Archives for January 2018

Drivers in California’s three largest cities spent $17 billion on gas in 2017 — and nearly $7 billion was wasted

How much does gridlock on the freeways and roads cost the drivers of California?  Percentage wise, more that 25% of the cost of gas is wasted because Gov. Brown and the Democrats use tax dollars meant for roads on money losing buses and trains.  In real dollars that is a TAX of $7 billion on the people of our formerly Golden State.

“Drivers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego may have spent as much as $17 billion on gas last year, based on a new estimate from Zendrive, a start-up that analyzes driving behavior to improve commercial driver safety.

And roughly $6.8 billion of that expense was essentially wasted due to bad driving habits and traffic congestion.

The data shows that the approximately 30 million residents of the state’s three biggest metropolitan areas spend a lot of money essentially going nowhere.”

This is a tax on us—collected at the gas pump. Not on April 15.  Time for a revolt?  Thought you should know how much the policies of the Socialist Democrats cost us.  Another reason to vote NO on all bond measures and tax increases.  Give government money, it was be abused.

Gas Tax

Drivers in California’s three largest cities spent $17 billion on gas in 2017 — and nearly $7 billion was wasted

  • Drivers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego may have spent as much as $17 billion on gas last year, a new estimate from start-up Zendrive suggests.
  • And $6.8 billion of that expense was essentially wasted due to congestion and bad driving associated with the peak traffic of commute hours.
  • Zendrive analyzes driving behavior using a variety of public and private sources.
John Shinal, CNBC,  1/28/18

 

Think filling up your car is expensive? Try doing it one of California’s three largest metro areas.

Drivers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego may have spent as much as $17 billion on gas last year, based on a new estimate from Zendrive, a start-up that analyzes driving behavior to improve commercial driver safety.

And roughly $6.8 billion of that expense was essentially wasted due to bad driving habits and traffic congestion.

The data shows that the approximately 30 million residents of the state’s three biggest metropolitan areas spend a lot of money essentially going nowhere.

The total expense estimates were based on data the start-up compiled on the average costs of gas, average fuel ratings of vehicles, average household sizes and average distances for commuting and total miles driven in each metropolitan area during 2017.

The data came from sources including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Census, the American Automobile Association, public transit authorities in each region and from GasBuddy, maker of an app that helps consumers find fuel prices, Zendrive CEO Jonathan Matus told CNBC in a phone interview.

The figure for total savings comes from a study by the Department of Energy which found that bad driving habits such as speeding, rapid acceleration and frequent braking cost Americans an extra 40 percent in fuel costs each year.

Zendrive also found that trips during the lunch hour were more dangerous to Bay Area drivers that those made during either the morning or evening commute, while drivers in the region are most aggressive on Mondays.

 

RecycLA: The Trashing of Los Angeles

In a very short time since the L.A. City Council created a franchise operation for trash collection, there have been 28,000 complaints.  Of course there are more, but many people have given up on trash collection in Los Angeles.

“Under the new franchise arrangement, the City entered into ten year contracts with seven private companies who serve eleven “waste sheds.”  The cost to the victims of this monopolistic system is expected to exceed $350 million a year based on rates established by the outgunned City bureaucracy.  This 56% increase over existing revenues of $225 million is hardly “modest” as was promised by the members of the City Council.  And more than likely, this does not include future rate increases and pass through expenses and all the additional Mickey Mouse fees being imposed by the private contractors that are the subject of great controversy and potential litigation.

Now you understand why the middle class is fleeing this once world class city—high taxes, failing schools, bad roads and trash that is treated like gold and the families treated like an ATM.

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

RecycLA: The Trashing of Los Angeles

Jack Humphreville, City Watch LA,  1/29/18

 

LA WATCHDOG–Mayor Garcetti and the City Council are in crisis mode because the botched rollout of the City’s monopolistic Commercial Waste Exclusive Franchise System is now front

The Bureau of Sanitation has received over 28,000 complaints about poor service according the Los Angeles Times and the Bureau of Sanitation.

Business, multifamily buildings and homeowner associations are “mad as hell” as they are experiencing sticker shock as rates “have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled, with the inclusion of new fee assessments that did not exist under the previous private hauler agreements” according to Councilmember Mike Bonin.

The question is what will the Mayor and City Council do to remedy the situation.  And the answer is, not much, especially when it involves rates.

Unfortunately, the proponents of the Exclusive Trash Franchise (dubbed RecycLA by the City Hall spinmeisters), including Mayor Garcetti and Councilmembers Jose Huizar, Paul Koretz, and Paul Krekorian, summarily dismissed the 2012 proposal for a Non-Exclusive Trash Franchise by then City Administrative Officer, Miguel Santana.  Under the Santana proposal, the City would be able to achieve the same environmental benefits as the Exclusive Trash Franchise arrangement, but at the same time, allow for competition.  This would have resulted in better service and lower prices compared to the new monopolistic system where the City (and not the customer) determines the service levels and pricing.

But then again, the proponents were doing the bidding of a well-heeled coalition of “environmental, community, faith based, economic justice and labor groups,” including, among others, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor sponsored organization favored by Garcetti and his wife, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Teamsters union.

On the other hand, the City may be able to “encourage” the private contractors to provide a more acceptable level of service.

Councilwoman Nury Martinez has called for the Bureau of Sanitation and the seven franchise services providers to report to her Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee on Tuesday, February 6, and outline the status of RecycLA, including issues related to the 28,000 service complaints.

Without doubt, there will be considerable posturing by the members of this committee, including Koretz and Krekorian who were major proponents of this new, pocket picking system.  But the meeting is not about blame, but how to solve the problems relating to substandard service.

One of the outcomes may be that the City may need to devote the entire $35 million in franchise fees to the administration and enforcement of RecycLA instead of diverting $20 million to the General Fund to help pay for increased salaries and pension contributions.

There has also been talk about terminating the contracts with private contractors who have failed to meet their obligations under the RecycLA contracts.  But that would be a very expensive endeavor as the private contractors, many of whom are publicly held companies with deep pockets, would engage the City is very expensive legal battles and allege that the City had not fulfilled its end of the deal.  They would also demand liquidated damages that would cost the City hundreds of millions of dollars if the City was found to be at fault.

The RecycLA fiasco is just another example of a broken promise from our Elected Elite, especially when it comes to placing the interests of their cronies and campaign supporters ahead of our hard earned cash.

Over the next year, we will see numerous examples of financial chicanery, ranging from the budget, the pensions, and our deteriorating infrastructure.  And come June and November when the City, the County, and/or the State place measures on the ballot that require our cash, we will have the opportunity to express our unhappiness with the City’s finances and its politicians and trash these propositions with our no votes.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. 

 

EPA, California must compromise in their fight over weakened fuel-efficiency standards, experts say

Illegal aliens, marijuana and numerous other areas, California has declared itself a nation state, no longer needing the policies of the Federal government.  On environmental issues, it has also declared its independence.

“The Trump administration will have to compromise if it’s serious about maintaining “one national program” for vehicle emissions rules and wants to avoid a legal battle with California, experts say.

California state leaders have defied the Trump administration on issues including climate change, immigration, and taxes – and environmental regulations on cars and trucks is no exception.

California, which can set its own fuel efficiency standards, has fought the Environmental Protection Agency over the proposed weakening of rules set by the Obama administration that would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.”

Fun and games aside, this harms the manufacturers who want to sell to the 49 States of the U.S. and to California, a separate nation.  This adds to the cost of production and adds to the reason California is so expensive.  Just as the special gas formulas needed for gas sold JUST in California adds to the cost of transportation, this is another area of nullification/independence shown by President Jerry Brown (not a typo).

Jerry Brown state of the state

EPA, California must compromise in their fight over weakened fuel-efficiency standards, experts say

by Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner,  1/29/18

The Trump administration will have to compromise if it’s serious about maintaining “one national program” for vehicle emissions rules and wants to avoid a legal battle with California, experts say.

California state leaders have defied the Trump administration on issues including climate change, immigration, and taxes – and environmental regulations on cars and trucks is no exception.

California, which can set its own fuel efficiency standards, has fought the Environmental Protection Agency over the proposed weakening of rules set by the Obama administration that would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

A top EPA official said Thursday at the Washington Auto Show, which opens for the general public this week, that the agency wants to make nice with California.

“This obviously is a very important issue, and I have no interest whatsoever in withdrawing California’s ability to regulate,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum, who leads the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation. “From a good solid public policy standpoint, the very best outcome for all of us to achieve is one national program.”

Wehrum added the EPA has had “productive conversations” with the California Air Resources Board, and said the agency intends to meet the April 1 deadline for setting vehicle emissions standards for 2022-2025 model years.

A spokesman for the California Air Resources Board told the Washington Examiner it plans to “stay at the table” in negotiations with the EPA.

But the California Air Resources Board has previously warned the state could withdraw from the nationwide vehicle emissions program if the EPA limits the Obama regulations.

Experts who favor one nationwide program instead of a “patchwork” of unaligned rules say the Trump administration will have to compromise if it wants to keep California in line.

“California and the federal government need to get together to solve this problem,” said Robbie Diamond, president and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce the U.S.’ demand for oil through improved vehicle efficiency. “Car companies are at pivotal moment with all this new technology coming at them at a fast speed. To get a solution, we think there has to be a clear signal from the federal government that they are willing to provide a lower number for fuel efficiency in the short-term to get the largest number in the long-term.”

Diamond says the EPA should propose tougher rules for 2026-2030, when he says carmakers would be better equipped to adapt to technological changes, in exchange for weakening the standards for the 2022-2025 vehicles.

Dave Cooke, a senior vehicle analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, doubts the Trump administration would consider proposing rules for years after 2025. That’s because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which administers the fuel efficiency standards program, can only finalize rules every five years.

“I don’t anticipate EPA making 2030 standards under the current administration,” Cooke said.

Automakers have pressed for relief from the rules the Obama administration set for 2022-2025, arguing low gasoline prices have weakened consumer demand for hybrid-electric cars and smaller, fuel-efficient models.

Less fuel-efficient SUVs and light trucks have become more popular in recent years, meaning manufacturers are having difficulty hitting the fuel-efficiency targets, automakers say.

A recent EPA report determined the auto industry missed its emissions target for the first time in 2016, a finding that automakers have used as evidence the standards are too stringent.

The Association of Global Automakers, the main trade group representing manufacturers of automobiles and light duty trucks, would not comment.

California, however, has long fought to go its own way.

Federal law since 1967 has allowed California, because of severe air pollution problems caused by smog, to obtain a waiver allowing it to set its own fuel efficiency regulations that are tougher than the national standards.

Other states can follow those instead. Collectively, states representing roughly 40 percent of the U.S. car market abide by California’s rules.

California Gov. Jerry Brown called the Trump administration’s decision to review the standards a “gift to polluters” in a letter last year to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The state is the nation’s largest market for zero-emission, electric vehicles. There were 25,000 electric vehicles on California’s roads in 2012, compared to more than 350,000 today.

Brown, a Democrat, issued an executive order Friday to put at least 5 million electric cars on California roads by 2030.

Moody’s recently predicted that electric vehicles, which are now less than 1 percent of global car sales, will grow to 17 to 19 percent of the market by 2030.

Cooke says the U.S. has benefited from California’s leadership in cleaning up the auto industry, and the Trump administration should strive to keep up with the state’s standards.

 

Walters: Los Angeles, San Fran in political turmoil

San Fran and L.A. are fighting for the title of the city least hospitable to the middle class.  Both are fighting for the title of the city with the highest taxes and with the worst regulations to build housing.  Neither city likes the middle class—but both are fighting to be the city most hospitable to the homeless and illegal aliens.

“Los Angeles and San Francisco may be economic and cultural rivals, but politics in the state’s two most important cities are similarly harsh.

Both are dense mélanges of economic, cultural and ethnic “communities” that joust constantly and to those who aspire to high office, they are minefields laid atop pits of quicksand.

As fate would decree, both cities are suddenly in the throes of turmoil at or near the top of the local political pyramids.”

Add on to this the loss of Mayor Lee in San Fran and the L.A. Mayor Garcetti is setting up home and shop in Iowa, letting staff run the city (he is running for President, not that is NOT a joke—except on him).  Watch as the political forces tear each other apart, the middle class leaves (L.A. schools have 9% white students, San Fran has 13%–both segregated).  Want political poverty areas and corruption—San Fran and L.A.  are the places to study and go.

eric garcetti

Commentary: Los Angeles, San Francisco in political turmoil

By Dan Walters, CalMatters,  1/31/18

Los Angeles and San Francisco may be economic and cultural rivals, but politics in the state’s two most important cities are similarly harsh.

Both are dense mélanges of economic, cultural and ethnic “communities” that joust constantly and to those who aspire to high office, they are minefields laid atop pits of quicksand.

As fate would decree, both cities are suddenly in the throes of turmoil at or near the top of the local political pyramids.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died of a heart attack in December and predictably, in a city where politics are a blood sport, politicians have been waging guerrilla war over his successor.

Meanwhile, 382 miles to the southeast, Los Angeles’ police chief and superintendent of schools announced their resignations this month, igniting sharp maneuvering over who will fill two high-profile positions affecting the daily lives of millions.

Because she happened to be president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors when Lee succumbed, London Breed became acting mayor, fully intending to run for the job later this year. That’s how U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein became mayor after the assassination of George Moscone in 1978.

However, the city’s most “progressive” factions – and other would-be mayors – didn’t want her to have the advantage of incumbency. Last week, therefore, the board’s left-wingers forged a deal with its moderates to bump Breed from the job she had held for scarcely a month and install Mark Farrell, a city supervisor and wealthy investment banker, as interim mayor instead.

Former Mayor Willie Brown, Breed’s most important supporter, cried foul, likening it to “a palace coup” in his weekly newspaper column – which is a bit ironic, since Brown has been the master of political ju-jitsu as mayor, as speaker of the state Assembly and as a behind-the-scenes kingmaker who handpicked both of his mayoral successors.

Only in San Francisco would Brown be seen as a crypto-conservative, but he and Breed are deemed by those to their left as too cozy with much-despised real estate interests.

Farrell’s win is an indirect boost for former state Sen. Mark Leno, a progressive favorite to become mayor, and the campaign leading up to the June election promises to be brutal.

Neither Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck nor schools Superintendent Michelle King was elected, but both have been on the frontlines of the city’s very tumultuous evolution from white bread America to cultural polyglot.

There are no more fundamental issues for any community than how it is policed and how its children are educated and both Beck’s police department and King’s Los Angeles Unified School District have been buffeted by nonstop conflicts over the direction of their agencies.

As the Los Angeles Times put it, Beck – who came up through the ranks – “shepherded the department through crippling budget woes, a stubborn uptick in crime and a national outcry over police killings of black men.”

King, meanwhile, had been superintendent for just a year, chosen from among the huge district’s administrative ranks after a very fragmented school board could not agree on an outside candidate.

King was the ninth superintendent in 20 years, underscoring the difficulty of running a district with immense numbers of poor children and beset by serious financial problems and low academic performance.

The basic issue in both appointments is whether to once again tap insiders who would provide continuity or bring in someone new to shake up things. Both agencies have gone through such outsider-led shakeups in the past with decidedly uneven results

 

Feds Spend $302,331 On ‘In-Home Semen Testing’–Not a Joke

The Federal government knows how to waste billions of dollars and makes it easy to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Seriously, why is the Federal government spending tax dollars on home testing semen—why not allow the private sector create testing devices?

“The National Institutes of Health is spending over $300,000 performing “in-home semen testing,” which will pay men $20 for their samples as part of a study hoping to fight infertility.

Boston University is conducting the “Feasibility of In-Home Semen Testing” project, which was awarded on Dec. 1.

“The prevalence of impaired fecundity has been increasing over the last decade and few modifiable risk factors for infertility have been identified,” according to the grant for the project. “Male factor contributes to 50 [percent] of all infertility.”

Lots of words with one meaning, a payoff to someone for something not needed by the government.  Corruption?  The National Institute of health knows how to make payoffs.  Someone needs to tell President Trump about this.

whitehousemoney-300x166

Feds Spend $302,331 On ‘In-Home Semen Testing’

‘Subjects will send test results back to investigators via secure smartphone app’

BY: Elizabeth Harrington, Washington Free Beacon, 1/31/18

The National Institutes of Health is spending over $300,000 performing “in-home semen testing,” which will pay men $20 for their samples as part of a study hoping to fight infertility.

Boston University is conducting the “Feasibility of In-Home Semen Testing” project, which was awarded on Dec. 1.

“The prevalence of impaired fecundity has been increasing over the last decade and few modifiable risk factors for infertility have been identified,” according to the grant for the project. “Male factor contributes to 50 [percent] of all infertility.”

The researchers said they want to broaden the pool of semen testing, which they said normally only takes place in fertility treatment centers, “thereby limiting generalizability.”

“The enrollment of large numbers of men from the general population prior to conception represents a unique opportunity to assess the feasibility of in-home semen testing,” the grant states.

The NIH previously awarded the researchers $337,483 for a study that recruited couples wanting to conceive online and tracked how long it took them to get pregnant. Now, taking from a group of over 1,200 recruited men from the previous project, the researchers will pay men $20 to have their sperm tested at home.

The home kits will allow for “repeated measures of sperm concentration, sperm motility, and semen volume.”

“Subjects will send test results back to investigators via a secure smartphone application,” the grant states.

The project has received $302,331 in taxpayer-funding so far. Research will continue through November 2019.

In all, 300 men will provide “semen data.” The researchers will “compare the distributions of semen parameters with data from the Stanford infertility clinic and the World Health Organization.”

Semen quality will be evaluated in relation to obesity, stress, and depression.

“We have already shown that appreciable numbers of men are willing to enroll in our preconception cohort study, that men are willing to participate in the proposed protocol for $20, and that the semen data are within the range expected for the general population,” the researchers said.

Still, the researchers are unsure how acceptable mass in-home sperm testing will be.

“The extent to which large scale in-home semen testing will be acceptable to a geographically heterogeneous cohort of men who are not seeking fertility treatment is unknown,” the grant states. “The investigation of men representing the full spectrum of fertility is critical for validly evaluating the role of lifestyle and behavioral factors on fertility.”

The researchers hope that widespread semen testing could be “paradigm-shifting” for male reproductive health.

“If the proposed in-home semen testing methods are shown to be feasible, the inclusion of such methods in future epidemiologic investigations could be paradigm-shifting for the study of male reproductive health,” the grant states.

 

Riverside County has $3 Billion in Unfunded Pension Liabilities

Riverside is just one County is deep economic problems due to CalPERS.  There is no way for the County to meet its pensions needs and provide public safety—so CalPERS demands the money and the public needs to defend themselves—can’t count on the over worked, under staffed Sheriffs Department.

“The new 18-page report compiled by the Pension Advisory Review Committee (PARC) predicted rising pension costs over the next decade, with the county’s unfunded liabilities approaching $3 billion.

CalPERS’ figures showed that in the safety category — covering sheriff’s deputies, District Attorney’s Office investigators, probation agents and others — the county will need to commit the rough equivalent of 32 percent of payroll in 2018-19, about $118 million, to cover pension”

In six years HALF of the cost of payroll will be pensions.  Totally unsustainable.  This is a County on the verge of chaos and economic collapse.  Why aren’t the Socialist Democrats in Sacramento working for a fix?  Because they do not care.  Period.

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Riverside County Pension System Goes Under the Microscope

California County News, 01/31/2018

Riverside County leaders received sobering news about the county’s ailing pension system Tuesday.

The new 18-page report compiled by the Pension Advisory Review Committee (PARC) predicted rising pension costs over the next decade, with the county’s unfunded liabilities approaching $3 billion.

CalPERS’ figures showed that in the safety category — covering sheriff’s deputies, District Attorney’s Office investigators, probation agents and others — the county will need to commit the rough equivalent of 32 percent of payroll in 2018-19, about $118 million, to cover pension obligations. By 2024-25, that figure jumps to 47 percent, based on projections.

The costs factor in the expense of amortizing pension obligation bonds issued in 2005, as well as some accounting adjustments.

In the miscellaneous category — covering clerks, custodians, nurses, technicians and others — the county will need to commit a sum equal to 32 percent of payroll in 2018-19, about $226 million, to cover pension obligations. By 2024-25, that amount spikes to 29 percent, figures show.

CalPERS’ rate of return on investments currently stands at a not-too-shabby 7.375 percent. But that figure is expected to fall below 7 percent over the next three years, putting the county in rough territory. As PARC notes, “poor investment performance following the financial crisis (of 2008) significantly increased the county’s unfunded liability, driving up the required payments.”

The county is still in a better position than it would have been without 2012 pension reforms, PARC said. But the numbers show they don’t go far enough.

Riverside County is struggling with a number of fiscal uncertainties right now, including questions over public safety funding. That issue has led to a public spat between Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and the Board of Supervisors. Read more about that here.

 

 

Crime is Growing in California—Including Human Trafficking

Thanks to Prop. 57 and 47 California has a crime wave.  While crime statistics are down, that is because many crimes are no longer counted as crimes—steal items under $950 and you do not get arrested or need to appear in court, just ignored it as an inconvenience.

“More than 500 people have been arrested and another 56 rescued during a three-day human trafficking sting known as Operation Reclaim and Rebuild. The operation was led out by The Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Forces, which is part of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. But the arrests spanned the state, with busts in Riverside County, Milpitas, and elsewhere.

More than 85 organizations — state, federal, county, city and nonprofit — participated in the crackdown. According to the county, the victims included 45 women and 11 girls.”

Note the article does not mention that almost all the victims are women from other countries—illegal aliens.  This is want Jerry Brown and Pelosi are protecting victims of human trafficking by protecting the illegal alien kidnappers.

Christmas_Island_Immigration_Detention_Centre_(5424306236)

Human Trafficking Raids Net 510 Arrests, 56 Rescues in California

California County News, 01/31/2018

More than 500 people have been arrested and another 56 rescued during a three-day human trafficking sting known as Operation Reclaim and Rebuild. The operation was led out by The Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Forces, which is part of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. But the arrests spanned the state, with busts in Riverside County, Milpitas, and elsewhere.

More than 85 organizations — state, federal, county, city and nonprofit — participated in the crackdown. According to the county, the victims included 45 women and 11 girls.

“Teams from throughout California have joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to come down hard on business as usual for the pimps, exploiters and those who believe that it’s acceptable to buy another human being for sexual purposes,” Sheriff McDonnell said. “The message we hope to send to the traffickers is: Don’t do business in Los Angeles County or the state of California, because we will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

January is national human trafficking awareness month. Learn more about the crime of human trafficking and how you can help prevent it here.

 

California State Senate “LEGALIZES” Tax Fraud on Federal Government.

If legislative Democrats have their way, you will not have to pay State income taxes.  Instead, you can donate to a phony non profit run by the State, to provide State services.  The Secretary of the Treasury has already declared this a fraud and will prosecute anyone trying this scam.  Want to have a lien put on your bank accounts and property till the lawsuits are settled, do this.

“Senate Bill 227, authored by Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon, allows California to earn tax deductions by contributing to California Excellence Fund, a fund within California’s budget that contributes directly to state-funded higher education institutions.

“It is my duty to do everything within my power to protect the taxpayers of CA against a very capricious, mean-spirited tax policy that unfairly targets Californians,” de Leon tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

Republican state lawmakers continue to complain that contributing to public coffers and the state government should not be equated with charitable contributions.

The winners in this fraud will the attorney negotiating settlements with the Feds for filing fraudulent tax returns.  This is another example of nullification by California Democrats.  By the way, anybody believe the IRS is going to give this scam a tax exempt status to “qualify” for the charitable deduction?

Taxes

California Senate Passes Workaround to Federal Tax Overhaul

MATTHEW RENDA, Courthousenews,  1/31/18

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – The California Senate on Tuesday passed a bill intended to help Californians evade the consequences of the recent federal tax overhaul.

But de Leon and other Democratic lawmakers say the federal overhaul weaponizes the tax code to punish Democratic voters in heavily blue states, leaving them little choice but to get creative in protecting their own coffers and constituents.

“The new Republican tax law deliberately targets Americans in blue states that didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and it could cost Californians billions of dollars,” de León said.

The latest bill is one of two crafted in direct response to the tax reform written by congressional Republicans and signed into law by President Donald Trump before the new year.

De Leon slightly reduced the tax credit attached to contributions to the excellence fund, taking it down from the previous dollar-for-dollar formula to 85 percent. On top of that deduction, taxpayers will be able to claim federal and state tax deductions.

California legislators, some of the most vocal critics of the Trump administration in the political landscape, have complained that the tax reform bill was aimed solely at assisting corporations and very wealthy individuals while failing to assist middle- and low-income individuals and families still smarting from the Great Recession that began a decade ago.

They further maintain the federal government seeks to make up lost revenue by tailoring the tax code to punish wealthy blue states like New York and California.

Specifically, the law caps tax deductions at $10,000, which de Leon says will cost taxpayers $36 billion in the current year and up to $90 billion by the year 2024.

The average California taxpayer claims around $18,000 a year in deductions, according to de Leon’s office.

But the law has prompted speculations that the move may not be legal, with reports circulating that the U.S. Department of Treasury sent California and other similarly situated states a letter warning them against concocting legislative workarounds.

The federal government could make bills like de Leon’s illegal, but there are questions about how much momentum there is to do that given that many red-state legislatures use similarly crafted bills to fund private education.

According to de Leon, 17 states – including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Louisiana – use a plan similar to California’s new one to fund education.

There is also a separate bill, Senate Bill 581, circulating. That bill will create the California Excellence Fund that will allow donors to contribute to the university systems, the community colleges, K-12 education and state parks.

SB 227 must still clear the Assembly before going to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

 

The Shipyard, San Fran’s largest development, faces years of delays after alleged fake soil testing

In California you can not look at a city or a project without fraud, corruption or incompetence involved.  Project like the choo coo to nowhere have all three.  Now we find how easy it is to commit fraud in the San Fran area.  For twelve years fraudulent soil testing had been going on.  In that time why didn’t the government find this?  Why didn’t the contractor find this?  The answer is obvious—corruption.

“The San Francisco Shipyard, the city’s largest active development, faces years of potential delays after the U.S. Navy said nearly half of soil tests may have been faked over 12 years. The Navy plans to retest a 408-acre site for radiation and other contamination, NBC reported on Tuesday.

Contractor Tetra Tech Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK) was awarded a $300 million contract to test and clean up the former shipyard, but soil was found to be improperly tested in 2012. Curbed reported that in the past year, the Navy concluded that almost half of the cleanup may have been faked.

Tetra Tech denied the allegations of a “cover up of fraud” last June and said two employees were responsible for “inaccurate” samples. The company referred request for comment to the Navy, which didn’t immediately respond.”

Who are these people and firms, who actually owns them?  Has anyone search other projects they are doing for similar fraud?  Why not?

ShakingHandsWithMoney

The Shipyard, San Francisco’s largest development, faces years of delays after alleged fake soil testing

 

By Roland Li, San Francisco Business Times, 1/30/18

The San Francisco Shipyard, the city’s largest active development, faces years of potential delays after the U.S. Navy said nearly half of soil tests may have been faked over 12 years. The Navy plans to retest a 408-acre site for radiation and other contamination, NBC reported on Tuesday.

Contractor Tetra Tech Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK) was awarded a $300 million contract to test and clean up the former shipyard, but soil was found to be improperly tested in 2012. Curbed reported that in the past year, the Navy concluded that almost half of the cleanup may have been faked.

Tetra Tech denied the allegations of a “cover up of fraud” last June and said two employees were responsible for “inaccurate” samples. The company referred request for comment to the Navy, which didn’t immediately respond.

The Shipyard, in the Hunters Point neighborhood, is the city’s largest development with more than 12,000 approved homes and 4 million square feet of commercial space.

Developer FivePoint Holdings LLC (NYSE: FPH) said in its last quarterly SEC filing that it doesn’t expect the Navy to transfer any more land until 2019 to 2022. The developer had previously expected 90 acres to be transferred this year.

Hunters Point Shipyard by FivePoint

 

FivePoint is now focusing on commercial development on 28 acres that it and the city already controls, said Kofi Bonner, regional president of Northern California at FivePoint.

“Our goal is to create a continuity that connects the completed homes on the hilltop and the first commercial buildings that we are planning,” said Bonner in a statement.

Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, a community group that has been critical of the cleanup, wants the Navy to hire an independent investigator. He accused the Navy of a “cover up” of the soil testing issues for years.

“They need to do a proper investigation,” said Angel. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been thrown down the toilet. That’s unacceptable.”

Angel also wants the land where homes have already been built to be retested, as well as soil at the Treasure Island redevelopment, where Tetra Tech was also hired by the Navy to do testing.

“I don’t trust anything Tetra Tech did,” he said.

Greenaction has filed a complaint with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revoke Tetra Tech’s license. Greenaction was one of the groups that unsuccessfully sued the city and original developer Lennar (NYSE: LEN) over the Shipyard’s approvals.

The city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure didn’t immediately return requests for comment. The Navy is holding a community event on the cleanup on Wednesday.

 

Federal, state visions for improving schools collide in California

Can a Cabinet Secretary from Michigan or Illinois (Arne Duncan or Betsy DeVos) run the government schools in Chico or Chino?  Should Sacramento have the final say over schools in Monrovia or Madera?  The fight today is whether the State or the Feds run the schools in your town.  Here is a novel idea—let the parents, teachers and taxpayers of your town make policy on curriculum and management of the schools.  Radical—local control of education.

“That massive number is slightly under half of all schools in California receiving federal aid for low-income schools. It underscored the challenge, if not a larger threat, that the Every Student Succeeds Act could pose for the state board by diverting attention and resources from the different strategy of reform that the board is putting into place. That number is why the board called a time out and stripped any reference to the method it will use to select schools needing help — a key element of the state plan for complying with the law — from the revision it sent to the U.S. Department of Education last week.

The law takes effect this fall; meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has approved plans for 33 states, including 18 that, like California, submitted their plans last fall.

The source of the conflict is where the focus to improve schools should be — on school districts or on individual schools.”

Now you know why Charter schools are so successful-they are run by parents and teachers of the school, not politicians in Washington or Sacramento.

School bond study

Federal, state visions for improving schools collide in California

John Fensterwald, EdSource,  1/30/18

During a presentation earlier this month on how to choose the roughly 300 lowest-performing schools that must get intensive help under federal law, a number struck some members of the State Board of Education like a brick from the sky: 3,003.

That’s the total number of schools in the state — not 300 but nine or 10 times that many — that staff estimate would require at least some form of help based on the school selection criteria that the board was considering.

That massive number is slightly under half of all schools in California receiving federal aid for low-income schools. It underscored the challenge, if not a larger threat, that the Every Student Succeeds Act could pose for the state board by diverting attention and resources from the different strategy of reform that the board is putting into place. That number is why the board called a time out and stripped any reference to the method it will use to select schools needing help — a key element of the state plan for complying with the law — from the revision it sent to the U.S. Department of Education last week.

The law takes effect this fall; meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has approved plans for 33 states, including 18 that, like California, submitted their plans last fall.

The source of the conflict is where the focus to improve schools should be — on school districts or on individual schools.

That distinction might appear semantic or procedural, hardly a cause for war. But the state board is unwavering in its belief that lasting improvement, aimed at narrowing achievement gaps among student groups, must begin at the district level, not the principal’s office. Superintendents, administrators and principals together must recognize patterns of underperformance across schools — problems with instruction, student discipline, course access, staff training. They must then take a systemwide approach to identify effective practices, work with parents and teachers and direct resources to implement those practices.

California’s challenge is to persuade the federal government to approve a plan that nominally satisfies the Every Student Succeeds Act’s school-focused approach while pursuing its own interpretation of the law’s intent.

The board has asked staff to rethink the school selection criteria over the next two months — and check out what other states have done — to make sure that the Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t overwhelm “the California Way.” ­That’s what the board and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson are calling their approach to school accountability and improvement.

The paradox is that California takes seriously a primary goal of the Every Student Succeeds Act — narrowing disparities in achievement among student ethnic and racial groups — while other states have been criticized for writing plans that dodge that issue. California’s funding system steers substantial money to underperforming students: English learners, low-income children, foster and homeless youth. Its new accountability system and data site, the California School Dashboard, focuses on performance gaps.

If the state board can’t resolve the tension between federal law and the state approach, it may be heading toward an irresolvable conflict.

Federal mandate: fix the worst schools

In the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress ordered states to identify and fix the lowest-performing schools — the bottom 5 percent — receiving federal Title I aid for low-income students, plus 58 high schools with a graduation rate of less than 67 percent. That would total 354 schools in California, based on which schools were rated lowest on the California School Dashboard, an accountability tool that assigns colors to multiple areas of performance.

“Experience shows that helicoptering into one school within a district, dropping off some funding and compliance paperwork and leaving after a couple of years doesn’t create sustained change,” said Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education.

Those schools would be entitled to “intensive help,” including Title I money for school improvement; districts would write individual school improvement plans, which the state would monitor periodically to document whether a school had, at a minimum, improved enough to shed their low-performing designation.

Board members assert that the federal strategy is not only incompatible with the board’s approach but also contrary to the Local Control Funding Formula, the 2013 state law that, along with steering more money to high-needs students, lays out the framework for district-led improvement grounded in local control. In November, the state board identified 228 districts with low-performing student groups that will get assistance from county boards of education.

“The identification of the lowest-performing 5 percent is a significant deviation from LCFF,” said board member Sue Burr after looking at the staff presentation (her comment starts at 5:08:30 of the webcast). “Our approach should be through (districts); schools don’t operate in isolation. They can’t be successful on their own. That’s why the LCFF premise works.”

To be forced into two separate systems, “in which 50 percent of our schools would be targeted,” does not make sense, she said.

The larger number Burr alluded to refers to another requirement of the federal law (see section 2) that the board has, until now, put off facing. In addition to assisting the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, the state must identify for “targeted” help all schools with any student group that is also performing poorly, using the same criteria. California has more than a dozen student groups: low-income students, English learners, students with disabilities and a dozen ethnic and racial groups.

Until staff ran the dashboard data for this month’s meeting, the board hadn’t seen the figure: 2,649 schools that also would require extensive improvement plans, with monitoring for student group progress. Combined with the 354 schools getting “intensive” assistance, the total is 3,003 schools — a daunting number.

A threat — to what extent?

With uncertain, difficult negotiations with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ahead, state board President Michael Kirst declined to be interviewed on the issue of competing federal and state systems, and instead issued a carefully worded statement.

“By focusing on districts, California can maximize the resources available to help more schools improve. We recognize that many, many California schools are struggling to improve classroom learning,” he wrote. “Past experience shows that helicoptering into one school within a district, dropping off some funding and compliance paperwork and leaving after a couple of years doesn’t create sustained change. We want to increase the chances for success with our new statewide system of support by strategically targeting systemic problems at the district level that hinder school improvement.”

Other advocates of the state’s approach are more blunt about the challenge that the Every Student Succeeds Act poses to the state’s vision for reform.

“What Kirst and (Gov. Jerry) Brown ultimately are fighting for is to protect the integrity of a different approach and logic for accountability, and it is under a profound threat by ESSA,” said David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent, university-affiliated research organization. “It will be impossible to do both systems well.”

What he fears, he said, is that county offices and districts will “dissipate all of their energy” on thousands of plans that districts and schools will treat as compliance exercises. This is what they did for two decades, under No Child Left Behind and state-prescribed school and district reforms, he said. “Just setting targets, castles in the sky.”

Carl Cohn, executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, a state agency created by the Local Control Funding Formula to oversee the new accountability and improvement system, said, “From what I have seen on the ground, I know that trying to fix schools independent of a district makes no sense.”

The state’s approach of “continuous improvement” — building trust at the district level, doing an analysis of the “root causes” of underperformance, getting districts to take charge of their own improvement process — is “a heavy lift” that won’t work if instead it’s “every school for themselves trying to get out of scrutiny,” he said.

Will worst schools escape attention?

Leaders of some of the civil rights and student advocacy groups that have criticized aspects of the state plan say they understand the state board’s concern — up to a point.

“It certainly is a challenge for the board to try to figure out how to stay true to the California Way while implementing ESSA in a way that focuses state and district attention on a manageable number of schools,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney for the nonprofit law group Public Advocates. “But we all want to make sure the system is not letting worst-performing schools slip through the cracks. The state’s approach does not guarantee that these schools will be the focus of attention; it does not light a fire under the district to say, ‘You must prioritize them.’”

Carrie Hahnel, deputy director of research and policy at the advocacy organization The Education Trust–West, agreed and pointed to Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, with hundreds of low-income schools. A district-level “root-cause analysis will not get down to the level of a particular middle school with a high suspension rate and a bias problem; it will not put extra dollars in that middle school that ESSA envisioned,” she said.

What next?

In December, a top administrator for DeVos wrote a 12-page initial response to the state’s draft plan. It contained significant criticisms that advocacy organizations also had raised.

Among the points, the letter:

  • Questioned whether the state could use the dashboard color scheme to identify low-performing schools.
  • Suggested the state must give more attention to 11th–grade test scores, not bury them as one factor in a college and career indicator.
  • Said the state should specify interim, as well as long-term, goals for school improvement.
  • Asked whether the state would do enough to identify and address low-income schools staffed by underqualified and unqualified teachers.

While these are all important, the letter didn’t address the bigger picture of conflicting approaches to reform, because the state board hadn’t raised it. Time is running out on dodging that issue.