San Francisco Chronicle
Indian artifact treasure trove paved over for Marin County homes
No artifacts were saved but Bay Area elites got their fancy houses
A treasure trove of Coast Miwok life dating back 4,500 years - older than King Tut's tomb - was discovered in Marin County and then destroyed to make way for multimillion-dollar homes. The American Indian burial ground and village site, so rich in history that it was dubbed the "grandfather midden," was examined and categorized under a shroud of secrecy before construction began this month on the $55 million Rose Lane development in Larkspur. The 300-foot-long site contained 600 human burials, tools, musical instruments, harpoon tips, spears and throwing sticks from a time long before the introduction of the bow and arrow. The bones of grizzly and black bears were also found, along with a ceremonial California condor burial. "This was a site of considerable archaeological value," said Dwight Simons, a consulting archaeologist who analyzed 7,200 bones, including the largest collection of bear bones ever found in a prehistoric site in the Bay Area. "My estimate of bones and fragments in the entire site was easily over a million, and probably more than that. It was staggering." All of it, including stone tools and idols apparently created for trade with other tribes, was removed, reburied in an undisclosed location on site and apparently graded over, destroying the geologic record and ending any chance of future study, archaeologists said. Not a single artifact was saved. "It should have been protected," said Jelmer Eerkens, a professor of archaeology at UC Davis who visited the site as a guest scholar. "The developers have the right to develop their land, but at least the information contained in the site should have been protected and samples should have been saved so that they could be studied in the future."
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|Los Angeles Times
New map could refocus state's pollution battles
Graphic maps prove that in California if you're poor, you're screwed
The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a statewide list of census tracts most burdened by pollution, providing a first-of-its-kind ranking certain to pressure regulators to clean up neighborhoods with long-standing health risks. Many of the worst pollution pockets identified and mapped by state officials are in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire. Their residents are largely low-income Latinos who have had little power to force improvements in their communities. By providing the public with an objective accounting of conditions in areas as small as a few thousand residents, Cal/EPA has created a powerful tool to spur regulators to act in highly polluted neighborhoods, state officials and environmental activists say. "It is a major breakthrough that will give us a better opportunity to direct or redirect precious resources to the communities that need it the most," said state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). De León wrote a 2012 law that requires the state to spend 25% of the auction proceeds from California's greenhouse gas-cutting cap-and-trade program to benefit disadvantaged communities that face disproportionate effects from pollution and climate change. The screening tool, called CalEnviroScreen, was developed by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, a branch of Cal/EPA, to pinpoint the communities with the highest exposure and vulnerability to multiple environmental hazards, including polluted air and water, waste facilities and contaminated soil. The rankings, however, are not based only on measures of environmental exposure. They also take into account socioeconomic characteristics and health data on residents to assess the overall vulnerability of communities. Those factors include poverty, education, unemployment, rates of asthma and low-birth-weight infants.
Police state pols don't care how you voted
Sacramento County supervisors vote to ban outdoor marijuana gardens
Sacramento County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to ban outdoor marijuana crops, joining a growing number of California cities and counties that have prohibited cultivation in response to safety and nuisance complaints. Sheriff Scott Jones told supervisors that marijuana plants have increased throughout the county because of a lack of clarity in federal and state laws and inconsistent prosecution. County aides and law enforcement showed numerous aerial photos of reported grow sites, including open space near Rio Linda High School and the Cherry Island Soccer Complex. “We’ve seen a profusion – an explosion – of marijuana grows,” Jones said. The new restrictions would apply to unincorporated Sacramento County and likely take effect in mid-June. The city of Sacramento already bans outdoor cultivation in residential areas, while Elk Grove prohibits all outdoor marijuana growth. The board in 2011 effectively banned medical marijuana dispensaries after as many as 99 such establishments had opened in the unincorporated county.
Bay Area elites claim more water from the unwashed masses
East Bay to tap Sacramento River water
The East Bay Municipal Utility District this month will begin diverting water from the Sacramento River for the first time ever, a clear sign that the drought is literally causing ripples across the state. The district’s board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to begin tapping its water supplies from the Freeport Regional Water Project on the Sacramento River, which it helped build in partnership with Sacramento County at a cost of nearly $1 billion. The district has not used the diversion since it was completed in 2010. The district, which serves 1.3 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, normally gets most of its water from its own reservoir and pipeline system on the Mokelumne River. To stretch this supply, it has called on customers this winter to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 10 percent. The Freeport diversion is a large complex of fish screens, pumps and pipelines in Sacramento, north of the town of Freeport along the Sacramento River. Completion in 2010 marked the end of a decades-long water war in the Sacramento region.
Another GOP cartoon character
El Dorado County supervisor has ‘trouble following laws’
After months of public vitriol, El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting went on trial Tuesday on charges of felony malfeasance as a state prosecutor depicted him as a dishonest figure with “trouble following laws” routinely honored by other elected officials. Nutting, 54, has been charged with four felonies in connection with failing to properly disclose more than $70,000 in state income for brush clearing and other fire prevention work on his family’s 340-acre ranch in Somerset. The prosecution’s case is based on its interpretation of thousands of pages of documents that jurors in the Placerville trial will have to wade through in coming weeks. But beyond the minutiae of the documents and opening testimony Tuesday from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials, the case is focusing a lens on the divisive politics of El Dorado County.
Los Angeles Times
Docs on the take...are our doctors as crooked as our cops?
UC OKs paying surgeon $10 million in whistleblower-retaliation case
University of California regents agreed to pay $10 million to the former chairman of UCLA's orthopedic surgery department, who had alleged that the well-known medical school allowed doctors to take industry payments that may have compromised patient care. The settlement reached Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court came just before closing arguments were due to begin in a whistleblower-retaliation case brought by Dr. Robert Pedowitz, 54, a surgeon who was recruited to UCLA in 2009 to run the orthopedic surgery department. In 2012, the surgeon sued UCLA, the UC regents, fellow surgeons and senior university officials, alleging they failed to act on his complaints about widespread conflicts of interest and later retaliated against him for speaking up. UCLA denied Pedowitz's allegations, and officials said they found no wrongdoing by faculty and no evidence that patient care was jeopardized. But the UC system paid him anyway. As department chairman, Pedowitz testified, he became concerned about colleagues who had financial ties to medical-device makers or other companies that could unduly influence their care of patients or taint important medical research. He also alleged that UCLA looked the other way because the university stood to benefit financially from the success of medical products or drugs developed by its doctors.
Global climate change overshadows success in cleaning up Los Angeles’ smog
Forty-four years ago today during the first Earth Day, skywriting planes inscribed the word “air” across the rust-colored skies of Los Angeles. Protesters and lawmakers came together in a miraculous kind of Kumbaya moment to solve the problem of L.A.’s dirty air that was damaging our lungs and lowering property values. Today, more than four decades and hundreds of advancements and regulations later, scientists, lawmakers and officeholders can say they got the message. The air in Southern California has greatly improved since Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes launched the first-ever national rally aimed at healing Earth’s ills. As millions around the world celebrate what is labeled the biggest secular holiday, Earth Day, local leaders say the successes since 1970 are many, but the problems — particularly the 800-pound gorilla of global climate change — have grown into a daunting challenge. Some say stopping climate change, for example, is impossible and that adapting is the next step. The comparison of fighting air pollution — something easily seen — with battling carbon emissions that produce incremental climate changes over decades formed the topic du jour this Earth Day among L.A. area leaders.
Orange County Register
Pols, energy companies and enviros screw consumers...again
Closing San Onofre could cost ratepayers $3.3 billion
Consumer watchdog groups plan to fight a proposed settlement over the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant that could cost utility users in South Orange County and San Diego more than $3.3 billion. The proposed settlement, which would have consumers pay $3.3 billion of a potential $4.7 billion bill for the already closed San Onofre nuclear plant, was announced March 27 by San Onofre’s owners, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and a consumer group, The Utility Reform Network, among others. But in recent days other consumer groups, such as Citizens Oversight in San Diego and San Clemente Green, have come out describing the deal as unfair to rate payers. Their formal objections could be heard in PUC hearings as soon as June. Under terms announced in March, consumers would pay in the form of higher utility bills, possibly over the next decade. Starting in February 2012, rate payers in parts of San Diego and much of south Orange County started paying for the long-term shutdown of San Onofre, and the settlement proposed in March would extend that through the early 2020s.
Crooked cops in San Jose? They apply the law to everyone but themselves
San Jose police just about stop investigating one another for bad behavior
Even as community complaints against San Jose police officers rise, cops have almost entirely stopped the practice of tipping off their superiors to misbehaving colleagues -- resulting in far fewer officers being punished. New figures from Chief Larry Esquivel show that compared to a few years ago, the department last year launched 83 percent fewer investigations into police department employees based on evidence submitted by fellow officers. Those complaints are key in helping San Jose determine whether an officer needs to be disciplined or trained, yet last year only 1 percent of the police force was investigated based on allegations from their colleagues. "It's very troubling, and I hope that the chief would have an explanation for this at next week's meeting" when the City Council discusses the new figures, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen said. From 2009 to 2012, four to six police employees per year were fired after officer-initiated investigations. But no one was terminated last year.
Los Angeles County child protection system in ‘state of emergency,’ panel says
Warning Los Angeles County’s safety net for abused and neglected children is in a “state of emergency,” a panel of experts will urge the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to make drastic changes to its child protection system, including creating a new agency with the sole mission of directing deputy sheriffs, social workers, doctors and support staff in a unified effort to rescue children. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection issued its final recommendations over the weekend. The panel was formed after eight-year-old Palmdale boy Gabriel Fernandez was tortured to death, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend, when social workers repeatedly dismissed warnings that he was being beaten at home. The 10-member commission is led by former county Department of Children and Family Services director David Sanders and includes Marilyn Flynn, dean of the USC School of Social Work, retired judges Terry Friedman and Dickran Tevrizian, Alliance for Children’s Rights founding member Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and L.A. Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott, who has supervised 4,000 criminal investigations of child abuse and sexual assault. Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich had co-authored the motion to create the commission. Ridley-Thomas called the final report “a roadmap to reform.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Wasted hippies trash San Francisco park once again
Mountains of trash rise after San Francisco's 4/20 pot party
After the masses departed and the smoke cleared, workers descended Monday on Golden Gate Park to bag up and truck away all that was left behind by those who celebrated the pot holiday of 4/20 - an annual event that again tested the patience of some residents and city leaders. While thousands enjoyed Sunday's informal smoke-out, police arrested 11 people around Sharon Meadow, and paramedics tended to four others. Traffic in the area was jammed all day. And officials estimated the cleanup cost would exceed last year's tab. Last year, Recreation and Park Department employees and volunteers were overwhelmed by the heaps of trash left by the hordes of marijuana lovers. To get a jump on the cleanup this year, a crew of about 20 people were out Sunday night picking up broken glass, cardboard and piles of barbecue coals burnt into Sharon Meadow and Hippie Hill. Park officials estimated last year's cleanup cost about $10,000. Because 4/20 happened on a weekend day again this year - the 2013 event fell on a Saturday - officials said cleanup costs could go higher. Next year, April 20 falls on a Monday. After threatening to shut down the 4/20 party last year, Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes Golden Gate Park, said last week that she wouldn't be a "buzzkill or judge anybody's recreational activity" as long as everyone was safe and respectful. On Monday, she said the city had been better prepared to handle the crowds and trash. All that preparation, though, came at a price, with the cleanup bill in addition to overtime policing and other costs to the city.
Los Angeles Times
Air quality police to consider another relaxation of diesel rules
California air quality officials are again moving to relax tough rules to clean up aging diesel trucks that are among the state's worst remaining sources of air pollution. The changes being considered this week by the state Air Resources Board come in response to pressure from small trucking firms and owner-operators, required to install costly diesel particulate filters or upgrade to cleaner models for the first time this year, who have pleaded for more time to comply. "We're all struggling," said Allen Forsyth of Los Angeles, who operates a three-truck fleet that hauls local freight near LAX. "I used everything I had to buy a 2012 truck. But I'm absolutely broke now." The proposal would push back deadlines by a few years for small fleets, lightly used trucks and those in rural areas with cleaner air, and offer other adjustments to assist truck owners. Officials say the changes would slow, but not sacrifice, the state's progress on air quality and achieve 93% of pollution cuts envisioned through 2023. Environmentalists and other clean-air advocates have urged the board to limit amendments to the regulation and preserve what they call the single biggest step California has taken to reduce health risks from air pollution. "We're asking them to hold the line," said Diane Bailey, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Cops, docs want to impose their brand of morality on Califonria
Can Sacramento break the medpot deadlock?
California lawmakers continue to struggle over regulating medical marijuana, nearly 20 years after state voters defied federal law and permitted patients with a doctor’s prescription to use the illegal drug to ease chronic pain, anxiety and depression. The latest battle in the Capitol centers around a renewed push this week by cities and police for legislation to impose tighter controls on the entire industry, from the growing fields to the doctor’s office to the corner shop. Resistance is coming in from doctors, who see it as state meddling in medicine, and from those who favor more lenient limits. Proposed state regulations have been contentious ever since voters in 1996 approved the nation’s first “Compassionate Use Act.” Proposition 215 allows ill people to use marijuana with a physician recommendation. Seven years later, lawmakers passed legislation allowing patients and primary caregivers to grow small amounts for personal use. That measure also launched the identification card for those in need. But it’s widely agreed that enforcement has been haphazard. Dispensaries in some areas have sprung up like corner Starbucks. Doctor recommendations are readily dispensed. And many patients have only trust when it comes to knowing exactly what the marijuana is and at what strength. California’s medical marijuana industry “is out of control. It is in chaos and it may be corrupt,” warned Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, one of those urging lawmakers to crack down.
Leftist's food co-op spurns union carpenters
Union points a ‘Grim’ finger at Sacramento’s Co-op
The Grim Reaper has a message for you: The people who peddle vegan hot dogs and flaxseed in the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op are destroying our city. Take a drive past the shop at Alhambra Boulevard and S Street at the edge of midtown and you can’t miss the big guy issuing that warning. He’s 15 feet tall. And most mornings, the Angel of Death is out there pointing a boney finger into traffic above an enormous sign that says the co-op “Hurts Workers, Hurts Families, Hurts Community.” The menacing character is a big prop in an unusual clash. It isn’t a protest over the treatment of livestock. And it isn’t a campaign objecting to the co-op’s sale of goods from Israel, a crusade some members waged in 2011. This is about unionized carpenters going after a unionized co-op with a progressive-leaning membership largely sympathetic to organized labor. The general contractor building a multimillion-dollar store for the co-op likely won’t use union carpenters because the union’s bid was 30 percent higher than other bids, according to the store.
San Francisco Chronicle
Golden Gate Park 4/20 pot festivities a hit with happy horde
While the vibe in the park was for the most part mellow, city and park officials were keeping a wary eye on the event. They didn't care about the cannabis. They cared about the clogged streets, illegally parked cars and mounds of trash. There were several arrests by late afternoon, according to reports. Last year, the crowds left 10,000 pounds of garbage in their wake and created at-a-standstill traffic jams as the revelers flooded the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Supervisor London Breed said she didn't want to be a "buzzkill." But Breed, whose district includes the Haight and the park area, didn't want a repeat of last year's chaos and two-day cleanup. She noted that smoking anything in any city park is illegal, but San Francisco has a tradition of turning a blind eye to infractions for official or unofficial events. City officials said they would be cracking down on several violations, including structures or canopies, amplified sound, alcoholic beverages, tree climbing, fires, and peddling or vending without a permit. Yet Hippie Hill and Sharon Meadow below it were covered in canopies, with speakers blaring music, bottles and cans of beer everywhere, an occasional tree climber, several barbecues, and dozens if not hundreds of people selling a range of regular and "medicinal" items. "Lollipops (laced with cannabis), two for $5," one entrepreneurial woman yelled. "Joints for $2." So many people were selling pot cookies, pot brownies, pot cupcakes and other bacchanalian treats that sales were pretty slow, many of the impromptu vendors said. Because it was a non-sanctioned event, there weren't any portable bathrooms on hand, just a few stalls in permanent park bathrooms and a plethora of trees and bushes to accommodate the 10,000 or so revelers. Yet the celebration comes as San Francisco and the state continue to grapple with the issue of relaxed laws on marijuana. In San Francisco earlier this month, the City Planning Commission approved restrictions to limit the growth of cannabis dispensaries in the Ocean Avenue neighborhood.
If it's racist, the GOP is all over it
American flag T-shirt case: Republican congressmen join legal flap over Cinco de Mayo incident at South Bay high school
Several conservative groups and 20 Republican members of Congress have jumped into the legal fray over a South Bay high school's decision to order a group of students wearing American-flag adorned shirts to turn them inside out during a 2010 Cinco de Mayo celebration. In court papers, the legislators and legal groups urge the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a February ruling that found Live Oak High School administrators were within their legal rights to act against the flag-wearing students. The groups are siding with the students' families, who have asked the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with an 11-judge panel. A three-judge 9th Circuit panel previously backed the Morgan Hill Unified School District and Live Oak High administrators, who ordered the students to either cover up the U.S. flag shirts or go home, citing a history of threats and campus strife between Latino and Anglo students that raised fears of violence on the day the school was highlighting Cinco de Mayo. The school's actions were reasonable given the safety concerns, which outweighed the students' First Amendment claims, the court concluded. "Our role is not to second-guess the decision to have a Cinco de Mayo celebration or the precautions put in place to avoid violence," 9th Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel. "(The past events) made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real." But the Republican congressional members, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice in a friend-of-the-court brief filed earlier this month argue the ruling amounts to a "heckler's veto" and violates the students' free speech rights. Steven Palazzo, a Mississippi Republican, and Rob Bishop, a Utah Tea Party member, are the first two legislators listed on the brief.
UC to taxpayers -- send us your money, but not your kids
Admission rates fall at UC campuses as international presence grows
Even as the University of California accepted a record number of freshman for fall 2014, admission rates at its most selective campuses reached new lows. Huge increases in the number of applicants, changing admissions processes and a growing emphasis on out-of-state and international students are driving them down. Preliminary UC admission data released Friday morning showed a record 86,865 freshmen accepted this year, an increase of 4.8 percent from 2013. The overall admission rate dropped slightly, but rates plunged at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses, long the system’s most selective, dipping below 20 percent for the first time. Nonresident students pay about $23,000 more annually in tuition and fees than Californians, which would bring in $2.2 million from an additional 100 out-of-state and international freshman UC Berkeley expects to enroll in fall 2014.
Another reason to hate politicians and their pals in the oil industry
Gasoline prices hit 14-month high
Surging gasoline prices have reached their highest level in more than a year. The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline climbed to $4.27 on Friday. The last time gasoline sold for so much was March 2, 2013. The price spike can be traced to a jittery wholesale markets responding to temporary shutdowns at two major California refineries that together account for 16 percent of the state gasoline producing capacity. Crude oil prices, the biggest component in gasoline costs, have been relatively stable in recent months. Retail prices may be leveling off after almost four months of steady increases, he said. Gas prices were substantially lower in Northern California, with a gallon going for $3.98 in Modesto versus $4.30 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area. Across the Arizona state line in Yuma, pump prices averaged $3.50.
Sheriff asks owners of surveillance systems to join registry
Sacramento Sheriff wants you to spy on your neighbors for him
Sacramento County sheriff’s officials are asking residents and business owners with surveillance cameras on their properties to sign up for a new registry that would be available to law enforcement in need of footage. The Sheriff’s Electronic Eye, or S.E.E., program would alert officers from any law enforcement agency to any privately owned surveillance systems in the area of a particular crime or location of interest. Law enforcement would be able to obtain surveillance footage only with the owner’s consent – even if the surveillance system is part of the registry. The registry does not give law enforcement access to live surveillance feeds or a camera’s archived footage (yet), according to Sheriff Scott Jones. (For now,) footage would have to be physically provided by the owner.
Los Angeles Times
California's economic stability leaves Gov. Brown a new challenge
For previous governors, California's budget was quicksand. Gray Davis, a fellow Democrat, was recalled by voters as state finances imploded following an energy crisis. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger limped out of office with rock-bottom poll numbers, leaving a pile of debt. But on Brown's watch, deficits have become surpluses, helped along by tax hikes the governor persuaded voters to approve. More money is being pumped into schools. University tuition has stabilized. Budget standoffs that once dragged through the summer are now wrapped up by the June deadline, lending the Capitol a new sense of orderliness. And on Wednesday, the governor called a special legislative session to prod lawmakers to pass his plan for saving money and paying off debt. That record, which will be a major part of Brown's reelection campaign, is due partly to good fortune. California is benefiting from a nationwide economic recovery that has helped flood the state with revenue. Brown is also blessed with a Capitol dominated by fellow Democrats and a 2010 rule change that lowered the number of votes needed to pass a spending plan. But California's finances remain vulnerable in some ways, as Brown's main challengers in the June primary — Republicans Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official, and state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks in San Bernardino County — have noted. Brown keeps pushing for a $68-billion bullet train whose funding is in dispute. And although some debts are being repaid, others are growing as the state fails to allocate enough money for long-term funding of teacher pensions and healthcare for retired state workers.
49% of California voters say they support changing Prop. 13
As the California GOP slowly bleeds to death, tax sharks circle around homeowners
Proposition 13’s restrictions on property tax growth have been untouchable in California politics for almost 40 years, but a new Field Poll shows about half of voters are open to tweaking the landmark measure. Asked in a general way if they favor making some changes, 49 percent of registered voters said they supported the idea, while 34 percent are opposed, the poll found. Deciding how to alter California’s rigid tax rules is the multimillion-dollar question. The Field Poll found far less consensus around a proposal to reduce the threshold needed to boost local taxes from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent. Only 39 percent of voters said they support that idea, and Republicans are strongly opposed, with 67 percent disapproving.
Fresno mayor wants your vote for state controller...great, so she can sue you next?
As Controller John Chiang leaves office, a competitive battle is heating up to replace him. Assembly Speaker John Perez is running. So is Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. A surprising Field Poll released last week puts Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin in the lead. It’s still early. As the main Republican in the race, Swearengin benefits from a split Democratic field in the open primary election. She also has slim financial resources. A plurality of voters in the race are undecided, but her emergence as a contender will bring closer scrutiny. While her focus on improving the state’s tax climate is the heart of her campaign, she has faced criticism for the way she handled a rate increase in Fresno. Citing a need to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure, Swearengin joined the council majority to pass a significant water-rate hike. When local activists tried to take the issue to the ballot under the provisions of Proposition 218, the city denied the measure a title and summary, thus keeping residents from circulating petitions. That was overturned by a court, but Swearengin and the council continue to support legal actions against activists who oppose the increase.
Pols and oil companies are the winners - you're the loser
Los Angeles gas prices soar above $4, only Hawaii pays more
The average price for a gallon of regular gas in Los Angeles County was $4.30 Wednesday, up 17 cents from a week ago and up 26 cents from a month ago, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. California’s average price for regular was $4.19 a gallon Wednesday, topped only by Hawaii’s average price of $4.32 a gallon. California has 20 refineries that collectively produce about 42 million gallons of gas per day. The state’s refineries produced more than 6.4 million barrels of gas for in-state use for the week that ended April 4, according to the California Energy Commission. That was down 4.1 percent from the previous week but up 2.3 percent from the same period a year ago. Production of non-California gas for export rose 35.8 percent for the week that ended April 4 to more than 1 million barrels, the commission reported. Year-over-year production of gas for export rose 19.5 percent.
Hapless GOP in the spotlight again, by default...
Jerry Brown back to negotiating table with Republicans over rainy-day fund
Gov. Jerry Brown called Wednesday for a special session of the Legislature to take up his proposal to create a rainy-day fund, and for the first time since 2011 he will have to negotiate a major budget deal with Republicans. The special session, scheduled to begin next week, is a significant test for the Democratic governor, who tried – and failed – to reach a budget accord with GOP lawmakers in the first year of his second stint as governor. That was before Democrats achieved a supermajority in the Legislature, and Brown hasn’t needed Republicans for much since. But the suspension of three state lawmakers involved in separate criminal cases in recent months has dropped Democrats below their supermajority status in the Senate, forcing Brown to reach back across the aisle. Yet Brown and majority Democrats also have leverage on the issue, because a Republican-backed budget reserve measure already on the November ballot has been criticized by public employee unions that could campaign against it.
Poll finds California voters open to tinkering with tax-limiting Proposition 13
Proposition 13 may be the third rail of California politics, but state voters appear to have some appetite for making changes to the tax-limiting measure, according to a new Field Poll. About half of California voters – 49 percent – generally support changing some parts of the law, while 69 percent of voters support indirectly increasing taxes on businesses by making it harder for commercial properties to avoid reassessments, according to the poll. The poll also found that 54 percent of voters prefer lower taxes and fewer public services, while just 35 percent support the alternative – higher taxes and more services. Majorities of voters support more spending on schools and mental health care, while pluralities believe spending is about right for law enforcement, public assistance and environmental protection.
Los Angeles Times
At least 15 hurt when firetrucks collide in Monterey Park
At least 15 people, including six firefighters, were injured Wednesday afternoon when two firetrucks collided in Monterey Park, causing one to smash into a small restaurant. Monterey Park Fire Chief Jim Birrell said no fatalities were reported. The injuries ranged from minor to at least one critical. The injured firefighters are equally split between Birrell's department and the Alhambra Fire Department. He said both agencies were responding to a house fire in Monterey Park when the collision occurred shortly after 3 p.m. at the intersection of Garfield and Emerson avenues. Both trucks had their lights and sirens on. Officials said the crash sent the Monterey Park Fire truck into the restaurant, Lu's Dumpling House. At least 11 employees — one of whom was hospitalized — and four customers were inside when the truck broke into the building, according to the restaurant's owner.
San Francisco Examiner
Police, officials warn of 4/20 crackdown
Stoned pot-heads ruining the party for everyone
The unofficial marijuana smoking party that converges on Golden Gate Park on April 20 every year is on notice from San Francisco police and elected officials: it’s time to behave or face consequences. Supervisor London Breed and residents of the Haight-Ashbury, which borders Golden Gate Park, are trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s scene, when 4/20 fell on a sunny and warm weekend. A crowd of 15,000 revelers left five tons of trash behind on Sharon Meadow and Hippie Hill, Rec and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg said. It took Recreation and Park Department cleanup crews 12 hours and $15,000 worth of overtime to clean up the mess. This year – with 4/20 again on a weekend and with a bright, balmy day expected – extra uniformed and plainclothes police will be roaming the area where cannabis consumers congregate, police Chief Greg Suhr said at a press conference Wednesday. Cops will be on the lookout for open containers of alcohol, for vending without permits – and for marijuana sales, which is a felony crime in San Francisco, Suhr said. Buzzkill? “That’s what we do,” said the chief, who added that the unofficial, unpermitted and unsanctioned 4/20 holiday is at a “tipping point.” Other unofficial parties in San Francisco, like Halloween in the Castro, have been shut down following spates of violence and unruly behavior.
SpaceX tax break reveals lack of consistency
A fairly constant refrain among California’s Democratic politicians and their liberal allies is that corporations should be paying more in taxes to support public services. Consequently, the Legislature each year sees a raft of bills that would, in one form or another, increase business taxes – such as this year’s measure that would allow school districts to impose higher “parcel taxes” on commercial property than on residential property. There is, however, no consistency. The same folks who demand higher business taxes as a matter of supposed principle are often willing, even eager, to give certain industries and even certain corporations big tax breaks.
Thomas D. Elias
On fracking, can’t California get half a loaf?
When a city like Carson, home to one large oil refinery and next-door neighbor to another, hard by the junction of two major freeways and site of both a Cal State campus and a Major League Soccer stadium, slaps a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing because of environmental questions, you know fracking of California’s vast oil and gas reserves is no sure thing.
Rail boosters hindered by their own law
High-speed rail plan rebuked again by the courts
Those readers who are familiar with Judge Gideon Tucker's words that “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” might chuckle that two good-news-for-taxpayers stories came out of Sacramento last week. They came, coincidentally, as legislators had left town to enjoy their spring break.
State Bar trying again to expand enforcement powers
The State Bar is something of an odd duck – a quasi-private, quasi-public entity that simultaneously regulates the legal profession and acts as a trade association and political advocate for lawyers.
Pioneering microchip inventor fights California over old tax bill
How this saga ends is anyone’s guess, and it may be many more years, or even decades, before it is settled. But there is more to its resolution than just Hyatt’s tax obligation, if any. It may affect the decisions of other high-income inventors and entrepreneurs about living and working in a state with the nation’s highest marginal income tax rate. And in doing so, it may reveal whether California is undercutting its future by discouraging innovation in what has been its brightest economic sector.
California politicos admit failures in seeking rainy day fund
When you get past the political fuzz and buzz, the Capitol’s quest for a new rainy-day fund to store excess state revenue is an admission that politicians have failed in the past and can’t be trusted in the future.
California could be in the running for Tesla’s battery factory, after all
Before California politicians lavish more gifts on Musk’s businesses, let’s review some of what California’s environmentally conscious legislators and residents have done so far.
Senator’s stance sparks schoolyard fight
It’s common to jokingly compare the Legislature to a grown-up version of high school, complete with popular class presidents and cliques of like-minded “students.” Those who don’t go along with the peer pressure are subject to gossip and bullying — and sometimes are ostracized.
Debra J. Saunders
I see rich people
In the Star Trek movies, San Francisco serves as headquarters of Starfleet Command. This cracks me up no end, as I cannot imagine the Board of Supervisors approving construction of Starfleet Academy or the oddly shaped high-rises you see in the background. And if City Hall somehow did approve the project, you know there'd be some ballot measure to kill the deal. The grounds could be endless: No photon torpedoes. Too many techies already. What about affordable housing?
Chili sauce struggle puts state in hot spot
Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and handful of other states are salivating over Sriracha – or rather, the prospect of luring the hot-sauce maker, its hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to their states. It’s a tantalizing and not completely far-fetched possibility. Irwindale, a small, industrial Los Angeles-area city, so badly wanted Huy Fong Foods to build its new sauce plant there that it financed the $40 million site. But it immediately became an unfriendly host when the plant opened last year. If this long-simmering fight boils over, everyone involved – the city of Irwindale, the company, the California growers who supply the chilies to make the sauce, the local and state economy – gets burned. That just can’t happen. If this apparently backward town persists in driving away a California business icon, it would be a black eye not just for that city, but for the entire state.
Milk debate touches raw nerve in Capitol
The debate’s politics are fascinating, given that some Democrats who are more apt to favor government regulation backed the bill as a means to help the small, niche farming industry that is sprouting up. Meanwhile, some Republicans, who usually decry government meddling, blasted the bill.
California consumers deserve to choose who can access information collected from their car
Recent news has cast a light on government wiretaps and the importance of personal privacy. But it's not just Washington that knows all about you. Your car knows about you; and so does your carmaker.
Homelessness isn't just a city responsibility
Mercury News editors say it's your fault the homeless are trashing their community
The pressure is on San Jose to deal with the epidemic of homelessness that's turning pockets of the city into Third World encampments, polluting waterways and unsettling nearby neighborhoods. The squalid 75-acre camp known as The Jungle near Story Road is said to be the largest of its kind on the continental United States. But San Jose is not causing or ignoring this problem. Nor is Santa Clara County, whose work with the city on homelessness is one of the best collaborations ever for the two governments. All cities in Silicon Valley should accept regional responsibility for the poverty growing in our midst. But if there is a single villain to call out, it's the state of California.
New bills a mystery even to their authors
The nuts-and-bolts of the legislative process are rarely interesting to people outside the halls of the state Capitol, but oftentimes small, process-oriented bills speak volumes about the way our state is governed — especially on the issue of transparency.
Scandal and conflict sour legislative session
When the Legislature’s 2014 session began about three months ago, the Capitol’s dominant Democrats and their allies had high hopes that it would bear legislative fruit – with good reason. However, as the Legislature wound up a couple of weeks of intensive committee hearings Thursday and left town for an 11-day spring break, the atmosphere had soured.
Faced with an initiative, teachers union blinks on discipline bill
The threat of a ballot initiative did the trick, persuading the California Teachers Association to negotiate a new process for teacher dismissal. The Senate Education Committee is expected to hear the bill on April 23. After two years of failing to resolve this issue, the Legislature should get AB 215 to the governor’s desk. California needs a workable process for firing teachers in the rare cases of extreme misconduct, while still protecting teachers from wrongful termination.
Anti-poverty advocates ramp up pressure for more spending
Crime victims and their advocates staged the biggest rally, an annual event seeking validation and sympathy, and politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, were there to utter the requisite bromides. What, after all, could be safer than empathizing with crime victims? Brown didn’t venture, however, a couple of hundred feet away to a much smaller rally of anti-poverty groups and a few friendly politicians, supporting a wide array of bills and budget appropriations attacking “income inequality.” All would cost money, either from the state budget to boost spending on “safety net” services such as welfare grants and health care, or from employers for higher minimum wages and mandatory paid sick leave. Collectively, they represent Brown’s biggest challenge this year as he seeks a fourth lease on the Capitol’s corner office.
Is this how California treats innovators?
Tax board continues long quest against ex-resident
It’s hard not to conclude that California’s tax agency is out of line as it continues to run up administrative and legal fees — not to mention risking potential multimillion-dollar liabilities — to pursue a decades-old dispute over where a taxpayer lived for six months. There’s a troubling lesson here for wannabe entrepreneurs, who might want to think carefully about their residency before they hit the big time.
FPPC gains more power, but lacks a chairperson
Whether it’s football, tiddlywinks, poker or politics, the rules of the game can play a big role in determining who wins. Every election produces examples of that adage – of elections won or lost because of the rules governing voting procedures, setting the boundaries of legislative or congressional districts, limiting campaign contributions and/or expenditures, or prescribing how votes are to be tallied.
New bill seeks to expand state’s voting rights act
The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act last year, saying its 1960s-era provisions were no longer applicable to 21st-century conditions. The invalidated section required voting changes in nine Southern states to receive pre-clearance from the federal courts or the U.S. Justice Department, including the redrawing of legislative, congressional and local government districts. But its rigid voting history formula also was applied elsewhere, including four counties in California. The practical effect was that any changes of election procedures in those counties, as well as any statewide redistricting plan, had to be pre-cleared – which became a political factor in the Capitol’s decennial redistricting wrangle. Those four rural counties – Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba – have large Latino populations. The highly controversial Supreme Court decision ends that oversight and so far, efforts to restore the invalidated provision in Congress have failed.
Bullet train faces withering series of hurdles
The California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to begin construction this year on a bullet train system that is supposed to eventually stretch 500 miles from Sacramento to San Diego. It will be, at most, a modest beginning. The agency only has enough money – maybe – for 130 miles of non-electrified track from Madera to somewhere north of Bakersfield, dubbed “the train to nowhere” by critics. Even if that stretch is built, laying track farther south depends on overcoming a withering array of financial, legal and political hurdles within the state and the overt hostility of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
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