Archives for March 2017

Pothole Coast Highway: California Faces an Infrastructure Crisis

Pot hole in residential road surface

The Pacific Coast Highway stretch between Dana Point in Orange County, Calif., at the southern end, and Fort Bragg in Mendocino on the northern end, “is a bucket-list trip,” the New York Daily News enthused two years ago. “Stretching 650 curve-hugging, jaw-dropping miles along the ruggedly beautiful central coast of California, Highway 1 is one of the most scenic roads in the country.”

What the newspaper didn’t mention is that anyone winding along California roads might think that the Big One has already hit. Streets and highways across the state are in awful shape: a cracked, crumbling mess pock-marked with potholes, which tend to grow larger due to time, weather, and government negligence.

Some potholes grew so monstrous after recent heavy winter rains that California Highway Patrol officers in Oakland actually named one — “Steve.” They should have called it “Jerry,” after Governor Brown, who has done little about the state’s failing infrastructure except talk about it, while continuing to seek funding for a costly and unnecessary high-speed rail system. A bit of help for the weary motorist who’s thinking about making a justifiable claim against Caltrans for the damage it’s done to his car? Not in Brown’s California. Chapman University professor and City Journal contributing editor Joel Kotkin wrote last year in the Orange County Register that Brown’s goal “is to make congestion so terrible that people will be forced out of their cars and onto transit.”

Not all of California’s infrastructure problems can be blamed on the winter weather. In 2015, in the midst of a withering drought, the Mercury News reported that a family’s car hit a “killer pothole” near Sacramento with such force that its airbags inflated. Repairs would have cost nearly $15,000, so the insurance company wrote if off as a total loss. Though that might sound like a one-off event, California roads are indeed wrecking cars. “Deficient roads” in the Los Angeles area cost motorists an average $2,800 in annual repair costs. The state implicitly admits that its roads are a mess through a law that enables car owners who feel they’ve “lost money or property as a result of any action or inaction by Caltrans” to make five-figure claims against the agency.

The Reason Foundation, which for decades has rated road conditions across the country, ranked California roads 42nd in the nation in its 22nd Annual Highway Report. The state is 45th in rural-interstate pavement condition, 48th in urban-interstate pavement condition, and 48th in congestion in urbanized areas, the study says. “Half of the nation’s rural interstate mileage in poor condition is located in just five states,” says Reason’s Adrian Moore, and California is one of them. Media reports say that nearly 60 percent of the roads need repair. Will Kempton, a former Caltrans director, told the Los Angeles Times in February that road conditions were the worst he’d ever seen.

Roads aren’t the only infrastructure breaking down in California; its dams are no longer trustworthy. The Oroville Dam in the Sierra Nevada foothills almost failed this winter when its main spillway fell apart. It didn’t, but its near-collapse was a warning, as the New York Times reported, that the state’s “network of dams and waterways is suffering from age and stress.” The San Francisco Chronicle said a year ago that “there are 200 dams in California that are at least partially filled with mud and are approaching the end of their working lives.”

This isn’t a surprise to policymakers, who’ve been on notice for some time. According to the Association of Dam Safety Officials, California had 334 “high-hazard potential” dams in 2005; by 2015, 678 earned that designation. Officials were told in 2005 that the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam posed a serious risk.

Also vulnerable are the state’s levees, especially those in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta network. Problems in this patchwork of largely muddy banks, built by farmers rather than civil engineers, put much of the state’s water supply at grave risk.

Rather than fix the state’s vital artery system and shore up its dams and levees, Brown and other policymakers prefer to focus on the shiny bauble of high-speed rail and a fanciful mixture of mass transit and bike lanes in an effort to move Californians out of their cars and into forms of transportation favored by Sacramento’s political bosses. Those who resist the agenda because they want to maintain the freedom facilitated by cars are likely to be hit with a new fuel-tax hike (in a state that already has some of the highest fuel taxes in the country).

More taxes, tolls, or user fees might be tolerable if the additional dollars improved the roads. But California has a history of taxing motorists to pay for pet projects that have zero connection with improved street and highway conditions. The Golden State’s existing patterns of density and sprawl have made reliance on car travel a necessity for most residents. Mass-transit advocates can wish for magical people-moving networks that will make cars obsolete, but the state’s planners need to focus on repairing the infrastructure we already have before they start implementing their dreams of a shining California future.

SB 219 Would Criminalize Pronoun Usage in Nursing Homes–NOT A JOKE

SB 219 by San Fran State Senator Scott Wiener would make your grandmother in a nursing home genderless.  Your father in a California nursing home will be neutered, per order of the State of California.  No stupidity by the Left is too small, to dehumanize men and women by government.  Every chance to embarrass the elderly, the Democrats will take.  If SB 219 passes, a nurse calling your mother a women will be a criminal action.  Not a joke—except to the Democrats.

“In the letter, Kevin Snider of the PJI-CPP details a number of concerns with the bill, including religious freedom, pronouns, names and compelled speech.  Among other things, the bill contains no exceptions for religiously-operated institutions, which means nuns caring for the elderly and disabled in covered facilities would be expected to embrace the State’s gender ideology.  The bill also fails to account for the sad reality that many residents of long-term care facilities are not in their right minds and may have delusions that should not be imposed on caregivers.

Brad Dacus, the president of the PJI-CPP, noted, “Radical gender theory has real, negative consequences for society.  All of us should be alarmed by the attempt to now criminalize the use of legal names and grammatically correct pronouns in nursing homes.  We believe this bill is not only unconstitutional, but unconscionable.”

So, Mrs. Smith now becomes Smith, by government edict.  Imagine how confusing that will be to the elderly.  Can SB 219 be considered elder abuse?  I do.

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New Bill Would Criminalize Pronoun Usage in Nursing Homes

Pacific Justice Institute,  3/27/2017

Sacramento, CA–The latest battleground over gender theory is coming to nursing homes—and failure to conform to State orthodoxy could be a crime.

The mandates on long-term care facilities, their employees and even non-employees are set forth in Senate Bill (SB) 219, proposed by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).  The bill is set for hearing on Tuesday afternoon, March 28, in the Senate Human Services Committee which Sen. Wiener chairs.  The PJI Center for Public Policy sent a letter to the committee on Friday opposing the bill.

In the letter, Kevin Snider of the PJI-CPP details a number of concerns with the bill, including religious freedom, pronouns, names and compelled speech.  Among other things, the bill contains no exceptions for religiously-operated institutions, which means nuns caring for the elderly and disabled in covered facilities would be expected to embrace the State’s gender ideology.  The bill also fails to account for the sad reality that many residents of long-term care facilities are not in their right minds and may have delusions that should not be imposed on caregivers.

Brad Dacus, the president of the PJI-CPP, noted, “Radical gender theory has real, negative consequences for society.  All of us should be alarmed by the attempt to now criminalize the use of legal names and grammatically correct pronouns in nursing homes.  We believe this bill is not only unconstitutional, but unconscionable.”

Segregated LAUSD Accepts Policy to KICK OUT WHITE Students

Imagine white parents will now become “black or Hispanic”, just to keep teachers and aides in an LAUSD Middle School.  The bigots at LAUSD are telling the parents they have three choices.

  1. Take your white kids and leave town
  2. Lie about your race
  3. Accept inferior education because your child is white

Will Attorney General Sessions sue LAUSD for this blatant discrimination and bigotry against white kids.  How much hatred is involved?  Whites must deny their race to get a quality education for their children.  Shame.

“White parents who stand to lose teachers and counselors at their neighborhood public school in Los Angeles are changing their ethnic status with LA Unified to get around a district policy that strips extra staff from schools that are more than 30 percent white.

And some Latino parents who fear deportation under the Trump Administration are saying they are white, further imperiling the smaller class sizes guaranteed under a 40-year-old desegregation settlement.

A 1978 legal settlement requires that LA schools with less than 30 percent white students get extra teachers, counselors and parent-teacher conferences. But each year, a handful of schools lose that status, called PHBAO (pronounced “fuh-BOW”) — an acronym for “Predominantly Hispanic, Black, Asian, or Other.”

LAUSD has only 9% white students—will it hit 6 or 7% next year—literally the district does not want white students.

LAUSD school bus

Our school’s too white? Outraged parents vow to lie about their child’s race to keep their school from losing teachers

Mike Szymanski, Los Angeles School Report,  3/28/17

White parents who stand to lose teachers and counselors at their neighborhood public school in Los Angeles are changing their ethnic status with LA Unified to get around a district policy that strips extra staff from schools that are more than 30 percent white.

And some Latino parents who fear deportation under the Trump Administration are saying they are white, further imperiling the smaller class sizes guaranteed under a 40-year-old desegregation settlement.

A 1978 legal settlement requires that LA schools with less than 30 percent white students get extra teachers, counselors and parent-teacher conferences. But each year, a handful of schools lose that status, called PHBAO (pronounced “fuh-BOW”) — an acronym for “Predominantly Hispanic, Black, Asian, or Other.”

Nine schools will lose their PHBAO status this year — six elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. Five of them are in the Los Angeles suburban San Fernando Valley, three are affiliated charter schools, and six are Title 1 schools, meaning that more than half are socio-economically disadvantaged. The latest list of schools designated as PHBAO schools shows that only 12 percent of all LA Unified schools, which are predominantly poor and Latino, have more than 30 percent Anglo students.

At one of those schools, Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City, some of the 80 parents attending a school-wide meeting this month said that fears of immigration raids have led families to identify as “White/Caucasian” rather than “Hispanic,” which decreases the school’s minority population. Others, who are angry about the arbitrary nature of the school district’s policy, said they will change their status and encourage others to do so too in order to keep their teachers.

“I know I can find some minority designation in my family heritage, I will be changing my status as soon as I can,” said Reed parent Alexis Prescott, in tears while speaking at a meeting with district officials who explained that the school could lose five teachers and a counselor and increase class sizes from 34 to 39 students. “People don’t realize how this can affect their schools, and we have to let everyone know. This is my worst nightmare.”

A school district official, Keith Abrahams, said there’s nothing that can be done about parents wanting to change their racial designation.

“You have an opportunity to self-select, we can’t tell you what race or ethnicity you are,” said Abrahams, who said he wasn’t sure if there will now be a trend leading people to falsify their status to keep the PHBAO designation. “This is certainly something that people are upset over.”

Erica Fox, a white Jewish mom, enrolled her son and her non-biological African-American daughter at Reed and said she is concerned about it becoming a racism issue. “To make this an argument about racism against whites is absurd and dangerous and outrageous,” said Fox, who said she was told that Reed’s students were “too brown and too poor” at one time. “I am proud that the schools are so diverse. I think it makes the schools better. Once this becomes a story about racism against whites, it will be bad for Reed and for schools like it.”

Fox said she knows that there are parents who are redefining their children’s status to mark the “O boxes,” as in “other,” and said, “In this era of Donald Trump and the fear that he has caused, I know there are families afraid of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and I worry that the data will not be accurate during his administration.”

As news reports come out about the loss of teachers at PHBAO schools, reporters have swarmed Reed’s school grounds. “Now it is becoming an issue of racism against whites,” Fox said. “Whenever people talk that way it becomes a dangerous time for people of color.”

Reed’s principal, Jeanne Gamba, first suspected something could be wrong with the reported racial mix at her school when she was holding a parent conference with a mother who had a Latino surname. The mother had a Spanish translator provided by the district. Yet the mother was identified as white.

“If we had about 50 families change their race to more reflect their actual status, then we will be back to the situation we were in before,” Gamba said. “We have to be delicate in approaching this issue with families as they re-examine their self-identifications.”

A father of mixed Asian descent who adopted two Hispanic girls said that he has previously changed their racial designation to benefit them. “Sophia had blue eyes, so we said she was white so she could get into a magnet program that was outside of our school district,” said Sabin Gray, whose daughters have both since graduated from Hollywood High School. “They were sisters, but Rita was designated Hispanic and Sophia was white. You had to figure out how to game the system, and figure out what was best for your child.”

Abrahams said he doesn’t want parents to incorrectly identify their status but said, “It is important for parents to understand their self-selection and the reality of how it impacts the school. No principal, no administrator can say, ‘No, I think you are this’ and challenge you.”

Board member Scott Schmerelson, who was at the three-hour meeting on March 15 at Reed with about 80 parents, said Tuesday, “What I hope doesn’t happen is that people lie, they should tell the truth. It wasn’t until I attended the Reed meeting that I realized that so many people were afraid to identify as Hispanic because they feared deportation, but it makes sense. I can see that there’s a need to scrub the data to have people identify properly, but I don’t think people should lie. That sets a terrible precedent to the children.”

School board President Steve Zimmer said that the guidelines were put in place for a reason and need to be followed. “It is important that we ensure that services are in place for students of color in diverse school settings,” Zimmer said. “The equity mission of the district drives our work every day. We need to make sure all schools, especially diverse schools, have all the tools they need to fulfill this mission.”

Reed’s parent center coordinator, Carol Convey, said she already knows of more than a dozen parents who have purposefully misidentified their status and will now change it to be a minority. Many parents and the principal said they believe that Reed will be a PHBAO school again next year.

But that’s not enough for Fox, who picked Reed because of its diversity. Juggling the number of teachers the school can have and increasing class sizes can only hurt the school, she said, adding: “If the school is stripped of its PHBAO status, the programs we have in place will collapse and, with that, the school’s efficacy and well-deserved reputation.”

Reed is in a wealthy San Fernando Valley suburb near the CBS Studios and home to many celebrities who also send their children to the school. William Shatner, Miley Cyrus and Ed Begley Jr. all live in the neighborhood. Former students include Mayim Bialik, Adam Carolla, Brian Austin Green and Alyson Hannigan. The iconic 1939 school is one of the district’s most popular filming sites, and the houses used for family TV shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “Malcolm in the Middle” are only a short walk away.

To lose PHBAO status, a school must have recorded at least two years of enrolling more than 30 percent white students. For Reed, the percentage of whites among its nearly 1,600 students was 32 percent in 2014, 35 percent in 2015, and 38 percent in 2016, said Rena Perez, the district’s director of master planning and demographics.

A newly opened middle school, Roy Romer, in North Hollywood, has siphoned off many Hispanic and black students living in the north Valley. And a crackdown on families faking their addresses to attend an affiliated charter elementary school that feeds into Reed may also contribute to the demographic change.

“A lot of it may have to do with the changing demographics of the neighborhood,” suggested Gamba, who is spending the rest of the year going through each family’s racial status to see if she can find families that listed themselves as white either out of fear or the assumption that it would help their child get into certain programs. The PHBAO rating only counts the students going to school from within the neighborhood, not those transferring in from other areas for special programs like Reed’s popular Independent Honors Program. “In fact, if we were to include some of those students, the (white) numbers would be even higher,” she said.

The changing neighborhood around Reed could eventually cost the school’s Title 1 status too, which would translate to a loss of several hundred thousand dollars, the principal noted. Over the past year alone, housing prices in the 91604 ZIP Code where most Reed students live went up 28 percent to a median price of $1.16 million, and rents went up 7 percent to more than $6,000 a month, according to Trulia.com.

Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto, who spoke at the Reed parent meeting, soothed some parents’ concerns by saying that out of her own budget she found enough money to allow Reed to keep the counselor that would have been lost. Then, this week, Del Cueto sent a letter in English and Spanish to parents explaining that the school would be redefined in “alternative funding models and has identified Reed as a per-pupil spending model school” so they won’t lose five teachers as expected. Gamba said it may turn out to be only one or two teachers.

That “per-pupil spending model” is also being used at the eight other schools losing PHBAO status this year, so the loss of teachers will be at a minimum. The schools are: 3rd Street Elementary School in Hancock Park, in board member George McKenna’s district; Broadway Elementary in Venice and Emerson Community Charter Middle School in Westwood, in Steve Zimmer’s district; Dahlia Heights Elementary in Eagle Rock in Ref Rodriguez’s district; Plainview Academic Elementary in Tujunga and Stonehurst Elementary in Sun Valley in Monica Ratliff’s district; and Knollwood Prep Academy Elementary in Granada Hills, Grant High School in Van Nuys and Reed in Scott Schmerelson’s district.

After attending the Reed meeting, Schmerelson tried to have a “stay” on the schools across the district losing their PHBAO status. “I hear you, and I understand your concerns, let me see what I can do at the district level. I know the parent activism is always big here.” But he said this week that legally the district could not do it, and that each of the schools had a few years’ notice before they lost their status.

Abrahams, the Student Integration Services executive director, noted that the schools could get back on the PHBAO list as quickly as next year if the racial mix changes. He added that no specific funding is granted to schools on the PHBAO list, but class sizes do readjust the number of teachers assigned to a school.

The district needs to change the school forms, admitted Del Cueto at the parent meeting. “We will work to make the form parent-friendly,” she said. “Hispanic” is the only ethnically separated designation, the other categories are racial designations.

“I know families checked off white even though they are Hispanic,” Fox said. “I know that some Armenian families resent having to check off white. The whole form needs to be changed.”

 

California Wants To Imprison Pro-Lifers For Committing Journalism

When “60 Minutes’ does undercover filing of lawbreaking, government officials give kudos and awards.  When a conservative goes undercover and shows the illegal selling of baby body parts, possibly illegal abortions and numerous health code and criminal violations, government acts.  It indicts the conservative for exposing criminal activity.  The goal is to scare others away from exposing the lawlessness and corruption of non profit, for profits and government—a cabal against the people.

“The videos, which shocked millions, led Planned Parenthood to stop taking money for aborted baby parts, and launched a congressional investigation into the general practice of selling aborted baby parts. That committee’s hearings showed the market for aborted baby parts is significant, growing, and operating in violation of federal law, according to expert testimony. A few months ago, two Yorba Linda medical companies that obtained fetal parts from Planned Parenthood were charged by an Orange County, California, district attorney with illegally profiting off the sale of fetal tissue donated by abortion providers.

Yesterday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 charges against the pro-life journalists for recording their conversations with those involved in the fetal organ trade.”

The correct question is why didn’t Kamala Harris, the California Ag at the time, ignore the evidence of criminal activity by Planned parenthood?  We know the answer , she wants to be President and prefers the lawbreaking Planned Parenthood than protecting babies (they can’t vote or donate).  Shame on us for not indicting Harris as a co-conspirator, she allowed the illegal activities to occur.

Planned Parenthood Abortion Pro Choice

California Wants To Imprison Pro-Lifers For Committing Journalism

California says undercover journalists who recorded conversations at conferences and in restaurants violated laws against eavesdropping.

By Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist,  3/29/17

Two years ago, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing undercover videos showing high-level Planned Parenthood officials openly talking about harvesting body parts from aborted babies and selling them to middle men.

The videos, which shocked millions, led Planned Parenthood to stop taking money for aborted baby parts, and launched a congressional investigation into the general practice of selling aborted baby parts. That committee’s hearings showed the market for aborted baby parts is significant, growing, and operating in violation of federal law, according to expert testimony. A few months ago, two Yorba Linda medical companies that obtained fetal parts from Planned Parenthood were charged by an Orange County, California, district attorney with illegally profiting off the sale of fetal tissue donated by abortion providers.

Yesterday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 charges against the pro-life journalists for recording their conversations with those involved in the fetal organ trade. Becerra left his post as a Democratic member of Congress to replace Kamala Harris as attorney general when she was elected to the U.S. Senate. A longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, Harris began the investigation into the pro-life journalists, rather than those involved in the fetal organ trade, in late 2015.

Harris is a recipient of Planned Parenthood funds and was found to have secretly worked with Planned Parenthood to draft legislation that would imprison journalists who record conversations with abortionists or health care providers. During her investigation of the pro-life journalists, her office seized some of the videos that have yet to have been released. At the time, her campaign website included a petition to protect and defend Planned Parenthood.

While the recorded conversations took place in public places such as restaurants and at an abortion business conference, the indictment argues that conversations at these restaurants and conferences were viewed by the recorded party as having taken place in private.

“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said in his statement announcing the charges. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

This claim of confidentiality would contradict what Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards herself said about the conversation recorded in the first video released by Center for Medical Progress. That first video featured top Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola telling the undercover journalists, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Here’s a quick guide to the first 10 undercover videos that were released by the Center for Medical Progress. Of this conversation, Richards said she told Nucatola it was unwise to discuss such things in a “non-confidential setting.” It remains to be seen whether California can make the case that conversations held in public locations such as restaurants are technically not public.

The California penal code section that Becerra claims was violated calls for a prison sentence of a year for a single charge of recording a confidential conversation without the consent of both parties.

The indictment of Daleiden and fellow journalist Sandra Merritt is the latest attempt to punish the undercover journalists for the means by which they uncovered the fetal organ harvesting trade that abortionists engage in. In January 2016, Houston district attorney Devon Anderson got a grand jury to indict Daleiden and Merritt on charges of buying fetal organs and using fake IDs as part of their undercover journalism.

While those indictments were celebrated and received widespread media coverage, both charges were dropped by late July. The dropping of the charges resulted in much less interest from the media. The Houston D.A.’s office admitted to working with Planned Parenthood to refocus the investigation and to release information. The failed political prosecution of the journalists was just one of the reasons Anderson was defeated in her re-election bid in 2016. Her successor dismissed all of the attorneys in the office, including the one who was caught colluding with Planned Parenthood.

Daleiden referenced that failed indictment in his tweet responding to the latest charges:

In August, Planned Parenthood sued the University of Washington to keep it from revealing information about its participation in the purchase and sale of body parts from aborted babies. Recently, one of the fetal organ traders who had sued the Center for Medical Progress backed away from the lawsuit. The congressional investigations sparked by the undercover videos led to referrals for criminal prosecution of Planned Parenthood’s legal violations from committees in both the House and Senate.

AB 890: ENDS Local Citizen Ballot Measures.

This may be the worst piece of legislation for the rights of self government, ever.  This is what the bill does:

“In the name of environmental protection, this measure could bring to a halt most citizens’ initiative efforts at the local level. How do they engineer this audacious power grab?

  1. Require proponents to submit their initiative proposal to county planning officials.
  2. Require county planners “to determine if the activity proposed by the measure has the potential for resulting in either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.”
  3. If planners determine that the measure could meet either of these conditions, then local officials notify the initiative proponent that “the proposed initiative cannot be adopted by the initiative process.”
  4. That’s it. Game over.

So here’s the question to the hapless county planner: Can you ensure that this proposal will not have an indirect physical effect on the environment? Can you prove a negative? Who in his right mind would answer “yes?” Especially since an affirmative answer would inevitably lead to litigation.

The effect is clear—the end of citizen involvement in local politics.  When this happens expect voter turnout to go down and people’s involvement in city council meetings, school board meetings to end, quickly.  AB 890 tells citizens not to get involved in their government, you do not have the right to a say.  This was written in Sacramento—maybe the Congress needs to investigate if this was actually written by Russians or Cubans—no American would write this.  What do you think?

vote-buttons

Commentary: Legislation Would Upend Local Citizens’ Initiatives

By Loren Kaye, PublicCEO,  3/29/17  .

In 2016 California voters considered more than 850 local ballot measures. But that is just too much democracy, according to a measure introduced in the Assembly last month.

Most local measures are placed on the ballot by a local governing board: city council, school board, transit district, etc. Most of those measures are charter amendments, tax increases or bond measures.

But occasionally citizens choose the path of direct democracy. For over a hundred years, city or county residents have drafted, collected signatures for, and ultimately placed on the ballot measures proposing to influence some aspect of the governance or character of their local communities.

Not so fast, say the sponsors of Assembly Bill 890.

In the name of environmental protection, this measure could bring to a halt most citizens’ initiative efforts at the local level. How do they engineer this audacious power grab?

  1. Require proponents to submit their initiative proposal to county planning officials.
  2. Require county planners “to determine if the activity proposed by the measure has the potential for resulting in either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.”
  3. If planners determine that the measure could meet either of these conditions, then local officials notify the initiative proponent that “the proposed initiative cannot be adopted by the initiative process.”
  4. That’s it. Game over.

So here’s the question to the hapless county planner: Can you ensure that this proposal will not have an indirect physical effect on the environment? Can you prove a negative? Who in his right mind would answer “yes?” Especially since an affirmative answer would inevitably lead to litigation.

The bill does not limit review to any narrow category of proposals. All initiatives get their time in the dock.

  • Want to impose a soda tax? Well, this might result in more consumption of bottled water, which means more extraction from California wells, which is a physical change in the environment.
  • Want to impose a prohibition on unscheduled shift changes by local businesses? This might result in more workers commuting to their jobs than would otherwise be the case, which means potentially more automobile trips and the associated emissions.

The sponsors of AB 890 purport to limit the application of the initiative death penalty by requiring review only of “activities subject to the California Environmental Quality Act.” But that escape clause is really a dead end. Buried in the bill is a new amendment to CEQA, adding a definition of “project” to include “an activity that is proposed by a local initiative measure and, if passed or adopted, would be implemented by a public agency.”

Thanks for nothing.

Local initiatives are just like other public policy debates: some pass, others fail. Many measures from 2016 were important, intensely debated local issues. Some obviously would make a “direct physical change to the environment” while others are certainly close enough to meet the “indirect physical change” standard. No ballot for them. But even for those few that may have passed muster in the planning agency, their inherent controversy would inevitably have drawn litigation under CEQA, which would simply mean their demise would be slower and more painful.

  • San Francisco voters approved Proposition Uby a two-to-one margin, increasing the income eligibility limit for affordable rental units, to slightly increase access to affordable housing in the state’s most expensive market.
  • Voters in Los Angeles approved Measure JJJ, imposing minimum affordable housing requirements and locally-sourced labor for affordable housing projects.
  • San Diego voters rejected Measure C, which would have increased the hotel tax to build a downtown football stadium. AB 890 would have prevented voters from even considering this measure, which brought the long countywide debate over the fate of the Chargers to finality.
  • Voters approved Measure Lin Richmond establishing a rent control regime.
  • Voters approved Measure Nin San Bernardino regulating marijuana dispensaries.
  • San Jose voters approved Measure Eto give additional work hours to existing part-time employees before hiring new employees.
  • Voters in Ventura approved Measure C, one of two competing initiatives addressing the county’sOpen Space, Agricultural and Rural General Plan.

No doubt I would have voted against many of the measures that passed had I lived in the city or county in question. But just because democracy doesn’t always provide the result one wishes doesn’t mean that democracy itself should be constrained.

Government by initiative can be messy, and the system itself can always be improved. Witness the consensus-based modernization of the state initiative process that culminated in then-Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg’s SB 1253 in 2014.

But sponsors of AB 890 propose the other path: the solution to voters who disagree with your preferred decision is to take the voters out of the decision process altogether. Nothing could be further from the California way.

Loren Kaye is the President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

Union WANTS Drunk Drivers on Orange County Roads—So Illegal Aliens Are Not Afraid

Now those defending criminals activity want to have the roads filled with drunk drivers.  Yip, they believe that illegal aliens are “fearful” of DUI checkpoints.  Since when is it policy to make criminals comfortable and not filled with fear of being caught—that is the purpose of law enforcement.

If illegal aliens are fearful of a DUI checkpoint, aren’t they also fearful of cops driving by or walking a beat?  Their reasoning on the DUI checkpoint would mean NO cops in sight—just let the criminal class be comfortable.  How sick is this?  OH, it was a drunk driving illegal alien, deported a few times, that murdered Sandra Duran.  What about her rights not to live in fear—now she is dead because LA Police chief Charlie Beck allowed the drunk/illegal alien to be on our streets.  Why isn’t Beck indicted as a co-conspirator?

So the interaction that communities, especially undocumented people have, with government agencies has been very negative, okay. So if you have or have not been update…if you’re in a network, you start saying, ‘Hey, there’s a raid in Euclid, there’s a raid on Harbor Street. So what is that interaction? It could be a simply a police officer doing a routine stop, or a DUI stop.

So the way immigrant communities and undocumented people see DUI stops, it’s an attack on our communities. It could be just a routine thing, and we’re saying let’s do these DUI stops somewhere, but I’ve never seen a DUI stop outside of a bar – it’s usually next to some of the heavily community…immigrant communities.”

Are you concerned that law breakers are fearful or uncomfortable?

Maria Ortiz, at left, a Mexican immigrant has been living in the United States for 23 years. "I am single. I work so hard to stay. I never needed support from the government," Ortiz said. She is not a citizen and works as a janitor, she said during an immigration protest outside Rep. Ed Royce's office in Brea. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:   – MINDY SCHAUER, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – Shot 111713 – immig.fast.11.19 Advocates for immigration reform will camp our near the office of Rep. Ed Royce for five days, where they will stage a fast.  They are asking OC's Republican leaders in Congress to publicly support an overhaul to the nation's immigration laws, including the so-called pathway to citizenship that would create a process for some 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally the right to become citizens.

OC Union Official Says DUI Checkpoints Viewed As Threatening To Illegal Immigrants

Posted by: Matthew Cunningham, Anaheim Blog,  3/28/17     

The second meeting of the Welcoming Anaheim immigration task force is meeting this Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the Gordon Hoyt Conference Room on the 2nd Floor in the Anaheim West Tower, 201 S. Anaheim Boulevard. No agenda is yet available.

This site has secured some video from the inaugural meeting of the immigration task force, the brainchild of leftist Councilman Jose Moreno and ostensibly led by his political ally, Mayor Tom Tait.  In this clip, OC Labor Federation Executive Director Julio Perez explains that DUI checkpoints are viewed as a threat by undocumented immigrants:
“Now, before this last November election, yeah, our people were walking around the streets, welcoming, they would come into city hall and other areas. But now with the new regime – which I like to call it — now our people are scared. They’re scared not only to come to city hall, but to open their door to anybody.

So the interaction that communities, especially undocumented people have, with government agencies has been very negative, okay. So if you have or have not been update…if you’re in a network, you start saying, ‘Hey, there’s a raid in Euclid, there’s a raid on Harbor Street. So what is that interaction? It could be a simply a police officer doing a routine stop, or a DUI stop.

So the way immigrant communities and undocumented people see DUI stops, it’s an attack on our communities. It could be just a routine thing, and we’re saying let’s do these DUI stops somewhere, but I’ve never seen a DUI stop outside of a bar – it’s usually next to some of the heavily community…immigrant communities.”

No agenda for this Friday’s immigration task force meeting has yet been posted. Thus far, Mayor Tait has not made good on his promise to agendize a repeal of the council authorization of the Welcoming Anaheim immigration task force in order to de-couple it from Brown Act open government law requirements for transparency and disclosure.

CalPERS’ Pension ‘Myths’ Busted

CalPERS got caught with lies, misrepresentations and abue of the taxpayers and communities.  Starting Jul 1, 2017 they are increasing mandatory contributions by an average of 13%–money most communities do not have without cutting basic services.  They realize more people are going to complain and want explanations.  So, they had to take down from their web site a section called “Myths vs. Facts”.  Could not stand scrutiny.

“A spokesperson for CalPERS, the state agency that manages public employee retirement funds, said “Myths vs. Facts” was removed following the agency’s December decision to reduce its discount rate.

“There are just a lot of changes going on, so we’re updating the page,” CalPERS’ Amy Morgan told California Policy Center.

Morgan could not immediately identify changes other than the discount rate that would require the agency to remove the page. She said she could not predict when the page might return.

Is this a joke?  What does the discount rate have to do with the financial stability of the agency, its $1.4 trillion unfunded liability or its politically correct investments instead of meeting their fiduciary responsibilities?  Looks to me like a typical government agency—hiding the truth because the public would hate being told the truth about a corrupt, out of control agency.

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

CalPERS’ Pension ‘Myths’ Busted

By Will Swaim, Union Watch,  3/28/17

CalPERS has quietly removed the controversial “Myths vs. Facts” page from its website, abruptly ending one of the agency’s efforts to soothe public anxiety about the cost rising pension benefits to public employees.

The page disappeared March 7.

A spokesperson for CalPERS, the state agency that manages public employee retirement funds, said “Myths vs. Facts” was removed following the agency’s December decision to reduce its discount rate.

“There are just a lot of changes going on, so we’re updating the page,” CalPERS’ Amy Morgan told California Policy Center.

Morgan could not immediately identify changes other than the discount rate that would require the agency to remove the page. She said she could not predict when the page might return.

Several sources close to the agency said the page was ditched because an independent oversight board demanded corrections.

But none of that appears in CalPERS internal documents released to CPC under the California Public Records Act. Indeed there appears to have been remarkably little internal discussion before the decision to pull the plug on “Myths vs. Facts.”

Shortly after the site disappeared, CPC asked the agency for “copies of all CalPERS communications among employees regarding removal of this page.” In response, CalPERS offered just a few emails, the earliest of which were dated March 6. In one (subject line: “Myths vs. Facts”), an employee in CalPERS’ digital department asked another, “Would you like us to move forward on this? It won’t be too difficult.”

Not too difficult at all, apparently: A day later, the CalPERS internal documents show, “Myths vs. Facts” was gone – and gone so abruptly that all that’s left is an error message.

It was an ignominious and sudden end to a page whose bold – though unstated – public relations purpose was to calm Californians who are anxious about the skyrocketing cost of government employee pensions.

CalPERS’ own numbers show its pension fund is about $115 billion short of the the cash it needs to pay off its obligations to retirees. A more conservative estimate, using Moody’s formula, puts the number at more than twice that – about $312 billion. The most exacting estimate, by Stanford University, shows CalPERS is underfunded by about $448 billion – nearly four times the agency’s own estimate, and about $25,671 per California taxpayer.

Despite such bleak predictions, the “Myths vs. Facts” page was invariably upbeat, mirroring the most aggressive claims of union leaders.

Following the format of a simple FAQ, the “Myths vs. Facts” page published what it called “myths” about the pension system and responded to each with reassuring but almost invariably misleading “facts.” It was a source of irritation – or inadvertent amusement – for the agency’s critics.

In one instance, “Myths vs. Facts” asserted that its “analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data finds that state and local government pension contributions constitute a small percentage of spending” – ranging “from 3.1 percent in 1994 to 4.4 percent in 2012, with a low of 1.7 percent in 2002.”

It was telling that the “range” ended around the time that state and local officials, buoyed by an asset bubble, began raising the pensions it paid government workers, often even retroactively.

CPC’s Marc Joffe has found the median pension burden of California’s cities is 6.85% – with 25 of them contributing in excess of 10% of annual revenue.

Elsewhere on the “Myths vs. Facts” page, CalPERS admits that California governments were hit with rising pension obligations in the 2000s. But it’s a “myth,” the agency claimed, that the spike followed passage of SB 400, the 1999 law that raised pensions benefits for state workers by a whopping 50%, and made the hike retroactive.

The “fact”?

“The 10-year period was highly abnormal, going from extraordinarily low contributions (from participating agencies) following an economic boom period to higher-than-average contributions following the worst economic recession since the Great Depression,” the CalPERS page declared.

CPC’s Ed Ring said “these ‘facts’ are obfuscating an obvious truth, which is that SB 400 and the legislation and local measures that it inspired, increased pension benefits by 50%, and they did this retroactively which meant the 50% enhancement had a significant, immediate impact on the calculated amount of the liability. And it created a more than 50% impact on the required payments to the funds because many of the employees affected were close to retiring, so there was no time to increase their contributions.”

Most recently, CPC’s Ring noted that “Myths vs. Facts” erroneously claimed the average pension for a state employee was “about $31,500 per year.” Ring said CalPERS could only reach that low-ball assessment of payouts by including all public employee retirees, no matter how brief their service. The average full-career pension for a CalPERS retiree is actually $71,402, Ring showed.

“Some critics have deemed it propaganda,” Steven Greenhut, a longtime CalPERS observer and Western Region Director for R Street Institute, said of the late “Myths vs. Facts” page. “I wouldn’t go that far, but it always seemed highly inappropriate for a government agency to try to debunk media reports and spin the numbers and facts in its own direction. That’s the role of a PR agency, not a pension fund that is supposed to mainly be a good public steward.”

Will Swaim is the president of the California Policy Center.

 

Thanks to Lawless Policies: L.A. to Lose 15 Police Officers/Oakland 10

If Charlie Beck, the LA Police Chief and whoever is the Police Chief of Oakland (that changes week by week) continue to defend criminals from foreign countries under deportation orders, the cost to public safety will be large.  They will blame President Trump because THEY are breaking the law.

Here are just some of the hundreds of programs and grants that could be cut, and the funding each got in 2016:

COPS Hiring Program Awards
City of Los Angeles: 25 police jobs, $3.1 million
City of Oakland: 15 positions, $1.8 million

DNA testing
14 jurisdictions, including San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles and San Diego received $5.6 million in FY2016 for DNA testing and help going through the backlog.

Body-worn cameras
California state and local municipalities received more than $1 million for body worn cameras in 2016.”

If law enforcement refuses to obey the law, why should the taxpayers of Buffalo or Mobile be forced to pay for the criminal acts of those with a badge, protecting criminals instead of detaining them?  This is just the start—imagine the cuts in studies and research grants to the UC system for their continued violations of Federal laws.  If Trump does as he says, it could be years before another NIH or other study will go to UCLA or Cal.  As it should be.  If you can not do the time, don’t do the crime.

Police tape

What Funds Could California’s ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Lose Under Trump?

By KQED News Staff, 3/28/17

President Trump said during his campaign that he would deny federal funds to municipalities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials, such as so-called sanctuary cities like San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and other Bay Area jurisdictions.

On Monday, his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, threatened to make good on that promise.

To help understand what federal funds are at stake, we’ve checked in with legal experts and combed through public records to find out the details.

The Department of Justice gave $392 million to the state of California and local municipalities last year that fall under funding streams it could pull this year over the sanctuary cities’ issue. What’s really at stake? Funding for a wide range of programs, like local police jobs, DNA testing and gang task forces.

“If the federal government decides to execute on its promise, then it could cost state and local law enforcement agencies a significant amount of money,” says Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law.

Here are just some of the hundreds of programs and grants that could be cut, and the funding each got in 2016:

COPS Hiring Program Awards
City of Los Angeles: 25 police jobs, $3.1 million
City of Oakland: 15 positions, $1.8 million

DNA testing
14 jurisdictions, including San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles and San Diego received $5.6 million in FY2016 for DNA testing and help going through the backlog.

Body-worn cameras
California state and local municipalities received more than $1 million for body worn cameras in 2016.

COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program
California got $1.4 million in 2016 for this program.

UC Regents: Investigating short- and long-term impacts of mass violence
The UC Regents received a $1.75 million grant in 2016 to investigate the impacts of mass violence.

Internet Crimes Against Children task force
San Jose received $150,000 in 2016 for this task force.

Back up — are these cuts actually going to happen?
According to Johnson, dean of the UC Davis Law School, that remains to be seen. There’s no real definition of what a sanctuary city is, he says, meaning there’s no real congressional authorization for cutting funding to those cities.

Also, the city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit in late January against President Trump and his administration, charging that Trump’s order to strip funding from sanctuary cities amounts to an invasion of the city’s sovereignty — a violation of the 10th amendment.

Experts also say that the federal government needs to define at what point they would cut off funds.

Daniel Stageman, director of research operations at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says that all jurisdictions communicate with ICE to some degree.

Also, not all jurisdictions refuse to hold people for ICE because they’re a sanctuary city, but often because they’re afraid of being sued for detaining someone illegally, Stageman said.

So would jurisdictions that hold people for two hours for ICE lose funding? Or jurisdictions that hold people for 24 hours? Or not at all?

That’s why this case is likely to make it to the Supreme Court, Johnson says.

What’s an example of how these potential cuts could have an actual impact?
“This is broad, this is a lot.” says Stageman, who studies the federal grants, “this could affect boots on the ground.”

Stageman says some of the funds pay for the first year of new police officers: The City of Oakland got nearly $2 million to hire 15 new police officers in 2016; the City of Los Angeles received $3 million for 25 new officers.

That may not sound like a lot, but every body counts, says Craig Lally,  president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

“We don’t have enough police officers now, and we struggle every day to put enough officers in the field, just to handle simple 911 calls,” he says. “It’s becoming very tough for your average officer out there.”

Is there any way that a sanctuary city, like San Francisco, could keep its declared status as a sanctuary city but still get the federal funding?
Yes, Johnson says. One possibility is a voluntary agreement, also known as 287(g). It’s something that Trump is encouraging. It allows state and local governments to outline designated roles with the federal government when it comes to immigration. Some cities have entered into these kinds of agreements. These agreements are one way of trying to work out some of these tense areas with the federal government. Orange County is the only jurisdiction with a 278(g) agreement in California.

USC Professors Want to Use Campus as Political Headquarters—NOT Education Facility

You would think that a professor at USC would have respect for the law.  Instead they want to protect the rapists of the 14 year old girl in Maryland, the murdered of Kate Stienle, the drunk driver that killed Sandra Duran in the San Fernando Valley.  At what point does the parents spending upwards of $60,000 a year to USC ask about the quality of education if the professors want to protect law breakers and care not a wit about the American victims.

“Hundreds of University of Southern California professors are petitioning university administrators to take a stronger role helping immigrant and foreign students, faculty and employees fight Trump administration immigration policies.

In a letter sent on Friday night, the group asked that the campus take seven steps, including establishing an emergency fund to help immigrant and foreign students affected by Trump’s immigration orders.

These professors are either totally illiterate or liars trying to misled.  The issue is not foreign students or legal immigrants—the issue is criminals from foreign countries—by pretending all illegal aliens are just “immigrants”, these professors are lying to the public.  If they lie to the public what lies are they telling in the classroom?  Any wonder the value of a college education has declined?

Immigration

USC professors want campus to take more aggressive stance against Trump immigration policies

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez,KPCC,  3/27/17

Hundreds of University of Southern California professors are petitioning university administrators to take a stronger role helping immigrant and foreign students, faculty and employees fight Trump administration immigration policies.

In a letter sent on Friday night, the group asked that the campus take seven steps, including establishing an emergency fund to help immigrant and foreign students affected by Trump’s immigration orders.

The group also wants a student center that would help USC students who are not legally in the U.S. Another proposal would create the position of “special assistant” to oversee the university’s response to Trump policies that affect students, faculty, and employees.

“I would love USC to take a leadership position on these issues,” said USC law school professor Ariela Gross, one of the organizers of the group calling itself USC Faculty Resistance. “I do think that these are things that many universities are thinking about and taking action on.”

The effort is being led by professors Gross, William Tierney, Manuel Pastor and Jody Vallejo.

“The message that [Trump] is sending is that foreigners are not welcome in this country and that for American higher education in general and for my own university in particular, that’s a devastating message,” Tierney said.

The group said it is pushing the university to take action after seeing other universities declare themselves sanctuary campuses and set aside legal and financial help for undocumented students. In February, leaders of 48 universities and colleges across the country – including Yale, Stanford, and U.C. Irvine –  sent a letter to President Trump asking him to rescind his travel ban because it would hurt higher education’s efforts to attract talented students and researchers from abroad.

“We appreciate the faculty members’ thoughtful input on these timely issues,” USC Provost Michael Quick said in a written statement.

“We will consider their recommendations, many of which are already underway or under consideration,” he said.

USC did not say if the administration supported the February letter.

The university is helping students and others through a legal advice clinic and is working to provide housing for students who are fearful to return home overseas during academic breaks. USC, Quick said, is filing legal documents to support other universities’ efforts.

The faculty’s seven recommendations are expected to be discussed in a newly created immigration task force.

USC hasn’t declared itself a sanctuary campus. Trump supporters in Congress are putting pressure on schools that have taken that stand. A bill authored by San Diego-area Congressman Duncan Hunter would penalize colleges that don’t cooperate with federal officials.

“Universities are always worried about risk management concerns,” said Jennifer Eagan, president of the California Faculty Association, which represents instructors at the California State University (CSU) system. Last November, her group submitted a similar list of recommendations to her university administration. CSU has yet to adopt the recommendations.

“I think it takes administrators [at] those institutions to be really brave and put their students first over and above other financial concerns or political concerns that they think might affect the university,” Eagan said.

She praised the USC faculty effort and said convincing USC administrators to take the steps may be an uphill battle because administration may not want to upset conservative donors.

“It’s absolutely true that some of our donors and some of our alums are conservative. It’s also true that some of our alums and donors are not conservative. Stephen Spielberg is on our board of trustees. George Lucas has been a major donor to the School of Cinematic Arts,” Tierney said.

USC has changed for the better, Tierney said, in the last two decades, and a lot of that has to do with diversity of the student body and the faculty, which includes many immigrants and foreigners.

USC Faculty Resistance recommendations:

  1. Create and fund a DREAM/Immigrant Student Services Center that advises documented and undocumented students. The center should include staff trained in mental health services, and a physical space where immigrant and international students can build community and obtain support in navigating the challenges associated with their status.
  2. Create an emergency fund to support students, faculty, and staff affected by current and future immigration executive orders. These funds will help with legal fees, airline tickets, representation while abroad, DACA renewal fees, and other expenses incurred due to changes in immigration law.
  3. Extend summer housing options to DACA and international students afraid to return home or who lose their status and to other students targeted by new executive actions on the basis of race, religion, citizenship, or national origin.
  4. Protect the educational access and degree attainment of undocumented and immigrant students affected by current and future actions. Loss of DACA status may invalidate our students’ ability to work and collect financial aid. We urge the creation of special funds that can offer “stipends” for our undocumented students, which they can receive in exchange for performing research under the guidance of faculty members or other meaningful educational projects.
  5. Appoint a tenured professor to serve as “Special Assistant to the Provost for Immigration and International Affairs.” This person can serve as a point of contact for affected groups; coordinate and implement the various efforts on campus to support immigrant and international students.
  6. Devise a naturalization program that provides comprehensive resources and assistance to immigrant students, staff, contract workers, and faculty who are lawful permanent residents, and international faculty and postdoctoral scholars, to become citizens in an expeditious fashion. The University should provide English and citizenship classes, and financial assistance to cover naturalization fees, in addition to the legal support for naturalization efforts we are already offering through the Immigrant Legal Advice Project.
  7. Take the lead on filing amicus briefs and join the more than a dozen universities (including all eight Ivy League institutions) that have already filed a legal challenge to the travel ban.

For Price of a Few Illegal Aliens Los Angeles Could Continue to have Opera and the “Arts” for the Elites

If President Trump gets his way opera and the downtown Los Angeles “arts” could lose $500,000.  These are mostly programs for the rich and famous, the elites—who love taxes and handouts to their favorite causes.  Yet, for the cost of 3-4 fewer illegal alien families, or the price of fewer and lowered donations to Sanders, Obama and Clinton, they could still have the arts that they want.  Instead they prefer to steal from the poor and middle class that live in Austin, Orlando or Kansas City, so they can be seen at the Opera of the Chandler Pavilion.

“This week, visitors to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion can take in a Placido Domingo-conducted production of The Tales of Hoffman. The French-language tale of tragic romance and artistic muses from composer Jacques Offenbach stars standout tenor Vittorio Grigolo. It runs through April 15.

The L.A. Opera presentation is partly funded by a $65,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Now the fate of some future productions is becoming less certain in the wake of President Donald Trump’s threat to eliminate the NEA. That is part of a federal budget proposal that could lead to sweeping cuts to the arts, sciences and other government programs.

While nothing is set in stone, arts providers nationwide are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. That includes Downtown Los Angeles, where each year more than a dozen art organizations receive NEA funding for specific endeavors or shows. They range from $10,000 for the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles to $90,000 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

With a $20 trillion deficit, the elites calling for opening of borders, higher taxes (on others) and over a billion dollars going to the openly corrupt and incompetent Hillary Clinton, the elites want you to finance their night at the opera.  What do you think—can you afford to send Harrison Ford to see Placido Domingo?

ShakingHandsWithMoney

NEA Cuts Threaten Downtown Arts Institutions

More Than a Dozen Local Cultural Providers Could Take a Hit if Trump Kills Funding Body

By Nicholas Slayton, Downtown LA News,  3/29/17

DTLA – This week, visitors to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion can take in a Placido Domingo-conducted production of The Tales of Hoffman. The French-language tale of tragic romance and artistic muses from composer Jacques Offenbach stars standout tenor Vittorio Grigolo. It runs through April 15.

The L.A. Opera presentation is partly funded by a $65,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Now the fate of some future productions is becoming less certain in the wake of President Donald Trump’s threat to eliminate the NEA. That is part of a federal budget proposal that could lead to sweeping cuts to the arts, sciences and other government programs.

While nothing is set in stone, arts providers nationwide are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. That includes Downtown Los Angeles, where each year more than a dozen art organizations receive NEA funding for specific endeavors or shows. They range from $10,000 for the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles to $90,000 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Christopher Koelsch, president and CEO of L.A. Opera, said the funding is “instrumental.” He said it is disappointing to see the NEA funding on the chopping block.

“One has to fight for the importance and centrality of the arts and this is yet another example of the struggle to protect it,” said Koelsch.

Another Downtown entity that relies on NEA funding is the Latino Theatre Company. It received $15,000 to mount last year’s six-hour epic A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story.

photo by Hector Cruz Sandoval

Organizations in the city of Los Angeles received $3,729,000 in NEA funds during the 2015-2016 fiscal year (the latest year for which full figures are available). In Downtown, recipients include Grand Performances, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles (which operates the Aloud at the Central Library program), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Latino Theater Company, among others (see sidebar for more).

Trump’s proposed budget calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending. In order to achieve that, he has proposed deep cuts for the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other programs. Under the initial proposal, the NEA would be entirely defunded. The budget still needs to be debated by Congress.

In a statement on its website, the NEA said it cannot advocate for or against the cuts.

“At this time, the NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted by Congress,” the statement reads.

Hitting Audiences

The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965 to enable all Americans to have access to the fine arts, such as music or dance. It funds entities through grants for specific projects or works, rather than contributing to an organization’s overall budget.

In 2016 the NEA’s budget was roughly $148 million. Over the decades it has evaded various Republican-led efforts to defund it. The Trump proposal appears to be the most serious threat to the NEA yet.

Leaders of several large Downtown cultural providers say the loss of NEA funds would not threaten their overall organization. However, they point out that the money is important to specific initiatives.

Koelsch said NEA funding is relatively modest versus L.A. Opera’s $42 million budget, but the grants help subsidize community-focused programs, such as free or reduced-cost seats at certain shows for people who might not otherwise be able to afford an opera ticket.

Michael Ritchie, artistic director for Center Theatre Group, which operates the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum in Downtown, said that even if the cuts do not threaten CTG’s existence, they could require cutting back on programming or the number of shows they stage.