Legislatures Kill Transparency Pricing at the Pump

gas prices 2Californians now pay as much as $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country. Shouldn’t the motoring public know why?

A bill in the California Legislature to do just that was Senate Bill 1074, by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. Called “Disclosure of government-imposed costs,” it would have required gas stations to post near each gas pump a list of cost factors, such as federal, state and local taxes, costs associated with environmental rules and regulations including the cap-and-trade tax.

Numerous folks and organizations spoke in support of the bill at an April 23 hearing before the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. I testified myself. Absolutely no one from the public spoke in opposition.

But the Democratic-controlled committee didn’t want the public to know why we’re paying so much, and voted to kill the bill from future consideration.

I watched closely the action on the Senate floor. The senator who spoke most against the bill was Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. But when the time of the vote came and it became clear the bill would fail, he voted Aye, which could help him in his close recall election bid this June.

Newman already had enough problems on the issue because he provided the key vote last year to pass Senate Bill 1, which jacked up gas taxes $5.5 billion a year. An initiative to repeal that gouging at the gouging at the pump just submitted more than 1 million signatures and also should go before voters this November.

It’s strange that almost every other product we buy comes with the price listed on the tag, with the taxes then clearly added to the receipt: clothes, computers, cars, furniture, office supplies, books, etc.

By contrast, the price at the pump is not broken down by tax or other cost, but actually includes a multitude of taxes, as well as costs from numerous environmental regulations.

In addition to the federal tax on fuels that applies to all states, California’s state taxes are among the highest in the country. Beginning last November, SB 1 alone added 12 cents to a gallon of gasoline and 20 cents to diesel.

SB 1074 specified the multiple taxes and regulatory costs that would have to be listed: a) The federal fuel tax per gallon; b) the state fuel tax per gallon; c) the state sales tax per gallon; d) refinery reformatting costs per gallon; e) cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon; f) low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon; and g) renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon.

That’s a lot of taxes and costs.

The cap and trade costs, by the way, now are the major funding source for outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s favorite boondoggle, the Choo Choo train project.

The high fuel taxes impact not just drivers, but almost everything in our economy, such as the food carried to grocery stores, materials to housing construction and clothing to children’s stores. Even Amazon.com and other online retailers will charge more for shipping as their costs rise.

Especially hurt by the high cost of fuel are the working poor, who often must commute an hour or more inland because coastal housing is so expensive. Aren’t such people supposed to be a key constituency of the Democratic Party?

No wonder we now have a better understanding of why California suffers the highest percentage of people in poverty and a homeless crisis so acute it shocks the world.

SB 1074 would have given motorists information on what’s really going on. But for the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, bliss is keeping Californians ignorant.

ounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Daunting obstacles remain for Gov. Brown’s ‘WaterFix’

Delta TunnelsJust six weeks ago, Gov. Jerry Brown’s hopes for a huge, difficult legacy project to solidify California’s statewide water distribution system – one funded by water districts, not directly by taxpayers – appeared in bad shape.

Years of lobbying for what the Brown administration dubbed the WaterFix project had produced more indifference and outright opposition than support. The $16.7 billion plan would build two 35-mile-long, 40-foot-high tunnels to take water south from the Sacramento River to the State Water Project pumps in the town of Tracy. The governor argued that this would sharply reduce the intermittent heavy pumping that played havoc with endangered species in the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and would firm up supplies both for Central Valley farmers and the 20 million-plus residents of Southern California.

But in September, the board of the Westlands Water District – which serves 600,000 acres of farmland in King and Fresno counties and is the largest U.S. agricultural district – voted 7-1 against providing about $3 billion for the project. Westlands officials trashed claims made for WaterFix, questioning whether it would actually stabilize the Delta ecosystem and predicting cost overruns.

In November, the Trump administration announced that the federal government would not provide any financial assistance to get the project built. While the Interior Department statement was not unexpected, it contributed to the sense the WaterFix proposal was foundering. By February, Brown administration officials had put the word out they would accept building only one tunnel under the delta and adding a second later.

MWD backed scaled-back project, then changed mind

The death of the original plan appeared confirmed on April 2 when officials with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – the giant, politically powerful water wholesaler serving 19 million people – issued a memo expressing support for the one-tunnel option. The rationale: a lack of a consensus for the two-tunnel plan among the water districts south of Sacramento that would need to pay for the project.

But after intense lobbying by the Brown administration, on April 10, the MWD board voted by a 3-to-2 margin to endorse the two-tunnels project and to agree to pay for about two-thirds of the tab – about $10.8 billion. The weighted vote, based on the size of individual agencies, came over the objections of the MWD board’s single largest member, the San Diego County Water Authority.

Momentum continued to build last Wednesday when the board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District – the biggest water agency in Silicon Valley – voted 4-3 to commit its 2 million ratepayers to pay up to $650 million for the project, or nearly 4 percent of the total tab. Santa Clara officials had previously narrowly opposed providing funding.

On Thursday, Brown hailed the decision in a speech to a conference of the Association of California Water Agencies in Sacramento. But the governor also warned that the project still had big obstacles that went beyond getting more water districts to agree to share construction costs. He noted that state and federal regulators still had yet to issue required permits.

On this front, WaterFix may face more skepticism in Brown’s backyard than in Washington. As CalWatchdog reported last year, the Trump administration gave a key senior Interior Department post to Colorado lawyer David Bernhardt, a veteran of California water wars and a critic of the federal government’s traditionally high-profile role in land-use decisions in Western states.

Meanwhile, the California Water Resources Control Board has sided with environmentalists in a long list of previous decisions. In filings with the state board, Restore the Delta and several other environmental groups have challenged the governor’s project on its central claim: that it improves the health of the Delta ecosystem.

Even if the state and federal permits are granted, the tunnels plan still faces hurdles. The Bay Area News Group reportedlast week that more than two dozen state and federal lawsuits had been filed against the project.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California’s Transportation Future – Next Generation Vehicles

The next generation of vehicles will transform transportation in several fundamental ways. What is coming will be as revolutionary in our time as the transition from horses to horseless carriages was over a century ago. Some increments of this dawning revolution are already here in realized products. Electric drivetrains. Collision avoidance systems. Self-driving cars. Cars on demand. Aerial drones. Nearly all of the enabling technology for this dawning revolution is already here. Artificial intelligence. Visual recognition and sensor systems that use radar, sonar and LIDAR laser scanning. Mapping capabilities. GPS. Data collection. Memory chips. Communications systems. And every one of these technologies, along with investment capital, more than anywhere else, is concentrated in California.

As this revolution unfolds, our conception of what constitutes vehicular transport will change. Many vehicles will be modular and reconfigurable. On the road surface, the wheeled chassis, or “skateboard,” will contain the essentials to power and navigate the vehicle. Depending on the duty cycle, a skateboard chassis may be small, only capable of carrying a two passenger cabin, or small freight payload. Other skateboards will range in size from those capable of carrying a sedan or SUV sized passenger unit, all the way to the largest versions which, with freight or passenger units attached, would weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

Even more variation will be present in the passenger modules. An SUV sized passenger module, for example, might hold 6-8 passengers like a mini-bus. Or it might be a conference room or an office where a group of passengers could conduct work while being transported. Or it might be a sleeper unit, a rolling hotel room, where a lone passenger or a family or work crew would sleep while en-route to their destination.

Perhaps even more amazing are the aerial modules that are coming. A passenger module may arrive at a staging area on a wheeled chassis, where an aerial drone will attach itself to the top of the passenger module at the same time as that module is released from the skateboard chassis. In an automated, seamless process, the occupants will then be flown beneath this drone to their intended destination.

SELF DRIVING VEHICLES

All of the above is happening with surprising rapidity. Dozens of partnerships between major automakers and the technology partners they need to complete this process have already been formed and continue to be formed. San Francisco based Uber is working with Volkswagon and Nvidia, a major chipmaker and world leader in visual computing. Uber is also working with Toyota to develop self driving cars. Silicon Valley based Tesla continues to test “full self-driving hardware,” competing with Google spin-off Waymo, also located in Silicon Valley. Another credible Silicon Valley self-driving car startup is Aurora, which as reported by the San Jose Mercury earlier this year, is “formed by one-time heads of autonomous car projects at Google parent Alphabet and Tesla [and] will develop self-driving electric vehicles with Volkswagen and Hyundai Motor.”

Not to be excluded, Silicon Valley heavyweight Apple is confounding critics who claimed they might find achieving their business model of vertical integration too challenging to include vehicles. According to a March 2018 report in Fortune, referring to testing in California, “with 45 cars on the road, Apple is now testing more vehicles than its top rivals. Tesla, for instance, has 39 permits. Uber has 29 permits, according to the report. Alphabet’s Waymo had more than 100 permits in June 2017 and has 24 now.”

According to the same report, “Apple is now second behind General Motors’ Cruise company, which has 110 self-driving car permits in California.” The GM owned company, Cruise Automation, is headquartered in San Francisco. GM’s strategy? According to The Street, GM intends to “deploy self-driving taxis in dense urban environments to take passengers from point A to point B. Rather than a one-time sale of the vehicle, the automaker can milk hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue per vehicle.” And in that same report, Ford’s strategy is “using a new vehicle capable of carrying both people or items. The unit will run a hybrid engine and operate about 20 hours per day.”

The Mercedes F 015 “Luxury in Motion” Self-Driving Concept Car

Mercedes F 015

The above photo of the Mercedes F 015 “Luxury in Motion” Self-Driving Concept Car provides a glimpse into just how much vehicular travel is going to change. Note that the dashboard and control surfaces, including an almost vestigial steering wheel, are on the right side of the compartment. The front seats are swiveled to face the rear seats, turning the area into more of a lounge or conference room than a traditional vehicle compartment. The presumption is that most of the time the car will be self-driving, allowing the passengers to pursue many of the same sedentary activity options in the vehicle that they might pursue outside the vehicle.

When it comes to major automakers and high-tech corporations, it’s hard to find a company that’s not getting involved in autonomous vehicles. A March 2018 report in TechWorld attempts to catalog all of them – some not already mentioned above include Rinspeed AG, a Swiss automaker teamed up with Samsung; Volvo, teamed up with Uber; Chinese internet giant Baidu’s self-driving vehicle platform Apollo, which includes vehicle hardware, software and cloud data platforms to help others in the autonomous cars industry; Intel, which bought Israel-based driverless car technology firm Mobileye, in partnership together with BMW; Audi in partnership with graphics cards maker Nvidia; the list goes on.

Convinced yet? Driverless vehicles are coming. They are coming in myriad forms and will employ myriad business models. Stepping to the curb and using your phone to dial up a robotic ride, any type of ride, to any destination, will become commonplace. Scheduling personalized transportation services in advance will become routine. Ownership models will become more diverse. Individuals will own cars, but so will automakers, transit agencies, taxi services; who will own these cars of the future and to what purpose is only limited by one’s imagination.

PASSENGER DRONES

If the world of self-driving cars is just around the corner, then just down the street, also set to arrive sooner than expected, are passenger drones. And again, most of the major players are operating in California. Uber has formed “Uber Air,” or Elevate, to develop aerial transportation systems. Google has two companies, operating in stealth, Cora, and Kitty Hawk. Also active in California are the companies Aurora, in partnership with Boeing, and Vahana, in partnership with Airbus.

Cora’s experimental electric powered “Air Taxi” –
takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane

Air Taxi

An interesting company based in Santa Cruz is Joby Aviation. While over a $130 million in financing and over 120 employees isn’t all that much so far, Joby Aviation appears to be a serious contender. Investors include Intel Capital, Toyota AI Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, and Capricorn Investment Group. Despite being one of the most secretive startups in a sector where stealth is the rule, not the exception, an excellent report on Joby’s progress was published by Bloomberg earlier this year.  From a remote test station deep in the mountains of California’s central coast, the Bloomberg reporters were given a ride. From the article: “Powered by electric motors and sophisticated control software, the taxi performs like a cross between a drone and a small plane, able to zip straight up on takeoff and then fly at twice the speed of a helicopter while making about as much noise as a swarm of superbees.”

This is fascinating stuff. Apparently most “air taxis” (or “sky cabs”) being developed are powered by electricity, and in many respects are just enlarged versions of the drones now commonly used by hobbyists and photographers. Joby Aviation intends to build an aircraft with a range of 150 miles on a single battery charge, carrying up to four passengers. They would travel at relatively low altitudes to avoid having to pressurize the cabin. They expect to be “100 times more quiet during takeoff and landing than a helicopter and near-silent during flyovers.”

LAND/AIR HYBRIDS

No discussion of the imminent revolution in vehicle transportation is complete without considering the possibility of travel by land and by air in the same passenger module, with a separate wheeled module for land travel, which detaches from the passenger module when it is lifted airborne by a flight module. As reported earlier this year in Electrek.co, Audi and Airbus are working on just such a solution. The following two images are from a visualization of this futuristic transportation option prepared by Italdesign in partnership with Audi and Airbus.

Aerial drone/electric car hybrid concept –
passenger module prepares to detach from land module

Aerial drone electric car

Aerial drone/electric car hybrid concept –
passenger module now attached to flight module

flight module

The Hyperlane Option

If the Hyperloop might represent the fastest conceivable mode of land based travel, then, similarly, the “Hyperlane” might represent the fastest conceivable mode of travel by autonomous wheeled vehicles on a flat road surface. The hyperlane concept was conceived by UC Berkeley graduate students, Baiyu Chen and Anthony Barrs, who proposed the hyperlane concept in 2017 as their winning entry in the Association of Equipment Manufacturers “Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge.” AEM’s 2017 challenge to entrants was to present concepts to “support high-speed transportation by the year 2050.”

As reported in Fortune, “The duo’s idea was to construct a ‘Hyperlane,’ or a single platform the size of four interstate lanes that would run parallel to pre-existing highways in order for self-driving cars to travel at high speeds with no chance of getting into a jam. …’we realized we could remove the tracks and deploy new, emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles.’”

Whether the Hyperlane is a dedicated four lane highway, elevated over existing highways on existing right-of-ways, or additional specialized lanes similar to the HOV lanes we’ve already got, emerging automotive technologies support safer, denser traffic at higher speeds. Electric traction motors not only have extraordinary torque which delivers impressive acceleration, they also have a wide functional RPM range, zero to 20,000, far greater than combustion engines. Back in the 1990s, a prototype version of the now legendary General Motors EV1 was clocked at 183 MPH. The current crop of electric vehicles have top speeds that are deliberately limited by software; the Chevy Volt tops out at 100 MPH, the Tesla Roadster at 125 MPH, and the Tesla Model S at 130 MPH.

Using dedicated lanes for high speed vehicular travel has been tried already. The fast lanes on the German autobahns easily qualify. If you’re driving 120 MPH in the fast lane on the autobahn, you’d better watch your rear view mirror, because if a car traveling 160 MPH crashes into your rear end, it’s your fault. German drivers obey strict rules, the most critical of which is slower drivers must always yield to faster drivers by moving promptly into the left lanes, and faster drivers must never pass on the right. And it works. The fatality rate on the autobahn is much lower than on the United States interstate system.

The Case for Cars

The conventional enlightened policy wisdom is that driving cars on roads is an obsolete way for millions of people to travel. Policy driven alternatives, costing billions each year, include light rail, high-speed rail, trolleys and bike lanes. In support of these policy alternatives, “transit villages” are zoned, along with “densification,” based on the theory that if more people live near mass transit stations, and, in general, if more people live and work in smaller urban footprints, there will be less need for people to own cars.

To explore the costs and benefits of densification and urban containment goes beyond the scope of this report. But the primary problems currently inherent in relying on cars to fulfill the requirements of mass transportation – low speeds, unsafe, congested roads – are all being solved through innovation. With upgraded roads and updated driving laws, modern cars can sustain speeds as fast or faster than California’s proposed high speed rail. And there are a variety of ways that the new innovations that are transforming vehicular travel will increase safety and relieve congestion.

Private sector funding:

With minimal government investment, the private sector is creating connected and autonomous vehicles, completely redefining the car. The enabling technologies draw from diverse industries, resulting in consortiums that bring together participants from sectors including automotive, semiconductor, telecommunications, smart phones, aerospace, robotics and AI. One challenge is ensuring that the makers of this next generation of vehicles incorporate common standards.

To navigate the roads without a driver, self-driving cars rely on vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications. The Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, (CAR) with a mission ” to educate, inform and advise stakeholders, policy makers, and the general public on critical issues facing the automotive industry,” has produced several recent reports evaluating what they call “intelligent transportation systems.” In their 2017 report “Planning for Connected and Automated Vehicles,” they define V2V systems as “wireless communication between vehicles, such as safety warnings and messages.” They define V2I systems as “wireless communications between vehicles and the infrastructure, such as a system that connects a vehicle to cellular towers for navigation purposes.”

As the technology matures, several industry associations are working to harmonize standards for intelligent transportation systems, nationally and globally. In CAR’s 2016 report “Global Harmonization of Connected Vehicle Communications Standards,” they explain how interoperable communications systems in vehicles are necessary to resolve the following questions:

  • Which entities communicate and to whom (e.g., vehicle, pedestrian, roadside infrastructure, central servers)?
  • Which message set is used within the communication?
  • What media and channel allocation is used (e.g., 5.9 GHz)?
  • What application is implemented and how?

Private entities supported by industry are funding this effort and working closely with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation as well as with most states. Just a few of the major organizations involved in this effort include the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ASTM InternationalSAE InternationalInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), National Transportation Communications for Intelligent Transportation System Protocol(NTCIP), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), European Committee for Standardization (CEN), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), and the European Telecommunications Institute(ETSI).

In April 2018, as reported in the industry publication Transport Topics, two of the most prominent associations involved in setting standards, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Center for Mobility announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding with the  to help accelerate development and deployment of voluntary technical standards for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Lower costs to the consumer:

To some extent, the fact that consumers will spend less for transportation is a function of the convergence of increasingly automated manufacturing, the availability and superiority of new composite materials to replace expensive steel, global competition, and progressively lower costs for software, chip sets, sensors and other high-tech components. Moore’s law is alive and well, and doesn’t just apply to semiconductors. But lower costs and more options for consumers of transportation will not only result from ongoing advances in manufacturing, they will also result from the rollout of a variety of new business models that offer a variety of new modes of transportation.

The disruptive impact of Uber, a ride hailing service that has challenged the taxi industry to its roots, is an early example of what is coming. Uber and its competitors are already testing autonomous vehicles, something that will become common. These driverless taxis will cost less to ride, since there won’t be a driver. Similarly, privately funded “micro-transit” services will offer mini bus services based on a connectivity and AI driven dynamic awareness of consumer demand and road conditions, offering shared rides based on aggregating riders who are boarding and exiting the mini bus along routes that are optimized to move the most passengers the fewest miles in the lowest amount of time.

Ride sharing, the 21st century version of picking up a hitchhiker, will also become a more viable option than ever. For example, participants in many ride sharing services will be members, vetted in a manner similar to the vetting that occurs with the hosts and the occupants of Airbnb properties. The advantage for the vehicle owner, of course, is a having a paying passenger join them on their commute, with the added benefit of becoming eligible to drive in carpool lanes.

Car sharing, where the user takes over a vehicle, is similar to a conventional car rental. The differences are a reflection of the new technologies. For example, using their smart phone or other connected device, consumers will order a car, and within minutes the driverless vehicle will arrive wherever they are. The car can be rented by the hour, or per day, or for a longer period. The price includes fuel and insurance costs.

Also on the way are mobility services, online aggregators of all transportation options. These mobility services will offer consumers transportation options tailored to their preferences. A consumer will be presented with a variety of ways to reach their destination, ranging from a single vehicle going point-to-point to a collection of travel legs utilizing public and private transit services.

The sheer variety of these emerging transportation options, primarily funded by the private sector, suggest that there will be vibrant competition for the consumer, driving down prices. Another significant factor in lowering prices is the fact that in general, the transportation services being offered will involve multiple riders on each vehicle, spreading the per-mile costs over more people, lowering per-mile costs for each of them.

Less traffic congestion:

The ability of next generation vehicles to create cost-incentives for individuals to opt out of purchasing their own cars will reduce the number of cars competing for space on congested roads. It will also reduce the demand for parking spaces and parking garages. This will be accomplished in a variety of ways. Through ride hailing, ride sharing and micro-transit services, fewer cars will be used to deliver the same number of commuters from bedroom communities to urban centers. Through sharing of self driving cars, an early commuter may arrive at their destination, but the car itself will immediately drive itself to the nearest next consumer, transporting them to their destination instead of taking up a parking space for the rest of the day. Mobility services will present consumers with customized options, resulting in compelling incentives for them to opt out of purchasing a car, or a second car.

The other way 21st century vehicles will alleviate traffic congestion is because as semi-autonomous vehicles – for example, collision avoidance systems which are already standard on most new cars – and fully self-driving vehicles become widely adopted, the safe distance between vehicles will shrink, as will the safe speed for vehicles. The adoption of next generation vehicles will mean that the same network of lanes and roads will be able to deliver more people. Michigan’s  Center for Automotive Research, in their 2017 “Future Cities” report, depicts how in the long term, once autonomous cars are fully adopted, urban boulevards may be reconfigured with narrower lanes and fewer lanes, without compromising mobility.

Autonomous Cars – Same Road Capacity With Narrower and Fewer Lanes

Autonomous Cars

PREPARING FOR NEXT GENERATION VEHICLES

It appears likely that the technologies for next generation vehicles, operating on roads and in the air, will mature faster than our ability to develop policies and infrastructure to accommodate them. This is particularly difficult since autonomous vehicles will not suddenly displace conventional manually controlled vehicles on our roads, but will share the roads with them for many decades. But the encouraging possibility with next generation vehicles is that the public infrastructure necessary to support them is relatively limited compared to the transit solutions that currently consume huge allocations of public resources.

For example, establishing uniform standards for autonomous vehicles is being actively coordinated and funded by the major automakers and aerospace companies, along with other private sector participants. The role of the state and federal departments regulating highway travel and aviation is vital, but will not consume significant funds compared to the cost of major infrastructure investments.

In the case of aviation, next generation solutions, ranging from passenger drones today to the supersonic electric airplanes that are likely tomorrow, are virtually all designed for vertical takeoff and landing, meaning that expensive airport runway infrastructure does not require expansion in order to accommodate them.

Similarly, autonomous land-based vehicles are designed to operate at higher speeds in closer proximity to each other, reducing the need to increase road capacity. Moreover, the emerging business model for next generation vehicles strongly incentivizes consumers to forego purchasing their own car, opting instead for ride hailing, ride sharing, car sharing and micro-transit services, which also reduces the number of cars sharing the road. These new mobility solutions will also reduce demand for parking spaces and parking garages, taking further pressure off of infrastructure requirements.

It may be that for urban areas, the impact of next generation vehicles combined with the contributions from aerial transportation options, combined with congestion pricing, will mean that the only road investment necessary within urban centers is to maintain and upgrade existing roads. For major intercity connector roads, highways and freeways, however, important policy decisions loom. Because as it is, these roads are not designed or maintained in a manner sufficient to allow next generation vehicles to reach their potential.

The implications of this are profound. Next generation vehicles, in all sizes and configurations, have the potential to replace most if not all proposed mass transit solutions both for intercity and long-range travel. The maximum safe and sustainable cruising speed of a modern electric vehicle is conservatively pegged at 120 MPH. Vehicles of the future will not only be configured similarly to conventional cars and SUVs, they will also be mobile hotel rooms, entertainment lounges, offices, conference rooms, and buses of all sizes, offering countless levels of services. On properly designed and maintained roads, there is no reason these vehicular solutions cannot replace literally all current or proposed modes of surface based transit, certainly including high-speed rail but probably including light rail as well.

Policymakers have a choice. They can recognize that private industry is creating new ways to travel on land and in the air. They can cooperate to develop uniform standards and updated laws to expedite this transformation. They can revise zoning laws, redirect funding priorities, and invest in new roads and communications infrastructure. Or they can neglect road construction and instead continue to build public mass transit systems that offer dubious prospects of ever solving growing transportation bottlenecks.

Elon Musk’s Boring Company is a privately funded transit solution that transports private vehicles point-to-point underground, moving them on and off surface streets with elevators. On the Boring Company’s FAQ page, focused on ways to dramatically reduce the costs of tunneling, a provocative assertion is made: “The construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.”

The next installment in this series will explore the implications of this assertion. What would it take to improve productivity in the heavy road construction industry? There has been a healthy public discussion regarding how much it will cost to build California’s high speed railroad. But how much would it cost to build roads in California? How much would it cost not only to catch up on all the deferred maintenance on California’s roads, and upgrade them incrementally, but to actually build new roads, north to south and coast to mountains, engineered for the cars of the future?

*   *   *

This article is the 3rd in a series on California’s transportation future. The first installment was “California’s Transportation Future, Part One – The Fatally Flawed Centerpiece,” published in April 2018. The second installment was “California’s Transportation Future, Part Two – The Hyperloop Option,” published in May 2018. Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development.

Unions defend recent strikes — but voters should make up their own minds

Teachers unionIn a USA Today op-ed last month, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten defended the teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado, by sketching a familiar hero-villain scenario. “Teachers are standing up for their students and themselves against largely red states with weak labor laws and where governors and legislators have opted for tax cuts for the wealthy instead of investments for children,” she wrote. Pointing to the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, which she portrayed as a right-wing ploy to “get public sector unions out of politics,” Weingarten proclaimed, “Teachers’ voices — and their votes — are powerful, and educators have parents and communities supporting them.”

Some voters may be persuaded by the argument that teachers are picketing for more money “for children,” but they would be better off looking at some basic facts. While teachers in some cases are underpaid and certain school districts underfunded, teachers on the whole, according to researcher James Agresti, get paid much better than commonly acknowledged. For the 2016–2017 school year, the average salary of full-time public school teachers was $58,950. That figure excludes benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, and pensions, which, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, make up an average of 33 percent of total compensation for public school teachers. When benefits get added in, teachers’ average annual compensation jumps to $87,854. And even that amount doesn’t include unfunded pension liabilities and certain post-employment benefits like health insurance, not measured by the Labor Department. Private-industry employees work an average of 37 percent more hours per year than public school teachers, including the time that teachers spend for lesson preparation, grading, and other activities. “Unlike less rigorous studies, this data from the DOL is based on detailed records of work hours instead of subjective estimates about how long people think they work,” Agresti adds.

Teachers aren’t just well compensated; they’re also more numerous than ever before, especially in proportion to their students. Researcher and economics professor Benjamin Scafidi found that, between 1950 and 2015, the number of teachers increased about 2.5 times faster than the number of students, and hiring of other education employees—administrators, teacher aides, counselors, social workers—rose more than seven times faster than the increase in students. Despite the staffing surge, students’ academic achievement has stagnated or fallen during that time. Scafidi suggests that, had non-teaching personnel growth been in line with student population growth, and the teaching force risen “only” 1.5 times as fast as student growth, U.S. schools would have had an additional $37.2 billion to spend annually. With that windfall, he suggests, we could have raised every public school teacher’s salary by more than $11,700 per year, given poor families more than $2,600 in cash per child to attend private schools of their parents’ choice, and more than doubled taxpayer funding for early-childhood education.

It’s no secret that lavish teacher pensions are eating up money that should be spent on students. Robert Costrell, a finance expert at the University of Arkansas, found that 10.6 percent of all education spending goes toward teacher-retirement benefits—more than double the proportion spent on pensions in 2004. “As a percentage of their total compensation package, teacher retirement benefits eat up twice as much as other workers,” Bellwether Education Partners policy analyst Chad Alderman explains. Teachers—including bad teachers—have a powerful incentive to stay on in their jobs, since they automatically earn more just by showing up each fall, regardless of how effective they are. Pension benefits start accruing later in a teacher’s career, so younger teachers are helping to prop up pensions for lifers, with little to show for it; if a teacher leaves the field early, he gets no pension at all.

States typically administer teacher pensions, but health-care benefits frequently vary according to the local school district. While some districts cut teachers’ health benefits off when Medicare kicks in, others, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, are much more generous. LAUSD provides the same expansive health coverage for retirees (and their spouses) as it does for current employees; neither group pays a premium for its insurance. The district recently announced that the unfunded liability for retiree health benefits has risen to $15.2 billion, up from a reported $13.5 billion in 2016, which translates to a cost of $525 per student.

Come November, the teachers’ unions and their unhappy members will be taking their case to the voters. Taxpayers need to look at the facts underneath the teachers-as-victims rhetoric and vote for fiscal sanity.

Government Unions: A little perspective is in order

Unions2As one who has closely followed the Janus v AFSCME case, I am amazed at the hyperbolic ranting about it from certain quarters that bombards us on a daily basis. If successful, the suit would allow government workers in 22 states the right to be employed without being forced to pay money to a union. Period.

But various interested parties have gone bonkers over Janus. An American Federation of Teachers press release claims that the case is a “blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people.” (Actually Janus will unrig the rules by replacing the 41 year-old Abood decision and give workers complete freedom of choice.

Are Teachers’ Unions on the Brink of Demise?” screamed the headline in the Feb. 13 issue of Education Week. As things stand now, the ruling will affect 22 forced union states. The other 28 states already protect worker freedom, and all of them maintain teachers’ and other public employee unions.

California Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León claims the case will “cripple unions” and political commentator Arthur Schaper wrote of the teachers unions’ looming “political demise.”

Nonsense. These types of comments may move the adrenaline needle into the red zone for some, but really are quite off-target. Here is what we can count on:

The unions will not go gently into the night. Many unions are attempting to re-rig the game in their favor. California’s AB 119, for example, gives government unions access to all workers’ personal contact information and requires rookies to attend a mandatory union “orientation” meeting, during which a union huckster tries his best to convince a captive audience about the glories of union membership.

The unions have also gone to great lengths to trap workers. For example, the state teachers union in Minnesota has come out with a form that forces teachers to reject union membership on a yearly basis and within a narrow time frame. Unions in New York and California have cooked up similar schemes. It is possible, however, that should SCOTUS decide in favor in Janus, the ruling could include wording that would free any worker from a union contract immediately and permanently, thus rendering this kind of union trickery null and void.

With an assist from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, legislatures in blue states could help the unions financially. During the Friedrichscase, Sotomayor opined that the California Teachers Association “under California law is a State entity.” Of course, the teachers union is not in any way a state entity, but rather a private corporate concern with government rendered perks – like not paying a penny in income tax. No matter. Hawaii has picked up on Sotomayor’s comment, and its state legislature is considering a resolution which would ensure union solvency by dinging taxpayers for any money the union comes up short, should forced dues payments become a thing of the past. It’s safe to say that other blue states will be watching the progress of this resolution closely.

How many teachers will stop paying the union? Very hard to say. When Michigan went right-to-work in 2012, the Michigan Education Association lost 25 percent of its teachers. Mike Antonucci, using information from a National Education Association leadership meeting in March, suggests that the union quit-rate nationally could be as low as 11 percent in newly freed states. Under the worst case scenario, the union could lose about 36 percent of its members.

Additionally, with greater worker freedom, more unions could disaffiliate. There is a subset of teachers who like their local union but see no reason why they have to also pay money to a state and national affiliate, which are little more than progressive political organizations. And there is major financial incentive to do so. In California, for example, CTA skims $677 and NEA $189 from each of its members every year. Local dues vary, but usually are about $200 a year. If a local decides to disaffiliate, it would appeal to many workers for financial and ideological reasons. A case in point is Clark County, Nevada, where, due to “quarrels over lobbying priorities, endorsements in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and ongoing lawsuits,” the 18,700 member union just said good bye to its state and national branches.

What will the political fallout be? The most prudent answer here would be “somewhat to considerable.” It’s no secret that teacher union political spending goes almost entirely to leftist candidates and causes. Reflecting this fact, AFT’s director of field programs for educational issues Rob Weil said that the progressive movement “will lose resources (both $$ and people) which will lessen their impact. Some social partners may, unfortunately, no longer exist.” In Michigan, after its 25 percent drop off in membership, the union cut its political spending by 49 percent. For those of us who are not of the progressive persuasion, this is indeed heartening.

Heartening. That’s about as good as it gets for now. Mike Antonucci suggests that while the unions will alter their M.O., Janus is not a game changer. Unions and school districts will still wrangle over pay, work rules, etc. and that strikes will still occur. In other words, “peace is not at hand.” 

I pretty much agree with Antonucci. But while the sun will still rise in the east with a decision for the plaintiff, it could be the first important step in a process that would truly level the playing field. More on this soon.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Californians Deserve Climate Policies That People Can Actually Afford

Ivanpah solar energyIn a recently published interview, Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, and Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a global coalition of researchers, scientists, and economists that models the impacts of global warming, made a spot-on observation about the pitfalls of seeking a simple, single solution to climate change.

Hawken observed that “people who are earnestly guiding us to climatic stability have not done the math.” Instead, he says “sincere, well-meaning people profess their beliefs.”

Nowhere is this truer than in California. In recent years, policymakers have increasingly aligned with advocacy groups pushing for one-track solutions to climate change, like 100 percent renewable electricity or all-electric buildings.

Two weeks ago, Assembly Bill 3232 – legislation that aims to electrify homes and businesses in the state – passed through the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee with little fanfare.

There is a certain seductive simplicity to many of the single solutions aimed at addressing climate change. But, the math just doesn’t work. Moreover, the single solution policies that advocacy groups like Sierra Club are churning into new laws don’t take into account important considerations like affordability and the preferences of Californians.

Take 100 percent renewable electricity, for example. A recent Black and Veatch analysis showed 100 percent renewable electricity could cost California $3 trillion and require 900 square miles of solar panels and another 900 square miles of depletable and unrenewable battery storage.

That’s an area almost four times the size of the City of Los Angeles dedicated to disposable batteries and solar panels. For the price tag, you could buy Apple and have $2 trillion left over, eliminate a sizeable chunk of the US federal debt, or pay for private college tuition for about 25 million high school seniors.

AB 3232 seeks to move California toward another one-track solution – all electric buildings. A report released earlier this month by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) found that replacing natural gas in every home would cost California families up to $6 billion annually and require most buildings to undergo expensive retrofits. That’s an almost $900 increase in annual energy costs for every California family. As Hawken points out, people seeking a single solution to climate change simply haven’t done the math.

Importantly, they also haven’t considered the preferences of California’s families and businesses. A separate CBIA study recently found that only 10 percent of voters would consider purchasing an all-electric home and 80 percent oppose laws that would take away their natural gas appliances.

Does it make sense to charge Californians a lot more for something they don’t want in the first place? Moreover, would the increased burden on families and businesses address climate change?

Hawken argues that most people trying to address climate change simply don’t know what the solution is. “If you had asked every person at COP21 in Paris (us included) to name the top 10 solutions in any order, I don’t believe anyone would have gotten it even close. That is still true. After 50 years of global warming being in the public sphere, we didn’t know the top solutions to reversing it. And there’s a reason: We never measured and modeled the top solutions.”

In California, a lot of work has been done to measure and model emissions linked to climate change. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), about 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state come from the transportation sector, with heavy duty trucks being the single greatest source. Consistent with Project Drawdown’s analysis, agriculture and waste are also significant contributors in California. More than 80 percent of methane emissions in the state come from farms, dairies and landfills. In contrast, natural gas end uses in residential buildings account for about 5 percent of emissions statewide, according to CARB.

Make no mistake about it, renewable electricity will play a crucial role in reducing emissions and reversing the effects of climate change. But, if California is serious about achieving the state’s ambitious climate goals we need all options on the table, including policies that reduce emissions from transportation and investments in technology that capture methane from farms and landfills for use as affordable and renewable energy.

Doing the math shows us that California needs a balanced strategy – one that achieves climate goals, but considers the impacts on families and businesses. Affordability and choice matter.

resident & Chief Operating Officer for Southern California Gas Co.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Yes, NPR: Illegal Immigration Does Increase Violent Crime

ICE-Immigration-AgentsAs members of an alien caravan beat their fists at the gates, the experts provide the rationalization for inviting them in.

John Burnett wrote last week for National Public Radio, “four academic studies show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems.” But Burnett curated studies that conflate much and misinform plenty.

My favorite among the four is Alex Nowrasteh’s Cato Institute study, because you could tell Burnett pulled it from the top of a pile he kept on hand for just such occasions, to convince Americans that the decay they’re witnessing in their communities is actually “cultural enrichment.”

The Cato study selectively sources data from the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS), and it notes that what we’re reading is the “[a]uthor’s analysis” of that data. In other words, Nowrasteh presents data in a way that suits his ends. Data analysts, like those in Cato’s salon, have an interest in producing specific results. Or as one data analyst says, “they know the results the analysis should find.”

Nowrasteh’s study claims that among 952 total homicides, “native-born Americans were convicted of 885 homicides,” while “illegal immigrants were convicted of just 51 homicides.” Setting aside the fact that those 51 killings — like all crimes committed by illegal aliens — were completely avoidable, a few other questions come to mind.

First, how many of those “native-born” convicted killers were anchor babies? That is, how many of those convicted killers have parents who entered the country illegally? How many arrived through chain immigration?

That is a fair question, considering Latino gangs recruit heavily from kids as young as 10 years old, and the fact many of these immigrants come from countries with some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Mexico is the most dangerous conflict zone in the world outside of Syria, with some Mexican states more deadly than Afghanistan. Looking at mass shootings since 2000 that have left at least four people dead, we find that first and second-generation immigrants account for 47 percent of all such shootings. The anchor baby question, when considering the pervasiveness of the violent narcoculture in Latin America (that we now import), is valid.

Second, “convicted” is an operative word. The Cato study only takes into consideration killers who were caught, properly identified and convicted.

Consider that Kate Steinle’s killer was not convicted either of manslaughter or murder. He committed the crime, but he wasn’t convicted. In fact, there was confusion over the killer’s identity as he used 30 aliases, had been deported five times, and committed seven felonious crimes. Federal authorities stated his name was “Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate,” but the criminal alien left a trail through the “immigration system and criminal courts for nearly a quarter of a century as  Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez and Juan Jose Dominguez de la Parra,” to name just two others.

Texas has porous borders and it’s a sad fact that illegal aliens enjoy the luxury of moving relatively freely across the border, whether for trafficking operations or simply for the purpose of avoiding Mexican authorities. A sizable number of illegal aliens work with drug cartels that operate within the United States. Some of them are killers.

“In 2009,” writes Steven A. Camarota for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), “57 percent of the 76 fugitive murderers most wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were foreign-born. It is likely however that because immigrants can more readily flee to other countries, they comprise a disproportionate share of fugitives.” How many of those were illegal aliens?

In fact, an internal Texas Department of Public Safety report revealed that between 2008 and 2014, 177,588 illegal alien defendants were “responsible for at least 611,234 individual criminal charges over their criminal careers, including 2,993 homicides and 7,695 sexual assaults.” Maybe the Texas authorities didn’t trust Cato with the good stuff. Or maybe Nowrasteh didn’t ask.

One thing is certain: the more substantive TDPS report paints illegal immigration in a much less favorable light than does the report selected by Cato and promulgated by NPR.

But the TDPS report also comes with a glaring caveat. “The 177,588 criminal aliens identified by Texas through the Secure Communities initiative only can tag criminal aliens who had already been fingerprinted,” writes J. Christian Adams, a former U.S. Justice Department employee.

“That means that the already stratospheric aggregate crime totals would be even higher if crimes by many illegal aliens who are not in the fingerprint database were included,” Adams concludes.

Cato, then, is misinforming Americans and perhaps hoping that no one looks below the surface of Nowrasteh’s study. This is not surprising as Cato emphatically endorses open borders, or as I prefer to call it, civilizational suicide. Thus, Burnett chose this specious source because it aligned with his cosmopolitan prejudices. Neither is a good look for a NPR.

A second study Burnett highlighted reports on “50 states and Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 2014 to provide the first longitudinal analysis of the macro‐level relationship between undocumented immigration and violence.” Assuming crime statistics are accurately reported, it stands to reason that if we look at immigration nationwide, lumping all “undocumented immigrants” into the same pool, things might not appear as bad as they actually are.

Crime statistics, however, aren’t always accurately reported — remember that Steinle’s killer won’t be reported as a homicide conviction. Although crime has decreased nationwide, it has risen in certain cities and counties. A “macro-level” glance might miss that.

In counties like Los Angeles, which has a high concentration of illegal aliens, authorities don’t have the best track record when it comes to accurately reporting crime, prompting investigations every now and again. Nevertheless, Los Angeles County has also seen crime rates increase, while they have fallen elsewhere across the nation.

Echoing Burnett, Steve Lopez writes in the Los Angeles Times that concern over sanctuary policies and tying immigration to higher crime rates is baseless. He maintains that it is a bigoted political formula and not much else. Lopez invokes Wayne Cornelius, a UC San Diego professor emeritus, “who has studied immigration for decades,” and “said there is no correlation between sanctuary cities and crime rates.”

Neither Burnett, Cornelius, nor Lopez understand why “14 Southern California cities and two counties have passed ordinances, and in some cases filed lawsuits,” against state sanctuary laws. After all, say the experts, sanctuary policies don’t protect bad guys; and noncitizens—specifically illegal alien Latinos—are less likely to engage in crime than the “native-born” population anyway.

If you don’t believe Lopez, take it from Cornelius. He received the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor bestowed upon foreigners by the formalized narco-kleptocracy Mexico calls a “government.”

To understand how unethical and fundamentally obscene this narrative is, a look at California’s history with sanctuary policies, crime, and immigration might be instructive.

City of Angels

The beginnings of sanctuary can be traced back to a 1979 Los Angeles memorandum stating: “Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall neither arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry).”

California progressives, in their brilliance, decided to adopt sanctuary just as the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was coming onto the scene — although other Latino gangs were already entrenched in California.

Born in the barrios of Los Angeles in the 1980s, the membership of MS-13 was comprised of “refugees” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. This is relevant, considering the origins of the migrant activists demanding asylum from the United States today.

As a token of their appreciation to the United States, these foreigners formed the rank and file of one of the most vicious gangs in the world. It didn’t take long for the Mexican Mafia, or “la eMe,” to incorporate MS-13 into its Latino gang alliance, a coalition that came to be called the “Sureños.” More than a dozen gangs, including Hezbollah, Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel, all operate under the Sureños alliance.

In 2007, federal agents discovered businesses in Los Angeles that were peddling cocaine and counterfeit designer clothing in a front operation run by the Mexican mafia that financially benefited Hezbollah.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Latino population of the United States increased by 63 percent—from 22 million to 35 million. Suffice to say, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was overwhelmed. So were prisons. More to the point, this wave of mass immigration meant more recruits for Latino gangs.

Manhattan Institute Fellow Heather Mac Donald recounts how a “confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater.” The 18th Street Gang collaborated with la eMe “on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County”; and the gang “has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico.” As early as the 1990s, Latinos were importing narcoculture to the United States.

“In 1997, the INS simply had no record of a whopping 36 percent of foreign-born inmates who had been released from federal and four state prisons without any review of their deportability,” writes Mac Donald. “They included 1,198 aggravated felons, 80 of whom were soon re-arrested for new crimes.”

Mass immigration also brought with it a violent prejudice all too well known in Latin America: vitriolic hatred directed at blacks.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the 1980s when Highland Park in Southern California it “fell heavily under the control of the Mexican Mafia . . . eventually becoming fundamentally racist as a result.” As deceptive and dishonest as it often is, even the feverishly leftist SPLC couldn’t deny what was happening, because doing so would mean denying the plight of one of America’s protected minority groups for the sake of another.

Still, none of this seemed troubling enough to cinch up the border at the time. By 2000, “nearly 30 percent of federal prisoners were foreign-born,” Mac Donald writes. She adds that the L.A. County Sheriff also “reported in 2000 that 23 percent of inmates in county jails were deportable.”

Considering how difficult it is for minorities to be convicted of hate crimes, it is impressive that not only did Latino illegal aliens bring crime, they brought prolific amounts of hate crime the likes of which put the Klan to shame. By 2007, 75 percent of Highland Park residents were Latino, while just 2 percent were black.

Latinos developed a singular reputation for carrying out coordinated hate crimes that defied national trends. “Researchers found that in areas with high concentrations, or ‘clusters,’ of hate crimes, the perpetrators were typically members of Latino street gangs who were purposely targeting blacks,” the SPLC reported.

Los Angeles became home to random “racially motivated crimes” perpetrated throughout “the 88 cities of Los Angeles County by the members of Latino gangs.” Among these Latino gangs were “the Pomona 12 in the city of Pomona, the 18th Street Gang in southwest Los Angeles, the Toonerville gang in northeast L.A., and the Varrio Tortilla Flats in Compton.”

But the violence from Latino gangs against blacks wasn’t limited to Los Angeles. The same SPLC report notes that “six members of a Latino gang in Carlsbad, California, were arrested and charged with hate crimes for allegedly hurling racial slurs at a black teenager—who police said was not a gang member—while kicking and punching him.”

Meanwhile in Fresno, California, two Latino gang members “were convicted of attempted murder in what police described as the random hate-crime shooting of a 41-year-old black man.” Police reported that “the shooters used racial epithets and told the victim, ‘We don’t like your kind of people on our street.’”

The viciousness of Latino gangs was matched only by its pervasiveness. Although different in some respects, Latino gangs shared two common characteristics: hatred toward blacks and ranks augmented with illegal aliens thanks to porous borders.

Citing U.S. attorney Luis Li, Mac Donald noted that the “leadership of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.’s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002.”

The Cycos gang was controlled by a member of la eMe, an illegal alien, who ran the gang from prison, “while serving time for felonious reentry following deportation.” By 2004, “95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide [in Los Angeles] (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target[ed] illegal aliens,” and as many as “two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) [were] for illegal aliens.”

To argue, as Burnett, Lopez, and Cornelius do, that “there is no correlation between sanctuary cities and crime rates” is to offer a bad joke. But the litany of Latino gangs goes on, while the intelligentsia preaches tolerance to the communities that have been terrorized by this nightmare.

In 2009, 147 alleged Varrio Hawaiian Gardens members—that’s a Mexican gang—were indicted “on charges ranging from racketeering to kidnapping and attempted murder.” These crimes, said U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, were motivated by “explicit racial hatred.”

The scale at which these gangs coordinated and mobilized against blacks was terribly formidable. In 2012, la eMe “put the word out for Hispanic street gangs to stop battling each other, to ‘focus on getting the blacks out’ of their territories,” writes Eva Knott, citing a police gang specialist.

The violence hasn’t stopped, and neither have the lies about sanctuary or illegal immigration.

In 2016, the “Eastside Latino gang tried to firebomb black families out of a community the suspects claimed as their own,” to “get the nigger out of the neighborhood,” federal authorities said. One firebomb landed in a room where a mother had been sleeping with her baby, but the family managed to escape.

The George W. Bush Administration made some headway in dealing with Latino gangs, but Democrats during the Obama era enabled them to replenish their ranks. Under Democratic Party leadership, California enacted a plan to release 13,500 inmates every month to reduce overcrowding, including those sentenced for “stalking” and “battery.” Early release of “nonviolent, low level prisoners,” coupled with ICE field offices being directed to cease arresting gang members for immigration violations or minor crimes, meant Latino gangs could resupply their numbers. This happened at the same time that California made it even harder for immigration authorities to apprehend and deport illegal aliens. Indeed, from 2015 to 2017, California denied 3,348 ICE detainer requests.

“Progressive” policing meant preventing federal authorities from screening thousands of dangerous aliens, when one in four “MS-13 gang members arrested or charged with crimes since 2012 came to the U.S. as part of the Obama-era surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).”

Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the CIS, reports that “ICE officers were no longer permitted to arrest and remove foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes.” This resulted in gang arrests plummeting, “from about 4,600 in 2012 to about 1,580 in 2014.”

Vaughan also notes the “location of these MS-13 crimes corresponds with locations of large numbers of UACs who were resettled by the federal government.” MS-13 gang members have been apprehended after entering the country by claiming they were refugees “fleeing the violence in El Salvador.” Indeed, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last month warned Congress that gangs like MS-13 “recruit young children, they train them how to be smuggled across our border, how to then join up with gang members in the United States.”

This is the insanity that sanctuary, mass immigration, and inability to enforce border security or immigration laws have wrought.

The Politics of Propaganda

Between 2005 and 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department incorrectly classified 14,000 assaults as minor offenses, “making the city’s crime rate look significantly lower than it really is.” Josh Sanburn reports that the LAPD routinely classified aggravated assaults as “simple assaults,” therefore artificially reducing the city’s numbers for violent crime.

“We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public’s trust of our reporting,” said Assistant Chief Michel R. Moore, who oversees the LAPD’s system for tracking crime. “That’s why we are committed to . . . eliminating as much of the error as possible.”

Then, the LAPD did it again. The department “misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes“ in 2014, “including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies.” That’s not exactly an inconsequential clerical error. With this correction, the rate of serious assaults during that time would have been around 14 percent higher than what the LAPD reported, while overall violent crime would have shown 7 percent higher. This problem is “systemic,” according to a San Fernando Valley LAPD captain.

Capt. Lillian Carranza says “the department’s systemic pattern of under-reporting certain crime statistics” isn’t just skewering crime data, “it affects the way we deploy resources, the support we get from federal grants, and in my case and in my officers case, who gets the support of discretionary resources and who doesn’t.”

Carranza said she found errors “in categorizing violent crimes that were never fixed” that resulted in LAPD “under-reporting violent crime for 2016 by about 10 percent.” Carranza said she believes “staff members may have falsified information,” or “cooking of the books . . . in order to get promotions, accolades and increased responsibility.”

Progressives love to bash cops, but they avoid connecting the dots between underreporting serious crime and violent crime, with regions where illegal aliens are concentrated appearing safer than they are.

Why should Californians assume Los Angeles is the only city obfuscating the truth about sanctuary policies, immigration, and crime? California is the state, after all, where Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, an outspokenly progressive Democrat, tipped off illegals to an ICE sweep, claiming a “duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.” She had a duty and moral obligation least of all to American citizens, it seems.

Oakland also happens to be one of the least safe cities in America.

CityRating reports Oakland’s violent crime rate in 2016 as higher than the national average by 259.04 percent, higher than the California average by 220.13 percent. Oakland’s property crime rate was higher than the national average by 129.96 percent, higher than the California average by 120.75 percent. Further, CityRating reports an overall upward trend in crime based on “data from 18 years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing,” and based on this trend, “the crime rate in Oakland for 2018 is expected to be higher than in 2016.”

When Mayor Schaaf refuses to enforce the law, she contributes to Oakland’s growing crime problem.

Still, why do people like Krishnadev Calamur claim that “[s]tudy after study after study” show “[i]mmigrants largely commit crimes at a lower rate than the local-born population”? Calamur says those “numbers are true even of the children of immigrants.”

Because “study after study after study” conflate the children of immigrants whose parents entered our country legally holding a postgraduate degree, like many Nigerians do, and the children of Latino gang members, whose parents entered the United States illegally. Both are second-generation, both are lumped together, but they are not the same. Sometimes, these studies even conflate legal and illegal aliens.

“Fact Checker” Salvador Rizzo writes for the Washington Post, “every demographic group has its share of criminals, but the research shows that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the U.S.-born population.”

“Fact Checker” may not be an appropriate title for Rizzo.

Like Calamur, Rizzo argues, “most of the available data and research say immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the U.S.-born population.” But a closer look at Rizzo’s narrative is instructive of other common misinformation tactics.

First, Rizzo makes no distinction between legal and illegal alien crime statistics, when lumping the two together will obviously give a better impression of illegal alien crime alone.

Second, in later immigration “fact checks,” Rizzo uses data that excludes non-violent crimes committed by illegals, such as identity theft, racketeering, arson, most property crimes, drug and alcohol-related crime, grand theft, counterfeiting, fraud, and so forth. Human trafficking involves dangerously transporting vulnerable people, often women and children, against their will, but this offense can be labeled “non-violent.”

Suffice to say, Rizzo’s fact-checking is extremely misleading.

A look at U.S. Sentencing Commission data from 2016, pertaining to 67,742 felony and Class A misdemeanor cases, shows noncitizens accounted for 41.7 percent of all offenders. Further broken down: noncitizens accounted for 72 percent of drug possession convictions, 33 percent of money laundering convictions, 29 percent of drug trafficking convictions, 23 percent of murder convictions, and 18 percent of fraud convictions. Commission data doesn’t report on state and local prisons and jails, but the Government Accountability Office does.

The GAO found that among 251,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in federal, state, and local prisons and jails, these criminal aliens were arrested 1.7 million times, for nearly 3 million combined offenses. Fifty percent had been arrested at least once for assault, homicide, robbery, a sex offense, or kidnapping—around half had been arrested at least once for a drug violation. The GAO consistently reports the number of noncitizens (legal and illegal aliens) constituting 25 percent of the federal prison population. That slice of the pie would require noncitizens to commit crimes around three times the rate of citizens.

Not only do these data show 7 percent of the population accounts for one-fifth of all federal murder convictions, but when Rizzo excludes non-violent crimes, he clearly excludes a staggering lot. Thus, Rizzo deliberately avoids confronting a mountain of data that directly contradicts his narrative.

Like Burnett, Lopez, Cornelius, and Calamur, Rizzo is willing to deny that communities have been and continue to be violently afflicted, while criminals have been given sanctuary, just because it satisfies his liberal paternalism. Minorities must be shielded from criticism, even if that means offering up the very principles that attracted them to this country, particularly those of justice and the rule of law, on the altar of progressivism. …

Click here to read the full article from American Greatness

 

Pedro Gonzalez, a writer based in California, is a Mount Vernon Fellow of the Center for American Greatness.

Berkeley Report on Free Speech Blames Conservatives for Campus Unrest

UC BerkeleyThe University of California Berkeley has conducted an investigation of problems related to free speech on campus — particularly surrounding events where conservatives (or even insufficiently left-wing “progressives”) are invited to speak on campus and met with violence and disruption by left-wing activists.

Bizarrely, the report of the Commission on Free Speech concludes that conservatives, not the left, are to blame for the violence on campus.

In one passage, the report states: “[O]ur conclusion is that the rise of ultra-conservative rhetoric, including white supremacist views and protest marches, legitimized by the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, encouraged far-right and alt-right activists to ‘spike the football’ at Berkeley.”

It insists: “Contrary to a currently popular narrative, Berkeley remains a tolerant campus.”

And it blames student groups who invite conservative speakers onto campus, while simultaneously denying that Berkeley is denying conservatives their free speech rights:

All the 2017 events that led to disruption were sponsored by very small groups of students working closely with outside organizations. Although those speakers had every right to speak and were entitled to protection, they did not need to be on campus to exercise the right of free speech. Indeed, at least some of the 2017 events at Berkeley can now be seen to be part of a coordinated campaign to organize appearances on American campuses likely to incite a violent reaction, in order to advance a facile narrative that universities are not tolerant of conservative speech.

While insisting that the commission does not condone the sort of violence that greeted then-Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos last year, the commission warned students against inviting speakers with provocative views:

That said, the Commission recommends that all members of the campus community be mindful of one another and do unto others as they would want done to themselves. There are better ways to expand the political dialogue on campus than to invite a shock jock performance artist, as Professor Rossman characterized Yiannopoulos, to belittle historically oppressed communities.

The report said that student organizations should be “balancing their right to hold events with their responsibility to the community.”

As Megan McArdle notes in the Washington Post:

They have plenty of harsh words, however, for the conservatives who were targeted. “Many Commission members are skeptical of these speakers’ commitment to anything other than the pursuit of wealth and fame through the instigation of anger, fear, and vengefulness in their hard-right constituency.” Their invitations to speak represented “the assertion of individual rights at the expense of social responsibility by a handful of students.” As a result, the commission finds speech of this kind “hard to defend, especially in light of the acute distress it caused (and was intended to cause) to staff and students.”

In the report, conservatives are active, provoking and triggering. The left-wing activists who set things on fire appear in passive voice, that great grammatical machine for sanitizing the indefensible. Left-wing groups have reasonable fears for their safety from conservative speakers, and the police needed to defend them (from what? Further deponent sayeth not.) Conservative students “allege” that their beliefs make them targets for left-wing professors. And when it comes to the remedies, it’s clear who the commission thinks ought to change their ways.

She concludes: “[T]hus the ancestral home of the free-speech movement inches as close as it dares to advocating for censorship of any speech that offends a powerful majority — or even any minority that’s decently armed.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

UC Strikers Don’t See Full Budget Picture

I get the impression the University of California workers who went on strike May 7 don’t know the half of the financial problems of which the UC system suffers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 20,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees “walked off their jobs,” including “custodians, gardeners, cooks, truck drivers, lab technicians and nurse aides.”

Among other things, the union is demanding “a multiyear contract with annual pay raises of 6 percent, no increase in healthcare premiums and continued full pension benefits at the retirement age of 60.” UC countered with 3 percent annual raises for four years, raising the retirement age “to 65 for new employees who choose a pension instead of a 401(k) plan” and $25 a month in increased health-care premiums.

The AFSCME strikers were joined Tuesday by 14,000 members of the California Nurses Association and 15,000 members of the University Professional & Technical Employees, such as pharmacists and physical therapists. That forced the rescheduling of “more than 12,000 surgeries, cancer treatments and appointments.”

I guess the Hippocratic Oath’s pledge to “First, do no harm,” isn’t so important these days. And because this is a government-run system, the strike may be a strong warning against single-payer and other proposed socialized medicine schemes. In the private sector, if one part goes on strike, you can turn to another part. But when government goes on strike, you’re stuck, perhaps even getting a date with the Grim Reaper.

One worker was quoted lamenting “her pay increases over two decades at UCLA have not kept up with rising rent.” Of course, that’s a complaint almost all California renters could make because the Legislature and recent governors have refused to adequately address the causes for the state’s low housing supply. Blame also goes to AFSCME and the other public employee unions who keep financing the campaigns of legislators who refuse to solve the state’s pressing problems, while doing the unions’ bidding on pay and other issues.

But the UC strikers do have a point that the system’s finances are not in good shape. Let me add a few more concerns to their litany of problems.

First, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal, p.13, UC system retirement liabilities amount to $10.9 billion for pensions and $19.3 billion for health care – $30.2 billion total. Second, from the UC system’s 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, p. 36, the unrestricted net deficit is $19.3 billion. The U.C. system is upside down by nearly $20 billion!  If the retiree health liability were added, it would double the deficit. Such is the joy of making financial promises that come due in the future.

UC Assets

Third, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature continues to reduce state funding of the UC system. Their fiscal priority is endorsed by Gov. Brown.

Fourth, as the Los Angeles Times reported in 2015, the UC system now employs more administrators than professors: “The number of those making at least $500,000 annually grew by 14 percent in the last year, to 445, and the system’s administrative ranks have swelled by 60 percent over the last decade – far outpacing tenure-track faculty.” As of that year, the system employed 10,539 administrators to 8,899 profs. Does anyone think a private-sector company could survive with more executives than production workers?

Tragically, these same administrators refuse to provide a 10-year strategic financial plan to provide a road map out of their fiscal morass.

And just a year ago, an audit by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle revealed severe financial mismanagement by UC President Janet Napolitano, including, “The Office of the President accumulated more than $175 million in restricted and discretionary reserves that it failed to disclose to the regents and created undisclosed budgets to spend those reserve funds.”

Fifth, this combined financial mismanagement obviously has increased tuition. Although an increase was avoided this year, the current resident tuition is $11,502, compared to just $2,896 in 1998. That’s a 297 percent increase in 20 years. By contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator clocks overall price increases during that time at just 116 percent. Put another way, UC tuition increased at almost three times the inflation rate.

There are numerous tensions impacting the UC System. A defined-benefit pension plan prevents pay raises, as does the inability to constantly raise tuition. The solution resides with the state’s Democratic governor and Legislature.

More than 40 years of Democratic control have created this Gordian knot and something will snap soon. Perhaps the unions should realize the mess they have helped create. And voters should do the same.

California State Senate.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

New Mandate Requires Solar Panels on All New California Homes

Solar panelsCalifornia regulators on Wednesday approved a first-in-the-nation plan to mandate the installation of solar panels on all new homes beginning in 2020.

The move was approved with a 5-0 vote by the California Energy Commission, in what supporters of solar energy are hailing as a monumental moment.

“This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the U.S.,” Abigail Ross Hopper, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s CEO said in a statement. “California has long been our nation’s biggest solar champion … now, California is taking bold leadership again, recognizing that solar should be as commonplace as the front door that welcomes you home.”

The regulation will go into effect once it receives its expected approval by the Building Standards Commission later this month.

And while proponents of renewable energy may be pleased with the decision, there’s mounting concerns that the requirement will only aggravate the state’s home affordability crisis, as the mandate is expected to add at least $10,000 in additional construction costs.

However, supporters argue that utility savings will balance out that cost in the long term.

“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards,” Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association, told the commission. “You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens.”

But Republican leaders are already coming out against the decision, framing it as just the latest example of government overreach in Sacramento.

“That’s just going to drive the cost up and make California, once again, not affordable to live,” Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle reportedly said of the dangers of the rules.

The mandate will apply to all homes, condominiums and apartment buildings up to three stories high — with exceptions for structures that are covered by shade.

According to the commission’s own estimates, the panels will cost homeowners around $40 a month, but save them about $80 a month on heating, air conditioning and other costs.

“This is great for wealthier homeowners, but for everybody else it’s one more reason to not go to California or to leave ASAP,” American Enterprise Institute economist Jimmy Pethokoukis said on CNBC Wednesday.

More broadly, the move is part of California’s plan to have all residential buildings be “zero net energy,” which means that the the total amount of energy used by the building is the same as the amount of renewable energy it creates.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com