Union money looms big in L.A. mayor's race
The "La Wendy" factory at the county union's headquarters buzzed with activity Friday morning. Workers stacked glossy "Wendy Greuel" doorknob hangers. Volunteers hung sign-up sheets for canvassing. And hotel cleaners broke into cries of "Sí se puede," a hopeful shout for a wage hike under a Greuel administration. Unions like the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is backing Greuel, or the Teamsters, who endorsed rival Eric Garcetti, are making a big push in the Los Angeles mayor's race, sending workers to canvass, phone bank and gather signatures. But mostly, they are raising money. Labor groups have contributed significantly to the $10.2 million spent by outside groups in the mayor's race. One union for the Department of Water and Power has broken spending records. In race with two pro-labor candidates, with similar backgrounds, the unions' power is noticeable, say political observers. "The outside spending is changing the campaign narrative," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School. "It's changing the tenor and tone." The emergence of SuperPACs, or independent committees, have allowed outside groups, which include unions, to skirt city rules limiting individual contributions to $1,300 per election cycle. Independent committees can raise unlimited funds, but can't coordinate with campaigns. SuperPACs have spent $7.5 million on Greuel's behalf in the race, more than three times the amount spent by outside groups on Garcetti. The latest filings show outside groups are now outpacing candidates' fundraising efforts. Greuel has raised $7 million to date, according to the city's Ethics Commission. Even as she runs short of money - the last filings show Greuel has $295,000 cash on hand, limiting her ability to run TV spots - labor groups have filled the gap. Some of the most powerful unions at City Hall - those representing police, fire, and the Department of Water and Power - have endorsed Greuel and aired advertisements for her.
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See we told you so...
Meet the California GOP's "Super-Minority" leaders!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Is the new Bay Bridge just one giant f*ck up???
Corrosion plagues new Bay Bridge span
Doug Coe, a normally confident engineering manager for the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, walked into the nearby Oakland project office looking as if he were fighting back tears. Joel Sayre, then a bridge spokesman who worked there, remembers tensing in alarm. Engineers had discovered an alarming corrosion problem with the "post-tension" tendons, and were pumping gallons of rusty water from the ducts that held them, Sayre said Coe told him. "Oh my god," he recalled Coe saying that afternoon in late spring of 2006. "What are we going to do?" Coe, whom the California Department of Transportation would not permit to answer questions, was talking about thousands of steel tendons in the skyway section of the new span – the elevated roadway that runs from the Oakland footing to the suspension bridge near Yerba Buena Island. Ducts containing the tendons, crucial to structural integrity, had been left unsealed. Rainfall and water used to cure concrete, tainted by construction debris exposed to salty bay mist, had entered many of them. The bridge was billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. Rusty water meant tendons had corroded. Sayre said Coe, lead skyway engineer, described a potential nightmare that could stop construction cold. Such concerns led Caltrans to examine hundreds of tendons. The agency found little significant corrosion – a false alarm. It laid out that conclusion in a report and moved on.
Dems willing to sacrafice kids for teachers
Brown's school funding plan runs into lawmakers' concerns
Gov. Jerry Brown had hardly finished presenting his annual budget revision last week before state Sen. Ted Lieu lit up on Twitter with a burst of criticism of a major part of the plan, a bid to shift more state aid to poor and English-learning students. "Instead of working together to help all kids," said Lieu, D-Torrance, Brown's funding formula "pits teacher against teacher, community against community, parent against parent." Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, convened a hearing on the matter in the Assembly Education Committee the next day, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, reiterated his own reservations about the proposal. He said lawmakers will model the effect of Brown's education proposal "region by region, district by district." In many ways, resistance to Brown's proposal to overhaul California's school financing system is a function of simple math. Though a majority of California's more than 6 million schoolchildren live in urban and rural districts expected to benefit from Brown's proposal, all but a handful of lawmakers who will vote on the measure represent at least one school district identified by the Department of Education as a potential loser. "If a district defines itself as a winner or loser, right or wrong, that's what these lawmakers are going to care about," said Kevin Gordon, a longtime education lobbyist. "It's what drives a lot of the skepticism." Brown was on the defensive last week, laboring to "clarify some common misperceptions" about his plan. He said the most controversial part of his proposal – to provide money to especially needy districts at the expense of wealthier ones – would amount to just 4 percent of total spending, with the rest distributed on a per-pupil basis partly to all students and partly to disadvantaged students statewide. Brown dismissed a California Department of Education projection that more than half of state school districts could receive less money under this formula than they might under existing law. In his annual budget revision Tuesday, he called it a "very small part" of his plan. That Brown was forced to address the matter at all suggests how difficult district-level considerations may be for the Democratic governor to overcome.
San Francisco Chronicle
Cop-Scam: Court’s police takeover costing Oakand millions
No matter what the outcome, the federal court takeover of the Oakland Police Department is going to cost taxpayers millions — starting with the $270,000-plus-a-year salary for the new compliance director. That’s $13,000 more than what former Police Chief Howard Jordan was making before he jumped — or was pushed — into medical retirement this month. In addition to the $270,000 salary, compliance director Thomas Frazier will receive benefits equal to those paid to the city administrator and the police chief, including any unused vacation, sick or executive leave that can be cashed out when the job ends. The city is contesting the benefit extras, which U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson included in his order to the city last month. However, it is not appealing Frazier’s salary. The judge also provided for Frazier’s support team, whose three members will cost the city $110 to $200 an hour apiece. When all’s said and done, their bill could total $385,000. Plus there’s a host of expenses for Frazier and his group, including $500,000 for police radios and a computer, $200,000 for a techie to work on the radios and other equipment, $100,000 for a fingerprint reader and $250,000 for leadership training programs. Frazier is also hiring monitors to collect data on officers’ use of force and racial profiling at a cost of $400,000. Put it all together, and the package is already over $2 million.
Life is good...if you're rich...
Do falling jobless numbers mean we're smart and focused, or rich and exclusive?
The unemployment rate continues to drop in San Francisco and all over California, according to new numbers released by the California Employment Development Department, which were trumpeted by Mayor Ed Lee as vindication for his economic development policies. “San Francisco’s steady economic recovery is the result of our continued focus on job creation, education and training residents for the demands of the 21st century workforce. San Franciscans are getting back to work across the spectrum of job sectors – from hospitality to construction to technology to service industry jobs and we will continue to help these sectors grow in our City,” Lee said in a press release. But are Lee’s neoliberal policies of promoting technology and other corporations with tax breaks and city-subsidized training programs and financing mechanisms really creating the rosy economic picture he’s painting? And even if it is helping to promote boom times, at what point have we essentially reached full employment, the point at which we should maybe turn our focus and resources to addressing the rising cost of living here? After all, San Francisco’s unemployment rate of 5.4 percent is third only to Marin County (4.6 percent) and San Mateo County (5.1 percent). Those three counties also just happen to be the three counties with the highest per capita incomes in the state, a fact that explains our jobless rate more than the mid-Market payroll tax exemption and other taxpayer giveaways. “Unemployment rates tend to be lowest in areas with high education attainment,” Ruth Kavanagh, EDD’s labor market consultant for this area, told us when we called to discuss the disparties among counties.
San Francisco Chronicle
America's Cup Italian team sets demands
This was the week that Larry Ellison lost control of the America's Cup. Ellison's Oracle team was flying high when it was announced in 2010 that the Cup would be staged in the perfect blue amphitheater of San Francisco Bay. Then on Friday, Patrizio Bertelli, the Italian billionaire who owns the Luna Rossa team, issued an ultimatum to agree to his terms for the race or the team would walk. Bertelli's visit follows the death of crewman Andrew "Bart" Simpson of the Artemis challenger boat. Simpson's death has thrown the race into disarray, raising serious questions about the safety of the monstrous 72-foot catamarans. Challenging teams are having misgivings about participating, and a review committee has taken all the boats out of the water until next week. If another team drops out - and Artemis is reportedly waiting until next week to decide - this goes from the most glamorous sailing event in the world to a puny three-team boat race. Simply put, Ellison needs the challengers now a lot more than they need him. And they know that.
Here we go again...California analyst's revenue projection higher than Jerry Brown's
California will collect more than $3 billion in additional state revenue, the state's nonpartisan legislative analyst said Friday, setting the stage for a Capitol fight among Democrats over spending. Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's prediction of higher state revenue in the next fiscal year was due largely to sharp recent increases in the stock market and to differences with the Governor's Office in projecting California's near-term economic prospects. Because current state law would require the vast majority of any windfall to go to public schools, Taylor also proposed an alternative that lawmakers could use to free up billions for other uses. "Great for schools, that's a good thing," Taylor said of the current formula. "Not so good for the rest of the budget and the Legislature trying to balance its varying priorities. … We'd encourage them to just take another look at that issue." The Capitol is brimming with proposals for boosting spending on public services, including courts, mental health facilities, child care, middle-class scholarships, adult dental programs and Medi-Cal provider rates.
Audit says moonlighting state managers shouldn't have had second jobs
California state government violated civil service rules by giving hundreds of salaried managers part-time jobs that paid them an hourly wage, according to an audit released Friday. The audit concluded that departments overpaid some for their hourly work, underpaid others, and used a poorly worded policy as an excuse to circumvent the notion that managers receive a fixed wage to do whatever is required to get the job done. The report found that 504 salaried managers and supervisors held secondary hourly wage jobs last year. About 85 percent of those dual appointments were inappropriate, state investigators said. Nearly all of the jobs were in the state's prison and hospital systems, its pension fund and its social services department. Departments offered various reasons to auditors for using managers to do lower-level work for hourly wages. They said they were working to meet crushing workloads, flexibly cover vacancies or leverage managers' knowledge and skills for less than it would cost to hire new employees or consultants. The California Department of Human Resources' audit brushed aside those arguments, saying salaried administrators have to work as much as the job demands for a fixed wage.
San Francisco Examiner
Recent violence increases focus on protecting San Francisco transgender community
Attacks against transgender people in the Mission district have government officials mobilizing to prevent further violence as the recent crimes evoke past tragedies and call into question San Francisco’s commitment to protect such individuals. Theresa Sparks, who is transgender and the executive director of the Human Rights Commission, said progress has been slow. At a hearing at City Hall, she talked about a meeting she had six years ago with the mother of 27-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant Ruby Rodriguez, a transgender woman who was brutally killed. “Her mother sat down and said, ‘Why is my daughter seen by this city and this country as a throwaway soul?’ And I couldn’t answer that because all the actions of San Francisco that were happening at that time, this population was seen as a throwaway,” Sparks said Thursday during a public hearing. “And maybe I am being a little harsh, but history seems to be repeating itself.” Six months prior to Rodriguez’s killing, two other transgender women had also been slain. Since 2010, the District Attorney’s Office has reviewed 11 transgender hate crime cases and brought charges in nine of them while two were dropped because the victim could not be found, said Rebecca Prozan, the office’s director of community relations. Of the nine, there were six convictions. It’s widely thought that crimes against transgender people are underreported. Challenges in protecting the transgender community in the Mission include immigration status, lack of English proficiency and distrust of authorities, city officials said. Campos expressed disappointment with the community outreach of the Police Department’s hate crimes unit, calling that a “big part of the problem.”
Cops screw up, but get let off the hook...again
Arbitrator reverses discipline against officers faulted for tragic SWAT operation
The only two officers disciplined in connection with the deadliest day in Oakland Police Department history have had their punishments overturned by an arbitrator, who found that department leaders had unfairly singled them out and failed to consider their own accountability. Ricardo Orozco and Christopher Mufarreh were demoted two ranks for their role in the flawed March 21, 2009, SWAT operation against a parolee who hours earlier had shot two officers to death. Two members of the SWAT team also were killed by the parolee, Lovelle Mixon, when they stormed an East Oakland house where he was hiding. Mixon was killed in the shootout. In a 124-page ruling issued Thursday, arbitrator Paul Greenberg said the department's investigation into the incident was flawed and found that the discipline against Orozco and Mufarreh "has the appearance of the department needing to hold someone individually accountable ... but not considering the possibility that senior-level management decisions also contributed to the chain of events."
A perilous tax trend accelerates
When voters passed Proposition 30 last year, they unwittingly accelerated one of the most perilous trends in California governmental finance – an ever-increasing reliance on income taxes from rich people to finance schools and myriad other state and local services. When Jerry Brown became governor the first time in 1975, the broadly based sales tax was the biggest generator of state revenue. Over the years, however, the sales tax has faded as consumer habits changed. Californians bought relatively fewer taxable goods – cars, clothes, appliances, etc. – and spent more of their incomes on untaxed services and investments. Income taxes now exceed 60 percent of general revenue and are headed to two-thirds within a few years, according to fine print in Brown's newly revised budget. The top 1 percent of Californians, in terms of income, now pay well over 40 percent of state income taxes or more than a quarter of general revenue. There are anecdotal indications that some wealthy Californians are contemplating financial or physical moves to avoid the new levies – such as golfer Phil Mickelson's public musing about fleeing from California and its high taxes. But the official assumption in the Capitol is that the wealthy will pay up and that income taxes will grow about 7 percent a year through 2016-17. Even if they continue to pay, however, the increasing reliability on high-income taxpayers is perilous.
Canada comes to Silicon Valley to poach high-tech workers
Canada has landed in Silicon Valley with a brazen message: Give us your smart, your restless, your huddled Googleplex workers yearning to breathe life into the high-tech economy up north. As the U.S. Congress wrestles with a long-sought overhaul of America's immigration system, the Canadian government is trying to poach talented immigrants frustrated by U.S. visa policy. The campaign begins Friday with a four-day visit to the Bay Area by Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism. "I think everyone knows the American system is pretty dysfunctional," Kenney said Thursday in an interview from Vancouver, B.C. "I'm going to the Bay Area to spread the message that Canada is open for business; we're open for newcomers. If they qualify, we'll give them the Canadian equivalent of a green card as soon as they arrive."
San Francisco Examiner
Will the Islamics ruin this too?
Cops tout Bay to Breakers security plan
Roughly 100,000 people are expected at this year’s Bay to Breakers race. Local and federal officials, as well as extra video surveillance, will be on hand for the colorful San Francisco tradition. Race security is front and center as San Francisco prepares to host its first major public event — and one of its most high-profile — since the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon. About 100,000 people — 70,000 of them spectators along the route — are expected to attend the race. Law enforcement officers from six agencies, including the FBI, also are expected to be on hand. Nearly every available San Francisco police resource, from the bike unit to the equestrian unit to the department’s bomb technicians, will be deployed along the racecourse. Security considerations extend beyond law enforcement. The Department of Public Works has replaced 60 waste bins along the route with trash receptacles with transparent liners that allow police and the public to see what’s inside, according to spokeswoman Rachel Gordon.
California's health exchange to serve as voter registration hub
Senate Minority Leader Huff doesn't want poor people to register to vote
Millions of Californians who contact the state's new health exchange to buy insurance will be given the opportunity to register to vote, too, a move that some Republicans fear could benefit Democrats. Secretary of State Debra Bowen made California the first state to designate its health exchange as a voter registration agency Wednesday, but others are expected to follow suit, said Shannan Velayas, Bowen's spokeswoman. The federal law commonly is known as "motor voter" because it ensured that applicants for drivers' licenses nationwide would be asked if they wanted to register to vote. Public agencies in California that currently serve as voter registration outlets include the Department of Motor Vehicles and offices overseeing the state's welfare, tax collection and in-home supportive services. California's health care exchange, Covered California, is creating a marketplace for millions of uninsured Californians to compare prices and buy health insurance policies this fall to take effect Jan. 1. Many of Covered California's clients are expected to be families of low and moderate incomes. Some will be eligible for taxpayer-subsidized policies, and others will have incomes low enough to qualify for Medi-Cal.
Assembly backs limiting immigrants' vulnerability when arrested
The Assembly passed a bill Thursday designed to reduce the number of deportations and immigration holds for people arrested, charged or convicted of minor crimes. Written by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, Assembly Bill 4 would prevent local police from detaining people based on immigration status when they are arrested unless they have prior serious or violent felony convictions. The bill, which Ammiano and supporters have dubbed the "Trust Act," is an expanded version of legislation proposed last year that was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. As the measure moves to the Senate, Ammiano is expected to offer amendments to win Brown's support. The bill is designed to dictate how police deal with requests for information under the federal Secure Communities program. Under current state law, police have the discretion to send information to federal officials, who automatically check the immigration status of people using fingerprints obtained upon arrest. Ammiano said the Secure Communities Program is supposed to target serious offenders, but that hasn't been the case.
Orange County Bids Farewell to Storefront Marijuana Dispensaries
Obama and Orange County Republicans keeping us safe...from Liberty
Until recently, anyone with a $20 doctor's note and a hankering for Hindu Kush could walk into his or her corner marijuana dispensary—one of hundreds and possibly thousands of such operations throughout the state—and walk out minutes later with a jar full of 100 percent legal weed. But after three years of allowing the state's medical-pot industry to explode, the Obama administration began cracking down on marijuana growers and distributors in late 2011. Cities that hadn't already banned storefront dispensaries began doing so, and raids and property seizures in Orange County quickly mounted, first in Costa Mesa and South County, then Anaheim and Santa Ana. On May 6, the California Supreme Court upheld Riverside's ban on dispensaries, effectively stating that any city in the state that wanted to prohibit such clubs were free to do so. By the time that ruling came down, you'd be hard put to find a single storefront in Orange County, with the exception of a handful in Santa Ana and Garden Grove, the latter of which ordered all dispensaries to shut down by May 14 or face immediate raids and fines of $1,000 per day. "I've heard rumors the city will be sending out the SWAT Team," says Marla James, president of the Orange County chapter of Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical-marijuana activist group. "They will be arresting people."
CALIFORNIA VETERANS: Homebuying program hands out few loans
A state program designed to help California veterans buy homes granted just 83 loans last year, despite more than $1.1 billion in available funding. The California Department of Veterans Affairs employed 87 staff members to run the loan program, spending $10.6 million on overhead to originate $10.5 million in loans, according to the state Department of Finance. During a recent visit to the agency’s headquarters in Sacramento, the home loan call center was largely silent. Critics, including Democratic Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, say the program is an anachronism and the money should be redeployed to meet other veteran needs. Agency officials say they know they need to do better and have used the economic downturn to revamp the program, originally launched in 1921 to help World War I veterans buy homes and farms. The overhead costs, they said, include servicing on the approximately 8,000 loans made in the past three decades.
Your tax dollars at work...Condoms for prisoners and porn stars debated by Legislature
Two bills are pending in the state Legislature that promote and expand the use of condoms by two very different groups of people - porn stars and prisoners - each based on programs that are already in place in Los Angeles. One would require actors in adult films shot anywhere in California to wear condoms - a proposal that builds upon a ballot measure approved by L.A. County voters last year, and which has been blamed for shutting down porn production locally. The other would expand the distribution of condoms in state prison, a practice already followed in L.A. jails since 2001 and in San Francisco since 1989. Both are aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, though their level of support appears distinctly different.
Los Angeles Times
Federal judge lifts LAPD consent decree
LAPD free again to kick your ass anytime they want
The federal judge who oversaw a dramatic, forced transformation of the Los Angeles Police Department has freed the department from the final vestiges of federal oversight. In a brief, three-line order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Gary Feess formally lifted the binding agreement the U.S. Department of Justice imposed on the LAPD in 2001, which spelled out dozens of major reforms the police agency had to implement and frequent audits it was required to undergo by a monitor who reported to Feess. The dismissal of the so-called consent decree, which arose largely out of the Rampart corruption scandal and addressed basic problems of accountability that stretched back decades.
Psycho cops keep killing in California
Hayward police shooting raises questions
Jessie Stoddard-Nunez has lots of questions for the officer who shot and killed his brother in the early morning hours of March 3. His brother, Shawn Stoddard-Nunez, died when Hayward police Officer Manuel Troche fired into the passenger side of a car he was riding in. Two of the shots struck the young man, one of them killing him, as the officer emptied his service weapon. "Why was he shooting in the first place?" asked the 18-year-old. "And why did he shoot that many times? And why in the passenger seat? What they did was wrong." Police say Troche fired because he believed the driver of the car, Arthur Pakman, was going to run him down as the officer stood outside his police cruiser. Attorney John Burris, whose law firm has filed a claim with the city of Hayward on Jessie Stoddard-Nunez's behalf, called Troche's actions "reckless cowboy-type behavior." "It was the officer who created the danger; it's the officer who should be prosecuted," he said. "He killed a 19-year-old kid who had been struggling; he had been in foster care his whole life. He was surviving, he was going to college, he was working ... and then is shot in a reckless manner by this cop."
Los Angeles Times
"I dunno...." Cops spiking info on death beating?
Phones to be further examined for video of Bakersfield man's fatal beating
More analysis will determine if footage might be missing from a second cellphone that Kern County authorities seized from witnesses who shot video of sheriff's deputies beating a Bakersfield man who later died, one of the witnesses said Wednesday. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood called in the FBI earlier this week after discovering that another phone that witnesses said contained video of the David Silva beating had no footage. Youngblood said the second phone did have some video of the incident. Both phones were returned to their owners Wednesday after the FBI examined them, said Melissa Quair, a witness who recounted watching the video on each device before deputies took them last week. Quair, 31, said she and other witnesses are worried that recorded segments on the second phone might have been erased. "My biggest concern is that not everything that was videotaped is still there," she said. The phone found to have no video belongs to her mother and the other belongs to her friend, Francisco Arrieta.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Family of South Gate man killed by Downey cops reacts to $4.5 million settlement
Killer cops walk and taxpayers get stuck with the bill
Wearing orange and teal t-shirts that read "Justice For Michael Lee Nida," the family of the unarmed man killed by a Downey police officer spoke out Wednesday about a $4.5 million settlement received in a federal wrongful death suit. About 20 family members and supporters of Nida, a father of four, gathered with their attorney in the case, Dale Galipo, in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles to discuss the settlement and urge for restraint and new training for police and law enforcement. Galipo, who has now won several high-profile police violence cases, detailed a version of the series of events that led to the shooting in October 2011 and talked about the family's ongoing efforts to bring about police reform and advocate for the families of other victims of police violence. "The public is sending a message to police that they're going too far in shooting unarmed citizens," Galipo said. Nida's family said Wednesday they accepted the settlement with mixed emotions. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office determined earlier the shooting was justified and did not press charges.
Los Angeles Times
Regents want to keep sucking $$$'s out of state, students
Jerry Brown urges UC to stress graduating students in 4 years
The graduation rates of UC students came under more scrutiny Wednesday as Gov. Jerry Brown urged administrators and faculty to prod more undergraduates to earn a degree in four years, not six. Brown urged UC to stop citing the six-year rate, which is widely used by the federal government and other schools. "For me the four year is the norm," he said. And he asked UC to examine why various UC campuses have better rates than others and why a number show improvements in some years and not in others. He said he wanted to know if that might be caused by factors within UC or "in the outside world." Brown also wants UC to explore whether faculty teach enough undergraduate courses, among other issues. UC leaders say they might reduce the number of requirements for some majors and bolster summer school offerings and counseling.
UC regents cool to Gov. Brown's suggestions
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to get Californians through college faster, arguing that a speedier education will open up seats for others so more students can get a degree. But so far he's finding it's a lot easier said than done. A day after Brown released his revised state budget that dropped a proposal to cap the number of units students can take at the cheaper in-state tuition rate – which was supposed to create incentives for them to graduate on time – the governor said he's still trying to figure out how to make higher education speedier.
San Francisco Chronicle
PG&E’s $900 million San Bruno tax break?
The $2.25 billion penalty that PG&E may face as a result of the deadly 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion certainly sounds like harsh punishment. The 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion killed 8 people. State officials proposed the penalty last week, saying the eye-popping price tag was necessary to reform Pacific Gas and Electric Co. But that number is more slippery than it might at first appear. PG&E will be able to receive credit for some of the pipeline work it has already performed following the explosion. But company executives aren’t sure how much. They’ve already spent more than $1.6 billion responding to the accident. And in addition there’s this little surprise: the penalty could give PG&E a $900 million tax write-off.
Los Angeles Times
Lawmakers test Brown's no-tax resolve with calls to hike levies
Democrats who control the Legislature have proposed about 20 tax measures
Releasing his latest budget plan this week, Gov. Jerry Brown repeated his assurance that the tax hikes voters agreed to last fall were enough, that he won't ask them to dig deeper into their pockets any time soon. "We just got a nice tax," he said. "I think we ought to take a deep breath and show how we are spending it in a wise way before we start looking for more money." But even before Brown spoke, lawmakers were testing him. They have been forging ahead with proposals to tax Californians more — on every can of soda, cigarette, plastic grocery store bag and bullet. Strip club patrons and marijuana users could pay more, and drivers could be on the hook too.
San Francisco Chronicle
People are dying to please Kelso and Henderson
California struggles with experiment to shift inmates
The shift in California's penal system, referred to as "realignment," is one of the nation's largest criminal justice experiments and has done its job in at least one respect: The population in the state's 33 adult prisons has dropped so much that the system now ranks second to Texas in the number of inmates, even though Texas has 12 million fewer residents. But the change has not come without criticism. Many law enforcement officials, victims' rights groups and Republican lawmakers say crime has increased because of Brown's realignment law, as the wave of new inmates arriving in some county jails is leading to overcrowded conditions and the early release of dangerous felons. Advocacy groups seized on preliminary FBI crime statistics to argue both sides of the issue. Inmates who serve time in county jails often are not being monitored at all after being set free, and the number of paroled sex offenders who are fugitives rose 15 percent after Brown's realignment law took effect. Moreover, the law firms that previously sued the state are now targeting counties for the same conditions that led to a federal court takeover of some state prison operations, oversight that has cost the state billions of dollars. The state had no choice but to reduce prison crowding after the judges ruled that it was the primary cause of unconstitutionally poor inmate medical and mental health care. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision in 2011, forcing the state to reduce its state inmate population. The realignment law is responsible for reducing the state prison population by 25,000 inmates, to about 119,000. Yet the federal courts say another 9,300 must go by year's end and have threatened to hold Brown in contempt if he doesn't comply.
San Francisco Examiner
Holder seizing assets, screwing people even harder
Feds move to seize San Francisco pot club building
The U.S. Department of Justice is moving to seize a Mission district building that houses a city-licensed medical marijuana dispensary — the first time such an action has been taken in San Francisco. Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, filed a forfeiture proceeding May 6 against 2441 Mission St., a commercial building between 20th and 21st streets where Shambhala Healing Center has operated on and off since early 2011. The federal government can at any time seize cash or property acquired via the sale of illegal drugs. Medical marijuana, while legal in California, is a banned substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Haag has moved to seize buildings in Oakland, Berkeley and Marin County because they housed cannabis dispensaries, but this is the Justice Department’s first forfeiture action against a San Francisco landlord, according to records. The dispensary was one of eight San Francisco pot clubs whose landlords began receiving letters from Haag, starting in fall 2011. The letters warned of stiff prison sentences and forfeiture proceedings if the clubs were not shut down.
Students get a first hand look at how California screws everyone
College commencement fees leave California graduates grumbling
After scrimping, borrowing and sacrificing for years to pay for college, graduating seniors are finally preparing to celebrate. But at many California public universities, you don't just pay to get in. You pay to get out. At Cal State East Bay, there's a $45 fee to graduate. At San Francisco State, it's $100 -- $60 more than it was two years ago. Across the state, 15 of Cal State's 23 campuses charge a graduation fee -- a long-standing and once-little-noticed tack-on that is raising students' anger. This year's graduates have absorbed tuition fee hikes nearly every year since they stepped foot on campus, and now they are discovering even the diploma isn't always included in the tab. "There is a fee for everything," said Natalia Aldana, a Cal State East Bay communications major and journalist who graduates in June. "I think it's really unfortunate that they have to charge students for everything they do, including graduation." Even before they are declared degree-worthy, most Cal State students must pass a writing exam -- with an additional fee of up to $38. UC Berkeley graduates don't pay a separate fee to graduate, but commencement tickets cost $10 a head -- even for graduates themselves. At San Jose State, some students recently learned they'd have to pay $75 to be honored in their department's own celebration. "We already have to pay to be here, and we've got to pay to leave," said Donnisha Udookon, a Cal State East Bay criminal justice and sociology major from Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Daily News
LAUSD cracks down on teacher misconduct; 100 fired, 200 resign, 300 'housed'
The personnel files stretched the length of the 15-foot conference table in Superintendent John Deasy's office, a chronicle of the corporal punishment, verbal and physical abuse and sexual misconduct reported in the classrooms of the Los Angeles Unified School District. In the past, the misdeeds detailed in the teachers' files would likely have earned the offender a disciplinary memo, maybe a week's suspension, perhaps a transfer to another school. Today, they're grounds for firing. Under the zero-tolerance policy that Deasy enacted after the Miramonte Elementary sex-abuse scandal erupted in February 2012, the school board has voted to dismiss more than 100 teachers for misconduct, and accepted the resignations of at least 200 others who were about to be terminated. Nearly 300 additional teachers accused of inappropriate behavior remain "housed" in administrative offices while officials investigate the complaints.
Same old stupid GOP...
Maldonado spars with NAACP, Democrats over photograph
One day after a civil rights leader accused him of using racially charged politics in his criticism of California's prison realignment, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado said Friday that Gov. Jerry Brown and "his buddies are trying to make it about race." Maldonado, who is preparing to challenge Brown in next year's gubernatorial election, told The Bee he will "probably" stop using the image of a felon to which a leader of the NAACP objected, but that he will continue to cite the case. Maldonado came under criticism after a news conference Wednesday at which he highlighted a photograph of an offender who was not released from prison under realignment – the program Maldonado organized the event to criticize. Maldonado announced that he will file a ballot initiative to repeal the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the prison and parole system to counties. Alice Huffman, president of the California state conference of the NAACP, said in a letter to Maldonado on Thursday that his use of Jerome Anthony Rogers' photograph appears to be a "despicable attempt to drag the Willie Horton-style racial politics of the past into California."
San Francisco Chronicle
Critics slam GOPer Maldonado’s latest move as a “Willie Horton” misstep
The 2014 governor’s race isn’t even officially kicked off, and Republican former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado has kicked up a storm of controversy, thanks to a press conference that’s already being slammed as his “Willie Horton” moment. Maldonado, who has indicated he is seriously eying a challenge to incumbent governor Jerry Brown, went to a Capitol garage yesterday to unveil a campaign slamming the Democrat, and to announce he’s filed papers in support of a ballot measure to repeal the governor’s prison realignment. But the event became the focus of intense criticism after Maldonado cited Jerome Rogers, 57, an African-American transient who has been charged with murdering a San Bernardino County woman, as a prime example of how Brown’s moves have endangered public safety. Democratic critics like strategist Dan Newman said Maldonado’s appearance alongside a massive photo of Rogers recalled the incendiary use of furloughed killer Willie Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign between Democrat Michael Dukakis and Republican George H.W. Bush. And there was another problem for Maldonado, as reported by the LA Times: “Rogers was never part of the governor’s shift of state felons to county control.”
Los Angeles Times
Dems argue among themselves about the size of the new welfare state
Healthcare puts Jerry Brown, Capitol Democrats on different sides
With California's deficit wiped out and its economy starting to hum, this was to be a year when Gov. Jerry Brown was free of the budget logjams that have paralyzed the Capitol. But instead, the governor has a fight on his hands — with his fellow Democrats. He is on a collision course with them over how to reshape the state's sprawling, complicated healthcare system to conform with President Obama's national overhaul. The sticking points in extending public healthcare to more Californians include how many to add to state insurance rolls, how much to pay doctors and hospitals, and how much money to give counties for their care of the indigent. The Democrats who control the Legislature — with a veto-proof supermajority — want to make it easier to obtain public insurance than Brown does and send more money to the doctors, hospitals and counties than the governor wants to part with.
Seattle group raises its bid for Kings
Super-bid could crush Sacramento
In a dramatic, late-hour move, the group trying to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle announced Friday it is increasing its bid for the franchise a second time - just days before the NBA is scheduled to vote on the team's future. The group's latest bid would value the Kings at $625 million - on par with estimates placed on franchises in Dallas, Miami and Houston and $75 million above its previous offer from just four weeks ago. The offer also values the Kings at $100 million above what is being offered by a local contingent seeking to purchase the franchise from the Maloof family and keep it in Sacramento. The offer immediately prompted questions of whether the Sacramento group will feel it must respond. In a brief post on his website, the reclusive leader of the Seattle group, Bay Area hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, said the action demonstrates "the extent of our commitment to bring basketball back to Seattle." The move was expected by many NBA watchers after last week's subcommittee vote against Seattle. Still, the size of the bid increase came as a surprise.
Oakland city leaders and police department collapsing in utter chaos
Interim Police Chief Toribio out just two days after appointment
Before Howard Jordan abruptly quit as police chief earlier this week, he and city leaders knew that the department's federal overseer was about to seek his ouster, this paper has learned. Thomas Frazier, given broad powers by a federal judge to reform the department, including authority to recommend that the judge fire its chief, informed both Mayor Jean Quan and Administrator Deanna Santana that he was about to seek Jordan's removal, sources said Friday. Within hours Wednesday morning, Jordan, 47, announced that he would immediately seek a medical retirement, citing an undisclosed illness. His immediate successor as acting chief, Anthony Toribio, kept that job until Friday morning when Quan appointed Deputy Chief Sean Whent, 38, to interim chief. Whent promoted a lieutenant and two other captains to form his immediate staff. Sources said Jordan, knowing he would soon be out of a job, sought to leave as quickly as possible rather than be tarnished by a formal removal. Frazier would have been required to present written findings in defense of Jordan's ouster. Jordan's sudden rush for the door set up Oakland's week of the three chiefs -- an embarrassing chain reaction, which raised fears that the embattled and understaffed police department had descended into chaos and slipped even further from the city's grasp.
Los Angeles Times
Go Kamala Go!
California sues JPMorgan over debt collection tactics
In a lawsuit that echoes the worst abuses of the foreclosure crisis, the state's top law enforcement official is suing the nation's largest bank, accusing it of using aggressive and illegal tactics to collect credit card debt from thousands of California consumers. Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris on Thursday accused JPMorgan Chase & Co. of operating a "debt collection mill" that flooded courts with more than 100,000 lawsuits to obtain speedy judgments before consumers could fight back. Much as banks did during the housing crisis, JPMorgan used so-called robo-signing to churn out documents without reviewing them, Harris said. The state alleges that JPMorgan relied on incomplete records and erroneous information to make its cases; in some instances, key documents allegedly were signed by low-level employees posing as assistant treasurers and bank officers. Harris also alleges that the bank revealed customers' credit card numbers, potentially exposing them to identity theft. JPMorgan also failed to notify some customers that lawsuits had been filed against them, a practice known as "sewer service" litigation, according to Harris. The bank "abused the judicial process and engaged in serious misconduct against California credit card borrowers," Harris said. "This enforcement action seeks to hold [JPMorgan] accountable for systematically using illegal tactics to flood California's courts with specious lawsuits against consumers."
California health exchange poised to hand out millions in outreach grants
Tens of millions of dollars in outreach grants are set to be awarded next week in a massive campaign to persuade uninsured Californians to buy coverage as a linchpin in the looming health care overhaul. Applicants include community-based nonprofits, social service centers, huge labor unions and school districts - including Los Angeles Unified School District and Service Employees International Union, one of the state's largest health care unions. The awarding of two-year grants, from $250,000 to $1 million apiece, will push a nationwide health care program from blackboard planning into a vital new phase of face-to-face contact with families. The goal is to create a network of established, trusted groups in communities statewide, not only to promote coverage but to answer questions, discuss options and show how subsidies can cut premiums for families of four earning up to $92,000. Dozens of California community groups and public agencies are expected to receive a total of $30 million in federal money through grants awarded by Covered California. Requests far exceed the cash available: More than 200 groups have submitted applications that total nearly $129 million. Critics say that public skepticism is likely to rise if outreach grants of up to $1 million are awarded to controversial or politically powerful groups, such as Planned Parenthood or labor unions. Both Planned Parenthood and SEIU said their health care workers were natural fits for the outreach effort.
New Oakland crime plan has a familiar ring
Will Bratton's thug tactics shred the Constitution in Oakland too?
In a critique that should sound eerily familiar to Oakland police leaders, a star-studded consultant team on Thursday said the department needed to beef up investigative units and improve its focus on identifying crime trends in order to reduce sky-high rates of burglaries, robberies and shootings. The team, headed by former New York City and Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton, found that Oakland police effectively were not investigating burglaries in a city where the crime jumped 43 percent last year. The consultants recommended creating geographically-based investigative units to better respond to burglaries and robberies. They also called for major changes in the city's Compstat process -- a weekly high-level data-crunching session that uses crime mapping to focus top commanders and district leaders on identifying hot spots and responding to crime trends. "When this is fully implemented, this is going to ... reduce crime in the city," Patrick Harnett, a retired Hartford police chief and longtime Bratton associate, said at a Thursday news conference. Bratton did not attend the event. City leaders turned to Bratton and his associates earlier this year after a particularly violent 2012 during which the city recorded 131 homicides and averaged 12 robberies and 33 burglaries a day. Their report is seen as a road map for helping the department bring down crime, especially robberies, burglaries and shootings, after two years of major spikes.
Proposed new law would let men use ladies rooms
California Assembly OKs two bills related to transgender residents
Two bills aimed at eliminating obstacles facing transgender people cleared the Assembly largely along party lines Thursday, including one measure to let students choose the bathroom and sports team that correlates with their gender identity. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said his Assembly Bill 1266 would force school districts to comply with current laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender students. Several school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified, already have policies letting students participate in activities and use facilities for the gender they identify with. Ammiano said his bill ensures that all students have equal access.
Los Angeles Times
Poll finds Garcetti, Greuel in dead heat
A poll released Thursday shows City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti in a virtual dead heat in the campaign to be the next mayor of Los Angeles. The poll, by the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., shows Greuel with 46% of likely voters, Garcetti with 45% and 9% undecided less than two weeks before the May 21 election. The finding is good news for Greuel, the city controller, who trailed in some earlier surveys, including one that showed she had struggled even to find substantial favor among women, expected to be one of her strongest constituencies as she pushes to be the first female mayor in the city's history.
San Francisco Chronicle
More from the clowns running Oakland
Oakland police chief steps down
An understaffed Oakland police force struggling with rising crime and a court order to curb officer misconduct is again looking for a leader, after Police Chief Howard Jordan abruptly stepped down Wednesday, citing an unspecified medical reason. Jordan, who announced his departure in a morning letter to the rank and file, was a longtime Oakland police veteran who led the force for 19 months, a tumultuous time of Occupy protests, budget cuts and wide alarm over killings and robberies. The department's failure to finish reforms ordered a decade ago after a police abuse scandal prompted a federal judge in March to appoint a compliance director with the power to seek Jordan's firing. The chief's announcement stunned many at City Hall, including City Council members who had met with Jordan in closed session Tuesday afternoon and were unaware of any health problems. Mayor Jean Quan, who appointed Jordan to the chief's job, said she "personally was very saddened and surprised." Jordan could not be reached for comment, but said in his letter to officers that he was "on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement," a move that will impact his pension and health care. He did not disclose details about his illness. In an interview with KGO-TV, Jordan said conversations with his physician "for quite some time" led to his decision. "I was never forced out," he said. "What I did not prepare for was a debilitating health condition." Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio, a 23-year veteran, is now in charge of the department on an interim basis. Quan said the city will conduct a national search for Jordan's replacement.
GOP starts it's lame trek to try to win back California
Maldonado blasts Jerry Brown on prison realignment, touts initiative to repeal law
Abel Maldonado, who is preparing to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in next year's gubernatorial race, said Wednesday he will file a ballot initiative to repeal California's prison realignment, an issue Republicans consider a potential liability for Brown. The former lieutenant governor provided few details about the initiative, but the circumstances of his announcement suggested Maldonado will make the issue a centerpiece of his campaign. "I'm here to address an issue that threatens the lives of every Californian, an issue that is the most important issue in California in a generation," Maldonado said. "It is an issue that affects the quality of life and the safety of every citizen of my home state of California." Brown has faced criticism for months from Republican lawmakers – and some Democrats – seeking to modify or repeal elements of realignment, the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the prison and parole system to counties. As Maldonado did at his event on Wednesday, critics highlight crimes committed by offenders they say were released under realignment.
Los Angels Times
Without a plan, and totally clueless...Maldonado calls Brown's handling of prison crowding an early-release 'shell game'
Saying there is a "pretty good shot" he'll run for governor, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado on Wednesday kicked off a drive against Gov. Jerry Brown's handling of prison crowding, labeling Brown's policies an "early release" program. The Republican from Santa Maria, who lost a bid for Congress last year, said he was launching a campaign to repeal the governor's prison policies, implemented in late 2011 to meet court-ordered population limits in state lockups. Maldonado said he was forming a political committee to gather signatures to put a repeal measure on next year's ballot. He is seeking to capitalize on the controversy over Brown's requirement that counties begin housing lower-level felons and parole violators who in the past would have done that time in prison. Maldonado acknowledged that he does not have the financial backing for a statewide signature drive. Nor does he have his own plan to address prison crowding, although he said such a plan would probably include construction of new facilities.
Ex-CEO of CalPERS pleads not guilty to federal charges
Fred Buenrostro, former chief executive at CalPERS, has said for years he had nothing to do with the bribery scandal that engulfed the pension fund. On Wednesday, he made his denial in a criminal courtroom. Buenrostro pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in federal court in San Francisco. The plea came nearly two months after Buenrostro and his longtime friend Alfred Villalobos were indicted by a federal grand jury. Villalobos entered his not guilty plea on April 9. The two are free on bond.
Los Angeles Times
Lib-tards in a panic...
Unions, lawmakers line up against Koch brothers
California legislative leaders and 10 public employee unions announced opposition Wednesday to any sale of the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers to a pair of wealthy brothers who fund conservative causes throughout the country. In a letter dated Tuesday to Bruce Karsh, president of Oaktree Capital Management, the largest shareholder in Tribune Co., and chairman of its Board of Directors, the unions said David and Charles Koch are “anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-public education and anti-immigrant.” The unions noted that some Oaktree assets come from public pension funds and warned that a sale to the Koch brothers “would be adverse to the retirement security of public employees whose pension funds you are responsible for managing and investing.” The California Public Employee Retirement System is among the funds that invests with Oaktree. It has at least $200 million committed to the firm, according to pension fund records. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) added their opposition to that of the unions. The legislative leaders and unions have considerable sway over the investment of California’s public pension money. “I oppose it,” Steinberg said of a possible sale. “ I believe newspapers are a public trust. The Los Angeles Times has a long and respected tradition of community leadership and impartiality. The Koch brothers have a long and demonstrated history of a rigid political ideology.” A Tribune spokesman declined to comment.
Voting for Wendy Greuel because she's a woman? It's OK
Wendy Greuel's candidacy for mayor, in a city that hasn't had a woman mayor and generally has too few women in political office, raises a basic question as Los Angeles residents make their choices for the May 21 election: Is it OK to vote for Greuel because she's a woman?
Legislative analyst gives Democrats more money
Jerry Brown – who made "lower your expectations" a catchphrase of his first governorship – is back in that mode during his second stint, especially on spending. When Brown unveiled a revised 2013-14 budget last week, it was evident that he and his budget "gnomes," as he called them, had adopted a relatively pessimistic view of revenues, despite a recent surge in income taxes. It was, Brown said, largely a one-time bump, rather than a harbinger of a dependably higher revenue flow, and because of that, he was unwilling to restore cuts in health and welfare programs for the poor, the aged and the infirm. "The money's not there," he told reporters, uttering a flat "no" to a question about restoring those "safety net" services. The response did not please Democratic legislative leaders and they hoped aloud that a revenue estimate from their Legislative Analyst's Office would provide more room for spending on those services. On Friday, the LAO made that hope a reality, at least on paper, saying that the state could expect $3 billion-plus more than the governor projects. However, the relatively rosy forecast came with caveats.
California lawmakers must address teacher pension shortfall
The unfunded liability at the California State Teachers' Retirement System is, as the LAO has previously noted, perhaps the state's most difficult fiscal challenge. It is certainly its worst pension problem. Failure to address it now will mean dumping more debt on our children. CalSTRS is the nation's second largest retirement plan, behind only the system serving state and local government employees. The teacher pension fund now has about 862,000 members, about 2 percent of the state's population. Thus, ensuring that teacher pensions are adequately funded is not only sound state fiscal policy, it protects large numbers of current and future retirees who need their retirement pay for survival.
School reforms should reflect exception to local control rule
When Gov. Jerry Brown introduced the principle of "subsidiarity" as the basis for his public school local funding formula, my ears perked. While the word "subsidiarity" isn't familiar to most people, the principle is – local control. Each person matters more the closer to them that decision-making power lies. Unions have locals. Corporations have divisions. Service clubs have chapters. Catholics have parishes. Fast food empires have franchises. Armies have battalions. Governments have subdivisions. When principle becomes dogma, the most profoundly important rule, one equally grounded in theology, gets broken. That rule – that there's an exception to every rule – is the basis for granting clemency and showing mercy. God may help those who help themselves, but we're supposed to help, too. The governor's local funding formula needs an exception. The Legislature should make it. The governor should accept it.
Oakland residents deserve to feel safe again
While the shake-up of the Oakland Police command staff has left officers and residents unsettled, it provides a long-overdue opportunity to restore order within the department and on the streets.
State must pay enough to keep water workers
Unable to match the salaries of private and some public utilities, California cannot retain enough skilled employees to maintain and operate its complex and vital water delivery system. In the short run, the solution will be to negotiate new labor contracts authorizing higher salaries. In the long run, the structure of the state water system must be freed of constraints of state hiring and procurement rules.
Los Angeles Times
A return to the 'era of limits' in California
In a reminder of the boom years of the late 1990s, California's fiscal picture brightened in the first few months of 2013, leaving the state unexpectedly flush with cash. But when Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his revised budget proposal Tuesday for fiscal 2013-14, he did something much more reminiscent of the "era of limits" in the 1970s: He laid out a cautious and moderate course. Specifically, he called on the Legislature to increase spending by less than 1% while doubling the amount held in reserve.
Maldonado trips as he gins up crime issue
Republican consultants, searching for issues other than gay marriage, gunners' rights and immigrant-bashing, are contemplating at least two initiatives that might stoke voters' fears and shape the 2014 general election. One would jump-start California's long-stalled death penalty, in answer to the failed initiative last year to abolish capital punishment in California. Another idea – Maldonado's brainstorm – would repeal Brown's effort to reduce prison crowding by shifting low-level felons to county jails.
Voters are only ones who can fix Prop. 13 tax dodge
It's patently unfair when the new owners of the Fairmont Miramar can take advantage of a legal scam to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Love could kill Jerry Brown's school plan
Gov. Jerry Brown's ambitious plan to overhaul how California schools are financed may be loved to death. Dozens of school finance players, including Brown's fellow Democrats in the Legislature, have expressed conceptual support for Brown's plan. However, they attach caveats that their full support would depend on his accepting some changes. The net effect of all those demands, if granted, could be to leave the present system – one that no one defends – largely intact.
San Francisco Chronicle
Say it isn’t so, Abel Maldonado
Abel Maldonado used a photo of Jerome Rogers as a prominent prop during a campaign event in Sacramento this week. Abel Maldonado is one of the more engaging, decent people you ever will meet in politics. He’s earnest, he has a sense of humor and he seems genuinely determine to find the good — and common ground — in people of varying ideologies and backgrounds. At least that is what he is like in one-on-one situations. However, his campaigns just don’t seem to match his interpersonal instincts for the high road.
A rollercoaster week at Oakland Police Department
Gunmen have shot out the windows of AC Transit buses in drive-bys. Firefighters have had to duck for cover when bullets fired from the street struck their fire stations. Last week, we learned that Oakland is the robbery capital of the U.S., according to FBI data analyzed by this newspaper. Criminals are stealing people's cellphones, cars, jewelry and other possessions at gunpoint on a regular basis. Oakland residents and business people are desperate for police and city officials to take action to address over-the-top crime. But for every step forward, it seems, there are always at least two back.
Can crime again be big issue in California?
Crime faded as a decisive political issue largely because the crime rate, having hit a peak about 1980, receded sharply. Whether that was due to new tough-on-crime laws or demographic and economic factors is still a matter of debate. Like fashions, hairstyles and tastes in popular music, politics tend to run in cycles. What's old becomes new again, and some believe California is ripe for a rebirth of crime as a high-impact political issue.
State must act to shed its No. 1 ranking in poverty
Right now, one out of every four children in California lives in poverty. If grouped together, these 2.2 million children would live in a city larger than San Diego and San Francisco combined. They are far hungrier, undernourished and less secure than the rest of us. Their playtime and daydreams, hallmarks of childhood, are interrupted by basic needs that go unmet every day.
Why the PG&E settlement is lame
The victims didn't get to "safely absorb" the PG&E blast
One of the factors that the state regulators took into account when they decided how much PG&E should be fined for the San Bruno blast was the company's financial situation -- that is, how much of a fine could the utility "safely absorb." That's the first sign that something screwy is going on here.
Immigration reform has big stakes in California
State legislators often conduct their windiest floor debates over nonbinding "resolutions" commending this or that, condemning this or that, or beseeching Congress to do this or that. These symbolic and usually meaningless legislative resolutions typically rate little or no media coverage. But one calling on Congress to pass "comprehensive" immigration reform, approved by the Assembly on Monday, deserves notice.
Democrats can eat their own, too, as an aide to Brown learns
Steve Glazer's fight with Democrats might be a footnote to the 2012 election, except for what it shows about the dominant party in California and the new political order of the top-two primary. Hardly a reactionary, Glazer started as an aide to Gov. Jerry Brown when he was a college kid, and campaigned in 1986 to save the late Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, though voters ousted her. After helping Brown again in the 2010 election, Glazer became a consultant for the California Chamber of Commerce, hoping to elect moderate Democrats. That's when he crossed Speaker John A. Pérez and labor.
California reverting to secrecy
There's nothing ambiguous about Article IV, Section 8a of the California Constitution: "At regular sessions no bill other than the budget bill may be heard or acted upon by committee or either (legislative) house until the 31st day after the bill has been introduced unless the house dispenses with this requirement by roll-call vote entered into the journal, three-fourths of the membership concurring." Its purpose is clear: The Legislature should give the public and those directly affected some time to weigh the import and impact of a new law before it is enacted, unless there's a genuine emergency. Or, to turn it around, it's bad form for the Legislature to whip up secret legislation and impose it on the public. But the Legislature often does just that, thus violating the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of the constitution. It's called "gut-and-amend."
San Francisco Chronicle
In the darkness of the California Legislature
It isn’t all that often that we see anything bipartisan in the California Legislature. So here is a concept that all legislators should agree on: Our elected officials should at least have time to read a bill before they are asked to vote. A measure to do just that (with bipartisan support) had its first hearing this week in the Assembly Budget Committee. ACA4, which would require bills to be in print (and available for viewing online) at least 72 hours before a vote. This would effectively curtail the practice of “gut and amend,” in which a meaningless bill becomes a “vehicle” (as they say in the Capitol) to be stripped of its language and a new (almost always unrelated) proposal inserted. ACA4 would allow exceptions for emergencies with a three-fourths. But before any of the witnesses had a chance to say a word, the chairman announced that it would be summarily disposed to the “suspense file.” In other words, it’s headed to oblivion.
California's workforce takes a dive
The state's economic health – and ultimately its social health and its governmental finances – depend on having as many able-bodied adults as possible working, supporting their families, buying goods and services, and paying taxes, rather than consuming benefits. Having an ever-declining segment of the able-bodied adult population working, or at least seeking work, has corrosive, long-term effects.
Bay Area can't afford to lose Delta water fight
There's no way voters can approve this plan until there's a full analysis of its costs and benefits compared to alternatives. The best way to improve the health of the Delta is to fix the damaged levee system and allow more water to flow through the estuary, not less. Additional water for cities and agriculture can come from increased recycling and from expanding reservoirs and using underground aquifers for more storage.
Why are the feds cracking down on pot again?
President Obama keeps saying that marijuana isn't a big priority for his administration, and his rogue nutcase of a US Attorney in Northern California keeps making it a priority. Now the Drug Enforcement Administration, which also reports to the White House, is joining the action, going after licensed dispensaries in San Francisco and San Jose. Maybe the feds are just trying to make sure everyone's following the rules -- except that the DEA has no jurisdiction over California law, and California laws says the dispensaries are just fine. So it's hard to imagine that this is anything other than a heavy-handed attempt to drive more pot clubs out of business. For what? For why? And why are our US Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, not making a stink about this?
Pay-to-play fees for community colleges? No
Imagine you go to the grocery story and find long lines at the checkout. A clerk approaches and says, "You can wait in line, or if you're willing to pay four times more, we can get you out right away." That, in essence, is what Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, is proposing for California's community colleges in Assembly Bill 955. Can't get into a high-demand course? Pay a $600 fee for a three-credit course and take it during the summer or winter break. Students in the regular class would pay the usual $138. Parallel courses, but different prices. The Assembly should vote down the ill-conceived two-tier pricing bill. But if it doesn't, the Senate should – as it did in 2011. In a public education system, legislators should not make deep pockets a determiner of success.
Why PG&E will never support solar
One of the most important stories on the future of the country's electricity supply has been largely ignored by the major media outlets. Here's the deal: The research arm of the private utility industry has issued a report saying that solar panels -- particularly used in small-scale distributed generation -- could soon make the entire industry obsolete.
Superstore war flares in Capitol
A given number of Californians with a given amount of income will spend a given amount on groceries – and with 38 million residents, the state's grocery business is not only huge, over $100 billion a year, but hugely competitive. Traditional supermarket chains – Safeway, Raley's, Albertsons, Save Mart, Ralphs, etc. – compete fiercely, and their profit margins are notoriously thin, averaging under 2 percent. But margins have been stretched even thinner by a sluggish economy and powerful new competitors.
Samuel I. Fink
Improper pharmacist kickbacks threaten the health of California
Efforts to reduce health care spending have given rise to questionable financial arrangements that may be jeopardizing the health of California patients. Some health insurers are improperly incentivizing pharmacists to switch patient medications to older, cheaper, non-chemically equivalent drugs from those originally prescribed by their doctor, often without patients' or physicians' knowledge. This process, known as therapeutic substitution, is one of a suite of tools that health insurers have implemented in the name of cost containment, but whose goal is simply to drive up insurer profits on the backs of patients.
Jerry Brown needs to back his own pension reform
When Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed two bills changing state pension laws, he insisted more reform was needed. From our perspective, he had just begun.
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