Disaster for the Elites: Sushi Prices Could Spike Due to CA Drought

The Hollywood Left and the radicals of San Fran now have a choice—save the delta smelt or lower the price of sushi. Think that will catch their attention? Due to the lack of water caused by government policies, fish, not families or farms are getting our needed water. Now the Left and the radicals are being directly affected, their beloved sushi will cost 25% extra. Of course these folks are so rich, it does not matter—and for the Hollywood elites they are getting $1.5 billion from California taxpayers to tide them over.

According to Politico, California’s 2,500 rice growers planted just 420,000 acres of the high-quality rice used in sushi this year–significantly less than usual–due to strict water allocation in the state. California’s Sacramento Valley produces most of the sushi rice in America, and also exports a large amount of rice to other countries.”

delta smelt

Sushi Prices Could Spike Due to CA Drought

by Daniel Nussbaum, Breitbart CA, 9/16/14

Sushi prices nationwide could rise dramatically in the coming months, as rice production in drought-ravaged California is expected to fall by 25% this year.

According to Politico, California’s 2,500 rice growers planted just 420,000 acres of the high-quality rice used in sushi this year–significantly less than usual–due to strict water allocation in the state. California’s Sacramento Valley produces most of the sushi rice in America, and also exports a large amount of rice to other countries.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says that 58% of California, including all of the farm-rich Central Valley, is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the most severe level of water shortage possible. While California works on groundwater regulations and a proposed $7.5 billion water bond to provide relief to the state’s farmers, it is already too late to salvage rice production this year.

California Restaurant Association spokeswoman Angie Pappas told Politico that sushi restaurants will undoubtedly feel a price squeeze due to the reduced production.

“There’s only a harvest once a year and the majority of [sushi rice] comes from California,” Pappas said. “Everyone’s still in a wait-and-see mode to see how much the prices go up, but then you’re going to definitely see some price-tweaking.”

According to the report, not all rice producers will be impacted by the drought; in fact, rice production nationwide is expected to increase 21 percent, according to the Department of Agriculture. Still, Japanese importers, and sushi restaurants in general, prefer medium-grain rice grown in California to the long-grain varieties grown in southern states like Arkansas and Louisiana.

Andrea Lee, a spokeswoman for Charlotte, N.C.-based sushi chef training company Hissho Sushi, told Politico the company is “already factoring in price increases” because of the drought.

Thomas Elias: Time for utility execs to start worrying–criminals charges in future?

The world is changing. Utility companies, totally controlled by government agencies are still privately owned. But, in California they are not allowed to use coal as a source of energy. Nuclear is no longer going to be built and what we have is being closed. Some are protesting getting oil into this State via rail—they want that to stop. AB 32 is forcing companies to use a large percentage of solar and other solar energy sources—which are extremely expensive. At the same time the utilities are expected to keep the equipment in tip top shape—as they should—but government is controlling their revenues.

We have had explosions, break downs and other troubles. The companies are responsible, now some want to criminalize management! That is a sure way to get the least qualified to run massive energy companies.

“Similarly, since Edison and SDG&E customers have paid monthly for decades for the eventual retirement of San Onofre, it’s hard to see why they should pay even a nickel more, especially when a federal report concluded the early retirement was caused by the knowing actions of Edison bosses.

So far, no utility executive has paid anything close to a personal price for those problems. But the utility brass involved in gas pipeline management and the San Onofre decisions ought to be quaking a bit today, in part because a San Mateo County judge in August cleared the way for lawsuits against executives whose alleged mismanagement led to San Bruno.”

Someone has to be responsible—what do you think?

Photo courtesy of lydiashiningbrightly, flickr

Photo courtesy of lydiashiningbrightly, flickr

Thomas Elias: Time for utility execs to start worrying

THOMAS ELIAS, California Focus, 9/16/14

Executives of California’s large privately owned utility companies don’t usually have to worry about much. Their companies enjoy virtual monopolies in vast regions, their profits are guaranteed and their shareholders are generally assured of regular dividends – which means they can count on collecting large salaries indefinitely.

This security is enhanced by the fact that when the folks who run companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have made mistakes, they’ve never been held personally liable for anything.

But times have changed since the state’s abortive venture into electricity deregulation led to selloffs of many power plants and an energy supply crisis in 2000-02, with no penalties to decision-making executives for the bankruptcy of PG&E and the almost simultaneous near failure of Edison.

Since that time, actions and policies decided by officials of those companies have led to two more disasters of a different nature. There was the 2010 PG&E gas pipeline explosion that killed eight persons and destroyed 35 houses in the Crestmoor area of San Bruno. And there was Edison’s decision to allow installation of faulty major parts in its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, leading to the retirement of SONGS, for which Edison and minority partner SDG&E now want to dun customers billions of dollars.

In both cases, customers have already paid plenty. PG&E, like counterparts Southern California Gas and SDG&E, regularly collects funds for gas pipeline maintenance via monthly bills and has done so since the 1950s. Since federal authorities after San Bruno fingered PG&E maintenance as negligent, it’s fair to ask what the company did with all the money it collected, a question not yet addressed.

Similarly, since Edison and SDG&E customers have paid monthly for decades for the eventual retirement of San Onofre, it’s hard to see why they should pay even a nickel more, especially when a federal report concluded the early retirement was caused by the knowing actions of Edison bosses.

So far, no utility executive has paid anything close to a personal price for those problems. But the utility brass involved in gas pipeline management and the San Onofre decisions ought to be quaking a bit today, in part because a San Mateo County judge in August cleared the way for lawsuits against executives whose alleged mismanagement led to San Bruno.

On the same day that legal decision came down, another court action about 6,000 miles away in London, England should also have gotten executive attention.

In this one, three former top executives of the Associated Octel Corp., also known as Innospac, were sentenced to prison for bribing Indonesian and Iraqi government officials to continue their nations’ importation of a toxic tetraethyl lead fuel additive that is banned in America and most of the rest of the world.

The Colorado-based company sustained profits for its lead product by making millions of dollars in illicit payments between 2002 and 2008.

Of course, an English court’s decision to send the threesome away for terms ranging from two years to four years cannot be a legal precedent in any American court. But it certainly could give federal prosecutors here the idea that the long era of personal immunity may be over for corporate executives and the decisions they make.

So far, there have been no court actions against Edison for its mismanagement that easily could have endangered the millions who live within range of a potential San Onofre radiation leak.

But PG&E is now under criminal indictment for alleged obstruction of justice along with a variety of counts for regulatory violations.

Legal experts take the obstruction charge as a sign federal prosecutors plan to pursue the San Bruno case aggressively, with the likelihood of at least a huge fine for the corporation.

That, in turn, could open the so-far nameless executives responsible to shareholder lawsuits for lost profits and dividends, if the penalty is steep enough.

And it opens the door to asking why, if PG&E did in fact both act negligently and then obstruct justice by impeding the investigation that followed San Bruno, the executives who guided those actions should escape personal penalties?

If personal penalties can be exacted in England, prosecutors should be asking themselves, why not here, too, especially when the direct cause of multiple deaths is much easier to prove here?

 

San Francisco ($3100 a month-one bedroom) beats New York ($2995 a month) for nation’s highest median apartment rent

In the fight to see who can pay more—the Bay Area techies vs. the finance folks of New York, the techies “win”. San Fran should be proud it taxes are so high, its environmental laws are so strong, that the cost of an apartment in the city by the Bay is more expensive then the Big Apple, with a worm in it.

The poor and middle class of San Fran have been complaining that the technology industry is taking over their town—now it can be said, the techies are pushing regular folks out of the City due to high housing costs.

“Apartment search company Zumper released its August rent report, which shows that for vacant apartments on its web site, which has half a million listings, the median in San Francisco is higher at $3,100 for a one bedroom versus $2,995 in New York. The median price for a one bedroom in San Rafael ties with New York.

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San Francisco beats New York for nation’s highest median apartment rent

Anthemos Georgiades, co-founder of Zumper, said the spike in San Francisco rents is structural. “It’s an enormous testament to the demand — the Bay Area is buzzing,” he added.

Emily Fancher,- San Francisco Business Times, 9/17/14

San Francisco has surpassed New York for the first time with the highest median U.S. rent, according to a new report.

Apartment search company Zumper released its August rent report, which shows that for vacant apartments on its web site, which has half a million listings, the median in San Francisco is higher at $3,100 for a one bedroom versus $2,995 in New York. The median price for a one bedroom in San Rafael ties with New York.

“For the first time we’re seeing San Francisco rents trump New York,” said Anthemos Georgiades, San Francisco-based Zumper’s CEO and co-founder. “The very low vacancy rate in San Francisco, alongside the tech boom and the slow pace of new construction coming to market, have all led to this spike. New York’s most exclusive neighborhoods, however, still rank as the most expensive in the U.S. That hasn’t yet changed but we’re watching it.”

New York’s priciest neighborhoods are led by Tribeca in lower Manhattan and Dumbo on Brooklyn’s waterfront. San Francisco’s priciest area is Russian Hill with a median of $4,000 for a one bedroom, followed by South Beach with $3,800, according to Zumper. ( Click here to read Zumper’s full report.)

Georgiades said he’s not surprised by this data.

“We’ve been expecting this for a while. When you combine the low vacancy rates in San Francisco with the tech boom and the modest pace of new constructions coming to market, it’s not a surprise.”

Zumper is among a group of new real estate startups waging war on Craigslist amid the apartment search frenzy.

Zumper brought its apartment listings service to market in 2012. It offeres Zumper Pro, a tool that lets landlords create listings and upload photos from their smart phones as a way to cut down on time.

The company also targets the tenant side with its website and mobile app.

Zumper’s main focus has been on its mobile app and providing renters and landlords features on their smart phones like promoting an open house in real time and seeing listings as soon as they appear.

The company was co-founded by Georgiades, a Harvard M.B.A. who has raised funding from Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, CrunchFund, NEA and others.

Georgiades said the spike in San Francisco rents is structural.

“It’s an enormous testament to the demand — the Bay Area is buzzing. But it’s also a humbling reminder of the structural supply-side factors that continue to drive upward pressure on prices: limited new construction on the way; rent control regulation that has led to very low vacancy rates; short term leasing which has spiked rents and taken long-term leases off the market.”

 

Lawsuit challenges teachers’ compulsory dues

Is it time to free the teachers of America from paying bribes to the unions, if they want to be a professional educator? Is it “professional” to pay a fee each month to keep a job? If teachers are role models, what are they teaching kids, that you give in to the bullies and allow them to steal your lunch money? Thankfully some teachers are adults and want to end this government sanctioned extortion of their profession.

“When unions first started, they did a lot of good things. Many people were abused and I could see good use for unions,” she said in an interview. “But they have become what they used to fight, so focused on their preservation to keep their power that they are not listening to their members.”

A 49-year-old mother of two sons who attended schools in Capistrano Unified, Friedrichs disagrees with the positions of the CTA on a number of issues: the union’s support of gay marriage, its opposition to school vouchers – to allow tax subsidies for attending private schools – and its strong campaign for Proposition 30, the 2012 ballot measure temporarily raising taxes to restore billions of dollars for schools. She said she opposed higher taxes, even for schools, when many of her neighbors were financially hurting.”

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Lawsuit challenges teachers’ compulsory dues

By John Fensterwald, EdSource, 9/17/`14

Vergara v. State of California, threatening teacher protection laws in California, has consumed the attention of the California Teachers Association. But another lawsuit working its way through the courts is striking at the core of the CTA’s power: its authority to automatically deduct hundreds of millions of dollars a year in dues from the paychecks of both members and non-members.

A victory by the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al. would revoke automatic deductions for union dues, which could sap the revenues of the CTA and all public employee unions and lead to a sharp decline in membership. It would force the unions to persuade those they represent to voluntarily pay dues. With an annual income of $186 million, the CTA is the state’s biggest donor to political campaigns, according to a report by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Internal dissenter to lead plaintiff

Rebecca Friedrichs has been a member of the California Teachers Association for 13 of the 27 years that she has taught elementary school in the Savanna School District, a small district in Anaheim. She was her school’s union representative and secretary of the Savanna District Teachers Association. Now, her political and philosophical disagreements with the CTA are so strong that she agreed to become the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking the right to refuse to give any money to the union legally obliged to represent her.

“When unions first started, they did a lot of good things. Many people were abused and I could see good use for unions,” she said in an interview. “But they have become what they used to fight, so focused on their preservation to keep their power that they are not listening to their members.”

A 49-year-old mother of two sons who attended schools in Capistrano Unified, Friedrichs disagrees with the positions of the CTA on a number of issues: the union’s support of gay marriage, its opposition to school vouchers – to allow tax subsidies for attending private schools – and its strong campaign for Proposition 30, the 2012 ballot measure temporarily raising taxes to restore billions of dollars for schools. She said she opposed higher taxes, even for schools, when many of her neighbors were financially hurting.

Because of her disagreements, she didn’t join the CTA for the first 10 years she taught, then joined to try to change the union’s positions as a dissenter from within for the next 13 years. She bowed out again three years ago. As a non-member, she didn’t have to pay the roughly 35 percent of dues that underwrite what she calls the CTA’s “far-left, one-sided politics.”

Now, she and nine other teachers want to go further, and overturn a state law forcing them to pay “agency” or “fair share” fees underwriting the union’s cost of collective bargaining – about $650 per year. She says  forcing her to support the positions of the union on core issues of collective bargaining violate her First Amendment rights. Those issues include support for tenure – “I have a problem with tenure,” she said. “I have watched abusive teachers stay in the classroom and keep their jobs” – and lobbying for a defined pension program with a $74 billion shortfall. “I am not saying teachers are overpaid,” she said. “But taxpayers are the ones paying us, and we must be mindful of where our pay is coming from.”

Most other teachers at her school, she said, don’t care that she is a non-union teacher who doesn’t pay the dues they pay. “I am a good teacher and a nice colleague – everything is fine,” she said. But the union representatives have treated her like a pariah. “It’s more of the feeling of disdain. You are not in the club.”

More teachers would not pay dues for political activities, she said, but feel pressured to contribute as a result of “an undercurrent of fear” she had difficulty describing in detail. “If you taught with me, you’d know the feeling I am talking about,” she said.

A Washington, D.C., libertarian nonprofit law firm, The Center for Individual Rights, brought the Friedrichs lawsuit on behalf of 10 California teachers and Christian Educators Association International, a religious organization serving public school teachers. The plaintiffs assert that compulsory  fees violate their First Amendment right of free speech.

In filing the lawsuit in April 2013, they acknowledged they’d lose in lower courts because their position conflicts with a well-established Supreme Court decision, so they have sought an expedited path to the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton cooperated and ruled for the defense without a trial last December. Then in June, the plaintiffs became emboldened to push their appeal forward when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued an invitation.

 Signals from Supreme Court

Writing for the five conservative Supreme Court justices in Harris v. Quinn, a narrow decision involving Illinois health-care workers, Alito referred to the “questionable foundations” of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That’s the landmark 1977 Supreme Court decision authorizing public employee unions to compel all workers to pay “agency” or “fair share” fees that support collective bargaining in those states – now 26, including California – that permit it. Two dozen states, mainly in the South, have passed right-to-work laws prohibiting the compulsory fees authorized in the Abood case.

All of a union’s collective bargaining expenses can be proportioned equally to members and non-members. In the case of a teachers union, the agency or fair share fee includes a portion of the expenses of the union local, the CTA and the National Education Association. Union teachers in California pay on average about $1,000 per year in dues, with $640 to the CTA, $183 to the National Education Association and the rest to their local union. About two-thirds of the total are chargeable as agency fees.

The other, voluntary, one-third of dues covers political activities, including candidate donations and money supporting or opposing state and local issue campaigns and initiatives. Courts have ruled that teachers who do not join their unions aren’t obligated to pay that portion of the dues. Lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs, a 27-year teacher now teaching 4th grade in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, and the others named in the lawsuit have gotten that money back – about $350 per year – as long as they file a request every fall for the rebate. They are among the approximately 29,000 teachers – a little less than one out of 10 teachers statewide – who pay only the agency fees and opt out of union membership. The CTA has about 300,000 active members.

From ballot box to courtroom

The plaintiffs in Friedrichs are trying to do in court what they’ve been unable to do at the ballot box. Three times in the past 16 years, California voters have defeated initiatives to eliminate the compulsory fees deduction or prohibit unions from collecting a portion of dues for political purposes. Proponents came closest in 1998, when Proposition 226 lost 46.8 percent to 53.2 percent. But it has been expensive for public unions, especially the CTA. Unions have spent a combined $132 million to defeat the three ballot measures, with CTA kicking in $60 million, including in-kind donations. Proponents also spent about $60 million.

In the Abood decision, the Supreme Court said that collecting agency fees was necessary to prevent “free riders” – those who benefit from collective bargaining without providing money the union needs to negotiate on behalf of all workers. The court in Abood found that it’s in the state’s practical interest as an employer to negotiate with an exclusive representative of employees that has the resources to handle complex labor issues. The justices reasoned that Abood doesn’t favor one political viewpoint since employees can choose whoever they want as leaders.

But the plaintiffs say the Abood decision violates their First Amendment rights. States, they argue, shouldn’t coerce them to pay fees to a union whose positions they don’t support.

Abood rests on the notion that there is a clear distinction between collective bargaining by public-sector unions for wages and working conditions and the overt political lobbying that non-union employees can’t be forced to underwrite. But in reality, the plaintiffs argue, there is no difference. Political speech is involved in bargaining with and lobbying government, whether a state agency or a local school district.

In California, as in other states, laws allow agency fees to pay for lobbying expenses related to collective bargaining and working conditions. The plaintiffs’ brief cited statutes that the CTA fought for that are at issue in Vergara: teacher tenure within two years, layoffs by seniority and the dismissal statutes.

“Many policies advocated by the Unions do not benefit teachers, especially competent teachers,” the plaintiffs argue in their appeals brief. “Unions regularly bargain for compensation based on seniority and tenure rather than merit, and therefore privilege long-time employees over newer employees who may be more talented.“

The CTA and other public service unions are far more powerful now than in 1977, said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, so “it’s harder to justify the balancing test” the court used in Abood to permit compulsory dues.

‘Burden’ of opting-out

If the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn mandatory agency fees, Pell said the plaintiffs have a fallback position: make it easier for non-union members to exercise their right to refuse to pay for the CTA’s political activities. Currently, a teacher must sign a statement annually opting out of the payment, which the plaintiffs call a “significant burden.” They are then entitled to a rebate.

Instead, they want an opt-in provision, requiring teachers to explicitly permit the union to take money out of their paychecks. The CTA, in response, calls the current opt-out process “an innocuous requirement” that none of the plaintiffs have complained about.

Measuring potential impact of Friedrichs

Pell said that the Friedrichs lawsuit is “not an attack on collective bargaining but an effort to strengthen free speech rights.” He said he could not predict the impact of eliminating compulsory dues – other than an immediate loss of the agency fees of the 29,000 non-union teachers, about $13 million per year. That by itself would not drastically diminish CTA’s wealth and political power, he said.

CTA President Dean Vogel characterized the lawsuit as part of political conservatives’ ongoing “strategy to neutralize unions.” He called Friedrichs “more troublesome than Vergara,” because he’s confident that the district court judge’s ruling in Vergara, overturning teacher protection laws on tenure, dismissal and layoffs, will be overturned on appeal. But the Friedrichs lawsuit is problematic, he said, because conservatives on the Supreme Court appear open to overturning 40 years of precedent set by Abood.

At its conference for local union presidents in San Jose in July, the CTA shared a 23-page presentation on Friedrichs with the fatalistic title “Not if but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.”

Vogel said the presentation was not a prediction but reflected a “realistic assessment” of how things might change if the Supreme Court overturns the Abood decision. He said it’s a reminder of the need for a new strategic plan. “We’ve got to start paying attention and build an organizing culture,” he said. The threat from Friedrichs offers an opportunity to interact routinely with members and discuss what the CTA is doing on their behalf, he said.

In an effort to move Friedrichs to the Supreme Court quickly – possibly this year – attorneys for the plaintiffs have asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to skip customary oral arguments and rule on the briefs that have been filed. The court hasn’t decided yet. The Supreme Court could decide not to take the case, or, if it does, to reaffirm Abood, overturn all or part of it or send Friedrichs back to the district court for a full trial that was skipped at the plaintiffs’ request.

Opposition Was About the $$: Airbnb will collect San Francisco hotel tax starting Oct. 1

Well, I guess the city of San Fran will no longer be upset with AIRBNB, the firm that uses an “application” to match a tourist with a private home—meaning no chain hotel or motel is needed. We now live is the “shared economy”. Uber and similar firms allow people to use their private vehicles to make a little extra money by becoming temporary transportation systems—not controlled by government regulation.

Is it possible the unions will start complaining, since their “dues” paying members will have fewer guests at major hotels to pamper? The shared economy is going to force major changes in the economy, relationships between workers and organization. Better, though they are willing to pay the 14% “bed” tax in San Fran (that is VERY high), there are other savings—plus private people are meeting a need and making extra cash.

David Owen, Airbnb’s regional head of public policy, said in a blog post that the process of setting up a system to collect San Francisco’s 14 percent transient occupancy tax and transfer that money to the city had been long and complicated.”

Photo Courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Photo Courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Airbnb will collect San Francisco hotel tax starting Oct. 1

Patrick Hoge,- San Francisco Business Times, 9/17/14 

Airbnb, the popular global online short-term property rental marketplace, has again said it will start collecting San Francisco’s hotel tax — but this time provided a starting date: Oct. 1.

David Owen, Airbnb’s regional head of public policy, said in a blog post that the process of setting up a system to collect San Francisco’s 14 percent transient occupancy tax and transfer that money to the city had been long and complicated.

The company first said it was willing to collect the San Francisco taxes October 2013. It began collecting similar taxes in Portland, Ore., at the end of June.

“Our community members in San Francisco have told us they want to pay their fair share and the overwhelming majority have asked us to help. In the past, it’s been difficult for individual hosts to pay taxes that were designed for traditional hotels that operate year round,” Owen wrote.

Collecting the city’s transient occupancy tax, which will begin with reservations booked on or after next month, would remove a bone of contention with municipal officials and hotel interests. Many are not opposed to online short-term rental operations like Airbnb, but want to have a level playing field.

Airbnb made clear Wednesday that it also wants a level playing field — it wants competitors, like VRBO, to collect local taxes also.

“We’re not the only home sharing company operating in San Francisco, and we hope other companies will join us in implementing similar programs. We think it’s the right thing to do in San Francisco and we’re proud to be moving forward,” Owen wrote.

While Airbnb’s non-collection of taxes has long drawn criticism, it has not been a major sticking point in the ongoing negotiations to develop a local ordinance regulating short-term property rentals. That legislative effort has been spearheaded for two years by Supervisor David Chiu, who hopes to get a vote from the Board of Supervisors in a matter of weeks, though contentious issues remain, including how much insurance coverage people should have when they rent property.

“I don’t think the tax issue has been the real sticking point with all this legislation,” said Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. “The concerns people have are on land use issues. I personally never doubted Airbnb would pay the tax.”

Create a Job in California: Result is a Lawsuit!

In California if you try to create jobs, you already have! You have given a job to a number of attorneys who will sue you over something—as the famous movie line says, “Follow the money”. For many years Mather Air Force base had planes going in and out, for national security purposes. Then the Feds cut back, closed done the facility—and it was taken over locally—to create jobs to replace those lost when the military left.

Now they are trying to expand the Field, so more firms will use the nearby warehouses to bring in and ship out good. Jobs are create. The City of Folsom sees this as winning the lottery—in exchange for lots of money, they will “allow” the airfield to expand. This is just a form of legalized extortion.

““The City is not looking to shut down Mather,” Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell said in a press release from the city. “However, we insist that the County’s environmental documents adequately address noise impacts and examine other alternatives to using Mather as a cargo hub and routing all flight traffic over Folsom.”

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Citing noise risks, Folsom going to court over Mather expansion

The city of Folsom is going to court over a plan by Sacramento County to expand neighboring Mather Airport, saying the plan doesn’t consider the effects of noise on city residents. UPS is among freight carriers at the airport

Ben van der Meer, Sacramento Business Journal, 9/17/14

The city of Folsom is going to court over a plan by Sacramento County to expand neighboring Mather Airport, saying the plan doesn’t consider the effects of noise on city residents.

Approved by the Folsom City Council in closed session Tuesday, the suit takes issue with a recently completed and approved environmental impact report for the airport master plan, which was also approved.

According to Folsom city officials, the plan’s approval ends any possibility of addressing noise issues through the EIR, meaning a lawsuit is the only recourse.

“The City is not looking to shut down Mather,” Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell said in a press release from the city. “However, we insist that the County’s environmental documents adequately address noise impacts and examine other alternatives to using Mather as a cargo hub and routing all flight traffic over Folsom.”

County officials have cited expanding Mather as a key component to boosting cargo transit in and out of the region, though other aspects of the plan mention boosting the former air force base’s prospects for non-air cargo businesses as well.

Folsom officials believe without mitigation from noise impacts, especially at night, the number of flights in and out of Mather could affect tens of thousands of residents by 2035. Flight paths would take the cargo planes over both existing Folsom neighborhoods and new ones being planned south of Highway 50.

San Fran to Sue Envrionmentalists–WILL Get $$ From Radicals

This is great news for a more honest judicial system. Some radicals sued the City of San Francisco over plans and documents to revitalize a part of the City. The City wanted to create jobs, the environmental radical prefer welfare and unemployment. At the end of the day, the City won—but adding costs to the project that will be paid for by the taxpayers and end users.

But the City sued to get back the cost of providing documents for the lawsuit—and won. Maybe if cities sued environmentalists every time a lawsuit was created by Al Gore hero worshippers, there would be fewer crazy lawsuits?

“After the First Appellate Court affirmed dismissal of the challenge, city officials demanded reimbursement of more than $64,000 in costs to prepare thousands of pages to supplement the environmental record the groups prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

The groups balked at the figure and asked the trial court judge for a full review. They pointed to the fact that they had prepared the main record themselves, and that the city’s supplemental record had little value to the resolution of the case.”

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Costs for SF Upheld for Its Defense of Enviro Project

 

By WILLIAM DOTINGA, Court House News, 9/16/14

Though it may chill environmental challenges of public-works projects, government agencies that bite back and win are still entitled to big payouts, a California appeals court found Monday.
The Coalition for Adequate Review and other groups sued San Francisco – unsuccessfully – over plans to revitalize the area around Market and Octavia streets, formerly occupied by an ugly elevated gash called the Central Freeway.
After the First Appellate Court affirmed dismissal of the challenge, city officials demanded reimbursement of more than $64,000 in costs to prepare thousands of pages to supplement the environmental record the groups prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
The groups balked at the figure and asked the trial court judge for a full review. They pointed to the fact that they had prepared the main record themselves, and that the city’s supplemental record had little value to the resolution of the case.
Additionally, the groups found it unreasonable and unnecessary to reimburse the city for paralegals, staff and couriers. The judge in the case agreed to a review, and eventually found the city should pay for the supplemental record it made on its own.
The trial court also held that giving San Francisco a cost award as large as the one it sought would “certainly chill any desire by members of the general public to seek court review of important civic undertakings.”
On appeal, a panel for the First Appellate Court agreed that a review of San Francisco’s $64,000 demand was appropriate. The portion of CEQA that allows groups to prepare the record themselves does not automatically bar an agency from recovering money spent to prepare its own record – in the interest of the complete picture, the three-judge panel held.
Also, the city had offered to hold off on preparing its own record until after it had filed an opposition to the groups’ petition. They rejected that and instead demanded that the city make its own record even before opening briefs were filed, the 22-page opinion notes.
“Moreover, the city did not unilaterally prepare a supplemental record,” Judge Kathleen Banke wrote for the court. “Rather, it filed a motion for leave to do so, identifying the documents it intended to include. Petitioners filed opposition, making some of the same arguments they have made in opposition to the city’s claimed record preparation costs. The trial court granted the city’s motion, but not entirely, excluding from the supplemental record documents that essentially duplicated documents already included in the record petitioners had prepared

.
“As to the documents the trial court allowed, it expressly found they were statutorily required to be in the record under CEQA. The court also expressly found the city’s preparation of a supplemental record to include these documents did not violate the city’s obligation to minimize record preparation costs. In our prior opinion we affirmed the court’s supplementation order, including on the ground petitioners failed to carry their burden on appeal to demonstrate error.”
The panel also found that the trial court’s belief that a large costs award to the city would chill the desire for future challenges had no legal basis.
“CEQA itself refutes a general ‘chill’ rationale to deny record preparation costs to a public agency,” Banke wrote. “Furthermore, CEQA expressly provides that the parties, not the public agency, are to pay record preparation costs. This statutory obligation implements a different, but equally important policy – that public monies should not be used to fund CEQA challenges brought by private parties. This policy is all the more compelling where, as here, a private party loses its CEQA challenge on the merits.”
The panel agreed, however, that some of San Francisco’s costs – including $50,000 for paralegals, at a rate of between $159 and $165 an hour – may be unreasonable or not recoverable at all.
“Because the trial court denied costs entirely, it did not consider the reasonableness of the city’s claimed costs,” Banke wrote. “On remand, it must exercise its discretion in this regard.”
Development has already begun around Market and Octavia streets in the Hayes Valley district, with recently finished, 1,001 square-foot condos coming on the market for nearly $1.4 million.

 

Bloom off the California real estate rose

What recovery? All over California there are movements to raise minimum wage—and the concurrent raise in unemployment and welfare enrollees. Thank to Brown and Obama we have a water shortage—and the phony water bond will do nothing except finance special interests and buy up more private land. The State is about to take over control of privately owned groundwater—so no farmer is assured of any water, at any time—unless they plant what the government wants planted—and in the amounts allowed.

Now we are watching as car loans are failing and a new housing bubble is before us. I know that some consider my newsletter depressing—but it would not be if I used the theory of the mainstream media—only happy news and hide the facts.

In August, 34,269 California single-family homes and condominiums were sold, down 4.2 percent from July’s total of 35,787 and a decline of 13.5 percent from 39,614 sales in August 2013, according to figures compiled by PropertyRadar Inc., of Truckee.

August 2014 sales were the lowest August sales since 2010, it says. On a regional basis, over the past 12 months sales are down 18.8 percent in the Central Valley, down 15.7 percent in the Bay Area, and down 16.7 percent in Southern California.”

Photo courtesy sheagunther, flickr

Photo courtesy sheagunther, flickr

Bloom off the California real estate rose

Central Valley Business Times, 9/17/14

•  August sales down 13.5 percent from a year earlier

•  Median prices in half of state’s 26 largest counties decline
What happened to the housing recovery? Perhaps it went on vacation last month.

In August, 34,269 California single-family homes and condominiums were sold, down 4.2 percent from July’s total of 35,787 and a decline of 13.5 percent from 39,614 sales in August 2013, according to figures compiled by PropertyRadar Inc., of Truckee.

August 2014 sales were the lowest August sales since 2010, it says. On a regional basis, over the past 12 months sales are down 18.8 percent in the Central Valley, down 15.7 percent in the Bay Area, and down 16.7 percent in Southern California.

“The bloom is definitely off the California real estate rose,” says Madeline Schnapp, director of economic research for PropertyRadar. “The rapid rise in prices over the past two years has outstripped the ability of many would-be California homeowners to purchase.”

And the rapid disappearance of distressed properties available for sale has been another key factor depressing sales, says PropertyRadar’s report.

In August 2013 nearly one out of four (24.0 percent) sales were distressed properties. But last month, distressed property sales comprised only 16.7 percent of the total. In August 2011, 54.7 percent of sales were distressed property sales.

Last month’s median price of a California home was $390,000, unchanged from July, according to the company’s figures. Compared to a year-ago, median home prices gained 8.3 percent, the slowest monthly gain since June 2012.

Month-over-month price variations are impacted heavily by the sales of non-distressed properties, which in August comprised 83.3 percent of total sales. The median price of non-distressed homes fell 0.5 percent for the month while the median price of distressed homes gained 2.8 percent.

The lack of movement in median prices this past month was due mostly to a shift from less expensive to more expensive homes, not a change in underlying home values, says PropertyRadar.

On a county level, median price increases have slowed or peaked in many of California’s largest counties. In August, 13 of California’s 26 largest counties experienced monthly price declines compared to only six in March.

Other highlights from the report

• Negative equity continues to decline but remains at historically high levels. In August, slightly more than 1.0 million California homeowners, or 11.6 percent were underwater. Historically elevated levels of negative equity will continue to exert a drag on the California real estate market, the report says.

• Cash sales totaled 7,547 in August and were 22.0 percent of total sales. Cash sales have been steadily declining, down 46.2 percent, since reaching a peak of 14,028, or 40.0 percent of total sales in August 2011.

• Flip sales fell 2.3 percent for the month and are down 36.5 percent for the year. Flip sales are defined as properties that have been resold within six months. Flip sales peaked in October 2012 and have declined 38.2 percent.

• Institutional investor LLC and LP purchases edged up 0.9 percent for the month but are down 23.0 percent from August 2013. As the supply of distressed properties dwindles and prices rise, institutional investor demand has retreated due to the lower return on investment. In general, institutional purchases have posted consistent monthly declines since peaking in December 2012 and are down 43.9 percent since then. Trustee sale purchases by LLCs and LPs are down nearly 83.6 percent from their October 2012 peak.

• Foreclosure starts, Notices of Default (NODs), fell 6.8 percent between July and August and are down 27.3 percent from August 2013. The downward trend extends a longer-term downward trend that began in March 2009. Foreclosure sales declined 6.0 percent for the month and are down 19.5 percent for the year.

 

 

Right and Left Unite in Fight Against Drones and Moderates

Very little can unite the Conservative Right and the Progressive Left. Thanks to Barack Obama and the squishy middle the Left and Right have joined in an effort to end the scare of drones in our backyards, watching us on the streets and invading our privacy with listening devices 24 hours a day. Can we afford this total invasion of our lives by government—from the NSA, IRS and now drones. Is there any way to get away, for a moment from Big Brother?

“Backlash crested this summer against law enforcement drones real and imagined:

  • San Jose police had to apologize for pursuing drone plans without adequate public notice.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department placed two drones under lock and key pending clarifications of federal rules.
  • A Los Angeles crowd dispatched a hobbyist’s drone, mistaking it for an LAPD device.
  • A West Hollywood man raised awkward legal questions by tormenting city cops with flyovers of police station parking lots.”

The confused Guv Brown needs to get out of the fog for a few moments and sign the bill to end this corruption.

obama drones

Warrantless drone ban hovers over Brown’s desk
By James Poulos, Calwatchdog, 9/15/14

With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Jerry Brown could set the tone for state-level drone policy.

After passing the Assembly and the state Senate, AB1327 will await Brown’s signature until the end of September.

Legislation regulating the use of drones by law enforcement has already been proposed or passed in 13 other states. But a combination of timing, public opinion and California’s high profile have catapulted AB1327 to national attention.

Around the country, voters have objected strongly to the prospect of “domestic” drones used to police citizens, and some legislatures have responded. In Virginia, legislators barred both cops and regulators from deploying drones for the next two years, while Florida’s elected representatives considered requiring a warrant for any use of drones by law enforcement.

Sweeping rules, specific restrictions

A bipartisan group of California lawmakers banded together to draft AB1327. Assemblymen Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, proposed to restrict drone policing in several key ways:

  • In general, “public agencies” would be barred from using or contracting for “unmanned aircraft systems.” Narrow exceptions would include a use of drones that “achieves the core mission” of an agency and “is unrelated to the gathering of criminal intelligence.”
  • Law enforcement agencies would be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause, except in the instance of traffic accidents, environmental disasters, or the inspection of “state parks and wilderness areas for illegal vegetation or fires.”
  • Any public agencies “intending to deploy” drones would be required to provide “reasonable public notice.”
  • Information collected by drones, including photo and video data, would have to be “permanently destroyed within one year,” and could not be “disseminated” beyond the agency collecting that information.
  • Finally, along with such information and its records, the identities of individuals and entities who “obtains or requests” those records would be subject to a disclosure requirement. Here, narrow exceptions would include disclosures that “would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation,” or “endanger the successful completion of the investigation” itself.

In general, Gorell said, the prospect of policing by drone raised a threat to “our reasonable expectation of privacy,” requiring lawmakers to set “guidelines,” according to The Los Angeles Times. But amid the flurry of precise details and legalistic language, one exemption seemed to run contrary to the civil-libertarian flavor of the legislation. “Illegal vegetation,” which law enforcement could search without a warrant over public land, clearly referenced cultivated marijuana plants.

Legislating in advance

California’s cops have reacted negatively to news of AB1327’s passage. Aaron Maguire, legislative counsel for the California State Sheriff’s Association, summed up that organization’s skepticism toward Gorell’s view of privacy. “If you’re going to the 49ers game, or you’re in a public arena,” he said, “we don’t think an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, and we don’t think a warrant makes sense.”

By any measure, AB1327 can be read as an effort to head off a potential problem at the pass. Reactive legislating has increasingly come under attack by activists and lobbyists with vested interests in pushing against “do-nothing” legislators. In fact, although fears of drone abuse are on the rise, the number of such incidents has so far been very low nationwide. In California, however, a string of events attracting popular attention pushed drone concerns to the front burner more than inside political pressure or partisan agendas.

Backlash crested this summer against law enforcement drones real and imagined:

  • San Jose police had to apologize for pursuing drone plans without adequate public notice.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department placed two drones under lock and key pending clarifications of federal rules.
  • A Los Angeles crowd dispatched a hobbyist’s drone, mistaking it for an LAPD device.
  • A West Hollywood man raised awkward legal questions by tormenting city cops with flyovers of police station parking lots.

The decision on limiting drone use now is up to Brown.

 

Our Troops (3,000) Have Work To Do Before Acting As Red Cross in Africa

Should 3,000 of our troops be on the Mexican border helping stop illegal aliens, drug dealers and terrorists to enter our nation? Would it be a good idea to use the 3,000 trained military to fight terrorists in the Middle East? Or should they become traffic cops and nurse maids to a medical epidemic in Africa? Could American churches, medical professionals and non profits provide 3,000 people to help with the Ebola outbreak instead?

Our Commander in Chief does not want to stop illegal aliens from getting into our nation—the facts speak for themselves. He prefers using inefficient drones to kill off the terrorists—instead of doing it with trained military. Why is America the most insecure since the start of World War II? Obama is afraid of winning against terrorism. He would not send the military to protect the U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi, but will send 3,000 to become nurses. Shame on us.

“Ebola is a serious threat, and our military can and often has engaged in humanitarian activities abroad. But with our forces spread thin and under strain in the Mideast, and with this president shrinking the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels and even scrapping a whole class of Air Force attack jets, one wonders if the commander in chief is demoting the U.S. military to a global EMT squad.”

military

Our Troops Have Work To Do Before Acting As Red Cross

Invesors Business Daily Editorial, 9/16/14

Boots On The Ground: The president declares that ground troops are a non-option against the Islamic State, then orders 3,000 troops to Africa as a surrogate Red Cross. The U.S. military should be too busy for that.

Operation United Assistance — that’s the big new war effort against, um, Ebola. Ayatollah Ebola? Who is that, IS’s chief mullah?

Radical Islam may be a disease that must be eradicated, but the president who promised the Democratic Party’s base he would end wars has decided we can’t even consider committing ground forces to combat the latest, terrifying outbreak of it in Iraq and Syria.

We can, however, have our men and women in uniform coordinate international relief efforts in the Third World against a virus.

Ebola is a serious threat, and our military can and often has engaged in humanitarian activities abroad. But with our forces spread thin and under strain in the Mideast, and with this president shrinking the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels and even scrapping a whole class of Air Force attack jets, one wonders if the commander in chief is demoting the U.S. military to a global EMT squad.

The decision to send thousands of troops to Liberia to combat Ebola comes after public pressure from Doctors Without Borders and other groups.

But the president should be more concerned with America’s superpower status and ability to wield power than our image as globetrotting do-gooder. Otherwise there will ultimately be a lot more corpses than even the hundreds of thousands in Africa now at risk of succumbing to the deadly virus.

The so-called coalition we are depending on to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS may well let us down in the end, if not sooner. Syrian rebels, for instance, have reportedly made a cease-fire deal with IS, and Islamofascist Iran — surprise, surprise — hasn’t accepted under-the-table U.S. overtures to help us, even though they’re Shiite and the IS is Sunni.

So our forces may very well have a very big, ugly job to do in Iraq and Syria. Are they going to have their hands full instead airlifting medical supplies?

This president, who claims to hate theatricality and photo-ops, visited the Centers For Disease Control to be briefed by medical experts.

Why not just read the briefing, as he usually does in the case of his Daily Intelligence Briefing?

Obama doesn’t seem to like the personal presence of military experts wearing medals and brass, who might throw some informed disagreement at him about his approach against U.S. adversaries around the world.

But he’s apparently all too happy to fly to Atlanta and hear a bunch of global health bureaucrats outline how to spend billions more dollars of U.S. taxpayer money on the other side of the world.

This president seems to believe his own myth.

Osama may be dead, but that doesn’t mean our military’s next job should be Ebola on the assumption the global war on terror has been won. The emergence of the Islamic State was a consequence of withdrawn U.S. power, and that is where that power is needed the most now. Not in Africa as a Red Cross auxiliary.