Is a California Housing Revolution on the Horizon?

HousingFrom downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, train commuters on the Expo Line journey from asphalt to ocean through some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. Each train pulls into stations of low-slung buildings that soon fade into vast expanses of single-family homes. The view from Los Angeles is hardly unique. Commuters from San Diego to the Bay Area and Sacramento see low-rise suburbs as the norm. And everything costs a fortune.

That might begin to change if the state legislature passes a bill addressing local land-use regulations. Introduced by Scott Wiener, a Harvard-educated attorney and state senator, Senate Bill 827 would effectively abolish zoning restrictions in Wiener’s district of San Francisco and for significant portions of the state’s most populous areas — and likely produce a boom in new housing construction. SB 827 sweeps away many local limits on height, density, and design within a half-mile of a train station—such as for BART or CalTrain—and within a quarter-mile of stops on high-frequency bus routes. So-called transit-rich zones would see local height limits lifted to anywhere from 45 feet to 85 feet—roughly from four to eight stories—depending on factors such as street width and station proximity. Cities could build taller, but they could not require that buildings be shorter. New projects built near transit hubs would also be exempted from minimum parking requirements. And as long as a particular project is up to code, no municipality could introduce design standards preventing developers from including the maximum number of units possible in a building.

Wiener hopes to fight sprawl by allowing Californians more opportunities to live closer to public transit, and to address climate concerns by reducing their need to drive. To Wiener, a liberal Democrat, housing is also about social justice. He believes progressives have “lost their way on housing,” as he told Forbes recently. Young people, the poor, and the elderly are demanding shelter only to find its supply limited by stringent regulations. “Gentrification is fueled by a lack of housing,” Wiener argues. “When there isn’t enough housing and rents skyrocket, landlords have an economic incentive to push out long-term renters by raising the rent or evicting them.”

Nearly a third of households in California’s metro areas can’t afford rent, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. A majority of these rent-squeezed households—some 3.7 million—are in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. In San Francisco and Oakland, even making $90,000 a year barely puts one above the affordability threshold. California’s affordability crisis is rooted in a housing crisis: not nearly enough homes are being built to keep up with demand. “We under-produce by about 100,000 housing units every year, and we have a housing debt that’s growing,” Wiener says. The most feasible way to pay off that housing debt, he believes, is to let developers build more units in concentrated areas.

Housing is the most pressing issue in California politics. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed 15 bills aimed at tackling housing affordability. Senate Bill 35, for instance, forces almost all of California’s cities to approve projects that complied with current zoning rules. Another bill placed a measure on the 2018 ballot directing nearly $1 billion a year to subsidize new low-income housing. These efforts are part of a growing trend in Sacramento to preempt local restrictions on housing. Some of these measures, such as a 2016 law easing the approval of new “accessory dwelling units” statewide, appear to be working. Los Angeles is seeing a 20-fold rise in applications for these so-called “granny flats,” built in backyards or above garages.

Transit-oriented development has assumed sacred status among Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) progressives popping up across California. The ideal scenario for lowering the barriers to housing density near transit is to get more with less: more housing and affordability with less displacement and sprawl. The result is a traditional Main Street for the twenty-first century. After all, compact, mixed-use developments, accessible by foot, were the norm until the rise of the automobile and institution of zoning laws.

Building more housing is broadly popular in California. Sixty-four percent are in favor of more housing in their cities, according to a PPIC poll of the state. In San Francisco, some 70 percent support building more housing to alleviate cost burdens. Leaders in Los Angeles have formulated a plan to add 6,000 new homes within a half-mile of Expo Line stops between Culver City and Santa Monica.

Of course, building in someone else’s backyard is always more popular than construction in your own. Most instances of transit-oriented development, such as the kind that Arlington, Virginia, has pursued, take the shape of a corridor running through—but not impinging on—preexisting tracts of single-family homes. Los Angeles’s Expo Line housing plan up-zoned 250 acres while leaving the surrounding 2,000 acres of homes untouched.

Wiener’s proposal is more aggressive: it would immediately up-zone nearly all of San Francisco, as well as South Los Angeles’s sprawling landscape of single-family homes. Transit corridors in Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento would be able to build for demand. Nearly 3 million housing units could be situated within a half-mile of transit hubs throughout California. With fewer permitting rules, units could be built faster and with a greater variety of housing types between a home and a high-rise.

Critics of SB 827 fear displacement. Los Angeles city councilman Paul Koretz has labeled SB 827 “devastating,” telling the Los Angeles Times that his Westside neighborhood of “little 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s single-family homes [would] look like Dubai 10 years later,” and without any public say in the matter. Damien Goodmon, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition in Los Angeles, calls the bill a “declaration of war,” seeing it as a mask for large-scale gentrification. Laying on the hyperbole, Goodmon calls Wiener “a modern-day Andrew Jackson” pushing “a legislative agenda to enact a 21st century Trail of Tears.” Housing availability does not mean housing affordability, these critics say; only subsidies and public housing can achieve that.

Wiener acknowledges that his bill is a “heavy lift and isn’t guaranteed to pass” in its current form. There will likely be revisions as it winds its way through committee, with added provisions addressing housing displacement and demolition. Observers believe that Governor Brown, in his final year in office, would likely sign such a bill if it reached his desk.  But whether it passes or not, SB 827 shifts the window of acceptable discourse dramatically in favor of market-oriented reforms of housing policy. On that basis alone, Scott Wiener has positioned himself as a visionary reformer of California’s housing crisis.

Innovative Incarceration Could Result in Lower Costs and Safer Citizens


PrisonThe average annual cost to house a prisoner in California is $71,000, and according to the California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, the cost has risen 45% since just 2011. And as costs have soared, California’s policymakers have resorted to creative ways to release inmates from California’s overcrowded prisons. But what if that Californian creativity could be harnessed to lower the cost of incarceration?

This process began in 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must reduce its state prison population to no more than 137% of its design capacity within two years. In an attempt to comply, the state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109, which required non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders with sentences of longer than one year to be housed in county jail facilities rather than state prisons.

Because AB109, the so-called prison “realignment,” merely shifted costs for incarceration from the state to the counties, two additional measures of significance were passed in an attempt to reduce the overall inmate population. These were sold to voters as reform initiatives, and both of them passed with substantial majorities. Prop. 47, passed in 2014, reclassified several felonies as misdemeanors, which had the effect of reducing prison sentences in new cases, and earlier release for prisoners sentenced for crimes no longer classified as felonies. Prop. 57, passed in 2016, granted early release opportunities to inmates with good behavior who had committed non-violent crimes.

These measures resulted in the early release of tens of thousands of inmates onto California’s streets. Since enactment, violent crime has increased in California, although the data is mixed. For example, according to the FBI, while violent crime in California increased in 2015 and 2016, it increased across most of the U.S. in those years. As stated in a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California, “California’s violent crime rate increased by 3.7% in 2016 to 444 per 100,000 residents. There have been other recent upticks in 2012 and 2015, but the statewide rate is still comparable to levels in the late 1960s.”

More recently – most crime statistics for 2017 are not yet available – the L.A. Times reports that in 2017 “in Los Angeles, homicides are down, but violent crime is up.” A big picture perspective on crime trends in California can be seen in this graphic produced by Politifact.com using data from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office:

California Crime Trends – Crime Rates per 100,000 Residents

California Crime Trends

As can be seen, rates of crime in California rose throughout the 60s and 70s, reaching a high plateau that lasted right up until around 1994, when California passed the three strikes law. After that, crime rates fell precipitously for years, reaching historic lows. Since 2014, rates of crime have been rising, even though they remain relatively low from a historical perspective.

But why should we be happy with a 0.4% rate of violent crime? Why should 4% of Californians be victimized by a violent criminal in any given decade? And who’s to say that crime rates would not have continued to decline, if it weren’t for the passage of Props. 47 and 57?

More to the point, whether or not Californians should or should not incarcerate more criminals, or impose longer sentences on criminals, Californians don’t have that option. Because it costs too much to house prisoners in California. How can California house more inmates without building more conventional prisons, which are staggeringly expensive?

An excellent resource prepared by BackgroundChecks.org shows the costs per prisoner in other states. Nevada, our neighbor to the east, only spends $17,851 per year per prisoner. Alabama has the lowest cost, at $14,780 per prisoner. Arizona, $25,397. Even Oregon and Washington, California’s left coast comrades in bloated inefficient government excess, manage to spend far less than California does, paying per prisoner costs of $44,021 and $37,841, respectively.

Why?

When you read up on costs per prisoner in other states, the results are somewhat amusing. Because in those states, the conventional wisdom is that costs are out of control. Alabama’s costs per prisoner have “doubled since 2003.” In Nevada, “overtime costs continue to mount.” Imagine that. But in all states, the same factors contribute to rising costs to house prisoners. California just spends more, in every category. Here is a table from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office showing details of the cost per prisoner.

California’s Costs per Prisoner – Itemized Costs

Costs per prisoner

It’s likely these costs are understated. Does “Security” include the additional amounts that will be necessary to properly fund the pensions that are due our correctional officers? Does “Facility Operations” include the payments on the billions that have been borrowed by the state to construct California’s 34 state prisons?

In the recently approved California state budget for 2017-18, $11.4 billion is allocated to the Department of Corrections, up another $286 million (2.6%) from last year. But again, this doesn’t begin to represent the true cost to taxpayers. A recent UCLA study estimated the cost of incarceration for just the County of Los Angeles at nearly $1.0 billion last year.

It’s likely the total cost to California’s taxpayers to incarcerate criminals – taking into account state and local expenses – is easily twice the $11.4 billion budgeted by the state. And these inflated costs can be attributed to two causes. First, the excessive costs caused by unionized government – pensions in particular, and excessive costs to build state prisons, caused by a union controlled state legislature requiring needlessly expensive project labor agreements. Second, and arguably even more significant, the overall excessive cost-of-living in California – also a byproduct of policies enacted by California’s union controlled state legislature – which makes everything more expensive.

The burden of realignment – foisting responsibility for state prisoners back onto the counties where they were convicted – is also an opportunity. Because counties, like states in our federal system, are laboratories of democracy, laboratories of policy. Why can’t California’s counties experiment with new modes of incarceration. If inmates are sequestered to Cal Fire to work the fire lines, why can’t they do other tasks throughout the rural regions of California? Why not use inmates to improve rural access roads, remove dead trees from our drought-stressed forests, or even work in agriculture?

While many inmates may be too dangerous to do this sort of work, with new technologies to monitor and control prisoners, it is possible that prisoners who would not be viable candidates for these programs in the past would be qualified today. Electronic monitoring devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Why not use these devices to monitor not only location, but heart rate or, who knows, even brain waves or other physical indicators of imminent fight or flight? Wouldn’t adding additional capabilities to these devices allow more effective means to deter escape and even prevent violence? Why not use swarms of inexpensive drones to hover in the vicinity of inmates, reducing the number of guards required, and replacing some or all layers of expensive security fencing? Why not equip these drones with nonlethal means to prevent escape or violence?

Law enforcement has stayed abreast of new technologies and that is one of the reasons rates of crime are down sharply across America. While the impact of new technologies must be constantly scrutinized, and some of them may be problematic, there is no reason not to extend these tools beyond law enforcement into the corrections industry. It’s reasonable to assume most inmates would prefer a virtual prison to the penitentiary. One that afforded them mobility, equal or greater safety, a mission, a chance to engage in a vocation, and fresh air. Such innovation might also bring welcome relief to taxpayers.

Democrat State Sen. Tony Mendoza resigns before facing expulsion vote

State Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned late last week as colleagues prepared to vote on whether to expel the Los Angeles County Democrat from office, days after an outside investigation found the Los Angeles County Democrat had engaged in a pattern of unwanted “sexually suggestive” behavior toward six women, including his subordinates, while serving in the Assembly and Senate.

In a letter to Senate members, Mendoza said he was resigning immediately, saying: “I refuse to participate any further in the farcical ‘investigation’ against me that ignores the Senate’s own rules, invents processes, criteria and standards as needed, ignores due process and constitutional rights to self-defense all for the purpose of playing to election-year politicking.”

In the letter, Mendoza accused Senate leader Kevin de León of seeking his ouster to show his “‘sincerity’ in supporting the MeToo cause.” De León, Mendoza’s former roommate, is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A resolution introduced late Wednesday night by de León called for Mendoza’s expulsion. If approved, it would have been be the first time a state legislator has been removed from office since 1905. Mendoza would have been given the right to speak on the Senate floor before a vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Does California’s environment deserve its own water right? Not a Trick Question

People deserve water. Farmers need water.  Is it a constitutional right that salmon and delta smelt receive water?  That seems to be the view of those that think the amorphous “environment” have a right to water as well.  Actually, there is plenty of water in California, even in the drought.  But the policy of California is to allow millions of gallons of water each day to flow into the ocean in the L.A. and more millions each day in the San Fran Bay Area, it is policy not to have water.

“Does California need to revamp the way in which water is dedicated to the environment to better protect fish and the ecosystem at large? In the hypersensitive world of California water, where differences over who gets what can result in epic legislative and legal battles, the idea sparks a combination of fear, uncertainty and promise.

Saying that the way California manages water for the environment “isn’t working for anyone,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shook things up late last year by proposing a redesigned regulatory system featuring what they described as water ecosystem plans and water budgets with allocations set aside for the environment.

Maybe there should be a priority for the water—people, farms and then the environment.  Of course we would have to policies to save water—by government.

delta smelt

 

Does California’s environment deserve its own water right?

IN DEPTH: Fisheries and wildlife face growing challenges, but so do water systems competing for limited supply. Is there room for an environmental water right?

Gary Pitzer, Western Water, 2/23/18

Does California need to revamp the way in which water is dedicated to the environment to better protect fish and the ecosystem at large? In the hypersensitive world of California water, where differences over who gets what can result in epic legislative and legal battles, the idea sparks a combination of fear, uncertainty and promise.

Saying that the way California manages water for the environment “isn’t working for anyone,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shook things up late last year by proposing a redesigned regulatory system featuring what they described as water ecosystem plans and water budgets with allocations set aside for the environment.

Brian Gray, senior fellow at the PPIC and one of the report’s authors, believes the time has come to manage water in a more holistic and equitable manner.

“The current system of protecting the environment is essentially based on placing limitations on other individuals’ exercise of their water rights,” he said. “We think that over time it has undervalued the ecosystem. That got us thinking about this idea of identifying the ecosystem as holding an interest that is akin to other water rights, the same stature as other water rights.”

The PPIC believes its proposal can be accomplished without taking water away from others simply by making better use of water that’s already earmarked for the environment.

That doesn’t allay concerns from farmers and cities that more water for the environment means less water for them.

“It is not the water rights system that’s the problem, it’s the scarcity…” ~Chris Scheuring, California Farm Bureau Federation

In an already oversubscribed system, adding an environmental water right or budget “is sort of like making a game of playing musical chairs even tougher,” said Chris Scheuring, managing counsel for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “There are not enough chairs to go around as it is.

“We’ve already got a water rights system that allocates scarcity,” Scheuring said. “It is not the water rights system that’s the problem, it’s the scarcity, and so will an environmental water budget and environmental water right address the underlying scarcity and improve the overall supply? I don’t know and would want to know that it would.”

Scheuring’s point was highlighted Feb. 20 when the Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial water supply allocation of 20 percent to its agricultural water service contractors south of the Delta.

Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), whose members serve both urban and agricultural users, said he appreciates PPIC’s proposal of using market tools to increase efficiency.

“I think it’s a concept worth looking at,” he said. “I’m stopping short of saying it could work.”

Roger Patterson, assistant general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, echoed Quinn’s comments, saying, “In my view it has some merit. Whether it will go somewhere or not is a different question.”

Patterson, who has held leadership posts with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation, said his experience with other states’ use of environmental water rights shows the method “can provide flexibility and may even be less controversial” than other water management tools.

California’s most recent drought highlighted the fragile balance between allocating water for people and for the environment. There is growing recognition that more water has to be kept in reservoirs and in rivers to preserve flow and cooler temperature needs for fish, especially during critical life stages.

The existing water quality apparatus functions in a manner that aims to limit pollutants in rivers while ensuring enough instream flows exist to protect water quality and fish and wildlife. Water rights holders are limited, especially during drought, in the amount of water they can take (including water contractors that rely on exports) and critically dry years affect people across the state.

“The 2012-16 drought caused unprecedented stress to California’s ecosystems and pushed many native species to the brink of extinction,” according to PPIC’s report, Managing California’s Freshwater Ecosystems: Lessons from the 2012-16 Drought. “It also tested the laws, policies, and institutions charged with protecting the environment.”

Gray with the PPIC said a broad cross section of stakeholders was consulted prior to the report’s preparation and that many people agree the existing framework does not work well.

“People are very frustrated with the current state of affairs,” he said. “They don’t think it’s working either to provide adequate protection and habitat for fish or a reliable water supply. Both sides feel they bear a disproportionate share of the risk of hydrologic and regulatory uncertainty.”

“People are very frustrated with the current state of affairs. They don’t think it’s working either to provide adequate protection and habitat for fish or a reliable water supply.” ~Brian Gray, senior fellow, PPICWater systems throughout the state exist on a thin margin, meaning users are subject to inevitable conflict, especially during drought, Gray said. Then there are the federal and state Endangered Species Acts – powerful laws that function in a way that waits until species are in serious trouble before their protections kick in. PPIC believes the goals of its proposal can be accomplished through the existing amount of water dedicated for environmental purposes.

“We think the amount of water that should appropriately be assigned or dedicated to ecological services should be well-defined,” Gray said. “It should be defined as a budget and it should function as a water right.”

Protections for the environment have been growing since the landmark Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972. Twenty years later, the Central Valley Project Improvement Act dedicated 800,000 acre-feet of water annually to the restoration of anadromous fish in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, their tributaries and the Delta. Last year, an attempt was made in Colorado to establish legal “personhood” for the Colorado River before the motion was withdrawn by the proponents. If pursued, the case would have been the first federal lawsuit seeking to establish legal rights for nature in the United States.

“What the plaintiffs in that case were trying to do is … use the principles of personhood … to have the courts establish certain rights that then will affect water diversions and water use,” Gray said. “I’m not saying that is necessarily bad,” but he said there are more straightforward ways to bolster environmental protection.

Mono Lake was the focus of decisions by California courts and the State Water Resources Control Board that gave the Public Trust Doctrine new weight in deciding water rights cases.One of the pillars of legal protections for the environment is the Public Trust Doctrine, under which the state retains supervisory control over the diversion and use of water to protect public trust uses in navigable waters, including recreation, environmental values and fish and wildlife habitat. The Public Trust Doctrine also protects fish in non-navigable water. In its decision-making, the State Water Resources Control Board must consider protection of the public trust while also balancing all uses of water, a difficult task considering the many competing demands.

In the 1980s, decisions by the California Supreme Court and a state appellate court ultimately directed the State Water Board to amend the city of Los Angeles’ water rights to protect Mono Lake and its tributary creeks. In 1994, the State Water Board issued its “Mono Lake Decision,” which determined that the Public Trust Doctrine was relevant in the reconsideration of the allocation of the waters of the Mono Basin.

Gray and others believe the present system is not protective enough, given the dire straits for species such as Chinook and coho salmon, and that a new course of action is needed.

“We think the public trust values and ecosystem needs have really been structurally shorted because they are implemented as restrictions or set asides of water and they have a hard time competing with other water right holders,” he said.

Gray acknowledged calling it an environmental water right “raises unnecessary hackles” and that it would be preferable for the idea to be codified in statute by the Legislature.

“Whatever it is called, it needs to function as a water right,” he said. “The manager of the environmental water budget, the ecosystem trustee, must have all the rights and prerogatives that any other water right holder has.”

Fisheries advocates have long believed the layer of protection provided by a dedicated block of water would benefit struggling fish species. Curtis Knight, executive director of California Trout, said having enough water in rivers is crucial to maintain temperature controls and limit the salinity that comes with each tide through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“The way things are done now, I think you can make an easy case that the status quo is not great…” ~Curtis Knight, executive director of California Trout“The issue of salinity doesn’t get talked about enough,” he said. “In dry years, it creeps up and damages crops and then starts to limit the amount of water that can be pumped from the Delta. It also wipes out important rearing habitat so more water can have a lot of benefits.”

Getting a dedicated block of water in place “intuitively makes sense, but then you throw that intuitive idea on the whole water rights system and it just gets so daunting,” Knight said, adding “it seems like it’s the right thing to do, but it’s a tough thing to do.”

Any mention of changing water rights draws concern from water users, particularly farmers, who have been hit hard by drought and must contend with proposed flow regulations designed to protect fish and preserve freshwater levels in the Delta.

“I wouldn’t disagree with anybody that things aren’t working so well right now for the environment, but when you start talking about a whole new demand that’s overlaid … I can’t see how this isn’t a water rights reorganization or something that trumps the existing water rights regime,” said Scheuring, with the California Farm Bureau Federation. “When you talk about operating from the fundamental principle of starting all over and creating an environmental water right of some sort or a water budget for the environment then … my question is, ‘Where does that water come from?’”

The State Water Board’s Plan

Reserving enough water instream for the “reasonable” protection of fish and wildlife is the cornerstone of the first phase of the State Water Board’s proposed updated water quality plan for the Bay-Delta. The plan has garnered much criticism for its requirement that a budget or block of water equivalent to 30 percent to 50 percent of the unimpaired flow of the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers, all of which flow into the San Joaquin River and eventually the Delta, be managed for instream beneficial uses.

Initially, 40 percent of the impaired flow would be required, but this amount may be adjusted, taking into account current information, to protect fish and wildlife, according to the State Water Board. The increased flows also would help meet salinity standards in the southern Delta. Water agencies serving people and farms affected by the proposed rules have blasted it as an overreach while some environmental advocacy groups believe the proposal is insufficiently protective of fish and wildlife.

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Board, said the PPIC’s proposal is in line with what the board is trying to do, which is “to figure how to get the most benefit out of every drop to deal with all of the objectives – fish and wildlife, agricultural, and other human uses through incentivizing creativity and collective action while we adequately protect fish and wildlife. But we’re looking at more than just how we manage the water part of that and including non-flow actions that fish and wildlife need too.”

“We are as much about changing the dynamic to reward action as we are the numbers.” ~State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus“What they’ve proposed is a very fruitful area for a collective discussion about how we manage for ecosystem and human needs in a more holistic and predictable way – bringing everybody together as opposed to the wordplay that has dominated this dialogue and the conflict,” she said of the PPIC proposal. “I also think the fact they have broken out the distinction between water that truly is for the environment and water that is for salinity control … is a really important conversation because well-intended people mistook all of it being for fish and wildlife when it really isn’t.”

The Delta drains water from roughly 40 percent of California. Enough freshwater must flow into the Delta throughout dry months to repel salt water that pushes inland on ocean-driven tides from San Francisco Bay. If there is not enough water in upstream reservoirs to release and repel the salt water, it can contaminate the channels from which water supplies are drawn, not just for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, but also for Delta farmers and water districts in nearby Contra Costa, Alameda and San Joaquin counties.

Gray said the PPIC’s proposal would be a better approach than the State Water Board’s water quality plan for the Delta.

“We would assign responsibility for managing that environmental water to a trustee and give that trustee the ability to deploy the water, be accountable for deploying the water, the ability to store water, the ability to trade, purchase and sell water and to store some of the ecosystem water underground and have conjunctive use that may be beneficial for groundwater recharge,” he said.

The PPIC cites the Lower Yuba River Accord and the Putah Creek settlements, both of which rely on releases of water stored in upstream reservoirs to provide flows for fisheries, as two templates for how the process could work. PPIC’s report notes that the 2008 Lower Yuba River Accord sets flow targets across a range of hydrologic conditions “that better protects the environment and provides more certainty for water users,” while the Putah Creek example features negotiated agreements from 2000 that “increased certainty and reduced conflict over potential allocations of water.”

Balancing the Tension Between Supply and Demand

Legal experts acknowledge that changing the existing system, no matter the mechanism, is an uphill climb. If the idea is to create a distinct environmental water right, “it would be extremely challenging to implement,” said Eric Garner, managing partner of Best Best & Krieger LLP in Los Angeles.

“The issue comes down to balancing the tension between the inherent uncertainty and science in these complex ecosystems with the need for entities that deliver water to have certainty in terms of building projects and having certainty of supply for their users,” he said.

Determining exactly how much water should remain in all the rivers and tributaries that flow to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a constant challenge. Scientific experts note that the answer doesn’t lie with a specific number and that there are many factors to consider regarding the relative health of a Delta ecosystem that has been dramatically altered for more than a century.

PPIC Senior Fellow Jeff Mount said the Endangered Species Act is “a bad management tool because it is what I call ’set it and forget it,’ meaning you set these standards and make the assumption that if they are met all the time, things are going to go great. All the time the system is changing so it doesn’t work well in that regard. We are not managing things as ecosystems; we are managing for specific life stages of specific species, which really puts us in a box.”

“We are not managing things as ecosystems; we are managing for specific life stages of specific species, which really puts us in a box.” ~ Jeff Mount, Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaIn 2010, experts with the State Water Board were asked to recommend a flow criterion for the Delta solely to protect fish. In their report, they noted that “it took over a century to change the Delta’s ecosystem to a less desirable state,” and that “it will take many decades” to put it back together again.

“While folks ask, ‘How much water do fish need?,’ they might well also ask, ‘How much habitat of different types and locations, suitable water quality, improved food supply and fewer invasive species that is maintained by better governance institutions, competent implementation and directed research do fish need?’” the report said. “The answers to these questions are interdependent. We cannot know all of this now, perhaps ever, but we do know things that should help us move in a better direction, especially the urgency for being proactive.”

Almost 40 years ago, California courts ruled that a water right could not be held for the sole purpose of keeping water within a system to benefit the environment. That decision led to the creation of Section 1707 in the Water Code, which allowed water rights holders to transfer the water they would otherwise be diverting back to instream flows for the environmental benefit.

“Unfortunately, it has been used on such a limited basis, it is easy to overlook,” Garner said. “Clarifying the process and establishing better rules and greater certainty would really help. The State Board has made a little progress, but if the Legislature is going to do something on an ‘environmental water right,’ then making this more workable would be a good place to start.”

More Water for Fish?

As California developed its water diversion, storage and conveyance systems over the decades, the needs of the environment were supplanted as wetlands were drained, rivers dammed and water diverted. Gradually though, the pendulum began to move toward implementing policies to protect the environment affected by the construction and operation of water projects. The court decisions involving Mono Lake were major milestones in that process.

Many people in the environmental advocacy community, however, believe that the playing field is far from level.

“I think at the time there was a lot of enthusiasm with … how public trust and the Fish and Game Code would be used to shape water policy,” said Knight, the California Trout executive director. “I think you could say they have been underutilized and maybe the impact isn’t quite what a lot of people had hoped. Maybe that’s because there’s not enough definition I think that’s where an environmental water right could come in and provide … a specific mechanism to help meet the public trust.”

Mount, with the PPIC, emphasized that what’s being talked about is a better use of the water dedicated for water quality and environmental needs.

“One of our biggest problems in the water community is we don’t believe that the people who manage water for the ecosystem are efficient with what they do,” said Tim Quinn, executive director, Association of California Water Agencies.

“One of the things we apparently didn’t communicate well to some people is this notion of an environmental water budget. It’s not as if you suddenly go out and take water away from people,” he said. “The original asset is the water that is allocated to meet water quality and flow standards. That’s already there. That’s why you can call it an environmental water budget and even have it function like a water right without ever taking a drop away from anybody.”

While there are places in need of extra water for ecosystem and species objectives, Mount said efficiency of use and getting the highest return on investment in ecosystem water is paramount.

“One of the things that we would propose is that you just don’t grant an environmental water budget, but you actually determine pretty high standards for goals and objectives with that water and you have in place the ability to test the efficiency of its use,” he said. “Right now, we don’t do that.”

The notion of efficiency in environmental water allocations is likely to draw skeptical glances from urban water providers, who have long chafed against what they see as arbitrary and, at times, wasteful dedications of water to the environment.

“One of our biggest problems in the water community is we don’t believe that the people who manage water for the ecosystem are efficient with what they do,” Quinn with ACWA said. “If they had market tools that determine where and how water goes, then the way they are using water would have an opportunity cost.”

Economists such as Quinn say the true cost of something is what you give up to get it, otherwise known as the opportunity cost.

Marcus said the State Water Board’s plan seeks “the smartest way to manage this block of water to achieve the purposes and do it in a better way than just a flat percentage of unimpaired flow, but that takes people coming together to manage that block of water in concert with non-flow measures to make a real difference on the ground.

“That piece has been missing in the simplistic talking points about flow only,” she said, adding “we are as much about changing the dynamic to reward action as we are the numbers.”

The State Water Board also needs better and more timely data on water rights and flows “to manage a modern system,” she said.

The Way Forward

Whether the idea of an environmental water right or something like it gains traction remains to be seen. However, the challenge of providing enough water for people and the environment will continue to keep state officials and stakeholders busy for the foreseeable future.

The challenge of providing enough water for people and the environment will continue to keep state officials and stakeholders busy for the foreseeable future.“The Public Trust Doctrine is potentially a very powerful tool that depends largely on litigation to implement,” PPIC’s Gray said. “That’s a document that has great influence, but it’s not well defined to do that, you need to bring a case before the board or before the courts to then define what the public trust means and requires, and what’s the reasonable allocation of water to meet the public trust given the competing demands on the resource. That’s a very time-consuming process and that’s why we have seen relatively few public trust cases.”

Scheuring said that most farmers “won’t stand in the way of any truly win-win proposition.” He added, “the key to that here is that it must be developed in a way that’s respectful of existing users.” The question remains of how to allocate water to people and the environment in a way in which the needs of both are met.

“Scarcity is a fundamental problem in a growing California,” Scheuring said. “We have tripled the population that was here when the system was largely built out. In the last generation we have overlaid a network of environmental regulations that have really ratcheted down the system, so it’s the zero-sum problem that any viable long-term solution should address.”

MWD’s Patterson said there is potential in dedicating a block of water for fish and the environment.

“Let’s say that you were successful in securing an instream flow right and have a storage right that goes with that,” he said. “That gives you flexibility to do whatever water users do and you may have conditions where you don’t need water for instream flows for a certain period of time; you could essentially sell it and generate some money … for habitat and get more fishery benefit out of the flow you have.”

Knight and others believe the environmental water right/budget has the necessary flexibility to work.

“The way things are done now, I think you can make an easy case that the status quo is not great and to me something like a water right that has a market side of it fits in well with our variable weather and water supplies that we are going to get and have always gotten,” Knight said. “It seems like, if anything, it’s getting more variable. That’s the world we live in.”

Occupational Shifts Favor California’s High-Skill Workers

California is quickly moving to a caste system.  The goal of Guv Brown since taking office as Guv in 1975 has been to depopulate the State.  Recently, moves to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, give students with a “D” average a diploma, cause the cost of housing and rentals to be highest in the nation, protect criminals from foreign countries and more.  This has caused the middle class trying to protect their children and financial security to flee the State.

“These occupations experienced sharp losses during the recession and have not returned to their pre-recession peaks. The number of full-time year-round workers in these occupations declined from 5.3 million in 2008 to 5.1 million in 2016. On average, educational attainment levels are low in these occupations, but workers with at least a bachelor’s degree fared relatively well: the number with at least a bachelor’s degree grew by 89,000, even though these categories have experienced a net loss of 184,000 jobs.

In short, the recession and recovery have accelerated some long-term trends in California’s economy. High-skill occupations and highly educated workers have fared well, while less-educated workers in lower-skilled jobs have faced declining employment opportunities.

The Brown legacy is clear—elitism and greed have won out.

u.s.-economy-jobs-resumes-slow-growth-06sept2012-620x413

Occupational Shifts Favor California’s High-Skill Workers

Sergio Sanchez, Hans Johnson, PPIC,  2/21/18

 

The recession and recovery have reshaped California’s workforce. Between 2008, when employment peaked, and 2010, when it bottomed out, the state lost three quarters of a million jobs. Since then, the state has experienced sustained job growth; according to US Census Bureau data, by 2016 there were 1 million more workers in California than there had been in 2008. This job growth has not been evenly distributed. Some occupations experienced large losses during the recession and have not fully recovered, while others experienced small losses and now have much higher employment levels than they did at their pre-recession peak. While there are some high-growth occupations that do not require high levels of education, workers with at least a bachelor’s degree have prospered the most over the past several years.

Overall, California’s workforce is becoming more educated: the share of the full-time year-round workforce with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 31% in 2008 to 35% in 2016. Highly educated workers got more than half of the jobs created in the five fastest-growing occupational categories (based on increases in the share of total full-time year-round workers) between 2008 and 2016:

  1. Personal care and service
  2. Computer and mathematical
  3. Healthcare practitioners and technicians
  4. Food preparation and serving
  5. Business operations specialists

All of these occupations experienced small declines during the recession and strong growth during the recovery. The number of full-time year-round workers increased 28%—from 2.5 million in 2008 to 3.2 million in 2016. Workers in some of these occupations, such as food preparation and serving, earn relatively low wages and tend to have low levels of educational attainment, while workers in other areas, such as computer and mathematical, collect high wages and tend to be college graduates. Altogether, workers with at least a bachelor’s degree made up 433,000 (56%) of the 770,000 jobs gained between 2008 and 2016 by the top five categories.

Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree also made gains in the five slowest-growing occupational categories:

  1. Protective service
  2. Construction
  3. Production
  4. Sales and related
  5. Office and administrative support

These occupations experienced sharp losses during the recession and have not returned to their pre-recession peaks. The number of full-time year-round workers in these occupations declined from 5.3 million in 2008 to 5.1 million in 2016. On average, educational attainment levels are low in these occupations, but workers with at least a bachelor’s degree fared relatively well: the number with at least a bachelor’s degree grew by 89,000, even though these categories have experienced a net loss of 184,000 jobs.

In short, the recession and recovery have accelerated some long-term trends in California’s economy. High-skill occupations and highly educated workers have fared well, while less-educated workers in lower-skilled jobs have faced declining employment opportunities.

 

San Fran Man Has Spent 4 Years and $1 Million Trying to Get Approval to Turn His Own Laundromat Into an Apartment Building

Why is housing expensive in California?  This San Fran case is a great example of government OPPOING affordable housing.

“To understand how difficult and expensive it is to build housing in San Francisco, observe the case of Robert Tillman. Tillman owns a single-story laundromat in the city’s Mission District. Since 2014, he has been attempting to develop his property into a 75-unit apartment building.

The city is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for $3,400 a month. So you might think Tillman’s project would sail through the permitting process. Instead, the city’s labyrinthine process of reviews, regulations, and appeals has dragged on for four years. The project has cost the self-described “accidental developer” nearly $1 million so far, and he hasn’t even broken ground yet.

“It’s taken me longer to get to this point than it took for the United States to win World War II,” says Tillman, “and my site is the easiest site in the city to build.”

If San Fran really wanted affordable housing this would have been fast-tracked.  Instead the real San Fran policy has been exposed—the greedy that already have housing want to increase its value by limiting new housing.

San Francisco, CA, USA

 

San Francisco Man Has Spent 4 Years and $1 Million Trying to Get Approval to Turn His Own Laundromat Into an Apartment Building

Now the city wants the laundromat studied to see if it is a historic resource.

Christian Britschgi, Reason,  2/21/18

To understand how difficult and expensive it is to build housing in San Francisco, observe the case of Robert Tillman. Tillman owns a single-story laundromat in the city’s Mission District. Since 2014, he has been attempting to develop his property into a 75-unit apartment building.

The city is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for $3,400 a month. So you might think Tillman’s project would sail through the permitting process. Instead, the city’s labyrinthine process of reviews, regulations, and appeals has dragged on for four years. The project has cost the self-described “accidental developer” nearly $1 million so far, and he hasn’t even broken ground yet.

“It’s taken me longer to get to this point than it took for the United States to win World War II,” says Tillman, “and my site is the easiest site in the city to build.”

In a sane world, it would be easy. No housing is located at the site, so there’s no fear that redevelopment will displace any tenants. There are three other coin-operated laundromats within 100 yards of Tillman’s property, so there is no real concern about lost neighborhood services. Half of the property is a parking lot, so the city won’t be losing an aesthetically pleasing landmark. On top of all that, Tillman’s lot is a three-minute walk from the 24th Mission Street BART light rail station, a major plus for a city obsessed with “transit-oriented” development.

In March 2014, when Tillman first submitted his plans to the San Francisco Planning Department, the initial reaction was positive. Officials were “very much in favor of developing site,” Tillman says.

The real opposition came from some of the neighbors. A community meeting in January 2016 served as something of a flashpoint.

At the meeting, one woman fretted that the tall building would violate the privacy of a nearby public school. Another argued that the project needed to be 100 percent affordable housing. Two representatives from local Latino Cultural District Calle 24 said that even a 100 percent affordable housing project was out of the question, given the proposed height of the development.

When Tillman said he saw his project as necessary so people like his daughter could afford to come back and live in the city, one particularly motivated activist said she wished his daughter was killed in a terrorist attack.

Nevertheless, Tillman persisted, working with the Planning Department to change the design of his development where necessary and spending tens of thousands more on various impact studies. That includes $6,500 on a wind study, $5,000 on a shadow study, and $189,000 in city fees by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Planning Commission—which oversees the Planning Department and is responsible for approving new developments—continued to push for changes.

Parroting many of the Mission activists’ concerns, Commissioner Rich Hillis complained that the design was “bulky, and a bit out of character” with the neighborhood, while Commissioner Kathrin Moore said that erecting an 84-foot tall building would be like “plopping a foreign object into this area and not thinking about the consequences.” Commissioner Dennis Richards said, “I think a project absolutely belongs here. The question is what kind of project.”

Thanks to California’s state density bonus law, which restricts localities’ ability to reject housing developments that reserve a certain percentage of their units for below-market tenants, the Commission was largely prevented from imposing new conditions. After another three-month delay, the Commission voted on November 30, 2017, to approve the project.

So that meant Tillman could move forward with construction, right? Of course not. It just set off another round of delays.

California’s Environmental Quality Act allows anyone to file an environmental appeal within 30 days of a project’s approval, requiring local agencies essentially to reevaluate the environmental and community impact evaluations they’ve already performed. On January 2, attorney Scott Weaver filed just such an appeal on behalf of the Calle 24 District Council, claiming that the city had conducted an insufficient review of the project’s environmental impacts, including the impact of increased shadow on a nearby school and of the potential displacement of businesses and residents. (Remember: The property in question houses zero current residents, and the only business there is Tillman’s.)

On February 5, the Planning Department rejected this appeal, stating that Weaver and his clients had “not demonstrated nor provided substantial evidence” to back up their claims of insufficient environmental review.

No, that didn’t mean Tillman could finally go ahead with the project. The Planning Department also said that new information had been presented suggesting that Tillman’s property might be a “historic resource.” You see, the building once housed a local employment agency, back in the 1970s. Also, it once featured a mural depicting the life of Latina women. (The mural no longer exists.)

“You have 150 machines, you have wiring and plumbing. If there was a historical office there, it doesn’t exist anymore,” Tillman says.

Indeed, the lots Tillman owns were deemed ineligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and on any state or local equivalents, according to the 2011 South Mission Historic Resource Survey conducted by the Planning Department.

Nevertheless, on February 13 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to require a historic evaluation to be done at Tillman’s expense. They will revisit the issue, they say, in another four months. To date, Tillman has spent $947,000 in development costs.

Tillman, who already owns the land he wants to develop and whose laundromat business still pulls some $10,000 a month, says he can afford to wait. Other developers watching land and construction costs increase with each delay might have given up long ago.

But the biggest cost may be one that isn’t falling on Tillman’s shoulders. “What’s the cost to the people who would have occupied those units?” Tillman asks. “Those people don’t have housing for six months. Put a number on that.”

California: Ethnic Classes—NOT Computer Classes Mandatory?

Which class do you think would help a black student get a high paying job—a class in Black History or Coding?  Is it possible that Assemblyman Jose Medina, obviously a Democrat wants to hold back kids of color from great futures?  He wants them to learn “racially and ethnic pride” instead of having parents and pastors do that.  Medina prefers kids learn about racial history than how to create an algorithm.

“The measure, known as AB 2772, would mandate that the roughly 1.7 million high school students throughout the state complete an ethnic studies course in order to graduate, just as they are required to study biology, geography and physical education. If the bill becomes law, the requirement will begin in the 2023-2024 school year.

“Without knowledge of other cultural experiences and the history of those ethnic and cultural groups,” says Medina, a Democrat from the Riverside area who previously worked as a teacher, “I don’t think you can call yourself an educated person.”

Medina obviously prefers kids on welfare and in low paying jobs.  Sad to see his community continue to elect this person who understands that he wants people of color to be dependent on government instead of free of government.

classroom

Ethnic Classes Mandatory for California?

By Katy Steinmetz, Time,  2/22/18

California Assemblymember Jose Medina says that he would have introduced his latest bill regardless of who is in the White House, but the fact that Donald Trump is President “adds to the impetus” for doing it now.

The measure, known as AB 2772, would mandate that the roughly 1.7 million high school students throughout the state complete an ethnic studies course in order to graduate, just as they are required to study biology, geography and physical education. If the bill becomes law, the requirement will begin in the 2023-2024 school year.

“Without knowledge of other cultural experiences and the history of those ethnic and cultural groups,” says Medina, a Democrat from the Riverside area who previously worked as a teacher, “I don’t think you can call yourself an educated person.”

The measure comes at a time when other jurisdictions around the country have been adopting—and fighting over—such curricula, which zeroes in on the history and perspectives of minority groups such as Native Americans and Latino Americans. In 2017, Oregon became the first state to require K-12 students to learn such material. As of last year, high schools in Indiana are also mandated by law to offer ethnic or racial studies courses. In Arizona, Republican lawmakers tried to ban such material through a controversial law, which a federal judge ruled in December to be unconstitutional.

Those who support such courses have argued for decades that history classes in America are too often biased toward a white, male, Eurocentric perspective. People like Medina position ethnic studies classes as a correction to that, as well as a way for every student to see themselves in the material they encounter at school. In California, the majority of students in public schools are Latino — around 55% — while about one-quarter are white. “A student’s learning about their own history, their own culture,” Medina says, “that’s empowering.”

Critics of such classes, like the Republican lawmakers in Arizona, have argued that such curricula can foment racial tensions, drawing thicker lines between ethnic groups and teaching students to view individuals around them as either the oppressed or the oppressors. As an official working on ethnic studies curricula in California put it, the field “gets this sort of bad rap for being pigeon-holed as a form of ‘oppression studies.’”

It’s an especially loaded debate these days, as race has become a charged topic in national politics. But critical arguments are unlikely to hold much water in California, a liberal state that recently adopted new history textbooks that include LGBT-focused material. “We do not need to fear knowledge,” Medina says. “When we offer students a better understanding, a more complete understanding of our nation’s history, that is nothing to fear. It is something we should celebrate.”

The California Department of Education is already busy working on a model curriculum for ethnic studies to help guide schools in developing their own courses. (Some 200 middle and high schools, out of more than 2,600 in the state, already have them on offer.) That work was mandated by a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016; the guidelines are due to be adopted by 2020. As of now, schools are only “encouraged” to offer such classes when that work is done. But Medina believes that his bill, which he introduced with two co-sponsors, will make it an imperative.

“There is a void of teaching what I think is essential information,” he says.

 

Democrat New idea for Tax: Alameda Property Owners Could Pay Infrastructure Tax

Democrats love taxes—large small, for water, parks, education—any excuse just to get the money.  Then when they get the money, they will spend it for what they want, not what they told the public to get them to indebt themselves.  Previously Prop. 1 was a $2.7 billion effort to build and repairs dams.  So when the proposals came before the Water Commission to approve up to $2.7 billion in expenditures—they agreed to ZERO.  Now that money might be spent on water conservation, saving fish—anything, but dams.

“East Bay Times reported the City Council is considering a ballot measure that would ask voters whether or not property owners should pay for roughly $95 million in infrastructure improvements. The decision was delayed as city leaders did not want to a hold a meeting past 11 p.m. Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

City leaders previously surveyed residents about the possible infrastructure improvements.

“In two mailers and a poll done by a polling agency, residents said they want to have clean drinking water, traffic relief and pothole repair. They also want safe sidewalks and functional storm drains that prevent flooding. Finally, they want to fund police and fire need and disaster preparedness,” East Bay Times reported.

Yes, the people wanted these improvements.  Vote for the ballot measure and you probably will get none of them.  The spending will be determined by special interests, not the voters.  Give government money and you will see it flushed down the toilet.  Vote NO on this scam.

tax sign

Alameda Property Owners Could Pay Infrastructure Tax

The proposal is being considered for a June special election.

By Hoa Quách, Patch,  2/21/18

ALAMEDA, CA — Should Alameda property owners pay extra taxes to cover infrastructure improvements? The idea could be on a June special election ballot.

East Bay Times reported the City Council is considering a ballot measure that would ask voters whether or not property owners should pay for roughly $95 million in infrastructure improvements. The decision was delayed as city leaders did not want to a hold a meeting past 11 p.m. Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

City leaders previously surveyed residents about the possible infrastructure improvements.

“In two mailers and a poll done by a polling agency, residents said they want to have clean drinking water, traffic relief and pothole repair. They also want safe sidewalks and functional storm drains that prevent flooding. Finally, they want to fund police and fire need and disaster preparedness,” East Bay Times reported.

“According to Alameda Public Works Director Liam Garland, the city needs about $110 million for clean San Francisco Bay, flood prevention and sea level rise improvements and $88 million for clean drinking water, safe parks and other public infrastructure. There are about $80 million in street, pothole, traffic safety and congestion management needs and $15 million for police and fire building upgrades and repairs,” the newspaper said.

The possible ballot measure is expected to be discussed at a future City Council meeting.

Armendariz: Fruits of a Poisonous Tree

Does anybody believe that gun control means fewer crimes?  If so, why is it that Chicago with laws that say no one—except criminals—can have guns and hundreds are murdered each year?  Britain had laws saying no guns—so the Irish Republican Army used explosives to kill people.  How about backgrounds checks of those buying pressure cookers—if we had that, maybe the Boston Marathon terrorist attack would not happen.

“Let me state something as unambiguously, and equivocally as I can. I have 4 children, two of whom attend a public high school in Arroyo Grande. As a parent I am terrified by what is happening with respect to gun violence in schools. To that end I am 100% supportive of installing metal detectors, and placing expertly trained armed guards in every public school in America. If we can’t afford it, I say print the money or borrow it from the Chinese. The point is, just do it and do it now!  So I am willing to cut these parents a ton of slack.  As for the students, even more so.”

The question is simple—do you want your children and family safe, or do you want ideological purity?  When Dianne Feinstein gives up HER concealed weapon and armed guards, I will consider giving up my Second Amendment rights.  Actually, I will never give up my rights—government can not protect me 24/7.

Dianne Feinstein

Fruits of a Poisonous Tree

Joe Armendariz, 2/24/18

 

Those who know me well know I am not a gun rights advocate. Don’t get me wrong, I support the 2ND Amendment; I just don’t champion the cause of gun ownership. I let others do that. I let others do it because frankly I wouldn’t be very good at it. After all, I don’t own a gun; I’ve never shot a gun; and as far as I know, I have never even held a gun that was loaded. I have no desire to hunt because I love animals too much (including birds, rabbits, and deer…). As a kid I always sided with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck over Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam.

I suppose other reasons I don’t go hunting is because frankly I’d much rather take a scenic drive up the pacific coast…with the top down, and the music up, or go on a morning hike up Figueroa Mountain with my sweetheart, a blanket, and a picnic basket.  I’ve never felt the need to buy a pistol, or a semi-automatic rifle for self-defense because I figure if I’m ever feeling threatened, I’ll dial 9/11.  Maybe I am naïve, or maybe I am just the worst Republican who ever lived. But this is how I feel. And this is who I am. If you like to hunt, or have a gun for self-defense, more power to you.

Having said all of that, I also feel compelled to share an observation as the country sinks deeper and deeper into what looks like our 19TH nervous breakdown over gun violence, gun control, and especially those dastardly evil doers at the National Rifle Association (NRA) who are apparently plotting their next round of evil deeds against America’s children. The NRA, according to CNN, MSNBC, and ABC, are a criminal, actually, strike that, they are a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent lives in the United States including, and perhaps especially, the 17 senseless deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Last night in what was advertised by CNN as a “Town Hall” on gun violence, 7,000 mostly furious people gathered in a large hall, 6,999 of whom were there mostly to yell, shout and scream at Florida Senator Marco Rubio. They were also there to applaud anything anyone under the age of 18 had to say, no matter how idiotic, foolish or disrespectful.  Apparently, according to several of the parents who lost a child in that Florida school massacre, as well as the several students who survived the rampage, but lost a friend or a sibling, Senator Rubio is somehow to blame for this unspeakable act of evil by virtue of having received some donations from the NRA.

The message was clear as day; the National Rifle Association, and by extension, any Republican who receives money from the NRA, is to blame for what happened on that day. Indeed, as one student put it, they have “blood on their hands”.

Let me state something as unambiguously, and equivocally as I can. I have 4 children, two of whom attend a public high school in Arroyo Grande. As a parent I am terrified by what is happening with respect to gun violence in schools. To that end I am 100% supportive of installing metal detectors, and placing expertly trained armed guards in every public school in America. If we can’t afford it, I say print the money or borrow it from the Chinese. The point is, just do it and do it now!  So I am willing to cut these parents a ton of slack.  As for the students, even more so.

But it’s really the people who should know better that I have a serious problem with. And those people are the rabid partisan members of Congress, and their cadre of political associates who function as propaganda merchants at CNN, and MSNBC. These people, with their disproportionately large microphones, and a disproportionately small amount of shame, regurgitate canard after canard. It is as if their thoughts fall from their brain to their tongue like a gumball machine.  If it sounds good, say it. If it’s false, well, say it anyway.

I don’t know if the NRA is responsible, either in small part or large part, for what happened at that Florida high school last week. I’m not well enough informed to make a determination. I also don’t know to what extent the FBI, and local law enforcement dropped the ball and are therefore as much, if not more, to blame. My sense is perhaps there’s enough blame to go around. It’s probably not outrageous or unreasonable to assume some advocacy groups who advocate for a cause occasionally or perhaps even often succeed in bullying the recipients of their political donations. Does that include the NRA? I honestly don’t know.

I can, however, attest to this occurring with regularity here in Santa Barbara County.  So to suggest it doesn’t occur in Washington D.C. seems naïve to me. But since we are being, you know, real and honest and candid, are there other large, powerful, and influential advocacy groups in America who perhaps have some explaining to do when it comes to the horrendous results of their relentless political advocacy, and activities? I think it is more than fair to say so.  After all…what’s good the goose is certainly good for the gander.

For example, has anyone asked the Sierra Club, or the Environmental Defense Fund to participate in a Town Hall to discuss mosquito violence in some of the poorest countries in the world?  Have these popular and revered organizations been asked to explain how it is they can sleep at night knowing full well their powerful, global political advocacy led to the elimination of DDT…the worlds most powerful and effective technological defense against Malaria? A preventable disease that has caused the death of perhaps half of the people who have ever lived in this earth?

In fact, the National Academy of Sciences described the efficacy of DDT this way (Emphasis mine): “To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It is estimated that, in little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that would otherwise have been inevitable.”

However, thanks to The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, and their intellectual and ideological subsidiaries at the Environmental Protection Agency, and World Health Organization, DDT was banned. The reasons were, of course, based on junk science. As a result, places where malaria and typhus has all been eradicated once again experienced epidemics leading to the death of entire villages, tribes, regions and communities throughout Africa, and Latin America. According to reports, since the banning of DDT in 1972, through 2006, over 50 million people died of Malaria, 90% of whom lived in Africa, most of these deaths occurred to children 5 years old or younger.

Today, DDT is once again allowed to be used in many of these areas of the world because the science that had been relied on to ban them by environmental groups was finally debunked but not before tens of millions of innocent lives were lost. Perhaps no more shameful act has ever been perpetrated on humanity in the name of saving humanity.

The Bible says we can judge a tree by its fruit. Well…if you travel the globe, especially the most poverty stricken places, in search of the good deeds of some of the largest and most powerful environmental organizations…what you’ll find in far too many cases are the dried fruits of a poisonous tree.

Joe Armendariz is the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, the Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association

 

Push to arm teachers in California would face major hurdles

The sign at the San Bernardino Social Welfare Center in December, 2016 was large and clear—‘THIS IS A NO GUN ZONE”.  Which is why the terrorists knew those inside were sitting ducks and in a few minutes would be able to kill lots of folks—and 12 were killed on the spot, unable by government policy, to defend themselves.

The good news for the students in Georgia, Alaska, Montana and a couple of dozen other States is that any Federal funds available to save students from terrorists attacks will be able to have more money—since California prefers students to be target practice.

Teachers who are forced to pay bribes to work, are not financing a union that prefers them dead.  Harsh words?  Need them, since the union wants to assure teachers are not allowed to defend their lives and the lives of their students.  Sick.

“Arming thousands of teachers would also have to overcome unqualified opposition from California’s teachers unions.  “Armed security should be left to the experts,” the California Teachers Association  states on its website.  While stressing that “safety is a top priority,” the CTA says that “the idea of arming teachers is a preposterous, cynical and unworkable solution.” Instead, “what educators need and want is continued training to help them spot potential mental health needs, bullying or high-risk behaviors.”

Fascists demand bribes and make sure those they enslave can not fight back.  This is another example of teachers being brutalized by the union that enslaves them.

Teachers union

Push to arm teachers in California would face major hurdles

Louis Freedberg, EdSource,  2/23/18

Were California to try to implement anything remotely along the lines of what President Trump has proposed for arming teachers to prevent firearm massacres in schools, the state would have a massive and expensive undertaking on its hands.

It would also almost certainly require significant legislative changes, because if anything California has been moving in just the opposite direction in its attempts to keep dangerous firearms off school campuses and out of the hands of school personnel.

Beginning last month, a new state law (Assembly Bill 424) went into effect barring even school employees with permits to carry concealed weapons to bring those guns onto campus.

Arming thousands of teachers would also have to overcome unqualified opposition from California’s teachers unions.  “Armed security should be left to the experts,” the California Teachers Association  states on its website.  While stressing that “safety is a top priority,” the CTA says that “the idea of arming teachers is a preposterous, cynical and unworkable solution.” Instead, “what educators need and want is continued training to help them spot potential mental health needs, bullying or high-risk behaviors.”

Trump has floated a range of figures on how many teachers or other school personnel he had in mind to deter would-be classroom assassins.   He first suggested that 20 percent of teachers be armed.   He later seemed to change that figure by saying that he thought 10 to 40 percent of school employees  would be qualified to handle weapons.

Based on Trump’s latest figures that would mean that California would need to arm and train between 30,000 and 120,000 teachers.

Then there are the practicalities of who would pay for this training, when teachers would get that training, and whether anywhere near the numbers Trump has in mind would even consider signing up for it.

As former Berkeley police Sgt. Don Cameron who has taught courses on firearms training at police academies and a range of California community colleges, pointed out in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle,  “It might be a great idea, but for a start, the training alone is a nightmare.”

California teachers would almost certainly have to attend courses offered by or at police academies.  “If the teacher panics or doesn’t really know how to handle the gun you’ll get random fire with them hitting anything or everything,” Cameron told reporter Kevin Fagan.  “Just like a police officer, the teacher will need to know when to pull the gun, when to shoot and how to be able to hit something.”

California has long had in place the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995, whose goal is to protect students and staff from gun violence.  The law bars guns from school campuses, with several exceptions, including for police officers and trained security guards.  It imposes stiff penalties — including prison terms of varying lengths — not only on anyone carrying a gun on a school campus, but even within 1000 feet of those facilities.

Until this year, the law did have an exception allowing a school district to give written permission to someone with a concealed weapon permit to bring a loaded gun on campus. But AB424, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall and went into effect on Jan. 1,  stripped that provision from the law.

As Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D.-Sacramento, wrote in defense of the bill that passed over the opposition of the National Rifle Association, “Classrooms are laboratories of learning. They provide opportunities to discover art, music, history and mathematics to prepare oneself for college or a career. That’s not possible if a school district allows armed civilians to roam California school campuses.”

Finally, schools are run by local school districts, and it is hard to visualize a scenario in which the federal government could mandate that any portion of their teaching be trained and armed.  After decades of top-down school reforms being imposed by Sacramento and Washington D.C., the trajectory is now in just the opposite direction.  Gov. Brown has made local control a central feature of the education reforms he has championed.  A similar view is at the heart of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind law.

For that reason alone, it is certain that many California school boards, including those in charge of the state’s largest school boards, would draw the line at trying to arm their teachers, even if federal funds were available to help them do it.  If they attempted to do so, they would likely run into considerable resistance from their own communities, including from parents and students who believe that reducing the availability of guns is a better way to go than turning teachers into armed guards.