Falling Support For The Bullet Train

High-speed rail advocates are on edge as the governor and the state legislature squabble over where to spend the high-speed rail project’s remaining bond money.

Advocates say the delays in funding are feeding into the notion that the project is taking too long and harming public support. They are right to be worried. A recent poll from Goodwin Simon Strategic Research showed that more Californians support ending construction on the project than support continuing it.

But advocates have it backwards. It isn’t the uncertainty in funding that is causing diminishing support, it’s that Californians are aware of the magnitude of the scam.

Let’s recap.

In 2008, voters approved almost $10 billion in general obligation bonds, including $9 billion for the initial planning and construction of an 800-mile high-speed rail system that would travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in a little over two hours.

A 2008 study sponsored by the Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation predicted that the promised total cost of $45 billion would quickly turn into $100 billion or more. “There are no genuine financial projections that indicate there will be sufficient funds,” the authors wrote.

However, the campaign for passage focused on the promise of that jaunt between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making the project look like a Ferrari at the cost of a used Ford Pinto.

To read the entire column, please click here.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Still Dropping In LA County

The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals tumbled again on Monday, Oct. 4, but health officials warned that transmission of the virus remains at a high level.

According to state figures, there were 768 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in the county as of Monday, down from 790 on Sunday. There were 227 of those patients in intensive care, down from 228 a day earlier.

The number of COVID-positive people hospitalized in the county has fallen 31 times in the past 35 days, bringing the number down from a summer peak of nearly 1,800.

Another seven COVID-19 deaths were reported by the county Department of Public Health, raising the overall death toll to 26,160. A total of 853 new infections were reported, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,463,889. …

Click here to read the full article from the LA Daily News.

Trump Lawyer John Eastman Subject Of Bar Complaint Over Advice On Pence’s Role In Election

A bipartisan group of former officials and legal heavyweights, including two former federal judges, asked the California bar association Monday to investigate the conduct of John Eastman, the adviser to then-President Donald Trump who mapped out a legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election results.

The complaint, also signed by two former justices of the California Supreme Court, cites Eastman’s work in election challenges rejected by the Supreme Court and his speech at a Jan. 6 rally in Washington before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. But the 24-page memo centers on Eastman’s alleged role in pressing Vice President Mike Pence not to count electoral votes on Jan. 6 and certify President Biden as the winner.

“The available evidence supports a strong case that the State Bar should investigate whether, in the course of representing Mr. Trump, Mr. Eastman violated his ethical obligations as an attorney by filing frivolous claims, making false statements and engaging in deceptive conduct,” the letter said. “There is also a strong basis to investigate whether Mr. Eastman assisted in unlawful actions by his client, Mr. Trump,” to overturn the results of a legitimate election.

The complaint was written on behalf of the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan organization promoting election integrity co-chaired by former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, and Norman Eisen, who served in the Obama White House and worked with House Democrats during the first Trump impeachment. …

Click here to read the full article from the Washington Post.

California Becomes First U.S. State To Require COVID Vaccination For Students

California will add the Covid-19 vaccination to immunizations required for in-person school attendance, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in San Francisco Friday morning.

It’s the first state to do so.

The requirements will be phased in by grade groups — 7-12 and K-6 — and will start for each group only after the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccine for that cohort, the governor’s office said in a news release.

“We intend to (have the requirement) once the FDA has fully approved the vaccine, which will give us time to work with districts, give us time to work with parents and educators to build more trust and confidence and build out logistics so that we can deliver on what we are promoting here today,” Newsom said. …

Click here to read the full article from CNN.

Gov. Newsom Misled Public about Wildfire Prevention Efforts

The June 2021 report which exposed that Gov. Gavin Newsom misled the public about his wildfire prevention efforts by 690%, should have obligated applicable state agencies to act immediately. There are still many unanswered questions. The Globe has been following up on why Newsom mislead the public, and who is to blame for the worst fire season on record. Is it the governor? Is it CalFire? Is it agencies directly commanded by Gov. Newsom?

The fact remains that California’s forests are still a lethal  tinderbox as wildfire prevention efforts have not been ramped up to mitigate the now annual wildfire threat to homes, businesses and entire communities. Instead, 2021 is one of the worse fire seasons ever in state history, with wildfires still burning. As California Congressman Tom McClintock says, “Excess timber comes out of the forest in only two ways – it is either carried out or it burns out.”

The joint CapRadio and NPR investigation unveiled in June 2021, Governor Newsom was found to have overstated the number of areas treated with fuel breaks and prescribed burns by 690%, the Globe reported. Governor Newsom claimed that, due to his executive order, 35 of his priority projects had treated over 90,000 acres with wildfire prevention treatments. However, data from the state only showed 11,399 acres treated.

“The data show Cal Fire treated 64,000 acres in 2019, but only 32,000 acres in 2020 and 24,000 acres through Memorial Day this year,” CapRadio and NPR reported, explaining that the governor even “disinvested in wildfire prevention.”

In the article, the CalFire Chief Thom Porter took the blame for misleading the governor: “The head of Cal Fire, Chief Thom Porter, did grant an interview. He acknowledged the figures cited by Newsom were incorrect and took responsibility for the governor’s misstatements.”

Despite Newsom’s bold public pronouncements, Porter, the chief of Cal Fire, said the state was never going to be able to tackle all 90,000 acres in 2019.

“We didn’t have all of the environmental clearance that we were going to need to do all of that work,” CalFire Chief Porter said. “Nor did we have all of the agreements with landowners completely in place.”

And that is the crux of the issue: what were and are the environmental clearances needed, and who approves these? Why were they not granted knowing California’s recent and very deadly wildfire history? California’s worst fire season on record could have been averted – we knew what would happen and why.

Yet CalFire was and remains immobilized by the environmental clearance needed to do their jobs.

The Globe has asked two state agencies – CalFire and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) –  the following questions in the earnest quest to find out how we get broad forest management mitigation in California:

  • What are the environmental clearances needed to approve wildfire prevention and clean up efforts? Is it the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
  • Are there CEQA exemptions to allow the wildfire prevention and clean up take place?
  • What are the hold ups? Legal/lawsuits?
  • Why were projects sidelined?
  • Is there enough manpower to accomplish all of the wildfire forest prevention work?

The Globe emailed and called CalFire and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), the agency tasked as the state clearinghouse for review of all CEQA documents.

As the state explains, “All state and local agencies must give consideration to environmental protection in regulating public and private activities” (including wildfire prevention efforts). “California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides a formal process for regulating entities to evaluate and mitigate environmental impacts that may occur as a result of a particular development.”

This is the arduous CEQA work flow chart:

CEQA Flow Chart. (Photo: businessportal.ca.gov)

While the governor’s Office of Planning and Research is the clearinghouse for CEQA projects, “OPR, coordinates the State-level review of Environmental Documents prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).”

OPR may be the gatekeeper, and as such, processes the CEQA documents. Are they doing it in a timely manner? What are the priorities for CEQA’s environmental review projects, again, knowing California’s recent and very deadly wildfire history?

As the flow chart indicates, determining if the project is exempt is almost the first task.

If Gov. Newsom made wildfire prevention a priority on day-one in office, and many promises since, exempting the forest clean up and wildfire prevention projects from CEQA should have been the priority pre-requisite in order to prevent deadly wildfires.

“Everybody has had enough,” the governor said, announcing he’d signed a “sweeping executive order” overhauling the state’s approach to wildfire prevention. Climate change was sparking fires more frequent, ferocious, and far-reaching than ever before, Newsom said, and confronting them would have to become a year-round effort.”

“The state’s response, Newsom added, “fundamentally has to change.”

While Gov. Newsom’s executive order “overhauling the state’s approach to wildfire prevention,” blames “climate change – persistent drought, warmer temperatures, and more severe winds”  for creating “conditions that will lead to more frequent and destructive wildfires,” the executive order also admits “historically, fires lit by Native Americans and lightning strikes cleared the forest of surface fuels on a regular cycle to manage vegetation.”

However, the governor’s executive order really only authorized a report from CalFire “with recommendations of the most impactful administrative, regulatory, and policy changes or waivers the Governor can initiate that are necessary to prevent and mitigate wildfires to the greatest extent possible, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and protection of public health.”  The non-sweeping, superficial Executive Order is below.

As Rep. McClintock explains, since 1980, the increase of environmental laws have produced an 80 percent decline in timber harvested out of the federal forests and a concomitant increase in acreage destroyed by fire. And environmental laws have made the management of forest lands all but impossible.

The Globe has not heard back from CalFire or the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, but will report again when we do. We did not make a public records request for internal communications, rather for procedural information. However, it appears our questions are ones that state agencies do not want to have to answer, principally because so many in government don’t think they have to answer to the people, and others are terrified to.

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Major Oil Spill Closes OC Beaches

A 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore rig – the largest spill in Orange County in three decades – led to major ecological damage in Huntington Beach over the weekend, prompting officials to close beaches that could remain off-limits for weeks or months.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-48), whose district includes Huntington and Newport beaches and other coastal cities, said she asked President Biden on Sunday to approve disaster relief.

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the response to the spill, which covers about 5.8 nautical miles between the Huntington Beach Pier and Newport Beach. The oil emanated from a facility operated by Beta Offshore, and likely was caused by a pipeline leak.

The City of Huntington Beach canceled the third day of the Pacific Airshow on Sunday to facilitate cleanup and reduce health impacts. By afternoon, all city and state beaches south of Seapoint to the Santa Ana River jetty were closed. Newport Beach later closed beaches at the waterline. And Laguna Beach announced that all city beaches would close at 9 p.m. Sunday. The city asked that people pay close attention to closure or warning signs posted at or near beach areas. …

Read the full article from the OC Register.

In California and Across the Country, Parents and Their Kids are Abandoning Public Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been the crack in the dam that allowed parents’ building frustration with the regular public schools to burst forth.  Public school enrollment is nose-diving across the country, with legions of parents everywhere choosing other learning options for their children.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently issued an analysis which examined data during the pandemic and found that the “public schools, including district-run schools, lost more than 1.4 million students (a 3.3% loss from 2019-20 to 2020-21).”

The report noted that the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that enrollment in public schools fell by the largest margin in at least in at least two decades.

Across California, state figures show that K-12 enrollment fell by 160,000 students, which was a 3-percent dip and the largest drop in enrollment in twenty years.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, enrollment dropped by 27,000 students, which was a nearly 6 percent fall.  The Los Angeles Times noted that this percentage decline “is three times what planners in the nation’s second-largest school district predicted.”

Even more ominous for the future of the regular public schools is the plunge in enrollment among the nation’s youngest students.

The education publication The 74 pointed out that federal data shows “the combined number of preschool and kindergarten students decreased by 13 percent last year.”  Further, “the pre-K population plunged by an astonishing 22 percent.”

As parents were exiting the public schools, they were choosing education options ranging from charter schools to homeschooling.

According to the NAPCS report, “Public charter school enrollment increased during the 2020-21 school year in at least 39 states, the only segment of the public education sector to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“All told,” the report found, “nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in charter schools during that period, a 7% year-over-year increase.”

In California, for example, the report said: “Charter schools saw enrollment increases for nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup, while district public schools saw enrollment decreases for nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup.  Specifically, charter schools saw particularly large increases of Asian, Filipino, Hispanic, and multi-racial students.  District public schools saw a particularly large decrease in White and Black students.”

Even more than the uptick in charter school enrollment, however, has been the surge in parents choosing to homeschool their children.

As I detail in my soon-to-be-released Pacific Research Institute book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities, U.S. Census Bureau data show that from just spring 2020 to fall 2020, the proportion of U.S. households homeschooling their kids more than doubled from 5 percent to 11 percent.

Among African-American families, homeschooling skyrocketed from 3 percent to 16 percent—a more than five-fold increase.  Among Hispanic families, homeschooling doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent.

In my book, I profile Magda Gomez, who emigrated from Mexico to the United States and who decided to homeschool her daughters after they were bullied at their regular California public school.  Homeschooling has worked so well for Magda and her daughters that Magda is now an activist in the Hispanic community promoting homeschooling and informing parents about the educational choices they have.

Analyzing the data, the Census Bureau concluded, “It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.”

Thus, “the global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked new interest in homeschooling and the appeal of alternative school arrangements has suddenly exploded.”

The Census Bureau’s conclusion is borne out by on-the-ground practitioners such as Alicia Carter, the head of a homeschool academy at a charter school in Sacramento whom I interviewed for my book.

Carter’s academy is a brick-and-mortar facility where homeschool parents can send their children to take art, music, and other types of enrichment classes a day or two a week.  Carter has been a homeschool parent, teacher, and administrator for many years and she has seen a lot of change over the years.  However, what she has seen over the last couple years has amazed her.

For the first time in her homeschool academy’s history, she told me, they had to hold a lottery for admission in 2021.

Carter says that part of the reason is the pandemic, but she also thinks that people are starting to consider homeschooling a viable option, not a fringe choice.  She says, “homeschooling has become much more diverse religiously, ethnically, and socioeconomically all over the country.”

As public schools continue to flail with controversial reopening policies, unpopular woke curricula, and unresponsive top-down one-size-fits-all edicts, parents, as the Census Bureau observes, “are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”  That is why homeschooling, especially, will be the education wave of the future.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute and the author of the upcoming PRI book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Insitute.

California To Mandate Student Covid Vaccines Once FDA Gives Full Approval

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that California will mandate student vaccines for Covid-19 once federal officials fully approve the immunizations, becoming the first state to declare that requirement, though it likely will not take effect until next school year.

Under the plan, California will add Covid-19 vaccines to its list of immunizations required for school attendance in the first academic term after the Food and Drug Administration approves the shots for students in a given age band, split between grades 7-12 and K-6. The governor’s office estimates that middle- and high-schoolers will need to get vaccinated before the 2022-23 school year starts.

California would likewise issue a hard mandate that all education staff be vaccinated at that time, eliminating an option for non-vaccinated employees to show a negative test in lieu of getting the shot. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico

LA Council Deciding on Mandatory Proof of Vaccination to Enter Businesses

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council is to decide upon one of the largest COVID-19 vaccination requirements in the country, mandating that either vaccination proof or a recent negative COVID-19 test will be needed to enter most indoor businesses in the city, including restaurants, salons, movie theaters, malls, gyms, and other establishments.

To date, Los Angeles has only focused on mandates for workers and for those at outdoor events with more than 10,000 people. Despite other cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, and Palm Springs enacting indoor business vaccination proof mandates for those 12 and up in the last several months, Los Angeles has yet to bring sweeping vaccination mandates to indoor businesses outside of a previous mandate covering bars, wineries, breweries, and other drinking establishments.

However, since last month, the city has been working on an indoor mandate draft to help further curb the spread of the delta variant, as well as other new variants, that have been striking the city. While the overall number of new daily cases, deaths and testing positivity rates have been falling in LA since early August, the Council nonetheless decided to push for the mandate as a precaution in high-risk areas with a lot of people.

“If we ever want to get back to normal, to what Los Angeles was like pre-COVID, we need to stop the spread in places most high risk,” said Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez in August. “So, if individuals want to go to their gym, go to their local bar without a mask, you need to get vaccinated. And if you want to watch a basketball game, a baseball game, go to a concert at a big venue, or even go into a movie theater, you need to get a shot.”

Other Councilmembers also noted that the push for vaccinations would not deny people going to places to get essentials such as food or medicine.

“COVID-19 could be eradicated if we had mass vaccinations across the country and across the world,” added Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. “Why on Earth is it OK in 2021 to have 30-plus people die in the county of Los Angeles from COVID over a three-day period, including an 11-year-old girl, when we have a vaccine that could have prevented all of that, accessible to everyone. This is not a vaccine mandate. We’re not going to deny anyone the ability to access essentials, food, medicine, etc., regardless of vaccination. But what is immoral is choosing not to get vaccinated, choosing to listen to some delusional rant on Twitter.”

Economic fallout from the proposed business vaccination mandate

While many are in favor of the mandate, opponents to the mandate have said that the economic fallout to the city could be devastating, especially in areas where tourists, who are less likely to have been vaccinated and have proof or a recent test, are prevalent.

San Francisco businesses, especially those that cater to tourists, have seen a large drop off in customers since their mandate was put into place in early August. Many restaurants and other businesses are still seeing drop-offs from pre-COVID-19 figures in the thousands per day almost two months later. And for many Los Angeles area business owners, that prospect is terrifying.

“We rely on tourists,” said Sid Stevens, who co-owns two Hollywood restaurants, to the Globe on Tuesday. “We managed to survive the lockdowns here and we just don’t need this. We’re finally getting people back in, we’re finally getting tourists again. Now LA wants to limit us again. We can’t afford to lose business and go back in the red again.

“And look, cases are going way down and things are improving. Why do they need to spike the football? They just don’t understand the damage that they will do. And a lot of restaurants feel this way. The bar next door to one of my restaurants  is freaking out out over previous mandate affecting bars. Well, that’s going to be us.

“This is just going to hurt way more people than it helps.”

The City Council is expected to vote on the mandate during their next meeting on Wednesday September 29th.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Motels To House The Homeless

Modesto could seek state funding to buy a motel or motels and convert the property into supportive housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

This is similar to Kansas House, the former 103-room American Budget Inn & Suites at Kansas Avenue and Highway 99 that the Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority purchased and converted into studio apartments.

Modesto and Stanislaus County provided financial and other assistance. Kansas House opened in May 2020.

Modesto would seek funding through Project Homekey, one of California’s initiatives to provide housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

Read the full article from the Modesto Bee.