To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Transit tax failure has backers seeking changes to California law


 L.A. County's transit tax missed the two-thirds approval needed to pass by less than 1 percentage point. Some blame Proposition 13 for creating too high a threshold.


After watching a potentially $90-billion transportation sales tax fail by less than a percentage point, backers of Measure J this week called for a change in the state law that requires no less than a two-thirds majority vote for passage of tax increases.

After Los Angeles County election officials finished the final Nov. 6 count in recent days, the measure won 66.11% of the ballots but fell short of passing the two-thirds majority by 0.56 of a percentage point. Nearly 3 million total votes were cast on the measure.

"The two-thirds threshold is an excessive barrier to progress and it needs to change," said Matt Szabo, head of the Yes on J effort and a former top aide to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had pushed to extend an existing half-cent, 30-year sales tax for transit another three decades, until 2069.

Supporters included a well-heeled array of civic and business leaders such as billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, the L.A. Dodgers and Villaraigosa, as well as large unions such as Unite Here, corporations such as Occidental Petroleum and major developers such as Anschutz Entertainment Group, that together contributed millions to the campaign.

Working against them was a small coalition of groups with assorted grievances against the county's transit agency. Compared with the Yes on J campaign, they were largely unfunded and relied on phone banks and working the pavement because they could not afford a television advertising blitz or mass mailers.

"We knew that if we just simply came together and told the truth about the measure and reminded people about the way that this [L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority] board operates in terms of not being responsive to community concerns, not responsive to riders' concerns," that they would vote against it, said Damien Goodmon, a longtime transit activist and Metro critic.

"It wasn't a vote against mass transit, it was a vote against inadequate return of our tax dollars," Goodmon said.

But Measure J supporters say the Nov. 6 vote shows that an overwhelming majority of county residents wanted to extend the tax — which Metro officials say would have allowed them to borrow against future tax revenue to build some projects faster, including a subway to the Westside.

"L.A. County overwhelmingly voted for progress, and that threshold does not reflect the will of the vast majority of voters and it needs to be lowered," Szabo said, adding that after the election, some voters thought the measure had passed because "no rational person looks at 66% and assumes that's a loss."

Szabo is a candidate for City Council, and it's unclear if Measure J's failure will hurt his campaign. Szabo, however, said he "would be more than happy to get 66.1% of the vote in my race."

Denny Zane, executive director of the pro-J group Move L.A., pointed to several reasons the measure fell short, such as lower voter turnout compared with four years ago. But he mostly put the blame on the late anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis and Proposition 13, which mandated two-thirds approval for tax increases.

"Losing Measure J by 0.56 [of a percentage point] even as it won 66.11% of the popular vote is a painful and, frankly, appalling reminder that the ghost of Howard Jarvis still hovers over California," Zane said. "Only in California would 66% of the vote be a defeat instead of a landslide victory."

No formal campaign to overturn the two-thirds requirement has been launched, but Zane said he and several other activists are going "the Johnny Appleseed" route, meaning they are beginning to plant the idea of a campaign in stakeholders' and lawmakers' minds. He said one idea is lowering the requirement from a two-thirds majority to 55%.

Zane has publicly called on Gov. Jerry Brown to help lead the charge, saying he could use the momentum of winning Proposition 30 — a sales tax measure to provide money for schools — and other recent Democratic gains across the state to buttress the cause.

"Would he work with us to change the local voter threshold for new transportation revenue sources?" Zane asked.

A spokesperson for Brown would not say whether the governor would be interested in championing the campaign, saying only that Brown "has not issued a public comment on this issue."
Japan orders tunnel inspections after Sasago collapse 


 The Japanese government has ordered emergency inspections of road tunnels across the country following a deadly roof collapse west of Tokyo.

Nine people were confirmed dead after concrete panels collapsed and started a fire in the Sasago tunnel, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital on Sunday. An inquiry into the Sasago collapse has also been launched. Officials from the highway operator suggested that metal rods securing the concrete panels may have loosened.

Japanese media report that the ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism has ordered highway operators overseeing tunnels similar to Sasago to carry out emergency inspections.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Tokyo says intrusive inspections of at least 20 tunnels of a similar age and design will now be carried out.

Smoke billows from the Sasago tunnel He says the focus of the investigation into the Sasago incident will consider why an inspection just two months ago did not spot anything wrong.

Japanese media say that for more than 30 years the company that owns the tunnel had relied on rudimentary visual inspections, with no reinforcement or repairs since construction.

Motohiro Takamisawa, from Central Nippon Expressway (Nexco), which operates Sasago, said metal rod failure could have been to blame.

"At this moment we're presuming that the top anchor bolts have come loose," he said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference on Monday: "The prime minister ordered the transport ministry to put the utmost efforts to rescue victims, to quickly investigate the cause of the accident and to establish measures to prevent similar accidents and to provide a counselling service to victims."

Rescue crews finally began bringing the bodies of the nine dead out of the tunnel on Monday morning.

Some were reported to have been so badly burned they would take days to identify. Three charred and smashed vehicles could also be seen being pulled from the tunnel's mouth, our correspondent says. Among the dead was a truck driver who had on Sunday called his company from his mobile phone saying he was trapped.

Five bodies were also recovered from a van. They were identified as three men and two women, all in their 20s and from Tokyo, Kyodo news agency reported. Another woman, 28, who had been in the vehicle survived.

Three bodies were found in another car. A fire broke out after the tunnel caved in at 08:00 local time on Sunday (23:00 GMT Saturday). A number of survivors fled to safety on foot. Pictures from closed circuit TV cameras showed a section of up to 100m (328ft) had caved in on the Tokyo-bound lanes on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi prefecture.

The twin-bore Sasago tunnel is one of the longest in Japan at 4.3km (2.7 miles). (BBC)

Port strike: Federal mediator arriving tonight to help broker deal


By Brian Sumers Staff Writer
Updated:   12/04/2012 12:21:27 PM PST
  LONG BEACH, CALIF. USA -- Trucks line up on Pier J Avenue. as they wait to get in to Cosco, one of the few terminals open during the clerical workers strike, in the Port of Long Beach on December 3, 2012. Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer (Jeff Gritchen)

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa helped two sides in a debilitating labor strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach agree to bring in a federal mediator, who will arrive tonight, officials said Tuesday.

Though union and management officials worked all night to try to negotiate a deal that would end a weeklong shutdown, no
12/4/12 - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference at Banning's Landing Community Center to update the negotiation status of the port strike on Tuesday morning. Both sides of the labor dispute have agreed to federal mediation. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer
meaningful progress was made. Villaraigosa arrived at the site of negotiations on Banning's Landing in Wilmington to assist at midnight Monday, fresh from a South American trade trip.

He helped the sides agree to bring in Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen, who is scheduled to arrive in the negotiation room at 8 p.m.

Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said he was uneasy about bringing in outside help.

"The union didn't think it was necessary," he said. "The union always feels it's best to deal directly. But if the federal mediator helps get the deal done that protects working families, communities, and our country, then it's worth a

Villaraigosa has previous experience with labor negotiations, but both sides were too far apart to come to an agreement by Tuesday morning.

"They need a third-party intervention," Villaraigosa said. "That's what they have agreed to and that's what I'm announcing now.

"I don't have a magic wand. I can't dictate to management or labor what their bottom line is."

The key issue at the center of the disagreement is over staffing levels. Negotiators with the ILWU Local
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended a press conference at the Port of Los Angeles Tuesday morning to announce that union representatives and port employers will huddle with a federal mediator to try and end the strike. (Brittany Murray/Staff Photographer)
63 Office Clerical Unit want to protect employment for as many of their members as possible, while management officials want more flexibility to control the number of temporary and full-time office workers they hire. Essentially, management does not want to hire workers unless they are needed.

The strike began at midday Nov. 27 when some members of the Office Clerical Unit - one of the smallest ILWU locals with only about 800 total members - walked off the job at APM Terminals Pacific Ltd., the largest terminal operator at the Port of Los Angeles. It spread on Wednesday, effectively shutting down three of six terminals in Long Beach and seven of eight terminals in Los Angeles after other union members refused to cross the picket lines. Those terminals remained closed today.

President Barack Obama has weighed in on the strike, calling it a priority that needs quick resolution.

"I can just tell you that we - and that includes the president - continue to monitor the situation in Los Angeles closely and urge the parties to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible," Jay Carney, White House press secretary told reporters at a press briefing.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Business Federation today issued an urgent call for accelerated, nonstop contract talks to end the strike that has hobbled cargo terminals at the nation's busiest shipping complex.

BizFed joined with the National Retail Federation and nearly 90 other business organizations across the country to urge the Obama administration to intervene in the dispute.

"Time is of the essence. This strike's economic impact is already estimated at as much as $1 billion a day in lost wages, revenue for business and cargo value," said BizFed Chairman John Kelsall, president and CEO of the Greater Lakewood Chamber of Commerce. "Jobs as well as our regional and national economic recovery are at stake."

Combined, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach account for more than 1 million direct and indirect jobs in the region, and move 40 percent of all containerized trade in the country. More than $400 billion worth of goods flow through the ports annually, which support nearly 3 million jobs in a vast supply chain across the country.

BizFed represents more than 100 business groups with more than 185,000 businesses across Southern California. BizFed members include trade groups throughout the goods movement supply chain, as well as the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach and the Harbor Trucking Association.

"The economic toll of this strike will have a profound ripple effect across our economy at the worst possible time," said David Fleming, BizFed founding chairman. "A quick resolution is critical so our nation's powerhouse ports don't lose ground in this fiercely competitive global trade environment. Our nation and region can least afford another setback."

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federal said, "The retail community needs leadership from policymakers in Washington.

"The ongoing labor situation affects a multitude of industries and businesses, including retail," Shay said. "From farmers to factory workers, the ongoing port disruption is causing significant harm to the economy and needs to be resolved now.

"We can't sit by idly as shipment after shipment remains unloaded. Store shelves could soon see shortages of popular holiday gifts and production lines soon could shut down as imports and exports are disrupted. We need immediate intervention now."

Transit Sales Tax Measure Loses, But Streetcar Tax Wins



on December 4, 2012 12:20 AM

 Map: Via Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc.