Every Citizen the Enemy...
After getting caught, Davis City Council seeks alternatives to military armored vehicle
After hours of discussion, the Davis City Council on Tuesday night voted to ask staff to return within 60 days with options for the military surplus armored rescue vehicle the police department recently added to their fleet. They also agreed to meet with the police department to try and determine what type of protective vehicle they would need, and hold a community forum to discuss public safety issues related to active-shooter type incidents. The council also agreed to review the guidelines for acquisitions of such items. Council member Robb Davis made the motion. He said he sees no way the rescue vehicle would be acceptable for the city. The council voted 4-1, with council member Brett Lee dissenting. Lee argued that the council should take more time to gather information, saying quick decisions have gotten them into difficulties in the past. Davis police say the armored rescue vehicle is intended not for offensive use, but rather to protect occupants from gunfire and hazards. But at the council meeting, nearly all of the speakers opposed the acquisition. Russell Neches, a graduate student at UC Davis and a member of the city’s commission on safety and parking, said he doesn’t think the vehicle is appropriate for any police department to have. Neches said he set up an online website and had collected more than 250 signatures opposing the vehicle.
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Mexican president praises California for treatment of undocumented immigrants
Meanwhile, GOP uses presidential visit to continue its hate campaign
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto lauded California on Tuesday for its relatively favorable treatment of undocumented immigrants, telling a joint session of the Legislature that the state has taken the “ethically correct” position in a national debate over immigration. “You’ve sent a clear message to the United States and the world that cultural diversity enriches and benefits society,” said Peña Nieto, speaking in Spanish. “That is the ethically correct position.” The speech was the first to a joint session of the Legislature by a Mexican president since Felipe Calderón visited in 2008 – and the first since Brown signed a series of controversial laws cheered by immigration advocates. Since taking office in 2011, the Democratic governor has signed bills making undocumented immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses and college financial aid, among other measures. Before the Democratic-controlled Legislature – and in an increasingly diverse and liberal state – Peña Nieto told the lawmakers he planned to speak in Spanish since “most of you” know the language. “Mexico celebrates the initiatives you’ve passed ... that contribute to the prosperity of the migrants that live here,” Peña Nieto said. “Opportunities like access to education, labor protection and the possibility of having a driver’s license.” He called major changes to federal immigration laws “simply a matter of justice.”
Swearengin touts outside status while ‘still evaluating’ candidates for governor
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for California controller, said Tuesday she would bring an independent voice to the state’s top fiscal office, and later backed that up by refusing to commit to her party’s candidate for governor, Neel Kashkari. Swearengin’s lunchtime address to the Sacramento Press Club marked the capital debut of the Republican statewide candidate some see as most likely to overcome the California GOP’s sub-29 percent voter registration. Swearengin easily finished first in the June primary, but her November opponent was unknown for weeks as vote counting dragged on between Democrats John A. Pérez. and the eventual second-place finisher, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. Swearengin repeatedly pointed to her record as Fresno mayor, highlighting what she said has been its steady turnaround from a near-collapse of its finances shortly after her election in 2008. If elected controller, she said, she would fashion the office as an independent watchdog of state government. While never mentioning Yee by name, Swearengin said the controller’s job “requires independence, free from one political party, the major political party here in Sacramento.” While taking veiled shots at Yee, Swearengin took a more direct jab at Kashkari, a fellow Republican making his first run for elective office. Kashkari annoyed many Fresno leaders last month when he released a video showing him living on the city’s streets looking for a job. Kashkari also has been a vocal critic of what he calls the state’s “crazy train” high-speed rail project, which Swearengin supports. “Am I going to vote for him? You know, I’m still evaluating the candidates,” she said.
San Jose cops gun down mentally ill young woman
Parents speak out about life, death of woman shot and killed by police
For their daughter's entire life, Jim and Victoria Showman labored tirelessly to help with her severe bipolar disorder. The work went right up until the final minutes. Jim Showman's last words to 19-year-old Diana came Aug. 14 in an early-morning phone call: He reminded her to take her psychiatric medication. The same morning, Victoria Showman was talking with the intake director at San Andreas Regional Center in hopes of enrolling her daughter for services aimed at helping developmentally disabled people live independently. She needed a document from her husband, and he took a break from his job as a systems engineer to go back to the Blossom Hill Road duplex where his daughter lived with him. His path was blocked by police cars. What he didn't know until hours later was that Diana was mortally wounded by a police officer during a confrontation on busy Blossom Hill Road. As the Showmans struggle with her death, they are also questioning whether the shooting was necessary, and why police wouldn't let them be by her side in her final moments. Jim Showman was whisked away to San Jose police headquarters and led to an interview room. Victoria soon followed. Police refused to tell them what happened to Diana. "I told them, 'What you're doing is cruel. We don't know if our daughter's alive,' " Jim Showman said in an interview with this newspaper. He got to the shooting scene at 10:30 a.m. Diana Showman was pronounced dead about 12:30 p.m. Her parents would not find out for another hour. "This was wrong, not (being) able to see our daughter in her dying minutes," Victoria Showman said.
Los Angeles Times
Racist cops caught in the act...won't admit the truth
Beverly Hills police express regret for holding black producer before Emmys
Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was "extremely unfortunate" that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party. Producer Charles Belk "matched the clothing and physical characteristics" of a suspected bank robber when he was pulled over by officers on Friday evening after he left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department. Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours. “I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,” Belk said. “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”
Los Angeles Times
Every Citizen the Enemy...
Police State Update: NAACP decries policy to arm Compton school police with AR-15 rifles
A growing chorus of community members has denounced a new policy that will allow Compton Unified School Police officers to carry semiautomatic AR-15 rifles while on patrol. The policy, approved by the Compton Unified Board of Education in July, allows officers who are specially trained to buy and carry the rifles while on duty. The measure sparked criticism from some within the school’s community, who are weary of such high-powered weaponry on school grounds. The latest rebuke comes from the Compton chapter of the NAACP, which demanded that the policy be rescinded. “Compton schools are not located in Beirut, Gaza, or Kabul. They are located in the heart of a hard- working, proud community in Los Angeles County,” said President Paulette Simpson-Gipson. “We won’t be satisfied until this decision is abrogated.” The district, which refused to grant interviews with either Supt. Darin Brawley or School Police Chief William Wu, instead released a statement attributed to Wu.
San Francisco Examiner
Was crooked cop part of Shrimp Boy's empire?
Sheriff’s deputy linked to 'Shrimp Boy' gang under investigation
Among all the items seized by FBI agents during a raid of Chinatown offices was a bulletproof vest that a sheriff’s deputy left with a confidante of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. When FBI raids across the Bay Area arrested more than 20 people in March, including state Sen. Leland Yee and Chinatown alleged reformed crime boss Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, the charges mentioned a laundry list of contraband sold, bought or handed over to FBI agents in the course of a long undercover investigation. The trove included pistols, rifles, drugs, cash and at least one bulletproof, or ballistic, vest. At the time, court documents also noted that the vest had been given to an undercover FBI agent by one of the case's defendants and Chow confidante, Andy Li. Li, who once described to an FBI agent ways to kill people, was allegedly the enforcer for Chow's Chinatown Ghee Kung Tong -- which the FBI has called a criminal gang -- and had an ongoing friendship with Sheriff's Department Sgt. Michael Kim, according to new filings in the federal case, as first reported in the San Francisco Appeal. A ballistic vest that was the property of the Sheriff's Department had been left in Li's possession by Kim, according to the filing. "A member of the San Francisco County Sheriff's Office decided that he wanted to leave a ballistic vest belonging to the Sheriff's Office at the work place of Ms. Li -- Li's wife -- because he didn't want it in his car," noted the filing in reference to declarations made by Li, his wife and Kim. It is unclear if the vest left is the same vest given to the FBI agent.
Rebuked Again: A judge blocks a pension-reform measure in Ventura County
Last year, a group of dogged California pension reformers gathered in a hotel in downtown Sacramento. There, they plotted the next step for a reform movement that seemed poised to tap into voters’ growing interest and concern. Unfunded pension liabilities weren’t just weighing down the state’s balance sheets. Golden State cities—on the hook for six-figure pensions for their police and firefighters—were being pushed to the brink as the economy struggled to recover from the Great Recession. Some cities, such as Stockton and San Bernardino, went into bankruptcy. Media reports were filled with stories of the greed of government employees. Reform’s time had come—or so it seemed. But by last year’s meeting the most hopeful opportunities were gone. The economy had rebounded and the state’s voters, in approving a large tax increase backed by Governor Jerry Brown, essentially put an end to the short-term budget crisis. Not that short-term budget deficits had much to do with the Golden State’s long-term debts, but the financial doom and gloom faded from the headlines, replaced by a new narrative touting California’s “comeback.”
California launches controversial effort to add more names to Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The national memorial, dedicated in 1982, includes combat-related deaths culled from Department of Defense casualty lists – and specifically excludes the names of people who died from Agent Orange exposure or PTSD-related suicides. Names are added by the military when the remains of those previously listed as missing in action are identified or when a veteran dies of complications of combat injuries, according to www.thewall-usa.com. The California memorial, which opened in 1988, also drew its names directly from Department of Defense lists of those killed in action.
Silicon Valley's underclass continues its downward spiral
Wage gap grows between support staff at tech campuses and high-tech employees
Amid the affluence of Silicon Valley's highly paid technology employees, an "invisible workforce" of low-paid support staff at the region's tech companies has emerged, making one-fifth the wages of the digital workers, according to a report released Tuesday. Janitors, landscapers, grounds keepers, facilities cleaners and security guards working under contracts to provide support services to technology sites make about one-fifth the wages of software developers, systems software employees and network engineers, the study by a San Jose-based labor group, Working Partnerships USA, determined. "Although the support staff goes to work each day on the same campus as the engineers and coders, their wages are worlds apart," the group's report says. The low-paid contract employees make an average of $13 an hour -- well below the $62 an hour for software and networking employees, the report found. "This is a real problem," said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, which tracks economic and employment issues in the Bay Area. "The high-skill tech jobs are becoming very high skill. That is really driving the wage gap. There are bidding wars for tech employees." For every tech job created in Santa Clara County, four other jobs are needed to support that technology employee. The wage gap comes at a time when prices for homes and apartments have soared in Silicon Valley and numerous other parts of the Bay Area.
Charging for paper bags isn't justified
There's logic missing in the battle of bags now raging in the California Legislature. Flimsy plastic bags are evil, we're told. They don't biodegrade. They hang around forever, fouling the environment and gagging fish. They must be banned. Paper bags are biodegradable. They eventually disintegrate and return to nature. Yet their use must be discouraged by charging shoppers for them. The preferred bags? Thicker plastic bags peddled by stores. They're reusable for awhile but also eventually pile up in landfills. Or maybe a store-purchased cloth bag, a combo of petroleum-based substance and water-guzzling cotton. Let's not even get into that environmental impact. It all just seems like another nanny-state harassment of stressed citizens. Now we're being forced to keep our vehicles stocked with bacteria-collecting, reusable grocery bags in case we decide to stop at the market while fighting our way home in traffic. Ban plastic? OK. Might as well outlaw plastic garbage bags too. And plastic cups. But why shouldn't shoppers continue to receive paper bags free, as they historically have? But some people must be making money off this. Such as the grocers. Such as their unionized workers, who stand to share in the bag money at contract time. "Follow the money," as Deep Throat advised in Watergate. That's always good guidance for watching a legislature. The California Legislature must adjourn for the year by Sunday midnight. The bag battle is fierce. But grocers really like the idea of collecting the bag money. And it's a good bet the price will soon rise above 10 cents.
Time running out for California water bill
Secret negotiations over a California water bill are nearing a make-or-break moment, after a long, dry summer that’s tested some political alliances. The state’s Democratic senators are struggling to balance sympathy for Central Valley farmers with concern for environmental protection. The Obama administration has sometimes moved slowly. Some regional conflicts remain unreconciled. And time is short. “We’re going back and forth,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in Lake Tahoe recently. “It’s difficult, obviously, because the situation continues to worsen, not get better. And hopefully we will have something in the next couple weeks.” Once it surfaces, the California water bill would be the most explicit congressional response to the drought that has dominated the state and decimated some farms. It could redirect water deliveries, authorize new dams and ease environmental rules. Or, it might be more modest. Either way, the legislation would be the compromise between a 68-page version passed by the Republican-controlled House in February and a 16-page version passed by the Senate in May. “The House and Senate continue to negotiate throughout the August recess,” noted Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., adding that “it is critical that the Senate and House put in place both immediate and long-term solutions to this water crisis.” Diligently enforced secrecy shields the talks so far. House Democrats who represent the 1,100 square-mile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta say they aren’t privy to the negotiations. Participants have effectively imposed a gag order on themselves. Normally friendly staffers zip their lips. Normally clued-in lobbyists are cut out. “If there are negotiations underway in secret, we would be concerned and troubled,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. Underscoring the political calculations, Republicans say the Delta-area Democrats like Garamendi aren’t going to vote for the California water bill anyway, so it makes no sense to engage them. One California Democrat who is participating in the talks, Rep. Jim Costa, said Friday that “there is a possibility” that the final bill includes a specific project like raising the earthen dam at San Luis Reservoir west of Los Banos, as part of a larger repair job. “I think the discussions have been positive,” Costa said, adding that “we’re working hard, and we understand there is a critical timeline.” The clock certainly adds challenges.
Los Angeles Times
Bloodthirsty cops costing taxpayers millions, destroying families
$5-million LAPD payout: 'They shot my son in cold blood,' dad says
A proposed $5-million payout to the family of an unarmed National Guard veteran killed on live TV is the largest settlement the city has made in a fatal police shooting case in at least a decade. The settlement approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council comes after Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck raised concerns about the officers’ tactics. Brian Beaird was shot after he crashed into another vehicle in downtown L.A. and staggered out of the sports car. Beaird's father said he watched the chase live on television, including the moment when his son was killed. The officers who opened fire have been on paid leave since shortly after the shooting. Councilman Bernard Parks, a former LAPD chief, said the case was serious enough to warrant such a large payout and that a jury could have awarded far more had the case gone to trial. “This is a case that clearly had significant potential liability far beyond what the settlement offer was,” Parks said. “It was a good business decision when you have a loss of life and you have evidence that could be viewed as overwhelming against the city of L.A.” The settlement was approved by a 12-2 vote. Two council members who have served with the LAPD voted against the payout, saying the shooting appeared justified. Police fired about 21 shots at Beaird. “They do not make enough money in L.A. to make me happy. They shot my son in cold blood,” the 81-year-old said, choking back tears. “I would not trade my son’s life for every nickel in L.A. He means that much to me. I could not believe what I saw.” Beaird had served in the National Guard for several years, according to his father. He was discharged in 1988 after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor, his father said. The elder Beaird told reporters last year that his son was a disabled veteran who needed regular medical care.
Children in California’s foster care system are prescribed unproven, risky medications at alarming rates
Hundreds of foster children 5 and younger have been prescribed psychotropics
They are wrenched from abusive homes, uprooted again and again, often with their life’s belongings stuffed into a trash bag. Abandoned and alone, they are among California’s most powerless children. But instead of providing a stable home and caring family, the state’s foster care system gives them a pill. With alarming frequency, foster and health care providers are turning to a risky but convenient remedy to control the behavior of thousands of troubled kids: numbing them with psychiatric drugs that are untested on and often not approved for children. An investigation by this newspaper found that nearly 1 out of every 4 adolescents in California’s foster care system is receiving these drugs — 3 times the rate for all adolescents nationwide. Over the last decade, almost 15 percent of the state’s foster children of all ages were prescribed the medications, known as psychotropics, part of a national treatment trend that is only beginning to receive broad scrutiny. “We’re experimenting on our children,” said Los Angeles County Judge Michael Nash, who presides over the nation’s largest juvenile court. A year of interviews with foster youth, caregivers, doctors, researchers and legal advocates uncovered how the largest foster care system in the U.S. has grown dependent on quick-fix, taxpayer-funded, big-profit pharmaceuticals — and how the state has done little to stop it. “To be prescribing these medications so extensively and so, I think, thoughtlessly, with so little evidence supporting their use, it’s just malpractice,” said George Stewart, a Berkeley child psychiatrist who has treated the neediest foster children in the Bay Area for the past four decades. “It really is drugging them.” The state official who oversees foster care, Department of Social Services Director Will Lightbourne, concedes drugs are overused. No one doubts that foster children generally have greater mental health needs because of the trauma they have suffered, and the temptation for caregivers to fulfill those needs with drugs can be strong. In the short term, psychotropics can calm volatile moods and make aggressive children more docile. But there is substantial evidence of many of the drugs’ dramatic side effects: rapid-onset obesity, diabetes and a lethargy so profound that foster kids describe dozing through school and much of their young lives. Long-term effects, particularly on children, have received little study, but for some psychotropics there is evidence of persistent tics, increased risk of suicide, even brain shrinkage. Despite the concerns, state officials have been slow to even reveal foster care prescribing patterns in California. This newspaper and its lawyers spent nine months negotiating with the Department of Health Care Services for data that is public under state and federal law, as long as individuals cannot be identified.
Kern County mounts defense of oil train shipments
In Sacramento and the Bay Area, recent plans to run trains laden with crude oil through downtowns to coastal refineries have prompted fears and protests this summer. But, here in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where oil has served as economic lifeblood for more than a century, similar plans are getting mainly cheers. Projects planned for both locales involve bringing milelong trains daily into the state through high-hazard mountain passes, over rivers that feed farms and through the hearts of cities. Both likely will carry the now-infamous Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, which has been involved in several spectacular rail explosions. But while many in California view oil as unsustainable and undesirable, in Kern, oil is still king. South Valley leaders and oil industry representatives are quick to point out that almost all of California’s 33 million cars and trucks still need gasoline, refined from oil, every day, much of it from Kern. The Kern County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve what should be the state’s largest crude oil rail terminal in September. Another large crude-by-rail terminal is already under construction west of here, and will begin operating this fall. Together, the Alon USA refinery rail terminal in Bakersfield and the nearby Plains All American facility could receive three 100-car crude oil trains a day. That’s considerably more oil than Valero Refining Co. proposes to ship by rail to its Benicia refinery in the Bay Area, a plan that would bring two 50-car oil trains through Sacramento every day starting next year. The environmental report for that project has generated more than a hundred written and oral comments from the public, many in support, but many against. In contrast, the environmental review for the Alon refinery project in Bakersfield prompted just 22 comments. Only two of them were from local residents challenging the project. Crude shipments by rail have dramatically increased through cities across the country in the last few years, prompted by new hydraulic fracking of cheaper oil in North Dakota and other states, where there are few pipelines to refineries. This increase has been accompanied by a call for greater safety measures. Responding to several recent high-profile derailments and explosions, including one that killed 47 residents of a Canadian town last year, federal officials are considering requiring stronger train tanker cars to carry crude oil, more sophisticated guidance technology on trains to reduce the chance of human error, and better training and equipment for emergency responders in case of an accident. California so far has hosted only a few all-oil trains. But state officials say California may be receiving up to 23 percent of its oil from other states by rail in the next few years, and they too are concerned about derailment, spill and fire risks.
Despite environmental efforts, billionaire faces Martin’s Beach access fight
Billionaires do like coastal property, and some of them don’t much like to share...California’s Constitution makes clear that no one owns beaches
As billionaires go, Vinod Khosla would seem to be an unlikely villain for environmentalists. He donated more than $1 million to help re-elect President Barack Obama; $2 million for a 2006 initiative that sought to tax oil; and $1 million to kill an oil industry proposition that tried to roll back Assembly Bill 32, the law that is forcing the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Khosla Ventures’ website describes its leader as “driven by the desire to make a positive impact through scaling new energy sources, achieving petroleum independence and promoting a pragmatic approach to the environment.” The Sand Hill Road venture capital firm’s portfolio includes EcoMotors, which is “redefining how the world is powered”; Climate Corp., which “aims to help farmers around the world protect and improve their farming operations”; and LanzaTech, which “uses a novel biological approach to transform industrial carbon rich waste gases and residues into fuels and chemicals.” Yes, the language is parody-worthy. Perhaps it inspired “Silicon Valley” sitcom writers whose fictional entrepreneurs scratch and claw to make fortunes, and earnestly promise to make the world a better place. Still, if Khosla thought his past work might have given him a pass, he definitely was mistaken. He finds himself being vilified by environmentalists who accuse him of locking them out of a stretch of San Mateo County coastline.
Los Angeles Times
Assembly bill could lower cost of residential solar in California
Californians who want to put solar panels on their roofs could benefit from a state bill headed to the governor’s desk. The Legislature on Thursday passed the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act, which promises to streamline the solar permitting process throughout California. Industry officials say that could save each customer $1,000 or more on the cost of installing solar panels. Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) is the author of the bill, which requires cities and counties to adopt ordinances that will speed up the permitting and inspection process for residential rooftop solar energy systems. Muratsuchi was prompted to create the bill after a visit to Verengo Solar in Torrance last year, where company officials told him permitting processes in some cities and counties add delays to solar installation work. “They told me that it often takes 65 days to install solar panels on a person’s home, of which 64 of those days are spent wading through the local bureaucracy to get the necessary permits and approvals,” Muratsuchi said at a solar industry lobbying event this month at the state Capitol. Muratsuchi and solar industry officials say streamlining the processes throughout the state will reduce those delays, which can be costly. The bill also prohibits homeowner associations from passing restrictions that increase the cost of solar panel systems by more than $1,000. The California Solar Energy Industries Assn. said that while the price of solar has dropped since 2006 largely because efficiencies in manufacturing are bringing down the cost of hardware, expenses such as the costs related to permitting have remained stubborn. “Your typical home solar energy system has become practically cookie-cutter,” Bernadette Del Chiaro, the association's executive director, said in a statement. “We’re talking about the exact same product, design and installation, yet many building departments require Byzantine permits.” Will Craven, a spokesman for SolarCity Corp. of San Mateo, said that while the solar panels being installed on rooftops throughout the state follow uniform standards, the codes that regulate them do not. He said more than 500 jurisdictions of California have their own processes and code interpretations. Craven said some cities, such as San Diego, have expedited processes that work well. A new online permitting process rolled out by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety recently is promising, he said. Ryan Wiser, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, looked at the effect of local permitting procedures on residential rooftop solar installations. That research showed efficiency in permitting could reduce costs for consumers.
GOP, Dems team up to help their rich corporate pals...
Tax perk bills abound in Legislature’s final week
With California’s finances firmly on the mend, the state’s film industry, historic structure preservationists and others are pushing for hundreds of millions of dollars in new and extended tax breaks during the final days of the legislative session. The proposals would join a pair of potentially pricey tax breaks already approved by Gov. Jerry Brown in recent weeks to attract a strategic bomber production line to California. More big-ticket items could yet emerge before the Aug. 31 adjournment, including a package of incentives to woo electric carmaker Tesla to put a giant battery plant, and 6,500 jobs, in the Golden State. “We’re struggling to create jobs in certain parts of the state,” said state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, the co-author of a possible Tesla incentive bill with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “I’m not opposed to providing tax credits if we can see an investment being made by business.” More than $50 billion in tax breaks are already on California’s books, from $2.2 billion in income and corporate tax breaks for companies’ research and development expenses to $48 million in sales-tax exemptions on farm equipment. But after tailing off during the recession, dozens of tax credit proposals have been introduced this session. Members of both parties carry the bills. The legislation is easier to pass, requiring only a majority vote instead of the two-thirds vote required of direct spending on a specific program. And unlike the zero-sum nature of the state budget process, when spending on one program is often seen as coming at the expense of another, revenue losses are spread across state government.
Los Angeles Times
Brutal LAPD officers left sick man to die
Police failed to heed pleas as man died
From the moment Los Angeles police handcuffed him, Jorge Azucena told officers he needed help. "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," he pleaded. "I have asthma, I have asthma." In the half-hour or so after his arrest late one night last September, Azucena said over and over that he was struggling for breath. Numerous LAPD officers and sergeants heard his pleas for medical attention but ignored them even as his condition visibly worsened. "You can breathe just fine," one sergeant told him. "You can talk, so you can breathe." Azucena could not walk or stand by the time officers brought him to a South Los Angeles police station for booking. So they carried him into a cell, leaving him lying face-down on the floor. He was soon unconscious. When paramedics arrived shortly after, Azucena's heart had stopped. The chilling account of how Azucena died is told in two reports made public this week. After a Times article last year on the circumstances surrounding Azucena's death, the reports offer new details into the man's desperate and futile attempts to convince officers his lungs were succumbing to what coroner's officials determined was most likely an asthma attack. Nearly a year after Azucena's death, LAPD officials have not yet determined whether any of the officers involved that night should be disciplined for failing to summon help and, in the case of some officers, for lying to investigators.
Orange County Register
Son of mayor called 'unsafe' as firefighter
Rookie Jeremy Broadwater has a criminal record and supervised cite problems on the job
The son of Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater was hired as a city firefighter despite a criminal record, and his work there subsequent to his October hiring has drawn severe reprimands from his superiors, documents show. Rookie firefighter Jeremy Broadwater’s job performance has included potentially life-threatening mistakes on medical calls, according to internal department records obtained by the Register. Doubts about his abilities have resulted in him being removed from at least one fire call and have led a captain to call him “unsafe” and recommend his termination. The department’s handling of Broadwater was part of the reason the union firefighters cast a 51-0 vote of no confidence in Fire Chief David Barlag in June, and is one of the issues being examined in an ongoing independent audit of the department. Fire Chief David Barlag did not return repeated calls from the Register. Jeremy and Bruce Broadwater also did not respond to requests for comment. Multiple calls to City Manager Matthew Fertal resulted in two email responses that did not address the Broadwater hiring. He questioned whether Broadwater’s colleagues are prejudiced against Broadwater, but did not elaborate. Jeremy Broadwater, 37, was one of 10 new hires in October, from a field of 500 applicants. Fellow firefighters and a citizen watchdog have complained about what they perceive as preferential treatment in hiring the mayor’s son. Between 1996 and 2000, Jeremy Broadwater was arrested by Garden Grove police on 10 occasions and was convicted of misdemeanor assault, resisting arrest, public drunkenness and shoplifting, court and police record show. While misdemeanors don’t automatically disqualify a candidate for firefighter, some familiar with typical fire department hiring practices say the highly competitive firefighter job field makes it unlikely an applicant with such a record would be hired.
California tribal deal sailing toward ratification
A revamped casino compact between the Brown administration and a prominent San Diego County tribe seems headed for quick ratification after brief informational hearings this week and Assembly approval Friday morning. The renegotiated compact between the state and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians would replace a decade-old agreement between the tribe and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That pact, celebrated during a packed Memorial Auditorium signing ceremony in June 2004, allowed the tribe and four others to operate an unlimited number of slot machines in return for making revenue-sharing payments to the state. The renegotiated pact, announced last week, makes the revenue-sharing payment a percentage of casino earnings instead of a flat fee. “What you’re doing is really creating a scenario here where the state of California will share with you in the good times and in the more difficult times we will share with you as well,” state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, the chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, said Thursday during an informational hearing on the pact. The Viejas tribe’s casino is among the largest in California. Tribal leaders approached the state about renegotiating the pact earlier this year, prompting a state audit that confirmed the tribe’s financial difficulties, Brown’s senior adviser for tribal negotiations Joginder Dhillon told the Senate committee. Tribal chairman Anthony Pico said casino revenue has helped improve the lives of tribal members. “Now we just want the government to let free enterprise roll,” he told the panel.
Los Angeles Times
Who benefits most from Obamacare/Covered California? Insurance companies, certainly not you
Covered California officials, insurance chief clash over Prop. 45
California's Obamacare exchange and the state insurance commissioner are on a collision course over Proposition 45, a popular ballot measure aimed at reining in health insurance rates. Covered California officials lashed out at the statewide ballot initiative this week and warned that it could be disastrous to the state's implementation of the federal healthcare law. In November, voters will decide whether to give Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones veto power over rate increases for about 6 million Californians who have individual and small-business policies. Without this authority, Jones says, consumers will keep being subjected to excessive rate hikes and Obamacare won't be affordable. Until now, the state-run exchange had largely avoided a public clash over Proposition 45 with Jones, a Democrat who supports the health law. That restraint disappeared at an exchange board meeting Thursday, and officials there will take up a vote next month to formally oppose it. These moves thrust Covered California into the middle of what's expected to be a highly contentious and costly campaign. Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and other companies have already contributed more than $37 million to defeat the measure. Insurers argue that the initiative is unnecessary because the Affordable Care Act already imposes new rules to protect consumers. The ballot fight starts with broad support for Proposition 45. A Field Poll released this week found 69% of California voters favored the proposition. That support may wane once ads attacking the measure ramp up.
Los Angeles Times
Top L.A. Unified officials worked with Apple/Pearson before iPad deal...but apparently that's not a problem
Senior Los Angeles school district officials, including Supt. John Deasy, had a close working relationship with Apple and Pearson executives before these companies won the key contract for a $1-billion effort to provide computers to every student in the nation’s second-largest school system, records released by the L.A. school district show. The first deal, approved in June 2013 by the Board of Education, was intended as the initial step in a speedy districtwide expansion. Under it, all students, teachers and principals were to receive iPads from Apple that would be loaded with curriculum developed by Pearson. A year later, after pressure from critics and problems with the roll out, the timetable for the project was extended; other curricula and other devices also are being tried out at schools. Deasy recused himself from the initial bidding process because he owned Apple stock, but the records indicate that he and other district officials had developed ties with the potential to benefit the firms. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has reviewed a report by the district's inspector general and found that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the bidding process. No evidence has emerged from the records that Deasy tried to steer the results once the process began. But in the period leading up to the bidding, the district and corporate executives collaborated closely.
Bee wins legal battle for names of UC Davis officers in pepper spray incident
After more than two years of legal battles, The Sacramento Bee has prevailed in a court fight to force the release of the names of police officers involved in the November 2011 pepper spray incident on the University of California, Davis, campus. The Bee and the Los Angeles Times sued in May 2012 to have the names released, and the case came to a close late Wednesday, when the California Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the police officers’ union seeking to stop release of the names. UC officials released the officers’ names late Thursday after giving the Federated University Police Officers Association time to notify the officers. The issue stems from the fallout of the pepper-spraying of students during a peaceful protest on campus that raised international outrage. To deal with the outcry, UC officials asked for a full, independent report on the incident to be compiled by a task force headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.
Los Angeles Times
Court allows release of officers' names in UC Davis pepper-spray case
Orange County Register
Orange County cops arming against citizens
Missouri protests bring attention to military equipment used by local authorities
Two Orange County members of Congress want to revisit a program providing free surplus military gear to local law-enforcement – a program attracting scrutiny after police used military-type tactics and equipment in Ferguson, Mo. Orange County agencies have received 359 assault rifles, 257 pieces of body armor, two armored vehicles and one helicopter through the free Department of Defense program, according to a database analysis by The New York Times. This database doesn’t tell the entire story, as law enforcement agencies in the county have received at least five BearCat armored vehicles through $1.75 million in federal grants, including money from the Department of Homeland Security. Concerns persist nonetheless, and have flared with renewed vigor after the Ferguson incidents in the wake of a police killing of an unarmed man. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, has said she would support better oversight of the free program. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and has said his committee will review whether the surplus equipment is being used as intended.
‘Drone-Free LAPD’ demanded by activists
“LAPD has a long history of lies, brutality and violence against communities”
“Drone-Free LAPD” and “No Drones in L.A.,” a group of about two dozen community activists Thursday called on Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Police Department to reject the donation of two drones to the city. “The LAPD was given these as a gift from Seattle some months ago, and we want to voice our opposition to them,” said Hamid Khan, organizer of Stop LAPD Spying, one of several groups that demonstrated on the steps of City Hall. Khan released a letter he sent to the mayor asking him to reject the offer of the drones because of what he called the department’s history of spying on individuals. “LAPD has a long history of lies, brutality and violence against communities,” Khan said. “We should not be further militarizing the Police Department.” The two hovercrafts — called Draganflyer X6s — are currently at a secure location in the custody of the federal government until the LAPD develops a policy on how they would be used and if it even wants the drones. The Seattle Police Department, which purchased the crafts in 2012 through an $82,000 grant, decided to hand off the drones after residents there rallied against the infringement of their privacy rights. Khan said his group and others remain concerned with “mission creep,” where the drones would start out being used for one purpose and then expand into unapproved use. “Adding drone surveillance technology to the arsenal of surveillance equipment already in operation by the LAPD will exacerbate the flagrant violation of privacy rights of Angelenos,” Khan said.
San Francisco Chronicle
State to appeal ruling on constitutionality of death penalty
California will appeal a federal judge's ruling that declared the state's death penalty unconstitutional, Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday, arguing that the ruling would actually reduce the rights of capital defendants in order to speed up executions. In his decision July 16, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions in California have created a capricious and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose. He said the "dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system" - with delays of many years in appointing lawyers and awaiting court rulings - "has resulted in the arbitrary selection of a small handful of individuals for execution." For most of the 748 condemned prisoners, a death sentence actually means "life in prison, with the remote possibility of death," said Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush. California, with the nation's largest Death Row, has not held an execution since 2006, when a federal judge found multiple flaws in the state's lethal-injection procedures.
Los Angeles Times
Tempers flare in state Senate over flurry of hostile amendments
Tempers flared in the state Senate on Thursday over a series of hostile amendments proposed by Republicans, including one on the hot-button issue of immigration. The Senate approved a bill that would expand the number of immigrants in the country illegally who would get in-state tuition at state universities. The action took place after some Senate Republicans tried unsuccessfully to pass a hostile amendment that would also have extended in-state tuition to U.S. military personnel who were stationed in California for more than a year before their discharge and who are using "G.I. Bill" education benefits to attend college. Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) said the tabling of his amendments sent a bad message. The state will provide benefits to people in the country illegally, he said, “But if they volunteer to serve in our military we’re not going to allow them to have in-state tuition. That’s wrong.” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Anderson’s issue is a “compelling” one to put through the normal legislative process. But he objected to multiple Republican attempts to put hostile amendments on bills that have gone through the normal process, saying it is “disruptive of the work of the house.” Republicans had also tried a hostile amendment Thursday on the state's cap-and-trade program. “We don’t entertain hostile amendments on the floor,” Steinberg warned.
Martins Beach access bill headed to governor
Legislation that could mean greater public access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County cleared its final legislative hurdle on Thursday and now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. The state Senate approved Senate Bill 968 over protests from Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist who co-founded Sun Microsystems. He owns the property around the beach and has fought, in the Capitol and in court, to block public access to Martins. Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, initially sought legislation that would require the State Lands Commission to use eminent domain to seize a private road that connects to the beach, a favorite spot for surfers located a few miles south of Half Moon Bay. But after legislators were pressured by a lobbyist hired by Khosla, Hill amended the bill, which now instructs the commission to consider purchasing Martins Beach Road if it cannot reach an agreement with Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline adjacent to his sprawling property. "The purpose of this bill is to have a conversation about beach access," Hill said. "I'm pleased that the Legislature agrees that California's beaches should be open to the public." Last week, the bill won approval from the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and earlier this week the full Assembly gave the measure its blessing.
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?
“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.
School cops in L.A. side with NRA - But are they really arming themselves against us?
In Compton, school police can use semiautomatic weapons
It’s a place that’s been associated with gunfire at least since the release of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” in 1988: Compton, Calif., a city of 100,000 south of downtown Los Angeles, and a site of 1992 riots following the Rodney King verdict. Now, California public radio station KPCC reports some school police in Compton will be permitted to carry semiautomatic AR-15 rifles — the same kind of rifle used in a recent Oregon school shooting – in schools. The reason? School shootings, the school board said. According to a new school board policy, the weapons are to be used “in response to situations that clearly evidence a need or potential need for superior firepower to be used against armed suspects.” And: “Only those situations where the circumstances at hand are beyond the capabilities of the standard patrol sidearms (e.g., Long distances, suspects utilizing body armor, and/ or high powered, high capacity weapons) should be considered.” Police said the heavy firepower was necessary. “This is our objective — save lives, bottom line,” said Compton Unified School District Police Chief William Wu. Though the National Rifle Association called for “a good guy with a gun” in every school after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, Wu said not just any gun would do. Some in the community weren’t enthusiastic. “The school police has been very notorious in the community and in reality has never had to shoot anyone before,” said Francisco Orozco, a recent graduate and founder of the Compton Democratic Club, told KPCC. “So this escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary.”
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.
Don’t shut out black residents from clean energy revolution
I’m very troubled by the obvious slight the renewable energy industry – in particular solar – is giving African Americans in Southern California and around the state. Like everyone else, the African American community needs to be involved in the clean energy revolution. Sadly, we are not. Current public policies serve as a barrier to entry for African Americans to take advantage of these green energy sources.
Hueso’s arrest continues long history of Legislature and booze
The arrest of Ben Hueso, a Democratic state senator from San Diego, on suspicion of drunken driving very early one morning was not a particularly unusual event. Every year or two, one of the Legislature’s 120 members is nailed for tipsy driving, usually in the vicinity of the Capitol. That’s roughly in line with California’s overall rate of about 172,000 drunken driving arrests among the state’s 24.6 million licensed drivers each year. And in a way, it’s surprising that the number isn’t higher. The Legislature’s history has always been intertwined with liquor.
Legislature turns to special interest battles in final week
As the 2012-14 biennial legislative session entered its final week Monday, it was evident – with very few exceptions – that big public policy issues have given way to conflicts among moneyed interests. California will not rise or fall on whether some milk prices are deregulated or Uber and other ride-sharing companies are regulated; whether plastic grocery bags are banned; whether employers must offer paid sick leave to workers; or whether the movie industry gets a $400 million tax subsidy to film in California. However, the fate of those measures, as well as many others, have multimillion-dollar – and perhaps multibillion-dollar – consequences for their “stakeholders,” which is why they are spending lots of money in hopes of influencing the final votes this week. Not surprisingly, therefore, legislators and legislative candidates have scheduled numerous fundraising events this week – although senators are banned by a new rule from raising funds during the final month of the session. Campaign contributions, though, are only one aspect of the elaborate steps stakeholders in pending bills are taking to maximize their chances of winning.
Drought leads California to rethink water management
On average, rain and snow storms drop about 200 million acre-feet of water on California each year – 65 trillion gallons of the life-giving liquid. Nearly two-thirds of it either evaporates, sinks into the ground or is absorbed by trees and other plants while the remainder, 70-plus million acre-feet, finds its way into rivers flowing either to the Pacific Ocean or several inland “sinks.” Californians divert more than half of that runoff to drink, irrigate farms, water lawns, brush teeth, remove bodily dirt and myriad other uses. Agriculture accounts for about three-quarters of the human diversions. When you include millions of acre-feet of water pumped from underground aquifers each year, you have California’s water supply, and were we able to count on that 65 trillion gallons of precipitation each year, we wouldn’t have a water problem. However, we can’t, and as we deal with the third year of severe drought and consider the potential effects of climate change, we are beginning to rethink how we manage water in terms of both supply and reliability.
California over-drugs --and fails -- foster youth
Will Lightbourne, head of California's Department of Social Services, says there's no simple way to end the pattern of thousands of foster children spending much of their youth drugged into malleability -- the horror eloquently revealed by reporter Karen de Sá on Sunday's Page One. He says it has to be part of the holistic rethinking of the entire foster care system that's under way, giving doctors better options than prescribing psychotropic drug upon psychotropic drug to control children who act out. Really? Really? If this isn't a crisis, then what is? The abusive use of powerful medications on kids with formative brains cries out for action. Each child who grows up scarred by this is a human tragedy and, in many cases, a lifetime burden on society. Massive drugging of California's foster children is not a problem that can wait. The state needs to act now.
Cha-ching! Pay and perks flowing like cheap beer in Sacramento
CalPERS sparks pension-spiking bonanza
After reading new state rules that detail 99 categories of “special pay” that can be used to spike a public employee’s pension, I was tempted to ask my editor for “special deadline pay” for filing columns on time. Maybe that boost could also lead to a higher pension calculation. Then again, like most private-sector workers, I don’t receive a pension. So never mind. Pardon my facetiousness, but the decision by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System to engage this week in a pension-spiking extravaganza is infuriatingly brazen, even for Sacramento. It undermines the governor’s pension-reform law, although Jerry Brown’s objections to the CalPERS action seem lukewarm.
CalPERS sweeps away Brown’s ‘sweeping reform’
By a 7-5 vote, the CalPERS board Wednesday watered down the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2012, a law that Brown had called a “sweeping bipartisan pension reform.” Much of the law remains intact. But CalPERS’ action also could lead to more pension spiking. The vote also made clear a truism about legislation: Entities that interpret the laws have final say about how sweeping any reform might be.
Pension fatteners reveal some strange public work rules
Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature agreed to a mild reform of public employee pensions aimed, they said, at reducing manipulation of the system and reducing long-term costs. Among other things, the reform legislation sought to reduce “spiking” of pensions by restricting their calculation to regular pay. This week, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, whose board is dominated by union representatives and union-friendly politicians, revealed a very generous interpretation of that provision.
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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