Supervisor Todd Spitzer: The Hillary Clinton of Orange County

Hillary Clinton, abuse the press, lies to them, hides information from the press and the public.  Orange County Supervisor abuses the press, lies to them and hides information from the press and the public.  Hillary and Todd are bullies—the type of people we need out of government.  We want leaders, not dictators in office.  Todd Spitzer wants to use government to hide information from the press and public by interrogating reporters and journalists that request public information.

“Under the leadership of Spitzer, the county of Orange wants to establish ominous case law, out of our own Superior Court, seeking the right to subject journalists to government-funded interrogations for simply seeking public records.

Under Spitzer’s thinking, whenever you challenge a denial of a public record by the county of Orange, you become the issue, not the record.

That’s not only dangerous to democracy but profoundly un-American.

That kind of a politicized witch hunt also happens to run contrary to the very core of our state’s shield law for journalists as well as our First Amendment reporters’ privilege – which is what allows reporters to do their job and engage with all sides on controversial issues.”

That is how totalitarians act, how countries like Cuba and Russia acts—but Orange County.  This man wants to be OC District Attorney.  Years ago, twice, as an Assistant DA in the middle of murder trials he had to leave the trials due to stress.  Now he wants to abuse reporters for the “crime” of wanting public records?  He needs therapy,not public office.

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Santana: Handcuffing Journalists

By Norberto Santana Jr., Ocie of OC,  10/31/16

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and Hillary Clinton share a common challenge.

They don’t want you focused on their emails.

Yet Spitzer – who is keyed on becoming our next DA, gets particularly nasty about the topic if you dare press.

Spitzer and his colleagues on the Orange County Board of Supervisors are targeting me personally for harassment in court this week because a Voice of OC reporter sought a series of emails between Spitzer and county spokeswoman Jean Pasco earlier this year for a story about a bizarre incident where Spitzer handcuffed a man while armed at a Wahoo’s restaurant in Foothill Ranch on last year’s Good Friday holiday.

It’s a new low for a county board of supervisors increasingly hell bent on secrecy.

On Tuesday, our attorneys will head into court to quash a bullying deposition request from the county – aimed at me personally – because Voice of OC filed suit to access the Spitzer records under the California Public Records Act.

(Click here for Spitzer’s side of the story, and here for the county’s court filing in response to the Voice of OC lawsuit.)

I’ll also be talking about the case this week on PBS So Cal with host Rick Reiff on his news broadcast, Inside OC.

(Click here for our legal brief filed last week on the issue.)

Under the leadership of Spitzer, the county of Orange wants to establish ominous case law, out of our own Superior Court, seeking the right to subject journalists to government-funded interrogations for simply seeking public records.

Under Spitzer’s thinking, whenever you challenge a denial of a public record by the county of Orange, you become the issue, not the record.

That’s not only dangerous to democracy but profoundly un-American.

That kind of a politicized witch hunt also happens to run contrary to the very core of our state’s shield law for journalists as well as our First Amendment reporters’ privilege – which is what allows reporters to do their job and engage with all sides on controversial issues.

Our brilliant litigator Kelly Aviles summarized the concept effectively in her brief, quoting a 2014 local court decision: “The motive of the particular requester in seeking public records is irrelevant, and the California Public Records Act does not differentiate among those who seek access to them. Moreover, the purpose for which the requested records are to be used is likewise irrelevant.

What is material is the public interest in disclosure not the private interest of the requesting party.” Aviles added that much of the county’s legal brief “makes many arguments that lack any legal support, misinterpret the cited case law or contravene existing law.”

We don’t live in North Korea…

Now, Spitzer has clearly stated he favors that kind of government, publicly stating his view that he wants all county supervisors’ communications with county staff to be secret.

And he’s got the backing from his colleagues to try to pull that off, especially when politicians like Supervisor Andrew Do and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett are aggressively breaking new ground when it comes to campaigning with public resources – currently spending hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars on a wave of county mailers seemingly designed to compliment their own re-election campaigns.

Yet according to sources close to county supervisors, going after journalists with depositions is a Spitzer special order.

One county supervisor, Shawn Nelson, has even voiced public opposition to the deposition order arguing it’s un-American. Other supervisors have remained quiet.

Our colleagues at the Orange County Register’s editorial page also lent their own support to our case, calling on the County of Orange to stop wasting taxpayer resources with such bullying tactics.

Indeed, threatening journalists sends a simple message.

Back off or else.

Our response is just as straightforward.

We aren’t going anywhere.

More Spitzer Staff Moves

Speaking of going places, it wasn’t but just a few weeks ago that I wrote about the implications of having a high-priced political aide, like Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway, abruptly join Spitzer’s staff – reportedly at $190,000 annually.

Spitzer recently has been going through staffers like a set of cheap tires.

There are so many former top staffers that there’s reportedly a survivors group – SOS, Survivors of Spitzer – that meets occasionally.

I recently wrote that Spitzer’s chief of staff George Cardenas might be the next in trouble.

Days after that column ran, Spitzer reportedly moved on his own chief of staff.

The plot gets even thicker as this week, as Cardenas has moved over to work in Nelson’s office.

The implications for Spitzer get even stickier now as questions will certainly arise as how he will insulate Lalloway (whose Irvine City Council is often locking horns with the county in court) from myriad confidential county counsel opinions that are often automatically shared with chiefs of staff like him.

Given that both are attorneys it will be interesting to see how the firm of Lalloway/Spitzer operates now that they are virtually the only two employees left in the Third District.

As Spitzer – who reportedly rarely shows up at his office inside the Hall of Administration in downtown Santa Ana – gears up for his long awaited DA run, maybe this signals a changing of the guard at the Third District, with Lalloway increasingly running the show and in a position to run the office if Spitzer wins his dream job in 2018.

Another Reason to Elect Trump: Just 65% of Feds Commit to Staying During a Trump Administration

How do you get rid of hundreds of thousands of unneeded employees?  How do you get rid of duplicated programs, payoffs and programs that help some at the expense of others—making government the arbiter of winners and losers in society?

“A Government Business Council/ GovExec.com survey found that 14 percent of federal workers say they would definitely consider leaving their jobs if Donald Trump wins the Nov. 8 presidential election. Another 13 percent said they might consider leaving, while 9 percent said they did not know. That leaves just 65 percent of federal workers who say they would stay for a Trump administration.

My guess is that if 10% of Federal government employees left their jobs, no one would notice and it would not make a dent in the reorganization needed at the top levels.  One other ways a President Trump can handle the emergency need to rein in government is to refuse to appoint managers and Commission members.  Force worthless Commissions to close via not governing board.  It will take that type of drastic action, and quickly, to have an honest government again.

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Just 65 Percent of Feds Commit to Staying During a Trump Administration

  • By Eric Katz, Government Executive,  10/28/16

This polarizing presidential election has left many federal workers seriously rethinking their career choices.

A Government Business Council/ GovExec.com survey found that 14 percent of federal workers say they would definitely consider leaving their jobs if Donald Trump wins the Nov. 8 presidential election. Another 13 percent said they might consider leaving, while 9 percent said they did not know. That leaves just 65 percent of federal workers who say they would stay for a Trump administration.

The animus toward Hillary Clinton is less severe: Nine percent would definitely consider leaving; 7 percent might leave; 5 percent didn’t know. Nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) say they would stay for a Clinton administration.

Nearly half of those who say they would leave federal service if their preferred candidate is not elected (49 percent) are eligible for retirement anyway, but the outcome would cause them to retire earlier than planned. About 40 percent would seek a job outside government, while 5 percent would simply quit and then reassess their plans.

Perhaps more striking, about 13 percent of federal employees surveyed said they would not have entered federal service in the first place if Clinton and Trump were the candidates to lead the executive branch at the time they applied. Just 4 percent said having Trump or Clinton as their top boss would make them more enthusiastic about becoming a federal worker.

Overall, Clinton leads Trump among federal employees by a 53 percent to 34 percent margin.

Government Business Council and GovExec released the survey on Oct. 13 to a random sample of Government Executive, Nextgov, Defense One, and Route Fifty subscribers. At least 1,085 federal employees participated in the survey, including 581 at the GS/GM-13 and above grade levels and 31 members of the Senior Executive Service. Respondents include representatives from at least 35 federal and defense agencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.

Read the full survey results here.

 

Harvard Creates Politically Correct Study on Soda—Just in Time for Election

A coincidence that Harvard University, just days before an election where a soda tax is on the ballot on numerous cities around the nation, comes out with a “study” that a soda tax would solve “health” problems.  Read the article carefully—you will not know who actually financed this “study”.  Is it a legitimate health organization, government or a Socialist think tank that likes higher taxes and a government that controls our lives?

“Soda tax initiatives under consideration in California would result in a 20 percent drop in soda consumption, according to a new study out Thursday from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The resulting reduction in obesity and diabetes would slash healthcare costs in the San Francisco Bay Area by $54.9 million over 10 years, the study’s authors said.

The study was released just ahead of the Nov. 8 vote on the measures in three California cities — San Francisco, Oakland and Albany. The proposals would tax soda at a rate of 1 cent per ounce.

Harvard seems to be as big a scam artist as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton.  Sad to see a once great University become a political hack.  This is what big government and bullies have done to our schools, made them indoctrination centers and headquarters for Leftist policies.  Sad day for education.

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Soda taxes bring sweet health rewards — Harvard study

Gina Hall, Business Journal,  10/28/16  

The soda taxes popping up on ballots in cities across the U.S. could lead to a major drop in sugary beverage consumption and millions of dollars in healthcare savings.

Soda tax initiatives under consideration in California would result in a 20 percent drop in soda consumption, according to a new study out Thursday from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The resulting reduction in obesity and diabetes would slash healthcare costs in the San Francisco Bay Area by $54.9 million over 10 years, the study’s authors said.

The study was released just ahead of the Nov. 8 vote on the measures in three California cities — San Francisco, Oakland and Albany. The proposals would tax soda at a rate of 1 cent per ounce.

If the ballot initiatives pass, the number of diabetes cases in the three California cities would drop an estimated 4 percent by 2018. The study also projected that 6,000 fewer people in the area would be obese by the end of 2025.

The city of Boulder, Colorado, has a similar soda tax on the upcoming ballot. Researchers found that if Boulder passes its tax of 2 cents per ounce, the incidence of diabetes would drop by 10 percent in the city, while healthcare costs would decrease by $6.4 million during the next decade.

“Our analysis looks beyond revenue and finds that this excise tax on sugary drinks can generate significant prevention of new cases of obesity, diabetes, improved quality adjusted life years and healthcare cost savings,” Dr. Steven Gortmaker, a professor of health sociology and lead investigator on the project, said in a press release.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia passed a 1.5 cents-per-ounce soda tax. Philadelphia officials estimate the tax will save nearly 700 lives and $200 million in health care costs in the treatment of diabetes over the next decade.

The city of Berkeley, California, was the first in the country to pass a soda tax, back in 2014, and the community is already seeing results. Consumption of sugary drinks in some neighborhoods near Berkeley is down by 20 percent, NPR reported in August.

The full effects of the Berkeley tax remain in dispute, but the website Berkeleyside pointed to research indicating that after that city’s tax went into effect, retailers did not raise prices on non-beverage items in order to compensate, undercutting a key anti-tax argument. Separately, Berkeleyside reported on troubles some distributors had trying to comply with the new law, which laid out a series of exemptions to the tax that smaller distributors found burdensome.

Of course, beverage companies are fighting back. The American Beverage Association, which represents the likes of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo., spent more than $1.5 million on a campaign to fight soda taxes.

“This is a political maneuver financed by out of town special interest groups to push their pro-tax agenda 12 days before an election by looking at only the four cities with ballot initiatives,” Laura Kane, a spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, said,

per Business Insider

. “We encourage the Bay Area and Boulder to look at the facts — taxes on common grocery items don’t make people healthier, just poorer.”

Warren Buffet Happy/Richer: California HazMat Tax on Railroads Blocked

Warren Buffet loves to pay taxes.  So much so for years he has been begging that California end Prop. 13.  Of course as a resident of Nebraska it does not affect him—except his businesses, and the tax is a write off.  But his trains are something else.  The State of California has a law “that would tax trains — but not trucks — that carry hazardous materials, to pay for training and emergency responses to accidents involving the dangerous substances.”

Buffett owns the Burlington Northern Railway, the largest cargo train in California.  He prefers to have the taxpayers finance the training of emergency procedures for train wrecks, not his company,

Today, thanks to a Federal judge, Buffett, the second richest man in America, is even richer.  The next time he campaigns for a Democrat demanding tax increases, ask him to pay his taxes and fees.  I wonder how much richer this made his chief advisor, Charles Munger, Sr.?  Munger lives in Pasadena and Montecito.

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California HazMat Tax on Railroads Blocked

By HELEN CHRISTOPHI, Courthouse News, 10/31/16

         

A federal judge has blocked a California law that would tax trains — but not trucks — that carry hazardous materials, to pay for training and emergency responses to accidents involving the dangerous substances.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg on Friday granted BNSF and Union Pacific Railways’ request for a preliminary injunction, finding the railroads likely to succeed on the merits of some of their arguments.
“The public interest does not weigh against such relief,” Seeborg wrote.
BNSF and Union Pacific sued the state in August, claiming Senate Bill 84 of 2015 unfairly forces railroads and their clients pay for emergency response and preparedness even though truck accidents are more frequent. The law required the railroads to be ready to collect the fees as of Oct. 1 this year.
Railroads were to charge $45 for each railcar carrying hazardous materials, such as ethanol and crude oil, loaded in or coming into California.
The railroads said the fee would drive away their business to truckers, and that only the federal government can regulate interstate railroads.
“California’s scheme will disserve the public interest, either by encouraging shippers to switch to riskier modes of transportation, or by simply discouraging interstate commerce in hazardous materials that are vital to the nation’s industrial and agricultural economy,” the railroads said in their lawsuit.
Seeborg found that California failed to show that charging railroads but not other forms of transportation complies with the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. He noted that the fees could be used to pay for emergency responses to trucking accidents.
Seeborg agreed that the fee acts as a tax, supporting the railroads’ claim that the law is unfair under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
“As the railroads point out, merely requiring reimbursement of equipment operating expenses does not excuse saddling the rail industry with the cost of acquiring equipment that very well could be used by the trucking industry as much or more than by the rail industry,” Seeborg wrote.
The railroads said the California Legislature rejected a similar law that would have charged rail and trucking companies a hazardous materials fee.
The state argued in opposition that a train can carry more hazardous material than a truck, making a train accident much more harmful. California also claimed that its emergency response system for trucking accidents with hazardous materials is adequate, but its emergency response system for rail accidents is not.
“The public’s interest in assessing a minimal fee designed to protect the shippers of hazardous materials by mitigating the damage caused by a spill clearly outweighs the potential harm caused by having to collect the fee,” the state said in its argument against the injunction.
But Seeborg found that the railroads showed that their business will take a hit if they’re required to collect the fees while the litigation continues.
“If the fees take effect and the law is later ruled invalid, the railroads have established that the fees will drive at least some business to trucking — damages that they will not be able to recover against the state,” Seeborg wrote.
BNSF is represented by Benjamin Horwich with Munger, Tolles and Olson; Union Pacific by Carol Thompson with Sidley Austin, both of San Francisco.
BNSF could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
A Union Pacific spokesman said the railroad had no comment

.
The state of California also declined to comment.

Jerry Brown Lied and CalPERS is Dying

According to the Stanford Institute on pensions headed by Joe Nation, a Democrat former Assemblyman, CalPERS is now $991 billion unfunded.  That is money needed to keep the system afloat.  In 2012 as part of his campaign for re-election scam, he had passed a reform of the pension system to save it—at that time it was only about $500 billion in unfunded liabilities.  But last year instead of a 7.5% return on investment, they got .61%.  The difference added to the deficit.  This year may be even worse.

“It’s been four years since lawmakers passed Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping pension overhaul. Yet we have little to show for what was supposed to be the “biggest rollback to public pension benefits in California history,” according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times—the latest in a series about California’s pension matters. Annual retirement obligations will hit $11 billion by 2019, double what they were when Brown took office in 2011. CalPERS’ unfunded liability is now estimated at $93 billion and $76 billion for the teachers’ retirement system.

Of course Brown is not using Federal pension criteria—therefore the lower unfunded liability.  Worse, the $991 billion is based on a 3.5% return on investment—again, the return was only .61%–so the real unfunded liability just for CalPERS is over one trillion dollars.  Wonder why smart businesses are leaving the State—they want out before they are forced to pay higher taxes.

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California’s 2012 Pension Overhaul Has Fallen Flat

California County News,  10/30/16

It’s been four years since lawmakers passed Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping pension overhaul. Yet we have little to show for what was supposed to be the “biggest rollback to public pension benefits in California history,” according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times—the latest in a series about California’s pension matters. Annual retirement obligations will hit $11 billion by 2019, double what they were when Brown took office in 2011. CalPERS’ unfunded liability is now estimated at $93 billion and $76 billion for the teachers’ retirement system.

The legislation that was ultimately accepted was not exactly what the governor had hoped for. One of the most significant facets of Brown’s plan, for instance—a hybrid retirement system that would join traditional pensions and 401k-style plans—was rejected by lawmakers. “We were never going to go there because we didn’t believe in that,” said Darrell Steinberg, former leader of the California State Senate. Other elements that would have given the law more teeth were similarly rejected.

The Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2012 raised the retirement age, disallowed retroactive pension increases, stopped abusive practices like sick and vacation day hoarding, and required minimum contributions from workers toward their pensions. But employees of the University of California and cities that manage their own pension systems were excluded. And because the changes applied mainly to new hires, it will take years to see the savings, estimated at $28 to $38 billion over 30 years for CalPERS and $22.7 billion for the teacher fund. Even then, they’ll barely make a dent in the colossal unfunded liabilities.

More must be done, but lawmakers lack urgency, says the Times. Many of them are banking on economic growth to save the system. They’re also still under the stranglehold of public employee unions, according to Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego).

“Their loyalty is to those unions because that’s how they got elected,” said Anderson, the only senator who voted against the 2012 pension reform bill. He and other critics point out that, between 2010 and 2014, public employee unions gave $12.5 million to the Legislature’s Democrats. Republicans received $1 million.

But there are some glimmers of hope for meaningful pension reform, according to the experts. There was a major development in August when a state appellate court ruled that the Legislature could roll back pensions for current employees so long as a “reasonable” pension is being preserved. The so-called “California Rule” that was dealt a blow in that decision is what prevented current workers from being included in the 2012 pension overhaul in the first place. That case is now pending before the California Supreme Court.

 

Citibank Closing Several Central Valley Banks—Online Banking Taking Toll

On Saturday we wrote about how technology is going to kill the oil industry.  Yesterday we wrote about how electric vehicles are killing the auto manufacturing industry.  Today, the next industry to go is banking.  My wife deposits all of our checks via a camera and the internet—we pay all but three bills a month by internet payment systems.  Why drive to a bank to make deposits, or mail in checks—we have the internet.  Citibank, one of the three largest in the nation has begun the cut banks of branches, many in the Central Valley.

“The Fresno and Reedley branches are set to close on Jan. 13, 2017, according to the Citibank website. The move is part of a larger industry effort to concentrate operations in large urban areas, and an acknowledgment that online banking is cutting the need for neighborhood branches.

Local banks have been absorbing some of the empty spaces left behind in last year’s round of closures. Visalia-based Suncrest Bank added a branch in Kingsburg and relocated its main Visalia branch to former Citibank locations. Porterville’s Bank of the Sierra also took over a former Citibank space in Sanger.

As of June 30, Citibank had a 4.02 percent share of the market in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Madera counties in terms of deposits, for a total of $807 milion, according to the lastest data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Every aspect of our lives are changing.  Education needs to do the same.  Using dead trees for textbooks, killing the climate by forcing kids to gather together in expensive buildings—then using old fashioned library—limited in the books and information inside—education needs to change.  Stop the building of failed brick and mortar schools.  Change the curriculum, let kids come to school two days a week for specialized learning (hence no need to build new schools) and give then a 21st century education instead of one based in the 18th century.

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Citibank branches in Fresno, Reedley to close in January

Written by John Lindt, The Business Journal, 10/31/16

The nation’s third-largest bank, Citibank in 2015 announced the closure of nine Central California branches that have since ceased operating, including locations in Visalia, Sanger, Porterville, Kingsburg, Madera and Chowchilla.

Now in a new filing with the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency [OCC] dated Oct. 22, Citibank announced plans close another 10 California branches. In addition to the Reedley branch and Fresno branch at First Street and Bullard Avenue (6025 N. First St.), branches in Merced, Stockton, Ventura, Yucaipa, Arcadia, Saint Helena, Banning and Long Beach are also on the chopping block.

The Fresno and Reedley branches are set to close on Jan. 13, 2017, according to the Citibank website. The move is part of a larger industry effort to concentrate operations in large urban areas, and an acknowledgment that online banking is cutting the need for neighborhood branches.

Local banks have been absorbing some of the empty spaces left behind in last year’s round of closures. Visalia-based Suncrest Bank added a branch in Kingsburg and relocated its main Visalia branch to former Citibank locations. Porterville’s Bank of the Sierra also took over a former Citibank space in Sanger.

As of June 30, Citibank had a 4.02 percent share of the market in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Madera counties in terms of deposits, for a total of $807 milion, according to the lastest data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Citibank also had 11 offices in the region.

On June 30, 2014, Citibank had a 5.17 percent share of the market, with deposits of $935.3 million and 15 offices.

Citibank currently has a branch each in Selma, Hanford and Reedley, as well as eight in the Fresno-Clovis area.

15 Ideas for Tackling California Cities’ Housing Crisis

Building new housing in California is not rocket science.  It takes courage.  The courage to end high taxes, scam regulations, ending the union stranglehold on construction.  Allow people to use their private property—and for government to sell its excess property, for the purpose of new homes and the creation of jobs.  We know what to do, but elected officials prefer government to freedom, high costs to free market prices.

“But taking advantage of overlooked opportunities could help reverse this trend. The report estimates as many as 225,000 new units could be built on vacant urban land, nearly 800,000 by allowing homeowners to add units to their buildings, 1 million by developing underutilized multi-family lots, another 1.2 to 3 million within a half mile of transit hubs, and more than 600,000 affordable single-family units on land currently dedicated to non-residential uses.

Of the 15 tools recommended to create those 3.5 million needed units, five help identify land for new housing, two remove development barriers on that land, five cut the cost and risk of housing production, and three improve housing access for those being priced out.

The rich and elite are using zoning laws, environmental regulations and unions to keep the cost of construction high—to squeeze out the middle class and poor—while inviting the illegal aliens into the State, for low cost workers.  It takes courage to vote against the government and for freedom—do you have the courage on November 8?  It is your future.

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15 Ideas for Tackling California Cities’ Housing Crisis

California’s housing shortage and affordability gap is large — among the worst in the country — and with the population growing far faster than housing production, it’s getting worse. But according to a new report, it doesn’t need to be this way.

The McKinsey Global Institute laid out 15 tools with the potential to produce 3.5 million additional homes in the state by 2025. That’s the magic number to both satisfy pent-up demand and meet the needs of the 3.6 million people expected to move to California over the next decade.

Those tools include changing regulations to streamline development, incentivizing cities to meet housing production goals, making use of vacant urban lots and underutilized properties, and, where urban development isn’t possible, concentrating new housing around regional transit hubs.

California currently ranks 49th out of the 50 states for housing units per capita. The state is short about 2 million units, a shortage that is squeezing low income and middle-income residents alike. Half of all California households can’t afford housing in their local market. Nearly 70 percent of low-income households in the state would need to spend more than half of their income to afford the local cost of housing. In cities like Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Francisco, even middle-class households are struggling. According to the report, “in the city of San Francisco, a household earning $140,000 per year, or 179 percent of area median income, is squeezed.”

This isn’t just bad for individuals and families, but also for the economy: McKinsey estimates California loses $140 million per year in missing construction dollars and consumer spending that’s eaten up by high housing costs.

But taking advantage of overlooked opportunities could help reverse this trend. The report estimates as many as 225,000 new units could be built on vacant urban land, nearly 800,000 by allowing homeowners to add units to their buildings, 1 million by developing underutilized multi-family lots, another 1.2 to 3 million within a half mile of transit hubs, and more than 600,000 affordable single-family units on land currently dedicated to non-residential uses.

Of the 15 tools recommended to create those 3.5 million needed units, five help identify land for new housing, two remove development barriers on that land, five cut the cost and risk of housing production, and three improve housing access for those being priced out.

Identifying land for development means debunking the popular belief that California has no vacant urban land. The report estimates that in California cities with populations of more than 100,000 people, there is capacity to build 103,000 to 225,000 housing units on vacant land already zoned for multifamily housing. About a third of those lots are in Los Angeles County.

Then there are the lots that have some multi-family development, but could take more units if over-large parking lots were utilized, or buildings wholesale redeveloped. In San Francisco alone, more than 30 percent of multifamily parcels are underutilized, so without changing current zoning, the city could add 70,500 new units. The report does caution that this approach could lead to displacement, and thus advises a long, slow timeline and tools like ensuring preferential or discounted tenancy in the new buildings.

Crucially, local governments must be incentivized to develop new housing. Right now, that’s not the case. The report states:

“Instead of vying for new residents as a source of revenue and dynamism, many cities are concerned about the impact new residents could have on municipal finances and aging infrastructure. Residents who bought their homes when the city looked a certain way want it to stay that way and may oppose development because of its impact on parking, traffic, schools, sight lines, or community character. City council members who make land-use decisions respond to homeowner voices, creating an environment where it is easier to say ‘no’ to housing than ‘yes.’”

To combat NIMBYism, the report recommends adding teeth to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which is supposed to hold jurisdictions to production goals. Right now localities are required to zone and plan units, but not necessarily to actually allow developers to build.

Other suggestions include accelerating land-use approvals, promoting modular construction and rethinking the state’s high impact fees. Keeping housing affordable will also be key, and could be accomplished through methods such as appealing to social impact investors, setting aside a portion of the state budget for affordable housing creation, and utilizing tools like linkage fees and inclusionary zoning.

See the full report here.

Jerry Brown LOVES CRIME: Burglaries UP 19% in Benicia Since His Prop. 47 Passed

It has only been two years since the passage of Prop. 47, the Jerry Brown ballot measure that redefine felonies into misdemeanors and robberies under $950 into tickets like spitting on the streets.  In every category, in every city crime is in, but the number of cops are not.  Brown has given us more victims at home and more criminals on the streets.

“Proposition 47 reduced many nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors, including certain drug offenses and thefts of property worth less than $950. Instead of being arrested, many offenders are given citations.

Critics of the measure say it encourages criminals to break the law, and the latest statistics seem to bear that out, Benicia police say.

The Benicia Police Department reported earlier this year that larceny offenses were up 19 percent over the previous year. According to the most recent crime log, the city has had 113 burglaries so far this year, up from 82 in all of 2015.

Now Brown wants even more criminals on the streets—even rapists.  Under his Prop. 57, if you rape an unconscious woman or a woman that is intoxicated, that is considered a non-violent crime.  Why does Brown hate women so much?  Why does he want more crime and less punishment?  He does not have to worry, he and his wife and armed guards—paid by you—24/7.  Feel safe?

Police tape

Burglaries up in Benicia since Proposition 47 passed two years ago

By Katy St. Clair,Times-Herald,10/25/16

BENICIA >> Crime reports show burglaries are up significantly in Benicia since voters passed state Proposition 47 two years ago.

The latest crime report from the Police Department in September shows a year-to-date increase over last year’s numbers, and law enforcement officials are fighting back, Benicia Police Department spokesmen said.

Proposition 47 reduced many nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors, including certain drug offenses and thefts of property worth less than $950. Instead of being arrested, many offenders are given citations.

Critics of the measure say it encourages criminals to break the law, and the latest statistics seem to bear that out, Benicia police say.

The Benicia Police Department reported earlier this year that larceny offenses were up 19 percent over the previous year. According to the most recent crime log, the city has had 113 burglaries so far this year, up from 82 in all of 2015.

“There’s really no incentive for the criminals not to violate the law,” Benicia Police Lt. Scott Przekurat said. “They just get a citation, basically.”

Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson said in an earlier press release that officers recently arrested a suspect for theft and possession of stolen property, whose behavior illustrates the point.

“A search of his shed found numerous stolen and suspected stolen items,” Upson said. “The suspect freely admitted that he only steals from unlocked cars in order to avoid any significant consequences.”

Breaking into unlocked cars is now a misdemeanor.

What Przekurat says what he finds most troubling is the change in the law that allows repeat offenders to avoid felony charges.

“Before 47, if you got caught shoplifting over and over again, you could be charged with a felony,” he said. “Now people can shoplift right and left and never get more than a misdemeanor.”

Proposition 47 was primarily an effort to reduce incarceration rates for nonviolent and drug offenders as a statewide cost reduction measure.

A recent Public Policy Institute of California report claims incarceration rates have indeed gone down since the measure was passed, saying that, “the average daily population of individuals being held or serving time for Prop 47 offenses declined by 50 percent.”

Since Prop 47’s implementation, felony arrests also declined 28 percent in 2015 alone, according to the California Police Chiefs Association. However, misdemeanor arrests have increased +10 percent, they said.

Benicia Police officials say they’re feeling the strain of the increased criminal activity. “Our communications center has received an increase in calls,” Przekurat said. “Dispatchers are busier, records clerks are busier, basically, it’s just a spike in activity for every part of our department.”

Upson has been in communication with other police chiefs throughout California about what he says is a state-wide impact on departments, and said they have developed some approaches to reduce the trend.

“We will be increasing and improving our crime analysis to respond faster and more efficiently to trends and series,” he said in the release. “As we identify and arrest our top offenders, we will track them and work with the courts and Probation Department to prevent recidivism.”

Upson also said that Benicia’s social media community is vital to recognizing possible crimes in progress and reporting suspicious activity.

“We aren’t just sitting back and taking it,” Przekurat said.

Government Policies Cause of Squeezed Middle Class Via Inflation/Price Increases.

I will admit it.  The other day I bought a Carls Jr. breakfast burrito,  A month ago I paid $3.19—now I paid $3.69.  It is little increases like this, in the cost of food, and other basics on why the middle class is poorer today.  Want to buy a pound of bacon—it is much higher today than in 1996—and the package is either 14 or 12 ounces, not a real pound.

“From 1996 to 2016

-College tuition                 +197%

-Childcare                            +122%

-Health Care                       +105%

-Food                                    +64%

-Housing                              +61%

What we do see is prices falling for household furniture, clothes, software, toys, and televisions.  These are items that you can go without for the most part.  You need housing. You need food.  You need health care.  And this is the reason so many Americans are frustrated.  They are living this inflation through the real world via budget pinching.  I guess it doesn’t matter that inflation is only happening in items that matter.”

But the items the middle class buys or needs goes up dramatically.  Those items bought every few years, go down.  This is why government policies have pushed many in the middle class to the poorer class.  That is why tax policy, regulations and government control have killed off the middle class—and it has been a suicide.  We have voted for those they did this to us—again and again.  Will you do it on the 8th, again?

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

The story of inflation between 1996 and 2016 is of rising prices in things that you need: Prices skyrocket for middle class goods and services.

Inflation is rarely discussed in the mainstream press.  Most people wake up every day and simply believe that prices go up as a natural state.  These deeply held assumptions usually crack when new revelations happen like centuries ago with new scientific discoveries showing that our planet is not the center of the universe.  Yet somehow people hold on tightly refusing to acknowledge that inflation is caused directly by banks, governments, and central banks.  It is interesting to look at inflation data over a 20 year period, form 1996 to 2016.  What you will find in the data is that prices are soaring in the items people need, especially those items to enter into the middle class.  Since wages are not keeping up, it is no surprise then that the middle class over this time has shrank into a minority class.

Inflation in items you need

“Here is a list of items that are skyrocketing in price:

From 1996 to 2016

-College tuition                 +197%

-Childcare                            +122%

-Health Care                       +105%

-Food                                    +64%

-Housing                              +61%

And where are prices going down?

What we do see is prices falling for household furniture, clothes, software, toys, and televisions.  These are items that you can go without for the most part.  You need housing. You need food.  You need health care.  And this is the reason so many Americans are frustrated.  They are living this inflation through the real world via budget pinching.  I guess it doesn’t matter that inflation is only happening in items that matter.”

Government policies, taxes, limiting of housing stock, ObamaCare and more is why the middle class in America is becoming the poor class in the United States.  We are suicidal—we voted the legislators and President into office that did it to us.

This chart is essentially highlighting the evaporation of the middle class.  Many of the jobs that pay a good wage like accounting, nursing, engineering, and computer science for example all require a college degree.  And the cost to get this college degree has gone up 197% over the last 20 years.  Of course this is being financed via debt with $1.4 trillion in student debt being outstanding.  So even for the chance of earning a good wage, many have to take on heavy levels of debt first.

Then you start working and all is well right?  Well housing, your biggest expense is up by 61% and this is of course based on the owners’ equivalent of rent which is a poor measure of inflation in housing.  Why? Because it looks at a home via its rental utility.  Well of course if you own your home you have taxes, maintenance, insurance, and other costs that go beyond just the rental value.  It is also hypothetical versus the real actual cost of owning the home (which we know).

Food is up 64% so if you eat, that might be a problem.  What is interesting though is cheap food which is largely bad for you is actually fairly affordable.  You can buy a large pizza at some gas stations for $5 bucks.  But eat this everyday and you’ll end up in the hospital at some point with heart issues costing you tens of thousands of dollars.

Then many have a family so childcare is up 122% and health care is up 105%.  Even this year, plans under the Affordable Care Act are going up on average by 22 percent on the benchmark silver plan:

“(Slate) Just in time for the election, the Obama administration confirmed Monday that premiums on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces are set to rise by double digits in 2017. Before subsidies, the average monthly cost of a benchmark silver plan will increase by 22 percent in states that use healthcare.gov or where data is otherwise available, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.”

The brunt of those paying the bill with this hike in prices?  The middle class.  Inflation is very real.  Rents are also rising as many people flock to metro areas where housing supply is tight and much of the available homes were bought out by large investors since the housing market crisis hit a decade ago.

Of course what inflation does is slams the purchasing power of the US dollar:

What we do see is prices falling for household furniture, clothes, software, toys, and televisions.  These are items that you can go without for the most part.  You need housing. You need food.  You need health care.  And this is the reason so many Americans are frustrated.  They are living this inflation through the real world via budget pinching.  I guess it doesn’t matter that inflation is only happening in items that matter.

The End of Public Transit?

Want great schools—charter schools and private schools—want mediocre and bad schools, go the government route.  Like roads that are well designed and maintained, try a toll road—not a freeway.  Need quality healthcare, get it privately.  Want to have a card that lies about the availability of good and timely health care, go for ObamaCare.  Oh, you may not afford the Affordable Health Care Act card.  If not you get to pay a big penalty, still cheaper, to the IRS.

Private prisons are significantly cheaper than government prisons.  Cities are privatizing libraries—at a lower cost and higher quality.  Why not transit.  Why does government have to own the buses and trains—Uber is privately owned and doing great service for the public.  I prefer Uber to run light rail and business than government owned by unions.

“I used to think these services were just for the rich—a friend of mine who lived in New York insisted on taking an Uber Pool to work every day because he said it was a much better experience than public transit. But as the options increase, they carry an expanding array of people. This morning, for instance, I walked one block from my house to take a private van service called Chariot to my office in San Francisco. Before Chariot, this commute took at least 40 minutes and consisted of riding a bus to the subway to another bus. Chariot—a shared van service run by a private company—brought me directly from my house to my office in just over 20 minutes. And it cost roughly the same price as the lengthier public transit option.

Actually the price is MUCH cheaper since the private firms do not use tax dollars to subsidize the unions and crony capitalists. It is time to sell the government transportation system.  What do you think?

from the L.A. Times

from the L.A. Times

 

The End of Public Transit?

Start-ups are proving more efficient than government in areas like transportation. Should some services be privatized?

Alana Semuels, The Atlantic,  10/28/16

Cities such as New York and San Francisco have extensive public-transportation systems that carry millions of residents by bus, train, boat, and light rail. But in recent years, there’s been an expanding fleet of private vehicles too: Lyft, Uber, Juno, Uber Pool, and the Google Bus, to name a few. These offerings give commuters more choices, but may also undermine the public services available. They raise fundamental questions about the future of how people will get around cities.

I used to think these services were just for the rich—a friend of mine who lived in New York insisted on taking an Uber Pool to work every day because he said it was a much better experience than public transit. But as the options increase, they carry an expanding array of people. This morning, for instance, I walked one block from my house to take a private van service called Chariot to my office in San Francisco. Before Chariot, this commute took at least 40 minutes and consisted of riding a bus to the subway to another bus. Chariot—a shared van service run by a private company—brought me directly from my house to my office in just over 20 minutes. And it cost roughly the same price as the lengthier public transit option.

The ease of Chariot has made me wonder if my friend were right: Why should anyone use public services if the private sector can provide the same service more efficiently? On an individual level, after all, the private bus was much more pleasant and not much more expensive. On the government level, privatization could save money. Privatizing public bus services could save $5.7 billion a year, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in March.

Many economists would say that giving consumers more options is a good thing. I spoke to Matthew Mitchell, the director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Institute. He argued that public transit is a monopoly. The government gives tax dollars and subsidies to transit agencies, allowing them to exist in environments where other businesses wouldn’t be able to afford to operate. Then the government regulates what non-governmental transportation services can and can’t do, which drives some private options out of business. In the past, government has stepped in when private options began to illuminate how unappealing the public options were. A century ago, when private drivers started to operate jitneys—essentially charging passengers for rides, much like Uber does—government regulated them out of existence. Without jitneys, people were forced to take public transit, a development that led to a flourishing of transportation services.

And yet, even with all the subsidies and regulatory help, most public transit systems have trouble staying afloat. New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for example, has more than 6 million daily riders and a $15 billion budget, and is still constantly in crisis. Private options such as Chariot and Uber Pool can run without these subsidies (although they are currently running on significant money from venture capitalists). Mitchell would like to see transit become completely privatized, with companies competing with each other to serve different lines, which would, he says, drive prices down. “Why not open up a system to market competition so that there can be a flourishing of all sorts of business models?” he said. When the airlines were deregulated, after all, cheap fares flourished, he said.

The private sector has some big advantages when it comes to improving existing infrastructure: It can innovate, using new technology and customer input in ways that government can’t. Government is huge, after all, and can’t experiment with money from venture capitalists to try out new ideas; it has to serve existing customers. This applies to things outside of transit, too. In today’s world, there are start-ups that try to create better schools, better mail delivery, and better loan products than what the government can currently provide. Chariot, specifically, is set up in a way that allows it to maximize profits in a way public transportation can’t: It only operates during commuting hours, and only runs on popular routes. It changes the number of trips its vans make depending on demand, and requires passengers book trips through their smartphones to ensure maximum occupancy. In this way, both Chariot and its customers are enjoying an improved system.

The private sector creates some losers, too, though. Chariot doesn’t serve many of the poorer neighborhoods in San Francisco, for example. (A spokesperson for Chariot says its routes are crowdsourced, and thus chosen by its users.) And the service is only accessible to people with smartphones who commute during the morning and evening rush. This means that low-income people, who already have limited access to transit, can’t use the service to get to work as quickly as wealthier people can, even though they are the ones that often need reliable transportation even more, since their work schedules are less flexible.

But the private sector doesn’t have to completely replace government services. Sometimes they can work together, says William Eggers, the executive director of the Center for Government Insights at Deloitte, and co-author of The Solution Revolution, a book about how government and business are working together to solve societal problems. Some governments are embracing efforts by social entrepreneurs to solve problems the government hasn’t figured out, he told me. The city of Helsinki, for example, has an ambitious goal to make car ownership obsolete by 2025. Instead, the city envisions a plan where customers use their smartphones to plan and book both public and private transit. Much as Google maps now shows routes by walking, transit, and services such as Uber, Helsinki’s plan would allow users to look on their smartphones and select whichever mode of transport will get them to their destination in the most quick, cheap, or environmentally-friendly way, depending on their preferences. “The most innovative governments are going to say, ‘We’re going to capitalize on all this innovation, rather than competing,’” Eggers told me.

And if there are things that a city has decided it wants to provide—transit service to poor people who might not be able to afford the private options, for example—the government can provide vouchers so that people can choose whatever private option suits them best, Mitchell said. Rather than spending millions to operate multiple transit lines and modes—while losing money—the government can spend less and leave the headaches of running those systems  to someone else. It can use the savings to pay for other, essential, government services. This is something cities across America are already experimenting with, contracting with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to provide rides to disabled people.

A Chariot spokesperson told me the company has already met with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and that it wants to partner with them to help fill gaps in underserved areas. After all, the company, which was recently purchased by Ford, says that one-fifth of current Chariot trips are to or from public transit stops. A spokesperson for SFMTA says that the agency is open to collaborating with services that can improve its transportation network.

But there is a lot to lose by letting private options flourish. Private transit may run the most efficient service, but efficiency isn’t the sole goal of society. Inclusivity is also important, not just for individuals, but for the health of a society overall. Public transit doesn’t just serve those on the popular routes: Most systems use the heavily-traveled, profitable routes to cross-subsidize routes that might lose money due to fewer riders, according to Ian Savage, a transportation economist at Northwestern University. Private transit companies have no good business reason to provide service along routes that will lose money. But that sets up a losing proposition for both public systems and the ridership of less popular routes: Private services might wind up competing with the government along the profitable routes, siphoning money-making customers, and ultimately challenging the government’s ability to subsidize the less-profitable lines. Cutting off commuting options isn’t just annoying, it keeps people stuck in their impoverished neighborhoods and prevents from getting them to the jobs they need to improve their lives. A government that can’t or won’t provide transportation may keep its residents mired in poverty.

A world with only private services has other big shortcomings too, namely that the broader population has less say in how these services are run. “There are certain public purposes that can be best served when the institutions are accountable to the public through the medium of elections, and ultimately, through the medium of democracy,” Paul Starr, a Princeton sociologist, told me. When a society comes together and agrees to fund services such as schools and public transit, members of that society get to weigh in on how those entities should be governed. They can elect candidates to the school board or the city council, for instance. This democratic process means residents are engaged in the services that their tax dollars provide, and that they work to improve them, said Jason Henderson, a professor at San Francisco State University, and the author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco. There is no such process for private companies, which are governed by independent boards and which exist primarily to make money. This can be problematic when the goals of private companies—usually profit maximization—conflict with the goals of the public sector. The private sector, for instance, may find it’s most efficient to pay workers minimum wage and to not provide health insurance, but that may not be how most people want the employees who serve them to be treated.

Perhaps even more important is that when there are private options, the citizens that use them can check out of the democratic process. Parents whose children are in private school are less invested in improving public schools. That has led to tensions between people who can afford to send their children to private schools and who don’t want to pay higher taxes in the name of the public system, and those who can’t. The same happens in transit, too: Once I was using Chariot, I was less interested in the fate of the buses and subways I had been taking every day, and knew less about when there were delays and what was causing them. “It’s a secession from the public realm,” Henderson said. When you start shifting public transit constituents to private operators, “you start to lose the public commitment to the public,” he said.

A corollary to Henderson’s argument follows: If I care about where I live, I should patronize government services, rather than private ones. By using services like Chariot, after all, I’m depriving the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency of my dollars, and losing interest in a public process that might improve the transportation services I have been avoiding.

The government in San Francisco has, so far, largely avoided regulating ride-sharing services like Chariot and Uber Pool the way they did a century ago with jitneys. Without regulation, then, the burden on acting ethically is on me. I can follow Henderson’s suggestions, which include biking to the subway, and then using a bike-sharing system once I arrived closer to my office, or taking the (very long) bus route that runs from my office to my house and advocating for the bus service to be improved.

Consumers are faced with ethical consumption choices every day: whether or not to buy local, even if it’s more expensive; or if they should buy a cheap clothing item, even if it may have been made in an overseas factory with poor working conditions. This is more or less the problem facing government services that are now competing with the private sector. It often takes extra time and hassle to choose the “right” thing.