L.A. Port Authority Pushing $14 Billion ‘Zero-emissions’ Plan

Los Angeles PortTwo of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, released a $14 billion “zero-emissions’ plan Wednesday that could include a regional cap-and-trade system.

The move came on the heels of the passage of a ten-year extension to the existing statewide cap-and-trade program.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the ports’ plan would go one step beyond the state policy:

The new proposal is being billed as “the largest environmental investment ever undertaken by a port complex” — one that cannot be successful without huge investments from the state and federal governments.

It calls for stricter federal emissions standards for trucks, trains and other leading freight pollution sources, an idea seemingly at odds with the Trump administration’s moves to roll back air quality regulations and other environmental protections.

The plan lays out very ambitious goals, which set ambitious targets that mirror Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade program.

But criticism is coming from all sides, and the obstacles are significant.

John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told the Timesthat the costs could put the L.A. ports at a competitive disadvantage.

When asked how they plan to pay for the plan, port officials reportedly say they plan to pursue state and federal subsidies, tapping into the huge revenue stream from the state cap-and-trade program.

Another major obstacle is that “zero-emission” short-haul trucks necessary for the plan to succeed do not exist yet, the Times notes.

For the L.A. and Long Beach ports, which process almost half of all U.S. imports, a change of this magnitude could affect hundreds of thousands of jobs and the economy of one of the most significant regions in the country.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman and Author, currently on a book tour for his new book: Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless.  He also ran for governor in 2014.

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Long Beach Could Be Next In $15 Minimum Wage Movement

Minimum wage1In the past year the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour has seen success in a few major cities – and now several more are looking to be next.

Seattle led the way in implementing a $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years. Though it has yet to pass on the state or federal level, the movement has seen support across the country.

Still early on in the process, officials in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., and Long Beach, Calif., are considering whether they should adopt a $15 minimum wage as well. Earlier in the month, Long Beach announced it may initiate a study of the potential impact such an increase would have. The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that the Kansas City Council may seek voter input on the November ballot. D.C. announced last month it will test the waters with a ballot measure as well. New York City is also considering whether to implement a $15 minimum wage, but just for fast-food workers.

In addition to the cities that have already passed a $15 minimum wage, the University of California announced last month that the school will become the first public university to raise the on-campus minimum wage to $15 an hour. Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders has even introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Supporters of the $15 minimum wage often claim it will help the poor and stimulate economic activity. They argue that it’s more representative of “the living wage,” which is the supposed basic standard by which someone can live comfortably.

Opponents, however, say the idea will actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities. How little or how much of either outcome usually depends on the study. Nevertheless, even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office agrees at least some job loss is expected.

By organizing rallies and utilizing media marketing campaigns, Fight for $15 has led much of the effort to raise the minimum wage in the last couple of years. Though claiming to be a grassroots workers movement, the group is highly influenced and funded by the Service Employees International Union.

The SEIU has been criticized by some, like Worker Center Watch, for using the Fight for $15 protests as a way of bypassing labor laws to more easily unionize fast food workersAccording to a report from the Center for Union Facts, a minimum wage increase would benefit the SEIU directly while hurting non-unionized SEIU competitors.

Additionally, unions often seek exemptions from the very minimum wage laws they support. According to the report, “Labor’s Minimum Wage Exemption,” which was released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December, this is to encourage unionization by making membership a low cost alternative for employers. Los Angeles union leader Rusty Hicks was accused of just that when asked for an exemption for unionized businesses from the very wage increase he advocates for. Now he is pushing for Long Beach to go forward with its own increase.

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Time To Break Up The Los Angeles School System

Now that the recent school board elections are over in the Los Angeles Unified School District, there will be the usual calls for a new beginning and getting down to the serious business of charting a bright future for the 600,000 or so deserving students that the board is privileged to serve.

Such a view ignores the fact that LAUSD’s governance structure is fundamentally broken and needs to be replaced by smaller units of school governance that are much more capable of delivering educational change that better serves students and their parents. In addition to being nimble and flexible, smaller school districts are physically closer to the parents they serve, and can initiate change strategies in a much more timely fashion. For example, Long Beach Unified, Garden Grove Unified and ABC Unified are all known as urban districts that can move quickly to implement needed changes that parents care about.

Ten years ago, while a faculty member at the University of Southern California, I served as the federal court monitor for the Modified Consent Decree, the blueprint for improving services to students with disabilities in the behemoth district.

During moments of frustration with the district’s intransigence, I would sometimes say to the courageous disability advocate lawyers representing the plaintiffs that I had a tough time figuring out how students and their parents benefited from maintaining the district at its current size, and that breaking it up into smaller units would better serve students’ interests.

They would quickly counter: “Now, Carl, if you broke it up, you’d get a lot of Comptons or Inglewoods, which might be even worse than what you’re getting now.” And I’d came back with: “You might also get some Long Beaches, which would be a vast improvement over what these kids and parents are getting now.”

The argument for breakup becomes even stronger today when you consider the important equity promise of Gov. Jerry Brown’s remarkable LCFF/LCAP school funding reform initiative, which places even greater authority at the local level to get things right for kids. When Los Angeles Unified screws up, more than half a million California youngsters are denied a critical opportunity to get a decent education during their one shot at using education to alter their life chances.

The missteps of the district are legion – everything from expensive attorneys arguing for the district that a middle school student was mature enough to consent to have sex with a teacher to the billion-dollar iPAD and MiSiS technology debacles and school board elections where records have been broken for adult special-interest-group spending.

No single event better captures the failure of this system than the recent revelation that 75 percent of the current class of 2017 is not on target to meet the school board’s 2005 adopted policy requirement that all students must meet UC/CSU A-G college entrance requirements in order to receive a high school diploma. For urban school boards, there’s more to policymaking than adopting well-intentioned higher standards. An important part of the job is to make sure that staff develops timely implementation plans without waiting 10 years to check progress. No matter how much we adults may wish it so, not all youngsters need to go to college.

Urban school boards like Los Angeles need to first deliver on the basics before they start adopting high school graduation requirements that are higher than those in the Palos Verdes and Palo Alto school systems. Last October, you had students at Jefferson High School still walking the halls and in auditoriums without scheduled classes even though school had started back on Aug. 12. Even worse, you had a superintendent giving a deposition in court (Cruz v. California) that he was powerless to get these students scheduled in the right classes, and that he needed assistance from the State of California to get this basic responsibility done.

I often wonder how the Long Beach school community would react to school starting in August and high school kids still without classes in October. I know from experience that there would be a universal and collective sense of community outrage and betrayal that no school board or superintendent could survive.

The Los Angeles school system has fundamentally lost its way, and the notion that a couple of new faces on the board and a skillful interim superintendent, Ray Cortines, can improve it is a huge disservice to the youngsters and their parents who deserve much better.

A blue ribbon task force with representation from the more than 20 cities served by the current district might be the best way to go. In the past, the strongest argument against breakup was that you would end up with new racially segregated districts. Today’s demographics make that a weak argument. On the other hand, Gov. Brown’s belief that the rescue of urban kids will take place closer to schools, classrooms and families bolsters the case for this type of change.

Breaking it up won’t be easy, and I’m sure that Sacramento doesn’t have this on its “to do” list, but we who advocate for education change often frame the debate as those who are committed to the adult status quo against those who are really for the kids. This will be the ultimate test of where we stand.

Originally published by EdSource.org

Carl Cohn is Director of the Urban Leadership Program at Claremont Graduate University and until earlier this year was a member of the State Board of Education. He was formerly superintendent in Long Beach Unified and San Diego Unified.  He is co-chair of the  National Research Council’s Committee for the Five-Year Evaluation of the Washington D.C. Public Schools.  He is a member of the EdSource Board of Directors.

Long Beach allows taxis to lower fares as they compete with Uber, Lyft

As reported by the L.A. Times:

Long Beach officials are pursuing a new strategy to resolve the growing rift between taxi drivers and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, becoming the nation’s first large city to relax restrictions on cabs, rather than increase regulation of their new competitors.

Removing requirements that taxi drivers say have put them at a competitive disadvantage, the City Council voted Tuesday to allow its exclusive cab franchise to rebrand itself, update the appearance of its fleet and offer variable, discounted fares, free rides and other price promotions to lure customers.

In addition to a new name (Yellow Long Beach) and a new Uber-like app (Ride Yellow), Long Beach Yellow Cab will repaint its traditional mustard-colored taxis a more vivid lemon. …

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Pension Reformers are not “The Enemy” of Public Safety

“You will find that powerful financial and investment institutions are the ones promoting the attacks on your pensions. Firms like Berkshire-Hathaway and the Koch brothers are backing political candidates and causes all over the country in the hopes of making this issue relevant and in the mainstream media. Why? Because if they can crack your pension and turn it into a 401(k), they will make billions. Your pension is the golden egg that they are dying to get their hands upon. By the way, it was those same financial geniuses that brought about the Great Recession in the first place. After nearly collapsing the entire financial system of western civilization, they successfully managed to deflect the blame off of themselves and onto government employee pay/benefits.”

– Jim Foster, Vice President, Long Beach Police Officers Association, posted on PubSec Alliance website

These comments form the conclusion to a piece published by Foster entitled “What does “unfunded liability” mean?” published on PubSecAlliance.com, an online “community of law enforcement associations and unions.” If you review the “supporters” page, you can see that the website’s “founding members,” “affiliated organizations” and “other groups whose membership is pending” are all law enforcement unions.

In Foster’s discussion of what constitutes an unfunded pension liability, he compares the liability to a mortgage, correctly pointing out that like a mortgage, an unfunded pension liability can be paid down over many years. But Foster fails to take into account the fact that a mortgage can be negotiated at a fixed rate of interest, whereas a pension liability will grow whenever the rates earned by the pension system’s investments fall short of expectations. When the average taxpayer signs a 30 year fixed mortgage, they don’t expect to suddenly find out their payments have doubled, or tripled, or gone up by an order of magnitude. But that’s exactly what’s happened with pensions.

Apart from ignoring this crucial difference between mortgages and unfunded pension liabilities, Foster’s piece makes no mention of the other reason unfunded pension liabilities have grown to alarming levels, the retroactive enhancements to the pension benefit formula – enhancements gifted to public employees and imposed on taxpayers starting in 1999. These enhancements were made at precisely the same time as the market was delivering unsustainable gains engineered by, as Foster puts it, the “same financial geniuses that brought about the Great Recession in the first place,” and “nearly collapsing the entire financial system of western civilization.”

This is a huge failure of logic. Foster is suggesting that the Wall Street crowd is to blame for the unfunded liabilities of pensions, but ignoring the fact that these unfunded liabilities are caused by (1) accepting the impossible promises made by Wall Street investment firms during the stock market bubbles and using that to justify financially unsustainable (and retroactive) benefit formula enhancements, and (2) basing the entire funding analysis for pension systems on rates of return that can only be achieved by relying on stock market bubbles – i.e., doomed to crash.

You can’t blame “Wall Street” for the financial challenges facing pension funds, yet demand benefits based on financial assumptions that only those you taint as Wall Street charlatans are willing to promote.

Foster ignores the fact that the stock market bubbles (2000, 2008 and 2014) were inflated then reflated by lowering interest rates and accumulating debt to stimulate the economy. But interest rates cannot go any lower. When the market corrects, and pension funds start demanding even larger annual payments to fund pensions and OPEB that now average over $100,000 per year for California’s full-career public safety retirees, Foster and his ilk are going to have a lot of explaining to do.

There is a deeper, more ominous context to Foster’s remarks, however, which is the power that government unions, especially public safety unions, wield over politicians and over public perception. The navigation bar of the website that published his essay, PubSecAlliance, is but a mild reminder of the power police organizations now have over the political process. Items such as “Intel Report,” “Pay Wars,” “Tactics,” “Tales of Triumph” and “The Enemy” are examples of resources on this website.

When reviewing PubSecAlliance’s reports on “enemies,” notwithstanding the frightening reality of police organizations keeping lists of political enemies, were any of the people and organizations listed selected despite the fact that they were staunch supporters of law enforcement? Because pension reformers and government union reformers are not “enemies” of law enforcement, or government employees, or government programs in general. There is no connection.

Here are a few points for Jim Foster to consider, along with his leadership colleagues at the Long Beach Police Officers Association, and police union members everywhere.

TEN POINTS FOR MEMBERS OF PUBLIC SAFETY UNIONS TO CONSIDER

(1)  Not all pension reformers want to abolish the defined benefit. Restoring the more sustainable pension benefit formulas in use prior to 1999, and adopting conservative rate-of-return assumptions would make the defined benefit financially sustainable and fair to taxpayers.

(2)  Over the long term, the real, inflation-adjusted return on investments cannot be realistically expected to exceed the rate of national and global economic growth. You are being sold a 7 percent (or more) annual rate of return because it is an excuse to keep your normal contribution artificially low, and mislead politicians into thinking pension systems are financially sound.

(3)  As noted, you can’t blame “Wall Street” for the financial challenges facing pension funds, yet demand benefits based on financial assumptions that only those you taint as Wall Street charlatans are willing to promote.

(4)  If public safety employers didn’t have to pay 50 percent or more of payroll into the pension funds – normal and unfunded contributions combined – there would be money to hire more public safety employees, improving their own safety and better protecting the public.

(5)  Public safety personnel are eyewitnesses every day to the destructive effects of failed social welfare programs that destroy families, ineffective public schools with unaccountable unionized teachers, and a flawed immigration policy that prioritizes the admission of millions of unskilled immigrants over those with valuable skills. They ought to stick their necks out on these political issues, instead of invariably fighting exclusively to increase their pay and benefits.

(6)  The solution to the financial challenges facing all workers, public and private, is to lower the cost of living through competitive development of land, energy, water and transportation assets. Just two examples: rolling back CEQA hindrances to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, or construct indirect potable water reuse assets in San Jose. Where are the police and firefighters on these critical issues? Creating inexpensive abundance through competition and development helps all workers, instead of just the anointed unionized government elite.

(7)  If pension funds were calibrated to accept 5 percent annual returns, instead of 7 percent or more, they could be invested in revenue producing infrastructure such as dams, desalination plants, sewage distillation and reuse, bridges and port expansion, to name a few – all of which have the potential yield 5 percent per year to investors, but usually not 7 percent.

(8)  Government unions are partners with Wall Street and other crony capitalist interests. The idea that they are opposed to each other is one of the biggest frauds in American history. Government unions control local politicians, who award contracts, regulate and inspect businesses, float bond issues, and preserve financially unsustainable pension benefits. This is a gold mine to financial special interests, and to large corporate interests who know that the small businesses lack the resources to comply with excessive regulations or afford lobbyists.

(9)  Government unions elect their bosses, they wield the coercive power of the state, they favor expanded government and expanded compensation for government employees which is an intrinsic conflict of interest, and they protect incompetent (or worse) government employees. They should be abolished. Voluntary associations without collective bargaining rights would still have plenty of political influence.

(10)  Expectations of security have risen, the value of life has risen, the complexity of law enforcement challenges has risen, and the premium law enforcement officers should receive as a result has also risen. But unaffordable pensions, along with the consequent excessive payments of overtime, have priced public safety compensation well beyond what qualified people are willing to accept. Saying this does not make us “The Enemy.”

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Port truck drivers strike for second day

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Some truck drivers who haul goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach struck for the second day Tuesday in a protest against four companies they accuse of wage theft.

Protest organizers said drivers are picketing the trucking yards of Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport.

The companies deploy roughly 3.5% of the trucks registered to serve both ports, according to an L.A. port spokesman.

If trucks from the struck companies enter port terminals …

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