Interest on the Debt and a Responsible Debt Ceiling

With the debt ceiling now reached, it is clear we must increase in the amount of money the United States government can legally borrow.

President Joe Biden and most Democrats have taken the position that we should increase the spending limit with no changes, modifications, or reforms.

Republicans—and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin—have said it would be irresponsible to simply extend the government’s ability to run up more debt without curbing spending. Any debt ceiling increase should be done in a responsible way, with serious reforms to the pattern of government spending, that will move us back toward a balanced budget by 2033.

The sheer weight of the interest on our growing national debt should convince anyone concerned about America’s future that the Republicans and Manchin are right.

According to the May 2022 Congressional Budget Office report, the United States is going to add $16 trillion to the national debt between now and 2033 (I’m sure that projection would be much higher now). That additional deficit spending will give the United States a debt as high as 109 percent of gross domestic product in 2027.

If the current uncontrolled spending pattern does not change, by 2030 paying interest on the national debt will cost more than the entire defense budget. By 2033, America will be spending nearly $200 billion more on interest payments than on our national security ($1.19 trillion in interest versus $998 billion in national security).

According to the CBO, all this spending will drive up interest rates—which will of course further drive up interest payments. It currently projects three-month U.S. bonds to jump nearly 400 percent (from 0.6 percent to 2.3 percent) and 10-year U.S. bonds will jump 80 percent (2.1 percent to 3.8 percent) over the next decade. This crushing interest will be borne by taxpayers.

This interaction between the debt and interest rate creates a vicious cycle. The more you borrow, the more pressure there is for inflation. The more inflation, the higher interest rates get. Higher interest rates mean bigger interest payments on the debt.

This cycle of government demanding money to cover its deficits also crowds out capital for the private sector—and ultimately weakens economic growth and job creation. We have watched the European welfare state system for 70 years. It has crowded out economic growth and increased unemployment and underemployment. We’ve seen downward cycles of bigger welfare states transferring more money from taxpayers to those who cannot find work—and thus increasing the number of unemployed. (In some cases, European countries have bailed out their neighbors and only made problems worse.)

I know it is possible to balance the budget because we have done it before. When I was Speaker of the House, we began negotiations with President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, which led to the only four consecutive balanced budgets in our lifetime.

The American people understand that the current deficit-spending machinery of big government is unsustainable. A new Rasmussen poll reports that only 24 percent of Americans favor raising the debt ceiling with no spending cuts.

By contrast, 73 percent believe it is reasonable to cut spending—and 62 percent favor modest cuts in all agencies. There are no sacred cows.

Every dollar we save is a deficit dollar we will not have to pay interest on in perpetuity.

The path forward is clear—and required for our survival.

First, we must get spending under control. Second, we must get to a balanced budget. Third, we must sustain the balance and start paying down the national debt.

Click here to read the full article in Newsweek

S.F. Hoped to Mandate Treatment for Up to 100 More Mentally Ill Homeless People. Years Later, No One Is In The Program

New data shows that a program in San Francisco to mandate more homeless people struggling with addiction and mental illness into treatment has largely failed, pointing to the city’s ongoing struggle to help thousands of people suffering on its streets.

Three and a half years ago, San Francisco started a pilot program to compel more people into treatment who met certain strict criteria. Officials estimated the program could help 50 to 100 people get housing and treatment for six months, but only three individuals entered the program and none remain in it today.

The problem is daunting. In 2019, San Francisco identified about 4,000 unhoused people who also struggled with addiction and mental illness. While many of those people could be helped with more voluntary treatment, some may be too sick to accept care. Despite progress in improving some aspects of the city’s mental health system, an unknown number of the 4,000 remain on the streets.

While the program was meant to help more of these people, in particular those impaired by drug addiction who aren’t covered under other forms of conservatorship, the reality is that the requirements were so onerous, few people met the criteria, according to the health department.

Since June 2019, the city has filed only four petitions for what’s called “housing conservatorship,” one of which was not approved. While other kinds of conservatorship exist, they too have strict requirements that limit who is eligible.

Of the three people who entered the new program, two were moved to another kind of conservatorship for people with mental illness, the city’s health department said Friday when it released its annual report on the subject. It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the third person.

The program — which sunsets at the end of the year —requires that someone has a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use disorder and has been placed on at least eight temporary involuntary mental health holds, called 5150s, which send them to a hospital, within a year. The target population was also homeless. People must repeatedly refuse voluntary treatment first.

A law authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, allowed the city to launch the pilot program.

But Wiener said Friday his original law was hamstrung by a slew of factors. It got watered down by another piece of state legislation the next year, making it more restrictive. Next, the Board of Supervisors added more requirements during a contentious political debate. Logistics and paperwork delayed the implementation, and as soon as it got off the ground, the pandemic slowed progress.

“So not shockingly, not a lot of people have been conserved,” he said.

“It is so frustrating to me and so many San Franciscans when you walk down the street and see someone who’s clearly falling apart and dying, and you see that person every day falling apart a little more, and you wonder why is no one doing anything about this, why is no one saving their life?” he continued.

The report said 27 total notices have been delivered to 14 people informing them they’re on a potential path to housing conservatorship. There are no petitions waiting court approval.

The city’s health department said in a statement Friday that multiple barriers have hindered the program. They said those include limited referrals from partners, extensive documentation requirements and challenges receiving confidential patient records from private hospitals.

The health department said “stronger laws and more resources would make the San Francisco Housing Conservatorship programs a more effective tool” in the city’s system.

Wiener said he had planned to come back to the legislature this year to fix problems with his law, but instead is setting his sights on supporting a package of laws to reform a broader form of conservatorship, called LPS, that state Sen. Susan Eggman is planning to put forward. Wiener said he believes that with new leadership in the legislature, reforms will pass this year and help more people into treatment.

Mayor London Breed, who has lobbied for stronger conservatorship laws for years, supported a similar package of reforms last year.

Breed’s health department runs San Francisco General, which sees many of the patients who might be a fit for the program in its psychiatric emergency room and its inpatient psychiatric unit. People frequently cycle through the units because of a lack of long-term care.

The city also runs numerous street outreach teams – some to respond to people with mental illness and others who have just overdosed – where experts have the power to write mental health holds that would set someone on this path to conservatorship.

Recent data shows that in a majority of interactions with the team responding to mental crises, people in 57% of engagements remained in the community. In only 5% of cases were people placed on holds – a rate that two social workers told the Chronicle they felt didn’t reflect the higher need for hospitalization among their clients.

Critics say mental health holds and conservatorship should be extremely limited because it takes away people’s civil rights.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

In Endorsing Schiff for Senate, Pelosi Rewarded Her Most Valued Trait: Loyalty

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi typically throws out endorsements in high-profile Democrat-on-Democrat races like manhole covers. She sat out Hillary vs. Barack in 2008, didn’t weigh in on Hillary vs. Bernie in 2016 until it didn’t really matter, and held her nod for Joe Biden in 2020 until he was the presumptive nominee.

But one of the main factors that inspired Pelosi to endorse Rep. Adam Schiff in California’s 2024 Senate race over two female House members came down to a quality she holds sacrosanct: loyalty.

“Loyalty is a real big factor with Nancy Pelosi, and friendship is inviolable,” John Lawrence, Pelosi’s former chief of staff, told me. “It’s almost like family.”

In Schiff, Pelosi has long had a loyal lieutenant, someone she has supported since he was elected in 2000. She counted on him to lead the House Intelligence Committee in the early, tumultuous years of the Trump administration when a Trump loyalist, former Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, was his counterpart on the panel and was “providing political cover” to the administration, as Schiff told The Chronicle at the time.

Pelosi chose Schiff as the lead manager for the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump and as a member of the commission investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

SF Supervisor Says City’s $1.45B Budget Plan to End Homelessness Won’t Work

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman did not mince words during a sit-down interview with ABC7 News on Wednesday, talking about the city’s housing plan for the homeless.

Earlier in the week, Mandelman called on the Board of Supervisors to have a special meeting to discuss the report issued at the end of last year by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

“We spend a huge amount of money in this city, not solving this problem,” Mandelman said.

The report was meant to be a direct plan of execution after the Board of Supervisors voted in June of 2022 to have the city offer all homeless people in the city a safe place to sleep.

RELATED: SF supervisors vote to create plan offering housing to every homeless person in city

It suggests spending nearly $1.5 billion over the next three years in addition to the money already expected to be spent.

That comes out to about $70,000 per shelter bed per year, according to Mandelman.

“That just seems like way too much to me. It’s more than other communities spend on shelter,” said Mandelman.

Mandelman thinks some of what’s proposed is wasteful and says the city can get rid of encampments for less.

MORE: Homelessness count rises in California despite staying steady nationwide, report finds

And Mandelman certainly isn’t alone. He tells me that quality of life issues such as homelessness are a top concern for both city residents and businesses.

Randy Shaw is the director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

He says he agrees with many of Mandelman’s thoughts and believes the city should cut down on the red tape surrounding the issue.

MORE: SF closes Tenderloin Center. What’s next for 400+ people who received services everyday?

“We have an emergency situation. We don’t have the luxury to say, ‘Well this luxury over 10 years will be a better investment’. We got to get people housed now,” said Shaw.

Mandelman maintains that the city can end unsheltered homelessness on our streets with the right plan and funding.

Click here to read the full article at ABC News

California Releases Its Own Plan for Colorado River Cuts

California released a plan Tuesday detailing how Western states reliant on the Colorado River should save more water. It came a day after the six other states in the river basin made a competing proposal.

In a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California described how states could conserve between 1 million and nearly 2 million acre feet of water through new cuts based on the elevation of Lake Mead, a key reservoir.

Its plan did not account for water lost to evaporation and during transportation — a move sought by the other states that would mean big cuts for California.

The 1,450-mile river (2,334-kilometer) serves 40 million people across the West and Mexico, generating hydroelectric power for regional markets and irrigating nearly 6 million acres (2,428 hectares) of farmland.

A multi-decade drought in the West worsened by climate change, rising demand and overuse has sent water levels at key reservoirs along the river to unprecedented lows. That has forced federal and state officials to take additional steps to protect the system.

California’s plan and the separate methods outlined by states Monday came in response to Reclamation asking them last year to detail how they would use between 15% and 30% less water. The federal agency operates the major dams in the river system.

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All seven states missed that deadline last August. Six of them regrouped and came to an agreement by the end of January. California was the the lone holdout to that agreement, and responded Tuesday with its own plan.

Unlike the other states’ plan, California’s does not factor the roughly 1.5 million acre feet of Colorado River water lost to evaporation and transportation.

Instead, it proposes reducing water taken out of Lake Mead by 1 million acre feet, with 400,000 acre feet coming from its own users. The state previously outlined that level of cuts in October. Arizona would bear the brunt of bigger cuts — 560,000 acre feet — while Nevada would make up the rest. Those numbers are based on discussions from prior negotiations, California’s letter said.

An acre foot is enough water to supply two to three U.S. households for a year.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources said it was still reviewing California’s proposal and didn’t have an immediate comment.

But Tom Buschatzke, the department’s director, said earlier Tuesday that water managers across the basin couldn’t reach agreement with California on cuts, even at the broader state level.

“The big issues are what does the priority system mean, what does the junior priority mean and how does that attach to that outcome of who takes what cut?” he said. “That was the issue over the summer, that was the issue over the fall, that’s still the issue.”

California has the largest allocation of water among the seven U.S. states that tap the Colorado River. It is also among the last to face water cuts in times of shortage because of its senior water rights.

That has given the state an advantage over others in talks that spanned months over how to cut water use.

California water officials have often repeated that any additional water cuts must be legally defensible and in line with western water law that honors its water rights.

JB Hamby, chairman of the Colorado River Board of California and a board member of the Imperial Irrigation District, indicated California may file a lawsuit if the federal government attempts to count for evaporative losses.

“The best way to avoid conflict and ensure that we can put water in the river right away is through a voluntary approach, not putting proposals that sidestep the Law of the River and ignore California’s senior right and give no respect to that,” he said.

Existing agreements only spell cuts when Lake Mead’s elevation is between 1,090 feet (332 meters) and 1,025 feet (312 meters). If it drops any lower than 1,025 feet, California’s plan proposes even further cuts based on the so-called Law of the River — likely meaning Arizona and Nevada would bear the brunt of them. Those cuts are designed to keep Lake Mead from reaching “dead pool,” when it could no longer pump out water to farms and cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The reservoir’s current elevation is around 1,045 feet.

In total, California’s plan could save between 1 million and 2 million acre-feet of water based on the elevation levels at Lake Mead, from which Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico draw their share of the river.

Adel Hagekhalil, general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of California, the nation’s largest water supplier, said it was important to protect key reservoirs “without getting mired in lengthy legal battles.”

Hagekhalil and other water managers pointed to numerous efforts the state has made to drastically reduce its water usage by making agricultural and urban water use more efficient.

“California knows how to permanently reduce use of the river — we have done it over the past 20 years, through billions of dollars in investments and hard-earned partnerships,” he said in a statement. “We can help the entire Southwest do it again as we move forward.”

The new proposals do not change states’ water allocations immediately — or disrupt their existing water rights. Instead, they will be folded into a larger proposal Reclamation is working on to revise how it operates Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams — behemoth power producers on the Colorado River.

Despite California’s inability to reach agreement with the other six states so far, the parties said they hope to keep talking.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

San Diego to Use $2.4 Million State Grant to Help 50 Homeless People Near Old Library

Part of the money will go toward securing the streets so the encampments do not return

In a new, focused approach to helping homeless people get off the street and into housing, outreach workers will begin engaging with about 50 people who are living in tents along six city blocks near San Diego’s former Central Library.

A unanimous San Diego City Council, with Councilmember Jennifer Campbell absent, approved spending about $2.4 million in state funds on the plan Monday.

In presenting the plan to council members, Hafsa Kaka, the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department director, said the effort will begin in about two months and will differ from traditional outreach work by providing a more intense and personal focus on each person’s individual needs.

“What happens with normal outreach, to be honest, is sometimes people will fall through the cracks,” she said. “These individuals (outreach workers) are intensively going to be following the people who have been identified.”

The grant will fund services ranging from outreach to housing for the approximately 50 people in the six-block area over the next two years, and some of the grant will be used to keep the area clear of future encampments once people are housed.

The focus will be on placing people into long-term permanent housing and also can be used to subsidize shorter-term bridge housing such as independent living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, placements with family members and supportive housing through California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM). Clients who have been referred to permanent supportive housing may be placed in hotel rooms as temporary housing.

The approximately 50 people living in encampments within the six-block area represent a fraction of the city’s homeless population. A monthly count conducted in December by the Downtown San Diego Partnership found 850 people living in East Village, which includes the E Street area that will be the focus of the new grant. In all, the count found 1,839 people living downtown on sidewalks, in tents and in vehicles in December, the fifth straight month of a record high.

San Diego was one of eight California communities awarded a portion of the $48 million Encampment Resolution Funding Program in October, with 19 other communities receiving the grant funds earlier last year. The grants are administered by the California Interagency Council on Homelessness with a goal of finding housing for people living in specific encampments.

Kaka said the majority of people in the encampments are black women, and many are seniors. The outreach will address existing disparities in access to services in those populations, she said.

The San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness has created ad hoc committees to address the growing population of senior homeless people and the disproportionately high percent of homeless people who are black, she noted.

Outreach teams will focus on F Street, E Street and Broadway between Seventh and Tenth avenues. The area includes the old Central LIbrary, the U.S. Postal Service and the Andaz San Diego hotel.

While not large geographically, some stretches have dense encampments. In recent days, the sidewalk on the north side of E Street has been filled with tents between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

District 8 City Councilmember Vivian Moreno supported the motion to allocate the funding, but said she was concerned about its focus on one neighborhood in District 3, represented by Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, while a part of downtown she represents has a growing homeless population,

“If you were to go there today with me, you would see encampments just lining up the streets,” she said about Commercial Street and other areas near the Father Joe’s Villages campus on Imperial Avenue. “They are not safe or sanitary for people camping there and it’s also not safe for people walking through the area.”

Moreno said the council had allocated $1 million to increase outreach in the area six months ago, and she questioned Kaka on how the money had been used.

Kaka said the city had submitted to the state an earlier funding application that did include Commercial Street, but it was not awarded. She said someone at the state advised her to submit an application that focused on a specific area in the next funding cycle, which led to the grant for the E Street outreach.

She also told Moreno that the $1 million allocated to outreach in her district has been put to use through People Assisting the Homeless.

Kaka said money for more outreach in other areas could come in the future, and the city and the county have discussed submitting a joint application to the state for the next round of funding.

Under the program adopted Monday, $1.2 million will be used for housing and flexible subsidies, and $950,000 will go toward outreach services for people in encampments.

The grant will provide $150,000 for support services to help people stabilize when they receive housing, and $116,500 will pay for administrative costs. Once encampments are cleared from the city, the grant will provide $30,000 to keep the area secure and prevent encampments from returning.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

Emails Reveal Tensions in Colorado River Talks

Competing priorities, outsized demands and the federal government’s retreat from a threatened deadline stymied a deal last summer on how to drastically reduce water use from the parched Colorado River, emails obtained by The Associated Press show.

The documents span the June-to-August window the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation gave states to reach consensus on water cuts for a system that supplies 40 million people annually — or have the federal government force them. They largely include communication among water officials in Arizona and California, the major users in the river’s Lower Basin.

Reclamation wanted the seven U.S. states that rely on the river to decide how to cut 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water — or up to roughly one-third — on top of already anticipated reductions. The emails, obtained through a public records request, depict a desire to reach a consensus but persistent disagreement over how much each state could or should give.

As the deadline approached without meaningful progress, one water manager warned: “We’re all headed to a very dark place.”

“The challenges we had this summer were significant challenges, they truly were,” Chris Harris, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, said in an interview about the early negotiations. “I don’t know that anybody was to blame, I genuinely don’t. There were an awful lot of different interpretations of what was being asked and what we were trying to do.”

Scientists say the megadrought gripping the southwestern U.S. is the worst in 1,200 years, putting a deep strain on the Colorado River as key reservoirs dip to historically low levels. If states don’t begin taking less out of the river, the major reservoirs threaten to fall so low they can’t produce hydropower or supply any water at all to farms that grow crops for the rest of the nation and cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The future of the river seemed so precarious last summer that some water managers felt attempting to reach a voluntary deal was futile — only mandated cuts would stave off crisis.

“We are out of time and out of any cushion to allow for a voluntary plan,” Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, told a Bureau of Reclamation official in a July 18 email.

As 2023 begins, fresh incentives make the states more likely to give up water. The federal government has put up $4 billion for drought relief, and Colorado River users have submitted proposals to get some of that money through actions like leaving fields unplanted. Some cities are ripping up thirsty decorative grass, and tribes and major water agencies have left some water in key reservoirs — either voluntarily or by mandate.

Reclamation also has agreed to spend $250 million mitigating hazards at a drying California lake bed, a condition of the state’s water users agreeing to cut their use by 400,000 acre feet in a proposal released in October.

The Interior Department is still evaluating proposals for a slice of the $4 billion and can’t say how much savings it will generate, Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in an interview.

The states are again trying to reach a grand bargain — with a deadline of Tuesday — so that Reclamation can factor it into a larger plan to modify operations at Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam, behemoth power producers on the Colorado River. Failure to do so would set up the possibility of the federal government imposing cuts — a move that could invite litigation.

Figuring out who absorbs additional water cuts has been contentious, with allegations of drought profiteering, reneging on commitments, too many negotiators in the room and an unsteady hand from the federal government, the emails and follow-up interviews showed.

California says it’s a partner willing to sacrifice, but other states see it as a reluctant participant clinging to a water priority system where it ranks near the top. Arizona and Nevada have long felt they’re unfairly forced to bear the brunt of cuts because of a water rights system developed long ago, a simmering frustration that reared its head during talks.

Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton’s call for a massive water cut in testimony to Congress on June 14 was a public bombshell of sorts. A week earlier, with a heads-up from the federal government, the Lower Basin states talked about collectively, with Mexico, cutting up to 2 million acre-feet during a meeting in Salt Lake City, the emails and interviews showed.

But as the weeks passed and proposals were exchanged, the Lower Basin states barely reached half that amount, and the commitment was nowhere near firm, the emails showed. Adding to the difficulty was not knowing what Mexico, which also has a share of the river, might contribute.

In a series of exchanges through July, Arizona and California each proposed multiple ways to achieve cuts, building on existing agreements tied to the levels of Lake Mead, factoring in the water lost to evaporation or inefficient infrastructure, and fiercely protecting a priority system, though it was clear negotiators were becoming weary.

The states shared disdain for a proposal from farmers near Yuma and southern California to be paid $1,500 an acre foot for water they conserved. Former Central Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke responded by suggesting the farmers make it work at one-third of the price, which still was higher but closer to going rates.

In late July, Harris, of California, emailed a proposal to the Bureau of Reclamation outlining scenarios in the range of 1 million acre feet in cuts, saying it was imperative negotiators be able to “declare some level of victory.”

“Otherwise,” he wrote, “I genuinely believe that we are at an impasse, and we’re all headed to a very dark place.”

But ultimately, Arizona and Nevada never felt that California was willing to give enough.

“It was futile, it wasn’t enough. We did not trust that California was going to come through on their piece of it,” Cooke said in an interview.

By then, Reclamation privately told the states — but didn’t acknowledge publicly — that it backed away from the supposed mid-August deadline, officials involved in the talks said. Beaudreau, the deputy Interior secretary, said in an interview the deadline was never meant to create an ultimatum between reaching a deal and forced cuts.

But state officials said when it became clear the federal government wouldn’t act unilaterally, it created a “chilling effect” that removed the urgency from the talks because water users with higher-priority water rights were no longer at risk of harsh cuts, Arizona’s Buschatzke said in an interview.

“Without that hammer, there was a different tone of negotiations,” he said.

Today, the Interior Department’s priority remains ensuring Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam have enough water in them to maintain hydropower, and the department will do whatever is necessary to ensure that, Beaudreau said.

The Upper Basin states of New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado — which historically haven’t used their full supplies — are looking toward the Lower Basin states to do much of the work.

Reclamation is now focused on weighing the latest round of comments from states on how to save the river. Nevada wants to count water lost to evaporation and transportation in water allocations — a move that could mean the biggest volume of cuts for California — and some Arizona water managers agree, comment letters obtained by the AP show.

But disputes remain over how to determine what level of cuts are fair and legal. California’s goal remains protecting its status while other states and tribes want more than old water rights taken into account — such as whether users have access to other water sources, and the effects of cuts on disadvantaged communities and food security.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

California Shooting: 3 Dead, 4 Hurt in Ritzy LA Neighborhood

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three people were killed and four others wounded in a shooting at a multimillion dollar short-term rental home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood early Saturday, police said.

The shooting occurred about 2:30 a.m. in the Beverly Crest neighborhood. This is at least the sixth mass shooting in California this month.

Sgt. Frank Preciado of the Los Angeles Police Department said earlier Saturday that the three people killed were inside a vehicle.

Two of the four victims were taken in private vehicles to area hospitals and two others were transported by ambulance, police spokesperson Sgt. Bruce Borihanh said. Two were in critical condition and two were in stable condition, Borihanh said. The ages and genders of the victims were not immediately released.

Investigators were trying to determine if there was a party at the rental home or what type of gathering was occurring, Borihanh said.

Borihanh said police have no information on suspects. With the shooting over, the block was sectioned off as investigators scoured for evidence.

The mid-century home is in Beverly Crest, a quiet neighborhood nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains where houses are large and expensive. The property, estimated at $3 million, is on a cul-de-sac and described in online real estate platforms as modern and private with a pool and outdoor shower.

LAPD Officer Jader Chaves said the department did not know if the house had a history of noise or other party-related complaints.

The early Saturday morning shooting comes on top a massacre at a dance hall in a Los Angeles suburb last week that left 11 dead and nine wounded and shootings at two Half Moon Bay farms that left seven dead and one wounded.

Last Saturday, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran gunned down patrons at a ballroom dance hall in predominantly Asian Monterey Park, where tens of thousands attended Lunar New Year festivities earlier that evening. He drove to another dance hall but was thwarted by an employee. Many of the dead were in their 60s and 70s.

Tran later killed himself as police closed in on the van in which he sat.

On Monday, a man shot and killed four people at the mushroom farm where he worked, then drove to another farm where he had previously worked and killed three people there, authorities said. Chunli Zhao, 66, is in jail and faces murder charges in what police called a case of workplace violence.

The killings have dealt a blow to the state, which has some of the nation’s toughest firearm laws and lowest rates of gun deaths.

Click here to read the full article in the AP News

More Than a Million Undocumented Immigrants Gained Driver’s Licenses in California

On a recent night, by the Miramar Reservoir in San Diego County, a man named Erwin sat at a picnic table scrolling through dozens of texts from his wife. He read aloud her warnings about police patrolling a road near their home.

“‘There’s a lot of cops out tonight,’” he read. “Cops everywhere.’ ‘Be careful; lots of cops.’ ‘Too many cops.’ 

“Every time I want to get a burger or juice or anything like that and I leave the house, she will text me ‘There’s a lot of cops. Be careful,’” Erwin explained. “It’s a reality that we live in. We adapt our life and our every day to it.” 

Erwin, who asked not to use his last name for fear of deportation, is a 27-year old business manager, husband and father of a 6-month-old baby girl. He’s also a Congolese immigrant whose visa expired. His wife, a U.S. citizen, fears what would happen if police stop him. 

Although California is a sanctuary state — with protections for immigrants who lack documentation authorizing them to be in the United States — there are loopholes and law enforcement sometimes works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Beyond that, Erwin worries a traffic stop might escalate. “Believe me, in my country, I would never have to worry about getting pulled over and being scared that they’re going to shoot me,” he said. 

Erwin wants to swap his foreign driver’s license for a California one.

“Before I didn’t have a family, so I could risk it,” he said, “but now I have my family and I drive my kid everywhere we go. So I decided to get right and get the driver’s license, so it’s less of an issue if I get pulled over.”  

A license to drive

Erwin has made multiple attempts to obtain an AB 60 driver’s license. It’s a special license that lets undocumented California residents legally drive, but with federal limitations.

Proponents say the special license was a boon to immigrants and the state’s economy. But critics, and even some immigrant advocates, say it has drawbacks and risks, since law enforcement and immigration officials can access it. Nevertheless the state is expanding its flexibility, giving IDs  to more undocumented residents.

California lawmakers first passed AB 60, called the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act, in 2013, as part of a broad effort to adopt more inclusive policies toward immigrants, to decriminalize their daily lives and maximize their contributions to the economy, experts said. 

Since the law took effect in 2015, more than a million undocumented immigrants, out of an estimated 2 million, have received licenses, and more than 700,000 have renewed them. 

Besides California, 18 other states have followed suit. 

“With AB 60, what we did was recognize the needs of many hard-working immigrants living here and contributing so much to our great state,” said Luis Alejo, the former Assembly member from  Watsonville who authored the bill. Now he is a county supervisor for Monterey County. 

Undocumented immigrants in California contribute $3.1 billion a year in state and local taxes; nationally they contribute $11.7 billion in taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington D.C. research entity.  

New legislation signed in September will make other California ID’s available in January to undocumented immigrants who don’t drive or who can’t take the driver’s test. Backers of that measure say residents most likely to benefit are the elderly and people with disabilities. 

“IDs are needed for so many aspects of everyday life, from accessing critical health benefits, to renting an apartment,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, deputy director of programs and campaigns at the California Immigrant Policy Center, a sponsor of the law. 

Experts say more flexible ID laws may do more than help people on an individual level. Eric Figueroa, a senior manager at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said licenses enable undocumented immigrants to look for better jobs and gain better protections from employers trying to steal or withhold wages.

“It helps build the economy broadly — by unlocking people’s potential — and it helps the workers by giving them more options,” he said.

Erwin uses family connections to remotely renew his Congo license — a privilege he noted not everyone has. Being able to drive allowed his family to move to a better neighborhood and him to find better employment in a suburb about 25 miles away, he said. 

No one has studied how many people have garnered better jobs as a result of the special licenses. Alejo said many of his constituents describe “profound economic impacts,” but he agrees more research is needed. 

Some opponents of the licenses say their economic benefits are likely negligible. Instead it is encouraging illegal migration to California, they say, which further strains the state’s budget to provide education and other services. 

More than that, it makes undocumented residents too comfortable, critics argued. 

Before the special licenses, immigrants said they feared routine traffic stops and drunk-driving checkpoints, where their vehicles could be impounded for not having a driver’s license. Many also could face deportation proceedings after being contacted by police. 

“Community members used to share that they always used to have to buy beat-up cars because they always knew it would get impounded,” said Erin Tsurumoto Grassi, policy director at Alliance San Diego, a community organization focused on equity issues. 

“Folks were always losing their vehicles because they didn’t have a license. They didn’t have the ability to have a license,” she said. 

Some opponents of the special license law claimed it would make roadways less safe, because some immigrant drivers wouldn’t be able to read traffic signs in English. 

But a 2017 study by the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford University showed those safety concerns were speculative. The rate of total accidents, including fatal accidents, did not rise and the rate of hit-and-run accidents declined, which likely improved traffic safety and reduced overall costs for California drivers, researchers said. 

The study, which documented a 10% decline in hit-and-run accidents, ran in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2017. 

“Coming to this as scientists, we were immediately shocked by the absence of facts in this debate,” said Jens Hainmueller, a Stanford political science professor and co-director of the lab. “Nobody was drawing on any evidence; it was more characterized by ideology.” 

Other research by Hans Lueders, a postdoctoral research associate for the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University, found AB 60 did not improve insurance premiums nor increase the share of uninsured drivers.

Are license holders safe?

Questions persist about whether the special licenses make recipients easier targets for immigration enforcement.  

Some immigrant advocates initially opposed the new licenses because they looked different from other driver’s licenses. On the front of the cards’ upper right side is “Federal Limits Apply” instead of the iconic gold bear of California. On the back the cards say: “This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes.” 

Alejo said legislators had intended to protect people from immigration enforcement, so they wrote certain protective measures into the original AB 60 bill. They added language prohibiting state and local government agencies from using the special license to discriminate against license holders or for immigration enforcement.

Yet some advocates point to reports of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accessing the databases of state and local law enforcement agencies and of state departments of motor vehicles. 

In December 2018, the ACLU of Northern California and the National Immigration Law Center published a report detailing multiple ways federal immigration agencies get access to motor vehicle records. After that, the California Attorney General’s Office implemented new protocols to protect immigrants’ DMV information from ICE and other agencies. 

A chilling effect

Dave Maass, director of investigations at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there is always going to be a risk someone will misuse data on undocumented people.

“I wouldn’t say that people should feel 100% safe,” he said.” I would just say that the risk has been lessened quite a bit … but that does not mean the risk has totally gone away.”  

In recent years there has been a large drop-off in the number of immigrants applying for AB 60 licenses. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, 396,859 immigrants applied for the licenses in fiscal 2014-15, but only 68,426 applied in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022. 

Advocates said that may be because most people who wanted a license applied for it already,  or because education and outreach about the law have lessened over the years. 

Cheer said news of ICE accessing California databases could have a chilling effect on  immigrants’ willingness to interact with government. 

“It does create more of a trust deficit with government agencies whenever there is a story about ICE having access to California databases or information in California databases,” she said. 

Being seen

On the other hand, there’s an added benefit to the new licenses, Cheer said: immigrants now have a feeling of being included and acknowledged as residents of California. 

“I feel like that’s a very important psychological piece, in the sense of ‘This is who I am. I have an ID to show you who I am,’” she said. 

Erwin said he carefully weighed the possibility that he would be effectively giving ICE his home address against wanting to have the proper paperwork, so there would be no excuse for a police officer to escalate a traffic stop with him. He decided one risk was worth reducing the risk of the other.

For some immigrants, the passage of the license law didn’t come soon enough.

Dulce Garcia, an attorney and advocate for immigrants, recently described at a San Diego public forum on immigration enforcement what happened when police stopped her brother who was undocumented. 

Police cited Edgar Saul Garcia Cardoso for driving without a license and when he appeared in a courthouse in January 2020 to face the consequences, ICE detained and deported him, within hours, to Tijuana, she said.

There he was kidnapped, held for ransom and tortured for eight months, Garcia said. 

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

California Air Board Official Received Nearly $500K Payout Last Year When He left Agency

The former executive officer of the California Air Resources Board received almost $500,000 in added pay last year — the vast majority for unused leave — when he left the agency. That additional money helped Richard Corey more than triple his total compensation from the previous year, according to data The Sacramento Bee acquired from the State Controller’s Office. Corey worked 37 years for the board, called CARB, and was appointed executive officer in 2013. He “accrued considerable vacation, personal leave and holiday time,” agency communications official David Clergen said in an email. In 2022, he took home $623,238.

Corey did not respond to an email requesting comment. He left the agency in June. Three months later, he joined AJW, a company that advises clients on issues related to energy, the environment, and navigating government regulations. When reached by phone, an AJW representative offered to send Corey an email instead of transferring the call. It is not usual for government employees to leave their jobs with large payouts. In 2018, the state paid out nearly $300 million for banked time off, a Los Angeles Times analysis of payroll data found. The newspaper found more than 450 state workers who pulled in six-figure checks when they left their jobs that year. The value of leave is based on an employee’s salary level at the time it is cashed out, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises the Legislature on fiscal and policy issues. The analyst’s office reported the state’s total leave balance liability was $3.9 billion in 2018-2019.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee