New study emphasizes differences among state’s Asian/API groups–Yet ALL Are Americans

Racism is prevalent in our society. Not intentionally, but by action. Ethnic studies classes, government documents in numerous languages instead of one. Quota’s, affirmative action, diversity studies and requirements. All around us we find government and interest groups trying to pull us apart instead of bringing us together. The President denounces a Cambridge, Massachusetts cop—without knowing any of the facts about the arrest of a professor that happens to be black. Our Attorney General gave a pass to Black Panthers using baseball bats to stop white folks from voting in Philadelphia—the racism stems from government promotion—always has, always will.

Literally the only difference between George Wallace and Barack Obama is the color of their skin—both support or oppose people based on race—alone. While both tolerate other races, they do so barely—Barack is famous for calling his grandmother, the only person willing to take him in and bring him up a “racist” because of the color of her skin.

Now we are worried about the term Asian/Pacific. “Unlike immigrants from Mexico, Central or South America, there is no common language that unifies API voters. Immigrants from Asian countries and their children come from a vastly diverse set of economic, cultural and political circumstances, and have very different American experiences.”

Here is a clue—if they were born here or became a naturalized citizen, they are Americans—and treat them as such. The time to be concerned about the plot of land a person was born on is over. It is time to treat people as individuals, not masses. Totalitarian nations worry about the “masses”, free nations are concerned about individual people.

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New study emphasizes differences among state’s Asian/API groups

By Anthony York, Grizzley Bear Project, 1/22/15

In politics, we tend to use abbreviations. Since the Proposition 187 campaign in 1994, California political scientists and pundits have wrestled with the “Latino vote.” In recent years, more focus has been placed on Asian political behavior – particularly as a majority of our immigrants now come from the world’s most populous continent.

But these terms often miss important gradations and distinctions. This is particularly true when looking at Asian/Pacific Islander populations.

Unlike immigrants from Mexico, Central or South America, there is no common language that unifies API voters. Immigrants from Asian countries and their children come from a vastly diverse set of economic, cultural and political circumstances, and have very different American experiences.

A new study looks at the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander experience in California, and sheds some light on how that is district from what many of us think of as the “API Experience” in California.

Distinctions between subgroups is an important step to understanding nuances missed by the blanket API label

Taken as a whole, Asian  immigrants and their children are more successful in California than other ethnic groups. As a study from the Public Policy Institute of California found, “On the whole, whites and Asians are healthier, more educated, economically better off, and less likely to be victims of violent crime than are Hispanics and African Americans.”

But, as this new study reveals, immigrants and descendants of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders typically lag behind those from others that fall under the Asian-Pacific Islander umbrella.

“The API label masks significant disparities between NHPI and Asian Americans across key socioeconomic characteristics,” the executive summary states. For example, “Nationwide, NHPI have a lower rate of graduating from college in four years, with a rate similar to African Americans.”

This study is the latest step in an ongoing campaign to add nuance and understand to what we talk about when we talk about the API community in California.

“Collecting and disaggregating NHPI data by race and ethnic group is the first step toward understanding how to improve educational opportunities.”

You can read the entire study here.

 

Spanish firm BLACKMAILS U.S. Taxpayers—Give us MONEY Or We Won’t Build a Solar Farm

This may be the funniest request for your tax dollars I have seen lately. A Spanish firm is threatening not to build a solar farm in the United States, if the United States does not give it federal tax credits. Let’s call their bluff and tell them to sell it to the Russians. Maybe our free market firms would build instead.

“That’s according to Santiago Seage, chief executive of the Spanish-owned Abengoa Solar, which owns the embattled project. Seage told the trade journal Recharge News that without an extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar plants, his company won’t have the security it needs to invest in building the project.”

Actually it would be good if all credits were ended. Let the free market determine what should be built or not—instead of puffing up a company with tax dollars. One reason we have so many highs and lows in the economy are the government programs that creates winners and losers—then changes the game again.

Photo courtesy Living Off Grid, flickr

Photo courtesy Living Off Grid, flickr

Developer Won’t Build Controversial Solar Plant Without Tax Incentives

by Chris Clarke, RwWire/KCET, 1/23/15

The controversial Palen Solar Electric Generating System, which was put on hold in November, will stay on hold unless a federal tax credit for building solar power plants is extended.

That’s according to Santiago Seage, chief executive of the Spanish-owned Abengoa Solar, which owns the embattled project. Seage told the trade journal Recharge News that without an extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar plants, his company won’t have the security it needs to invest in building the project.

Seage made the remarks at the ribbon-cutting of his company’s 280-megawatt Mojave Solar plant near Hinkley.

The looming expiration of the 30 percent investment tax credit, set to run out at the end of 2016, is one of the reasons Abengoa and its then-partner BrightSource Energy pulled the ever-changing Palen project off the table in November. Delay fueled by criticism of the plant’s likely effect on wildlife, especially migrating birds, as well as the impact on local cultural resources, had caused the developers to miss one funding deadline after another.

By November 2014, it was clear that getting the plant built and operating in time to meet the December 31, 2016 deadline for the tax credit was unlikely. BrightSource and Abengoa withdrew the plant from consideration, and Abengoa agreed that it would buy out BrightSource’s interest in the project.

BrightSource has staked its corporate fate on the success of its proprietary solar power tower technology, which uses thousands of independently targetable mirrors to aim solar energy at receivers atop power towers. Its former partner in Palen, though, has no such restriction: Abengoa owns and operates plants using the competing parabolic trough solar thermal technology (as in the recently dedicated Mojave Solar project), as well as the increasingly dominant photovoltaic panels.

When BrightSource pulled out of Palen in November, many observers (Rewire included) suggested that Abengoa might switch strategies and redesign Palen as a parabolic trough plant. After all, that’s the design the California Energy Commission originally approved for the plant in 2010, back before the original developer Solar Millennium went belly-up and sold out to BrightSource.

But if you take Seage at his word, Abengoa remains committed to power tower technology for Palen, as well as other projects throughout the desert Southwest. According to Desert Sun reporter Sammy Roth, Seage expects that most of Abengoa’s new concentrating solar projects will use power tower technology due to the claimed ease of incorporating power storage into plants of that design.

“We expect that going forward, most if not all concentrating solar plants in the Southwest will include storage,” Seage told Roth.

The likelihood that Congress will vote to extend the Investment Tax Credit, or to alter its language so that projects need merely break ground by the deadline rather than generating power, isn’t clear in the wake of the Republican capture of both houses. Unlike wind power, whose growth in red states means a significant Republican pro-wind constituency, solar power doesn’t seem to have much of a fan base among conservatives.

That’s a significant obstacle for utility-scale solar thermal companies, which need all the financial help they can get in order to compete with increasingly cheap photovoltaic panels.

If Congress doesn’t act, the tax credit will decline to 10 percent on January 1 2017 for utility-scale solar projects, and to zero percent for rooftop solar systems. Though prospective owners of those rooftop solar systems may wince, the demise of the tax credit is less likely to hurt rooftop solar as an industry that it is utility-scale solar. That’s because bigger plants have to be competitive with the wholesale price of energy getting sold into the grid, while rooftop systems need only compete with the significantly higher retail cost of that energy as reflected in your electric bill.

Showdown Looms Over California’s School Construction Needs—Special Interests vs. the People

Once again the needs of the businesses, families and students are secondary to the special interest and their financial gains. It is contractors and unions that are promoting a $9 billion bond measure—lots of profit for both in this effort—little talk about the students and their education needs.

What difference does it make if the kids are in brand new buildings learning that two plus two can equal five? The quality of education is more important than the age of the teacher or building. Why aren’t these patriotic contractors demanding the end of the union monopoly over education, if their concern is really education?

“The key question is this: Is it time to rethink the existing system where state and local officials share responsibility for building and improving schools, financed in large part by the state government selling multibillion-dollar general obligation bonds?

Yes, says Gov. Jerry Brown; no, says a group of legislators and school district officials.”

Great buildings do not make good education.

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Showdown Looms Over California’s School Construction Needs

John Myer, KQED, 1/23/15

School advocates say California is long overdue for billions of dollars to build and modernize classrooms.

Big fights in state political and policy circles are usually about what either someone wants to do … or what they don’t want to do. Count in that second category the 2015 fight that looms over the future of financing California’s school construction and modernization needs.

The key question is this: Is it time to rethink the existing system where state and local officials share responsibility for building and improving schools, financed in large part by the state government selling multibillion-dollar general obligation bonds?

Yes, says Gov. Jerry Brown; no, says a group of legislators and school district officials.

“The governor, by his budget presentation, is against it,” said Joe Dixon, assistant superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District.

Dixon is also chairman of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, a group formed to help alleviate the delay in funding billions of dollars of waiting school construction projects across California.

Since 1982, school bond measures on statewide ballots have been both frequent and almost always successful. A total of $52.68 billion for school construction needs was approved by voters over a quarter-century, the most recent bond being approved in 2006.

But that was it, and the well is now dry.

“There is currently no bond authority remaining in the state’s core school facilities new construction and modernization programs,” says the January state budget proposal by Brown.

Brown, though, is opposed to simply going back to the ballot. In late 2014, as legislators were crafting a new $9 billion school bond for the fall ballot, the governor quietly squashed the plan before it ever reached a final vote in the Legislature.

Observers wondered whether Brown, who had already agreed to a $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot, simply didn’t want any more borrowing proposals at the same time he was reminding voters of how he was leading state government into a more frugal future.

Now the governor’s budget proposes a lengthy “dialogue on the future of school facilities funding,” and one thing is clear: He no longer wants to borrow money on the state’s credit card for construction and modernization needs at all California schools.

Brown’s budget director, Michael Cohen, said earlier this month that the governor wants to limit state school bonds to only a portion of schools.

“Leaving the state role at assisting those [school districts] who don’t have the financial wherewithal to build the schools they need,” said Cohen.

The governor’s goals, only broadly outlined in the budget he unveiled on Jan. 9, include some kind of “means test” that would push more responsibility to the local level — including school bonds approved by local voters, which require a 55 percent vote to pass.

“I don’t know how he thinks that’s going to make things better,” responded Santa Ana USD’s Dixon. While historical data show about 80 percent of local school bonds pass, Dixon said those local ballot measures aren’t spread out among the schools with the most need for building and improving their facilities.

“It’s uneven,” said Dixon. “There are 1,000 school districts. There’s a state role and a partnership to make sure that all kids in California have good school facilities.”

And that’s why the coalition that Dixon and others — school officials and members of the state’s building industry — have formed is ready to bypass the state Capitol in 2016.

Three days after Brown unveiled his budget with its call to rethink statewide school bonds, the Coalition for Adequate School Housing submitted a statewide ballot initiative for a $9 billion school bond in November 2016.

Once cleared for signature-gathering, the group intends to move forward on its own — a rare rejection of the normal process where legislators put bond measures on the ballot, and a move that could force Brown into the uncomfortable position of accepting something he doesn’t want … or provoking a fight with school officials and others who have often supported his policies.

“We’re not letting off,” said Dixon. “We feel we have to go full speed ahead.”

 

State to use $19 Million of Gas Tax Money for Bike Paths—Instead of Streets

The next time you hit a bump in the road or your car has problems because of going over one too many potholes, you have Jerry Brown to thank. Have to slow down to ten miles an hour on a city street because of a biker to the side of you—thank our confused Guv Brown. Money meant for fixing the roads go to the sensitive environmentalist special interest that prefers cars are seen in museums instead of on the streets.

“The allocations included nearly $19 million from the Active Transportation Program that will go toward 50 biking and pedestrian projects throughout the state.

Projects ranging from highways to bikeways to sidewalks in the Central Valley received funding totaling more than $18.2 million. Here are the major projects approved for the Central Valley:”

This is why you never vote for higher taxes or bonds—government will abuse the public and misuse the money. Government lies. 

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State OKs $174.8 Million for transportation projects

Central Valley Business Times, 1/24/15

 

•  From highways to bike paths and sidewalks

•  “Investments like these mean a better future for all Californians”
California Transportation Commission has allocated $174.8 million to 85 transportation projects that will repair aging roads and bridges, bikeways and smaller projects.

The allocations included nearly $19 million from the Active Transportation Program that will go toward 50 biking and pedestrian projects throughout the state.

Projects ranging from highways to bikeways to sidewalks in the Central Valley received funding totaling more than $18.2 million. Here are the major projects approved for the Central Valley:

• $627,000 in the city of Fresno, at the highway 99-Olive Avenue Interchange. Install traffic signalization, construct raised island, widen existing southbound off-ramp, install ramp metering and construct new curb ramps.

• $1,943,000 in and near the city of Sacramento on Interstate 5 and Highway 99 at various locations, place asphalt composite treatment under metal beam guardrail, install gore paving, and place wood mulch in interchange areas to minimize weed growth and eliminate frequency and duration of worker exposure to traffic and increase public safety.

• $10,241,000 Highway 160 near Isleton, paint Three Mile Slough Bridge to maintain and preserve bridge and prevent further deterioration on the bridge steel structural members.

• $513,000 on Highway 65 in Yuba County at Dry Creek Bridge, install rock slope protection beneath the structure and provide an incised channel for migration of salmonoids and a wildlife crossing and to maintain structural integrity, the risk to lives and properties.

• $2,607,000 in Merced County on Highway 65, in and near Snelling, repair localized pavement failures, and overlay existing pavement with a layer of asphalt concrete.

• $465,000 in city of Tehachapi, construct sidewalk, curb ramps, pedestrian lighting, and landscaping along Tehachapi Boulevard, from Snyder Avenue to Dennison Road.

• $136,000 to the city of Tehachapi to extend the existing Valley Boulevard bike path by narrowing an unnecessarily wide pavement.

• $240,000 to the city of Coalinga for an “active transportation” plan.

• $267,000 to the city of Fowler to reconstruct pedestrian facilities along Merced Street, including sidewalks and curb ramps.

• $250,000 to the city of Fresno for a pedestrian bike safety education program.

• $550,000 to Stockton to update its bicycle master plan.

• $350,000 to Stockton to develop a “Safe Routes to School Plan” for all schools within the city.

Other grants were for improvements to bike trails and for planning in various Valley cities and counties.

“Preserving, rebuilding and expanding the state’s transportation infrastructure is key to improving the state’s mobility for decades to come,” says Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Not only is it critical to California’s economy, but investments like these mean a better future for all Californians.”

 

Assemblymember Ian Calderon Proposes “Right To Try” Act To Remove Barriers For Terminally Ill Patients Seeking Investigational Treatment

Every once in a while even a Democrat does the right thing for the community. Assemblyman Ian Calderon has created a bill that allows those terminally ill to seek and use investigational treatments—treatments not approved by government (as if government is the right arbiter). When people have no other government allowed choices to save their lives, and doctors declare they will die, why not allow them to take new drugs and treatments—who is it going to harm?

“Terminally ill patients do not have the luxury of waiting for the FDA to grant compassionate use or participating in the lengthy process of clinical trials,” stated Assembly member Calderon. “AB 159, the ‘Right to Try’ Act, gives terminally ill patients a chance to try potentially life-saving treatments when all other options have been exhausted. It removes barriers for patients who need to immediately obtain those treatments, and protects physicians, hospitals, and manufacturers from retribution.”

This is what freedom is about—allowing people the right to save their lives, whether government approves or not.

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Assemblymember Ian Calderon Proposes “Right To Try” Act To Remove Barriers For Terminally Ill Patients Seeking Investigational Treatment

Assemblyman Ian Calderon, 1/22/15

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Ian Calderon introduced Assembly Bill 159, which would allow terminally ill patients to seek an investigational drug, product, or device from a product manufacturer when other treatment options have been exhausted.

“Terminally ill patients do not have the luxury of waiting for the FDA to grant compassionate use or participating in the lengthy process of clinical trials,” stated Assemblymember Calderon. “AB 159, the ‘Right to Try’ Act, gives terminally ill patients a chance to try potentially life-saving treatments when all other options have been exhausted. It removes barriers for patients who need to immediately obtain those treatments, and protects physicians, hospitals, and manufacturers from retribution.”

The FDA’s compassionate use program allows terminally ill patients expanded access to investigational drugs and devices. Although the FDA approves most compassionate use requests it receives, it often takes doctors and patients weeks or months to navigate the process. For terminally ill patients, the waiting period can be a matter of life and death.

“Patients suffering from a terminal illness should be able to exercise a basic freedom – to preserve their own life,” stated Assemblymember Calderon. “A ‘Right to Try’ Act in California would allow patients access to medications that have passed basic safety testing and have the potential to save or extend their life.”

AB 159 would deny the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California the ability to take any disciplinary action against the license of a physician for providing investigational treatment, provided that the prescription is consistent with medical standards of care. The measure would also authorize, but not require, a health benefit plan to provide coverage for these drugs, products or devices for terminally ill patients. Furthermore, an official, employee, or agent of the state would be prohibited from blocking an eligible patient’s access to an investigational treatment.

Similar measures have passed in other states in recent years. In Arizona, the “right to try” ballot initiative (Proposition 303) in 2014 was supported by an overwhelming majority of voters (78%-22%). The same type of measure passed the Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Louisiana legislatures with bipartisan support.

 

San Fran: Our Bad Housing Policies/High Taxes Cause to SUE Mountain View for Creating Jobs

There are some really crazy people in Northern California. Thanks to massive tax breaks—taking money from the poor and middle class and give it to multi-billionaire tech company owners, San Fran has lots of jobs (never a problem when the taxpayers are buying the jobs for the billionaires) but little housing. Mayor Lee of San Fran has a plan to create 30,000 more housing units (notice I do not use the term homes). This will mostly be “affordable” meaning the middle class will be squeezed out due to the high cost of market level rents.

Now some are suggesting that the city of Mountain View sue San Fran for creating jobs. It would be a better lawsuit if the people of San Fran sued to stop the transfer of their money to billionaires—that would make sense.

“San Francisco should sue Mountain View and the rest of these fools. San Francisco could challenge all these cities to adopt a Jobs-Housing Linkage Program like we did years ago, to comply with their own housing elements. Even to the point of bringing dreaded California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits against big office projects that don’t mitigate the housing problems they send us.

Love this—I really think the Texas Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring all of the conflict. Smart business people will understand California is bad for business while Texas means business. Go Cowboys.

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Stop being bullied: Let’s sue Mountain View 

By Nato Green, SF Examiner, 1/25/15

While Mountain View is approving new office space for Google in Mountain View, San Francisco is scrambling for land to house the people who work there.

San Francisco lets Silicon Valley push it around like the school bully in an ’80s teen comedy. We’re at each other’s throats trying to cope with soaring housing costs, while Silicon Valley gets off scot-free for creating problems we get to solve.

Local governments dump housing problems onto the places that do build, mostly San Francisco and Oakland. For example, late last year, Mountain View approved plans to add 3.4 million square feet of office space around the Google and LinkedIn fortresses, adding 20,000 jobs. No new housing. Supposedly the newly elected City Council eventually will vote to allow 1,500 to 5,000 units in the area, but the other 15,000 are San Francisco’s problem by default.

Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Palo Alto, Santa Clara and all these tedious South Bay hamlets debase themselves to offer tech titans expansion upon expansion to corporate campuses without any new housing. One UC Davis study suggested those cities have a combined below-market-rate housing deficit of 20,000 units. Mayor Ed Lee, I found locations for the 30,000 units you want to build. They’re in the 408.

San Francisco should sue Mountain View and the rest of these fools. San Francisco could challenge all these cities to adopt a Jobs-Housing Linkage Program like we did years ago, to comply with their own housing elements. Even to the point of bringing dreaded California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits against big office projects that don’t mitigate the housing problems they send us.

A relevant precedent is Urban Habitat v. the City of Pleasanton. State law requires local governments to adopt a housing element with land-use regulations to meet local housing needs. Pleasanton didn’t comply with its own housing element and used a bunch of obscure zoning gimmicks to prevent new housing from being built, especially below-market-rate housing. Pleasanton lost in 2010 and had to rezone and allow more below-market-rate housing. San Francisco could adapt this approach to sue over the refusal to build in the deep south.

We progressives are accused of being NIMBYs, of reflexively opposing higher density new development. I support lots of it. In Silicon Valley. Build all the market-rate housing you want down there. I’ve been to Mountain View. There’s nothing there worth preserving, except Taqueria La Bamba on Rengstorff Avenue. Their carnitas is the rapture. When I started stand-up, the bar Ron’s Farmhouse in Mountain View had a weekly comedy night. That fetid hole of regret closed. Build a 50-story luxury condo tower there.

The reason these adorable towns resist more housing is basically racism. It’s in the guise of alarms about “preserving neighborhood character,” “school overcrowding” and “crime,” but that’s all code for poor brown people. They moved to a subdivision in 65 percent white Palo Alto to enjoy good schools and make little James Francos in peace. Fine!

South Bay: You left a lot of your rich white people here in San Francisco. Please come collect them. In San Francisco, we’re upset about the displacement of working-class communities of color. You can preserve your historic landmark whiteness and we’ll happily welcome “those people” here. Bring your people home. That’s a win-win.

I know the techies in San Francisco feel embattled and beleaguered. They’re blamed for things that are out of their control. I’m here for you, Google Bus riders. I’m concerned that all the hours you spend commuting are bad for your health. I want you to live close enough to bike to work. Santa Clara and Sunnyvale are both “All-America Cities.” There’s a sign on the freeway saying so. I don’t know what that means, but I want you to have down time after work to find out. You deserve linguica from Neto’s in Santa Clara. Help me help you.

Dennis Herrera, get a good lawyer and sue these townies to make them do their fair share. Better call Saul.

Nato Green is the country’s only semifunctional hybrid of comedian and union organizer. Follow him @natogreen or doing stand-up every Friday with The Business at the Hemlock Tavern.

 

 

 

Elias: Cal PUC Corruption? Why NO Investigation?

Government is by its very nature corrupt. It takes from some and gives to others. It transfers money from the middle-class to the very wealthy. Government subsidizes what it want, not what the people want. What is the real cost of solar energy? It is 3-4 times your bill—the rest is paid for by taxpayers.

The California PUC has been caught violating the law in many ways. So why haven’t there been arrests, indictments, trials? Why are some of these folks still getting a government paycheck?

“One bottom line in all this is that customers of California’s big regulated utilities – PG&E, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric – pay power rates averaging almost twice as much as consumers served by the municipal utilities in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, Sacramento and Anaheim. Power rates have consistently risen, while consumption has remained steady. Details are contained in this report about San Onofre generated by former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre: http://www.amslawyers.com/Breaking-News/Storm-Warning-CPUC-1-7-14.pdf.

No, utility profits are not supposed to lead to doubly high energy bills. That, in fact, is what the PUC was set up to prevent.”

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Criminal Investigation For California Utility Regulators?

Thomas B. Elias, Santa Monica Mirror, 1/25/15

Memo to United States Attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego: It’s high time you investigate the former president and some current members and officials of the California Public Utilities Commission for things like conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Evidence against current commissioners and former commission President Michael Peevey has mounted steadily over the last six months, but there has been no action against anyone.

State rules forbid utility regulators from communicating individually with executives of the companies they regulate. Any letters, texts or emails must go to all five commissioners, as a means of preventing secret deals favoring the companies over their business and residential customers.

Yet, emails have shown that Peevey for years communicated privately and had understandings with executives of both Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the Southern California Edison Co., of which he was formerly president. He even hosted at least one high PG&E official at his country home in Sea Ranch, north of San Francisco.

He also communicated privately with Edison execs, setting up a dinner in London with one, and in one case reported by the U-T San Diego newspaper agreeing to delay a PUC action that would limit the percentage of Edison’s executive bonuses it could bill to ratepayers until after that year’s bonuses had been paid under old rules.

Current Commissioner Mike Florio has recused himself from some votes affecting PG&E because of his role in a “judge-shopping” attempt. Emails showed Florio helped the utility choose a sympathetic commission administrative law judge to preside over a key case.

And there was the recently-disclosed 2012 phone call between Edison’s external relations director and the administrative law judge presiding over a case to determine how Edison and its customers would split the cost of retiring the disabled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Edison says that call covered only technicalities.

All this led Michael Picker, the new commission president, in a public meeting, to call the emails “troubling and very painful to read.” Yet, in the year he served on the commission with Peevey, Picker never voted against him in any major case.

One bottom line in all this is that customers of California’s big regulated utilities – PG&E, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric – pay power rates averaging almost twice as much as consumers served by the municipal utilities in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, Sacramento and Anaheim. Power rates have consistently risen, while consumption has remained steady. Details are contained in this report about San Onofre generated by former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre:

No, utility profits are not supposed to lead to doubly high energy bills. That, in fact, is what the PUC was set up to prevent.

This column has frequently documented PUC favoritism of the big companies over their rate payers, labeling Peevey a “fox guarding the chicken house” as early as 2005. But the emails released in recent months provide a smoking gun pointing toward possible criminal conspiracy. If so, it could be charged as mail fraud and/or wire fraud because excessively high rates set via conspiracy would have been billed by mail or email.

Aguirre suggests the U.S. attorneys convene special grand juries like the one that indicted PG&E for its conduct surrounding the fatal 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.

“We need to investigate how utility rates got so high,” Aguirre said. “It’s been a swamp of dishonesty.”

Aguirre suggests investigating, for example, what happened to money collected by the big companies to ensure utility safety. “Edison was paid money for defective San Onofre steam generators. PG&E was paid money (since the 1950s) to fix (gas lines), but failed to do so,” his report said. Similarly, he said, defective SDG&E equipment caused a huge 2007 San Diego County fire.

“In each case, the PUC blocked its (staff’s) investigations into utility executive wrongdoing,” Aguirre charges. No one knows what happened to billions of maintenance dollars paid by customers.

Efforts to ask Picker about these charges and any plans to improve PUC practices were rebuffed.

The bottom line: The pattern of utility regulators’ favoritism of the companies they oversee, even possible collusion with them, has been plain for decades. But the email and telephone call evidence emerged only lately.

That evidence is so strong it would be dereliction of duty for prosecutors to ignore it.

 

Good news for government oriented special interests—bad news for government schools

The revenues of the State are up—of course adding $6 billion to the budget via Prop.30 and another billion dollars from cap and trade helps.   But, the bad part is that the State of California has set up a budget system that when the next admitted recession comes (we are now in a Depression—but Brown is too confused to admit it) the government schools will not have the reserves to make it through the crisis. In fact, Brown wants the schools to economically collapse during the next down turn.

““The triggers kicking in sooner than anticipated is definitely a concern,” said Jeff Vaca, spokesman for the California Association of School Business Officials. “That’s why there is urgency in our coalition’s efforts to repeal the statute.”

The reserve cap policy – enacted last summer in a last-minute state budget trailer bill – is tied to Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Act conceived by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and approved by voters last November.”

This is why a real campaign against Prop, 2 was needed—now our schools are hostage to Sacramento.

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Soaring tax collections could trigger budget caps in 2015-16

by Kimberly Beltran, Cabinet Report,1/26/15

(Calif.) Despite assurances made last fall by the Brown administration that it would likely be years before conditions are met that would limit the amount of money school districts can squirrel away for tough budgetary times, there’s strong evidence that day may come as soon as this fiscal year.

Higher-than-expected state revenues could in 2015-16 trigger  a series of new legal benchmarks that would restrict the size of budget reserves districts could maintain in the following year.

Nearly universal opposition from California’s school administration community  is pointing to the unexpected quick trigger as yet another reason  state legislators should overturn the mandate.

“The triggers kicking in sooner than anticipated is definitely a concern,” said Jeff Vaca, spokesman for the California Association of School Business Officials. “That’s why there is urgency in our coalition’s efforts to repeal the statute.”

The reserve cap policy – enacted last summer in a last-minute state budget trailer bill – is tied to Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Act conceived by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and approved by voters last November.

The Constitutional amendment directs billions of dollars, beginning with the 2015-16 budget, into the state’s own emergency reserve account. It also created a new “rainy day” fund to support K-12 schools and community colleges during economic downturns.

District leaders oppose provisions in the measure that affect them for several reasons, including the fact that the rainy day fund for education would be created by withholding money to which they would otherwise be getting under Proposition 98 – also a Constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998.

Further, they argue, the proposed restrictions come at a time when California class sizes are among the highest in the nation, per-pupil spending is still among the lowest, and most districts  are still recovering from the worst economic recession in decades.

Opposition to the reserve cap was boosted last week when the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst said the requirement should be repealed.

The timing of when the caps would kick in is based on a series of economic and political conditions.

Key among them is recognition of the share of state revenue schools will be getting next year based on the Prop. 98 guarantee.

The complex funding formula is expected to require the Legislature to use the “Test I” option – used only twice since 1988 – giving schools about 40 percent of revenues. Use of Test I is reflective of California’s strong economy and the collection of a large amount of capital gains taxes this year.

The second element of the cap triggers that appears to be happening unexpectedly is the requirement that the state pay off the “maintenance factor” – debt owed to schools from the many years that the state could not afford to make the full Prop. 98 payment.

The maintenance factor was recently estimated to be $6.6 billion but because of the growth in revenue collections the last three years, that goal is also within sight – it is estimated that the new maintenance factor will be just $1.9 billion by this spring.

The LAO has maintained that it would be several years before Prop. 2 conditions triggered the reserve cap but acknowledged last week it’s possible it could happen this year or next, depending on the revenue stream.

Ken Kapphahn, author of the LAO report released last week, said that had Prop. 2 been in effect a year earlier, it’s likely conditions in 2014-15 would have triggered the reserve cap.

School Services of California, a firm that has long specialized in business and financial management for school districts, has been telling its clients in budget presentations that they should prepare themselves for the probability that the reserve cap could be triggered as soon as this year as well.

Backed by last week’s LAO’s analysis, school leaders are prepared to argue that capping their reserve accounts would pose a number of risks including:

Difficulty maintaining programs in tight fiscal times – the reserve caps would allow most districts to maintain only a few weeks of payroll in reserve.

Difficulty addressing unexpected costs – emergency facility repairs and other unexpected costs would place districts with low reserves in a precarious position.

Greater fiscal distress – historically, districts with reserves below the caps have been about twice as likely to be flagged for fiscal intervention as their peers with higher reserves.

Higher borrowing costs – districts with lower reserves could have their credit ratings reduced, increasing the cost of borrowing money.

Another concern shared by the education coalition and voiced in the LAO report is that the caps become operative following any deposit into the state school reserve – even if the size of that deposit is much smaller than the triggered reduction in local reserves.

As for legislative support for repealing the statute, Republican Assembly leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, plans to author a bill aimed at doing just that. It will be part of a package of education reform bills submitted by the Caucus, she said in a statement, “that will provide teachers room to grow and excel, and give schools back the flexibility to save for a rainy day.”

Passage, however, would be up to the Democratically-controlled Legislature, which is accused of approving the reserve cap language as a favor to teacher unions to “bring more money to the bargaining table” for salaries, a spokeswoman in Olsen’s office said.

 

San Fran Politicians—Lack of Proper Staffing Causes Crime—NOT Criminals

Do the Supervisors of San Francisco believe the people are stupid? “At least two Supervisors are worried that there are not enough police patrolling The City’s streets, especially as some violent and property crimes increase.

“You look day to day and you go into a neighborhood and you don’t see a police officer,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said.”

The City is several hundreds cops SHORT of the mandated number of police. Who sets the levels—not the cops—it is the Board of Supervisors. Who told the Police Chief NOT to fill positions, to save money? The Board of Supervisors. They created the problem, now are trying to push the blame for higher crime on the police.

Instead, between AB 109 pushing criminals out of prison early, Prop. 47 making major crimes misdemeanors and courts ruling the jails are overcrowded, the people of San Fran are in danger—not from too few cops, but from a system the protects criminals and wants them comfortable. The good news is that even in San Fran, most actively support the Second Amendment—with or without cops.

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SF supervisors ask police to explain connection between rising crime and staffing level

By Jonah Owen Lamb, SF Examiner, 1/25/15

The Police Department is several hundred officers short of its mandated staffing level of 1,971.

At least two supervisors are worried that there are not enough police patrolling The City’s streets, especially as some violent and property crimes increase.

“You look day to day and you go into a neighborhood and you don’t see a police officer,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said.

With such worries in mind, Supervisor Malia Cohen is joining Wiener next week to ask police to report on The City’s “troubling crime trends” and explain in what ways the department’s staffing levels are impacting policing efforts.

“Nonviolent and property crimes systematically degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods and foster an environment where low-level criminality is accepted,” Cohen said in a statement. “San Francisco cannot turn a blind eye to these types of crimes and we must ensure that our law enforcement agencies are adequately planning for and addressing these trends.”

The City Charter calls for a minimum staffing level of 1,971 officers. But in the past few decades, with budget cutbacks and a wave of retirements, that number dropped below the mandated level. Since 2012, the numbers have begun to climb back up, but some wonder if San Francisco’s newly bursting population needs even more police to watch over it.

In the department’s 2013 annual report, it noted that San Francisco is 300 officers below its mandated number.

During the past few decades, the supervisors noted, The City’s population has grown by almost 100,000 people and is projected to continue increasing in the next several decades.

With that in mind, Cohen and Wiener have asked the City Controller’s Office to determine an adequate number of police officers for the rate of growth in San Francisco.

The current inquiry, Wiener said, may be directly related to policing and population, but he does not necessarily equate crime rates to officer staffing.

“I am not suggesting that having X number of police is going to be the blanket solution to all policing in the department,” he said, adding that the department has work to do in terms of finding better ways to fight crime.

With a push for more Police Academy graduates, the department is set to reach 2,000 officers by 2018.

 

 

 

LA Fire Department: Diversity More Important Than Qualifications and Abilities?

A think tank, the Rand Corporation, did a study and found out that if we want “diversity” in the Los Angeles Fire Department we would have to overhaul the recruiting process. Why? Because too few women apply for the Department—and very few made it through the training program. What are they talking about? Are they suggesting that women do not know they can apply to join the LAFD? Or are they suggesting, we need a quota of women in the department?

“But Rand was critical of the current recruitment process.

“While many aspects of the department’s selection process are consistent with best practice in personnel selection, there still are elements that can be improved,” said Chaitra Hardison, lead author of the report and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND. “Some of our suggested changes are intended to reduce processing time and costs to both the city and applicants.

“In addition, the city needs to engage in a long-term evaluation to demonstrate that its hiring criteria accurately predict who will be a high-performing firefighter in the future,” she said in a statement. “Additional effort also is needed to look for alternative selection criteria that may do a better job of predicting future job performance.”

This is the biggest bunch of goggleygook since the last Obama speech. It says and means nothing—not a single word about qualified applicants, energized applicants or applicants that meet the standards. The nerds behind this report need to return the money paid, the taxpayers were ripped off.

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Mayor: Increasing LAFD diversity won’t threaten quality of recruits

byFrank Stoltze, KPCC, 1/22/15

More than 97 percent of the Los Angeles Fire Department is male. Nearly half is white. The current class of recruits includes four women out of 43 firefighter hopefuls. The last class had just one woman. She resigned before graduating.

A new study of the department’s practices by the Rand Corporation’s consulting group says the department needs to overhaul its recruiting process if it is to make headway toward diversifying the department.

The 150-page report suggests launching a citywide outreach campaign that targets female athletes and minority valedictorians at local high schools for recruitment. It also suggests adding a background check on applicants before using the lottery to narrow the field.

The report was met with different degrees of enthusiasm at City Hall.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said his boss would not lower standards to achieve diversity.

“We are never going to reduce qualifications,” Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said. At the same time, he said the mayor believes its time to take another look at what it takes to become a member of one of the most elite fire departments in the nation.

“It means reassessing the qualifications that we have for people wanting to join the fire department,” Robb said.

Fire chief Ralph Terrazas was also circumspect in his response to the report.

“I look forward to reviewing this report and working with the mayor’s office and personnel as we continue to refine the hiring process to employ a diverse field of qualified candidates as LAFD firefighters,” the chief said in a statement.

The department already has instituted changes in its recruiting process after Garcetti suspended hiring last year amid reports of nepotism and a lack of diversity.

Starting last year, the LAFD began using a lottery to choose which applicants among 10,000 would be allowed to take the department’s written test. Thousands of people apply each year – too many for the city to test.

LAFD spokesman Peter Sanders said the chief already has looked into working with high schools.

“He has met with LAUSD officials to develop a magnet program within LAUSD that focuses on the fire service to develop candidates beginning at the high school level,” Sanders said.

Chief Terrazas also has asked the city council for money to hire more recruit staff, Sanders said.

But Rand was critical of the current recruitment process.

“While many aspects of the department’s selection process are consistent with best practice in personnel selection, there still are elements that can be improved,” said Chaitra Hardison, lead author of the report and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND. “Some of our suggested changes are intended to reduce processing time and costs to both the city and applicants.

“In addition, the city needs to engage in a long-term evaluation to demonstrate that its hiring criteria accurately predict who will be a high-performing firefighter in the future,” she said in a statement. “Additional effort also is needed to look for alternative selection criteria that may do a better job of predicting future job performance.”