Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Archive for July, 2011

Look In the Mirror: California’s Higher Education

Posted by Roobs on July 28, 2011

In Early July, I received an email from my graduate department here at UCLA.  It was a good news letter stating I was awarded a departmental fellowship to help pay for my education.  It was a modest award of around $3,000, but very much appreciated.  At the end of July, I received another letter. This letter was not so good news concerning recent meeting of the UC Regents (the governing body of the University of California system). The Regents had approved yet another increase in student fees for both undergraduate and graduate students in response to decreasing financial support from the state.

Last year when I began my masters education, the university fees were around $11,500 for graduate degrees.  With the new increase, the fees are now near $14,600.   As I pondered over this reality, I realized that my departmental fellowship would be negated by the increase in fees, leaving me largely in the same place I was last year with the same amount of debt obligation I would need to take on.  As a native Californian and student, I am truly saddened by how poorly my fellow Californians seem to care about the education of its future generations as well as the future of our state.

There is little disagreement that the California’s higher public education system is in decline.  Though some may argue the merits of decreasing state support for these insititutions of higher education, many are willing to concede that the system if struggling.  State financial support has dropped considerably in the last decade alone, but has been dropping steadily since its height.

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Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Roobs on July 15, 2011

CNN reported on the state of California back on June 27th.  The report was somber, claiming that California’s ills are the cause of some basic woes, such as the housing crisis and the loss of jobs and our infamously difficult to run state legislature.  It does, nevertheless, do a poor job at actually analyzing what is actually causing many of California’s ills.  Enter a new blog called “CiviLogica”.  The inaugural post of this new blog takes on CNN’s report and identifies how they got it wrong.  But the post also does an excellent job of reviewing the underlying issues that face our great state.  Here is a quick clip from the post but I definitely recommend you link over and read the full post for yourself.

Recounting the net loss of California residents to other states, the article next considers the very real and ongoing crisis of California’s middle class. It rightly places some blame on the cost of housing, but punts on the question of why housing costs so much in the first place. What the article fails to explore is how the high cost of California housing is in large part a product of downzoning, NIMBYism, tax policy, and sprawl-type models of development. California’s most economically successful urban centers have been rendered unable to keep pace with their commensurate housing demand because of low-density zoning and the unremitting difficulty of building infill housing. In addition, by increasing the relative attractiveness of sales taxes as a revenue stream, Prop 13 has discouraged residential development for over 30 years. Meanwhile, sprawl has lead to increased land, infrastructure, and service costs, thus contributing to both higher housing costs and the loss of California’s farm and wild-lands. In apparent ignorance of this obvious cause, the piece mourns the loss of Orange County’s orchards to drab, monotonous housing tracts, but then fails to consider the alternatives. It bemoans long, smoggy commutes, but doesn’t pause to wonder why so many people have to drive or what can be done about it. This avoidance of deeper issues is something of a pattern.

Visit the site: CiviLogica

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Some Like it HOT! Explaining Carpool & Toll Lanes

Posted by Roobs on July 9, 2011

Over the past few months, several of my friends have come and asked me to explain HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes, commonly referred to as carpool lanes and their tolled cousins, HOT (T=Toll) lanes.  They ask me to explain them because in their view, they don’t do anything except take away a lane of traffic from everyone else, discriminate, or double tax the user.  Additionally, they contend that HOV/HOT lanes aren’t that much better at reducing congestion because they usually see them moving at a similar speed as normal lanes.  They don’t understand why planners want to impose more of these lanes on freeways.  To answer this isn’t simple.  It requires the average person to conceptualize a complicated system of interplaying transactions to show how HOV and HOT lanes actually work.  I will, nonetheless, give it a shot.  First, I will explain the way HOV and HOT lanes work, then I will go over the HOV, HOT lane experience in Los Angeles County and then address the two concerns of critics: double taxation and inequitable taxation.

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Posted in Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »