Obama Waste of the Week: $480,000 to Text Drunks—“Do not drink”

This is not a Jay Leno joke or a Saturday Night Live skit. President Obama is allowing the National Institute of Health to send text messages to known “drunks” reminding them not to drink. This costs only $480,000 to send FREE text messages—the money goes to the “researchers” artists that thought up this abuse of taxpayers. Was there any follow up to see if anyone stopped drinking? Did they do any accountability of this project?

If those involved had any common sense, why would a drunk stop drinking because of an anonymous or government text message? In fact, is there any evidence any of the drinkers read the messages? Another reason government is no longer trusted or respected.

Dr. Frederick Muench, an assistant professor in Columbia University’s psychiatry department, is leading the $480,500 study aimed to reduce “problem drinking.”

“The proposed development study entitled, Tailored Mobile Text Messaging to Reduce Problem Drinking is designed to develop and test a tailored adaptive text messaging/short message service (SMS) intervention for individuals interested in stopping or reducing their alcool [sic] consumption,” the grant reads.

The project hypothesizes that cell phones offer “brief intervention opportunities,” allowing researchers to text a drunk while they are at the bar.”

WhiteHouseMoney

Oh, anyone with an IQ over room temperature believe the drunks will tell the truth to the researchers?

NIH Spent $480,500 to Text Message Drunks

200 ‘problem drinkers’ receiving texts at the bar

BY: Elizabeth Harrington, Washington Free Beacon, 6/12/14

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent nearly half a million dollars text messaging alcoholics to encourage them to stop drinking.

Dr. Frederick Muench, an assistant professor in Columbia University’s psychiatry department, is leading the $480,500 study aimed to reduce “problem drinking.”

“The proposed development study entitled, Tailored Mobile Text Messaging to Reduce Problem Drinking is designed to develop and test a tailored adaptive text messaging/short message service (SMS) intervention for individuals interested in stopping or reducing their alcool [sic] consumption,” the grant reads.

The project hypothesizes that cell phones offer “brief intervention opportunities,” allowing researchers to text a drunk while they are at the bar.

“Excessive alcohol consumption is a serious personal and public health issue and economic problem to society,” the grant said. “Despite the significant consequences of problem drinking (PD), most persons with alcohol problems never seek formal treatment. While the emergence of internet based interventions (IBIs) has expanded access and brief intervention opportunities to problem drinkers, traditional IBIs suffer from high attrition, limited ability to proactively meet individuals where PD occurs and adapt to real-time needs.”

The study points to other projects that have texted smokers in attempts to get them to quit, and argue that texting “may provide” the answers for alcoholics.

A pilot study was first tested on 10 problem drinkers before being expanded to 200 alcoholics over a three-month period. The text messages were tailored to drinking times, and consistently sent every day at 3 p.m.

Requirements to participate in the study included consuming more than 15 drinks per week for women, and more than 24 drinks per week for men. Individuals must also “be willing to reduce their drinking to non-hazardous levels,” and have a cell phone to receive and respond to up to 115 text messages per month.

The research will be considered a success if “drinks per drinking day, days of heavy drinking, and average drinks per week” were reduced.

“Additional outcomes will include drinking related consequences, goal commitment, and intervention satisfaction,” the grant said. “This intervention could be easily disseminated and potentially improve long-term psychosocial and health outcomes for problem drinkers.”

The grant said the study is “consistent with NIH’s recent interest in developing adaptive mobile interventions.” The list of active projects that involve text messaging is lengthy, aimed at a variety of groups.

The NIH has spent $2.7 million text messaging obese people. The texts included reminders that read, “Try to eat high fat foods less often. This is a good way to cut calories.”

In addition, a $372,460 project is studying “text message interventions” for older African Americans with HIV, and a $763,519 study aimed at ending smoking amongst “people living with HIV/AIDS.”

Another study, “QUIT4Baby,” targets pregnant smokers totaled $380,145, and the government spent $243,839 to send text message reminders to teen moms so they will not overfeed their infant and have an obese baby.

Texting methamphetamine addicts has cost $360,113, and texts to individuals with HIV and drug users in rural areas has cost $693,000.

These projects alone amount to more than $5.5 million.

“We’re still new to understanding texting as a unique medium,” Muench said last year, after completing a preliminary survey to determine what people prefer their text messages to be like.

The survey found that 75 percent of respondents “prefer receiving statements to questions, most are likely to prefer messages in ‘non-textese,’ and satisfaction increased with happy emoticons and correct grammar,” according to Text Messaging Resource. “All-caps were preferred only when connected to a particular goal,” the report said.

Muench is not expected to conclude the text message trial with alcoholics until July 2015.

“The less you drink, the better your sleep quality. The better your sleep quality, the better your body will function,” Muench said.

 

Claremont November Ballot: $55 Million Bond to Steal Private Water Company via eminent Domain

When the city of Claremont in eastern Los Angeles County wants to steal private property they do it in the open. On the November ballot will be a $55 million bond measure ($110 million to pay it off). The purpose is to use eminent domain (legalized government theft) to take over the local private water company. Government claims the cost of water is too much—and that is possible.

But when government owns something you have less and higher costs. So while the private company pays taxes, the government ownership of the water means taxpayer subsidies, losses and higher rates—then can a private firm use eminent domain to steal the company from government?

By definition, government is theft—now a city is trying to steal a water company. If taxi’s cost too much will the city of Claremont steal them as well?

california illinois greece hope

Eminent domain funding to be on Claremont ballot

BY CHRIS HAIRE, LA Register, 6/11/14

CLAREMONT – A $55 million bond measure will be on the November ballot, giving voters a chance to decide whether the city should forcefully acquire its local water system from the private Golden State Water Co.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to put the measure on the ballot. If approved, the money would be used to help purchase the 149.5 miles of water mains, 11,065 service connections, 22 groundwater wells, 10 reservoirs and all other facilities and equipment of the Claremont Water System owned by Golden State.

“Everything Golden State does is in their best interest,” said Mayor Joseph Lyons shortly before the vote. “Everything we do as a council has to be in the best interest of (the residents).”

The vote was another step in a yearslong process of trying to take control of the system from Golden State, a subsidiary of investor-owned American States Water Company, which has increased prices 100 percent since 2004.

The city of 35,000 residents is looking into using eminent domain to force Golden State to sell the water system after the company rebuffed two offers to sell the infrastructure – the last of which came in October 2013 for $55 million.

Claremont likely will not file the eminent domain lawsuit until after the November election because staff and council want to gauge public perception, said city spokeswoman Bevin Handel.

If the bond measure passes, though, it does not necessarily mean Claremont would need to use that money, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho said.

The city and Golden State have different opinions about how much the system is worth.

City staff members claim the system is worth $55 million, but the city has declined to release its assessment report. Golden State is suing the city under the California Public Records Act to obtain it.

“Existing water revenues from the system would be able to pay the cost with no rate increases,” Carvalho said. “But if the price goes higher and exceeds $80 million, the bond would be needed.”

That value would ultimately be determined in court. Golden State argues that the value is actually about $135 million, said Julie Hooper, a company spokeswoman. She urged the city to work with Golden State to find a compromise that would prevent eminent domain proceedings.

“Instead of disclosing the total borrowing and repayment with interest included in their plan, the city is trying to convince residents that the cost will only be $55 million,” Hooper said. “Golden State Water continues to believe that collaboration is better than conflict and has offered to work with the city to find alternatives to a costly takeover.”

 

6 Local Companies Honored for Employee Bike-to-Work Ridership–Bikes Uber Alles

In 1880 many people went to work via horse or bicycle. While times have changed the Luddites—who hated horses because of the manure—now hate car drivers. Bikes are back in style. California is going to spend $350 million to create walk and bikes lanes—money from gas tax that should be use, by law, to fix the roads. Government buses must now have bikes racks. Government trains must allow bikes on the crowded trains.

Watch stories about biking in the news, promotion of bike riding as “healthy” and now awards for those promoting biking to school and work. Great idea—end all school buses and give the kids a bike to ride to school instead. Look at all the money saved, the exercise the kids will get. Who will oppose this Michelle Obama type project? The unions. They will lose all those dues paying mechanics and drivers! Love the idea.

“May was National Bike Month, and according to the San Diego Association of Governments, 59 employers participated, with more than 54,000 employees logging time on their bicycles to commute to work.”

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6 Local Companies Honored for Employee Bike-to-Work Ridership

Posted by Jennifer Vigil, Times of San Diego, 6/11/14

A regional transportation agency has honored six local companies for encouraging their employees to ditch their cars for their bikes to take part in the 2014 Bike-to-Work Corporate Challenge in May.

May was National Bike Month, and according to the San Diego Association of Governments, 59 employers participated, with more than 54,000 employees logging time on their bicycles to commute to work.

They logged in from May 27-30 to tally their trips in TripTracker, a tool on the iCommute website.These winners recorded the most bicycle trips per employee, based on company size: 

  • Micro Employer –  Chen Ryan Associates (1-25 employees)
  • Small Employer – KTU+A (26-100 employees)
  • Medium Employer – RECON Environmental, Inc. (101-500 employees)
  • Large Employer – Microsoft (501-2,000 employees)
  • Macro Employer – Solar Turbines (2,001-5,000 employees)
  • Mega Employer – UC San Diego (5,001+ employees)

According to the agency, the 2014 Bike-to-Work Day, broke records for riders, with nearly 8,700 participants. This was despite a hiccup when the event was postponed to May 30 due to the regional wildfires.

 

Fracking Moratorium Bill Killed: Still Years Before Any Drilling MIGHT Happen

The good news is that the anti-fracking bill, to create a statewide moratorium, has been killed. The real news is that the State will not issue any permits for fracking, though there is not any evidence after 100 years of the technology, that this has harmed the environment in any way. Democrats are killing tens of thousands of jobs, billions in revenues and instead prefer to raise taxes.

Maybe if the proceeds went to the choo choo train boondoggle that would change their minds. Until then, California citizens are held hostage to the Iraq and Middle East terrorists, the Obama hatred of energy and love for high prices. When will the Democrats give us real jobs instead of job killing hikes in minimum wage and third world health care?

The off kilt Democrat Senator, Holly Mitchell, shows her emotionalism to the issue, “But we’ve put big industry on notice: That ploy won’t fly forever. People’s neighborhoods aren’t fodder for fracking, environmental justice must come, and one day soon the vote to refrain from polluting for profit will prevail!”

Photo courtesy of Lyndi&Jason, flickr

Photo courtesy of Lyndi&Jason, flickr

CA oil industry celebrates defeat of fracking moratorium

By Dave Roberts, Calwatchdog,   6/12/14 

California’s oil industry is celebrating the defeat of a bill that would have placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — but warned that the fracking war is far from over.

Senate Bill 1132 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, failed 18-16 on the Senate floor May 28. Four Democrats joined Republicans in voting against it, while three Democrats sat out the vote. The bill was reconsidered the next day, resulting in a loss of two more Democratic votes.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, sent out a congratulatory email to supporters last week:

“The legislation would have banned hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation technologies, putting existing petroleum industry jobs at risk and preventing the creation of potentially tens of thousands of others – not to mention depriving Californians of much-needed state and local tax revenues and enhanced energy security.

“Not surprisingly, anti-oil special interests who fed the public, the state Legislature, and media egregious misinformation about hydraulic fracturing and other oil extraction techniques have vowed to continue their efforts in Sacramento and throughout California’s local communities. WSPA will continue to push for common sense legislation that balances environmental protection with domestic energy security, job creation, and economic development.”

Mitchell: Big Oil ‘polluting for profit’

Mitchell did indeed vow to keep up the fight against an oil-and-gas drilling process that she believes pollutes the environment.

“[She] is proud of the bill’s successful journey in raising awareness around public safety, fossil fuels and environmental justice,” Mitchell said in a press release.  “Although the bill fell short of passage, she is confident that the movement to re-assess fracking, acidization and other well stimulation methods will continue to grow until the public’s concerns are thoroughly addressed.

“We have the momentum, this issue’s gone viral nationally, and it’s just a matter of time before the dangers of fracking prompt people to put it on pause until its safety can be established. When the impacts on the public of a for-profit endeavor are unknown, we try it out first in minority neighborhoods – assuming low vigilance and the need to bring in jobs makes safety irrelevant.

“But we’ve put big industry on notice: That ploy won’t fly forever. People’s neighborhoods aren’t fodder for fracking, environmental justice must come, and one day soon the vote to refrain from polluting for profit will prevail!”

State, feds: Fracking not a danger

But the California agency charged with oversight of fracking assures that more than a half-century of hydraulic fracturing in the country have shown it to not be an environmental danger.

“Hydraulic fracturing was first used in 1947 in a well in Kansas,” states the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. “Since then, hydraulic fracturing has become a regular practice to tap into previously unrecoverable reserves, or to stimulate increased production from existing oil or gas wells in the United States.

“In California, hydraulic fracturing has been used as a production stimulation method for more than 30 years with no reported damage to the environment.”

The Obama administration also has long depicted fracking as safe. In May 2013, at a news conference on draft rules for fracking on 700 million acres of federal land, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell defended the drilling process: “I know there are those who say fracking is dangerous and should be curtailed, full stop. That ignores the reality that it has been done for decades and has the potential for developing significant domestic resources and strengthening our economy and will be done for decades to come.”

SB1132 came hard on the heels of another fracking crackdown bill, SB4, which was approved by the Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. It increases regulations on fracking, including disclosure of the composition and disposition of fracking fluids to state regulators.

It also requires a study be completed by the end of this year on “the hazards and risks that fracking poses to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental health and safety,” according to the bill’s legislative analysis. “No permits for fracking would be allowed to be issued after Jan. 1, 2015, unless the study is completed and peer reviewed.”

SB1132 would have extended that study an additional six months, and imposed additional governmental reviews before fracking could resume in the state.

Sharp disagreements in Senate floor debate

Democrats and Republicans debated the bill May 28 on the Senate floor.

“SB1132 puts a temporary moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and acidization until they are proven safe by an exhaustive study that looks at many of the concerns and complaints commonly made by the citizens who live and work near the oil fields,” said Mitchell.

She dismissed concerns about potential job loss, saying the oil industry claims that only a small minority of wells are fracked. And she cited media reports that the oil recovery potential of California’s Monterey Shale formation has been cut by 96 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“SB1132 simply calls for a ‘time out,’ if you will, a temporary moratorium pending verification that fracking and acidization methods are safe,” said Mitchell. “Along with many of you, I have no desire to increase our over-reliance on foreign oil. However, the safety of oil drilling is fundamentally an environmental justice issue that I believe we must view with great scrutiny.”

Jackson: No need to ‘frack, frack, frack’

She was backed by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who said that fracking has caused earthquakes in Ohio and degraded water quality in Texas.

“There would be no harm in hitting the pause button and evaluating specifically and more independently what the impacts are of this process on our water quality, air quality, the public health of people in surrounding communities,” said Jackson. “There is no urgency to frack, frack, frack. Let us be cautious. Let us be circumspect. And let us have the information that we need in order to determine whether we should continue a procedure that has demonstrated negative results in other parts of the country.”

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said that 70 percent of Californians support a fracking moratorium. And he noted that other states have adopted moratoriums.

Two Republican senators representing inland valley areas pointed out that their districts are still suffering double-digit unemployment, which will worsen with this year’s drought.

GOP response cites economic potential, need for fuel

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Stanislaus, discussed a trip to North Dakota last year where the economic contrast could not have been more stark due to that state’s oil and gas drilling boom.

“It was mind-boggling,” he said. “There was ‘help wanted’ on every corner and every small business. It was a tremendous opportunity to get people back to work. This technology has the potential to create thousands of jobs and a second gold rush to the local economy in the state of California that we haven’t seen in years.”

Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, challenged Mitchell.

“Californians require 44 million gallons of gasoline a day,” said Fuller. “Our state refineries provide all of that gasoline, and they must be supplied with oil from somewhere. My question for the author is: What other methods or new technology does this bill propose to use to backfill the lost oil production in California? Tankers, rail, rationing or something that I don’t know?

Mitchell responded, “This bill does not propose to offer an alternative.” The time for that is if the study determines that fracking is unsafe, she added.

That did not satisfy Fuller, who said, “My area produces about 80 percent of the oil and gas. Most of those wells that are being fracked have been fracked for many, many years. Most of them are in an oil well footprint where there’s no groundwater underneath, there’s no residential houses nearby. And they haven’t had safety violations.

“I think that we’ll get [safe fracking] without having to suffer loss of jobs and tremendous economic upheaval in my area. Some of the small cities in my area have 30 percent unemployment now. We’re about to head into a drought in August, and that will probably double [unemployment], because the last time we had a drought there was 30 percent unemployment just from the drought. To have even a day’s loss of this work, which are very good wages and very good health benefits, is absolutely crushing for us.”

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, argued that Mitchell’s bill puts up so many obstacles to completion and certification of the study, that it would amount to a de facto ban on fracking.

“Would it affect the citizens of California?” he asked. “Absolutely. We cannot conserve our way to the future in either water or energy.”

Mitchell: You’re crying fire

Mitchell accused her bill’s opponents of being alarmists on the threat of lost jobs.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to cry fire in a crowded theater when we are unable to quantify the actual statistical job loss based on the narrow parameters of this bill,” she said. “We as policy makers have to make a very, very difficult, delicate decision: employment versus public health and safety. I appreciate the challenges many of the districts are experiencing. I hope you appreciate the challenges my constituents are facing who live in very, very dangerous close proximity to wells that are being fracked and where acidization is being used.”

Reheis-Boyd discussed in her blog her organization’s next steps, now that there has been a temporary truce in California’s fracking war:

“[The] defeat of Senate Bill 1132, legislation that would have imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation technologies, clears a path for a concerted and collaborative effort to fully implement new statewide regulations embodied in Senate Bill 4.

“The SB 4 regulations put into place a robust set of monitoring, disclosure, testing, land use and research requirements that ensure hydraulic fracturing in California is conducted safely and without harm to the environment. But there is still much to be done to finalize these new regulations, and the petroleum industry is going to be a constructive partner in getting them accomplished.

“For example, we are working with the State Water Resources Control Board and regional water boards to develop groundwater monitoring criteria and planning required by SB 4. Once finalized, these new requirements will give us the data necessary to demonstrate hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation technologies are not adversely impacting California’s precious water supplies.

“We are working with the California Air Resources Board and regional air boards to ensure air quality concerns are addressed as required by SB 4. We are working with the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources to develop the in-depth CEQA analysis of well stimulation operations also required by SB 4. And we look forward to the findings of the science-based study of hydraulic fracturing – yet another requirement of SB 4. …

“As Governor Brown has noted, close to a third of the new wells drilled in California are hydraulically fractured as a way to improve their productivity. These wells are an important part of California’s ongoing, conventional oil production that supplies 37 per cent of our daily petroleum needs. 

“The more than 100,000 men and women directly employed in oil production and transportation in California appreciate the Legislature’s support for the work they do and welcome the opportunity to move forward under the guidance of SB 4 regulations.”

 

 

City of Los Angeles to Set Wages for Hotel Workers—Is Your Industry Next to Be Taken Over by LA?

In Los Angles, the city council, not the business owners set wages, or that is how it appears to the world. The LA City Council is setting the wages of those that work in the hotel industry—in LA thanks to government action, probably illegal, workers will get $15 an hour. Watch the number of unemployed hotel workers skyrocket. More importantly, if the LA City Council can dictate the wages of hotel workers, why not restaurant workers, cabbies or those that work in retail or do it your self-stores?

The owners are forced to pay, regardless of ability—so workers will suffer and the politicians will trot out a couple of folks that get the higher wages, but ignore those that lost their jobs. Why do we allow this?

Hotel California

LA City Council committee approves $15 an hour for hotel workers

Alice Walton, KPCC, 6/10/14

L.A.’s Mayfair Hotel is one of the businesses that would be affected by a proposed $15/hour minimum wage for its non-union employees.

Non-unionized hotel workers in the City of Los Angeles would be paid $15 an hour under a proposal supported Tuesday by members of the city council’s Economic Development Committee.

The approval came despite a consultant’s report that found increasing the minimum wage for those employees could cost some workers their jobs and decrease the value of hotels throughout Los Angeles. Committee members also voted to draft the new city ordinance without first conducting an analysis on the economic impact to hotels and workers.

At the request of Councilman Paul Krekorian, an economic analysis will be completed before the wage proposal takes effect — if it is passed by the full council.

“We’re all elected to improve the quality of life of people we represent,” said Krekorian, “but honestly, as I sit here, I still don’t know whether this measure does that.

“It does for some, but I also know that I’m going to hurt some by voting for this. I’m going to put people out of work by voting for this. I’m going to cause other people to lose income because of this and I don’t know whether it’s a net plus or not.”

Under the proposal, hotels with at least 300 rooms will have to pay their workers $15.37 an hour beginning July 1, 2015. Hotels with 125 rooms or more would see the wage increase take effect one year later.

The head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor supported the measure, arguing that as hotels financially succeed, so too should their employees.

“We can’t go by that trickle-down theory any more because it just doesn’t work,” said Maria Elena Durazo. “We need those workers to do better for themselves, their families and our community.”

A report from Blue Sky Consulting found the higher wages would give hotel employees greater purchasing power. However, that added expense could prompt hotel owners to lay off workers or invest less money in their properties.

“There’s benefits to workers that get a raise and keep their jobs,” said Matt Newsman of Blue Sky Consulting. “But the cost of that benefit is borne by some workers who would lose their jobs and by hotel owners who would suffer a reduction in their profits.”

“If this ordinance passes, the cost to our small family-owned hotel would result in us having no choice but to reduce our staff,” said Mark Sokol, owner of the Erwin Hotel in Venice.

“We would have to cut 15-to-20 percent of our employees. We can’t raise room rates because we wouldn’t be competitive with small hotels in neighboring cities like Santa Monica and Marina del Rey.

The average hotel employee in a non-union shop makes $10.55 an hour, according to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. A spokeswoman for Councilman Curren Price, chair of the Economic Development Committee, said data from the U.S. Census show 43 percent of hotel workers in Los Angeles County live below the federal poverty line.

Price’s office estimates about 40 hotels would be affected. The city already requires a “living wage” for hotel workers near LAX. The rationale for the wage proposal there was that hotels benefit from the airport, which is a city-owned asset. Similarly, council members say that because tourists flock to Los Angeles for its public parks, beaches and attractions such as Hollywood Boulevard, the city can require hotels to pay their workers beyond the state’s minimum wage, which rises to $9/hour in July.

The City Attorney’s Office was directed to draft the ordinance and then send it to the Los Angeles City Council for approval. Mayor Eric Garcetti will sign the wage ordinance if it is approved by the council, according to one of his spokesman.

NFIB: Minimum wage hike will kill 300,000 jobs

California is a piker—our Democrats only want to raise the minimum wage to $13 and cost 300,000 jobs. No problem, the young illegal aliens brought to our State by Obama, from Texas, will surely take even more jobs and honest citizens. While Seattle is going with a $15 minimum wage, the cost of living in that town will skyrocket—as if the wage was not raised. Oh, government thinks it gets the benefit of higher tax collections—they also have to pay for the welfare costs of those not working due to the wages not earned.

“A proposal to raise California’s minimum wage to $13 an hour would kill more than 323,000 jobs over ten years and reduce the state’s real output by $224 billion, according to a study released Wednesday by the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.”

California is in a Depression and the Democrats are working hard to keep it that way.

minimum wage

NFIB: Minimum wage hike will kill 300,000 jobs

A proposal to raise California’s minimum wage to $13 an hour would kill more than 323,000 jobs over ten years and reduce the state’s real output by $224 billion, according to a new study by the NFIB.

Allen Young, Sacramento Business Journal, 6/11/14

A proposal to raise California’s minimum wage to $13 an hour would kill more than 323,000 jobs over ten years and reduce the state’s real output by $224 billion, according to a study released Wednesday by the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The release of the study is part of a lobbying blitzkrieg by the business federation to ensure that Senate Bill 935 is not approved by the state Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It’s obvious that Sacramento politicians have one primary objective this election year: eviscerate the private sector and give public employee unions the king’s ransom, regardless of small business job loss,” John Kabateck, executive director of NFIB California, said in a statement.

Kabateck also has called attention to the fact that the full impact of a statewide minimum hike of $10 an hour approved by lawmakers last year has not yet been fully felt by small business owners.

SB 935 by Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, has the support of a wide coalition of unions and sailed through the state Senate in with 20 supportive votes. As with the Senate, members of the Democratic-controlled Assembly receive campaign contributions from many of the organized labor interests who are vociferously supporting the bill, but the legislation’s ultimate fate is still a large question mark.

Proposals to increase the minimum wage have become a divisive issue for business groups, with some calling for rate hikes to boost consumer spending. The Small Business Majority, which favors a federal measure to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10, does not have a position on the Leno bill.

Meanwhile, San Francisco recently floated the idea of a $15 minimum wage, after a similar proposal in Seattle.

 

CA innovators lead on tech surveillance

California may have high taxes, bad regulations, corrupt Democrat State Senators, government created water crisis and failed union owned government schools. But we can be proud of the U-6 16.7% unemployment rate and a government that thinks an $8.5 billion cash deficit is a surplus. Now we find that our innovative Silicon Valley are the creators of the high tech surveillance techniques, equipment and processes used to scam and spy on the world.

“If Google and Facebook are relatively well-known California companies setting the tone for surveillance in today’s society, there’s almost no name recognition surrounding an equally important firm — AeroVironment of Monrovia in the San Gabriel Valley. Although its tagline is “Human Power,” AeroVironment is in the business of manufacturing drones.”

Due to the NSA/Snowden revelations we know that Silicon Valley firms—which through force or approval worked with the NSA to spy on others, are now losing foreign contracts. No one in the world trusts U.S. technology firms to keep secrets or not allow Obama to spy on them.

obama drones

CA innovators lead on tech surveillance
By James Poulos, Calwatchdog, 6/10/14

Some of California’s lesser-known players in tech have seized the initiative in shaping the nation’s surveillance culture.

Many Americans are familiar with the Taser, a nonlethal device used by law enforcement to shock and immobilize. Fewer are aware that the Taser is the creation of a company with the same name — or that the Taser corporation runs a division devoted to wearable and cloud-powered monitoring devices. Known as Evidence.com, the division works closely with police departments across the country to facilitate data management, including data obtained in the course of “evidence gathering.”

From the sound of its sales pitch, Evidence.com doesn’t put civil liberties front and center. After all, it promises law enforcement agencies the ability to “capture anything anywhere.”

More technology, more liberty?

But that’s where ex-Facebook and Google Maps impresario Bret Taylor comes in. Taylor’s latest move finds him joining the board of Taser as an independent director — and instead of giving the impression that he’s selling out to Big Surveillance, he’s delivering the opposite message. In a statement reported by TechCrunch, Taylor specifically makes the case for better civil liberties through enhanced law enforcement technology.

“Taser is applying technology to important social issues that I care deeply about,” he said. “This is an important opportunity to use technology to protect civil liberties. I believe Taser is poised to revolutionize the public safety space with enhanced transparency from body-worn camera technology while leveraging the cloud to manage the massive data being generated by wearable cameras and sensors. I’m thrilled to be joining the Taser board.”

Momentum for body cameras has grown recently, especially in Los Angeles, where Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff has made the feature a centerpiece of his approach to fighting crime and reducing officer abuse. In April, the L.A. Police Commission found itself lecturing the LAPD in the wake of discoveries that officers had tampered with in-car recording devices. In addition to transparency and cloud usage, Taylor is poised to confront stubborn, if not universal, resistance to round-the-clock self-monitoring by police forces.

Opening the floodgates for drones

If Google and Facebook are relatively well-known California companies setting the tone for surveillance in today’s society, there’s almost no name recognition surrounding an equally important firm — AeroVironment of Monrovia in the San Gabriel Valley. Although its tagline is “Human Power,” AeroVironment is in the business of manufacturing drones.

And AeroVironment’s Puma drone is among the first approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for commercial flight over land, a game-changing development that signals the government’s changing attitude toward the technology. Although approved last summer, the drone’s status was only recently revealed by the FAA. The Puma will patrol the region surrounding Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, reports the Associated Press, taking 3D pictures of inaccessible areas as part of an environmental and business effort conducted by the BP oil company.

Regulators and drone industry lobbyists both acknowledge it may be years before a full-fledged drone policy takes shape in Washington. Nevertheless, public and private sector players are emphasizing that the future, for all intents and purposes, is now. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told the AP that the Prudhoe Bay project is an “important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft. The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

Because the Puma drone was created and first used as a military craft, the government’s comfort level with AeroVironment’s limited commercial venture is relatively high. Innovators itching to put drones to broader use, however, are ready to push the FAA for more concessions — and to jump the gun if need be. One youthful entrepreneur, GauravJit Singh, recently launched one of his DroneCast advertising drones without explicit FAA approval.

 

Some LAUSD employees to get raises to soothe pension sting

I bet you thought that Prop. 30 money ($6 billion in taxes per year for 7 years) was going to education, to the classroom, to help the children. Instead government schools did a “Texas” two step. First they are using some of the money to pay the increased CalSTRS contributions that are mandated to keep the systems open. Then since teachers also must pay more, school districts like LAUSD are paying some personnel higher wages—to cover the added pension costs.

In the end the children and the community lose—while the unions prove they own the school districts and the budgets.

This is LAUSD, “Negotiations are ongoing with teachers, whose union was insulted by the offer of a 2 percent raise, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The approved deals, according to the report, included a 1.2 percent increase for construction workers and a 7 percent raise for clerical workers and other employees represented by the California School Employees Association.”

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Some LAUSD employees to get raises to soothe pension sting

The Los Angeles Unified school board on Tuesday approved raises for employees as a way to offset their costs for contributing a greater percentage of their incomes to their pension funds.

Scott Bridges, LA Biz Journal, 6/11/14

The Los Angeles Unified school board on Tuesday approved raises for employees as a way to offset their costs for contributing a greater percentage of their incomes to their pension funds.

Negotiations are ongoing with teachers, whose union was insulted by the offer of a 2 percent raise, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The approved deals, according to the report, included a 1.2 percent increase for construction workers and a 7 percent raise for clerical workers and other employees represented by the California School Employees Association.

The biggest winners are the campus cops. Perhaps in light of the recent string of school shootings, sworn school police officers were given a 9 percent bump in pay.

The board is providing the salary increases primarily to offset the higher pension contributions required by new state rules, which restricts the amount that the school district was formerly able to provide. Nevertheless, the raises might not serve to balance out the loss because of taxes on the additional income.

“It was very important for the district and superintendent to make sure the employees were made whole,” LAUSD chief labor negotiator Vivian Ekchian told the Daily News. “Otherwise, it would have been a pay cut for the employees.”

Teachers, meanwhile, are still negotiating. The 2 percent raise they were offered would reportedly cost the district roughly $53.7 million each year. Union leaders termed that number an “insult,” calling for a 17.6 percent raise.

If you’re wondering how much a 17.6 percent raise would cost the district, the answer is an additional $472 million per year.

The union’s president-elect, ALex-Caputo Pearl, apparently asked for the raise with a straight face, claiming that teachers have lost pay over the years through furlough days, and added, “The money is there for a substantial pay increase.”

 

Brown Tells Democrats to Rein In California Budget: Muni Credit

Guv Brown is giggling about his “surplus” and “balanced budget”. Of course he is confused, maybe his chief of staff has forgotten to show him reports from the Legislative Analyst Office showing a $340 billion debt or from the State Controller showing we have an $8.5 billion cash deficit? He is smart enough and lucid enough to understand that legislative Democrats cannot operate like Democrats, they need to operate like Republicans and hold down the spending. California already has high real unemployment—U-6 is 16.7%–and we Obama flooding the former Golden State will illegal aliens—literally flying them into our State—our health care costs, education expenditures and welfare will explode.

There is no reality in the financial markets, here is the proof, “In the time since Brown took office in January 2011, California has earned higher marks from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s. The companies cited his financial repairs to a state whose fiscal turmoil once drew comparisons with Greece. Political dysfunction in the previous decade left lawmakers unable to fix deficits that exceeded $100 billion combined.” 

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Brown Tells Democrats to Rein In California Budget: Muni Credit

By Michael B. Marois, Bloomberg, 6/11/14

California Governor Jerry Brown, running for an unprecedented fourth term, says that if he can curb his fellow Democrats’ spending dreams, the most-indebted state may win its highest credit rating in five years.

Brown and lawmakers are pushing separate versions of a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Democrats who control the legislature want to spend more of the surplus money California is raking in from capital gains and $7 billion of higher income and sales taxes that voters approved in 2012. Brown says the state must first put aside money for a rainy day and pay down its debts.

“Our credit rating is going up,” Brown, 76, told reporters in Sacramento last week after he won a primary election to advance to the general in November. “If we get the right kind of budget, it’ll go up again.”

In the time since Brown took office in January 2011, California has earned higher marks from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s. The companies cited his financial repairs to a state whose fiscal turmoil once drew comparisons with Greece. Political dysfunction in the previous decade left lawmakers unable to fix deficits that exceeded $100 billion combined.

’08 Levels

The most-populous state’s borrowing costs last month fell to the lowest since 2008 after Brown proposed a reserve against leaner economic times. He also wants to finance unfunded pension costs and pay off what he calls a “wall of debt” that former governors racked up in balancing prior budgets.

Investors demanded as little as 0.35 percentage point of extra yield last month to buy 10-year California obligations instead of top-rated municipal bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s half the level of a year earlier and down from a peak of about 1.7 percentage points in 2009, when the state resorted to IOUs to pay bills.

While the lower yield spread means it costs California taxpayers less to borrow, the relative bond costs are still more than triple what investors demand for top-rated states such as Virginia.

The tax increases that Brown championed have stoked investor interest in California tax-exempt debt. Bonds of California issuers have earned 6.4 percent this year through June 9, compared with 5.6 percent for the entire $3.7 trillion municipal market, S&P Dow Jones Indices show.

“The governor has done an effective job at keeping the legislature from spending the state’s recent operating surpluses,” said Michael Johnson, managing partner of Gurtin Fixed Income Management LLC, which oversees $7.5 billion in Solana Beach, California.

Lowering Yields

A stronger rainy-day fund “will likely have the effect of lowering yields as investors and the ratings agencies will undoubtedly react positively,” he said.

Brown has proposed spending a record $107.8 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Democrats, relying on higher revenue estimates from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, have drafted budgets that spend $2 billion more than the governor’s. The Democrats also say more money may be available because Brown’s estimates on some costs, such as adding more people to state-run health care, are too high.

Spending Wish

Democratic lawmakers want to increase spending on social programs such as subsidized housing and childcare, and raise pay for in-home care workers.

“Establishing a solid budget reserve and addressing the state’s financial obligations, including pension liabilities, are top priorities,” said Senator Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who is chairman of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. “At the same time, we must balance this financial prudency with key investments in programs that improve people’s lives and stimulate the economy.”

Legislators have until the end of June 15 to send Brown a budget. They won’t get paid for each day they are late. The governor must sign a plan into law by July 1.

Credit-rating companies have criticized California for its failure to set aside money when the economy is booming and for relying too much on volatile capital gains to pay for general-fund spending.

California’s general-obligation bonds have an A1 rating from Moody’s Investors Service, the fifth-highest rank. S&P grades them A, one level lower than Moody’s, with a positive outlook — often a precursor to an upgrade. California hasn’t had an S&P rating above A since 2009. Only Illinois has a lower rating from both Moody’s and S&P.

Fourth Term

Brown first served as governor for two terms from 1975 to 1983. He won a third term in 2010 and is running for re-election against Republican Neel Kashkari, a political newcomer who ran the federal bailout of the U.S. banking system. A University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released June 1 found Brown would beat Kashkari, 55 percent to 27 percent.

At Brown’s urging, Democrats agreed in May to put a measure on the November ballot asking voters to amend the constitution to require the state to set aside 1.5 percent of general-fund revenue each year, as well as capital-gains taxes that exceed 8 percent of the general fund.

He also proposed a plan to begin financing the state’s $74 billion gap in teachers pensions.

“There is billions of dollars floating around over in the capitol and we are going to have to rein all that in,” Brown said.

 

Surprise pension costs for school districts–only educrats surprised

Government school districts are claiming they are surprised that pension costs are going for CalSTRS—who are they kidding, it has been known for more than two years—that was why they needed Prop. 30 to pass ($6 billion a year for seven years) to pay for the pension increases and to pay higher wages to cover the teachers higher contribution rates—nothing for the classroom or the children.

“The increase is to help offset the $74 billion funding shortfall of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, and the governor’s plan is to eliminate that unfunded liability by the 2045-46 fiscal year. For local school districts, this means a 1.25 percent increase this year and a 1.6 percent increase every year after that.

Unions own our schools and obviously own our tax dollars. If we truly want better school bring back parents and teachers into the process.

public employee union pension

 

Surprise pension costs for school districts

Governor’s proposal will hit district budgets hard in July

by Kevin Forestieri, Mountain View Voice, 6/6/14

School districts got a surprise last month when Gov. Jerry Brown announced a new plan to pay for the state’s pension shortfall. If the budget revision goes through, school districts will pay millions more for teacher pensions, and could start paying more as soon as next month.

Right now school districts pay 8.25 percent of teacher payroll towards their retirement fund. Under the governor’s revision, districts will have to pay 19.1 percent — phased in over the next seven years.

The increase is to help offset the $74 billion funding shortfall of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, and the governor’s plan is to eliminate that unfunded liability by the 2045-46 fiscal year. For local school districts, this means a 1.25 percent increase this year and a 1.6 percent increase every year after that.

At the Mountain View-Los Altos school board meeting last week, Associate Superintendent Joe White crunched the numbers: the school would have to reserve $340,000 for the increase this year, $786,000 the next year, and almost $1.2 million the following year.

“The real crux to it is that this is only the beginning of it, because (Brown) has a seven-year plan,” White said at the meeting.

When contributions finally reach 19.1 percent, MVLA will be putting well over $3 million into pensions on top of what they’re already paying — and it may continue to increase after that.

White said for now, students and parents won’t have to worry about any new budget constraints or cuts to programs in the 2014-15 school year. However, as costs continue to increase quickly over the years, the district may need to cut expenses to shoulder the costs.

The Mountain View Whisman School District is in a similar situation. The district will use cash reserves to deal with the initial 1.25 percent increase and there won’t be any spending cuts for the coming school year, according to Terese McNamee, chief business officer for the district.

White said the district has been expecting increased pension costs for a long time, but not in a revision just a month and a half before the start of the budget year. He said the 2014-15 increase is still “up in the air,” and there’s action in the state Legislature for a lower increase this year or a a delay until next year.

Despite the weird timing, White said it’s good that the governor is finally dealing with the shortfall.

“Should it be funded? Absolutely, the sooner the better,” White said. “It would’ve been nice to have some action back in January, but it’s great that it’s finally being done.”

Along with school districts, teachers and the state will also pay more into pension contributions — albeit smaller increases. Teachers will go from paying 8 percent of their salary to 10.25 and the state will go from 3 to 6.3 percent — both over the next three years.

White said the state wasn’t able to increase contributions in the last three or four years because the economy was too bad, and school districts were already struggling without the increased costs. The budget revision is the first big step in the post-recession economy to turn around a retirement fund that’s projected to run out of money in just a few decades.