Despite Heavy Rains, California Water Restrictions Remain in Place

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirDrought-busting levels of rain and snow have put pressure to lift emergency restrictions on usage, but California regulators declined to ease up on the longstanding curbs.

“Amid the ongoing succession of storms, water managers up and down the state are urging regulators in Sacramento to permanently cancel historic, emergency drought rules that have been in place for 18 months,” U-T San Diego reported late last month. “It’s an escalation of their ongoing opposition to these restrictions, which already have been eased considerably since homeowners and businesses were first forced to cut consumption by a statewide average of 25 percent. California doesn’t have an official definition for statewide drought, leaving it up to the governor’s discretion on when to announce an end to that designation.”

Swift, uneven progress

But in a new report, the State Water Resources Control Board insisted that the drought’s persistent impact had to be mitigated further before any changes could be considered. “Some reservoirs remain critically low and groundwater storage remains depleted in many areas due to the continued impact of prolonged drought,” they concluded, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Precipitation cannot be counted on to continue, and snowpack levels, while above average for the current time of year, are subject to rapid reductions as seen in 2016 and before.” While the extraordinary rules imposed to conserve water were on track to expire at the end of this month, the board planned to extend them 270 days into the future.

The caution struck a contrast to the swiftness of California’s transformation from dry to wet. “According to the U.S. drought monitor website,” HotAir noted, “there are no areas of exceptional drought left in the state.” Updated data, the site observed, “indicates that one year ago 64 percent of the state was considered to be under either extreme or exceptional drought conditions, the two highest categories. Now, largely thanks to the storms over the past month, that figure has dropped to 2 percent.”

Continued challenges

Water districts have now had to scramble to figure out how to store what could be excess water if the new trends continue. Although the pathway to new storage initiatives has been cleared and funded, the state’s bureaucratic process will add extra time. “In 2014, voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond, including $2.7 billion for storage projects, to provide funding to water projects and programs throughout the state,” KXTV recalled. “Since then, government agencies across the state have been developing the process for accepting proposals.” This month, the station added, “the Water Commission will consider bids on numerous water storage projects across the state.”

And milder drought conditions have persisted. “Overall, the monitor … showed 51 percent of California remains in some form of drought, but that’s down from just over 57 percent last week and compares with 81 percent three months ago,” CNBC reported. And in a twist adding an unexpected layer of politics to the fraught question of resource management in the most beleaguered parts of the state, some Central Valley water officials became the focus of a misspending scandal. “An irrigation district in Central California’s prime farming region gave its employees free housing, interest-free loans and credit cards that the workers used to buy tickets for concerts and professional sports games, possibly breaking the law,” said state officials according to NBC Bay Area. “Employees at Panoche Water District based in Firebaugh used the credit cards to buy season tickets to Raiders and Oakland A’s games and attend a Katy Perry concert, officials said.”

The long view

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown has kept a focus on what regulatory framework will persist even after all drought conditions have been adequately mitigated. “Brown has asked the state agency to design new conservation rules for water districts that will stay in place regardless of whether California is in drought,” according to U-T San Diego. “In the long run, the governor and state regulators are moving forward with their plan to establish permanent usage budgets tailored to each water district, as well as a suite of other regulations governing water consumption. The new rules are expected to include caps for both indoor use and outdoor water use, taking into consideration differences in weather patterns and other factors from one geographic region to another.”

Emergency release of water from Oroville Dam escalates

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

As water Thursday night rose toward the brim of the reservoir behind the damaged spillway of Oroville Dam, state officials braced for the unprecedented: having to open the emergency outlet of the tallest dam in the United States, which could have untold ecological consequences.

The trouble started Tuesday in the midst of relentless rainstorms, as a section of the concrete spillway that later grew to more than 200 feet wide and 30 feet deep collapsed, frothing the Feather River below like chocolate syrup, so thick with mud and debris that those toiling to save millions of salmon at the hatchery below could hardly see two inches beneath the surface.

Officials stopped releases to inspect the problem but runoff kept the reservoir rising. On Thursday morning, officials increased the flow. The fissure ballooned outward, sending coffee-colored water gushing down the adjacent hillside. …

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Less than 1 percent of California now in ‘extreme’ drought

As reported by CNBC:

Storms in the past week helped bring rain and snow to California, resulting in a “significantly improved” drought picture for the state, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday.

As a result, the latest monitor shows just 47 percent of California being designated at some level of drought intensity. Last week that figure was just over 50 percent and three months ago it stood at 73 percent.

While Northern California is essentially free of drought conditions, there are various levels of drought still in the state’s southern and central areas. Yet the latest map showed major improvement for several southern counties.

“In California, the cumulative effect of several months of abundant precipitation has significantly improved drought conditions across the state,” the monitor said. …

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Sen. Kevin de Leon: “Half my family is here illegally”

California State Senator Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, makes an appearance on “Fox and Friends” to discuss state Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon’s recent admission that half of his family is in the state and country illegally.

De Leon, while pushing his new bill, SB54, said, “The reality is, with the executive order and the criteria that has been developed, many individuals, I can tell you half of my family, would be eligible for deportation under the executive order.”

Is California’s Elite Willing to Fight for More Infrastructure? Or Just Bash Trump?

In the wake of unrest on the UC Berkeley campus last week, Robert Reich has managed to get himself some fresh national news coverage. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, and is currently a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Reich made news by suggesting the rioters who forced cancellation of a speech at UC Berkeley by Milo Yiannopoulos were not left-wing rioters at all, but instead were right-wing provocateurs. On his own website, here’s Reich’s latest take on this: “A Yinnopoulos, Bannon, Trump Plot to Control American Universities?

It’s always tough to prove a negative, but Reich is on thin ice here. Were the rioters who nearly shut down Washington, D.C., during Trump’s inauguration last month right-wing provocateurs? Were the rioters who shut down a Yiannopolous appearance at UC Davis a few weeks ago right-wing provocateurs? Are the hundreds, if not thousands, of marchers, including rioters, who tore through a dozen major cities in the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s unexpected election victory all right-wing provocateurs? Is it right-wing zealots who are waging an ongoing war against every new pipeline in the nation? Or are they establishment reactionaries and their anarchist bedfellows?

Since Robert Reich made himself a household word this week, perhaps it is important to reiterate one of the most important lessons that the American electorate has taken to heart over the past few years, and certainly while observing the Trump phenomenon: The “establishment” in America is an alliance of extremely wealthy individuals, multi-national corporations and the professional class that serves them, big labor unions especially including public sector labor and the government agencies they control, the financial institutions, and the leadership of both major political parties. To describe this establishment as “right-wing” or “left-wing” misleads more than it illuminates.

Robert Reich is an elite member of this establishment.

Back in mid-2016 California Policy Center research Marc Joffe made Robert Reich a poster-child for establishment hypocrisy in his analysis entitled “UC Berkeley’s ‘income inequality’ critics earn in top 2%.” During 2015, Robert Reich earned $327,465, in exchange for teaching one class per week. This is about as perfect an example of elite establishment privilege as you can find. And no wonder college tuition has gotten so expensive.

Robert Reich’s resurgence in the public spotlight is based on him leveraging the name recognition he already had to turn himself into one of the most vocal critics of president Trump. But if Robert Reich, apart from costing taxpayers $327,465 per year to teach one class per week, wants to make an actual contribution to society, he should be thinking harder about what he’s for, and not just expand his fan base by bashing the new president.

Californian infrastructure development, supposedly a critical focus of Reich’s labor movement, would be a good place to start. But even there, Reich is not being helpful.

Here is Reich’s most recent essay on the topic: “Trump’s Infrastructure Scam,” published on January 23rd. In this piece Reich argues that private sector participation in infrastructure development creates extra costs and drives funds into projects such as toll roads and toll bridges that generate high revenue to investors, but neglects other sorely needed amenities such as water treatment plants. There is some validity to some of the claims Reich is making. But he’s not offering a solution.

For decades California’s infrastructure has been neglected because (1) most public money that might have been spent on infrastructure went instead to government employee pension funds and government payroll departments to pay over-market compensation to unionized public employees, (2) projects had to pass muster with the environmentalist lobby, greatly shrinking the range of possible projects, and (3) to avoid conflict with the labor union lobby, approved projects were always needlessly expensive. Now we’re years behind.

Reservoirs

Build an offstream reservoir? Why work that hard? Bash Trump and be a hero!

California now has congested, inadequate roads that are embarrassingly, destructively pitted, costing billions in damaged cars and trucks and lost productivity. We have inadequate water storage capacity and cannot capture sufficient storm runoff. We are way behind deploying water treatment technologies that would render it impossible to overuse indoor water because 100 percent of it would be recycled. We only have one desalination plant of any scale on the California coast. The list goes on. In every area of infrastructure, we are behind most of the rest of the U.S., and we are behind most of the rest of the developed world.

Before Trump, and ever since Trump’s inauguration, what has Robert Reich been saying about infrastructure?

Nothing. If you look through the Robert Reich archives, you can go back to 2012 and not find even one commentary on the subject of infrastructure. Now he attacks Trump’s infrastructure proposals, seeing only the bad and none of the good, but for years he has been silent on this topic.

Overall, when it comes to Trump, where Reich complains, the rest of California’s establishment – the democratic wing of America’s bipartisan establishment – shrieks with indignation. Why figure out complex water ownership issues so we can finally build the Sites Reservoir, when you can stand in solidarity against Trump and earn headline after headline? Why do the hard work to develop a multi-state pool of pension fund assets that can be poured into arms-length infrastructure investment in water recycling, when you can heroically declare California a “sanctuary state?”

Establishment leaders like Robert Reich have a choice. They can acknowledge that we need more infrastructure here in California and figure out how to structure new initiatives that include federal funding, or they can hide behind the media-friendly politics of race, gender, and “climate” – abetted with crowd-pleasing Trump bashing – and do absolutely nothing.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

California: Time for a Major Change in Course

Governor Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, legislative and other government officials are fixated on battling the new administration in Washington with almost total disregard for California’s major problems and unmet needs. Failure to address these pressing problems threatens the viability of a state whose status is rapidly being transformed from “golden” to “tarnished.”

To help the political class refocus on the important, here is a list of the most exigent problems accompanied by modest solutions, as compiled by a couple of veteran taxpayer advocates who speak with, and hear from, thousands of California taxpayers.

  • car highway roadRoads & Highways – Just about any road trip one drives on in California confirms that we have gone from a world leader in highway capacity and quality to barely a third world contender. Major changes are in order. Our gasoline tax must be dedicated to roads and highways alone, not to other general fund uses like paying off state general obligation bonds, as is now the practice. Also, Senator John Moorlach’s demands to reform Caltrans should be a top priority. California spends 4.7 times as much per mile of state highway than the national average, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a 2014 government report concluded the transportation agency was over-staffed by 3,500 positions. Additionally, we should end the practice of requiring “prevailing wages” on public works projects, which are estimated to add up to 20 percent on every road and other public improvement.
  • Energy Costs – Gasoline formulation requirements, “cap and trade” and other responses to climate change must be revisited with demonstrable science and hard-headed realism to help low and middle income Californians who struggle with the costs of transportation and household energy. This is not climate change denial, but rather a recognition that it is patently unfair to burden the citizens of one state with the entirety of a global problem.
  • Business Regulations and Lawsuit Abuse – Manufacturing restrictions, wage and salary rules, workers’ compensation standards, frivolous lawsuits and “sue and settle” standards have driven the aerospace and most other manufacturing industries out of California. Time for tort and regulatory reform to establish a business-friendly climate that will encourage refugees to return and lure others to relocate here. Note: The Nestle Corporation has just announced it is moving its U.S. headquarters from Glendale to Rosslyn, Virginia taking hundreds of high paying jobs with them.
  • Land Development and Housing Costs – The mid ‘70s pioneering California Environmental Quality Act has created a nightmare for those seeking affordable, conveniently located housing, workplaces and shopping centers. It has been used as a weapon by environmentalists, competitors, “NIMBYs” and labor organizations to limit – and dramatically drive up the cost of homes, apartments and other needed facilities. Fortunately, despite the best efforts of some in Sacramento, Proposition 13 remains on the job protecting homeowners from runaway property taxes that could force them from their homes.
  • Public Transit – Gov. Brown’s “Bullet Train to Nowhere” is in a death spiral due to lack of public support, refusal of the federal government and the private sector to provide additional funds, and out of control costs due to mismanagement, malfeasance and insurmountable engineering hurdles. But fixed route/fixed rail transit remains part of the liberal social planners’ mantra. Other than in highly congested urban areas, public transit is unjustifiable in terms of both capital and operating costs. With the advent of Lyft, Uber, self-driving cars and even Elon Musk’s Hyperloop — that, within a few years, could move passengers at a faction of the cost of rail — private companies and entrepreneurs are offering answers to the mobility problem. This justifies placing renewed emphasis on fixing and expanding our highway system.
  • Education Improvements and Cost Control – “School choice” is the answer to improving K-12 student learning results. The political clout of the California Teachers Association and other teacher unions has blocked progress. Properly framed ballot initiatives may be the only realistic avenue to reform as we must stop the automatic and mindless Proposition 98 commitment of nearly half of general fund revenues – regardless of need – to K-12 and community colleges.
  • Public Employee Wages, Benefits and Pension Reforms – Public sector compensation costs for California, at both the state and local levels, are now clearly unsustainable. According to the Department of Labor, California state and local employees are the highest compensated in all 50 states. Pay, benefits and pensions of public employees have become disproportionate to their private sector counterparts who foot the bill. Adding to the approaching calamity is mismanagement – which has included criminal bribery – at CalPERS, the state’s largest public employee pension fund. Politically motivated investment strategies and fanciful predictions of return on those investments have left taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liability for current and future retirees. Consideration must be given to shuttering CalPERS and fairly allocating to each current employee their share of the retirement funds, arranging for the public employer to make up the difference for what has been promised to date, and move from “defined benefit” to “defined contribution” plans for all existing and future employees. Otherwise, this pension burden has the potential to grow so large that California will not be able to fund the most basic services and as residents flee to other states, the last one out will be asked to turn out the lights.

We call on our representatives to stop pursuing discretionary causes and pet projects and come to grips with these real problems facing all Californians.

Lewis K. Uhler is Founder and Chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation. He was a contemporary and collaborator with both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in California and across the country.

Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He is a recognized expert in California fiscal affairs and has argued numerous tax cases before the courts. 

This piece was originally published by HJTA.org

Trump threatens to defund ‘out of control’ California

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold federal funds from “out of control” California if the state declares itself a sanctuary state.

“If we have to, we’ll defund,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl. “We give tremendous amounts of money to California, California in many ways is out of control, as you know.”

Trump was responding to a question from O’Reilly about efforts by Democratic state legislators to make California a de-facto “sanctuary state” that would restrict state and local law enforcement, including school police and security departments, from using their resources to aid federal authorities in immigration enforcement. …

Click here to read the full article

California Democrats’ Sanctuary Includes Violent Criminals

People march through downtown Los Angeles supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the United States Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006. The event, called "La Gran Marcha Laboral," was organized by the March 25 Coalition, which put on a massive protest in Los Angeles earlier this year. (AP Photo/Oscar Hidalgo)

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) have been clear that they oppose California allowing the state or its sanctuary cities from cooperating with immigration officials unless the individual committed a violent crime.

Under California law, throwing acid at someone or rape of an unconscious, intoxicated or mentally ill victim is not considered a violent crime. Neither is vehicular manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, arson, solicitation of murder or exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure. 

A recent article by Jazmine Ulloa, Los Angeles Times makes this clear distinction:

After being accused of rape, Andrew Luster jumped his $1-million bail and was later captured in Mexico by a bounty hunter on TV.

Ventura County prosecutors said he drugged three women and videotaped the assaults, and a jury convicted him of 86 counts of poisoning, sexual battery and rape of an unconscious or intoxicated person. But with none of his offenses listed among the 23 crimes that California considers “violent” felonies in its penal code….

In drawing the line at crime violence, why would Kevin de Leon and Anthony Rendon extend sanctuary and protection to predators like Andrew Luster?

While Eric Holder will be in Sacramento tomorrow, collecting his $25,000 a-month-taxpayer-funded-check from the state’s taxpayers via our Legislature, he needs to be the adult in the room and ask the Democratic leadership to remove their rose-colored glasses and realize that there are distinctions between “hardened criminals,” “undocumented immigrants,” and those who perpetrate the abbreviated state list of “violent crimes.”

Ending “sanctuary city” ordinances does not mean that law enforcement in those communities become “quasi immigration enforcement officers.” Rather, it reopens the door to the real need of providing continued cooperation between law enforcement and immigration officials and ensuring societally dangerous and violent criminals are identified, detained and deported. They should also include those convicted of gang activities, rape, arson or those who sexually assault the elderly or mentally ill victims.

The following crimes are not covered by the definition of violent crimes under recently passed Proposition 57:

  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Human trafficking involving a minor
  • Battery with personal infliction of serious bodily injury
  • Throwing acid or flammable substance
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter
  • Discharging firearm at an occupied dwelling, building, vehicle or airport
  • Rape where victim legally capable of giving consent
  • Rape by intoxicating substance
  • Rape where victim unconscious of the act
  • Rape/sodomy/oral copulation of unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs
  • Rape by threat of public official
  • Inflicting corporal injury on a child
  • Domestic violence
  • Arson of a structure or forest land
  • Arson of property
  • Solicitation to commit murder
  • Grand theft firearm
  • Assault with a deadly weapon by state prison inmate
  • Any felony involving the personal use of a deadly weapon
  • Holding a hostage by state prison inmate
  • Exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure

Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm. As a nationally recognized expert on Latino politics and public policy issues, he serves as an on-air political analyst for Univision and Telemundo.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Dems Launch 2018 Campaign Against 20 Republicans Including Ed Royce and Darrell Issa

130510_darrell_issa_mscott_328Democrats have launched an all-out offensive assault in Blue State California well ahead of the 2018 midterm elections with particular aim taken at increasingly vulnerable House Republicans Rep. Ed Royce, Rep. Darrell Issa, and Rep. Jeff Denham.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced on Thursday that it was launching “March into ’18,” a program aimed at taking out Republican members of Congress in 20 districts across the country. Those districts are: CA-10, CA-39, CA-49, CO-06, FL-26, IA-01, IL-06, KS-03, MN-02, MN-03, NE-02, NY-22, NY-24, PA-06, PA-07, PA-08, TX-07, TX-23, TX-32, and VA-02.

Full-time local organizers will be hired in these districts, dedicated to unseating the Republicans. The hiring began on February 1st. The campaign will run ads on Twitter, the social media site that President Donald Trump has used consistently to communicate directly with Americans. The DCCC will target ads at “those that have followed or tweeted about local Women’s Marches, ACA rallies, and other events” according to their own statement. Those ads will direct recipients to local events where they can get involved in Democrat activism.

Issa, first elected to the House of Representatives in 2000, barely squeaked out a win over Democrat challenger Doug Applegate last November. Democrats focused intense effort on unseating the congressman and almost did as the election results-watch was drawn out for days. Ultimately Issa won 50.3 to 49.7 percent according to the California Secretary of State. Royce won over challenger Brett Murdock more comfortably last November, 57.2 to 42.8 percent.

Most DCCC targeted seats are in districts where failed 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the district according to the Orange County Register.

“This is an unprecedented early investment in key Republican-held House districts, in order to engage voters and help make their voices heard. So many people are looking for ways to tell their stories, channel their energy and organize for change, and this project will help do just that,” DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan said upon the announcement.

A dedicated “March into ’18” website and Facebook page have been established to field potential workers for training to “Build events such as house parties and phone banks,” “organize protests and days of action,” and promise events via live stream and social media.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Gov. Brown Strong on Rage, Light on Solutions to State’s Problems

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

What is the state of the state in California? Apparently it’s under siege. Gov. Jerry Brown’s annual address sounded more like a commander rallying his troops to resist an occupying force than an informative report from the state government’s chief executive.

“The recent election and inauguration of a new president have shown deep divisions across America,” said Brown. “While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. . . . Familiar signposts of our democracy – truth, civility, working together – have been obscured or swept aside.”

He returned to the theme moments later, saying that “while we now face different challenges, make no mistake: the future is uncertain and dangers abound. . . . this is a time which calls out for courage and for perseverance.” He promised that as leader of the resistance, he would provide both.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon set the tone before Brown spoke. He railed about “the threats from the new administration to our state’s values and its people,” then declared himself to be “glad to have Gov. Edmund G. Brown fighting with us and for all of us,” as if Brown were preparing to lead soldiers into battle.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León followed, declaring that the California proposition that “every person should enjoy the right to be exactly who they want to be and have an equal opportunity to succeed” is “now under threat.”

And rather than take a more judicious path, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom continued the theme.

“In the last few months,” he said, “we have announced repeatedly and emphatically that we are unafraid to fight.”

Is this the way that the political leaders of a dynamic and influential state should be conducting themselves? These are the people that Californians elected to run the government and make the laws. Is creating an illusion that the state has to defend itself from invaders the best they can do?

Brown called California the “great exception,” which is what it once was, attracting opportunity seekers and tireless workers from across the country and all over the world. But now it’s the “great exception” because even as the Blue State model has been rejected elsewhere, California won’t let go of the government architecture that has caused breakdowns in Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont – formerly rich states that strangled themselves with layers of government – and in big cities all over the U.S. map.

Entrenched issues that truly plague Californians were not addressed by Brown. The state’s broken, unreliable, unfair and punitive income tax system wasn’t mentioned. Neither was the pension crisis that threatens the economy; the housing crunch which jeopardizes the future; the high cost of energy and the coming energy crisis; the state’s hostile business climate;; and Sacramento’s taste for free spending.

Neither did the Governor talk about poverty.  As Assemblyman Dante Acosta wrote, “he missed the opportunity to call out his own party which has overseen the state for decades with a policy agenda that preaches compassion, but routinely ignores the problems that truly drive poverty.”

The only bright spot of Brown’s entire speech was his stated commitment to infrastructure improvement. California’s roads are a wreck, among the worst in the United States, and need attention. If the governor believes infrastructure is a priority, then he needs to take on that job. And that doesn’t mean leaning on Washington for more funds. It means using those fuel tax dollars Californians already send to Sacramento that should be applied to transportation projects.

It’s much easier to feign conflict with a nonexistent enemy than it is to do the hard political work of getting California back on track. That would require some grit and an abandonment of the old ideas that have brought the state to this creaky point. It takes less effort to oratorically stir up the masses and peel their eyes off the real problems, and refocus them on imagined hobgoblins.

California’s future is truly at risk, but not because the presidential candidate most voters in the state supported wasn’t elected.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow at the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily