California’s Boondoggle Archipelago

Across California, there is a growing string of islands, exquisite gems in the urban ocean. Dredged from the pockets of taxpayers, constructed by elite artisans, these pristine islands have been created at stupefying expense. But their beauty is seductive. Spend more!

Each time an island is completed, or even proposed, glowing reports are logged across the land. So fortunate are those who shall live on these islands! So wonderful are those who shall build these islands, and care for their inhabitants! What a magnificent, marvelous thing we have done!

Or have we? From deep within the ocean a seismic wave is building, triggered by reality and propelled by common sense. Because these islands, more properly referred to as homeless shelters, supportive housing, and “low income housing,” are far too small, and far too precious, to ever, ever accommodate every castaway that needs a roof over their heads. They will never offer the required land mass to solve the problem. Instead, history shall know them as California’s Boondoggle Archipelago.

The builders of the Boondoggle Archipelago hide behind laws they won’t try to change, and behind court rulings they won’t challenge, and happily follow the rules. Happily, because the rules are rigged to ensure that the vast majority of California’s homeless and low-income families shall remain forever adrift, and so long as there are castaways, there’s money for the builders.

A short cruise across the urban ocean from north to south, visiting various typical islands in California’s Boondoggle Archipelago, should offer ample evidence that no amount of money will ever solve the problem, and therefore billions and billions of dollars, year after year, shall continue to line the pockets of the builders.

In Oakland, the “Estrella Vista” project, at a cost of $64 million, offered 87 units of affordable housing. That’s $736,000 per unit. An analysis of the project costs debunks the misleading notion that the only public money invested in these units came from Alameda County’s Measure A1, passed in 2016 to allocate $580 million to “affordable housing.”

While Alameda County’s Measure A1 Bond only contributed 3 percent to the cost of Estrella Vista, matching loans from the City of Emeryville (7.2%), the City of Oakland (3.2%), plus other federal and state sources (17.6%) constituted much of the remainder. The biggest source of funds, “LIHTC Equity,” at 42.9 percent, bears further explanation.

LIHTC stands for “Low-Income Housing Tax Credit,” and these tax credits, which can be bought, sold, and traded, represent a one-to-one reduction of a corporate tax bill. They are not a tax deduction, they are a tax credit, meaning that for any profitable corporation that pays taxes, their face value is equivalent to that same amount of cash in the bank. Who pays for tax credits? Taxpayers, since whenever taxes are avoided in one place, the resulting shortfall in tax revenues has to be covered by other taxpayers.

This is typical.

San Jose’s Measure A, approved by voters in 2016, allocated $950 million to construct affordable housing. Supposedly this beast of a bond will fund the construction of 4,800 units of affordable housing. That would come out to a supposedly reasonable average per unit cost of $198,000 (“supposedly reasonable,” because the national average cost to construct an apartment unit is only around $75,000). But not so fast. Courtesy of the County of Santa Clara Office of Supportive Housing, let’s examine this island chain.

The “Veranda” will offer 19 units at a total development cost of $11.9 million; that’s $626,000 per unit. The “Villas on the Park,” 84 units for $476,000 per unit. The “Gateway,” 75 units for $406,000 per unit. The “Crossings,” 39 units for $586,000 per unit. “Quetzal Gardens,” $706,000 per unit. “Leigh Avenue,” $780,000 per unit. Wading through the 15 new housing projects that have disclosed funding details, San Jose’s Measure A is part of a larger funding package – nearly all of the money coming from taxpayers – that will construct 1,357 units at a cost of $748 million. That’s $552,000 per unit.

On November 5th, San Franciscans approved Prop. A, which means their home owners will be paying principal and interest on another $600 million to build “affordable” housing. A careful review of the actual text of the ordinance indicates this money may not actually construct a single unit of new housing. Instead, the terms of this bond could be fulfilled merely by rehabilitating existing housing.

An October 7th, 2019 report in the San Jose Mercury offers a vivid example what “rehabilitation” accomplishes in the real world. The article describes how an apartment building in Antioch was converted to affordable housing, but when the renovations were completed, the tenants actually ended up paying more in monthly rent. To stay in their homes, they had to win the subsidies lottery, and rely on ongoing government assistance. Most moved out, replaced by the lucky few.

How is this helping anyone?

Rehabilitation of existing units brings us to our first island in the southern seas of California’s Boondoggle Archipelago. On October 24, Curbed LA reported that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to provide an additional $24 million in homeless housing bonds to “repurpose a building on the Veterans Affairs campus in West Los Angeles for housing for veterans.” According to the article, the rehabilitated building would provide 59 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless and chronically homeless senior Veterans.

According to Ryan Thompson, writing for, the developer’s budget for this rehab project is $54.6 million, which equates to a per unit cost of $926,000. In his write-up, Thompson not only questions the astronomical per unit price tag, but the entire process whereby these contracts were awarded and how the designated developers were selected. It warrants close reading.

Political patronage to the well connected builders who are generous with their campaign donations. Nonprofits exploiting their tax exempt status and hiding behind their benevolent public image while they rake in hundreds of millions. Endlessly growing flotillas of public bureaucrats. A lottery to anoint the lucky occupants of the few, but spectacularly expensive, island refuges. Market rate builders setting sail for new, more competitive oceans, far, far away. Millions of castaways remaining adrift in the urban ocean. These are the consequences of the Boondoggle Archipelago.

Spending up to one million dollars per unit to not even create new housing, but to upgrade an existing structure, is not an outlier. These astronomical costs are common. In Venice Beach, a new structure being proposed to accommodate homeless and low income residents is budgeted, including the value of the land, at over $200 million, in order to create 140 new apartment units. That’s a cost of $1.4 million per unit.

In order to assist the homeless, in 2016, Los Angeles voters approved Prop. HHH, authorizing $1.2 billion to construct “supportive housing.” As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the total project cost, on average, for the few thousand units that will eventually get built is $550,000 each.

What’s really going on here? Are the builders who take taxpayer money to build these island paradises smooth sailors or brazen pirates? And with tens of thousands of homeless and literally millions of “low income” Californians, who do they think they’re kidding? After all, at a price tag of $500,000 each, and evidence suggests that is on the low side, it would cost $65 billion just to house California’s existing homeless. It would cost orders of magnitude more than that to build “affordable housing” for all of California’s qualifying low income families. And are these actually island paradises, or state administered wards?

The most evocative use of the word “archipelago” in the 20th century was not used in a benign context. It was “The Gulag Archipelago,” the title of a book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn that called the world’s attention to the network of prisons and labor camps that absorbed millions of Russians during the Soviet era. And during the second half of the 20th century when Solzhenitsyn was writing his book, across America we built our first Boondoggle Archipelago – housing projects. They were built, they were occupied, they demonstrably failed to alleviate poverty in the inner city, and now they’re being demolished.

What did we learn? Apparently, all we learned was spend moreDo it again.

The Boondoggle Archipelago is defined primarily by the corrupt patronage it exemplifies. But it’s worth stepping back and asking the question – are we not only wasting hundreds of billions of taxpayers money, but also condemning hundreds of thousands of Californians to dependency?

If the builders and supporters of the Boondoggle Archipelago are sincere in their desire to help the homeless and the needy, they would first try the following solutions: Overturn the court settlements that prevent arrests for vagrancy, and repeal Prop. 47 so users of hard drugs and petty thieves will again face jail time after repeat offenses. Do that, and see how many “urban refugees” suddenly find shelter again with their relatives or their friends.

Then construct tent cities, taking advantage of the knowledge the U.S. Military has gained in setting up these compounds all over the world. Round up the homeless and put them into the appropriate facility – one type for substance abusers, one for petty thieves and other minor offenders, one for mentally ill, and one for families and individuals who are genuinely down on their luck. Over time, if appropriate, move these people into better shelters – but put a cap on the costs.

At the same time, to make housing affordable for low income Californians, end the environmentalist war on land development. Repeal the California Environmental Quality Act, since federal law provides ample protection. Repeal SB 375 and similar laws that have made it nearly impossible to develop open land. Start using public money to build more enabling infrastructure. Quit forcing developers to spend more money preparing permit applications and paying fees than they spend in actual construction. Then turn private investors loose to again build market housing at affordable prices. Today, developers either turn crony, or move to other states. They have no choice. The laws are rigged.

Or just stay the course on the urban seas, filling your drift nets with billions in taxpayer cash.

California’s policymakers, state and local alike, can keep throwing money into the Boondoggle Archipelago. But recognize what these facilities really are. They’re housing projects; a failed model.  When people are drowning, you don’t build them an island. It takes too long. It costs too much. You throw them a life preserver.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe

Supreme Court Strikes Down California’s Trump Tax Return Law

Many constitutional law experts, former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Republican Party are now all officially entitled to say, “I told you so.”

This week the California Supreme Court unanimously struck down a new state law that would have required presidential candidates to publicly disclose their tax returns before appearing on the primary ballot.

Passed by the supermajority of Democrats in California’s Legislature and signed by new Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, the law was the statutory embodiment of California’s place at the front of the anti-Trump “Resistance.” It was a blatant dig at the GOP president — and one that generated plenty of national media attention.

But to some constitutional law scholars, the law was also obviously unconstitutional. Gov. Brown shared those concerns when he vetoed identical legislation in 2017.

Trump declined to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign, breaking with a precedent set in 1976 by President Jimmy Carter following the Watergate scandal.

“First, it may not be constitutional,” Brown wrote in his veto message at the time. “Second, it sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?”

All seven justices of California’s Supreme Court were similarly persuaded.

“The Legislature may well be correct that a presidential candidate’s income tax returns could provide California voters with important information,” wrote Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee. But, she added, the state constitution makes clear “it is the voters who must decide” whether a presidential candidate’s refusal “to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”

The chief justice is a former Republican who told CalMatters last year that she had left the GOP and switched her voter registration to no party preference — citing her increasing discomfort with the direction of the Republican Party.

The ruling was predicted by many who watched the expedited hearing the court held on the case earlier this month.

At that hearing, Justice Ming Chin, one of four Brown appointees, wondered whether California’s tax return ballot rule might encourage state legislators to saddle would-be candidates with “a laundry list of potential requirements.”

In response to today’s ruling, the Secretary of State’s office announced that they would be dropping their case in federal court as well. Last month, a district court judge put enforcement of the law on hold, writing in his opinion that while he empathized with the “motivations” of lawmakers who passed the bill into law, “the Act’s provisions likely violate the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”

The U.S. Constitution sets forth a very limited list of qualifications for those hoping to be president: a candidate must be a natural-born citizen over the age of 35 who has lived in the United States for at least 14 years. For decades the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states can set “procedural” requirements about where, when and how elections can take place, but have been otherwise averse to adding to that list of requirements.

Past attempts by states to impose term-limit requirements on people running for Congress or to require candidates to list their race on the ballot have been struck down.

The lead plaintiff in the California case, state Republican Party chair Jessica Patterson, celebrated victory this morning. “We are pleased that the courts saw through the Democrats’ petty partisan maneuvers and saw this law for what it is — an unconstitutional attempt to suppress Republican voter turnout,” she said in a statement.

Just to be on the safe side, Republicans had prepared a back-up plan in case they lost the court case — passing an internal rule allowing the party to choose its nominee at a special state party convention in lieu of the state primary election.

Supporters of the law argued that publishing one’s tax returns was just another administrative step, akin to a signature-gathering requirement or paying a filing fee.

“These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence,” Newsom said when he signed the requirement into law. “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest. The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.

And some constitutional experts were on the Democrats’ side, among them Berkeley Law’s Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who rejected the criticism that the law served to keep Trump off the California ballot.

“It does not keep any candidate from being on the ballot so long as he or she complies with a simple requirement that is meant to provide California voters crucial information,” Chemerinsky said. “This is the state acting to make sure that its voters have information that might be very important to them when they cast their ballots as to who they want to be President of the United States.”

Nonetheless, the ruling in California’s highest court cannot be appealed, meaning the state legal battle pursued by the Republican Party is now over.

California lawmakers have a track record of supporting bills of dubious legality but irresistible progressive political appeal.

As CalMatters reported last month, the Legislature passed a 2015 law forcing anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide their clients with information about free or low-cost abortion services. The law was eventually struck down as a clear violation of the First Amendment and the state was required to fork over $2 million to cover the legal cost of its ideological foes — a boon to the very anti-abortion forces the state was seeking to hamper.

State taxpayers have also had to foot the bill for defending California against challenges to other laws on dubious legal ground, including one that sought to prevent websites like from publishing the ages of actors.

Ben Christopher is a contributing writer for CALmatters.

San Francisco’s Poop Problem Is Worsening

There has been an increase in the number of complaints about feces in the streets of San Francisco lately, according to city data obtained by rental site RentHop.

RentHop found using public data from the city’s website where people can complain to the city about reports of human and animal waste that the city has received more than 25,000 complaints about fecal matter between January and November of this year.

“Its a serious public health concern. Its a public relations concern when you have a city that’s driven by tourism and conventions and visitors from all over the world. Its frankly embarrassing,” one San Francisco resident told KRON.

According to RentHop, the city’s 311 reporting system for human and animal waste complaints received 28,315 complaints about feces in 2018— up 35 percent from 2017. …

Click here to read the full article from

California Taxes, Over-Regulation Force 1,800 Businesses To Relocate

Leaving CaliforniaCalifornia – notorious for high taxes and a stifling regulatory environment – reportedly saw 1,800 businesses either relocate or disinvest from the state in 2016.

Business relocation consultant Joe Vranich wrote concerning the results of a new study he authored that he is advising clients “to leave the business-hostile state because its business climate continues to worsen,” according to Investors Business Daily.

Vranich, president of Spectrum Location Solutions LLC, noted that the 1,800 “disinvestment events” that occurred in 2016 were the most since 2008.

Additionally, 13,000 companies left the state during that nine-year period.

“Departures are understandable when year after year CEOs nationwide surveyed by Chief Executive Magazine have declared California the worst state in which to do business,” Vranich said.

“The top reason to leave the state no longer is high taxes,” he said. “The legal climate has become so difficult that companies should consider locating in jurisdictions where they will be treated fairly.”

One business regulation Vranich cited was California’s new Immigrant Worker Protection Act, which fines companies for following federal immigration law.

The consultant pointed out the law creates a dilemma for business owners: face fines either from the state or from the federal government.

“Think about it. California may penalize someone in business who is a legal citizen operating a legal business that is in compliance with every federal, state and local law, who pays state and local taxes, and who creates employment – and all that counts for nothing in the state’s eyes,” Vranich said. “Signs are that California politicians’ contempt for business will persist.”

Vranich argued that it’s not just this new law, it’s the plethora of other laws and regulations California businesses must comply with and the concern of what may be coming down the line.

The American Tort Reform Foundation said California is among the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellholes” for businesses.

According to the Vranich, three previous California governors – Gray Davis, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian – have cited earlier versions of his business climate study to raise awareness of why companies are leaving the Golden State.

The top states where businesses are relocating, ranked in order, are: Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Virginia.

The top 10 urban areas gaining from the California exodus are Austin, Texas; Reno, Nevada; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Seattle; Dallas; Portland, Oregon; Denver; San Antonio; and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Among the businesses that have left the state in recent years are Toyota, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron, Nestle USA, Carl’s Jr., Jamba Juice and Numira Biosciences, according to Chief Executive Magazine.

There was a net outflow of approximately 143,000 Californians leaving in 2016 over people moving in from other states, based on numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The only reason the state’s population is not decreasing overall is due to the 100,000-plus people per year immigrating into California from other countries and the birth rate exceeding the death rate in the state.

In addition to business regulations driving people from the state, The Sacramento Bee reported that California lawmakers are concerned about the wealthiest residents fleeing due to high taxes.

California has the highest top income tax bracket in the nation at 13.3 percent, and its treasury receives a disproportionate 44 percent of income tax revenues from the top 1 percent of wage earners.

Vranich said he is glad he took his own advice and moved his business from California to the Pittsburgh suburb of Cranberry Township.

“I moved for three reasons — taxes, regulations and quality-of-life,” he said. “First, I’ll have greater freedom in my business now that I’m free of California’s notorious regulatory environment and threats of frivolous lawsuits that hurt small businesses like mine.”

“Finally, we are enjoying a superior qualify-of-life here. We bought a house larger than what we had in California for about half the cost. We can afford to engage in more activities because the cost-of-living in Cranberry Township is 44 percent lower than in Irvine.”

This article was originally published by Western Journalism

Hunger has gotten worse in San Francisco despite $48 million spent

Homeless hungry food“Food is a basic human right.” That was part of a resolution passed in 2013 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which pledged to end hunger in the city by 2020.

Five years later, food insecurity has only gotten worse in San Francisco, according to a 200-page report released by the city’s Food Security Task Force Thursday. The city has increased spending on nutrition programs by $48 million in that time period; yet the extra meals and groceries are still not enough to meet the needs of the estimated 227,000 San Franciscans who are at high risk of food insecurity, according to the report.

Chronicling statistics district by district, the report finds food insecurity especially acute among pregnant women, low-income families with children, seniors, people with disabilities and those in insecure housing. While the escalated cost of housing is the biggest reason for the increase, the issue overall is extremely complex, said Paula Jones, an author of the report and director of food security at the S.F. Department of Public Health. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Vaping in Danger in California if These Bills Pass in 2019

vaping 2California lawmakers on both the left and the right are working up plans to restrict vaping in the coming year, citing their worries that flavored tobacco in e-cigarettes entices too many young people to take up a potentially harmful habit.

Two proposals, Senate Bills 38 and 39, would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products in the state and require e-cigarette vendors to deliver their products in “conspicuously marked” containers and only with the signature of a person 21 or older.

The pending bills would not affect the sale of unflavored e-cigarette products. SB 38 defines flavored tobacco as “any tobacco product that contains a constituent that imparts a characterizing flavor.”

In the Assembly, AB 131 would prohibit e-cigarette manufacturers from advertising or promoting products that appeal to children, such as ts using cartoons. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Tom Steyer Very Likely to Make 2020 Presidential Run

Tom SteyerSignaling he’s very likely to run for president, Bay Area hedge fund billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer has begun searching for key aides to help him as he seeks the 2020 Democratic nomination.

A recent Linked-In ad was traced by the New York Times to Steyer’s nascent campaign. ”A high profile political campaign based on the West Coast is seeking highly skilled political professionals to join our national campaign team,” it said. The ad sought state directors for New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – the next three primary and caucus states after Iowa kicks off the nomination process with caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020. A Steyer aide confirmed to the Times that he was responsible for the posting.

Steyer, 60, a former Yale soccer team captain who became a Californian after enrolling at the Stanford graduate business school, had a relatively low-key role in state and national politics until 2012. That’s when he handed over many of his financial responsibilities and began aggressively advocating for bolder environmental programs, among other causes.

‘Need to Impeach’ campaign raises national profile

This year, Steyer’s national profile has shot up after he spent at least $40 million on a “Need to Impeach” cable and online campaign in which he stars in advertisements criticizing the conduct of President Donald Trump. The campaign has gathered more than 6 million signatures in an online petition urging Congress to remove the Republican Trump.

Steyer could be competing for the nomination against as many as three other California Democrats: Sen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rep. Eric Swalwell of the East Bay area near San Francisco.

Harris has by far the highest national profile of the three, having won headlines as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In online prediction markets, Harris, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have all been the leader to win the nomination at various points over the past two months.

Harris 5th in first CNN survey of Iowa Democrats

Harris didn’t fare as well in the first CNN/Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Democrats released over the weekend. Former Vice President Joe Biden led with 32 percent, Sanders was next with 19 percent, O’Rourke had 11 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had 8 percent, with Harris in fifth at 5 percent.

But the former San Francisco district attorney can take solace in two facts. The first is that polls before the Iowa caucuses have a history of swinging wildly, and there is still more than 13 months until voting. The second is that African American candidates tend to do better in more diverse states than Iowa, which is 91 percent white.

While Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the 2008 caucuses with 38 percent of the vote, that was among his 10 worst showings in primaries and caucuses as he went on to win the nomination. In 1988, civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson got8.8 percent of the Iowa caucus vote versus the 29.4 percent he got in the overall Democratic nomination process as the runner-up to the nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Jackson only fared worse in two other states.

In the Register-CNN poll, Steyer and Swalwell got 1 percent each. Garcetti was at 0 percent, receiving the fewest votes of any of the 20 listed Democratic candidates.

This article was originally published by

Political Corruption Grabbing Headlines in L.A.

Jose HuizarAfter a brief lull in 2017, there’s now another embarrassing chapter in Los Angeles County’s emergence as an epicenter of American political corruption.

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has been stripped of all his council committee assignments after having his home and office raided by the FBI earlier this month. Law enforcement authorities have been tight-lipped about their probe so far, but speculation has focused on Huizar’s close relationships with developers and his now-former role as chair of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which reviews all large development projects that come before the City Council.

It’s the second time in six months that the city’s planning approval process has faced criminal scrutiny. In June, it was revealed that the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office was investigating the city Department of Building and Safety over allegations of “unauthorized purchases, falsified invoices and $24,900 in payments to a consulting company that did not exist,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Five members of the department’s technology office have resigned or retired, including the division’s chief, Giovani Dacumos, who was named in most of the allegations.

Huizar replaced Antonio Villaraigosa as the 14th District’s councilman in a 2005 special election after Villaraigosa became mayor. The district includes most of downtown Los Angeles as well as Boyle Heights, Highland Park and Eagle Rock.

The first Mexican immigrant elected to the City Council, Huizar has repeatedly won re-election easily. But his political standing has taken several hits this fall. Besides the FBI raid, two former staffers have sued him, saying they faced retaliation when complaining about Huizar favoring an aide he was allegedly having an affair with as well as requiring them to do personal favors like picking up his dry cleaning or moving his wife’s car so it wouldn’t be ticketed. Huizar had previously admitted to having an affair with an aide in 2013, but he was cleared in a related sexual harassment lawsuit.

Misconduct at 10 cities and water district since 2006

Huizar joins a long list of officials – mostly Democrats – who have faced serious accusations of wrongdoing in Los Angeles County since 2006. A 2016 overview by CalWatchdog found 21 officials with 10 cities and a water agency had been targeted by law enforcement over that span.

The list: Bell, Carson, Central Basin Municipal Water District, Commerce, Cudahy, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, South El Monte, South Gate and Vernon.

The range of offenses ranged from outrageous – the Bell city manager and City Council looting the city treasury of tens of millions of dollars – to the mundane – council members using city government credit cards at strip clubs and for party weekends in Las Vegas.

The main theory about why the county has so much corruption has to do with the inability of watchdogs to keep track of public officials’ wrongdoing, especially with many local newspapers disappearing. There are 88 incorporated cities and more than 500 government agencies and special districts in the county’s 4,083 square miles.

Study says Chicago only region with more convictions

This has led to the argument that the corruption is no surprise given that Los Angeles County is the most populous in the country. But a 2012 University of Illinois study of all federal corruption convictions since 1976 found the L.A. region was ninth in per-capita rates of corruption convictions – meaning they were far more common than in most metro areas. L.A. was second to Chicago in total convictions.

Bill Boyarsky, a veteran journalist who served on the city of Los Angeles’ ethics committee, told Southern California Public Radio in 2012 that he was unsurprised by the findings.

“There’s always been a long, long history of corruption and bending the law in the Southland,” he said. “This area is so vast [and] there’s so much going on that the corruption hasn’t been shown-up yet.”

This article was originally published by

Gov-Elect Gavin Newsom faces pressure to cut $77 billion high-speed rail

Gov. Jerry Brown, Anne GustA new state audit raises questions about flaws in California’s $77 billion high-speed rail project, adding pressure on Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom to consider cutting back the construction of the train or make other major changes.

The independent audit is the key focus of a Joint Legislative Audit Committee oversight hearing planned for Thursday in Sacramento, where top officials from the California High-Speed Rail Authority are expected to be questioned by lawmakers.

According to the audit, the state risks having to pay back as much as $3.5 billion in federal funds on the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles project.

“Whatever fantasy the next governor has in mind, he has to deal with a huge multibillion-dollar shortfall between getting anything between Central California and Silicon Valley that is high speed,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno and longtime critic of the bullet-train project who pushed for the audit. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Elon Musk’s “Loop” Faces Trouble While the Bullet Train Rolls On

Hyperloop 1Call this a tale of two transit systems.

There is Elon Musk’s electric-powered platforms or skates called the Loop designed to shoot cars or mass transit vehicles holding up to 16 people through tunnels at 150 miles per hour throughout Los Angeles. Yet, a crucial piece of the network through the agonizingly crowded 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass was scuttled because of a lawsuit dealing with state environmental laws. Then there is the state’s high-speed rail project that marches forward despite numerous environmental lawsuits and funding issues.

Whether Musk’s transit system would work as described is not proven. Maybe it will run into some of the same hurdles as the high-speed rail—cost overruns, skepticism that the train can reach both its passenger goals and promised speeds.

Yet, environmental laws disrupted the Musk project but have not knocked out the bullet train.

Make no mistake, we are told both projects are designed to help the environment. The bullet train will take travelers out of their automobiles while the Musk transit system is moving vehicles around faster so they are not idling, spewing pollutants.

The Loop fell victim to a state environmental law that says infrastructure projects cannot be approved in a piecemeal fashion. Musk had sought avoidance of environmental review on what he called a stand-alone project but a couple of neighborhood associations representing areas near Sepulveda Boulevard on the west side of Los Angeles sued. Musk settled the lawsuit and put aside the tunneling project. His Boring Company has other tunneling projects in the LA area in the works, including one to run from Union Station to Dodger Stadium.

In the meantime, the high-speed rail is facing up to seven lawsuits but has not yet been “de-railed” by any of them.

The train authority also must deal with a recent audit of the project by the state auditor critical of cost overruns and building delays.

Today in Sacramento, California High Speed Rail Authority leaders will respond to the audit before a hearing of the Assembly Transportation and Joint Legislative Audit Committees.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno who called for the audit plans to examine the authority on a number of issues raised in the audit including whether contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars were properly fulfilled; and whether the authority will complete it initial 119-mile segment of the track by December 2020 so as to avoid the loss of $3.5 billion in federal funds.

Despite the audit and the lawsuits based on environmental concerns, the high-speed rail moves on. However, an environmental laws disrupt the potentially more effective Loop plan dealing with the environment.

It helps to have a powerful advocate on the side of the bullet train. How the bullet train fares with Governor Jerry Brown letting go the reins of power is interesting to contemplate.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily