Ferguson deja-vu for Oakland
We need to keep the focus on Michael Brown -- not the sideshow
A white police officer shoots and kills a young unarmed African-American man. Angry protesters fill the streets. By day, the crowds demanding justice are peaceful. Once the skies darken, violence breaks out. People whose anger has nothing to do with the killing use the occasion as an opportunity to unleash their own pent-up rage. They throw rocks, bottles of urine and feces at the police. Opportunists bust store windows and loot. An already tense situation escalates -- endangering more lives. The media coverage focuses on the rioting, which pulls focus from the victim and the ongoing larger issue of police brutality against African-Americans. Watching the disturbing images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, I had a sense of déjà vu. Five years ago, it was Oakland in the national spotlight after the killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer. BART police responding to a fight on a train detained Oscar Grant, 22, and a group of his friends on the Fruitvale station platform. While the officers were attempting to restrain Grant, BART officer Johannes Mehserle shot Grant in the back. Several passengers recorded the act on their cell phones. The videos were broadcast and rebroadcast on television and the Internet created outrage not just in Oakland but around the world. Hundreds of people took to the streets to demand that Mehserle be charged in the killing. Those peaceful demonstrations deteriorated into a free-for-all of looting, burning and vandalizing of downtown businesses. Police in riot gear were deployed. For two weeks after Grant's killing Oakland was sitting atop a powder keg. The tension and sometimes-violent protests continued after Mehserle was charged with murder and through the pretrial hearings. In July 2010 Mehserle was sentenced to two years in state prison for involuntary manslaughter -- a lenient sentence that angered many people. After the verdict, there were protests in Oakland that started out peacefully. But again, at night violence erupted. The challenge in Ferguson as it was in Oakland is: How do you prevent one group from wreaking havoc, while preserving the right of every citizen to practice nonviolent civil disobedience?
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“We’d like to see attempted murder"
CHP forwards videotaped freeway beating case to district attorney
A California Highway patrolman seen on videotape pummeling a homeless woman along a Los Angeles freeway may face serious criminal charges, the CHP announced Wednesday. Officer Daniel Andrew, who had worked desk duty since the beating of Marlene Pinnock on July 1 went viral, has now been sent home on paid administrative leave. “The California Highway Patrol has forwarded the results of a criminal investigation to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office outlining potentially serious charges for the officer involved,” said the CHP Southern Division, based in Glendale, in a statement. The CHP didn’t specify what it may have recommended to prosecutors, or any possible charges. “I can confirm the CHP has turned over its investigation in the Marlene Pinnock case,” said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the DA. “It’s under review. It’s our only comment.” The July 1 video ignited a firestorm of protest, as well as a civil rights lawsuit. The cellphone video shot by a passing driver on Interstate 10 near La Brea Avenue shows Officer Andrew straddling 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock, throwing punch after punch to her head. Her attorney, Caree Harper, said Wednesday said the suspension of the CHP officer and possible charges by District Attorney Jackie Lacey were long overdue.
Brown blasts CalPERS board for authorizing pay enhancement for pension purposes
A divided CalPERS board approved a regulation Wednesday that will allow nearly 100 different types of supplemental pay to count toward pension calculations for state and local government employees. The 7-5 vote drew a swift rebuke from Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed pension overhaul legislation in 2012 that, in part, attempted to crack down on pension spiking. Specifically, Brown objected to CalPERS’ allowing pension calculations to include “temporary upgrade pay” for workers who briefly fill a higher-paying position to count toward retirement. “Today CalPERS got it wrong,” Brown said in a statement released shortly after the board’s action. “This vote undermines the pension reforms enacted just two years ago. I’ve asked my staff to determine what actions can be taken to protect the integrity of the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act.” That law required pension calculations based on “the normal monthly rate of pay or base pay” of employees who become retirement system members on Jan. 1, 2013, and later. It also disallowed “ad hoc” payments included in retirement benefit calculations, a key provision intended to thwart pension spiking. Employees already in the system weren’t affected by the law and, if their employers agree, can count everything from streetlight-changing duty premiums to reimbursements paid for maintaining job-required licenses. The board’s Wednesday action interprets the law as recognizing temporary upgrade pay and 98 other supplemental pays for pension purposes for those hired since the beginning of 2013.
Plastic bag ban opponents up the ante in Sacramento
Lobbyists have launched a frenzied eleventh-hour effort to kill a bill that would make California the first state to outlaw flimsy plastic grocery bags, delaying a key vote and setting up one of the fiercest legislative battles of the year. Last week, the bill seemed in the bag after it cleared a tough committee vote. But in recent days, industry lobbyists who have squashed more than a dozen other proposed bag bans over the past few years have renewed their effort by targeting moderate Democrats. "We're going to do everything in our power to educate legislators on the facts," said Mark Daniels, a senior vice president at Hilex Poly, an East Coast company that is the largest producer of single-use plastic grocery bags in North America. Opponents led by the company have spent more than half a million dollars in lobbying fees and campaign donations, painting the proposal as a job killer. Supporters say a statewide bag ban is needed to wipe out a particularly noxious form of litter that kills marine life in the Pacific Ocean and costs Californians $25 million a year to collect and bury. The latest lobbying push helped stall an Assembly floor vote on the bill that had been scheduled for Wednesday. Three of the Assembly members being courted by the industry to vote no on the bill -- Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton; and Adam Gray, D-Merced -- received campaign contributions from Hilex Poly in 2013.
Voters not inclined to continue letting insurers jam them on rates
Strong support for California health insurance rate-regulation measure
A California initiative on the fall ballot requiring that health insurance rate changes be approved by the elected insurance commissioner is receiving strong support from voters statewide. Nearly 70 percent of registered voters back Proposition 45, while 16 percent say they would oppose it and 15 percent remain undecided ahead of the Nov. 4 election. Support came from 75 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans. Meanwhile, a separate initiative mandating random drug testing of doctors and quadrupling the state’s $250,000 limit on medical malpractice awards was out ahead by a smaller majority. Proposition 46, which also would compel doctors to consult a state drug history database before issuing certain prescriptions, is supported by 58 percent, opposed by 30 percent and has 12 percent undecided. The survey comes ahead of what are expected to be two of the most expensive and hard-fought statewide campaigns of the election cycle. Proponents of the measures include the politically influential trial attorneys and consumer groups who argue more must be done to prevent steep health insurance rate increases and to deter negligence by making doctors accountable for their medical errors.
Los Angeles Times
Cops gun down mentally ill man, then stonewall family, public
LAPD chief faces tense crowd over shooting of mentally ill man
The atmosphere in a South Los Angeles church was at times tense Tuesday night as residents and activists peppered Los Angeles police officials with questions about two officers' fatal shooting of a mentally ill man. Pictures of Ezell Ford dotted the Paradise Baptist Church, where a crowd of more than 200 people often shouted and interrupted Police Chief Charlie Beck as he tried to address concerns surrounding the investigation into Ford's death. Conflicting accounts about Ford's death have emerged. An LAPD statement, citing a preliminary investigation, said Ford tackled one of two gang officers who approached him on West 65th Street and reached for the officer's gun, prompting both officers to open fire. But a friend of Ford's family told The Times that she witnessed part of the incident and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a civil rights advocate who met with top LAPD officials last week to discuss the shooting, said that releasing the officers' names is an essential part of being transparent. "We want to know if there's a prior history of complaints or misconduct, if this officer has been written up, if this officer has been disciplined," said Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "You then determine if this is truly an isolated event, unfortunate and tragic, or if there may be a history for one or more of the officers involved." The California Supreme Court recently ruled that police departments must generally provide the names of officers involved in shootings, unless they can demonstrate there are credible threats to their safety. Police have also placed a security hold on Ford's autopsy so that coroner's officials will not publicly release information about the procedure. Beck defended that decision Tuesday, saying that details of Ford's wounds could "taint" potential witness statements. Beck told reporters that the investigation would be completed "in an accelerated manner," but he acknowledged that investigators were still trying to find witnesses to the shooting. "We certainly don't have as many as we would like," he said. An attorney for Ford's family said police have told them only that the investigation is ongoing. Steven A. Lerman said his clients are arranging for an independent autopsy, citing concerns that the LAPD will not conduct an open investigation.
Los Angeles Times
Anthem Blue Cross sued again over narrow-network health plans
Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross faces another lawsuit over switching consumers to narrow-network health plans — with limited selections of doctors — during the rollout of Obamacare. These types of complaints have already sparked an ongoing investigation by California regulators and other lawsuits seeking class-action status against Anthem and rival Blue Shield of California. A group of 33 Anthem customers filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the health insurer, which is a unit of WellPoint Inc. Anthem is California's largest for-profit health insurer and had the biggest enrollment this year in individual policies in the Covered California exchange. In the latest suit, Anthem members accuse the company of misrepresenting the size of its physician networks and the insurance benefits provided in new plans offered under the Affordable Care Act. Compounding the problem, the plaintiffs say, the company gave misleading or incorrect information, both last fall and this year, about the medical providers participating in these new plans.
Los Angeles Times
Students learn about police brutality first hand...in school
L.A. Unified school police to stop citing students for minor offenses
Michael Davis experienced firsthand the negative effects of campus discipline when he received a police citation for tardiness in middle school and later was removed from class for failing to wear the school uniform at Manual Arts High in South Los Angeles. After years of fighting for change, Michael and others Tuesday celebrated the unveiling of a groundbreaking move by Los Angeles Unified school police to stop giving citations for fighting, petty theft and other minor offenses. Students instead will be referred to counseling and other programs. "So often students are just thrown to the cops and put in handcuffs without getting to the root of their problems," said Michael, a 17-year-old senior. "This new policy is such an accomplishment and will definitely make a difference." The decisive step back from punitive law enforcement actions reflects growing research that handling minor offenses with police actions does not necessarily make campuses safer, but often push struggling students to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law. The sweeping changes in the nation's second-largest school system come after years of pressure from community groups and intensified monitoring by the federal government over discriminatory school discipline practices.
Los Angeles Times
The Secret Police: Inspector general calls security cameras at LAPD stations 'inadequate'
Security cameras at Los Angeles police stations are inadequate, with many offering only partial or no view of holding cells or other key areas -- shortcomings illustrated by the cameras' failure to completely capture a gunman's April rampage inside the West Traffic Bureau, according to an inspector general's report released Monday. Inspector Gen. Alex Bustamante will present the report to the Police Commission on Tuesday. In it, he paints a picture of a department whose security cameras inside its 21 stations are poorly maintained, with many not working at all. The report on the station cameras comes as questions are being raised about the slow pace of getting dashboard cameras into LAPD cruisers. Cars in only one of the LAPD's four bureaus have the technology. There are no cameras in police cars used to patrol the neighborhood where Ezell Ford was shot and killed by police Aug. 11, a shooting that has prompted protests and calls for an outside investigation. But Bustamante wrote that even a shooting inside a station was not properly captured on camera. He wrote that the lack of video of a shooting inside the West Traffic Division lobby that left a gunman dead and an officer injured April 10 hampered an investigation into the incident. That incident and a failure to capture an inmate's medical emergency inside a Southwest station cell prompted Bustamante to audit the department's cameras. The inmate later died. Station cameras are not routinely inspected to ensure they are working, Bustamante's report states, and officers often discover that the cameras are down only when video footage is requested. Bustamante noted that not only are the station cameras inadequately placed and maintained, but no clear policies govern their operation. The camera systems have little security, and many stations fail to restrict access to operator workstations and video archives, the report states. Log-in and password information are easily accessible. The inspector general is calling for cameras to be placed in any area where detainees are processed, such as booking stalls and holding cells.
Your silence may be admission of guilt
Those “Miranda” warnings that police read to suspects following an arrest are, as a California Supreme Court justice recently acknowledged in a dissenting opinion, a ubiquitous part of American culture thanks to TV crime dramas and cop shows. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” But following the California high court’s 4-3 ruling in a vehicular manslaughter case last Thursday, perhaps the Miranda wording ought to change given that anything you previously “didn’t say” could be used against you, as well. In People v. Tom, California’s Supreme Court justices upheld the prosecution of a man based on the district attorney’s argument that the defendant’s silence was evidence of guilt. The cop shows make these matters seem simple. A person is arrested. The officer reads the suspect the Miranda wording. Suspects can then clam up and wait for an attorney. In real life, though, these matters can become more complicated and legalistic. Last week’s decision stems from a horrific 2007 car accident in Redwood City, south of San Francisco. Richard Tom broadsided Loraine Wong’s car at a high speed, killing her 8-year old-daughter and seriously injuring her 10-year-old daughter. Tom was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter. The jury acquitted him on charges that he was driving while intoxicated. A key element of the gross-negligence charges — the allegation that Tom behaved without regard for the well-being of others — was that he never asked police officers about the condition of Wong and her children. “Do you know how many officers that he had contact with that evening?” asked the district attorney. “Not a single one said that, hey, the defendant asked me how those people were doing. Why is that? Because he knew he had done a very, very, very bad thing, and he was scared. He was scared or — either too drunk to care.”
Los Angeles Times
California lawmakers approve ethics bills in response to scandals
Eyewash reforms to little to improve ethics
The state Assembly on Monday approved a measure that would lower the gift limit to elected officials from $440 to $200 and prohibit them from accepting free entry to professional sports and entertainment events, golf tournaments, spa treatments and amusement parks. The measure by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) is in response to a series of scandals that tarnished the Legislature's image, including criminal charges filed against three Democratic state senators. The bill “seeks to bolster the public’s confidence in California elected officials,” Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) told her colleagues before they voted 66 to 0 to approve SB 1443. It now goes back to the Senate for approval of minor amendments. Two other measures addressing government misconduct were given final legislative approval Monday and sent to the governor. One targets situations in which politicians and law enforcement officials have issued honorary badges to supporters only to have the holder flash them in a way that implies they are a law enforcement official. Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) introduced SB 702, which increases the fine for impersonating a law enforcement officer from $1,000 to $2,000 and requires agencies to seize badges from those who abuse them. “They wouldn’t be able to parade it around and misuse it,” Anderson told his colleagues. The Assembly approved a measure banning school district administrators from raising campaign funds for school board members who oversee them. The bill, AB 1431, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) passed 56 to 17 and now heads to the governor’s desk.
Los Angeles Times
Brown, Kashkari agree to initial debate in governor's race
Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican challenger, Neel Kashkari, have agreed to debate Sept. 4 in Sacramento. The one-hour debate, sponsored by The Times, KQED public radio, Telemundo and the California Channel, is the only one the Democratic incumbent has accepted. The match will be a crucial opportunity for Kashkari, who remains largely unknown to many Californians and has struggled to raise enough money to introduce himself through advertising. Kashkari had sought multiple debates, even as many as 10. Brown's campaign spokesman, Dan Newman, said Monday night: "We look forward to what we hope will be a thoughtful and substantive event, and we are particularly pleased that the diverse and respected group of media hosts will make it available and accessible to virtually every interested Californian." The 7 p.m. debate will be televised live, aired on radio stations around the state and live-streamed on the Internet. Senior Editor John Myers of KQED will moderate. Other panelists will be Times Editor-at-Large Jim Newton and a journalist from Telemundo, yet to be named. Kashkari spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said the candidate's team was "glad the governor has accepted his first debate invitation and hopes he'll show the same respect to the other media outlets whose debate proposals he has ignored." Brown, who was first elected governor 40 years ago, is seeking an historic fourth term. Polls have found him running about 20 points ahead of Kashkari, who is running for office for the first time. Kashkari is a former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary who has also worked as an investment banker and aerospace engineer.
Water agencies: Delta farmers may be taking water meant for other regions
In what is believed to be a first, the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are asking the state board that oversees water rights to investigate water diversion practices by farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The two powerful water agencies say they suspect farmers are taking water released from upstream dams and intended for consumers in other regions of the state. In a July 23 letter, DWR and Reclamation ask the State Water Resources Control Board to investigate water rights in the south and central Delta to determine whether landowners are taking water that does not belong to them. The letter specifically asks the board to use new emergency powers granted by drought legislation passed earlier this year. If the board does so, water rights holders would have five days to provide information on their diversions. Delta landowners have denied the allegations and submitted several letters to the water board protesting the call for an investigation. Farmers on some 70 islands in the Delta have high-priority water rights that predate the dams and canals. These rights entitle them to divert as much water as they need to grow crops – as long as those diversions are limited to the “natural” flow in Delta channels. Known as riparian and pre-1914 water rights, they are only loosely regulated by the state and supersede even the water rights held by DWR and Reclamation. At issue in the dispute is whether Delta farmers are exceeding their rights by diverting not only natural flows, but also water that DWR and Reclamation had held in their reservoirs for delivery to their urban and agricultural water contractors.
San Francisco Chronicle
Every citizen the enemy
How local police forces got outfitted for warfare
The paramilitary hardware that police in Missouri deployed against demonstrators angered by an officer's killing of an unarmed black teenager has become commonplace in police departments in the Bay Area and around the country, thanks to billions of dollars in homeland security money and surplus military equipment that the federal government has showered on communities. Big-city police departments have long had riot gear, shields and even lightly armored vehicles to deal with unrest. What has changed in recent years is the volume of military equipment finding its way to smaller, suburban police agencies like the ones that confronted protesters last week in Ferguson, Mo. The federal programs that delivered heavy weaponry and armored vehicles to police there are the same ones that allowed the Alameda County Sheriff's Office to obtain a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter. They enabled Concord police to acquire an armored personnel carrier that the U.S. military once used in Kuwait. Officials stress that the equipment is to protect officers, not to run roughshod over civilians. Critics, however, say the influx of military equipment threatens civil liberties and is turning America into an armed camp. They point to images in Ferguson, where officers deployed assault weapons and armored vehicles - some obtained from the Pentagon's war surplus program - when confronting protesters angered by the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. "What we saw in Ferguson is not a new phenomenon, but it reflects a broader trend," said Kara Dansky, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who wrote a recent report critical of U.S. police use of military tactics and equipment. Many police agencies, she said, now rely too heavily on military equipment and tactics in poor and minority communities.
Every citizen the enemy...while pols turn a blind eye, the police have trashed to Constitution and are locking down America.
Los Angeles Times
Ban on gay blood donors is a civil rights issue, activists say
Last year, the American Medical Assn. voted to oppose the policy, calling it "discriminatory and not based on sound science." The three groups that supply nearly all of the nation's blood — the American Red Cross, AABB and America's Blood Centers — have long advocated ending the ban. Despite advances in testing, of people as well as of donated blood, the Food and Drug Administration has warned that introducing a population with a heightened risk of HIV into the pool increases the likelihood that someone who does not know he is infected will give. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that although men who have sex with men make up about 2% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. As the HIV rate was declining in other populations from 2008 to 2010, there was a 22% increase in diagnoses among gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 — of note, the FDA said, because young people are more likely to donate blood. One of the lingering consequences of this ban is that it supports the notion that only gay and bisexual men get HIV. Still, even the FDA acknowledges that the risk of contracting HIV from donated blood is low — about one case per every 2 million units. Change is possible, the FDA has said, as long as blood recipients are not placed at a higher risk of getting HIV from transfusions. Lifetime bans have been lifted in several countries, including Italy and Spain. Last year, Canada decided to allow gay men to donate after five years of abstinence.
Los Angeles Times
Legislature mulls curbs on use of aerial drones by paparazzi
When singer Miley Cyrus recently spotted a mysterious drone hovering over her Los Angeles home, she posted video of the aerial intruder on Instagram, complaining that it appeared to be a new tactic by the paparazzi. The incident, in which Cyrus was photographed in her backyard, was no surprise to Patrick J. Alach. He is legal counsel for the Paparazzi Reform Initiative, a group representing celebrities and others that has persuaded lawmakers to tighten laws governing photography of those he represents. The use of aerial drones equipped with cameras to catch celebrities at home and in other private places is "a huge concern, especially for public figures who want to have some privacy in their backyards," Alach said. A proposal pending in the Legislature would prohibit the use of aerial drones to collect video, photos and audio from celebrities and others in a way that violates their privacy rights. The concentration of entertainment-industry figures and paparazzi in California has led to other restrictions on photographers. One enacted last year made it illegal to photograph a celebrity's son or daughter without consent if it causes substantial emotional distress. But why just celebrities?
Los Angeles Times
Early jail releases have surged since California's prison realignment
Jesus Ysasaga had been arrested multiple times and ordered by the court to keep away from his ex-girlfriend. Two parole boards sentenced him to nearly a year in jail for stalking, drunkenness and battery. But the Fresno County jail would not keep him. Four times in the summer of 2012, authorities let Ysasaga go, refusing two times to even book him. The jail had no room. Ysasaga's attorney, Jerry Lowe, said the parade of convicted offenders being turned away from the jail was common. "It became quite a joke," he said. Across California, more than 13,500 inmates are being released early each month to relieve crowding in local jails — a 34% increase over the last three years. A Times investigation shows a significant shift in who is being let out of jail, how early and where. The releases spring from an effort begun in 2011 to divert low-level offenders from crowded state prisons to local jails. The move had a cascade effect, forcing local authorities to release their least dangerous inmates to make room for more serious offenders. State and local officials say that they are making every effort to ensure the releases pose little danger to the public, freeing those believed to be the least risky convicts, usually parole violators and those convicted of misdemeanors. But an analysis of jail data has found that incarceration in some counties has been curtailed or virtually eliminated for a variety of misdemeanors, including parole violations, domestic violence, child abuse, drug use and driving under the influence. In Los Angeles County, with a quarter of California's jail population, male inmates often are released after serving as little as 10% of their sentences and female prisoners after 5%. Fresno County logs show the jail is releasing criminals convicted of crimes that used to rate prison time: fraud, forgery and trafficking in stolen goods. Law enforcement officials say that criminals have been emboldened by the erratic punishment.
Los Angeles Times
Hollywood elites get more tax credits - but none for you
California poised to hike film tax credits
Moving to slow the exodus of filming to other states and countries, California lawmakers are poised to quadruple tax subsidies for location shooting to $400 million a year. Legislation approved on a 5-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday also would eliminate a controversial system in which film and TV productions won tax credits based on a lottery system, regardless of the economic effect of the production. The bill, AB 1839, must still be approved by the full Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. But legislative backers say they are confident the measure will clear all remaining hurdles, saying there is widespread recognition that California is losing one of its signature homegrown industries to other states. Most states now offer lucrative incentives for filming, awardinig about $1.5 billion in film-related tax credits, rebates and grants in 2012, up from $2 million a decade ago. "To halt that steady outward march of jobs and creativity, California must have a robust, smart, and efficient tax incentive program of our own — a tax incentive program that guarantees job growth and economic expansion, coupled with strong accountability and transparency measures," said Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Los Angeles Times
L.A. schools to parents F-off!
LAUSD says it's not subject to state's 'parent trigger' law
A controversial state law permitting parents to petition for sweeping changes in failing schools cannot be used this year in Los Angeles Unified, district officials decided. In a letter from a district lawyer to former state Sen. Gloria Romero obtained by The Times on Thursday, officials said the school system is not subject to the "parent trigger" law because it obtained a waiver last year from federal educational requirements that are linked to it. Instead, L.A. Unified has joined with eight other California school districts to create their own changes and systems to monitor progress, the letter said. Romero, who authored the 2010 law, said she was stunned by the district's position, which was laid out in a letter Wednesday from Kathleen Collins, L.A. Unified's chief administrative law and litigation counsel. "I am livid about this," Romero said. "I believe it violates the spirit and intent of parent empowerment."
Los Angeles Times
Every Citizen The Enemy
LAPD officers execute mentally ill man, then spin self-defense story
Residents and community activists are demanding answers after the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man by Los Angeles police officers on Monday night. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said Wednesday he has asked for a meeting with Police Chief Charlie Beck after he saw media reports about the shooting. On Wednesday, LAPD released a detailed narrative of the confrontation, alleging that the man tackled one officer and went for his gun before police opened fire. Ford was handcuffed -- as is routine in such shootings, according to the LAPD -- and paramedics were called to the scene. He died later at a hospital. But some who lived in the area questioned the police account. A friend of Ford’s family told The Times that she witnessed part of the incident and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford. Dorene Henderson, 57, said she had crossed the street in front of Ford when she heard someone yell, “Get down, get down.” Henderson said one officer was out of the car when she heard a gunshot. She said neighbors began yelling at the officers, “He’s got mental problems.” Henderson said she saw the other officer get out of the driver’s side of the police car, and that she then heard two more shots. A man interviewed by KTLA-TV said Ford was complying with officers or had been subdued at the time of the shooting.
Water bond headed to voters
California voters will be asked to authorize $7.5 billion to bolster the state’s water supply, infrastructure and ecosystems in November, as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday struck a long-sought deal to move a new water bond to the ballot. Lawmakers moved to replace an $11.1 billion previously slated for the ballot, convinced that voters would reject it. Instead, voters will see a $7.5 billion measure that contains significantly less money for Delta restoration. The final sum represents a compromise both from Republicans, who called for $3 billion for surface storage projects, and from Brown, who sought an overall total closer to $6 billion. Surrounded by beaming lawmakers, Brown signed the necessary legislation shortly after 9 p.m. While money for storage and the Delta occupied a central place in negotiations, the bond would also allocate billions to provide clean drinking water to thirsty communities, guard against floods and treat or reuse water.
Parents say no to high school porn...
Fremont school district delays adopting controversial health book
The use of a health textbook some deemed inappropriate for students was delayed Wednesday night, giving school district leaders time to consult the book's publisher over its chapters on sexual education. The Fremont Unified school board held off on adopting "Your Health Today" after parents complained that its presentation of frank sexual topics was unfit for teaching ninth-grade students. Instead, the five member board voted 3-2 to work with the publisher to makes changes to the book, creating a high school edition that will be age-appropriate for 14-year-olds. District employees will to bring a report on those changes back to the school board by next January. Meantime, Fremont instructors temporarily will use last year's health textbooks for instruction. The board vote followed more than three hours of debate amid dozens of speakers and a feisty, standing-room-only audience of 250 people. The majority of the nearly 60 speakers said they opposed using "Your Health Today" and objected to chapters that discuss prostitution, bondage, pornography and other frank sexual education topics.
Can we mandate our way to prosperity?
The fate of a high-profile bill that would require all of California’s nonunion businesses to provide paid sick leave to their employees remains uncertain until later this week, but there’s little question that this type of bill that mandates new benefits is becoming more common as progressive legislators gain traction in the Capitol. In support of AB 1522, its author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, argues that “Taking unpaid sick time leaves workers vulnerable to losing their jobs in an economy with a stubbornly high long-term unemployment rate.” A person who takes three unpaid days off loses the equivalent of a month’s worth of groceries, she added. That’s no doubt true. Working fewer days leads to lower pay — and that’s especially problematic for lower-income workers. But the broader policy question is whether state-imposed mandates are the proper way to give people the higher incomes that they want. In its letter to legislators, the California Chamber of Commerce points to the aftermath of a paid-leave law that went into effect in Connecticut in 2012. Of 156 businesses that were surveyed, about two-thirds of them detailed various benefits they cut to compensate for the extra costs. Most of the businesses said they would cut back on hiring and some even laid off workers.
Los Angeles Times
L.A. leaders condemn citizens to five more years of police brutality
L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck reappointed to second five-year term
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck won a second term in office Tuesday. In the run-up to the vote, Beck endured a rocky evaluation process. He faced questions about his record of disciplining officers, the accuracy of crime statistics, a lack of transparency, and his role in department business involving his daughter, who is a Los Angeles Police Department officer. Getting reappointed was "much more difficult than I anticipated," he said after the civilian Police Commission's 4-1 vote. "Just like anything that is difficult, it builds character. Just like anything that is difficult, it teaches lessons. And believe me, I learned lessons." Beck said he and his top officials needed to do more to be "transparent beyond reproach. We have to make sure that everything we do builds that bank of trust with this city." Mayor Eric Garcetti, who appointed the commissioners, made clear in recent weeks that he wanted Beck, 61, to remain. As such, the outcome had been widely expected.
Los Angeles Times
LAPD fatally shoots man; family calls it unjustified
Family says South L.A. man was complying with officers when he was shot in the back
An unidentified person shot Monday night by a Los Angeles police officer in the Florence neighborhood has died, authorities said Tuesday. An officer with the Los Angeles Police Department's Newton Division conducted "an investigative stop" in the 200 block of West 65th Street about 8:20 p.m. Monday, according to a LAPD news release. During the stop, a "struggle ensued" and the officer shot the person. LAPD media relations officer Jane Kim said no other information was available, including the victim's identity or why the officer approached him or her. But family members of the man killed told a different story to KTLA News. The station interviewed a woman who said she was the deceased man’s mother. She identified him as Ezell Ford and said he was lying on the ground complying with officer's commands when he was shot in the back. “My heart is so heavy,” Tritobia Ford told the station. “My son was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did." "All we want to know is why they did it," Ezell Ford Sr. told the station.
Cops harass citizens, citizens protest, cops shoot them
Man wounded in second LAPD-involved shooting in just over 24 hours
A male suspect was hospitalized in stable condition today after an officer-involved shooting in Jefferson Park, police said. The suspect was shot by a narcotics officer, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Daniel Ellerson. It happened near the intersection of 30th Avenue and West 9th Street around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, added LAPD Officer Jane Kim. “It was a narcotics incident that involved an officer-involved shooting,” Ellerson said. Witnesses said the suspect was shot twice in the upper torso, a news videographer reported from the scene. It was the second officer-involved shooting of a suspect by an LAPD officer in slightly more than 24 hours. A male pedestrian was shot and killed in the 200 block of West 65th Street near Broadway around 8:20 p.m. Monday in a confrontation that developed when an officer tried to question him.
LAPD stops man for questioning in Los Angeles, shoots and kills him
Police officers who stopped a man walking along a South Los Angeles street shot and killed him during a struggle, police said Tuesday. The man’s identity was not immediately available, and police did not have information on whether he was armed. The shooting occurred about 8:20 p.m. Monday on West 65th Street between Broadway and Main Street when Los Angeles Police Department Newton Division officers tried to stop the man for questioning, said Officer Sally Madera of the agency’s media relations office. Why the officers wanted to speak with him was unknown. Police described the contact as an “investigative stop.” During the stop, the man struggled with officers and was shot, Madera said. He later died at a hospital.
CalPERS board member facing another FPPC fine
A CalPERS board member is facing another fine from the state’s political watchdog agency, this time for failure to file campaign finance statements on time. Priya Mathur, vice president of the CalPERS governing board, has agreed to a $1,000 fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission, according to FPPC documents. The fine is expected to be approved at the commission’s Aug. 21 meeting. The FPPC said Mathur, who joined the CalPERS board in 2003, failed to file four campaign finance statements on time in connection with her bid for re-election. She is facing Leyne Milstein, the city of Sacramento’s finance director, in a mail-in campaign. The balloting runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 29. Mathur was fined $6,000 in 2006 because she was late in filing her conflict-of-interest statements and a pair of campaign documents. The FPPC fined her a combined $7,000 in two separate cases in spring 2010 for similar lapses. After the second fine in 2010, the board of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System punished Mathur by removing her as chair of the pension fund’s health benefits committee and temporarily banned her from traveling on CalPERS business. After the board voted to punish her, Mathur said: “This will not happen again.” The punishment came as CalPERS was tightening its ethics policies amid a bribery scandal involving Fred Buenrostro, its former chief executive. Buenrostro recently pleaded guilty in connection with that case and is awaiting sentencing.
San Francisco Chronicle
Quan campaign puts mayor on ethical hot seat
The campaign to re-elect Oakland Mayor Jean Quan sent letters to city employees at their official city e-mail accounts on Tuesday, informing them of political events and linking them to the mayor's re-election site, which solicits campaign donations. The move, ethics experts say, is improper not only because it involves the use of city resources such as e-mail addresses to publicize campaign events, but because employees who received the letters may feel that their jobs could be at risk if they do not participate in the mayor's re-election activities. "Obviously, sending out (campaign material) to employees using city e-mail addresses is completely inappropriate," said Bob Stern, a veteran political expert who for decades served as president of the California Center for Governmental Studies. "You just don't do something like that," Stern said, not because "city employees will resent it," but because "headlines could result, and it will backfire." For that reason, he said, most elected officials steer clear of any campaign contact with employees at their official work e-mail addresses.
San Francisco Chronicle
Hetch Hetchy water tunnel in danger of 'catastrophic collapse'
San Francisco plans another assault on Yosemite to get more water
Mountain Tunnel, a key part of the Hetch Hetchy water system - which supplies 2.6 million Bay Area residences and businesses - is at risk of a "catastrophic collapse" and will cost more than $100 million to repair or up to $630 million to replace, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. City officials have known for 25 years that significant work is needed on the 19-mile-long tunnel just outside Yosemite National Park in a steep, hard-to-access wilderness area. They considered making it part of the PUC's decade-old, $4.6 billion water system improvement program, which is now more than 80 percent complete. But ultimately, the 89-year-old connector was left out of the rebuild, which focused on upgrading Bay Area water facilities that could fail in an earthquake. PUC officials say that the program gave priority to infrastructure on the three major Bay Area fault lines whose failure could shut off the water supply, such as the Calaveras Dam near Fremont - and that the tunnel, as well as other "upcountry" projects, didn't pose enough of a seismic risk to be included. Now, the PUC is grappling with whether to shore up the Mountain Tunnel, which would require shutting it down for two months at a time for up to 10 years, or go the far more expensive but arguably more reliable route of building a new tunnel. The issue has taken on more urgency since the January release of a report that laid out the options and recommended building a new tunnel.
Shoot first ask questions later police tactics cost innocent Stockton woman her life
Police gunfire killed Stockton hostage used as human shield
More than three weeks after a violent bank robbery and chase left one victim dead and shook the Stockton region, police confirmed Monday that hostage Misty Holt-Singh was killed by police gunfire that struck her repeatedly while she was being used as a human shield. The 41-year-old mother of two, who had stopped into a Bank of the West branch to get cash for a hair appointment July 16, was struck by about 10 bullets during the shootout between police and the robbery suspects, all of them from police weapons, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said in a somber news conference Monday afternoon. The victim died “from gunshots fired by police officers as they confronted bank robbers who used her as a human shield,” Jones told reporters in videotaped remarks that were posted on the department’s website. Jones met with Holt-Singh’s husband, Paul, over the weekend to inform him of the department’s findings and to tell him they would be publicly announced Monday, department spokesman Joseph Silva said. With questions being raised about the tactics police used in responding to the incident, Los Angeles attorney Greg Bentley, a friend of the victim’s family, has requested that authorities provide information about what happened the day Holt-Singh was killed. He said in a statement Monday that the family was concerned by Jones’ disclosures.
Los Angeles Times
Environmental rules are for you to obey, not for the wealthy and well connected
California may waive environmental rules for Tesla battery factory
The state would exempt Tesla Motors Inc. from some of its toughest environmental regulations as part of an incentive package being discussed with the automaker to build a massive battery factory in California, a key state senator said. “It would help them speed the process,” Sen. Ted Gaines said after a Friday meeting with Tesla officials at the company's Palo Alto headquarters and assembly line in Fremont, east of San Francisco. The plan being negotiated in the office of Gov. Jerry Brown could grant the automaker waivers for significant portions of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act, Gaines said. The proposal is alarming some environmentalists. The governor's pitch also includes a number of tax breaks for Tesla that could be worth as much as $500 million, or about 10% of the project's total cost, said Gaines, a Republican representing the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin. He and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), are the coauthors of a proposed Tesla incentive bill that would put the package of incentives into law. The Brown administration is hustling to compete with four other states — Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — for what Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk calls his “gigafactory.” Musk has described California as a “long shot” for snagging the proposed plant. Tesla says the plant, which will make batteries for a new, moderately priced model, is expected to cost $5 billion and employ 6,500 workers.
Los Angeles Times
LAPD watchdog to launch broad inquiry into misclassified crime stats
The Los Angeles Police Department's civilian watchdog said Monday he would launch a broad inquiry into the accuracy of the agency's crime statistics after a Times investigation revealed that the LAPD understated violent crime in the city. Inspector General Alex Bustamante said he planned to expand on The Times' review, which focused on a recent one-year period, and that he would conduct an examination of multiple years of data to determine whether declines in crime in Los Angeles were as dramatic as reported by the department. The Times reported Sunday that the LAPD had misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses during the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2013. Nearly all were aggravated assaults. Had the crimes been recorded correctly, the official figure for aggravated assaults would have been almost 14% higher than the LAPD reported. The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher. The misclassified crimes included hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies. In one case, two men choked and beat a neighbor with a metal bar until he lost consciousness. In another, a man stabbed his wife in the face with a screwdriver and threw her down a flight of stairs. Both cases were recorded as minor assaults.
Los Angeles Times
California Supreme Court blocks Citizens United measure from ballot
The California Supreme Court on Monday halted state action on a non-binding ballot measure seeking voter opinion about a landmark U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decision known as Citizens United, a move supporters and opponents agree will remove the measure from the November ballot. The court ordered Secretary of State Debra Bowen to hold off placing the measure on the ballot pending court review. The measure, which asks Californians if Congress should overturn the landmark U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decision, would have no binding legal effect, even if approved by the voters. Opponents argued the measure is not valid because it would not change state law. Justices asked for additional briefings on the matter on Sept. 10. In the meantime, the secretary of state's office has directed staff to remove the measure, designated as Proposition 49, from voter information guides, which go into production this week.
San Francisco Chronicle
California Legislature passes 'kill switch' cell phone bill
California would become the first state in the country to require "kill switches" on smartphones that prompt consumers to activate the antitheft technology under a bill passed by the state Legislature on Monday and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. The increasing number of smartphone thefts in California prompted the bill by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who said consumers would have more control over their personal information if their device is lost or stolen. The antitheft technology, often referred to as a "kill switch," allows the owner of a smartphone to remotely render it inoperable, which law enforcement officials said would deter thieves who target the devices. SB962 has been one of the more high-profile and intensely lobbied bills in the Legislature this year, however, in recent months, many of the bill's opponents have quieted. Major cell phone manufacturers such as Apple and Microsoft removed their opposition. "This is the first bill of its kind in the country," Leno said. "I think as any number of issues here in California, when we act it becomes the de facto way business is done across the country. Minnesota passed a bill before ours, but it's opt-in. That will not make it a universal deterrent." Under Leno's bill, beginning in July 2015, consumers would be prompted during the initial set up of a new cell phone to enable the kill switch. If a consumer chooses to accept all default settings, the kill switch would automatically be enabled.
'The Jungle': No major sweep of homeless camp, but San Jose plans changes
Robert Aguirre discovered a notice from the city attached to a tree stump near his tent last Friday. A city cleanup was coming. Anyone living in the notorious encampment known as "The Jungle" had to remove their property by 7 a.m. Monday, or face criminal prosecution. "If they want to get us out of here, they need to give us a place to go," said Aguirre, 60. "If not here, then where?" As it turned out, no large-scale cleanup materialized Monday at the South Bay's largest homeless encampment. A city official conceded that there was miscommunication, and that workers only will be removing trash sometime this week from the opposite side of Coyote Creek, where there are only a few tents. But sweeping out The Jungle clearly is on the city's radar. The intense scrutiny illustrates the complexity and challenge the city is facing as it tries to rein in a sprawling encampment that has drawn national attention because it is near the heart of wealthy Silicon Valley. Officials resolutely say that encampments like The Jungle are unfit for human habitation, can be dens for criminal activity and are destroying the environment.
Los Angeles Times
LAPD cooking the books - crime much worse than statistics show
The LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies. The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD's published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the department's performance. Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults. If those incidents had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14% higher than the official figure. The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher. Numbers-based strategies have come to dominate policing in Los Angeles and other cities. However, flawed statistics leave police and the public with an incomplete picture of crime in the city. Unreliable figures can undermine efforts to map crime and deploy officers where they will make the most difference.
San Francisco Chronicle
California lawmakers struggle to agree on lower-cost water bond
State lawmakers have until Monday night to revise the $11 billion water bond that will appear on the November statewide ballot, but have thus far been unable to agree on a lower spending amount. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to drop the bond to $6 billion, while state lawmakers are throwing out other amounts ranging from $7 billion to $10 billion. Most everyone agrees the current $11 billion proposal is "pork-filled" with billions for nonessential programs. State voter guides listing ballot measures are scheduled to go to the printer Monday night, making that the deadline to remove the water bond currently on the ballot, according to the secretary of state's office. Lawmakers can extend the deadline for changing the water bond on the ballot if they approve printing a second voter guide at a cost of several million dollars. But first, any new water bond would need to clear significant hurdles to win widespread support from legislators and Brown.
Los Angeles Times
California not following recommendation on parole agent caseloads
When the man who held Jaycee Dugard captive for 18 years was arrested, it became clear authorities had missed multiple opportunities to free her. A state investigation placed that blame partly on the heavy workloads of the parole agents who were supposed to keep track of the kidnapper, a registered sex offender. And a blue-ribbon panel recommended that the number of cases agents supervise be cut dramatically. Yet interviews and records show that years later, agents in California continue to watch over twice as many offenders as the task force deemed was safe — and many of their caseloads exceed the state's own limits.
Los Angeles Times
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in the hot seat over horse deal
Chief Charlie Beck did in fact sign off on the LAPD's purchase of his daughter's horse, a document shows
Days before a vote on whether he receives a second five-year term, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is being buffeted by the unlikeliest of controversies—the department's acquisition of a horse belonging to his daughter. The latest twist came Wednesday with a signed document obtained by The Times that showed Beck had approved the deal after repeatedly insisting he had no role in the transaction. The imbroglio stems from the LAPD's purchase earlier this year of George, a 10-year-old quarter horse, for its equestrian unit for $6,000 — a price department officials said was a bargain. Police commissioners said they approved the deal without knowing the horse was owned by Brandi Pearson, Beck's daughter and an officer with the department. Though Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said earlier this week he had nothing to do with the LAPD's $6,000 purchase of a horse from his daughter, he signed a form approving the deal. The horse purchase is the latest of several issues that Beck has confronted in recent months as the civilian police commission decides whether he should be awarded another term in office.
UC doesn't want your kids
Last spring, representatives from the University of California, Davis, made 20 trips to China to encourage admitted students to accept their offer to study in the United States. The director of admissions at UC Santa Cruz met one young man in New Delhi, India, who had traveled hundreds of miles to make the case that he belonged at the coastal university thousands of miles from his home. Overseas students interested in UC Riverside can request a Skype appointment with one of six international admissions counselors. Pushed to look for alternative sources of revenue amid the deep budget cuts of the economic recession, schools in the UC system increasingly are recruiting nonresident applicants, who likely will make up a fifth of all freshman for fall 2014. Even as state funding has begun to recover, campuses rely on substantial additional fees paid by out-of-state and international students who have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars for the university system in recent years.
Candidates use politics to become 'czars'
Legislation and initiative would vest new powers in state offices
Two prominent California politicians are using their current political powers to advance political changes — in one case a bill, in another an initiative — that would give them vast new powers if they win statewide office in November. Critics find it tacky at best. In one case, Sen. Alex Padilla, the Los Angeles Democrat who is running for secretary of state, is the principal coauthor on a bill (AB 280) that would require any local redistricting plans to be approved by the secretary of state. It would provide more than $2 million annually to that office. In the other case, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who is running for a second term, has been a prime supporter of a trial-attorney-backed initiative (Proposition 45) that would allow the insurance commissioner to control health-insurance rates, turning him into the de facto “insurance czar.” His support of the initiative is so deep that legislators have questioned him about it at a Capitol hearing. The Padilla-backed bill is part of a package of bills by California’s legislative Latino Caucus to address a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year (Shelby v. Holder) that removes the requirement that federal officials “pre-clear” any changes to certain state and local voting laws. That requirement was part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which applied mostly to Southern states, but also to a handful of California counties that had been accused of discrimination. One Padilla-backed bill would mandate outside legal review of any California localities that create district-based elections to make sure that the new districts are not discriminating against minority voters. And now this one would restore the type of “pre-clearance” requirements stripped by the Supreme Court — and place it in the hands of the secretary of state rather than the attorney general. He would get to approve or deny the new local districts. If he beats Republican Pete Peterson for the state’s top election office, this could give Padilla “the power to be the redistricting czar in California,” said Alan Clayton, a longtime redistricting expert who has worked to expand Latino representation. (AB 280 is on the suspense file, but could come back before the end of session.) Regarding the insurance commissioner: If Proposition 45 passes, it would pay consumer/legal groups known as “intervenors” large legal fees to challenge rate adjustments proposed by insurers, in an administrative process that can take months or years to resolve. The result, according to a report produced by opponents of the proposition, “would severely disrupt Covered California’s ability to manage the newly reformed marketplace.” That initiative is pitting trial-lawyer-backed Democrats such as Jones against Democrats who are big backers of Obamacare.
Distraught mother asked officers to find her son and deliver him to a mental health facility
Instead they gunned him down in the street
As they set out in search of Army veteran Parminder Singh Shergill on a Saturday morning in late January, Lodi police officers Scott Bratton and Adam Lockie had several concerns, according to newly released court documents. They told investigators they felt certain that, as a military man, Shergill was trained in the use of firearms and other weapons. They said they knew from his family that he had screamed and pushed his mother before leaving home in an agitated state. They were aware that Shergill, 43, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, and likely was off his medications. All of those issues were on their minds as they confronted Shergill in a park around the corner from his mother’s home on Elderica Way, the veteran officers said in documents released Friday. So when Shergill turned and “charged” them with a knife, Bratton and Lockie said, they feared for their safety and the safety of Shergill’s family. They killed him in a barrage of 14 bullets that struck him in the abdomen, chest, arm, legs, jaw and back, according to an autopsy report included in the court documents. The two officers recounted the dramatic scene in separate statements to a Lodi police detective and a San Joaquin County District Attorney investigator hours after the shooting. Two witnesses recounted the scene differently, according to the documents released Friday. They told the same two investigators that they did not see a knife in Shergill’s hands, and that they never saw him “charge” the officers. Their statements are part of a voluminous file of information being gathered in the aftermath of Shergill’s death. The shooting has spurred investigations by multiple agencies, and a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Lodi and its Police Department. Shergill’s death also has prompted questions and concern in Lodi’s sizable Sikh community, of which Shergill’s relatives are members. Mark Merin, the Sacramento lawyer representing the family in the lawsuit, fought Lodi in court for public disclosure of information related to the case. On Friday a federal magistrate judge rejected the city’s efforts to keep the documents confidential, allowing Merin to release them to The Sacramento Bee. Bratton, a corporal and 14-year veteran of the Police Department, paused to gather his emotions several times during his interview with investigators, according to the documents.
Barton Thompson and Janny Choy
California's invisible reservoirs
In this land of little rain, we cannot afford to ignore the vast groundwater storage capacity that nature has provided
Imagine if California discovered a natural reservoir that could hold as much water as all the existing reservoirs in the state. Such a reservoir would allow Californians to store even more water in wet periods and help the state outlast the type of drought currently plaguing us (which is not over despite some recent splashes of monsoonal moisture). In fact, California has more than 500 natural reservoirs in its underground aquifers, whose total storage capacity dwarfs that of the state's surface reservoirs. Surface reservoirs in California can hold about 50 million acre feet of water. In comparison, the state's aquifers have a combined capacity of about 850 million to 1.3 billion acre-feet. As this drought drags on, calls are growing to enlarge existing reservoirs or build new ones. Storage will become even more important in the face of climate change if our snowpack shrinks and droughts grow more frequent and longer. Although new surface storage will sometimes be beneficial, cost and environmental impacts frequently will preclude this option. California needs to give greater attention to the cheaper but less visible option of storing water under our very feet. Groundwater storage is not a panacea. Recharging groundwater, which often involves spreading water in surface ponds and letting it percolate down to the aquifer, is much slower than adding water to surface reservoirs. Extracting water from aquifers is also slower and requires significant amounts of energy. On balance, however, the advantages of groundwater storage are enormous.
Smart phone kill switch bill passes Assembly
Republicans side with cell phone thieves
Moving to quash an increasingly common source of crime, the California Assembly on Thursday approved legislation requiring new smartphones to have disabling “kill switches.” Senate Bill 962 has pitted law enforcement groups citing a surge of smartphone thefts against phone manufacturers. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office sponsored the bill, saying the kill switch – which essentially transforms phones into useless bricks – deters would-be thieves who eagerly swipe and resell the sophisticated phones. Major companies like Verizon, AT&T, Microsoft and Google called the bill redundant, arguing that customers can easily obtain software rendering their phones inoperable. With those dynamics framing the debate, the bill initially fell short in the Senate. But Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, accepted amendments that push back the bill’s timeline – it now wouldn’t apply to new phones until mid-2015 – and exempt tablets. On the second attempt, the Senate passed the bill on a largely party-line vote. The bill now returns to the Senate for a vote on amendments, after which it would go to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.
Doug Ose’s county park project a work in progress
Despite paying only $1 a year in rent, Ose's park deal still a money loser
When budget constraints forced the closure of Gibson Ranch Park in Sacramento County four years ago, Doug Ose, a land developer long back from a stint in Congress, applied to run the facility as a private operator. The issue, he said at the time, was that the park needed to generate more money to help pay for itself. “If you strip down to the basics of the problems at Gibson Ranch, we don’t have enough revenues,” Ose said. Since Ose took over in April 2011, the regional park has been open daily, welcomed about 250,000 visitors and served as the backdrop for scores of birthdays, weddings, family reunions and a popular Civil War re-enactment. Now seeking to replace Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and return to Congress, Ose regularly trumpets the experience when ticking through his qualifications for office. The public-private partnership is prominently featured on his campaign website. Earlier this year, he told college students at UC Davis, that “not a single dime” of taxpayer money has gone toward operating the roughly 325-acre ranch in Elverta. Ose, however, has yet to break even on the investment, despite his stated intention to make money on the deal. His efforts have drawn mixed reviews and raised questions about whether the model could be replicated. Gibson Ranch collects revenue from a $5 vehicle entry fee, concessions and horse boarding. It offers horseback riding, fishing, camping, concerts and playing surfaces for athletic leagues. In 2013, annual revenue totaled $385,311, but expenses were $451,331, leaving it with a loss of $66,020, according to county records. Between 2011 and 2013, the cumulative net loss stood at $151,638. Bill Davis, a member of the Save the American River Association, said he began monitoring Gibson Ranch because of its potential impact on the American River Parkway. Davis said he suspects making the ranch self-sustaining would be a challenge. Ose, a Republican who served three terms in Congress until 2005, faced persistent criticism after approaching the county to run the facility. Some didn’t like the idea of the ranch being operated by a private, for-profit outfit. Under the 10-year lease, Ose is to pay a base rent of $1 annually, plus a cut for the county should it become profitable.
Los Angeles Times
New charges filed against ex-CalPERS official in corruption case...all of his crooked politcal pals are off the hook
A federal grand jury Thursday handed down new and expanded corruption charges against investment deal "placement agent" Alfred J.R. Villalobos, a central figure in the 2009 influence-peddling scandal that rocked the country's largest public pension fund. The new indictment, superseding one last month, accuses the former board member of the California Public Employees' Retirement System and former deputy mayor of Los Angeles of conspiring with and bribing CalPERS' then-chief executive to close a $3-billion deal with a Wall Street private equity firm. Villalobos, 64, of Reno, also is accused of defrauding the United States, engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, said Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco. Villalobos, who could not be reached late Thursday, has maintained that he committed no wrongdoing while he brokered investment commitments between the Sacramento pension fund and Wall Street firms. He has not entered a plea on the new charges. But a hearing on his case is set for Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Los Angeles Times
LAPD corruption runs in the family...
Sergeant's daughter faces prison for trying to conceal fatal crash
A Los Angeles police sergeant's daughter faces two years in prison for trying to cover up a fatal hit-and-run collision with a bicyclist in Gardena, officials said. Vanessa Marie Yanez, 23, pleaded no contest Wednesday to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and perjury -- all of them felonies, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. She is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25 to two years in state prison, prosecutors said. Yanez struck 60-year-old Jesse Dotson Jr. on June 26 last year as she was driving east on El Segundo Boulevard in Gardena and fled the scene, police said. The collision occurred a few blocks from Yanez’s home. The next morning, she reported her vehicle stolen to the Huntington Park Police Department. But a Huntington Park police officer saw news reports of the collision and alerted Gardena police to Yanez’s possible connection, officials said.
Davis Police Department’s armored truck drives a wedge between community and policing
Don’t call the military surplus armored vehicle that the Davis Police Department brought home earlier this month a tank. Sure, it has a gun turret, but it is a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle. That distinction means little to people alarmed that a mammoth sand-colored battle machine that appears to have come straight from Fallujah recently arrived in the leafy liberal town of Davis. What on earth could police need with an armored vehicle here?
Are superintendents closing loophole or stopping competition?
When the Legislature isn’t trying to solve outside problems — e.g., reversing climate change or calling for the Washington Redskins to change names — it often meddles in local affairs by passing bills that target specific situations in a legislator’s district.
Prison population drops, but local jails become overcrowded
Under heavy pressure from federal courts to relieve prison overcrowding, but unwilling – for political reasons – to directly release inmates, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature devised realignment. From Brown’s standpoint, it’s worked brilliantly. Capitol politicians must acknowledge realignment’s real-world impact and address chaos in local jails that forces jailers to decide who goes and who stays.
Sneakiness abounds in final days of legislative session
When schoolchildren visit the Capitol, they often receive sheets of paper purporting to describe how a legislative bill becomes law. The final days of any biennial session are a case study in what really happens, or doesn’t happen, and bear little relationship to that sheet of paper. Apologists for the system say that it’s the only way important work can be done, that if bills must go through hearings, waiting periods and other procedures it will give opponents too much time to react. Well, yes. That’s called representative democracy.
Los Angeles Times
Ferguson, Mo., and L.A.: Two police shootings, one common thread
Even if it turns out that policy and procedure were scrupulously followed in the Ford shooting, it is hard to believe that police cannot refine their encounters with unarmed citizens to avoid the use of deadly force — and to avoid reopening wounds that have barely begun to heal here and remain raw elsewhere.
State Supreme Court got it right in knocking advisory measure off ballot
The state Supreme Court – or at least five of its members – got it right by declaring that an advisory measure on campaign finance placed on the Nov. 4 ballot by the Legislature is legally suspect and should be removed.
Last-moment bond won't fix water issue
“You know why there are so many whitefish in the Yellowstone River?” asked Montana-based landscape artist Russell Chatham, in his 1978 book. “Because the Fish and Game people have never done anything to help them.” I keep that quotation in mind whenever the government promises to solve a problem, especially a big one that promises to tame nature.
Time to fix California's whack crack laws
In California, if you are convicted of possessing 14.25 grams of crack cocaine for sale, you are not eligible for probation. Yet if you get busted with the exact same amount of powder cocaine, you are.
New water bond may be close, but it’s not fully cooked yet
Chances are that sometime Wednesday the Legislature will place a new water bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. But it’s not certain, because as of late Tuesday, not all Democratic legislators had signed onto a $7.2 billion plan and it still lacked votes it needs from Republicans even if all Democrats were aboard.
Martins Beach reflects Californians' choice to protect coastal access
Martins Beach owner Vinod Khosla has made a series of wild charges against the California Coastal Commission, including coercion and unfair treatment. Khosla purchased a property near Half Moon Bay that has had a long and obvious use by the public. He then closed the road historically used by the public to access the beach. But under the Coastal Act of 1976, closing the road requires a development permit, and Khosla's failure to apply for one is a violation of the law.
Los Angeles Times
Think requiring porn actors to use condoms has made their lives safer? Think again
Nearly two years ago, Los Angeles County voters passed Measure B, a controversial ballot proposal requiring adult film actors to use condoms when performing sex scenes. The law was presented to voters as a public health measure designed to prevent workers in the so-called porn capital of the world from contracting and spreading HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. But there's no evidence that the law has had its intended effect. Instead, many adult film production companies have moved their shoots outside of the county — and in some cases, out of the state or country. Others have stopped filing for county film permits and have reportedly continued to shoot without complying with the condom mandate. In all, the number of permits issued to adult films in L.A. County dropped 90% in 2013 after Measure B went into effect, and there is no indication that porn stars are any safer today than they were two years ago.
Los Angeles Times
California should catch up with the feds on cocaine prison sentencing
California, like the rest of the nation, is slowly rousing itself after a generation-long binge of harsh and unthinking criminal sentences, especially for nonviolent crimes such as drug possession and sale. There is also an emerging understanding of the interplay between the war on drugs, the tough-on-crime movement and race.
Kamala Harris stays on message, which means she bobs and weaves
Attorney General Kamala Harris will not lose re-election in November, and shouldn’t. She is an engaging speaker and an agile thinker. An ascending star and a Friend of Barack, she has ready access to all the big Democratic money people in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and nationally. Harris also can bob and weave with the very best.
As clock ticks, chances for water bond fade
With just three weeks remaining in this year’s legislative session and the official deadline for placing issues on the Nov. 4 ballot long since passed, one might think that the Capitol’s politicians would be working night and day to write a new water bond. But if they are, it sure isn’t noticeable.
Legislature ducking debate on big fuel price hike
When the Legislature adjourns this month, it will likely leave Assembly Bill 69 still sitting in the Senate Rules Committee, thereby avoiding an election-year debate on whether California motorists should cough up billions of extra dollars when they buy gas. If the Air Resources Board has its way, that will occur in January. The money that refiners will be paying the state for automotive emissions will translate into higher costs for motorists already paying some of the nation’s highest fuel prices.
California's solar energy subsidy program has gone awry and needs to be completely overhauled
It's no secret to anyone that California wants to lead the world in renewable energy. It is an admirable goal. However like most things Sacramento legislators concoct, the unintended consequences often outweigh the merits of the original idea. California Solar Tax Credit program has become a shameful display of crony capitalism that has in all too many cases become the hallmark of Sacramento. (Editor's note: Been ripped-off by a solar installer? We want to hear your story! E-mail: email@example.com.)
Ventura ruling halts pension-reform plan
Statewide movement must regroup
Rhode Island’s state treasurer has famously said that efforts to reform pensions for public employees is not about politics, but about math. Yet in California — despite well-publicized debt and municipal insolvency problems caused by pensions’ “math” problems – reformers can’t find a course around political and legal obstacles.
Democrats choose tobacco money over public health
Democrats took tobacco industry money as lawmakers killed numerous anti-tobacco bills, including one to ban smoking in apartments. Lawmakers also have failed to seriously regulate e-cigarettes and vaping. It might be too much to ask that lawmakers consider additional tobacco regulation, and an increased tax in the final four weeks of the legislative session.
Bridge report depicts Caltrans secrecy
The bulk of the report’s recommendations involve matters of transparency
Doesn’t the public have a reason to be concerned when a project ends up costing more than four times the initial estimate? Or when a government agency’s lack of transparency keeps potential problems from receiving proper scrutiny? Or when a contractor was essentially rewarded for its failures by being given extra money to speed things up — even though its own mistakes may have led to the slowdowns? Or when the project is completed so late?
Drought ramps up pressure on Legislature to write water bond
The water squeeze is on. A few sprinkles fell on the Capitol Monday as the Legislature reconvened, but they didn’t relieve either a severe drought or pressure on members to respond. Having procrastinated for years, politicians now may have no more than a week to fashion a new water bond for the Nov. 4 ballot to replace one that many fear is doomed because of its size – $11.1 billion – and obviously gratuitous pork.
Homeless stunt illuminates serious issue
Critics of GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari chided him for his latest campaign effort — a week-long stint as a homeless man. The wealthy financier took a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno, where he looked for work and survived with only 40 bucks in his pocket and no place to sleep other than parks and underpasses. Anyone critical of Kashkari ought to think about what other politicians were doing and saying recently. Gov. Jerry Brown was in Mexico, where he issued dire warnings: “We can see how some are fearful of children walking across the border. What will they think when millions of people are driven north from the parched landscapes of a world degraded by intensifying climate change?” With Brown away, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Darrell Steinberg out of state, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins was “acting governor.” Atkins issued a statement about her pride in ascending to that spot while supporters tweeted about her being the state’s first openly gay governor. Meanwhile, GOP lieutenant governor candidate Ron Nehring was in an Israeli bomb shelter as part of a “solidarity” trip. Governors and lieutenant governors don’t make foreign policy and acting governors don’t do much of anything. So Kashkari, who used the stunt to produce a 10-minute campaign video, was, arguably, the only one who illuminated a legitimate California policy matter. Sure, Kashkari’s pretend-homeless effort probably won’t jump-start a needed statewide debate about economic issues. But good for him for trying. And it’s hard to argue that this was the oddest political gimmick of the summer.
Why porn and condoms don't mix
Los Angeles voters committed some bad public policy in 2012 when they approved Measure B, which mandated the use of condoms in any adult film shot in the county. Now, state lawmakers are prepared to double down on that misadventure and spread the mandate to all of California. At first blush, the requirement seems sensible. Who could oppose safe sex? But the effort to require condom use in adult films is misdirected — the porn business isn't the hub of AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, asking people to wear condoms is one thing; having the government order it and enforce it is another. And, most important, it doesn't work. Measure B is taking a fairly safe business and pushing it underground, outside Los Angeles and quite possibly into places that don't honor protocols put into place to protect adult film actors, which require that every performer be tested every two weeks for sexually transmitted diseases and cleared for work only if the test is negative.
Los Angeles Times
Time for oversight of the Sheriff's Department
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is in much the same place as the LAPD was a decade and a half ago. Suspects suffer unwarranted beatings and abuse under the watch of approving, or at least uncaring, top brass. Mutual antagonism colors the relationship between deputies and many of the communities they serve. Taxpayer money that could be spent on more amenities for the county's 10 million residents goes instead to settle civil-rights and use-of-force lawsuits. City voters began the process of reforming the Police Department in 1992 when they did away with the chief's virtual lifetime lock on his job and, importantly, gave stronger and more meaningful oversight to the civilian Police Commission. They also created the Office of Inspector General, to ferret out problems in the department and bring them to the attention of the commission, not merely the chief or the mayor. Still, there remained a certain sluggishness in the move toward reform until the Rampart scandal brought a consent decree and federal court oversight, a new police chief embraced reform and, over time, much of the old guard of officers was replaced by recruits whose training and leadership were geared toward professional, community-based and constitutional policing. The missing ingredient so far is a commission to serve as the eyes and ears of the public, including voters, who retain the final say over the sheriff.
Peevey the crook: PUC president's unethical behavior laid bare
We knew Michael Peevey was PG&E's biggest ally in fending off accountability for the deadly San Bruno explosion. We knew the president of the California Public Utility Commission placed his cozy relationship with the utility above any responsibility to the public. We've been calling for his head for three years. But now, thanks to the Public Records Act, there's proof of where Peevey's loyalty lies.
Los Angeles Times
Gov. Brown knows better than to let lobbyists pay for his Mexico trip
Having the trip financed by business interests seeking to curry favor is a bad idea
Gov. Jerry Brown is on a four-day trip to Mexico City to talk to government officials there about trade and immigration issues. That's a reasonable thing for a California governor to do. Brown is not traveling alone: Nine administration officials and 15 legislators (some using campaign funds) are with him. That's probably reasonable too. But then there are also 88 business executives and lobbyists on the trip, each of whom has paid $5,000 to cover his or her costs, as well as those of the governor and his administrators. That's not so reasonable.
Neel Kashkari Lets His Rainbow Flag Fly
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson and perhaps even George Deukmejian didn't really care if same-sex couples won the right to marry, not that they'd let their Republican base in on that before their first elections as California governors. So give Irvine's Neel Kashkari, the GOP nominee squaring off against Jerry Brown in November, credit for freely flying his rainbow flag. Yes, Gipper lovers, that wasn't Mr. Clean waving to the crowd while walking in San Diego's 40th LGBT Pride Parade on July 19. It was Kashkari who--correct me if I'm wrong--would be the first California Republican nominee for governor to do such a thing.
An obscure state agency creates big money problems
Spur-of-the-moment decrees and a lack of long-range planning created a mess that will hurt workers and employers, undermine California’s emergence from recession, and give government another black eye.
Indicted California senators insult voters by collecting salary
Another day, another superseding indictment and another insult to the California electorate.
Contra Costa Times
Time to step back and compromise on Chevron refinery upgrades
Five years after a judge halted work on Chevron's modernization project at its Richmond refinery because of inadequate environmental review, a divided City Council is poised to vote night on a scaled-back alternative. More work has gone into preparation of this plan and the analysis of its effects. But the gap between environmentalists and the oil company remains. Chevron should take a holistic approach. Furthermore, the company should look for opportunities to reduce pollution locally before mitigating environmental effects with improvements elsewhere. When Chevron officials say "trust us," they forget that we once did.
Political activists increasingly turn to courts for their causes
The passage of Proposition 13 – California’s landmark property tax limit – in 1978 marked a major, even radical, change in how the state makes public policy. Ballot measures, some from the political right and some from the left, proliferated during the ensuing decades as the Capitol’s policymaking role diminished. The governor and the Legislature became subsidiary and reactive to what was happening in the initiative arena, even to the point that politicians themselves began using the ballot. That syndrome hit a high – or low – point in 2005 when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, declaring it to be a “year of reform,” tried, but failed, to win voter approval for four far-reaching ballot measures. Ever since then, the number and scope of ballot measures have declined. Only occasionally, most notably with the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in 2008, have ballot measures represented major policy issues. More often, they have been relatively narrow efforts by specific interest groups. If ballot measures filled the vacuum created by legislative dysfunction in the decades since 1978, what now is filling the void that their fading presence leaves? The courts.
Raoul Lowery Contreras
Ethnic political hacks snub their own
In 2012, Marine Col. Rocky Chavez, a former acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs under Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Jerry Brown (D) and elected Oceanside city councilman, was overwhelmingly elected to the State Assembly, having carried every precinct in the district. He was and is totally issue-oriented. He finds much common ground with others who share his concerns about education and immigration and joined several bipartisan efforts in the Assembly on a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform, on allowing an illegal alien to practice law and other efforts found lacking in general Republican support. When he arrived in the state capitol, he mentioned to Democratic colleagues that he would like to be involved in the Latino Legislative Caucus so he could work with its members on bipartisan issues. He never heard back from the group.
For bullet train, hopeful headlines but old trouble
Backers of the bullet train have been shouting “all aboard” again, trying to encourage a rush of support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s $68 billion project to link the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas at 200 mph. Their fans in the California Legislature pushed through a plan to use cap-and-trade revenue, meant to combat greenhouse-gas emissions, to help fund the high-speed-rail project. Saying that cap-and-trade will provide just the sort of stable funding stream that makes the bullet train viable, they were able to wangle murmurs of interest from private investors from the United States and Europe, winning some positive headlines. And while all of this was going on, they made a move to build political support here in L.A. County by floating a plan to move up construction of a segment between Burbank and Palmdale. So, amid these small indications that the bullet train is heading in the right direction, is it time to jump on board No. We recommend staying in the station — and keeping a close eye on your valuables.
Brown’s appointees will nudge state Supreme Court leftward
The U.S. Supreme Court has undergone very obvious ideological cycles – depending on who happened to be in the White House when vacancies occurred. Currently, the court has what might be called a 4-4-1 lineup, with four conservatives appointed by Republican presidents, four liberals appointed by Democrats and one GOP-appointed swing vote in Sacramento’s Anthony Kennedy. California’s Supreme Court, arguably the nation’s most influential state court, has been no less prone to such swings. And with two appointments already and at least one more coming during his second governorship, Jerry Brown may be nudging it leftward – albeit not as far as his father Pat Brown did, nor as far as Brown 1.0 attempted to do.
Citizen cellphone videos help monitor police
A California Highway Patrol officer straddles a woman near an exit ramp on Interstate 10 in Los Angeles. He is punching her in the face -- pummeling her like a boxer while she writhes on her back, trying to fend off the blows. Chances are we would have never known anything about this July 1 incident, which has now been all over the news, were it not for the fact that a man named David Diaz happened to be driving by moments earlier. Diaz, who was in a car with three other people, stopped when he saw a CHP officer attempting to arrest a woman walking on the freeway. He turned on his cellphone and captured the officer as he started punching the woman in full view of passers-by. Diaz uploaded the video to YouTube. It went viral. You can't watch the clip of the beating -- the relentlessness of the blows -- and not be sickened. "This is a grown man punching to the point where she could have died out there," Diaz later told KNBC 4. Oakland attorney John Burris is a member of the legal team representing Marlene Pinnock, 51, who has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the CHP. Burris, who represented Rodney King and Oscar Grant's family in civil suits where citizen video of police actions played a major role, said Diaz's cellphone video will be a key piece of evidence. Regardless of what may have occurred in the moments before the beating, Burris says, "The video shows that he (the officer) was throwing punch after punch at her while she was in a subservient position." The video is exhibit A for why citizens should have a right to videotape the police going about their official duties in public places. Given the value of citizen-produced video in helping to hold police officers accountable, the right to videotape the police is worth fighting for.
Shootout for Los Angeles County board may be most interesting race
In an otherwise lackluster campaign season, California’s most interesting political duel may be one for a rare vacancy on the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. It’s interesting because a supervisor’s seat in a county that’s more populous (10 million-plus) than all but eight states is a powerful political prize. And it’s interesting because of the two candidates who survived the June primary. A few decades ago, when all members were white men, the board was known colloquially as the “five little kings.” It’s more diverse these days, and its five seats have been carefully apportioned by the board itself – one African American seat, one Latino seat, one Jewish seat (all Democratic) and two Republican seats. Latino activists believe that with half of the county’s population, they should have another seat.
State Fair shows California’s youthful talent, but for how long?
When you get past stands selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs and ignore booths peddling the latest kitchen gadgets, not to mention seemingly dozens of liquor purveyors, there are a couple of spots at the State Fair that should bolster your faith in California’s future. One is in the fairgrounds’ southeastern corner, where hundreds of youngsters from 4-H and Future Farmers clubs tend their livestock. The other is across the fairgrounds in a block of concrete exhibit buildings, where machines, instruments and other devices, designed and built by students enrolled in what used to be called “vocational education,” are on display. The exhibits would be impressive were they the handiwork of adult professionals. The designs are clever, the workmanship is precise, and the time students devote to their projects is immense. These are the kids who will design, build and maintain our houses, our cars, our electronic devices and the other products we will use later in the century, and in doing so will keep California’s economy functioning – maybe.
Los Angeles Times
Punished for saving water
Talk about mixed messages: While Gov. Jerry Brown is warning that California faces its worst drought since record-keeping began and regulators have approved fines of up to $500 for wasting water, some Southern California cities are continuing to issue warnings and citations to residents who let their lawns go brown. It's tone deaf and irresponsible to preach conservation and then slap people with penalties when they actually conserve water.
Democrats place pointless advisory measure on ballot, but why?
The Legislature’s Democrats voted to place an advisory measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, asking voters whether Congress should pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s highly controversial ruling removing barriers on corporate contributions in federal campaigns. This week, Gov. Jerry Brown allowed the measure, Senate Bill 1272, to become law without his signature. It’s a dicey situation in several respects.
Overwatering is a crime – except for state’s biggest water user
California hasn’t quite come to threatening unrepentant water wasters with time in the big house. But emergency rules adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board Tuesday do take the state a lot closer to criminalizing the squandering of a precious resource. It’s an unpleasant but necessary measure. As a study by UC Davis makes clear, the ongoing drought hurts the state’s economy. It’s a pain that trickles down to all of us, even those already doing their part to cut back. But it is frustrating that agriculture has been let off the hook. It’s unfair to put the entire conservation onus on residents, who have done so much. In fact, the ag industry has put an even greater burden on the state’s dwindling water supplies by overdrafting groundwater to sustain water-sucking permanent crops like almonds and growing alfalfa for export. Many water-conscious farmers have adopted voluntary conservation measures and should be commended, but they are the exceptions.
State has done two big deals with Leon Black, and both resulted in scandal
Two state agencies have done multibillion-dollar deals with high-flying investment banker Leon Black, and both have resulted in scandals, two decades apart. Black was a top aide to junk bond king Michael Milken in floating billions of dollars of high-interest corporate debt during the 1980s, but survived the legal bloodbath that sent Milken to prison. After Milken’s 1989 downfall, Black struck out on his own, and soon signed up some French investors seeking to purchase a multibillion-dollar portfolio of junk bonds held by Executive Life Insurance that Black had helped assemble. In 1991, just weeks after becoming California’s first elected insurance commissioner, John Garamendi seized Executive Life, contending that its junk bond portfolio was too risky to support payments to more than 300,000 retirees and annuitants.
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