UC Berkeley Promoting BIRDFEED (MILLET) As Your Dinner Due to Drought

As many of you know I am a “foodie”. My favorite channel is not Fox, it is the Food Network. I trust Guy Fieri views and values on food as much as I trust Bill O’Reilly on the news of the day. So, when I found that UC Berkeley had found the perfect food to grow in California due to the drought (actually a lack of water due to lazy politicians) and then eat, I was happy as a clam—until I found out what they want us to eat.

“Millet is the name of a type of grain crop that’s been a staple food for humans in many parts of the world. You say millets when referring to the different types of millet species. And yes, in the United States, indeed, millets are primarily used in grain mixes for various kinds of birds, and they’re also forage crops for cattle and poultry. Today, despite being lesser known in Western society, millets are widely cultivated and consumed in many countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria) and Asia (India, China).

In other words, they want to grow and eat the food of the Third World. Makes sense—we have a Third World health care system (ObamaCare), our education system with Common Core is dumbing the kids down, our military is being decimated and the President is using his office to create a war between the races. Why not eat Third World food?

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Millet Project shows grain isn’t just for the birds

By Gretchen Kell, UC Berkeley, 8/28/15

Amrita Hazra, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, is on a mission — to introduce people to the benefits of eating millet, which primarily is used in the United States in bird feed. Leader of the six-member Millet Project team, and with a Berkeley Food Institute Seed Grant and support from the UC Global Food Initiative’s CLEAR Project, Hazra and her colleagues are cultivating millets, testing millet recipes and offering samples of millet-based products at local food events and exhibits.

 

On Sunday, Aug. 30, the UC Berkeley community is invited to an exhibit at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm in Albany from noon to 5 p.m. where the Millet Project is operating a small-scale millet farm.

Berkeley News spoke with Hazra about her childhood interest in the intersection between science and food, what’s so special about millet, and why California is the perfect place to grow it.

What is millet, or is it millets? And isn’t it just for the birds?

Millet is the name of a type of grain crop that’s been a staple food for humans in many parts of the world. You say millets when referring to the different types of millet species. And yes, in the United States, indeed, millets are primarily used in grain mixes for various kinds of birds, and they’re also forage crops for cattle and poultry. Today, despite being lesser known in Western society, millets are widely cultivated and consumed in many countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria) and Asia (India, China).

Millets are among the oldest of cultivated grain crops and yet many people haven’t heard about them. Before the popularity of rice, corn and wheat, millet was a staple food, especially in the semi-arid regions of South and East Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. In China, records of domestication of foxtail millet and proso millet date back to approximately 10,000 years ago.

The five millet species commonly grown as commercial crops are proso, foxtail, pearl, Japanese barnyard and browntop — although there are many other types. Proso millet was introduced into the United States from Europe during the 18th century. Today, Colorado is the major U.S. producer, followed by the Dakotas and Nebraska.

What’s so great about millet?

The drought in California is in its fourth year and has brought growers, consumers, policymakers and food activists together. The importance of diversity in agriculture and in the food we consume is becoming apparent — we shouldn’t be only growing water-intensive monocultures. Millets are robust dryland crops — many millet varieties are inherently drought-tolerant.

Millets also are nutritious whole grains that are gluten-free. Different members of the millet family contain different portfolios of nutrients — millet grains often contain lower carbohydrates as compared to rice, corn or wheat, and higher levels of proteins, fiber and certain minerals such calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron.

Millets can be grown from seed quite easily at higher temperatures, can grow in skeletal soils and seldom require synthetic fertilizers. They have a short growing period of 100 to 110 days from seed to grain, and as a result are commonly used as rotation crops between the growth of the other crops. Most millet grains are not easily affected by storage pests. And I could go on!

Where does your interest in millet come from?

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I grew up in Pune, India, where my brother and I were raised with science as a lifestyle rather than a subject of study. My father is an organic chemist, and my mother is a plant biologist and biochemist. Our dinner table conversations often evolved informally into extended discussions about the connections between chemistry, plants, biology and food policy. My mother is also a keen kitchen scientist and always inquires about the whats and whys of the science of the food while she cooks. For example, what factors contribute to the uniform puffing of a roti, an Indian wheat flatbread similar to a tortilla when half-cooked on a pan and the finished by putting over an open fire? Is it the proportion of ingredients and process of kneading the dough, the way the flatbread is rolled or the heat retention capacity of the pan’s material? It is yet unknown.

My father’s family members were farmers, and our annual visits to his village in rural West Bengal sparked my curiosity about farming and where our food comes from. My interest in millets was triggered by the availability of various types of grains and lentils in my hometown of Pune. Even when I was growing up, rice and wheat were staples in India, but occasional trips to the many farmers’ markets in the city opened my eyes and mind to the true grassroot level meaning of food diversity.

Why is California a perfect place to grow millets?

California is in a drought. And given that a large percentage of the state’s water goes toward agriculture, growing drought-tolerant crops such as millets is a natural first step to diversify agriculture. Growing up in India, I remember eating a type of meal called a “thali.” A thali typically contains between eight and 12 different small portions of vegetable-, lentil-, cereal- and meat-based foods. The idea is to have small portions of a variety of foods to keep a sustained intake of nutrients and micronutrients. But in the United States, growers are mainly cultivating monocultures of a few types of crops, and this is reflected on supermarket shelves and on our plates — big portions of a very small variety of food crops.

Introducing diversity in agriculture in California will be a big step and a model for changing the mindsets of growers and consumers in other parts of the country. The movement has begun — the United Nations recently noted that 2016 will be the “International Year of the Pulses” (beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas), the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization declared quinoa as the grain of the year in 2013, and the Whole Grains Council has celebrated millet and teff (a cereal grain native to northeastern Africa, also a minor millet) as a grain of the month.

The Bay Area also is a hub for igniting new ideas, and food is a big topic of discussion. Berkeley is the perfect place to build such big ideas from the ground up.

What kinds of food and drink can be made with millet?  

Millet is a staple in many cultures, and there is a rich pool of traditional recipes available from Africa, Asia and Europe. Teff is used for making injera bread in Ethiopia, pearl millet is used in India for bhakri bread, and proso millet is used in regional cuisine in Europe, to make sausages in Austria, and in a breakfast porridge called kasha in Russia and uji in Kenya.

However, we had to do homework to see how to incorporate millet into our modern diets. We’ve learned that one can substitute millet for ingredients like rice, oats, quinoa and couscous in recipes for risotto, porridge, tabouleh, salads and pilaf. You can see some of the recipes we have catalogued on our Millet Project website www.themilletproject.org/recipes/. Also, millets already are in some gluten-free products at the market such as bread and pancake mixes, tortilla chips and beer. If anyone tries using millet in a recipe and likes it, email us, and we’ll put the recipe on our website!

What is the Millet Project?

The Millet Project team’s goal is to diversify agriculture and our diets by cultivating and consuming these lesser-known grains called millets. Corn, wheat and rice comprise at least 80 percent of worldwide cereal production, in spite of the large variety of cereals traditionally available in different parts of the world. This has caused losses in the variety of food and, consequently, the nutrients in our diet, which together have adverse environmental and nutritional impacts.

We have millets currently being farmed in six locations in Northern California. The six of us — Patricia Bubner from the Energy Biosciences Institute, Gavin Abreu from the Haas School of Business, and Pedro Goncalves, Peggy Lemaux, Sarah Hake and me from Plant and Microbial Biology — are the interface between the farmers and consumers; we’re trying to learn from and with these farmers about the different geographical, ecological and soil-related factors that influence millet farming in California.

We also have our own little plot at the Gill Tract Farm where we are doing some preliminary research on how to grow millets under different conditions. We’re growing four different types — foxtail, pearl, proso and Japanese barnyard. So far, proso is the only millet currently available for sale for human consumption in the United States, and we want to expand that. We have a couple rows receiving different amounts of water, and we can see differences in the crop heights and flower production.

This Sunday, Aug. 30, people are invited to the Gill Tract Farm in Albany where we’re having our Millet Project Exhibit. They can see our beautiful fields of millets, meet our Millet Project farmer-collaborators, taste millet-based food, meet a millet beer brewmaster, pick up seeds to plant their own millet and grab millet samples to try out recipes.

Feds Only Find 244 Illegal Aliens in Southern California in FOUR Days

I live in Simi Valley. If I wanted, I could find 500 illegal aliens in my hometown, within an hour. The Feds took four days to find 244 illegal aliens from Orange County to San Luis Obispo County! Obviously, they were not really looking. Easily 10,000 could be found in a day by going to restaurants, hotels, car washes and do it yourself centers.

This was an Obama publicity stunt—thinking we care he found 244 foreigners than broke out laws. After arrest they will be detained, given a hearing date in 2019 (not a typo) and let go. Never to be seen again. On the other hand Obama gave AMNESTY to 172,000 convicted illegal aliens that served time in jail or prison. 244 illegal aliens is a joke—a sick joke on the honest people of America.

“There were 244 immigrants arrested in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweep last week, ICE announced Monday.

“For four days last week, Sunday through Wednesday, we used our local resources, our fugitive operations team, to target some of our ICE enforcement priorities,” ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations deputy field office director David Marin tells KPCC.

They use more resources to control the traffic at a Dodger game.

ICE-Immigration-Agents

244 immigrants with criminal records arrested in Southern California ICE sweep

KPCC staff, 8/31/15

There were 244 immigrants arrested in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweep last week, ICE announced Monday.

“For four days last week, Sunday through Wednesday, we used our local resources, our fugitive operations team, to target some of our ICE enforcement priorities,” ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations deputy field office director David Marin tells KPCC.

ICE teams fanned out throughout seven counties in Southern California, Marin said. Those arrested had previously been convicted of a crime and were also either gang members or posed another threat to national security, Marin said.

“We think it’s really important that we get those people and remove them, not only from the community, but from the country. Because ultimately, that’s going to make the community and our country safer,” Marin said.

The number of arrests made are a record, Marin said.

“We’ve done seven of these over the past six years, and this has been our most successful in terms of quantity and quality,” Marin said.

He added that it was the most successful in terms of quality because of the number arrested who had records that included “really serious felonies.” According to an ICE news release, 56 percent had felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, including child sex crimes, weapon charges and drug violations. The rest had records including significant or multiple misdemeanors, according to the release.

Four of those arrested had previously been removed from the country, including Vincente Onofre-Ramirez, who was previously convicted in 2002 of “sexual abuse with force,” according to the release.

Those arrested come from 21 different countries, according to the release, though the majority — 191 — come from Mexico. Most of the arrests, 99, were in Los Angeles County, with 55 in Oragne County, 43 in San Bernardino County, 24 in Riverside County, 20 in Santa Barbara County and 3 in San Luis Obispo County.

USC Bigotry, Antisemitism and Acceptance of Violence Challenged by College Republicans

If I wanted to find bigotry and anti-Semitism I do not have to go to a Klan meeting, an Obama staff meeting or to the Middle East. All I have to do is go to downtown Los Angeles and visit a formerly great University, USC. This institution has made radicalism and bigotry a moderate value at the school.

“I am viciously slandered as racist, elitist, entitled, and privileged. Ms. Dianti freely hurls out the age old anti-Semitic canard, of the Jew controlling money. Ms. Dianti, spins my concern for how tuition dollars are spent as a primitive fixation on money. This language contributes to the article’s use of anti-Semitic tropes that portrays the Jew as a scheming usurer.

I will not allow Ms. Dianti to disregard valid points about intellectual diversity on our campus. The fact is that Left Wing Privilege turns up the volume on marginalized voices. Those like me, who offer diversity of thought, are not only mocked but are threatened with calls to “slap me upside my head” simply because I too am part of USC, like it or not.”

Violence—and the Administration has done nothing. Why do the parents and donors continue to support a racist, bigoted university that would make the David Duke proud?

1024px-Admin_Building,_California_State_University,_Chico

Accused of discrimination and white privilege, USC College Republicans president fights back

Jennifer Kabbany, College Fix, 8/24/15

“Fight On” is the fight song of the University of Southern California, and it’s a mantra USC College Republicans President Jacob Ellenhorn is taking to heart.

Classes hadn’t even started back up yet this month when Ellenhorn was accused of white privilege, oppression, discrimination and appropriation in the Daily Trojan campus newspaper.

An Aug. 19 op-ed stated in part that Ellenhorn and other USC College Republicans who dared question the need for the “I Too Am USC” initiative in the privacy of their own closed USC College Republicans Facebook group were guilty of discrimination and proof the expensive Southern California institution is steeped in racism.

The columnist said the notion that white conservatives could be discriminated against is akin to “appropriating experiences of systemic racism, sexism and classism onto that of their own false struggle.”

“I Too Am USC” is a relatively new university funded initiative that aims to “create a safe space for all marginalized communities on campus.” A safe space for everyone but College Republicans, that is.

The social justice activists suggested in June that the CR’s private Facebook comments critical of “I Too Am USC” were bigoted, white-privileged rants. One commenter even said of Ellenhorn: “Sounds like little man needs a couple weedgies and a few slaps upside the head.”

Last week, the issue was re-ignited in the opinion pages of the Daily Trojan, which took issue with Ellenhorn defending himself in an interview with The College Fix.

“Amid the racist, elitist overtones of the discussion present in both Ellenhorn’s interview and the original comments is a conscious disregard for the prevalence of white privilege and entitlement on campus,” stated the op-ed, written by student Lida Dianti.

“One of the College Republicans members posted a meme stating: ‘I fight on because I am tired of getting weird looks for saying that I am a Republican and that I love my country.’ By drawing a comparison to their own ‘victimization’ as Republicans, many of whom are male and white, these specific members of the College Republicans discount the experiences of minority students,” she wrote.

The op-ed went on to state:

Claiming to be a minority does not make one a minority — it is not a label to be thrown on for the sake of momentary advantage. Moreover, other comments said that the students featured in the social media campaign “live under ISIS,” and that “USG takes this group very seriously and funds them and their events with our money.” Referring to the USG funds as “their” money is an example of such entitlement; at the same time, their statement also puts minority students in the group of “other.” …

[B]y denying the marginalization of minorities, they are choosing to contribute to discrimination on campus. This type of ignorance does nothing but reinforce oppressive boundaries and further isolate USC students from one another.

By labeling themselves as a “minority” for the case of argument, the USC College Republicans are appropriating experiences of systemic racism, sexism and classism onto that of their own false struggle. They do so with the use of tongue-in-cheek diction and memes to belittle such appropriation. Instead of apologizing for their racist and uncalled-for statements, these students continue to fight on for discrimination and still have the audacity to cry out for inclusion.

Ellenhorn has since penned a response, a copy of which has been provided to The College Fix as well as sent in to the Trojan:

Dear Editor,

In an article posted on Aug 19, 2015 by the Daily Trojan, opinion writer Lida Dianti offers a personal, defamatory and thinly veiled anti-semitic attack directed at me.

I am viciously slandered as racist, elitist, entitled, and privileged. Ms. Dianti freely hurls out the age old anti-Semitic canard, of the Jew controlling money. Ms. Dianti, spins my concern for how tuition dollars are spent as a primitive fixation on money. This language contributes to the article’s use of anti-Semitic tropes that portrays the Jew as a scheming usurer.

I will not allow Ms. Dianti to disregard valid points about intellectual diversity on our campus. The fact is that Left Wing Privilege turns up the volume on marginalized voices. Those like me, who offer diversity of thought, are not only mocked but are threatened with calls to “slap me upside my head” simply because I too am part of USC, like it or not.

The online vitriol directed at me, with anti-Semitic overtones, will not silence me. In fact, I have decided to do exactly the same thing members who revel in Left Wing Privilege have done. I demand that Ms. Dianti issue an apology for using language steeped in micro aggressions. I also demand that the university take formal action against those who have threatened me with violence on Facebook. And finally I demand that conservative voices like mine be a part of the I Too Am USC Campaign.

Dianti disregards my valid points about intellectual diversity on our campus, and campuses across our country, and instead chooses to focus on what she calls my “privileged background” while ignoring the fact that she enjoys Left Wing Privilege. Instead of focusing on the valid points I made, Ms. Dianti chose to engage in rhetoric that is intellectually dishonest, defamatory, and anti-Semitic. Those who enjoy Left Wing Privilege simply ignore the fact that conservatives are very sensitive to the difficulties marginalized groups have endured and continue to endure. Conservatives believe that there is a remedy for this marginalization but that remedy should not include perpetual self victimization, self segregation, and demonization of “others” that are perceived as non marginalized groups.

Something needs to change. I will not stand down. Thank you, Jacob Ellenhorn

Ellenhorn shows courage in the face of enormous pressure. USC should allow the campus-funded “I Too Am USC” to showcase conservatives who are marginalized and attacked, but the only “oppression” such leaders are interested in advancing comes from a leftist perspective.

 

Stockton Rolls Out Cell Phone Enabled Parking Meters

In Los Angeles, Walnut Creek and many other California cities you can use your credit card to pay for the parking meter. No need to keep a roll of dimes and quarters in the glove compartment of your car. Technology is changing the way we live, in big ways and small. Now, Stockton is leading the way in an effort to keep you from getting a $43 parking ticket fine for being parked at an expired meter.

“Now with a cell phone app called Parkmobile, Stockton drivers can scan special stickers on parking meters.

You can pay to park using the app and get a text alert on your cell phone when you meter is down to 15-minutes.

If you’re stuck in a meeting blocks away, you can add more time on the meter with your phone.”

Does this do away with the “fuzz-lady” on her little golf cart type vehicle from giving tickets! Technology is making a difference. Wonder if the revenues from tickets will go down?

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Stockton Rolls Out Cell Phone Enabled Parking Meters

Rich Ibarra, Capitol Radio, 8/31/15

Micah Runner poses outside Stockton City Hall.

Two quarters buy half an hour on a parking meter in downtown Stockton.

Now with a cell phone app called Parkmobile, Stockton drivers can scan special stickers on parking meters.

You can pay to park using the app and get a text alert on your cell phone when you meter is down to 15-minutes.

If you’re stuck in a meeting blocks away, you can add more time on the meter with your phone.

Stockton Economic Development Director Micah Runner says it’s good for drivers and it’s good for business.

“I mean really what you’re trying to do is help the overall customer experience and so the more you can attract people to feel comfortable coming downtown with m ore options to pay, the more successful the retailers can be.”

Christyn Giannini parks in downtown Stockton, she likes the convenience.

“I think that’s where we’re headed with technology so it makes sense, everything has to be done by phone now.”

You can still feed the meters with coins, but if you run out of time or money, a parking ticket is $43.

Oakland SECOND Least Friendly City in U.S./Los Angeles is Ninth

Congratulations to San Fran! You are not in the top ten of the least friendly cities in the United States. Sadly, Oakland, a crime capitol of California is the second least in the nation. Los Angeles was in ninth place—maybe because of the traffic, the high costs and the few places where English is not the second or third language spoken?

In 2013, many readers agreed that ” ‘Oakland has an image problem and a split personality. Some areas are charming while others are so unsafe travelers wouldn’t dare stop,’ according to one reader. Other readers noted that Oakland has been ‘growing very hip in the last years,’ but some commented that it is ‘unfriendly,’ ‘another big, dirty city,’ and urge ‘don’t stay too long.’ ”

The city was forced to fire one third of the cops—due to lack of money. Areas of the city hire PRIVATE security cops—unable to count on city police for protection. This is a city that once had Jerry Brown as Mayor—explains the problem.

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Is Oakland That Unfriendly? You Weigh In

By Devin Katayama, KQED, 8/31/15

Sorry, Oakland. You’re just not that friendly, according to the travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler.

The annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey says that Oakland is the second least friendly U.S. city, with respect to “where you felt welcome, or not.”  It has maintained that position for three years in a row.

For the latest 2015 survey, one reader said, “If it wasn’t for Lake Merritt, this city would be off limits to any law-abiding citizen.”

That aside, more than a few rallied around Oakland as “America’s next up-and-coming city, with an exploding arts and restaurant scene. (First Fridays in Uptown are great fun.) Temescal Alley is one of the hippest parts of the city, with locally spun boutiques and a retro barbershop. It’s the kind of vibe that prompted one reader to declare Oakland ‘the next Portland, Oregon!’ ”

In the 2014 survey, Conde Nast said: ” ‘Oakland has a bad rap,’ one commenter acknowledges, and another admits that it’s still ‘rough around the edges,’ but ‘ask a local first’ and you’ll avoid the less hospitable parts of town. A surprising number of people observed a rising food scene with ‘so much raw talent in little kitchens everywhere.’ Also popular: Fox Theater, which welcomes everyone ‘from Thievery Corporation to Erasure.’”

In 2013, many readers agreed that ” ‘Oakland has an image problem and a split personality. Some areas are charming while others are so unsafe travelers wouldn’t dare stop,’ according to one reader. Other readers noted that Oakland has been ‘growing very hip in the last years,’ but some commented that it is ‘unfriendly,’ ‘another big, dirty city,’ and urge ‘don’t stay too long.’ ”

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Do you agree? Or do you think Oakland is friendly and voters for Conde Nast are bogus?

Here are the top 10 least-friendly U.S. cities, according to this year’s survey:

  1. Newark, New Jersey
  2. Oakland, California
  3. Atlantic City, New Jersey
  4. Detroit, Michigan
  5. Hartford, Connecticut
  6. New Haven, Connecticut
  7. The Hamptons, New York
  8. Reno, Nevada
  9. Los Angeles, California
  10. Baltimore, Maryland

 

San Bernardino pension shift to save $2.7 million

San Bernardino, the once and future bankrupt city, has figured out how to cut the size of its government and how to save on pensions—which is what sent them to bankruptcy in the first place. The city of San Bernardino has closed its fie department and is now part of the County system—letting the County worry about the pension payments. It would have been even better if the city—and the county—allowed the creation of a non-profit (or for profit) fire department and get government out of the business. Riverside, for years has not had a single government library—but the county is filled with libraries—outsourced, non-government.

“Bankrupt San Bernardino approved a plan last week to disband the city fire department and annex the city to a large county fire district. Part of the expected savings is $2.7 million a year from avoiding future CalPERS rate increases.

City firefighters now in CalPERS would be transferred to the San Bernardino County Employees Retirement System. And the county system is said to face lower rate increases, because it has more quickly paid down pension debt.”

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

San Bernardino pension shift to save $2.7 million

Ed Mendel, CalPensions, 8/31/15

Bankrupt San Bernardino approved a plan last week to disband the city fire department and annex the city to a large county fire district. Part of the expected savings is $2.7 million a year from avoiding future CalPERS rate increases.

City firefighters now in CalPERS would be transferred to the San Bernardino County Employees Retirement System. And the county system is said to face lower rate increases, because it has more quickly paid down pension debt.

Getting CalPERS-related savings would be a welcome change for the struggling city.

After an emergency bankruptcy filing in August 2012, San Bernardino skipped its California Public Employees Retirement System payments until the following July, saying it was in danger of not making payroll.

The unprecedented failure to make payments required by law gave CalPERS grounds to terminate its contract with the city. But CalPERS opted for an all-out legal battle occupying much of the first two years of the San Bernardino bankruptcy.

A sketchy city operating plan in 2012 proposed a “fresh start” that would “reamortize CalPERS liability over 30 years,” perhaps in a way that would “realize value of $1.3 million per year starting fiscal year 2014.”

What emerged from mediation in June last year was a San Bernardino agreement to repay the $13.5 million skipped payment with interest and penalties. A $1.5 million payment in May last year is being followed by monthly payments of $602,580 for two years.

The interest in the payment totaling $16 million is based on the CalPERS investment earnings forecast, 7.5 percent. When the city plan to exit bankruptcy is approved or denied, the city will pay a $2 million penalty in five annual installments.

Now a key part of the San Bernardino recovery plan is outsourcing fire services, approved by the city council on a 4-to-3 vote last week. Moving fire services to the county includes a property parcel tax increase of $143 a year.

Opposition came from opponents of the parcel tax and supporters of a fire department established in 1878. Unlike other unions, firefighters did not agree to a 10 percent pay cut and to forego merit raises, instead filing several lawsuits against the city.

Paul Glassman, the city’s bankruptcy attorney, warned the council that rejection of the outsourcing plan could lead to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury and creditors losing confidence in the will of the city to make difficult decisions needed for recovery.

“This in turn could jeopardize the city’s plan of (debt) adjustment and could lead to dismissal of the bankruptcy case and loss of the protection from creditor lawsuits and seizure of assets,” Glassman said. “This would have a catastrophic effect on the city such that it could not continue as a viable ongoing entity.”

The San Bernardino County Fire Department, with 930 employees and 56 fire stations, serves the unincorporated area and seven cities including Fontana, a San Bernardino neighbor with nearly as much population, 203,000 compared to 213,000.

The county would take over the 10 current San Bernardino fire stations and offer similar jobs to all of the 100 or more city firefighters and possibly most support personnel. Firefighters on duty at all times, 41, would be more than current staffing, 38.

Annual fire service costs would be lower. But more importantly, the $143 parcel tax increase would reduce the allocation of city property tax needed for fire services, yielding $7 million or more of the new city revenue called for in the recovery plan.

“You’re not solvent now,” Andrew Belknap of Managing Partners consultants reminded the council as he presented the plan to outsource fire services. “This would be an $11 million contribution to solvency.”

Few details about how $2.7 million in pension costs would be saved, or how the pension savings fit into the city budget forecasts, were in the agenda packet for the council meeting last week.

“Annexing to County Fire for fire services will save the City an additional estimated $2,700,000 per year in pension costs, based on a recent actuarial analysis provided by a separate consultant to the City,” said a Citygate consultant report.

Mayor Carey Davis, puzzled about the $2.7 million pension savings, asked Stewart Gary of Citygate for an explanation. He later raised the issue with Belknap and later still with Michael Busch of Urban Futures Inc. consultants.

“Maybe I’ll understand it for the third time,” Davis told Busch.

A final explanation of the $2.7 million pension savings was volunteered by Gregory Devereaux, San Bernardino County chief executive officer, who prefaced his remarks with the hope that he would not be adding to the confusion.

“Part of the savings that we are discussing is avoided cost,” he said. “You heard much earlier in the evening that SBCERA absorbed the shortfall for the deficiency much more quickly than PERS.

“What’s going to happen in PERS over the next few years are significant rate increases. So the savings that is being discussed is the difference between if you stay in PERS with city fire, you’re PERS rates are going to go up at a much more rapid rate than the SBCERA rates.”

In the latest reports, the CalPERS San Bernardino safety plan for police and firefighters had 73 percent of the projected assets needed to fund future pension obligations. SBCERA was 80 percent funded.

The report for the CalPERS San Bernardino safety plan, which is for the year ending June 30, 2013, shows the employer rate was 23 percent of pay in 2010, set at 38.8 percent of pay for this fiscal year, and is estimated to increase to 49.3 percent by 2020-21.

If firefighters withdraw from the CalPERS safety plan, Busch said, the city will over time pay off their share of the plan’s “unfunded liability,” about $2.3 million. This “legacy cost” is included in the estimate of $2.7 million in pension savings.

Gov. Brown signed a bill last month, AB 868, that some think enables transfers of employees from CalPERS to county retirement systems. Belknap said the transfer also can be done through existing “reciprocity” agreements.

“These transactions are not that uncommon,” he said. “This happens with some regularity. So we know how to do it.”

The consultants and the city manager, Alan Parker, did not recommend a bid for fire services from a private firm, Centerra, citing uncertainty about mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments and lack of experience with large service areas.

The council vote authorized staff to negotiate the terms of annexation with the county and the county fire district as well as an interim contract for county fire services. Both would be brought back to the council for approval.

An annexation agreement will need the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission. The city hopes to be annexed into the county fire district by next July. Waste management and other city services also would be outsourced under the recovery plan.

 

Texas emerges as top destination for Californians fleeing state

Oakland and Los Angeles are in the top ten of the least friendly cities in the nation. LA and San Fran are fighting it out to see which city is the most expensive for housing in the nation. California has the highest taxes in the nation and energy costs are more than double those of Texas. Confused Guv Brown is spending $200 billion for a choo choo train from LA to San Fran—about 350 miles. Texas is allowing a similar train from Houston to Dallas, about 300 miles—at no cost to the taxpayers. Texas protects its borders with Mexico—California gives total protection to illegal aliens—just ask the families of Marilyn Pharis of Santa Maria and Kate Stienle—both murdered because California law enforcement protects criminals not honest citizens.

“Nearly 600,000 Californians wound up in Texas, while about 348,000 Texans moved to California. The other top net recipients of Californians were Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, the analysis found.

Even so, California has seen its population increase slightly from 37 million in 2010 to nearly 39 million, thanks largely to an influx of foreign-born immigrants.

Our population has grown via illegal aliens while productive people leave for Texas. Would you trade an illegal alien for a machinist or small business owner? Jerry Brown does every day.

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Texas emerges as top destination for Californians fleeing state

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, 8/31/15

Californians fled the state in unprecedented numbers over the last decade, and their primary destination was Texas, according to an analysis issued Monday.

About 5 million Californians departed the Golden State between 2004 and 2013, while 3.9 million arrived from other states for a net population loss of roughly 1.1 million, the Sacramento Bee reported Monday using tax-return data from the Internal Revenue Service.

The estimated loss from the migration in annual income to California? Roughly $26 billion.

Nearly 600,000 Californians wound up in Texas, while about 348,000 Texans moved to California. The other top net recipients of Californians were Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, the analysis found.

Even so, California has seen its population increase slightly from 37 million in 2010 to nearly 39 million, thanks largely to an influx of foreign-born immigrants.

Analysts blame a host of factors for the migration, starting with California’s high tax rate and cost of living. The state is also entering its fourth year of drought and recently enacted mandatory reductions on residential water suppliers.

 

West Coast Weed Farms Are Lighting Up–Watch Out for Second Hand Pot

Wildfires are dangerous. In the State of Washington two firefighters died. Last year some firefighters died in Northern California wildfires. A new danger for these brave people—as the fires spread, they can reach marijuana “farms” and put second hand pot in the air to be breathed. This crop is taking a beating—but these are the folks that steal water from farmers and the community to grow their illegal crop.

“Timothy Anderson, the purchasing manager for Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary based in Oakland, California, says most of his suppliers are located in the lower end of the the Emerald Triangle, an area comprising three counties at the tip of Northern California. The Emerald Triangle’s economy is largely dependent on marijuana growers, who have a reputation for producing some of the country’s best bud, including sought-after strains like Mendocino Purps and Humboldt Headband.

The legal growers are small in comparison to the illegal ones.   Should firefighters work to save the marijuana crop sold on the streets and in our schools?

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West Coast Weed Farms Are Lighting Up

As wildfires continue to ravage the West Coast, concerns emerge for the marijuana industry.

Madeleine Thomas, Pacific Standard, 8/31/15

It’s getting tough to be a pot farmer. The West Coast’s marijuana industry, already pinched by drought and facing sharp criticism over its water use, now faces another imminent threat: fire.

Overall, more than 146,000 acres have been lost to wildfire in California. In Washington state, where recreational marijuana has been sold since last July, fires have already consumed an area the size of Rhode Island. Not surprisingly, some marijuana growers are fearful they too could see their farms go up in flames.

Weed is a lucrative industry out West: In California, medical marijuana generates some $100 million in sales tax revenue and keeps more than 100,000 people employed across the state. Washington’s industry—which permits sales of both medicinal and recreational pot—has already netted close to $260 million in total sales this year and could garner more than $190 million in tax and revenue.

Some growers, like Tim McCormack, have been lucky. McCormack serves as CEO of Antoine Creek Farms, one of the largest licensed farms permitted by the state of Washington. The few thousand plants he tends comprise nearly 20,000 square feet of plant canopy. Flames from the Chelan Complex fire, one of the largest wildfires still burning across the state, were about five feet from his farm before firefighters were able to divert their course elsewhere. Had Antoine Creek Farms been caught in the Chelan Complex, McCormack estimates he would have lost several hundred thousand dollars.

“I joke that this is God’s own pot farm because that’s the only power that could have saved it.”

“The farm was seriously threatened by fire at least three times,” McCormack says. “The first two times something as simple as wind change saved us, and the last time the courageous firefighters actually did a back-burn on the back third of my property, and they saved us from a third fire, which was called the Black Canyon Fire. I kind of joke that this is God’s own pot farm because that’s the only power that could have saved it.”

Others haven’t been so fortunate.

Timothy Anderson, the purchasing manager for Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary based in Oakland, California, says most of his suppliers are located in the lower end of the the Emerald Triangle, an area comprising three counties at the tip of Northern California. The Emerald Triangle’s economy is largely dependent on marijuana growers, who have a reputation for producing some of the country’s best bud, including sought-after strains like Mendocino Purps and Humboldt Headband.

Some of Anderson’s suppliers haven’t been able to get their product to market due to road closures. Others are situated in the midst of the blaze’s danger zone, but, according to Anderson, remain reluctant to leave their farms to nature’s mercy just yet. Evacuating runs the risk of losing a farm not only to wildfire, but to neglect. No one is around to check key irrigation lines or reservoirs, he says—daily reminders that the state is still in the midst of one of the worst droughts in memory. Water isn’t just a lifeline for most marijuana growers these days; it’s also a luxury.

“I had one of my contract farmers, with whom we work with very closely, who lost an entire farmstead,” Anderson says. “He lost a house, a barn, an outbuilding, and had to lay off his employees at that facility for the season as well.”

Anderson sources most of Harborside’s medical marijuana from Mendocino or Sonoma counties, both located on the northern end of the state, but he also has growers as far down as Southern California. Since Northern California still holds the market for most of the state’s pot supply, dispensaries in the southern portion of the state are just as likely to feel the effects of the wildfires burning up north. Higher prices and less product this year are a major concern to Anderson, who says that, thanks to drought, water shortages, and a thriving black market for recreational weed, he’s already seen less cannabis on the market than in years past.

“We were already kind of facing less options, less material, higher prices,” he says. “And now that these fires have really become a very distinct and hard-to-deny effect on the entire industry, I think there’s a good potential that that we could continue to see that.”

Most of the weed in Washington is grown east of the Cascade Mountains. The area’s dry, desert climate is prime not only for weed farming, but also for massive wildfires, like the Chelan Complex fire. Since beginning in mid-August, the fire has been only 52 percent contained, and continues to burn steadily across nearly 90,000 acres. Michael West, director of biotechnologies at Green Lion Farms in Seattle, says his company knows three of four growers located within miles of wildfire territory.

“There are a lot of licensed producers on the east side of the mountains that are really concerned about their farms,” West says. “There’s been a couple cases I’ve seen that they’ve shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their license, and they’re sitting on their farm watching forest fires creep closer and closer.”

Growers protected from fire damage may command higher prices when they sell to dispensaries; in turn, dispensaries may struggle to keep prices low for consumers.

Fortunately, a burning marijuana field probably isn’t going to get anyone high. But Anderson is already concerned that smoke damage could potentially render future buds and flowers hazardous for consumption. Cannabis flowers are like sponges, enthusiastically soaking up any nearby aromas. There’s not yet enough scientific research yet to prove whether weed exposed to smoke is unsafe or if the smoke simply lowers the quality of the bud. Still, Anderson worries about potential health impacts, particularly among medicinal users with compromised immune systems, whom he says should be wary of any negative additives like mold, ash, or extinguishing fluid in their pot.

“If a bud smells like smoke, I’m not going to be able to sell it,” Anderson says. “No one wants to buy ‘barbecue buds,’ as we sometimes call it. It’s just not going to smell or taste right.”

The full effect of wildfires on the West Coast’s marijuana industry probably won’t be felt until this fall, when bud harvest begins in September or October, Anderson predicts. But there might very well be less product available on the market, either because it’s smoke-damaged or because it’s been lost in the fire. As a result, growers protected from fire damage may command higher prices when they sell to dispensaries; in turn, dispensaries may struggle to keep prices low for consumers.

At Green Lion Farms in Seattle, West distills and processes marijuana flowers into oils extracted from two chemical compounds: cannabidiol (CBD), which provides therapeutic benefits without any psychoactive side-effects; and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which, basically, gets you stoned. Those oils than can then be used in edibles, vape pens, and non-psychoactive topicals. While he doesn’t expect the quantity of this year’s harvest to suffer, he predicts Washington state will see an influx of lesser-quality bud on the market due to smoke damage. Because of this, distilleries like West’s, which can separate particulate matter like smoke residue from the plant’s essential oils, could be in higher demand. And because there is currently one retail store for every four licensed farms throughout Washington state, farmers could be much more likely to suffer from the effects of the fires than the overall retail market, he says.

“A lot of these retail stores have kind of a price war going on where you have a lot of different licensees that are trying to vie for shelf space,” West says. “So a lot of licensees are really willing to bottom-line their price of flower just so they can get it into the stores. Farmers are going to see the price drop-out from beneath them. Most of the retail stores I’ve talked to aren’t decreasing their prices.”

Meanwhile, Antoine Creek Farms is up and running again, but it isn’t business as usual just yet. McCormack is unsure how wildfires will affect his work—specifically, his buds—in the coming months. Buds, those resinous, pungent knots that people smoke, are actually the flowers produced by female plants. If a female plant is pollinated by a male plant, those sticky buds form seeds, which are un-smokable and less potent than pure, female bud. So to ensure a genetically identical, all-female crop, marijuana farmers clone female cuttings from a Mother Plant, the genetic heart and soul of a growing operation.

“The marijuana industry doesn’t yet have crop insurance, so basically if we had burned down we would be out of business. That’d be it for us.”

But Mother Plants without 24/7 light can start to flower. They also risk becoming hermaphrodite plants, which could potentially pollinate and ruin an entire crop. During the wildfire, Antoine Creek Farms lost power, and McCormack is still unsure whether his Mother Plants changed sexes during the outage. (His cloned plants are holding steady, though.) Light deprivation, thanks to heavy smoke cover near his farm, has already tricked more than half of his crop into flowering ahead of schedule this year. Now, he’ll likely have an earlier harvest. Compounding McCormack’s worries, the issue of financing in the marijuana trade is a cumbersome one, as many farms and shops continue to find themselves spurned by pessimistic (sometimes moralistic) banks and insurance agencies.

“If I was growing wheat or if I was growing grapes, it wouldn’t be that bad because I would file an insurance claim and they would send in an adjuster and they would evaluate what we had and make some appropriate claims based on the loss,” McCormack says. “Well, the marijuana industry doesn’t yet have crop insurance, so basically if we had burned down we would be out of business. That’d be it for us.”

 

An Outsourcing Tale of Two Cities–Costa Mesa–the Loser

Costa Mesa, thanks to unions, courts, lawsuits, bullying and political fear, did not reform its pensions system. This is going to be a major financial problem in the future. San Bernardino, the once and future bankrupt city, is trying to reform its pension system—though this would not be a current problem if they had taken the offer of a judge and told CalPERS to pound sand, not another dime. Instead the city agreed to pay 95% of what CalPERS demanded.

“Contrast this with San Bernardino, whose bankruptcy exit plan relies heavily on outsourcing as a primary strategy for restoring fiscal solvency. In May, the City Council overwhelmingly approved a bankruptcy plan that includes large-scale proposals to contract out 15 city services, which it estimates would produce at least $9 million in annual cost savings.

Even more notable is that the proposed outsourcing list includes fire services, traditionally an area immune to competition. In fact, the bankruptcy plan relies on contracting out fire and emergency medical services to save at least $7 million a year. The San Bernardino County Fire Department and Centerra, a private company, are the two bidders currently competing for the fire contract.

San Bernardino is doing the right thing, outsourcing, because they are forced to—that or go bankrupt again, soon. Lots more outsourcing for the City—it could become an example of a well run city, given the chance.

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An Outsourcing Tale of Two Cities

Contrasting use of privatization in Costa Mesa, San Bernardino to address budgets, pensions

Leonard Gilroy, Reason, 8/25/15

When it comes to dealing with municipal fiscal woes and rising pension costs, Costa Mesa and San Bernardino offer an interesting contrast, especially when it comes to using outsourcing as a means of lowering costs and ensuring the continued delivery of public services.

In the wake of the Great Recession, officials in then-cash-strapped Costa Mesa attempted to privatize nearly half of the city’s workforce to lower costs, but were rebuked by the courts. City officials have negotiated with unions to contract out street sweeping and jail operations in recent years, but they recently reached a legal settlement with unions that will prevent all but one future privatization effort (parks maintenance) for four years. In addition to granting a virtual moratorium on privatization, officials also granted employees a 4 percent pay increase.

One might wonder why this matters when Costa Mesa is back on seemingly sound fiscal footing today, having had five years of increasing revenue. The answer is that the city’s total pension costs are skyrocketing, increasing at about double the rate of revenue. Hence, pension costs are increasingly crowding out spending on public services, all while outsourcing, a powerful cost-cutting tool, has been largely taken off the table.

Contrast this with San Bernardino, whose bankruptcy exit plan relies heavily on outsourcing as a primary strategy for restoring fiscal solvency. In May, the City Council overwhelmingly approved a bankruptcy plan that includes large-scale proposals to contract out 15 city services, which it estimates would produce at least $9 million in annual cost savings.

Even more notable is that the proposed outsourcing list includes fire services, traditionally an area immune to competition. In fact, the bankruptcy plan relies on contracting out fire and emergency medical services to save at least $7 million a year. The San Bernardino County Fire Department and Centerra, a private company, are the two bidders currently competing for the fire contract.

The potential for significant cost savings through contracting out fire services should not be surprising. Public safety costs consume a major portion of the total city budget. Reason magazine’s Scott Shackford found the average San Bernardino firefighter currently receives well over $100,000 annually in total pay and benefits. Compare that amount to the average median household income for San Bernardino – $38,000.

Beyond contracting out fire services, the city expects millions in additional annual savings and new franchise fees from privatizing solid waste services.

Other proposed contracting initiatives include fleet maintenance, street maintenance and sweeping, engineering, inspections and information technology.

The rationale for a major outsourcing push in San Bernardino becomes clear in reading the city’s bankruptcy exit plan. It notes that labor costs are the city’s largest expenditure and that other cities operate at a lower cost with fewer employees.

Further, as in Costa Mesa, San Bernardino’s pension costs are steadily rising, making continued in-house delivery of public services “unsustainable.” In that context, shifting some workers off the payroll through outsourcing will not only lower operating costs immediately, but also reduce pension obligations down the road.

Costa Mesa ultimately abandoned its outsourcing efforts in the face of legal and political challenges. If San Bernardino can follow through on its bankruptcy plan, Costa Mesa will likely look on in envy as San Bernardino reduces the immediate and long-term costs that come with having too many city employees collecting over-the-top pay and benefits.

 

 

SB 172: To Give 249,000 (NOT A TYPO) Students That Failed Exit Exam a “Diploma”

Last week the legislature bestowed diploma’s on 5,000 students, regardless if they were qualified, passed tests or passed their courses—the politicians gave them a worthless diploma. Now diploma’s issued in 2015 will be suspect—all of them, since no employer will be told which are real and which were given out like free packs of cigarettes at the Fair.

“Between 2006 and 2014, nearly 249,000 students, or about 6 percent of test-takers, did not pass the exit exam before the end of their senior year. It’s unclear how many of these students also lacked sufficient credits or high enough grades to earn a diploma even if they had passed the exit exam.

Alycia Billy, 19, from Ukiah in Mendocino County, failed the math portion of the exit exam by only one point, denying her a diploma in 2014.

Billy said she was so happy to hear about the amendment including students from previous years, like her, that she wanted to cry.”

Why have tests or criteria if a hack politician can change the rules? Think a California high school diploma has value? As much value as a recycled newspaper. Another reason to use technology, not minimum wage young people—they expect when they do wrong a politician will bail them out.

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Lawmakers consider retroactive diplomas for students who failed exit exam

By Fermin Leal and Theresa Harrington, Edsource, 8/31/15

State lawmakers have added an amendment to a proposed bill that could allow school districts to retroactively award diplomas to students even if they failed the California High School Exit Exam.

The assembly Appropriation’s Committee added a provision to Senate Bill 172 that would grant districts waivers to award diplomas to students as far back as 2006, when the exit exam became a requirement for graduation.

The provision would only affect students who met all other graduation requirements but could not pass the exit exam, said Robert Oakes, spokesman for Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, author of SB 172.

Each school district would have to decide if it wants to award the diplomas retroactively, Oakes said.

The bill could go for a vote before the full Assembly early next week, Oakes said.

The original bill called for the state to suspend the exit exam in the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years and eliminating it as a graduation requirement during that time. Meanwhile, lawmakers and educators would determine if the state should create a new version that’s aligned with the Common Core State Standards, or eliminate it altogether as a graduation requirement.

Earlier this week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that exempted students from the graduating class of 2015 from having to take the test in response to a snafu that left thousands of seniors without the ability to take the test several more times as permitted under state law.

Between 2006 and 2014, nearly 249,000 students, or about 6 percent of test-takers, did not pass the exit exam before the end of their senior year. It’s unclear how many of these students also lacked sufficient credits or high enough grades to earn a diploma even if they had passed the exit exam.

Alycia Billy, 19, from Ukiah in Mendocino County, failed the math portion of the exit exam by only one point, denying her a diploma in 2014.

Billy said she was so happy to hear about the amendment including students from previous years, like her, that she wanted to cry.

“I just feel like things are happening for a reason because I’ve tried so hard and now it’s finally going to happen,” she said optimistically. “I’m so happy. I’m just so thankful. I really honestly didn’t give up. I come from a family where we don’t give up. We just keep trying until we succeed.”

Billy will consider writing letters to lawmakers urging them to approve the bill as amended, so she and others who have been trying for years to pass the test can fulfill their dreams, she said.