Finding Common Ground in California

In California, environmental regulations have brought infrastructure investment to a standstill. Without expanding energy, water, and transportation infrastructure, it is nearly impossible to build housing, the cost-of-living is punitive, water is rationed and food is overpriced, the overall quality of life is reduced, and money that ought to be paying skilled workers to operate heavy construction equipment instead goes into the pockets of environmentalist lobbyists, bureaucrats, litigators, and activist nonprofits.

Californians nonetheless agree that infrastructure, as it is traditionally defined, needs new investment. Freeways, bridges, railroads, dams, aqueducts, seaports, airports, transmission lines, pipelines; all of this needs to be maintained and upgraded.

But despite agreement on the goal, more than ever, solutions are filtered through the lens of polarizing ideologies. What is today’s definition of infrastructure? Is it physical assets, or something more ephemeral? Do infrastructure priorities have to be established based on restoring race and gender equity, or by concerns about climate change? Should some infrastructure be deliberately allowed to deteriorate, to avoid “induced demand” and the unsustainable consumption that would result?

Debate over these questions has paralyzed California’s politicians. Navigating a pathway out of this paralyzing morass takes more than just compromise, it takes the courage to adhere to controversial premises. Chief among these is to reject the idea that legislated scarcity is the only option to combat climate change. In every critical area of infrastructure there are solutions that can enable a future of sustainable abundance.

For example, Californians can rebuild their energy infrastructure in a manner that doesn’t violate environmentalist principles, but instead balances environmentalist concerns with the interests of its residents. Why aren’t Californians, who in so many ways are the most innovative people in the world, approving and building safe, state-of-the-art nuclear power plants? Why aren’t they developing geothermal power, since California has vast untapped potential in geothermal energy? Why haven’t California’s legislators revived the logging industry they have all but destroyed, and brought back clean power plants fueled by the biomass of commercial forest trimmings?

Californians can also rebuild their water infrastructure by adopting an all-of-the-above approach. They can build massive new off-stream reservoirs to capture storm runoff. Even in dry winters the few storms that do hit California yield surplus water that can be captured instead of allowed to runoff into the Pacific. These off-stream reservoirs could also feature forebays from which, using surplus solar electricity, water could be pumped up into the main reservoir, to then be released back down into the forebay through hydroelectric turbines to generate electricity when solar electric output falters. Why aren’t Californians recycling 100 percent of their urban wastewater? Why aren’t they building desalination plants?

These are solutions that may not be perfectly acceptable to environmentalists, but they’re also not hideous violations of environmentalist values. They should be defended by their proponents without reservations, but also with a willingness to spend extra to mitigate what can be mitigated. Civilization has a footprint, and we can only pick our poison. The solutions favored by environmentalists, such as wind turbines, battery farms, EVs, biofuel plantations, and solar farms, have environmental impacts that are arguably even worse than conventional solutions.

Another potentially polarizing issue – achieving “equity” with infrastructure – doesn’t have to be dismissed by proponents of practical infrastructure investment. If the pipes in Los Angeles public schools are still leaching toxins into the water students would otherwise be drinking, then invest the money and fix the pipes. If inadequate funding for water treatment plants in low income communities in California’s Central Valley mean they are not operating, or cannot expand their operations, then increase the funding. But at the same time don’t lose sight of the fact that if there is more energy, and more water, that will benefit everyone, especially low income households, no matter where they are and no matter what other challenges they may confront.

Finally, it shouldn’t be controversial to restrict discussions of infrastructure to infrastructure, but it is. Here is an area where, once again, establishing the terms of the discussion require adhering to a controversial premise, which is that discussions of “infrastructure” need to be restricted to the traditional definition. Basic infrastructure, offering surplus capacity instead of scarcity in the critical areas of energy, water and transportation, creates the solid foundation upon which all the other amenities of a prosperous and equitable society may flourish.

This article was originally published in the California Policy Center

Inside a Weekly Crime Briefing at the LAPD

In the middle of Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore’s command-level crime briefing Monday, Police Commissioner Dale Bonner — who was sitting in on the closed-door meeting — chimed in with a question.

Bonner was looking at printouts of crime figures and wasn’t sure whether the percentages in red ink reflected increases over 2020, when killings and shootings were already elevated, or 2019, before violence spiked in Los Angeles and cities across the country.

Moore made it clear: The increases — including a 17% rise in homicides — were over the 2020 figures. Compared with 2019, Moore said, the uptick was even starker.

“They’re compounding,” Moore said of city killings. “Homicides are up 17%, and people will say, ‘Well, many other cities are actually higher.’ But when we look over a two-year period, they’re up 49%.”

Each Monday, Moore convenes a small group on the 10th floor of LAPD headquarters downtown to go over the latest trends in city crime. The briefing gives Moore a better idea of where the department is making progress, he said, and where it is losing ground.

After a decade of success in driving down violent crime such as killings and shootings, Moore and the others in the room have seen the progress fade away since last year, with more and more red ink on their printouts. The latest briefing, which Moore allowed The Times to observe, offered no reprieve.

Walking into the room, each commander — including Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, who oversees operations in the department’s four bureaus; Assistant Chief Robert Marino, who oversees special operations; and Moore’s chief of staff, Deputy Chief Daniel Randolph — received charts breaking down crime by geographic area and over time. They also got statistics on crime the department has deemed gang-related, crime linked to the homeless population and crime linked to domestic violence — three categories that have seen upticks in recent years.

Atop their packets was a four-page “Talking Points” document, the first line of which calculated killings.

“There were 10 homicides this past week vs. 3 for the same week last year,” it read.

At the bottom of the page were statistics on shootings. There had been 1,202 shooting victims this year as of the morning briefing, an increase of nearly 20% over the 1,007 at the same point in 2020 and nearly 50% over the 802 at the same point in 2019.

Click here to read full article from LA Times

Defying Tyranny Chowing Down on a Double-Double

As soon as I heard In-N-Out Burger joints were being shut down by California governments for not checking for COVID vaccine status at the door, I snapped into action. I drove my creaking 2010 Camry to the nearest In-N-Out, on Bristol and MacArthur in Santa Ana, marched inside and ordered a Double-Double, protein style, extra mustard, no tomato. This is Orange County, where we still enjoy a few more freedoms than the rest of the state. 

I looked around to see if Gov. Gavin Newsom was standing in line, maskless, as at his infamous French Pantry escapade a year ago. He wasn’t. I guess my $5 burger wasn’t elitist enough for someone with $350-a-plate tastes.

Nobody checked my vaccination status. Maybe only 20 percent of patrons were wearing masks. I wasn’t. Sometimes you have to just brave the elements.

Once again, we’re being told the Science (capital “S”) mandates the vaccine-checking. It’s the same Science that told us for decades eating Double-Doubles was bad because they were “high fat,” and we were supposed to instead eat “low fat” candy bars loaded with sugar. See Gary Taubes’ books for the history of that Science deception.

An obvious objection to this new mandate is: minimum-wage fast-food workers are not certified health specialists. How are they to know who has a valid vaxx-ID and who doesn’t? And if a 99-pound woman worker confronts a 250-pound unvaxx’d weightlifter, and he insists he’s coming into the restaurant anyway, what’s she supposed to do?

Then there’s the problem of authenticating the IDs. How are these fast-food workers supposed to know if one is valid and another invalid? What about expiration dates? How about counterfeit IDs? Will plainclothes police (real police) also be patrolling these places, arresting not just scofflaws, but workers who make an incorrect guess about a valid/invalid vaxx-ID?

The California DMV, which issues driver’s licenses and IDs for non-drivers, is a perpetual laughingstock for its incompetence.

Then there’s the Unemployment Development Department, which blew as much as $31 billion on fake claims to criminals. It also was another government agency checking IDs. To correct that, it instituted an absurdly complex and hardly working system that stifled true claims by actual people who really were unemployed.

If the California DMV and the EDD can’t get their acts together on driver’s licenses and IDs, how are minimum-wage clerks at a restaurant supposed to do so? 

If government insists on In-N-Out and other restaurants checking for IDs, it ought to provide the proper experts to do so, at taxpayer expense. This also would require months of training for new people. Or current health workers could be reassigned from their current jobs, such as saving people in the ER hauled in with heart attacks, broken bones and gunshot wounds.

Or maybe the government could just take over all restaurants, and all food production and distribution for that matter. Make sure our food is safe! Everyone in the food industry then could be paid high union wages with great perks and pensions. 

Agriculture could be bundled together into something called Collective Farms. Costs could be cut because, instead of wasteful, duplicative competition, the Collective scientifically would apportion supply and demand, eliminating all waste.

Food grown on the Collective Farms efficiently would be transported to the Collective Restaurants, which would be run along the latest hygienic lines, as established by the CDC. 

Only when government efficiently runs everything will we be free of all worries and cares about disease. Only then can we join hands and promote global freedom, democracy, liberty and niceness.

Longtime Orange County Register editorialist John Seiler now also writes for the Epoch Times and blogs at: johnseiler.substack.com

LA City Vaccine Mandates Kick In Soon, Spurring Worry Over Extra Work, Confusion For Businesses

As the citywide mandates will go into effect Nov. 8, requiring patrons to show evidence of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, coffee shops, breweries, wineries, gyms, spas, nail salons anBusinesses say the mandate will add another layer of complexity during the times when their resources are stretched thin as they deal with rental debt, rising costs and labor shortages.

Jennifer Febre, the owner of MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. in Van Nuys, has been closely following government mandates since the first days of the pandemic, but the latest Los Angeles city and county orders — which will not match one another — requiring customers to show proof of vaccination have left her worried and confused.

“I do appreciate how putting this mandate in place is perhaps ratcheting up the pressure to persuade people to finally get vaccinated,” Febre said, adding that at times it feels like her employees are being “deputized as law enforcement officers… I am concerned about putting my staff in that role of being the enforcer.”

As the citywide mandates will go into effect Nov. 8, requiring patrons to show evidence of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, coffee shops, breweries, wineries, gyms, spas, nail salons and barbershops along with movie theaters and shopping malls, businesses say the mandate will add another layer of complexity during the times when their resources are stretched thin as they deal with rental debt, rising costs and labor shortages.

Click here to read full article on LA Daily News

State Health Officials Announce Rollout Vaccination Plan For Children Aged 5-11

California state Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan announced on Wednesday that vaccinations will open up to 3.5 million children ages 5-11 in the state by the end of the week once final national approval for pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations are given.

Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a vaccine mandate for all school aged children in grades K-12 to attend class. While the vaccine had been given a minimum age of 12 to administer, Newsom’s order  noted that  younger children would be included once the approval was given for them.

On Tuesday, FDA vaccine advisors began to recommend approval for kids aged 5-11. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted that the vaccine for that age group had an efficacy rate of around 91% in preventing COVID-19 in children, with no side effects shown in clinical trials. Mixed with a growing number of pediatric cases and herd immunity not yet being achieved, including 66 child deaths because of CVID-19 since the beginning of the year, full FDA approval is likely soon.

With Pfizer now shipping out child vaccines in preparation, Dr. Pan said on Wednesday that California is preparing for approval and will have 1.2 million doses ready to distribute in the first week. 4,000 sites and over 1,000 providers will also be assisting in the next wave of vaccinations.

“We have around 4,000 sites that are ready to administer and over 1,000 providers across the state enrolled to vaccinate,” Pan said. “And more than 860,000 doses of vaccine have already been ordered. This is our opportunity to protect another 9% of our population. This is another important turning point in our fight against COVID-19 and gets us closer to achieving full family protection against the virus.

“The more vaccinations we get into the arms of eligible Californians, the more we stop the spread and shrink the pool of people vulnerable to COVID-19. This will get us closer to ending the pandemic. Our youngest children have remained vulnerable to the highly contagious virus as older Californians have received their vaccine. Now the time is coming to protect them. There have been more than 35 pediatric deaths from COVID-19 in California alone, and this is more deaths than we see with flu in a very bad flu season. There simply is not an acceptable number of child deaths when such an effective and safe prevention are available.”

Vaccines expected to become available for ages 5-11 next week

However, despite the prepared network, as well as efforts to add more school locations to administer the vaccine, vaccinations will not be available overnight. In addition to federal finalization, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will need to complete a review of the vaccine for approval in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state. While no date has been given as a “start” date, it will likely come some time next week, with a full two dose inoculation goal by Christmas, due to the three week second dose period.

CHHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly (Photo: Zoom)

“We enter into these next many weeks confident in the state of play with vaccines and their ultimate protection of so many, but cautious and vigilant with our guard up,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly at the Wednesday briefing. “COVID does cause severe disease in young kids. Any avoidable preventable impact — whether it’s death or severe disease and long-term chronic conditions for young people — if we have a safe effective measure to avoid it, it’s one that we want to emphasize and make available.”

However, the addition of a younger age group is widely expected to spur even more student pullouts and homeschooling efforts by parents who don’t want their child to receive the vaccine, with the highest numbers expected to come from districts that don’t offer many exemptions.

“Younger kids not getting the vaccine have been a ‘saving grace’ to parents who have been really uneasy about pulling their students out of school,” explained Alyssa Hutchinson, an Orange County homeschool transfer advisor who helps parents move to homeschooling options online, to the Globe on Wednesday. “It’s about to become a reality and I’m expecting a large wave of parents asking for help very soon. It usually takes a day for most parents to react for news, so it will be a very busy day for me tomorrow. I’m already seeing an uptick in e-mails right now and I’m afraid to look at my work phone’s unread text amount.

“You also need to realize that these are some of their youngest children the mandate will now be covering. Parents will not respond well.”

Vaccines are expected to begin being administered next week for children aged 5-11.

This article was originally published by the California Globe

Three California Towns Transformed by Wildfire: One Rebuilding, One in Ruins, One Threatened

GREENVILLE, Plumas County — Almost nothing recognizable remains of the three-bedroom house where Carey Russell once played with his two young children in this Sierra Nevada town.

The cinder block foundation is heaped with ash and twisted metal, its rectangular frame only a suggestion of the structure it once supported. The backyard, where Russell barbecued ribs and tri-tip, is a sea of rubble.

Russell had cherished living in his neighborhood right along Highway 89, which becomes Crescent Street as it passes through the tiny town of Greenville. His younger son and daughter, 7 and 9, lived down the street with their mother, his ex-wife. Their front doors were 150 steps apart.

Fighting back tears as he returned recently to Crescent Street for the first time since the behemoth Dixie Fire barreled through in August, Russell, 49, kicked over ashen piles in the ruins. He was hoping to find the American flag that flew over the Pentagon when he retired from the Navy in 2012, after more than 20 years of service. But after a few tense minutes, he gave up the search.

Click to read full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

Underground Regulations and California’s Administrative Procedure Act

The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) is charged with ensuring that agency and department regulations are “clear, necessary, legally valid, and available to the public.” OAL is responsible for reviewing proposed regulations by California’s more than 200 state agencies and departments that have rulemaking authority.

The formal rulemaking process is established by the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the APA sets forth the criteria by which OAL reviews all of those regulations. OAL reviews regular and emergency rulemaking projects, as well as challenged “underground” regulations.

On the OAL website (www.oal.ca.gov), readers can track on a table the list of rulemaking actions submitted to OAL for review. This list is updated daily per OAL. The website also contains a listing of underground regulation petitions that are under review by OAL. (https://oal.ca.gov/underground_regulations/underground-regulations-under-review/).

Concerning the review of alleged underground regulations, the role of OAL is specified in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 1, Division 1, Chapter 2, which is titled “Underground Regulations.”

In Section 250(a), it provides the following definition: “’underground regulation’ means any guideline, criterion, bulletin, manual, instruction, order, standard of general application, or other rule, including a rule governing a state agency procedure, that is a regulation as defined in Section 11342.600 of the Government Code, but has not been adopted as a regulation and filed with the Secretary of State pursuant to the AP A and is not subject to an express statutory exemption from adoption pursuant to the APA.”

In CCR Section 260, the submission of underground regulation petitions is discussed. Section 270 deals with the OAL review of these petitions. And, Section 280 describes the suspension of underground regulation actions. In terms of “underground regulations,” OAL is charged with reviewing any such challenged regulatory agency actions by way of a petition filed with OAL.

According to the OAL, “if a state agency issues, utilizes, enforces, or attempts to enforce a rule without following the APA when it is required to, the rule is called an ‘underground regulation.’ State agencies are prohibited from enforcing underground regulations.” If an individual or entity believes a state agency or department has issued an alleged underground regulation, that issuance can be challenged by filing a written petition with OAL.

If OAL accepts the petition for review, then OAL may issue a determination. According to OAL, this program is informally known as the “Chapter Two Unit,” or “CTU,” because OAL’s regulations regarding underground regulations are found in California Code of Regulations, Title 1, Chapter 2. The OAL website provides information on underground regulations and how to submit a written petition to OAL alleging an underground regulation.

OAL’s review of an alleged underground regulation is limited to a 3-step analysis to determine whether the alleged underground regulation must be adopted as a regulation pursuant to the APA. First, is the policy or procedure either a rule or standard of general application, or a modification or supplement to such a rule? Second, has the policy or procedure been adopted by the agency to either implement, interpret, or make specific the law enforced or administered by the agency, or govern the agency’s procedure?

If the answer to these two questions is “yes,” then the challenged rule is a regulation. However, before a determination is complete, OAL must review the final step of the analysis. Has the policy or procedure been expressly exempted by statute from the requirement that it be adopted as a “regulation” pursuant to the APA?

If the answer to this final question is yes, then the underground regulation did not have to go through the APA process. However, if the answer to this last question is no, then the rule is an underground regulation and cannot be enforced by the agency or department. Instead, it must go through the formal rulemaking process pursuant to the APA.

Finally, readers should be aware of Government Code Section 11340.5(e) which provides that, if an interested person has already begun litigation challenging an underground regulation, a determination issued by OAL may not be considered by the court in that pending litigation. Those challenging an alleged underground regulation should determine whether they want to pursue OAL review of the agency action, or whether to go directly to court to challenge it.

How have California’s courts viewed underground regulations by the state’s rulemaking bodies?

Click to read full article on California Globe

Did Beverly Hills Police Target Black Shoppers on Rodeo Drive? What Records and Emails Show

Last month, two attorneys summoned reporters to the steps of Beverly Hills City Hall to make a disturbing accusation. Police had deliberately targeted Black shoppers along the city’s famous Rodeo Drive.

The proof, they said, was in the numbers: A special team of officers assigned last fall to patrol the opulent shopping corridor arrested dozens of people for minor infractions such as jaywalking or riding scooters on a sidewalk and all but one of them were Black, they alleged. They labeled it brazen, illegal racial profiling.

A closer examination of the Beverly Hills Police Department’s Rodeo Drive Team offers a more complicated picture of the operation, shedding light on how it started and raising new questions about why the overwhelming majority of the people arrested were Black.

Click to read the full story at Los Angeles Times

https://www.capoliticalreview.com/cartoons/87669/

How California Laws Are Stealing Christmas

We’ve all heard about it by now – the supply chain crisis and the bottlenecks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  Last month, the “dwell time” – the time a container stays on a terminal between unloading from a ship and removal by a truck was six days – an all-time record.  As of last week, there were 100 ships idled off the coast of California waiting to unload goods. Fifty-seven more ships were in berth at the ports.

Pres. Biden’s plan to run 24/7 operations at these ports, however, has brought on a new problem. Many of the shipping containers that spent weeks waiting to be unloaded are now being left at nearby neighborhoods. CBS Los Angeles reported that one company, which had a capacity of 65 containers on its lot, lined up additional containers in front of some people’s homes in Wilmington. The owner is asking for residents’ understanding until the containers eventually get hauled off.

Clearly, running operations 24/7 hasn’t solved the problem.  One critical link in the chain is truck drivers.  In California, there are more than 70,000 mostly minority owned independent truckers operating in the state, 17,000 of which are registered to bring goods in and out of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. These independent contractors or owner-operators (OEs) often work with multiple trucking companies – a business model that has been the standard at California ports for many decades.

AB 5, however, changed the rules for doing business. Now, trucking companies must hire drivers as employees and not as contractors.  To avoid running afoul of the law, trucking companies have shied away from hiring OEs.

The California Trucking Association, the California Retailers Association, the Western Growers along with several business groups have joined forces to lobby Gov. Newsom to declare a state of emergency in order to suspend AB 5 along with AB 701, a recently signed law that regulates quotas at warehouse distribution centers such as those of Amazon’s, which I had written about in detail here.

In the letter to Newsom, the coalition wrote, “Let’s be clear, we are not asking for your leadership in order to ensure there are toys on the shelves for Christmas; we are asking for your leadership in order to ensure working families have access to affordable medical supplies, diapers, and other basic necessities.”

As an old communications hand, I respectfully differ with the coalition members — it should absolutely be about Christmas.  While there’s no question of the widespread negative economic consequences from a prolonged supply chain mess, the best way to change politicians’ minds is this nightmare scenario: no presents under the tree, that is, if there is even a tree.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton’s former press secretary and now director of California’s Office of Business and Economic Development, said yesterday that there would be no declaration of a state of emergency.  The fact is, even in the darkest days of the pandemic when the state’s small businesses appealed to Newsom to suspend AB 5, the Governor shook it off as “noise, noise, noise.” The same went for suspending the minimum wage increase.

Sure, the holidays mean big business for California and the U.S. economy, but after almost two years of the pandemic, people want to feel joy and hope.  And there’ll be a little less of both if the necessities are more expensive, and the things that make for holiday celebrations – bubbly water, Christmas lights, and turkeys, are not to be found.

There are heroes and villains in every story, and what politician doesn’t want to be the one who saved Christmas?  It’s not too late for the Newsom to change his mind.  In three years’ time when the supply chain crisis will return for election year scrutiny, the Guv could claim that thanks to him, Americans feasted on roast beasts.

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.