Don Thinks…Hello!

Hello!

You’ve found Don Thinks.  Yes, it’s been known to happen.  This site is my personal site.  It’s express purpose is to have a place where I can put whatever I want out there in the world.  The world definitely makes me think.  Does it make YOU think?  It should, especially in these times of ours.  So, visit when you can to see what I’ve been thinking.

Just A Note: As careful as I try to be, my site was recently hacked.  So I’m attempting to rebuild it AND make it better than it was.  If it seems a bit plain let me tell you I do not intend to leave it this way.  There will be more coming soon.

California 2020

In less than two months California will be voting on many things. As of this writing there are twelve statewide ballot measures. You’ve heard this before but I will reiterate now:

VOTE!

It is your RIGHT!

It is your RESPONSIBILITY!

You can find more information on the initiatives at the California Secretary of State site.

I haven’t yet had a chance to read them all and form an opinion. What I CAN tell you is on some of these just the title scares me. I will be reading through these and will post what Don Thinks for each of these as soon as possible.

Proposition 14:
AUTHORIZES BONDS TO CONTINUE FUNDING STEM CELL AND OTHER MEDICAL RESEARCH. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Proposition 15:

INCREASES FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, COMMUNITY COLLEGES, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES BY CHANGING TAX ASSESSMENT OF COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL PROPERTY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Increases funding for K-12 public schools, community colleges, and local governments by requiring that commercial and industrial real property be taxed based on current market value. Exempts from this change: residential properties; agricultural properties; and owners of commercial and industrial properties with combined value of $3 million or less. Increased education funding will supplement existing school funding guarantees. Exempts small businesses from personal property tax; for other businesses, exempts $500,000 worth of personal property. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Net increase in annual property tax revenues of $7.5 billion to $12 billion in most years, depending on the strength of real estate markets. After backfilling state income tax losses related to the measure and paying for county administrative costs, the remaining $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion would be allocated to schools (40 percent) and other local governments (60 percent).

Proposition 16:
ACA 5 (Resolution Chapter 23), Weber. Government preferences

Proposition 17:
ACA 6 (Resolution Chapter 24), McCarty. Elections: disqualification of electors.

Proposition 18:
ACA 4 (Resolution Chapter 30), Mullin. Elections: voting age.

Proposition 19:

ACA 11 (Resolution Chapter 31), Mullin. The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act.

In my opinion it has a LOT of GOOD in it.  However, there are some not-so-obvious gotchas.

A lot of what’s in this proposition about helping victims of the fires or other natural disasters transfer the base value of their original residence to a replacement residence is already in place.  Propositions 60 & 90 from 2018 basically do this.  But 60 & 90 fall short in that they only apply to certain counties and are applicable to anyone over 55 years old or is a disabled veteran or a number of other criteria for eligibility.  Prop 19 adds being a victim of a natural disaster to the criteria for eligibility and makes it statewide instead of only if your county allows for it.  Personally, I agree with this part!

Next, it creates two funds that are intended to dedicate revenue for 1) Fire response and related costs and 2) Protect County Revenues, presumably due to wildfires or other natural disasters, although it does not state that explicitly.  I’m good with this part too.  Specific funds dedicated to certain tasks are easier to account for and as such tend to have a better chance of getting used as intended.

Those two new funds are funded directly from the California General Fund.  There’s a lot of text related to how to determine how much to transfer to each fund, eligibility of requirements for counties, when to distribute/reimburse, how often, what to do when there are insufficient funds and what is considered an EXCESS of funds that would then be transferred BACK to the General Fund.

This is where I have a couple of problems with it.

  1. This proposition does not explicitly indicate how this will be paid for.
  2. If you dig into it you will find that what they’re doing is defining that a primary home can be passed down from parents to children, or from grandparents to grandchildren if the parents have died, with limited tax increases.  That sounds pretty good, right?  But right now property as an inheritance can have their base value stepped-up to the current market value as of the date of death AND that doesn’t have to be a primary residence.  It also means if the a person wants to pass their home down to their kids when they die the kids better plan on living there because it needs to continue to be a primary residence for the family.

Yes, there are many wealthy people, including celebrities, investors and others that own multiple properties and do NOT pay higher taxes for a number of reasons. But there are also many smaller families that have worked hard over 60 or 70 years or more to put together some investment property so they could be financially self-sufficient in their old age and also continue to provide for their family after their death.

The wealthy and others will probably be fine. But the others, the seniors, the kids of those seniors, could be hit so hard by property tax increases that it could make it impossible for them to continue on.

If you’re in your 60’s or 70’s and bought your home 30, 40, or 50 years ago for, let’s say $50K and you intend to pass it down to your kids consider this; with SoCal prices the way they are your home could be worth over $1 Million. If your child is not planning to live in it they’re going to get a tax bill on that $950,000. Can the kids afford that? What would they do? Will they be able to keep the family home in the family?

We’re trying to help people who are displaced. But will how many people will be dispossessed of their family property in order to make this happen?

There has to be another way!

For Prop 19, my vote is a reluctant NO.

Proposition 20:

Restricts parole for Non-Violent Offenders. Authorizes felony sentences for certain offenses currently treated only as misdemeanors.

Proposition 21:
Expands Local Governments’ Authority To Enact Rent Control On Residential Property.

Proposition 22:
Changes Employment Classification Rules for App-Based Transportation and Delivery Drivers.

Proposition 23: Authorizes State Regulation of Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Establishes Minimum Staffing and Other Requirements.

Proposition 24:
Amends Consumer Privacy Laws.

Proposition 25:
Referendum to Overturn a 2018 law that replaced money bail system with a system based on public safety risk.

Equal Is NOT 50%

The other day I saw a post on another site that had to do with one of today’s hot topics: The equality of women in the work place.  Overall I understood and agree with the post.  However, one of the qualities I have always appreciated about the author is their attention to detail and accuracy.

In my opinion the author slipped a bit on this one.  Here’s the sentence that has been bothering me:

If we were being treated equally, then there would be just as many women in the Board rooms as there are men…

This is just faulty thinking.  It’s not driven by fact.  It implies that since there are two genders, female and male, that there are the same number of women as there are men.  It also makes the assumption that of all the qualified people for any given position in the Board rooms there are the same number of qualified women as there are qualified men.

First, let me get the picky part out of the way.  As of the 2010 Census, women outnumber men by about 1.5%.  Sure, it’s a technicality.  But when we start to consider small discrepancies as allowable when discussing very important issues we have a problem.  These small, technical points combine with others and begin to grow into holes in the logic of the argument, thus making it easier to discount the argument.  On an important topic such as equality in the work place we must make every effort to ensure the argument we put forth is rock solid.

Next, for any given Board room, it is highly unlikely that there will always be an equal number of qualified women and men available for the positions.  Everyone has different levels of capability, qualifications, and experience.  In some cases there are simply going to be more men that are qualified for a position.  In others, there will be more women that are qualified for a position.  It’s going to depend a lot on the type of business and it’s industry.

Let me be clear.  I am NOT saying there there is no inequity in the treatment and choices of candidates for positions, Board room or otherwise.  However, truly EQUAL TREATMENT should result in more DIVERSITY in the Board rooms, not necessarily more women, let alone 50%, aka ‘just as many’. 

I think the reason what would normally be considered a minor point bothers me so much is that it is put forth based on a single aspect of what has been and continues to be a problem in many environments, unequal treatment of women in the work place.  However, women are not the only class of people that have been treated unfairly.  The same issue applies to people of varying race, religion, or creed.

I think that to honestly achieve EQUAL TREATMENT it must be for ALL people and it must be based on qualifications and experience.  

The minute we include any class of people as a criteria to a process we introduce an implied discrimination to anyone who doesn’t fit that classification.  And that is NOT an improvement.

Nike: Just don’t

Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick, and by extension all the players taking a knee during the National Anthem, disturbs me.

I’m glad that Mr. Kaepernick and the other players believe strongly enough in something to take some action and to participate in what’s going on in our country.  That by itself can be a hard thing to do.

However, I firmly believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespectful. 

The Anthem and the U.S. Flag are symbols of this country.  They represent the whole country, the good and the bad.  If you love this country you must take it ALL.  Then, work to fix what’s broken, improve what could be better, and celebrate what is good and what is great!

It is a country where we have opportunity.  Opportunity to find success.  Opportunity to overcome our mistakes.  Opportunity to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others.  Regardless of what we think of issues our country is still struggling to overcome we must NOT take for granted the fact that we have the opportunity to continue that struggle and to improve.  When you kneel during the Anthem you ARE disrespecting what the Flag stands for, not just America, but OPPORTUNITY.  You are disrespecting, and perhaps even damaging, YOUR opportunity.

The players have SO many other ways they could get their message out.  Unlike the average person, they have enough celebrity to be able to call press conferences.  Unlike the average person, they often have millions of dollars they make which can fund foundations, media campaigns, and legal defense for those they feel have been treated unjustly.  They can donate their time and their personal celebrity to events and demonstrations.  These are just SOME ideas and NONE of them include showing ANY disrespect to our country or any symbol that represents it.

There is also another point that bothers me.  The players who are taking hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to play a game are, in fact, employees.  The field is their workplace.  As their workplace they are not necessarily free to express just any opinion.  This is NOT a first amendment issue.  If you want to exercise your freedom of speech do it outside of your place of work, outside the stadium, off the field that you are paid to be on.

The Bottom Line

Whether you are an average person, a celebrity, a player, a corporation, support and pursue your cause with every fiber of your being.  But do it without disrespecting the flag and the country that makes it possible for you do so.

The 2nd Amendment: is it a Right or Not?

At a Labor Day BBQ with friends yesterday a conversation went down the political path.  First, I want to say it was awesome to be able to have a discussion of a political nature, especially about ‘hot’ topics, and have everyone have the opportunity to contribute and in the end, although not everyone was in agreement, we all left as the good friends we were when we arrived, if not better!

The conversation was about one friend finding a certain logic in constitutionalism versus all of rhetoric that we seem to be subjected to by all sides of an issue.  Another friend suggested a problem with constitutionalism is there are many ways to interpret the constitution.

Once again, the question was posed, does the second amendment say it is a citizen’s right to own a gun?

The interpretation argument is that the second amendment implies the right to bear arms is tied to being part of the militia and, therefore, if there is no militia there is no right to bear arms.

I’ve heard this line of thinking a number of times before.  So, rather than be uncertain of it I decided it was time to look at this question in more detail.

First, let’s look at what the second amendment actually says.  For this purpose, as a source, I’m going to use the transcription of the Bill of Rights found at www.Archives.gov.  You can find it here: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript#toc-amendment-ii.

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript#toc-amendment-ii

“A well regulated Milita, “

What is a Militia?  Google, Dictionary.com, CollinsDictionary.com, and Merriam-Webster.com all define a militia as a military group comprised of non-military people that are part of the civil population.  This group is typically temporary in nature and formed in the event of an emergency where regular military is insufficient.

being necessary to the security of a free State,”

This language provides the reason for maintaining the ability to raise or form a militia. Keeping a state free sometimes means fighting for that freedom.  Military force is often needed to defend that state and it’s freedom from aggressors, whether it be a regular army or a force formed on a temporary basis in an emergency.

the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,

This part is very clear.  It simply refers to the ‘right’ of people to bear Arms.  This part on its own does not indicate conditions for such a right.  Nor does it indicate a Yes or No it is or is not a right.  What it DOES do is define the topic of the amendment: the RIGHT of the PEOPLE to keep and bear Arms.  Other parts of the amendment tell us what we want to know about that right.

shall not be infringed.

Infringe:  act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on, restrict…  
Shall not be infringed says it will not be limited, undermined, restricted, etc.  Or in other words, it is allowed and unlimited.

Now, working through this from the beginning we have a basic statement that as a country or state we must be able to form a militia.  However, a militia is comprised of private, non-military people. If the PEOPLE do not keep Arms or are not allowed to bear Arms, then there is no longer an ability to have a militia.

This means that we must preserve all components that make a militia possible.  That means making it possible for the PEOPLE to keep and bear arms even when there is no current militia.

Another way to say this might be, if the ability to form a militia is guaranteed then so is the right of the People to keep and bear Arms.  This is because the armed People make up the militia.

Therefore, the second amendment definitely provides for the right to keep and bear arms.

You may not agree with my evaluation.  In support I’d like to reference the Supreme Court; District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago, 2010.  Both hold that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right.  

So, for now, however you personally choose to interpret the second amendment, the reality is that the Supreme Court says it is an individuals right to keep and bear Arms.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple.  What kind of Arms?  For what purpose? Other restrictions? How many?  Should this right be suspended for certain people?  If so, how do we make that determination? And more…

The Bottom Line

All are good questions.  But they start with, does the Second Amendment say the citizens of the United States have the right to keep and bear Arms.  The answer to THAT question is, Yes… at least for now.

2018 – Affordable Housing Act – Proposition 10

In the interest of full disclosure I am a property owner in California.  I own my own home, well, me and the bank.  I am also a part owner in a family owned property that we rent for added income.

To form an opinion on any given legislation I do my best to first get as informed as I can on that legislation.  It’s every citizen’s responsibility to know and understand what they are voting for or against, and why.

On Proposition 10, also known as the Affordable Housing Act, coming up in the 2018 primary election here in California I have done the reading, including the existing legislation referenced.

In my opinion this legislation is an attempt to increase the role local government plays in the management of privately owned property and to have property owners subsidize the housing costs of those who rent.

If the election were tomorrow I would have to vote:

NO on Proposition 10
the Affordable Housing Act

Let me explain my opinion.  It breaks down into two parts.

“…an attempt to increase the role local government plays in the management of privately owned property…”

The initiative references Sections 1954.50, 1954.51, 1954.52 and 1954.53 of Chapter 2.7 of Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, collectively known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.  This state legislation provides a lot of definition of when, how, and by how much initial rents are determined and existing rents are increased.  This initiative repeals the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

In Costa-Hawkins there is a phrase, “Prevailing market rent”, that is defined by referencing a calculation by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.  As Proposition 10 repeals Costa-Hawkins it does NOT provide a replacement definition for what constitutes a prevailing market rent.  It leaves that to the local government.  Many local governments have a tendency to estimate market rents lower than what is actually happening and limit rent increase amounts such that they do not keep up with cost increases.  Given the ability to determine what a prevailing market rent is would give the local governments the ability to SET those MARKETS.  If this were to happen then the local government effectively dictates what the rent is allowed to be on any given property.

Many rental properties are owned by small, Mom & Pop, families, not by large corporations with large budgets.  The property my family owns is one of these.  Such properties were acquired by a lifetime of hard work and scrimping and saving and planning so that there would be an income resource for retirement and to provide for family in the future.  When the determination of rents is no longer in the hands of the property owner that owner’s ability to determine their income is taken away.

The next part of my opinion regarding the intent of this initiative goes like this:

“…to have property owners subsidize the housing costs of those who rent.”

Costa-Hawkins provides some state level protection to property owners from local governments that would potentially shift their local responsibility for providing housing assistance to property owners by keeping rents artificially low.  Keeping rents low means more people can afford rent that they might not be able to otherwise.  On the surface this seems like a good thing.  But there are the consequences, which is another discussion all on it’s own.

The Bottom Line

It may sound harsh but it’s private property.  Owners have invested in these properties and should be able to set the rents for their privately owned property.

Supply and demand drives the rents.  If the government wants to improve rental affordability then they need to work with property owners to increase supply and reduce the cost of operations.  An increased supply will reduce demand.  Reducing cost of operations will make it easier to cover costs with lower rents.

Rent Relief Act of 2018 – Senator Kamala Harris

I recently became aware of some legislation proposed by Senator Kamala Harris.  It’s called the Rent Relief Act of 2018.  It’s intent is to provide a tax credit to assist people struggling to pay their rent.  The tax credit amount is up to 30% of their gross income.

First let me say, I applaud the intent, which is to help people in need.  And I appreciate the recognition a problem which seems to be growing, the struggle of people to keep a roof over their head and that of their family.

With that said, I have read the text of the act as proposed.  I always try to read the text of any legislation I comment on.  It is the responsible thing to do.  Given the influence of the media, mainstream and otherwise, as well as social media, and other bad actors taking advantage of the incredible reach of the internet in today’s world, actually reading the text of proposed legislation is the only responsible way to consider any potential law that will affect the entire citizenry, the people, of our country.

According to Senator Harris’ website you can find the text here: https://www.harris.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/OTT182191.7.19.pdf.  As of today, August 27, 2018, this is the PDF that I downloaded and read: Rent Relief Act of 2018.

There are many thoughts and questions that occur to me when reading this act.  A big piece of information that is particularly important to the consideration of ANY legislation of this type is the financial impact.  Other than the percentage of income that will result in the size of the tax credit for any individual or household, there is no financial impact or other information included in this act.

There are two questions that I feel are fundamental and need to be answered before any other aspects are relevant.

  • In dollars, how much benefit is expected to be provided?  What is the expected cost of providing this benefit?
  • Whenever there is a tax credit the overall tax revenue goes down. This creates a shortfall in the budget.  How will this shortfall be addressed?  In other words, how will the Rent Relief Act be paid for?

By asking these initial questions I am not trying to be difficult.  However, when attempting to relieve the burden of one segment of the people, we MUST be cognizant of where and how that burden gets shifted to others!

Failing to consider the impact of our actions on others is simply irresponsible and unfair.

There is more work I intend to do so that I may better understand how this act will work.  I will update this post when I learn more.

#RentReliefAct