POLITICS/EDUCATION: California State University system, graduation rate, "ambitious next phase": "CSU commits to 100,000 more degrees earned by 2025" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "CSU commits to 100,000 more degrees earned by 2025" - From the Bee:

California State University will aim to produce an additional 100,000 degrees earned over the next decade, Chancellor Timothy P. White announced Tuesday, calling on Gov. Jerry Brown and the state to support the “ambitious next phase” of CSU’s student completion efforts.

“At a very fundamental level, the California State University is inseparable from the State of California,” White said during his second State of the CSU address in Long Beach. “The state must be a reliable and strong partner if the CSU is to succeed as a steward of human, physical and technological capital, thereby empowering California’s economic and social success.”

The goal is part of a newly announced initiative targeting an estimated 1 million degree gap in the state economy by 2025. While more than 900,000 CSU students earned degrees in the past decade, the six-year graduation rate for freshman hovers around 51 percent. CSU plans to raise that graduation rate by 9 percentage points. . . . over the next ten years ....................


SACRAMENTO: SB 270, statewide ban, single-use plastic bags, fraud allegations, referendum campaign: "California plastic ban proponents allege fraud in referendum campaign" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "California plastic bag proponents allege fraud in referendum campaign" - From the Bee:

Paid signature gatherers deceived voters in trying to qualify a referendum that would overturn California’s ban on single-use plastic bags, according to a complaint environmental groups fighting to preserve the law have filed with Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Plastic industry opponents wasted no time in mounting a campaign to nix California’s yet-to-be-enacted prohibition on single-use plastic bags. They recently submitted what they said were more than enough signatures to place the referendum on the 2016 ballot, thereby suspending the law until voters weigh in.

Tactics for accumulating those signatures included misleading people into thinking they were signing to preserve the ban and referring to Senate Bill 270 as a “tax” (the bill allows grocery stores to charge a minimum ten cent fee for paper or reusable plastic bags), according to a letter sent to Harris on behalf of a coalition of ban supporters called California vs. Big Plastic. “To ensure the integrity of the state referendum process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these reports of voter fraud,” the letter from attorney Lance Olson reads.

The group initially sent a complaint to the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, which passed on investigating the objection in order to avoid a conflict of interest because Padilla authored SB 270 last year while he was serving in the state Senate.


POLITICS/URBAN AFFAIRS (New York): Times Square, popularity, problems: "Times Square's Crushing Success Raises Questions About Its Future" ....

* New York Times:  "Times Square's Crushing Success Raises Questions About Its Future" - From the NYT:

The Crossroads of the World has never been more popular. And that is becoming a problem. More people than ever are packing into Times Square — from across the world, the country and the rest of New York City. Eager to dip into such a bounty of wallets, international retailers are jostling for space, paying rents that are second only to Fifth Avenue. Pulsing, color-splashed digital billboards have grown from the size of basketball courts to football-field proportions. Attendance at Broadway shows topped 13 million last year for the first time.

With all this going for it, why are so many landlords, office tenants and theater owners worried about the future of Times Square? The same reason that retailers and advertisers lust after a Times Square location is the same reason that others now find it unbearable: the crowds.

Some office workers and corporate clients complain bitterly of having to navigate thick and sometimes unyielding knots of tourists in various hot spots — including a giant video billboard outside the “Good Morning America” studios and a digital wraparound sign at the Marriott Marquis Hotel — just to get in and out of office buildings. A 30-minute lunch is nearly impossible because restaurants are jammed with visitors. Howard S. Fiddle, vice chairman at the real estate services company CBRE, said, “It’s so successful as a tourist destination that people say it’s too congested for New Yorkers to conduct business.”

Few landlords are willing to talk about the issue publicly for fear of turning their concerns into reality. But companies are dealing with the problem in small and large ways .............................


LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Sacramento): Sacramento City Hall, unfunded liabilities, editorial: "Sacramento's 'wall of debt' grows dangerously high" ....  

* Sacramento (editorial):  "Sacramento's 'wall of debt' grows dangerously high" - From the Bee:

As Gov. Jerry Brown chips away at California’s “wall of debt,” the city of Sacramento’s version keeps getting bigger. That’s troubling news for taxpayers. City Treasurer Russ Fehr will report Tuesday night to the City Council that long-term unfunded liabilities grew by another $102 million in the past year and now stand at nearly $2.3 billion. Barring miraculous economic growth, that debt will hit taxpayers sooner or later, through higher taxes and fees or reduced services or both.

While the city avoided long-term borrowing for big projects during the recession, its outstanding debt for land, equipment and facilities still totals about $985 million. That number will increase as the city borrows its share to build the new downtown arena – a bond issue of $280 million to $290 million to be repaid mostly from city parking meters and garages downtown. Construction debt could rise even higher if the city moves forward with proposals for a new performing arts venue and a convention center expansion.

More than half of City Hall’s unfunded liability total is from pensions, retiree health costs and other post-employment benefits. There is a $1.2 billion gap between the projected bill and what the city has set aside, according to Fehr’s third annual report on the city’s 30-year debt.

While about 70 percent of the city’s pension plans are funded, the unfunded amount has jumped by $515 million since 2005, according to Fehr. That bill is coming due sooner because CalPERS has accelerated payments for local governments.

Even scarier is the situation ...................


POLITICS/MEDIA: Best state political reporters, 50 states plus District of Columbia: "The Fix's 2015 list of best state political reporters" ....

* Washington Post (Chris Cillizza - The Fix):  "The Fix's 2015 list of best state political reporters" - From the WP:

The most under-appreciated reporters in the political world are the scribes covering state and local politics. They rarely get the attention of their colleagues at the national level but are often covering the very politicians and national trends that come to impact the broad political landscape.

Every two years (or so), I like to honor these reporters with a look at the best of the best from each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.  The list below was built almost entirely on recommendations from the Fix community . . . .  A few of my personal favorites are included as well.

Special shout-outs to longtime stalwarts of our best state political reporters list including . . . . . . . .



Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle

Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle

Seema Mehta, LA Times

John Myers, KQED

Josh Richman, Bay Area News Group

David Siders, Sacramento Bee 

George Skelton, LA Times

Doug Sovern, KCBS