Opinion: Addressing the transportation needs in Merced County
Submitted by Marjorie Kirn 11/14/14
Addressing the transportation needs of a growing population is an ongoing challenge for the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG). As a region that has historically relied heavily on our local highways and roadways to get people and goods from here to there, it has been our responsibility as a regional transportation agency to also look for solutions that include a multi-modal approach to the transportation demand. While there has been increased focus statewide in the last few years on the importance of providing residents with more transportation choices, MCAG has been at it for more than a decade.
In 2003, MCAG collaborated with federal and state agencies as part of the Partnership for Integrated Planning – then, a new program to engage resource agencies, local governments and community residents in the transportation planning process to develop a plan to guide future decision making and transportation investments in the region. Throughout this two year process, MCAG hosted 98 public meetings with a broad range of community based organizations, advocacy groups and residents. The result was a community-driven visioning, goal setting and scenario development process that ultimately identified a preferred scenario that aimed to relieve congestion, maintain roads, preserve ag land and protect the environment. This scenario included building many road improvements and meeting maintenance needs, while also expanding transit service and bicycle options.
Over the last ten years, MCAG has remained committed to these priorities, despite an economic recession and without a transportation sales tax measure. We’ve simply had to learn how to do more with less. We continue to invest in a multi-modal approach to the growing transportation demand, as is reflected by our expanded transit, bicycle, and rail programs, in addition to our highway improvement priorities.
The Bus, the transit operator in Merced County, recently celebrated the one year anniversary of a total redesign of the transit system which included expanding services to evenings and Sundays. In addition, The Bus utilizes technology to regularly review and improve efficiencies in service and to provide riders with easy to access information about routes and schedules. Riders can use www.thebuslive.com to locate buses in service, view routes and schedules and get up to the second arrival update predictions for buses at any particular stop.
Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) is a multi-county, fixed-route public transit system that has been providing tourists and local residents an alternative to driving to the Yosemite region for nearly 15 years. It provides bus service into Yosemite National Park and gateway communities from Merced, Mariposa and Mammoth Lakes. Last month, YARTS celebrated its one millionth rider and is currently working on expanding service to include routes from Fresno (www.yarts.com).
As it became clear that the state and the public wanted better walking and biking facilities and connections, local and regional leaders responded. Over the years, MCAG has funded and supported many active transportation projects throughout the county. Whether it’s sidewalks in downtown Livingston or traffic calming at the Planada Elementary School, MCAG has remained committed to helping provide safe and realistic alternatives for cyclists and pedestrians. Towards that end, $110 million is dedicated to future active transportation and air quality projects in the 2014-2040 Regional Transportation Plan.
Through the work of a multi-agency partnership in the Central Valley, rail services are becoming a more viable option for commuters in the region. While the region has been served by Amtrak for decades, a recent proposed change to service will provide Merced commuters the opportunity to use Amtrak while traveling north or south for work. In addition, long term commuter rail projects like the Altamont Commuter Express expansion plans to Merced and the future high speed rail station round out a comprehensive strategy for providing future alternatives to travelers who are currently using their cars.
Together, these projects and investments showcase a decade-long commitment to developing a multi- modal, integrated transportation system for the movement of goods and people throughout Merced County. This is a long-standing commitment that continues to drive the work we do to provide the citizens of Merced County with safe and reliable transportation options into the future.
Marjorie Kirn is executive director of the Merced County Association Governments (MCAG) which is the regional transportation planning agency and metropolitan planning organization for Merced County. In additional to regional transportation planning, MCAG also manages The Bus, YARTS and the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority. www.mcagov.org
Submitted by Burt Wilson, Public Water News Service 11/10/14 To the Editor:
Well, the elections are over and the Water Bond, unfortunately for most Californians, passed. Why did it lose? The answer is mendacity. It's pronounced men-DAS-it-ee. Never heard of the word? Well, some of you might be old enough to remember the great Tennessee Williams play "Cat on a hot tin roof." It was made into a movie in 1958 and sent scores of people looking in dictionaries for the meaning of the word "mendacity." Burl Ives played a southern patriarch who was dying and was displeased at his money-grabbing sons and daughters who were trying to play up to him: "I smell mendacity," he said. "There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity...it smells like death."
Of course, mendacity means untruthfulness. All forms of it--lies, deceit, cheats, dishonesty, et al--and I dare say that the odor of mendacity has never been stronger in California than at this very moment. It permeates all levels of government from the governor down to the lowest state employees. Right now, in California politics, mendacity reigns.
Mendacity is presently the main currency of California politics. For example, Gov. Brown was able to deceive voters by linking the Water Bond to the drought in order to scare people into voting for this bloated fiasco. I'm sure political operatives look on this as a brilliant tactic, yet the truth is that it is mendacity.
It's been proven that fracking waste-water is entering the water tables in California, yet the oil companies were able to defeat a "ban fracking" measure in Santa Barbara by pouring tons of money into a "it means more jobs" campaign. Again, mendacity.
The Independent Science Board (ISB) of the Delta Stewardship Council has trashed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's (BDCP) latest EIR/EIS, but it's almost been banned by the media while that same media continues to print government agency media hand-outs as if they were important news. That's mendacity.
In fact, the use of the word "conservation" in the BDCP's title is pure mendacity!
When state legislators take thousands of dollars in campaign funds and perks and then vote for the laws their benefactor's are pushing, they will tell you that the money played no part at all in their votes. Mendacity.
When departments such as Water Resources stage media junkets in the Delta so they can get favorable press coverage from newspaper writers that's mendacity. Does the media seek out informed people opposed to these projects? No. That's mendacity.
Look at all the favorable media coverage for the Delta tunnels and the bullet train projects, both of which are said to benefit the people of California when they really benefit the ruling oligarchy and the big corporate donors. That's mendacity doubled.
Why does the media always play up these stupid projects and give short shrift to the opposition? Because the California Business Roundtable and the California Chamber of Commerce, who support these projects, control a whole lot of advertising in this state and the media doesn't want to be cut off.That's Mendacity.
The media ought to be screaming to high heaven about the state's allowing billionaire Stewart Resnick to control the only private water agency in the state. This is a blatant abrogation of the public trust, but everyone looks the other way. That's mendacity.
Why doesn't the media investigate the way Sen. Feinstein uses her office to support the projects of her husband, Richard Blum? More mendacity.
It's plain to see that the citizens of California are being led by a state government that has raised the deplorable concept of mendacity to a fine art. Everybody lies. Nobody tells the truth. In order to become a person of honor in state government, one must prove that he/she can successfully fool people into supporting expensive boondoggles! One wonders what these people think of themselves when they violate the civil standard of truth for a few pieces of gold.
Yes, there ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity...You can smell it. It smells like death. The death of a decent California.
Why do we stand for this?
Burt Wilson Editor Public Water News Service
Buckets aren’t just for bucket lists
Submitted by Eric Miller 8/29/14 The lawn crunches beneath my footsteps. Our backyard greenery includes my wife’s garden and several groves of sunflowers that bow to the sun. I’d clear-cut them but these drought tolerant giants soothe me.
We let the lawn die, a lazy way to conserve water, though it has social impacts. My kids and their friends won’t run barefoot on brown grass. Inside our home buckets sit on the shower floor to capture rinse water, known as gray water, which we use to flush toilets. Bucket flushing requires work — to lift and empty a bucket. When poured into a toilet bowl the toilet automatically flushes.
I considered the net impact of reusing gray water for toilet flushing. Suppose my family of four conserves a modest five gallons per person daily. We would conserve 7,300 gallons this year. Imagine if California’s 38 million residents conserved five gallons per day for a year. We’d cumulatively save 6.9 billion gallons, or roughly 212,000 acre-feet, of water. That’s enough water to irrigate over 50,000 acres of tree crops, such as almonds or oranges.
The number sounds big but it’s less than 1 percent of California’s total irrigated land.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan Bay Area think tank, reports that state-wide average water use is roughly 50 percent for environmental purposes, such as protecting sensitive species and habitats. More than half of California’s environmental water use occurs in rivers along the north coast.
Another 40 percent is for agriculture, and 10 percent for urban uses.
Environmental use is not as dominant in the rest of California, about 33 percent, whereas agricultural use is 53 percent and urban use is 14 percent.
Can we conserve ourselves out of the drought?
California’s per capita water use declined 30 percent from 1990 to 2010, thanks to pricing incentives, water efficient plumbing and xeriscape yards. Total urban water use holds steady even with population growth.
State policy makers passed narrow laws to regulate the use and misuse of water. Farmers now measure water deliveries to crops. Urban water wasters, those who hose down driveways or irrigate sidewalks, can be fined.
Conservation is always a good practice, but under current water management systems we cannot reach sustainability if California’s population grows and its water supply dwindles. Californians must commit to upgrading water infrastructure, especially storage. Store and reuse what we can, and conserve and allocate what remains.
Consider our highway infrastructure. My grandparents’ generation funded the federal Interstate system 70 years ago. Today it seems we rarely add or repair lanes. Toll roads such as Riverside County’s 91 Express Lanes were built by private investors who saw a need and filled it. A French company financed the construction, and the operation, of a 10-mile four-lane freeway. A public transit authority now owns the freeway which is still privately operated. Revenues help fund capital improvements.
Proposals to improve California’s State Water Project have stymied lawmakers for decades. As a consequence, local water agencies picked up the slack to improve their own systems by raising customer rates. In “Paying for Water in California” the PPIC reports that local water agencies raised most (85 percent) of the state’s necessary annual water system spending from 2008 to 2011. Thank the drought for unifying politicians to pass AB 1471, the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.
It proposes to issue $7.5 billion in bonds to fund the planning and development of new storage, water recycling, groundwater remediation, ecosystem restoration, and flood control projects. Delta pumps are excluded. If voters approve the bond this coming November, California is still not out of the drought. We must first plan, prioritize, and build. It could take years.
Carpe diem. Seize the day. If AB 1471 fails, a consortium of private investors will build what we need to build. It’s about demand and price as we’ve seen in the transportation sector. It’s foolish not to plan for drought. If consumers’ response to the drought only includes water conservation, or buying cases of bottled water at Costco, they’re misguided. Citizens should invest dollars to develop sustainable water supplies.
I hope taxpayers support the bond. Whether we fill toilet bowls, aquifers, or reservoirs, we must adequately fund water infrastructure even if we don’t recognize short-term economic benefits. In the meantime I’ll do my best to conserve water, one bucket at a time.
Rain and snow this winter are sure welcome though.
About the author Eric Miller is based in Chico. He serves on the Butte County Groundwater Technical Advisory Committee and the California Water Service (Chico) Community Advisory Panel. Contact him at email@example.com.
Ding-dong the BDCP is dead!
Submitted by Burt Wilson, Public Water News Service 8/28/14 To paraphrase Mother Goose, "Jerry Brown sat on a wall; Jerry Brown had a great fall; and all Jerry's agencies and all Jerry's men couldn't put the BDCP back together again."
The "wall" is a metaphor representing the traditional division of the government from the people. Jerry just sat on the wrong side of the wall and thought he could rule by decree. Well Jerry, it's been tried before and found wanting. The people have spoken. Your cherished BDCP is dead. Oh yeah, it will linger a few months in its death throes, but essentially it's dead. The people have won. Long live the people!
How many thousands of us knew it was doomed from the start! The 2009 legislation that created the Water Bond and a conveyance (later pulled from the voting) in the Delta was an "Alice in Wonderland" exercise in futility. Nobody in the water agencies knew what they were doing--only that they needed more water sent south. But from the very beginning we knew that the dual tunnels could not make any new water! This was the bȅte noir of the whole project.
Yes, the only thing the tunnels could do was facilitate water transfers from north to south. In case you don't know it, such water transfers is where all the money is. Without the tunnels, the water being transferred from the Sacramento River might just continue on out to sea instead of going into the Delta. Money lost. With the tunnels, the water would be sucked out of the Sacramento River before it continued downstream into oblivion. Thus under the guise of providing the people of California with a "reliable" water supply, the BDCP was actually out to facilitate water transfers to the south for drinking water and fracking water for the oil companies. That's where the Big bucks are! And the water agencies who would guide such transfers would rake in the dollars. Any way you look at it they were out to screw the people for their own benefit!
The BDCP was all about serving the interests of big business instead of serving the interests of the people of California. When you get right down to it, it was just another water grab dressed up in fancy clothing to make people think it would give them a reliable water supply from now into the future. Nowhere was it ever pointed out--except by us protesters--that the dual tunnels could not make any new water! Thus if the water wasn't there, it couldn't be sent south and they knew that the only other option was to empty the northern California reservoirs to provide the Southland with water for their lawns, cemeteries and golf courses.
In the beginning, the water agencies let the vision of big bucks blind them to the fact that it would take money to make money. The water agencies have put up $250-million so far in order to hire a team of consultants to tell them what to do. These are the people who turned the BDCP into a ball of lies--trying to cover up deficiencies with nonsensical rhetoric. Big words always are used to cover up big lies.
But the Delta Independent Science Board stayed true to its name and focus and in their final report ripped the BDCP apart for making up "new science" to cover up the BDCP's deficiencies.
My contribution to the thousands of complaints was to point out that the BDCP consultants planned to use cap and trade offsets to zero-out pollution during the construction process in the Delta. This means they would buy clean-air credits from some country with credits to sell. What they didn't say is that the pollution still stays in the Delta! The pollution doesn't move to the country that sold the clean-air credits. So workmen would still be exposed to all sorts of toxic contaminants when they went to work in the Delta and all would be exposed to cancer-causing polluted air! In other words, the pollution factor was zeroed out only on paper! In fact, there is NO WAY one shovel of dirt could be turned over in the Delta because of the pollution problem. And there's no way of getting around this! It can't be done.
This is what I'm talking about when I say the BDCP was a ball of lies. There were many more besides the pollution problem and this is what spurred people on to file complaints with the BDCP. This is what the BDCP is now trying to turn around. Ha! Can't be done.
I have been going to BDCP and Delta Stewardship Council meetings now for five years. I have seen the whole process in action and believe me it smells to high heaven! Not only has $250-million of the water agencies' money been spent, but the Department of Water Resources, who are the non-indicted co-conspirators in the whole game, have practically turned their whole agency over to the BDCP--at public expense. They have even announced that they are in the process of building an office to oversee the construction of the tunnels! A few years ago they announced that when a "permit-to-build" was issued to the BDCP for the tunnels, they would immediately hire 5,336 new people--a new bureaucratic high!
BDCP is a gigantic Delta land grab
Submitted by Burt Wilson, Public Water News Service 8/25/14
To the Editor:
In politics -- and most every other public function -- actions speak louder than words. It is also the nature of politics to use deceptive language to cover up planned actions by couching them in terms of being in the public interest when they are actually for private, corporate benefit. This is called "enlightened self-interest" in today's legislative bodies whose members only pretend to serve the people.
This is as old as the Roman Empire, as new as the war in Iraq and as near as the Delta. There is little doubt in any Delta activist's mind that the BDCP is merely a stalking horse for the corporate water, oil, food and transportation industries to carve up the state of California in their own interests. And the Federal Government is certainly not without clean hands in this endeavor; ready to ease sacrosanct laws to promote the water interests of the corporate oligarchy.
In other words, lying to the people to get what you want has always been government's game and it has been raised to the status of a fine art in California where it makes no difference if the governor is Democrat or Republican, the winners are always the trans-national corporations.
Even now there exists such an organization as ALEC--the American Legislative Exchange Council. Members represent all the huge corporate interests in the United State who meet yearly to discuss, plan and generate legislation that advances the interests of its corporate members throughout all the legislatures in the United States. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from the enormous corporations and foundations who sponsor its proposed, self-serving legislation.
I believe that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is part of this world-wide ring of private collusion. When the BDCP talks about a "more sustainable water supply" for the people of California, know that its proposed $68-billion dual tunnels cannot -- and never will be able to -- make any new water!
This simple revelation can only lead to one suspicion: who and what are they really working for? Certainly not the people of California who will have to pay for this boondoggle by means of increased taxes and skyrocketing water rates. Therefore, there must be some driving force behind the BDCP that has a hidden agenda for the future of the Delta -- with the state government as its chief enabler.
The big picture of course goes back to the year 2001 and the first days of the Bush-Cheney administration when the vice president called together all the top oil company executives in his office for a secret meeting that lasted 10 days. No minutes were kept; not a word leaked out. At the conclusion, they announced that it was all about "Energy Independence." People cheered, little knowing that they actually meant a fossil-fuel energy independence, not solar or alternative energies.
In July of this year, there was an announcement that the U.S. had finally achieved one of its goals: to produce and export more oil than it imported. California plays a big role in this move as the oil taken from the Monterey Shale deposits -- up and down the Central Valley -- will eventually be shipped to China to help pay down our $3.1 trillion debt to that country.
In addition, the little city of Rio Vista in the Delta now sits on the largest known natural gas reserves west of the Mississippi.
A year ago the state of California announced the leasing of Delta lands for oil and natural gas operations. Hundreds of leases were all gone in 10 minutes.
The BDCP plans an extra new forebay right next to the Clifton Court Forebay. This is to hold the expected water from the dual tunnels. Why an extra forebay? Because pure, sparkling-clean Sacramento water is most desirable for fracking wells.
If the tunnels are ever operated, they will cut off needed flow of the Sacramento River through the Delta. The fish will die. Also cut off will be river flows past Chipps Island, the force of which would keep salinity out of the Delta. Thus we can expect the ruination of a $3-billion agricultural industry and also silt buildup at Chipps Island, separating the SF bay's salt water from the Delta for good.
The oil companies which are engaged in fracking and natural gas drilling need to either have mineral rights to the land they operate on, or else own or lease the land. As it so happens, the Delta Conservancy staff is beginning to, according to a recent announcement, "prepare itself to be a primary landowner and easement holder of restored lands in the Delta by identifying required policies and procedures as well as the relevant regulations that pertain to the state ownership of land" (which can then be leased to the oil companies), "and identifying the staff and funding needed to support these activities." (We will pay for this!)
Now, as to all that habit restoration that is being hailed as "bringing back the Delta," let's look at the BDCP's Environmental Impact Report, Chapter 3.2.3, which says "While estuarine species are adapted to highly variable conditions, the fundamental changes to the Delta ecosystem (when the tunnels go in) as a result of human activities may be beyond the adaptive potential of native species." In other words, the fish and the restoration go bye-bye!
To me, this is the final goal of the BDCP in the Delta. Ultimately, all the water from the Sacramento River--clean, fresh and ready for fracking -- will go into the tunnels to be sold to the oil companies, housing developers and the farmers. The Delta will dry up and be opened up for oil and gas drilling. Agriculture will die off in the Delta. People will move out. The recreation aspects will cease. And water gates will be put in at Chipps Island to keep the sea water out.
Finally, what you haven't been told is that Sacramento River water is very big business. It is bought and sold frequently by farmers and oil companies south of the Delta. As it stands now, there is always the chance that the water transfer from north to south will travel out to sea and go into the Delta. Transfer abated. But the dual tunnels will assure buyers and sellers that deliveries will be made in full and on time. Billions of dollars will depend on this.
And so, if you want to visualize what the Delta will look like in the future after the dual tunnels are built, picture a lot of derricks and wells, trucks, lights, pile drivers, etc. In short, the BDCP will turn our Delta into a vast, industrial wasteland.
Burt Wilson Sacramento
Praises state’s work on global warming
Submitted by Judy Weiss 5/27/14
To the editor:
Kudos to California for having "the most far-reaching measure to deal with climate change of anyone in the United States," and the thoughtful way you are "tying all this together in an integrated plan to reduce the carbon emissions."
What you need next is to convince Congress to enact a far-reaching measure for everyone in the U.S. (and abroad) to join you in an integrated plan to reduce carbon emissions, so you aren't undertaking a Sisyphean task alone.
Fortunately, there is general agreement that a gradually increasing national carbon tax collected upstream (at well, mineshaft or port of entry) and rebated to the public via monthly rebate checks would be the most effective way to lower emissions and protect the public from price increases. Border adjustments imposing U.S. carbon tax on imports from countries without a similar tax will motivate other nations to integrate their climate efforts with ours.
Studies of the economic impact of this type of carbon tax and rebate indicate it will lower emissions while stimulating the economy and creating jobs (both on state and national levels).
Volunteer members of Citizens' Climate Lobby are encouraging local media to cover the stories of climate change, and to explain the benefits of a carbon tax to elicit public support.
Judy Weiss, volunteer member Citizens' Climate Lobby Brookline, Mass.
Sacramento’s future hinges on developing and retaining its young professionals
Submitted by Sandra Kirschenmann 4/30/14 To the Editor:
Not long ago I had an opportunity to listen to a group of the region’s most well-connected young professionals (YPs, as they like to be called), who discussed their career pathways in our region.
They talked passionately about wanting to stay in the Sacramento region and establish both their families and their careers. But the disturbing part was they also talked about the reality of ultimately having to leave the region to find the right advancement opportunities.
“I wish my supervisor would just sit me down and say – ‘this is what I want for you,’” one young professional told me privately.
That comment struck me as especially powerful. A supervisor who acknowledges the intellect and potential of a young professional and is able to use life experience to help draw the best pathway for that person would be a terrific boss and mentor.
I liked that approach so much that as the supervisor of many young professionals in my workplace, I tried it. And what I learned is that when this conversation is deployed in an already good relationship, it becomes a very powerful motivator.
It’s a great tactic that combines an experienced professional’s wisdom about career pathways and regional opportunities, while also demonstrating a personal interest in the young, valuable worker.
On January 1 of this year, many established leaders in Sacramento agreed to make 2014 the “Year of the Young Professional.”
A lot of progress has taken place since then.
One rising star is Metro EDGE – a youthful group of Sacramento Metro Chamber members dedicated to engaging, empowering, and developing young professionals.
The volunteers leading EDGE planned and executed a region-wide workshop in the downtown core of Sacramento in March that drew over 500 participants to the day-long event with the endearing theme – “Love Your City.”
In another move to help empower and motivate our young professionals, this year the annual Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap advocacy program, which takes 300 Sacramentans to Washington, D.C., will include 59 of its youngest members.
This gesture is an investment in our talented young people. The annual Cap-to-Cap trip involves travel costs, and many of the young professionals have been fully sponsored at no cost to themselves by members of professional associations that have worked side by side with them in a variety of worthy community efforts.
In my own field of higher education, employers across the region have stepped forward to hire the inaugural group of Drexel University Sacramento undergraduate co-op students – more examples of the intelligent, creative young people that we are attempting to grow, nurture, and retain for our region.
These employers hired Drexel co-op undergraduate students to full-time positions for six months. Being exposed to a working environment, in their field of study, will be a tremendous opportunity that will open doors and likely shine a bright light on their futures.
These incremental steps of progress make me believe the region is beginning to understand the value of making a unified effort that contributes to the regional prosperity of our young professionals.
It’s no secret that a region’s prosperity is critically tied to the development and retention of a pool of talented, educated young people. That’s one of the key attributes businesses and companies use to evaluate regions when they make location decisions.
Not all of us will have a role in building our major new economic development project downtown – the new arena. But many of us can still contribute to the mentorship, support, and thoughtful guidance of our young professionals.
However, the value of the collective investment we make in growing and retaining our talent pool could actually exceed the value of any other economic development over time, assuming enough of our business leaders make the necessary commitment to change.
So let’s closely examine what we all want for our region: What we clearly don’t want is to be just a government town. Our focus needs to continue to shift toward developing opportunities for our youngest and brightest minds to flourish.
When that transformation takes place, our young talent will become catalysts in helping our region’s economy experience new entrepreneurial successes, new businesses, new jobs, and new investments.
Ms. Kirschenmann was born and raised in Sacramento and is the Associate Vice Provost, Executive Director of Drexel University Sacramento
In-depth reaction to the story "A new political voice for the Delta?"
Submitted by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 4/14/14 To the Editor:
The rollbacks being made on Delta water quality standards are having a negative impact on water quality for Delta farming and Delta municipalities dependent on Delta water supply and reveal quite dramatically how adaptive management will play out if the twin tunnesl come to pass.
Adequate outflows are needed this summer to prevent salt water intrusion into the Delta, which will harm Delta farming and municipal water supplies, unless barriers are dropped into the system, which will also harm Delta farms. The cause for the roll backs is that DWR and the Bureau of Reclamation sent too much water down the system the last two years to support unsustainable agricultural practices on the west side of the SJ Valley.
It is highly doubtful that Richard Pombo, whose last Congressional campaign was centered on turning up the pumps for SJ Valley mega growers, and whose entire political career has been centered around gutting the ESA, will become the champion for protecting Delta water quality standards for beneficial uses like farming, or for Delta fisheries, especially considering the number of campaign contributions he received from west side SJ Valley growers during his 2010 Congressional run.
Restore the Delta is the only in-Delta community organization that has been advocating alongside Delta water districts and environmental groups to protect Delta water quality standards consistently for seven years. In fact, Restore the Delta is the only in-Delta community organization that has taken the Delta story to hundreds or thousands of Californians -- while participating in the BDCP response period -- while advocating for Delta water needs during this drought.
And our supporters throughout the state know the importance of our work. The SJ County Farm Bureau does not advocate for Delta farmers as it worries too much about singing Kumbaya with competing water interests throughout the state under the banner of "protecting agriculture." For some time now, they have been more concerned about cooperating with SJ Valley growers, rather than interacting and supporting the needs of their Delta base.
Furthermore, the State has promised five times more in water rights than is available in the system during normal years of rainfall. Moving intakes in any direction will not solve that problem, especially into the middle of the nursery for Delta Smelt in the western Delta. But adjudication of the over subscribed watershed one day will solve the over subscription problem.
As recent polling showed, more Californians prefer conservation over other measures like new storage-- and intuitively, the Californian electorate gets it. We cannot engineer our way out of drought with the same old 19th-Century plan of moving water at certain times from one end of the state to the other without inflicting damage on losing communities and the environment.
What did Einstein say about the definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? On the other hand, concepts like Intelligent Water out of the University of Michigan School of Engineering hold the future for meeting California's water needs. As they quote, "the Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates that for every $1 million spent on water efficiency in the U.S., 10 trillion gallons of water can be saved, and 220,000 jobs created." (Michigan Engineer, Fall 2013) The future of water is in current conservation measures and new technology that will put new water into the system.
We wish Bill Berryhill and his friends well. Advocating for the Delta is always a good thing. And someone has to work with those SJ Valley Congressmen who talk about making sure that they get "their water," as they did at the recent Congressional hearing in Fresno. But in many ways with the comment period on the BDCP coming to a close in the next 60 days, and the real legal fight ramping up, this effort almost feels like a Trojan Horse.
Let's just hope for the sake of our Delta farms, our municipal water systems, and for the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas that Mr. Berryhill, Mr. Pombo, and the SJ County Farm Bureau don't play into Tom Birmingham's and Stewart Resnick's hands.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla Executive Director Restore the Delta
Technical education needed to fill high-demand jobs of tomorrow
Submitted by Roger Speer 2/14/14 To the Editor:
Many complex problems are holding back the California economy. And one of the biggest reasons is the state’s shortage of high-skilled workers.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers predicts that, given the rates of retirement of current high-skill workers and the rebound of the manufacturing sector, the shortfall of skilled workers nationwide could increase to nearly 3 million jobs by 2015.
In California and nationwide, there are far too many young adults in the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket that possess no post-high school education that might help forge a career path. Many of these individuals are employed in low wage jobs that offer limited career paths and economic opportunity.
How are we going to fill this sizable gap in available workers? Traditional, college-educated young people aren’t the only answer. One of our most urgent educational needs right now is high-level, high-quality, technical education.
We need welders, electricians, machinists, industrial engineers, industrial machinery mechanics, collision repair, automotive and diesel technicians. These trained workers will help strengthen the backbone of our economy’s infrastructure and could be part of the solution in powering our economy back to global leadership.
But the lingering question remains: Where will we get these much needed, well-trained technical workers?
We have traditionally relied on our community college system as the primary source of tradesmen and women. Despite a strong system of community colleges in California, there still are not enough well-trained workers.
A recent forum convened by NextEd, the region’s premier employer-education partnership, highlighted this skills gap, with employers urging educators to focus on the skills needed to fuel our region’s economy.
In the past, these technical jobs were widely available to people without postsecondary education. But times have changed. With computer-based technologies at the heart of modern industry, employers are seeking workers with more advanced training.
For example, in today’s job market, auto technicians need more than mechanical ability in their skills toolbox. From working on internal combustion engines to running computer-controlled diagnostic tests, science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills (often referred to as STEM) are at the core of what these workers do.
Not only does a skills-based education prepare students for immediate entry into a career, a credentialed school also leverages its manufacturer relationships to assist students in their job search.
With many lamenting the shrinking American middle class, it’s critical to address the realities of the 21st Century workforce.
But let’s also recognize that degrees come in different packages. Students should explore all options for succeeding in the high-demand jobs of tomorrow. In some cases, that means looking at nontraditional education options.
(Mr. Speer is the president of the Northern California campus of Universal Technical Institute in Sacramento.)
Why water transfers are needed
Submitted by Keith Freitas 1/26/14 To the Editor:
The real issues behind my support of these water transfers is more to do with averting a natural disaster and catastrophic event in the Central San Joaquin Valley that many have neglected to mention and that deals with subsidence of the soils and "ground sinking."
Case in Point: In 1995-97 the central valley received approx. 20 inches of rainfall within a three to five day period which caused stratification events to occur, and the one event that worries me the most is the sink holes that were created up along the I-5 corridor near the alluvial fan run off of the western Diablo Mountain Range, the mountain range that boarders the western slope of the San Joaquin Valley from Tracy to Bakersfield.
In 1995 the bridge span crossings located at the Arroyo Pasajero Creek collapsed and we lost seven lives, and many pieces of equipment never to be found in the quicksand of the creek bed.
The design of the Caltrans engineers was a failed design in that they calculated the creek width to be 50' and not 300' as it becomes in 25, 50 and 100 year events.
Thus, if this mistake was real, could we then assume that the same mistake was made when the Corp of Engineer designed the San Luis Aqueduct?
If you want to understand what a "catastrophic event” looks like see: http://www.water.ca.gov/climatechange/docs/Roos-flooding.pdf
The last picture of this article depicts the potential outcomes of what could happen in the Central Valley namely along the San Luis Aqueduct and the Friant Kern Canal's water transportation systems.
Problem: There is a different kind of storm brewing under the earthen layer of what the valley perceives as a normal adjustment to nature, but it is not and it's easy to understand once you get the grasp of the signs and signals nature has already provided us in the prior 25, 50 and 100 year events.
But this time a political drought will cause such a rift and severity in the natural environment that the results will likely include a major shift in subsidence under the structural formations that secure and shore the foundation of the San Luis Project and the Friant Kern Canal Project.
Simply put another way: The Aqueduct will collapse under its own weight and the canal banks will break, allowing millions and millions of gallons of water to spill into the Yuba flood basin, or other flood basins located along this area, and ultimately out into the ocean north along the spill ways to the Delta.
Like the failure of the San Joaquin Valley to deal with these past legislative requests we are seeing a similar regulatory- and politically-caused "natural disaster" when the valley farming regions dry up between Tracy and Bakersfield. We will one day pay an extreme price in lost lives and massive contamination (concentrated salient sludge, pesticides, asbestos, and other natural and man made chemicals will deliver the world’s worst toxic mud and water spills west of the Mississippi River. http://www.water.ca.gov/floodsafe/docs/DWR_Implementing_FloodSAFE_Brochure-2.pdf
History: In March of 1995, snowmelt originating in the Diablo Mountain Range flowed. along Arroyo Pasajero, before ending up at the San Luis Canal. The floodwater submerged neighboring farmland and a nearby military base. The flooding wiped out a. tomato crop as floodwaters breached the San Luis Canal levee and filled the sediment basins with a mixture of water, sediment, and asbestos.
The flooding in 1995 prompted the California Department of Water Resources to consider mitigation design alternatives. The United States Bureau of Reclamation’s Denver office developed a one-dimensional unsteady flow model to simulate the routing of floodwaters through the system. As part of the design alternatives, the sediment basins would be enlarged. This study focuses on sedimentation in the West Side Detention Basins adjacent to the San Luis Canal and on sediment concentrations and transport within the San Luis Canal.
The Government knows this to be true, but refuses to suggest a fix using the politics of water to justify running a heavy hand at pushing an election-triggered agenda towards finding a water solution under this umbrella of deceit and despair, in order to generate a drive towards legislated regional control over the State's water supplies.
This issue must become a "front and forward" issue of today's water concerns, which clearly effects the supplies of Northern California and the buyers of Southern California.
The belly of the so-called "Cadillac Farming Region" is the epicenter of rendering a system that if it fails at the worst time possible, then it would not only become the valley of the sunken Cadillac, but also the home of lost and damaged.
The water traffic from the north to the south would be at a stand still. No water would flow anywhere. All would be losers at this point and the Government would ultimately be the responsible party as they are well aware of this probability.
It seems to me that in this instance "one side cannot survive without the other." The Northern Californian "Water Rich" cannot sell water to the "Southern Affluent Voting Blocks" without getting it through the belly of the beast. If they risk killing the beast, the beast will seek to survive by allowing itself to consider "self-sacrifice" in order not to be killed.
In this instance it seems that the severity of subsidence (the sinking of the valley floor) creates more consequence for concerns other than the valley farmer, and thus one must consider the alternatives.
Keith Antone Freitas CEO Sea Pine Ventures, Inc.
Sacramento region needs to start investing in its young professionals
Submitted by Sandra Kirschenmann 1/7/14 When I was young and just out of college, my generation of young professionals selected a career, decided on what company we wanted to work for, and went to live wherever that company offered us a job.
That first “job” for me was the U.S. Army. Born and raised in Sacramento, my Army career included stops in San Antonio, Washington, D.C., and Fort Ord.
These days, young professionals make career decisions in the opposite order. They decide where they want to live first, and choosing a career pathway is secondary.
Today’s young professionals think about the quality of the home they will make, the social interactions the region can offer, how family fits into that picture, in addition to looking for career satisfaction.
This line of thinking drives companies to seek locations where they can find thick labor markets full of educated, creative young people. A region that can become “sticky” for creative, smart young professionals can also be very successful in attracting great companies.
This should become an aspiration for the Sacramento region.
We must strive to establish a “sticky” region for creative, educated young professionals. Since Sacramento isn’t a dense labor market, we must work on overcoming that by building opportunities to help young professionals find a career development pathway.
I had an interesting experience recently that illustrates how we default to a cultural value of rewarding seasoned professionals over creating opportunities for capable young professionals.
In helping to judge the award applicants for women in business, my judging colleagues were unanimous in their support for women who had “paid their dues” through years of service.
Judges were much less interested in rewarding younger women who might be able to use the recognition as a platform for visibility and promotion. The selection process seemed short-sighted to me and not very strategic.
We need to abandon the time-honored method of rewarding people based on years of service. Instead, we should encourage and promote our talented young professionals. They will have a much longer working life ahead of them to “return” their human capital to the region than will the seasoned professional who is nearing retirement.
In fact, we should think seriously about advantaging the career progression of young professionals. Growing a rich pool of young professionals through “succession development” can help individuals transition into leadership positions, and free senior leaders to retire on their own schedules.
We should also recognize that the success of companies and organizations depends largely on our capacity to market products and services to the younger generation – people who are in the midst of building their families and their lives. They are often our primary customers -- people who will be buying homes, cars, funding education, and much more.
Having younger voices in our strategic conversations allows us to better understand the consuming behavior of the younger demographic and makes a lot of sense from a business development point of view.
Data indicate that the Sacramento region ranks low in the percentage of educated young adults. Only 29.4 percent own a bachelor’s degree, compared to 43.4 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area, and 33.7 percent from San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos.
These regions possess much “thicker” labor markets, filled with educated young adults that can provide a strong workforce to fill key positions for companies considering relocation.
So, what can Sacramento do to improve the career pathway for young professionals?
Provide volunteer leadership opportunities in civic engagement, board participation, and leadership groups, and start developing the skills they need to assume those leadership roles.
Working cohesively, Sacramento civic and business organizations must offer opportunities for involvement and visibility, and award promising young professionals for their outstanding contributions.
Establish organizational boards that consist of a young professional or two, either as voting or ex officio members.
Offer scholarships to important leadership development programs, such as the regional Cap to Cap event, and the annual study mission programs from regional Chambers of Commerce.
Mentor and/or sponsor promising young professionals in the workplace. Identify the necessary leadership skills and help map out the path to obtain them.
Let’s make 2014 a year that marks new regional investment in young professionals, and brands Sacramento as an attractive location for corporate investment that can deliver a workforce full of talented, creative and educated young professionals.
Sandra Kirschenmann Executive Director and Associate Vice Provost Drexel University - Sacramento
Is the BDCP a pack of lies?
Submitted by Burt Wilson 1/6/14 To the Editor:
HOW THE BDCP GOT STARTED! Very few people know how the Bay Delta Conservation Plan began-- where the original push came from. Would you be surprised if I told you it came from the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable--two of the most powerful political institutions in the State of California? Well, believe it. Around 2006, these two business-oriented state-wide groups posted some interesting statistics on their websites. They proclaimed that 20,000,000 new people would arrive to live in California over the next 20 years and that most of them would take up residence in southern California. Of course, left unsaid was the fact that the only place left to develop in southern California was the high desert areas east of Los Angeles. The biggest factor left unsaid was: "Where will the water come from?"
THE BLATANT THIRST OF THE SOUTH FOR NORTHERN WATER! In California, state law says that any new construction must be able to show a reliable water supply before anything can be built. Water in the Mojave Desert? Not likely and certainly not enough. So where do southern Californians go to get more water when they need it? They go where the water is: northern California.
GUESS WHO INITIATED THE LEGISLATION FOR THE WATER BILL? All the current Delta-doings are not being done out of a humanitarian interest in improving water quality for all Californians, but out of the selfish interests of the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable to build more housing developments and malls in the southern California desert to accommodate those million-a-year newcomers to our state. You see, it's all business. And while the business people of the state-especially the construction companies--will get rich off this population influx, it is the current residents of California, north and south, who will foot the bill. 2006 was a bad year for the Chamber and Roundtable to convince state legislators to spend billions of the state's money to build a conveyance of some kind in the Delta. Most legislators still regarded such a plan as "the third rail of California politics"--touch it and you're dead. This because of the huge defeat of the Peripheral Canal legislation in 1982. Therefore the Chamber and the Roundtable decided to take things into their own hands.
THE CHAMBER PRESIDENT TAKES CHARGE In 2008, Chamber President Ed Zaremberg took the first steps toward another move to get a conveyance in the Delta by contacting the law firm of Neilsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor, well-known politically for their crafting of all kinds of legislation, to draw up a rough outline of a bill to create a justification for a conveyance in the Delta. At the same time, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Blue Ribbon Delta Vision Task Force, chaired by Phil Isenberg, was in the process of concluding its two-year charge of identifying Delta needs. Their final report included a dual- conveyance plan to go through and around the Delta. It was here that the infamous co-equal goals of "water reliability" and "habitat restoration" were first let out of the bag. In fact, the whole report reads suspiciously like something a politically-oriented law firm would come up with.
THE INFAMOUS "CO-EQUAL GOALS" The first of the infamous "co-equal goals" that govern the distribution of water from the Delta is "a reliable water supply for California." This is a lie, of course, because northern California already has a reliable water supply, so the fact is that a "reliable water supply for southern California" better reflects the truth of the matter. Since they can't actually say that publicly, we have here a good example of the kind of sophisticated propaganda being used to influence northern Californians to give up their water and southern Californians to pay sky-high local water rates for it.
TRYING TO HOOK IN THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS TO THE BDCP The notion of including "habitat restoration" was supposed to attract environmentalists. An analysis of the 1982 vote that soundly defeated the Peripheral Canal by a 2/3 vote statewide showed that the proponents had nothing in the bill that would attract the environmental community and that was one of the main causes of its defeat. Habitat restoration was the "bone" thrown out to the environmentalists in hopes of gaining their support for a new conveyance. And subsequently a few hastily organized environmental groups sprang up and all supported a conveyance in the Delta.
THE FORMATION OF THE BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN All that was needed now was an organization to turn all this paperwork into action. Thus was born the Bay Delta Conservation Plan-the word "Conservation" obviously put in to deflect anyone from knowing it was actually a "conveyance" plan. The Executive Board of the BDCP was made up almost wholly of water agency people. It was so heavily oriented towards the views of the water agencies that it became the laughing stock of the water world. The BDCP was going nowhere fast, so in order to save the plan and the conveyance it served, Gov. Brown called in his old buddy, one with an environment connection, Dr. Jerry Meral, to become the point man on a "new" BDCP. Meral's first action was to let go many of the board's water agency members and put in people who were still water agency oriented, but publicly benign and not controversial.
JERRY MERAL'S BDCP BLUNDERS Meral's next move was to form 14 independent public comment groups around 14 different aspects of the BDCP. Of course, this was the old "divide and conquer" strategy of olden times brought up to date in order to obscure the BDCP's real intent. This plan was a huge flop and deteriorated under its own weight. No one showed up. So within a couple of months, Meral's plan was scrapped leaving just on huge public comment group. This comment group proved to be Meral's downfall because the dutiful public researchers in the group pointed out so many inconsistencies in each meeting that Meral was driven to distraction.
MERAL AND HIS SO-CALLED 'TRANSPARENCY" One of the points that Meral made when he took over the BDCP was the issue of "transparency." He maintained that everything would be done out in the open and nothing done in secret. Just as the Brown Act says, you can't conduct government business in secret. But just three months into his leadership, Meral was caught having secret meetings with water agency leaders over the funding of the tunnels. Later, he met secretly with Big Ag leaders, one of which recalled that "he just wanted to know your bottom line. What would it take..."
WILL THE BDCP'S EIR/EIS PASS A SCIENCE REVIEW? As one would suspect, for the few years of the BDCP's existence under Meral--even up to to the submission of their first EIR/EIS--the emphasis was totally on conveyance. Not a word about habitat restoration. And, as expected, the BDCP's first EIR/EIS failed miserably with National Science Academy members saying it was "...nothing but a rational for a Delta conveyance." The second EIR/EIS submission also failed and now, from the time the third (and last?) EIR/EIS document was submitted for public comment on December 13, 2013, we the people are invited to wade through 35,000 pages of tripe, put together by highly paid consultants and newspaper reporters reportedly moonlighting as BDCP document writers. However we all know that the "Devil is in the details" and do not be surprised if the BDCP is finally found out for what I believe it really is--a pack of lies.
Burt Wilson Editor and Publisher Public Water News Service
Water is finite: Treat it as such
Submitted by Name withheld upon request 8/13/13 To the Editor:
As I read the articles and letters to the editor concerning the proposed Delta Tunnel Project and related issues, my thoughts keep going back to the book I recently finished and have passed along to other concerned about these issues.
The book is called Cadillac Desert and although it was written a few years back, it has been updated, revised and extremely relevant.
Several things stood out to me. One of the major problems is not so much in irrigating the fields but with the runoff from that irrigation. The run off is laden with salts and other chemicals and given the nature of the soil layers, when the runoff evaporates, the salts etc. are left behind rendering the land forever useless.
Another point is that the ground water aquifers both in California and the Ogallala Aquifer in the Midwest are being depleted faster than expected and there is no solution at this point in time, while the droughts are only exacerbating the problem.
The book should be a must read for anyone in the state who is concerned with the water crisis.
Water is a finite resource as we all know and sadly we have made a significant error in placing and maintaining cities and farming operations in desert climates not to mention the wholesale destruction of wildlife habit that has occurred in the process.
In closing, an article in the Guardian came out on Sunday, 11 August 2013 entitled "A Texan Tragedy: ample oil, no water" which highlights the often unreported side effects of fracking.
I mention this since a pervious article in CVBT noted the possible use of any increased water from the Delta Tunnel project could indeed be used for that very purpose.
Name withheld upon request
Ocean is teeming with salmon: Here’s why
Submitted by John McManus 7/26/13 Dear Editor:
You recently reported on statements Jason Peltier of Westlands Water District made at a meeting of those advocating for the Peripheral Tunnels. Jason said the Endangered Species Act has done very little to help the fish it's been invoked to help.
In all respect we'd like to point out the ocean is currently teaming with salmon due to restrictions on Delta pumping put in place under the ESA. We'd argue is working fairly well and the proof can be seen at many coastal ports that are finally humming again.
Salmon live to be three to four years old. Delta pumping restrictions were beefed up under the ESA in 2009.
Last year (exactly three years later) we saw the first decent salmon returns in many years. This year is even better.
To our friend Jason we say, take another look, a little less Delta pumping is paying off.
John McManus Executive Director Golden Gate Salmon Association
Warns that SoCal wants to tap NorCal watersheds
Submitted by Jan Lopez 5/2/13 To The Editor:
Look for support from Northern California water agencies and voters. We may not have the money the Southern California water agencies have, but we have a lot of heart and we've been through this battle before...with the first canal project back in the 1960.
This tunnel project is a bad idea and only serves the interests of the southern water agencies who stand to make a good dollar or two on their investment of funds to build it.
The southern arid lands do not hold water. Sending large amounts of northern watershed resources down there is akin of trying to catch water in a sieve. Neither can hold water, only pass it through.
This issue needs a wider media exposure in the North State: Chico, Redding, Yreka, Alturas, Susanville, Quincy, Yuba City, Marysville, Weaverville, Lake County -- all watershed areas contributing to the water the Governor wants to send south to make a dollar or five for the budget.
Here is where you will find good support for slowing down this wobbly train wreck of a proposal.
Signed, Jan Lopez Igo, Calif.
Bay-Delta Conservation Plan is a lie
Submitted by Burt Wilson 5/1/13 To The Editor:
I worked on media in the 1982 campaign against the Peripheral Canal. We won by a 2/3 vote statewide. It was Gov. Brown’s worst defeat ever. The campaign was comparatively easy because the southern half of the state objected to the high cost and the northern half knew from the git-go that it was just another water grab disguised as a public works project.
In 2006, 24-years later, they tried again. Gov. Schwarzenegger, in a non-descript July meeting with farmers in Bakersfield, floated a new idea saying, “We need a…conveyance…of some kind.” And so the “son of the Peripheral Canal” was born.
Almost immediately, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan came into existence with a board of directors packed with water contractors and water agency people. The new campaign was forming up.
The higher-ups in this revised campaign reasoned that the Peripheral Canal campaign was lost because the environmentalists in the state had nothing positive to vote for. So they laid out a strategy that would make saving the Delta a co-equal action with construction of some kind of new conveyance to send water south.
Gov. Schwarzenegger then created the “Blue Ribbon Delta Vision Committee” (BRDVC) to plot out a path of implementation for this new strategy. The BRDVC finally ended its mission in 2009 declaring that dual, co-equal goals would be achieved in the future conveyance plan: 1) a reliable water supply for California, and 2) restore the Delta eco-system. These dual goals later made their way into the State Water Code and are now state law.
The trouble was, we in Northern California knew we already had a reliable water supply. So if you read it properly, the goal was to achieve a reliable water supply for southern California! And we also knew the Delta eco-system was ruined by the two 40-ft. pumps at the Harvey O. Banks pumping plant at the south end of the Delta. When those pumps were operating, they chewed up fish and made the rivers run backwards!
Add to this the fact that the Department of Water Resources doubled the amount of water (from 7,000,000 af in 2000 to 14,000,000 af in 2006) diverted south to the Metropolitan Water District of southern California (MWD) in order to help make up for the MWD’s loss of Colorado River water. It had to be stopped by a judge who saw that it was ruining the salmon fisheries. At that point, southern water diversions were limited and the fisheries came back in two years — proof of the devastating effects of diverting more Delta water south.
As for the co-equal goals, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you can’t restore the Delta eco-system by diverting more Delta water south! Thus they are not co-equal, but mutually exclusive!
So, the “Big Lie” became the focal point of the BDCP campaign. They have spent the last four years giving us a variety of answers — all suppositions, not facts — why the tunnels won’t divert more water south. But they never explain on what basis “more” is.
Furthermore, there is nothing on the books that tells us who gets the water in times of a drought. Is this is why the BDCP wants to make the Shasta reservoir 18-ft higher — so it will hold an emergency water supply for southern California?
Recently, Natural Resources Agency Deputy Secretary Dr. Jerry Meral, Gov. Brown’s choice to be the titular head of the BDCP, was caught saying, “We never planned to save the Delta. The Delta can’t be saved.”
You see? For years now, everything coming out of the BDCP about saving the Delta has been a lie. The truth has always been that it was a water grab the whole time.
Thank you, Jerry, for confirming what we knew all along.
Signed, Burt Wilson
(Mr. Wilson is the editor and publisher of the Public Water News Service and has been an outspoken critic of Delta water diversions for seven years.)
Why Gov. Brown should have some ice cream in Galt
Submitted by Frank Gayaldo Jr. 3/7/13 An open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown
Dear Jerry: It must be hard being the governor of California. Everyone wants something from you.
I, on the other hand, just want to buy you an ice cream at my "northern office" located inside the Velvet Grill in Galt. I also need to introduce you to a buddy of mine, Dr. Robert Pyke, the civil engineer that created the alternative Western Delta Intakes Concept. If you never read my column "The single most important man in California," you really should.
With multiple special interest groups, overpaid consultants and entrenched bureaucrats running around, no wonder the California water crisis has yet to be solved. Between us, the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan — more infamously known as the "Delta twin underground tunnels" — would be a man-made disaster of epic proportions.
Yet any time any constructive criticism of the BDCP arises, blind supporters often regurgitate "years of study have gone into this plan to achieve a reliable water supply and a restored Delta ecosystem, blah, blah, blah." While the "years of study" part is true, unfortunately your current plan will totally fail to deliver.
Why? Dr. Pyke has identified two simple principles that the BDCP violates:
1. Allow natural flows to pass through the Delta before any surplus is extracted for export.
2. Extract more water during high flows and less or no water during low flows.
Variations of the tunnel plans that fail to adhere to these two principles will result in Northern California suffering environmental and economic damage of unprecedented proportions, without providing Southern California with any additional long-term solutions.
On the other hand, Dr. Pyke's alternative WDIC makes great sense. Here's why:
Self-regulation: I have never met even one farmer who believes the state can regulate anything fairly. Have you, Jerry? The WDIC is purposely engineered to be self-regulating, as opposed to needing complicated agreements that surely will lead to future litigation between various competing interests. Any designs to pump more water than the Delta can safely provide will result in brackish salt water being delivered. AWESOME.
Cost: The WDIC is a whole lot cheaper. Dr. Pyke suggests extracting water though permeable embankments on Sherman Island, as opposed to somewhere farther north on the Sacramento River. Tunnels to the existing South Delta pumps would then be less than half the length of the BDCP tunnels. Obviously, the cost of construction will be significantly less.
Furthermore, Sherman Island is currently mostly owned by the state. Unlike the BDCP, the WDIC does not require billions be spent in acquiring thousands of acres of land through painful eminent domain procedures, nor will thousands of acres of currently productive agricultural land need to be converted into ill-defined habitat.
More fish: The best strategy is not to kill fish in the first place. Embarrassingly, it took a world-renowned civil engineer from Australia to figure this one out.
More water for Southern California: The WDIC creates water storage to be banked during wet years, and drawn from during dry years. On the other hand, the BDCP does not create one single drop of water.
(Wow, I can read your mind, Jerry. Right now you are thinking about whom in your cabinet should be fed to the alligators. I can offer you some gentler alternatives when we meet.)
Earthquake protection: Great news, we are not all about to die!
The only up-to-date and independent study of the present condition of the Delta levee system was developed by the Delta Protection Commission and peer-reviewed by a panel appointed by the Delta Science Program. This study found that today's Delta levee system is in reasonably good shape, although more needs to be done to assure its long-term integrity under the threat of extreme floods, earthquakes and possible sea-level rise.
The cost of these further improvements is estimated to be in the order of $2 to 4 billion, a fraction of the cost of the BDCP. This is a much more cost-effective investment because it provides multiple benefits, including water supply reliability, protection of life and property, and the protection of critical infrastructure.
Relief from Endangered Species Act restrictions: The real reason that exporters support the twin tunnels is that they want to escape from arbitrary restrictions on pumping from the South Delta caused by the take of listed species.
Too bad their plan will fail.
Significant quantities of water would still be sucked across the Delta to the South Delta pumps, and the massive intakes on the Sacramento River are problematic with regard to some species of salmon. The best way to escape from the arbitrary restrictions on pumping is simply to take no fish.
The WDIC would achieve this by drawing water into Sherman Island through 10-mile long permeable embankments, which would constitute the world's largest and finest fish screens that not even juvenile Delta smelt could penetrate.
Jerry, as you know, in 1963 construction began on the Gov. Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct. As the son of a Lodi grape grower, I too have a legacy I want to build upon.
So in 2013, let's have that ice cream in Galt — but let's also have a serious talk about how we can finally solve California's water crisis without drowning us all.
Frank Gayaldo Jr. is a grape grower and businessman in the Lodi area
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Changing Stockton’s future
Submitted by Frank Gayaldo 12/14/12 To the Editor:
As ugly as the truth in Stockton can be at times, facing reality is this lovely city's only hope.
If Stockton wants more positive stories, Stockton needs a more powerful reality.
I have an intimate understanding of Stockton's reality, and like thousands of others, I deeply care about this city very much. The county jail (that I worked) is grossly overcrowded, the state prisons (that I also worked) are grossly overcrowded. The current solution that is being offered by Sacramento is to alleviate prison overcrowding by moving state prisoners to county jails.
Stockton's streets (that I worked for seven years as a bounty hunter in the 90s) are more dangerous than ever. They will remain intolerably dangerous as long as our correctional system remains a totally dysfunctional revolving door. Meanwhile I have never met even one Stockton parent who is not rightfully worried about the safety of their child at the public schools. How can children excel in this type of environment?
It is going to take money to fix Stockton's infrastructure problems, and lots of it. Where should that money come from? Should we try to squeeze out more taxes from a shrinking workforce? Another often-utilized strategy is to grossly increase regulatory fees on small businesses that are already contemplating leaving the area because their windows are being bashed out by unemployed hooligans. Are either of these options truly viable solutions?
How about instead if the business and government sector come together and figure out how we can create more jobs. How do we do that? We need to ask ourselves what is Stockton's best competitive advantage, and then take action.
Stockton is located in the center of the breadbasket to the world, and has an incredible inland Port with almost limitless capabilities, an international airport, and exceptional rail capabilities. If we can increase the exportation of value-added California agricultural products by $1 billion USD, we can create an estimated 5,400 or more local jobs. Let's figure out how we can accomplish that, and then we will begin to see the positive change that Stockton and our entire region so desperately deserves.
Neither rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic nor attempting to divert the public's attention from the fact that the ship is sinking will fix the problem.
I do applaud Stockton Forward organizers for asking for the community's input and for recognizing that Stockton is just too valuable of a gem to give up on. I also applaud our local journalists … for doing an incredible job trying to keep the public appropriately informed.
Frank Gayaldo Executive Director Galt Chamber of Commerce
Peripheral tunnels violate law, public policy and common sense
Submitted by Bill Jennings 9/28/12 To the Editor:
The State Water Contractors insist that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the habitat plan being used to justify building Peripheral Tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, will be overseen by state and federal wildlife agencies, and will comply with the toughest environmental laws. But, if BDCP is required to comply with the law, it’s dead on arrival.
When BDCP released its legally-required analysis of the environmental effects of the plan, the National Research Council, the Independent Science Board, fishery agencies, and other scientists responded with a “Red Flag” document scathingly criticizing the plan for failing to meet minimal standards for credible scientific analysis. They said that it ignored negative impacts, cherry-picked data, and misrepresented current scientific research – that the project would hasten extinction of species rather than restoring them.
Faced with overwhelming criticism, and the realization that they could not receive necessary permits with the plan they had, the BDCP sponsors came forth with the desperate idea of building the Peripheral Tunnels now and figuring out later how to operate them to benefit habitat and endangered species.
Both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) have explicit requirements for project approval that BDCP cannot meet by postponing decisions on operations, environmental assurances, and mitigation until after a $17-billion project to modify the hydrology of the estuary is constructed.
Diverting the Sacramento River around the Delta, and thereby increasing the concentration and residence time of impairing pollutants in the estuary, cannot meet the anti-degradation requirements of the Clean Water Act. Changing the point of diversion from the south to north Delta, and thereby subjecting senior water rights holders to further degraded water quality, cannot meet explicit requirements in the California Water Code.
BDCP hypothesizes that it can make up for reduced flow of water through the Delta by providing new habitat. This highly speculative hypothesis cannot meet the Endangered Species Act’s requirements for a Habitat Conservation Plan or Natural Community Conservation Plan. Blatant efforts by the Department of Water Resources to violate eminent domain laws protecting Delta landowners have been rejected by the courts over the last three and a half years.
A proposal to restore an estuary suffering from pollution and lack of water flow by stealing more fresh water from it defies logic. Delta advocates will continue to assert that BDCP will require suspension of environmental review statutes, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the California Water Code, as well as property rights, due process, and common sense.
State and federal agencies have chaperoned the estuary’s collapse, standing by as every standard protecting water quality and fisheries has been routinely violated. Approval by these agencies does not equate with legal compliance. BDCP is simply a scheme to export more water from a water-deprived estuary, and its fate will not be decided by agencies that have historically failed to protect the Delta. It will be decided by the courts or by the people of California at the ballot box.
(Signed) Bill Jennings
(Mr. Jennings is executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and an executive committee member of Restore the Delta)
A solution to Stockton’s bankruptcy?
Submitted by Sean Robert Meaney 7/7/12 To the Editor:
I was most surprised to hear that Stockton had declared Bankruptcy.
The only solution in that degree of incompetence is to allocate one share in the city of Stockton to every citizen and pay them in shares based on the number of hours a week beyond a basic one hour per week compulsory labor as a government employee by every citizen.
What will shares get you? The right to surplus Resource exploitation or a share of the profits, and Voting power in Government.
If you run up a hundred surplus hours in shares you can trade a hundred shares for a hundred hours of digging the pool you always wanted to others to do the digging.
Sean Robert Meaney Darwin, Australia
Disputes voter registration story
Submitted by Richard Winger 4/23/12 Dear Editor, I feel your story about the new California voter registration tally is misleading. Your story says that the ranks of independents grew faster than any political parties.
But the new tally shows that two minor parties grew at a faster rate (since the last voter registration tally) than the rate at which independents have grown.
Between the January 2012 tally and the April 2012 tally, Peace & Freedom Party registration grew .6 percent, and American Independent registration grew .5 percent. But the ranks of independent voters only grew at the rate of .37 percent.
Richard Winger San Francisco
Prioritize floodplain restoration in Central Valley Flood Management Plan
Submitted by Brian Johnson and Curtis Knight 2/23/12
To the Editor:
Many Californians do not realize that the Sacramento River Basin is second only to New Orleans in its risk of a catastrophic flood, putting Central Valley lives and property at severe risk. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is currently developing a Central Valley Flood Protection Plan that is expected to be finalized in July 2012. This plan is the first attempt in 100 years to comprehensively address the Central Valley’s flooding problems and help prevent a New Orleans type of disaster here.
Once finalized, the plan will protect 1 million people and $70 billion in property from flooding, and support critical habitat for wildlife. While DWR has done a commendable job developing a draft plan, it lacks a system-wide vision for how California will safely manage floods in the 21st Century.
The Central Valley Flood Protection Board must now step in and provide leadership and a vision for flood protection that includes giving rivers more room to accommodate floodwaters, and more specific, measurable system-wide objectives for the state and local communities to meet. We don’t know when the next big flood will occur, but we know it will come. And when it does, we need to be ready.
Our flood system faces significant challenges. Since the 1850’s about 1,600 miles of state and federal levees, hundreds of miles of private and local levees, and more than 100 dams were constructed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed. These levees were built with commendable goals that made sense at the time: to control flooding, increase areas available for agriculture and development, and harness the rivers’ tremendous volume of runoff for water supply and hydropower generation.
Now, that infrastructure is aging at the same time that the state, local and federal resources needed to fix it are growing increasingly scarce. We also know more about rivers now than we did a century ago, and we live in a world where extreme weather events are becoming more common and demands on our water supplies are greater than ever. Today’s solutions for flood management must reflect today’s challenges.
As we saw during Hurricane Katrina, levees have finite capacity, and when they fail the consequences can be disastrous. Scientific research in California and elsewhere has shown giving rivers access to their natural floodplains to accommodate flood waters dramatically lowers the chances of massive property destruction and injury to people.
This cost-effective way to protect people and property can be accomplished in the flood plan by making better use of floodplains, levee set-backs and flood bypasses. Expansion into floodplains is nature’s way of managing high water flows, and when rivers expand they also help to recharge groundwater, enrich agricultural lands, and provide critical habitat for native species like salmon, steelhead, and waterfowl.
Flooding risks within the river system are complex and must be dealt with system-wide to be successful. Local communities can and should maintain local control over land-use decisions, but these decisions can’t be made in a vacuum. What happens upstream has a significant impact on what happens downstream. Addressing flood risk on a community by community basis will not work unless there are specific objectives and an overarching system-wide plan for local communities to follow.
The Flood Board will soon decide how to implement DWR’s draft plan. They should define specific, measureable objectives for flood risk reduction and ecosystem function, and more clearly lay out how the state should prioritize future investments in the system. We must use the flood plan as an opportunity to reduce conflicts between native species, such as Chinook salmon, and other uses. Restoring habitat through the plan will also help ensure that water is available for Central Valley farms.
The Board simply cannot kick the can down the road to the next plan update in 5 years. The time to address these issues is now.
(signed) Brian Johnson and Curtis Knight
Brian Johnson is the California Director for Trout Unlimited, which has been working to conserve, protect, and restore North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds since 1959. Curtis Knight is the Conservation Director for California Trout, an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring wild trout, steelhead, salmon and their waters throughout California.
Who really leads in electric vehicles? Michigan says it does
Submitted by Tim Slusser 12/15/11 To the Editor:
I must take exception to several misstatements in an article appearing in your edition of December 6, 2011.
The authors assert that California is the world leader in electric vehicles because it received the lion’s share of venture capital investment in electric vehicle “related activities” in the first half of 2011, a total of $467 million.
Contrast that with the $5.7 billion-plus Michigan has received since November 2008.
Further, the report states that California received more “electric vehicle” related patents than anyone else (even though it was a direct tie with Michigan).
To claim that California is the world leader in electric vehicles based on the metrics outlined is misleading and dismissive of Michigan’s established leadership in battery innovation and electric vehicles.
The study may support California’s claim; the facts do not.
Tim Slusser Technology Development Manager Michigan Economic Development Corp. Detroit. Mich.
Clarification to Lee Enterprises story
Submitted by Jackie Kaczmarek 12/5/11
To the Editor:
I wish to provide clarification on a story posted on your website at 12:24 p.m. Saturday. The headline regarding Lee Enterprises Inc.'s debt restructuring is completely false and misleading.
The bullet point reads "Part of overall Lee Enterprises Chapter 11 filing," with the headline: "Hanford newspaper owner filing for bankruptcy."
The "story," datelined Davenport, Iowa, continues: "The owner of the daily Hanford Sentinel and several related weekly newspapers in the Central Valley is bankrupt. Lee Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: LEE) of Davenport, Iowa, says that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection."
If you had bothered to read the press release headlined "Lee Enterprises prepares to complete refinancing" - which you reproduce in full, with minor changes in attribution - you would have deduced that Lee Enterprises Inc. has not filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The first paragraph of the original statement from Lee says it "has reached a key agreement necessary to proceed with a comprehensive refinancing of its debt." As stated by CEO Mary Junck, "such a [prepackaged] filing... differs significantly from most such [bankruptcy] filings because it preserves interests of current stockholders and all other parties."
"In our case, the process will simply provide a favorable legal framework for implementing the pre-negotiated refinancing on an expedited basis while business continues as usual with no impact on employees, vendors and customers."
Our press release also states, "All digital and print products will be published as usual and no employees will be impacted."
Your sloppy attempt to sensationalize, and alter, a credible news release - and basically lie - does a disservice to credible journalists everywhere.
I demand that a clarification be posted on your website and in any other publications, emails or newsletters that originally ran this story. In addition, the story on your site must be corrected to reflect the true nature of the story.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Sincerely, Jackie Kaczmarek Executive Editor
Consolidating Stockton mail processing center is wrong
Submitted by Mike Clipka 11/29/11 To the Editor:
The United States Postal Service's processing-and-distribution center near Arch Road and Highway 99 has been targeted for consolidation/closure. The postal service has scheduled a public hearing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the nearby San Joaquin County Office of Education, 2707 Transworld Drive to discuss this possibility.
326 employees will be impacted, and that means they will be moved to other Postal facilities with an estimated annual loss of about over $16 million dollars to the local economy.
Postal management claims this “consolidation/closure” will save the USPS [about] $1.5 million, but their figures are wrong.
The Postal Service is critical to our local & national economy — delivering mail, medicine and packages on time at an affordable price, without using taxpayer monies. No company can grow or maintain its business by cutting its services. But that’s what the Postal Service is proposing to do.
Mail will be collected earlier in the day and arrive later. All your mail will be delayed, e.g. birthday and seasonal cards, bills may not get paid on time, and your medications will take longer to arrive, etc.
A partial consolidation of mail was done in May 2011. Since then, has the mail you get or mail you sent arrived later than before May? That partial consolidation of Stockton’s mail going to Sacramento is why this is happening.
You can make your voice heard by attending this meeting. If you do nothing, then our mail services will decline, and end up costing more.
Fix the Delta, says lawmaker
Submitted by Sen. Michael Rubio 11/16/11 To the Editor:
Fixing the Delta will produce 129,000 jobs in California and provide a reliable water supply once and for all.
When former Governor Pat Brown built the California State Water Project, he succeeded and failed at the same time. On the one hand, he built the largest water infrastructure project of its era providing enough water for 15 million people. On the other hand, he did not build a project that addressed the ecological challenges that face a region of our state commonly referred to as the Delta.
Today, the State Water Project is stressed even more with our population now just under 40 million and a growing consensus that the Delta is unsustainable. Two years ago, historic legislation was passed that set in motion the plan to fix the problem. The co-equal goals were defined in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP): restore the Delta and increase the state’s water supply reliability. Unfortunately, the first deadline to finish the plan was not met.
Missing the deadline and not completing the BDCP is troublesome for two reasons. First, it is estimated that the project will produce more than 129,000 jobs over 7.5 years. Second, our state does not have an emergency plan when an earthquake undoubtedly strikes the Delta region again.
To support the Governor Brown Administration’s efforts to complete the BDCP, I introduced SB 250, The California Reliable Water Supply Act. This important bill adopts the aggressive, yet achievable, deadline that Governor Brown and federal agencies have agreed upon: completing the planning process by February 15, 2013. It also adds a construction deadline of December 31, 2025. This bill ensures that the state's water system is available to serve all Californians while also protecting the Delta.
The risks of such an earthquake are very real for the Delta, the Central Valley and Southern California. According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a 62% chance of a larger than 6.7 earthquake in the greater Delta region by 2032. An earthquake of this magnitude could devastate the Delta region and cut off water supply to the 25 million Californians who rely on Delta exports.
Here in the Central Valley, we have felt the effects of California’s broken water system. From thousands of fallowed acres to increased unemployment, the lack of water availability has caused pain. The future of our Valley economy—and water that millions of Southern Californians need—depends on the state completing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to improve the water system.
In the late 1930’s, our country was facing very difficult times. To rebuild our nation, President Roosevelt asked voters to support the National Recovery Program for California. Its main focus: the Central Valley Water Project. The number of jobs the program would create was 25,000.
History often repeats itself. Today, as we again face very difficult times, our main focus should be fixing the Delta, increasing our state’s water supply and producing 129,000 jobs.
Sen. Michael Rubio
(Mr. Rubio’s Senate district includes all or portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.)
Takes issue with Air Pollution District
Submitted by Heather Dumais 10/17/11
The San Joaquin Valley Air Board’s request that the Environmental Protection Agency “ignore” clean air violations that took place at Ash Mountain this summer as a result of the Lion Fire sets a dangerous precedent. (“Valley Air District wants exemption for ozone violation”, Oct. 11, 2011)
The data collected at Ash Mountain was not unusual; in the past three years there have been numerous ozone violations regardless of the presence of fire.
Most of the air pollution in our mountains originates in the valley from sources including cars, trucks, pesticides and coal plants, and is carried by wind and trapped against the Sierra. We have a very serious problem with air pollution that is damaging not only our health, but the health of precious resources like Sequoia trees in our nearby national parks.
Air pollution monitors are meant to capture real-time data about sources and thus inform policy and behavior. Every source of air pollution should be accounted for and held responsible.
Ignoring data is irresponsible and does nothing to clean up our seriously polluted air.
Heather Dumais Sr. Coordinator Air and Climate National Parks Conservation Association Fresno
I created the debt crisis
Submitted by Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner 8/8/11 To the Editor:
I created the debt crisis in America. Yes, I’m the one.
Oh, I had help—a fractured Congress, an inconsistent president, an unchecked financial system. But I take my full share of the responsibility for scripting, producing, and then acting in the debt crisis drama.
Here’s how: I believed it my birthright to be cared for by the government. I wanted more and expected to pay less. I defended the narrow agenda of my “clan” (Democrat, Republican, rich, poor, gay, straight, union, management), keeping score as pundits and politicians debated to win points, rather than collaborating on an actual solution. I chose entertainment over education, apathy over participation, and cynicism over innovation.
I am the guilty one.
Financially, I was outraged at the big banks for their greed and stupidity. Yet I opted to wallow in victimhood and blame. I sat on the sidelines, voiced my frustration—and did nothing. I chose spending over investment in my personal life and adamantly defended my right to cheap housing, comprehensive health care, and low taxes. I accepted the false notion that I could spend now and pay later.
I focused more on the stories of Anthony Weiner’s crotch than on the impending fiscal and governance disasters that will now impact my children’s children.
I am the American citizen. I have committed acts of selfishness, laziness, ignorance, and pride. I take responsibility for these choices. I’ve learned from them. I accept that I must make reparation. And I choose to change.
I commit to forgoing my supposed entitlements and to appreciating the privileges and duties that come with living in a democratic society.
I choose to be an informed, contributing citizen.
I will stay abreast of real issues and will work to separate opinion from fact, instead of probing into leaders’ personal lives and feeding off gossip.
I commit to ousting both spineless and mindless politicians and replacing them with smart leaders who have the guts to make good long-term choices for all Americans, not just “their” Americans.
I will promote healthy debate, stretching beyond my own interests to understand issues from different perspectives. I will demand understandable legislation and policies that transcend the narrow interests of my generation.
I acknowledge that I am a global citizen, and I will strive to fully understand the impact of my beliefs and actions beyond the borders of the United States.
Financially, I commit to living within my means, investing wisely, repaying my debts, and saving more than I spend.
I will care for my body and mind, accepting that quality health care is a privilege, not a right. I view government-sponsored medical and retirement benefits as a complement to my own health care and investment practices.
I accept that certain groups are incapable of caring for themselves (the poor, certain elderly, and those with congenital physical and mental issues) and require the support and care of the larger community. I commit to championing the integration of these groups into a holistic society.
I recognize that the coming years will be challenging for America as we dig out from a fiscal mess I helped create. In the likely difficult times ahead—reduced services, higher taxes, global uncertainty—I commit to acting with candor, curiosity, collaboration, and courage.
And you? What are your commitments?
Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner
(Ms. Klemp and Mr. Warner are the authors of: “The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss.”)
Rehab Time For PG&E
Submitted by Katy Grimes 8/3/11 To the Editor:
The news that PG&E’s CEO Peter Darby had stepped down is cause not necessarily for celebration, but instead is a prime opportunity for the utility to change how it does business.
Utility ratepayer advocates have strongly recommended that the California Public Utilities Commission require PG&E to reduce perks for overpaid executives, reduce political and lobbying expenses, and reduce the costs of marketing programs designed to rehabilitate PG&E’s image.
Under threats of increased rates for residential users, PG&E is not faring well in the court of public opinion, or in the mandatory General Rate Cases at the California Public Utility Commission.
Taking place every three years, a General Rate Case is the major regulatory proceeding for all California utilities, which provides the California Public Utilities Commission a chance to perform a thorough review of utility company’s revenues, expenses, and investments back into the utility company infrastructure.
On May 5, The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced a settlement in Phase 1 of PG&E’s General Rate Case of a $395 million increase in 2011, instead of the $1 billion PG&E requested.
The decision imposes two reporting requirements on PG&E: A semi-annual pipeline safety report on PG&E's natural gas distribution system, and an annual report to explain discrepancies between budgeted and actual expenditures on electric generation, electric distribution, and natural gas distribution projects.
The revenue portion is only part of the settlement – while PG&E will pay for an independent audit of its Smart Meter-related costs, rates will be increased on electricity customers to make up for the lost profits due to the Smart Meters.
After Darby’s departure announcement, it was revealed that Darby received a salary of $8.4 million last year, and has a $34.8 million retirement package, of which $9.6 million is pension. However since the announcement, PG&E’s board announced that it would cover the pension cost so that ratepayers were not stuck with the bill.
Rate payers already feel stuck.
During the past year under Darby’s leadership, the investor-owned utility suffered a number of serious and costly blunders and financial hits: The defeat of Proposition 16, which would have limited the ability of local governments to enter the electricity business to compete with PG&E (costing PG&E $46 million), the Smart Meter debacle, and the tragic and deadly San Bruno explosion last September.
The CPUC has historically allowed utility companies to continually increase rates, resulting in California becoming the most expensive state in the entire country in for utility rates.
A recent news story reported how PG&E’s increasing pension costs were enough justification for the CPUC to allow increases to ratepayers. But rising pension costs are a very large problem in California, resulting in increasingly aggressive cries for reform from taxpayers – and now from utility ratepayers.
A press release from PG&E in February announced that the utility expects its bundled electric rate to remain steady into 2011. But the rest of the press release told far more: “The March 1 rate change does not include revenue that is covered by PG&E's 2011-2013 General Rate Case (GRC). Based on the proposed and alternate decisions recently issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), PG&E anticipates that the final decision will further increase the system-average bundled electric rate by less than 0.1 percent.”
This was after a rate decrease by 0.8 percent on January 1, and an expected increase by 1.5 percent on March 1, resulting in a net increase of 0.7 percent. “PG&E's March 1, 2011 rate would be approximately 2 percent below its March 1, 2010 rate,” the utility reported.
PG&E had asked for a 19.7 percent revenue increase of $1.1 billion, beginning in 2011, with additional increases of $275 million (4.1 percent) in 2012 and $343 million (4.9 percent) in 2013, totaling a $4.2 billion increase.
However, the CPUC Division of Ratepayer Advocates recommended that the CPUC lower the increases to a mere $1.02 billion over three years – a 76 percent reduction of PG&E’s request, proving that hearing the detail about how PG&E conducts business in the General Rate Case does make a difference for the rate payers.
An advocate for ratepayers, the Utility Reform Network (TURN) has hammered PG&E without letting up and provides the following information about the utility:
· PG&E’s rates are already among the highest in the United States.
· PG&E’s rates are higher than almost all municipal providers and are among the highest of California’s 23 electric companies.
· PG&E spent more than $2 billion of customer money on smart meters, which have caused more problems than they’ve solved.
· PG&E spends its profits, which come directly from ratepayers, fighting public power campaigns and community choice in California.
· In General Rate Cases, PG&E has double dipped, and tried to charge customers:
a) Millions in deferred maintenance safety measures previously authorized by the CPUC, but deferred in order to increase profits.
b) Profits on meters whether or not they work.
c) While being paid profits on the new smart meters, PG&E also claimed profits on the meters they took from customers’ homes, now stored in a warehouse gathering dust.
PG&E has a chance to rehabilitate its tarnished image right now. Stopping the widespread mismanagement will not be swift or easy, but with the departure of the CEO, the utility company could make the most of the embarrassing situation and put in practice more responsible, free-market policies and practices - or risk the wrath of the impatient, dissatisfied taxpayers and ratepayers.
Katy Grimes (The author describes herself as a reporter for CalWatchdog, the journalism center for the Pacific Research Institute, and long time political analyst and writer.)
Regarding the Peripheral Canal issue
Submitted by Jan Howe 7/8/11
The Brown Act is a law which covers meetings of government officials, elected reps, volunteer appointees to city/ county/ state commissions, etc. It delineates the ethical vs unethical behaviors when government employees or elected reps and others come together to discuss, plan, or make decisions about governmental policy, money expenditures, etc.
n my opinion, a blatant violation of this law occurred when employees of the Bureau of Reclamation & Department of Water Resources met with employees of the San Luis-Mendota Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District. There was no transparency or access for the public to the agenda, discussion, actions, or decisions of the meeting(s.)
If valid video of these meetings verifies that these persons were together and talking with each otther, then why should we as taxpayers be happy?
Whether the peripheral canal/ conveyance gets built is decided by the voters who will pay for it. The large indebtedness of bonds to do anything is decided by the taxpayers at the ballot box. It is because this "planned project" is potentially bought with scarce tax dollars that any violation of the Brown Act is totally unacceptable.
Small & large businesses alike should be wary of more state bond debt at outrageous rates for the 30 years duration to repay any bonds. Debt sucks money out of the state coffers. Any business owner knows that banks get paid first from the state general fund before any road maintenence gets done to deliver your supplies and goods.
That policeman who used to patrol the beat around your warehouse may not be employed or paid to bust the burgler pinching your product. The fully staffed firehouse that used to be five minutes from your place of business may be closed and your store is a pile of ash.
This is about more than water. If water users are the only people paying for the conveyance (per Laura King Moon of the State Water Contractors), then why is there going to be a bond measure involving tax dollars on the November ballot? Who do they think is a fool? Let them fund the bonds themselves.
Reaction to proposed soda tax
Submitted by Bob Achermann 4/21/11
A new tax will not teach people healthy lifestyles or change their behavior. Taxes do not make people healthier. Making smart, educated decisions about diet and exercise do. There is a smarter way to keep our kids healthy, like educating them about diet and exercise.
Hard-working families are holding their own in this tough economy, but they can’t afford higher grocery prices. There could not be a worse time to ask middle-income families to pay any more in taxes. These taxes will just further squeeze families already struggling to make ends meet.
When it comes to weight gain, there is nothing “special” or unique about the calories in sugar-sweetened beverages. All calories count when it comes to balancing one’s weight. Even so, our industry takes its commitment to being part of the solution to obesity very seriously, and we have taken bold action to do our part. We are making the calories in our products even more clear and consumer-friendly by putting calorie information at consumers’ fingertips at every point of purchase. Furthermore, our industry is constantly innovating to meet consumer demand. In fact, from 1998 to 2008, beverage calories in the marketplace have been reduced by 21 percent.
There is no doubt that obesity is a serious and complex problem; but it requires thoughtful and comprehensive solutions.
Sincerely, Bob Achermann Executive Director, California/Nevada Soft Drink Association
Questions high-speed rail decision
Submitted by J. Howard Harding 11/27/10
To the Editor:
If the goal of developing California's HSR network is to improve intra-state rail passenger transportation, why-oh-why is the first construction an isolated section of track not connected to an existing route, in an area where existing rail traffic flows quite freely?
Why not follow the French example and build the first section where it will relieve current serious congestion, and/or fill a currently missing rail link -- such as between Bakersfield and the LA basin?
The first French dedicated HSR link was built from suburban Paris to north of Lyon. New TGV trainsets used existing conventional trackage between central Paris and the new trackage, and into Lyon and beyond.
To this day, French and German HSR trains operate a very high percentage of their route-miles on conventional-speed trackage within their respective countries and into Switzerland, Italy and other European nations.
Of course most European conventional-speed lines are electrified while existing California rail lines are not. Existing technology permits operation of trains on both electrified and non-electrified lines, so that is not a barrier to such evolutionary development of California's HSR network.
J. Howard Harding Akron, Ohio
(Mr. Harding is a council member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers [NARP], but notes that the views expressed in his letter are his and not necessarily those of the association.)
Traveling to a better tomorrow
Submitted by Jim Daisa 10/7/10
To the Editor:
The Public Transportation Infrastructure Study, known as FastTrack Fresno County, has examined trends in air quality, transit ridership, general plans, zoning, land uses, population growth, demographics and more.
Through community events, public input has been gathered on streetcars, Personal Rapid Transit, light rail, Bus Rapid Transit, housing densities, and more.
Some of the best experts in their fields have been a part of the team, helping Fresno City and County prepare for the future. This month, an expert in public transit is coming to Fresno to lend his unique perspective to the discussion.
The presentation featuring international transit guru Jarrett Walker will begin with a transit video at 6:30 p.m. and program at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Alice Peters Auditorium on campus at California State University, Fresno.
Walker, who blogs via humantransit.org and has done planning work in the Valley, believes that the key to great transit is not buying cool technologies, or even just in doing great analysis. Rather, it’s in figuring out how transit projects reflect the values, hopes and ambitions of a city. In his consulting work, his blog humantransit.org, and his forthcoming book, Walker tries to start thoughtful conversations about how transit works and how it can be used to create better cities and towns.
A celebrity of sorts among transit experts, Walker’s blog recently hit a record of nearly 4,000 page views in one day. His presentation will address how land use decisions impact the viability of transit and how to balance practicality with vision.
In Walker’s world, practicality alone results in habit – “more of the same” transit planning. Conversely, vision alone leads to boondoggles and disappointing results.
How do downtown Fresno specifically and Fresno County as a whole balance practicality with vision? Walker will address these “transit quarrels” between people stuck in the past or stuck in the future and help develop a voice in the middle.
Walker’s presentation is part of a two-year-long effort to help Fresno City and County plan for the coming population growth, reduce our dependence on the automobile and help improve our air quality.
One key question challenging the consultant team throughout the FastTrack study has been: What effect does development density and mix of housing and employment have on the way people travel in Fresno County?
To help answer that question, three transit corridors were studied that, with long-term planning, could become high-capacity Bus Rapid Transit corridors designed to encourage greater use of transit, biking and walking.
These high-capacity corridors are: • Blackstone Avenue from downtown Fresno to the River Park Transit Center • Ventura/Kings Canyon from downtown Fresno to the edge of development (Clovis Avenue) • Shaw Avenue from Highway 99 to CSU Fresno, then north on Highway 168 to a high-density employment destination planned for north Clovis.
Computer modeling programs illustrate how three different levels of housing densities along each corridor could affect travel choices once more people and job centers are located closer together.
What the study has found is that a few well-planned transit corridors can make a big difference in the way people travel. People will walk more, bicycle more and use transit if there are destinations close to where they work and live.
Recommendations will soon be made to elected officials to help guide how Fresno City and County invest in transportation and to guide development patterns in coming years.
Learn more and hear updates on the study at a series of meetings set for the week of Oct. 25. For details, visit FastTrackFresnoCounty.com.
The two-year study will hit several major milestones in coming months as streetcar study results, policy recommendations, and greenhouse gas emissions modeling results and targets will be released for public comment.
The population is coming. How will we manage this growth and how will we work, travel and live in 2035? Get involved in FastTrack Fresno County and be part of the planning – and the solution.
Jim Daisa, P.E. with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. serving as project manager with FastTrack Fresno County.
The governor's veto
Submitted by Judy Olson 10/1/10
To the Editor:
Vetoing legislation requiring transparency in the operations of auxiliaries of the UC and CSU systems in order to keep confidential donors' identities shows our governor's dedication to protecting rich people from all those annoying--people.
Why is a handful of "donors" more important than the integrity of a whole system that is supposed to be *publicly* funded in the first place? Transparency would scare off donors? Who cares? This is what's wrong with *donors.*
When we've sold off every last tiny piece of the common good and have nothing left, then will people feel sorry for this insane orgy of privatization, this mass idiocy of tea-partying and complaining about taxes?
Taxes allow *us* to control our *own* institutions without having to kowtow to "donors."
See? He who pays the piper calls the tune. So let's pay! As taxpayers! Let's take back our state and our great institutions, starting with the UC and CSU!
Judy Olson Los Angeles
Urges more made in America efforts
Submitted by Robert Barrows 7/1/10 To the Editor:
I read the article about Jerry McNerney's legislation to keep jobs here in America, and along these same lines, I thought you might also want to take a look at a poem I wrote called "It used to be made in America." The poem is about the loss of jobs and the consequences of the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, and it paints a vivid picture of conflicting economic forces.
I have also set the poem up on a website at www.itusedtobemadeinamerica.com. I hope to be able to develop the website into: • a directory of products that are made in America; • a directory of manufacturers that make things here in America; • a directory of jobs in America; • a directory of requests for proposals for projects here in America • a directory of funding sources, including micro-lending sources for projects that would be made in America
I have also been sending out letters to mutual funds and venture capital funds suggesting that they develop funds that would invest in companies that make things here in America.
There are also some verses of the poem which might be suitable for country songs, folk songs and rap songs, and I also hope to be able to develop the poem into some documentary type projects about the state of manufacturing in America.
Here is some background information on the poem: The poem was first published on the front page of the December 2007 edition of the Indiana Labor News. Excerpts of the poem have also been published in the December 2007 issue of the New York State Public Employees Union newsletter and in the April 29, 2009 issue of the Copper Country News in Globe, Arizona.
I also used the poem as part of my campaign materials when I ran for Congress in the Democratic Primary in 2008 in the 12th Congressional District in California. When I would speak about the economy, I would point out that my shirt was made in one country, my tie was made in another, my shoes were made in yet another country, my underwear was made someplace else, my TVs, cameras, toaster and most of my household items were made in yet other countries, and very few of those things were made in America anymore.
(I also ran in the same primary in 2006. I lost both times.)
Please feel free to refer to all or parts of "It used to be made in America" in any articles you might be doing, and please give me a call if you would like any additional information.
It used to be made in America It used to be made in my town It used to be made just down the street Now they’ve shut that factory down It used to be made in America It used to be made by my friends Now it’s made for twelve cents an hour How are you going to compete with them? It once had a union label It said AFL-CIO Now it’s made someplace, who knows where? And we watched all those good jobs go. It used to be made in America It used to be made right here Now you can buy it for half the price If you’ve got any income to spend It used to be paid in America The billing was done by my friends Now they bill it over the internet In rupees and yuan and yen It used to be made in America By hard working women and men Now we’ve outsourced it to who knows where So what if it’s made by children and kids again There used to be great schools in America There used to be schools in this town There used to be music and sports and art Now they’ve shut all those programs down They once had good jobs in America The land of opportunity so they said Now you’d better start looking elsewhere The big firms are just cutting their overhead They used to make flags in America Hooray for the red white and blue Now the flags come from China, And our dog food and toothpaste comes From there, too There used to be jobs in the cities Now they’re done overseas It doesn’t matter how good you are It only matters how cheap They used to make goods in America Things like Cameras, TVs and Jeans Those industries are long since gone So now all we make are rockets And planes and bombs We still grow good food in America Potatoes and grain and corn But don’t look for the local farmer Those jobs are long since gone We still raise beef in America At least for a while we still do But the drive for profits will drive those jobs overseas And our cowboys will go there, too
There used to be jobs in America On Wall Street and Main Street And in all of the cities and towns Now those opportunities are dwindling away As we outsource our future around One day we’ll realize there ain’t much left We outsourced it all overseas Is that what society needs? It used to be made in America Someday it will be made here again The world goes in cycles of up and down And maybe we’ll make it here again The solution to all this economy Usually ends in a war Tariffs and trade and protectionism Is that what we’re working for? It used to be made in America Don’t worry, we’ll still find you something to do For now, you’d better study real hard Because you may have to create something new There’ll always be jobs in America It takes work to farm it out overseas We’re in the global economy now I hope you’ve got what you need! You’re on your own in America It’s always been that way It’s nothing new to worry about And complaining won’t send it away But if you’ve got any voice in the matter If you’ve got a choice when you can Try to keep it made in America You’ll hold your head a lot higher if you can It used to be made in America It used to be made with care Now they make it wherever they can Try to compete if you dare The deals overseas are way too tempting The savings are way too dear But the real cost we pay is far greater It’s a cost we pay for in fear It used to be made in America In the good old U.S. of A But when it takes so many jobs away It’s a price I’m not willing to pay So before I buy things I look at the label Let’s find a way to bring those jobs back We really don’t need all that junk they make overseas Let’s build our economy on the things we need It used to be made in America We can bring those jobs back if we try But we can’t just do it by talking The important question is Why The answer is really quite simple Where there’s work there’s honor and pride! It used to be made in America We can bring it back if we try We can bring those jobs back if we want to We can create a new world based on hope But the people have to want to And the government has to act It’s time to create new programs To develop new jobs and careers It’s time we sat down with labor It’s time we sat down with our peers It’s time to get the government going To create new incentives for making it here It’s time for us to look at the label and Smile because we know they’re making it here! It used to be made in America It used to be made by my friends Now it’s time to plan for the future And build our economy strong once again We can do it by keeping the work force right here We can do it right here if we want to But it starts with a reason to do it And the reason to do it is clear We live here we work here we die here We have friends and family who care We need the jobs here to achieve our goals Without it, we give up our souls So here’s to the future we know how to build We can do it if we desire The way to compete is to find ways to build it better So we can say it’s made right here in America, Amen!
Signed: Robert Barrows R.M. Barrows Inc. Burlingame
VIDEO to the editor
Submitted by Lloyd Chapman 6/10/10
This is our first "video to the editor." Your comments are welcome.
Questions Yee’s motives
Submitted by Frank Whitney 3/31/10 To the Editor:
Don't you wonder if Al Gore or some other liberal was invited by the CSU Stanislaus foundation whether State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco would have made the same fuss he has over Sarah Palin?
Frank Whitney Stockton
Detailed reaction to latest Valley water allocations
Submitted by David G. Eselius 2/28/10
To the Editor:
There is a plethora of California Water Districts & Associations. I do not think California government has the resources or legal structure to manage adequately the state’s resources of water. This is a critical political concern because the state is over drafting its groundwater aquifers. When the water system recharge rate of the aquifers is not adequate to sustain the rate of water withdrawal—the water system is unsustainable and you run out of water.
With increased global warming temperatures resulting in changing climate, and increased populations increasing water consumption, the water future of California (and other parts of America) is unpredictable. Being a state with an unpredictable water future is high-risk governance.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, there have been more than 50-years of state, federal, political, and administrative mismanagement of California’s hydrological water collection, surface storage, distribution, and groundwater storage systems.
Example—Tulare Basin within the State San Joaquin District
The state's San Joaquin District’s mission is to manage the water resources of California, in cooperation with other agencies to benefit the State's people, and to protect, restore, and enhance the natural and human environments.
Sounds great, but does the state District have any authority to complete its complete its mission.
San Joaquin District Agricultural and Urban Water Management The San Joaquin District provides assistance to urban and agricultural water agencies in the preparation of water management plans. The District also reviews submitted plans and progress reports. District staff provides guidance to water agencies in completing and presenting the proper information in water management plans for meeting the requirements of the urban and agricultural MOUs. Meeting the criteria of the MOUs is necessary for endorsement of both urban and agricultural water management councils. In addition, endorsement of a water agency's water management plan by the appropriate council is necessary for application of financial assistance through grant and low interest loans programs.
No. The California’s Districts do not have authority to complete its mission. The state’s District water authority is naught. The state authority just shuffles paperwork.
There is no central water authority governance within California. Sacramento and Washington D.C. politicians are the day-to-day governance.
Tulare Basin – Part of the Central Valley Water Project
In the 1950's and 1960's, technological developments led to a dramatic increase in large-scale pumping. The California Tulare Basin has experienced extensive groundwater depletions since 1962. The Central Valley USGS Groundwater Loss Graph notes that Tulare Basin changed in ground water storage is a decline of about 70 million acre-feet over the 50-year period.
Although the 1950's and 1960's pump technological enabled Tulare Basin water withdrawal—nobody put the water back into the water basin. The regional hydrological system became unbalanced, which resulted in aquifer over drafting.
The High Plains aquifer, which includes the well-known Ogallala aquifer, provides for about 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States that overlie this aquifer system. The aquifer yields about 30 percent of the nation's ground water used for irrigation. In addition, the aquifer system provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within the aquifer boundary.
In the year 2000, about 21 million acre-feet of ground water was removed from the High Plains aquifer’s eight-state region (McGuire, 2009).
Over a fifty-year period, California politics has depleted 70 million acre-feet groundwater from the Tulare Basin, which is the equivalent of 3.3 years of water removed from the High Plains aquifer eight-state region. This is an astonishing amount of non-replenished Tulare Basin-water loss.
California politicians have no plans to increase replenishment of the Tulare Basin-water loss. The water withdrawal is unsustainable. Nothing can be done for the California politicians; however, there are solutions for over drafting of aquifers.
Groundwater Recharge Programs Provide For Recharge Several Million Acre-Ft
Major long-term water solutions for secure reliable water flows have been available since the 1970s—build more surface storage dams to hold more short-term water storage. Water is than transferred to long-term storage within very large groundwater aquifers.
“Surface water is preferred over groundwater because of relative costs. Uncertainty and limitations of surface-water deliveries from the Delta are of growing concern. Groundwater often is used to replace much of the shortfall in surface-water supplies. Because groundwater is a finite resource, alternate sources of water are being either considered or starting to be used. For example, some of the more permeable deposits recently have been used for groundwater recharge programs. Water districts have recharged several million acre-ft of water for future use and transfer through water banking programs (California Department of Water Resources, 2003). The groundwater recharge programs store excess water during wet periods for extraction during dry periods (California Department of Water Resources, 2005).” From Groundwater Availability of the Central Valley Aquifer, California
See Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation (pdf).
How much longer can California support vital large-scale pumping? It is a simple question with a complicated answer. First, the aquifers will probably be able to support small, domestic wells far into the future. With proper planning, most cities and towns should be able to provide for their water needs. Second, the future of agricultural use of the aquifer depends on a variety of factors, including the price of irrigated crops, the price and availability of energy (the deeper the water table, the more energy it takes to pump water), climate, and how the water is managed. Third, it is important to remember that the aquifer is not one consistent, homogeneous unit. Rather, it varies considerably from place to place. In places, the aquifer consists of less than 50 feet of saturated thickness and receives little recharge. In other places, the aquifer is far thicker or receives considerably more recharge.
The Water Crisis
The core water issue is that within consuming nations a certain quality of life is expected. To significantly decrease water consumption per individual will require economic and social change—topics that are unpopular with politicians. Therefore, California will have to increase its groundwater-recharged programs.
Because the current population exceeds current water supply capacities, over drafting of groundwater aquifers occurs—this is an unsustainable global water dilemma for many nations.
While the world's population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. Within the next fifty years, the world population will increase by another 40 to 50 %. This population growth - coupled with industrialization and urbanization - will result in an increasing demand for water and will have serious consequences on the environment.
Although food security has been significantly increased in the past thirty years, water withdrawals for irrigation represent 66 % of the total withdrawals and up to 90 % in arid regions, the other 34 % being used by domestic households (10 %), industry (20 %), or evaporated from reservoirs (4 %).
As the per capita use increases due to changes in lifestyle and as population increases as well, the proportion of water for human use is increasing. This, coupled with spatial and temporal variations in water availability, means that the water to produce food for human consumption, industrial processes and all the other uses is becoming scarce.
It is all the more critical that increased water use by humans does not only reduce the amount of water available for industrial and agricultural development but has a profound effect on aquatic ecosystems and their dependent species. Environmental balances are disturbed and cannot play their regulating role anymore.
Sincerely, David G. Eselius
Re CVBT story “no taxes for those over 55?” published 11/27/09 at 12:03 a.m.
Submitted by Name withheld 11/28/09
To the Editor:
Unfortunately, Mr. Olson is right about public schools, in California. Public schools here teach few California children. Some of the best teachers in Sonoma County will loose their jobs this year unless they learn how to teach children that do not speak English.
Some one needs to push back. The school funding formula is very complex in California so much so that it isn't taught in graduate credentialing programs.
Successful families pay the most taxes and do not get money back in their community for their child's education. They establish educational foundations that every parent is expected to contribute to so their son or daughter receives adequate instruction. While their tax dollars go to schools with more need for instruction in English.
Good colleges in California, in a spirit of intellectual honesty, teach our children very poor citizenship.
Some professors need to be called on this.
How will he get the needed 694,354 signatures of registered voters?
P. S. I would guess the UPS store is a mailbox provider, like my husband and I use, so our financial and other documents are secure.
Name confirmed but withheld upon request
Bakersfield dead horses issue may be tip of the iceberg
Submitted by Ian Smith 11/6/09 To the Editor:
Sargeant’s Wholesale Biologicals (SWB)—a for-profit business the buys dead dogs and cats from shelters and sells them to veterinary programs —may soon be the subject of a legal investigation after dead horses were discovered behind their Bakersfield facility. But, it is the legal day-to-day operations of SWB that cause animals the most harm.
The market for dead animals created by biological supply companies like SWB creates a serious conflict of interest for shelters charged with providing a safe haven for homeless animals. When there’s a willing buyer, a homeless dog or cat could be worth more to a shelter dead than alive and this may seriously compromises decisions involving the welfare of the vulnerable animals in their care.
Thankfully, many veterinary training programs have eliminated the use of cadavers altogether in favor of simulation software that provides educational advantages unavailable from cadavers. Other veterinary programs that continue to use animal cadavers are increasingly turning away from suppliers such as SWB because of their serious ethical concerns and are establishing programs that allow animal caretakers to voluntarily donate the body of an animal after that animal dies a natural death or is euthanized due to a terminal illness or injury. These “willed body” programs are like those used by medical schools to obtain human cadavers.
Allowing a for-profit trade in dead bodies is creating an environment ripe for abuse. It results in situations where shelters experience a severe conflict of interest. When Michael Sargeant is paying for dead bodies, live animals may easily become viewed as an expensive burden and dead animals as a source of revenue.
Ian Smith Research Associate Laboratory Investigations Department People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Norfolk, VA 23510
Supports Constitutional convention
Submitted by Casey Lauderdale 10/30/09
To the Editor:
As a proud resident of California I am deeply torn to see the state I love become so dysfunctional. Central Valleyans know, probably more than anyone else, the hardships caused by the state government’s failure to act on important issues.
For too long now we have not had a comprehensive, functional water plan, and we have seen how this year it has crippled our local economy where unemployment has hit 16% and an astounding 41% in small farm towns like Mendota.
I have lost faith in our legislature and I believe that at this point the only way we can have our voice heard and achieve change is through a constitutional convention.
Let everyday Californians and locally appointed experts come together to collectively solve our state’s many problems. It will be more representative and more effective than waiting for a miracle from our gerrymandered, politically dogmatic representatives.
Sincerely, Casey Lauderdale
Disputes honesty of those involved in water debate
Submitted by Michael 10/24/09 To the Editor:
McNerney wants local input! How can they have any reasonable local input when all that is being spouted are lies and misrepresentations left over from those that were fostered in the original Peripheral Canal "debate" from the 80s.
First off, there would be NO adverse impacts to "millions" of people, it would adversely affect maybe 100,000 people - a decimal point error???? A canal WOULD Provide a better & more reliable water supply for 25 MILLION Californians (no decimal point error there) and would provide a more reliable irrigation water for 3.5 MILLION acres of farmland.
It would not make anything into a salt marsh, SWRCB decision 1641 demands fresh water be kept out around Sherman Island all year so the farmers get fresh water all year every year even though that is creating havoc in the delta!
Go to some of the sloughs and take a look at the Hyacinth and egeria densa - invasive species (Hyacinth is the national flower of Bangladesh - NOT California) these are not salt tolerant but farmers are causing this to invade the system because of the fresh water demands.
There will not be an increase in pumping - there are what are called WATER RIGHTS and they limit what can be pumped out of the delta, so there will not be a big push to take more water!
What the canal would do? First it would take the fish out of the equation in the delta! It would also help to take the top 10% of flood waters coming into the delta by moving that out of the Sacramento River channel into the canal, that could well be the difference between islands remaining dry and going under.
A canal would also force the San Joaquin River to be addressed, I've heard it referred to as the Lower Colon of California and that is for a reason, it's got more crap in it than should be allowed by law! It is all farm runnoff and treated wastewater, it has a salt content that is too high to make it usable for farmers or people.
So rather than force the issue of cleaning up that water he wants to send it to the San Joaquin Valley Farmers and the people in southern California (yes women & Children too) and force them to use this unusalbe water so San Joaquin County can create their own "Arkansas" style freshwater lake that was the Delta.
This is so morally and ethically wrong that it is almost unthinkable that an elected official would consider this but then again he's a politician - morals and ethics are well behind campaign contributions and the the truth lags further back still!
So I can see that the people that want to control the population in Southern California and limit them to 500,000 prople (See "Water and the California Dream by David Carle chapter 18 A vision for the future) & these are the people that are receiving their water from the East Bay MUD's Peripheral Canals but it's OK for them), the fisherman that want to promote fishing for all the introduced species (Striped bass, large & small mouth bass, all 5 types of catfish, crappie, blue gills and the list goes on but they are all the predatory fish that are eating up the natives but that's OK because they're fun to catch), the farmers that are causing 1/2 in of subsidance every year and are one of the largest causes of the problem of levee stability because they want all their water for free all year every year, and the recreationalists that don't want to have to convert to Stainless steel intakes and cooling systems becuase it'll cost them a few dollars.
These are the people that want to be heard? These are the poeple that don't care about anyone but themselves and they are still living in the past with closed minds and open mouths.
Come on OPEN YOUR MIND and get a clue and lets work for a reasonable solution that improves the whole state and the delta at the same time!
But if San Joaquin insists that the Sacramento River belongs to them they should start paying for Oroville, Shasta, and Folsom Dams, they are stealing the benefits they should pay for the cost!
Adds information to Sacramento splittail story
Submitted by Steve Martarano 8/14/09
To the Editor:
I saw your story on the Sacramento Splittail claim from the Center for Biological Diversity. There's one important distinction with the Julie MacDonald situation pertaining to this that needs to be pointed out. While we have gone through and re-proposed actions at the request of former USFWS head Dale Hall on several matters (most recent the Buena Vista Shrew) MacDonald worked on, this doesn't fall into that category. We felt there was no need to revisit the splittail decision because of an Inspector General's finding in 2007 that said Steve Thompson's decision to de-list was made months before MacDonald began working on it.
The Inspector General wrote, in part: "Our investigation confirmed that McDonald owns a farm in Dixon, CA near the habitat and spawning area for the Sacrmento Splittail. We also found that MacDonalld significantly participated in the editing process for the Splittail. Hower, MacDonald's actual involvement in the Splittail matter occurred several months after the decision to remove the species from the list had already been made by a manager in the California-Nevada Operations Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (then called CNO). MacDonald's participation did not change the manager's decision to withdraw the Splittail from the list of endangered species." Thanks.
Steve Martarano, Senior Information & Education Specialist Sacramento Office, Fish and Wildlife Service
Democrats Never Learn
Submitted by Willie L. Pelote, Sr. 7/30/09 To the Editor:
Any economist worth their salt knows that in tough economic times, public spending needs to increase. This is a standard principle that everybody agrees on.
It is also the logic behind the Obama administration’s stimulus package.
Unfortunately, in California the exact opposite has been happening.
The state’s latest budget plan preserves $3 billion worth of tax breaks for multinational corporations and $35 billion of wasteful private contracting costs while cutting $15 billion out of education, health care, and other public service programs supported by a majority of California voters.
The plan also includes an additional $656 million worth of social spending cuts that Schwarzenegger imposed through line-item vetoes when he signed the budget revision, and it foregoes hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues by furloughing Franchise Tax Board employees along with other civil servants.
Despite the fact that the economic crisis we are experiencing was caused by the free market running roughshod over the economy, the very same policies designed to prevent government intervention in the market economy (i.e., privatization of public resources and institutions, deregulation, and public spending cuts) have been repeatedly prescribed to address California’s budget problems and those of other states.
The ineffectiveness of these policies in reviving the economy obvious to anybody paying attention.
For instance, Schwarzenegger’s Finance Director Mike Genest has warned that despite the adoption of the latest budget revision, California will still need to borrow more than $8 billion to pay its bills this year.
While Democratic leaders are now raising questions about the legality of Schwarzenegger’s line-item vetoes and are vowing to restore the new spending cuts, their indignation at Schwarzenegger’s actions demonstrates the folly of agreeing to a cuts-only budget in the first place.
What this perverse situation illustrates is that Republicans have become adept at using the state’s budget crises to extract concessions from the Democratic majority that would be unthinkable under normal circumstances. These include the erosion of the state’s social safety net as well as other items that appear unrelated to the budget such as Schwarzenegger’s insistence on conducting background checks on In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) providers, selling off state-owned properties, and privatizing and outsourcing the state’s health and human service functions.
The general thrust of these maneuvers is to transform California into a corporatist society where the apparatus and priorities of the state are reoriented away from securing the life and liberty of the general populace and toward serving the narrow interests of the rich and politically connected.
Journalist Naomi Klein has analyzed how political elites in the thrall of the financial and corporate sect routinely exploit economic and political crises and even natural disasters to quickly impose a fundamentalist, pro-corporate economic program on countries around the world. She has labeled this undemocratic practice the shock doctrine and the corresponding policies economic shock therapy.
According to Klein, economic shock therapy is based on the theories of University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, who strongly believed that governments should play no role in the economic sphere other than to protect the rights of property owners. In order to reduce government’s capacity to intervene in and regulate the economy, Friedman recommended: (1) privatizing all public resources and institutions, (2) eliminating any and all regulations and protections governing the activities of the financial and corporate sector, (3) doing away with social spending programs such as education, health care, and other public services meant to promote the general welfare, and (4) dismantling tariffs and other trade barriers that protect local businesses from the excesses of global free trade.
Klein has shown that societies in which these policies have been enacted are generally characterized by increased poverty, a ever widening gap between rich and poor, and a widespread host of social and economic problems most commonly associated with Third World countries, but which have now emerged in developed nations, as governments here have adopted these fundamentalist, free market policies.
In California, Schwarzenegger, who is an avowed follower of Milton Friedman, has advanced numerous budget proposals that very closely follow the outlines of Friedman’s recommendations. In May, Schwarzenegger recommended the virtual elimination of the state’s social safety net through far ranging cuts to education, health care, and social services. Although Democratic leaders managed to preserve some of the programs targeted for elimination by agreeing to smaller cuts, it is widely acknowledged that this latest budget revision will reshape the Golden State for many years to come, and that students and the poor, elderly, and disabled will suffer the most.
Schwarzenegger has also consistently pushed to privatize and outsource various state functions throughout his term. In addition to privatizing health and human service functions, he has suggested allowing private firms to fund state infrastructure projects, after which taxpayers would have to repay the investment firms at higher interest rates than those traditionally charged when the state issues municipal bonds.
Finally, Schwarzenegger’s recent proposal to reverse a 40-year ban on oil drilling off the California coast, which got killed in the latest budget revision, mirrors his support for the kind of energy deregulation that caused California’s 2001 energy crisis. Interestingly, Schwarzenegger is reported to have met with infamous Enron CEO Ken Lay in 2001 shortly before the 2003 recall election in order to plot a strategy to stymie former Governor Gray Davis’s attempt to reregulate California’s energy market.
As Klein points out, perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of the fundamentalist economic policies discussed above is the recognition that “only a crisis actual or perceived” produces the opportunity to enact the economic shock therapy program favored by Schwarzenegger and espoused by Friedman.
Thus far, the various state budget crises that California has suffered through appear to have provided laissez faire ideologues with numerous opportunities over the years to push through economic policies that a majority of voters do not support, and which would have been difficult to do under the normal political process.
One way to combat this use of crisis politics to advance a morally reprehensible and economically regressive agenda is to inject more democratic elements into the process such as holding budget hearings on a county by county basis.
The other way is for the Democratic majority to actually stand up for democratic ideals.
Remember that polling by David Binder Research in the aftermath of the May 19 special election indicated that a majority of California voters: (1) support increasing taxes on oil companies and alcohol and tobacco producers, (2) support closing tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid reassessment of newly purchased property, (3) support restoring upper income tax brackets to levels under Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, (4) support prohibiting corporations from offsetting more than 50% of their taxes through tax credits, (5) oppose cuts to public services, and (6) support specific tax increases and cuts to prison spending to balance the budget.
Since most observers predict that California will be facing another budget crisis in the near future due to the faltering economy, assumptions made in the recent budget revision, and the structural nature of California’s budget problem, this latest episode in the state’s budget saga should serve as an object lesson for Democrats concerning the consequences of abandoning progressive ideals and the courage of one’s convictions.
Willie L. Pelote, Sr.
(Mr. Pelote identifies himself as assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO.)
New budget plan takes California backwards
Submitted by Willie L. Pelote, Sr. 7/22/09 To the Editor:
Perhaps the most irresponsible aspect of the latest budget deal between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republicans and State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), is that it utterly fails to deal with the structural nature of California's budget deficit, relying instead on one-time accounting maneuvers and the preservation of unnecessary tax breaks for multinational corporations that virtually guarantee the reemergence of future deficits.
The latest plan jettisons $2 billion of taxes on oil companies and alcohol producers supported by voters in favor of almost $16 billion worth of new cuts to education, health care, and social programs.
Of that amount, elementary schools, community colleges, and the state's university system are set to absorb about $9 billion alone.
The net result is the diminishment of the level and quality of public services the state can provide residents for years to come.
There are numerous ways in which the state's $26 billion budget deficit could have been bridged without further ravaging the social infrastructure that is the fundamental basis for progress in the Golden State.
They include the abrogation of $35 billion worth of agreements with private contractors to do jobs that state employees could perform for roughly half the cost as well as the repeal of those aforementioned tax breaks for multinational companies that will cost California $2.5 billion over the next five years.
They also include the elimination of every state subsidy, tax break, and tax credit directed toward private businesses and individual business owners, especially since programs that employ these incentives have been shown not to work.
If the free market is such an ideal mechanism for creating wealth, then there would be no need to use taxpayer dollars to underwrite private sector growth.
Additionally, instead of an oil severance tax that could have brought in almost $1 billion a year, the new plan overturns a 40-year-old ban on oil drilling off the California coast.
Never mind that a majority of California voters support funding for public services like education, health care, and transportation and are willing to pay for them with an oil severance tax or higher taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.
This type of approach may have been too much to expect from Schwarzenegger, who for weeks has been attempting to insert non-budget-related items such as background checks for people who care for the elderly and disabled in their own homes and additional privatization of the state’s health and human service functions into budget discussions in order to further drain the state’s coffers, but Bass and Steinberg really should have known better.
Now they are complicit in a deal that, if adopted, will further regress California to the level of a Third World country.
The elderly and poor will be hit hardest as usual.
Civil servants will continue to suffer through unpaid furloughs, some state parks will close, and Sacramento will raid the treasuries of local governments for $4 billion worth of local property and gas taxes, triggering a ripple effect of new reductions in public services at the city and county level.
Living without education, health care, or other essential public services might be appealing to some in a 16th century sort of way, but our society, our state, our nation, the world, have long since moved beyond that.
Only Third World countries are set up like that today.
Schwarzenegger, the Republicans, Bass, Steinberg, and any other Democrat who votes for this budget plan will claim that they had no choice, that circumstances forced them to make these cuts to balance California’s budget.
This is untrue.
The decision to impose the lowest costs on the wealthiest among us and, thus, the highest costs on the least among us is and always will be a political decision.
Willie L. Pelote, Sr.
Mr. Pelote is an assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO.
Obama Should Save CIT
Submitted by Lloyd Chapman 7/14/09 To the Editor:
CIT Group Inc. has been the number one Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) lender for nine consecutive years. They have also been the top lender to women, minority and veteran owned small businesses for six consecutive years. CIT has been a lender to roughly one million small and mid-size businesses. Without help from the federal government CIT could face a very serious challenge to their future that may include bankruptcy.
President Obama should not let that happen for several good reasons.
America's small businesses are responsible for approximately 50 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, small businesses with less than 100 employees are responsible for over 97 percent of all net new jobs in America. These firms employ over 56 percent of the private sector workforce and are responsible for the majority of technical innovations. Small businesses are unquestionably the foundation our of national economy.
These are the firms CIT has been serving since 1908. CIT makes successful loans available to thousands of hardworking small business owners that had been turned down repeatedly by other lenders. CIT's unique ability to work with new entrepreneurs and small business owners trying to expand their businesses will be impossible to duplicate.
CIT received $2.3 billion in TARP funds. As far as I know, they didn't use the money to give their top executives millions in bonuses, buy a new corporate jet or spend a million dollars remodeling the president's bathroom like many firms in their industry.
I admit, I am not an economist and the detailed and complex inner workings of the financial industry are not my area of expertise. I am a hardcore small business advocate and a taxpayer. If my tax dollars are going to be used to rescue banks and other financial institutions, CIT is the kind of firm I want to see saved.
It looks like President Obama and the people in his administration get to decide who succeeds and who fails in the financial industry. In making those life and death decisions I believe President Obama would be wise to consider the crucial role small businesses will play in our nation's economic recovery. Over 50 percent of the GDP and over 95 percent of all net new jobs are very compelling statistics in favor of supporting America's 27 million small businesses.
President Obama recently rolled out his ARC loan program that will provide interest free $35,000 loans to small businesses. The program is capped at $255 million. CIT made $770 million in loans under the SBA's backed loan program in 2008.
If you consider the total volume of federal funds that have been allocated to stimulate the nation's failing economy, the figure is over $2.5 trillion. To date, the nation's 27 million small businesses have received less than 1 percent of those funds. To help put that in perspective, more tax dollars have gone to help J.P. Morgan than all American small businesses combined. The Wall Street executives that helped create the worst national economic disaster since the Great Depression have received more money than 27 million small businesses, over $18 billion in bonuses.
If our economy is going to recover any time soon, President Obama needs to come to the realization that small businesses will lead the way out of this recession, not Wall Street and not Fortune 500 firms. Politicians in Washington pushed the Wall Street bailout bill and the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act by saying small businesses need access to capital. The truth is, and has been widely reported, that access to capital for most small businesses has actually decreased.
An effective economic recovery will require lenders like CIT to get money into the hands of qualified small businesses.
If our hard earned tax dollars are going to be used to save financial institutions, we should use those funds to save firms like CIT that have a 100-year track record of helping those small businesses where most Americans work, the businesses that are responsible for over 50 percent of the GDP and create over 97 percent of all net new jobs.
President Obama needs to invest our tax dollars wisely and I can't think of a better use for those funds than to invest in a firm like CIT that has been the nation's top lender to small businesses and firms owned by women, minorities and veterans.
Lloyd Chapman President, American Small Business League
Faults government for Valley water shortage
Submitted by George Parker 6/20/09 To the editor:
I listened to Paul Rodriguez speak to Sean Hannity last night concerning the pumping of the delta to supply water for farming because of a minnow, killer whales, salmon, and how jobs would be impacted, or in other words no taxes would be paid, the solution i read was to declare a state of emergency, pay employment benefits with money calif. does not have.
Give me a break! Tell the "Gestapo" I mean the E.P.A. to get out, And Calif. should turn the pumps on!
This would let productive people be productive. This means a greater tax base for Calif. People would not have to pay higher food cost. Seems like a no brainer.
Who the hell is the epa to do this? And when did American Citizens become american subjects? Maybe we should learn from the Iraning citizens, and get to it.
George Parker Orem, Utah
Governor’s budget proposals are ‘Third World’
Submitted by Willie L. Pelote Sr. 6/10/09 To the Editor:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to bridge the state’s $24 billion budget deficit by shredding the state’s social safety net through far ranging cuts to such areas as education, health care, social services, and public transportation is both disingenuous and fiscally irresponsible, especially since polls show that a majority of California voters oppose these cuts.
Worse, Schwarzenegger’s proposals will actually cost the state more than $24 billion down the road by exacerbating poverty, creating mass unemployment, breeding ignorance and illiteracy, and producing a public health crisis throughout the state.
This can be extrapolated from a 2006 study published by the American Journal of Public Health.
The study found that when New York City submitted to a set of austerity measures and social spending cuts similar to what Schwarzenegger has proposed in order to balance its budget and avoid bankruptcy in 1975, the resultant crime wave and public health crisis that ensued cost New York roughly five times more ($50 billion in 2004 dollars) in medical costs than the budgetary savings ($10 billion) associated with decimating the city’s public health, education, and social service programs.
If it cost New York $50 billion in medical expenses alone in 1975, it is easy to imagine what would happen in California today. The Golden State’s current budget deficit of $24 billion is nothing compared to what it would take to deal with the masses of unemployed, uneducated, sick, and homeless individuals the state will have on its hands, if the legislature goes along with Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts.
Moreover, many of Schwarzenegger’s cost-cutting ideas would actually do away with efficiently run, low-cost state programs in favor of high-priced, private sector solutions.
For example, Schwarzenegger has proposed to virtually eliminate the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program by changing eligibility requirements for people who receive IHSS, which provides care to seniors and the disabled in their own houses instead of state-subsidized nursing homes.
However, it costs between $60,000 to $80,000 dollars to care for individuals in a nursing home versus $10,000 per person through the IHSS program.
Similarly, the California Department of Mental Health has been using private contractors to staff institutions like the Atascadero State Hospital instead of civil servants, even though private contractors typically earn $78-$95 an hour more than their civil servant counterparts.
Schwarzenegger is right when he says that, “They [his proposals] represent a transformation of what services Sacramento can provide and how those services are delivered.”
The transformation that Schwarzenegger is calling for relies on the same Third World-style fiscal austerity/structural adjustment policies that have succeeded in enriching a small class of wealthy elites in developing countries while simultaneously entrenching poverty and creating squalid living conditions for the vast majority of citizens throughout the Third World.
These observations call into question the governor’s true intentions as well as those who resist calls for beefing up the state’s revenues. Is it really about being fiscally responsible? Or is it about eliminating the state’s ability to create a more equitable society through public policy in order to enrich a select few through tax breaks, tax credits, and subsidies that favor the wealthy and politically connected?
If the governor is really serious about fiscal responsibility and getting California’s economic house in order, he should abandon his blunt instrument approach and embrace the budget proposal advanced by the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) which found $44 billion in recurring revenues to balance this year’s budget and all others thereafter.
AFSCME’s approach would fundamentally orient the direction of the Golden State toward a future where all Californians will be served by the greater public good.
Willie L. Pelote Sr.
Assistant Director American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Disputes title enforcement article
Submitted by Brian Benson 6/2/09 To the Editor:
RE: Illegal rebates bring down the wrath of the state against title company. Your article espoused the drivel put forth by the Department of Insurance and implies that $10,800 was paid directly to brokers by the title company to secure the business.
This is a direct inducement in the same way that Jamba Juice illegally induced minors to drink smoothies at your last school fundraiser, thereby resulting in more obesity that drives up the cost of health insurance.
At the heighth of the housing boom, the average title company spent less than $30 per year on a given producer to help them connect consumers to better information about their homes and neighborhoods or better loan terms. This drives down consumer costs, not raises them. This is called "service".
And here's the real punch: when companies are so hindered by short-sighted regulators that they pick up and move out of state--which is currently happening in droves-- that is bad for local communities, local businesses (talk to your local Kinkos or local UPS Store about the net effect of SB-133 on their print volumes), etc.--not to mention a state government that can use all the taxes it can get.
Wake up and smell the coffee. This article could not have been more off base.
Where is your 10%?
Submitted by Name withheld by request 3/4/09 Dear Editor:
I have been a State employee for 31 years. I have been through several economic crises like this in the past and have always survived but this one is different.
This time the state is letting it be known what they are doing to their own for the benefit of others.
The Governor has deemed it necessary to take away 10% of our wages for 18 months. The last time I checked there are 300,000 state employees. There are 38 million citizens in the state. Does this seem like an unfair ratio as to why so few have to give up so much?
I was at the grocery store at the begining of this pay cut and asked the clerk if they are giving up 10% of their wages to help the state out of this economic crisis and she looked at me as if I had lost my mind.
All I’m asking is that when this 18 month period is over is that we state employees first, get our original wages reinstated and that we get a compensating percent wage increase to make up for the 18 month loss of wages.
I don't think that is asking too much and would do the same for anyone else who has been in the same position.
Further more we have term limits! Vote them all out of office if they are not doing their job to your satisfaction.
All the legislature should not be paid if the budget is not passed on time. Thank you for your support.
Name withheld by request
Faults lack of U.S. sportsmanship at Olympics
Submitted by Paul Casson 8/21/08
I think it is sad that the United States has to be so envious of a young Chinese girl, He Kexin, for walking away with a gold medal.
Can we go any deeper in our foul and repulsive demonstration to the international community, that the once world's greatest democracy has sunk so low, that it no longer remembers how to "play games for games sake," and how to be happy for "other's successes, the same as our own."
All while we pick wars with only much weaker nations. What feeble, sore-losers this country's overseers have become! It's sickening and pathetic.
Union City, CA
Disputes report on fast food and health
Submitted by Trice Whitefield 4/30/08 Editor:
A report about obesity policy released this week by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) dismisses health measures that focus on personal responsibility or exercise (“Would you like fries with that heart attack,” April 29).
Boiled down, the group’s message reads: “Americans simply can’t be trusted with the complex task of feeding themselves.” While this kind of rhetoric seems outrageous to most of us, it’s becoming increasingly common among activist groups like CCPHA.
The “policy recommendations” section of its report included almost a half-dozen new regulations including fast-food zoning restrictions and menu-labeling mandates. These are consistent with other measures that aim to give bureaucrats control of everything we eat. Think about recent lawsuits against parents of obese children, “sin” taxes on tasty foods, and Girl Scout cookie boycotts.
CCPHA’s president even suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency should define some restaurants as “environmental toxins.” But the real toxic element here is an unhealthy activist-driven public obsession with “junk” food, which redirects energies away from programs that encourage exercise -- and toward ineffective government control of our food choices.
Senior Research Analyst Center for Consumer Freedom Washington, D.C.
Comments on animal confinement story
Submitted by Shannon York 4/26/08 Editor:
Thanks for your feature on the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which would simply give egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves enough room to turn around and extend their limbs (“Farm animal confinement battle heats up,” April 24).
This common-sense measure is consistent with what hundreds of California businesses and schools are already doing to end their support of the worst factory farming abuses. Companies like Burger King, Safeway, Denny’s, and Wolfgang Puck are moving away from using eggs from caged hens and pork from crated sows. And California universities are increasingly serving only cage-free eggs to their students.
By voting yes on this measure in November, we can support California businesses and small family farmers—and improve the lives of farm animals. Check out www.HumaneCalifornia.org.
Shannon York Chico
Is it Organic? How would you know?
Submitted by Mischa Popoff 4/3/08 Editor:
Imagine how many world records would be broken at the next Olympics if they quit testing athletes. Imagine if they required only a dated and signed list of all the things athletes ingested over the last four years in order to “prove” they were clean. Well that’s how the organic industry runs.
If this is news to you then perhaps you’re one of the many millions of consumers who assume organic crops are tested. Silly consumer. Organic food isn’t tested. So how the heck are you supposed to know it’s not fraudulent?
Inspections of organic farms occur once a year, never on a surprise basis, and consist basically of a review of the farmer’s paperwork. The way the system is supposed to “work” is that organic farmers “prove” they’re NOT using synthetic fertilizer by documenting that they ARE using composted manure applications, and they “prove” they’re NOT spraying toxic herbicides by documenting that they ARE harrowing weeds mechanically, just to give a couple of examples.
Such honor-based self-auditing, combined with receipts for approved inputs, supposedly guarantees that organic farmers aren’t negligent, and aren’t cheating by using prohibited inputs or by mixing or substituting with non-organic product. But anyone can see it’s like a man trying to prove he wasn’t fooling around on his wife because he was playing poker with his buddies all night and he’s got it all documented in his trusty daytimer, along with a receipt for the pizza he bought. It’s circumstantial, subjective, and open to abuse. But don’t blame organic farmers.
Many honest organic farmers have long wanted to make the system objective by testing their crops. But the private organic certifiers and their federal regulators aren’t interested. And the sorry excuses for not testing abound.
One excuse is the fact that conventional crops can sometimes attain very low, even undetectable chemical levels if they air out long enough. So some say we can’t test organics because it’ll open us up to unfair competition from conventional products which could be marketed as chemical free by the time they get to the store shelf.
But organic farmers want their crops tested in the field, which coincidentally is what consumers assume is already happening. Forget about testing the final product. Organic food isn’t just supposed to be better to eat; it’s also supposed to be better for the environment. An organic crop should be fit for human consumption at any time from seeding to harvest. Conventional growers most certainly can’t claim that, now can they? Even conventional seed is sometimes treated with a toxic brew that’s powerful enough to sterilize a child. As such, testing organic crops in the field would be a fantastic marketing feature if only the industry would embrace it.
Sadly, the private organic certifiers, along with many broker/traders, wholesalers and retail grocers, are too busy making money to concern themselves with organic testing. How much money? Almost $20 billion last year, 85% of which was imported! How do you think a test on a Mexican or Chinese “organic” crop would look?
Consumers have every right to get their money’s worth when they pay a premium for organic food. But, alas, another excuse given in opposition to testing is the fear of obtaining “false positive” readings in otherwise completely organic crops. No one’s ever bothered to investigate this mind you; they just claim it’s possible, and an otherwise innocent organic farmer would lose his certification. But as a former organic farmer myself, and an Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector, I’ve tested the crops of many organic farmers who wanted scientific results and I’ve never found any such false positive results.
Sure, there’s lots of spray drifting around if your neighbor is conventional, but an organic farmer is supposed to take measures to protect his crop, not just stand there and watch harmful sprays drift across the fence line. Testing will eliminate fraud, and in this example, negligence as well.
Honest organic want to distinguish themselves from bargain-priced “organic” crops which comply only with the letter of the law on paper. Many are dropping their certifications, leaving the growing organic market to be filled by good paper pushers, many of whom are abroad. Testing organic crops would be the first step to bringing the good, honest, domestic farmers back into the fold by curtailing the useless bureaucracy that exists between them and consumers.
No one will die or get sick if they eat fake organic food; they’ll just get royally ripped off. Scientific laboratory analysis keeps the cheaters out of international sport. Why not use it for value-added, certified organic food? If organic is supposed to be so much better for the environment, and so much better for our health, why not prove it?
Mischa Popoff, B.A. (Hon.), IOIA Advanced Farm and Process Inspector Author of Is it Organic? (due out this fall) Osoyoos BC 250-809-2914 email@example.com www.isitorganic.ca
Disputes Episcopal Church property arguments
Submitted by Robert McLean 4/1/08
So much disinformation. All to bolster the impending court cases. Reprehensible. (What part of 1 Cor 6:1-6 do they not understand?)
Bishop Howe of Central Florida has called the gross violations of canon law by Ms Schori "despicable." Bishop Lawrence and the standing committee of South Carolina have declared they will not recognize Bishop Lamb, the vichy planted provisional bishop.
Ms. Schori also tries to twist the canon law with regards to property. She states that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church say that parish and diocesan property is held in trust for the entire church. Distortions.
The Dennis canon (you can look it up on Wikipedia) says nothing about diocesan property and moreover states... "All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [i.e., the Episcopal Church in the United States] AND the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located."
So property is held in trust for the national church AND the diocese. In the event of those parties are in conflict, who wins?
Look to the name on the deed. The Episcopal church is fastest declining denomination in America. It hardly needs more buildings.
Robert McLean MD PhD Pueblo, Colo.
Urges oil company boycott
Submitted by Frank Tobe 3/27/08 Editor:
We've been conditioned to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.75. It's NOT!
And as we head for summer prices near $4.00 -- and oil company profits cross over the OBSCENE barrier -- we need to do something.
Here's what we can do: We target someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.
How? We impact gas prices by acting together to force a price war. Here's what we do: Don't purchase ANY gas from the two biggest producers (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL.
Here's the concept: We target Exxon/Mobil. If they aren't selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices to encourage sales. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact on their sales, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers and get them to boycott too.
All we need to do is follow this three-step targeting plan: 1. Stop purchasing Exxon/Mobil gas. Buy any other brand instead. 2. Send this message (or make your own) to your whole mailing list and encourage them to do the same. 3. Write one letter to the editor of your local newspaper repeating what we're doing and why. [To find the "Letters to the Editor" for your local papers, simply Google as follows: "contact us" "Letters to the Editor" "your city name".]
I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential for change! We do if we unite and target our actions meaningfully and in significant numbers to be felt. I'm investing 30 minutes writing and mailing this message, sending my letter to the four local paper editors, and switching away from Exxon/Mobil. I encourage you to do so also.
We can make a difference. Let's give it a try and see what happens.
Frank Tobe Santa Barbara
Assembly bill 1921 could shatter the American Dream
Submitted by Donie Vanitzian, JD 3/24/08 California is presently cash and income strapped to the tune of at least $14.5 billion dollars with proposed cuts to be made in every State Department. Keeping that in mind, nothing is laudable or applaudable about Assemblyperson Saldana’s Assembly Bill 1921, just as nothing is commendable about the countless “paid” hours expended by the California Law Revision Commission in bastardizing the Davis-Stirling Act.
Assembly Bill 1921 complicates an already problematic statute. I am on the record demanding a moratorium on any Davis-Stirling Act rewrites until a “credible” study of the problems can be, and has been, accomplished. AB 1921 is the full employment act for special interest parasitic industries and California's legislators. It is shameful that the remaining few protections for the titleholder's vested property interests are dangerously diluted by the cumulative effect of this bad legislation.
Though they may fancy themselves oracles of legislation, California Legislators are instead, masters of self-delusion. While in the Sacramento Holiday Camp, these public sector parasites are rarely held accountable for the disasters they cause. Once their paychecks end, their pensions begin. For the past three decades or so, California statutes have resulted in a battle-scarred minefield memorializing the delusions of self-congratulatory legislators wanting their names in books of California law--at any cost. The bigger the special interest payments--the bigger the name in the books.
If ABomination 1921 is signed into law, the end game for titleholders is prohibitively expensive litigation.
Heavy on Sweetheart Deals But No Checks and Balances
Assembly Bill 1921's caption reads, "This bill would revise and recast the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act." In other words it is the "rewrite" of an entire Civil Code Title of law.
Assembly Bill 1921 is voluminous in print and anemic in its practicality. It amounts to a wholesale rewrite of law already in force, interpreted by the courts, and relied upon for well over two decades. Notably, the proposed rewrite is short on substance and lacks justification for shredding laws already in place. AB 1921 purports to sacrifice the Davis Stirling Act by codifying vacuous Legislative oratory. Hiding reality under the guise of "legis-speak" lest their intent be exposed, the cumulative outcome of AB 1921 if passed, amounts to condemning owners to subjugate their rights to the whim of their rulers, be they boards, legislators, vendors, attorneys, judges, arbiters, or the like. It is an "implicit submission" to forces outside the homeowner's control.
A sober look at this preposterous legislation--devoid sufficient public input and competent research-- reveals the imposition of unilateral substandard lawmaking. Assembly Bill 1921 consists of bad law: rife with loopholes, titleholder disenfranchisement, and remarkably poor drafting. Without adequate substantiation, one hundred seventeen sections, "Title 6," an entire Chapter consisting of Civil Code sections 1350 through 1378, are hacked out and rewritten in a matter of months by the few, with virtually no meaningful input from the many.
Misleading the Public
Much of the public is unaware that these shenanigans are taking place right under their nose. What homeowner has the resources on such short notice, let alone the time and knowledge to pour over 300 pages of newly conceived laws and then sit down and attempt to craft a letter to their Legislator explaining their views on the matter? I tried to do that and was told the Legislators and the Legislature are only interested in "groups." My letter was not even admitted into the record, so intentionally ignored that the record baldly claimed there was "no opposition."
The level of scrutiny that should have gone into this massive rewrite was, and is, missing. What part of "fiscal impact" does this California Legislature not understand?
Our Legislature has a far higher duty to the public than it is practicing. Without delay, the Legislature should place full-page advertisements in major California newspapers for one year as well as notify every common interest development titleholder that laws profoundly affecting their ownership are in play.
To claim that the Internet provides "notice" is a self-indulgent fantasy. Not every homeowner is computer literate, or has a computer, or has affordable access to the Internet and a printer. And rare indeed is the Internet-enabled titleholder who searches daily to see if the Legislature is tinkering with his property rights. Let alone understanding the bloated Commission's purpose few homeowners have heard of the "California Law Revision Commission." Yet that Commission's dangerously misguided authorship of the proposed Assembly Bill 1921 will effect the lives, property rights, and personal assets of millions of homeowners in this state.
Indifference to Statutory Integrity
Statutory changes tend to be of two types, renumbering-reindexing when societal change renders the current placement inadequate, and substantive changes in the law itself. By doing both simultaneously in Assembly Bill 1921 the Legislature renders impotent the public's ability to understand and comment on it.
Anyone who has ever had to find or follow the law knows the importance of stability of cross-referencing and the agony and cost wholesale renaming and reindexing impose. Moreover this renders much of case law unusable to all but the most sophisticated, well-funded researchers. Nonetheless, under the banner of "simplification" the California Law Revision Commission masks the enormous scope substance of its changes. In its enthusiasm for musical section numbers to cover its tracks, once again the CLRC excises "Title 6" from the Civil Code.
The initial heading of the former Title 6, “Wills”, enacted in 1872 consisting of sections 1270 to 1377 was repealed by Stats.1979, c. 373, sec. 484 to make way for the present version of the Davis-Stirling Act monster. It should be noted that the purpose of moving "Wills" was to place it in Probate Code statutes.
Title 6 "Common Interest Developments" was hatched in 1985. Now its 117 Civil Code sections are littered by the detritus of the CLRC's self-aggrandizing musings also known as "Comments" throughout the Code's annotations. Here, "Common Interest Developments" stays in the Civil Code statutes but changes it numbering and alters text substance.
In 2007 the California Law Revision Commission reported that it would be "several years" before this "project" would be presented to the Legislature. Worth mentioning, is the fact that titleholders did not ask the Law Revision Commission to do this in the first place, but the Law Revision Commission was advised that the owners were against this rewrite of laws in the manner it was occurring. Having slipped this soporific to the public, the CLRC speedily cobbled together AB1921 to be introduced in less than a year.
Moreover, attempting to slip even alert observers another "mickey," it purported to address only "technical and conforming changes," shamelessly mischaracterizing an intentional revision bastardized of form and substance.
"Recast" is Just a Fancy Word for "Rewriting Law" While Bypassing the Democratic Process
The audacity, let alone unmitigated arrogance that somehow the California Law Revision Commission is above the law and can perform such functions that are beyond its mandate, is unnerving. The Commission categorized their so-called "Statutory Clarification and Simplification of CID Law" as the panacea to problems plaguing such developments. What could possibly be "simple" about 300 pages consisting of some 85 cross over laws and no beta test as to its applicability?
Assembly Bill 1921 is not a revision; it is instead a rewrite of the LAW. A legalized pork barrel packed with goodies for the parasitic association industry and its vendors. It is an ill-conceived pork-barrel project that is proceeding without shame and accountability, with no end in sight.
If residential deed-restricted titleholders were ever under the mistaken belief that their Legislator could be an ally--by now they should know better. The public must understand that this cavalier rewrite will detrimentally affect the lives of millions of titleholders and prospective titleholders. Owners, who have dutifully spent decades coming to grips with understanding the Davis-Stirling Act, will be forced to start all over again. Frankly, some may not live long enough to figure it out. Others will likely employ a costlier route, that of hiring lawyers to explain an untested code to them with "on the one hand, on the other hand." Others still, may merely rely on the word of third parties whose interpretation of the codes may be slanted or just plain wrong.
The California Legislature Should Abandon Assembly Bill 1921
While the text in Assembly Bill 1921 may look good on paper, it lacks useful application.
This massive, untimely project has far-reaching consequences for millions of titleholders. For all its pages of paper, and all the rhetoric, pomp, and circumstance, save the back-patting, the hundreds of pages of slop miserably fails to protect titleholder assets. It fails to eliminate longstanding problems of imbalance pertaining to mediation, arbitration, and litigation and the attendant costs thereof. And there are numerous problems related to those issues. Instead, it merely provides a laundry list of statutes as its prelude to a newly created mess with utter disregard as to its implementation in terms of "real life."
Apparently the only people throwing their hands up in disgust at the utter waste of “time,” “resources,” and “excess” in California’s Legislature, are deed-restricted titleholders who lack adequate and meaningful representation in Sacramento. The millions of deed-restricted titleholders are left paying the price for bad laws, interference by special interests, and excess spending created by our legislators. It is scandalous the laws that are passed because some special interest entity wants it and can afford a lobbyist, rather than analyzing and researching laws that are necessary, and then proposing their introduction genuinely subject to public comment.
While the many problems with Assembly Bill 1921 are impossible to adequately address, here's a breathtaking example. Consider this newly hatched phrase slated to become law under Assembly Bill 1921: "An affidavit of delivery of a notice, which is executed by the secretary, assistant secretary, or managing agent of the association, is prima facie evidence of delivery."
Prima facie evidence!!! Might as well say "self-interested and unrebuttable evidence." It matters not what horse the drafter of that provision fell off of, what matters is that with the stroke of a pen something as egregious as what otherwise seem to be an innocuous "phrase" will become law--let alone prima facie evidence to be used against the titleholder with no viable avenue for rebuttable evidence. [FN1]
Imagine a third party vendor who contracts with the association, signing their name to an affidavit stating they did something when in actuality they did not. Imagine the board director secretary trying to cover his or her behind in a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit for taking a person's home away from them, or instituting litigation against them, or penalizing them--merely by signing an affidavit. How can one disprove dishonesty if it is enshrined in the presumption of truth?
Imagine the same scenario if it were applied to fines, penalties, interest and late charges. The potential for abuse is overwhelming. Phrased alternatively, the venerable certified letter is replaced by the unsubstantiated claim from someone who has nothing to lose and everything to gain. [FN2]
Far-reaching problems with Assembly Bill 1921:
• Assembly Bill 1921 has expunged the word "property" as it relates to the titleholder's vested interest.
• Other than to clarify "escrow" proceedings; define "claimants;" ownership of pets; roof repair or installation; survey questionnaires pertaining to defects; the term "homeowner" is mentioned little, and where it is mentioned it is wholly devoid legal significance rendering the term non-existent as it applies to the titleholder.
• Award of "attorney's fees" are mentioned over twenty-five times and not to the benefit of the titleholder.
• The titleholder is not provided with realistic redress and an avenue for providing penalties against associations, third party providers and advisors, and boards of directors. Assembly Bill 1921 fails to direct the benefits of any such penalties directly to the affected titleholder(s).
• Assembly Bill 1921 fails to provide a "Victims Fund" for any titleholder who is a victim to the bad laws and who suffers at the hands of the association, its third party vendors, providers and advisors, and boards of directors who break the laws.
• There should be no creation of an ombudsman department or agency because of the drastic fiscal impact it will have on the entire state and the owners. No such agency should be funded by residential deed-restricted taxation alone.
• Assembly Bill 1921 fails to provide per se penalties against third-party management companies and their employees and it fails to provide per se penalties against recalcitrant boards. Moreover, it fails to per se assist titleholders in protecting their assets, fails to provide a viable avenue of redress, other than prohibitively expensive litigation, for the mounting problems associated with common interest developments, and homeowner associations. Every avenue the titleholder attempts to pursue for "fairness" is a costly dead-end--thanks to California's obtuse Legislature.
• Assembly Bill 1921 fails to address a huge problem that is created by the lump sum rewrite that did not exist before. That is, the culmination of intersecting procedural demands such as Request for Resolution, mediation and/or arbitration causing a cumulative effect that often costs more and lasts longer than litigation itself. [FN3] Needless to say, there are no guarantees that once initiated, any of those alternatives, ie, request for resolution, mediation, arbitration, will result in a viable resolution. [FN4] Assembly Bill 1921 will only exacerbate these inherent statutory problems.
Law Revision Interference with Legislation
The Commission's time has come and gone. It is no secret that on more than one occasion I have written the Governor imploring him to pull the Law Revision Commission's funding and/or altogether disband it.
Though paid handsomely while the rest of the State suffers great economic loss, cutbacks, and unemployment, the California Law Revision Commission no doubt believes they are only doing their job. That, however, should be a topic for debate. Often patronizing and condescending toward those in disagreement with its agenda, the Legislature not unlike the Commission, appear to side with, if not coddle the special interest industries. The standard response to the non-special-interest public is, "the staff recommends against that change."
Presently, the graveyards of repealed code sections caused by the Law Revision Commission's chainsaw approach in attempting to substantiate its grant money should be investigated. The Commission and the Legislature have created mass confusion for California consumers where none need exist. A first step to clarity and filling the $14.5 billion deficit would be to zero out the CLRC budget and to thoroughly investigate the laws proposed by the State Legislature prior to passage.
For these reasons and much, much more, I oppose Assembly Bill 1921 in toto.
-------------- [FN1] See Vanitzian, Expert Series: Common Interest Developments--Homeowners Guide (Thomson-West) [FN2]: See Vanitzian, Homeowner Associations: Dynasties of Dysfunction] [FN3] See Vanitzian, Expert Series: Common Interest Developments--Homeowners Guide (Thomson-West) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Ms. D. Vanitzian co-authors the Los Angeles Times Real Estate section column titled Associations. She is the author of the Expert Series: Common Interest Developments--Homeowners Guide (Thomson-West) and Villa Appalling! Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living. She can be contacted by writing to: Post Office Box 10490, Marina del Rey, California 90295.
Yacht tax loophole is good for California economy
Submitted by Gene Beley 2/17/08 To the Editor:
I read your item on the yacht tax exclusion, and believe yes, it was a good move, despite what any doubters say.
The previous attempt at tightening up this law made it one year instead of 3 months. When they omitted this tax break, Mexico and Oregon were so happy they began planning to build new marinas to capture California yacht owners. If they would have stayed one year in any marina, they would probably stay there for the life of their ownership of the yacht, because one gets familiar with their homeport cruising waters and mechanic-technicians.
This is free trade on a much more limited geographical basis. If anyone buys a yacht for $1 million, where will you buy it, if sales taxes prevail, Oregon or California? Even with thinking about buying another $20,000 boat, I'm shopping on the Internet via Yachtworld.com as far away as Florida.
The thought has crossed my mind about the cost of keeping it in a slip there three months BEFORE shipping it back to California, perhaps I'd go spend three months there in a "free" hotel.
Gene Beley Stockton
Paramount Disaster Recovery disputes DOI claims
Submitted by Steve Slepcevic 1/23/08 To the Editor:
Recently the Central Valley Business Times published an AP article about an agreement reached between the state Department of Insurance (DOI) and Paramount Disaster Recovery. Inc. We were not given the opportunity to add our statements to the article.
The DOI alleged that Paramount was acting in a capacity for which a public adjuster’s license was required in South Lake Tahoe following the Angora fire in 2007. Paramount maintained that it was acting within the purview of its license as a general contractor when it prepared a detailed analysis of fire and smoke damage for its clients and never acted as a public adjuster.
The DOI took action against Paramount and certain of its representatives based almost entirely on a complaint made by an insurance company adjuster whom Paramount had exposed for attempting to underestimate two claims.
Paramount demonstrated to its clients that the adjuster was paying less than what Paramount believed was required to fully restore each residence. If Paramount discovers damage to a structure, then they are contractually bound to disclose such information to the client. The adjuster, on the other hand, is under no such duty.
While the obvious damage was acknowledged, the latent and equally dangerous and unhealthy smoke damage was being ignored. Paramount, keeping the interest of its clients as the dominant factor, protested that the insurance company adjuster, unlicensed as a contractor, was attempting to foist an unreasonably low estimate on the clients.
Paramount insisted that its clients acquire all the information necessary to decide how best to restore their homes after comparing Paramount’s estimate with any others. Paramount and its representatives denied that they were acting as a public adjuster and have questioned the constitutionality of the Department’s enforcement of one statute under the California Insurance Code, which regulates the insurance industry when the same acts are authorized by the California Business & Professions Code, which regulates general contractors like Paramount.
Paramount filed suit challenging the authority of the DOI to regulate the actions of a general contractor. In that action, declarations were filed from every consumer with whom Paramount had contact following the Angora fire attesting to the fact that Paramount at all times represented itself or performed work as a general contractor, and that the documents that were signed clearly stated that Paramount was a general contractor.
In fact, although the DOI touts itself as “the largest consumer protection agency in the state,” not one consumer in South Lake Tahoe filed a complaint with the Department about Paramount’s activities.
Paramount agreed to settle the matters it had with the DOI specifically premised on there being no admission of guilt or liability purely as a business decision in order to run the company without legal matters getting in the way. Paramount was confident it would have prevailed in the litigation but it would have cost the business more in the long run.
Simply stated, there is no competent evidence and no legal judgment that Paramount or its representatives committed any illegal act.
For Paramount, the focus will continue to be on helping the property owner prepare for a disaster or recover from one.
Steve Slepcevic Chief Executive Officer Paramount Disaster Recovery Inc. Palos Verdes, Calif. 90274
Questions California’s ‘baselines’ for electricity and gas consumption
Submitted by Gene Beley 1/1/08 (This is a copy of a letter sent by the writer to the California Public Utilities Commission with a copy to CVBT.)
California Public Utilities Commission 505 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102-3298
Regarding our December 07 PG&E bill
My wife and I are 67-years-old, living in a single story 2,000 sq. ft. condo, and just received our Dec. 26, 07 bill for $429.79—which almost caused cardiac arrest! In the past six months, we have spent more than $10,000 on a new hybrid electric-gas heating and air conditioning system, $10,000 on dual pane windows, $1,000 on a new top-of-the-line Sears gas water heater, and bought a new refrigerator and dishwasher—all in the hopes of bringing down our energy bill during our senior, low income years.
This December $429.79 bill is more than we ever experienced when living in a 3,000 sq. foot home in Morgan Hill when our three children all lived at home with us.
Needless to say, we are disappointed that there is no payback on our investment as PG&E keeps promising everyone if they will just install such new, energy efficient appliances and equipment.
Then I belatedly asked a PG&E representative how the BASE LINE SYSTEM is calculated. Is it on square footage of our home? No, they told me. And when they cited the criteria, I began laughing out loud, because it sounded like a weird joke written by comedian Steve Martin:
1. Elevation of the land in your area. 2. Geographical location. 3. How my home is heated, whether it is all gas or electric. 4. The season we are in.
Then I learned PG&E refuses to give us credit for the new technology of the hybrid system being both gas and electric, and are classifying it as “all gas.”
Then I learned the worst of their dirty little secrets, or as they told me, the dirty little secret of the California Public Utilities Commission, because PG&E says, this is the agency that makes up these insane rules. I was also told the rest of the insane P.U.C. baseline system:
1. In the winter months of November 1 through April 30, we are allotted only 12.5 kilowatts per day and just two therms of gas per day for the baseline. 2. In the summer months from May 1 through October 31, we are given only 15.9 kilowatts per day and .5 therms per day of gas.
Now that sounds like enough to turn on a light bulb, and perhaps microwave one TV dinner. God forbid we should take a shower! The bottom line is there is no way anyone can operate under the baseline to avoid getting crushed by the economics of this system.
I even tried to go solar to eliminate PG&E, but was told by an honest solar representative from green Dragon Solar that we can’t do that because the city of Stockton has too many trees on two sides of our condo.
I think we need people to rise up against the California P.U.C. in a Howard Jarvis Prop 13 type grass roots movement to claim back some sanity to save us all from the next wave of utility bill caused bankruptcies. I will conclude by revealing that this December bill shows we are paying $24.15 in taxes for the city and county for a Utilities tax, plus a 31¢ Energy Commission tax and PPC (Public Purpose Program)$1.71 tax for low income people, which we will soon qualify at the rate we’re going, because, like the housing situation, this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Some of you who aren’t yet retired won’t really understand how retired people fight for every buck they get to make ends meet, but I ask everyone to work for a change in this simply insane system that discourages everyone, because there is no way you can beat the baseline system.
Gene Beley Stockton, CA 95219 209-956-6575 firstname.lastname@example.org
Opposes proposed egg factory
Submitted by Anthony Montapert 12/4/07 To the Editor:
I oppose Olivera Foods' proposed egg factory in Stockton; it would threaten neighboring homes, depress environmental quality and intensely confine animals.
The community of Stockton deserves better.
Anthony Montapert North Hollywood, Calif.
Writer faults government, builder for mold in home
Submitted by Chay Barkley 10/5/07 To the Editor:
Why is it that if a public, government building gets mold the news is all over it, but if you buy a new home in the valley and before the home turns six years old, it gets condemned due to being substandard and to damp to live in and nobody gives a dam.
My County Supervisor, Health, Building Departments didn't and my District Attorney, State Congressman Cardoza, State Senator Denham and our great Governor Schwarzenegger truly have no time for this issue.
Maybe it's because they take campain contributions from these developers that build these pieces of C--P homes and then drive hardworking people into the ground because they play by the rules and believe that County, State Officials will do the right thing and help them.
My father died in December 2005 with mold contributing to his death, my mother and I have been infected with mold and I was suppose to pay for renting a new home and keep my mortgage up in a home I couldn't live in and the loss of all my personal property contaminated with mold and storage fees.
Being sick all the time because medical insurance doesn't cover mold treatment and homeowners insurance doesn't cover construction defects and mold, this company has gotten away with murder and continues to destroy me and my family without anybody giving a second glance.
So please tell me why the wealthy can get away with anything and the common man gets run over. Maybe this is way some people lose their homes, because the local government only wants a new tax base and turns their heads the other way for the almighty buck and allow the wealthy developers to build these pieces of C--P and screw the unknown buyer.
Chay Barkley Santa Clara
Reader reacts to autism story
Submitted by Anne McElroy Dachel 8/9/07
To the Editor:
The story about the $7.5 million dollar grant from the EPA to study the relationship between genes and environment triggers with regard to autism and other disabilities again seems to be avoiding a major health care controversy, while seeming to focus on the epidemic. There is no doubt that many factors may be involved in the explosion of autism in the U.S., including exposure to chemicals during fetal development, but here again countless parents who claim their children became autistic after childhood vaccinations, will wonder if the purpose of this study is again to deflect focus on the vaccine issue.
There is also a National Institute of Health five year autism study now in progress which seems to be trying strongly to make the case that autism is present from birth.
SD team to research autism's cause San Diego Union Tribune "Others think a combination of genetics and environmental factors is to blame. Some family members have postulated that mercury in certain vaccines may trigger the condition, although researchers have discounted that theory. "The focus in San Diego will be on early development of autistic children, as well as the genetic footprint of the disorder's earliest stage." The EPA and NIH are determined to look for any possible cause for autism other than the exposure to known neurotoxins in the dramatically expanded vaccine schedule starting in the 1980s. This chart compares the vaccine schedule in 1983 and 2007. There is no proof that vaccinating children with endless chemicals is in any way safe. http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/cdc_comparison.pdf
The vaccine schedule more than tripled during this time period and many of these vaccines contained mercury. Everyone seems to have just accepted the claims of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that their studies show no link between vaccines and autism. They have the same kind of research used by the tobacco industry in the 1940s and 50s to disprove a link between smoking and lung cancer---easily manipulated populations studies.
This article explains that the vaccine issue doesn't merely involve the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal. There are a host of dangerous and deadly ingredients in vaccines. http://www.health-reports.com/autism.html?engine=overture!801&keyword=autism+research
We have the most vaccinated kids in the worlds and some of the sickest. As we have dramatically increased the number of vaccines, we've seen explosions in the rate of juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer, bowel disorders, asthma, allergies, and autism.
In the 1970s, the autism rate was one in 10,000. Today it's one in every 150 children, including one in every 94 boys. The CDC attributes this to "better diagnosing and greater awareness" on the part of doctors and no real cause for concern.
Since this is an EPA grant, maybe they'd be interested in the fact that ninety percent of the flu vaccine recommended for six month old babies and pregnant woman at all stages of pregnancy contains a massive mercury assault. A pregnant woman receiving a flu shot gets 25 mcg of mercury. According to the EPA, that's intended for someone weighing 550 pounds. That mercury easily passes the placental barrier and enters the developing baby. It seems that EPA guidelines don't apply to vaccines.
Anne McElroy Dachel Chippewa Falls, WI USA amdachel@msn. com
Take a giant step into the 21st Century
Submitted by Jozef Goj 6/20/07 To the Editor:
The first traffic light was installed outside the House of Commons in London in 1868. The first roundabout was installed in 1904 in the USA. The first multi level cloverleaf intersection for a freeway was installed in 1924 in the USA.
All were and are designed to stop and slow traffic!
Too often I hear claims of road construction reducing congestion and yet it never happens.
Imagine if you will a roads infrastructure that allowed all motorists to enter and exit an intersection all day every day without stopping without fail.
Imagine that you can cross town without stopping at any major intersection.
If you can do this, then the only limiting factor is the speed any number of vehicles have to drive at to maintain flow.
If you have unrestricted exit from all major intersections you will never get traffic tailbacks on to a roadway or freeway reducing the lanes as a consequence of the intersections’ inability to cope with the flow.
The problem with the traffic is that we all want to get to where we want to go, and we want every traffic light and intersection we approach to give us a clear run so we don't have to stop at a single intersection.
Not possible you say? Well you would be wrong!
The simple solution to traffic jams and congestion is to design a road system that lets you do this. Well, we have that solution.
This allows all vehicles that approach any intersection on or to an arterial road to enter the intersection and exit it without stopping.
All day, every day, in the worst peak hour traffic and save up to 40 percent on fuel costs and pollution emissions.
At www.ubtsc.com.au are models that allow everyone approaching an intersection to do exactly that!
Jozef Goj CEO UBTSC Pty Ltd Colo Heights, NSW Australia
Insurance fraud story gets reaction
Submitted by Terence Kelley 5/24/07
To the Editor:
I was encouraged that someone is finally going to jail for fraud. This has been going on for over 40 years.
A conversation with the claims folks at Mercury would give you a list of the attorneys that are involved in these phony claims.
Some of these law firms have clients made up exclusively of participants in fraudulent accident claims.
It is not hard to recognize that there are many more participants. Perhaps the D.A. will soon be filing charges against the attorneys and MD's involved?
Terence Kelley Policy Officer California Department of Insurance (ret)
(Editor’s note: For more information on this topic, please try our “search” button on our main page to search for “insurance fraud” stories.)
Name dispute resolved
Submitted by Allan A. Fulsher 5/3/07 To the Editor:
As a follow-up to my letter to the editor dated Feb. 20, 2007, your readers may be interested to know that US Ethanol, LLC of Vancouver, Wash., has successfully settled its dispute with US Ethanol Holdings of New York.
The settlement provides that US Ethanol Holdings of New York must cease all use of the name and mark, US ETHANOL or any similarly confusing name or mark.
US Ethanol, LLC is pleased that our exclusive rights to the mark has been recognized and we anticipate some significant announcements in the near future concerning our ethanol production facility under construction in Longview, Wash., and our proprietary biofuel distribution strategy for the Interstate 5 corridor on the west coast.
Allan Fulsher Vice President US Ethanol,LLC Vancouver, Wash. 98660
Disputes solar claims made by another reader
Submitted by Michael Stuart 4/19/07 To the Editor:
In regards to Gerry Wolff's letter (12/14/2006) entitled, "Solar, Not Nuclear" CSP is no substitute for nuclear energy!
Concentrating Solar Power (or CSP) is inefficient, expensive, and has notable environmental impacts.
According to the California Energy Commission ( http://www.energy.ca.gov/electricity/gross_system_power.html ), all of the utility-generated solar power in the state amounts to two-tenths of 1 percent of the state's electricity production.
Because of the limited availability of sunlight, these systems have notoriously low capacity factors and are therefore cannot be relied upon for baseload power.
According to the California Energy Commission ( http://www.energy.ca.gov/electricity/comparative_costs.html ), at 13 to 42 cents per kWhr, solar power is the most expensive way to generate electricity, hands down.
In a time when energy prices are skyrocketing, few people can afford a large-scale conversion to solar power. What's more, due to its low capacity factors, solar capacity must be backed up with additional stand-by power generation, which adds to the overall cost of solar.
Solar collectors also require a huge area of land, which must be dedicated to solar generation. Even in the desert, this would disrupt the ecology. Additionally, in order for the salts to remain molten at night, CSP requires fossil fuels to be burned for heat.
According to a US Department of Energy study ( http://www.nrel.gov/docs/gen/fy98/24496.pdf ), these systems are "hybridized" with up to 25 percent natural gas. Ironically, this renewable technology is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions!
Nevertheless, concentrating solar technology, along with many other renewable power sources such as wind, tidal, and geothermal, should continue to be supported in hopes that a breakthrough will someday allow them to be a significant source of energy generation.
Today however, CSP is no replacement for baseload energy generation sources. In the medium term, we cannot abandon the proven, effective, and efficient source of low-emission energy that nuclear power has to offer.
To learn more about the benefits of nuclear energy, check out http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=1&catid=11 and http://www.casenergy.org/WhyNuclear/TheBasics/tabid/66/Default.aspx http://www.na-ygn.org/
Michael Stuart Public Information Officer North American Young Generation in Nuclear Beaverdam, Va.
Suggests a different headline for our gasoline story
Submitted by Robert Blum 3/30/07 Heeeeere's $4 gas..............
The clean, green, environmental machine taught me that the higher the cost for (petroleum produced) gas, the better.
The headline for the article should have read 'VICTORY' or perhaps 'Transition to renewable energy is truly gaining traction.’
Robert Blum Houston, Texas
Objects to governor’s dam proposals
Submitted by Steven Evans 3/29/07 To the Editor:
In re: Schwarzenegger pushes for second Central Valley reservoir
We don't need costly and destructive new dams to meet California's water needs. Even the Governor's own California Water Plan (2005) shows that we can reduce water demand and meet our needs, even as the population and economy grows, if we choose to invest wisely in water conservation and reclamation.
Every dollar invested in water conservation produces four times more water than $12 wasted on costly and destructive new dams.
New dams are not a solution to global warming. In fact, both of the projects proposed by the Governor will take more energy than they produce (likely energy from polluting fossil fuel plants) and new studies show that large reservoirs produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The Governor has the opportunity to meet our water needs, grow the economy, and protect the environment by investing in water conservation and reclamation.
This won't happen if he gets into a brawl over building costly and destructive new dams.
Steven Evans Conservation Director Friends of the River Sacramento
Suggests a different location for a new reservoir
Submitted by John Stevens 3/27/07 To the Editor:
How about the White River in southern Tulare County?
There are no flood control reservoirs between Lake Success on the Tule River and Lake Isabella on the Kern River.
When the White River flooded in the past it inundated Earlimart and shut down Highway 99 in both directions.
I'm sure the identified sites are important but I wonder if this Tulare County site is being overlooked?
John Stevens Visalia
Wants to be proud of California farmers
Submitted by Hyla Bolsta 3/26/07
To the Editor: Thank you for the March 24 article on the proposed egg ranch critique.
You are bringing to light some of the problems inherent in factory farming chickens, and citizens' disapproval of such means of providing food.
I want to be proud of the farmers in this state, and look towards the day they will change their inhumane practices.
I support the citizens and newspapers that work towards this end. Your article is part of the re-education necessary for people to reconsider what they eat and where it comes from.
Hyla Bolsta Fort Bragg
Urges end to ‘chicken concentration camps’
Submitted by Gail Camhi 3/25/07
To the Editor:
San Joaquin Valley, where my children live, does not need another torture-inducing factory farm.
This state has far too many of these hell-holes, and it is hoped that by this time we would have learned the solid lessons inherent in producing nutrionless eggs from abused birds.
Please do not repeat the mindless mistakes of the past, and do not even think of building more chicken concentration camps.
Gail Camhi San Francisco
Dispute over ownership of ‘US Ethanol’ name
Submitted by Allan Fulsher 2/20/07 To the Editor:
With reference to your recent article "Wasco ethanol plant depends on funding, air permits," I wish to ensure that your readers are not confused by the origin of the statements and promises being made by Mr. Khalilzad and others on his behalf.
My company, US Ethanol, LLC, of Vancouver, Wash. is the owner of the trademark "US ETHANOL" as applied to ethanol in the United States.
We have no affiliation with Mr. Khalilzad or his company which is using our mark without authorization.
We disavow and disclaim any representations or promises made by Mr. Khalilzad or anyone else purporting to be acting on behalf of his company concerning the Wasco plant that he is touting in the media or any other business endeavor that his company claims to be involved with.
We regret any confusion that Mr. Khalilzad is causing by his unauthorized use of our name and mark.
Allan Fulsher Vice President US Ethanol, LLC Vancouver, Wash.
Huge oil supply close by but gasoline prices still high. Reader wonders why
Submitted by Bill Charron 2/9/07 Editor:
My name is Bill Charron and I am from the province of Alberta in Canada. We are the province that is like your great state of Texas -- oil country.
The pump price here is at 84.9 cents per litre. That works out to $3.396 American per gallon and our exchange rate is over .85 cents American.
We are paying more for regular unleaded gas than Canadians down east.
I really cannot figure that one out. Many Albertans feel the same way.
We have the oil tar sands and still we pay high prices. Oil that is in our back yard, transportation is close by, and still high prices for fuel.
Try figuring that one out.
Stony Plain Alberta Canada
Solar, not nuclear
Submitted by Gerry Wolff 12/14/06 Dear Editor:
It is astonishing to read that anyone should be considering building a new nuclear power plant in California when there is a simple mature technology available that can deliver huge amounts of clean energy without any of the headaches of nuclear power.
I refer to “concentrating solar power” (CSP), the technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station.
It is possible to store solar heat in melted salt or other substance so that electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days.
This technology has been generating electricity successfully in California since 1985 and half a million Californians currently get their electricity from this source.
CSP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world. CSP works best in hot deserts, like the Mojave desert, but it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity over very long distances using highly efficient “HVDC” transmission lines.
In the recent “TRANS-CSP” report commissioned by the German government, it is estimated that CSP electricity, imported from North Africa and the Middle East, could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission.
A large-scale HVDC transmission grid has also been proposed by Airtricity as a means of optimising the use of wind power throughout Europe. If such a scheme is valid for Europe, it certainly makes sense in California!
Further information about CSP may be found at www.trec-uk.org.uk.
The many problems associated with nuclear power are summarised at www.mng.org.uk/green_house/no_nukes.htm.
Dr. Gerry Wolff Anglesey United Kingdom
National parks need adequate funding
Submitted by Laura L. Whitehouse 12/6/06 To the editor:
New economic analysis from the National Parks Conservation Association underscores the importance of preserving national parks such as Sequoia and Kings Canyon, which represent and preserve the best of our natural, cultural, and historical heritage ("Report: National parks are where money grows on trees," Dec. 5).
Many members of the Central Valley business community, who know the value of parks in helping to strengthen our economy, are already strong, vocal advocates for these places.
Working together, we can restore the faded glory of our national parks. We just need adequate funding to do so.
Laura L. Whitehouse Central Valley Program Manager National Parks Conservation Association Fresno
Regarding the CVBT story “Poll: Americans support guest worker program”
Submitted by Tom Shuford 11/27/06 Dear Editor:
Whatever polls might seem to say about the popularity of guest-worker programs with voters, politicians who press that response to business' perceived labor needs run some risk of losing their jobs.
Economist Robert J. Samuelson, who writes for the Washington Post and Newsweek, provides reasons:
"What we have now — and would with guest workers — is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico. By and large, this is a bad bargain for the United States. It stresses local schools, hospitals and housing; it feeds social tensions..."
"President Bush says his guest worker program would ‘match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs.' But at some higher wage, there would be willing Americans. The number of native high school dropouts with jobs declined by 1.3 million from 2000 to 2005 ... Some lost jobs to immigrants. Unemployment remains high for some groups (9.3 percent for African Americans, 12.7 percent for white teenagers)."*
"Business organizations understandably support guest worker programs. They like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences. What's more perplexing is why liberals ... support a program that worsens poverty and inequality."
Tom Shuford Lenoir, N.C.
Casino-operating tribes must follow the law, not hide behind sovereign immunity
Submitted by Clark Curtin 10/4/06 To the editor:
If tribal governments want to be treated as sovereign nations, fine. Treat them like any other foreign nation; however, when those same governments enter into for-profit enterprises that conduct commerce with off-reservation entities, including non-Indian individuals, they should be required to adhere to the same rules and regulations as every other for-profit enterprise.
There should be no sovereign immunity for for-profit tribal enterprises.
The practice as it exists today gives Indians free rein to negotiate in bad faith with the unwary with total immunity from prosecution.
If they refuse to be held to the same degree of accountability and responsibility as their non-Indian counterparts, then all of us should stop doing business with them (including gambling) until the playing field is leveled.
Clark Curtin Santa Teresa, N.M.
Concerned over state’s fruit fly eradication program
Submitted by Caroline Bennet 9/21/06
I read your article on the oriental fruit fly pesticide treatments that will begin in Northridge on September 20.
I talked to Peter Kurtz, the toxicologist with the CDFA and he informed me that the male fruit fly does not ingest the pesticide. Instead, the pesticide is released into the air surrounding the tree.
Before it is applied to the trees, it is mixed with a substance that allows it to be a timed release, so that it is released continuously over a two week period. The fruit fly simply flies near the tree and is killed by the potent Category 1 highest hazard pesticide, Naled.
This pesticide has been linked to brain cancer in children and leukemia, and it is scheduled to be released into the air where children may live or play or go to school.
This treatment was recently carried out in Santa Barbara, also in a nine square mile area, where I live.
My son became so ill with irritated lungs and breathing difficulty that I had to leave the area and am staying in Northern California until two weeks after the treatments are over.
Residents of Northridge who want to know more about this substance that will be released in their neighborhood may go to:www.bessems.biz/naled.
I am very concerned with the CDFA's apparent disregard for the health of California residents.
Caroline Bennet Santa Barbara
University of Phoenix rises to clarify its position
Submitted by Terri Bishop 9/21/06
To the Editor:
On behalf of University of Phoenix, I would like to clarify a couple of important points made in your September 5, 2006 story about the recent Federal Court of Appeals decision titled, “Court flunks University of Phoenix.”
The University of Phoenix recruiter compensation plan is in full compliance with Department of Education (Ed) regulations. With regard to your mention of our 2004 dispute with the Department of Education, University of Phoenix was not required to change our compensation plan in the settlement due to our full compliance within the law. We continue to uphold that level of integrity.
University of Phoenix enjoys completion rates (from enrollment to graduation) that are higher than the industry average. These statistics support the fact that students are being properly enrolled and are making satisfactory progress.
We are the largest private university in the nation because we provide access and opportunity to a college education and we are fully accountable to the academic outcomes of our students. We are proud that our recruitment staff is among the best in the industry in providing students with information and encouragement to continue their education. At a time when our nation struggles to produce an educated workforce in order to compete in the world, what could be more important than encouraging more education at all of our accredited colleges and universities (both public and private)?
Terri Bishop Senior Vice President for Public Affairs & Chief Communication Officer
UPS franchisee disputes use of word 'griping'
Submitted by Name withheld 9/15/06 "Franchisee griping is also seen on the Internet at sites maintained the Brown Shield Association Inc. and the Brown Board Owners Association, both groups of franchisees." FROM THE WEBINTERVIEW OF 9/15/2006
I take exception to the word "griping."
The issues with TUPSS problems with profitability has impacted small business owners who have bought these franchises.
The fact that 2 1/2 years down the road they are still not turning a profit is a serious problem and the use of these boards to bring it to the attention of the public so that other "small business people" do not get into the same situation that your interviewee is in is worth it.
I, for one do not call it GRIPING.
(This letter was sent by a franchisee in the Midwest who asked that their name not be made public.)
Can more be done to protect dairy cows from weather extremes?
Submitted by Connie Davis 8/1/06 To the Editor:
I read the article on the death of thousands upon thousands of dairy cattle during the recent heat wave.
Not being an expert in dairy farming but having a lot of appreciation for the industry and those that produce the milk, I'm wondering if there is not more that can be done to protect herds from disaster when heat or cold is severe.
Perhaps, as we humans can turn to shelters if we don't have air conditioning or can drink enough liquids and protect ourselves to some extent, why can't we respect the livestock in a similar manner as in the case of the dairy industry, the livestock is their true moneymaker?
I'm in the manufacturing industry, and we provide protection from the sun and the elements for the majority of the products we sell, and of course, these are just materials, although costly and critical.
So, perhaps, not just because of the fact that they are a valuable commodity but are also live creatures, we should have enough respect to provide additional shelters or misting, and perhaps other affordable remedies that may allow more of them to survive during difficult times.
I'm sure that many dairy farmers care deeply and try their best to protect their herds, but I've been around dairies a great deal and haven't seen that much protection from the elements available.
I know that remedies can't prevent all the deaths and financial losses, but at least they may prevent some and also, may save some government funds (the taxpayers) from having to assist as much, during these difficult situations.
Connie Davis Chino
Appreciates Brent Gill -- wherever he is
Submitted by Lurdes Montiel 7/26/06 To the Editor:
I truly enjoy the lighter side articles by Brent Gill.
I enjoyed reading his "few" lines on “Where in the world is Brent.”
I hope he will write several stories of his adventures in China. I love his style of relating his stories and giving us, the readers, the opportunity to experience his adventures.
Lurdes Montiel Sacramento
Remember Hetch Hetchy's history
Submitted by David Andrews 7/20/06 To the Editor:
Regarding Hetch Hetchy cost of restoration: As someone whose descendents held possession of Hetch Hetchy Valley prior to first contact, we Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes were always interested in the process of restoration and cost.
We Paiutes were once the stewards of Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite and had always wondered what Hetch Hetchy would’ve looked like today.
We would like to thank all those who were involved in the study into the feasibility of restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley.
To all those in the Bay Area, we would like them to know that they are drinking the water that comes from the Tuolumne from Piute Creek and through Piute Mountain.
Always remember the first people of Hetch Hetchy were my ancestors, the Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes.
David Andrews Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Indian Community Sacramento
Caution needed regarding detectable levels of pesticide residues
Submitted by Dr. S. Banerji 6/16/06 Editor:
Thresholds levels for pesticides are set based on animal studies. Results from the latter are discounted by a subjective factor before arriving at MRLs.
Therefore, we should be cautious about detectable levels of pesticide residues.
Please also bear in mind that children and women of child bearing age are more vulnerable than other demographic groups.
Dr. S. Banerji Mumbai India
A solution to workers' comp fraud
Submitted by Ray Ebersole 5/31/06 Editor:
Workers comp insurance is based on per hundred dollars of payroll. Requiring roofers to purchase comp insurance will do nothing to solve the payroll fraud by paying cash to avoid reporting payroll therefore avoiding comp premium.
All types of small contractors in California are defrauding the comp system in California. The practice is widespread and becoming common.
The simple cure which for some reason no one is interested in, would be to list employees’ names on comp policies before their coverage begins.
This would make it impossible to pay cash and then list an employee as a new hire the day of an injury.
Ray Ebersole Owner Van Go Painting Pacifica
Civil debate needed now to solve immigration issue
Submitted by Ruth A. Wooden 4/6/06 Editor:
Let's talk about what it really means to have "civility" in political discourse. And let's come to agreement on this quickly before things get really ugly on immigration.
We've heard calls from leadership many times to have "civil" discussions on all kinds of issues, and no one ever seems to be against it. President Bush has said, "When we discuss this debate, it must be done in a civil way. ... It must be done in a way that brings dignity to the process. It must be done in a way that doesn't pit people against each other."
And yet, we always seem to end up with the same political discussion that everyone agrees is not civil. But we can dispense with the political posturing and instead engage in public deliberation that actually produces good results - if we agree to some real ground rules.
First, let's recognize that civil dialogue doesn't mean having only nice things to say. Politics ought to be filled with passion and opposing views. So when there is a strong statement to be made, critical points that are based on provable facts and well-articulated arguments should not be labeled "uncivil."
Second, we need to start with a forthright and full accounting of all the legitimate options for addressing the challenges posed by illegal immigration. Too often, politicians say they want a civil discussion, but they really only want to keep their opponents from landing blows to their proposals. Political leaders have to have the courage to allow their own ideas to compete with all the other options available and let consensus build on the best set of solutions.
To be specific on immigration, there are two basic approaches that are getting the most attention at the moment, but there are others that should also be laid out on the table. "Get tough on immigration" supporters are strongly asserting various forms of border control and immigration enforcement as the primary strategy. Business interests and others are touting "guest worker" legislation that would still allow low wage workers into the country, but with a process that is designed to bring more accurate documentation and less criminalization.
But these are not the only possibilities for addressing the challenge of immigration. From the more aggressively anti-immigration side, there are calls for the creation of a fence along our southern border, building of more detention centers to coincide with stepped-up apprehension of undocumented individuals and many other proposals. From the more aggressively pro-immigration side, there are calls to allow all immigrants currently living in the country to become legal and apply for green cards, to lower the income standards necessary to allow U.S. citizens to bring family members to America with family immigration visas, and several other efforts to ease the process toward legal status for workers. Others are pushing to hold businesses more accountable for employment practices that reward workers who enter the country illegally.
Our nation would be the greatest beneficiary if even one courageous leader simply took the time to lay out clearly for the American people what all the various proposed strategies are - in a voice that is as unbiased as possible - and ask the people to consider the pros and cons of each. The public can look past their own fears and wishful thinking, but only if all the options are set out before them and they have sufficient opportunities to consider them.
Third, let's be honest about who's backing which proposals and why. Part of being clear about the merits of each proposal is being candid about who benefits and who might be hurt. To leave out the human implications is to obscure and confuse the process. The American people deserve to better understand how various proposals might affect consumer prices, taxes, local services and their neighbors.
Leaders should be forthright about their basic approach on these matters. It is legitimate for a leader to say, "I really believe that we have little to fear from the vast majority of immigrants who come to our country to work hard. We should do what we can to give workers legal status so that business can continue to operate at peak efficiency." It is also legitimate to say, "I believe that people who break the law to come to the United States are inherently a risk to our security and the fact that it's so easy for them to do so is a threat to our nation. We should do all that we can to control our borders and remove those people from our country." Leaders should have the nerve to state publicly the philosophy that will guide their work on this issue.
Fourth, don't confuse back-room wheeling-and-dealing with legitimate, principled compromise. This is not an either/or, one-solution-fix issue. There will be multiple strategies employed and choices made about how best to direct our limited resources. And so, compromises should and must take place. But let those compromises occur in the light of day and hold them up to the scrutiny of the American public.
We don't need niceness in our politics as much as we need a process that has integrity. Tough and critical commentary should not be out of bounds if it conveys a truth about the implications of proposed legislation. But just launching attacks without laying out a thoughtful assessment of the best options for addressing the immigration challenge does not constitute real leadership.
Is the immigration debate I've outlined the one we're currently having? Clearly not. But it could be. For this issue and all of the complex challenges our nation faces, let's hold our leaders accountable to a real standard of civility that is based on honesty, open deliberation and principled compromise.
About the author:
Ruth A. Wooden is president of Public Agenda, a non-partisan public opinion research organization that publishes an online issue guide on immigration.
Before joining Public Agenda, Ms. Wooden was executive vice president and senior counselor at the international public relations firm of Porter Novelli. Before joining Porter Novelli in 2001, she served as volunteer president of the National Parenting Association. From 1987 to 1999, she was president of The Advertising Council, the nation’s leading producer of public service announcements. During Ms. Wooden’s tenure, the Ad Council collaborated with Public Agenda on the ground-breaking study “Kids These Days: What Americans Really Think About the Next Generation,” which was named by Congressional Quarterly as one of the 50 most important documents of 1995.
Milk's new ad campaign poses questions
Submitted by Lindsay Pollard-Post 3/15/06
The latest “Got Milk?” campaign, in which aliens abduct cows for their milk, is just another scheme to convince Earthlings to drink a substance that is completely alien to our bodies—a suggestion that is harder than ever to swallow in light of recent research (CVBT, March 13, “Milk marketers turn to aliens to push product").
For example, a study published in the June 2005 Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine soured the National Dairy Council’s $200 million-dollar advertising claims that milk helps you lose weight. It found that teens who drank more than three glasses of milk a day gained weight, rather than losing it.
Also crippled is the Dairy Council’s widely-publicized claim that milk can prevent osteoporosis. Walter Willett, co-author of “The Nurses’ Health Studies” and chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that women who consumed the most dairy products had substantially more fractures than women who drank less milk.
To learn more about the dairy industry’s deceptive advertising, visit DumpDairy.com.
Lindsay Pollard-Post Staff Writer People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Homes affordable to just 14 percent of Californians
Submitted by Chris Harami 2/10/06
The percentage of Californians who can afford a home will keep going down unless businesses start paying their workers more.
Wages have been stagnant for years, and when adjusted for inflation, for which housing is never included for some strange reason, our wages have actually gone down.
In the bay area, workers are paid more because of the high cost of housing, but now it seems Central Valley home prices are catching up to bay area prices.
When will Central Valley businesses start paying us poor workers more?
Chris Harami Modesto
South Delta Improvements Program: A crucial step in meeting California’s water needs
Submitted by Dennis Cardoza 2/9/06
California is facing a critical challenge: Our state needs a safe and reliable water supply for our farms, cities and businesses that will keep pace with our surging population and trillion-dollar economy. We need a vision for our state’s future, and must expand our water storage capacity by building and expanding reservoirs and investing in innovative groundwater storage projects. However, because of regulatory hurdles, we must recognize that it will take years for these projects to come to fruition.
Therefore, we must have an effective strategy for the near-term. As we pursue these critical new water projects, we must also look at ways to better utilize our existing water resources and infrastructure. Two-thirds of California receives its water from the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Given its importance, we need better ways to manage the Delta’s water delivery system, as well as the water itself. In essence, we need to make every drop count. That’s why the South Delta Improvements Program (SDIP), a major component of the CALFED program authorized by the Congress in 2004, is so important.
The California Department of Water Resource’s South Delta Improvements Program is a responsible and balanced approach to integrating our existing water management infrastructure in the Delta. It will improve our state’s water supply reliability and quality. It will also improve the overall health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem, and benefit the Westside. The program will construct seasonal tidal gates to protect fish and improve water circulation and quality in the Delta, dredge select Delta channels to improve water deliveries for local farmers, and allow modest increases to the State Water Project deliveries.
Currently, the state is constrained in its ability to use surplus water supplies. We have the infrastructure to move the water, but until SDIP is approved, the state’s water managers cannot fully or responsibly use the existing system. Significantly, SDIP will provide the flexibility to shift the timing of water deliveries when surplus is available and when it is environmentally safe. SDIP will help protect important Delta environmental resources. Specifically, it will help protect fish species in the Delta channels. At the same time, by providing the state greater flexibility in how and when SDIP operates its system of pumps, fish are granted greater protections.
SDIP is supported by a statewide, broad coalition of water, agriculture, business, planning organizations, and local government officials, including the San Luis-Delta Mentoda Water Authority, Agricultural Council of California, Association of California Water Agencies, California Chamber of Commerce and Western Growers Association.
Water is the lifeblood of California – critical to our families, farms, and businesses. It is our responsibility to use this precious resource as wisely as possible through all possible best management practices such as water conservation, recycling and storage. We must take a responsible, balanced approach to addressing our water resource needs that considers all of California’s diverse, often competing, interests. SDIP is a key element in such a balanced approach.
Written by U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA-18)
High fructose corn syrup can be part of a balanced diet
Submitted by Audrae Erickson 2/2/06
We read the February 1 article, “Commodities may not be the right farm products to subsidize,” with interest, particularly the quote from Josh Miner regarding government subsidies and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We agree that obesity and diabetes are serious health concerns and think it is important for consumers to have the appropriate information to make educated choices.
The U.S. government provides support to a number of farm commodities in order to ensure a stable farm economy and a reliable food supply during periods of market volatility and adverse weather. These payments are paid directly to farmers as a ‘safety net.’ Manufacturers of HFCS and other food ingredients do not receive such payments.
HFCS has gained a prominent position in the U.S. food industry for many reasons: it inhibits microbial spoilage by reducing water activity and extends shelf life through superior moisture control; it helps canned foods taste fresher; and it is easy to transport and incorporate into recipes.
HFCS is a natural, nutritive sweetener and does add calories to the U.S. food supply. Sugar and HFCS have the same caloric density as most carbohydrates; both contribute 4 calories per gram. However, it is important to note that no single food or ingredient is the sole cause of obesity, but rather too many calories and too little exercise is a primary cause.
HFCS can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. In 1983, the Food and Drug Administration listed HFCS as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (known as GRAS status) for use in food, and the FDA reaffirmed that ruling in 1996. According to the American Dietetic Association, “Consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations ... as well as individual health goals.”
Audrae Erickson President Corn Refiners Association 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 950 Washington, DC 20006 (202) 331-1634
Suggests a source of farm labor
Submitted by Withheld 1/26/06
Re Central Valley Orange Growers (See “Central Valley orange growers look to Thailand for labor” CVBT 012406) ...
Rather than encourage more illegal labor to this country, why not use labor that is already available?
I'm speaking of the people who are incarcerated.
I don't mean hard core criminals, but those who are in minimum security prisons.
This would be free labor, or the low wages now paid to illegal workers.
Most taxpayers are weary of paying the upkeep of illegal aliens, and are fighting for a secure border and against the employers who illegally hire these lawbreakers.
So the above suggestion would take care of the problems. The barriers of language would be removed, and the employer would not be breaking the law.
These people would be supervised by law personnel and be given the opportunity to do something to occupy their time.
You are now employing criminals, why not give American criminals a chance? Beside, you'll still have a large mix of illegal aliens in the prison population.
(Name withheld by request of the writer)
Mr. Bush’s Gulf Opportunity Zone
When President Bush, standing in front of New Orleans’s Jackson Square on September 15th, described his vision of a "Gulf Opportunity Zone" to rebuild the Katrina-ravished tri-State area, he sounded much like his father who said in the 1980s that he was "haunted" by the despair of the ill-housed. At that time, the elder Bush had called upon his own housing secretary, the effusive and intellectually-rigorous Jack Kemp, to come up with new solutions to create housing and inspire economic growth in what were then the nation’s poorest urban centers.
One of their pet solutions was the enterprise zone, an idea which reappeared in the Clinton years as empowerment zones, and has now provided a model for President Bush’s blueprint to jump start the Gulf Coast economy and enlist the private sector in helping to complete this task.
Since 1981, 43 states have created more than 3600 enterprise zones, bringing billions of dollars in private investment in the nation's older urban centers and creating or saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The key to the enterprise-zone concept is that it attempts to solve the problems of inner-city unemployment and poverty without direct, substantial government expenditure. It also uses a number of incentives—investment and employment tax credits, regulatory relief, capital gains exclusions, employee training, business incubators, low-interest loans, and other tools—to draw investment into areas that, absent the incentives, would be unlikely to have materialized.
If President Bush’s latest turn on the enterprise zone concept is to work for the Gulf Coast, he has many approaches that have succeeded before, along with some he should enhance, among them:
• Customize zone requirements and benefits, and have on-site offices for fast-track permitting, regulatory relief, loan applications, program supervision, and technical assistance.
Given the catastrophic and wide reach of Katrina’s destruction, and the differing economic needs of, say, New Orleans and Biloxi, distinct enterprise zones will need to be set up to accommodate the specific economic, housing, labor, and social needs of each locale.
A particular bundle of incentives—whether to encourage housing creation or attract capital—can be determined for each geographic area, as needed. Just as important is the on-site presence of state and local officials, bankers, and other experts to expedite applications, lend technical expertise, and generally facilitate the often cumbersome and tortuous process of qualifying for government-conceived programs.
• Ease the use of low-income housing tax credits and create a targeted version for the Gulf Coast initiative.
Housing is often a key component of enterprise zones; here the task of creating new housing, or replacing battered housing, is made even more critical by the widespread losses caused by Katrina—much of it to low-income residents. Tax credits currently leverage some $6 billion of private investment and have inspired the creation of some130,000 affordable units.
Developers can take yearly tax credits over a ten year period, eventually amounting to up to 70 percent of construction costs; additionally, and more important for drawing investor capital into low-income housing markets, the credits can be "sold" to corporate investors as a way of reducing taxes with higher marginal rates.
The tax credits have been allotted on a state-by-state basis, often through a cumbersome application process in which credits frequently go unused. A separate program of ‘GO Zone’ tax credits should be set up specifically for this project.
• Encourage innovative lending programs, in which private investors, banks, or community development corporations create first-time ownership opportunities and sometimes share in the tax benefits and future appreciation of the properties.
President Bush has proposed an Urban Homesteading Act through which government-owned units and land would be given to homeowners in the Gulf area who pledge to rehabilitate or improve the properties. That notion is a good one, except that the poor frequently lack the resources and experience to make home ownership—particularly of distressed properties—a reality.
Instead, some of this housing would be suitable for re-use as shared-equity property, in which investors assume, with the new homeowners, some of the risk and costs of making new homes habitable. Banks who make loans in the zones could receive tax concessions. The upside? Housing experts such as Howard Husock have argued that too often planners overlook the reality that neighborhoods of owners rather than renters—even poor owners—are more likely to flourish than those comprised of demoralizing tracts of projects and government-subsidized housing in which residents have no stake or possibility for growing equity and creating personal wealth.
• Create jobs relevant to the region.
Critics of the enterprise zone concept have noted that the zones are designed more to attract capital than labor. But that view overlooks the obvious benefit to job creation inherent in the expansion and founding of thriving businesses in the zones. In zones sited in inner cities, often the intention was to give preference to jobseekers who lived locally.
For the GO Zone, given the varying urban settings and economic needs of the three states, incentives for job creation should be tailored for the employment needs of the specific locations, so that, for instance, research centers are not created in neighborhoods where the employee pool lacks the skills and training opportunities to avail itself of those types of jobs.
Employers who hire local residents frequently receive higher per-employee tax credits than would be available for employees living outside the zone. Extra incentives should also be offered when employees are trained for roles in businesses new to the region; this approach has the double benefit of encouraging new types of businesses to relocate to the zones and for helping to evolve a new, better-trained workforce.
• Utilize the intellectual and financial resources of a university to incubate small and emerging businesses.
As a logical outgrowth of its teaching and research assets, Tulane or another major university could help create satellite incubators for creating new businesses and assisting newly-founded, entrepreneurial ones, particularly those owned by neighborhood residents.
Louisiana, for instance, currently has 16 incubators, and, like others nationwide, they provide small businesses and entrepreneurs with management, marketing, and financing assistance, as well as shared office space, job training, and reduced-cost employee benefits. Were university-associated research centers or biotech labs to locate in the zones as major magnets, smaller collateral businesses—such as printers and copy shops, restaurants, day care centers, and other service businesses—can flourish and help provide additional employment opportunities for local residents and a more livable overall neighborhood.
• Reduce the capital-gains tax rate and modify "passive loss" rules.
The former cut could apply only on the sale of newly built or substantially rehabbed low-income property inside the zones, provided that the affordability is preserved after the sale through deed restrictions. After 1986, "pas¬sive" real-estate losses against ordinary income were eliminated from use for indi¬viduals with adjusted gross incomes of over $150,000 yearly, excluding the most likely group of investors from involving them¬selves with rental housing at all. Long-term property tax abatements, on both rental housing and single family homes built in the zones, has historically served to attract investment. • Loosen codes and encourage housing creation. Local government can help ease, rather than constrict, affordable housing creation by the private sector by being flexible in interpreting zoning, safety, and building requirements.
A compelling example of this approach was the story of the Baltic, a single room occupancy project in San Diego, in which developers negotiated concessions from the city to create 120 square-foot “living units” in a 207-room building with a density equivalent to more than 700 units an acre—well beyond what existing regulations would have permitted. Other concessions from the building and zoning departments enabled the developer to build much-needed, affordably-priced units that existing codes would have normally disallowed.
While opponents of the enterprise-zone model point out that a loss of tax revenues through incentives is still an expense for taxpayers, many would agree that such lost revenues are more than compensated for through the creation of much needed jobs; new and upgraded housing for low-income residents; fresh streams of property, corporate and income taxes; and immeasurable social benefits to three states trying to recover from the destruction of a calamitous natural disaster.
Richard L. Cravatts Weston, Mass.
Mr. Cravatts is a lecturer at Boston University, Tufts University, Emerson College, Suffolk University, and Simmons College, and writes regularly on real estate development, higher educations, law, and politics.
Ethics in business
10/19/05 To the Editor:
Edward Morler is absolutely correct when he brings up the hidden costs of ethics violations; we need only look at the collapse of Arthur Andersen. ("Do business ethics preclude business success?," Oct. 18).
But there's an equally important point: Businesses with high ethics standards are actually more profitable. This is borne out not only by own research for my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, but also in studies by Business Ethics magazine and others, showing that socially responsible companies consistently outperform others in the market.
In fact, I've started an international Ethics Pledge campaign located at http://www.principledprofits.com, in part to help businesses gain the marketing advantages they can get if the public knows they are ethical. Please visit if you'd like to know more. _________________________________________________ Shel Horowitz
A letter to our readers
7/4/05 Thank you for taking time to visit our new site. We hope you find it useful and bookmark it for future visits.
Our goal is to provide you with timely news useful to businesses operating in the Great Central Valley.
Please let me know how we can better serve you. Call me anytime with your thoughts, criticisms and story suggestions.