Democrats seek $4 billion bond for water, flood control, parks

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

As torrential rains and dangerous flood waters pummel large swaths of Texas and parts of Louisiana, California lawmakers are eying legislation to prevent similar damage from from the state’s own disasters.

Senate Bill 5 from state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León would ask voters this upcoming June to approve a $4 billion bond to fund water, flood and parks projects across California.

To make it to the governor’s desk, it would need to clear the Assembly, where another water and open space bond from from Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, is under debate.

De León has characterized the bond as critical following the state’s historic five-year drought, and the 2017 winter storms that marked the wettest water year for California in more than a century.

If passed, bond proceeds would fund flood and water infrastructure projects, and expand and improve local parks and open space. It would allocate $550 million for water projects, $750 million for flood control projects such as levee repair and $2.6 billion for local and regional parks – including $800 million to build new parks in lower income communities. It would also fund deferred maintenance and other projects at California’s state parks system, including construction of new trails, plant and wildlife habitat restoration and coastal climate change adaptation projects. …

Click here to read the full article

Legislature Wants to Tax Drinking Water for First Time in History

Drinking waterThe California Legislature is moving for the first time in history to tax every residence and business about a dollar a month for drinking water to generate $2 billion over the next 15 years to supposedly clean up contaminated ground water.

Although Senate Bill 623 is titled: “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund,” a coalition of agricultural and environmental lobbyists convinced its author Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) to amend the ground water cleanup bill that has been moving through the Legislature since February, to quietly add a water tax of 95 cents per month on every residence and business. The bill would also tack on $30 million in farm and dairy fees.

The European Union first promoted an environmental tax on water under the cover of the imminent global warming crisis. But the 28 nations of the EU have expanded their water taxation regime to include a tap water tax; a value added tax on all water purchases; a provincial groundwater tax; and a tax for installations on public land or water.

A similar environmental tax was proposed as SB-20 in 2015 at the end of California’s 5-year drought by California Senator Fran Pavley (D-Conejo Valley), author of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that created the cap and trade tax tsunami.

But her water tax effort ran into blistering opposition from California’s 317 water districts and agencies that complained it was an effort to use the drought crisis as justification “to fund another layer of administration in Sacramento.” The effort failed when it did not get any Republican crossover support for the 2/3 constitutional requirement to pass a tax.

California has never taxed drinking water, which has always been exempt as an essential “food product” by the California State Board of Equalization under Regulation 1602. Other tax-exempt liquid food products included non-carbonated fruit and vegetable juices. The tax-exemption was expanded in 1981 to include bottled water.

The main reason that the Legislature had avoided taxing water is the long and bloody California history of water wars that date back to the 1849 gold rush. Mark Twain famously commented that in California: “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”

But in an unprecedented turn, the powerful Western Growers that represent large farmers in California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico released a statement supporting SB-623 to provide clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities that cannot afford clean drinking water. The growers acknowledged the challenges of agriculture relying on nitrogen-rich and its runoff impact on water quality.

The Western Growers in a landmark statement added, “working with the environmental justice community, as well as other stakeholders, for over a year in an effort to address the critical needs in disadvantaged communities relating to safe drinking water. Since these challenges are numerous, both from naturally occurring contaminants and human sources, we believe the solution should be shouldered by a broad array of stakeholders.”

inancial writer and speaker, and author of the book, “The Third Way”

This piece was originally published at Breitbart/California.

Berkeley Mayor—Member of BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY—Openly Opposes Free Speech

The Berkeley Mayor, who is a member of a VIOLENT/RADICAL/ANARCHIST ORGANIZATION By Any Means Necessary, is continuing his totalitarian/Putin/Castro like policies.  Now he wants to end Free Speech.  Will be come out against free elections and make himself Mayor for life, like his apparent idol Castro made himself President for life?

“Fearing a new round of violent confrontations on the city’s streets, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin says he wants University of California officials to consider canceling a planned September event that includes prominent far-right figures like Milo Yiannopoulos.

Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student publication, has been working to bring the former Breitbart News editor to campus as part of a planned Free Speech Week Sept. 24-27. There have also been reports that Breitbart chief Steve Bannon and right-wing commentator Ann Coulter would participate in the event.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is opposed to a Free Speech Week at Cal Berkeley—for fear of “violence” caused by groups he supports and promotes.  Guess he knows firsthand that violence will happen if students celebrate Free Speech.  This is just another battle in the New American Civil War.

“Fearing a new round of violent confrontations on the city’s streets, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin says he wants University of California officials to consider canceling a planned September event that includes prominent far-right figures like Milo Yiannopoulos.

Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student publication, has been working to bring the former Breitbart News editor to campus as part of a planned Free Speech Week Sept. 24-27. There have also been reports that Breitbart chief Steve Bannon and right-wing commentator Ann Coulter would participate in the event.”

No problem—his cops will be given order sot watch Antifa, By any Mans necessary and Black Lives Matter beat up students, burn cars and building—just as they did in February while Milo tried to speak at the campus.  Cops—who needs any stinkin cops when you have thugs to control the city and campus?

Occupy Oakland street scene, photo courtesy Heart of Oak, Flickr.

Berkeley Mayor Wants Cal to Reconsider ‘Free Speech’ Events

By Alyssa Jeong Perry, KQED,  8/29/17

Fearing a new round of violent confrontations on the city’s streets, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin says he wants University of California officials to consider canceling a planned September event that includes prominent far-right figures like Milo Yiannopoulos.

Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student publication, has been working to bring the former Breitbart News editor to campus as part of a planned Free Speech Week Sept. 24-27. There have also been reports that Breitbart chief Steve Bannon and right-wing commentator Ann Coulter would participate in the event.

In February, Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at Cal, but the event was canceled in the wake of protests that turned violent.

The unrest, driven largely by a group of “black bloc” militants, included vandalism on and off campus and a reported $100,000 in damage to Cal’s student union building.

The violence “spilled onto the streets and it resulted in vandalism and damages of local businesses and some people getting hurt in our community,” Arreguin said in an interview Monday, after he criticized UC Berkeley officials for failing to prepare better for that event.

The mayor said he’s concerned about a repeat of that episode in the wake of violence that erupted Sunday after a planned rally by right-wing activists sparked a massive counterprotest.

The “No to Marxism” rally drew only a handful of attendees to Berkeley’s Civic Center Park after organizer Amber Cummings called it off. The counterprotest attracted more than 7,000 people, by Arreguin’s estimate, who for the most part gathered and marched peacefully.

Arreguin acknowledged the counterprotest was mostly calm, with demonstrators singing, dancing and chanting. But what he called “a small group of extremists” caused violence, with some journalists threatened and right-wing protesters attacked.

“They came in here with the intent on committing violence and mayhem. They wanted to physically confront conservatives,” said Arreguin of the group of black-clad militants.

The Berkeley Police Department reported that there were six injuries and 13 arrests for a variety of charges, including assault with a deadly weapon.

Arreguin said he doesn’t want any more violence in Berkeley from either the far right or far left.

But if Yiannopoulos’s planned talk goes forward, he said he’d like to sit down with the university to discuss strategic plans to combat violence.

“I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety,” Arreguin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That is where we have to really be very careful — that while protecting people’s free speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses.”

UC Berkeley officials have said they’re working with the Berkeley Patriot to schedule the Yiannopoulos and Coulter appearances.

Last week, campus spokesman Dan Mogulof told the East Bay Times that members of the student group had been “good communicators, clearly interested in doing what they can to work with the campus to have their events be successful and safe.”

Coupal: Supreme Court Ruling a Blow to Taxpayers

The State Supreme Court has ruled that Prop. 13 protections on the passing of taxes does not include taxes wanted by individual special interest groups in cities.  That is right, the Court decided that if a tax increase is promoted and put on the ballot by a private group—even working in collusion with government, then you do not need a 2/3 vote to pass.

““If local initiatives are exempt from critical taxpayer protections, then public agencies could easily deny taxpayers their rights by colluding with outside interests to propose taxes in the form of an initiative, then submitting a tax under a lower vote threshold than that currently mandated by the constitution.  The worst case scenario would be if a local government were to rely on this case as legal authority to impose a tax without any election at all.  However, if that were attempted, we would commence a new lawsuit immediately.”

You read that right—under this Court decision a tax increase can happen WITHOUT a vote of the people, by order of your city council.  Need another reason to leave
California, before government steals everything you own?

Howard-Jarvis20

Supreme Court Ruling A Blow To Taxpayers

Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, 8/28/17

 

The California Supreme Court ruled today that taxes proposed by special interests using the local initiative process may not have to comply with taxpayer protections set forth in Proposition 13 and Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, an HJTA sponsored statewide measure approved by California voters in 1996.

In response to the Court’s just issued decision in the case of California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, issued the following statement:

“If local initiatives are exempt from critical taxpayer protections, then public agencies could easily deny taxpayers their rights by colluding with outside interests to propose taxes in the form of an initiative, then submitting a tax under a lower vote threshold than that currently mandated by the constitution.  The worst case scenario would be if a local government were to rely on this case as legal authority to impose a tax without any election at all.  However, if that were attempted, we would commence a new lawsuit immediately.”

“Ultimately, when taxpayers see how they are being burned by collusion between those seeking additional tax revenue, like government employee unions, and complicit local officials, it may be necessary to go back to the initiative process to close yet another court created loophole in Propositions 13 and 218.”

 

‘Pocket rockets’ OK in LA: NRA gets tiny-gun ban reversed

Great news—the thugs that run L.A. city, wanting honest citizens to lose their 2nd Amendment rights—while allowing criminals of all sorts to have weapons, have been stopped, just a little.

“The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 Tuesday to undo a longtime ban on the sale of so-called “ultracompact” handguns, bowing to legal pressure from the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle & Pistol Association.

The ban was enacted in 2001 under a motion authored by then-City Councilman Mike Feuer, who is now the city attorney. Feuer and other gun control advocates argued at the time that the smaller weapons, or “pocket rockets,” posed a risk to public safety because they would be easier for criminals to conceal.”

Have you read anything in the Constitution that limits the size of your guns?  Why are the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, needed?  To protect you from thugs and political hacks.  The cops can’t because politicians demand they NOT enforce our laws.  You are on your own.

handguns

 ‘Pocket rockets’ OK in LA: NRA gets tiny-gun ban reversed

MyNewsLA,  8/29/17

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 Tuesday to undo a longtime ban on the sale of so-called “ultracompact” handguns, bowing to legal pressure from the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle & Pistol Association.

The ban was enacted in 2001 under a motion authored by then-City Councilman Mike Feuer, who is now the city attorney. Feuer and other gun control advocates argued at the time that the smaller weapons, or “pocket rockets,” posed a risk to public safety because they would be easier for criminals to conceal.

The ban prevents the sale within city limits of firearms with a length less that 6.75 inches or a height less than 4.5 inches.

The NRA and California Rifle & Pistol Association have long been opposed to the ban, and last year wrote a letter to Feuer threatening legal action if it was not overturned, arguing that state law allowed the sale of some of the weapons and preempted the local ordinance.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Feuer, noted that the state law changed after the ban was enacted and that other cities and counties have already undone similar ordinances.

“The other municipalities like L.A. County and West Hollywood and San Francisco and Sacramento also have repealed this ordinance,” Wilcox told City News Service.

Wilcox also said that no person has ever been prosecuted for violating the ordinance.

 

 

Save money, share superintendents

Government education is expensive.  LAUSD last year alone lost over 34,000 students, yet have more teachers and administrators than the year before.  Simi Unified is in the same boat—check your district for enrollment vs. employment.  Add to this the massive cost of pensions and health care, something radical needs to be tried.  Iowa is doing something about their financial crisis in education—the sharing of District Superintendents.

“Sharing superintendents is becoming smart business in Iowa. In 2007, the state introduced a program that provides financial incentives to districts that share administrative personnel. The popular program has expanded from 16 shared superintendents in its first year to 52 in 2016-17, or 19 percent of the state’s full-time superintendents, according to state Department of Education data.

The districts are mainly rural, serving an average of 500 students. The main benefit to sharing superintendents is financial. The average salary for a full-time superintendent in Iowa is $147,825.

When districts share a superintendent, they split that cost, plus they each receive about $53,000 in state incentive money.”

This is but one idea to save money.  The biggest savings to education in California, and better education better, would be a massive increase in charter schools.  In almost all cases charter schools outperform by a wide margin government/union controlled schools.  Less cost/higher quality—isn’t that what parents and taxpayers want?  But not the unions.

Walton_High_School_New_Classroom

Save money, share superintendents

In Iowa, the state provides financial incentives to districts that share administrative personnel

Leila Meyer, District Administration, August 2017

JUGGLING ACT—Mike Peterson, left, and Randy Collins, right, each lead more than one school district in Iowa.

Sharing superintendents is becoming smart business in Iowa. In 2007, the state introduced a program that provides financial incentives to districts that share administrative personnel. The popular program has expanded from 16 shared superintendents in its first year to 52 in 2016-17, or 19 percent of the state’s full-time superintendents, according to state Department of Education data.

The districts are mainly rural, serving an average of 500 students. The main benefit to sharing superintendents is financial. The average salary for a full-time superintendent in Iowa is $147,825.

When districts share a superintendent, they split that cost, plus they each receive about $53,000 in state incentive money.

Steps to start sharing superintendents

Talk to other district leaders who are already sharing superintendents to understand the benefits, challenges and logistics.

Contact the state education agency for guidance in how to set it up.

Identify a superintendent suitable for sharing, such as somebody who is outgoing and will maintain visibility in both districts.

Discuss what each board wants from the relationship and negotiate an agreement, while being flexible and willing to compromise.

Formalize the sharing agreement with the state’s ed department. This process varies from state to state. In Iowa, it involves checking a couple of boxes on state reports.

Mike Peterson is superintendent of Wapello Community School District and Morning Sun CSD. He says having one person advocating for multiple districts can encourage state legislators to notice problems, such as school funding.

“Since I can show the effect of school funding levels in two districts and not just one, legislators can get a broader picture of a policy’s effects.”

The trend of sharing superintendents is growing, particularly among small districts in the Midwest, says AASA.

Robert Decker, a retired professor of educational leadership from the University of Northern Iowa, says that Iowa has been a leader in shared superintendency, but South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Kansas have also used it. Decker adds that principals are key.

“If the building principals are good at what they do then the superintendent reaps the benefit and eliminates some of the challenges,” he says. “What the shared superintendency has boiled down to is a team approach of running the schools.”

Randy Collins is superintendent of Akron-Westfield, Lawton-Bronson and Whiting Community School Districts. It’s 147 miles between the districts, and Collins says he can easily visit all three in the same day. Wherever he is, Collins strives to have quality face-to-face discussions with staff. He also attends sporting events, especially when both districts are playing. “I cheer good play,” he adds.

45% of LAUSD Graduates—Graduate With a “D” Average

The article shows a concern that 55% of LAUSD graduates graduate with a C average or better—they ignore the fact that means 45% graduate with a D average.  Is that a real graduation or throwing them out to society without an education?  Would you give a diploma to someone with a D average?  This article proves that LAUSD for hundreds of thousands of students is a total waste of time and tax dollars.

“Preliminary data from the district show 55 percent of the Class of 2017 received a C or better in all of their college prep classes known as the A-G coursework. The University of California and California State University systems require at least a C in all of these classes to be eligible for acceptance onto their campuses. That figure does not include any students who might have graduated meeting the requirements this summer.

The preliminary data show the Class of 2017 improved compared to their predecessors in the Class of 2016, when just 47 percent received a C or better. State data show that 55 percent of LA Unified grads in 2016 were eligible for UC/CSU, but that includes students who took longer to graduate than four years.

The worst part is that when you carefully read the above quoted paragraphs, LAUSD is proud of the fact that 45% do not qualify for college, because they have a D average.  If your business had about half failures, how long should you stay in business?

LAUSD school bus

Dump the D? — With 55% of LAUSD grads eligible for state universities this year, some board members want to raise the bar to graduate

Sarah Favot, Los Angeles School Report,  8/29/17

 

Fifty-five percent of the students who graduated from LA Unified high schools in June were eligible for California’s public universities, and the school board president says he’d like to see more stringent requirements imposed to get a high school diploma sometime in the next three years.

Preliminary data from the district show 55 percent of the Class of 2017 received a C or better in all of their college prep classes known as the A-G coursework. The University of California and California State University systems require at least a C in all of these classes to be eligible for acceptance onto their campuses. That figure does not include any students who might have graduated meeting the requirements this summer.

The preliminary data show the Class of 2017 improved compared to their predecessors in the Class of 2016, when just 47 percent received a C or better. State data show that 55 percent of LA Unified grads in 2016 were eligible for UC/CSU, but that includes students who took longer to graduate than four years.

Now that the district is improving, some board members want to begin discussions about raising the bar to graduate.

“I think this is an area where I’m hopeful in my tenure on the board that we’ll be able to come back to and sunset the D so that our kids really are able to get into a UC/CSU,” school board President Ref Rodriguez said in an interview.

The school board had voted more than a decade ago that the Class of 2016 would be required to earn at least a C in their classes to graduate, but two years ago the board decided to roll back the requirements and allow D’s when it appeared that thousands of students wouldn’t graduate and some schools were ill-equipped to prepare students for the more rigorous requirements. The fears were founded as roughly 14,200 graduates in the Class of 2016, or 53 percent, earned at least one D.

Rodriguez said he didn’t think the change to a C could happen overnight.

“It would take some time and some scaffolding and sort of a runway,” he said.

He hopes that at one of the monthly board retreats this year, where board members will participate in “deep dives” on different topics, they will talk about A-G requirements and raising the bar. The first board retreat is Tuesday, which will focus on employee health care benefits.

“We will need to give the superintendent some direction and make sure we are not leaving any students behind,” Rodriguez said.

School board member Mónica García has also said that she would like to require C’s to graduate.

“I definitely think we will have to wrestle with how will we support the young people in the system with D’s and F’s that we know we haven’t tapped into their talent yet,” she told LA School Report in April.

Some pilot schools in LA Unified require students to earn at least a C in order to graduate, Rodriguez said.

Advocates like the United Way of Greater Los Angeles also support the C requirement. The organization’s Young Civic Leaders program hosted a forum focused on college readiness ahead of the May runoff election for school board.

It appears there would be a majority of support on the school board to raise the requirements.

Newly elected school board members Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez said on the campaign trail that they support requiring C’s to graduate.

Melvoin criticized the district for focusing on an improved graduation rate, while the board decided to lower standards.

“How can you have only 27 percent of students proficient in math and have a 75 percent graduation rate? Rubber-stamping diplomas is setting kids up to fail,” Melvoin said at a debate.

Gonez has proposed a resolution that will be voted on in September calling on the superintendent to report on data including college application, enrollment, and completion as well as requiring that all 10th- and 11th-graders take the SAT. She is also calling for a college counseling center at every high school.

One snag would be Superintendent Michelle King’s goal of 100 percent graduation. Presumably, that would take a hit unless more resources were invested.

The district spent $15 million on credit recovery programs in each of the last two years, including on online options — the rigor of which has been questioned after it was discovered students could test out of much of a course if they can score 60 percent on a pre-test. The district said last year that 42 percent of its 2016 graduates had taken some kind of credit recovery, whether it was an online course or re-taking a class.

One hundred percent graduation — a feat yet to be achieved by any urban school district — has been King’s singular goal. Already the district has made progress in raising its graduation rate, and some question how high it can go. Twelve years ago, just 48 percent of LA Unified students graduated in four years. The official graduation rate for the Class of 2016 was 77 percent, a district record.

King decided not to announce the preliminary graduation rate for the class that graduated in June during her State of the District speech earlier this month as she had done the year before.

A district spokeswoman said 26,653 students graduated in June, which is about the same number of graduates as last year. So a 55 percent rate means about 14,650 students were eligible for UCs and CSUs.

In comparison, 77 percent of Massachusetts’ high school grads completed classes making them eligible for their state university system.

Rodriguez said he wished King would have announced the preliminary graduation rate.

“It’s something that she should give at every single (opportunity) and make a big deal about it because it is a big deal,” he said.

“This is a public that does not have a lot of faith in this district. We need to continue to ensure that we’re talking about successes and that our graduation rate is a huge success when you really think about where we were at one point and who those kids were that were dropping out,” he said.

Another issue Rodriguez would like the board to discuss and work with teachers on is grade calibration to ensure that a C at one high school in the district is the same as a C at another high school. He said that’s the reason why UC accepts 40 percent of the grads from private school Harvard-Westlake and only 10 percent of LA Unified’s grads.

“They think that C is better than the C we have at a LA Unified,” Rodriguez said of Harvard-Westlake.

 

The Usual Anti-Transit Suspects: Still Wrong … But Not ALL Wrong

Anytime I see a traffic jam, I know the cause was either an accident, but usually government policies—bike lanes, HOV lanes, unsynchronized traffic lights—done purposely to slow down traffic, high density to force people into government transportation.  Now even the Left is recognizing that government policy is the problem.

“1) There are many of us who fought like hell for the Expo Line, for Measure R, and for Measure M, and for transit lines throughout the county and state who are confounded and infuriated about how they’re being used to open the door not for moderate densification, but for blatant, unsustainable overdevelopment.

That is NOT what we signed up for.

2) There are many of us who fought like hell for increased options for bus riders, train riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and who are confounded and infuriated about how car commuters are being smacked down, beaten up, and left on the side of the road bloodied and defamed.

That is NOT what we signed up for.”

Yes you read that right—bike riders are beating up car drivers!  The Left knows this—yet the media is refusing to publicize this violence.  The moochers of society that take car lanes, ride how they like, slow traffic, create violence—and pay not a dime for the streets they are destroying, are protected and promoted by government.  Sad.

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

The Usual Anti-Transit Suspects: Still Wrong … But Not ALL Wrong

Kenneth S. Alpern, City Watch LA,  8/28/17

GETTING THERE FROM HERE–As outlined in my last CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump.

So we can all hate, love, or feel however we want about Trump, but most of our day-to-day problems are best focused on Downtown Los Angeles and Sacramento with respect to zoning laws, transportation spending, and environmental law-breaking.

Ditto with those who decry transit spending altogether:

Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox can hate all they want on mass transit, as they just did in the Daily News, but it’s not that simple.

In urban scenarios, transit has a role.  In rural/suburban scenarios, transit has less of a role.

There really isn’t any room for more freeways or major roads in Los Angeles, for example, but having transit alternatives (like the Expo Line for the I-10 freeway, or the Gold Lines for the 60 and 210 freeways) with light rail and (if the shoe fits) Metrolink does, in effect, provide a “widening” of these freeways in that these I-10, 60, 210, and other corridors have increased capacity for commuters.

And sometimes, if the Metro/LADOT/Caltrans folks figure it out, we can actually do better than freeways by creating a LAX-to-Union Station/Downtown direct transit line using the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way.

So Kotkin and Cox aren’t really correct …

… but they sure as heck make a few great points that we ignore at our collective peril.

1) There are many of us who fought like hell for the Expo Line, for Measure R, and for Measure M, and for transit lines throughout the county and state who are confounded and infuriated about how they’re being used to open the door not for moderate densification, but for blatant, unsustainable overdevelopment.

That is NOT what we signed up for.

2) There are many of us who fought like hell for increased options for bus riders, train riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and who are confounded and infuriated about how car commuters are being smacked down, beaten up, and left on the side of the road bloodied and defamed.

That is NOT what we signed up for.

3) There are many of us who are forced to use our cars, and who want decreased commutes, and more options (including Uber and Lyft, and even buses) that require working and viable roads and freeways, but who are confounded and infuriated about how social engineering is telling us how and where to live, work, and even think.

That is NOT what we signed up for.

Hidden agendas are not appropriate or appreciated by anyone with a sense of values, morality, and integrity.  Those of us who fight for transit, but do NOT have hidden agendas, will invariably be offended by hidden agendas that suddenly are being imposed on us…

…and on our neighbors who we convinced to come aboard with efforts to promote transit opportunities.

The time has NOT come to abandon transit, or to give too much credence to those who blindly and collectively oppose transit.

But the time HAS come to include transit as part of a comprehensive transportation approach.

The time HAS come to not merely be pro-transit, but pro-transportation.

And the time HAS come to oppose all hidden agendas that hurt our Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition,

Shock! San Fran Progressives OPPOSE Homeless Shelter in THEIR Neighborhood!

The good folks and political leaders of San Fran are behind a legislative bill to take away the right of your city to determine housing, especially affordable housing.  They feel too many cities are stopping the growth of housing.  Yet, when it comes to THEIR town—they are hypocrites—they do not want a homeless shelter in parts of their town.

“If San Francisco ignoring community input before opening a 24-hour homeless drop-in center in the Tenderloin sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In 1990, Mayor Art Agnos similarly bypassed the neighborhood in announcing the opening of a homeless shelter at the former KGO building at Golden Gate and Hyde (now the Lofts at Seven).

That shelter never opened. And if the Tenderloin’s voices are heard, this new plan will not happen either.

For the Tenderloin, it’s Déjà Vu all over again.”

Instead of welcoming the homeless to their community, these totalitarian/Progressives instead act like reactionaries—they are afraid of the homeless being near them.  Shame on San Fran for hating and harming the homeless.

homeless

Tenderloin Déjà Vu

by Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron,  8/29/17

 

If San Francisco ignoring community input before opening a 24-hour homeless drop-in center in the Tenderloin sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In 1990, Mayor Art Agnos similarly bypassed the neighborhood in announcing the opening of a homeless shelter at the former KGO building at Golden Gate and Hyde (now the Lofts at Seven).

That shelter never opened. And if the Tenderloin’s voices are heard, this new plan will not happen either.

For the Tenderloin, it’s Déjà Vu all over again.

Leroy Looper’s Opposition

Since I learned of the city’s plans for 440 Turk on July 21 from the SF Examiner, I’ve been saying how Leroy Looper (who died in 2011) would be up in arms over this if still alive. I did not realize how right I was.

Looper’s wife Kathy recently uncovered a 1990 article (see accompanying photo) in which Leroy denounced the city for doing in 1990 what it repeated in 2017:  deny the same input to the Tenderloin on homeless services that it would provide other neighborhoods.

Looper put it beautifully: “I don’t think the mayor would dare to go to Pacific Heights and say to the people, ‘We made a decision six weeks ago to put a shelter in your neighborhood.’  Just because a lot of us in the Tenderloin are poor doesn’t mean you can walk all over us.”

Leroy Looper was my mentor and friend for nearly thirty years. He always put the Tenderloin’s interests first. He instilled in me a deep commitment to ensuring that the Tenderloin is treated with the same respect as other communities.

This did not happen at 440 Turk.

While Department of Homelessness officials apologize for a “lack of communication,” Tenderloin folks see this as Déjà Vu. Once again, the city  bypasses the normal community process when new homeless services are slated for the Tenderloin

Respecting the Tenderloin

The Tenderloin/North of Market Community Benefits District (TLCBD) wrote an August 24, 2017 letter to Mayor Lee and the Board explaining its unanimous opposition to the city’s plans for 440 Turk. Among its many concerns: “the lack of initial community outreach, the lack of transparency in revealing actual plans, and what we perceive as a general disrespect toward our Tenderloin community…”

The Tenderloin is sick and tired of being treated with disrespect.  People were fed up with this mistreatment in 1990. They are even more fed up that they are still being treated like a second-class neighborhood  more than twenty five years later.

The Tenderloin now has a museum highlighting its status as a neighborhood of national importance. My book on the Tenderloin shows how the neighborhood suffered unfair treatment from City Hall for decades, which contributed to its sharp decline.

But many felt a new chapter of Tenderloin history was being written with the Black Cat, Onsen Spa, Piano Fight, Exit Theater, 826 Valencia, CounterPulse and so many more establishments bringing richness to the city. Yet  some city agencies still see the Tenderloin as a place where community input can be ignored.

The second-class treatment of the Tenderloin is always a “mistake” or due to “poor communication.” No city official ever says they intentionally bypass Tenderloin input because the neighborhood lacks the angry homeowners who scare politicians.

At 440 Turk, its “mistake” allowed the  Homelessness Department to come within  days of getting what it wanted.

Had Supervisor Ahsha Safai not made a fuss over the drop-in center plans at a Thursday Budget and Finance Committee hearing where he was not even a member, the city’s plans for 440 Turk would have quickly been approved by the Board the following Tuesday.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim was in no position to oppose the plans because she also had been kept in the dark. When she learned on July 21 what was going on she was as mad over the lack of input as anybody; Kim then held up the contract for the homeless services at the next Board meeting.

So the city almost got away with ignoring the Tenderloin community input that is now raining down on the Homeless Department’s parade. That’s why it is more important than ever that the 440 Turk plans for a 24-hour drop in center be stopped entirely.

Ending the Tenderloin Déjà Vu means not rewarding  city agencies for ignoring the community. Supervisors who care about the Tenderloin must support the community’s opposition to 440 Turk.

If you have not read Leroy Looper’s remarkable life story, this might be a good time.

We owe it to Leroy’s memory to make the Tenderloin the safe and affordable community he never stopped believing was possible. A place that deserves the respect from City Hall afforded more affluent neighborhoods.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

 

TEAPAC: Government Excess Cause of San Marino Slipping Into Financial Crisis—Could be Your City

San Marino is a wealthy city in the San Gabriel Valley, next to Pasadena.  Yet those running the city provide a façade of prosperity, the finances are a shambles.

“Just like the state and federal government, the City of San Marino is a fiscal illusion.  The budget and pronouncements of the city and public employee unions conceal the fact that it is already bankrupt and ready to explode at any moment.   San Marino is under water anywhere from $62 million to $132 million in pension debt and deferred maintenance.

Let’s start with the three top fiscal realities in San Marino:

  1. The obscene cost of salary and benefits for public employees (median pay and benefits for full-time employees $120,946);
  2. The unmet, unrecognized pension debt (at least $22.4 million, but probably closer to $92.8 million); and
  3. The very high cost of deferred maintenance/replacement of municipal infrastructure (at least $40 million but nobody really knows).”

TEAPAC is working hard to alert the people of San Marino of the coming economic collapse of their city.  Maybe the people are rich enough to do a massive tax increase—can you do the same when you city meets these crisis?  I live in Simi Valley and we have finally admitted we are in fiscal distress—when will your city do the same?

Taxes

The San Marino 2017 Municipal Election Part I: A Teachable Moment

Michael Alexander, TEAPAC,  8/29/17

Introduction

There is a growing awareness among informed citizens that America is poised on a fiscal abyss.  Government in general, and its spending in particular, is out of control at every level.  It is not just the federal or state governments that are out of control.  The cities and counties are also fiscal disasters.

You will often hear state governors, particularly presidential candidates, criticize the federal government by pointing out that states cannot print money and therefore must balance their budgets.  They present this presumed fiscal prudence as a qualification for higher office.

They are lying.

In city after city and state after state, the unfunded pension debt threatens to sink the state.  While they claim to have passed a balanced budget, they are actually using accounting gimmicks to get there.  Their favorite gimmick is to underestimate, i.e., lie, about whether they have set aside enough money to pay for the pension promises made to public employees by politicians eager to curry their favor or reward them for their support.

California Pension Debt:  $1 Trillion and Growing!

Joe Nation, Ph.D., Project Director at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, is the leading authority on California pension liabilities.  Under his able direction, the Stanford Institute has developed a web site that tracks the pension debt and liabilities for the State of California and each city and county within it.  [www.pensiontracker.org]  As you can see for yourself, the cumulative pension debt in California for all state, county and local entities in Fiscal Year 2015 is $992 billion, which comes to just under $77,000 per household.  We talk about this in more detail below.

A Case in Point:  The City of San Marino

By the way, if you don’t live in San Marino, just plug in your city’s name in place of “San Marino” and all of this will apply.  Here’s a quick reality check for all of us.

A number of residents in San Marino have become alarmed at the fiscal disaster that awaits them.  After digging into the City’s books, they realized just how badly the city was being mismanaged and how quickly they had gotten into trouble.  We at TEAPAC and the California Tax Limitation Committee have worked with like-minded activists in San Marino to raise awareness of this problem among San Marino residents.

The next election in San Marino will take place in November when they will elect three city councilmembers.   At least two out of the three candidates (Ken Ude and Gretchen Shepherd Romey) are trying to make San Marino’s fiscal crisis a major issue in the campaign.  We thought that this would be a good opportunity to talk about the statewide pension crisis using San Marino as an example that we can all relate to.

The City of San Marino is a Fiscal Illusion

Just like the state and federal government, the City of San Marino is a fiscal illusion.  The budget and pronouncements of the city and public employee unions conceal the fact that it is already bankrupt and ready to explode at any moment.   San Marino is under water anywhere from $62 million to $132 million in pension debt and deferred maintenance.

Let’s start with the three top fiscal realities in San Marino:

  1. The obscene cost of salary and benefits for public employees (median pay and benefits for full-time employees $120,946);
  2. The unmet, unrecognized pension debt (at least $22.4 million, but probably closer to $92.8 million); and
  3. The very high cost of deferred maintenance/replacement of municipal infrastructure (at least $40 million but nobody really knows).This describes the fiscal and, therefore, the political reality of San Marino and, with rare exception, each and every other city in California.  What is also common to these cities is the lack of an effective plan to deal with these problems.

Obscene Cost of Salary and Benefits for Public Employees

Encouraged by their own employees and special interests, cities spend with wild abandon money that they don’t have.  On the rare occasion when citizens organize to oppose such fiscal debauchery, they are either ignored or excoriated for their ignorant threat to the “quality of life” of their fair cities.  The only quality of life threatened, of course, is theirs.

The salary and benefits of a median full time government employee in Southern California is over $100,000 per year.  Combined with union “work rules” we end up with some firemen who live in Idaho, “work” four days a week and collect over $250,000 a year.  These people can retire after thirty years and enjoy a lifetime pension of up to 90% of their salary for the rest of their lives.  As these elite retirees – the REAL 1% – rest from their exertions in the city library or reading meters, we citizens pay for their gold-plated health care plans in retirement to make sure that they live even longer!  “Obscene” does not begin to describe what is going on.

The high cost of salaries and compensation for public employees is not only the largest single expense in any city budget, it is the root cause of the biggest black hole on the city balance sheet: pension debt.

Unmet, “Unrecognized” Pension Debt

Like almost every other city in California, San Marino is a member of CalPERS, the state-run California Pension and Retirement System.  CalPERS has lied about its projected investment returns for years.  During the great market correction that began in 2008, CalPERS insisted that it could still use an annual investment return assumption of 7.75%.

Even now, CalPERS continues to assume that its investments will return 7.5% a year for the next 30 years!  As a result, it has fraudulently understated how severely “underfunded” the whole system is and, therefore, each city within it.  (Don’t you just love the Orwellian accounting expressions we use to describe a nuclear hole in the ground?).

CalPERS will admit that San Marino’s pension debt is at least $22.4 million.  The reality is much worse.  Experts like Joe Nation at Stanford caution that these deficits must be calculated using an investment return assumption of no more than 3.2% which is more or less the risk-free rate of return.  Using this more prudent assumption, the San Marino’s pension deficit is estimated to be closer to $92.8 million.

The CalPERS deficit, of course, is just an aggregation of the obligations of its members, including San Marino.  Thus when CalPERS understates its pension obligation it also understates the obligations of its members.  For their part, the union dominated cities are more than happy to cooperate in this fraud by passing on this phony number to the public and carrying it on their balance sheet.  (If they were running a public company, the whole lot of them would be in jail.)

San Marino, therefore, makes no independent calculation of its pension obligations.  It merely takes the number off the year-end CalPERS statement and pastes it into its balance sheet.  Each year CalPERS also sends San Marino a bill for the coming year’s contributions.  By understating both the amount of the pension debt and the annual contribution needed to fully fund the city’s portion, CalPERS and the California Crime Family that runs this state sustain the fiscal illusion of balanced budgets and ensure that no undue attention will be drawn to the obscene pay, benefits and retirement benefits of public employees.  In this sense, therefore, the pension deficit is not “recognized” in an accounting sense; nor is it “recognized” politically.

Deferred Maintenance and Replacement of Infrastructure

“Deferred maintenance” is another one of those delightful accounting euphemisms that we use to describe a collapsing infrastructure that renders the city insolvent all on its own.  The City of San Marino is 103 years old with an infrastructure to match.

We have seen current estimates to repair it hovering around $40 million, but nobody really knows what the real number is.  No one knows how the cost estimates were calculated.  Very likely this number does not include the impact of inflation, environmental compliance, cost overruns, mission creep, etc.

Discussion

Each of these numbers is increasing as we speak.  Salaries and benefits will rise.  The city council has proven itself incapable of resisting the demands for increased wages and benefits.  The pension debt will rise accordingly.  The cost of infrastructure replacement will rise for the reasons stated.  Even assuming we could lock in these numbers, the City of San Marino is fiscally insolvent and headed for a crash.

San Marino, its future and its vaunted “quality of life” is an illusion.  No less illusory are the failed political strategies normally used to cope with these problems.

These are the major issues:

  1. In our cities, our biggest single problem, pensions, is ultimately rooted in state law.  Hence, it is not, strictly speaking, a local problem.  Because pensions are not a local problem, it cannot be solved locally.
  2. Any local political strategy must first contemplate and be fully aligned with a prior statewide political solution.
  3. Paradoxically, the statewide solution begins with local awareness.

The Pension Crisis is a Statewide Crisis That Cannot Be Solved Locally

Without going too deeply into the reasons, it is sufficient to say that even though the pension obligations may be incurred at the local level, they are calculated, regulated and paid at the state level.  Aside from withdrawing from the CalPERS system entirely by paying the cost in full, in cash and right now, the city has no choice but to remain in the system.

Although there may be other potential solutions, the city council, urged on by the wealthy, elite public employees who own and control it, will claim that their hands are tied and do nothing.  Many cities in California have looked at this option and backed away.  Thus, even when a city council is not in the pocket of the unions and public employees, their options are few and ineffective.

For the reasons stated, it is essential that we understand that the biggest problem in San Marino, or any city, cannot be decisively addressed, much less solved, only at the local level.  This is why efforts to elect “good people” to the city council, petitions, demonstrations, or even local initiatives are, by themselves, ultimately no more effective in California than they are in Venezuela.  These efforts are essential, but not enough.

Effective Local Political Strategies Must Be Part of a Statewide Political Pension Reform Strategy

We at TEAPAC and the California Tax Limitation Committee recognize this reality.  This is why we have long been convinced that the major problems we face in California can only be addressed by a series of strategic statewide initiatives beginning with Pension Reform.  This initiative would:

  1. Abolish the current pension system (referred to as “defined benefit”), and replace it with 401(K) type plans (referred to as “defined contribution”);
  2. Prohibit the adoption of any defined benefit plan by any government entity;
  3. Cap employer contributions to retirement and benefits at 10% of salary;
  4. This initiative would apply to all new hires and every new dollar earned by any current employee;
  5. Pending rulings by the California Supreme Court, the current system would be reformed to cap pension benefits at 2% of salary for a maximum of 20 years of employment.

In sum, the only truly effective local political strategy in the area of pension reform is a statewide Pension Reform initiative.  Anything else is a waste of time, money and resources.

Statewide Success Begins With Local Awareness

Just as the pension problem is an aggregation of local obligations, a successful statewide pension reform movement begins with, and depends upon, local awareness.  Thus, we are not arguing against local political action.  Far from it.  We have always understood that successful statewide success begins locally.  This is particularly true of fiscal issues, which can be very hard to explain to the average citizen.

Someone once remarked that, “One death is a tragedy.  A million deaths is a statistic.”  And so it is with deficits.  In the aggregate our statewide fiscal and pension crisis is remote and intangible.  But locally it can be explained and made tangible.  Thus, political action undertaken in any city must explain the current situation to voters in concrete local terms.

We have done this successfully in other cities in our Utility User Tax Repeal initiative campaigns.  Our single most effective campaign piece featured the scores, sometimes hundreds, of public employees receiving salaries above $100,000 a year and explaining how that related to the pension deficit in the city.

This effort was never linked to the campaign of any candidate.  Indeed, as we have explained, elected representatives cannot or will not do anything to deal with the pension problem.  However, even in wealthy, laid back San Marino, many citizens became aroused when they realized what has actually been going on in their city.

This effort just needs to be scaled up and continued for the next several years.  More importantly, it needs to be linked to a statewide solution.  Otherwise we just generate citizen discontent that will degenerate into frustration and bitter resentment when they realize that the really good person they elected cannot solve the problem or, worse, betrays their concern when he or she becomes co-opted by the prevailing political machine.

That said, the candidates will not be able to be neutral.  They will have to take either an opposing or supporting position on this initiative.  The unions and public employees, who readily understand the fiscal and political implications of our proposal, will see to it that “their” candidates attack us and anyone who supports us.  They will be forced to take a stand and explain to all of us why there is really nothing to worry about and how all of this comes to a good end.  This is a very good thing indeed.

Huzzah!