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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Looking through a foggy crystal ball

Uploaded: Apr 27, 2023

Predicting the future is a risky game.

For instance, what will federal government policy be come 2025—depends largely on who is in the White House and what party controls Congress.

You can say the same about whether the Federal Reserve’s tightening of interest rates is going to result in a soft landing or a recession. In polling, the public is quite nervous, although the unemployment rate is at record lows and economists are split. For people in the Bay Area tech sector, there’s almost daily news of big employers shedding lots of workers to prepare for more challenging economic times.

And housing prices have stabilized and dropped—driven largely by the hike in interest rates that changed the affordability picture significantly. For instance, we’re now paying nearly as much monthly on our home equity line of credit that floats with the fed rate as we are on our fixed rate mortgage that borrowed twice as much money.

Let’s turn to the transit agencies that showed up in Sacramento with their hands out to the state government for money to “stabilize” their systems when the federal largess that has propped them up since the lockdown dries up.

What’s true about their situation is nobody really knows whether transit ridership is going to return to pre-pandemic levels. Ridership on BART already had started to slip. Now, with downtown San Francisco’s business district more than half empty and most employers embracing a hybrid work model if not fully remote, trains are still running with minimal passengers during peak hours.

San Francisco officials, seeing potentially plummeting tax revenue, are rightly concerned and floating different proposals. Has golden goose of millennial tech workers and their employers that rescued the city 20-plus years ago flown away with a different working reality after the pandemic?

It also translates to investors in the high-rise buildings. Loans typically are amortized on a 30-year basis, but mature in 10 so they must be refinanced. Given the vacancy rates and the significantly increased interest rates, some landlords already have given buildings back to lenders. Firms that track the data report it’s likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.

All of this needs to be factored into the transit discussions. At the minimum there should be a moratorium on most, if not all, capital projects. Spending billions to extend BART tracks under downtown San Jose or to bring CalTrain into the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco is a fool’s exercise at this point. Consider how low ridership levels are on the very expensive Central Subway in San Francisco.

The Legislature is considering legislation developed by 15 transit agencies and introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to provide $5.15 billion over five years to avoid drastic service cuts. Perhaps, the agencies should be looking at a mixture. BART is widely viewed as unsafe and dirty so it’s no surprise that riders would stay away.

It's hardly a great year to go to the state—revenues are well below estimates and with no federal or state taxes due until Oct. 16 because of the winter floods (that’s regular quarterly payments from January, April and June plus whatever is due to 2022), the May budget revision will be lacking its usual accuracy.

BART was designed to deliver suburban workers to downtown centers—will that continue to be a necessary service?

All in all, the windshield is foggy.
Democracy.
What is it worth to you?

Comments

Posted by Betty Glover, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Apr 27, 2023 at 3:03 pm

Betty Glover is a registered user.

The next POTUS needs to (1) solve the homeless problem in America, (2) seal the borders off and curtail immigration, (3) reduce the fentanyl crisis, (4) reel-in transgender privileges and entitlements, (5) establish a timeframe for the continued support of the Ukraine, and (6) reign-in the PRCs attempts to claim Taiwan as sovereign territory.

Anything less is a failed presidency.


Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 1, 2023 at 7:49 am

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

It going to take more than that, Betty. I just read about Brandon's policy of forcing people with good credit scores to subsidize mortgage loans of higher-risk borrowers. Brandon's stupid plan would force people with good credit scores to pay more each month for their mortgages, extra payments that would be credited to the loans of higher-risk borrowers. Unbelievable. Socialist much, Biddy?

In fact, Biddy's policy has been attacked by both Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama's former Federal Housing Administrator. 27 states have filed complaints against this policy. Of course, California wasn't one of them. Here's more - quoted:

“The policy will take money away from the people who played by the rules and did things right �" including millions of hardworking, middle-class Americans who built a good credit score and saved enough to make a strong down payment," they wrote. "Incredibly, those who make down payments of 20 percent or more on their homes will pay the highest fees �" one of the most backward incentives imaginable."

That Fool in Washington is no doubt the worst president in American history.


Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on May 1, 2023 at 9:18 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

Add stopping the "climate crisis" and "the world is going to end" crowd to Betty's list for the next POTUS.

The United States need a reliable, low-cost source of energy for economic/national security reasons. Wind and solar are not going to work despite the "investments" (and spin) saying otherwise. No PhD required to know there is no energy produced when the wind is not blowing/sun is not shining.

We're seeing the results (failures) in California right now - rolling blackouts, "flex your power" alerts, and reminders not to charge electric cars that the state is mandating that residents buy. Biden looks silly cutting off abundant energy sources in this nation and then trying to improve his sagging poll numbers (because of high gas prices) by using resources from the SPR. He has embarrassed himself and projected weakness abroad by begging nations like Venezuela for more oil.

The next POTUS needs ignore the international bureaucrats/left wing and fully develop available oil and natural gas resources here. Otherwise, the economy/standard of living this nation takes a dive.


Posted by Daryl/Darla Fontaine, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on May 1, 2023 at 1:16 pm

Daryl/Darla Fontaine is a registered user.

In addition to the keen insights and suggestions of Betty Glover, Malcom Hex, and Michael B...

The next POTUS should also be a firm advocate of gun control and a intrepid supporter of LGBT rights.


Posted by Ariel Lane , a resident of Walnut Creek,
on May 2, 2023 at 9:42 am

Ariel Lane is a registered user.

@Malcom Hex...the same could be said of Biden's efforts to relieve college students who majored in philosophy (and other useless subject matter) of their college debts at the expense of countless American taxpayers who did not have an opportunity to attend college.

@Daryl/Darla...agreeing that there should be more vetting when it comes to purchasing and owning firearms but as far as LGBTQ rights are concerned, these rights should not enfringe upon others.


Posted by Rich Buckley, a resident of Jensen Tract,
on May 3, 2023 at 12:24 pm

Rich Buckley is a registered user.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The Big Picture (below God Almighty) the Pre-Roman money system still exists today in the form of The Federal Reserve, Fed. (which is neither Federal or has Reserves). Jerome Powell,...the Old Fed. system... Federal Reserve Chair, is on t.v. telling us the Credit Debt Ceiling "must be raised."

THE WHITE HATS

With luck the current central bank debt-note Fed.-dollar system will be replaced with a new precious metal backed "Patriot Dollar" issued by our US Treasury, like JFK planned before JFK was stopped.

The Deep State [DS] represented by "the Old Fed. system" seeks to maximize chaos and fear ... Web Link ...

Evil can not be eliminated, but it can be encouraged to leave through light, love, compassion, persistence and resistance.... the Cosmic formula.

Nothing in conflict every turns out the way it's planned. As James Madison warned, “We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties."

...Namaste...


Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on May 3, 2023 at 1:34 pm

MichaelB is a registered user.

"@Daryl/Darla...agreeing that there should be more vetting when it comes to purchasing and owning firearms.."



Sounds nice but not effective - and it will eventually gut the 2nd Amendment.

The criminals on the streets of our cities don't care and won't comply with any of it. The bureaucrats/politicians in charge of the "vetting" process will inevitably use it to prohibit all but the most financially/politically well off people from legally owning or using firearms. If anyone objects or questions it, it will be justified (spun) it as "gun safety"and/or "violence prevention". In other words, what California does to the law abiding right now.


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