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

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Most Congested Cities?


 March 7, 2013

 I just tweeted this, but here's the chart:

I only used the top 50 MSAs for this one, if only for expedience.  This shows daily traffic per highway lane on the y-axis and population density on the x-axis.  In general, there is a direct relationship between more dense places and more highway congestion.  Duh.

But there is also quite a bit of noise in the data, that is often regionally affected.  Rustbelt metros tend to be low/low (density/congestion).  Sprawling sun belt cities tend to be low/high, towards the top left portion of the graph.  LA, the anomaly that it is, is high/high.

Ideally, a city wants to trend towards the bottom right of the graph or higher density/lower congestion, meaning higher tax base and lowered highway infrastructural wear/tear/burden.  In theory, that tax base can then be put to better use, amenity, schools, police, etc.

However, without charting international cities, it is difficult to determine whether high/low is even possible without the complete removal of freeways altogether.  Where would Vancouver fit on this chart?  London?

The basic issue however is that cities get more congested the denser they get.  Or, better said, their highway lanes get more congested (if they have them at all, a la Vancouver).  Attempting to alleviate congestion by adding highway lanes only serves to lessen density and, in turn, the tax base to support that new infrastructure.

The only way to maintain density (or add it as the case may be) while decreasing congestion is to get people out of cars, through improved alternative networks plus the reduction of highway lanes.

Geek Out with This Map Showing How Everyone in LA Voted


By Eve Bachrach, March 8, 2013



Some awesome LA Times data nerds put together an interactive map showing how Angelenos have voted, precinct by precinct, in every mayoral primary and runoff between 2001 and this past Tuesday. The big picture on this week's race shows mostly what you'd expect: Greuel won the Valley, Perry won South LA, and Garcetti won mostly everything in between. But drilling down reveals a few fun facts for you to wow your friends with this weekend:

-- Kevin James won one precinct in the Valley with one vote. That is, there was only one vote cast in the whole precinct, and it was for James.

-- There were ties in 16 precincts.*

-- Only one of those ties didn't involve Eric Garcetti--a nailbiter in Woodland Hills where Wendy Greuel and Kevin James each won 84 votes.

-- Jan Perry won eight precincts south of the 105 freeway, including one at the heart of the Greuel-dominated area around the Port of LA.

-- Garcetti was blown out in an Echo Park precinct right on his home turf, where 80 percent of the five people who voted at Barlow Hospital chose Greuel. (James picked up the other 20 percent--err, vote.)

*That we could find.

· Interactive Map [LA Times]
World's Largest Tunneling Machine Heading to Seattle


March 8, 2013

World's largest tunneling machine heading to Seattle

 More photos on the website.

 SEATTLE (AP) - The world's largest-diameter tunnel boring machine is being loaded in 41 pieces onto a ship in Japan for a trip to Seattle.

The Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reports the $80 million machine named Bertha was built at a factory in Osaka and is expected to arrive by the end of the month.

 Bertha will be reassembled in a pit to tunnel a new Highway 99 route under downtown Seattle to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The tunnel will have a diameter of nearly 58 feet and is set to start boring this summer. The tunnel is scheduled to open in late 2015.

The tunnel borer was named Bertha in honor of Bertha Knight Landes, who was elected mayor of Seattle in 1926. The name was submitted by both a second-grade student at Lincoln Elementary School in Hoquiam and a fifth-grade class at Poulsbo Elementary School.

 City Selection Committee Meeting Videos


From Sylvia Plummer, March 10, 2013


 Here is the video link of the City Selection Committee meeting where Ara Najarian's nomination to the METRO Board was Confirmed



City Selection Committee Video Part 1:




 For other parts, go to



Metro's Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Oaks-to-San Fernando light rail plan opening to public comment


March 9, 2013

VAN NUYS -- What may become the San Fernando Valley's first new light rail passenger train are among options going before the public later this month.
Metro has begun soliciting public comment on proposals to possibly improve north-south transit options, generally along Van Nuys Boulevard, between Sherman Oaks and the City of San Fernando.

Several of the city's heaviest-used bus routes now use the corridor along Van Nuys Boulevard and San Fernando Road to cross the valley.

The four options being presented to the public include a light rail train north from Ventura Boulevard, up Van Nuys Boulevard to San Fernando Road, then north to the City of San Fernando. Another option would be a bus-only roadway, similar to the Orange Line, on the same route.

The other options include bolstering bus service, or doing nothing.

In a separate, future effort, Metro planners are also envisioning a new busway, passenger train tunnel or other mass transit option across Sepulveda Pass, from Sherman Oaks to Westwood. The freeway there is now being widened in a $1 billion-plus project, but Metro planners say a new transit-only option may be necessary.

The San Fernando Valley currently is served by the Red Line subway, which only has two stops in the Valley before it heads south to Hollywood. Plans to build an east-west passenger rail service along the route now served by Orange Line express buses were rejected when some Valley constituencies opposed it.

The proposals will be presented to the public at informal meetings at 10 a.m. next Saturday at Panorama High School, 8015 Van Nuys Blvd.; 6 p.m. March 19 at the City of San Fernando pool, 208 Park Ave.; 6 p.m. March 21 at Arleta High School, 14200 Van Nuys Blvd.; and 4 p.m. March 27 at the Braude Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd.

Comments can also be filed in writing, and more information is available by searching for the project's Facebook page on the internet.

Garcetti and Greuel vie for black Democrats, white Republicans


By Michael Finnegan, March 9, 2013

 Garcetti and Greuel

 Mayoral runoff candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti are vying for disparate groups of voters.


The day after Eric Garcetti won a spot in the May runoff for Los Angeles mayor, the city councilman turned his focus to African Americans in South Los Angeles, campaigning in Leimert Park with comedian D.L. Hughley.

"In too many of our communities, especially communities of color, we still have way too much crime," Garcetti told the audience. "We still have too many gunshots, too few opportunities for our young people."

A day later, Garcetti rival Wendy Greuel, the city controller, announced that one of the city's premier black clergymen, Rev. Cecil "Chip" Murray, was backing her. "Chip Murray has redefined what it means to be a faith leader in Los Angeles," she said of the former pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

So began the 11-week battle over the tens of thousands of Los Angeles voters who shunned both Garcetti and Greuel in last week's primary. Many of them fall into two groups: black Democrats in South L.A. and white Republicans in the San Fernando Valley.

As Garcetti and Greuel each clamber to gain support among these dissimilar voters — concentrated on opposite sides of the city, focused on disparate needs — it is something close to an even match, at least for now.

For both, the math of building a winning coalition is difficult. In Tuesday's primary, Greuel, who lives in Studio City, established her dominance in the Valley and Harbor areas but won few neighborhoods in the vast urban stretch in between. Garcetti, who lives in Silver Lake, swept the Eastside, central city and Westside. Garcetti finished first with 33%, followed by Greuel at 29%.

Greuel had hoped to win extra support citywide among women by stressing that she would be the city's first female mayor. A poll last month by USC and The Times found no sign of success for that strategy, but Greuel's campaign team is still counting on the potential barrier-breaching to motivate women to vote in the May 21 runoff.

"I think where the historic nature of Wendy's candidacy will make a difference is in turnout," Greuel campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said.

Garcetti, whose paternal ancestry is Mexican, had tried — with mixed results — to win outsized support among Latinos, roughly a quarter of the vote in Los Angeles. He did win the city's most heavily Latino neighborhoods but by narrower margins than he would probably need in the second round.

One of Garcetti's main challenges now is to spur some of the potential supporters who declined to vote in the low-turnout primary — such as young Latinos — to cast ballots in the runoff. Lending a hand will be an independent committee that has hired operatives of President Obama's reelection campaign to comb voter data to find those most amenable to backing Garcetti and prod them to the polls. Daniel Wagner, the Obama campaign's "chief analytics officer," is one of those hired.

"The only job we have is to produce more votes for Eric Garcetti than Eric Garcetti would," said Rick Jacobs, a co-founder of the committee, the optimistically named Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti for Mayor.

In South L.A., the key for both Garcetti and Greuel is to capture the votes of African Americans who overwhelmingly favored City Councilwoman Jan Perry in last week's election.
For months, Garcetti and Greuel have been making frequent visits to black churches — on one Sunday, the same churches.

Garcetti highlights his early support of Obama, reminding crowds he was California co-chair of Obama's historic 2008 campaign. In Greuel's case, a staple of her South L.A. speeches is a tribute to former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley and recollections of her work as one of his aides.
In the runoff, endorsements will be particularly valuable in South L.A., said Mike Shimpock, a veteran Democratic campaign consultant.

"South L.A. has a lot of needs that have historically been ignored — parks, public safety, economic development," he said. "So I think one of the reasons you see third-party validators being more important is because people don't necessarily trust government to do the right thing."

Greuel and Garcetti are indeed competing for the support of black political leaders, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. "They both have very strong followings," said Jewett Walker, a campaign strategist who has long worked for Democrats in the area.

Also in play is Perry's support. On Friday, she sharply criticized Greuel, who had attacked Perry over her personal finances during the primary, but stopped short of endorsing Garcetti.

In the duel for Republicans, Garcetti and Greuel are looking to pick up support from those who backed former radio talk-show host Kevin James in the primary. The lone Republican in the race, James ran strongest in Porter Ranch, Chatsworth and other conservative parts of the West Valley but also picked up thousands of votes on the Westside.

From the start, Greuel has framed her candidacy with Republicans as a major target audience. She often calls herself a tough fiscal watchdog with a record of combating waste, fraud and abuse at City Hall.

L.A.'s budget challenge

Mayoral candidates Garcetti and Greuel should give voters a clear picture of how they would deal with the city's fiscal crisis.


 March 10, 2013

Mayoral debate

 Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, seen at a debate in February, will face each other in a May run-off to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

In the weeks leading up to last Tuesday's election, voters in Los Angeles heard conflicting messages
from city officials and candidates about Proposition A, a proposed half-cent increase in the sales tax. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Herb Wesson and Police Chief Charlie Beck all argued that the city desperately needed the tax hike to avoid damaging cuts in public safety and other services. The candidates vying to take Villaraigosa's place in City Hall, however, insisted that the increase was the wrong way to solve the city's fiscal problems. That may have had more to do with politics than policy, but their view prevailed: Voters rejected the tax hike by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Then, the moment the election was over, some of the main advocates of Proposition A started walking back their dire warnings. On Thursday, officials revealed that the projected deficit for the coming fiscal year had shrunk from $216 million to $100 million or less, thanks to brighter revenue forecasts and lower anticipated pension costs. Though City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said Friday that the deficit may still be more than $150 million, Villaraigosa said the improving economy should rule out any "draconian cuts."

Voters can't be blamed for feeling conned, especially given that the mayor had received the rosier forecasts the week before the election but failed to tell the public. Nevertheless, the reality is that the city isn't out of the fiscal woods — not even close. Even if the more optimistic forecasts come true, the city will still face a sizable deficit in the coming year and larger ones in the years after that. That's why Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, who will face each other in a May 21 runoff to replace Villaraigosa, should be more forthcoming and realistic with voters in the weeks ahead about how they plan to put Los Angeles on a sound fiscal footing for the long term.

PHOTOS: L.A. candidates' misleading campaign fliers

Villaraigosa and the current council, Garcetti included, must leave the new mayor a balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. But with Proposition A defeated, they're likely to rely more on stopgap measures and leave major changes to the incoming administration.

And even if the budget is legitimately balanced, that won't be enough. Some core city services have suffered notably in recent years — witness the widespread complaints about how long it takes to get a street or sidewalk repaired, trees trimmed or a permit issued for a new business. The next mayor will have to find the resources to meet those needs as well.

Part of the problem for the city is the lingering effects of the housing market collapse and subsequent recession, which slashed property values, sent unemployment through the roof and dampened consumer spending. Another part, though, is the steadily mounting cost of pensions, health benefits and salaries. Villaraigosa and the council — including Garcetti and Greuel — agreed to contracts in 2007 that raised most city workers' pay by more than 25% over five years.

PHOTOS: A rogues' gallery of L.A. mayors

Since then, Villaraigosa and the council have made ends meet by laying off employees, transferring hundreds more to jobs paid for by special funds (for example, at the Department of Water and Power) and offering less generous pensions to new hires. They've also persuaded unionized city workers to start paying for the health benefits they'll receive as retirees and to delay part of the pay hike they negotiated in 2007. But the unions have refused to accept lower raises, putting the city in the absurd position of having to boost salaries for 70% of the civilian workforce by 1.5% on July 1 and 5.5% on Jan. 1, 2014, even as it cuts $100 million to $200 million from its budget.

The failure of Proposition A gives city leaders more leverage to try to reopen the current contracts and reconsider those raises. The next mayor and new council also will be negotiating contracts for 2015 and beyond. Garcetti has said he'll ask unionized workers, who pay nothing today for their current health coverage, to cover 10% of the cost. That would ameliorate the budget problems, but it wouldn't solve them.

A crucial question for voters is which of the two candidates is most likely to get the right results in those talks. Both Garcetti and Greuel have been friends to organized labor, but the unions representing the vast majority of the city's workers have lined up behind Greuel. Garcetti says that he won't be beholden to unions but that Greuel will; Greuel counters that her relationship with labor gives her the credibility needed to extract concessions.

That debate should continue as the campaign goes forward. So too should the scrutiny of the
candidates' budget plans. Among other measures, Greuel touts the savings and efficiencies she identified in the audits she performed as controller, but those steps wouldn't help as much as she suggests. Garcetti's plan, meanwhile, counts mainly on a stronger economy and improved collections to help close the short-term budget gap, along with concessions by employees. But none of those is guaranteed to happen.

By rejecting Proposition A, voters gave the next mayor and new council members the chance to pursue their own fiscal solutions, rather than being handed a permanent increase in tax revenue. In a sense, they were rejecting the judgment of today's leaders in favor of those who will take their place. Garcetti and Greuel should lay out a clear picture of how they would not just close the budget gap but generate the resources needed to restore vital city services. Then voters can decide whether their confidence was well founded.

Doug McIntyre: Voters crown a new king of L.A.'s hill 


By Doug McIntyre, March 9, 2013

This week Vatican watchers will begin the vigil in Rome looking for puffs of white smoke signaling the selection of a new pope, but Los Angeles already has its new king.
While Garcetti and Greuel spent millions slugging their way into the mayoral runoff in May, flooding the airwaves and our mailboxes with ads crowing their accomplishments and trashing their opponents, L.A. voters sent a clear and unmistakable message on election day -- Ernest Henry Moreno is our man.

Ernest Henry who?

"Ernie" to his friends.

And Ernie has lots of friends.

167,759 to be exact.

This first-time L.A. candidate not only easily won his race for a seat on the Community College Board, he rolled up the biggest vote total of any candidate on the ballot.

E.H.M. is the king of Los Angeles politicians, which is a little like being the best Kansas City Royal, but give the man his due.

Angelinos -- 167,759 of them -- said they wanted Ernie Moreno to speak for them on the Community College Board.

That's 73,781 more votes than mayoral front-runner Eric Garcetti grabbed, 84,451 more than Wendy Greuel and 150,663 more than City Councilman Paul Koretz got while landing another four-year stretch in the horseshoe at City Hall.

Ernest Moreno, who appears to be as earnest as his name implies, trumped all of L.A.'s political heavyweights.

While former Assemblyman and Councilman Mike Feuer tried to wrestle the city attorney's job from Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich, Ernie quietly rolled up nearly as many votes as Feuer and Trutanich combined.

Dennis Zine, the Tommy Lasorda of City Hall, finished a close but disappointing second in his race for city controller against attorney Ron Galperin. Zine should count his lucky rabbit's feet he wasn't in the ring with The Champ or he'd need every penny of his LAPD pension.

"I'm as surprised as you are," said a chuckling Moreno in a phone interview. "I'm honored by the vote of confidence," said the humble former president of East Los Angeles Community College.

So what was Ernie's secret? Money, right? It's always money.

"We spent $52,144", said Rolando "The Big O" Cuevas, a former East L.A. College student body president who has remained a devoted friend to his alma mater's former president and served as Moreno's campaign manager.

52K? That's it?

"That's it," answered Cuevas. "We did it without the big unions and without endorsements," Cuevas added with justifiable pride.

But in his excitement "The Big O" spilled a big secret; Ernie Moreno is a Republican.

That's right, the top vote-getter in Los Angeles on election day was a Republican! But keep that on the down low since Ernie doesn't really talk politics, just policy.

"I left East L.A. College with a new campus, an enormous increase in enrollment and a $40million surplus," Moreno said. "I'd like to think I can bring some of my experience to the other community college campuses."

While the name-brand survivors from Tuesday's primary begin anew the endless quest for campaign cash and court endorsements from their former rivals and famous fence-sitters like Antonio Villaraigosa, maybe the man whose ring they should be kissing is the quiet candidate who can, the new king of L.A. politicians, Ernest Henry Moreno.

Union support poses risks for L.A. mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti


By Dakota Smith, March 9, 2013



 Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel face each other in the runoff for mayor of Los Angeles.

For mayoral candidates City Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, seeking support from city unions is a tricky proposition.
While they are one of the most powerful and well-funded forces in city politics, their support can also create a backlash from voters concerned about the city's fiscal health.

Union endorsements and outside spending have become a central issue in the race. Greuel's visibility in the primary was boosted by $1.7 million in television advertisements paid for by a group backed by the Department of Water and Power union. The police union also paid for pro-Greuel television ads.

Outside spending is now a rallying cry for Garcetti, who tells crowds the election can't be bought.

Still, both candidates are still pursuing labor endorsements.

"Labor is a double-edged sword for both of them," Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at California State University, Los Angeles.

Voters must decide which candidate can balance the needs of workers with protecting the city's budget.

For her part, Greuel will have to re-assure business groups and Republicans she's still on their side, Regalado said. And Garcetti can't go negative against labor but must stress his pro-union voting record.

Both liberal Democrats, Greuel and Garcetti have raked in labor endorsements in recent months.

The powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which represents more than 600,000 area workers, is expected to announce whether they will endorse in the next two weeks.

Already, Garcetti has backing from the unions representing private truck drivers, teachers and longshore workers. Garcetti spokesman Bill Carrick said this past week Garcetti would seek support from Service Employee International Unions chapters.

SEIU 721 has endorsed Greuel, as have numerous other labor groups.

Last week, SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover criticized Garcetti's leadership on the council, saying the city didn't do enough to spur business or find waste.

"He doesn't have the answers," Schoonover said.

SEIU 721 is part of a group challenging last year's overhaul of the city's pension system. Mayor Antonio Villariagosa spearheaded the changes, which roll back pension benefits and raise the retirement age, to cut city employee costs. The unions claim the negotiating process wasn't fair, and the case could end up in the courts.

On Wednesday, Greuel alluded to that pension fight, suggesting she backs SEIU's claim against the city.

Garcetti's campaign argues the SEIU 721 endorsement is payback for the councilman's support of pension changes and layoffs.

Pay raises and early retirement packages granted by Villaraigosa and approved by the City Council - during Greuel and Garcetti's time - led to ballooning costs.

In 2007, the city approved 25 percent pay raises for city workers. Eventually, layoffs occurred after the economy crashed. Greuel had left the council by the time the worst of the cuts occurred.

Critics say Greuel's labor endorsements raise concerns about her stance. She entered the race as a fiscal hawk, promising to cut waste and fraud at City Hall.

The belt-tightening image was questioned when Greuel pledged to hire 2,800 cops and firefighters, a plan called financially unrealistic by City Hall veterans.

Also, her claim of finding $160 million in unrealized savings through audits was cast in doubt by media outlets.

"On the one hand she's saying she's a fiscal watchdog," said Los Angeles-based political consultant John Thomas, who isn't currently involved in the mayor's race. He briefly worked with candidate Kevin James last year before parting ways with his campaign.

"On the other hand, she's backed by the unions. She has to be careful because voters don't like hypocrisy."

Greuel spokesman Dave Jacobson noted she also has endorsements from business groups like the Valley Industry and Commerce and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

"She's still the fiscal hawk," Jacobson said. "That's why businesses back her. It's unprecedented to see such a coalition."  

Edwin Ramirez, a Pacoima Neighborhood Council board member, who hasn't endorsed, views unions
endorsements as transactional. Backing from powerful unions like the IBEW and SEIU both hurt and help candidates, he believes.

"They're securing their own future," said Ramirez, of the unions. "They're just political machines."

Editorial: L.A. County supervisors should put stormwater tax aside UPDATED


March 9, 2013

 NOTE: Late Friday, the Supervisors added a motion to the Tuesday meeting to close the public hearing and put off the stormwater fee. In other words, they listened to the people. Good for them.
After thousands of Los Angeles County residents in January turned up - either in person or via letters -- to shoot down a proposal for an annual stormwater cleanup fee, the Board of Supervisors wisely put off the decision. But not forever.

The fee returns to the board on Tuesday, along with some options for revision that the board requested at the January hearing. The main decision before it will be whether to put this to a vote, and, if so, then how: to all county voters or just property owners, via a relatively cheap mail-in ballot or a much pricier general election?

The choice should be simple: Put this fee off again -- and this time forever.

It's not that the fundamental idea of Clean Water, Clean Beaches is flawed. Supporters of the measure, such as Heal the Bay and other environmental groups, note that seven of the state's 10 most polluted beaches sit in L.A. County. Anyone who has looked closely at the L.A. River -- or smelled it -- knows the concerns about polluted waterways are very real.

As well, Southern California wastes an alarming amount of free, usable water by not having a significant stormwater collection system in place. It's true that Angelenos on their own have started saving rainwater with backyard buckets and cisterns, but the region needs a much larger and coordinated effort to make any serious impact on the looming water crisis.
The problems are in the timing and the method of the -- let's just call it what it is -- tax measure.
The measure would collect an estimated $295 million a year from residential, commercial, industrial and even public properties through an annual "fee." Residential property owners would pay about $54 a year. Other parcels would range greatly based on usage -- a big-box store, for example, would pay $11,000 a year. School districts would get hit with yearly bills in the millions, which is why many of them, including the largest, Los Angeles Unified School District, have been at the forefront of the protest.
The economy is definitely improving, and Prop. 30 -- the statewide temporary tax hike passed in November -- means that school districts didn't have to cut billions from their budgets this year. But nor do they have millions to take out of their budgets to pour into a massive water cleanup.

Then there's the lack of a project list. Because of the way this program is structured -- the money is divided up for local agencies and governments to pay for their own clean water efforts -- it isn't possible to guarantee a specific list of projects, just model projects.

That's a problem. The public has little faith that giving their city council or any other local government a blank check for undefined water cleanup projects will be money well spent.

Finally, the initial public aspect of this was so bungled it's unlikely it can overcome any small improvements the supes could make on Tuesday. The public was put off by the fact that there was little discussion of the stormwater project before the first mailed communication. By last Wednesday, the county had received 112,134 protests of the fee, or 5 percent of property owners. Considering that the initial notice mailed to 2.2 million county property owners looked like so much junk mail, that's an astonishing amount of response.

Still, it's not enough to block an election; that would take the protest of more than 50 percent -- or 1.1 million -- of parcel owners. But it should give the five county supervisors pause enough to put this particular measure aside for now.

There are other reasons, not the least of which was the defeat last week of a half-percent sales tax measure by Los Angeles city voters. If city voters won't tax themselves to avoid cuts to basic services, it's a stretch to believe county voters would say yes to a tax that doesn't even have any specific projects attached to it.  
We'd like to see clean waterways and a decrease in the number of toxins and trash dumped into oceans. We'd like to see a much more robust effort to collect rainwater. There is a right way -- and a right time - to do it. This isn't it. Try again.


The One Hour Ahead Sunday News


March 10, 2013

 Mod: the drive to get people to sign our petition for the PUSD Board of Education is going well. Among those who have signed it is Mayor Josh Moran, which goes to show that getting Sierra Madre some representation on the Board of Education is an issue of universal appeal here. There are no sides on this one. Please be sure to at least get your own signature in by Tuesday ... Yesterday's "study session" on the water rate hike was as meaningless as advertised. City Hall continues to refuse to discuss the massive water bond debt this city is carrying, instead preferring to blame everything from consultants to resident water conservation. Why they cannot level with us on this is a mystery. How can the City expect us to fork over more of our money if they won't tell the actual reason for it? ...  All that said, here is some other news.

District Attorney: Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina violated the Brown Act (Pasadena Star News - click here): The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has ruled that Councilwoman Barbara Messina violated the Brown Act when she stopped a community member from criticizing another councilmember at a meeting in October.

In a letter to the Alhambra City Council, Assistant Head Deputy of the D.A.'s Public Integrity Division Jennifer Lentz Snyder said Messina violated the state open meeting law at a council meeting just before the November election, when a member of the public attempted to make comments that were critical of Councilman Steve Placido, who was running for reelection.

As the community member, Aide Zeller, began to speak to Placido about comments he made to the press, Messina cut in, saying that members of the public cannot directly address council members other than the chair. "Because we are in an election cycle, your comments need to be directed to the chair," Messina said. "You can speak to him after the meeting."

Messina said she did not think the incident was a violation of the Brown Act because she did not tell Zeller she couldn't speak but only that she had to address her comments to Messina instead of Placido.

"It wasn't that I didn't allow her to speak, our policy has been that you don't directly talk to council people you address the chair. She got ticked off because I said she had to direct her comments to the chair and she turned around and left," Messina said. "I can't believe somebody felt the need to report that." Snyder said after investigating a complaint into the matter, the D.A.'s office ruled that Zeller should have been allowed to speak despite the council policy.

"We therefore conclude that the restriction on Ms. Zeller's comments which were critical of a member of the Council, though cloaked in the premise of a procedural rule, amounted to a content-based restriction that violated the Brown Act," Snyder said.

(Mod: Barbara Messina is also the President of the SGVCOG and one of the leaders in the fight to build the 710 Tunnel. Of course she wants to shut people up.)

New Rule On Long Island: No Booing At Riverhead Town Hall Board Votes 4-1 In Favor; Applause Remains Acceptable Form Of Expression (CBS News NY - click here): You can still boo or hiss at a basketball, baseball, or football game, but if you try it at a Riverhead town board meeting, you could be told it’s against the rules. The board voted four to one to approve the new rule at meetings saying that the public cannot make distracting sounds like booing or hissing.

Councilman James Wooten was the one vote against it. “Because I don’t really need somebody or a policy telling me how I should behave in public,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall.

What happens if you boo or hiss at a meeting? Wooten said there really is no penalty. You won’t get a ticket or anything. “That wasn’t really addressed in the legislation. They’ll probably just be told not to do that. It’s against the code,” he said.

It’s worth noting that applause is still allowed.

(Mod: Would legislating against booing at a City Council meeting be considered a Brown Act violation in California? Maybe we should call Barbara Messina and get her take.)

Los Angeles Frets After Low Turnout to Elect Mayor (The New York Times - click here): The roughly $19 million spent in the 2013 mayoral primary here made it the most expensive on record. But that is not the number that has people agog. Just 21 percent of registered voters turned out for last week’s election — the lowest rate for a primary without an incumbent since at least 1978.

The paltry showing has many here wringing their hands, wondering what has become of the city’s residents. Is there no such thing as civic engagement in this sprawling metropolis? Are municipal elections really that boring, even as the city faces serious financial problems? After many here thought the stereotype of a vapid city was buried long ago, there is a renewed sense of a civic inferiority complex.

“I am in mourning,” said Steve Soboroff, who ran for mayor in 2001 and received more votes than any of the candidates in Tuesday’s election did. “The idea that it is socially acceptable not to vote, but people talk about where they get their shoes from, is shameful. I love L.A., and I am very proud of our city, but people here need to get a grip.”

Much of the post-mortem over the primary, which sent two City Hall insiders to a May 21 runoff, has focused on the turnout. Newspaper editorials and blogs have called the numbers “pathetic,” “embarrassing” and “stunning”; one columnist said they “redefined apathy.”

(Mod: You do know that anarchists are also opposed to voting, their reason being "it only encourages them." Maybe Los Angeles, and perhaps Sierra Madre, has lots of anarchists. And look at it this way, would you want to take responsibility for, say, Eric Garcetti?)

The Reverse-Joads of California: Low and middle-income residents are fleeing the state (Wall Street Journal - click here): During the Great Depression, some 1.3 million Americans—epitomized by the Joad family in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"—flocked to California from the heartland. To keep out the so-called Okies, the state enacted a law barring indigent migrants (the law was later declared unconstitutional). Los Angeles even set up a border patrol on the city limits. Soon the state may need to build a fence to keep latter-day Joads from leaving.

Over the past two decades, a net 3.4 million people have moved out of California for other states. But contrary to conservative lore, there has been no millionaires' march to Texas or other states with no income tax. In fact, since 2005 California has experienced a net in-migration of households earning more than $200,000, according to the U.S. Census's American Community Survey.

As it happens, most of California's outward-bound migrants are low- to middle-income, with relatively little education: those typically employed in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and to some extent natural-resource extraction. Their median household income is about $40,000—two-thirds of the statewide median—and about 95% earn less than $80,000. Only one in 10 has a college degree, compared with 30% of California's population. Roughly 40% of the people leaving are Hispanic.

Even while California's Hispanic population has grown by more than 1.5 million since 2005, thanks to high birth rates and foreign immigration, two Hispanics have moved out for every one that has moved in from another state. By contrast, four Hispanics from other states have settled in Texas and Arizona for every three that have left.

It's not unusual for immigrants or their descendants to move in pursuit of a better life. That's the history of America. But it is ironic that many of the intended beneficiaries of California's liberal government are running for the state line—and that progressive policies appear to be what's driving them away.

For starters, zoning laws, which liberals favor to control "suburban sprawl," have constrained California's housing supply and ratcheted up prices. As Harvard public-policy professor Daniel Shoag documents in a working paper, land restrictions became common in high-income enclaves during the 1970s—coinciding with the burgeoning of California's real-estate bubble—and have increased income-based segregation and inequality.

Housing in California is on average 2.7 times more expensive than in Texas. The median house costs $459 per square foot in San Francisco and $323 in San Jose, but just $84 in Houston, according to chief economist Jed Kolko of the San-Francisco based real-estate firm Trulia . Housing in California is cheaper inland than on the coast, but good luck finding a job. The median home in Fresno costs $95 per square foot, but the unemployment rate is nearly 15%, compared with 6% in Houston.

(Mod: As one commenter put it the other day, the only reason he hadn't left the state yet is because of all the traffic jams getting to the border.)

Environmental Warning Fatigue Sets In (The New York Times - click here): Record levels of industrial smog? A dwindling number of fish in the world’s oceans? A 4° Celsius warming in global temperatures by the end of the century?

How about environmental warning fatigue?

Global concern for major environmental issues is at an all time low, according to the results of a global poll of more than 22,000 people in 22 countries, released earlier this week.

“Scientists report that evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever — but our data shows that economic crisis and a lack of political leadership mean that the public are starting to tune out,” said Doug Miller, the chairman of GlobeScan, the company that carried out the study.

While respondents clearly still had grave environmental concerns, fewer people were “very concerned” about various environmental issues than at any point in the last 20 years. The sharpest decrease in global concern occurred over the last two years.

(Mod: I'd argue that one of the reasons people have grown weary on this topic is all the hucksterism that has come along with it. So-called solutions such as building high-density packed development in traditional downtowns as a way to curb global warming are hardly credible. Yet here in California it is the centerpiece of state legislation on the topic.)

That's enough for now. I have to go out in the morning and collect signatures.