Cap and trade is looking more and more like a tax

cap-and-trade-mindscanner-sstockThe veneer that keeps everybody from seeing that the cap-and-trade program is really just a tax is coming unglued.

Mayor Eric Garcetti blasted out an email newsletter happily announcing that the Jordan Downs public housing development in Watts will be refurbished with money from the hidden tax you’re paying for gasoline and electricity.

Watts will receive a $35 million grant of cap-and-trade funds, which Garcetti said will help make “dreams come true” with “improved quality of life, a renewed focus on public health, and better access to affordable housing.”

The city said the work on Jordan Downs will include rebuilding “distressed” units, creating recreational programs, and opening “about 165,000 square feet for retail.”

The funds will also pay for solar panels, a food waste prevention program, and 10 electric buses.

The cap-and-trade money comes from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which takes in revenue from the sale of allowances to emit greenhouse gases. The allowances, sold at state auctions, are purchased by companies that generate electricity, refine petroleum, make cement and process food. The prices of those things in California now include the cost of buying these permits to emit greenhouse gases.

Other states don’t do this, but in 2006, to save the planet from global warming, California passed a law to require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Under the mandate now set in current law, greenhouse gas emissions statewide must be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

To achieve this goal, the California Air Resources Board developed the cap-and-trade program. It puts a statewide limit on GHG emissions, and businesses that are under the law are required to have a permit for each ton of GHG emitted. Every year fewer permits are issued, and the minimum price is a little higher.

The money that’s paid to the state for these permits looks a lot like a tax. But a state appeals court ruled that it’s not a tax, because it’s not compulsory. Any business that doesn’t want to pay it, the court reasoned, could simply go out of business.

Now you know why other states don’t do this.

For California politicians, the cap-and-trade funds are like a gift from heaven. Gov. Jerry Brown is spending them on the bullet train, which is barred by law from being funded with a tax increase. And the Legislature can hand out the rest of the loot to local governments and organizations seeking funding for pet projects.

To help spend the money, lawmakers created a committee called the California Strategic Growth Council and tasked it with advancing the revitalization of local communities. The SGC oversees the Transformative Climate Communities program, which considers grant applications from community groups, like the Watts Rising Collaborative, an advocacy organization made up largely of departments of the city government.

So your city tax dollars are being spent to lobby for cap-and-trade funds that come from the extra money you’re paying for electricity, gasoline and anything that’s made or moved in California.

Some of the $35 million grant for Watts will be spent to connect residents with new jobs created by TCC projects, and in a hint of how the spending will work out in practice, the funds will also be used for a “displacement avoidance plan” which will provide resources to “educate residents about their housing rights.” In other words, gentrification.

But nobody’s admitting that. It’s all under the banner of fighting climate change.

The president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles, Douglas Guthrie, said the Housing Authority is “proud to be leading this transformational initiative to build a healthier Watts” with “greenhouse gas reduction strategies.”

It’s just a tax. All of California accounts for only 1 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, so cutting emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels is an exercise in futility, if what you’re really worried about is climate change.

Politicians are not really worried about climate change.

The cap-and-trade program is turning into a tax for community redevelopment and for a plain old slush fund. It doesn’t help Earth’s climate, but it does real damage to California’s business climate. Cap-and-trade is a hidden tax on energy that is making everything in California more expensive than in other states.

The biggest challenge for regulators is to prevent the prices of the allowances from going up too sharply. It might bring the game to a crashing end if people noticed the economic damage they’re enduring. When the voters put two and two together, things can heat up fast.

Columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Cap and trade is looking more and more like a tax

The veneer that keeps everybody from seeing that the cap-and-trade program is really just a tax is coming unglued.

Last weekend, Mayor Eric Garcetti blasted out an email newsletter happily announcing that the Jordan Downs public housing development in Watts will be refurbished with money from the hidden tax you’re paying for gasoline and electricity.

Photo courtesy of Eric Garcetti, Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Eric Garcetti, Flickr.

Watts will receive a $35 million grant of cap-and-trade funds, which Garcetti said will help make “dreams come true” with “improved quality of life, a renewed focus on public health, and better access to affordable housing.”

The city said the work on Jordan Downs will include rebuilding “distressed” units, creating recreational programs, and opening “about 165,000 square feet for retail.”

The funds will also pay for solar panels, a food waste prevention program, and 10 electric buses.

The cap-and-trade money comes from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which takes in revenue from the sale of allowances to emit greenhouse gases. The allowances, sold at state auctions, are purchased by companies that generate electricity, refine petroleum, make cement and process food. The prices of those things in California now include the cost of buying these permits to emit greenhouse gases.

Other states don’t do this, but in 2006, to save the planet from global warming, California passed a law to require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Under the mandate now set in current law, greenhouse gas emissions statewide must be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

To achieve this goal, the California Air Resources Board developed the cap-and-trade program. It puts a statewide limit on GHG emissions, and businesses that are under the law are required to have a permit for each ton of GHG emitted. Every year fewer permits are issued, and the minimum price is a little higher.

The money that’s paid to the state for these permits looks a lot like a tax. But a state appeals court ruled that it’s not a tax, because it’s not compulsory. Any business that doesn’t want to pay it, the court reasoned, could simply go out of business.

Now you know why other states don’t do this.

For California politicians, the cap-and-trade funds are like a gift from heaven. Gov. Jerry Brown is spending them on the bullet train, which is barred by law from being funded with a tax increase. And the Legislature can hand out the rest of the loot to local governments and organizations seeking funding for pet projects.

To help spend the money, lawmakers created a committee called the California Strategic Growth Council and tasked it with advancing the revitalization of local communities. The SGC oversees the Transformative Climate Communities program, which considers grant applications from community groups, like the Watts Rising Collaborative, an advocacy organization made up largely of departments of the city government.

So your city tax dollars are being spent to lobby for cap-and-trade funds that come from the extra money you’re paying for electricity, gasoline and anything that’s made or moved in California.

Some of the $35 million grant for Watts will be spent to connect residents with new jobs created by TCC projects, and in a hint of how the spending will work out in practice, the funds will also be used for a “displacement avoidance plan” which will provide resources to “educate residents about their housing rights.” In other words, gentrification.

But nobody’s admitting that. It’s all under the banner of fighting climate change.

The president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles, Douglas Guthrie, said the Housing Authority is “proud to be leading this transformational initiative to build a healthier Watts” with “greenhouse gas reduction strategies.”

It’s just a tax. All of California accounts for only 1 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, so cutting emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels is an exercise in futility, if what you’re really worried about is climate change.

Politicians are not really worried about climate change.

The cap-and-trade program is turning into a tax for community redevelopment and for a plain old slush fund. It doesn’t help Earth’s climate, but it does real damage to California’s business climate. Cap-and-trade is a hidden tax on energy that is making everything in California more expensive than in other states.

The biggest challenge for regulators is to prevent the prices of the allowances from going up too sharply. It might bring the game to a crashing end if people noticed the economic damage they’re enduring. When the voters put two and two together, things can heat up fast.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Reach her at Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

California’s Infrastructure Boondoggles Continue

High speed rail constructionEvery news story about the bullet train seems to be accompanied by a photo of workers building a viaduct in Fresno County.

This does nothing to dispel the impression that high-speed rail in California is actually a Marx Brothers movie.

Groucho: Over here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.

Chico: Why a duck?

Groucho: I say that’s a viaduct.

Chico: All right, why a duck? Why a duck? Why not a chicken?

The latest news from the Marx Brothers is that the 119-mile Central Valley section currently under construction is $2.8 billion over budget.

That brings the estimated cost of the first phase to $10.6 billion and the cost of the entire project to at least $67 billion. Voters were told in 2008 that the high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be completed for $40 billion, but more than a quarter of that money is gone and it’s not out of Fresno yet.

The train may not be going anywhere, but the project’s chief executive moved on in June, shortly after promising that there was no truth to a leaked federal report warning that the train was on track for cost overruns of more than $2 billion.

The new CEO, at a salary of nearly $385,000, is Gov. Jerry Brown’s transportation secretary, Brian Kelly. He says part of his job will be to “restore credibility” to the high-speed rail project, which would be a startling break with tradition.

Part of the problem in the Central Valley, the rail authority now says, is that construction began before all the land was acquired. This decision, which HSR executives promised not to repeat, was made because federal funds would have been lost if a deadline for the start of construction was missed.

That turned the negotiations for land into a W.C. Fields movie, “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”

The federal deadline for starting construction was just one of many safeguards that were put in place to try to prevent the rail authority from wasting billions of dollars on a half-finished train to nowhere. Sadly, Gov. Jerry Brown and the HSR authority found ways around all of them.

Another questionable infrastructure proposal from the Brown administration, the so-called California WaterFix, is also running into budget difficulties.

The original plan called for spending $17 billion to construct two huge tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The idea was to get around the restrictions on pumping water from the delta to the Central Valley and Southern California, restrictions that have cut the flow of water in half since the 1980s.

The pumping restrictions resulted from lawsuits and settlements to protect declining populations of smelt and salmon, forcing another population — the people of California — to pay more for water, and for everything that’s produced with water, like food. Now billions will be spent to capture and clean up stormwater and groundwater, which wouldn’t be needed if California’s state and federal water projects hadn’t been shut down to protect the cast of “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.”

Some water districts refused to pay for the twin-tunnel project, so the Brown administration may downsize California WaterFix to one tunnel. It would still cost billions of dollars, but proponents would like you to know that none of the money will come from taxpayers. The whole thing will be billed to water users.

Californians who want to save money should take W.C. Fields’ advice: Never drink water.

olumnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

Making housing more expensive to build won’t make it more affordable

Housing apartmentOnly a politician could believe that making housing more expensive to build will create more affordable housing.

But in Los Angeles, that’s what Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are asserting. In December, they approved a new “linkage fee” on new development aimed at raising $100 million per year toward a goal of building 1,500 units of new affordable housing annually.

Don’t bother with the math. They didn’t.

The idea of a linkage fee, which exists in some other cities, is to get money from developers whose projects will displace residents in existing housing or generate a need for additional housing, something that could happen if a new workplace was built.

Hardly anybody is building a new workplace in Los Angeles unless it has a drive-through, but play along.

The “linkage fee” in Los Angeles won’t specifically be linked to the impact from a project. It’s simply a new fee for building in the city.

The early draft of the linkage fee, which has been on Mayor Garcetti’s wish-list since 2015, would have imposed the same fee for similar developments regardless of where they were located in the city. But some council members objected to the one-size-fits-all charge.

So the final version divides the city into “high-market” areas like downtown, Venice and Brentwood, and “low-market” areas like South Los Angeles.

The linkage fee for office, hotel, retail and other commercial buildings is $3 per square foot in low-market areas, $5 per square foot in high-market areas.

For residential developments, the fee is even higher: $8 per square foot in a low-market area, $15 per square foot in a high-market area.

The money will go into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and city officials say they’ll spend it to build hundreds of units of affordable housing.

Unfortunately, the number of Los Angeles residents who are in need of affordable housing is in the tens of thousands, and those are just the people sleeping on the sidewalks.

Meanwhile, the cost of all other new housing will go up, because developers have to pay these huge new linkage fees just to be allowed to build it.

There are two ways that residential developers can avoid the fees. One is by reserving a percentage of units in their projects for low-income renters. The other option, which is also available to developers of commercial projects, is to get out of Los Angeles and build somewhere else.

Many cities in the Southern California region don’t have linkage fees and don’t treat the construction of a commercial or residential building as a sin that requires some sort of political or financial penance.

In some places, local governments even offer incentives for developers and businesses, to encourage building and hiring.

That’s rare in Los Angeles, where the breathtaking decay of the city is considered incentive enough.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office has done extensive research into the problem of housing affordability in California, including a detailed report released in the spring of 2016 titled, “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing.”

“The scope of the problem is massive,” the report said, “Millions of Californians struggle to find housing that is both affordable and suits their needs. The crisis also is a long time in the making, the culmination of decades of shortfalls in housing construction. And just as the crisis has taken decades to develop, it will take many years or decades to correct. There are no quick and easy fixes.”

The LAO concluded that while “affordable housing programs are vitally important to the households they assist, these programs help only a small fraction of the Californians that are struggling to cope with the state’s high housing costs.”

To build public-subsidized affordable housing for the 1.7 million low-income California households that spend more than half their income on rent would cost more than $250 billion, by the LAO’s estimate.

But the problem is not just math, it’s logic. When it becomes more expensive to build housing, then less housing is built, and what is built is more expensive.

The LAO report said the real solution is more housing construction, and the scale of the problem can only be matched by privately built, market-rate housing.

“Doing so will require policy makers to revisit long-standing state policies on local governance and environmental protection, as well as local planning and land use regimes,” the report concluded.

So there really is something the government can do about housing affordability. It can get out of the way.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Will China’s new recycling standards mean higher taxes in California?

RecyclingDo you know where your recyclables go when they leave your blue bin?

Would you believe China?

But that’s about to change. In July, China notified the World Trade Organization that on Jan. 1 it will impose much stricter quality standards and will turn away shipments that don’t make the grade. In recycling, quality refers to how much non-recyclable material is mixed in with the recyclables. Anything non-recyclable is a “contaminant” that has to be removed in a sorting process. The stricter the standard, the slower and more costly the processing.

Recyclables are sold like any other commodity. Prices fluctuate according to demand. In order for recycling to be financially sustainable, the value of the recyclables has to exceed the cost of picking up the stuff, sorting it, shipping it, and recycling it into something that can be sold and shipped to someone who can use it.

In 2016, California shipped recyclables with a value of $21 million by air to Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. Trash worth $108 million went by rail or truck to Mexico. But $4.6 billion worth of recyclables, 15 million tons, were shipped out from California’s ports. By far the greatest share of our recyclables, 62 percent, went to China.

Seaborne exports of all commodities from California ports in 2016 totaled 63 million tons, with a vessel value of more than $89 billion. Recyclable material accounted for 24 percent of the commodities exports by weight, 5 percent by value.

Some garbage is worth more than other garbage. Mixed paper, cardboard and paperboard made up 59 percent of the weight, but ferrous and non-ferrous metals accounted for 62 percent of the value.

CalRecycle, the state agency in charge of tracking these things, doesn’t know exactly how much of the garbage on the ships originated in California, and it doesn’t have precise numbers for local jurisdictions – reporting is supposed to start in 2019 – but Californians generated an estimated 76.5 million tons of waste material in 2016. The agency says 42.7 million tons were “disposed,” meaning buried in landfills, and the remaining 33.8 million tons were “source reduced, recycled or composted.” At least a third of the 33.8 million tons was exported to overseas markets.

Last year, according to CalRecycle, the overseas shipping of recyclables created 2.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

In 2011, California adopted a law that set a statewide goal of 75 percent recycling by 2020. But it’s not happening. CalRecycle reported in August that California’s overall disposal—garbage that goes to landfills—increased in 2016 for the fourth consecutive year.

Why? Some of the factors cited by CalRecycle include “relatively low disposal costs, declines in global scrap values for recyclable commodities, and limited in-state infrastructure.” The agency also blamed “increased consumption” resulting from an improving economy.

That should be good news, but CalRecycle isn’t happy.

“Even as California continues to push towards new and more aggressive recycling targets, CalRecycle has not seen a meaningful decrease in the total amount of disposal since 2009,” the agency lamented.

California’s recycling rate has fallen from 50 percent in 2014 to 47 percent in 2015 to 44 percent in 2016. That’s the lowest rate since the 75 percent goal was established in 2011.

CalRecycle says the only way we’re going to hit the 75 percent target is if more than half of the solid waste that is currently disposed is “source reduced, recycled or composted.”

But how?

In its August report, CalRecycle suggests …

Click here to read the full article by the L.A. Daily News

olumnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

Did Sacramento break the law in transportation tax rush?

los-angeles-freewaysDid lawmakers break the law when they passed Senate Bill 1, the transportation tax increase?

There’s a quaint provision in the California Constitution that reads, “A person who seeks to influence the vote or action of a member of the Legislature in the member’s legislative capacity by bribery, promise of reward, intimidation, or other dishonest means, or a member of the Legislature so influenced, is guilty of a felony.”

By the time Gov. Jerry Brown finished twisting arms and greasing palms to pass a massive transportation tax hike, that antique language was on the curb like a broken grandfather clock waiting for a bulky-item pickup.

Brown and legislative leaders promised a billion dollars for specific local projects in the districts of wavering lawmakers, and one termed-out Republican senator made a deal for a law to protect people in his profession — civil engineering, not the profession you’re thinking of — from liability in construction lawsuits.

It’s not easy to prove a quid pro quo, Latin meaning “something for something.” People don’t typically leave a written record that says, “I’ll vote for this if you vote for that.”

But one thing is different this time. In November, California voters passed Proposition 54, a measure aimed at guaranteeing transparency in state lawmaking. Prop. 54 says bills must be in print and online in their final form 72 hours before the Legislature votes on them.

The transportation tax increase, SB1, was posted online on April 3. If the Legislature was going to meet its self-imposed deadline to pass the bill on April 6, not one word of it could be changed before the vote.

So all the wheeling, dealing, greasing, and “promise of reward” had to go into a separate bill.

And it did.

SB132 contains a billion dollars of “that” which was negotiated in exchange for a vote on “this.”

Not only is it in writing, there are many statements on the record from lawmakers that their vote for the transportation tax was explicitly tied to a promise from the governor and legislative leaders that the “thats” would be delivered.

Are the deals spelled out in SB132 a violation of the law under Proposition 54? They are effectively amendments to SB1 that were written into a different bill. If that’s legal, then the 72-hour requirement that voters just added to the state constitution has already been thrown to the curb with the rest of the grandfather clocks.

Before the truck comes to pick up the garbage, we should retrieve that language about bribery and reward and see if it applies to outgoing Sen. Anthony Cannella’s deal to condition his vote for SB1 on the passage of SB496, a bill Cannella authored to protect “design professionals,” including civil engineers, from lawsuits stemming from future work. “Anthony is a civil engineer,” Cannella’s official bio states.

Maybe you’re thinking it won’t pass. He was ahead of you. Language was added to the billion-dollar spending bill, SB132, to make it “operative” only if SB496 is enacted.

In addition to the billion dollars of “reward” written into SB132 on April 6, the bill was amended on April 5 to add $1 billion for “augmented employee compensation.”

Yes, another $1 billion of “compensation increases and increases in benefits” for state workers was slipped in while everyone was wondering where the state spent all our transportation taxes.

Talk about being taken for a ride.

Susan Shelley is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

Ways in Which a Trump Victory Could Benefit California

donald-trump-2On Jan. 20, when Donald Trump takes his hand off the Bible and picks up the phone, he could cause a near-seismic upheaval in California just by changing some federal rules and implementing new policies.

Let me break the news to you gently: it might work out well.

The federal government continuously writes stacks of regulations that cause consumers to pay more for everything than they otherwise would. But because of the length of time between the writing and the paying, it can be hard to recognize the cause and effect.

For example, your bill from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is higher because of federal regulations interpreted by California regulators to prohibit the use of ocean water for cooling power generation plants on the coast. We’re paying billions of dollars to convert three coastal generating plants, a project that began in 2011 and is scheduled to continue for decades. If the new administration modified those regulations, Los Angeles residents could save a small fortune.

If you’ve noticed that food is a lot more expensive, consider that because of federal regulations, the water supply was cut off to California’s breadbasket, the once-prosperous agricultural goldmine of the Central Valley.

Members of Congress from the area have introduced legislation over and over again to adjust federal law to override those regulations. Most recently, the Western Water and American Food Security Act was attached to the bill that funds the Interior Department. But President Obama has threatened a veto, arguing that the regulations are necessary to protect species like the Delta smelt.

The regulations could easily be changed if the new administration chooses to make abundant food production a policy priority over the protection of the smelt.

Other federal regulations have led to arguably impossible targets for further reducing fine particles, like dust and soot, in the air. To meet these goals, state regulators have repeatedly tightened the requirements for new diesel engines, raising the cost of trucking and the price of everything that’s moved by truck. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has even enforced California’s rules on out-of-state trucking firms when state regulators lacked jurisdiction.

Similarly, federal regulations have caused the South Coast Air Quality Management District to write up a new list of proposed tax increases to raise up to $14 billion. The bureaucrats need the money for policies and plans that are required in order to avoid federal sanctions for missing air-quality targets. But under a new administration, there’s an opportunity to take the bureaucracy off auto-pilot and look carefully at what we’re doing to ourselves. Some regulations may no longer be reasonable or necessary, and the cost may not be justified.

Federal rules that discourage the use of coal have made electricity more expensive, raising the cost of living for everyone. The next president’s policies could lower your utility bills.

Policy changes from the new administration will save taxpayers money in other ways, too.

A 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office said California paid $1.1 billion in 2009 to incarcerate criminals who were in the country illegally. The cost to Los Angeles County that year was $139 million.

President-elect Trump was criticized by California’s legislative leaders for his plan to immediately deport up to 3 million criminals who are in the country illegally. Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon wrote in a joint letter, “We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”

But what is the argument for not deporting convicted criminals who are in the country illegally? How does that shred the social fabric or the Constitution?

Maybe California politicians should start working now on how they’re going to explain to voters that they rejected federal funds that could have been used for education, transportation and health care because they wanted to protect criminals who are in the United States without legal authorization.

It’s long past time for California’s leaders to give some thought to the damage caused by policies that have gone unquestioned because their cost didn’t become clear until years later.

From housing to energy to transportation to health care to law enforcement to education, federal policies and regulations have consequences that are sometimes both unintended and disastrous. A new administration is an opportunity to take a fresh look at everything.

It might just work out well, even for California.

And here’s the punchline: By 2018, the state’s Democratic politicians will be taking credit for it.

Susan Shelley is a columnist for the Southern California News Group. Reach her at Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

This piece was originally published by the L.A. Daily News

L.A. Ballot Measures Act Like Pickpockets

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

On Nov. 8, voters in Los Angeles will be asked to vote on seven measures that look innocent but take money right out of your pocket. It’s like being governed by the original Broadway cast of “Oliver.”

The show featured a gang of singing pickpockets, if you’ve never seen it.

L.A. County Measure A is a hike in property taxes to replace the funding from two expiring temporary taxes for parks. Because a temporary tax is a mythical creature, Measure A would levy a property tax of 1.5 cents per square foot of every building every year. The tax would hit businesses and apartment building owners especially hard, leading to higher prices and higher rents, and it’s permanent.

Measure M is a permanent one-half percent sales tax increase for what the county calls a “traffic improvement plan.” It would be the fourth one-half percent sales tax increase since 1980 for transportation. The third one, Measure R, was temporary, but Measure M would make it permanent.

Metro has a detailed plan on its website that shows all the projects Measure M will fund, but many of them count on the highly uncertain availability of billions of dollars in state or federal money. Some sound like outright fantasy. Valley voters are promised a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, someday. It will do wonders to speed up the commute from Shangri-La to Brigadoon.

Now the bad news about Measure M: there are no guarantees that any of the promised projects will happen. Anything can be changed with a two-thirds vote of the Metro board of directors. And in the meantime, proposed mega-developments of housing or retail that are within one-half mile of a “planned” major transit stop qualify for streamlined approvals with no studies of the projects’ impact on traffic speed or parking, even if the nearby transit is only a watercolor illustration.

The Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees would like voters to authorize another $3.3 billion of borrowed money for more buildings, following the $6 billion the district blew through in the last 15 or so years. The money would be repaid, plus interest, by adding another charge to property tax bills for decades. Although Measure CC has “Affordable Education” and “Job Training” in its name, this is bond money that legally can only be used for land and buildings. It can’t be spent on education, or scholarships, or programs. Incidentally, in 2011, the State Controller reported on massive waste, fraud and mismanagement in the LACCD’s bond program. They promise this time they’ll really fix the bathrooms.

The City of Los Angeles is asking voters to approve Measure HHH, authorizing $1.2 billion of borrowed money to build housing for the homeless. Like the college bond, the money can only be used for land and buildings. Not one penny can legally be spent for services like mental health treatment, addiction counseling, shelters, social workers, law enforcement, or help for victims of domestic violence. The city can buy land, even forcing the sale with eminent domain, and pay developers to build high-density housing. Meanwhile, property tax bills will have an extra charge for decades to pay back the $1.2 billion plus interest. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Daily News

California’s Next Climate Policy That Won’t Help

Global WarmingYou wouldn’t expect a document titled “Vibrant Communities and Landscapes” to make so many people this angry.

“We are writing to express our concern and dismay over the draft ‘Vibrant Communities’ document,” wrote the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) on behalf of more than 163 business groups, 325,000 employers and 3 million jobs.

“Radical and without precedent in California public policy,” wrote Michael Lewis, senior VP of the Construction Industry Air Quality Coalition (CIAQC).

These comments were sent to Ken Alex, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, on Sept. 28. That was the final day of the public comment period for the draft of “Vibrant Communities and Landscapes.” It was only two weeks long.

“We strongly object to this inadequate amount of time to process a piece of policy this large and its potential impacts on the business community across not only L.A. County but the entire state,” wrote BizFed.

“We recommend that the document be scrapped,” wrote Lewis.

The “Vibrant Communities” document has cheerful photos of redwoods and sunflowers on the cover, but inside is a five-page plan to “consider land use in the context of California’s climate change policy,” and to ensure “that all Californians have equitable access to housing, health care, jobs, and opportunity.“

What does that mean, exactly?

According to the CIAQC, it’s “a new set of policies to govern every aspect of land use, transportation and air quality planning in California” written by eight state agencies without adhering to legally required procedures for new regulations.

The plan calls for policies that would allow new developments in previously-developed areas while discouraging “conversion” of open land. It envisions toll lanes (“priced express lanes”), fewer parking spaces (“reduced parking requirements for development”), and incentives for using transit in order to reduce “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT).

Driving, it seems, is the enemy of vibrancy.

But how is the government going to control how much people drive?

The answer can be found in a document released by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research last January. Thrillingly titled, “Revised Proposal on Updates to the CEQA Guidelines on Evaluating Transportation Impacts in CEQA,” the guidelines replace concerns about a project’s impact on traffic speed with calculations about the number and distance of vehicle trips it would generate. …

Click here to read the full article published by the L.A. Daily News

A Quick Guide to the 17 State-Wide Ballot Measures

VotedI know what you’re thinking as you look at the 224-page voter guide to 17 statewide ballot propositions, and it’s not printable in a family newspaper.

Still, with California effectively under one-party rule, you and the ballot initiative are the closest thing we have to a system of checks and balances. So here’s my personal guide to help you do the job.

Yes on Proposition 54 to require that bills in the Legislature be posted online in their final form for 72 hours before lawmakers vote on them. This ends the abusive practice of slamming backroom deals into unrelated or blank bills as an “amendment,” then rushing them to the floor for a vote before anybody else can read them.

Yes on Prop. 53 to require voter approval before the state can borrow $2 billion or more for state projects by issuing revenue bonds. This affects the proposed Delta tunnels water project. Revenue bonds are repaid by charging the users of whatever they’re issued to build. If you use water, that’s you.

Yes on Prop. 52 to protect a program devised by California hospitals to secure available federal matching dollars for Medi-Cal. The hospitals pay the state to help fund Medi-Cal, which then qualifies for matching funds, and then the hospitals get most of their money back. The “most” part is the problem. Vote yes on 52 to keep politicians’ hands out of the Medi-Cal cookie jar.

On the rest, I’m voting no.

Taxes and education: Prop. 55 extends a temporary income-tax hike on high-earners until 2030, but the school budget crisis is over, and a top state tax rate of 13.3 percent makes California uncompetitive with other states for the small businesses that create most of the jobs in America. Prop. 51 soaks taxpayers for $9 billion plus interest to build schools so new-home developers can escape higher fees. Prop. 58 repeals the 1998 “English for the Children” initiative and reinstates bilingual education, and it could lead to some students being automatically enrolled in bilingual classes even if parents don’t request it or want it.

Criminal justice: Prop. 57 empowers state prison officials and parole boards to release many state inmates early, regardless of enhanced sentences. Prop. 62 abolishes the death penalty. Prop. 66 changes death penalty procedures to limit and speed up state appeals.

Substances and drugs: Prop. 56 puts a $2 tax on cigarettes and extends tobacco taxes to vaping products. Prop. 64 legalizes recreational marijuana, but it also launches a massive new state bureaucracy to regulate, track and tax every plant from seed to sale, and it’s still illegal under federal law. Prop. 61 orders some state agencies to pay no more for prescription drugs than the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, likely leading to pre-discount price hikes. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Daily News.