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Jim Newton
No winners in this MTA train wreck
Government goons and labor stooges screw taxpayers and workers
It's hard to find winners in the meltdown that occurred last week at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. A Japanese rail car manufacturing company trying to build a plant in Palmdale announced it was tired of fighting a union-supported environmental challenge and instead would build its plant in another state. The union that took on the company lost the chance to organize hundreds of new workers. Palmdale, which is still struggling to shake off the recession, lost out on an influx of good jobs. And California doubled down on its reputation as a place too messy to do business. At Los Angeles County's Hall of Administration, news of the collapsing deal sent supervisors and others into a spasm of frustration. Supervisor Mike Antonovich called it “disastrous” and said it was “a tremendous disservice, not only to the workers in the Antelope Valley but to the entire region.” MTA officials lamented the breakdown as a “shame.” Palmdale's mayor called it “devastating.” That's a bad end to a once-promising proposal: In 2012, Kinkisharyo International won an $890-million contract from the MTA to build rail cars as part of the agency's expanding rail network. The company committed to assembling the cars locally after the manufacturing work was done in Japan and said it would eventually look to moving much of the actual manufacturing to California too, creating hundreds of skilled, good-paying jobs. To that end, it bought land from the city of Palmdale and set out to build a 427,507-square-foot plant there. Labor saw an opportunity too.
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Sacramento Bee
For down-ticket Democrats, Jerry Brown a rare sight
It was a first in this election year when Gov. Jerry Brown appeared in a TV ad recently for a state Senate candidate in Southern California. Brown has done little visibly to help other members of his party. In addition to the ad for Jose Solorio, Brown joined an Assembly candidate at an event in Irvine this month and asked residents of Oakland, where he once was mayor, to vote for a former aide in this year’s election. Yet despite Brown’s widespread popularity – and the relative ease with which he is expected to win his own re-election campaign – the governor is nowhere to be seen in most down-ticket races.

Los Angeles Times
Democrats' hope of Senate supermajority could rest with 2 districts
While Democrats pull out the stops, Republicans bleat like sheep about taxes
The Democrats' quest to regain their supermajority in the state Senate could be decided next month in an ethnically diverse section of Orange County and a large swath of farmland and rural towns about 300 miles away in the Central Valley. Those two battlegrounds have drawn much of the attention and money of both major parties as the Nov. 4 election approaches. The races are the only two so far in which Gov. Jerry Brown has intervened with broadcast ads for the Democratic candidates. The dominant party is now two seats short of the two-thirds supermajority it won in the Senate in 2012 but lost amid corruption scandals this year. Victory in the Orange County and Central Valley districts is essential for the Democrats if they are to recapture the power to raise taxes, place propositions on the state ballot and override gubernatorial vetoes without GOP votes.

Mercury News
Fracking ban on the ballot in tiny San Benito County has big statewide implications
San Benito was the first California county to decide to take the issue to the voters. Campaign ads bankrolled by the oil industry are filling TV and radio airwaves, claiming that a fracking ban would hurt the county's economy and trample property rights. And the issue is straining longtime friendships among farmers and ranchers. Supporters of Measure J say they are frustrated that Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have not banned fracking, a process that involves pumping water and chemicals underground to release oil and gas -- so they decided to go around them. The rural region on the southern edge of Silicon Valley has only 24,000 registered voters. Already, Santa Barbara County environmentalists have copied the San Benito measure and placed it on the November ballot there. A similar measure is on the ballot in Mendocino County, and Butte County has one proposed for 2016. The oil industry, trying to prevent the dominoes from falling, is fighting back vigorously.

San Francisco Examiner
New rules bar domestic violence offenders from San Francisco Police Department
Beating your wife and being a cop no longer OK in San Francisco...it's about time!
The San Francisco Police Department will not accept applications from anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence, under a new rule approved by the Police Commission. The Police Department has made it clear, under new policies, that anyone convicted of domestic violence may not apply to be an officer and that officers responding to domestic violence calls shall not take into account immigration status. The rules, known as general orders, were recently passed by the Police Commission and dictate how officers and the department should act in cases of domestic violence. Anyone convicted of domestic violence is already barred from owning a weapon and therefore cannot be a police officer, Capt. Joseph McFadden said, but the new rules make it clear to all that the department does not want such people in its ranks. The rule officially barring domestic violence offenders from the force was part of a larger policy on the steps the department must take when investigating domestic violence cases involving officers. The policies also spelled out that immigration status will not be a factor when officers are called to domestic violence incidents. Efforts will also be made to ensure that interpreters are available at such calls.

Sacramento Bee
Could desalination solve California’s water problem?
Not if environmentalists and state regulators get their way
Along this patch of the Pacific Ocean, welders and pipefitters nearly outnumber the surfers and sunbathers. Within sight of the crashing waves, the laborers are assembling what some hope will make water scarcity a thing of the past. They are building the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which will convert as much as 56 million gallons of seawater each day into drinking water for San Diego County residents. The project, with a price tag of $1 billion, is emerging from the sand like an industrial miracle. In California’s highly regulated coastal zone, it took nearly 15 years to move from concept to construction, surviving 14 legal challenges along the way. The desalination plant is being built by Poseidon Water, a private company, and will be paid for in large part by rate increases on San Diego County water customers. On the surface, the plant resembles any other major construction project: Construction cranes scrape the sky as concrete foundations are poured; the giant new blocky building could be any warehouse or parts factory. Inside, the truth of the project is revealed. The building will house more than 16,000 reverse-osmosis membranes – salt filters, essentially – that will convert the Pacific Ocean into drinking water suitable for making coffee and watering lawns. Reverse-osmosis desalination was invented in California in the 1950s. But other nations with fewer natural freshwater supplies – Israel, Australia, Saudi Arabia and others – embraced the technology first and built dozens of projects over the past few decades. When the Carlsbad plant begins operating in 2016, it will be the largest desalination project ever built in the Americas. Desalination on this scale is so new, said MacLaggan, that Carlsbad will be operated initially by an Israeli subcontractor, which will help train a staff of California workers. The eyes of a thirsty state are trained on this project: It is a crucial test for an industry eager to expand in California, where residents are famously protective of their coastline and also accustomed to relatively cheap water. In short, the Carlsbad project is challenging California’s status quo while also offering the tantalizing prospect of relief from drought.

Sacramento Bee
Prop. 48 revives California’s off-reservation casino debate
Proposition 48, a referendum on two tribal gaming compacts brokered by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved by the Legislature, will ask voters whether they want to uphold the deals. Massive gambling revenue is on the line, as are questions about the growing phenomenon of “off-reservation” Indian casinos in California.

Los Angeles Times
An experienced Jerry Brown vows to build on what he's already done
Making a case for reelection, Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview that he would hold the line on state spending despite "pent-up" demand for more, further boost local governments' authority and keep California's tangle of regulations from growing in a fourth and final term as governor. Rather than announce a host of sweeping new policies, Brown said he would largely build on what he's already done, particularly in transferring some education and criminal justice authority to local jurisdictions. And he would make sure that fellow Democrats' push to spend billions of dollars more on state services, now that the recession is over, doesn't endanger California's newfound fiscal health. "The gold rush for new programs and spending has accelerated with the return of the economy," Brown said Friday, a sweater slung over his shoulders as he picked at a chocolate chip cookie in a bakery near his campaign headquarters. "A key role that I will play will be to keep a balanced hand on the spending, try to be wise and compassionate, but practical."

Los Angeles Times
Too many maverick moments finally led to Deasy's undoing at LAUSD
Deasy's 3 1/2 years as head of the nation's second-largest school district ended with his resignation last week, but his path was unusual from the very outset of his tenure at L.A. Unified.

San Francisco Chronicle
Interview: Brown wants higher carbon standards
Jerry Brown said Friday that he will push next year to set even higher greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for California, where the nation's toughest carbon standards already are causing anxiety among businesses and consumers. "We want to set in the coming year a goal which is far more stringent, and it'll be far more difficult," Brown said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. California's current carbon emissions law, signed in 2006, sets goals through 2020. If Brown wins re-election in November, the Democratic governor said he would bring together environmentalists, oil companies and transportation companies to accomplish the "challenge and opportunity. California has the most integrated response and strategy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the world. And we're going to continue doing that," Brown said. The current target includes a so-called carbon tax on consumer fuels starting Jan. 1, which the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates could boost the cost of gasoline by 13 to 20 cents a gallon by 2020. It projected that the increase could eventually reach 50 cents a gallon.

Oakland Tribune
Another pervert cop roaming the streets
CHP sergeant suspected of downloading child pornography on and off duty
A California Highway Patrol sergeant allegedly downloaded child pornography on a laptop while he was working off duty and on duty near Wi-Fi locations in Suisun, Fairfield and Vacaville, a Vacaville police sergeant said. The child pornography allegedly downloaded by CHP Sgt. Eric Lund showed pre-pubescent children having sex acts with adults, police Lt. Matt Lydon said. Lund, 49, of Chico, was arrested at 9 p.m. Thursday on 21 felony charges of sending or selling obscene matter depicting a minor and on misdemeanor charges of possessing obscene matter of a minor in a sexual act, Vacaville police said. Vacaville police met Lund at the CHP's Fairfield office and served a warrant to search an external hard drive found in his personal vehicle, Lydon said. The hard drive contained multiple downloaded child pornography images, Lydon said. Lund posted $115,000 bail around 3:30 a.m. Friday and was released from the Solano County jail, Lydon said. Lydon said it is not known how long Lund allegedly was downloading child pornography, but police began an investigation in August when software they were monitoring indicated someone was downloading pornography. Lund has worked out of the CHP Office in Fairfield for the past year. He has been with the CHP for 26 years and worked in Chico before his assignment to Fairfield, according to Diana McDermott, the CHP's Golden Gate Division Commander. McDermott said Lund was placed on administrative leave and has been stripped of his police powers. The CHP is investigating the incident with Vacaville police and conducting an administrative investigation of the allegations, McDermott said.

Los Angeles Times
LAUSD gives Deasy a pass on iPad scandal...says it believes Deasy acted ethically
Meanwhile you get stuck with the tab and the rat Deasy gets richer
As part of its settlement this week with former schools Supt. John Deasy, the Los Angeles Board of Education declared that it did not believe Deasy had done anything wrong in connection with the project to provide students with iPads, even though the district has an ongoing investigation into the propriety of the bidding process. The unusual provision was one of the more striking elements of a separation agreement released Thursday by the L.A. Unified School District. Under it, Deasy will remain on salary till the end of the year, worth more than $70,000, and he will get extended benefits and a payout for unused vacation days. The board wishes to state that at this time, it does not believe that the Superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts. But this deal also included a carefully negotiated press release: "The board wishes to state that at this time, it does not believe that the Superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts," the statement read in part. It also made reference to the ongoing inquiry, adding that "the Board anticipates that the Inspector General's report will confirm" that Deasy acted appropriately. The former schools chief came under scrutiny for his role in the $1.3-billion iPad project when emails recently released showed that he and a top aide had communications with vendors that could have affected the bidding process. Deasy has denied any wrongdoing.

Daily News
Los Angeles, firefighter union reach tentative agreement
Ending one of its most contentious negotiations, the city and the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City have reached a tentative agreement on a new two-year contract, officials said Friday. Fire Department brass will be holding informational meetings next week on the proposal that will culminate in a ratification vote. The proposal contains no pay raise for this year but a 2 percent hike in the second year of the contract. “We recognize the city’s position, and this is one of those things that goes around,” said UFLAC President Frank Lima. “We appreciate our jobs, and these things go in cycles.” Mayor Eric Garcetti has taken a strong line in not wanting to pay any salary increases this year. Lima said he believe the other gains in the contract will help offset any concern about pay.

Sacramento Bee
Proposition 47 would lower penalties to reduce prison population, pay for programs
Over the years, California voters have been asked to decide a number of criminal justice issues, ranging from whether to keep the death penalty to modifying the state’s “three-strikes” law. Now, voters are now being given the chance to alter punishments for nonviolent crimes in a move that proponents say ultimately will reduce crime statewide. Proposition 47 asks voters to approve reducing from felonies to misdemeanors punishments for a variety of property crimes that supporters of the measure say will reduce overcrowding in California’s 34 adult prisons. The measure is the latest in a series of attempts by penal reform groups and state officials to cut California’s prison costs by reducing inmate populations. The measure essentially mirrors the goal of Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment program, which has helped reduce prison populations by shifting nonserious, nonviolent offenders toward county jails or probation. The measure reduces to misdemeanors some crimes for drug possession and property offenses, but does not allow dangerous criminals – registered sex offenders or those with convictions for violent crimes like murder or rape – to take advantage of the new penalties. Proponents say cost savings could be as high as $1.25 billion over five years, money that would go toward treatment and educational programs. The actual savings are only an estimate, however. The state’s legislative analyst concludes the savings could reach “the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually,” and that savings for counties also could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors largely oppose the measure, saying it removes from prosecutors’ hands the flexibility to decide how to charge a crime based on the situation and the individual’s background. They particularly object to a provision in the measure allowing firearm theft to be considered a misdemeanor if the weapon is worth $950 or less, as most handguns are. Technically, passage of the measure would make theft of firearms worth $950 or less a misdemeanor. To charge a felony, prosecutors would have to show that the stolen weapon was subsequently used in a crime. The same is true of concerns over possession of date rape drugs, which would become a misdemeanor unless the drugs were later used in an assault. If the measure passes, some felons currently in prison will be able to win release.

Sacramento Bee
California Highway Patrol shakes down taxpayers for nearly $1 million
The California Highway Patrol investigation of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge released this month – which found no illegality or retaliation against engineers who complained about construction defects – cost about $823,000. Work on the 33-page investigative report began early this year and involved 13 officers, including a captain, two lieutenants and six sergeants who worked nearly 13,000 hours, including 1,500 overtime hours, according to CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader. The report criticized Caltrans for communication and documentation lapses, but found no violation of law. The probe was ordered by Brian Kelly, secretary of the California Transportation Agency, after witnesses at a January state Senate hearing alleged wrongdoing by California Department of Transportation executives. This included claims that Tony Anziano, the top bridge official, attempted to cover up potentially embarrassing information. A Sacramento Bee investigation published in June quoted Caltrans documents that supported some of the claims. An earlier 64-page Senate report included interviews with many of the same witnesses contacted by the CHP and detailed evidence of wrongdoing that led to the CHP investigation. That effort was researched and written by a single contractor, investigative reporter Roland De Wolk. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and requested the De Wolk report, has referred the matter to Attorney General Kamala Harris with a recommendation that she launch a criminal investigation.

Sacramento Bee
California law enforcement detaining fewer undocumented immigrants
Local law enforcement agencies in California are transferring fewer undocumented immigrants into federal custody, a change occurring as the state implements a new law barring jails from holding nonviolent immigration detainees for federal officials. Cooperation between federal immigration authorities and local police officers has become a lightning rod in debates over immigration enforcement. Advocates said a program allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to have local jails hold immigrants has led to the deportations of thousands who were picked up for minor offenses and posed no threat to public safety. California’s Legislature responded to the outcry by passing a bill prohibiting local law enforcement from honoring federal requests to hold low-level offenders. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 4 after vetoing an earlier version, satisfied that it would not allow violent criminals to go free. Early returns suggest local agencies are aiding federal enforcement less often. Data released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that the number of undocumented immigrants local authorities transferred to federal custody plummeted by 53 percent in Northern California between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, compared to the previous year (the California law took effect this January). In the Los Angeles area, the drop was 15 percent.

Dan Walters
Census Bureau: California still has highest U.S. poverty rate
Nearly a quarter of the state’s residents live in poverty
California continues to have – by far – the nation’s highest level of poverty under an alternative method devised by the Census Bureau that takes into account both broader measures of income and the cost of living. Nearly a quarter of the state’s 38 million residents (8.9 million) live in poverty, a new Census Bureau report says, a level virtually unchanged since the agency first began reporting on the method’s effects. Under the traditional method of gauging poverty, adopted a half-century ago, California’s rate is 16 percent (6.1 million residents), somewhat above the national rate of 14.9 percent but by no means the highest. That dubious honor goes to New Mexico at 21.5 percent. But under the alternative method, California rises to the top at 23.4 percent while New Mexico drops to 16 percent and other states decline to as low as 8.7 percent in Iowa. Ever since the Census Bureau first published its “supplemental poverty measure” rankings that placed California at the top a few years ago, poverty has evolved into a political issue. The Public Policy Institute of California used a similar methodology last year to gauge poverty in the state’s 58 counties, called a California Poverty Measure. It pegged the statewide poverty rate at 22 percent and found some of the highest rates in the San Francisco Bay Area and coastal communities usually considered affluent due to their high costs of housing. Los Angeles had the highest rate in the state, 26.9 percent, followed by Napa at 25.5 percent.

Sacramento Bee
California tells employees: Don’t talk to media
Two state employees, one a top elected CalPERS official and the other a nameless state worker bee, both recently committed a cardinal sin: They talked to the media. On Wednesday, the board of California’s gigantic government retirement system publicly reprimanded one of its own, J.J. Jelincic, for telling a pension-industry publication that its new chief investment officer, longtime California Public Employees’ Retirement System investments manager Ted Eliopoulos, is unqualified for the job. “He doesn’t have the temperament or the management skills,” Jelincic said in a Sept. 29 Pensions & Investments story about the hiring. And he didn’t stop there. Eliopolous played favorites with staff, Jelincic said, listened too much to outside consultants and made poor investment decisions. Because he’s technically a CalPERS employee, Jelincic didn’t have a vote on the hire. In fact, he worked under Eliopoulos in the fund’s investment shop for about five years. Then CalPERS put Jelincic on full-time paid leave in 2012 to tend to board business. On Wednesday, board President Rob Feckner said in a prepared statement that the comments were “unfortunate and a breach of board governance policy of civility and courtesy as well as a breach of the CalPERS core values.” The board voted for Eliopolous, Feckner noted, 11-0. He advised Jelincic to “use his ‘boardsmanship’ hat when speaking to the media.” Jelincic said later, “I”m not sure what the hell it meant other than they didn’t want me talking to the press.” The Jelincic case is high-profile, but in offices, commissions and departments throughout the state, employees are told they shouldn’t talk to the media. Leave it to the pros. Avoid making unsanctioned contacts and comments that can give high-ups more heartburn than a handful of jalapeños with a battery-acid chaser.

Mercury News
PUC judge and commissioner propose sanctions against PG&E for judge shopping
PG&E should face a fine of at least $1 million and should have strong limits placed on its communications with members of the state Public Utilities Commission and their advisers, a state PUC law judge and a PUC commissioner proposed on Thursday, the latest fallout from a fatal natural gas explosion in San Bruno. The proposed sanctions came in the wake of a host of emails that disclosed a cozy relationship between Pacific Gas & Electric and the PUC, the powerful state agency that is supposed to regulate the utility giant. Investigators believe that PG&E's shoddy maintenance and flawed record keeping, combined with the PUC's lax oversight of the utility, were key factors that contributed to the explosion, which killed eight and wrecked a quiet San Bruno neighborhood. The sanctions are connected with PG&E's attempt to shop for a judge in a natural gas transmission and storage case that's linked to the San Bruno disaster. PG&E engaged in improper communications with key officials at the PUC as part of that effort. Residential customers face an increase of 11.8 percent in their monthly gas bills in the rate case. The improper communications were found to violate the PUC rules on what are called ex parte communications involving PG&E and officials and staffers with the state PUC. PG&E is obliged to disclose these sorts of communications that occur outside of a public hearing.

Mercury News
Dozens of California officials fined for failing to report gifts
The state's political watchdog agency has fined dozens of California public officials for failing to report gifts received from Bay Area-based bond finance firm Stone and Youngberg. The Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC, on Thursday approved a total of $18,400 in fines -- ranging from $200 to $800 a person -- for 71 officials throughout the state. "The intent of the Political Reform Act is to provide transparency to the public, to try to show the importance that public officials should be making decisions in the best interest of the public and not for themselves," said Jay Wierenga, the commission's communications director. Out of 282 officials who received gifts over the $50 threshold required for reporting, the FPPC found that only 22 had actually claimed the gifts on their Statements of Economic Interest. The remaining 260 were asked to amend their statements and claim the gifts. The FPPC evaluated the violations based on four criteria: the total value of gifts not reported; whether gifts were reported on amended forms and time frame for disclosure; public harm; and whether the failure to report was considered intentional, negligent or inadvertent. The FPPC proposed fines for 93 officials, and 71 have agreed to pay.

Sacramento Bee
California health officials seek to assure public amid Ebola scare
Pols grandstand the issue while hospitals clam up
California’s top health officials tried to assure an increasingly nervous public on Wednesday that they are ramping up readiness to fight the deadly Ebola virus, including seeking screening at all of the state’s international airports. As Ebola panic took hold nationwide, state Department of Public Health officials said they have launched an unprecedented outreach campaign to ensure hospital systems, clinics, health care workers, nurses’ unions and the federal government have firm protocols in place to contain the virus. That includes urging hospitals to develop clear preparedness instructions for health care workers and equip them with head-to-toe protective gear before they come into contact with patients who may be Ebola carriers. At present, there are no known or suspected Ebola cases in California, the officials said. Two cases were red-flagged in recent weeks – one in Sacramento and another in Los Angeles – but neither tested positive for the often-fatal disease. So far, local hospital systems have been mute on the topic of their levels of preparedness. On Wednesday, UC Davis Health System spokeswoman Karen Finney said the university’s experts on infectious diseases were “way too busy” to communicate their thoughts or strategies to the community. Asked if they were occupied with plans to contain the Ebola virus, Finney said she did not know what they were working on.

Sacramento Bee
California high-speed rail wins big round in state high court
In a significant victory for California’s high-speed rail project, the California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to review a lawsuit challenging the issuance of bonds for its construction. The decision came without comment from the court. Opponents of the $68 billion project had argued in legal filings that the state’s funding plan violated the provisions of Proposition 1A, the voter-approved 2008 initiative that included initial funding for the project. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled the funding plan was inconsistent with the measure because it relied on uncertain sources of future funding. The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned the Superior Court ruling in July, and the high court’s decision not to hear the case lets the appeals court ruling stand. The project still faces other legal challenges, including questions about whether the train will be able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours 40 minutes, as called for in Prop. 1A.

Daily News
Marijuana an issue in California attorney general race
Desperate GOP candidate for AG throws Hail Mary pass, sides with pot use
A Republican fighting to unseat California’s incumbent attorney general has adopted the unconventional strategy of seeking to legalize recreational marijuana as the centerpiece of his uphill campaign. Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, meanwhile, has softened her opposition to recreational pot as she seeks a second and final term as the state’s top law enforcement official. Republican nominee Ron Gold, a former deputy attorney general, said California should follow Colorado’s lead by making marijuana legal and restricting its use to people over 21, imposing a tax and regulating production and sales. Pot use is largely a victimless crime that fills prisons and jails, empowers foreign cartels and saps time and money from more important law enforcement priorities, Gold said. “I think it’s an issue whose time has come,” Gold said. Harris, a former two-term San Francisco district attorney, has focused her crime-fighting efforts on cross-border gangs that she said are increasingly engaged in high-tech crimes such as digital piracy and computer hacking to target businesses and financial institutions.

Los Angeles Times
LAUSD Supt. John Deasy expected to resign
Beleaguered L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy is expected to step down after reaching a settlement with the school board, several sources familiar with the negotiations said late Wednesday. The L.A. Unified school board could name an interim superintendent as early as 10 a.m. Thursday, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it involved a personnel matter and confidential negotiations. One source said the board was likely to select former Supt. Ramon Cortines to run the district on an interim basis. As part of the departure agreement, Deasy is expected to receive about 60 days' pay, or roughly $60,000, the sources said. His contract, which was to run through June 2016, requires a severance payment of only 30 days. During his 31/2 years at the helm, Deasy, 53, oversaw a continued rise in student performance during a period of financial cuts. But he could not overcome election day setbacks, poor relations with teachers and two back-to-back technology debacles. Deasy has faced strong criticism over the troubled rollout of a $1.3-billion effort to provide iPads to every student, teacher and campus administrator. Amid growing questions about how the iPad program was run, Deasy announced in August that he was suspending new purchases under the iPad contract. Another technology project, a new student records system, malfunctioned this fall.

Press-Telegram
Hate crimes in Los Angeles County at 24-year low
Attacks on lesbians and transgender individuals are up
The number of reported hate crimes in Los Angeles County last year dipped to its lowest level in nearly 21/2 decades, according to a report released Wednesday, though on average more than one hate crime still occurred each day. There were 384 hate crimes reported in the county last year, representing a 17 percent decrease from 2012, according to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission. It was also the first time in a decade that there were no murders or attempted murders classified as hate crimes.  Driving this decline is a more than 40 percent decrease in crimes targeting gay men as well as crimes targeting Jews in 2013 over the previous year. Juveniles are also showing up as a smaller percentage of hate crime suspects — less than 15 percent versus more than 40 percent in 2006 — and are the smallest age group for the first time in at least a decade, Toma said. However, from 2012 to 2013 there was an increase in reported crimes targeting lesbians (11 to 25) — the second-highest number in the last decade — transgender persons (13 to 19), Asian/Pacific Islanders (12 to 15), Protestants (4 to 8) and Middle Easterners (4 to 5). All 19 hate crimes against transgender people were violent. The largest number of reported hate crimes in 2013 took place in the San Fernando Valley, but the Antelope Valley had the highest rate of hate crimes per capita, followed by the Metro region, which spans from West Hollywood to Boyle Heights.

Associated Press
Man charged in killings of 4 family members, dog
A central California man who authorities say confessed to stabbing his elderly father and mother, his two sons and the family dog has been charged with murder and animal cruelty. Santa Barbara County prosecutors announced Tuesday that a grand jury indicted 45-year-old Nicolas Holzer on felony charges that include special allegations. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to seek the death penalty. Holzer remains jailed without bail. Prosecutors contend that in August at his Goleta home, Holzer grabbed kitchen knives and attacked his 73-year-old father; then his sons, ages 10 and 13, as they slept; then his 74-year-old mother and the family dog. Authorities say Holzer then called 911 to report killing his family. They say Holzer, who had no criminal history, told detectives that the killings were his destiny.

Steven Greenhut
More regulation won't fix health exchange
Covered California controversy reignites campaign for Proposition 45
In the well-known scene in “Casablanca,” Captain Renault orders Rick to shut down his gin joint. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” he said, pausing long enough to grab his winnings. That scene always reminds me of our government. We know how it works, yet many of us still act surprised there’s gambling in the Capitol casino. The latest “shocked” moment came when the Associated Press reported earlier this week on some controversial contracts issued by Covered California — the new Obamacare-inspired insurance exchange that mainly sells subsidized health plans to people who can’t otherwise get coverage. “California’s health insurance exchange has awarded $184 million in contracts without the competitive bidding and oversight that is standard practice across state government, including deals that sent millions of dollars to a firm whose employees have long-standing ties to the agencies executive director,” wrote AP’s Michael Blood. This looks bad, especially as ObamaCare supporters fight back an initiative (Proposition 45) on the November ballot that would give the state’s insurance commissioner the power to approve or reject health-care rate hikes — the same power he has with most other types of insurance. “The contracts reflect a troubling practice at Covered California,” wrote Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court, in a letter to the attorney general. “An independent investigation by your agency is warranted to determine … whether consultants have inappropriately used their position with the government agency to advance the interests of former and current insurance industry employers.” Calls for an audit make sense, perhaps, but Consumer Watchdog is the key backer of the November initiative. The group has made millions of dollars challenging insurance rate hikes under the “intervenor” process codified in Proposition 103, the 1988 initiative that regulates auto, home and casualty insurance and is the model for the new ballot measure. Under this system, intervenors are paid to challenge rate changes proposed by insurance companies, in a process that can take many months to resolve. Obamacare supporters are rightly concerned that if Proposition 45 passes, it will bollix up the fledgling health exchange’s ability to negotiate rates. Polls last month put the proposition ahead, but with support falling. This black eye for Covered California has reignited interest in the race.

Daily News
De Leon's bling & cha-ching!
New leader of California Senate to be sworn in at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Two thousand guests have been invited to help celebrate Wednesday’s swearing-in of the first Latino to head the California Senate in more than a century. Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles is breaking with tradition to hold his ceremony at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Previous ceremonies took place at the state Capitol and have been relatively low-key, according to the California State Library’s research bureau. The invitation lists the event as the “Inauguration of Kevin de Leon,” using language usually reserved for presidents and governors. The California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, which receives donations from special interests seeking influence in the Legislature, is picking up the estimated $50,000 tab. About 200 officeholders also have been invited to witness his swearing-in as Senate president pro tempore. The party comes during a year when two Democratic state senators were suspended after being charged in separate federal corruption cases, a third resigned after being sentenced to jail for perjury, and a fourth is facing DUI charges after a night of drinking that included late-night revelry with Latino caucus members inside the Capitol. Latino caucus spokesman Roger Salazar disputed the perception that the event is too elaborate. “This being the first Latino pro tem in 130 years, this was worthy of being underwritten by the caucus and also worthy of celebration,” he said. “This is an historic event.” De Leon spokesman Anthony Reyes said the senator is participating in other community events as well.

Dan Walters
Darrell Steinberg’s record has been a mixed bag
The California Legislature underwent a fundamental transformation in 1980 – largely unappreciated at the time. Its priorities changed, symbolized by the traumatic change of Assembly leadership from a policy-minded speaker, Leo McCarthy, to the most skilled political operative of the era, Willie Brown. A similar shift occurred in the Senate when its majority Democrats, worried about losing control, ousted policy wonk James Mills and elected a much more partisan David Roberti as president pro tem. The ensuing wheeler-dealer decade culminated in a federal corruption investigation, multiple convictions and a 1990 backlash in the form of voter-imposed term limits. The Legislature, however, continued to decline in performance and public standing. This bit of history places Darrell Steinberg, who is termed-out and stepping down as Senate president pro tem, in perspective.

Los Angeles Times
Lying and cover-ups continue at the LAPD
LAPD officials downplay report on 'ghost cars'
Los Angeles police officials Tuesday downplayed a recent report about falsified patrol records, saying it was an isolated problem that had been overstated and corrected. Last week, the inspector general for the Police Commission, Alex Bustamante, released the findings of an investigation into the so-called "ghost car" scheme, in which officers were inaccurately shown in department databases and deployment logs to be on patrol. In the report, Bustamante said his investigators had found evidence of problems with deployment records in at least five of the LAPD's 21 divisions. Officers, the report said, were signed on to department computers and recorded as being on patrol, when in fact they were working behind a desk at a police station or handing out equipment to other officers. Bustamante did not specify who was responsible for the deception but said it stemmed from department requirements that call on commanders in each division to have a minimum number of officers on the streets for every shift. After Bustamante presented his findings to the commission at its weekly meeting, LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger sought to convince the oversight body that any problems with deployment records were an isolated issue and were not as serious as Bustamante had stated in his report.

Steven Greenhut
Gun law hopes to stop killers in advance
Foes of new restraining order raise due-process issues
Gun-control efforts often center on hardware, such as limiting or banning the ownership of particular firearms and ammunition. But in California this year, the most significant new gun-related law is less about the guns and more about identifying people who might be too dangerous to own them. AB 1014 creates a Gun Violence Restraining Order that allows people who suspect a family member is mentally unstable or dangerous to get a court order forbidding that person from owning weaponry and ammo. The Legislature passed the bill in reaction to the tragic mass murder in May at Isla Vista. At first blush, the focus on people seems likely to build more consensus than a focus on hardware, given that gun-control opponents have long argued — as the cliché goes — that guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. But nothing ever is simple. Past efforts to, say, outlaw so-called assault rifles opened a can of worms, as it was far more difficult than expected to define the exact type of gun that fit the ban. Not surprisingly, it’s even more difficult to describe human beings who might be dangerous — and to craft the right policies to stop them — than it is to detail the magazines and style of an outlawed weapon. Some of the law’s supporters argue it won’t do as much to protect against killing sprees as it will to keep guns away from suicidal people.  The main problem critics have with the new law involves due process. A gun owner may be deprived of a constitutional right for a year based on the claims of even distant relatives and using a lower “reasonable” standard rather than the “clear and convincing” standard. Psychiatrists may not be great at predicting violent behavior, but the law takes them out of the process and leaves the decision in the hands of police officers and judges, who probably will err on the side of caution. The person losing his or her rights wouldn’t necessarily be at the hearing where the decision is made, but the law’s supporters say that it has plenty of due-process protections because it allows the person to later challenge the court order. That can be time-consuming and takes place after the person has already lost gun rights, though. People who would be slapped with this Gun Violence Restraining Order who already own guns would have their names placed in the Armed and Prohibited Persons System. Using that database, the California Department of Justice sends agents to confiscate the firearms of people on the list — i.e., those who no longer legally are allowed to own them. But the system is backlogged and riddled with errors, with inaccuracy rates as high as 40 percent or more. It gets back to the “Minority Report” issue, referring to the 2002 science-fiction movie in which a Department of PreCrime arrests murderers before they commit the crime. While the fictional department relies on clairvoyants, real-world California policy makers must rely on less-reliable sources and databases. The new law is an interesting departure from the “ban the gun” approach, but there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical.

Associated Press
Poll: Many insured struggle with medical bills
Everyone knows the health care system is rigged against them
Having health insurance is no panacea for high medical costs. Overall, 1 in 4 privately insured U.S. adults say they don't have much confidence in their ability to pay for a major, unexpected medical expense. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research may help explain why President Barack Obama faces such strong headwinds in trying to persuade the public that his health care law is working to hold costs down. The poll found the biggest financial concerns were among people with so-called high-deductible plans that require patients to pay a significant share of their medical bills each year before insurance kicks in. Such plans already represented a growing share of employer-sponsored coverage. And now, they're also the mainstay of the new health insurance exchanges created by Obama's law. Many consumers said they are making financial trade-offs to pay medical bills. In another potentially troublesome finding for the White House, the poll found signs of dissatisfaction among people who changed plans in the last year, as the president's health overhaul went into full effect. Plan-switchers who said they are paying more outnumbered those who are paying less by 45 percent to 29 percent. Of those paying more, 11 percent said they are getting higher-quality care for their dollar. The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted with financial support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Sacramento Bee
Tribal gaming interests at odds over Proposition 48
Buried by the barrage of ads on insurance rates and doctor drug-testing, another high-stakes ballot measure is quietly attracting millions in donations ahead of the November election. Proposition 48, a referendum on two tribal gaming compacts brokered by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved by the Legislature, will ask voters whether or not they want to uphold the deals. Massive gambling revenue is on the line, as are questions about the growing phenomenon of “off-reservation” Indian casinos in California. Proponents of Proposition 48 – including the North Fork Rancheria band of Mono Indians, the Wiyot tribe and their financial backers from Station Casinos in Las Vegas – argue that the proposal to build a 2,000-slot machine casino off Highway 99 in Madera would create an economic engine in a depressed region of the Central Valley and allow the North Fork tribe to reclaim part of its historic land. The campaign is hosting a media open house today at the North Fork Rancheria in the mountains near Yosemite, which is not where they plan to build the casino. That’s part of the problem for opponents of the initiative, who make the case that the deal opens the door for more casinos outside established reservations, a limitation that voters approved in a 2000 proposition. But there’s also an aspect of financial rivalry: The main funders of the no campaign are other tribes whose own gaming operations would face more competition with construction of the North Fork casino, as well as their New York investors.

Sacramento Bee
Michael Peevey’s announced exit solves political problem for Jerry Brown
Peevey was never for the people - always on the side of the utility companies
For years, Gov. Jerry Brown defended Michael Peevey, the embattled president of the California Public Utilities Commission. The commission, which regulates California’s massive energy and telecommunications industries, had come under scrutiny for back-channel communications with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. following a gas line explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno in 2010. Brown was unwavering, telling the the San Jose Mercury News as recently as August that Peevey was “a very effective leader” who “tries to do the right thing.” “He gets things done,” Brown said. “He’s promoted renewable energy in a way that I don’t know that anybody else could have.” But on Thursday, as critics held a news conference in San Francisco to demand his ouster, Peevey said he will not seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of the year, extricating Brown from an increasingly difficult position. Peevey’s announcement came after revelations this week that he privately told a PG&E executive in 2010 that he expected the utility to spend at least $1 million opposing a ballot measure seeking to undo provisions of Assembly Bill 32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction law. Peevey also told the official that he expected PG&E and other companies to contribute $100,000 each for a celebration the PUC was hosting for its 100th anniversary, according to an email written by the former PG&E vice president, Brian Cherry. The emails were released by PG&E on the same day the company announced it had been notified by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco that it has begun an investigation into private communications with the PUC.

San Francisco Chronicle
Family of police shooting victim blast Chief Suhr’s account
The family of a man killed by San Francisco police near AT&T Park expressed doubt Thursday over the officers’ account of the shooting. While police say Oakland resident O’Shaine Evans, 26, had been involved in an auto burglary during the final minutes of Tuesday’s Giants game against the Washington Nationals before pointing an unloaded .380-caliber pistol at an officer, Evans’ family said the actions of the officer who fatally shot him were questionable. “There are just too many unanswered questions here,” said Wesley Hicks, Evans’ brother, at a town hall meeting Thursday. His family questioned Suhr during the meeting, accusing him of not informing them of the town hall forum. “In light of all the police brutality and the blatant lies that have happened in recent times where the police have given a different narrative than what surveillance and what other eye witnesses have shown,” she said, “it causes us grave concern and makes us really question the police narrative and what they want us to believe.” Meanwhile, Evans’ mother, Angela Naggie, said all she wanted was to finally be able to view her son’s body. She said the medical examiner has not allowed her to see him.“I miss my son so much,” she said, “and I wish I could see my son’s face right now, just to look at him one last time.”

Mercury News
Hill turns up the heat on Peevy
Senator Jerry Hill, whose San Mateo County district includes San Bruno, said he will introduce on Dec. 1 a resolution that would ask the Legislature to vote to remove PUC President Michael Peevey, who is blamed by critics for overseeing a culture of lax enforcement of PG&E, whose shoddy maintenance and flawed record-keeping caused a pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight and wrecked a quiet neighborhood. The actions by Hill underscore the rising pressure the PUC is facing in the wake of mounting revelations that paint a picture of a state agency that has nurtured cozy ties with PG&E under Peevey's leadership. The PUC's critics believe the agency's culture is so damaged that it can no longer effectively regulate PG&E at a time when the utility is under pressure to upgrade its natural gas system and improve its records to avoid a repeat of the San Bruno disaster. A series of emails disclosed by PG&E in the past two months provided stark evidence of improper discussions involving key players with the utility and the PUC. Federal authorities are investigating the emails and communications.

San Francisco Examiner
Peevey says he will not seek reappointment
The president of the California Public Utilities Commission announced this morning that he will not seek reappointment to his post when his term expires at the end of the year. Michael Peevey has been facing pressure to resign or be removed from his post amid allegations of corruption involving PG&E and CPUC officials. Those allegations were made against Peevey and CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio after the release of emails between PG&E and CPUC officials that were the subject of a penalty hearing Tuesday in San Francisco. On Wednesday, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, announced that he would seek to have the California Legislature remove Peevey over allegations that he made inappropriate arrangements with PG&E officials. After Peevey's announcement, Hill said at a news conference Thursday morning in front of CPUC headquarters in San Francisco that he is pleased with Peevey’s decision but that he does not believe it means Peevey is admitting any guilt. “I have not seen him show any sign of responsibility for the actions of this agency, or what I believe is criminal behavior that he has engaged in,” Hill said, adding that he still wants a full investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office or attorney general. With a new president, Hill expects that “the culture will change” at the CPUC. “When Peevey steps down and a new president is appointed, I’m sure the governor when he selects that person will select someone who will be looking at the best interest of California and the best interest of the public, and not the best interest of the utilities commission,” Hill said. Hill also demanded that Florio resign from his post. Corruption allegations were made against Peevey and Florio's after the release of emails between PG&E and CPUC officials that were the subject of a penalty hearing Tuesday in San Francisco. Outside, representatives of a consumer advocacy group and the city of San Bruno called for a wider probe of new messages released a day earlier.

Sacramento Bee
“Gerardo knows powerful people”
Two men acquitted on charges of robbing home of former Capitol peace officer
Two men charged with robbing the home of a former Capitol peace officer and kidnapping a guest from his house were found not guilty Tuesday by a Sacramento County jury in a case that exposed the inner workings of Senate operations and raised questions about its personnel practices. The jury of seven women and five men acquitted Frank Trevizo and Francisco Merjil on all counts stemming from a December 2012 night of partying that turned deadly when a gunfight erupted outside the home of Gerardo Lopez, who was a sergeant-at-arms for the state Senate at the time and the son of a powerful Senate administrator. Lopez’s version of what happened that night was not credible, said several jurors interviewed after the verdicts were announced. They said they believed Lopez lied to them on the witness stand – about his drug use, about where he stood when he fired his gun, about whether a kidnapping even happened that night – and that critical testimony from his Senate colleagues cemented their view that he was not credible. Jurors also said the investigation seemed skewed from the beginning to frame Lopez as the victim – rather than a participant in a crime – and said he may have unfairly benefited from his peace officer status at the Capitol. “Gerardo knows powerful people,” said a juror who did not want to be identified.

Oakland Tribune
California drought: State residents cut water use 11.5 percent
After months of seeming indifference to the state's historic drought, Californians are finally getting the message and sharply cutting back on water use, according to new figures released Tuesday. The state's urban residents reduced water use 11.5 percent in August compared with the previous August. Although still short of the 20 percent savings that Gov. Jerry Brown requested in January, the number is up from a 7.5 percent cut in July and a 4.4 percent drop in June. As lawns turned browner and reservoirs dried up, state residents used 27 billion gallons less water in August than the previous one -- an amount that would fill 41,000 Olympic swimming pools.

Oakland Tribune
Hands-free devices can be more distracting than holding a phone, study says
Voice control system on Apple phones dangerously distracting
Just because you can talk to your car doesn't mean you should. Two new studies have found that voice-activated smartphones and dashboard infotainment systems, though hands-free, may be more distracting than picking up your phone. In-dash phone systems are overly complicated and prone to errors, the study by AAA and the University of Utah found, and the same is true of voice-activated functions for music and navigation. And a companion study found that using Siri -- the voice control system on Apple phones -- while driving was dangerously distracting. Two participants in the study had virtual crashes in an automotive simulator while attempting to use Siri. The new research found that voice-based systems distracted drivers because they are too complex and made too many errors in recognizing voice commands.

Sacramento Bee
Concerned about safety, California to inspect railroad bridges for first time
After San Bruno, why would the public take the business community's word for anything?
For more than a century, California has relied on assurances from railroad companies that thousands of rail bridges across the state, from spindly trestles in remote canyons to iron workhorses in urban areas, are safe and well-maintained to handle heavy freight traffic. That era of trust is over. Concerned about the growing number of trains traversing the state filled with crude oil and other hazardous materials, the California Public Utilities Commission is launching its first railroad bridge inspection program this fall. Federal officials say it will be the first state-run review of privately owned rail bridges in the country. The goal, the PUC says, is to end what a recent report called the “dearth of information on the structural integrity of California’s railroad bridges.” Almost all train bridges in the state are owned and maintained by private railroads. Federal rules require railroads to inspect those bridges annually. The launch of a bridge inspection program comes amid ongoing criticism of the PUC after a catastrophic 2010 gas line explosion in San Bruno in which eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed.

Daily News
California Gov. Jerry Brown swims in money on way to re-election
Polls show Gov. Jerry Brown cruising easily toward an unprecedented fourth term, but many donors — from labor unions to beer distributors, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley — keep contributing generously to his campaign, raising questions of why and what they hope for in return. Brown has banked more than $23 million and has spent practically nothing. Yet money still flows into his campaign every day. Brown’s biggest chunk of money, about $4 million, comes from the state Democratic Party. The second biggest, about $2.9 million, comes from unions. Health and biotechnology companies, at $1.3 million, rank third on Brown’s donor list, followed by entertainment, sports and media interests. At least $1.2 million has come from Hollywood notables and industry giants such as Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, NBC Universal and CBS.

Daily News
California voters want affirmative action in higher education|
White, Latino, black and Asian-American voters all support affirmative action, according to a recent study that starkly contrasts the seemingly widespread Asian opposition to putting the system back into higher education. Karthick Ramakrishnan, survey director and UC Riverside professor, said the study revealed general opinion might not be identical to activists’ attitudes. Published on Sept. 25, “Views of a diverse electorate: Opinions of California registered voters in 2014” surveyed 1,280 registered voters and asked respondents if they favored or opposed “affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women and other minorities get better jobs and education.” White, Latino, black and Asian-Americans favored giving preferential treatment to minorities and women. About 83 percent of blacks agreed, as did 81 percent of Latinos, 69 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 57 percent of whites. Among Asians, nearly 60 percent of Chinese respondents supported affirmative action. State Sen. Ed Hernandez said the results of the poll reconfirmed what many people have always believed. “California voters broadly support equal opportunity programs that bring fairness back to employment, contracting and admissions policies,” he said in an email. “It appears to be a very vocal minority of Californians who oppose the idea of letting voters decide whether or not Prop 209 has hurt our state.”

Mercury News
Will Mayer go down with the ship?
Yahoo under fire as Mayer faces critical moment
Two years into her reign as Yahoo's chief executive officer, Marissa Mayer is sitting on a mountain of cash from the Alibaba IPO even as she faces an investor revolt that could derail her long-range plans for the Sunnyvale Internet giant. Mayer is expected to return to shareholders some of the $9.4 billion from the sale of 140 million Alibaba shares, while continuing to pursue her strategy to boost the company's flat revenues with new products and acquisitions along the lines of Tumblr, Flurry and the dozens of other purchases she has made since taking over in July 2012. But so far, those acquisitions haven't done much to boost revenues. And that has some investors grumbling, with one proposing a plan that would bring her acquisitions to an abrupt halt, and another suggesting new management is the solution to Yahoo's problems. The clash of contrasting visions could determine the fate of one of Silicon Valley's most iconic companies -- and one of its highest-profile executives. Mayer has responded to the criticism with a letter promising to continue with "our strategy, investing in products that will drive sustainable growth: search, communications, digital magazines and video."

Daily News
Cops drive distracted all the time - but apparently it's OK if they run over someone
Law enforcement agencies turn to technology to ease distractions
Recognizing that technology can be both a blessing and a curse, some area law enforcement agencies have taken steps to make their internal patrol car systems — which can be deadly distractions on the road — safer and easier to use. The Los Angeles Police Department is now working with equipment and vehicle manufacturers to integrate all the components inside its vehicles. Besides finding and using the right systems, public safety agencies can also reduce distraction by having fewer single-officer vehicles so that drivers aren’t overloaded with technology, experts say. Researchers are also examining how technology, some of which is being designed and tested, can be used to “mitigate the effects of technology” by providing real-time feedback to distracted drivers, said Linda Ng Boyle, chairwoman of University of Washington’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Eye-tracking systems, for example, can notify drivers who take their eyes off the road for too long. There is also a system that can alert drivers when they are too close to the car in front of them. However, it’s not clear how effective these systems would be for certain distracted drivers in the long run, she said.

Sacramento Bee
Racist prison officials cost California taxpayers millions
California prison system loses bid to overturn $1 million discrimination award
A Sacramento appellate court has upheld a jury’s verdict that racial discrimination motivated state prison officials to fire an African American employee and then lie about key facts of her dismissal at trial. Now the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must decide whether to pay more than $1 million in damages and interest to Terralyn Renfro, plus more than half that much in court costs. “We disagree with the decision,” said Corrections spokesman Bill Sessa, “and we are exploring our legal options.” The department could ask the California Supreme Court to take the case, a statistical long shot since the high court rejects most appeals. “But I won’t be surprised if they do it,” said Renfro’s attorney, Mary-Alice Coleman. Renfro’s complaint gained strength, the appellate court said, from a “pernicious pattern” of “department personnel lying” that obscured the circumstances and cause for her dismissal.

Sacramento Bee
California Senate to review its nepotism, hiring policies
The California Senate is reviewing its nepotism policy, examining its hiring procedures and modernizing record-keeping in its human resources department, according to a memo the top administrator of the upper house sent Friday to senators and employees. The memo from Greg Schmidt, the outgoing secretary of the Senate, also says the Senate is developing a code of conduct for the sergeant-at-arms office, which was tarnished this year by a sergeant who tested positive for cocaine the night he was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting. The sergeant’s mother, Dina Hidalgo, was the Senate’s director of human resources, causing a torrent of complaints from employees that she used her position to help family and friends land taxpayer-funded jobs. In response, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg fired the sergeant, Gerardo Lopez, and commissioned an independent investigation of the nepotism claims. Longtime chief Sergeant at Arms Tony Beard retired, acknowledging he had not reported Lopez’s drug use.

Sacramento Bee
California could drop its high school exit test
California students are getting better at passing the high school graduation exam, but the test may be on its way out. The state is in the midst of an education overhaul as schools begin adopting Common Core State Standards, national guidelines that proponents say focus more on critical thinking and problem-solving. California education leaders say an expected shift in classroom instruction and test methods will render the current exit exam obsolete. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has proposed alternatives to the California High School Exit Exam that include scrapping it altogether, using parts of the Common Core test instead or relying on college entrance exam performance to determine eligibility for graduation. Lawmakers are expected to take up the issue next year, though state education officials say a new test is unlikely until July 2017. Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell wrote the 1999 exit exam bill when he was a state senator and has defended the requirement against its critics. But even he agreed that the test needs to change to reflect new education standards. The exit exam includes math problems at the sixth- through eighth-grade level, as well as an English portion that tests at the 10th-grade level. All high school students in California, with the exception of some disabled students, must pass it to graduate. Students first take the test in 10th grade and can retake it in 11th and 12th grades. If they do not pass by 12th grade, they can take the test if they enroll in adult school.

Sacramento Bee
Cops waste more tax dollars busting small-time pot grower
Sheriff: Marijuana cultivation, processing operations found at Nevada County site
A Nevada County man has been arrested, accused of growing and selling marijuana, and operating a honey oil lab on property near Grass Valley that is owned by a Colorado resident. The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force and Major Crime Unit executed a search warrant Wednesday in the 20000 block of Big Spring Drive, in a rural area southwest of Grass Valley. The warrant was based on information relating to marijuana cultivation, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. No one was at the residence when authorities arrived. But detectives found a sophisticated honey oil lab, several thousand dollars in U.S. currency, an outdoor marijuana garden consisting of 36 plants, 30 to 40 pounds of processed marijuana, four marijuana recommendations from individuals who live outside Nevada County or who recently moved there, and evidence of online interstate marijuana sales, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. Detectives also found packaged product addressed to other states. A short time later, Kyle Perry, 35, an unemployed welder who lives at the Big Spring Drive address, was found away from the residence and arrested. Sheriff’s officials said Perry made a few brief statements before his arrest, admitting to the interstate sales and stating that he collects marijuana for his business from other growers in Nevada County in addition to what is grown on the Big Spring Drive property. Further evidence found at the scene indicated Perry has several business relationships pertaining to his online sales in the San Diego area, according to the news release.

San Francisco Chronicle
Advocates want more limits on Airbnb rentals added to Chiu plan
A broad coalition of housing activists, landlords, tenants, neighborhood groups and organized labor appeared Friday on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, urging stricter rules for pending legislation to legalize vacation rentals in private homes. The legislation, proposed by Supervisor David Chiu and sometimes informally called the Airbnb law because of that website’s popularity, is due to be heard by the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The proposal “is not ready for prime time,” said Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, who moderated the press conference of about a dozen “strange bedfellows” of groups — like tenants and landlords — not usually noted for cooperating. “If it goes forward, we will be giving away thousands of housing units.” Activists charge that some building owners divert units to be more-lucrative vacation rentals all year long, and that the proposal won’t rein in that practice. Chiu’s legislation, which was two years in the making and has been through hearings at the Planning Commission and Supervisors’ Land Use Committee, calls for all hosts to register with the city and restricts vacation rentals to permanent city residents who can rent out only one residence, among other provisions. Amendments added during the process would notify landlords when tenants apply to the registry, require hosts to carry $500,000 in liability insurance, allow the city to go after platforms like Airbnb and VRBO for violations, and require hosts to report how often they rent to tourists.

Daily News
Southern Californians endure longer waits at emergency rooms than most Americans
Covered California means you get access, but you don't necessarily get good treatment
Californians, especially those in Los Angeles County, endure longer waits in hospital emergency rooms than most Americans. There is scant evidence that the situation will get better anytime soon. If you go to an ER for a fever or broken bone or other urgent complaint, chances are that you’ll spend more than 21/2 hours inside — 23 minutes longer than the national wait. That’s according to statistics compiled in 2013 by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And if a doctor decides you must be admitted to the hospital, your wait will stretch even longer: Roughly 5 hours and 18 minutes from arrival to the decision to admit you, and nearly 2 hours more until a nurse or orderly tucks you into your bed. The waits are especially long at hospitals serving low-income patients in Los Angeles County. During 2013, ER patients at LA County-Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar waited about 7 hours and 28 minutes from arrival to release — longest in the state and second-longest in the nation behind Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. At 20 of the state’s ER’s the wait was so unbearable that at least 5 percent of the patients gave up and walked out before they could be treated. The emergency room is the one cog in the health care system that cannot turn away a patient.

NASA satellite shows just how poorly Califonria pols manage our water resources.



Unhappy about being out of water? Then stop voting for the morons who run the state's water policy.

Sacramento Bee
California’s 2013 violent-crime rate dropped to lowest level in 50 years
Californians today are less likely to be murdered or fall victim to violent crime than during any other time since the 1960s, according to new figures from the California Department of Justice. The murder rate last year was 4.6 killings per 100,000 California residents, an 8 percent decline from 2012 and a 64 percent decline from 1993, when cities throughout the state struggled to stop gang killings. The violent-crime rate last year was 397 per 100,000 Californians, down 7 percent from 2012 and a 64 percent decline from 1992. Experts have a variety of explanations for the decline, which is a long-term, nationwide trend. Top theories include better policing methods that use data to pinpoint crime hot spots, harsher criminal sentences for repeat crime offenders and a sharp drop in gang warfare. But the trend has also confounded many predictions. Some anticipated that California prison realignment would increase violent crime. It hasn’t. Others decried the rise of violent video games and music, but those forms of entertainment have been around for decades now and crime continues to fall. Others believed desperation from the recession would increase crime. It didn’t.



San Francisco Chronicle
He's a "good-hearted person" who occasionally beats up women
49ers Ray McDonald case given to Santa Clara District Attorney
Police in San Jose have turned the domestic violence case against Ray McDonald, the 49ers defensive lineman, to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which will review the evidence before deciding whether to press charges, prosecutors said Thursday. The move, announced by the district attorney’s office in a tweet, marks the first significant progress in the case since McDonald’s arrest in late August. McDonald, 30, was taken into custody about 2:45 a.m. Aug. 31 for allegedly causing “visible injuries” to his fiancee at his home on the 2500 block of Bentley Ridge Drive in San Jose. He was later released from jail on $25,000 bond. After being released from jail, McDonald told television reporters, “I can’t say too much, not right now, but the truth will come out. Everybody knows the kind of person that I am. I’m a good-hearted person.” The district attorney’s office said it will review the evidence and decide whether criminal charges are warranted or if the case requires further investigation. A spokesman would not comment on when that might happen.

San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco considers plan to use eminent domain to lower mortgages
Feckless bankers getting what they deserve from feckless pols
San Francisco may become the first city to partner with nearby Richmond on a groundbreaking program that would use eminent domain to lower home mortgages. Richmond was one of the hardest-hit cities in the Bay Area by the foreclosure crisis, but San Francisco has also felt the impacts with thousands of homeowners continuing to live with financial insecurity saddled by mortgage costs that could displace them. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is championing a program that would empower cities to use eminent domain power to seize underwater mortgages, which have a higher balance than the value of the home, from financial institutions and refinance them for the homeowner. While financial institutions have sued and criticized the effort, McLaughlin is asking cities like San Francisco to form a joint powers agreement to make the program a reality. The Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize negotiations to enter into the agreement under a proposal introduced by Supervisor John Avalos. To actually join would require a subsequent vote. The proposal was approved Wednesday by the board's budget committee. "The issue of distressed mortgages is real in San Francisco," Avalos said. "Data shows that there are hundreds of homes at risk right now and there are thousands more potentially at risk in the next few years. There is currently no tool available to really help these homeowners."

Los Angeles Times
Pols hoping you'll rat out your neighbors
Smartphone apps let neighbors report water wasters
With Californians being urged to cut water use as the state's historic drought drags on, a growing number of local water agencies are enlisting the public to play water cop with their smartphones. From Long Beach to Placer County, officials are rolling out apps that allow users to snap and send photos of homes and businesses that are violating watering restrictions or operating broken and wasteful irrigation systems. The apps put more boots on the ground to spot waste and leaks that might go unnoticed, officials say. They say the high-tech citizen reporting programs are intended to encourage water conservation, and not to be used as evidence to fine offenders. But at least one private company is taking things a step further. Creators of Vizsafe, a neighborhood watch app, have added a feature allowing users to map photos of water wasters — a practice dubbed "drought shaming" on Twitter and Instagram. The company's app provides people with useful information about their communities, said Peter Mottur, chief executive of Rhode Island-based Vizsafe. "People have a right to hold others accountable and that is what I think we are doing."

Steven Greenhut
Federal judge gives hope to busted cities
Stockton ruling says pensions can be cut in California bankruptcy
Public-employee pensions are not protected when a city goes belly-up, according to a ruling by the judge overseeing Stockton’s much-watched federal bankruptcy case. Judge Christopher Klein’s few words have re-energized the state’s disheartened pension-reform movement – and left the nation’s most-powerful pension fund reeling. Until now, there has been no way for California cities to get out from underneath the overly generous pension promises they have made to public employees over the past 15 years, the result in part of a pension-increasing bonanza spurred by 1999 legislation championed by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. CalPERS has argued successfully in many courts that municipalities cannot reduce pensions for public employees, even on a go-forward basis. That has reduced fiscally sound cities’ ability to shave costs. But CalPERS has taken that argument further by claiming cities must make their full pension payments – even when they no longer can pay their bills. The city passed a sales tax. It came to terms with most Wall Street creditors. But Franklin Templeton Investments – steamed that it would be offered only $4 million out of $36 million owed, while CalPERS wouldn’t lose a dime – challenged the bankruptcy by arguing that there was no reason pensions should be off the table. In the Detroit bankruptcy case, a federal judge also ruled that pensions are not sacrosanct. But CalPERS has argued that California law is much different. As an arm of the state government sanctioned by the state Constitution, CalPERS says it is not subject to the “supremacy clause” that allows federal law to trump state law. Judge Klein, however, disagreed in what the Sacramento Bee referred to as CalPERS’ “dreaded decision.” Klein still needs to rule on whether to accept the city’s workout plan. The judge has delayed that part of the decision and set the next hearing for Oct. 30, according to a report in the Stockton Record. The city is likely to stick to its “protect CalPERS at all costs” plan, regardless of Klein’s words saying that it could give CalPERS the heave-ho.

Los Angeles Times
Brown criticized for veto of bill to reform toxic substances agency
Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of a bill to reform the California Department of Toxic Substances Control is drawing indignation from community groups and state legislators who had pressed for broad changes at the troubled agency. Legislators said they were deciding whether to reintroduce legislation at year's end. Brown rejected the bill Monday, saying it would delay the department's plans to fix its problems internally. The bill, SB 812, was intended to address flaws in the agency's oversight of hazardous waste operations, including a growing backlog in renewing facility permits and failure to collect $194 million owed by companies and other parties for cleaning contaminated sites. Brown acknowledged in a veto message that the department needs more transparency and accountability. Delays with permits over decades have "resulted in an inadequate and unresponsive regulatory program," he said. The legislation would have set a three-year deadline for issuing permits for hazardous waste facilities, increased public disclosure requirements and established a citizen oversight committee, among other changes. Two dozen of the department's 118 permits for hazardous waste facilities have expired because they were issued more than 10 years ago. Such facilities are allowed to continue operating, but their permits may lack the most recent safeguards against the release of harmful chemicals.

Orange County Register
Law limits schools' tracking of student Facebook, Twitter accounts
Officials can now only check social media when student or school safety is at risk, and they must notify parents
Teachers, principals or administrators who monitor a student’s Facebook posts, Instagram photos or Twitter tweets must now notify the child’s parent under a new state law. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill aimed at better protecting the privacy of students by requiring that public schools only collect social media information if educators suspect a student is threatening harm, bullying or promoting any illegal activity against other students, staff or campuses. And school officials must inform the student’s parents that they are tracking or storing the information, although it is unclear under what time frame. “When taxpayer dollars are being used by a government agency to monitor minors, parents have a right to know what that data is being used for and how long it will be stored,” said the law’s author, state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles. Schools must now destroy social media records no later than one year after the student leaves the district. Some local students said they welcome the added layer of privacy, which goes into effect Jan. 1. “Schools should have a very good reason for spying on a student’s Twitter or Facebook postings,” said Ally Johnson, a senior at Canyon High in Anaheim Hills. “If it’s a matter of life and death, then it makes sense for schools to look through accounts.” Classmate Clarissa Rodriguez said she keeps her privacy settings very restrictive, so only allow her friends can see her posts.  “I don’t even like my parents looking through my feed, much less teachers or others at my school,” the senior said. “This should serve as a reminder that things you post online can be seen by many different types of people.”

R. Scott Moxley
DA Continues Dropping Cases To Avoid Disclosures
Up until Sept. 22, Santa Ana defense attorney Renee Garcia had waited more than 400 days for the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) to fully obey pretrial ethical rules about sharing evidence in an attempted murder case. Garcia wanted prosecutor Beth Costello to turn over records of informants who'd aided the government in what turned out to be a problematic solicitation-of-murder case against Garcia's client, Joseph Govey. The massive consumption of time included six months of Costello repeatedly assuring Garcia she would surrender the evidence but reneging each time. Realizing she was being stonewalled, the lawyer wrote three separate motions to Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals in hopes of compelling production of the records. But with Goethals favoring Garcia's position, Costello declared at a May 16 hearing she'd been mistaken by asserting there were no files whatsoever to share--especially on Alexander Frosio. He's one of the prosecution's key snitches and a serial residential burglar whom other inmates say worked at the request of Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) deputies to plant "happy cards"--mail laced with heroin--in targeted inmates' cells. Exactly three weeks later, Garcia showed the prosecutor gotcha evidence. In a different ongoing case in the same courthouse, Larry Yellin--one of Costello's colleagues--admitted the agency possessed a 3-inch-thick stack of Frosio-related informant records. The development drove Costello back to her original stance that there had been evidence all along, and she was now working to provide it to Garcia. The prosecutor explained the flip-flopping at that point by saying she'd been too busy on other cases to focus. Yet, precisely three weeks later, Costello--who'd then been assigned the Govey case for 815 days--flip-flopped on her previous flip-flop. She claimed again that no Frosio files existed and explained to Goethals that Yellin's declaration to the contrary "was new" to her. On that very day, one floor down in the county's central courthouse, Frosio testified before Judge William R. Froeberg in another case that he'd been ordered by OCSD deputies to memorialize his extensive snitching in writing and had given the records to officers.

San Francisco Chronicle
Latest defect: Bay Bridge tower rods sitting in water
Nearly every one of the 423 steel rods that anchor the tower of the new Bay Bridge eastern span to its base has been sitting in potentially corrosive water, Caltrans officials said Tuesday — one of the most serious construction defects found yet on the $6.4 billion project. Several of the high-strength, 25-foot-long rods inspected after the first signs of trouble appeared last month were found to be submerged in several feet of water, in part because not enough grout had been pumped into protective sleeves to keep them dry, officials told members of a bridge project oversight committee in Oakland. Six months before the bridge opened in September 2013, steel rods crucial to seismic-stabilizing structures on the bridge snapped when they were tensioned. On Tuesday, Caltrans revealed that rust and other signs of corrosion had been visible on those rods in 2011, but that no one had checked them further. Engineering a fix to those rods cost bridge toll payers $25 million, and another $20 million has been spent on tests to determine whether additional rods and bolts are at risk of failing. Other problems have been revealed since the bridge opened, including leaks that threaten to spread rust through steel structures that support road decks on the suspension span.

Sacramento Bee
Jerry Brown vetoes California political ethics bills
Rejecting major parts of an ethics package in a year tainted by scandal, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have required more campaign finance disclosure and reduced the value of gifts lobbyists can give state officials. In a message accompanying one of three ethics-related vetoes, Brown criticized legislation he said would needlessly make existing regulations more complex. Senate Bill 1443, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would have reduced to $200 from $440 the value of gifts an official can receive from a single source each year. It also would have prohibited officeholders from accepting free tickets to concerts, sporting events and theme parks. The bill would also have prohibited lawmakers from accepting golf green fees, skiing or hunting trips or spa treatments, and it would have barred officials or candidates for state office from accepting cash or gift cards. In vetoing the bill, Brown said that although politicians should be subject to constraint, “some balance and common sense is required.”

Sacramento Bee
Jerry Brown signs gun restraining-order bill
Gov. Jerry Brown took mixed action on several gun control bills Tuesday, approving a measure allowing temporary restraining orders to block gun use but vetoing legislation that would have required Californians to register homemade guns. Assembly Bill 1014, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was the Legislature’s central response to the lethal shooting in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara. It will allow family members of someone who is displaying signs of mental instability to request a court order temporarily barring gun use and purchase. Brown also signed Senate Bill 199, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, which will require toy guns to be brightly colored. Proponents cited incidents in which police officers have shot young Californians wielding realistic-looking toy guns. Brown vetoed Senate Bill 808, by de León, which would have required Californians to register firearms they make themselves. The bill was in response to concerns about the availability of homemade guns, including those produced by 3-D printers.

Daily News
Federal judge to rule on Stockton’s bankruptcy plan
A federal judge could rule on a bankruptcy exit plan for Stockton, the largest city in California to seek Chapter 9 protection. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein has scheduled a hearing Wednesday in Sacramento in a trial that has lasted more than four months. Connie Cochran, a Stockton spokeswoman, says the city is looking forward to exiting bankruptcy. It’s asking Klein to approve Stockton’s plan for reorganizing more than $900 million in long-term debt, while Franklin Templeton Investments wants the judge to reject it. The city has reached deals with all of its major creditors, except for Franklin, which took Stockton to trial.

Contra Costa Times
Judge denies PG&E request to remove San Bruno explosion references from federal criminal trial
PG&E's attempt to remove from its federal criminal trial all references to a fatal explosion of natural gas in San Bruno has been denied by a federal judge, in what's seen as the first of many skirmishes leading up to a trial of the utility. PG&E has been accused of 28 felony criminal counts, including one count that charges obstruction of an investigation into the explosion, and 27 counts of alleged violations of the federal pipeline safety act. A conviction could lead to a fine of $1.13 billion against the utility. "The indictment's references to the San Bruno explosion are relevant," U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson ruled in a 14-page order. The order was filed Monday evening with the court. With this decision, the first confrontation in what's expected to be a protracted battle between the federal prosecutors and the PG&E defense team has resulted in a victory for the government. Still, legal experts point out this is only the start of an extensive process.
Dan Walters
Record low voter turnout looms in California
California, which set a record for low participation in June’s primary election, will likely set another low mark for a general election in November.

Dan Walters
Jerry Brown has two paths for 4th term
If Brown intends to spend political capital on difficult, long-festering governance issues, he deserves four more years. If he intends, however, to merely check a few more items off his bucket list, that’s another story.

Steven Greenhut
Decision puts rail ‘caboose before engine’
High court won't consider appeal, lets high-speed rail authority float bonds
If the rail authority can move forward with such an enormous project even though it seems to conflict dramatically with the specifics of the initiative approved by voters, how binding is the wording of any initiative? It’s hard to believe the state’s highest court didn’t find such matters important enough to consider.

Steven Greenhut
Senate leader chooses a grandiose start
My how the tone has changed in Sacramento in a short time, given the nature of Wednesday night’s inauguration of Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, as the Senate’s new president pro tempore. When Jerry Brown was inaugurated as governor in 2011, he gave a 16-minute speech that focused on “courage and sacrifice” at Sacramento’s aging Memorial Auditorium. The Christian Science Monitor called it an “austere ceremony” that “set the tone” for his governorship. It was all about California. De León’s inauguration was anything but austere. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inauguration was garish, but he was elected governor. Legislative leaders are selected by their peers to these administrative roles. In May, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, had a long and laudatory, but tasteful, ceremony in the Assembly chambers. The Senate in particular ought to be careful about imagery. In the past year, it has been plagued by scandals: allegations of staff nepotism, a senator's drunken-driving-related arrest following photographed partying on a Capitol patio, the conviction of a senator on perjury charges, and the suspension of two other senators who face federal corruption charges. If the Senate ever needed to show a little humility, now would be the ideal time.

Scott Herold
The campaign of fear comes to the San Jose mayor's race
The New York Times ran a piece last weekend about how Republicans and conservative talk show hosts have been harping on Ebola, the beheadings by the Islamic State and the flubs of the Secret Service. Their point is to show that the world is so bleak under the leadership of Barack Obama that people should turn to the GOP. Never mind that they overstate the threat, or that blaming Obama for it all misses the mark. Scaring voters is effective politics. The Republicans want control of the U.S. Senate. Something similar is unfolding here in San Jose, though the ideological platform is very different. The scare tactics here are coming primarily from the advocates of Supervisor Dave Cortese for mayor, particularly the unionized cops and firefighters.

Dan Morain
McClintock is no paragon of bipartisanship
Suddenly, Rep. Tom McClintock is portraying himself as willing to work with Democrats. But the
conservative Republican did not quite have that reaching-across-the-aisle thing down when he showed up for a debate of his choosing – at 7 a.m. Tuesday at Auburn City Hall – with his challenger, Art Moore. McClintock, 58, is seeking a fourth term in Congress and almost certainly will win. But Moore, 37, an underfunded neophyte making his first run for public office, might be throwing a bit of scare into him. That wouldn’t be bad.

Dan Walters

Torlakson-Tuck contest is just one front in war over California public education
Even at a superficial level, the contest between two Democrats for the supposedly nonpartisan office of state superintendent of schools is interesting. The CTA and its rivals are spending millions on the Torlakson-Tuck contest, which is too close to call. Regardless of who wins, however, the war over California schools will continue.

Dan Walters
Democratic supermajorities at risk with taxes in background
The biggest election issue this year, at least among Capitol insiders, is whether Democrats can regain their supermajority in the Senate and hold their 55-seat supermajority, now just one over the two-thirds mark, in the Assembly. The latter appears to be the more likely.

Steven Greenhut
Senate secrecy latest sign of bad culture
California’s top legislative body, the state Senate, does not lack pretension, as senators pass far-reaching bills and prattle about the nobility of public service. Yet its high pretensions have run up against some lowdown scandals, the latest of which surfaced in a bizarre Sacramento criminal trial this week.

Steven Greenhut
Power drunk' agency slams small winery
Vintner closing doors after fined for use of volunteer labor
Last fall, my wife and I spent a Sunday afternoon at a small winery in the Sierra foothills picking grapes and crushing them in some contraption — followed by a picnic and wine drinking. It was lovely, but unbeknownst to us, state officials apparently believe that we and our fellow volunteer grape-pickers were being exploited.

New York Times
Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem
After years of playing down the problem, technology companies like Google, Facebook and Apple now say they’re serious about improving the gender and ethnic diversity of their work forces and corporate boards. Recent data from those companies and others like them confirm what everyone has long known: Most of their employees are white and Asian men. Among technical employees, few are women, and even fewer are Latino or African-American.

Dan Walters
Six-state measure would have given regional governments a boost
Draper’s regional governance provision is why, one suspects, his measure drew such vehement opposition from unions and other liberal groups, which have benefited from an ever-more-powerful state government dominated by friendly Democrats.

Dan Walters
Brown honors principle of subsidiarity sometimes
If consistently applied, subsidiarity would represent a major reversal of several decades of concentrating authority in Sacramento, ever since Proposition 13, enacted during Brown’s first governorship, restricted the ability of local governments to raise tax revenue. Brown has not been consistent, however, citing the principle when it’s convenient but ignoring it on other occasions.

YUNLEI YANG
Asian Americans would lose out under affirmative action
A recent Field Poll claimed that most registered voters and Asian Americans in California support affirmative action. Based on the poll data, Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of public policy and political science at UC Riverside, indicated that the intense opposition to State Constitutional Amendment 5 (or SCA-5) earlier this year, an attempt to restore affirmative action in California's public universities, "was primarily concentrated among a small group of Asian American activists, with the more numerous silent majority still supportive of affirmative action." As an official with the Silicon Valley Chinese Assn., which was a major force behind SCA-5's defeat, I find the poll question misleading and Ramakrishnan's reasoning deeply flawed.

Steven Greenhut
New laws make case for direct democracy
Given the volume of bills, it’s hard to find a theme for the past session. So I turn to the curmudgeonly journalist, the late H.L. Mencken, for a tried-and-true theme: “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” This Legislature seemed to specialize in offering solutions that probably won’t work as planned.

Fresno Bee
State Senate should release report on nepotism
The California Senate spent $98,000 in taxpayer money to pay a private law firm to investigate a sordid story of nepotism and cronyism in the Senate. Last Tuesday, the Senate refused to release the final report into how public servants used and misused their positions of authority to hire, protect and coddle friends and family. Without transparency, this $98,000 investigation is just another government cover-up.

Steven Greenhut
Study and fracas put pensions in focus
When it comes to reforming California’s underfunded public-pension systems, "progress" has been coming in the one-step-forward, two-steps-backward variety, with new funding problems still outpacing any local and state reforms.

Dan Walters
Californians with gold fever strike a legal lode
California explosively emerged as a place of importance – and quickly became a state – for one reason only: the 1848 discovery of gold in the American River. Gold seekers poured into the state from around the world, creating what is still a unique society in what had been a remote coastal frontier, and the rest is, as they say, history. Gold fever eventually abated, but 166 years after James Marshall spotted those flecks of gold in John Sutter’s sawmill at Coloma, some folks still seek what gold panners and the later hydraulic miners left behind in streams.

Dan Walters
Jerry Brown hands United Farm Workers a setback
What goes around comes around. Jerry Brown devoted much of his first governorship to seeking other offices, so his record of accomplishment was scant. He’s often touted a 1975 deal to give farmworkers, excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, union rights in California, supposedly settling years of strife between the United Farm Workers Union and growers. However, it merely ignited decades of new strife, which continues with Brown’s recent veto of a new farm labor bill.

Dan Walters
New definition of recidivism minimizes political fallout from prison realignment
What’s in a word? A lot. Criminologist Michael Maltz defines “recidivism” as “the reversion of an individual to criminal behavior after he or she has been convicted of a prior offense, sentenced and (presumably) corrected.” Prior to 2011, California was infamous not only for its immense prison population – way over capacity, federal judges decreed – but for parolees’ high rates of recidivism. Under pressure from the judges, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature enacted “realignment.” Those newly convicted of nonserious, nonsexual and nonviolent felonies would be diverted into local jails and probation systems, thereby shrinking the inmate population by attrition to a legal level. Moreover, as inmates also deemed to be low-risk were released from prison, they also would go into local supervision, rather than the state’s parole system. Counties would be paid billions of dollars to take the “realigned” felons and, it was assumed, would implement programs to reduce the high recidivism rate. From the state’s standpoint, realignment has been a roaring success, dramatically reducing the prison population to very near the court’s designated level. There is, however, continuing controversy over whether the realigned felons who otherwise might be in prison are committing new crimes in serious numbers, as well as complaints that their stretches in local jails are merely substituting local overcrowding for state prison overcrowding.

Steven Greenhut
Should voters or judges expand councils?
Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox has been touting a statewide initiative that would increase the number of legislators. The goal — admirable, in my mind — was to create a more responsive Legislature by carving out smaller districts, but Californians didn’t warm to the notion of 12,000 Assembly members and senators. Yet the idea of improving democratic representation by expanding the number of elected officials hasn’t gone away. If the governor signs into law a bill sitting on his desk, Californians may see county boards of supervisors and city councils vastly expanded. Because it could be done via court order rather than through a voter initiative, it has sparked some real concern. SB 1365 is a priority of the Latino Caucus, which believes Latino voters are not adequately represented. Its supporters are pitching the measure in benign terms, championing it as a means to assure that newly drawn council districts aren’t gerrymandered to dilute minority voting power. Sen. Alex Padilla, the Pacoima Democrat who is running to be secretary of state in the November election, describes his measure as a way to strengthen voting rights after the U.S. Supreme Court reduced federal oversight of election districts. But some well-known Latino activists are sounding the warning alarms about the bill also, in part because it gives judges the ability to impose remedies without any real limits.

Dan Walters
Would permanent income tax hike cause exodus of rich?
When California taxpayers voted two years ago to sharply – albeit, temporarily – raise income taxes on the state’s highest-income residents, they touched off a debate over whether it would spur the rich to flee to low- or no-tax locales, such as neighboring Nevada. There have been some anecdotal accounts of such movement, but no evidence of a mass exodus, even though California had raised marginal income tax rates, including federal taxes, to more than 50 percent for the highest-income taxpayers. The debate is likely to heat up again because unions and their allies in the Legislature are beginning to talk about extending the 2012 tax increases or making them permanent, most likely via a ballot measure in 2016.

Steven Greenhut
Tight superintendent race highlights deep Democratic Party divisions
Recent polls show most Democratic candidates for statewide office holding significant leads over their GOP rivals, which means the most intensely fought and ideologically charged race in the November election is between two Democrats. That’s the race for the little-noticed position of superintendent of public instruction.

Dan Walters

It’s pot harvest time, so the annual war resumes
This is harvest time on California’s scenic, sparsely populated North Coast – and that means the half-century-long war between marijuana growers and cops has resumed.

Dan Walters
Beach access bill puts Brown in middle of class war
The Legislature adjourned Aug. 30, but that didn’t mean the lawmaking season was over. As legislators fled, they left behind hundreds of bills for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto with a Sept. 30 deadline, creating a new arena for conflict. As governors are wont to do, Brown has singled out certain bills for splashy signing ceremonies at which he and other politicians preen for television cameras. And he’s leaving the most controversial measures for the final days of the month, thereby sparking intense efforts by proponents and opponents to influence him. There’s no shortage of such measures, but none has stirred more public debate, or private lobbying, than Senate Bill 968, whose stated purpose is to gain public access to a small beach in San Mateo County called Martins Beach.

Dan Walters
Propositions 45 and 46 latest skirmishes in war over big money in health care
By any measure, health care is now California’s largest single economic sector, churning well over $200 billion a year in private and public funds each year, and growing fast. It was once ignored by Capitol politicians, but it’s now big business involving big money – as well as a personal priority for 38 million Californians – and sparks high-octane political conflict. Divvying up health care dollars generates countless bits of legislation each year, and, not surprisingly, a steady stream of ballot measures, including two this year.

Dan Walters
Pending bill would change initiative system – for the better?
By word and deed, the state’s politically dominant Democrats have demonstrated that they want to substantially alter California’s century-old initiative system that allows voters to legislate directly through the ballot box. They say they want to improve the system. But the Democrats’ many bills have mostly tried to make it more difficult for their conservative political rivals to place measures on the ballot, while preserving the system for their allies, such as labor unions.

Bill Dwyre
This should be final straw for NFL's robotic Roger Goodell
Going into Friday's news conference in New York, the question was whether Roger Goodell would resign. Coming out of it, the question is whether he will be fired. Not likely. This corporate employee served well his corporate bosses, the 32 NFL owners. They were probably thrilled with his performance. Most of the rest of the free world was appalled. The reviews ranged from disappointment to horror. If this had been a Broadway play, the theater's doors would be closing right now.

Tammerlin Drummond
Who will break from the pack in Oakland mayor's race?
In 2008, we had 10 candidates running for Oakland mayor. This year, there are 15. If that sounds insane, it's because it is. So far, no one has broken from the pack.

Dan Walters
Three obscure bills show how big policy gets buried
The Legislature was in full sausage-factory mode during the last days of the biennial session that ended on Aug. 30, spewing hundreds of bills onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. In time-dishonored fashion, many of the bills were either newly minted or underwent last-minute changes and therefore received only cursory attention. Buried in them were some fairly significant changes of public policy.

Dan Walters
If bicyclists want respect and safety, they should act like they deserve it
We get it that bicyclists want respect and protection as they share roads with cars. But the flip side is that bicyclists need to drop the arrogance that too many exhibit as they cut in and out of traffic, blow through red lights and stop signs, and imperil pedestrians by careening down sidewalks. The three-foot clearance law should be matched by one that absolutely prohibits bicycles on sidewalks statewide with stiff fines for violation, and another that makes hit-and-run bicycling just as much a crime as hit-and-run driving. Moreover, if bicyclists want to be taken seriously, they should also be paying some of the cost of marking bicycle lanes and building bike paths, rather than making motorists pick up the tab, as the pending bill would do. Fair is fair. With privileges come responsibilities, both legal and financial. And receiving respect means acting like you deserve it.

Dan Walters
Brown dons rose-tinted glasses for his look backward
Those entering old age – psychologically, not necessarily chronologically – often embrace rose-tinted nostalgia, a yearning for times past when, they believe, life was better.

Steven Greenhut
'Rail’ question: Is initiative a blank check?
State supreme court asked to review high-speed rail go-ahead
Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, but I would nevertheless love to see some consistency from Gov. Jerry Brown in advocating which major state-related legal cases should be challenged.

Dan Walters
Taxes on rich closed the state budget deficit
As Jerry Brown seeks his fourth term as governor this year, he’s crowing about balancing the state budget after years of deficits that piled up a “wall of debt.” Certainly Brown deserves some of the credit. He moderated the spending ambitions of his fellow Democrats and, more importantly, persuaded voters to enact temporary sales and income tax hikes, the latter only on the highest-income taxpayers. Those boosts, when coupled with the state’s emergence from the worst recession since the Great Depression, sharply increased the state’s general fund revenue over the last few years, from about $86 billion when Brown was running in 2010 to over $106 billion during the current fiscal year. But the tax increase accounts for perhaps a third of the revenue gain. While criticizing the widening gap between “one-percenters” and the rest of us is popular, the fiscal reality is that California’s budget probably would still be drowning in red ink were it not for taxes on income gains by those atop the economic food chain.

Daily News
GMO crops still need California oversight
A new investigative report by Hearst Newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, on GMO experiments along our Central Coast raises issues that should be a concern to Californians. Such as: “... altered corn is growing with federal approval 100 feet from a steelhead stream in San Luis Obispo County, in designated critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog,” according to the Chronicle. “Agriculture Department inspectors have reported two ‘incidents’ at the site, including conventional corn sprouting in a 50-foot fallow zone.” Outdoor experiments where rains and birds can carry seeds far away need to have closer oversight so that big-bucks corporate agriculture doesn’t wreak havoc with the greater California good.

Debra J. Saunders
Bad law on campus rape deserves governor's veto
In its wisdom (such as it is), the Legislature passed a measure that would change the standard of sexual consent on California campuses. Gov. Jerry Brown should veto this bill. If the University of California and other institutions that receive state-funded student aid want to demonstrate that they have "no tolerance for any form of sexual violence" when students report rape - as state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has argued - then they should call the cops. Not academic panels.

Dan Walters
Peterson may have best shot at GOP win this year
If Republicans have any chance this year of winning statewide office in this blue state, it probably rests on the shoulders of Pete Peterson, who’s running for secretary of state, or Ashley Swearengin, the GOP candidate for state controller.

Dan Walters
Brown’s two big legacy projects still face high hurdles
Jerry Brown’s two big legacy projects, a north-south bullet train and twin water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, are approaching points of no return. They face legal, regulatory and financial hurdles that must be cleared for them to proceed. The next few months – a year at the most – may determine their fates.

Dan Walters
Debra Bowen should have revealed depression earlier
Eight years ago, a state legislator named Debra Bowen was elected secretary of state, promising to use her expertise in technology to modernize what had been a ministerial backwater of California government. One of Bowen’s early acts in office was to virtually end a shift to touch-screen voting that her predecessors had begun, citing concerns about security. It made her a heroine to those on the political left, who had become paranoid about manipulating voting results, and earned her a John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. Seemingly, Bowen could look ahead to a bright future in California politics, using her office as a springboard to bigger and better things. But it didn’t happen. After making that initial splash, Bowen retreated from the public stage. And if anything, the Secretary of State’s Office – which oversees elections and maintains public records – regressed. One can sympathize with Bowen’s illness, certainly, but if it was as debilitating as depicted, she should have owned up to it much earlier. She won the office on a promise to improve its performance, but by many measures it has regressed. If she was incapable of doing her job, as the article implies, she should have done the honorable thing and resigned in favor of someone who could do it.

Dan Walters
As home care program shifts, adversarial relationship evolves
Fifteen years ago, without even a pro forma hearing, the Legislature and then-Gov. Gray Davis decreed an immense expansion of union membership by transforming hundreds of thousands of home care aides into public employees. The decree, in legislation designed as a budget “trailer bill,” initially made the In-Home Supportive Services caregivers employees of newly created county agencies, even though state and federal governments picked up most of the cost. Two years ago, however, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown began to merge IHSS with other social services and shift the negotiation of union contracts for aides – who are selected by care recipients and usually family members – to a new statewide “authority.” As that county-by-county shift occurs, IHSS will become, in effect, a state program with nearly 400,000 employees. While IHSS unions like the shift to state bargaining, it’s creating a new and semi-adversarial relationship between them and the state. The just-concluded legislative session provided some clues to that evolving relationship.

Steven Greenhut
Kashkari defies GOP's low expectations
“When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have,” the physicist Stephen Hawking once said. Those words jumped out Thursday night, as I watched the one and only California gubernatorial debate pitting Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown against Republican political rival Neel Kashkari. Republicans have zero expectations for winning the race. In fact, Kashkari’s only selling point early on was that he is not Tim Donnelly, the loose-lipped conservative Assemblyman that GOP leaders feared would embarrass them at some point during a long campaign. Bullet dodged and expectations met.

Dan Walters
Kashkari goes on attack but doesn’t score breakthrough on Brown
Political debates are all about expectations, and going into Thursday night’s one-and-only face-off between Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican challenger Neel Kashkari, the expectations gap was as wide as the Carrizo Plain. Brown maintained his cool and his message, the debate produced nothing that would resonate and slow his own momentum toward a historic fourth term.

Dan Walters
Unelected bureaucrats and boards continue to acquire more power
Last weekend, as the Legislature’s biennial session was grinding to a close, The Sacramento Bee published a commentary by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, invoking the 2,000th anniversary of Roman dictator Caesar Augustus’ death and decrying the expanding powers of unelected bureaucrats and political appointees. Gatto wrote, “Now it is the executive branch that makes most ‘laws.’ They are called regulations, but they have the effect of law and are just as binding. Yet these bureaucrats were never elected and do not answer to the people. By appointing people to these executive agencies and by telling them what to do, a governor or president can broadly dictate the day-to-day affairs of millions of Americans with almost no outward signs of wielding that power. And if a legislature dares to try to override some regulation, the governor or president can simply veto the bill. This is a serious imbalance of power.” Well said. And the just-concluded session offered new examples of how powers of unelected bureaucrats and appointees continue to expand. Take, for example, the California Coastal Commission, which was created 38 years ago, it was said, to protect public access to California’s beaches.

Dan Walters
Legislature’s marathon finale a time-dishonored ritual
Rituals – some formal, some unspoken – are intrinsic to any society, even if they may be unfathomable to outsiders. Fraternal lodges, college sororities, criminal gangs, political parties, baseball teams, service clubs, labor unions, military units, religious sects and countless other organizations – and whole nations – employ rituals to solidify group identification. Then there’s the state Capitol, a community of several thousand politicians, staff members and lobbyists inside – but largely isolated from – a larger city. The Capitol is infused with rituals, some engraved in rules and law, but many just traditions. One of them is that the end of any legislative session must be a marathon, running into the wee hours in which odd things happen. New bills pop up, old ones thought dead are resurrected and some magically acquire amendments of uncertain origin.

Sacramento Bee
Legislators take a walk rather then expand campaign disclosure
In the legislative session just ended, state lawmakers gave speeches and cast votes intended to show they are on the side of good and open government. They did, in fact, approve some noteworthy restrictions on how they do business. But they took a collective walk on one of the most far-reaching measures of the year, Senate Bill 52. SB 52 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, sought to help voters understand who is behind campaigns for and against ballot measures by requiring that the identities of the donors be listed clearly on radio and television commercials. The bill, sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, sought to require disclosure of the first few donors to a measure. It would apply to the left and right, corporate and labor. Tobacco giant Philip Morris, oil magnates Charles and David Koch, San Francisco billionaire-environmentalist Tom Steyer, Service Employees International Union and California Teachers Association all would be identified. Many opponents had unsheathed their knives ready to kill the bill. Corporate donors disliked the disclosure requirement, perhaps not surprisingly. But union lobbyists and attorneys contended the bill would have imposed untenable burdens on labor donors, and drove the final spike into the bill. Politicians and donors will find ways around the rules, if they are so inclined. But they made some gestures by approving the legislation. For that, they deserve credit. In 2015, however, they need to return to the issue of disclosure, the one reform that actually serves its function by informing the public.

Dan Walters
‘California Comeback’ hasn’t helped everyone
As Gov. Jerry Brown runs for re-election, he has adopted “California Comeback” – voiced during his State of the State address in January – as his informal slogan. Not surprisingly, therefore, Brown’s Employment Development Department issued a report last week, keyed to Labor Day, crowing that California has recovered – numerically – all of the 1.3 million jobs it lost during the recession. “California is helping lead the nation in solid job growth, which has enabled us to put the recession behind us,” said EDD Director Patrick W. Henning Jr. A day later, the left-leaning California Budget Project released its annual Labor Day report and didn’t buy into the everything-is-rosy scenario painted by the governor and his minions.

Dan Morain
A McDavid and Goliath story
Senate Bill 610 would not have gotten out of the Assembly without support from Assemblyman Scott Wilk, a Santa Clarita Republican, the only Republican who voted for it. “It is big business, it’s big labor, and it’s big government around here,” Wilk told me. “No one represents the little guy. We don’t take into account the guy who makes the economy run.” Wilk took a position contrary to franchise corporations even though he had taken $3,500 in campaign donations from McDonald’s earlier this year. He told me he “heard whispers” that he was “in trouble” as a result of the vote. “Whatever,” he said. “I’m not here to represent K Street. I’m here to represent my constituents.”

Aubry Stone
Don’t shut out black residents from clean energy revolution
I’m very troubled by the obvious slight the renewable energy industry – in particular solar – is giving African Americans in Southern California and around the state. Like everyone else, the African American community needs to be involved in the clean energy revolution. Sadly, we are not. Current public policies serve as a barrier to entry for African Americans to take advantage of these green energy sources.
 

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