Bill Gives Illegal Immigrants Access to Medi-Cal

meteor obamacareCalifornia Democrats have ramped up their push to extend health benefits to in-staters who immigrated unlawfully.

High-stakes legislation

Sacramento Democrats have advanced a piece of legislation, authored by State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, that would grant access to Affordable Care Act benefits to unlawful immigrants. SB4, which would open up Medi-Cal enrollment, cleared the Assembly Health Committee on a party line vote, drawing a few dozen opponents at the bill’s hearing.

According to Lara’s website, some “three to four million people in the state will remain uninsured in spite of ACA, and almost a million of those will be undocumented residents eligible for coverage, save for their legal status.”

Last month, the state Senate voted to clear the bill, also known as the Health For All Act, with Lara describing the scheme as “a transformational and decisive step forward on the path to achieving health for all,” according to MSNBC. But Gov. Jerry Brown’s office already intervened once to scale back Democrats’ ambitions.

“The initial bill, which would have allowed all undocumented immigrants to sign up via Medi-Cal, was pared down after it was estimated to cost up to $740 million a year, a price tag Brown said was unacceptable. The governor has not indicated whether or not he’ll sign off on the latest legislation.”

Nevertheless, as Politico reported, Brown did sign off on spending “millions in state dollars to provide health care to undocumented children, mirroring similar efforts in a handful of other liberal states.”

Covered California, the state-run health care exchange, has become an Obamacare keystone, although its second-year enrollment numbers have fallen short of goals. Continued tension between Gov. Brown and state Democrats on the costs of expanding coverage could pose problems for the party on a national level.  “Republicans never trusted Democrats’ repeated assurances while the law was being drafted that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t cover undocumented immigrants,” Politico noted. “That built up to Rep. Joe Wilson’s infamous ‘You lie!’ moment, when the South Carolina Republican interrupted President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care address to Congress.”

Walking the line

In some parts of the state, strategies for expanding benefits have had to adapt to changing political circumstances. Although state Democrats at the municipal level have long adopted a generous attitude, a new expansion of health funding stopped short of including the unlawfully present.

The San Francisco Department of Health was recently put in charge of administering a new effort under its so-called City Option initiative, which makes it easier for workers to buy insurance through Covered California. Previously, beneficiaries were eligible for reimbursements supplied by the city, whereas, under the new effort, San Francisco will directly subsidize purchases made through the state exchange. “The new subsidies will not benefit immigrants living in San Francisco who are in the U.S. illegally,” however, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

As the Chronicle added, illegally present immigrants have already received some favor under municipal law: “They are still eligible to receive health care services through the city’s Healthy San Francisco program.”

In the city, illegal immigration has become a freshly charged issue in the wake of a shooting that made national news, eliciting comments from Republican presidential candidates. While Donald Trump tied the killing to the city’s so-called “sanctuary” status, Jeb Bush, on a recent visit reported by the Los Angeles Times, said it was inappropriate to “prey on that fear,” suggesting “it’s not a winning message either.”

If San Francisco’s decision not to extend the new subsidy to unlawful immigrants reflected unease on the left, Bush’s remarks suggested something similar on the right. “I think candidates ought to lay out proposals to solve problems rather than basically prey on legitimate fears and concerns,” he said, trying to strike a moderate tone.

(Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)

Rent control ages badly in Los Angeles

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image19890499“I own rental property,” Assembly Member Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, told a recent gathering of apartment owners, “but I won’t own rental property in California. You guys have a target on your backs. We’re trying to get that target taken off.”

How bad is business for apartment owners? Ask Arnie and Debbie Corlin, who own six properties in Los Angeles. “We’re thinking of selling them and buying rental property in Detroit,” Arnie said.

That’s how bad it is. Detroit is more business friendly than Los Angeles.

“Income has to cover expenses,” said Iona Blackwell, who owns 72 rental units spread out over several buildings in Venice. “A building has to pay for itself. I am not a charity.”

Actually, she is. By owning rent-controlled apartments in the city of Los Angeles, Blackwell is donating to her longtime tenants, every month, the difference between what they’re paying in rent and what the units could bring on the open market.

Unlike government housing subsidies, rent control is not based on income. Landlords can find themselves subsidizing tenants who earn more than they do.

L.A.’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance ties rent increases for existing tenants to the Consumer Price Index. This year, rents can rise 3 percent.

Apartment owners argue that the CPI reflects the prices of consumer goods, not the expenses of running a building. “Water up 24 percent, sewer charges up 44 percent, trash collection up 30 percent,” one owner said irritably.

“We can’t control how much water the tenants use,” another added.

And installing individual meters for each apartment is wildly expensive. “The DWP charged me $3,500 for one meter in 2007,” Arnie Corlin said.

Rent control has been in effect in Los Angeles since 1979. Early on, in 1981, the city paid the RAND Corporation to study the impact of rent control on the housing market. “In the long run,” the findings warned, “it may create the very housing shortage it was designed to alleviate.”

The RAND researchers documented in 1981, and again in 1988, that building owners cut back on maintenance until expenses matched rent revenue — and sometimes removed the units from the market altogether, converting the apartments to condos or demolishing the buildings to use the land for something else.

When the California Supreme Court ruled that landlords did not have the right to evict their tenants and go out of business, the state legislature changed the law. The 1985 Ellis Act says government entities can’t force an owner of residential property to continue to offer it for rent or lease.

But the Ellis Act is perpetually under attack. This year, a proposed state law, SB 364, would have allowed the city of San Francisco to force landlords to stay in the rental business until all owners of the building had owned it for at least five years. California Association of Realtors president Chris Kutzkey called the bill “an unreasonable and unjustified attack on property owners that need or want to take a rental property off the market.” The bill was defeated.

Los Angeles officials are trying to implement a local crackdown on Ellis Act exits from the rental housing business. A motion by Councilman Gil Cedillo would require clearance from the Housing and Community Investment Department before any permits for construction or demolition could be issued for a formerly rent-controlled property. The extra scrutiny and red tape would continue for five years.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he supports Cedillo’s motion as a way of “preserving the affordability we have now.”

More likely, it’s a way of forcing L.A. property owners to stay in the rental business because they won’t live long enough to get the permits to build anything else.

This tactic would have met with the approval of Whitey Bulger, the Boston gangster who was on the lam for 16 years until the FBI found him living in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica in 2011. Bulger, who kept his guns and $800,000 in cash hidden in the wall, had resided quietly for more a decade in the two-bedroom apartment on 3rd Street, just blocks from the ocean. His rent was $1,145 a month.

“Rent control confers most of its benefits early and extracts most of its costs late,” the RAND researchers said. After 36 years of rent control in Los Angeles, we now are dealing with the cost — a reduced supply of affordable housing. Piling more mandates, penalties and regulations on housing providers will only speed up the run for the exits.

(Susan Shelley is a columnist for L.A. Daily News. Reach the author at Susan@SusanShelley.com or follow Susan on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.)

Left Uses Bullying Tactics to Shut Down Opposition

democrat party liberal“End of discussion!” is what those on the political left yell in your face when they know they are losing an argument. It is also the name of a compelling new book by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson with the revealing subtitle of “How the Left’s Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).”

While it is true that attempts to marginalize political opponents isn’t the exclusive domain of progressives, in the last couple of decades it is the political left which has perfected these tactics to an art form.  Perhaps it is because these latest efforts reflect a full manifestation of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  An important strategy from this famous anarchist is to avoid at all costs an honest debate over whether socialist policies actually work.

And it’s not just conservatives who are sounding the alarm.  Bill Maher, the left of center host of his own show on HBO has said that liberals are too easily offended and that an overly politically correct society actually breeds more hostility between the parties.  Jerry Seinfeld, lifelong Democratic and famous comic, has said that he doesn’t play college campuses anymore because students have been brainwashed into being offended at almost anything.

While political correctness is a national problem, it is much worse in California.  Indeed, for all the alleged “openness” of the California lifestyle, here are the three things about which you cannot possibly have a rational discussion with a liberal:  Global warming, immigration and traditional marriage.

Let’s just look at global warming.  How many times have you heard Al Gore, President Obama, Jerry Brown or Tom Steyer say “the debate is over?”  As I have advised college students on both the right and left numerous times, when someone says “the debate is over” that usually means the debate is just beginning. While there is substantial evidence (mostly based on computer modeling) that man’s activities might have an impact on the earth’s climate, there are simply too many ancillary questions and unknowns for anyone to say the “debate is over.”  Shockingly, even noted environmentalists including a co-founder of Greenpeace and Bjorn Lomberg, former head of the Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen, have been savaged by the global warming alarmists for suggesting that the hype might be overstated.

On immigration, if one dares to raise the very legitimate issues of the costs to taxpayers that flow from unregulated immigration you are immediately branded as a racist.  Despite being far more open to legal immigration than others in America, I have personally felt the wrath of this unfounded accusation.

The progressives are not interested in hearing anything that deviates one iota from their rigid orthodoxy.  And they don’t want others to hear any contrary message either.  Somalian Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited to speak at Brandies University because she dared speak out against Islamic extremism.  These are prime examples of the “heckler’s veto” even before a speech begins.  Other luminaries “disinvited” from commencement speeches due to left leaning pressure include International Monetary Fund Director Christine LaGarge and Condoleezza Rice.

And our final California example of shutting off debate is an embarrassing incident in the California Capitol when Rodger Hernandez, Chairman of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee would not even allow the Republican Vice Chair, Matthew Harper speak on one of the most contentious and dangerous bills emanating from the California Legislature – Senate Bill 3, a huge increase in the state’s minimum wage.  Hernandez even went so far as to order the Sergeant at Arms to take away Harpers’ microphone.  Talk about “end of discussion!”

So how should we respond to this wave of political correctness run amok and efforts to limit debate?  First, realize it won’t be easy as the main stream media is rarely on our side.  Second, it is entirely fair to call out these tactics for what they are and challenge our adversaries to debate the issues honestly.  Third, appeal to the desire for truth.  Scripture tells us veritas vos liberabit — the truth will set you free. Or, as Andrew Breitbart said, “The truth isn’t mean. The truth is the truth.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayerorganization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. Originally posted on HJTA.

Beyond the Perfect Drought: California’s Real Water Crisis

Shower head water droughtThe record-breaking drought in California is not chiefly the result of low precipitation. Three factors – rising temperatures, groundwater depletion, and a shrinking Colorado River – mean the most populous U.S. state will face decades of water shortages and must adapt.

The current drought afflicting California is indeed historic, but not because of the low precipitation totals. In fact, in terms of overall precipitation and spring snowpack, the past three years are not record-breakers, according to weather data for the past century. Similarly, paleoclimate studies show that the current drought is not exceptional given the natural variations in precipitation of the past seven centuries. Nor can it be confidently said that the current drought bears the unequivocal imprint of climate change.

It is also clear that this drought is exceptional and should be seen as an historical turning point. Indeed, California is moving into new — and worrisome — territory for three reasons: rising heat, which causes increased evaporation; the continuing depletion of groundwater supplies; and growing water shortages on the Colorado River, the main external source of water for Southern California.

A decade ago, I first wrote about California and the “perfect drought.” Now, unless bold steps are taken to deal with a growing water crisis, California may be facing a future of perfect droughts.

First, there is the heat. Although the current precipitation deficit cannot be attributed to global climate change, the record-breaking high temperatures of 2014 can be. These elevated temperatures produce increased evaporation from reservoirs and exacerbate irrigation demands. The commonly used Palmer Drought Severity Index combines both temperature and precipitation and in doing so shows that 2014 is indeed off the charts. The current drought in California might well be considered the harbinger of droughts to come. Evaporative losses fuel the crisis now being faced.

Climate models do not provide a consensus on the changes in precipitation that might occur in California over the 21st century. Moving forward, there may well be no significant increase or decrease in the average annual precipitation. However, the models do agree that temperatures will continue to rise. Water demands to meet evaporative losses will therefore increase significantly. There is also some evidence that the length and depth of droughts will increase in the later 21st century. As for high temperatures and persistence of extreme conditions, the current drought might well be considered the harbinger of droughts to come.

Second, increased reliance on groundwater has been an important mechanism by which California coped with past droughts. However, the groundwater resources of the state are displaying clear signs of unsustainability. Over the past 150 years, agricultural and domestic extraction has caused water table depths to fall by 100 or so feet in some instances, and the deep aquifer water level to decline by even greater depths in parts of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. In some places the land surface itself has subsided by more than 20 feet. The current drought has led to increased demands on groundwater in regions such as the San Joaquin Valley, where more than 2,400 well permits were issued in 2013 as the drought hit home.

Analysis of such trends and new groundwater storage data collected by NASA’s GRACE satellite has led NASA hydrologist Jay Famiglietti to suggest that the collapse of the San Joaquin groundwater reserves may be only decades away. In 2014, more than 1,400 domestic water supply problems largely related to groundwater were reported in California, with more than half in the San Joaquin Valley. Going forward this century, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to experience high degrees of warming, and this will greatly increase agricultural water demands in the region. The strategy of drought relief through increased exploitation of groundwater here and elsewhere in the state has reached its limits.

The third concern is the Colorado River. The Colorado is the largest single source of water for Southern California, but it is primarily fed by precipitation from far-away sources in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The Colorado water has served to mitigate the effects of local droughts. Each year, 16.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water is apportioned to the states of the Colorado Basin and Mexico. California has been allotted the largest share of the river’s water, some 4.4 million acre-feet each year. Prior to 2004, California was able to lay claim to additional “surplus” waters that could total 1 million acre-feet or more of additional water annually.

Now, several challenges confront this potential source of drought relief. The original apportionment of 15 million acre-feet was devised in the 1920s based on an estimated annual discharge of 17 million acre-feet. Over the 20th century, however, the long-term average discharge of the river has only been 15 million acre-feet. The drought lifeline afforded by the Colorado River is further shrinking as the climate warms. Thus, there is a systemic over-allocation of the water, and in 2003 California agreed to wean itself down to no more than a 4.4 million acre-feet allocation.

Like most of the Southwest, the Colorado River basin has also experienced generally hot and arid conditions over the early 21st century. The flow of the Colorado River has declined and the water stored in its massive reservoir system has dropped precipitously. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., now stands at 37 percent of its maximum capacity.

The Bureau of Reclamation recently projected that by January 2017 the surface elevation of Lake Mead will have fallen to below 1,075 feet above sea level. This will invoke a federal water shortage declaration and a reduction in water appropriations to Nevada by 4.3 percent and Arizona by 11.4 percent. Although California with its senior rights will not take a cut, it is conceivable that there will be political and public pressure on California to do so. In the history of Lake Mead and the Colorado River management, there has never been a water shortage declaration.

Recent research by the Bureau of Reclamation estimates that future climate warming alone will lead to a 10 percent increase in evaporation in Lake Mead as the 21st century progresses. Like California’s groundwater, the Colorado River has been oversubscribed and the drought lifeline is further shrinking as the climate warms.

Ten years ago, my colleagues and I framed this situation as a perfect drought that affects local Southern California precipitation, extra-regional supplies from Northern California, and the external supplies from the Colorado River for periods greater than one or two years. What we are experiencing today is indeed a perfect drought. We will not be able to depend on groundwater or external water supplies to see us through future hot droughts.

Beyond that, we looked at Southern California’s perfect droughts as discrete events. Although, hydrologically, droughts are indeed discrete events, and the current one will come to a close sooner or later, this drought should focus our attention on what has changed in terms of the context in which these droughts occur. The rising temperatures will, year by year, increase the demands for water, particularly in our agricultural sector, which accounts for about 80 percent of the applied water in the state. Due to the ever-increasing rates of evaporation, each future drought will have a deeper bite than the previous one.

So, what is to be done? At the household level, we can continue to change our landscaping mix from lawns and other water-intensive plants to increased use of water-sipping native plants. At the municipal level, we can expand the use of recycled water and desalination, which will likely lead to higher water costs. Stormwater capture will also help on domestic and citywide scales.

But the big prize, of course, is agriculture. In many cases water-saving irrigation technologies have already been installed. Now, hard decisions must be made about the best crops to grow in a water-stressed environment. These options raise serious economic, rural environmental justice, and food security questions. Some gains can be realized by adding infrastructure for water capture, storage, and distribution. In some cases, though, these infrastructure strategies buck up against important environmental concerns or competing interests, such as the conflict in the Sacramento Delta between water demands of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, versus the water rights of local farmers and protection of endangered fish species.

No matter what we decide to do, we will not, as we have done in the past, be able to depend upon either groundwater or external water supplies to see us through these hot droughts of the future. Should Lake Mead fall below the turbine intakes and lowest outlets of Hoover Dam, at 895 feet in elevation — as some have predicted — the fact that California has senior water rights will be meaningless. With groundwater, we face an agricultural cataclysm if the aquifers in the San Joaquin and other parts of the state should fail.

We need to look at the situation today as representing Tomorrow’s Drought — a view into the hydrological future of California and the West. There is no question we will see similar climatological droughts over the next century. The question is: Will we have the foresight to learn all we can from the current drought and the will to put in place the changes in infrastructure, policy, and public attitudes needed to cope next time around? Whether it is dry again next winter or rains like mad, the hydrological clock is ticking toward an increasingly difficult 21st century. The time to tackle our long-term water challenges is right now.

(Glen MacDonald is the John Muir Memorial Chair in Geography and a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on climatic and environmental change and its impacts on ecosystems and humans.  This article was first published in Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.)

New Property Tax Increase Initiative Filed

property taxWhile discussion about amending Proposition 13 to reassess commercial property has heated up, especially with the introduction of SCA 5 by Senators Mitchell and Hancock, a different property tax increase measure was filed with the Attorney General’s office. “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act” is a 47-page detailed, complex plan to fund specific programs that are hoped to achieve the measure’s goal expressed in the title. Major funding for the plan is a surcharge on real property valued at over $3 million on the current tax roll.

The measure doesn’t make a distinction between commercial property and residential property. Once again there is proof that those looking for property tax increases have residential properties in their sites.

The measure would set up a number of segregated funds to achieve its goals.

Beginning in 2017-18 the measure proposes a .3% surcharge on assessed value between $3 million and $5 million; on property valued between $5 and $10 million the charge will be .6%; over $10 million the charge is scheduled at .8%. For some properties then, the base property tax will nearly double.

The surcharge is supposed to expire in 20 years. Where have we heard about temporary taxes before?

One of the authors of the measure is former Board of Equalization member Conway Collis.

How this tax increase proposal would affect other tax initiatives being discussed for next year’s ballot will surely be debated in different conferences rooms around Sacramento.

You can dive into the 47-page document here.

(Originally posted on Fox and Hounds Daily.)

Finger-pointing reveals no-fault government

From SF Chronicle:

If you have never been to Pier 14 on the Embarcadero, it is just south of the Ferry Building, and thousands of people pass by it every year on the way to the ballpark.

Pier 14 is built on top of a breakwater. The pier is built for walking, and it reaches a long way out from the shore. It is designed to open up the waterfront to the public. The gray-green bay is at your feet and the San Francisco skyline is behind you, so you feel almost as if you have sailed away. It is one of the most beautiful places in the city.

(Read Full Article)Ross Mirkarimi

Study reveals the U.S. Pension System is short by $1 Trillion

From Venture Capital Post:

The states of Illinois, Kentucky and Connecticut, according to a study by Pew Charitable Trust, have been found underfunded by at least $1 trillion.

In a report by CNN Money, pension funds were seen to suffer from two major reasons. First, the funds invested in stocks were not able to cope from the Great Depression up to now. Second, the pension programs that promise retirees a calculated amount of benefits have required contributions that some states fail to maintain.

(Read Full Article)public sector pension union

Reform Needed for CEQA: California’s Environmental Quibbling Act

20111204 California sinkThe California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970. CEQA requires extensive study and mitigations (corrections) of environmental impacts for both public and private development projects. This is typically a rather lengthy and costly process, which significantly increases the cost of housing and infrastructure in the state. California is one of just three states to subject private and public development to such strict scrutiny.

Almost anyone can file a CEQA lawsuit against any new development EIR (Environmental Impact Report) they dislike. Plaintiffs win half of the lawsuits they file, and when they lose they do not pay the defendants’ legal fees. Whereas, plaintiffs get their legal fees paid by losing defendants. Petty, obsessional, partisan, arbitrary, capricious, myopic, sentimental, litigious, narcissistic, non-scientific and radical-green eco-group motivations too often prevail in CEQA issues. And, project delays and expenses only accumulate as planning agency and environmental groups pile on precedent, yet gratuitous, mitigation measures.

Homebuilders are forced to hire expensive unionized labor to ward off union bosses’ threats of spurious CEQA lawsuits. Business competition has shops and gas stations filing CEQA lawsuits to prevent competitors from building in their business territory. Residential subdivision EIRs may take five years in processing, be more than 300 pages long, and cost as much as half a million more dollars.

Not all interests are equal under CEQA laws. And, special interests have used CEQA to serve their special interests, which have nothing to do with environmental protections. Militant labor unions hold projects hostage through CEQA lawsuits — demanding concessions such as the imposition of project labor agreements mandating the use of union labor that only drives up construction costs. Businesses use CEQA to keep out potential competitors, and local governments and neighborhood groups use the law as leverage to compel developers to build additional facilities or features on their wish lists. Such abuses of CEQA have been dubbed “greenmail.” (PE.com, July 2, 2015)

The CEQA EIR process has become a government-sanctioned playground for trivial lawsuits, environmentalist exploitation, political patronage and pageantry. CEQA has been amended hundreds of times, mostly by partisan “green” special interests. Sadly, reform of CEQA with more objective and rational provisions has not succeeded.

(Originally posted on CityWatch LA.)

Why Crime Is Up in Los Angeles

police-badgeThe Los Angeles Times reported this week that crime is on the rise in the City of Angels after a 12-year decline. “Crime surged across Los Angeles in the first six months of this year,” the story begins, “despite a campaign by the Los Angeles Police Department to place more officers on the streets and target certain types of offenses.” The only mystery about L.A.’s recent crime spike is why anyone finds it a mystery.

Civic leaders have been at pains to explain the reversal. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck have blamed a rise in gang violence and homelessness, along with voter approval in November of Proposition 47, which made many “nonviolent” felonies into misdemeanors. All of these have contributed to the increase, but conspicuously missing from their list is a factor both Mayor Garcetti and Chief Beck are surely aware of but are unlikely to address, at least publicly: officer morale in the LAPD is abysmal.

The death of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Missouri, touched off a national wave of anti-police hysteria. This despite the fact that every investigative body that examined the case—including the U.S. Justice Department under Eric Holder—concluded that Darren Wilson, the police officer who tried to detain Brown and a companion as they walked down a Ferguson street, acted in self-defense and well within the law when he shot and killed Brown. Wilson was nonetheless hounded from his job and forced into hiding as the “Hands up, don’t shoot” myth was propagated in the media and exploited by the anti-police industry.

The message was not lost on LAPD officers, who came to realize that, like Wilson, they were just one controversial incident away from potential ruin. Two officers in Los Angeles are currently waiting to learn their fate after their involvement in a shooting that occurred just two days after Brown was killed. Though the incident was not as widely covered as the Brown shooting, the police killing of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old black man, sparked protests in Los Angeles and brought calls for the involved officers to be fired and imprisoned. To his credit, Chief Beck defied the mob and ruled that the shooting was justified, as forensic evidence proved that Ford had tried to disarm one of the officers as they wrestled on a South Los Angeles sidewalk.

But the laws governing the LAPD are such that the chief doesn’t have the last word on shootings. All he can do is make a recommendation to the five-member police commission—all mayoral appointees—and they come to their own conclusions. In a ruling that was stunning for its legal distortions and intellectual contortions, the commission ruled that one of the officers was justified in shooting Ford but the other was not. And now, almost a year after the incident, both officers are still awaiting a decision by the Los Angeles County district attorney on whether they will face criminal charges.

The rise in crime is easily explainable if you proceed from the assumption that police officers and criminals are rational actors who constantly evaluate the risk-reward ratio of any decisions they make. For the criminals of Los Angeles, a good deal of risk has been removed from their calculations, especially now that so many felony property- and drug-related crimes are misdemeanors and the state’s 2011 “realignment” law has achieved its intended goal of easing overcrowding in the state’s prisons. The result has been fewer criminals behind bars and more on the streets without much in the way of a deterrent under the law.

And not only do L.A.’s criminals face lesser penalties if they are arrested, they know that the city’s police officers are less inclined to arrest them in the first place. For the police officers’ part, they’ve seen only an increase in the risks they face. And in this I’m not referring to the risks to their mortal hides posed by some knife- or gun-wielding thug. Police officers, at least those who choose to work the streets, prepare themselves physically and mentally for these challenges. But while a police officer may keep himself physically fit and practice his marksmanship, there is no amount of training that can prepare him for the dangers that emanate from City Hall, the district attorney’s office, or the Justice Department if he should become involved in some controversial incident that has the mob calling for his head on a pike.

Until Mayor Garcetti and Chief Beck are prepared to defend their police officers from the mob, expect crime in Los Angeles to continue to rise.

(Jack Dunphy (@officerdunphy) is the pseudonym of a police officer in Southern California. Originally posted on City Journal.)

State & Feds Must Address Transportation Funding Crisis

The Federal Highway Trust Fund will expire on July 31 and California’s highways are falling apart. The businesses and residents of California are angry and frustrated by the lack of focus on transportation at both the State and Federal level. Tax revenue is growing in Washington DC and Sacramento but none of that new revenue is going to transportation.

california roads infrastructureTransportation funding at both the State and Federal level is largely dependent on a per gallon gasoline tax that has been stagnant for years because the tax per gallon has not been increased at the State or Federal level for decades and the development of more fuel efficient cars has lowered the per mile revenue from every vehicle on the road. This has been welcome news for drivers and a major blow to the funding needed to maintain the quality of our transportation infrastructure. 

Governor Brown has called a special session on transportation funding and the first hearing was held on June 2. It makes sense for the state to use some of its new general fund revenue for transportation improvements and to add to that funding pool an increase in other revenue sources that are directly related to the drivers that use our streets and highways.

In Congress, the Senate has made some progress on a bi-partisan bill to authorize a new Surface Transportation bill, but revenue to grow the Highway Trust Fund was not part of the proposal. The House has been less aggressive and seems content to vote for another five month extension.

Funding for transportation infrastructure is not an easy problem to solve, but it must be addressed if America is to efficiently move its people and products. Both our quality of life and our economy are at risk. Yes, it will cost money. Money that I believe businesses and residents are willing to pay if they see results in the quality and efficiency of their transportation networks.

Building a transportation network that meets the needs of a growing economy and the challenges of an aging infrastructure requires money and each of us must be prepared to pay for a portion of that cost. We also have the right to demand that more of the tax dollars we are already paying should be earmarked for transportation. I hope you will join me in sending that message to Congress and to our State Legislature. Traffic and potholes are not getting better as we wait.

(Originally posted on Fox and Hounds Daily.)