In California and, I suspect, other states, when someone builds new homes they are required to pay something called “developer fees.”
These are funds used to help pay for all the new streets, schools, public safety officers and facilities, and all the other stuff needed to serve the new residents.
If the developers, and the people who buy what they build, don’t pay their own way, guess who does?
The rest of us who paid for all this stuff when we bought our property.
I mention this because some genius in Sacramento wants to reduce these fees, supposedly to make it easier to build new homes.
And shift the cost to the rest of us.
Prop. 13 on Tuesday’s ballot contained language reducing the amount of money school districts can raise from developer fees for homes built near commuter train stations.
As this was written, the proposition appeared to be going down in defeat.
Attracting new homes
I am personally aware that we have a housing shortage, especially here in Mojave, where I have been trying to find a place to live now that I am selling my home, which is too big for one old guy now that my wife has passed. In fact, we were considering selling before she got sick and we decided that would not be a great time to move.
I want to live in Mojave, but if I can’t find a place to live, I will move to Tehachapi, where there are vacancies and I have relatives to watch over me in my dotage.
And where my barber, Jimmy Phillips, who used to live here, now lives.
By the way, while we’re on the subject of cheaper living, when I hear folks complaining about the cost of living, I never hear any comments about pay scales in all those states where it supposedly costs less to live than here in California.
Like the South, where most of the cars are now manufactured.
The reason the car folks, most of them foreigners, build cars in the South is that they can pay their employees less than they would here and not have to contend with unions bugging them to treat their workers better.
At my first real job, working at the old Mecca Theater on Inyo Street here in Mojave in 1952-53, I was paid 75 cents an hour and free popcorn.
Levi’s were $5 a pair and gas was around 20 cents a gallon (free for me because my dad was in the gasoline business.)
During World War II, we usually paid $35.50 per month to rent nice homes in nice neighborhoods, a figure that still sticks in my mind.
Housing costs much more than that now, especially in L.A. and San Francisco, but people get paid more in those places.
It’s all explained by economics, which isn’t called the “dismal science” for nothing.
Brown Act violation penalty
California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, is often called “toothless” because there isn’t much of a penalty for violations.
The law requires that the public’s business be conducted — in public. It does that by strictly limiting what local government bodies can discuss in sessions not open to the public.
Recently the City of Bakersfield learned how violating the Brown Act can come back to bite the city where it sits.
Without going into the sordid details, the city lost a lawsuit overs its misuse of the Brown Act.
There was no fine, but the judge who heard the case ruled that Bakersfield must pay the two plaintiffs more than $100,000 in attorney’s fees.
In case you’re wondering, the Bagley-Keene Act covers meetings of state agencies and the legislature. My first legislative boss, the late Bill Ketchum, co-authored the Act after learning that a legislative committee killed one of his bills in a secret dinner meeting the night before the public hearing.
White House secrets
I recently read a fascinating book, “Upstairs at the White House,” written by former White House Chief Usher J.B. West and published in 1973.
The chief usher manages the staff that keeps the White House running by, cooking, cleaning, organizing events and all the other non-political stuff that goes on in this fascinating building.
West was usher during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He retired shortly after Richard Nixon was elected.
The book was especially interesting to me because it changed my mind about the First Ladies in these administrations.
All of them, including Pat Nixon, were tougher and played a larger role in their husbands’ administration than I had imagined.
For example, I had always thought of Mamie Eisenhower as a quiet, retiring woman.
Not true. After a life of marriage to one of only five World War Two flag officers awarded five stars, according to West she had a well-developed command presence and a great sense of humor.
One amusing anecdote about the Trumans told of a request from Bess Truman, who spent her summers with her mother in Missouri, their home state.
The morning after she returned to the White House after being away from Harry all summer, a very embarrassed Mrs. Truman asked West if he could have the carpenters replace a couple of boards under the mattress of their bed that had been broken during the night.
Most of the couples featured in the book, except for the Trumans, had separate bedrooms.
Lady Bird said that, for her, it was necessary because Johnson made phone calls all night and frequently turned on his light to write notes.
Many of the presidents took afternoon naps, JFK occasionally with wife Jaqueline.
This not a “tell all” type of book. The author treats his subjects with the respect they earned and deserved.