Will New Initiative Add to Current Crime Problem?

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

At about the same time Gov. Jerry Brown was explaining his new initiative to reform the determinate sentencing law, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was telling Town Hall Los Angeles that law enforcement was facing a losing battle with crime. The sheriff argued that ballot measures back to Proposition 36 in 2000 easing drug punishment through Proposition 47 voiding prison for some felonies and AB109 prison realignment have led to increased crime.

Will Brown’s new initiative proposal add to the crime problem by making it easier for non-violent offenders to gain parole?

Sen. Jim Nielsen thinks so. He stated in a press release: “Violent and property crimes have increased in cities across the state from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Weakening the criminal justice system will only increase the victimization of California citizens.”

Nielsen laid the fault in the crime increase at Proposition 47, which reduced many felonies and misdemeanors, allowing arrestees to escape the threat of prison.

Sheriff McDonnell said he supported the spirit of what Prop. 47 was trying to do but fixes are needed because it is not working. Prior to Prop. 47, a criminal arrested for stealing goods valued less than $950, or on certain drug charges, faced either time in jail or a treatment program. McDonnell said the leverage of jail time no longer exists. People know they won’t get locked up for a theft under $950, he said.

The sheriff said the AB109 prison re-alignment law put state prison inmates in county jails, which are not equipped to handle them. Jails are intended to house people pre-trial, not to house long-term prisoners, McDonnell said. One state prisoner shifted to the L.A. county jail is serving a 42-year term.

The realignment program was designed to free up space in state prisons. Brown’s proposed initiative would further that goal by giving judges and parole boards more discretion.

Allowing judges to judge specific circumstances and mete out appropriate justice is a common sense philosophy.

But at what cost to public safety?

While McDonnell said it wasn’t his intention to bash Prop. 47, he noted that crime in the county was up 11.2 percent over the last year with 40 percent of those freed under Prop. 47 re-arrested. One individual has been re-arrested 22 times.

McDonnell said he wanted to work with Prop. 47 supporters to meet the goals of the initiative while at the same time adding fixes that return incentive and disincentives for individuals to obey the law.

One Prop. 47 supporter who listened to the sheriff speak was Tom Hoffman, a long time law enforcement official who serves as a Senior Public Safety Adviser for the non-profit Californians for Safety and Justice, an organization that advocated for Proposition 47.

Hoffman took exception to the sheriff putting responsibility of increased crime on Prop. 47. Hoffman said crime statistics all across the country have gone up about the same rate as in California.

Given reports of increased crime issued by the police and a recent spike in gun sales, it can be assumed citizens of California feel less safe. Yet, the governor’s initiative is counting on a changed attitude toward crime and punishment as indicated by the passage of Proposition 47 and the Three Strike law reform.

A couple of months ago I wrote that a spike in crime could bring back the rise of politicians like former Gov. George Deukmejian who rode a tough-on-crime image to high state offices. If the Brown gambit adds to the perception that crime is increasing because of government actions there likely could be a political push-back.

Trump can lift California GOP registration

The California Republican Party has a unique opportunity right now to dramatically reverse its greatest problem of the last 25 years: its downward spiraling registration numbers. Donald Trump is the answer. And party leaders can increase Republican strength not only by appealing to independent voters who like Trump for president, but by welcoming independent voters who despise him by inviting Trump-haters and the Trump-bashers to make their votes count by re-registering and participating in the GOP presidential primary election on June 7.

The voters I am referring to are termed “decline to state” or “no party preference” in California voter registration parlance. They are the one voter group that continues to rise in numbers in a state that is becoming tired of its political parties, especially the GOP.

In 2012, they represented one in five California voters at 21 percent of the state’s electorate, while Democrats accounted for 44 percent of the voting pool and Republicans 30 percent. By 2014, the most recent count, “no party preference” had increased to almost one in four voters (23.6 percent), with Republicans losing more ground statewide (28 percent), and Democrats losing slightly (43.2 percent). With the GOP’s low self-identification in California, it is not much of a surprise why Democrats control every statewide office.

But there is an immediate path to reversing the decline in the GOP’s fortunes in California. It is one that should make sense to tens of thousands of “decline to state” voters who don’t yet realize they will be completely shut-out from any meaningful voter participation (other than Hillary Clinton, the inevitable Democratic nominee) in the selection of the next president of the United States for a simple reason: They will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming Republican Party primary elections because their voter status prohibits them from being given a GOP partisan presidential ballot this June.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/california-701925-republican-voters.html

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Division and Disagreement Face CA Democrats in 2016

Democrat DonkeyConflicts over the spoils of Democratic leadership in California have come to define the party’s prospects and future in 2016 and beyond.

Division and disagreement

Falling victim to their extreme dominance in statewide politics, an increasing number of Democrats have sharpened their blades against one another this election season — driving uncomfortable wedges between minority groups that have long formed the bedrock of the Democrats’ broad coalition. “The racial and ethnic overtones of politics in California, the country’s most diverse state, surfaced again last week,” the Sacramento Bee observed. “Two Democratic Assembly incumbents, Mike Gipson and Cheryl Brown, both of whom are black, are facing challenges from Latina opponents within their own party.”

“The challenges to Brown and Gipson are motivated by their stances on environmental legislation, not race. But the prospect of unseating two black incumbents, with African Americans’ share of the state’s population dwindling, stirred concern.”

Elsewhere, some Democrats have found themselves in hot water for departing too far or too often from party orthodoxy — a dangerous move in increasingly partisan and populist times. In California’s 7th District, for instance, Rep. Ami Bera has begun to lose key support within his own party, thanks to votes roiling labor and other elements of California Democrats’ liberal base. “Bera’s votes on issues such as Syria refugees and trade are coming under intense examination as local Democrats debate withholding endorsement from him in his re-election race against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican,” McClatchy reported. “Last week, the Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club, Bera’s home club, voted against endorsing him.”

Brown’s balancing act

In his State of the State speech this month, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to ameliorate some intraparty divides while holding fast to others. “Legislative Democrats say they can spend some of California’s budget surplus on expanded government services without disrupting Gov. Jerry Brown’s push for fiscal restraint,” as the Sacramento Bee also reported, while Brown urged them “instead to focus on paying down debts and liabilities incurred in the past.” But Brown didn’t mention the multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project that has been one of his marquee projects, despite arousing the frustration of environmentalists to his left who believed cap-and-trade money should not be spent on the system.

A recent Field poll revealed that a modest but sharply critical segment of Democrats appear to have turned their backs on Brown. Fully 17 percent said a description of Brown as having “the right experience to deal with the problems facing California” applied “not at all,” while 18 percent took the same dim view of the claim that Brown “has the vision to lead California into the future.” At the same time, over 40 percent of Democrat respondents agreed at least somewhat with the idea that Brown favors too many unaffordable projects and isn’t doing enough to help average Californians.

But Brown has consolidated support, despite sometimes unorthodox policies, to an unprecedented degree in California politics. At a time when Democrats nationwide have become increasingly split over whether to embrace Hillary Clinton as their nominee, Brown’s name has perennially appeared in conversations about where they might look for an alternative to both Clinton and Sanders. Despite Brown’s refusal to play along, he has been floated once again — by New York City liberals, according to Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen. “Their pet conspiracy theory is that President Barack Obama so detests Hillary Clinton — and worries about her ability to win in November and preserve his agenda — that his Justice Department will indict her this spring on charges of breaching national security in the email scandal,” he wrote at the Sacramento Bee. “Exit a wounded Hillary, enter a prominent Democrat to rescue the party — none other than California’s governor.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Sacramento Democrat Bill—AB 1732—You Can Share a Toilet With Hillary Clinton or George Clooney

If California Democrats in the legislature have their way, you will be able to share a public bathroom with George Clooney and Hillary Clinton, at the same time. Imagine sending your six year old daughter into a public bathroom where someone on trial for pedophilia can use at the same time. Since this will be mandatory, small business, most restaurants will be forced to either build an expensive new bathroom or turn the current bathrooms into uni-sex bathrooms. Want your sixteen year old son in the same bathroom at your 20 year old daughter? That is the dream of the Left. Roman Polanski would be proud.

““This bill will greatly enhance the security and privacy of transgender people, who are often harassed or threatened in public, multi-stall restrooms, but the benefits would truly extend to virtually everyone,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California.  “Everyone appreciates greater privacy — parents with children, nursing mothers, people with medical conditions — and it would mean that we all would spend less time in lines for single-use restrooms.”

“All Californians should have the same freedom to participate in public life, go about their day, and use the bathroom when they need it,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center.  “By making single-user restrooms accessible to all genders, this law will make life easier for everyone and reduce the harassment regularly experienced by transgender people and others who don’t match people’s stereotypes of what it looks like to be a man or a woman.”

The next step is to outlaw bathrooms identified by gender—forcing everyone to lose their privacy.

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New Legislation to Expand Equal Restroom Access in California

Assemblyman Phil Ting, 1/29/16

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) –Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced legislation to establish the nation’s most progressive restroom access law among the states.  AB 1732 would require single-occupancy restrooms in California businesses, government buildings, and public spaces to be identified as “all gender.”

“Restrooms are a necessity of life.  Access to them influences our ability to participate in public life,” said Ting.  “Signs restricting single-use restroom access by gender create problems of convenience, fairness, and safety.  They defy common sense, which is why many of us ignore them.  ‘All gender’ signs will end these problems and ensure everyone’s rights are protected.”

“Having access to a restroom without restrictions based on one’s gender identity simply makes sense,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), a principal co-author of the bill.  “All gender restrooms will enhance dignity and safety for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in their daily lives.”

Supported by Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, California NOW and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, AB 1732 would align state law with similar restroom access laws emerging in the cities of Oakland, Denver, Boston, and Philadelphia.

“This bill will greatly enhance the security and privacy of transgender people, who are often harassed or threatened in public, multi-stall restrooms, but the benefits would truly extend to virtually everyone,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California.  “Everyone appreciates greater privacy — parents with children, nursing mothers, people with medical conditions — and it would mean that we all would spend less time in lines for single-use restrooms.”

“All Californians should have the same freedom to participate in public life, go about their day, and use the bathroom when they need it,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center.  “By making single-user restrooms accessible to all genders, this law will make life easier for everyone and reduce the harassment regularly experienced by transgender people and others who don’t match people’s stereotypes of what it looks like to be a man or a woman.”

“When nature calls, women frequently have to wait,” said Jerilyn Stapleton, President of California NOW.  “We shouldn’t have to wait or postpone having our needs fairly met in public.  Everyone should experience equal waiting time.  We have universal bathroom access at home and on airplanes so why not require it in public buildings?”

“Hospitality is all about accommodation and making people feel comfortable and welcome,” said Samantha Higgins, Policy and Community Manager of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.  “This legislation just makes sense.”

Legislation pending in the New York State Legislature would require a “gender neutral” designation for all single-use bathrooms in state owned or operated buildings.  Vermont’s State Legislature has legislation pending to require newly constructed or renovated state buildings to include “gender neutral” restrooms.  In contrast, a pending bill in Indiana would make it a misdemeanor to knowingly enter a single-use restroom of the opposite sex.

The introduction of AB 1732 follows the failure of a discriminatory initiative to qualify last month for the state ballot.  The so-called “Personal Privacy Protection Act” would have required persons to use restrooms based on their biological sex.  Transgender Californians would be penalized no less than $4,000 each time they exercised their right to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.  The proposed initiative did not apply to single-use restrooms.

Many prices are falling on properties Bay Area locals wanted to rent to Super Bowl fans

As expected, the billionaires are having the last laugh on government and the taxpayers of the Bay Area. The folks in San Fran saw gold in a Super Bowl forty miles south of them. They are even going to spend $4.8 million of tax money to have financed the efforts of billionaires to have parties. That is how you get rich—by using tax dollars for your own entertainment.

“The million visitors to the Bay Area who will really number closer to 200,000. The $500 million economic impact that is closer to 10 percent of that, say economists with no skin in the game.

In some ways, every Super Bowl is a story of already big numbers not being big enough when the event’s very name is an attempt to surpass the superlative.

That includes Super City locals renting out their homes for a week and retiring to Costa Rica.”

Seriously, they thought people would drive, in Bay Area traffic, forty miles each way, from stadium to hotel or housing? As expected the taxpayers and residents of San Fran are being harmed by the billionaires—it was expected.

San Francisco, CA, USA

Many prices are falling on properties Bay Area locals wanted to rent to Super Bowl fans

Jody Meacham, Silicon Valley Business Journal,1/29/16

You’ve heard the Super Bowl hype.

The million visitors to the Bay Area who will really number closer to 200,000. The $500 million economic impact that is closer to 10 percent of that, say economists with no skin in the game.

In some ways, every Super Bowl is a story of already big numbers not being big enough when the event’s very name is an attempt to surpass the superlative.

That includes Super City locals renting out their homes for a week and retiring to Costa Rica.

Bay Area Super Bowl renters can command high prices – think Hawaii in the high season – but anecdotal evidence from the market says the sky is not the limit, and the limit is actually falling as game day nears.

“There’s been a general downward trend,” said a Santa Clara condo owner who listed his place near Levi’s Stadium on San Francisco-based Airbnb and Austin, Texas-based Vacation Rental By Owner (vrbo.com).

He has dropped the price for his three-bedroom townhouse twice from $3,000 a night to the current $1,100. “I’ve seen cuts all across — even in Palo Alto and up the Peninsula to San Francisco,” he said.

Others listing properties for rent said, in email and text conversations, that they did not want to be interviewed about dashed dreams, sometimes because the apartment and condo complexes where their properties are located don’t allow short-term rentals.

On Jan. 13, the Silicon Valley Business Journal identified a selection of home and condo rentals in San Jose and Santa Clara whose Airbnb listings specifically pitched the Super Bowl as a reason to rent. We decided to track how quickly they were taken.

Of the 10 we picked, ranging in price from $340 to $4,000 a night, four rented that day. Here’s what was snapped up immediately, before anyone knew who the Super Bowl teams would be:

  • A one-bedroom apartment (sleeps four) off North 1st Street in San Jose on the light rail line to Levi’s Stadium for $340 per night.
  • A two-bedroom townhouse (sleeps six) in San Jose near Santa Clara University about 8 miles from the stadium for $750 per night.
  • Another two-bedroom townhouse (sleeps six) in the same development as the listing above, also for $750 per night.
  • A one-bedroom condo (sleeps four) on Lick Mill Boulevard in Santa Clara within sight of the stadium for $1,600 per night.

On Thursday, a fifth property on our list – a four-bedroom home in Santa Clara – rented for $3,000 a night after being originally advertised for $4,000 a night.

The remaining five properties were still on the market Friday after the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers won their playoff games and their fans knew they could come to Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.

Three properties have been reduced in price, the most by 56 percent (the one listed by the owner quoted above who requested his name not be used). The other two – a one-bedroom condo for $2,000 a night and two-bedroom house for $3,000 a night – are still at their original price.

In a Super Bowl blog post Jan. 20, a week after we selected our rentals and four days before the participating teams were known, Airbnb described its demand as “extremely high,” saying Super Bowl searches “have spiked 2.25x above normal.”

Spokeswoman Darcy Nenni said updated figures wouldn’t be available until later Friday, and this story will updated when the new information is received.

Airbnb’s average rentals in San Jose and Santa Clara were $220 per night at the time with average listings about $360 per night. More than 6,000 listings were available throughout the Bay Area for Super Bowl weekend with about 1,000 in San Jose and 80 billing the properties as within walking distance of the stadium.

The Important, Imperfect Science of Counting L.A.’s Homeless

A lot of volunteers are going out for three nights to count the homeless. It will be an approximation—not even a close call as to accuracy. For instance I find a homeless person in L.A. on Friday and you find the same person on Sunday in Hollywood—two people? By this method, yes. Conversely, there are homeless hiding in the weeds under freeways—in Calabasas, hundreds of illegal aliens had been living in weeds less than 100 yards from the freeway a few years ago—and no one knew.

A better view is to fix the problems causing homelessness. The VA in Westwood, near UCLA, is going to build 1100 housing units for homeless vets. But if we fix our economy, regulations and stop killing jobs, there would be fewer homeless, just a thought.

““The way the count is conducted, it is often done drive-by, right. You’re in a car looking for people, but really the people are not to be found,” says Wade Trimmer, director of the San Fernando Rescue Mission, about 30 miles northeast of downtown L.A.

Trimmer says there’s been a significant spike in the San Fernando Valley’s homeless population. But he doesn’t think it’s accurately reflected in recent L.A. County homeless counts, partly because of how the count is done: mostly at night by relatively inexperienced volunteers.

“If you look at downtown [Los Angeles], it makes a lot of sense to count at night because people are congregated downtown at night,” says Trimmer.

Instead of doing the count, fix the problem with real solutions, not throwing money at a government caused problem.

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The Important, Imperfect Science of Counting L.A.’s Homeless

By Steven Cuevas, KQED, 1/28/16

For three days and nights, several thousand volunteers have fanned out across Los Angeles County trying to get an accurate tally of the county’s immense homeless population. The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is considered the largest such effort in the nation. The count is now done annually, one of several changes intended to make it more efficient and effective.

Conducting a homeless count is not easy. Volunteers traipse into dry river bottoms, push through thick brush at public parks and cruise along dimly lit city streets.

Volunteer counters are discouraged from having too much interaction with people — there’s a more comprehensive census-style survey that is done separately from the actual counting — or from disturbing people holed up in makeshift outdoor shelters or vehicles.
The L.A. County annual homeless count includes a more comprehensive census-style survey portion that’s done separately from the actual counting. (Los Angeles County Homeless Authority)

So volunteers, typically led by members of the Los Angeles County Homeless Authority’s street outreach team, typically rely on their own intuition, instinct and internal extrapolation.

It’s an imperfect science, to be sure.

“The way the count is conducted, it is often done drive-by, right. You’re in a car looking for people, but really the people are not to be found,” says Wade Trimmer, director of the San Fernando Rescue Mission, about 30 miles northeast of downtown L.A.

Trimmer says there’s been a significant spike in the San Fernando Valley’s homeless population. But he doesn’t think it’s accurately reflected in recent L.A. County homeless counts, partly because of how the count is done: mostly at night by relatively inexperienced volunteers.

“If you look at downtown [Los Angeles], it makes a lot of sense to count at night because people are congregated downtown at night,” says Trimmer.

“It doesn’t make as much sense to me to do the count at night in the San Fernando Valley because people are not congregating on the street,” he says. “They’re finding a place to sleep, they’re in the canyons or behind a building.”

It can be frustrating, says Trimmer, because shelters and other services depend on the data collected during the count. It’s the number cited by local leaders to justify spending more or less of their own resources. It’s how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development figures how much money to give L.A. County.

“It helps us advocate for our fair share of funding,” explains L.A. County Homeless Authority spokeswoman Naomi Goldman. “It’s also data that helps us work with the community-based organizations and the homeless service providers to figure out where best to allocate the dollars so that’ll do the most impact.”

Last year’s L.A. County homeless count recorded a 12 percent increase from 2013, or around 41,000 people living on the streets and in shelters across the region.

More than half of them were living in the city of Los Angeles alone, with the greatest number concentrated in and around downtown’s Skid Row.

But the raw numbers are just part of the picture. Just as important, says Todd Palmquist, is a survey portion that works a little like a census survey.

“Certain numbers of the homeless are actually interviewed,” says Palmquist, former director of the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness and a volunteer homeless count coordinator and trainer.

The survey helps identify trends, such as more people living in cars, for example, or spikes in the number of kids or military veterans living on the street.

“It can really give a good idea of populations that are in need of help, and hopefully eventually be able to be used to identify and set up programs to prevent homelessness rather than just help people get out of homelessness,” says Palmquist.

This year L.A. County shifts to an annual count, a move it hopes results in more consistent data. The count used to be done every other year.
Many homeless people come to Skid Row because they could not find services in their own communities. Still, recent counts have shown spikes in homelessness in L.A. neighborhoods farther and farther from downtown. Part of the 2016 count included an effort to link people to services. (Steven Cuevas/KQED)

It’s also deploying more teams to far-flung areas of the county where homeless people are harder to find, and expanding efforts to link people to services on the spot. But counts are still done mostly the old-fashioned way, says Wade Trimmer.

“Why can’t we do the count on the smartphone or do it on a tablet?” wonders Trimmer. “It’s (still) pencil and paper and I have volunteers who are always surprised, who come back and say: ‘This is how we do the count?’ ”

LAHSA’s Naomi Goldman says the count is starting to go high tech, though slowly.

“We’re always looking to refine and see what can we improve,” says Goldman. “We do have parts of the count that are using iPads and Survey Monkey, which will make some of the counting and some of the process a little more streamlined, a little bit faster.”

Results of the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count should be available by spring.

 

Why Don’t More Californians Vote?

In 2012 and 2014 there were 28 legislative up for a November election with only one Party on the ballot. Why would someone in a political party not allowed on the ballot vote? A few years ago there was an effort by Guv Brown to extend a vehicle and other taxes, $3.5 billion a year for five years—it could not pass without Republican votes—and some Republicans voted for this massive tax. Why vote if you think you Party will take sides with the other side and harm your family.

Gerrymandering means that very few districts are “swing districts”. Even then the GOP threatened GOP’ers that wanted to run in the 7th SD in a special election. In the 5th SD the GOP flatly told Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen they would not support her or any GOP’er against a Democrat in a swing district that Olsen would have won. Why vote if the political leaders won’t allow victory?

This is not about race. It about the unions and the California Chamber of Commerce running California—not the voters. Why encourage them, why waste the time. Want a moderate Democrat like Senator Steve Glazer—his bill SB 880 starts the effort to take away your guns. We need political leaders that want victory for conservatives and Republican—and do not run away from a fight.

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Why Don’t More Californians Vote?

By Steven Cuevas, KQED; Ben Bradford, Capital Public Radio; Megan Burks, KPBS; Mary Plummer, KPCC; Sasha Khokha, KQED , 1/29/16

California is first in a lot of things, but voting isn’t always one of them. In the last election less than a third of eligible voters cast a ballot.

And for one of the most diverse states in the country,  it’s still an older, whiter and wealthier group of voters who show up for Election Day.

To get a ground-level look at what is on the minds of Californians this election year, four California public media newsrooms are teaming up.

Listen to the Radio Report

Reporters from KQED in San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, KPBS in San Diego and KPCC in Los Angeles examined voter turnout records to identify communities where many people are opting out of voting and communities where getting in a ballot is a priority.

Throughout the year we’ll be following a handful of communities, asking about the candidates, issues and circumstances that either drive people to the polls or keep them home on Election Day. And we’ll explore other ways, besides voting, that Californians are engaging in the civic life of their communities.

Many People Say Their Vote Doesn’t Count

Our first stop is the South Los Angeles community of Watts just south of downtown L.A.

Once a stronghold of African-American life and culture, Watts has changed a lot in recent decades. Many black families fled in the aftermath of riots in 1965 and 1992, or to escape gang violence and find work and cheaper housing in other places, like San Bernardino to the east or Lancaster in northern Los Angeles County.

Watts remains one of the most densely packed sections of L.A., thanks in part to new Latino and Asian families moving in. Yet most voting precincts in the Watts area saw fewer than 22 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2014 general election.

‘The political process to me is all a big game; it’s all corrupt, it’s about money.’Samuel Price

“I voted in the past, but votin’ it doesn’t mean nothing,” says 29-year-old machinist Samuel Price as he waited to catch a bus to work.

Price doesn’t vote now. When asked if he might find himself charged up over a controversial proposition or firebrand presidential candidate, he doesn’t hesitate to answer.

“Nobody, none,”  Price says. “The political process to me is all a big game; it’s all corrupt, it’s about money.”

Bus driver Walter Flowers does vote. He says he leans conservative; the economy — higher wages specifically —  is foremost on his mind.

“It’s the poor people that are the main source of the labor in the city. Without that blue-collar labor, a lot of L.A. will not run right,” Flowers says. And, he adds, “Anything that depletes money from my pocket to Washington, D.C.,  that’s what bothers me.”

In fact, the majority of Watts’s residents fall below the poverty line.

In Meadowview, a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood in Sacramento with middle-to-lower-income residents, about 45 percent of registered voters submitted a ballot in the 2014 general election.
Interstate 5 separates the Pocket and Meadowview neighborhoods — two adjacent but starkly different communities in Sacramento. (Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio)

But skip over Interstate 5, the dividing line between Meadowview and the neighborhood of Pocket-Greenhaven, and it’s a much different story.

Sculpted lawns, monogrammed gates and private lakes line the main roads, while young families gravitate to the suburban homes at the Pocket’s center. Residents like Ellen Broms speak knowledgeably of the upcoming presidential elections.

“I vote every time. (But) I don’t necessarily work for a candidate every time,” says Broms, sitting on a concrete bench at a dog park squarely between the two neighborhoods.

Now in her early 70s, Broms has voted in every election since she was 19.

“It maybe doesn’t seem like it makes a difference, but I always look back and think you plant a seed, and you have to look at the long view,” says Broms.

In contrast to Meadowview, almost 60 percent of the Pocket’s predominantly wealthy, white registered voters turned out for the November 2014 election.

Percent of Eligible Voters Who Cast a Ballot in 2014
“We can’t ignore the linkages and the parallels between poverty and wealth, versus turnout rates,” says California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who grew up in the working-class suburb of Pacoima north of Los Angeles.

Padilla says many of California’s unregistered and most disenfranchised voters live in communities like Watts or Meadowview.

“Disproportionately communities of color, disproportionately younger people, disproportionately working-class families,” says Padilla. “And so what are the reasons for that?”

Among eligible Californians between the ages of 18 to 24, only about 8.2 percent voted in the 2014 general election, according to a UC Davis study.

Eduardo Marcos, 22, a student at Sacramento City College, says there’s just no point to voting.

“Basically, the stuff I hear is the same thing I’ve heard over and over the years. For example, we got wars, we got the economy going up and down,” Marcos says. “It’s just the same things I see forming, but no one’s really solving anything.”

‘We Depend on Her, for Our Vote to Count’

About an hour south of Fresno, in the town of Lindsay, the Medellin-Huerta family is trying to convince one young family member to vote this year.

Luis Medellin, 29, can’t understand why his 18-year-old sister, Amy Huerta, doesn’t vote — and he’s trying to convince her why it matters.

“I’m pretty sure you’re registered to vote, when you turned 18,” Medellin tells her. “Are you going to vote?”

“I don’t know,” laughs his sister nervously.

“I feel like sometimes my vote doesn’t count,” says Huerta, echoing the sentiment of countless voters across California. “Especially because right now, (my) generation is at a point where they don’t care.”

‘But my dad, if he left anything for us to know, he said if you don’t vote, or don’t register to vote, then the government will take your voice away.’Lindsay Mayor Ramona Villarreal-Padilla

Amy’s brother does care, and lobbying his sister to get out the vote isn’t his only cause. Medellin also works as an activist on the issues of pesticide use and air quality in his community.

But here’s the rub: Medellin doesn’t vote either. He can’t. He was born in Mexico and doesn’t have legal residency. Neither do his parents. But Amy was born in the United States, and her brother feels she has an obligation to exercise her right to vote as a U.S. citizen.

“Amy is our family’s voice. Because myself, I don’t have legal status, my parents don’t have legal status,” says Medellin. “We depend on her, for our vote to count.”

There probably aren’t many elected leaders who understand the value of each and every vote more than Ramona Villarreal-Padilla, the mayor of Lindsay. Of her roughly 12,000 constituents, only about 2,000 are registered to vote.

“I think that I won by maybe by 50 votes.”

Lindsay is set amid acres of lemon and orange orchards in Tulare County. Citrus is king here. But the people in this rural, working-class community often feel disconnected.

It’s how Villarreal-Padilla sometimes felt way before she was mayor, when she was a kid.

Her father was a farmworker who marched with labor organizer Cesar Chavez. “But my dad, if he left anything for us to know, he said if you don’t vote, or don’t register to vote, then the government will take your voice away,” Padilla said.

And there are a lot of muted voices out there: nearly 7 million eligible yet unregistered voters in California, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Those are the people Alex Padilla is trying to reach with a new motor voter bill he spearheaded last year to increase the number of registered voters.

“But registration is just half the battle,” he says.

“Only 42 percent of registered voters turned out in November 2014. How do we get them to the polls?” asks Padilla. “Well, reforms (like) mailing every voter a ballot every election and providing flexibility in when, where and how to cast a ballot. We know from Colorado, turnout is up 20 percent since they instituted these reforms. And I think it can work for us here in California.”

Working to Engage New Voters

There’s also the tried-and-true method of walking the precinct block by block, door to door, day in and day out.

That’s what Debra Samuels does as a volunteer with the San Diego Organizing Project, a faith-based group working to boost voter turnout.

Samuels focuses on the sprawling San Diego neighborhood of City Heights. It can use the attention, with less than 20 percent of registered voters actually casting ballots in recent elections.

More a small city within a really big city, City Heights captures the quicksilver demographics of Southern California. About 75,000 people live in City Heights, nearly half emigrating from countries outside the U.S.

“You can find from Latino, Vietnamese, African like from Ethiopia,” says Samuels, rattling off a sampling of the ethnic mix.

She herself was born in Panama and resettled in City Heights 20 years ago. It’s among these new immigrants, the ones who like Samuels will eventually become  U.S. citizens, where she and others find hope for the  electoral process.

“When they first get naturalized they are excited, because they can vote, they can ask for what they want,” says Secretary of State Padilla. “But I guess down the road when they see things not changing, that’s what brings them down. And they get disinterested.”

It’s an all too familiar caveat that at least in recent elections suggests a civic crisis for California.

 

Bay Area $4.5 Billion Bond to Support Union Control of BART

Great news for the unions. The people of the Bay Area will give them another $4.5 billion in bond money ($9 billion to pay back). In exchange the unions will not guarantee they will allow their forced members to show up to week on Monday morning. On any Monday morning. This money is being blown by the unions—in the way they transfer monies from accounts to accounts, this will be used for future pension, benefits and wage increases—as have bond money in the past.

“According to the survey, the biggest concerns of voters are accommodating the growing population in the Bay Area, making earthquake safety improvements such as to the tunnel under the Berkeley hills, modernizing the infrastructure, preventing breakdowns and delays and public safety.

How large the bond would be remains unclear, however, the poll found that support for a $4.5 billion bond dipped below the necessary two-thirds thresholds when voters were told opposing arguments.

This means the cost for the bonds will include higher fare rates, higher union wages and lots of contracts for crony capitalists—who will finance the bond campaign.

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

Poll: Support for $4.5B BART bond measure

 

By Scott Morris, Bay City, 1/29/16
 

BART will likely put a measure for an up to $4.5 billion bond to fund track and station improvements on the November ballot after a recent poll of likely Bay Area voters showed broad support for it.

BART’s Board of Directors received the telephone poll of 2,100 voters at its meeting Thursday. The poll showed 68 percent of those polled had an overall favorable opinion of BART and think the agency needs further funding.

Such a measure would need approval of two-thirds of voters to pass.

The measure would primarily go toward infrastructure upgrades, such as replacing tracks and repairing damaged tunnels.

According to the survey, the biggest concerns of voters are accommodating the growing population in the Bay Area, making earthquake safety improvements such as to the tunnel under the Berkeley hills, modernizing the infrastructure, preventing breakdowns and delays and public safety.

How large the bond would be remains unclear, however, the poll found that support for a $4.5 billion bond dipped below the necessary two-thirds thresholds when voters were told opposing arguments.

After pollsters pointed out other potential spending priorities or suggested BART should tighten its belt before asking for more funding, support for a $4.5 billion bond measure went from 71 percent to 62 percent. For bonds of $3.5 or $2.5 billion, support remained at 69 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

Given that, at least one board member seemed inclined to pursue a smaller bond.

“Do we want a $2.5 or $3.5 billion bond that passes or a $4 billion bond that fails?” Director Rebecca Saltzman said. “We need to do something that can pass because if we don’t have it we’re in really big trouble.”

One thing the bond won’t be spent on is replacing BART’s train cars. According to BART documents, how proceeds from the bond can be spent is limited by the state Constitution and the funds must be used for the acquisition or improvement of real property.

BART is currently seeking to purchase 306 new cars to accommodate rising ridership and Thursday passed a resolution asking San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties to allocate funds to help purchase the new cars.

Obama Anti-Semitism Trying to KILL Israeli Goods in the United States

Barack Obama has not spoken out against the anti-Semitism running rampant on California university campuses. He has made it plan that he prefers to terrorists to the government of Israel—he will negotiate with the Iranian terrorists but not talk with Netanyahu. Now he has found a way to kill off Israeli goods sold in the United States.

“The Jan. 23 directive states that it is “not acceptable” to label goods coming from Israeli companies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as having been produced in “Israel.”

The order comes amid an effort by the European Union to label Israeli-made goods, a move the Israeli government called anti-Israel and that prominent antisemitism watchdog groups have condemned as among the worst incidents of antisemitism in 2015.

This is a shift from the administration’s previous position. A State Department spokesman told reporters in November that such labeling could be perceived as “a step on the way to a boycott” and said boycotts would be opposed by the administration.

Oh, Obama is on his way to create a boycott of Israeli goods—he prefers to buy oil from Iran than computer items from Israel. I still do not understand how any Jew in America (and I am Jewish) can support the Democrat Party, home of this bigot.

obama israel

Obama Administration Orders Labeling of Israeli Goods

Memo directs ‘trade community’ to label Jewish goods

BY: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon, 1/29/16
A memo issued earlier this month by the Obama administration directs the U.S. “trade community” and government partner agencies to explicitly label Israeli-made goods that have been produced in the West Bank.

The Jan. 23 directive states that it is “not acceptable” to label goods coming from Israeli companies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as having been produced in “Israel.”

The order comes amid an effort by the European Union to label Israeli-made goods, a move the Israeli government called anti-Israel and that prominent anti-Semitism watchdog groups have condemned as among the worst incidents of anti-Semitism in 2015.

This is a shift from the administration’s previous position. A State Department spokesman told reporters in November that such labeling could be perceived as “a step on the way to a boycott” and said boycotts would be opposed by the administration.

But earlier this month, senior Obama administration officials defended the EU’s move and reaffirmed its position against “Israeli settlement activity.”

The new guidance references a decades-old administrative directive that sought to promote the import of Palestinian goods produced in the West Bank. The Obama administration is facing criticism for reinterpreting it and enforcing it to punish Israeli businesses.

The new memo, issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is meant to “provide guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufactured in the West Bank.”

Good produced in these areas are not to be labeled “with the words ‘Israel,’” according to the memo, which warns that inappropriate labeling will subject the products to “enforcement action” by Customs and Border Protection.

“Goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from ‘West Bank,’ ‘Gaza,’ ‘Gaza Strip,’ ‘West Bank/Gaza,’ ‘West Bank/Gaza Strip,’ ‘West Bank and Gaza,’ or ‘West Bank and Gaza Strip,’” according to the directive.

“It is not acceptable to mark the aforementioned goods with the words ‘Israel,’’ ‘Made in Israel,’ ‘Occupied Territories-Israel,’ or any variation thereof,” it states.

Goods that are erroneously marked as products of Israel will be subject to an enforcement action carried out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” the memo states. “Goods entering the United States must conform to the U.S. marking statute and regulations promulgated thereunder.”

Pro-Israel organizations have taken a firm stand against the explicit labeling of Jewish goods, with some viewing the latest memo as part of a larger effort to economically isolate Israel.

“This is an administration that slaps labels on Jewish goods on a Saturday and has the president give a Holocaust Remembrance speech the next Wednesday,” said Omri Ceren, a managing director at The Israel Project, an organization that promotes stronger U.S.-Israeli ties.

“It’s worse than incoherent. It needlessly alienates Israel at a time when the Middle East is falling apart and U.S. allies are looking for signals about whose side the administration is on,” he said.

A State Department official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon on Thursday said that the department is aware of the new memo but does not view it as a shift in longstanding policy.

“We are aware that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection re-issued guidance on their marking requirements,” the official said. “There has been no change in policy or in our approach to enforcement of marking requirements.”

The latest guidance stands as a “restatement of previous requirements,” the official added. “CBP has made clear that it in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations, nor does it impose additional requirements with respect to merchandise imported from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel.”

“Longstanding U.S. guidelines, dating to 1995, on country of origin product marking requires that products produced in the West Bank be marked as products of the West Bank, and products of Israel be marked as products of Israel,” the official explained.

Custom and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the memo.

 

 

 

Newport Faces Unfunded Pensions Dilemma–Even Rich Cities in Trouble

Even those in wealthy communities have to worry about the costs of the out of control CalPERS system. It has already caused the bankruptcy of San Bernardino, Stockton, Vallejo and put many other systems a few dollars away from collapse. So far CALPERS is implementing a 50% mandated contribution increase. Then they admitted the 7.5% return on investment in 2014-15 was really 2%. They knew but lied to everyone till they could lie no more.

“The total annual California Public Employees’ Retirement System (also known as CalPERS) cost to the city for the 2016 fiscal year came in at just over $36 million. The 2017 estimate exceeds $37.3 million, with employees contributing about $8.6 million of that, Matusiewicz explained, leaving about $28.7 million for the city’s portion.”

The above paragraph means the taxpayers pay more, leaving fewer government services—and the workers have more money taken from their paychecks—a pay cut in the real world. CALPERS is helping no one, while harming everyone. To fix the problem they need to start being honest. Don’t think that will every happen, it is a government agency after all.

Calpers headquarters is seen in Sacramento, California, October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

Calpers headquarters is seen in Sacramento, California, October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

Newport Faces Unfunded Pensions Dilemma

By : Sara Hall, Newport Beach Indy, 1/29/16

The financial status of Newport Beach and its biggest challenge, the unfunded pension liability, were on the table for discussion during a community meeting last weekend.

“To me, this is the most persistent and significant gloom that hangs over most California cities, including our own,” said City Manager Dave Kiff during the annual City Council planning session held Saturday at Marina Park.

Overall though, said Kiff, “we’re in good shape.”

The last fiscal year ended on a great note with a $14.2 million budgetary surplus, noted Finance Director Dan Matusiewicz.

But there are challenges, Kiff added. At the top of that list is the unfunded pension liability.

According to Investopedia, an unfunded pension is an employer managed retirement plan that uses the employer’s current income to fund pension payments as they become necessary. This is in contrast to an advance funded pension plan where an employer sets aside funds systematically and in advance to cover any pension plan expenses such as payment to retirees and their beneficiaries.

The total annual California Public Employees’ Retirement System (also known as CalPERS) cost to the city for the 2016 fiscal year came in at just over $36 million. The 2017 estimate exceeds $37.3 million, with employees contributing about $8.6 million of that, Matusiewicz explained, leaving about $28.7 million for the city’s portion.

Cities across the state are facing this issue and trying to find a solution. It’s a very challenging problem, Kiff said.

Unfunded pensions are one of the top issues that keep her awake at night, said Mayor Diane Dixon.

It’s clearly an important issue, Dixon noted, “I want (the city) to be planful and strategic.”

Newport is making progress on it, Kiff said. In order to more efficiently pay it down, city staff has come up with a payment plan called “Fresh Start.”

The default option plan from PERS would see the city’s payment increase by about $1 million next year. It would slowly increase over the years. The PERS payment plan is biased toward cities that can’t afford to make drastic increases in their payment, Matusiewicz said, but Newport Beach doesn’t fall into that category.

The staff recommendation is to increase the payment to $2.7 million to “get a little bit ahead of it,” Matusiewicz said. This Fresh Start plan would help the city pay less in the long run and “reap significant savings down the road,” he noted.

In the Fresh Start plan, the city would pay approximately $6 million more in the first few years than it would through the PERS default plan, then roughly $1 million less for about the next 16 years.

“We want to jump to what the payment should be, especially while revenues are good, and then save over the long run,” Matusiewicz said.

The plan will be discussed in further detail with the Finance Committee, which next meets from 4 to 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 in the Crystal Cove conference room at the civic center. If the plan is approved by the Finance Committee, it will move onto an upcoming Council agenda.

The committee will analyze the Fresh Start plan and determine whether or not it’s the best plan and makes sense for the city, Dixon said. This may offer the city more control over the funds they send to PERS and over the city’s unfunded liability, she noted.

It definitely needs to be seriously considered, she continued. Staff might also consider a variation on the Fresh Start plan via a trust separate from CalPERS, Dixon suggested.

The city has also been taking other measures to mitigate the pension liabilities, including reducing the number of full-time staff and having a lower benefit tier for employees that transfer into the city. Also, any new hire goes into the pension reform tier, or PEPRA tier, which is a stable and less generous tier with an older retirement age. Newport Beach currently has many of those type of hires in the city, but it takes 20 to 25 years to see a positive impact from that, Kiff explained.

“No one is being brought into the city in the classic tier, the most generous tier,” Kiff said.

Employees are contributing a greater share of the pension cost, about $8.3 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

“The employees are also paying much more of the check that goes to Sacramento now,” Kiff said.

Between nine to 14 percent is deducted from each of the employees’ paychecks.

According to the 2016 fiscal year numbers, the employee pays more than half of the share of their own pension costs. The challenge comes when the total unfunded liability cost is calculated in and the employee pays only 22.7 percent and the city fills in the other 77.3 percent. Although, that amount is already higher than most other California cities and it’s steadily increasing.

Newport Beach is a few years ahead of the curve on that, Kiff said.

While increasing the employees’ share helps solve the pension problem, this makes it hard to recruit and retain employees, Kiff noted.

“No one else is asking employees to take as big of a deduction as we are,” he said, so they jump to nearby cities where the percentage paid by the employee is even less.

Another hurdle is that investment returns in 2014-15 were 2.4 percent, down from 18.4 the previous fiscal year. PERS anticipates that it’s about 7.5 percent each year, so the 2.4 percent fell “well short” of that target, Kiff said.

“The close of the most recent fiscal year doesn’t look any better,” for investment earnings, which translates into higher rates, Kiff explained. Higher rates that the city must pay to PERS to keep up with their obligations.

It is a very challenging moving target, he said.

“The ground shifts constantly and we’re going to be faced now, because of the current economic situation and the reduced returns…We have to consider accelerating that ‘fresh start’ or some other option,” Dixon said. “They keep moving the goal post.”