Sexual harassment scandal at state Capitol causing headaches for other state Democrats

Raul BocanegraThe far-reaching reverberations from the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal continue to roil the state Capitol more than two weeks after 147 women released a letter denouncing a culture of pervasive male harassment and abuse in the Legislature.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Daily News published an editorial that said the only sitting lawmaker known to have been formally rebuked for sexual harassment – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles (pictured) – should resign.

“While Bocanegra has apologized for his conduct, we believe the best way for him to serve the public at this point is to resign from office,” the Daily News editorial concluded.

The Los Angeles Times story that revealed Bocanegra’s rebuke could also portend headaches for Democratic lawmakers who knew about the incident that got him in trouble but who either kept quiet or actively helped Bocanegra’s career. The story was based on an interview with his victim, Elise Flynn Gyore, who provided a copy of the Assembly Rules Committee letter rebuking Bocanegra.

The incident that led to the complaint to the Rules Committee came at a 2009 Sacramento event in which Bocanegra – then the chief of staff for then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Los Angeles – allegedly reached down the blouse of Gyore, then a staffer for state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello. Bocanegra also acted in a way Gyore characterized as stalking.

A subsequent Sacramento Bee story detailed how Bocanegra’s rebuke didn’t get in the way of his political ascent. He was elected to the Assembly in 2012. Among those who helped him with donations or endorsements: then-Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, who served on the Assembly Rules Committee while it reviewed the allegations against Bocanegra, and then-Sen. Calderon, whom Gyore said knew about what Bocanegra had done.

Hall went on to serve in the state Senate before losing a bid for Congress last year. In January, Hall was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, with an annual salary of $142,095. Hall, 45, is expected to seek elected office again in coming years.

Calderon was convicted in 2016 of federal corruption charges and is now serving a 42-month prison sentence.

Gyore is now chief of staff for Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, who has been among the leading advocates in the Legislature for holding lawmakers accountable for their bad behavior.

Villaraigosa, Newsom may face questions over their past scandals

The Bocanegra case has many insiders wondering what California politician might next come under fire for inappropriate behavior or worse. But the increasing focus on politicians’ treatment of and attitudes about women could eventually lead to tough questions for the two Democratic frontrunners to replace termed-out Gov. Brown in the 2018 election.

In 2007, when he was mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa revealed that he was involved romantically with a much-younger TV journalist, leading to his marriage’s collapse and his divorce in 2010.

The Los Angeles Times reported then that Telemundo reporter-anchor Mirthala Salinas, 35, apparently began her affair with Villaraigosa, 54, while she was covering the mayor for her network.

Villaraigosa got remarried in 2016.

Also in 2007, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was involved in a messy office scandal. Alex Tourk, Newsom’s campaign manager and former deputy chief of staff, abruptly resigned “after confronting the mayor about an affair Newsom had with his wife while she worked in the mayor’s office,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Ruby Rippey-Tourk had been Newsom’s appointments secretary for two years.

The New York Times gave national coverage to what it described as “a fast-unfolding scandal with all the sex and betrayal of a tawdry novel,” noting that the affair came while Newsom was “in the throes of a divorce.” But after Newsom repeatedly apologized, his political career continued, seemingly unaffected.

In 2008, he got married for a second time.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Plan to divide California into 3 new states clears first hurdle

A plan to split California into three separate states has cleared its first hurdle. Supporters are set to begin collecting signatures to qualify for next year’s ballot.

The plan is being funded by Bay Area tech billionaire Tim Draper, who previously funded a similar proposal back in 2014 to divide the state up into sections.

That plan failed.

Draper argues that citizens would be better served by three smaller state governments, rather than one large one.

The three-way split goes like this: Northern California would include the Bay Area all the way to the Oregon border, Southern California would begin in Fresno and cover most of the southern state.

A new California would begin in Los Angeles county and cover most of the coastal areas.

Opponents say the plan would create chaos. …

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CA bill would bar landlords from reporting immigrant tenants to ICE

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

A Spanish-speaking tenant recently asked the landlord of a Los Angeles slum building for a key to its new laundry facility when the landlord reportedly snapped: “We don’t rent to undocumented Mexicans anymore.”

In another case, a landlord threatened to call immigration authorities on a family after they complained to Los Angeles building officials in December of slum conditions with the illegally converted garage they were living in, according to a letter sent Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown from the Inner City Law Center, which is based on L.A.’s Skid Row.

City officials had ordered the garage vacated and the landlord had tried to evict the family without paying the required relocation-assistance payment, according to the nonprofit law firm. …

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L.A. City Council replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day

As reported by the L.A. Times:

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to eliminate Columbus Day from the city calendar, siding with activists who view the explorer as a symbol of genocide for native peoples in North America and elsewhere.

Over the objections of Italian American civic groups, the council made the second Monday in October a day in L.A. to commemorate “indigenous, aboriginal and native people.” It replaces a holiday that served as a touchstone for Italian Americans, marking the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean.

Italian Americans voiced anguish over the proposal, telling council members it would erase a portion of their heritage. Some said they supported the creation of Indigenous Peoples Day as long as it is held on a different date.

“On behalf of the Italian community, we want to celebrate with you,” said Ann Potenza, president of Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California, speaking in a room packed with Native American activists. “We just don’t want it to be at the expense of Columbus Day.”

That idea was unacceptable to Chrissie Castro, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission. She argued that …

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High-speed rail service to Vegas? Merely a Desert Mirage

Photo courtesy disneybrent, flickr

Photo courtesy disneybrent, flickr

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown infamously promoted California High-Speed Rail as the best way to travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles. To justify the estimated $68 billion price tag, the governor tried to play the funny guy, asserting that “old people who shouldn’t be driving … should be sitting in a nice train car working on their iPad, having a martini.”

Now imagine high-speed rail between Southern California and Las Vegas. Instead of enduring the drive on I-15 across the Mojave Desert, people could sit in a nice train car getting a head start on a weekend of inebriation, having five martinis. As a bonus, taking the train instead of driving would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of global climate change.

How compelling is the idea of high-speed transportation between Southern California and Las Vegas? In a July 10, 2017 opinion piece published in various California newspapers, political commentator Joe Mathews declared that building major transportation infrastructure to improve travel connections between the two regions “might be the most powerful current idea in California.”

Actually, the idea is neither current nor powerful. Politicians have touted it for decades, particularly since Amtrak terminated direct service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 1997 because of insufficient ridership. And so far the idea has failed to attract enough funding (public or private) to achieve it.

Mass transit between Southern California and Las Vegas is a vision similar to the planned high-speed rail system to connect Northern California and Southern California. Politicians and corporate executives make visionary statements – driven by professional public relations – that get overblown news coverage lacking in critical evaluation. Studies are done to prove the viability and feasibility of the project. Money is poured into planning and review. Then nothing substantial happens to overcome obvious hurdles to the vision.

California High-Speed Rail is a model for how visionary boondoggles get started. A coalition of corporations and unions teams up with politicians. They support a campaign asking voters to authorize government to borrow money and raise taxes to pay off that debt (including the interest). Voters then see well-tested rhetoric in the title of the ballot measure. Each voter takes five seconds to vote YES for imposing another tremendous debt burden on future generations.

It’s likely that one massive Joint Power Agency will eventually consolidate the ambitions of other Joint Power Agencies and ask voters to approve a massive bond measure to fund a passenger rail project between Southern California and Las Vegas. Before this campaign gets moving, the public needs to know the recent history of this idea.

Standard Passenger Rail Service

The most reasonable and achievable recent proposal for passenger rail service between Southern California to Las Vegas began moving forward in 2009 under the direction of Las Vegas Railway Express. The company has promised an adult-only experience called “the X Train,” or colloquially known as “the Party Train.” Originally the company planned to begin service in mid-2011. Eight years later the company is still promising to start soon.

In 2012, Las Vegas Railway Express Inc. reached an agreement with Union Pacific to use its existing track. The company now claims to be currently working with government agencies to “secure the necessary rights, equipment and facilities required to commence charter services in late 2017.”

As the company notes on its website, “there has been no regular passenger rail service between the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas for over 18 years.” Amtrak operated direct passenger rail service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas until 1997, when it shut down the “Desert Wind” line because of declining ridership and cuts in government subsidies. Reportedly the service was unpopular in part because the trip sometimes lasted as long as eight hours. The train often had to yield to freight trains operated by the owner of the track, Union Pacific.

In weighing decisions about cost, convenience, and time, travelers had chosen instead to drive or fly via Southwest Airlines. Congress provided direct funding in 1999 to resume service, but it never started back up. Amtrak has no public plans to resume service to what is now described as a “shuttered, worn-down depot.”

Very High-Speed Passenger Rail Service (Maglev)

The empty desert would seem to be a relatively easy place to build a high-speed or very-high-speed rail alignment. In fact, there have been two proposals over several years to do this.

In the early 2000s, the Southern California Association of Governments and its individual member governments began considering public-private partnerships to plan, build, and operate a Maglev (magnetic levitation) train between Anaheim and Las Vegas. Congress even dedicated $45 million in 2006 for project planning, but three years later the Federal Railroad Administration had not released the funding. The private partner in the plan, a company called American Magline Group, had failed to raise enough money to qualify for the grant.

Today American Magline Group estimates a cost of $12-15 billion to build the complete project.  It had estimated a cost of $12 billion in 2008. People suspect – with good reason – that the cost estimate for maglev is too low.

Remember that in 2008 supporters of Proposition 1A claimed in official voter information that a complete statewide high-speed rail system in California would cost $45 billion. Today, the Authority claims a line between San Francisco and Los Angeles – sharing track at times with commuter rail – will cost $64 billion.

High-Speed Passenger Rail Service

In 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada shifted his allegiance from the maglev proposal to a more traditional high-speed rail proposal called DesertXpress, a privately-owned operation that would run from Las Vegas to Victorville. Advantages of this proposal included a lower cost (then estimated at $6.9 billion) and a more familiar and tested technology. Supposedly DesertXpress would eventually extend to Palmdale to connect with a planned California High-Speed Rail station.

In the end, DesertXpress could not qualify for a loan of $4.9 billion or $5.5 billion from the federal government to build the project, ostensibly because it would not or could not abide by a federal requirement to purchase train sets built in the United States and could not obtain an exemption. In 2015, a consortium affiliated with the People’s Republic of China became a partner and potential funding source for DesertXpress (renamed XpressWest in 2012), but the partnership ended a year later.

Why the Failure to Move Forward?

Backers of all three of these proposals claim that people will ride their system and operators will thus make money on them. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada Las Vegas to Los Angeles Rail Corridor Improvement Feasibility Study sees the maglev proposal as feasible and desirable. The High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority High Desert Corridor: Investment Grade Ridership & Revenue Forecasts projects similar success. And the X Train is sure to be a winner, if you believe the public relations over the last eight years.

Why are investors leery of pouring their money into these long-term projects? As shown when the California High-Speed Rail Authority has sought private funding (as required by voter-approved Proposition 1A), potential investors want assurances from the government to reduce their risk before getting involved.

Just like California High-Speed Rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the profitability of a passenger train between Southern California and Las Vegas will depend on travelers evaluating transportation options and choosing the train from among them. Ridership projections – even if they are “scientific” – have limited value because of unknown objective criteria (for example, the future cost of driving or flying) and unmeasurable subjective criteria (for example, the willingness of people to travel captive with an inebriated crowd for five hours).

The end of Amtrak passenger service in 1997 and subsequent failures to initiate three modes of intercity mass transit are warnings that trying to connect Southern California and Las Vegas may end up as another government-driven scheme to enrich special interests at the expense of everyone else. Voters need to be wary when the politicians, corporations, and unions ask them for money to make this powerful vision come true.

This article was originally published by the CA Policy Center


Kevin Dayton, a frequent contributor to CPC’s Prosperity Digest, is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Los Angeles approves plan to pay homeowners to house homeless

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

A pilot program that pays some Los Angeles County homeowners to build a second dwelling on their property to house homeless people was approved with a 4-0 vote Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Homeowners in unincorporated communities who qualify can receive up to $75,000 to build a second dwelling in areas zoned for such structures, while others may get $50,000 to update and legalize an existing dwelling.

The program was introduced last year as part of Los Angeles County’s set of 47 strategies to solve homelessness. The office of Regional Planning will work with several departments countywide with an allocated $550,000 in part to be used to offer subsidies.

Unlike a guest house, second dwellings include kitchens. …

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LADWP retirees bring in bigger pensions than city, county workers, audit says

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

Workers who retire from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power enjoy a higher monthly pension, on average, than retired public employees from the city and county, according to an audit released this week by City Controller Ron Galperin.

LADWP retirees received an average monthly pension payment of $5,212 in the fiscal year ending July 1, 2015, the audit said.

That figure is higher than the $4,023 average monthly payment for other city retirees and the $3,881 pension amount per month for retired county workers, amounts that are used as comparisons in the audit performed by contractor, Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting.

But while the LADWP’s pension benefits on average surpass those of other local government agencies, they are still slightly lower than the pension payments received by police and firefighters. The average monthly pension is just shy of the $5,309 monthly payments for Los Angeles police and fire department employees, according to the audit. …

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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

Why some cities won’t be paying Los Angeles’ new homeless tax

800px-Helping_the_homelessLos Angeles County’s sky-high sales tax will rise not once, but twice, this year.

In recent elections, Angelinos voted two new tax hikes upon themselves — one to fund transportation (Measure M) and the other to fight homelessness (Measure H).

As a result, the county’s 8.75 percent tax rate jumped to 9.25 percent on July 1. It’ll rise even further — to 9.5 percent — on October 1.

Of course, some cities in Los Angeles County have even higher tax rates. Seven of them — Compton, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pico Rivera, Santa Monica and South Gate — have rates of 10.25 percent that are among the highest in California, if not the entire nation.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Rather than increase their tax rates another quarter cent on October 1 like the rest of the county, those seven normally tax-loving cities will get a free pass — at least for now — in funding the fight against homelessness.

The seven cities will, of course, benefit from the estimated $355 million in annual tax payments the measure will raise but they will do so only by the courtesy of taxpayers in other cities. It’s a subsidy, plain and simple.

Why was Measure H drafted this way?

It appears to have been a rather clumsy attempt to dodge a state law capping local sales taxes. The law requires localities to limit voter-approved “district” sales taxes to 2 percent (on top of the state rate of 7.25 percent) unless they obtain specific legislative authorization.

Los Angeles County has received legislative approval twice in the past to increase this limit for transportation-related taxes. For some unknown reason, Measure H proponents didn’t want to bother with this step.

But the poor planning came back to bite them. Proponents claimed the new tax would take effect July 1, at the same time as Measure M. That would have been a lot simpler for everyone, including business owners who must now go through the trouble of reprogramming their registers twice to adapt to the rate increases.

Since the Measure H language was both unprecedented and legally questionable, the Board of Equalization rightly refused to collect the tax until the Legislature specifically voted to authorize it.

These delays have pushed back the start date of Measure H, resulting in lost funding for the fight against homelessness, and more confusion and headaches for taxpayers.

Even more troubling is the dangerous precedent this sets statewide. Will other local governments soon craft tax proposals that exempt politically-favored constituencies?

We believe the cap on local sales taxes exists to protect taxpayers and should be respected. Not every good cause merits a tax increase.

Governments are hungry for more taxpayer revenue, and seem increasingly impatient to add more and more taxes. They are also becoming more creative at disguising their efforts, and using public dollars to pay for them. The Fair Political Practices Commission, for example, is conducting an investigation into whether the county of Los Angeles illegally spent taxpayer dollars for political advocacy in its campaign for Measure H.

Before asking voters to approve more and more taxes, shouldn’t local governments identify and eliminate ineffective taxes that haven’t accomplished their promised goals?

If taxpayers are concerned about how local governments spend their money, then that question is certainly worth asking. If not, how else do we ensure taxpayers receive value for the dollars they are already paying?

George Runner is vice chair of the California State Board of Equalization. Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

Re-regulating Markets is No Solution to State Housing Crisis

house-constructionBy almost all accounts, economists, academicians, social scientists, policy makers and industry experts agree that at the root of California’s housing problems is a profound lack of supply.  Accordingly, what’s needed as a solution, these notables say, are more incentives for the private development sector to do what it does best:  build.

However, judging from the bills coming out of the state Legislature, lawmakers – all of whom have well-advertised bills to “solve” the state’s housing crunch – don’t seem to have a clue, particularly in the state Assembly.  They want more control, more power, more government.

Take AB 1506 (Bloom), for example.  Before it was withdrawn for lack of support, AB 1506 would have ushered in to California a well-documented policy scam:  rent control.  Rent control has failed everywhere it’s been tried.  It persists, in communities like Manhattan and Los Angeles where it’s been around long enough to become normal but where the mismatch between incomes and rent is profound. 

What rent control has done is to artificially hold housing prices down.  But, what it has also done is to discourage investment in housing by limiting what an individual can earn on his or her investment.  Moreover, by limiting the income one can recoup from renters, rent control has led to more and more properties falling into disrepair as maintenance and other property improvements are further deferred.

Another Assembly offering, AB 1521 (Bloom), actually passed the lower house.  AB 1521 would give an individual the first right of refusal to purchase a rental property thereby limiting the price and extinguishing market forces.  More government control.

The Assembly also said yes to AB 1505 (Bloom), which for the first time in California, says that market-rate housing can’t be built in the state until an “affordable housing” component is provided.  This requirement means a newly built market-rate home or apartment must be severely discounted to prices or rents well below the market, regardless of what it cost to build – leading to higher-priced housing overall, as builders try to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, the state Senate believes it has the problem licked – boasting in a recent press release:  “Senate Passes Package of Bills to Address California Housing Crisis”.  The Senate package contains lots of legislation – mostly toothless tigers.  But, a centerpiece of that reform package contains SB 277 (Bradford) – the Senate mirror to AB 1505.  It, like its Assembly twin, means local governments can demand deep discounts before new housing is approved.

(Imagine being a homeowner and being told by government that you have to lower your price before you can sell your house.  Yet, that’s essentially what both AB 1505 and SB 277 do.)

But, the latest re-regulation initiative may be coming from the local level of government.  Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl – no friend of housing during her 14 years in the state Legislature – recently admonished her colleagues, on the Board and elsewhere, and called for more governmental regulation of housing:

“I want to challenge my colleagues at all levels of government to squarely face the realities of our housing market” Kuehl said.  “For far too long policymakers nationally, in the state, and locally have prioritized real estate profit over a healthy housing market.  Weak housing and rent control regulation combined with shortsighted land use planning has turned L.A. County into the most unaffordable place to live in the entire country.”

In the past, Kuehl has called for county-wide rent control, even though the ordinances in the Cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood have helped bring about the current housing shortage plaguing the region.

California already has the most substantial housing regulations in the nation.  If you want to build here, prepare for five to seven years – and several thousands of dollars per unit – being added to your plans before they are approved.  If you want to rent out your property, the government’s going to tell you what pets to admit and for whom, whether or not your tenants can smoke, when a tenant can vacate the apartment, whether or not your property is a nuisance and what will remedy the situation, what pesticides you can use both inside and outside rental units and, in some jurisdictions, what rents you can charge.  And, that’s just for starters.  More government, more control.

Rome is burning – and what your state and local lawmakers are proposing to put the fire out is more of the same.

onsultant specializing in housing issues.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily