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California Editorial Rdp

January 2, 2019

Jan. 1

Los Angeles Times on California’s push for women on boards of directors:

When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring publicly traded corporations based in California to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019, he did so even though he expressed doubt that it could survive a court challenge.

In a letter accompanying his signature on Sept. 30, Brown justified his support of SB 826 by declaring that “recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.” As the date on the letter reveals, the “recent events” to which Brown was referring were the contentious U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in which Christine Blasey Ford testified to a male-dominated panel that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. (Brown sent a copy of the letter to the committee.) And by “message,” Brown was presumably alluding to the continued concentration of political and corporate power in the hands of men, despite the great advances that women have made in both worlds.

The new law sends a pretty powerful message itself that California, at least, values diversity. So much so that its lawmakers are willing to enact a law that takes government coercion to an uncomfortable extreme in pursuit of that goal. Under the law, companies headquartered in California must have at least one female director by the end of this year, and those with larger boards must have as many as three by 2021. Failure to comply with the law will draw a hefty fine, equivalent to a six-figure director salary, as well as public shaming — possibly even for companies that move their headquarters to avoid hiring female directors.

Some legal scholars agree with the governor’s assessment that the new measure is legally flawed on constitutional and other grounds. The law may be challenged as soon as this week. Or it may not be. What company relishes the publicity it would earn by complaining about how damaged it would be if it added a woman to its all-male board at this particular moment in U.S. history?

To be clear, we’re not fans of this type of government overreach, but we are troubled by the underlying problem the law seeks to address. There is a shocking lack of women in corporate boardrooms, even though women make or influence 70% or more of the consumer purchases in this country. Female directors occupy just about 18% of the seats of the boards of the U.S.’s 3,000 largest publicly traded companies. Even in liberal, gender-conscious California, one-fourth of public companies have all-male boards. The reality in executive suites is equally appalling: Only 5% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women; similarly, relatively few women hold the other top corporate posts that are the stepping stones to chief executive offices — and corporate boards.

Forward-thinking corporations shouldn’t need a law to prompt them to diversify their boardrooms. And those based in other states, especially those where Democratic legislators might be entertaining laws similar to California’s, would be wise to accelerate efforts to diversify their own boards — not just because they’re eager to avoid onerous government regulations dictating corporate board makeup, but because it is the right thing to do for both gender equality and the bottom line. Research, including a much-cited study by Credit Suisse in 2016, indicates a link between higher profits and companies with female leadership. That just makes sense. If you want to sell your product or service to women, it helps to have women guiding the decisions about what products and services to offer.

One provision of California’s law that should not be controversial requires the California secretary of state to produce annual reports tracking companies’ compliance. Even if the law is struck down, the state should continue to gather and share this information (and data on boardroom ethnic diversity as well) as a service to consumers who may well care whether the companies they patronize are committed to diversifying their leadership. When it comes to business, consumers’ disdain can be a more powerful social engineering tool than the heavy hand of government.

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Jan. 1

Santa Cruz Sentinel on what’s next on horizon for legal marijuana:

California has completed its first year of legalized marijuana, and, as recent news stories published in this newspaper have proclaimed, the smoke hasn’t yet cleared to see clearly ahead.

While some communities, Santa Cruz included, seem to have a better handle on the growing marketplace, overall there remain myriad unsolved issues. It’s telling that in a community such as Santa Cruz, long tolerant of marijuana, legal medical marijuana organizations, hailed as the model of how legal pot could work in the state, have had to close down, unable to cope with the myriad licensing requirements.

The issues swirling around legal pot include taxation, licensing, distribution and delivery, the still-flourishing illegal market, the stark difference in how cities and counties throughout the state are regulating sales, environmental problems, testing, and establishing enforceable laws regarding operating vehicles while under the influence.

And, if that list isn’t long enough, consider that the expected Weed Rush of entrepreneurs hoping to get rich quick on delivering pot to a huge California market of consumers hasn’t really materialized as many operators hoped. The reality of murky rules and regulations, an uncertain marketplace buffeted by start-up costs and taxes, have marijuana industry advocates warning that many companies trying to make a quick killing will fail.

Meanwhile, the state hasn’t, yet, realized the vast streams of revenue from the hefty taxes slapped on pot sales — state tax revenues were less than half what was forecast and local communities also report revenues are not as high as expected.

The reason is obvious: high tax rates — 40 percent in some areas — make the price of legal pot prohibitive for many buyers who simply turn to the ever-welcoming embrace of the black market. Growers and distributors who remain outside the legal system can sell for a much lower price. Most no longer fear law enforcement, since the relaxation of laws has been widely viewed in many communities as the end of prohibition of the drug.

What’s somewhat ironic about all this is that legal pot backers convinced a significant majority of California voters in 2016 that legalizing marijuana was worthwhile because doing so would help end the black market by allowing consumers to buy their pot at local dispensaries.

Marijuana sold through legal channels, it was said, would be safer, and the taxes could help cover related law enforcement expenses. In this rosy vision, illegal cultivation and production, along with the associated crime, would be curtailed.

If anything, however, the situation has grown only more confusing. In cities such as Los Angeles, hundreds of retail pot shops are open for business and advertising proliferates trying to entice consumers. But many of these businesses are illegal; pot users, with no penalty, quite naturally frequent shops with the lowest prices. Estimates are that about 80 percent of sales in the state are from illegal operations.

Clearly, state regulators are going to have to bring some coherence to this situation. Cannabis-related companies that are operating successfully and legally in the state would like to see an aggressive push by law enforcement against illegal operators. We agree with California’s pot regulation chief, Lori Ajax, who says she wants to see more licensed businesses come online.

If taxes are too high then local communities, also hoping for a windfall, need to rein in the add-ons that are making it hard for the legal market to survive, and agree this is just pumping up illegal operations.

This newspaper did not support legalization, which allows people 21 or older to legally possess up to an ounce and grow six pot plants at home. Our reasoning was that despite the age declaration, younger people would have even more access to an intoxicant that is much more powerful and impairing than non-pot smokers probably realize.

But the law is the law and it’s what voters mandated. And that means legislators and regulators need to take a much more active role in bringing sense and overall organization to the patchwork of rules and regulations that sift through the state like wayward secondhand smoke.

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Dec. 29

The Modesto Bee on 2018 being a watershed year:

Call 2018 a watershed year. As in, we’re likely to be forced to shed some of the water we’ve relied upon for 140 years so that others in far-away places can use it.

Before 2018 passes through Modesto’s famous city arch and into history, here’s a look at some of the year’s events through its prism of “Water Wealth Contentment Health.”

Water

By deciding that half the water in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers must flow away from us and out to the Delta, the state water board could be altering this region’s way of life. If the board’s indefensible, unwarranted decision withstands inevitable court challenges, it will mean fewer orchards and more field crops (when drought doesn’t wilt them into dust).

Sorry if you’ve read this before, but the state failed to live up to its mandate to use only the “best available science” in reaching its decisions, choosing instead the “best available rationale” for a classic California water grab. In a 4-1 vote, the water board based its Dec. 12 decision on an asinine economic analysis, a discredited theory that more water equals more fish and a willingness to turn a blind eye to a Delta debauched through decades of rip-rapping and wetland destruction.

They ignored some 1,500 people who rallied on the Capitol steps on Aug. 20.

Still, it’s important not to demonize those with whom we disagree. Being wrong doesn’t make anyone “bad” (thank goodness).

The Tuolumne Trust, which runs classes for kids and helps in river cleanups along with its wrongheaded environmental lobbying, did something truly remarkable this year. Dennett Dam, a dilapidated relic from the 1940s that killed three people trying to walk across it over the years, was finally removed. The cities of Modesto and Ceres and Stanislaus County knew this eyesore was deadly, but none could get rid of it. The Trust did.

Wealth

Set aside the rollercoaster stock market, and think about this: Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in November. That’s higher than California’s 3.9 percent, but better than anything we’ve seen in November for a decade. That’s great, but all great things wane — a warning delivered by outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown. We’re concerned over the consequences of President Trump’s trade war — since nuts, winegrapes and fresh food are all being targeted. Brace for a shock.

Speaking of shocks, you might need some new ones. Our area’s roads have been rated the 20th worst in America.

How’s this for a wealth killer? Paying $225,000 for the city of Modesto’s auditor to leave after she made baseless accusations about another city official. Or how about the lawsuit that cost us $1.4 million after our outgoing sheriff called some employees “limp, lazy and lame.”

Fortunately, jobs and money aren’t the only indicators of wealth. Good education is priceless, and we’re impressed with Turlock eighth-grader Alisha Chakravarty. She made it to the finals of the National Spelling Bee last year and could be headed back this year. We’re worried, though, that she might be planning to continue her studies at Modesto Junior College where hundreds of instructors have been working without a contract for nearly three years. Can we get that settled before Alisha arrives?

Contentment

How do you measure contentment? How about by counting votes?

In a huge upset, Josh Harder surfed the “blue wave” into Congress by beating four-time incumbent Jeff Denham. The two first met in The Bee’s conference room for an intense debate. Denham was louder, but couldn’t bowl Harder over.

For voters, the biggest issue was health care. But Denham’s inability to lead fellow-Republicans to a deal to protect Dreamers — young people brought to America as children and now jeopardized by the Trump administration’s heartless immigration policies — didn’t help. Yes, he stood up for the Dreamers; just not soon enough.

We were impressed by our region’s high school students who solemnly walked out of their classrooms on March 14, joining their voices to those across the nation protesting lax laws on guns. Some districts, including Modesto City Schools, issued vaguely discouraging warnings. We’re glad those warnings were ignored, and even happier to see hundreds more students — joined by parents — march in Modesto a few days later.

We’re counting on Myron Cotta, who grew up on a dairy farm in Merced County, to bring some Valley common sense to the Catholic Church. Cotta was named bishop of the Stockton Diocese this year and soon will join other bishops in seeking a way out of the darkness of sexual misconduct by a few truly awful priests.

Unfortunately, other churches are languishing in the same darkness. Reporter Garth Stapley’s reporting on former youth pastors at Modesto First Baptist Church (now Crosspoint) made that clear. His story about a woman victimized by Brad Tebbutt years ago spurred others to come forward. Soon, so did accusations against other ministers.

It was Anita Garza’s Christian faith that drove her to Beard Brook Park, where nearly 500 homeless were camped on Christmas Day. She brought food, including dessert. We’d like to see the city of Modesto better follow Garza’s example. At least three different sites in the city were proposed for a low-barrier shelter last year, and each was shot down. The only acceptable solution was to put them under a highway bridge — after all, such bridges have served as “shelters” for the downtrodden since the time of Dickens. Turlock, apparently, is following the same sorry example.

This has been a front-burner item for Supervisor Terry Withrow, city councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer and activist Brad Hawn for months, if not years. They’re willing to do this hard and thankless work even as most of the rest of us are content to ignore the problem.

The least we can do is mourn the homeless woman killed when heavy equipment crushed the cardboard box in which she was sleeping. But we shouldn’t do the least.

Health

For a city, Modesto looked incredibly unhealthy earlier this year. That’s why we asked that someone — anyone — find a cure for city hall. It’s looking as if city manager Joe Lopez has a good prescription, though we still detect some coughs and wheezes. Lopez helped uncover $16 million in overspending from city accounts and set up safeguards against more. He has worked with a contentious city council to establish reasonable rules for monitoring Measure L road expenditures and the licensing of weed shops.

Speaking of smoke, wildfires are increasing in number and severity. The smoke this year from fires burning all around us made breathing downright dangerous. Some people are demanding schools be canceled on “smoke days,” but we don’t see the point. Many children, especially from poorer homes, are better off breathing the filtered air in a classroom.

Secondhand smoke is deadly, but second chances are essential. We hope that’s all Kristin Olsen will need. The County Supervisor was arrested for driving under the influence in Sacramento in September. She’s been a good supervisor, performed well in the Assembly and on Modesto’s city council. A single misstep shouldn’t derail a career of public service.

Colin Kaepernick deserves a second chance, too, though he’s less likely to get it. The President of the United States made Kaepernick’s respectful protest against police shootings (that began in 2016) a target this year. His foul language cowed NFL team owners; not one has had the guts to give Kaepernick a job. That hasn’t kept Kap from fulfilling his vow to give away $1 million — far, far more than the fraudulent Trump Foundation gave to anyone. Except Trump.

Speaking of good deeds, we’ll close by mentioning Dr. Silvia Diego. She got a second chance, too, starting her own practice after leaving Golden Valley Health Centers in a disagreement. Half her patients at Family First Medical Care have insurance, the other half relies on government programs. Dr. Diego was named the Stanislaus Physician of the Year in March and was recognized by the California Medical Association in October.

She is unlikely to get wealthy, but she’ll make many people more healthy. And, like the rest of us, she might have to be content with less water.

Happy New Year.

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