Tea Party and Teachers Union on SAME Side of Common Core Fight Against Federal Tests

This is a miracle. The Tea Party and other Constitutional Conservatives have made it clear—the Federal government needs to stay out of local schools in regard to curriculum and testing. Now the president of the National Education Association, a union, has made it clear, Obama needs to stay out of the local classroom and stop trying to create tests. I will note that there is a national movement, “Put Down the Pencil”, an effort for students to not take any Common Core tests. If they have no data, they have no program. Stop the tests and your stop Common Core.

“A dissenting teachers group that claims it has 50,000 members, the Badass Teacher Association, has called for an abandonment of Common Core and the elimination of standardized testing. Eskelsen García said their hearts are in the right place, and their suspicions, after more than a decade under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, may be warranted, but the union realistically must play “the adult in the room or they (politicians) are bound to get it wrong.”

common core education teachers students

NEA’s new president denounces testing

By John Fensterwald, EdSource, 8/20/14

In the midst of her first swing through California, the incoming president of the National Education Association praised the Common Core State Standards and California’s measured approach in implementing them while warning that the nation’s largest teachers union would fight efforts to use the new tests for the standards in ways that “harm kids” and punish schools and teachers.

Interview transcript

EdSource writer John Fensterwald interviewed National Education Association President-elect Lily Eskelsen Garćia by phone this week. Go here for a transcript, which has been slighted condensed for length and word flow.

A former elementary school teacher and Utah Teacher of the Year, Lily Eskelsen García, 59, has scheduled events with teachers and the news media today in Los Angeles and the Bay Area later in the week. She takes charge of the 3-million-member union next month.

“I was impressed with Common Core,” Eskelsen García said in a telephone interview this week, and found “nothing sinister” about the standards. But she said she share the concerns of many of her friends and colleagues, who predict that in many states the new tests, like the Smarter Balanced assessment that California will give, will be used to declare schools failing and hold students back a year – “one more test that means very little with big consequences and punishments.”

California is different, she said, because, unlike New York, another heavily Democratic state, it didn’t hastily develop poorly designed Common Core tests and hold teachers and schools accountable for the results before teachers were trained in the standards.

“California said, ‘All right. The standards seem to be OK, but we are going to take it one step at a time. We are going to call a moratorium on any high-stakes consequences. We’re going take time to train people … to align the curriculum,’” Eskelsen García said, referring to a one-year hiatus, possibly longer, on giving tests not required by the federal government. And, she said, California is taking its time in deciding “what really makes sense in terms of consequences” for the standards and how to assess them.

The Smarter Balanced tests will be given for the first time next spring. Test designers say the new tests will measure critical thinking and problem solving. If, however, they turn out to be another multiple-choice test, “it will be a disaster of Biblical proportions,” Eskelsen García said, and the union will lead the opposition.

“People I taught with say, ‘You know, politicians are going to corrupt this. It doesn’t matter if they are good standards or bad standards. They are going to make this one more silly thing that takes away from teaching and true learning.’”

Eskelsen García takes charge of the union next month at a time of rising backlash among the ranks against standardized testing. Testing becomes “toxic,” she said, when multiple-choice exams become the basis for holding back students a grade, such as in Florida and Michigan, and declaring teachers failures, even though the tests weren’t designed to evaluate teachers.

California is different, Eskelsen García said, because, unlike New York, another heavily Democratic state, it didn’t hastily develop poorly designed Common Core tests and hold teachers and schools accountable for the results before teachers were trained in the standards.

A dissenting teachers group that claims it has 50,000 members, the Badass Teacher Association, has called for an abandonment of Common Core and the elimination of standardized testing. Eskelsen García said their hearts are in the right place, and their suspicions, after more than a decade under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, may be warranted, but the union realistically must play “the adult in the room or they (politicians) are bound to get it wrong.”

It’s not just teachers, but also some PTAs and school boards, that are angry about standardized testing and are taking stands against it, she said. “The movement has begun.We don’t have to light too many matches to throw in” to ignite it, she said. As a result, she claimed, conservative and liberal political leaders are “scrambling right now to fix what they broke.” The NEA shouldn’t have to reach out to Democratic leaders who have split with the union on testing and other issues, she said. “They should be coming to us, hat in hand, saying you’re right … now help us fix it (education).”

A chief target of their anger is U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. At the NEA national convention in Denver last month, delegates approved a resolution calling for Duncan to resign. Similar resolutions in past conventions were not passed.

Soon after the vote, Eskelsen García and current president Dennis Van Roekel had “a very intense conversation” with Duncan. “It was up to us,” she said, “to explain what was behind all of that, the true, honest feelings of our members, that they have been left behind, that they have been demonized, made to be the bad guys in this. And we wanted to say that some really bad policies have been passed, local, state and national, and it all seems to swirl around this almost religious faith in scores on standardized testing.” Eskelsen García said she knows Duncan has no intention of quitting, and, having conveyed the members’ perspective to him, “ I have every intention of working with the secretary going forward.”

While she says she often cites California as an example of a state that does things right, California is also home of Vergara v. California, the lawsuit challenging five state laws establishing teacher tenure or due process rights after two years, requiring layoffs by seniority and creating due process protections from firings. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s tentative ruling (a final decision is due later this month) voided the laws, stating they are unconstitutional because they harm children. The ruling inspired a similar lawsuit in New York. It also has become another source of friction between the union and traditional Democratic allies, among them Duncan and retiring California Congressman George Miller, who issued statements (here and here) supporting the decision.

Eskelsen García called the lawsuit “an interesting distraction from the real issues.” The focus on tenure is misplaced, she said, because “the majority of teachers are good teachers; they’re dedicated people who care about their students. What we want to see the debate around is how do we recruit fabulous people, how do we keep them in the classroom, how do we make them constantly improve their profession?”

Easing the burden on financially strapped college students so that they can consider teaching is one theme of Degrees Not Debt, a new NEA campaign that Eskelsen García will detail at CSU Northridge this week. The campaign calls for more need-based federal Pell Grants, lower interest rates for student loans and expanded loan-forgiveness programs for all college students. But Eskelsen García, who put herself through school with student loans and scholarships and by performing as a folksinger in coffee shops (she brings along her guitar to NEA rallies), said she will make the pitch for new or expanded scholarship programs for students willing to teach in high-poverty schools.

“We’re hoping we can show states and even the federal government where they can invest in scholarships so that we can start talking about how we can increase the pool of talented people who want to spend their lives changing the world by making it a better place for someone else’s child,” she said.

 

California drought has wild salmon competing with almonds for water

When government controls money or assets, you have less of it, it costs more and there are predetermined winners and losers. Government takes from one, gives to another and freedom is lost by all. The Feds and our confused Guv Brown have decided fish are to be the winners, with families, jobs and farms to be the losers.

Now there is a fight brewing between the almond growers and the fish. Rice growers have already lost—they are being shut down due to the government created water crisis. Yet almond growing, which take more water than rice, has expanded. Now the environmentalists, noting that farmers are still making money want to shut down the almond growers to protect the delta smelt.

: But the North Coast tribal people question the fairness of a system by which crops hundreds of miles away depend on their river water at the expense of salmon.

“It’s not our fault they have orchards to water in the desert, and it’s not the fish’s fault, either,” Hillman says. “We shouldn’t have to pay for that.”

delta smelt

California drought has wild salmon competing with almonds for water

Alastair Bland, scpr, 8/21/14

The Klamath River flows into the Pacific Ocean near Oregon and is naturally separated from the interior regions of California by a coastal mountain range. But in the 1960s, the Bureau of Reclamation built an 11-mile tunnel connecting Trinity Lake to the Sacramento River basin to send Klamath-basin water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. Today, the arid valley is a major producer of the world’s almonds, as well as other nuts and stone fruits, grapes and alfalfa.

But the North Coast tribal people question the fairness of a system by which crops hundreds of miles away depend on their river water at the expense of salmon.

“It’s not our fault they have orchards to water in the desert, and it’s not the fish’s fault, either,” Hillman says. “We shouldn’t have to pay for that.”

While the BOR technically has not allotted any water to farmers this year due to drought, producers in the valley whose supplies have been cut may still purchase water from others who didn’t experience cutbacks. Others may tap into the state’s shrinking groundwater reservoirs. One way or another, most fruit orchards receive the water they need each year.

Almonds are one of California’s most important crops, with 80 percent of the crop now exported (mostly to China), according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. From 2004 to 2013, California’s almond harvest exploded from a billion to 2 billion pounds and record high production is forecasted for this year, in spite of ongoing drought.

Jenny Nicolau with the Almond Board of California says almond growers have learned how to use water more efficiently. In the past two decades, she notes, the almond industry has reduced its water consumption by 33 percent per pound of almonds produced. And while production has increased, the industry’s water use has remained about the same for at least a decade. She says agriculture uses less than 50 percent of the state’s water.

But David Zetland, a water policy analyst and author, says this is a distortion of facts. He tells NPR that of all the state’s water that is diverted from rivers and reservoirs, 80 percent ultimately lands in fields and orchards.

Decades ago, dams built to create reservoirs for agricultural use dented or killed most of California’s salmon runs. Relatively healthy runs of Chinook salmon still spawn in the Sacramento and the Klamath rivers, though sustaining them involves a complex life-support system of hatcheries, transporting migrating fish in trucks and boats and constant monitoring of water supplies.

As of Aug. 20, the BOR was pumping about 2,100 cubic feet per second of water from Trinity Lake into the Sacramento River system, leaving just 430 cubic feet per second flowing into the Trinity River, a major tributary of the Klamath. Many of the salmon currently at risk are stranded below the confluence of these two rivers, which means higher releases from Trinity Lake could save them.

Janet Sierzputowski, a BOR spokeswoman, says the water currently being diverted from the Trinty-Klamath system is intended to benefit the Sacramento River’s own salmon. After all, two of the Sacramento’s four distinct salmon runs — the spring Chinook and the winter Chinook — are on the endangered species list.

But Zeke Grader, a board member of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, an environmental group, says the Bureau’s claim is “nonsense.” He explains that, by this time of year, the Sacramento’s threatened spring run and endangered winter run Chinook are already too far upstream to reap any of the benefits of the cool Trinity Lake water, which flows into the Sacramento downstream of where Grader says the fish are now spawning.

“They’re not [transferring Trinity water to the Sacramento] for the salmon,” he says. “They’re doing it for the almonds.”

In a statement released on Aug. 19, the Bureau of Reclamation’s regional director David Murillo said conditions affecting the health of salmon in the Klamath system would be “monitored on a real-time basis” and, if necessary, addressed with more water released into the river.

But real-time may not be fast enough. That’s because it takes three to four days for water to flow from Trinity Lake to the region where the salmon are currently holding, according to Craig Tucker, the Karuk tribe’s natural resources advocate.

“They’re telling us they’ll let water go once they see dead fish,” Tucker says. “But once an epidemic starts, it’s hard to stop.”

For Myers, the government’s reluctance to save the salmon his tribe depends on comes as yet another blow to their embattled traditions.

“Not only are they asking the Native Americans to sacrifice their culture, but we’re doing it so we can sell almonds to the Chinese,” he says.

Sacramento to Nickel and Dime us to Death

California already has the highest taxes in the nation. Starting January 1 the gas tax will go up, possibly by 76 cents a gallon more (not a typo). Parking meters rates go up, tax on grocery bags, tax on tanning salons—everything is taxed and new taxes, like on soda, will be voted on this November.

Democrat Assemblyman Levine, who calls himself a business Democrat, wants to DOUBLE the local car tax. Yes from $2 to $4 is not much and for other vehicles from $1 to $2. It is the point of the tax increase. After a while it adds up to “real” money.

Why do Democrats hate the poor and middle class?

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Bill could double car registration fees

By Dave Roberts, Calwatchdog, 8/20/14 

A bill that could double California counties’ vehicle registration fees has passed the Legislature, and is awaiting a signature or veto from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 2393, by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, authorizes counties to charge annual $2 registration fees on noncommercial vehicles and $4 on commercial vehicles. That represents a 100 percent increase from the current county fees of $1 on noncommercial vehicles and $2 on commercial vehicles.

The additional revenue would increase funding for the state’s Cal-ID fingerprint identification program. Forty five of the state’s 58 counties have imposed the fee, which has not increased for more than 15 years, according to Levine.

Critics charge that AB2393 violates the two-thirds vote requirements for new taxes that is mandated by Propositions 13, 26 and 218.

Levine: need to increase fingerprint ID funding

Levine made his case for the fee hike to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 17.

“By using cutting edge technology, the Cal-ID program has proven to be remarkably successful,” he said. “The program has helped reduce DOJ [Department of Justice] workload since inked fingerprint cards no longer have to be scanned. Also, officer and community safety have increased as the program provides rapid and accurate identification of the people that law enforcement encounters in the field.

“However, enhancements in technology and inflation have reduced the purchasing power of the fees collected for this program. AB2393 gives local law enforcement agencies the tools they need to make their communities safer. It’s also important to emphasize that this bill … simply provides counties with the discretion to increase their fees if they see fit.”

Cory Salzillo, representing the bill’s sponsor, the California State Sheriffs Association, said the current fee brings in about $30 million statewide annually.

“There are reporting requirements in existing law that would be carried through with this bill to ensure accountability in the spending of the funds,” he said.

Taxpayer advocate: bill violates constitution

David Wolfe, legislative director for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, argued that the bill violates provisions of the state constitution.

“We believe special taxes approved on the local level, as this bill would do, require a two-thirds vote,” he said. “And there’s nothing in the bill that indicates or states that a two-thirds vote is needed.

“We believe that this case is bolstered by Proposition 26, which was approved by voters in 2010.” He said Prop. 26 said that, “For this to be an appropriate regulatory fee, which I think the author and supporters would claim, there either needs to be a direct benefit to the fee payer or this needs to be a regulatory fee.

“In order for this bill to meet that standard and not be a special tax that would require a two-thirds vote, everybody paying the fee would either have to be a perpetrator or a victim of a vehicle crime. Clearly, this fee goes against everyone who is a vehicle owner, not just perpetrators or victims of vehicle crimes. As such we do believe this is a special tax on the local level.”

John Caldwell, a lobbyist for the Association of California Car Clubs, said car owners are already paying about $36 million in extra fees for law enforcement.

“The insurance code charges every driver for every car $1.80 for law enforcement for fighting fraud,” he said. “So that’s 20 million cars times $1.80. The Department of Insurance gives that money to the DAs and police departments, and they use it themselves. So it’s not like the drivers of these cars are not paying for helping law enforcement. We think this is one too much on people who are already paying a lot for multiple cars.”

There was no discussion by the committee except a comment from its chairman, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who said he’s happy to support the bill “in spite of Mr. Wolfe’s compelling testimony, and my respect and affection for him.”

Republican opposition

There also was no debate when the full Senate approved the bill. But several Republicans argued against it on the Assembly floor on Aug. 11.

“This bill doubles the fees. And it does so without two-thirds [voter approval], which makes it a violation of Prop. 218,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. “It makes it a back door tax increase. I think it’s something we should stand against here on this floor, because not only do we have this, but we also have a hidden gas tax coming down the highway for the average Californian.”

He was referring to the state cap-and-trade gas-tax increase of about 15-cents a gallon that will hit motorists on Jan. 1. It’s part of the implementation of AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law.

“You know, this will hurt the working poor the most,” Donnelly said. “We need people that want to go to work in this state. So this right here is something that will make it more difficult to get Californians back at work at a critical time.”

Donnelly was echoed by Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine. “This bill violates Propositions 13, 26 and 218, which require two-thirds votes,” said Wagner. “Those are important protections that your constituents and mine have repeatedly asked to have in the law. By supporting this bill we are essentially thumbing our nose at our constituents.

“I don’t urge that ever, certainly not in an election year. There are three – three – statements by our voters out there telling us procedurally not to do this. I urge that we take them at their word and not raise their taxes again.”

Also opposed was Assembly member Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield. “Under Prop. 218 there’s no new fees to be allowed except for sewer, water, garbage collection, and it must receive voter approval,” she said. “This measure is based on a supposed connection between vehicle registration and automatic fingerprint identification system. Common sense tells you that there’s no nexus between the two.

“This is an issue that is facing the state of California: We are here instituting fees [which] are truly taxes, and to increase these fees on our citizens right now when taxes are the highest in the state of California.”

Levine: not unconstitutional

Levine countered that his bill doesn’t violate those propositions’ two-thirds vote requirements because AB2393 doesn’t actually raise vehicle registration fees. “What it does is empower our counties to decide locally how to set these fees,” he said.

He was backed at the state legislative level by the committee’s legislative analysis of the bill. But the analysis also left open the question of constitutionality at the local level:

“[T]his bill is a majority vote measure in the Legislature because it does not directly result in a taxpayer paying a higher tax. Instead, this bill delegates to county boards of supervisors the authority to impose a vehicle registrations [sic] fee. Ultimately, county counsels will have to determine the appropriate vote threshold at the county level, where a two-thirds vote of the electorate may be required.”

Democrats support

Two Assembly Democrats ignored the constitutionality question, focusing instead on how the fee hike revenue would be spent.

“By all accounts the fingerprint ID program supported by the nominal registration fees has been very successful,” said Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. “This additional one dollar fee will allow the counties the opportunity to advance the programs with new technology.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, agreed. “The Cal-ID system is crucial for giving law enforcement 21st century tools,” he said. “These advancements in technology allow officers to fingerprint and identify individuals while in the field rather than having to waste time scanning inked fingerprint cards.

“This improves officer safety and provides a benefit to the entire community. Increased funding will help ensure the continued operation of this valuable and effective system.”

Brown had yet to sign or veto AB2393 as of Thursday morning.

Guv Brown Decides HE IS the Pope

For several weeks the State of California has been telling universities run by the Catholic Church or Catholic non profits they must provide abortion coverage for the Faithful and others that attend their California based universities. In fact, Guv Brown is telling Catholics they MUST kill babies (that is what an abortion is, in simplest terms). Now, Brown is making it clear—Catholics must pay to kill babies or be in violation of the law.

My guess is that these two universities will be aborted by the Church rather than abort babies.

“In a reversal, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is barring two Catholic universities in California from offering health plans to their employees that limit abortion coverage.

Previously, state health officials had approved plans used by Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles that did not cover any abortion procedures, unless they were “medically necessary” to protect the health of the mother.”

Brown was trained as a Jesuit, but learned little about the value of life. 

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State Reverses Abortion Coverage Rule for 2 Catholic Universities

By Ted Goldberg and Lisa Aliferis, KQED,8/22/14

In a reversal, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is barring two Catholic universities in California from offering health plans to their employees that limit abortion coverage.

Previously, state health officials had approved plans used by Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles that did not cover any abortion procedures, unless they were “medically necessary” to protect the health of the mother.

But earlier this month, the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) said they were reviewing that approval.

The DMHC is now sending letters to insurance companies for both universities, requiring them to cover all abortions.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the DMHC determined that “the exclusions violate a 1975 state law that requires group health plans to cover all basic services — defined by the law, as those that are ‘medically necessary.’”

The Chronicle said the the DMHC director, Michelle Rouillard states in the letter that “abortion is a basic health care service,” and that “the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.”

The coverage limitations were announced last fall. The schools said they took the action because elective abortion is not consistent with Catholic teachings.

But faculty groups at both Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount universities had protested the limited coverage, saying that the schools had professed to be open to those of all views and faiths, the Chronicle said.

Lawsuit Accuses San Francisco of Environmental Hypocrisy

The leaders of San Fran prefer your water go to the Clear Lake hitch, delta smelt, salmon and other fish—not you. The San Fran folks want you to get rid of your car and be held hostage by bully unions. San Fran is the least affordable town in the nation. They love taxes and regulations. Except when it comes to their greed.

For dozens of year they have been getting a bargain—all the water they want, so much that they can sell the excess water! Plus, they do not have to abide by the same environmental rules the rest of us do.

“Consequently, San Francisco does not have to purchase expensive water supplies on the open market in drought years, and its recycling efforts lag way behind the other leading cities in California. For example, Los Angeles recycles 189 million gallons per day, compared with just 1 million per day in San Francisco.

The Washington Times reported that Craig Manson, who heads the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) in Fresno, said their ESA lawsuit is aimed at addressing the “double standard” that forces farmers to give up water in the name of species conservation–without requiring Bay Area residents having to do the same.”

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Lawsuit Accuses San Francisco of Environmental Hypocrisy

by Chriss W. Street Breitbart CA, 8/22/14 

Nancy Pelosi and 62 other House Democrats with 100% ratings from the Sierra Club have for decades been using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) try to litigate small rural California communities out of existence for having the gall to use water for farming and ranching. That is why it will be entertaining to watch the progress of a new ESA lawsuit aimed at forcing San Francisco elitists, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her neighbors at the Sierra Club headquarters, to live by the same rules they impose on the rural bumpkins they seem to disdain.

A federal lawsuit was filed this week that contends the Hetch Hetchy Project, which supplies water to San Francisco and the Bay Area, has unfairly enjoyed an exemption from the “severe cutbacks” required in rural California in order to save endangered fish species. The lawsuit seeks to have the ESA applied uniformly for all.

John Muir, the naturalist and first president of the Sierra Club wrote that Hetch Hetchy valley was: “A grand landscape garden, one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain mansions. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls glow with life, whether leaning back in repose or standing erect in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike.”

After the federal government made the Area into Yosemite National Park, San Francisco Public Utility Commission built O’Shaughnessy Dam in 1913 to flood the half of Yosemite that included Hetch Hetchy Valley as one of nine reservoirs for the city’s water system.

Because of its predatory political clout, San Francisco draws 85% of its water from The Hetch Hetchy Project and only has to utilize 2.5 million gallons of groundwater in today’s drought period, compared with 14.5 million in 1930. San Francisco also does little to harness the 5.5 million acre-feet of its annual rainwater.

Consequently, San Francisco does not have to purchase expensive water supplies on the open market in drought years, and its recycling efforts lag way behind the other leading cities in California. For example, Los Angeles recycles 189 million gallons per day, compared with just 1 million per day in San Francisco.

The Washington Times reported that Craig Manson, who heads the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) in Fresno, said their ESA lawsuit is aimed at addressing the “double standard” that forces farmers to give up water in the name of species conservation–without requiring Bay Area residents having to do the same.

Mr. Manson says he wants the National Park Service to press the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end the special exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but “the Park Service just won’t do it.”

The lawsuit says that although the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have ordered “severe cutbacks” in the amount of water provided to the Central Valley in order to protect the fish habitat, those agencies “have required no such cutbacks for the Hetch Hetchy Project diversions because [the] defendants have never initiated the statutorily required ESA consultations.”

San Francisco is politically powerful in California, and they have been able to fend off Hetch Hetchy lovers for years,” said Mr. Manson. “If that valley, the Hetch Hetchy Valley, were anyplace else, it would not have been flooded in the first place.  It just goes to show people are wedded to their own interests even if it goes against their philosophical leanings.”

Mr. Manson emphasized that his nonprofit that filed the lawsuit is dedicated to supporting scientific research “with an emphasis on ensuring absolute rigor and complete transparency, rather than a focus on outcome.”

 

Confused Guv Brown: Will Spend $430 MILLION of Gas Tax $$ on Bike and Hiking Trails—NOT Roads

When you fill up your Ford or Prius with gas, you are paying the highest gas tax in the nation. The money is meant to fix and expand our road system. Part of the money is to go to cities and counties to fix streets and fill potholes. We are being told we do not have enough tax money to do the job, so gas taxes have to go up. On January 1, 2015 the gas tax will go up by between 16 and 72 cents a gallon (not a typo). And that, is not enough for government. That increase is going to pay for the Al Gore Climate scam.

Our confused Guv Brown has decided to spend $430 million of the gas tax not on roads or potholes—he is going to build walking an bike trails! He needs help to understand the difference between a car and a bicycle.

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State allocates $706 Million to fix highways and bridges

Central Valley Business Times, 8/22/14

•  Central Valley projects getting nearly $137 Million of that,

•  State commits to the nation’s largest bicycling, walking program
More than $706 million in taxes has been parceled out by the California Transportation Commission to fix Interstate 5 and other highways, build or repair bridges and even to begin to pay for a new extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system closer to downtown San Jose.

The 148 biking and walking projects, several of which are in the Central Valley, will cost more than $430 million, making it the nation’s largest such project.

“This program adopted today is the nation’s largest state commitment to bicycling, walking and other forms of active transportation,” says California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly. “This program will increase transportation options for all Californians while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving public health and safety.”

For bikers and walkers in the Valley:

• San Joaquin County: The city of Stockton received over $3 million to help fund the SRTS Plan ($350,000), the Bicycle Master Plan Update ($550,000), Fremont Square Sidewalk Reconstruction ($728,000), and the San Joaquin Trail ($1,394,000).

• Merced County: The city of Merced received $958,000 for the State Route 59 (SR-59) Multi-use Path, and Merced County got $1,781,000 for the Walnut Avenue Street Upgrade Project.

• Butte County: $50,000 – To build bike lanes on Neal Road from the Oro-Chico Highway to the Skyway and unincorporated portion of Cohasset Road from the Chico City limits to the Cohasset School.

• Kern County: $396,000 – To build a bike and walking path in Tehachapi, on Tehachapi Cummings Water District property, from Highline Road to Valley Boulevard.

Caltrans received approximately 770 applications from cities and counties across California, totaling nearly $1 billion in project requests, an excess in demand of three-to-one. California’s nine largest Metropolitan Planning Organizations (Bay Area, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, Southern California, San Jose, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Kern) are still eligible to recommend projects to the CTC on an additional $147 million in active transportation funds designated specifically to their regions based on population. The CTC will adopt projects submitted by MPOs in November.

Most of the money coming to the Central Valley is to fix crumbling highways, especially Interstate 5, which will see more than $81 million poured into it. Here are the Central Valley projects that have been approved.

• San Joaquin County: $1,883,000 – Highway 99. Crews will install metering systems to reduce congestion during traffic peak hours on entrance ramps at Austin Road, Fremont Street, Waterloo Street, Cherokee Road and Hammer Lane.

• San Joaquin County: $1,390,000 – Highway 88. Lockeford Bridge Rail Project at various locations from Calaveras River Bridge to Bear Creek Bridge, the project will relocate levee access road connections and existing culvert headwalls that are within the clear recovery zone, and upgrade bridge guardrail.

• Stanislaus County & Merced County: $1,035,000 – Highway 108. Riverbank/Hilmar Rumble Strips Project from Eighth Street to Mesa Drive in Stanislaus County, and on Highway 65 from Canal Drive to Williams Avenue in Merced County. Crews will install centerline rumble strips to reduce cross median traffic accidents.

• Yuba County: $5,309,000 — from Marysville Road to 0.3 mile east of Lower Smartville Road, rehabilitate 14.0 lane miles of roadway.

• Fresno County: $4,966,000 — Near Coalinga, at Jacalitos Creek Bridge, replace one bridge due to foundation settlement, seismic damage and scour problems.

• Kern County: $47,985,000 – Interstate 5 near Lost Hills between Lerdo Avenue and Route 46, replace outside truck lane with continuous reinforced concrete pavement, reconstruct inside shoulders, grind and replace asphalt concrete on outside shoulders, replace broken slabs in No. 1 lane, and upgrade non-standard metal beam guardrails to improve safety, ride quality, and reduce future maintenance cost and frequency along 42.40 lane miles.

• Kern County: $2,901,000 – Highway 178 in Bakersfield, at Sunny Lane Pedestrian Overcrossing, remove and replace on new alignment one pedestrian overcrossing to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

• Kings County: $6,754,000 — Highway 198 near Lemoore from the Fresno County line to east of the South Rossi Overhead. Dig out and repair localized failed areas and overlay full pavement width with a layer of rubberized asphalt concrete to improve ride quality and reduce future maintenance cost and frequency along 28.8 lane miles.

• Tulare County: $3,388,000 — Highway 198 near Visalia, at Vista Avenue Pedestrian Overcrossing, remove and replace one overcrossing to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

• Sacramento County: $1,218,000 – Interstate 5, in Sacramento, 1.4 miles south of Richard Boulevard, replace mechanical and electrical components of the pump house to meet current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

• Sacramento County: $4,855,000 – Highway 160 near Rio Vista, from Highway 12 to 0.5 mile north of Highway 220 in Ryde, rehabilitate 21.6 lane miles of roadway.

• Sacramento County: $2,602,000 – Highway 160, near Rio Vista, from Antioch Bridge to Sherman Island Road, rehabilitate 6.0 lane miles of roadway.

• Fresno County: $17,477,000 – Interstate 5, near Mendota from south of Panoche Road to north of Russell Road. Cold plane and replace top asphalt concrete layer, replace failed pavement panels, and overlay entire width of roadway with rubberized asphalt concrete along 16.8 lane miles.

• Fresno County: $1,981,000 – Highway 41, near the city of Fresno, from Harlan Avenue to Elkhorn Avenue. Cold-in-place-recycle the travel lanes and 6 inches of adjacent shoulders, and overlay with 0.15-foot layer of hot mix asphalt concrete along 6.2 lane miles.

• Fresno County: $2,888,000 – Highway 41, in the city of Fresno, at the Ventura Avenue Viaduct Bridge. Overlay bridge deck pavement with polyester concrete.

• Kern County: $1,663,000 – Highways 99 and 58 at various locations. Repair damaged lighting systems, intelligent transportation systems, and pumping plants due to theft, vandalism, and hardware failure.

• Kern County: $2,026,000 – Highway 178, in Ridgecrest, from Inyokern Road to Gemstone Street. Replace existing two-way left turn lane median with non-traversable raised curb median and provide left turn lane channelization at existing road intersections.

• Kings County: $17,100,000 – Interstate 5, near Kettleman City, from 3.3 miles south of Utica Avenue to Route 41. Cold plane and replace failed pavement panels, repave with dense graded asphalt concrete, and overlay full width of pavement with rubberized hot mix asphalt concrete along 30 lane miles.

• Kings County: $6,036,000 – Highway 198 near Lemoore, from 19th Avenue to 14th Avenue. Dig out and replace failed localized areas and fill with hot mix asphalt concrete and cold-in-place-recycle the travel lanes and shoulder in westbound lanes, and place 0.10 foot wearing course on eastbound lanes along 20.8 lane miles.

• Madera County: $2,291,000 – Highway 152, near Chowchilla, from Highway 59 to Road 4/Lincoln Road. Construct high tension cable median barrier, reconstruct inside shoulders, and construct rumble strips along 1.1 centerline miles.

Political Corruption in Irvine? Consultants REFUSE to Turn Over Documents to City Council

This is a simple story. Law enforcement is investigating council members and a political consultants firm for corruption. A previous city council gave a contract for “PR” work to a connected consultancy firm. Questions are now being asked about how the money was spent, any spent on political campaigns—directly or indirectly—and what did the city get for its $100,000 a month for YEARS? The city asked for the documents—and the consultants refused. Think they have something to hide? Think the people have a right to know?

“The standoff comes after months of attempts by auditors to obtain records during a forensic audit into the park’s finances. The probe – commissioned by the Republican council majority – is trying to determine whether Forde &Mollrich severely overcharged for services related to its years-long $100,000 per-month public relations contract to promote the park.

Park critics allege the company’s services were not worth anything close to $100,000 monthly, and that the no-bid contract meant overinflated profits for the politically connected firm.

Since 2005, Forde &Mollrich has been paid more than $7.2 million.”

Oh, they did send out press releases and created a brochure. Expensive!

Photo courtesy of kenteegardin, flickr

Photo courtesy of kenteegardin, flickr

 

Former Great Park Consultants Defy Demand for Records

By ADAM ELMAHREK, Voice of OC, 8/19/14

Former Great Park consultant Forde &Mollrich has defied an ultimatum set by the city of Irvine to turn over financial records relating to the firm’s infamous Great Park public relations contract by 5 p.m. Monday.

The firm informed an attorney working for Irvine that it would not comply with the demand, according to Councilwoman Christina Shea. Shea said the City Council would hold a special meeting this week to consider taking the issue before a Superior Court judge, who could order Forde &Mollrich to turn over the records.

The standoff comes after months of attempts by auditors to obtain records during a forensic audit into the park’s finances. The probe – commissioned by the Republican council majority – is trying to determine whether Forde &Mollrich severely overcharged for services related to its years-long $100,000 per-month public relations contract to promote the park.

That contract over the years became the symbol for critics who allege corruption and waste at the 1,300-acre park project. While initially envisioned to compete with New York Central Park, the park has fallen short of expectations while spending north of $200 million.

Park critics allege the company’s services were not worth anything close to $100,000 monthly, and that the no-bid contract meant overinflated profits for the politically connected firm.

Since 2005, Forde &Mollrich has been paid more than $7.2 million.

Forde &Mollrich partner Stu Mollrich couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. But in a 12-page statement sent to a Voice of OC reporter, the firm described at length its accomplishments on behalf of the park and accused the audit of catering to the political agenda of the council majority.

“This audit has the appearance of a star chamber proceeding, conducted entirely in secret,” the statement reads. “Even members of the City Council have not been allowed full access to the information regarding invoices and reports of the subcommittee, its attorneys and consultants.”

In a July 30 deposition under a city-issued subpoena, Mollrich flatly refused to answer questions regarding employee salaries, overhead and profit margins related to the firm’s park contract. The deposing attorney, Anthony Taylor with Aleshire&Wynder, LLP, threatened Mollrich with a contempt hearing at Orange County Superior Court.

If the city approves pursuing a court intervention, Shea said the judge could order Orange County Sheriff’s deputies to escort Stu Mollrich and/or Arnolde Forde before the court and order them to turn over the records.

However, Shea acknowledged, it’s unlikely that it will get to that point.

Forde &Mollrich’s statement claims the firm has provided over 25,000 pages in records, doesn’t have the records specifically demanded and is not required under its fixed-fee contract to reveal financial information like profit margins and employee salaries to auditors.

The firm compared its fixed-price contract to hiring a contractor to build a house. “You don’t have the right to audit the contractor’s books, ask how many employees he hired, how much he paid them and what the profit was,” the statement says.

“Mr. Taylor’s demands would violate the privacy of our employees and place our firm at a competitive disadvantage in bidding and negotiating future contracts,” according to the statement. “The only thing that matters is whether the services that were contracted for were received and whether they were satisfactory.”

According to Shea and Taylor’s letter, Forde &Mollrich’s city contract specifically requires production of the demanded records.

“The contract requires them to come in with detailed financial books,” Shea said. “They are presently in breach of contract. If I have support of the council, we will sue them.”

 

Del Becarro: Taxes 42% Higher in California Than Texas

In Texas it takes weeks to get permits to build that in California only takes years. Time is money. Besides the loss of revenues due to Sacramento regulations you also have environmental laws that raise the cost of doing business in California. Finally taxes are the final blow to businesses in the former Golden State.

“Beyond debt, Governor Brown recently signed a huge tax increase featuring a top rate of 13.3%.  Overall, California taxes are 42% higher than Texas.  California also has the most extreme/job-threatening global warming law in the world, which includes a 15-cent gas tax increase slated to take effect in 2015 – on top of the already record gas prices.

High debt, high taxes, high regulations and high poverty are not exactly the foundation on which to add 7 to 12 million people.  California’s private sector needs an economic recovery far more robust and broad-based to absorb those new people.  Unfortunately, California continues to make bad decisions with long-term implications.

You have great weather and Disneyland in California. Texas has jobs, opportunity and a future.

1200px-Seal_of_the_Governor_of_California

 

California’s Economic Collision Course: Immigration and Water

Tom Del Beccaro, Forbes, 8/19/14

You have heard it before: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”  If that is the case, the national economy will be harmed for decades to come because of California’s misplaced priorities today.  Indeed, by emphasizing high-speed rail over water and failing to deal with its debt crisis, California poses a long-term threat to our national economy and is on an economic collision course of increased immigration and lack of water.

California has more than 38 million residents. Despite net losses of millions of residents to other states, California continues to grow through immigration.  Latinos now equal the number of non-Hispanic whites in California.  With projections that show California’s population reaching 45 to 50 million within 20 years, you would think job creation would be job one for Jerry Brown.

Sadly, that is not the case today.  Despite a much-heralded recovery in the media and by Governor Jerry Brown, California still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.  Also, more than 30% of the nation’s welfare recipients are Californians – even though California has just 12% of the nation’s population.  It is not surprising, therefore, that California is ranked number one in poverty.

The cause for those bad statistics is bad government policy.  California is the most regulated, highest-taxed, most in-debt state in America.  According to government data, from the municipal to the state level, California governments have more than $1.1 trillion in debt – much of that tied to pensions.

Beyond debt, Governor Brown recently signed a huge tax increase featuring a top rate of 13.3%.  Overall, California taxes are 42% higher than Texas.  California also has the most extreme/job-threatening global warming law in the world, which includes a 15-cent gas tax increase slated to take effect in 2015 – on top of the already record gas prices.

High debt, high taxes, high regulations and high poverty are not exactly the foundation on which to add 7 to 12 million people.  California’s private sector needs an economic recovery far more robust and broad-based to absorb those new people.  Unfortunately, California continues to make bad decisions with long-term implications.

Perhaps worst among them is Brown’s decision to make high-speed rail a higher priority than water.   Over the last 7,000 years, California has endured droughts that have lasted up to 20 years, according to Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay.  California is in year three of its current drought, which is projected to result in economic losses of $2.2 billion to California agriculture in 2014 alone according to a UC Davis study – not to mention the loss of over 17,000 jobs.

To combat the lack of water brought on by drought and environmental policies that favor fish over people, California farmers are behind a drilling boom – for groundwater.  The problem is that, at current rates of consumption, some believe California could run nearly dry of groundwater within two decades.

Unlike his father Edmund G. Brown, Sr., who focused on water, Jerry Brown would rather see $68 billion spent on high-speed rail – a project for which there is no significant consumer demand and, like most every rail system, will likely require endless public subsidies and therefore add to the debt crisis. Brown recently killed a proposed water bond of $11.4 billion because he said it would “break the bank.” Apparently $68 billion won’t break the bank, but $11.4 billion would.

Instead, after California Republicans fought for a greater emphasis on water storage, Brown agreed to a bond that spends $2.5 billion on water storage – a figure woefully short of what is needed.  Obviously, Brown thinks high-speed rail is 27 times more important than water storage.

Neither that water bond nor any other state level effort currently underway will sufficiently add to the amount of available water now or in the future.  Water equals jobs, however, and without a far-reaching effort such as building 60 desalination plants at the same cost as the high-speed rail project – plants that won’t need future subsidies, the California economy is on an economic collision course with immigration.

California’s debt crisis will hobble its economy as well.  Even Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel was honest enough to say that pension debts were deterring businesses from locating in Illinois.  In California, despite what some say could be more than half a trillion dollars of public employment retirement-related debt, there is literally no concerted plan for addressing the issue – tinkering yes, real reform no.

Unless California addresses its long-term water needs and debt crisis, the already overburdened private sector will not be able to handle the coming population influx.  Instead, California’s welfare rolls will swell, adding to its debt crisis.

In 2009, California sent out IOUs to creditors when hard pressed for cash and borrowed billions from the federal government.  A decade from now it could be much worse.   Rather than leading the national economy, California could well be holding down America’s economic growth.

 

LA Times is Literally Collapsing Its Newspaper

The Los Angeles Times has put aside the pretense that it is an objective newspaper. They just hired a major Democrat donor, with NO media experience as the publisher. Prior to this he was an advisor to Mayor Villaraigosa. The Times is to become the MSNBC of the newspaper business. We also know it is not a major money maker either.

So instead of improving the product, broadening it readership, it is going smaller, even less news, to hide the few ads. This saves on reporters and news print.

“The Los Angeles Times is surveying readers for their feelings on several marketing messages that would announce “a possible change to a smaller format,” Bloomberg News reports. The survey asks readers “about various marketing messages that could accompany a switch to a ‘new, compact size.’ One query presented the format as ‘easier to hold and handle, and you no longer need to fold or maneuver the paper in order to read it.’”

newspaper media

LA Times asking readers about a smaller format paper

By Kevin Roderick, LA Observed, 8/20/14

The Los Angeles Times is surveying readers for their feelings on several marketing messages that would announce “a possible change to a smaller format,” Bloomberg News reports. The survey asks readers “about various marketing messages that could accompany a switch to a ‘new, compact size.’ One query presented the format as ‘easier to hold and handle, and you no longer need to fold or maneuver the paper in order to read it.’”

From the story by Christopher Palmeri:

The survey suggests Tribune Publishing, spun off from Tribune Media Co. less than a month ago, is considering major changes at the 133-year-old Times, the largest of its 10 daily newspapers. The publication, now a broadsheet, is about 11 1/8 inches wide and 22 7/8 inches long. The survey showed a smaller format typical of some tabloids.
Nancy Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Times, said the newspaper isn’t considering changing to a tabloid format.

“We are conducting market research,” Sullivan said in an e-mail.

Bloomberg says the spin being tested on readers includes “All of the same great stories to discover in a new, compact size,” “this new format offers the same high quality journalism and price you know and expect, with a more compact size” and “sit back and relax with our new format paper, its smaller size means a more comfortable and seamless reading experience.”

Sacramento: $400 Million for Hollywood Billionaires—Yet ANOTHER Hollywood Studio Moving to Atlanta

While the politicians are fighting over giving away $400 million of your money to Hollywood billionaires—well connected to Obama and friends—another Hollywood studio is planning a move to Atlanta. Guess the owners and management of MBS3 do not have the connections with the “right” people to get their cut—so they are going to a Free to Work State that likes jobs. Also, Georgia has low taxes. This is a win win for the company, its employees and the State of Georgia.

For California it is a reminder that fiscal policy, along with environmental and union rules matter.

“Jacoby, chairman of Jacoby Development Inc., says his company has struck a partnership with Los Angeles-based MBS3. Its television and feature film studio is home to James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and the next three sequels to Avatar, a science-fiction blockbuster from 2009.

MBS3 will invest in new lighting and equipment and deploy large portions of its inventory to Atlanta. Those connections could attract major film productions to the OFS plant, which Jacoby is transforming into Atlanta Media Campus and Studios. MBS3 will lease, manage and operate the Atlanta Media Campus.”

Hollywood-Sign

Jacoby strikes deal with Los Angeles production studio

Atlanta developer Jim Jacoby has taken another big step toward remaking the OFS plant at Interstate 85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard into a what it calls the largest movie studio campus in the Southeast.

Ellie Hensley, Atlanta Business Chronicle, 8/21/14

Atlanta developer Jim Jacoby has taken another big step toward remaking the OFS plant at Interstate 85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard into what it calls the largest movie studio campus in the Southeast.

Jacoby, chairman of Jacoby Development Inc., says his company has struck a partnership with Los Angeles-based MBS3. Its television and feature film studio is home to James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and the next three sequels to Avatar, a science-fiction blockbuster from 2009.

MBS3 will invest in new lighting and equipment and deploy large portions of its inventory to Atlanta. Those connections could attract major film productions to the OFS plant, which Jacoby is transforming into Atlanta Media Campus and Studios. MBS3 will lease, manage and operate the Atlanta Media Campus.

In a presentation to Gwinnett business leaders Thursday, Jacoby said, “It is the finest potential operating partner that we could’ve asked to be a part of our project.”

Atlanta Media Campus is includes six sound stages and production support space at the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 in Gwinnett County.

For years the plant has been occupied by OFS Brightwave where it makes fiber optic cable. Before that, Lucent used the massive campus for production.

Converting the plant to a film studio could be a shot in the arm for the aging Jimmy Carter Boulevard area, which used to be the center of commerce for Gwinnett County back in the 70s.