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 17, 2013

Ravel talks about FPPC's plans for tracking political money
March 14, 2013
ravel.JPGCalifornia Fair Political Practices Commission chairwoman Ann Ravel spoke to The Bee's editorial board Thursday about how she plans to use the remainder of her tenure tracking money in California politics.

The FPPC has its eye on a few bills that could bolster the 1974 Political Reform Act, which lays out the contours of the FPPC's authority. Ravel said it is focused in particular on bills by Assemblyman Roger Dicksinon, D-Sacramento, Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, that would tighten disclosure requirements.

The language in those bills is still developing, but Ravel said she is interested in measures that could require more information about "independent expenditures," the third-party dollars that have flooded into elections in the last few years, and more clearly define what it means to say those independent organizations are prohibited from "coordinating" with campaigns.

Conflict-of-interest laws are another area Ravel said she would like to work on, dubbing the area a "mess" given the often confusing and contradictory rules governing what constitutes a conflict.
"Some of the rules have been interpreted, because they're not so clear, by advice letters, and the advice letters are conflicting," Ravel said.

The FPPC has also reached out to attorneys general in several other states - including New York, Montana, Iowa, Idaho, Maine and Washington - about forming a consortium that could share data and ideas about campaign finance. The coalition could also function "as some sort of a pressure group on the federal government, potentially," Ravel said.

In the interest of better transparency, Ravel would like to implement a searchable online database that makes it easier to comb through campaign spending. She said the FPPC's current method of scanning paper forms is "a terrible, antiquated system," adding that her ambition is to have Form 700s filed by public officials online (700s require lawmakers to report gifts, investments and income).

Two new members are set to join the FPPC board, both of them with ties to Democratic politics: Patricia Wynne, who currently works for the California State Treasurer's Office and has also served in the Attorney General's office and the state Senate; and Oakland attorney Eric Casher.

A spokesman for Common Cause raised concerns to The Bee that Casher has raised money for President Obama and for California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Ravel dismissed those criticisms as "unfair and uncalled for," saying Casher is now obligated to abstain from political activity - including giving any donations to a candidate who appears on the ballot in California. She called his experience in the world of political campaigns a benefit for the FPPC.

"He may be a very thoughtful, analytical and totally unbiased individual. I don't think that you can presume, just because he was a supporter of Obama's and the attorney general's, that he's going to be otherwise," Ravel said.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has faced scrutiny for his donations to nonprofits that were seen as advancing his agenda. Johnson was subsequently fined by the FPPC for failing to report the donations. Ravel noted that the Political Reform Act does not prohibit those types of donations, although it does require disclosure.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/03/ravel-talks-about-fppcs-plans-for-outside-spending-new-board-members.html#storylink=cpy

Truck Lane Project Prompts 5 Freeway Lane Closures in Santa Clarita


By Jason Kandel, March 17, 2013


Sections of the Golden State Freeway through Santa Clarita are scheduled to be closed intermittently through the week as part of a $72 million truck lane project.

The project calls for new lanes along the southbound I-5 between Pico Canyon Road, Lyons Avenue and the Antelope Valley Freeway.

Ramp closures will be staggered through Friday and are subject to change.

Officials advise motorists to be attentive to closures and slow down for construction crews.

Below are the details about the closures:
  • Up to three lanes of northbound I-5 between the end of the existing truck lane and Lyons Avenue will close nightly from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Up to three lanes of southbound I-5 between Lyons Ave. and the end of the existing truck lane will close nightly from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
At least one lane will be open at all times. The most restrictive closures (i.e.,
the most lanes closed) will occur between midnight and 4 a.m.

The project is adding a truck lane to the outside of southbound I-5 in by paving the median
area and outside shoulder, and shifting the mixed-flow lanes inward. Median retaining walls
– more – and two short sections of outside retaining walls will be built to accommodate this widening.

The truck lane will extend from Pico Canyon Road/Lyons Avenue to SR-14, a distance of 3.7

This project will ease traffic delays, improve goods movement, absorb traffic growth due to
population increase (both residential and commercial), and enhance safety by separating
truck traffic from passenger vehicles.

Construction began in May 2012 and will be completed in 2014.

For more information, visit www.I-5info.com. Lane closure information for this and other freeway 
projects is available on the Caltrans website.

4-car crash shuts lanes on 134 Freeway at Orange Grove Blvd in Pasadena



 An ABC7 viewer sent in this shot of a car on fire. The car was involved in a four-car crash on the eastbound 134 Freeway in Pasadena on Sunday, March 17, 2013.

 An ABC7 viewer sent in this shot of a car on fire. The car was involved in a four-car crash on the eastbound 134 Freeway in Pasadena on Sunday, March 17, 2013.

A four-car crash shut down all lanes on the eastbound 134 Freeway at Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena on Sunday night.

One car was reportedly engulfed in flames with people trapped inside.

The crash happened around 6:45 p.m. The No. 5 lane on the freeway was reopened for about an hour before all lanes were shut again around 8:45 p.m.


One of the cars reportedly caught fire, trapping multiple people inside. The number of injuries is unknown.

A three-hour Sig Alert was issued following the crash.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

From Peggy Drouet:  I'm not too surprised to read of this accident, occurring very near the San Rafael neighborhood. I drove home to Pasadena today from San Diego. Something seemed to have gotten into people this day as I witnessed more than the usual number of unsafe drivers on the freeways. Maybe it was because it was St. Patrick's Day and people were drinking more than they should have been. I got off the freeway to go shopping in East Pasadena and decided to keep off the freeways to go home, taking the more time-consuming but safer route on the streets. I can't think of too many things more horrible than being trapped in a burning car. Those poor people. I heard the helicopters overhead and knew something had happened, but we often have helicopters overhead in the San Rafael neighborhood as they follow the freeway routes close by, so we don't overly pay attention to their presence.

L.A. football's anti-cheerleaders


By Paul Thornton, March 15, 2013



 Former AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke, pictured above at a City Council committee meeting last September on the proposed Farmers Field in downtown L.A., parted ways with the company after it was taken off the market.

Among The Times' letter writers, perhaps no other issue inspires more pessimism than the drama over the downtown L.A. stadium deal. That's saying something.

But given the cast of characters (the NFL, which has burned L.A. more than once; entertainment giant AEG, the mega-developer slated to build the downtown football stadium with support from the city; and City Hall, whose support of this project hasn't exactly won over the public), this isn't surprising. From the moment the deal was announced in 2011, the reader reaction sent to letters@latimes.com has been overwhelmingly negative.

And with the latest development in the story -- AEG's sale that never was -- the pessimism has continued. Arcadia resident Lewis Redding's letter captures the overall reader reaction:
AEG: A look back

"Current evidence that Los Angeles will support a professional football team is overwhelmingly non-existent. The more telling proof is that the once fabulous Rams left town and the Raiders, a pretty decent franchise at one time, also tried to make it work and the lack of interest was overwhelming.

"A stadium here is the pipe-dream of a few very wealthy people who stood to make a lot of money but, in the end, despite any guarantees to the contrary, Los Angeles taxpayers would have been left holding the bag for an empty major facility.

"Sorry, but this is good riddance."

Richard Newton Meyer of Los Angeles says L.A. is under AEG's spell:

"As a fourth-generation native Angeleno, it strikes me that AEG has what my great-grandmother used to call 'the Indian sign' on everyone, including The Times' editorial board (which supported the deal), the Los Angeles City Council, various labor unions and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"It's this simple: AEG doesn't give a darn about Los Angeles or her citizens. As with every other carpetbagger that has been involved with the NFL in Southern California, AEG's theme song should be, 'Take the Money and Run.'"

Jay James of Pico Rivera welcomes the unsettling news:

"Thank you, shake up at AEG. May the clouds and shake up continue."

California cities, counties find funds to hire Capitol lobbyists

 Local governments contend the money they pay for influence in Sacramento is worth it. The sum dwarfs the lobbying bills of the largest unions, big oil companies and other energy interests combined.


 By Anthony York, March 17, 2013

Cities, counties find funds for lobbying

 Gov. Jerry Brown gives his State of the State address in Sacramento on Jan. 24. Local governments’ spending on advocacy in the Capitol has surged in recent years, topping $96 million during the two-year legislative session that ended last fall — an increase of nearly 50% from a decade ago.

SACRAMENTO — Although many of California's cities and counties have been struggling financially, putting off road repairs, cutting back library hours and reducing police patrols, there is one way in which they have not held back: hiring Sacramento lobbyists.

Local governments' spending on advocacy in the Capitol has surged in recent years, topping $96 million during the two-year legislative session that ended last fall — an increase of nearly 50% from a decade ago.

The sum dwarfs the lobbying bills of the state's largest labor unions, big oil companies and other energy interests combined, according to the California secretary of state'soffice. No sector spends nearly as much trying to influence government in California as government.

One reason is more than two decades of term limits. Turnover in the Capitol and in some local offices has weakened relationships between state and local officials. Many lobbyists work in Sacramento for decades, are more knowledgeable about policy details and intricate funding formulas than sitting lawmakers, and have long-standing relationships with Capitol staffers.

Another is the state budget crises of the last decade, which have taken an ever larger bite out of allocations to local governments, putting municipal and state leaders at loggerheads.

With tens of millions of local dollars going to capital insiders "at a time when cities and counties are cutting back essential services, it's worth asking whether this spending is the best use of taxpayer money," said Phillip Ung, a spokesman for the watchdog group California Common Cause.

Local officials say the lobbying expenses are a small price to pay to protect their share of exponentially larger state dollars. The right advocate can steer some state funds in one direction or another, and these days, a lobbyist's blessing for a policy proposal can carry more weight in the Capitol than a legislator's endorsement.

Lobbyists may be retained as a defensive measure against decisions made in the Capitol that could adversely affect local communities. They may be asked to help secure state contracts or bond money, or to arrange meetings with leaders of the Legislature and other top government officials.

Orange County officials credited their Sacramento lobbyists, Platinum Advisors, for arranging a meeting last summer with Assembly Speaker John PĂ©rez (D-Los Angeles) that led to last-minute legislation restoring $48 million to the county budget.

The city and county of Los Angeles both have full-time staffs dedicated to monitoring the Capitol, but they seek additional help from several Sacramento-based firms. The two entities paid external lobbyists a combined $5.3 million over the last two years, according to spending reports filed with the state.

The city of Los Angeles paid the Sacramento firm of Shaw/Yoder/Antwih more than $251,000 in 2011 and 2012 combined — part of the more than $3.3 million spent on outside lobbying during those two years. The firm helped secure millions of state bond dollars for city projects and helped defeat legislation that could have required the city to spend as much as $2 billion to repair damaged sidewalks, said Juan Rodriguez, director of state relations for the city.

Other big spenders include the counties of Alameda, San Bernardino and Orange, which each devote more than $1 million annually on outside advocates. But some of the big money comes from small cities.

Anthony Gonsalves, the son of a former assemblyman, runs a lobbying firm with his two sons that specializes in representing cities with populations of 50,000 to 100,000 and budgets to match.

The firm's three Sacramento lobbyists did nearly $5 million in business during the last two-year session of the Legislature, according to records that lobbyists must file with the state. Most of that business came from the 60 municipalities on its roster.

The cities paid the firm as much as $8,000 per month, often to lobby on legislation that Gonsalves was being paid to address by other clients as well, according to his firm's state filings. Such fees can be hefty for a small municipality, but the cost of not having such a lobbyist can be much higher, said Alan Kapanicas, city manager of Beaumont in Riverside County, which Gonsalves represents.

Like much municipal funding, most of the city's budget passes through Sacramento, Kapanicas said, and lawmakers have cut those funds deeply over the last decade. The elimination of redevelopment agencies, for example, deducted billions of dollars from city budgets. The governor and Legislature also transferred responsibility for many low-level criminals from prisons to local jails, straining county budgets.

"The state is always coming up with new ways to take money away from us," he said. "We need to have some protection" in Sacramento against those efforts.

The city, with slightly more than 16,000 residents and an annual budget of $28.7 million, paid Gonsalves more than $73,000 over the last two years to "be our eyes and ears in Sacramento," Kapanicas said.

Gonsalves said he offers connections that local officials need in the Capitol and may not be able to make through the legislators from their area. "We are a conduit," he said. "We have the relationships."

Many contracts are approved with little or no public scrutiny. Some are arranged by city managers and approved pro forma by council members, without public discussion. Some have come under criticism.

A January report from City Controller Wendy Greuel found that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power approved four no-bid contracts totaling $480,000 to Sacramento advocacy firms. None of the contracts had been advertised publicly or required regular updates from the lobbyists on their work.

In Malibu, officials raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest in the way their work was being handled by a firm called California Strategies, which the city has paid $150,000 a year since 2004 for state government advocacy. The firm simultaneously represented U2 guitarist David Evans, better known as the Edge, in his 2009 quest to build five homes on the bluffs overlooking the Malibu coastline — an effort some members of the City Council opposed.

"It made me uneasy, because the lobbying firm [was] representing something the city may not be happy with," said Jefferson Wagner, who sat on the City Council from 2008 until mid-2012. Wagner was opposed to the development and told the city's advocate, California Strategies' Ted Harris, that the firm's work on the project "made it awkward for me."

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the firm, said its partners determined there was no conflict in accepting Evans as a client because the necessary permits were dispensed by the California Coastal Commission, not the Malibu City Council. The Coastal Commission ultimately rejected the project.

Sometimes there are personal ties between local governments and their lobbyists. The Yucaipa Valley Water District paid more than $110,000 to Platinum Advisors during the last two-year legislative session. One of the firm's lobbyists, Brett Granlund, is the brother of district board member Bruce Granlund and ex-husband of another member, Lonni Granlund.

Joseph Zoba, general manager of the Yucaipa Valley Water District, said the Granlunds recused themselves from the vote on hiring a lobbyist.

"Brett is a former city councilman and assemblyman from Yucaipa. He has a great working knowledge of Yucaipa," Zoba said. "Most people don't even know where we are on the map. Having someone like Brett really helps out."

Top 10 Ways to Fight for Air

From the American Lung Association
  1. Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, call the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) for the help you need to quit, or log on to Freedom From Smoking® Online at www.LungUSA.org.
  2. Avoid lung health hazards. Protect yourself from harmful air pollution, both indoors and outdoors. Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home, especially if you have children.
  3. Recognize the warning signs of lung disease. Frequent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, excessive phlegm or blood when coughing and chronic fatigue are not normal. Symptoms like these mean you should see your health care provider for prompt medical attention.
  4. Know the symptoms of asthma: shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest and frequent coughing when exercising may be signs of asthma. Call your healthcare provider if you suspect your or a loved one has asthma. The Lung Association can help with information on exercise, medications and coping skills to manage the disease and prevent attacks. Call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) to learn more.
  5. Ask your health care provider about the flu shot – a safe and effective way to prevent influenza, commonly known as the flu. It is now recommended for everyone over six months of age, including those with chronic diseases, like COPD or asthma. Caregivers, relatives and health care providers of high-risk groups should also be vaccinated. Since the vaccine for the upcoming flu season will protect against both seasonal flu and 2010 H1N1, most people will need only one shot. If you’re over 65, you should also have a pneumonia vaccine. You can get vaccinated any time during the fall or winter and into the spring at a neighborhood clinic listed at http://www.fluvaccinefinder.org.
  6. Prevent air pollution. Drive less, conserve electricity and avoid burning wood or trash.
  7. Get involved! Air pollution worsens lung disease and can even be deadly for many people, including infants, older Americans and those with chronic diseases. Join in the fight for healthy air by reducing pollution and supporting clean air laws.
  8. Test your home for radon – it’s simple and inexpensive. This colorless, odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, yet it can be easily controlled.
  9. Teach your children to grow up smokefree. Their best bet for avoiding lung disease later in life is never to start smoking. Call your Lung Association for information on proven programs that teach kids not to smoke.
  10. Protect your family by encouraging exercise, eating right and keeping your home free of respiratory irritants. Help spread the word to those around you, to increase awareness about lung health. Every day, you can make a difference.

Texting, handheld phones: Distracted-driving crackdown coming in April


By Gary Richards, March 16, 2013

Next month, thousands of cops will fan out across California in a massive crackdown on drivers texting or talking on handheld phones.

And oh, will they be busy, as so many drivers just don't seem to care that these growing forms of distracted driving have been illegal for nearly five years.

New data from police statewide show they issued 425,041 tickets last year for talking on handheld phones -- down about 35,000 from the previous year but still a 41 percent increase from 2009, the first full year of the cellphone ban.

Numbers were much smaller for texting citations: 21,059 in 2012. But that's a 41.5 percent increase from the previous year and a stunning 640 percent surge since 2009. And it's texting that concerns police the most; it's more dangerous because it takes drivers' eyes off the road, and it's harder to ticket because it's easier to hide.

"Surprised, no. Dismayed, yes," said Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety. "After the intense media, public awareness and enforcement campaigns that have been mounted the past four years, we would hope to see a turnaround."

A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 69 percent of U.S. drivers say they talk on their cellphones and about one in three read or send texts or emails while driving.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called cellphone use and texting "a national epidemic."

 In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 400,000 injured in crashes blamed on distracted driving.

The National Transportation Safety Board has called for a ban on cellphone use by drivers, including the use of hands-free phones. Most studies show hands-free conversations are just as distracting to drivers as those involving handheld phones.

Drivers complain that texting motorists pose a significant risk by veering into other lanes or not seeing pedestrians or bicyclists as they take their eyes off the road to read or send messages. Some studies have shown that a driver texting can travel the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking up.

At the least, texting drivers can be an irritant when they remain stopped at intersections when lights turn green, or when they drive 45 mph on the freeway.

An April crackdown on distracted driving has become an annual tradition. Last year, police across the state wrote almost 61,000 cellphone and texting tickets in April, up from the 52,000 tickets issued in April 2011 and more than double the usual monthly tally.

This year, there likely will be more, said Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. Tom Rodrigues, who hands out as many as 10 such tickets a day.

"I am amazed as to how many people still use the cell every day," he said. "People don't get it. I think that the fine should be $500 for the first violation. This might wake people up."
Livermore Officer Traci Rebiejo said the number of texters is most likely far higher than the citation tally suggests. She said spotting someone texting is difficult because drivers usually hold their phones near their laps.

"It's a hard ticket to write," she said. "Most of us think it's far more widespread."

A cellphone or texting ticket costs $159, much less than the roughly $500 penalty for running a red light or cheating in a carpool lane. When Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian was a state senator, he twice introduced bills to raise the fine and make it a moving violation. Both times Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. A new proposal would increase the fine to $199 for a first offense and to $37

"It's unfortunate the governor did not raise the fine," said Simitian, who introduced the original ban that took effect July 1, 2008. "People may not think it's that risky of a behavior, or they won't be caught or that the fine is not that excessive."

Last week, Rodrigues wrote a citation to a woman texting while he rode right next to her on his loud Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Castro Valley. She never saw him until he ordered her to the curb.
Her excuse, Rodrigues said: "She is busy at work and needs to text to get her job done."

But some who text or use a handheld phone don't believe it's any riskier than talking with a hands-free phone, fooling with the radio or chatting with a passenger.

Christopher Schrader, a 29-year-old consultant from San Jose, said the uproar is "crap" that only gets a lot of attention because other motorists can see those using their phones.

"Of course, no one even attempts to blame bad driving on something when the cellphone isn't present," he said. "I personally still drive while talking on my cellphone, and I don't feel distracted in any way. And even crazier, I sometimes even text when I feel it is safe. I've never been in an accident in 13 years of driving and have always used my phone during that time. I personally don't find it difficult to put my focus on the road and have a conversation."

Other motorists say that's crazy. "I am so tired of seeing people do it day after day," said Lisa Mendoza, of San Jose, who said she once spotted a woman texting and tried to suggest she should quit it. "When I motioned that she should stop, she flipped me off."

Why the number of cellphone tickets issued last year declined is not clear, Cochran said. "We would like to think that fewer people are using handheld cellphones, perhaps switching to hands-free or not using at all, but we have no evidence as yet."

But he fears the total number of citations could surpass a half-million this year and go on rising for years to come.

"It just points out the allure of the technology, how it has made its way into our lives, and how we can't expect a fast turnaround," he said. "It took efforts for seat belts and against drunk driving 30-plus years."
1 for a second.