UC Borrows $2.7 billion (plus interest) to fund pension debt

The University of California system pension system, separate from CalSTRS and CalPRS, is broke—worse then broke, it needs to borrow money to keep the doors open. Yet the Board of Regents have no plan for reform, no plan to convert to a 401 (k), no plan to have professors and those covered pay more. This is unsustainable, yet no sense of urgency—they take the easy way out by borrowing $2.7 billion. What will be needed next year and how do they pay this off, with interest?

“To help close the funding gap, UC borrowed $1.1 billion from its own Short-Term Investment Pool in 2011 and $937 million from external sources. The $700 million loan approved last week is from the short-term pool.

“This will enable us to keep the employer contributions at 14 percent (of pay), which has been a huge drain on the campus and medical center operating budgets,” Nathan Brostrom, UC executive vice president, told the regents.”

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

UC borrows $2.7 billion to fund pension debt

Ed Mendel, CalPensions, 7/21/14

UC regents last week approved borrowing another $700 million internally to help close a pension funding gap, bringing the total borrowed to $2.7 billion in a pension bond-like strategy with risks or rewards, depending on investment earnings.

Five years ago University of California employers and employees were paying nothing into the pension system. In a remarkable contribution “holiday” that began in 1990, payments into the system dropped to zero and stayed there for two decades.

After restarting in 2010, the employer contribution to the UC Retirement Plan increased from 12 to 14 percent of pay this month and most employee contributions increased from 6.5 to 8 percent of pay, a total of nearly $2 billion a year.

But the steady increase of contributions that were once zero still falls short of closing the pension funding gap. Last year UC Retirement had only 76 percent of the actuarially projected assets needed to pay pension obligations over the next three decades.

To help close the funding gap, UC borrowed $1.1 billion from its own Short-Term Investment Pool in 2011 and $937 million from external sources. The $700 million loan approved last week is from the short-term pool.

“This will enable us to keep the employer contributions at 14 percent (of pay), which has been a huge drain on the campus and medical center operating budgets,” Nathan Brostrom, UC executive vice president, told the regents.

The original projections were that employer contributions could reach 18 percent of pay or higher. The $700 million loan intended to cap contributions at 14 percent of pay is expected to aid long-term planning and ease the budget squeeze on other programs.

Brostrom said the UC actuary, Segal, expects the loan to allow the employer contribution to remain at 14 percent of pay until 2026, when it would begin to drop, reaching about 9 percent in 2040.

The UC Retirement fund, with assets valued at about $50 billion, expects to earn an average of 7.5 percent a year, the same as the California Public Employees Retirement System. Critics say the earnings forecast is too optimistic and conceals massive debt.

In what some call arbitrage, money borrowed at a low interest rate from the UC short-term pool (which earned 1.7 percent last year) and invested in the pension fund earns a profit if the return is the expected 7.5 percent or even a little less.

Last fiscal year the UC Retirement Plan fund earned 17 percent. “So that additional 15 percent is arbitrage that goes to shore up and support the UCRP,” Brostrom told the regents.

Regent Hadi Makarechian suggested that more of the $6 billion short-term pool be shifted to the higher-yielding pension fund, if that fits into a pending debt plan. Brostrom said another loan in the future might lower the 14 percent of pay employer contribution.

“I do feel we are on a little bit of a slippery slope here,” said Regent Fred Ruiz. “I think we have to be very cautious … The market changes from year to year, and if we don’t get the returns we need to have, then we are in great trouble.”

The state made the employer contributions to UC Retirement until 1990, Brostrom said. But that stopped when the state did not want to continue payments to a retirement system with a big surplus, a funding level of 137 percent.

After a decade without contributions, and with several modest pension increases, the funding level soared even higher, peaking in 2000 during a high-tech boom at 156 percent.

Then with the natural growth of retirees and two drops in the stock market during the last decade, notably a full-blown crash in 2008, the pension funding level plunged deep into the red.

“Hypothetically, had contributions been made to UCRP during each of the prior 20 years at the Normal Cost level, UCRP would be approximately 120 percent funded today,” a UC staff report said in September 2010.

The other two state retirement systems, CalPERS and the California State Teachers Retirement System, also cut contributions (though not as dramatically as UC) and increased pension benefits when they had surpluses during the late 1990s boom.

The CalSTRS actuary, Milliman, said last year CalSTRS would have a funding level of 88 percent, instead of 67 percent, if it had continued to operate under its 1990 contribution and benefit structure without the changes made during the boom years.

Last month Gov. Brown signed legislation phasing in a $5 billion CalSTRS rate increase over seven years, mainly for school districts, that will nearly double the current $5.8 billion annual contribution from the schools, teachers and the state.

The new state budget signed by the governor last month continues to pay the employer contribution to CalPERS for the 23-campus California State University, which is $543 million this year.

UC has been trying to get the state to resume paying the employer contribution to UC retirement. The regents were told last week there is some progress, mainly signs that the state is acknowledging an obligation to make the pension payments.

In addition to restarting pension contributions, UC began giving new hires lower pensions last year. The maximum pension benefit will be delayed five years for the new hires, a change expected to cut costs by about 20 percent.

The UC Retirement Plan was not covered by the governor’s pension reform for CalPERS, CalSTRS and 20 county systems, which also began giving new hires a lower pension last year by delaying some formula steps until a worker is four years older.

With the $700 million loan, UC Retirement is projected to be 95 percent funded in 2042, up from 91 percent without the new loan. The pension loans are being paid off with a campus and medical center assessment.

The assessment for the previous loans totaling $2 billion is 0.5 percent of pay this fiscal year, projected to grow to 0.55 percent to 1 percent over the next 10 years. The new loan increases the assessment to 0.72 percent this year, 0.8 to 1.35 percent over 10 years.

The UC faculty, as represented by the Academic Senate, supports borrowing to improve pension funding. A committee chair last month recommended a $1.7 billion loan, enough to fully fund UC Retirement.

Wall Street credit rating agencies support the use of loans to fund UC pensions, said Brostrom. In a Moody’s report this month on the growing pension burden of public universities and hospitals, UC is one of three universities mentioned.

A number of local governments have issued pension obligation bonds. A Center for Investigative Reporting analysis last fall found pension bonds are not panning out so far for Richmond and Pasadena and the counties of Merced, San Bernardino and San Diego.

A study issued by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College issued in 2010 was based on $53 billion worth of taxable pension obligation bonds issued by 236 government agencies since 1986.

Most of the pension bonds issued since 1992 were in the red after the financial crisis, the study found. The issuers of pension obligation bonds often were fiscally stressed and in a poor position to handle investment risk.

“Nevertheless, it appears that POBs have the potential to be useful tools in the hands of the right government at the right time,” the study concluded. “Issuing a POB may allow well-heeled governments to gamble on the spread between interest rates and asset returns or to avoid raising taxes during a recession.”

 

Guv Brown REFUSES to Tell How Many tax Dollars Going to Hollywood Slush Fund

Want to see how politicians create a slush fund, with everybody watching, look at AB 1839. This is a bill to give Hollywood billionaires your tax dollars with the promise to create jobs in California. Why? Because other States are doing it. As a good mother would say, “if your friend jumped off a cliff would you?” The current $100 million slush fund did nothing to stop Hollywood billionaires to film and shoot in States where unions do not control the industry. Instead of giving Hollywood tax dollars, Sacramento should end the union monopoly over companies in this industry—that would more than save $100 million a year and solve a problem—at no cost to taxpayers.

But our Confused Guv Brown is a wholly owned subsidiary of the unions—they elected him in 2010. Would you vote for a bill without knowing the cost upfront—in Sacramento they do.

“Insiders say that it could go as high as $420 million annually — four times the current amount — over a five-year period, which would put the state on par with New York, and other states that have gutted California’s long-time dominance in film and TV production with generous tax breaks.”

Aerial_Hollywood_Sign

 

The $420 Million Question: How Much Will California Set Aside for TV, Film Tax Credits?

By Todd Cunningham, The Wrap, 7/22/14

The decision on a price for the bill has been delayed, in part to fend off opposition

The bill to extend and expand California’s TV and film tax credit program has sailed through its early legislative tests, but there’s a big question remaining to be resolved before it hits Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Still to be determined is just how much money will be set aside annually for the bill, which is designed to halt the bleeding as California’s TV and film production is siphoned off by other states and countries.

Insiders say that it could go as high as $420 million annually — four times the current amount — over a five-year period, which would put the state on par with New York, and other states that have gutted California’s long-time dominance in film and TV production with generous tax breaks. The exodus has cost California an estimated $410 million in state and local tax revenues, 47,600 jobs and $9.6 billion in economic output during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to a report issued by the Southern California Association of Governments in the spring.

But neither the bill’s authors — Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) — nor Gov. Brown’s office or California Film Commission officials are willing to go on record in terms of the funding for AB1839 yet.

That’s in part because once the figure is set, it could become a lightning rod for opposition, particularly if it is on the high end. Most of the opposition is expected to come from Northern California, which stands to benefit less than Hollywood and Southern California, and teachers unions, who believe the money should go to education.

It’s a tricky proposition. If the bill is under-funded, the goal of putting California on an equal footing with its rivals will be missed and a great deal of momentum will be squandered; if too high, opponents could be mobilized to fight harder against its passage and Gov. Brown could balk.

Matching or getting close to what New York and others offer is critical, according to Paul Audley, president of FilmLA, the non-profit permitting agency that tracks L.A.-area production.

“We need to send a clear signal to the film and TV businesses that California is willing to fight for this industry,” he told TheWrap. “That hasn’t been there in the past.”

California has in previous years been able to compete despite lower incentives because of some built-in advantages, including a vast network of post-production and visual effects companies and other vendors, like catering and lighting firms. Many of those companies have left to follow the exiting productions to other states however, and that’s created an economic nightmare, Audley said.

Also read: Reality TV Producers Form New York-Based Trade Association

“We need to bring back high-quality projects to California, not just for the benefits of having them here, but to help stem the tide of losing infrastructure, which is critical. Time is running out and we need to make a stand, ” Audley said.

The measure is backed by a coalition of studios,  local governments, Hollywood labor unions and small businesses. In addition to upping the amount of money, the measure is also intended to be more inclusive. Movies with budgets greater than $75 million and network programs would for the first time be eligible under the proposed bill.

While it’s aced, its early tests in the Assembly and a Senate panel — without a dollar figure attached — Gov. Brown has remained noncommittal about whether he’d support any increase in the tax credit.

“Everyone is sort of holding their breath and trying to get a sense of his tolerance for a number,” Audley said. “It’s been difficult, because he doesn’t telegraph where he’s at.”

Also read: Gov. Brown Getting the Message on California’s Film, TV Tax Credit Troubles

The last time Gov. Brown addressed the bill’s dollar figure was in January.

“We have to be careful because the desires are endless and they become needs very quickly,” he said. “There is a bit of an arms race between one state and another state. But I feel very loyal to the movie industry, and it’s part of California… We certainly want to keep as much production as we possibly can.”

The clock is ticking and while no one involved would confirm, it’s all but certain back-channel meetings between the bill’s authors, the Senate leadership and the governor’s office are under way. The target date for attaching a dollar amount is the middle of August, when the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the measure. If it comes out of that panel, the full Senate would be the next stop.

Amendments could be made on the Senate floor, but a final version of the bill will have to be approved by the end of August to be on Gov. Brown’s desk in time for approval this year.

 

Racists Oppose California Bank Buying Branches of Puerto Rican Bank

To racists, you better be a bigot, otherwise, if you buy, sell, educate, operate on the basis of price, quality and the law, you must be a racist. A California bank, from Irvine, refuses to be racist—so racist advocacy groups demand the government not allow an honest bank to buy branches from an honest bank.

I would hope the media would expose the Jesse Jackson type extortion scam at play when racist advocates demand pay offs in exchange for ending bigoted requests.

What is the concern of these racists—read between the lines—they are afraid the expanded bank will not loan money to illegal aliens (which is against the law anyway). They are demanding Banc of California break the law!!

Photo courtesy pd2020@sbcglobal.net, flickr

Photo courtesy pd2020@sbcglobal.net, flickr

Banc of California expansion opposed by advocates for minorities, low-income

by Josie Huang, KPCC, 7/22/14

Irvine-based Banc of California’s bid to acquire 20 branches from Banco Popular is facing opposition from advocates for low-income and minority communities.

Irvine-based Banc of California is making a bid to become one of the region’s largest homegrown banks, but advocates representing minorities and low-income communities are doing what they can to stop those plans.

Groups led by the California Reinvestment Coalition are asking federal regulators to deny Banc of California’s application to acquire 20 Popular Community Bank branches from Puerto Rico-based Banco Popular.

Banco Popular is getting out of the California market after years of catering to Latino and Asian clienteles in cities such as L.A., Montebello and Garden Grove. Consumer advocates are worried Banc of California will not properly serve the less affluent clients it will inherit, some of whom are immigrants who had never banked before they opened accounts at Popular Community Bank.

The coalition’s executive director Paulina Gonzalez said the bank should disclose its plan for dealing with the lower-income customers it would acquire in the merger. For example, would there be mortgages and other products geared toward them?

But the company has refused to share such a plan, telling American Banker the information is proprietary.

“We need to really be building trust and have communities that have been previously unbanked get into good banking products that are low-cost, affordable and transparent,”  said Gonzalez, who plans to lead a protest outside the Popular Community branch in L.A. Tuesday morning.

Banc of California did not respond to KPCC’s multiple requests for comment Monday. But on its website, the bank stated its commitment to meeting the needs of the underserved, and posted letters of support from community groups.

A spokesman for the regulating body — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — said he could not say much about a pending application.

Regulators do appear to be giving the application more scrutiny. The agency has added a second public comment period that started Monday and will run to Aug. 19. And it’s required the company to file a second round of public notices.

The coalition had complained that the original notices had been placed in the New York Times — which it said typical Popular Community Bank customers do not read — along with the Orange County Register. The new notices will run in the Spanish-language paper La Opinion and the Los Angeles Times.

 

Guv Rick Perry: 203,000 Illegal Aliens Break Texas Criminal Laws as Well

Illegal aliens, by definition are criminals. In Texas, they actually keep a count of the immigration status of the criminals that violate their criminal laws. In the past six years 203,000 illegal aliens were caught and arrested for 640,000 crimes—and that number is only those caught. In fact, every day illegal aliens violate our criminal laws, our immigrations laws, labor laws and more. They steal from taxpayers, they steal from workers—they also suppress wages for honest Americans.

Now will a California reporter ask our extremely confused Guv Brown how many crimes were committed by illegal aliens? Jerry, how much does this cost? How many victims of rape, murder, theft are because of illegal aliens? Importantly why is he hiding these facts from the California public? Rick Perry is being honest; Jerry Brown is being as dishonest as Barack the First. Or as Hillary would say, “Why does it matter?

perry-shooting-up

No laughing matter: Perry’s Texas jails 203,000 ‘criminal aliens’ for 640K crimes

 

By Jennifer Harper, Washington Times, 7/22/14

Numbers are always interesting in the Lone Star State, now on the front lines of its own border crisis. And it’s cost the state plenty in money, time and manpower.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has already spent $500 million trying to maintain order and security in the Rio Grand Valley. He’s ordered Texas Adjutant General John Nichols to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops on the borderlands.

Now Mr. Perry reveals a few more numbers.

The governor himself reports that in the past six years, Texas county jails have incarcerated 203,000 “criminal aliens” who have committed 640,000 crimes, including over 3,000 homicides. Such statistics may silence critics who accuse Mr. Perry of politicizing the border crisis to bolster his profile for a presidential run in 2016.

“There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government’s failure to secure our border,” Mr. Perry says. “The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America.”

Some powerful folks agree that the border issue is serious indeed.

Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, recently told Defense One, Many argue these threats are not existential and do not challenge our national security. I disagree.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sides with the top officer, who is tasked with protecting the southern border of the U.S.

“He absolutely shares that concern,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

 

Study: Forced Unionization Harms Economy—Adds $650 BILLION to Costs in One Year

What is the cost to taxpayers for government to pay bribes (with your tax dollars) for government projects and services? A study shows that nationally the cost is a minimum of $650 BILLION—money that could be used to cut taxes, and create more real jobs. That money could be used for quality education instead of union controlled education. Want people off welfare—create real jobs and stop paying premiums to keep union peace and having money stolen by unions from workers used to elect union owned elected officials.

“Over the 31-year period, nationwide total employment grew by 71 percent. RTW (Right to Work) states significantly outpaced this average, with employment growing by 105.3 percent. Non-RTW states lagged behind both, with an employment growth of only 50.0 percent,” the study says. “More jobs were created in the RTW states, despite their having much smaller initial populations and labor force.”

unions pension benefits

Study: Forced Unionization Harms Economy

Right to work laws boost income, competitiveness

BY: Bill McMorris, Washington Free Beacon, 7/18/14

Forced unionization cost the economy nearly $650 billion in 2012, according to a new study.

A state-by-state comparison of growth and employment rates found that right to work laws, which free workers from coercive unionization, boost competitiveness for local economies, as well as wages. Per capita income increases more than $13,000 per year for a family of four, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank.

The reason for the disparate growth rates, according to CEI senior fellow Aloysius Hogan, is that investment capital generally migrates to business climates that are amenable to growth. Entrepreneurs and other small businesses—the primary drivers of employment—have a higher chance of profitability and survival when they are free to control costs and negotiate with workers directly. Their success increases employment opportunities in the region.

“Right to work laws attract businesses and create more jobs and ultimately create more prosperity and wealth for individuals,” Hogan said in a phone interview with the Washington Free Beacon.

About half of states currently have right-to-work laws on the books. Even traditional union strongholds are beginning to embrace such policies to drive growth. Indiana and Michigan became the 23rd and 24th right to work states in 2012, despite strenuous union opposition.

However, the business community has celebrated the new policies. Michigan jumped 21 places in the American Economic Development Institute’s annual ranking of business-friendly states, making it the most-improved state of 2014. Nine out of the top 10 states are right to work.

“A handful of states have shown exemplary leadership in growing their economies and employment base while countering these trends by improving their business environment, adding new companies and growing existing companies,” corporate relocation expert Dr. Ron Pollina said in a release. “These states have broken the bonds that hold others back and positioned themselves for success today, tomorrow and the remainder of the decade, which is a remarkable achievement in the aftermath of the Great Recession.”

Workers, as well as businesses, prosper under friendly business climates, according to Hogan. While labor groups contend that higher union presence can create higher wages, the CEI study found that it also limits job creation, ultimately undermining competitiveness and job opportunities.

“The shortsighted view says unionization will raise wages, but the consequences of those increased costs means businesses are less drawn to that state and that state will have less growth,” Hogan said. “Increases in productivity encourage capital resource investment and creates long-term positive effects.”

A prime example of the ill effects of unionization has been the migration of automobile manufacturing away from traditionally union-friendly states to southern right-to-work states such as Tennessee, despite the increased costs of building new infrastructure. Right to work states effectively lured carmakers to build new factories in the states, leading to a proliferation of union-free workplaces and job growth in the south, while Detroit experienced a population exodus.

“Over the 31-year period, nationwide total employment grew by 71 percent. RTW states significantly outpaced this average, with employment growing by 105.3 percent. Non-RTW states lagged behind both, with an employment growth of only 50.0 percent,” the study says. “More jobs were created in the RTW states, despite their having much smaller initial populations and labor force.”

Right to work advocates said that worker rights are also crucial to economic advances.

“While right to work is about employee freedom in the workplace, this analysis also shows that rolling back coercive union power has undeniable economic benefits as well,” National Right to Work Foundation spokesman Anthony Riedel said.

Workers have followed job opportunities. States without right to work laws saw their populations decrease by about five percent in the first decade of the 21st century, while right to work states have grown by about five percent. Hogan predicts that this disparity will only grow over time as employers continue to expand in right to work states, but policymakers are capable of reversing the trend.

“There’s a distinct labor migration to right to work states because there’s more opportunity. People are voting with their feet,” Hogan said. “The south and right to work states writ large have been the beneficiaries of unionization in the north, but you will see a different trajectory in Michigan and Indiana going forward.”

 

Elias: Red light camera fate now uncertain in state

In Chicago and other cities, the firm behind the red light camera scam is being charged with bribing public officials to get the contracts. For stance, this Chicago Tribune article, here.

Cities have lost money, drivers have been driven to the cleaners without the right to confront the accusers—and computers 10,000 miles from the United States issue the tickets. Yet California cities continue to abuse citizens with this revenue making fraud.

“That was one reason the city of Los Angeles abandoned red light cameras in 2012. The decision came about a year after that city’s police chief, Charlie Beck, candidly admitted that no actions were being taken against drivers who simply ignored red light camera violation notices. Because they’re not routinely sent as certified or registered mail (too costly), prosecutors cannot prove drivers are lying if they say they never got the mailed tickets.

This in effect creates two classes of citizens in apparent violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment: drivers who dutifully pay up the almost $500 fines on demand and scofflaws who don’t and pay nothing. There could hardly be more unequal treatment.”

traffic jam car

Red light camera fate now uncertain in state

Tom Elias, The Union, 7/14/14

There are few worse feelings for a driver than receiving a letter purporting to show that person in the act of running a red light.

But not many legal items are less enforceable or reliable, despite what the California Supreme Court said in an early summer ruling that held that red light camera photos and videos have “a presumption of authenticity.”

There’s a reason traffic cops routinely demand that drivers sign the bottom of every ticket they write: That signature constitutes a promise either to pay a fine or appear in court on a specified date. Drivers make no such promise on red light tickets, which normally carry fines of about $480.

That was one reason the city of Los Angeles abandoned red light cameras in 2012. The decision came about a year after that city’s police chief, Charlie Beck, candidly admitted that no actions were being taken against drivers who simply ignored red light camera violation notices. Because they’re not routinely sent as certified or registered mail (too costly), prosecutors cannot prove drivers are lying if they say they never got the mailed tickets.

This in effect creates two classes of citizens in apparent violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment: drivers who dutifully pay up the almost $500 fines on demand and scofflaws who don’t and pay nothing. There could hardly be more unequal treatment.

There’s also the issue of red light camera reliability. The nub of the case against cited drivers is usually a videotape which drivers can often see via an Internet link provided in the mailed violation notice.

Since the vast bulk of red light camera tickets involve drivers making rolling stops rather than full stops before right turns, the accuracy of videos is critical. A still photo may place a driver in the middle of a turn during a red light but doesn’t establish that he or she didn’t stop before proceeding with the turn.

If the video camera doesn’t run precisely at life-speed but is a little faster, a vehicle can appear to be rolling through the stop when it fact it made a full stop. In several cases where police have been cross-examined about how often their video cameras are calibrated, they testified they didn’t know, that it was up to the camera operator — usually Redflex Traffic Systems or American Traffic Solutions, both based in Arizona. But those firms are never available for cross-examination in court, and the Supreme Court said they don’t have to be.

So while drivers contesting red light camera tickets can usually question a cop, they can’t cross-examine the ultimate witness against them, an egregious violation of a basic constitutional right no matter what the state justices may say.

But legal reasons are not the main cause for removal of red light cameras in Poway, Oakland and most other cities that have gotten rid of them: finances are. Because more than half the take from each $480 fine goes to the state or the operating companies, cities often don’t make much profit from the cameras while annoying thousands of their citizens and visitors.

There’s disagreement in Oakland, for one example, over how much the city made last year from the 11 red light cameras it then had operating: The city says it netted just $280,000, while Redflex said the city share came to about $1.1 million. Oakland police are now auditing paid fines to see which figure is closest to correct.

In Poway, near San Diego, cameras at three intersections netted between $100,000 and $218,000 per year. Apparently, those smallish receipts were not enough for either city to put up with complaints about cameras violating privacy and the exorbitantly high fines for rolling stops before right turns.

All of which means red light cameras are at a different kind of crossroad: The state’s highest court says drivers don’t have the right to cross-examine camera operations because of the presumption of accuracy in their findings, while some of the state’s largest cities have shut their cameras down.

The upshot is that unfair as the cameras may be if they’re not properly calibrated, their fate in many places will hang not on traffic safety but on the city budget dollars they produce, regardless of anyone’s constitutional rights.

 

State Refuses to Build Water Storage Facilities for 40 Years/Refuse to Enforce Conservation Laws

The State of California is looking to fine local water districts for not meeting artificial standards and regulations set by bureaucrats and special interests. The State knows that the fines will not, and can not, be paid by the Districts—it is the ratepayers and water users that pay—but there is no fine for government refusing to build water storage facilities for over 40 years.

Be prepared for local districts telling its customers the price for water is going to pay the fines and meet the articles standards of government. Why is California in a Depression? Actions like this.

It is a Leftist anti-farm private organization causing the problems, “The Environmental Law Foundation, an Oakland nonprofit, sent letters Friday to the management of nearly two dozen districts that the state listed as not following the law. With the state facing a historic drought, the nonprofit is threatening legal action before the end of the month if districts don’t prove they’re complying.” They want the finders fee for harming families and raising the price of food for the poor.

Water

California water districts face suit for ignoring conservation law

Katharine Mieszkowski, Center for Investigative Reporting, 7/17/14

After largely ignoring a conservation law passed during the last drought, some of California’s largest agricultural water districts are facing a lawsuit that would force them to measure how much water farmers use.

The 2009 law was designed to push the state’s biggest water users to conserve by closely monitoring their use. Then, the state’s agricultural water districts are supposed to charge the farmers, at least in part, based on that use.

But the state doesn’t actually know how many agricultural water districts are meeting the new requirements or even inching toward doing so, because more than 20 of them have failed to turn in what’s called a water management plan. The plans were due more than 18 months ago.

The Environmental Law Foundation, an Oakland nonprofit, sent letters Friday to the management of nearly two dozen districts that the state listed as not following the law. With the state facing a historic drought, the nonprofit is threatening legal action before the end of the month if districts don’t prove they’re complying.

“Especially in this time of drought, everybody needs to pull their weight,” said James Wheaton, the foundation’s board president and legal director. “The Legislature five years ago ordered agricultural water districts to take the most fundamental, simple conservation measures, which are make a plan, measure how much water and price it accordingly.”

The economic theory behind the 2009 law is that if you aren’t paying for how much water you actually use, you have little incentive to use less. Most residents of California, whose water use is metered, have long seen their actual water consumption reflected in their bills. With agriculture, which accounts for 80 percent of the water that humans use in the state, it is a different story.

The Environmental Law Foundation decided to file suit after The Center of Investigative Reporting revealed in May that agricultural districts were widely ignoring two water laws.

Water managers at the agricultural districts in question say they’re already using water efficiently and the drought is forcing them to be even more careful.

“We comply with the vast majority of what the law requires. We just haven’t filed some paperwork to document it,” said Robert Kunde, engineer-manager for the Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District in Bakersfield.

The district is investing its time and money in coping with the drought, he said. It provides water to more than 72,000 acres of farmland at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, where Kunde says water prices have tripled because of the drought. “If that’s not an economic driver for conserving water, there isn’t any one available.”

Other districts simply decided not to bother.

While districts that have not turned in their water management plans have lost access to $472 million in state grants, there is little else the state can do to force them to comply. But under the law, a third party, like the Environmental Law Foundation, can sue districts that fail to do so.

Some districts say they’re already following the law while others say they’re getting there. Nine of the 22 districts targeted by the nonprofit have provided documentation to the group that they’re following the law and will not be sued.

Ted Trimble, general manager of the Western Canal Water District in Oroville, said his district is working on creating a regional plan with other water districts in the area.

Mark Mulkay, general manager of the Kern Delta Water District in Bakersfield, said his district has been measuring water deliveries and charging customers on that basis since the district was created in 1965. But he’s not sure whether the district’s water management planning meets the state requirements.

“We’ll respond,” he said. “I just don’t know how yet.”

 

California City (Oxnard) Blocks New Power Plant, Cites Climate Change

Per the Federal government, in May, Oxnard, in Ventura County, had 29,683 people unemployed. This is in a city with 201, 555 people as of 2012. That is an almost 15% unemployment rate (but when included with Camarillo and Thousand Oaks it becomes a cumulative of 6.8%)–though Oxnard has a rate north of 15% when separated.

Yet, this city has decided that poverty trumps jobs. The city prefers using junk science to assure people stay jobless, more stay on welfare (very heavy illegal alien population) and assure higher energy costs. The city council blocked a new power plant on the altar of Al Gore’s climate change. End poverty? Control government—only people with common sense should be allowed in City Hall or work for government.

“And then there’s the appearance issue. NRG’s Oxnard plant is one of two facilities that provide power for the county of Ventura, and it has long been considered a necessary neighbor to the growing town. But in the words of Oxnard’s Mayor pro tem Carmen Ramirez: The city is considering its future.

“These kinds of facilities would never be allowed on the coast in Santa Barbara, or Malibu, or even Ventura,” she says. “And we want to change.”

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California City Blocks New Power Plant, Cites Climate Change

Jan Lee TriplePundit, 7/21/14

When it comes to updating your neighborhood power plant these days, nothing is certain. But for NRG, California’s largest power plant operator, that message came home last month with an odd twist: The city of Oxnard voted to place a moratorium on the construction of a plant that would replace the current structure at its oceanside location. The reason? Climate change.

Very often, shifting climate projections are used as the basis for updating facilities, like power plants, with infrastructures that may benefit from newer, greener technology or improved, sturdier structures. But in this case, the Southern California city, armed with years of objections from residents about the plant’s impact on local estuaries, saw the writing in the sand. The continued use of oceanside property for NRG’s plant meant not only the ongoing disturbance of marine life from water intake and effluent discharges, but also the real possibility of sea level changes that could impact the plant’s operation.

And then there’s the appearance issue. NRG’s Oxnard plant is one of two facilities that provide power for the county of Ventura, and it has long been considered a necessary neighbor to the growing town. But in the words of Oxnard’s Mayor pro tem Carmen Ramirez: The city is considering its future.

“These kinds of facilities would never be allowed on the coast in Santa Barbara, or Malibu, or even Ventura,” she says. “And we want to change.”

The city has placed a temporary moratorium on the construction so that residents can have a say in the decision. If it wants to extend the non-binding moratorium, it must do so within 45 days. In the meantime, the city says it is planning to hold a public hearing and reconsider the data, which includes not only the company’s own studies but also equally extensive environmental research and a map  that were produced with the help of the Nature Conservancy through the Coastal Resilience project.

The map places the current power station and the proposed new plant in the middle of the coastline where the sea level rise is expected to be most dramatic. According to Coastal Resilience’s data, sea levels are expected to rise as much as 4 to 5 feet along the shoreline facing the Mandalay Bay power-generating station. Rising waters also make it more vulnerable to storm surge and flooding.

For its part, NRG said the new plant would actually benefit the climate change mitigation and takes into account various local restrictions such as plume abatement and drift and particulate emissions. It also proposes using reclaimed water rather than surface water withdrawals.

“Doing so would completely eliminate impingement and entrainment concerns, and might enable the facility to avoid possible effluent quality and permit compliance issues, depending on the quality of reclaimed water available for use,” says the report. We weren’t able to confirm by press time whether these steps would be integrated into the construction.

However, there is  some question as to what steps the company could actually take to protect coastal organisms from being impacted by the plant’s water intake systems. According to NRG’s report (Chapter 5), “MGS currently withdraws its cooling water from Channel Islands Harbor. Returning any collected organisms to the harbor would be problematic.” The report also points out that it’s unlikely that organisms swept up in the intake would survive. Barrier nets likely wouldn’t be possible as well, due to the fact that the coastline is a multi-use area.

The new plant would be built south of the current facility, which also places it closer to residential areas.

While the city’s decision to impose a moratorium has been welcome news for environmental groups, it’s still unlikely to have any impact on NRG’s decision to rebuild the plant. Earlier this month, the company announced that it still plans to go ahead with the construction, and the non-binding resolution can’t actually prevent the company from doing so. Power plant construction and licensing are regulated by the California Energy Commission, which says it will be doing its own assessment and will take the environmental factors into consideration. For environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy, however, the city’s move is still a win. It means that local politicians are listening when it comes to the broader implications of climate change.

 

Bank Scam Costs Account Holders Millions

If a car dealer sells you a lemon, the law says you must be made whole. Buy a carton of milk that is bad, the grocery store will replace it or give you your money back. If a bank, without your permission gives away your money to a scam, the bank makes YOU responsible. Not sure how they get away with this fraud. At some point there will be a lawsuit with an outlandish settlement, to catch the attention of banks—lose $500 million for giving away $500,000 of a customer’s money that will catch their attention and fix the problem. It is time to make the banks fully responsible.

In this case the bank gave away $3.5 million, got back all but $300,000—then took a court case to give the customer the money bank—but without paying for attorneys fees! The customer got back $350,000—AND forced to pay their own attorneys fees.

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Bank Scam Costs Account Holders Millions

California Political News and Views, 7/2214

You might think the gauntlet of passwords we use online would shield us from those who would prey on our assets.  And you would think that while just about everyone has suffered some kind of breach at some point in time, that those who protect our hard-earned money would err on the side of ensuring extra protections.

You would be wrong.

Most of us, after all, have seen some variation of this scam:

Dear Friend, My cousin passed away without notice and I have $9.5m in an account from him.  I would like to transfer this sum to your account for our mutual benefit.  Please click here and enter your account number so that we may proceed with the transaction at your earliest convenience.  Sincerely, Niles in Nigeria

But apparently, it was a new one to United Security Bank in Fresno.  USB in 2011 fell victim to a variation of this scam, wiring $3.5 million of a customer’s money to the Ukraine without bothering to verify that the customer had actually initiated such a dubious transfer.

The bank was able to recoup most of the money, but still lost about $300,000 – and tried to blame the customer for the fraud, alleging that depositors should be liable when scam artists dupe a bank.  As the French might say, we are witnessing the theatre de l’absurde.

The customer, TRC Operating Co., an independent oil production company, actually had to sue USB to recoup its money.  After three years of stalling, the bank finally agreed to settle the case for $350,000 – the money the bank lost plus interest.  But TRC received no compensation for attorney’s fees or years of legal hassles.

And sadly, the attack on TRC, known as a Corporate Account Takeover, was not an aberration.  All too often, USB and other small banks lack adequate safeguards against rampant cyber-fraud.  Thieves can siphon money from customers’ accounts – and banks just blame the victim.  Part of the problem is that businesses, along with nonprofits, cities and special districts, lack the same FDIC protections as individual banking customers.

The result?  A target-rich environment for criminals – and financial devastation for companies, large and small, that are swindled to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars and in some cases much more.

Clearly, banks such as USB need better security practices for businesses and other vulnerable customers.

This case offers a cautionary tale for proprietors everywhere: be wary of banks with lax security protocols and a record of poor customer service in the wake of cybercrime.

Meanwhile, somewhere abroad, Niles is sipping a cocktail and laughing …

For more information and background, here’s a link.

 

Two Year Deportation Deferral Ending: Pay $465 to Stay in County for Two MORE Years

For a $465 bribe to the Obama Administration, people determined to be deported can stay in this country for two more years. This is like a murderer paying a fee every two years to stay out of prison. This is an Administration that wants all workers to pay bribes in order to work (bribe paid to Obama supportive unions). Though an illegal alien costs California taxpayers more than $25,000 EACH per year (and California is home to 27% of all of America’s criminals from foreign nations) the Feds get the bribe—and do not share it with the States, nor pay for the education, health care, welfare etc. of those they allow to stay in this country though ordered to be deported.

Corruption comes in many forms—this is one of the violations of the law by Barack the First—and we pay for it.

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Deportation deferrals expiring, immigrants seek to renew status

Josie Huang, KPCC, 7/21/14 

As the Obama administration struggles with an influx of migrant children at the border, its program to help young people brought to the country illegally years earlier is reaching the two-year mark.

More than half a million young adults have been able to avoid deportations under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program that started Aug. 2012.

Deportation deferrals under the program are good for two years– and beginning next month – they will come up for renewal. Immigrants under the program, often called DACA, must reapply or lose this special status.

At the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, legal assistant Diego Coaguila, said DACA recipients started the renewal process in June.

“We’re seeing at steady number of folks renewing – at least 10 a week,” Coaguila said.

There are questions as to whether DACA would continue under a different administration. Critics of the program see it as a form of amnesty and a new bill from  Rep. Ted Cruz aims to defund the program. 

But DACA recipients are still motivated to renew their status, despite the uncertainities and the $465 application fee, said Ana Garcia, the resource center’s policy coordinator and a DACA recipient herself. The program allows them to get a work permit and apply for a driver’s license. Losing status could disrupt their income source.

“Maybe they can be let go. A lot of their life might change because they might stop working,” Garcia said.

California has the highest participation rate of any state, and is expected to have the most renewals.

“California is quite interesting,” said Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies immigration trends. “Seventeen metropolitan areas make up 95 percent of California’s applicants and 27 percent of all applications in the whole country.”

Newly-released numbers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Francisco are in the top 10 metro areas where applicants live.

Singer, who analyzed the data that spans Aug. 2012 to Sept. 2013, said those areas are where some of the largest concentrations of young people lacking legal status are – as are the community groups to help them.

“They’re able to bring (applicants) in and screen them and help them fill out applications, help them find the right materials to document their continuous residence in this country,” Singer said.

At the Central American Resource Center, Coaguila expects the number of people seeking help renewing their status to double by August.