OC Educator Pensions Average $50,000 in 2010-11

From the OC Register:

Retired Orange County public school educators received an average $50,079 annual pension last year, even as nearly one in eight supplemented their pay by taking temporary jobs in California schools, according to a Register analysis of state retirement data.

The most recent figures from the California State Teachers Retirement System continue to fuel debate among experts and the public over whether the nation’s largest teacher pension fund is sustainable in the long term, and to what extent it should be overhauled.

“It’s a big debate,” said Ed Mendel, founder of Calpensions.com, a blog that tracks pension reform in California.

“If you’re a defender of public pensions, you tend to think we must tighten our belt, but we can handle it through bargaining. You have other people saying we need to make major changes and move toward 401(k) plans like in the private sector.”

Retired public school teachers make up most of the people in the system, although school district and community college administrators also are included. O.C. pensions in 2010-11 ranged from $277,376 for a retired community college chancellor, to workers who earned less than $1,000.

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Romney’s Rise Challenges Tea Party’s Clout in GOP

From the SJ Mercury:

Mitt Romney’s early success in the Republican presidential race is challenging the tea party’s clout. Will it continue to pull the GOP sharply right? Will it slowly fade? Or merge with mainstream Republican elements in a nod to pragmatism, something it’s hardly known for?

On the surface, Romney’s strength seems at odds with the tea party’s fiery success in ousting Republicans seen as compromisers, and in making the House GOP caucus more ideological, even when its leaders plead for flexibility.

Romney defends the government’s 2008 bank bailouts, plus the mandated health insurance he initiated as Massachusetts governor. He says he can work with “good Democrats.” Although he later changed, Romney once supported abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.

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Herman Cain and the Death of the Political Pro

From Pajamas Media:

Karl Rove doesn’t think Herman Cain stands a chance of being POTUS. Bush’s number one consigliere said as much on Fox Thursday night.

But is he right? I sure don’t know, but I certainly have a suspicion why Karl thinks what he does. The Herman Cain candidacy is a direct threat to his occupation. Rove — arguably the reigning monarch of political pros — went on to register his disapproval that Cain was wandering around Godforsaken places like Tennessee flogging his book, when anyserious candidate should be pressing the flesh where it counts — to wit, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Worse yet, the candidate isn’t raising any money (or not enough to have flashing neon signs that say “9…9…9…” like Burma-Shave along every highway in America — not that we have to be reminded).

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It’s Politics: Regional Think Tank Victim of Recession

From the SGV Tribune:

After nearly 30 years, the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies will shutter its doors.

Leaders of the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, which focuses on California and local politics but has expanded its scope in recent years, cited financial reasons in a statement last week.

“The recession has depleted our funding, and we cannot continue to operate CGS in its present form,” the statement said.

Founder and president Bob Stern, an oft-cited expert for this newspaper, will continue his work as a consultant, public speaker and political commentator.

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Silicon Valley Can No Longer Save California — Or the US

From New Geography:

Even before Steve Jobs crashed the scene in late 1970s, California’s technology industry had already outpaced the entire world, creating the greatest collection of information companies anywhere. It was in this fertile suburban soil that Apple — and so many other innovative companies — took root.

Now this soil is showing signs of exhaustion, with Jobs’ death symbolizing the end of the state’s high-tech heroic age.

“Steve’s passing really makes you think how much the Valley has changed,” says Leslie Parks, former head of economic development for the city of San Jose, Silicon Valley’s largest city. “The Apple II was produced here and depended on what was unique here. In those days, we were the technology food chain from conception to product. Now we only dominate the top of the chain.”

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Wall Street is Occupied with Worries Too

From the LA Times:
As anti-Wall Street protests crop up around the nation, many of the bankers and traders at the center of the storm are focused on a more immediate concern: keeping their jobs.

The financial industry shed 8,000 jobs in September, and 10,000 more are expected to be cut by the end of 2012. JPMorgan Chase posted a 13% drop in revenue this week, and next week mighty Goldman Sachs Group is widely expected to say it lost money for the first time since the financial crisis.

The woes the industry is facing now are in contrast to the success it experienced after the financial crisis — a success that helped stir up the current protests.

The anxiety rippling through banks and trading floors has generated some unexpected Wall Street sympathy for the protesters. Elliott Roman, a trader who works near the demonstrations, said that on his way home, in his suit and tie, he had a friendly exchange with a protester who asked him to join the movement.

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Feinstein Estimates Embezzlement Loss at $4.7M

From the Sac Bee:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s re-election campaign estimated on Friday that she is missing nearly $4.7 million because of unauthorized disbursements by her former campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee.

The campaign filed its first report with the Federal Election Commission since Durkee’s arrest last month, providing the first official glimpse of the potential financial toll on candidates who employed the longtime Democratic campaign treasurer.

Feinstein’s campaign reported that it has nearly $6 million in the bank, but that’s mostly due to a $5 million loan Feinstein injected into the account after the embezzlement case broke. The campaign believed it had nearly $5.2 million in an account with First California Bank going into July, but that account is now showing only $662,100.

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Energy Secretary Steven Chu to be Grilled on Solyndra Loan

From the SF Chronicle:

Republicans and Democrats agreed Friday to call Energy Secretary Steven Chu to testify on the $528 million federal loan guarantee to bankrupt Fremont solar energy company Solyndra, even as one California Republican worried aloud that the UC Berkeley physicist and Nobel laureate may be headed for a fall.

Testifying at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel, two Treasury officials, one a 28-year veteran, said they had never seen the government put private investors ahead of taxpayers in the kind of loan restructuring the Energy Department gave to Solyndra last spring.

The Energy Department softened the terms of the loan and let private investors, who were ponying up an additional $75 million, move in front of taxpayers for repayment in the event of a default.

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Redistricting Referendum Timeline Tight… or Impossible?

From KQED News:

California’s top elections official belives there won’t be enough time for a court-appointed panel — if one is chosen — to redraw the state’s political maps for the 2012 elections.

That’s the gist of a legal filing by Secretary of State Debra Bowen in the California Supreme Court fight over the maps drawn by the state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission. And it highlights not only a simmering debate over how to interpret the language of 2010’s Proposition 20, but the long and bitter history of redistricting fights in California.

There are two redistricting lawsuits pending before the California Supreme Court: one against the new state Senate map and one against the new congressional map. Referendum measures have also been filed against the two sets of maps, although reports suggest that only the effort to nix the Senate maps has any real chance of making the 2012 ballot.

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Threat to State Workers’ Pension Perk Causes Rush at CalPERS

From the Sac Bee:

California government employees, fearing that lawmakers may soon shut down a controversial program that boosts their retirement payouts, have flooded the state’s largest pension system with inquiries and requests to purchase the benefit.

More than 12,000 members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System asked for price estimates to buy additional retirement service credit – sometimes called “airtime” – during the fiscal year that ended June 30. That was up 23 percent from 2009-10.

The trend continued this year, with roughly 1,000 workers making airtime cost requests in July and again in August, according to Cal-PERS.

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