California’s Gun Sales Break Records

As reported by the Contra Costa Times:

Amid a new round of debate over gun control, Californians have already bought a record number of firearms in 2015, including major spikes in sales on Black Friday and the days after the San Bernardino attacks, an analysis of new federal and state data show.

Firearms purchases in California triggered 1.51 million federal background checks in the first 11 months of the year, breaking the previous annual record of 1.47 million set last year.

And December typically brings even more firearms purchases than any other month, whether for holiday gifts or getting ahead of new gun restrictions the new year might bring.

The gun dealers’ holiday season got off to a rousing start. State data requested by this newspaper show that sales transactions spiked on …

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Nevada governor hits back against Jerry Brown?s gun control comments

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Sunday joined the governor of Arizona in hitting back California Gov. Jerry Brown?s comments that their states? lenient gun laws are a ?gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.?

Brown, asked in Paris on Saturday if stricter gun control laws were warranted following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, said, ?California has some of the toughest gun control laws of any state. And Nevada and Arizona are wide open, so that?s a gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.?

Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in a prepared statement Sunday that Brown?s remarks were ?wrong and irresponsible.?

?This type of political rhetoric is discouraging to hear at a time when all Americans are looking for thoughtful, honest leadership,? she said.

San Bernardino Shooting: Poor Response by Politicians and Press

California has been hit by two terrorists who caused multiple deaths and injuries. So what was the response of our media and political elites when this happened?on Wednesday: hysteria over gun laws.

From the beginning it was clear San Bernardino was not just another nut case shooting; the terrorists were dressed military style, they had bombs as well as guns, and a sophisticated plan to escape. One way or another they were well trained in terrorist techniques.

So how did California?s leading newspapers greet all this?? ?Another day, another massacre,? writes?Los Angeles Times?columnist Steve Lopez.? ?We?re reminded that no country in the world has the level of gun violence we do.??? Not to be outdone, the?Times?lead editorial begins with: ?Horror in San Bernardino: The U.S. infatuation with guns is bordering on a society-wide suicidal impulse.?

Up north, the?Sacramento Bee?editorial begins with: ?San Bernardino shooting, shocking yet almost normal.? No matter what you call it, the root of the problem is the same: America allows too many guns to fall into the hands of too many people who should not have them.?

Well, how about bombs and guns in the hands of terrorists; the?Bee?does not have much to say about that.

This Pollyannaish response extended to our political leaders as well. Gov. Jerry Brown, so full of himself over saving the earth from a few more degrees of heat, had nothing to say about terrorism in his own statement.? President Obama called for closing the gun show loophole.

Perhaps the president should be more focused on the terrorist visa loophole, since the Pakistani-born terrorist in San Bernardino came into this country on a ?fianc? visa.?

Throughout?Wednesday?night and all day?Thursday?the facts have come out on the terrorist couple, showing that they were experts in al-Qaeda style bomb making, that the American-born male terrorist travelled extensively in the Middle East, had some contacts to people on federal terrorist watch lists, and that the attacks were carefully planned and expertly carried out.

Gun laws had nothing to do with them. It is like saying that if France just had stronger gun laws, the Paris attackers would have been deterred. The San Bernardino terrorists bought their guns legally, and this in California that has been passing gun control laws for almost 30 years.? Lots of good they have done. When people are busy making pipe bombs in their apartment, somehow the gun show loophole seems pretty minor.

When the Republican Congress passed legislation to slow down the influx of Syrian refugees because they cannot be vetted to make sure terrorists have not infiltrated them, the California elite just pooh-poohed the threat and condemned the legislation.? Well, now we have a terrorist allowed into this country from Pakistan, a known hotbed of terrorist training, and what do our elites have to say, let?s pass more gun laws.

For far too long, the attitude of the political and media elite in this state to the very real threat of terrorism has been nothing short of brain dead. ?Perhaps San Bernardino will be a wake-up call on the need for more visa and other controls at our borders.? But I am not hopeful; Chicken Little hysteria about gun control is a much easier response.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Resist the Urge to Politicize Tragedy

This editorial was originally published by the Orange County Register:

Evil reared itself Wednesday morning at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. That?s when heavily armed husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik made their way into Mr. Farook?s office holiday party and unleashed terror.

By the time the shooters fled, 14 were dead and another 17 wounded. It was the most carnage inflicted in the United States since six teachers and 20 children were shot and killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The mass murder in San Bernardino was predictably sensational, as evidenced by the fact that #SanBernadino was shared on Twitter more than 333,000 times Wednesday ? notwithstanding that the city?s name was misspelled.

No less predictable were the remarks of several political figures ? both anti-gun advocates and foes of settling Syrian refugees in the U.S. ? who apparently couldn?t resist the temptation to exploit Wednesday?s tragedy.

That included President Obama, who ranted to CBS News about the need ?for commonsense gun safety laws,? while also urging Congress to enact legislation preventing individuals appearing on the government?s ?No Fly List? from purchasing firearms.

But even if Mr. Obama got his wishes, it would not have prevented Wednesday?s carnage. That?s because California already has the nation?s strictest gun laws, based on the latest report card issued by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

As to enacting a law to prohibit those banned from commercial flights from legally obtaining guns, that would not have stopped Mr. Farook and his wife from obtaining their assault rifles and handguns.

That?s because neither of them was on the feds? No Fly List, otherwise Mr. Farook, a Pakistani-American born in this country, could not have recently flown to Saudi Arabia and returned to the Inland Empire with his wife, Ms. Malik.

The myth promulgated by Mr. Obama and other gun control advocates that stricter gun laws will prevent the kind of mass murder that occurred in San Bernardino ignores an inconvenient truth …

Continue reading this editorial at OCregister.com/opinion

San Bernardino killer couple’s links to international terror

As reported by the Daily Mail:

San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook met his Pakistani wife-turned-accomplice Tashfeen Malik while on the hajj in Saudi Arabia and appeared to be radicalized, law enforcement officials revealed this afternoon.

Investigators told CNN that Farook, a native U.S. citizen of South Asian descent, was in touch by phone and via social media with more than one international terrorism subject.

On Wednesday morning, Farook, 28, and Malik, 27, dropped off their six-month-old baby with Farook’s mother, saying they were going to a doctor’s appointment.

By noon, according to police, the couple had donned assault clothing, armed themselves with …

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San Bernardino shooting rampage sows fear, anger and sorrow among residents

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

The whine of police sirens is familiar on the streets of San Bernardino.

But even here ? in a place battered by drug addiction and decades of economic decline, culminating in the city’s bankruptcy three years ago ? the kind of crime that sent an army of law enforcement officers into the streets Wednesday still has the power to spread fear and grief.

The shooting rampage that left 14 dead and at least 17 wounded at a social-services center would be a tragedy for any city. But it has special overtones in San Bernardino, which is among the nation’s poorest big cities and has arguably become California’s starkest example of urban blight.

In the hours after the shooting, as schools and government buildings were locked down and …

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California: “Land of Opportunity” or “Land of Poverty”?

For decades, California?s housing costs have been racing ahead of incomes, as counties and local governments have imposed restrictive land-use regulations that drove up the price of land and dwellings. This has been documented by both Dartmouth economist?William A Fischel?and the state?Legislative Analyst?s Office.

Middle income households have been forced to accept lower standards of living while less fortunate have been driven into poverty by the high cost of housing. Housing costs have risen in some markets compared to others that the federal government now publishes alternative poverty estimates (the?Supplemental Poverty Measure), because the official poverty measure used for decades does not capture the resulting differentials. The latest figures, for 2013, show California?s housing cost adjusted poverty rate to be 23.4 percent, nearly half again as high as the national average of 15.9 percent.

Back in the years when the nation had a ?California Dream,? it would have been inconceivable for things to have gotten so bad ? particularly amidst what is widely hailed as a spectacular recovery. The 2013 data shows California to have the worst housing cost adjusted poverty rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But it gets worse. California?s poverty rate is now more than 50 percent higher than Mississippi, which long has set the standard for extreme poverty in the United States (Figure 1).

cox1

The size of the geographic samples used to estimate the housing adjusted poverty rates are not sufficient for the Supplemental Poverty Measure to produce local, county level or metropolitan area estimates. However, a new similar measure makes that possible.

The California Poverty Measure???????????????????????????

The?Public Policy Institute of California?and the?Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality?have collaborated to establish the ?California Poverty Measure,? which is similar to the Supplemental Poverty Measure adjusted for housing costs.

The?press release?announcing release of the first edition (for 2011) said that: ?California, often thought of as the land of plenty? in the words Center on Poverty and Inequality director Professor David Grusky, is ?in fact the land of poverty.?

The?latest California Poverty Measure?estimate, for 2012, shows a statewide poverty rate of 21.8 percent, somewhat below the Supplemental Poverty Measure and well above the Official Poverty Measure that does not adjust for housing costs (16.5 percent).

The California Poverty Measure also provides data for?most of California?s 58 counties, with some smaller counties combined due to statistical limitations. This makes it possible to estimate the California Poverty Measure for metropolitan areas, using American Community Survey data.

Metropolitan Area Estimates

By far the worst metropolitan area poverty rate was in Los Angeles, at 25.3 percent. The Los Angeles County poverty rate was the highest in the state at 26.1 percent, well above that of Orange County (22.4 percent), which constitutes the balance of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. However, the Orange County rate was higher than that of any other metropolitan area or region in the state (Figure 2). San Diego?s poverty rate was 21.7 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, Riverside-San Bernardcox2ino (the Inland Empire), which is generally perceived to have greater poverty, but with lower housing costs, had a rate of 20.9 percent. The two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino had lower poverty rates than all Southern California counties except for Ventura (Oxnard) and Imperial.

 

The San Francisco metropolitan area had a poverty rate of 19.4 percent, more than one-fifth below that of Los Angeles. San Jose has a somewhat lower poverty rated 18.3 percent (Note 1). The metropolitan areas making constituting the exurbs of the San Francisco Bay Area had a poverty rate of 18.7 percent. This includes?Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Vallejo. Sacramento had the lowest poverty rate of any major metropolitan area, at 18.2 percent.

The San Joaquin Valley, stretching from Bakersfield through Fresno to Modesto (Stockton is excluded because it is now a San Francisco Bay Area exurb) had a poverty rate of 21.3 percent, slightly below the state wide average of 21.8 percent. The balance of the state, not included in the metropolitan areas and regions described above had a poverty rate of 21.2 percent.

County Poverty Rates

As was noted above, Los Angeles County had the highest 2012 poverty rate in the state (Note 2), according to the California Poverty Measure (26.1 percent). Tulare County, in the San Joaquin Valley had the second-highest rate at 25.2 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, San Francisco County with its reputation for high income had the third worst poverty rate in the state at 23.4 percent. This is driven, at least in part, by San Francisco?s extraordinarily high median house price to household income ratio (median multiple). In this grisly statistic, it trails only Hong Kong, Vancouver and Sydney in the latest?Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.?Wealthy Santa Barbara County has the fourth worst poverty rate in the state, at 23.8 percent. The fifth highest poverty rate is in Stanislaus County, in the San Joaquin Valley (county seat Modesto), which is already receiving housing refugees from the San Francisco Bay Area, unable to pay the high prices (Figure 3).

cox3

The two lowest poverty rates were in suburban Sacramento counties (Note 2). Placer County?s rate was 13.2 percent and El Dorado County?s rate was 13.3 percent. Another surprise is Imperial County, which borders Mexico and has generally lower income. Nonetheless, Imperial County has the third lowest poverty rate at 13.4 percent. Shasta County (county seat Redding), located at the north end of the Sacramento Valley is ranked fourth at 14.8 percent. Two counties are tied for the fifth lowest poverty rate (16.0 percent), Marin County in suburban San Francisco and Napa County, in the exurban San Francisco Bay Area (Figure 4).

Weak Labor Market and Notoriously Expensive Housing

The original Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality?press release?cited California?s dismal poverty rate as resulting from ?a weak labor market and California?s notoriously expensive housing.? These are problems that can be moderated starting at the top, with the Governor and legislature. The notoriously expensive housing could be addressed by loosening regulations that allow more supply to be built at lower cost. True, the new supply would not be built in Santa Monica or Palo Alto. But additional, lower cost housing on the periphery, whether in Riverside County, the High Desert exurbs of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, the San Francisco Bay Area exurbs or the San Joaquin Valley could begin to remedy tcox4he situation.

The improvement in housing affordability could help to strengthen the weak job market, by attracting both new business investment and households moving from other states.

Regrettably, Sacramento does not seem to be paying attention. Liberalizing land use regulations is not only absent from the public agenda, but restrictions are being strengthened (especially under the requirements of Senate Bill 375). In this environment, metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego could become even more grotesquely unaffordable, and the already high price to income ratios in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley could worsen. All of this could lead to slower economic growth and to even greater poverty, as more lower-middle-income households fall into poverty.

Note 1: San Benito County is excluded from the San Jose metropolitan area data. The California Poverty Measure does not report a separate poverty rate for San Benito County.

Note 2: Among the counties for which specific poverty rates are provided.

isiting professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Cross-posted at New Geography.

San Bernardino exit plan cuts some pension costs

public employee union pensionA San Bernardino plan to exit bankruptcy follows the path of the Vallejo and Stockton exit plans, cutting bond debt and retiree health care but not pensions. Then it veers off in a new direction: contracting for fire, waste management and other services.

The contract services are expected to reduce city pension costs. Other pension savings come from a sharp increase in employee payments toward pensions and from a payment of only 1 percent on a $50 million bond issued in 2005 to cover pensions costs.

Last week, a member of the city council had a question as a long-delayed ?plan of adjustment? to exit the bankruptcy, declared in August 2012, was approved on a 6-to-1 vote, meeting a May 30 deadline imposed by a federal judge.

?The justification from what I?m understanding from the plan ? the justification for contracting is more or less to save the city from the pension obligation. Is that correct?? said Councilman Henry Nickel.

One of the slides outlining the summary of the recovery plan said: ?CalPERS costs continue to escalate, making in-house service provision for certain functions unsustainable.?

The city manager, Allen Parker, told Nickel ?that?s part of it? but not the ?entirety.?

In addition to pension savings, he said, contracting with a private firm for refuse collection now handled through a special fund is expected to yield a ?$5 million payment up front? into the deficit-ridden city general fund.

Parker said the California Public Employees Retirement System safety rate for firefighters is between 45 and 55 percent of base pay. ?So if you have a fireman making say $100,000 a year, there is another $50,000 a year that goes to CalPERS,? he said.

An actuary estimated that contracting for fire services could save the city $2 million a year in pension costs, Parker said. The city expects total savings of $7 million or more a year, similar to a Santa Ana contract with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Unlike other unions, firefighters have not voluntarily agreed to help the struggling city by taking a 10 percent pay cut and foregoing merit increases. The cost of firefighter overtime has averaged $6.5 million in recent years.

After the court allowed the city to overturn a firefighter contract requiring ?constant manning? last year, the city expected reduced staffing during off-hours. But overtime has not decreased, wiping out anticipated savings of $2.5 million this year.

Negotiations with the firefighters are difficult, Parker said, and their union has filed several lawsuits. He said the situation is ?out of hand? and ?can?t be contained,? part of the reason for the plan to contract for fire services.

The city expects fire service bids from San Bernardino County and others. A private firm, Centerra, has shown interest. Councilman Nickel said a legislator called about contracting with a private firm, suggesting ?concern at the state level.?

Parker said a contract with a private firm would need a mutual aid agreement with neighboring government fire services. He said a San Manuel private fire service has been accepted by a fire chiefs association that manages the regional agreements.

Contracting for police services is not planned. Parker said the ?one possible agency,? the San Bernardino County Sheriff?s Department, made a $60 million proposal in 2012, reaffirmed last year, that would not yield city savings.

Fire and waste management are the biggest opportunities for savings and revenue among 15 options for contracting city services listed in the recovery plan summary. City employees are expected to be rehired by contractors.

Estimated annual savings are listed for contracting five other services: business licenses $650,000 to $900,000, fleet maintenance $400,000, soccer complex management $240,000 to $320,000, custodial $150,000, and graffiti abatement $132,600.

San Bernardino plan to return to solvency

In the 1960s, San Bernardino was the ?epitome of middle-class living,? said the plan summary, and then a ?profound and continuous decline? turned it into the poorest California city of its size (214,000).

Median San Bernardino household income was at the California average in 1969, an inflation-adjusted $54,999, before steadily falling by 2013 to $38,385, well below the state average of $61,094.

Financial trouble began before the recession. A unique form of government created ?crippling ambiguities? of authority among the city manager, mayor, council and elected city attorney, leaving no one clearly in charge as the city slowly sank.

When the reckoning finally came in 2012, San Bernardino faced an $18 million cash shortfall and an inability to make payroll. After an emergency bankruptcy filing, the city became the first to skip its annual payments to CalPERS.

Now the skipped payment of $14.5 million is being repaid over two fiscal years with equal installments of about $7.2 million. The recovery plan also said with no elaboration: ?FY 2019-20: $400,000 annually in penalties and interest.?

Replying to Nickel last week, the city manager explained why, if most employees are to be replaced by contract services, the plan does not propose to cut CalPERS debt. The city?s pensions have an ?unfunded liability? of $285 million and are 74 percent funded.

Parker said the plan protects pension amounts already earned by city employees, even with a new employer, and like the Stockton and Vallejo plans reflects the view that pensions are needed to compete with other government employers in the job market.

?We naively thought we could negotiate more successfully, but that didn?t necessarily happen,? Parker said of mediation with CalPERS. An early plan called for a ?fresh start? stretching out pension payments, yielding small savings in the first years.

And like Vallejo but not Stockton, which said from the outset it did not want to cut pensions, Parker said there was fear of a costly and lengthy legal battle with deep-pocketed CalPERS, possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the unique provisions in the San Bernardino city charter, which voters declined to overturn last year, bases police and firefighter pay on the average safety pay in 10 other cities, not labor bargaining.

Despite that link, police and firefighter compensation is said to be 8 to 10 percent below market because of low benefits. The bankrupt city stopped paying the employee CalPERS share and raised police and firefighters rates to 14 percent of pay.

Higher pension contributions from employees saved the city about $8 million last fiscal year, the plan said. Retiree health payments were reduced from a maximum of $450 per month to $112 per month, saving $213,750 last year.

?The filing of the plan is only the beginning of a long and very difficult process regarding confirmation and continued litigation with some of our creditors,? the city attorney, Gary Saenz, told the city council last week.

Berdoo

Reporter Ed Mendel covered the Capitol in Sacramento for nearly three decades, most recently for the San Diego Union-Tribune. More stories are at Calpensions.com.

San Bernardino’s bankruptcy plan favors CalPERS

As reported by the L.A. Times:

San Bernardino’s plan to exit bankruptcy has at least one winner, plenty of losers and could have repercussions for other California cities.

The city will pay every penny of the almost $50 million it owes to the California Public Employee Retirement System, known as CalPERS, if a federal judge approves the plan.

But it will only pay one penny for every dollar it owes to some bondholders who helped the city pay its CalPERS bill over the years.

Retirees will lose healthcare benefits that they were promised. …

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California Gold Miners Score Win Over State

As reported by Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee:

California?s 21st?century gold miners have scored a second major victory over state efforts to restrict ? or ban ? them from searching for the precious metal in rivers and streams on federally owned land, such as national forests.

On Monday, San Bernardino County Judge Gilbert Ochoa, building on a previous decision by a state appellate court, declared that the state?s moratorium on using suction dredges to sift through gravel had become a de facto ban and thus violated federal mining law, which encourages mining on federal lands.

His ruling was a victory for the Western Mining Alliance, which has battled the moratorium?signed into law?in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the law allowed …

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