NY/LA Governments Use Tax $$ to Make Hollywood Elite Billionaires Richer

The Hollywood elite billionaires have figured out how to get richer. They go to Guv Brown and say, if you give us a tax incentive, we will film our shows in California. Then they go to Guv Cuomo of New York and tell him, give us tax breaks and we will film in your States. Then they go to the Guvs or Tennessee, the Canadian Province. All of this is to get States to bid against one another—using taxpayer money to make the billionaires richer. This is a corrupt system—the rich versus the families—and the rich of Hollywood own governors!

“California’s current incentive program makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series.  The data makes plain why an expanded film incentive is needed to bring this part of the industry back.”

Los Angeles’ share of overall comedy production in the 2013-14 pilot cycle was 76 percent, down slightly from the 83 percent share it enjoyed last year, but off considerably from the 100 percent share the region captured seven years ago.”

lazy tv union pension

Los Angeles’ share of pilot production falls, while New York’s continues to rise

Brian Watt, KPCC, 6/24/14

Los Angeles continued to lose its share of television pilot productions in the most recent season, while New York established itself as the leader for productions of one-hour pilots, according to a new report out Tuesday from FilmL.A.

Of the 203 pilots filmed in the 2013-14 development season, 90 shot in the Los Angeles area, giving the region a 44 percent share.  Last year, L.A.’s pilot production share was 52 percent, and six years earlier, 82 percent, according to the report.

Of the 90 pilots shot in Los Angeles, 19 were for hour-long dramas, but New York grabbed 24 drama projects and dethroned Los Angeles as the leader in the drama pilot category.

“Losing television pilots – and then series – to other North American competitors leads to the destruction of steady, well-paying California jobs,” said Paul Audley, President of FilmL.A., the not-for-profit that issues permits to productions shooting on location in the Los Angeles area.  “California’s current incentive program makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series.  The data makes plain why an expanded film incentive is needed to bring this part of the industry back.”

Los Angeles’ share of overall comedy production in the 2013-14 pilot cycle was 76 percent, down slightly from the 83 percent share it enjoyed last year, but off considerably from the 100 percent share the region captured seven years ago.

The report says pilots continue to create significant economic benefits for whichever city or region can host them.  Citing industry sources, the report says the average one‐hour drama pilot can directly employ 150‐230 people for the duration of the project. Typical pilot production costs now average about $2 million (for comedy pilots) and $6 million to $8 million (for drama pilots).

Of course, not all pilots go on to be produced as series, and the ones that are “picked up” for more episodes don’t necessarily stay in the location where the pilot was shot.  Adrian McDonald, research analyst with FilmL.A., says a show’s setting can be an important factor in the long-term location decision, but the real driver is the availability of a tax credit.

“You look at a show like ‘The Whisperers’: that [pilot] shot here in Los Angeles, now it’s headed to Vancouver for a tax credit,” McDonald said.  The opposite happened to TNT’s “Franklin and Bash,” which shot its pilot in Atlanta, Georgia but moved to Los Angeles for the series production. Why?: “They got the tax credit in California – I think that helped,” McDonald said.

One of the report’s glaring examples of tax credits driving the action is USA Network’s hour-long drama series “Graceland.” Its set on the beaches of Southern California, and its pilot was shot in L.A.  Its producers applied for the California Film and TV tax credit, but didn’t get it:

As a result, the remaining 11 episodes for Graceland’s first season filmed in Florida. On average, Graceland spent more than $151,000 for each day of production in Miami. This represents a loss to California of more than $19 million, including $10.2 million spent on wages, for just this one show.

One of L.A.’s major obstacles is the size and scope of the California’s tax incentive program.  It offers up to $100 million dollars per year in credits – less than a quarter of New York’s offering – and television pilots and new network dramas can’t apply.   A bill to expand the program has passed the State Assembly and is now before the Senate.  Its sponsors have said they want to the new program to cover TV pilots, but haven’t yet determined how much extra money they want to add to the tax credit fund.

Congressional Dems’ bill provides lawyers for illegal immigrant children

Democrats in the Senate voted for $1.9 billion to “help” the illegal aliens imported by President Obama in his invasion of his own country. He is putting them in processing centers—then in a few years they will have deportation hearings, if they are stupid enough to stick around. They will disappear into the shadows, like 11 million other illegal aliens. But, some will stick around and will need to “defend” themselves against United States law.

Congressional Democrats have a bill, which if passed (it will not) will give your tax dollars meant to enforce our laws to attorneys to defend illegal aliens against our laws. In other words our tax dollars will be on both sides of the table and the illegal aliens must be laughing at the idiots in Congress that allowed this.

“Federal law prohibits using taxpayer money to grant legal representation to those going through the immigration system — though they are able to hire attorneys themselves, and the Obama administration has announced a program to try to recruit dozens of volunteer lawyers to help out where they can.

One estimate from before the recent surge said up to 40 percent of unaccompanied minors — those traveling without a parent — could qualify for asylum or some other legal status that would entitle them to stay.

The Democrats’ bill underscores the mixed messages coming out of the U.S. concerning the children’s ability to gain a foothold in the U.S.”

Washington DC - Federal Triangle: Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

Congressional Dems’ bill provides lawyers for illegal immigrant children

As children from Central America keep pouring across the nation’s southwest border, the Obama administration announced Friday that it will respond with a “surge” of immigration judges and U.S. attorneys

By Stephen Dinan and S.A. Miller, The Washington Times, 6/24/14

Congressional Democrats on Monday introduced a bill to grant taxpayer-funded lawyers to the illegal immigrant children surging across the border, with backers saying the children shouldn’t be forced to face the complex U.S. immigration system alone.

Even though the administration has said the children aren’t eligible for legal status under President Obama’s nondeportation policies, the House lawmakers said there are several other laws, including claims of asylum or other special visas available to crime victims or youngsters without families here.

“It is a fantasy to believe that unrepresented children have a fair shot in an immigration proceeding,” said Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries, New York Democrat and chief sponsor of the legislation.

Federal law prohibits using taxpayer money to grant legal representation to those going through the immigration system — though they are able to hire attorneys themselves, and the Obama administration has announced a program to try to recruit dozens of volunteer lawyers to help out where they can.

One estimate from before the recent surge said up to 40 percent of unaccompanied minors — those traveling without a parent — could qualify for asylum or some other legal status that would entitle them to stay.

The Democrats’ bill underscores the mixed messages coming out of the U.S. concerning the children’s ability to gain a foothold in the U.S.

Over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson penned an op-ed that ran in a number of Spanish-language outlets in the U.S. and Latin America that said the children shouldn’t expect legal status.

“The long journey is not only dangerous; there are no ‘permisos,’ ‘permits’” or free passes at the end, Mr. Johnson wrote in his department’s official English translation of the op-ed.

An internal Customs and Border Protection memo that summarized interviews with children and families who have recently crossed the border said most were coming for what they called a “permiso,” which appears to be a summons to appear in immigration court for a deportation hearing. That document is called a Notice to Appear, or NTA.

Part of the difficulty is the way both sides see the NTA.

American officials consider it a part of their enforcement, since it’s the official designation that someone could be deported.

“If your child is caught crossing the border illegally, he or she will be charged with violating United States immigration laws and placed in deportation proceedings — a situation no one wants. The document issued to your child is not a ‘permiso’ but a Notice to Appear in a deportation proceeding before an immigration judge,” Mr. Johnson wrote.

Those in Central America, however, don’t see it that way. According to the internal memo, they see the NTA as a foothold in the U.S., giving them a chance to apply for asylum and fight deportation — and possibly to disappear into the shadows along with the 11 million other illegal immigrants.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called for Mr. Obama himself to make a forceful statement, arguing that only he can command the type of attention that would ensure the message would break through to Latin American parents considering sending their children north.

Mr. Johnson is scheduled to testify Tuesday to the House Committee on Homeland Security, where Republicans are poised to say the Obama administration’s own policies have been responsible for the surge.

“Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our southern border, and the problem is growing from bad to worse. They are being drawn here as a result of our failed border policies,” said committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican.

The issue continues to roil Washington politics.

On Monday, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele chided fellow Republicans, telling them to “stop playing political football” with the issue.

In an interview on MSNBC, he singled out for criticism two Texans, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans who are eyeing a 2016 presidential run.

“It would be very helpful if Ted Cruz and Gov. Perry in particular came out in support of the solution here,” Mr. Steele said. “It is a humanitarian crisis, as the president, I think, rightly noted, and it is one the United States has to deal with.”

Part of that humanitarian crisis involves the way the children are treated when they arrive.

Immigrant-rights advocates have filed a complaint with CBP alleging verbal and physical abuse of children. But in a statement late last week, Honduran officials said the U.S. government has done a good job of taking care of them.

The Honduran embassy in Washington said in a statement that it has sent teams to visit the two processing facilities U.S. Customs and Border Protection is running in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, Arizona, and said the children are getting medical care, counseling and emotional support.

Children are also able to contact their families, the embassy said in its release, issued in Spanish.

LAUSD to Good Students: Your Education Funding is Lowest Priority—Illegal Aliens At Top

The top priority for the Los Angeles Unified School District funding is for those students at the bottom of the education ladder. In LA that means more money, lots more money, is being spent on illegal aliens. Honest students, good students get the least amount of tax dollars to maximize their education—any wonder charter schools are in demand and rich and middle class parents leave the government schools.

It is a wonder that any bonds get passed—why tax yourself if the money is NOT going to your children, only to those who have violated our laws?

“Under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), districts receive supplemental grant funding based on their numbers of “high-needs” students – low-income students, English learners and foster youth. Districts in which these students make up at least 55 percent of enrollment receive concentration grant funding in addition to the supplemental funding.”

Walton_High_School_New_Classroom

LA Unified allocates funds to schools with highest student need

By Susan Frey, EdSource, 6/24/14 

The Los Angeles Unified School District will begin using a new student need index to direct additional funding to the neediest schools under a plan expected to be adopted by the school board today.

Under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), districts receive supplemental grant funding based on their numbers of “high-needs” students – low-income students, English learners and foster youth. Districts in which these students make up at least 55 percent of enrollment receive concentration grant funding in addition to the supplemental funding.

During the 2013-14 school year, L.A. Unified received about $700 million in supplemental and concentration grant funding, which it distributed to schools throughout the district, according to the LCFF.

But going forward, the bulk of those additional funds – expected to be about $138 million in 2014-15 – will be allocated to schools according to a new student need index. Currently, if a student is in more than one high-needs category – such as a low-income English learner – that student would only be counted once. This is referred to as an “unduplicated count.”

In the new index, the district will rank schools based on a “duplicated count” – counting students twice or more if they fall into more than one category. The district is also adding a fourth category: homeless students. Schools are ranked on the index based on the duplicated count divided by the total number of students. Those with the highest number of high-needs students will be on the priority list for funding.

Supporters of this approach say that schools that serve the most students with multiple needs are typically located in impoverished communities. Those students need more resources than low-income students residing in higher-income neighborhoods. Less than a third of L.A. Unified schools are expected to receive the extra funding next year.

“We acknowledge that this year is a down payment” on efforts to improve all schools, school board member Steve Zimmer said. “We will revisit the index on an annual basis and determine need. As more funding comes in, we hope to reach a larger set of schools over the years.”

Community-based organizations in East and South Los Angeles rallied supporters to testify in favor of the student need index at the last board meeting on June 9. With a 5-1 vote, with board member Tamar Galatzan opposed, the board approved a resolution supporting the index. The final adoption of the index is set for today, when the board votes on the Local Control and Accountability Plan, which establishes district spending under the new funding formula for the next three years.

Nancy Meza, an organizer with InnerCity Struggle, called the vote “historic” because “it is one of the few times that those directly affected by the L.A. Unified budget have had influence in budget decisions.”

The organizations had proposed including attributes of the students’ communities in determining the school’s ranking on the index, such as the level of gun violence, access to healthy food and full-service health clinics, and the number of parks and play spaces in the neighborhood. But Edgar Zazueta, the district’s chief of staff for external affairs, said when district staff looked into the issue, there was essentially no difference in the ordering of schools if they relied on the duplicated student count alone or included the community factors.

Although some people, including Galatzan, oppose the index, saying that it shortchanges low-income, English learner, foster and homeless students who are attending less needy schools, the vast majority of advocates for low-income students have been supporting L.A. Unified’s approach.

“We know that this is not a lot of money,” said David Sapp, director of education for the ACLU of Southern California. “The district can’t do everything it needs to do to meet the needs for all needy students. Differentiating is a sensible approach and consistent with equity principles.”

Sapp said many other districts are using the funds for select schools, but he doesn’t know of any district other than L.A. Unified that has developed a need index and is basing the index on duplicated counts. “This weighted approach is only being done by L.A. as far as I know,” said Sapp, who is in the process of reviewing spending plans for a large number of districts.

Zimmer acknowledges that many schools in the district he represents will not qualify for funding during the next three-year cycle, but he believes the index is the best way to distribute limited funds.

Under the Local Control Funding Formula, “we are charged to eradicate the myth of fairness,” Zimmer said. “The promise of equality of opportunity is really betrayed by the vast inequities of resources that are available to children depending on where they live – in a resource-rich or resource-barren community. Although many, many factors contribute to the differences in educational outcomes, community resources just can’t be ignored any more.”

“We’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m not sure that doing the right thing will create a perfect policy. This is a work in progress.”

 

Left Considers Driving a Car as an “Addiction” to Be Ended With THERAPY

Autoroute_A10_Orléans_Ouest

A Therapy Created to Treat Addiction Is Being Used to Reduce Car Reliance

U.K. transport firm Steer Davies Gleave takes “motivational interviewing” door to door.

Eric Jaffe, City Lab, 6/23/14

Clinical psychologist William R. Miller stumbled upon “motivational interviewing” while working with heavy drinkers in the early 1980s. The therapy is based on the idea that telling people they need to change is a terrible way to get them to change; in contrast, motivational interviewing helps people identify their own reasons for change; it’s often described as “non-judgmental.” Over the years, motivational interviewing has proven effectivein treating a range of behavioral challenges, from alcohol abuse to dietary change to gambling.

And, most recently, car reliance in cities.

This latest application comes courtesy of the U.K.-based transportation consultancy Steer Davies Gleave. A few years ago, the firm incorporated motivational interviewing into its door-to-door personal travel planning program. Instead of bullying people into using the bus or train for ideological or social reasons, SDG travel advisors help metro area residents recognize situations in their own lives when it makes more sense to travel without a car.

It’s a chance for self-reflection for people normally too busy getting somewhere to realize they have a car habit in the first place.

“We’re not guilt-tripping people. It’s really easy to do that in behavior change,” says SDG’s Eleni Harlan. “Rather than us telling them the benefits or what the facts are or what other people think, it’s about guiding them through the process of what would motivate them.”

Often working with local governments, SDG identifies areas with the potential to reduce car use or increase use of more sustainable modes. While community-based travel programs in the United States often rely on direct mailing, SDG deploys at least a dozen advisors to knock on thousands of doors in the area. One recent two-year program in the city of Ely visited more than 8,000 households in a few months; another, along a corridor in the West Midlands, visited 17,500.

A typical doorstep motivational interview involves lots of open-ended questions (What kinds of journeys do you make?), plenty of reflective listening (It sounds like you thought about that…), and some well-timed summaries of what the resident has been saying. Most conversations run about 15 minutes, says Harlan, and the goal is to get a sense of the person’s daily life and travel routines. It’s a chance for self-reflection for people normally too busy getting somewhere to realize they have a car habit in the first place.

Critically, these Willy Lomans of transit don’t aggressively push their behavioral wares on unsuspecting consumers. They don’t jump in and say take the bus!; they intentionally don’t use words like sustainability. Instead their conversational probing will often reveal one or two key areas where a change in travel habits might actually make the person’s daily grind easier or more enjoyable.

“What it does do is show a genuine interest in who they are and where they’re coming from, instead of just jumping in with your agenda,” says Harlan. “Quite often I end up telling people we’re not anti-car. We’re not asking you to get rid of it. We’re just exploring what other options might be available to you.”

So far the program has been quite effective. Harlan says that last year SDG found an 11 percent reduction in car driving trips among nearly 25,000 households across 9 cities. (SDG measures results with either before-and-after trip diaries in a sample population, or self-report surveys.) In the West Midlands program, which began in May 2011, SDG found a 24 percent reported reduction in car trips more than a year later.

Fleischman: 8 Crazy Things in Jerry Brown’s New California Budget

My good friend Jon Fleischman write this article about the 8 crazy things in the confused Guv Brown budget. I would like to add a ninth. Jon notes the crazy spending, the special interest spending, the ideological spending. All the while a question is not being asked, where does the money come from? Yes, we have significantly higher taxes, which is why we have higher revenues. But even that is not enough.

While the Guv giggles he has a surplus budget, in fact the State Controller notes we have an $8.5 billion deficit. So, this budget is actually a deficit budget—so where are the cuts? Jon has provided just a few of the areas that need to be cut—I bet you, my readers have many more. What are they?

Record Level of State Spending – General Fund spending spikes year-over-year in Brown’s budget by over $12 billion, taking general fund spending up to a new record high of $108 billion.  If you actually compute total state spending from all fund sources, total state spending hits a new record high of $230 billion!”

But the LA Times, the Bee (of any variety), the Chron, even the Guv press release claims the budget is $156 billion. In fact it is $230 billion when you count ALL of the expenditures of Sacramento.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

8 Crazy Things in Jerry Brown’s New California Budget

by Jon Fleischman, Breitbart CA,   6/20/14

This morning in San Diego, Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s new, bloated state budget. Negotiated between the Democrat Governor and Democrat leaders in the legislature, this spending plan represents the priorities of a single political party, here in our blue state.

Below, I detail some disturbing items in this new budget. As you read through these, remember that the state sits on what is an unprecedented and enormous unfunded–and unresolved–public employee pension problem.

Record Level of State Spending – General Fund spending spikes year-over-year in Brown’s budget by over $12 billion, taking general fund spending up to a new record high of $108 billion.  If you actually compute total state spending from all fund sources, total state spending hits a new record high of $230 billion!  Many of these spending increases are reflected in significant increases in entitlement programs, ensuring that California continues to be a leader in providing the most generous social welfare program funding in the country.

Swimming Pools – Courtesy of taxpayers all over California, the people of the relatively small border town of Calexico will receive millions of dollars for a very large swimming pool. But there’s more. The budget also contains millions to fix some cracks in the large, iconic “Neptune Pool” at the historic Hearst Castle on California’s central coast.

Local School Districts Required to Reduce Reserves – In a blatant flexing of political muscle by the California Teachers Association, a last-minute change in the budget will put severe restriction on local school districts to keep healthy reserves–their “rainy day funds”–to protect themselves against future economic downturns. The motive of the unions here is to force school districts to spend that money, knowing that some of those funds will be spent on the salaries and benefits of their members.

Drug Felons on Welfare – Until the enactment of this budget, state law prohibited convicted drug felons from receiving any benefits from two of the state’s largest welfare programs, CalWORKS and CalFresh (food stamps). But not anymore–now, instead of just vouchers, they will be eligible for cash (ka-ching!). The projected cost increase of this new policy: $50 million!

The Unoccupied Governor’s Mansion –  The State of California owns a 137 year old Governor’s mansion. It has been unoccupied since then-Governor Reagan and his first lady, Nancy, abandoned it for a house in the Sacramento suburbs. Even though Governor Brown has no plans to live in it afterwards, the state budget contains $2.5 million bucks to renovate the mansion.

Blank Check for High-Speed Rail – You would never know how unpopular the high-speed rail (HSR) boondoggle is in public opinion polls if you looked at Brown’s budget. The budget includes $250 million in spending on HSR from funds coming in from the state’s dubious cap-and-trade carbon emission program.  It also establishes that in future years, hundreds of millions will be spend on HSR with no future vote of the legislature required – it’s on perpetual auto-pilot! Even worse, the HSR Authority will undoubtedly issue revenue bonds against this future revenue, borrowing money now to be repaid later. Oy.

More Funding for Abortions – One of the most controversial aspects of California’s budget is the substantial amount of taxpayer funding for “pregnancy termination services.” This year’s budget provides for a staggering 40% increase in the reimbursement rate for abortions in the MediCal program. Well over $5 million in taxpayer funds is set aside to fund abortions. Sick.

THE UNOCCUPIED GOVERNOR’S MANSION – The State of California owns a 137 year old Governor’s mansion.  It has been unoccupied since then Governor Reagan and his first lady, Nancy, abandoned it for a house in the Sacramento suburbs.  Even though Governor Brown has no plans to live in it afterwards, the state budget contains $2.5 million bucks to

Coastal Commission Power Grab – It pays to be the Assembly Speaker. Just ask the current occupant of the job, Toni Atkins. The Assemblywoman had been trying for years to expand the power of the California Coastal Commission, a controversial government entity because of its wide-ranging control over private property along our state’s coastline. Atkins had not been having luck passing a bill to give the Commission the power to levy fines independently without going to a judge. Somehow this power grab ended up in the final language of the budget.

With the Governor’s signature on this big-spending budget, it should be abundantly clear that any notion that Brown somehow represents “adult supervision” in the State Capitol is a fiction.

What Drought? California Has Plenty of Water.

The author of this article correctly notes that we should be using waste water and ocean water as part of the lack of regular water to be used. But she uses the word drought as if that is the cause of a lack of water. Nowhere in the article does she note the use of water that goes to farming and families has instead, due to government policies, gone to fish. She does not show that the reason we have an overdraft of ground water is because government is using water for people for the fish instead—millions of acres feet of water from the New Melones Dam is no longer going to people, it is going to fish.

The drought is natural, the lack of water is government made. It is time for journalists to tell the whole story, otherwise the report is merely a propaganda piece instead.

“It’s new water for us,” said Dewane—it’s used water that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean. Orange County Water District’s goal is to reuse all of the water used by their urban population. “It’s important to understand that no one is drinking toilet water,” he said—but water that’s been cleaned to an “unimaginable level.”

Ghandi drank urine, so why can’t we drink treated waste water?

ManInWater

What Drought? California Has Plenty of Water.

Looking to a Future Where We Drink More Wastewater and Ocean Water—Treated, Of Course

by Sarah Rothbard, Zocalo Public Square, 6/18/14

The cliché about Californians is that when asked where their water comes from, they say “the tap” or “plastic bottles,” said Sierra Magazine editor-in-chief and Occidental College adjunct professor Bob Sipchen. “But if you really think about it, all Californians in particular have a really direct and emotional connection to water.” Sipchen, who was moderating an event co-presented by Occidental College at the Petersen Automotive Museum on the future of water reuse in California, began by asking the panel to share their most tangible memories of water. The panelists—who are involved in water recycling throughout the state in one way or another—mentioned sandbagging on the Mississippi River, the water meter on a grandfather’s farm, a swimming pool fed by a well that then irrigated the lawn, and golf course ponds in Arizona.

But even if people in California understand how important water issues are, they don’t necessarily understand their complexity. “We have so many demands on our water—“and they’re all valid, and they’re all necessary,” said Sarah Woolf, president of water management company Water Wise, who also works in her family’s San Joaquin Valley farm business. We have to look at meeting these demands as one big issue rather than placing them in siloes, with each area of the state deserving different things, she said.

West Basin Municipal Water District public information and conservation manager Ron Wildermuth explained how his district purifies both sewer water and ocean water. First, the water passes through a filter with holes 300 times smaller than a human hair; then they use reverse osmosis technology to put the molecular structure of water through a sheet of plastic.

But as advanced as this technology is, people remain hesitant about the prospect of drinking salty water and wastewater. How, asked Sipchen, do you move beyond this?

It’s as simple as tasting the water, said Wildermuth. “Your mind’s going to say, ‘This tastes like water.’ We can take every contaminated source and make it as good as bottled water.” In the future, he said, the goal is to make recycled water 25 percent of our future supply.

It’s easy to see desalination as the future; the ocean is an unlimited resource. But the process has problems, said Sipchen. It’s extremely energy-intensive and generates a great deal of heat. And there are questions about its impact on marine environments and what to do with the salt that’s left over.

Orange County Water District president Shawn Dewane said that the problems of desalination have to be dealt with site-by-site; Huntington Beach, for example, is dramatically different from Monterey Bay. “We wouldn’t advocate for a one-size-fits-all permitting structure,” he said. The science and technology of desalination “has been proven worldwide and is used worldwide,” he added.

In discussing the work of his water district, Dewane used the phrase “the water we create.” Sipchen asked if this is inaccurate—new water can’t be created since it already exists in the universe.

“It’s new water for us,” said Dewane—it’s used water that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean. Orange County Water District’s goal is to reuse all of the water used by their urban population. “It’s important to understand that no one is drinking toilet water,” he said—but water that’s been cleaned to an “unimaginable level.”

Scott Slater is president and CEO of Cadiz Inc., a company that plans to capture groundwater in eastern San Bernardino County and sell it to Southern California cities. Santa Margarita, an Orange County city, has a contract with Cadiz, said Sipchen. Does producing water from a new source, Sipchen asked Slater and Dewane, send the wrong message to a part of the country that should be limiting its water use?

Dewane said that while new water supplies might encourage growth, we know that regardless, population growth is going to outstrip our ability to conserve water.

“We all want to provide a reliable source of water,” said Slater—and Cadiz’s water is 100 percent reliable. “The question is: new growth or backfill?” he said—and that’s up to local agencies, not his company. Plus, water use is changing here. This year, L.A. took less water from the Owens Valley than any time in history. “It’s not 1950 anymore,” he said.

In the San Joaquin Valley, you used to see huge sprinklers dumping water over the land, said Sipchen—now you see much more efficient drip irrigation. Is there more that can be done there to recycle water?

Farmers are using wastewater to irrigate crops, said Woolf. Her husband’s family farm takes the waste that’s a byproduct of producing tomato paste and uses it to water their tomato crops. There are a number of pilot projects working on cleaning the region’s groundwater, which contains boron and high levels of salinity. Desalination and distilling plants have also come to the San Joaquin Valley. We’re not as far along as Southern California, but we’re working on it, she said.

In the audience question-and-answer session, guests asked the panelists to look to California’s water future.

Will we be able to recycle water in our own homes?

No, said the panelists. These projects work best at a very large scale, said Dewane—who couldn’t imagine it being economically efficient for individuals. (Orange County’s system serves 2.5 million people.) Safety is also a concern, said Slater.

Could desalination or treated sewage supply areas of L.A. that are further inland—from the Wilshire corridor to downtown? Desalination plants are all at sea level, and the best recycled water comes from higher elevations.

Wildermuth said that another alternative for these types of areas is to clean and use contaminated groundwater—which is the major thrust of L.A.’s new water supply.

We have to start thinking about portfolios that are complimentary, said Slater.

There’s not one solution to our water problems—but “several silver bullets,” said Wildermuth.

Will Government Schools Continue to Protect Bullies on Campus?

There is a growing movement that bullies belong in the classroom in government schools. Both Los Angeles and San Fran schools refuse to expel a bully that bashes students, steals from them or harasses them. Instead the bullies are told they are not bad people, but do bad things and please promise not to do it again. This is called “Restorative Justice”—in real life it is telling the bullies you own the place.

Now parents are fighting back. While not supporting fights or violence, since the schools allow the bullies to stay, it is time for the children to literally fight back—anyway, no one gets expelled because fighting is wrong, but not illegal on a government school campus.

“The proposal by Duval County Public Schools trustee Jason Fischer is intended to protect a student who fights back when attacked from facing any disciplinary action if it’s determined that the student was defending him- or herself.

“If somebody attacks you, you should be able to use physical force to stop your attacker,” Fischer told Cabinet Report. “What I’m saying with this proposal is let’s not further victimize someone who’s already been harmed.”

Maybe it is time the bullies get bullied?

School Reform

‘Stand your ground’ meets bullies at school

by Kimberly Beltran, Cabinet Report, 6/22/14

(Calif.) Anna Mendez, whose 16-year-old son committed suicide after fighting with student bullies, doesn’t condone violence.

In fact, the non-profit group she founded to fight bullying in the wake of her son’s death encourages harmony, she said, but paradoxically is also in favor of a Florida school trustee’s effort to ban disciplinary action against a student defending him- or herself in a physical attack.

“As a national association that promotes peace, we certainly don’t want to encourage violence of any kind,” said Mendez, executive director of the National Association of People Against Bullying. “At the same time, we have a real problem with the so-called zero-tolerance policies and the fact that both children are punished when one is only trying to defend himself.”

Public schools nationwide have begun pulling back from the “zero-tolerance” policies widely enacted in the mid-1990s and using alternative disciplinary strategies to avoid unnecessary suspensions or expulsions and keep kids in school. Updated, modern discipline policies focus on giving school administrators more discretion in dealing with rule breakers, and they promote positive conflict resolution in which all involved parties needs are addressed.

The proposal by Duval County Public Schools trustee Jason Fischer is intended to protect a student who fights back when attacked from facing any disciplinary action if it’s determined that the student was defending him- or herself.

“If somebody attacks you, you should be able to use physical force to stop your attacker,” Fischer told Cabinet Report. “What I’m saying with this proposal is let’s not further victimize someone who’s already been harmed.”

His proposal has been called the school version of the state’s Stand Your Ground law, under which a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations without an obligation to retreat.

But Fischer calls the comparison “sensationalism” and says his plan “is really just a self-defense” and fairness issue.

“You can evade, block or use physical force to stop an attacker from harming you,” Fischer said. “I’m not talking here about using fire arms; I’m not talking about using deadly force. I’m just saying that a student has a right to defend himself and that we shouldn’t punish the victim at all.”

Under current district policy, students who fight are labeled “mutual combatants” and punished equally, said Fischer, whose initiative led to the creation of a subcommittee to vet the district’s Code of Conduct and return to the board with recommended changes to some of the regulations.

The new policy – due to be voted on by the board July 1 – calls for differentiating between the role of each student involved in a fight (i.e., aggressor or victim) and meting out a lesser punishment to a kid found to be defending himself. It does not, however, include Fischer’s ‘no-punishment-for-fighting-back’ clause because of concerns among some on the committee that it sends the wrong message to students.

Fischer, who said he’s hoping at that meeting to convince his colleagues to insert the provision in the policy, has his work cut out for him.

“I feel uncomfortable, and certain board members felt uncomfortable, with the idea of no consequence at all,” Duval superintendent Nikolai Vitti told Tampa Bay’s First Coast News. “Because if there is no consequence, you signal that violence is acceptable.”

On the night before he died, Daniel Mendez – after years of physical and verbal harassment in which he turned the other cheek – was apparently thinking of fighting back and worried about the consequences he might face, according to his mother.

A polite student on his school’s football team, with good grades, good friends, a black belt in tae kwon do and college in his future, Daniel came into his parents’ room to ask them if they’d be mad if he got suspended, Anna Mendez said. Then he asked if he could skip part of the school day the next day.  When his mother realized he was asking because he was considering self-defense against those bullying him, she finally told him: “If someone is bothering you, you choose the biggest one and punch him right in the nose.”

The next day, May 1, 2009, the San Clemente High School sophomore finally struck a blow but, outnumbered 2-1, he was beaten up by his persecutors and, feeling humiliated and hopeless, left school and shot himself less than an hour later.

A policy such as the one proposed by Fischer, said Anna Mendez, is needed for victims of bullying who have tried every other avoidance technique available to them and are simply defending themselves from physical abuse. Not necessarily because this is the answer to bullying, she said, but because it’s just not right to punish each student equally when one trouble maker is obviously the instigator and the other is only trying to survive.

Washington State’s Kennewick School Board in April made changes to its discipline policy that give school principals the option of doling out more severe punishments to those who instigate fights – if they can accurately determine who is responsible.

Fischer said he doesn’t see sorting out who shoulders the blame in an altercation as being a problem because most times school administrators are able to make that determination, either because of eyewitness accounts or, as is the case in many Duval schools, security camera footage.

Elizabeth Chapin Pinotti, assistant superintendent of California’s Amador County Unified School district, said, however, that all too often, there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to sorting out conflicts and imposing consequences.

“It’s so hard to put a sweeping policy like that into place because, just like it was difficult for us to implement zero-tolerance, it’s also difficult for us when it’s so absolute or to the other extreme,” she said.

The best policies, Chapin-Pinotti said, are those that give discretion to the school site administrators to make the best decision given the facts of the situation, with an appeals process available.

In the meantime, Anna Mendez and the NAPAB foundation will continue their campaign against bullying and their staunch advocacy on behalf of its victims.

“What we are really fighting for are children’s rights, which should be similar to the rights an adult has if someone is using force against them,” she said. “It’s bad enough that the student perpetrators are getting away with it.  The victims should absolutely have the right to attack back with the same force and not be punished for doing so.”

 

Courts to Decide if Voters or Unions Control Ventura County

The County of Ventura, like other government entities, is having a problem paying the pensions for government employees. The people of the County put together a ballot measure to change the system and save the County from bankruptcy. Enough signatures were collected to put it on the November ballot. Now the DA and the unions are fighting the right of the people to have a say in government.

The Board members, elected with union money are really upset with the idea of going over the head of the unions, directly to the people.

“But Supervisor Steve Bennett said that putting an illegal measure on the ballot would waste taxpayer money and erode voter confidence in the democratic process if the measure were to be approved, then overturned in court.

Supervisor Linda Parks said the board has a duty to find out if the measure is legal.

“There is a mechanism in place that we could do that in an expedited fashion that can save a lot of money in the long run if it is illegal,” Parks said.

Deborah Caplan, a lawyer for the firm representing a coalition that includes the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association and Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, cited several legal issues with the measure.”

Time to free the workers from unions that promote pension plans that will go bust.

Photo courtesy of secretlondon123, flickr

Photo courtesy of secretlondon123, flickr

Judge to rule on legality of pension measure

Initiative may conflict with state law, counsel says

By Anna Bitong, The Simi Valley ACORN, 6/20/14

A judge will determine the legality of a proposed Ventura County pension reform measure headed for the November ballot after the county’s lawyer reported this week that the initiative is flawed because it conflicts with state law.

The county also is faced with increase costs to California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). In fiscal year 2004-05 the total annual cost to the county was $22.4 million. In 2009-10 the cost increased to $31.2 million for 2,920 allocated positions. This fiscal year the county anticipates it will cost the same, but for 2,785 allocated positions.

“The escalating pension funding costs are creating an increasing unfunded net pension liability,” staff noted in the budget report. The county’s unfunded market liability is $417.4 million and represents a funding ratio of 71.8 percent.

The measure is trying to replace the county’s current pension system with a 401(k)-style plan for new Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to place the initiative before voters, as required by law. Prepared by the Committee for Pension Fairness, which was formed by the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, the initiative received more than the required 26,000 signatures needed to place it on the ballot.

But Citizens for Retirement Security immediately filed a lawsuit against the county regarding the measure, which is employees.

The Board of Supervisors will seek a judge’s ruling on the measure’s legality in time to meet the August deadline to print ballots.

Supervisor Peter Foy, the board’s only supporter of the measure, said his panel should leave the legal fight over the measure to the unions and the taxpayers group.

But Supervisor Steve Bennett said that putting an illegal measure on the ballot would waste taxpayer money and erode voter confidence in the democratic process if the measure were to be approved, then overturned in court.

Supervisor Linda Parks said the board has a duty to find out if the measure is legal.

“There is a mechanism in place that we could do that in an expedited fashion that can save a lot of money in the long run if it is illegal,” Parks said.

Deborah Caplan, a lawyer for the firm representing a coalition that includes the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association and Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, cited several legal issues with the measure.

“The most significant defect in the initiative is that once the county has opted into the state’s county retirement program, as Ventura County has, it’s subject to continued regulation by the state. Changes require state authorization,” Caplan said.

In a 21-page memo, County Counsel Leroy Smith agreed that the initiative is preempted by state law. He wrote that a state law accepted by a local government can’t be repealed “unless there are express provisions in the state law allowing it to do so. There are no such provisions in the 1937 Act.”

Jonathan Wilcox, a spokesperson for the Committee for Pension Fairness, told the Acorn that the lawsuit is baseless.

“Their legal challenge is not going to be awarded,” Wilcox said. “They’ve given up trying to persuade people; now they’re going to try to persuade a judge. I think it’s pitiful.”

The proposed initiative aims to reduce the estimated $1-billion debt of the county’s retirement system by requiring newly elected county officials and employees hired after June 30, 2015 to enroll in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan, to which the county would contribute no more than 4 percent if the beneficiaries are receiving Social Security.

The county would contribute up to 11 percent for police and fire personnel not enrolled in Social Security and 5 percent for those who do receive the federal benefit.

The plan also seeks to limit socalled pension spiking by giving the Board of Supervisors control over pay raises for five years.

Dick Thomson, a member of the taxpayers group, urged supervisors to put the measure on the ballot.

“The initiative will reform a failing pension system, create fairness for taxpayers, improve budget stability and predictability and free up resources for improved services and new opportunities,” Thomson said.

Bennett disagreed with Thomson.

“He said that our pension system is not sustainable,” Bennett said. “We heard very clearly at our budget hearings that our pension contributions will actually be decreasing in the future.”

Supervisors Kathy Long and John Zaragoza criticized the process of gathering signatures for a proposed ballot measure.

“We all know how disingenuous oftentimes that signature collecting (can be),” Long said. “It does not give a fair representation of the complexities and the unintended consequences of an initiative action.”

Zaragoza said some of the people who signed the petition “did not know what they were signing because of all the press about public employees and their benefits.”

Despite the criticism, Wilcox said he’s confident the measure will make it to the polls and pass.

“They can throw their lawyers at us, and it’s not going to stop it,” Wilcox said. “This is going to go on the ballot. And it’s going to go to the people.”

Contrary to Headlines Solano County Does NOT Have Balanced Budget—Has $417 Million Unfunded Pension Plan

The County of Solano is proud that they have a balanced budget. They get to that point by careful spending, high taxes and forgetting bills owed. In this case a county with a budget of over $800 million has an unfunded pension system of over $400 million. Not even close to being balanced. Be careful when your elected officials claim a balanced budget by leaving off liabilities to the bottom line.

The confused Guv Brown claims a surplus, while the State Controller reports an $8.5 billion cash deficit-either Brown is too confused to know the difference or is not telling the truth. In the end these liabilities come due and you, your children and grandchildren will pay for a government run by headlines, not the truth.

“The county also is faced with increase costs to California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). In fiscal year 2004-05 the total annual cost to the county was $22.4 million. In 2009-10 the cost increased to $31.2 million for 2,920 allocated positions. This fiscal year the county anticipates it will cost the same, but for 2,785 allocated positions.

“The escalating pension funding costs are creating an increasing unfunded net pension liability,” staff noted in the budget report. The county’s unfunded market liability is $417.4 million and represents a funding ratio of 71.8 percent.”

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Supervisors to consider multimillion dollar Solano County budget

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, 6/21/14 

Solano County is moving forward into fiscal year 2014-15 with a multimillion dollar balanced budget.

A recommended budget of $826,255,908 for the new fiscal year was published in May, however, several budget-related changes have been identified and have increased the recommended budget to $856,679,722, a difference of more than $30.4 million. It is also an increase of nearly $4.5 million from the budget for fiscal year 2013-14, which was slightly more than $852 million.

The budget is still balanced using a combination of funding from state, federal and local revenues, tax revenues, fees for service, transfers from designated reserves and fund balance carryover from fiscal year 2013-14, according to Stephen Pierce, senior management analyst for Solano County.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors will consider approving the budget during a special budget meeting at 9 a.m. Monday in the County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.

Additions to the budget come as a result of the county planning in February what it anticipates for the next fiscal year, therefore adjustments need to be made accordingly when new information is presented during the months leading up to the June budget hearings, Pierce explained.

The supplemental adjustments of approximately $4.9 million are the result of changes or new information subsequent to the compilation of the recommended budget.

Additionally, there are some supplemental adjustments due to re-budgeting of fiscal year 2013-14 projects and programs.

Monday the board will be asked to consider approving a net increase to the recommended budget of $25.5 million based on additional information. The most significant of the increases is the construction of the Adult Local Justice Facility.

“Typically, construction projects are budgeted in the initial year assuming full funding is received,” according to staff in a report to the board. “The funding for the jail project is on a reimbursement basis.”

The county also is faced with increase costs to California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). In fiscal year 2004-05 the total annual cost to the county was $22.4 million. In 2009-10 the cost increased to $31.2 million for 2,920 allocated positions. This fiscal year the county anticipates it will cost the same, but for 2,785 allocated positions.

“The escalating pension funding costs are creating an increasing unfunded net pension liability,” staff noted in the budget report. The county’s unfunded market liability is $417.4 million and represents a funding ratio of 71.8 percent.

To help stabilize and manage pension costs, the Pension Advisory Committee is recommending the adoption of a Pension Funding Policy to “provide guidance to maintain a stable, well-funded CalPERS pension account that provides the necessary assets to meet pension commitment to employees and ensure planning mechanisms are in place to ensure sufficient liquidity to pay substantially higher annual pension contribution to the future providing flexibility in maintaining a healthy funding level as CalPERS assumptions are adjusted.”

The goals of the new policy included in the budget report are to achieve and maintain a funding ratio goal at or above 90 percent in the county’s Safety and Miscellaneous CalPERS Plans, to reduce the county’s unfunded liability consistent with a 90 percent funding level and to stabilize annual contributions.

Budget hearings are scheduled throughout the week starting Monday, but staff anticipates the budget will be approved on Monday.

 

Government Choo Choo Wants to Kill Private Airline Jobs

One of the goals of the High Speed Rail, as part of its $200 billion cost, is to move people from private airlines to government trains. The airlines are NOT subsidized, they can go bankrupt, but hire people with private money to move people around the State and nation. The Choo Choo train is built with tax dollars, subsidized with tax dollars and when the unions want, the trains do not move until the unions get their demands met.

Add another reason to oppose the High Speed Rail—it is about making more people dependent on government and all people poorer, to pay for this special interest boondoggle.

Aside from airline travel, there is much less definitive research concerning direct competition with automobiles, the report says. The completed research generally confirms that adding HSR substantially reduces automobile travel, with a few exceptions that seem linked to extraneous factors and not the competitiveness of HSR, it says.

When it competes directly with conventional rail, HSR has emerged as the dominant force in the market, although conventional rail also serves as a complement in many HSR systems, the report says.”

At what cost to jobs and taxes?

Photo courtesy work the angles, flickr

Photo courtesy work the angles, flickr

 

Report: Air passengers can be shifted to high-speed rail

Central Valley Business Times, 6/23/14

•  Global trends likely apply to California, it says

•  “HSR systems have greatly reduced or even curtailed air service when serving the same routes”
The high-speed rail (HSR) systems of Europe and Asia are very attractive to travelers who otherwise may have chosen airlines or other modes, according to a new report from the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University and sponsored by the California Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The author, Peter Haas, examined the evidence concerning HSR and modal shift in a large variety of HSR systems, time periods, data sources, and means of analysis. The results could apply to the new California HSR system, says the report.

“Essentially, the literature affirms that HSR has resulted in dramatic or significant transportation mode shifts where it has been introduced and systematically evaluated,” says Mr. Haas. “In both Europe and Asia, HSR systems have greatly reduced or even curtailed air service when serving the same routes. The most dramatic effects of HSR ability to attract market share have been frequently observed under specific circumstances. It is reasonable to conclude that these factors will likely apply to the California HSR system, as well.”

Several factors come into play

When HSR is faster from beginning to end of city pairs, for example, HSR will gain market share rapidly and decisively, the report says.

Other possible mediating factors include:

• Time to access and egress the system

• Fare cost versus that of other modes

• Service frequency

• Service quality

• Number of transfers required

According to the report, the planned California HSR system seems to encompass many of the key variables regarding capturing market share, such as travel distance and time.

Aside from airline travel, there is much less definitive research concerning direct competition with automobiles, the report says. The completed research generally confirms that adding HSR substantially reduces automobile travel, with a few exceptions that seem linked to extraneous factors and not the competitiveness of HSR, it says.

When it competes directly with conventional rail, HSR has emerged as the dominant force in the market, although conventional rail also serves as a complement in many HSR systems, the report says.

“The fact that HSR systems have proven competitive in a great diversity of settings in industrialized countries is documented with a variety of data and research approaches in the studies compiled here,” says Mr. Haas. “Although this study does not include analysis of new data that would address the California HSR system, the findings from the research reviewed for this report are highly consistent with the expectation that the planned HSR system is well-positioned to achieve comparable modal shift.”

Economic competition is not the objective

Most of the literature explored in the analysis explicitly uses the concept of competition to explore modal shift, although competition in the sense of economic battle is not the ultimate objective for HSR systems, the institute says. Rather, these systems are intended to advance a number of policy goals – including environmental objectives, more rational allocation of public infrastructure, and other goals.

“To achieve these targets,” says Mr. Haas, “significant modal shift to HSR is paramount, and hence the emphasis on competition in the literature. This competition assumes a diversity of forms, but it tends to focus on point-to-point travel times, costs, and quality of the travel experience.”

The full 50-page report is available for free PDF download at

http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1223.html