Purpose

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Citing budget constraints, Pasadena Unified to issue 82 layoff notices

 http://www.pasadenasun.com/the626now/tn-626-0227-citing-budget-constraints-pasadena-unified-to-issue-82-layoff-notices,0,1067995.story

 Joe Piasecki, February 27, 2013


Pasadena Unified school board members voted 4-3 on Tuesday to issue pink slips for 82 teachers, counselors and nurses as part of cost-cutting measures to address declining public school enrollment and close an anticipated budget gap of as much as $12 million.

Officials initially proposed a package of 160 potential layoffs — including 52 elementary school teachers, 11 school counselors, seven nurses and the school district’s four remaining librarians — but whittled the list down during a lengthy public discussion.

Of the 82 approved layoff notices, 22 were for career technical education teachers who, despite receiving the pink slips, will not lose their jobs. The positions must receive the notices each year to remain grant-funded temporary employees.

The actual number of teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors on the chopping block won’t be finalized until May, when board members vote on a budget.

There are still a number of unknowns that could impact the final number of layoffs.

For starters, officials don’t yet know how much state funding the school district will receive later this year, and negotiations with the teacher’s union over unpaid work furloughs that could save million of dollars have just begun.

Board discussions about cuts and their impact to school district administrators, janitors, clerical workers and other staff also remain on the horizon.

“It’s awful to go through this discussion and be put in this position,” school board President Renatta Cooper said, adding that more money from voter-approved Proposition 30 softened, but did not solve, shortfalls in state education funding.

State law requires school districts to issue preliminary layoff notices for teachers by March 15, long before Sacramento arrives at a state budget. In previous years, officials have issued large numbers of layoff notices but ended up retaining most of those workers.

More than 100 teachers' union members and supporters attended the board meeting Tuesday and staged a rally outside school district headquarters.

About 20 union members and supporters spoke during the meeting, lambasting the board over recent pay raises for administrators and arguing that larger class sizes resulting from layoffs would hurt student achievement.

“I think it’s shameful and selfish,” Webster Elementary School teacher Janet Zeile said. “When is the last time an administrator paid for school supplies out of their pocket?”

Board members eventually narrowed the number of pink slips for elementary school teachers from 52 to 18 to eliminate the need to increase class sizes.

The board also scheduled a discussion of cuts to central office administration budgets for March 12.

In the meantime, “I would strongly urge [the teacher’s union] to approve furloughs and save jobs,” board member Ed Honowitz said.

United Teachers of Pasadena President Alvin Nash said board members must first show a willingness to cut administrative spending and give assurances that savings from furlough would replace — not supplement — their share of the budget pain.

Who Should Pay for Transportation?

 http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/who-should-pay-transportation/4822/

 By Emily Badger, February 27, 2013

Who Should Pay for Transportation?

The cost of constructing and maintaining America’s surface transportation network has long, in theory, been borne by the people who use it most. This is the idea behind the gas tax: The more you drive on our shared roads, the more fuel you have to buy, the more you chip in through taxes to pay for said roads. As it was originally conceived, the gas tax was a kind of user fee, linking what people pay into the system directly to how much they rely on it.

For a variety of well-documented reasons, this compact has been crumbling. Federal and state gas-tax rates haven’t kept pace with inflation. And when gas taxes were first conceived early in the last century, most cars had roughly the same fuel efficiency; now a 50 mile-per-gallon Prius shares the road with an 8 mile-per-gallon rusting pickup truck. That imbalance spoils some of the fairness first baked into the concept.

In this climate, several states are now looking for transportation revenue in entirely new places. The state of Virginia this past weekend passed a landmark transportation bill that aims to raise money for roads and mass transit in part by increasing the state sales tax on nonfood merchandise, from 5 to 5.3 percent (legislators also eliminated the state’s 17.5 cent gas tax entirely in favor or a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on motor fuels). This means that people in the state who purchase school supplies and patio sets and cell phones will help foot the bill for transportation projects.

The idea – particularly in its original incarnation – was widely criticized by transportation advocates who argued that the state was severing the long-standing link between transportation use and funding for it (and precisely at a time when many experts are calling for the opposite solution: a strict vehicle-miles-traveled user fee).

More recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed an even more peculiar idea: selling off 37 state-owned power and heating plants to pay off highway bonds. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pointed out: “The move could also have the unexpected effect of linking the prices paid by some utility customers to the financing of the state's road system.”

This incongruous consequence would seem to push the state even farther from the conceptual benefits of a user fee. Charge people directly for using a system, and they may be incentivized to use less of it. But charge them for appliances and utilities to fund transportation, and any incentive disappears (or starts getting convoluted).

There is, however, one argument that complicates this whole picture, and that is that by funding transportation primarily through user fees (or talking about the problem that way), we run the risk of behaving as if transportation exists solely to transport people. Strong transportation networks are integral to whole regional economies. They’re connected to housing and jobs and opportunity. And whether or not you drive on a road, or ride in a subway, you likely still benefit from the presence of those things when they function efficiently in your area (or you’re likely harmed when they’re falling apart).

This isn’t to say that everyone in a community should pay equally for roads or mass transit, whether they use them or not (there is also a separate argument to be had over the best allocation of funding between these two poles). But as we grope around for new transportation funding solutions in an age when the old gas tax no longer suffices, it’s worth remembering that people who “use” transportation are not the only ones impacted by it. When low-income residents can connect to jobs by buses riding down publicly paved roads, driving taxpayers elsewhere in the city benefit. When smarter road networks reduce congestion, and the smog that comes with it, plenty of people who never get in a car benefit from that, too.

Big rig driver unhurt after fiery crash on 210 Freeway in Irwindale

 http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/breakingnews/ci_22678546/big-rig-driver-unhurt-after-fiery-crash-210

By Brian Day, February 27, 2013

 
IRWINDALE - A big rig driver escaped a fiery crash without injury early Wednesday after falling asleep at the wheel on the Foothill (210) Freeway, authorities said.

A 32-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man was headed west on the freeway in a 2000 Freightliner, just east of Irwindale Avenue, about 3:30 a.m. when he fell asleep and allowed the truck to veer toward the left, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.

The out-of-control truck veered across two traffic lanes and the carpool lane before striking the concrete center divider, officials said. It scraped along the center divider for a distance of about 1,000 feet before coming to a rest west of Irwindale Avenue.

The driver managed to get out of the badly damaged truck and made his way to the right shoulder.
"(The Freightliner's) fuel tank was damaged during the collision and the fuel contained inside ignited, eventually engulfing (the truck)," according to the CHP statement.

The fire consumed the tractor of the truck, however the trailer did not burn, Sgt. Mike Dulong said. It contained non-flammable concrete slurry.

All lanes of both directions of the 210 Freeway were shut down at the crash scene, CHP officials said. Officers gradually opened lanes as the cleanup operation allowed.

The carpool add fast lanes of the eastbound and westbound sides of the freeway remained shut down until after 7 p.m.

Sup. Michael D. Antonovich and Metro CEO Art Leahy welcome transportation marketing professionals to APTA event at Omni Hotel

 http://thesource.metro.net/2013/02/27/sup-michael-d-antonovich-welcomes-transportation-marketing-professionals-to-apta-marketing-event-at-omni-hotel/

By Kim Upton, February 27, 2013

 

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Metro CEO Art Leahy welcomed more than 200 community leaders and marketing and transportation professionals from across the country to the American Public Transportation
Sup. Michael D. Antonovich speaking at national APTA workshop this week in Los Angeles.
Sup. Michael D. Antonovich speaking at national APTA workshop this week in Los Angeles.
Association (APTA) annual workshop for Marketing and Communications held this week at the Los Angeles Omni Hotel.

As chairman of the transportation agency serving the nation’s largest county, Antonovich discussed his vision for a regional multimodal transportation system serving the county’s 88 cities and 134 unincorporated areas, linking the region’s five regional airports to rail, and upgrading Metrolink to create an integrated system from Lancaster to San Diego.

APTA is the International organization for the bus, rapid transit and commuter rail industry.

LA2050 Challenge Invites Los Angelenos To Change The Future Of L.A.

 laist.com/2013/02/26/my_la2050_challenge.php

LA-Skyline.jpg 

When GOOD founder Ben Goldhirsh established the Goldhirsh Foundation, his intent was to foster innovations within Los Angeles and elsewhere. With the launch of LA2050, the L.A.-based foundation is doing just that: moving L.A. forward—37 years forward to be exact.

Having analyzed L.A.'s health via "eight well-defined indicators" in a 71-page report, LA2050 then made projections of what Los Angeles would look like in 2050. And there are issues. But there is something Los Angelenos can do to help shift their town onto a better path for the future.

Today, the foundation began accepting applications for grants totaling $1 million for "impactful and innovative" ideas aimed at a better L.A. The My LA2050 Challenge asks, "How would you use $100,000 to shape and build the future of Los Angeles?" The instructions are quite simple, but the brainpower needed is not. Applicants must first read the full report, then tell the foundation how their ideas will impact one or more of the eight indicators via written word and photo or video. Those eight indicators are education, income & employment, housing, public safety, health, environmental quality, social connectedness, and arts & cultural vitality.

"We believe in the power of Angelenos to shape the future of our region," Goldhirsh Foundation President Tara Roth McConaghy told City News Service. "My LA2050 provides a platform to turn their ideas into action."

Additional details on the application process can be found here, and applications must be submitted by noon PDT March 28.
Express Lanes in Southern California promise relief
and opportunity for commuters and businesses

 http://fastlane.dot.gov/2013/02/express-lanes-in-southern-california-promise-relief-and-opportunity-for-commuters-and-businesses.html#.US5xBVckR8G

February 26, 2013


 When infrastructure investments result in economic benefits to their communities, it's not magic. It's a formula proven time and again that improved mobility reduces the costs of road congestion and creates more opportunities for residents and businesses. We know from last week's blog post that South Florida is working to bring those very benefits to Broward County very soon.

And with Friday's opening of the Metro ExpressLanes on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway in Los Angeles, California has already done it.
FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez at I-10 lane-opening
President Obama said in his State of the Union address last week that we should both "Fix it First" and make sure our infrastructure attracts and supports businesses and families that rely on them.

These lanes will do exactly that.

Congestion isn’t just an inconvenience. It wastes money, stifles economic growth, and harms the environment. In fact, in 2011 Americans wasted $121 billion in time and fuel being stuck in traffic. It’s an absolute drain on our economy, and projects like the I-10 ExpressLanes offer Angelinos a terrific way out.

As Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said at Friday's celebration in Los Angeles,

"These express lanes created jobs and brought an innovative solution to a very congested area of Los Angeles. When our highways work better, we have a better chance of attracting businesses and jobs."
I-10 HOT lanes
 
Improvements included converting 14 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway between Union Station/Alameda Street and the I-605 Freeway into High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, or express lanes, allowing both car poolers and, for the first time ever – solo drivers who pay a fee – to use the lanes.
The Obama Administration believes that the key is to give people choices–better transit options, more buses and bus stops, incentives for carpooling and van pooling.

In this case, the HOT lanes that FHWA supported offer a choice of free or tolled lanes to motorists.

As more drivers choose the option of avoiding congestion by choosing a tolled lane, it actually reduces congestion on the free lanes at the same time.
We think it's a very interesting solution, and across the country state departments of transportation seem to agree as the move to add HOT lanes continues.

At DOT, we want to help people get to work, go to the doctor, and take their kids to school. We want to help businesses attract customers, hire employees, and ship products.
And that means making sure we're always looking for safer, faster, and smarter ways to help people and goods get where they need to go.
Whether it's express lanes or some other innovative solution, DOT is keeping America moving forward.

LA Mayoral Ads 2013: Campaign Videos Air On TV & Online (VIDEOS)

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/la-mayoral-ads-2013-video_n_2736119.html?utm_hp_ref=los-angeles#slide=2158436

 

 La Mayoral Ads 2013

 

If you live in LA and watch TV, you've seen the ads.

If fact, if it weren't for the campaign ads increasingly on TV, the radio and the Internet, you might not know LA is about to elect its next mayor.

A few of the video ad highlights include cute foxes, jam sessions, puppies, Will Ferrell promising free-waffle Tuesdays and Salma Hayek calling a candidate a romantic.

Councilman Eric Garcetti, considered the frontrunner in the race, has aired on TV three ads in English and three ads in Spanish (in which he is fluent). Controller Wendy Greuel, a close runner up, has aired two ads on TV.

Greuel starting airing her first radio ad Tuesday, and it's the first of her ads to directly criticize Garcetti. The ad accuses Garcetti of spending taxpayer money on five-star hotel stays on luxury trips to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Middle East. Garcetti's office did not immediately respond to HuffPost for a response to the accusation.

Former radio host Kevin James, the only Republican candidate, has aired one ad on TV and the radio created by BetterWayLA, an independent expenditure committee supporting the candidate. Councilwoman Jan Perry has online video ads only.

Technology executive Emanuel Pleitez has aired one ad on Spanish-language TV channels Univision and Mundofox. He has also spent almost $11,000 on Facebook ads (appearing usually on the right side of Facebook) and on promoted video posts, according to his campaign.

The other candidates declined to specify to HuffPost how much they've spent on video ads. Click on the candidates' names above for HuffPost's interviews with each of them.

The primary election is on Tuesday, Mar. 5, and the general election is on Tuesday, May 21. The video ads below are not in order of which have appeared on TV.

You'll have to go the website to view all the videos. There are 36 of them. Here are four of them:






 
 
 
 

If Only Every City Had a Masked Lucha Libre Defender of Pedestrians

 http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/if-only-every-city-had-masked-lucha-libre-defender-pedestrians/4804/

By Sarah Goodyear, February 27, 2013

 

If Only Every City Had a Masked Lucha Libre Defender of Pedestrians


You know how it feels when you're trying to cross the street and a driver comes through the intersection as if you’re not even there? Like he’s muscling through with that big box of metal as if to say, “Hey, get out of my way, you little flesh-and-blood weakling!”

Wouldn’t you just love to have a superhero sweep down, stand up to the jerk behind the wheel, and block the car so you could cross safely?

Enter Peatónito, the masked Mexican defender of pedestrians!

Peatónito is the alter ego of Jorge Cáñez, a 26-year-old political scientist in Mexico City who has also worked with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
Cáñez created Peatónito to be a defender of the rights of the pedestrian in public space. He wears a cape and a mask in the tradition of Lucha Libre, the popular Mexican wrestling style. His mission, he says, is to protect the pedestrian’s much-assaulted right of way on the streets of Mexico City, where on average one pedestrian is killed by a motor vehicle every day and countless others are injured. His mask is black and white, the colors of a crosswalk.

Courtesy Peatónito
"The idea of being the defender of pedestrians just came because nobody, not even the authorities, not even the citizens, made something to improve the situation of the pedestrians," he told me in an email (I've edited his words a bit for clarity). "I started off being part of some groups who paint pedestrian crossings in the streets of Mexico City. But I decided that we needed something more visible and friendly. As you know, Mexican wrestling (Lucha Libre) is very popular in Mexico, is part of our culture. That’s why I decided to rescue the values of Lucha Libre and take them to the streets...to reclaim justice for the king of the streets: the pedestrian."

I first heard about Peatónito during Social Media Week in New York, when he was mentioned by Natália Garcia, a Brazilian woman who was speaking on a panel about civic participation in urban development. Civic participation is what Peatónito is all about. "My biggest successes take place when the pedestrians feel safe crossing the streets and they thank me," he says. "Also when the motorists change their minds and understand that the pedestrians have the priority in the streets. Both things are important, because we are talking about a citizen social initiative, from citizen to citizen."

In character, Cáñez and his allies get out into the street and physically block cars that are infringing on pedestrian space, paint crosswalks where they are lacking, give speeches about pedestrian rights, and clear sidewalks of obstructions so that people on foot can pass through. The reception, he says, is good -- because he always stays positive. "The majority of people laugh and have fun with it," he says. "Even the motorists, because we need to be friendly with them. They are also citizens, and in some part of the day they are pedestrians also. There are a few motorists who take it personally and get mad, and my only weapon in that cases is to be more friendly and peaceful."

His efforts got him invited to speak at the Walk 21 conference in 2012 and has met with officials from Mexico City's department of public security to discuss the importance of putting pedestrians first in street design and traffic enforcement. He is hopeful about government efforts to improve infrastructure. At least, he says, they are now talking about giving pedestrians priority -- which would only make sense in a city where 80 percent of the population doesn't drive.

His may be a humorous approach, but the problem is deadly serious. Mexico City has some of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the world, according to a 2003 report from the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico:
The overall crude mortality rate for pedestrian injuries in Mexico City was 7.14 per 100,000 …. A concentration of deaths was observed in 10 neighborhoods at specific types of street environments. The underlying factors included dangerous crossings and the absence or inadequacy of pedestrian bridges, as well as negative perceptions of road safety by pedestrians.
These are all issues that this masked defender stands ready to fight. "The motorists think that the city was made for them, but the reality is that we are all pedestrians, and the streets must be made for the people," he says. "Once the government has adopted the 'pedestrian is the king' in their speeches, I’m going to monitor and help them till the day there’s no pedestrian fatalities nor accidents, and also decent sidewalks and safety crossings in the streets. But even if the government calls me to collaborate, I will always be a non-partisan citizen hero of the public domain." He has registered Peatónito as Creative Commons, so that anyone who wants can become Peatónito.

"Everybody can wear the mask and fight in the streets for the pedestrian rights," Cáñez says. "As long as everything is peaceful and friendly."

L.A. electric car company Coda looks like it's barely breathing

 http://www.laobserved.com/biz/2013/02/la_electric_car_comp.php

By Mark Lacter, February 27, 2013

 

 coda.jpg

 
Well, this is embarrassing for City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Herb Wesson, along with a list of high-powered investors that includes former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Limited Brands CEO Les Wexner. In various ways, they all bet on Coda Automotive's electric car - Wesson using $1 million of his district's slush fund to entice the company to move to L.A. from Santa Monica (reported in LA Weekly), and investors plunking down more than $200 million on the new business. Early on, the Coda people were talking about selling 10,000 cars in their first year, and I must say their nifty creative space in Santa Monica made a great first impression - as did their mission statement in front of the office: "Our goal is to put an electric car into every garage in the world." Which of course is a lesson to all those contemplating a start up: Ever be humble. As of this month Coda has laid off much of its staff, and there's not enough money in the kitty to pay off suppliers. One of them, UQM Technologies, has written off its contract to supply drive trains because of doubts about being paid; other vendors are in court. The capper is that the automaker's highly visible showroom at Westfield Century City has closed (Tesla will be moving in, according to a sign in the space). Truth is Coda has run out of money because it's barely sold any cars (a few hundred deliveries, according to the stories I've seen). Even in the electric car business Coda is at the bottom of the pack - and that's saying something, given the difficulties that all battery-only manufacturers are facing. Here's a good update from the Economist, and here's what I wrote about Coda in the June 2011 issue of Los Angeles magazine:

Start-ups are always supposed to be ambitious and aim for the new and different (intoxicating words for deep-pocket investors). But breakthrough success requires more--namely a product that offers some added value compared with what's already on the market. Think digital cameras. Think iPhone. Electric vehicles don't do that, at least not now. If anything, they create hassles, starting with the high price (Codas cost $44,900, although federal tax credits are worth up to $7,500), limited driving range (90 to 120 miles), lengthy recharging times (up to six hours), and the dearth of public recharging stations. Plus the Coda isn't exactly stylish, with a generic chassis that resembles Mitsubishi's midsize models. Given all these drawbacks, Coda has plenty of explaining to do--never a great way to sell a product. "How are you going to get a consumer to pay more for a lesser good?" asks Brett Smith, an analyst with the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "The electric vehicle is a significantly lesser good than the internal combustion engine. --At some point the technology has to be economically viable."
I had real doubts about Coda's viability in early 2011, but then again, so did lots of people.(When I asked the CEO at the time of my reporting what his expectations were, there was a long pause and finally he said, "I have absolutely no idea."). I bring this up not to take any credit, but to ask a basic question: Why didn't Garcetti and Wesson get those same bad vibes many months later? Also, why was the $1 million given out without an application from the company or any written analysis from the city? Why did the council unanimously sign off on the payment without debate, according to the Weekly piece? And why was there no provision for repayment in the event that the company did not survive, which is looking more and more likely? Seems that city officials were so desperate to trumpet their efforts at generating jobs - Coda promised more than 600 - that they forgot to look at the P&L statement. Or maybe they don't know how to read a P&L statement. Either way, it doesn't look great.
METRO starts Geotechnical Tests for SR710

From Sylvia Plummer, February 27, 2013
 
 
Investigations will be conducted 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday  Testing will consist of geotechnical boring (soil/rock), ground water level measurement, and vibration testing.  The schedule includes locations, cross streets and exploration depths.

This is the start of the EIR process.  It is probably safe to say that Metro is no longer studying the Avenue 64 highway and San Rafael area tunnel alternatives.  However, we must all remain very concerned about METRO's proposal to extend the 710 by boring two 58' diameter tunnels that would surface next to the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.  These tunnels will severely impact our quality of life and change Pasadena as we know it today.  Metro has admitted that the tunnels will make our air quality worse.  

There is no question about this, the tunnels will be for trucks to move cargo from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, up state and across the country.  Congestion on the 210 and 134 freeways will increase.  There will be a toll to use the tunnel in the amount of $5 - $15 each way.  

All of us should be concerned about the impacts of the 710 tunnels.  We must all continue to actively oppose any 710 extension.
 
 

 Crescenta Valley Town Council to Host 710 Community Forum

Wednesday, February 27

7 - 9 pm

Rosemont Middle School, Cafeteria
4725 Rosemont Avenue
La Crescenta, CA 91214


Crescenta Valley
710 Community Forum
 
Speakers
 
Frank Beyt, Vice President, Crescenta Valley Town Council
Ground Rules
 
Anthony Portantino
Welcome
 
Michelle Smith, Project Manager, LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority
5 Alternatives for Further Study
 
Ara Najarian, Glendale City Council, Metro Board Member
Project Overview
 
Donald Voss, La Cañada Flintridge City Council
Benefit or Detriment?
 
Rob McConnell, MD, Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center
Keck School of Medicine, USC
Health Impacts
 
Bill Weisman, Glendale Transportation Commission 
One Valley, One Voice
 
Q & A
 
Susan Bolan, Crescenta Valley Community Association 
 
Please fill out a question card and return to the Card Collectors
 
Hosted by Crescenta Valley Town Council
http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/oPL9UGfLaCrt5q9KE4Ap5ztgm5TySfCrXJJ67Oh6UQV3zPdUJAS3DU8O0FcGUlRz_6WvLCkyAmMbbxN9sjlT9w/Images/no-710-sign-new.jpg
 
with support from
La Cañada Flintridge City Council,
 Glendale City Council,
and No 710 Action Committee  no710.com

For further information, please contact
Councilmember, Frank Beyt at beyt@att.net
Parks to Santana: “Only by Slaughtering ‘Sacred Cows’ Can We Move Forward and Feed a Starving City”

 http://ronkayela.com/

February 26, 2013

 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Councilman Bernard Parks warned back in November that the $216 million to be raised by the Proposition A sales tax increase would “go up in smoke” unless there were safeguards on how it would be spent but he voted to put it on the March 5 ballot. As the only long-time fiscally responsible member of the Council has had a change of heart after reading City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana new fiscal analysis “Road to Financial Recovery — City at a Crossroadsand sent this detailed letter to Santana outlining what is needed to restore LA’s fiscal health and quality of life.

“Government Making a U-Turn”– Response to “City at a Crossroads” Report

Dear Mr. Santana,

I have reviewed your analysis of the city’s budget over the past several years and, I must commend you for your overall efforts and specific priorities to keep the city solvent.
The pressures from various special interests groups, city officials and the demands from the general public have been overwhelming.

Because of our previous conversations, I know that there are many more things you would have liked to have done and believe should have been done prior to the city reaching its current “Crossroads”.

Unfortunately, many of your warnings and recommendations were not followed nor implemented.

Your “City at a Crossroads” report now recommends a one-half cent sales tax as a last resort to maintain the current service levels allocated in the 2012-2013 fiscal-year budget. I’ve concluded that it is premature to request the public to tax itself with a permanent sales tax increase.

This proposal has not been vetted. There are no council committee studies or reports, no assessment of the regressive nature of sales tax, no evaluation of the overall impact of the cumulative tax and fee increases on the city’s general public or rate payers and no evaluation of the impact on local businesses, the economy or jobs. Also, there has not been sufficient outreach to the community for input, insights or alternatives.

That is why I encourage you to consider alternative options to those expressed in your report concerning Prop.A, based on the very real possibility that the measure fails at the polls next month.

This city has experienced more than its share of unemployment, underemployment and foreclosures. Sadly, those who suffer these misfortunes are the ones hit hardest when government decides to levy additional fees and taxes.

During this same period of personal income loss and financial upheaval, there has been a cumulative barrage of significant increases in taxation and bond indebtedness which ultimately falls on the shoulders of the general public:


•    In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 57 and 58, which authorized the sale of $15            billion in bonds and mandated balanced budgets, respectively. Nine years after the passage of the two measures, the state is looking at an additional 21 years of debt service, and all $15 billion was absorbed by the deficit.

•    In the November 2012 election, Prop. 30 passed, triggering a state sales tax increase, with the hopes of raising $16 billion to balance the state’s budget.

•    Billions of dollars of community college and Los Angeles Unified School District construction   bonds debt.

•    Hundreds of millions of dollars for Los Angeles police, fire, animal shelter and library construction bonds debt.

•    City’s MICLA debt increased by hundreds of millions of dollars.

•    10% increase in city power rates over the next two years (an additional 30% increase pending).

•    City water rate increase pending.

•    State Measure R half-cent sales tax for transportation construction- 30 year debt.

•    Cost of Sanitation Charges (Sewer Services Charges and Solid Resources Fee [Trash Fee]) have tripled.
•    Hundreds of millions of dollars of indebtedness for sewer construction.
•   Substantial increase in city fees and permits.
•   Parking citation fines increased six of the last seven years.
•   Multiple increases in both employee medical and pension costs.
•   L. A. County gas prices- highest in the state.
I agree with many of the residents and business owners in my community when they claim that government has priced itself out of business.
The city receives over $7 billion in general and special funds annually but will be unable to sustain its solvency going forward, unless it makes significant changes in the near future.

The city’s number one problem is its inability to sustain and maintain its personnel costs. Our local government’s addiction to hiring personnel and maintaining a workforce in which the size and cost are not sustainable is the root cause of its ongoing structural deficit.

The salaries, but more specifically the overhead (medical, pension, workers’ compensation), costs are growing well above the real and/or projected revenue increases.

Before asking the public to absorb another permanent financial obligation, we suggest that you and your staff evaluate and prepare a savings analysis for the following recommendations:

1.) Allow the new administration taking office July 1, 2013 to make the decision about new taxation, as they will be responsible and accountable for the city’s financial health. The new administration will certainly have new and different budget and deployment priorities.

2.) Study the “DROP” program for cost neutrality as mandated in the implementing ordinance #174540, section 4.2100, subsection C(CF# 00-2463).

3.) Implement the negotiated “no code seven” policy within the LAPD. It is estimated that the benefit would be an increase of 250 patrol cars deployed, annually (CF#11-1430).  This negotiation reduced LAPD officers’ workdays from 12 hours and 45 minutes to 12 hours with the stipulation that officers would not formally request a 45-minute lunch period during the 12-hour work day. It is apparent that even after the reduction to a 12-hour day, officers have continued to receive permission to eat while on duty. These actions, in effect, reduce officer availability by 90 minutes a day.

4.) Eliminate the three-and-four-day work week (12 and 10 hour shifts). It’s been estimated in a report done by your office (CF# 01–2394–S1) that within the LAPD alone, uniform car deployment would increase between 20% and 30% annually.

5.) Re-evaluate LAFD’s “constant staffing” requirements and criteria with the emphasis on reduction of over-time allocations. Refine the recently-implemented deployment model which is based on incident response data that allowed the department to match current resources with the real needs of the city’s diverse communities. Study the potential financial benefits and savings of contracting out paramedic services.

6.) Support the recently-approved “feed in tariff “ordinance, which will initially pay over market rate for excess solar power as an incentive to encourage community participation. Then, after the first two years, support the recommendations of the ratepayer advocate on solar costs due to “feed in tariff”(CF# 11-0617-S8). This change of reducing pay to market rate for excess solar power from private parties would mitigate, reduce and possibly eliminate proposed rate increases in the near future. Also, include a requirement that storage batteries be included in future “feed in tariff” infrastructure.

7.) Implement the recommendations listed in August 9, 2011, Parks – Perry letter to the Executive Employees Relations Committee which requested:

a.) Compliance with Parks-Smith motion CF# 11-0690 through 11-0690 – S4 to identify cost containment and mitigation of medical costs within the Department of Water and Power(LADWP).

b.) Creation of strategies to reduce LADWP’s salary and pension costs. This report identified 197, common job classes within the city and LADWP and 15 job classes performing similar duties. Of the 197 job classes, 195 classes received higher salaries working for LADWP, ranging from 1% to 43% with an average of 16.4%. All 15 job classes performing similar duties received higher salaries at LADWP; from 6% to 35% with an average of 18.1%. This letter also contained a recommendation to replicate the strategies within LAPD which reduced salaries for all entry-level positions by 20%.

8.) Freeze hiring citywide. Stop filling vacancies, unless they are of the utmost importance and critical in nature.

9.) Cut the size of the city’s workforce to a sustainable level. To reduce the impact on service loss, contract out workload that can be done by private industry, local entrepreneurs or local contractors.

10.) Reduce full-time city worker positions, where appropriate, to part-time positions. This will reduce the cost of salary and benefits in the labor force and allow for a more strategic deployment. The best example in the city is the recent deployment of part-time traffic officers at the Department of Transportation.

11.) Establish new budget priorities, deployment strategies and department organizational structures.

12.) Maximize civilianization.

13.) Prepare the legal bases for a city position to defer, mitigate or eliminate the current proposed employee raises and initiate the formal process for negotiating new contracts as current contracts expire in 2013 and 2014.

During future negotiations, eliminate percentage increases and replace them with flat-rate salary increases. We should also eliminate all bonus-paid positions as pension based and ensure all future employee contracts contain mandatory re-opener language. Future raises should be based on revenue projections, not cost-of-living increases. And, employee contracts should be valued on the package’s total compensation.

14.) Increase employee contributions to pension, current medical and retiree medical plans.

15.) Seek needed changes to reform the state’s workers’ compensation administration and seek changes in the city’s administrative rules addressing overtime pay.

16.) Reject the current approved recommendations regarding the “exclusive commercial and multi-family solid waste franchise hauling system”(CF#10 – 1797 through 10 – 1797 S15) and implement your office’s recommendations for a non-exclusive system which could be implemented immediately with significant revenues being directed to the general fund.
Your office’s recommendations will have a positive impact on the community, as the franchisee would pay a fee to the city for the privilege of collecting solid waste within the city’s boundaries. This would be substantial, new revenue that could be realized immediately, while the community would retain its leverage to negotiate with a variety of haulers to obtain the best service and price for that service.

17.) Follow your office’s recommendations (CF#09 – 1914 – S8), regarding the elimination of the city’s gross receipts tax (GRT), also known as the business tax. Your office along with several independent consultants have stated specifically that the GRT should not be eliminated until a new source of permanent revenue can be found to replace this $480M in revenue. Also, there should not be any additional reductions or reclassification of GRT, unless it is accompanied by an independent economic analysis report.

18.) Expand Public-Private Partnerships. Such city entities as the Convention Center, Zoo and Information/Technology Agency and paramedic functions are all viable for privatization. In addition to removing the expense and workforce cost from the city’s payroll, the business-oriented redirection will be unencumbered by city processes and will produce a better overall product.

19.)  Evaluate and implement appropriate recommendations of the Commission on Revenue Efficiency (CF#12-0430 thru 12-0430-S6) and gain full adherence to Executive Directive No. 5 and  the Citywide Guidelines to Maximize Revenue Collections.

20.) Reduce the use of “one-time revenue” expenditures on multi-year/ongoing debt. Return special fund revenue (e.g. Special Parking Revenue Funds, ITA’s Public Access and Infrastructure Funds,…etc.) back to their intended purposes and fund the prescribed activities of the special funds rather than the current method of filling budget shortfalls.

21.) QUIMBY Funds- Revise city policy to expand area of usage, mandate usage within a short period after its allocation, concentrate on design build, local hiring, contracting for the construction. Allow interest earned on QUIMBY deposits to remain under the jurisdiction of the city’s Recreation and Parks Administration so that consistency, continuity and accountability can be clearly established. The goal is to prioritize, facilitate job creation and accelerate completion and expansion of green space and park land by using the millions of dollars that have stockpiled over the years.

22). Explore the feasibility of creating expanded maintenance districts modeled after the current city’s  lighting districts which would include tree trimming, sidewalk,  curb and American Disabilities Act(ADA) curb cuts repair. The goal is to create a vehicle for local communities to generate local revenue, hire local contractors, repair and maintain basic infrastructure needs and reduce liability to the city and adjoining land owners.

The above suggestions are submitted as both long and short-term recommendations to achieve budgeted solvency for the City of Los Angeles.

I am fully aware that by addressing the three-day workweek, pension contributions, privatization and the size of the city’s workforce, I have taken aim on some “sacred cows” in our budget. We need to realize that only by slaughtering these “sacred cows” can we move forward and feed a starving city.
Respectfully,


BERNARD C. PARKS
Councilmember

“I Think It’s Time We Get What We Deserve” — Rap Song for “Kevin James for Mayor” by Luke Caldwell

 http://ronkayela.com/

February 26, 2013

 

 


Teen driver deaths spiked in 2012

 http://www.dailynews.com/breakingnews/ci_22673065/teen-driver-deaths-spiked-2012

By Eric M. Johnson, February 26, 2013

 
Teen driving deaths in the United States increased in the first six months of last year, further eroding a decade-long reduction, possibly as a result of more accidents caused by texting and talking behind the wheel, state highway officials said on Tuesday.

Deaths of drivers ages 16 and 17 increased roughly 19 percent, to 240 in the first six months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, according to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Officials who compiled the report said the improving economy has put more teens behind the wheel, but use of mobile devices to text and talk while driving is a likely cause of more accidents and fatalities.

The increases
came after 16-year-old driver deaths dropped by nearly two-thirds, to 157, between 2000 and 2010. Fatalities of 17-year-old drivers were cut by more than half in the same period, to 253, the data showed. But the downward trend ended in 2011.

"Teen drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also a danger to others on the roadways. So these numbers are a cause for concern," said association Chairman Kendell Poole.

The numbers, while preliminary, were still better overall than in the previous five to 10 years, a spokesman for the group said.




Dylan Young, 18, poses as a vehicle cruises by, June 6, 2012, in North Arlington, N.J. Young, a senior at North Arlington High, was in a fender-bender accident caused by being distracted while texting and driving. 
 





Decreases in driver deaths from 2003 to 2010 have been attributed to states' new and strengthened graduated driving laws that placed restrictions on inexperienced drivers.

But those laws, some of which were introduced in the 1990s, need to be revised to meet with changes in technology, said spokesman Jonathan Adkins. He said all states should ban cell phone use for new drivers, limit passengers per car and keep teens off the road at night, among other restrictions.

"This isn't some mystery illness," Adkins said.

States should also work to increase the role parents play in enforcing safe driving practices, officials said.

Among specific age groups, deaths of 16-year-old drivers increased by 24 percent in the first half of last year, while deaths of 17-year-old drivers rose by 15 percent, according to preliminary data compiled across 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Overall, 25 states reported increases in teen driving deaths in the first half of last year, 17 had decreases, and eight states and the District of Columbia reported no change.