally elected officials and the general public, who are currently distracted and overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic, is being mistaken for approval and is emboldening this betrayal.
Don’t let this happen! Your voices has never been more important.
Call Assembly Member Marc Levine: (916) 319-2010 or (415) 479-4920.
Call Senator Mike McGuire: (916) 651-4002 or (415) 479-6612.
Ask them to vote to oppose the nine harmful housing bills now before the state legislature.
CLICK HERE to join the “Nix the Nine Campaign” for additional steps you can take to protect the sovereignty of your community.