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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tim Rutten: Southern California's traffic is jammed by an excess of freedom


By Tim Rutten, April 28, 2013

The sorites paradox is a thought problem well known to philosophy students and attributed to the classical logician Eubulides of Miletus.

It proposes that you envision a heap of sand - "sorites" is the Greek word for heap or pile - and then imagine reducing it by a single grain. It would, according to your premise, still be a heap of sand and would remain so even if you continued to remove one grain after another. Stick by your initially logical premise, however, and you ultimately will find yourself in the illogical position of calling a hole in the ground a heap. The sorites belongs to a group of such paradoxical propositions sometimes called little-by-little arguments in which transformation is obscured by the gradualism of its process.

Eubulides' thought problem came to mind last week, while reading that the authoritative Inrix report once again ranks Los Angeles' traffic congestion as the nation's worst. For those who've lived here for a number of years - or, like some of us, were born here - it's sometimes difficult to point to the moment when the superb personal mobility that we once took for granted bled away, and suffocating congestion became a fact of our regional lives. Last year, the average resident of the metropolitan region spent 59 hours stuck in traffic - in other words more than enough time to have put in an additional week on the job or on vacation. Four of our freeways - the north- and southbound 405, Interstate 5 heading south and the 10 going east - now are among the nation's 10 most congested highways. An additional 31 stretches of our freeway system rank among the country's 164 most clogged. To nobody's surprise, Friday afternoon is the worst time to be on the road, when the average commute from job to home now is more than an hour.

Things, moreover, are likely to be worse this year, as Inrix reports that congestion in metropolitan L.A. grew by 6 percent in the first quarter. The study attributes that to an improving regional economy that has added more than 90,000 jobs over the past year.

All of this leads to a question asked, but unanswered around tens of thousands of L.A.-area dinner tables every week: Why can't something be done about traffic? The truth is that a great deal is being done - some of it, like adding car-pool lanes while accelerating the expansion of public transit across the region at a scope and pace that outstrips any other such project in the country, is an unalloyed good; some of it, like experimenting with tolls on the freeway system, is socially destructive and short-sighted. Other equally significant and more complex initiatives are going all but unrecognized. Los Angeles, for example, recently completed a 30-year, $400-million effort to install a system of sensors and computers that allow for the synchronization of all 4,5000 of the city's traffic signals, which are spread across 469 square miles. The system, whose completion is another of outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's signature transit achievements, is the world's most advanced. Long Beach already has emulated it and, others, like Washington, D.C., hope to do so. You may not have noticed, but across the city the average speed on surface streets is up 16 percent, while gridlock-type delays at major intersections are down 12 percent.

What all this has done, however, is simply keep our freeways and surface streets from grinding to an absolute halt - and, in fact, simply keeping things from getting worse than they are is a genuine achievement. There's a significant reason more radical and far-reaching solutions remain out of reach: For most of us, the best transportation initiative remains the one that somehow gets the other guy out of his car so that we can use the freeways and streets as we wish. In the meantime, mobile phones, cup-holders, CD players and satellite radio have made many of our cars pleasant enough places to while away an hour or so.

There is, of course, a place in our ubiquitous traffic complaints where cynicism and nostalgia blend, which is the inevitable observation that we're spending billions to recreate what we once had and destroyed - the world's most extensive interurban rail system in the form of the old Pacific Electric, the red cars. There's even an urban myth that's grown up around their demise, which is that auto and tire companies bought up the old system so they could sell more cars and rubber. They certainly weren't unhappy to see it go, but the fact of the matter is that the red cars went into oblivion because the majority of Southern Californians preferred cars and the at-grade trolley system snarled traffic in the cities, which fueled widespread public complaints going back to the early 1930s. By the late '30s the Automobile Club of Southern California was pushing to eliminate trolleys, and by 1941, Pasadena had banished the locals from its streets. The Second World War brought gas
rationing, which gave the red and yellow car systems a shot in the arm, but the millions who flooded into metropolitan Los Angeles after 1945 wanted freedom.

The auto remains a symbol of personal freedom around the world, which is why the great new consumer economies in the former Soviet Union and China, countries with well-developed public transit, also are the world's booming auto markets.

So long as we continue to identify the modern ideal of personal mobility with the automobile, congestion will remain a fact of life. As it happens, our freeways and streets aren't strangling so much from a surfeit of cars, as they are from an excess of freedom - and, apparently, most of us wouldn't have it any other way.


 New "Mega Port" of Punta Colonet, Baja, Mexico

Re: How Will the Nafta Superhighway Affect the Long Beach/LA Ports?


Below posted on No 710 Avenue 64 Facebook page, April 29, 2013, by Joe Cano

A Baja blog shows Punta Colonet, south of Ensenada, as a 'Mega Port'. The man standing on cliff is in the area marked Poblado of Colonet (town) just north of the proposed Megaport. You can can see a rendering of the Mega port in the 2nd shot.
I reviewed some real estate advertising as well & noted a large push for sales of parcels in the town for new homes. Homes for port workers?, probably.
 From what I can surmise from the Baja newspapers I reviewed, they have a 'feelgood' view of developement & will not be too critical or involve themselves in indepth investigative reporting. Afterall, my former homeland is still known for 'disappearing' anything that gets in the way of the oligarchs.
 The graphic with green transport routes implies legitimacy to the 'highway to Texas' thing. Mexico can ram any project through with no concern of the public. Our Metro must be envious of how they do things down there. If I was living down there & doing what I have done so far in this fight, I would be shark meal by now.

SEC accuses city of Victorville, officials of fraud


By Marc Lifsher, April 29, 2013



 7th. Street in old town area of Victorville.


Federal securities regulators have accused the city of Victorville, an official, the airport authority and municipal bond underwriters of fraud stemming from a 2008 offering.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday accused the parties of inflating the value of properties -- mainly airplane hangars at the Southern California Logistics Airport --to secure $68 million worth of bonds.

QUIZ: How much do you know about California's economy?

 The bond underwriter, Kinsell, Newcomb & DeDios, also was accused of misusing more than $2.7 million in bond proceeds.

Named in the lawsuit are the city of Victorville; the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority; Kinsell, Newcomb & DeDios Inc.; KND Affiliates; J. Jeffrey Kinsell, president of KND; Janees L. Williams, vice president of KND; and Keith C. Metzler, assistant city manager of Victorville.
KND Holdings Inc. is a relief defendant. It is solely owned by Kinsell and is the parent company of KND.

"Financing redevelopment projects by selling municipal bonds based on inflated valuations violates the public trust as well as the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws," said George S. Canellos, co-director of the SEC enforcement division. "Public officials have the same obligation as corporate officials to tell the truth to their investors."

A spokeswoman for the Victorville city manager's office said the city would release a statement on the lawsuit Monday afternoon.


The Great Firewall of China

China’s environmental crisis comes into focus at this year’s Doo Dah 


By Andre Coleman and Kevin Uhrich, April 25, 2013

The Great Firewall of China
Much as human rights abuses in China took center stage at the 2008 Rose Parade, runaway environmental pollution in that rapidly industrializing country will be highlighted during another Pasadena institution — Saturday’s 36th Occasional Doo Dah Parade.

On Jan. 1, 2008 — the year China hosted the Summer Olympic Games — a China-themed float met with stiff resistance from human rights activists.

At this year’s Doo Dah, a local tradition that started out as a send-up of the more formal Tournament of Roses event, members of the Visual Artists Group, founded to support freedom of expression following the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, are asking people to join their entry, The Great Firewall of China Marching Brigade, to help bring attention to the plight of environmental crusader Wu Lihong.

Lihong, who lived near polluted Tai Lake, became a thorn in the side of local party, government and business officials after nearly a decade of highly publicized protests over the ongoing industrial degradation of the lake, which today is a breeding ground of death for people, fish, fowl and other life inhabiting the area.

In 2007, Lihong was brought up on what supporters contend were trumped-up bribery and fraud charges and sentenced to three years in prison, where Lihong says he was beaten and tortured.
Visual Artists Group President Ann Lau was a key organizer in the protest against the Rose Parade’s China float.

“When [Lihong] was just complaining about the pollution, they gave him an award, but when he started complaining about the government’s part in it, they set a trap for him,” Lau said. “In China the government can do whatever they want, and if they are targeting you, they will find every way to target you.”

In 2009, Lau served as the Doo Dah’s “Thorny Rose” for being what parade producer Tom Coston of the Light Bringer Project called a “royal pain,” but only in a good way.
PUSD District 3 Board of Education Runoff Election: The Vote Thieves Get Beat Again


April 17, 2013

 Congratulations to Tyron Hampton

 It is one of the most unlikely outcomes ever. A group of ideologically committed individuals, backed by the usual politically correct Pasadena choir of alphabet soup organizations such as ACT and PEN, somehow managed to racially gerrymander the entire Pasadena Unified School District. This redistricting process, so-called, was somehow supposed to empower minority voters and change the complexion of the Board of Education from an almost entirely white group of folks to something more closely reflecting the ethnic makeup of each of the seven districts. While not coincidentally also helping elect candidates who would support their destructive and politically driven agenda.

Which was, of course, their real goal all along.

So what happened? With these new subdistricts in place, 3 of the 4 that were permitted to vote elected the same people that were there before redistricting. The area that had no incumbent, District 3, went on to a runoff. And last night, in one of the more heavily Hispanic areas of Pasadena, the voters turned out to elect a young African American, and Republican of all things, businessman.

All of which goes to show it is just not all that easy to socially engineer human behavior. Perhaps it was just the old white guys at ACT who believed that people would only vote for those of their own ethnic background. If so, then somebody please send them off for a bit of sensitivity training.

It is also important to remember, both now and in 2015 when we finally do get to elect a representative of our own to the Board of Education, that the same people who decided Sierra Madre would not be allowed to vote until two years after the majority of other subdistricts, lost badly again last night. Their candidate, Ruben Hueso, backed by $10s of thousands of dollars coughed up by some of the most powerful machine politicians in California, received only 38.9% of the vote. It was a devastating defeat for some people who truly deserved it.

Here is how James Figueroa at the Pasadena Star News called the results (click here):

Hampton wins election for Pasadena school board seat Tyron Hampton Jr. won Tuesday's runoff election for Seat 3 on the Pasadena school board, beating Ruben Hueso with 61 percent of the vote in unofficial results, a marked turnaround from the March primary.

Hampton was the clear-cut leader from start to finish on Tuesday night, steadily increasing his lead as election results came in Tuesday. The final tally was Hampton, 694 votes, Hueso, 489, with late mail-in and provisional ballots to be counted next week.

In March, Hueso barely missed winning the board seat outright in March, slipping below the 50 percent plus one threshold only after a late surge by Hampton.

"I'm feeling great, I know this is going to be a lot of work ahead," Hampton said at Pasadena City Hall on Tuesday night, after hearing the results. "The community has shown that they're behind this movement and they're ready for a change in their schools. "

Hampton will represent District 3, primarily Northwest Pasadena, on a school board that didn't change much in the first year of the school district's new voting districts.

With Hueso's loss, there also won't be any Latinos on the board in a district where Latinos constitute the majority of the student population. Current board member Ramon Miramontes decided not to run again, along with Ed Honowitz.

So how badly did the political establishment want Hueso to win? If in politics money talks, and it usually does, then last night it was screaming for this one last chance at a victory. This from the Pasadena Weekly (click here):

In the one case, Hampton, who in the primary raised only a few hundred dollars for a seat representing some of Pasadena’s poorest families, is African American and a Republican, apparently incomparable terms in the minds of many, and unworthy of their support.

In the other case, Hueso has raised more than $30,000 in a bid to represent this sub-district of the Pasadena Unified School District containing less than 30,000 people, much of that money coming from big-name Democrats, among them state Sen. Kevin DeLeon of Los Angeles, former Speaker the Assembly Fabio Nuñez of San Diego, and former Assemblyman, now state Sen. Ben Hueso, Ruben’s brother, also of San Diego. These three men alone have provided more than two-thirds of Hueso’s funding — all of it coming from his brother’s past campaign fund and two accounts already set up by the others for runs at other offices.

More than $30,000 spent to get 577 votes in a runoff and lose to a guy who took in hardly any money at all. Can this be one of the worst dollar to vote ratios ever? Ruben Hueso would have done better if he'd just gone around the district and paid people $50 a head to vote for him. At least then that money could have been turned into groceries rather than things such as Ruben's unfortunate Boy Scout postcard.

The big Pasadena political establishment losers last night? Ed Honowitz, Tom Selinske, Bill Bogaard, Peter Dreier, Chris Holden, John Buchanan, Ken ChawkinsBart Doyle, ACT, PEN, IiPK, PEF, and the rest of the too familiar suspects. Like I said, it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of folks.

And you know who you can count among the winners last night? Sierra Madre. Because the very same people who stole our vote got the stuffings knocked out of them again last night. And in a race they absolutely needed to win. Perhaps it was their karmic reward for stealing our right to vote for a Board of Education rep in 2013.

What goes around comes around, as they say. In 2015 it will be our turn. And we won't forget.
Failed Pasadena Districting Task Force Head Ken Chawkins Thinks His Opinions Still Count


April 26, 2013

 Perhaps you remember Ken Chawkins. As a card carrying member of the endlessly meddlesome Edison Mafia (which also includes John Buchanan and Duarte's 710 Tunnel loving Metroman John Fasana) Ken seems to have a lot of time to insert himself into the affairs of various government agencies. Ken's most special target has been the Pasadena Unified School District, and among other things he was Chairman of the PUSD Districting Task Force, the now failed attempt at ethnically gerrymandering the way Board of Education representation is voted into office here. Something that apparently was also the justification for stealing Sierra Madre's 2013 redistricted Board of Ed vote. Thanks to Ken, along with such eager helpers as our own Joe Mosca and Bart Doyle, we now have no Board of Education representative, and won't until 2015. Obviously Ken has been special for us.

Despite the failure at the ballot box of the PUSD Districting Task Force's attempt at ethnically profiling the Pasadena Unified School District's Board of Education last month, Ken still feels he has a lot to say about how things should be run there. Why he continues to believe so being a bit of a mystery since he has caused so much harm already. You'd think the world would have heard enough from him by now. But Ken carries on, as evidenced by this letter published yesterday in the Pasadena Star News:

To the incoming Pasadena Unified school board: Very soon after you are installed, you will be confronted with a significant decision of whom to appoint to fill the remainder of Kim Kenne's at-large seat. I understand that there is a desire to select a Latino/a for that seat given that there will not be Latino/a representation during that period. I agree with that approach, but I would have you weigh things carefully and I would advise against selecting Ramon Miramontes for that spot. Reasons?

- Ramon has been the most divisive figure on the board, bar none, in recent years. He has attacked fellow board members, threatened PUSD volunteers (including me) and is not a collaborative person. You don't need that.

- Ramon has made nothing but enemies in the rest of PUSD's community. He has angered other public officials and has not shown any interest in truly working with other entities to help the kids of this district. You don't need that.

- Ramon claims to represent the Latino community yet he has not supported one Latino person for a local election unless they had the last name Miramontes; not for council, not for school board and not for Assembly. His interests are his own, not the community. He wants to run for City Council. You don't need that.

What you need is a balanced and thoughtful person who has no political agenda (how about not selecting someone from districts 2, 4 or 6 to avoid that issue?) and who has truly spent time in the community and can make good use of the two years. That is what you need. I urge you to think carefully ... and pick what the district needs.

You know what? Ramon Miramontes, if chosen to fill Kim Kenne's at-large Board of Ed seat, would be just about the closest thing Sierra Madre will have to a representative there until 2015. He consistently opposed Ken Chawkins's redistricting schemes and the theft of our Board of Ed vote. Ramon has also been a strong advocate for the rebuilding of our Middle School. Something we've paid out the nose to have done with our Measure TT bond money, but the PUSD has somehow very consistently failed to honor. Despite its repeated promises to do so.

Here is a passage from a Brian Charles penned Pasadena Star News article ("Measure A fallout fractures PUSD" click here) that sheds a hot light on the sad pique of Ken Chawkins:

Measure A will convert the Pasadena Unified School District from its current at-large system to a subdistrict format for the future election of board members. The process has fueled a contentious argument over the adoption of subdistricts and more specifically the subdistrict boundaries. School board members accused the redistricting task force appointees Wednesday of drawing those lines to improve their own political fortunes.

"Those maps are for the benefit of Ken Chawkins and others on the task force like Chris Chahinian," PUSD board member Ramon Miramontes said. "If Ken Chawkins, Chris Chahinian or someone in the Armenian Coalition runs for school board, we'll know the maps are self-serving."

Chawkins ran for school board nearly a decade ago and lost; Chahinian launched a failed attempt to win a seat on the City Council. Redistricting task force member Roberta Martinez ran an unsuccessful campaign for school board in 2007.

That is the real rub for Chawkins. Ramon Miramontes has previously been elected by the people to serve on the Board of Education. Chawkins, on the other hand, ran and was beaten badly. Ken instead gets his authority now from intrigue riddled political pressure groups such as ACT, a reactionary clique that has proven to be no friend of Sierra Madre.

Apparently Mr. Chawkins feels that the Board of Education should do what his Districting Task Force failed to accomplish, put someone on the Board that supports his own politically inspired agendas. An ideological persuasion the voters overwhelmingly rejected when they went to the polls last month.

That is, of course, those voters who were actually permitted by Mr. Chawkins and his Task Force to cast a vote. A preferred group that did not include us.

So exactly how bad was the failure of the Chawkins chaired PUSD Districting Task Force to accomplish its ends? Wayne Lusvardi, writing for CalWatchDog (click here), a site that all dedicated Tattlers read often, has penned an excellent article that speaks in part to this matter. Here is Wayne's expose' in its entirety:

Gerrymander backfires on Dems in Pasadena - Gerrymandering is a strategy to manipulate political district boundaries to split the voting population in favor of the group in power.  But sometimes gerrymandering is subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences and results in the opposite of what was intended.

An example is Pasadena Unified School District’s Measure A, Formation of Geographic Sub-Districts Pasadena Unified School District, that passed with 54.5 percent of the vote on June 29, 2012.  As reported in the Pasadena Sun newspaper, Measure A was intended to generate greater low-income Latino representation on the Pasadena School Board.

Measure A ended at-large voting by all voters in the school district for school board members.  Nomination and election of board members would be by geographic sub-districts only.  The sub-districts would be adopted by the School Board and redrawn after each U.S. Census, based upon recommendations of a Citizen Redistricting Commission.

However, what happened in the very first election under the new law, on April 16, is that Pasadena ended up with no Latino representation on the School Board.  This was the result of an unexpected combination a Latino board member in District 5 deciding not to run for re-election; and the failure to elect a Latino in a heavily populated Latino District 3 under the new law.

Ruben Hueso, a Democratic-Party candidate, failed to get elected. Yet he enjoyed a $30,000 campaign war chest for a runoff election from donations by state Sen. Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles; former Assembly Speaker Fabio Nunez; and state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, Ruben’s brother. Ruben Hueso also garnered endorsements from almost every liberal elite in town.

Possibly contributing to Hueso’s defeat was that the local teachers’ union, the United Teachers of Pasadena, pulled their endorsement of him for unexplained reasons just before the election.

Republican broad public interest politics won

In ultra-liberal Pasadena, Hueso lost to a most unexpected candidate: a Republican in the construction business who had a campaign fund of $10,000: $5,500 from his construction business and $4,500 from small contributions. His name is Tyron Hampton, Jr.

Hampton attributed his election to senior citizen turnout in his new district.  He ran on a platform of developing innovative solutions to school district budget shortfalls.  Hampton is married to Tara Gomez, PhD, an alumnus of UCLA and Cal-Tech.

The turnout for the runoff election was only 10.7 percent of all registered voters.  Hampton got 904 votes (61.5 percent) compared to 590 votes for Hueso (39.5 percent). But how did Hampton win when even Republicans initially opposed Measure A?

Republican Bill Bibbiani, a former Pasadena Unified School District administrator and School Board member, opposed Measure A on the grounds it would “result in a style of racially oriented, ward-based, ‘what’s in it for me’ politics and politicians.”

What resulted, however, was the opposite: the candidate who appealed to the broader public interest — rather than racial or ethnic politics — won. Gerrymandering gave a Republican candidate an opportunity to win that would have been unlikely in school district-wide election in a Democratic Party stronghold.

The Democratic candidate lost in part because of using gerrymandering tactics that narrowed the numbers down to fewer voters; and narrowed the election issues down to symbolic ethnic identity politics that had nothing to do with the concerns of senior citizens and property owners in the newly carved out district.

Maybe the senior citizen voting block that put Hampton in a seat on the School Board didn’t want racial identity politics, but a public school system that didn’t have to ask taxpayers for more money to meet budget shortfalls.

In Praise of the Stockholm Subway's Breathtaking Art


By Kaid Benfield, April 22, 2013



 In Praise of the Stockholm Subway's Breathtaking Art

The Wikipedia entry for Stockholm’s Metro system says that it has 100 stations in use along about 65 miles of track. I seem to recall that Stockholm was one of the cities used to illustrate the concept of transit-oriented development in Michael Bernick and Robert Cervero’s 1996 book on the subject, Transit Villages in the 21st Century. I also know that Stockholm was an early adopter of congestion pricing for roadways.

Courtesy of Imagea.org/Flickr

Courtesy of Ingrid Truemper/Flickr
What I didn’t know until now, however, was that transportation innovation in the Swedish capital and its suburbs also extends to a flamboyant display of public art in its Metro stations. Indeed, The website Twisted Sifter relays the claim that the system is basically "the world’s longest art exhibit":
Travellng by metro is like travelling through an exciting story that extends from the artistic pioneers of the 1950s to the art experiments of today. Over 90 of the 100 subway stations in Stockholm have been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs by over 150 artists. What a fun and inexpensive way to explore the art and culture of an incredible city like Stockholm!
  map of the Stockholm Metro (by: Stonyyy, creative commons)

Courtesy of @raulds/Flickr
Several of the underground stations, especially on the system’s Blue Line, are left with the shape of the bedrock exposed, covered in sprayed concrete, as part of the exhibits. At the Rissne station, says Wikipedia, a wall fresco depicting the history of Earth's civilizations runs along both sides of the platform. In six of the stations the art is temporary and replaced periodically.

Courtesy of August Linnman/Creative Commons

Courtesy of Nenyaki/Flickr
Twisted Sifter says the movement to install art in the Metro began in the mid-1950s. There are guided tours of the highlights.  Enjoy these photos garnered from the collections of photographers generous enough to license their work for public use (as always, move your cursor for the credits).

Courtesy of Kallie1/Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of imagea.org/Flickr
For an especially fun presentation, watch this video (Spanish with English subtitles) of an animated host taking us on a tour of some of the highlights:

Beijing Residents Can't Escape Dismal Air Pollution


By Philip Bump, April 24, 2013

 Beijing Residents Can't Escape Dismal Air Pollution

 Various degrees of air pollution on different days in Tiananmen Square

China's wildly fluctuating (and increasing) urban air pollution is prompting some residents of Beijing to seek homes elsewhere. A look at recent air pollution data, though, suggests that most of the country's cities suffer similar problems.

Both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have written recently about Chinese workers and families who want to leave the country's cities in search of breathable air. The Times quotes a doctor:
“I’ve been here for six years and I’ve never seen anxiety levels the way they are now,” said Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a new father and a family health doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital, whose patients are half Chinese and half foreigners. “Even for me, I’ve never been as anxious as I am now. It has been extraordinarily bad.”

He added: “Many mothers, especially, have been second-guessing their living in Beijing. I think many mothers are fed up with keeping their children inside.”
But it isn't just Beijing. Ever since the U.S. Embassy in the capital installed an air quality monitor and started tweeting hourly readings (see: @BeijingAir), U.S. facilities in other cities, like Shanghai (@ShanghaiAir), have followed suit. The newly public data also both inspired the Chinese government to recognize the problem and encouraged others to develop tools to track it. A group calling itself aqicn.org (Air Quality Index China) offers a real-time map.

 calling itself aqicn.org (Air Quality Index China) offers a real-time map.

What's interesting is the degree to which the data follow different patterns in different cities. Here, for example, are the hourly air quality data for Beijing and Shanghai over the past month. The data point tracked is the "air quality index," a measure described here.

Beijing's data fluctuates much more widely than Shanghai's. That becomes more obvious when considering the hourly average for both cities. (The data for Beijing extends a few weeks farther back than Shanghai's.)
Hourly average air quality index readingsBeijingShanghai481216200.00100.00200.00300.00400.00
Beijing, inland and surrounded by mountains, has much different airflow than Shanghai, on the coast. But both have unhealthy air. The air quality index labels any score above 100 as "unhealthy for sensitive groups." Anything over 150 is just plain "unhealthy." Over 200: "very unhealthy." And so on. Earlier this year, Beijing had several instances in which its data exceeded the air quality index scale.
Air quality index readings in Beijing since March 3
GoodModerateUnhealthy forsensitive groupsUnhealthyVery unhealthyHazardousOff the charts13.9%13.8%14.5%6.1%19.1%32.4%
This diagram shows why Beijing is at the center of concern. Over the past six weeks, the city's air has been unhealthy for all residents about 60 percent of the time.
Air quality index readings in Shanghai since March 23
ModerateUnhealthy forsensitive groupsUnhealthy21.4%33.8%44.8%
Shanghai's air quality, while more consistent, has still been unhealthy for all residents one-third of the time.

The differing levels and severity of the air pollution means that the country will likely have to seek different solutions in each case. Chinese residents looking to escape Beijing's pollution end up trading one problem for another.

Map of the Day: Pollution in California


By Sara Johnson, April 26, 2013


Map of the Day: Pollution in California
If you've ever flown into Los Angeles, you know about the layer of smog visible in the horizon. But as Nate Berg pointed out in 2011, five of the ten cities with the worst air pollution in the country were located in the state's Central Valley — the same swath of state that produces a large chunk of the nation's food.

This new interactive map makes that point really clear. Released by the California Environmental Protection Agency earlier this week, the map stems from a report [PDF] that ranks California zip codes based on factors including air quality, pesticide use, groundwater, and traffic density as well as population and socioeconomic data.

The darkest colors on the map indicate the cities in the highest percentiles (aka, most impacted by pollution). As the Los Angeles Times noted, three of the top 10 places are in the newspaper's home county. But see the dark blue strip running through the state? That's the Central Valley, home to the state's most-impacted zip code, in the city of Fresno.

Eric Garcetti for mayor

He lacks executive experience but is the candidate with the most potential to meet the challenge.


 Eric Garcetti

 Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti.

Studying the top five mayoral contenders before the March primary, The Times selected Eric Garcetti as the candidate most likely to rise to the occasion and lead Los Angeles into a successful future.
Now the runoff between Garcetti and Wendy Greuel is well into the home stretch, and the candidates have been able to focus a bit more on their plans and programs, and on their critiques of each other. Garcetti remains our choice.

That's based in large part on the records both candidates have compiled in city government over more than a decade, and less on the statements, charges, claims, counterclaims, missteps, outrageous mailers, misleading ads, high-profile endorsements and spending reports that have emerged in the course of the campaign. In theory, political campaigns can boil down candidates to their essences and put voters in a better position to distinguish among them and to make their choices, but it rarely turns out that way. In this race, as in so many others, the campaigns have produced more heat than light, more diversion than focus.

ENDORSEMENTS: Los Angeles City Elections 2013

Does the independent expenditure campaign underwritten by the union representing Department of Water and Power workers really mean that Greuel is "bought and paid for," as Garcetti charges? Does Garcetti's $1.25 per year in royalties from a petroleum lease at Beverly Hills High School really make him an oil tycoon who profits at the expense of children's health? Did Greuel really propose an irresponsible police hiring binge that the city simply can't afford? Was Garcetti, as council president, any more responsible than was Greuel, as city controller, for the rising unemployment rate in Los Angeles during the mortgage crisis and recession? Is Greuel a political climber who covered up her Republican past to be viable in an overwhelmingly Democratic town, and Garcetti a trust fund baby who has latched on to liberal causes for their cachet?
Oh, please. Enough already.

Cast aside the campaigns and look closely at their records, and both candidates emerge as earnest, ambitious and talented politicians, each of whom has made some good moves and some bad ones over the course of their careers, each of whom could have done a better job crafting city policy and safeguarding city resources.

WATCH: Garcetti video interview | Greuel video interview

But Greuel disappointed as city controller. It's not that she didn't do her job; she did, performing audits, unmasking some problems on her own, responding to others as they emerged, offering appropriately conservative estimates of revenue and careful critiques of spending. As a city employee, she earned a grade of "meets expectations."

But she didn't earn a promotion. Controller is a poorly named and loosely defined job in city government that nevertheless allows the woman or man holding the office to propose far-reaching revamps of policies and processes. In a government without political parties, the controller could and should be the loyal opposition, the gadfly in chief, the public advocate. Greuel always seemed to grasp the political value of purporting to find waste, fraud and abuse in City Hall but never was able to outline for Angelenos the larger narrative of what was going wrong or how things could be better. She found a contract that she believed should be renegotiated or a program that should be better supervised, but she didn't tell the city, in essence, "Here is why building inspectors are being indicted, this is the reason the Housing Authority gets away with wasting money, here is how the mayor is mismanaging city departments and how the council members are failing in their oversight duties, and here's what can be done about it."

Garcetti, as council president, had a different role, but he did a better job with it. He was late to deal with the budget crisis, but he got there and, importantly, he then got his reluctant colleagues there as well, overseeing difficult budget cuts and taking the first tentative steps toward resolving the city's pension problem. At the same time, he remade his district with innovative programs to deter gang crime, erase graffiti, house the homeless and provide shelter for the addicted and those in need of mental health services. He guided Hollywood to a renaissance and helped make it, once again, a geographic destination rather than merely the description of an industry headquartered across the city limits in Burbank.

Perhaps most important, Garcetti has demonstrated the capacity to grow, learn and improve his performance. He admits mistakes, such as his vote in favor of a settlement allowing, for a time, virtually unregulated digital billboards. Neither candidate has the executive experience one would like to see in a mayoral candidate. Greuel's response, tellingly, is to cite her role helping to manage a small family construction business and to assert, and perhaps to believe, that it is sufficient.
Selecting a mayor may sometimes seem just as random as (and a lot less fun than) picking a winner on "American Idol," but in the end it's a hiring decision. Of the applicants, who is best suited to the job? Neither candidate is ready, but Greuel seems like a completed project that falls short of what's needed, while Garcetti comes off as a creative work in progress with potential to meet the challenge. That makes the choice easy. It's Garcetti.

Newton: What about the Port of Los Angeles?

 The two mayoral candidates haven't focused on one of the city's leading economic drivers.


 By Jim Newton, April 29, 2013

Port of Los Angeles

 Every year, more than $250 billion worth of cargo passes through the Port of Los Angeles' 7,500 acres of docks and cranes.

It's fun for mayoral candidates to imagine eliminating potholes or building new trains to link the Valley to the Westside. It's not hard to support a spiffed-up LAX (really, what's hard to believe is that it's taken this long) or legions of new police officers making Los Angeles safe. What you don't often hear from these candidates, however, is a thoughtful vision for the Port of Los Angeles.

The port can seem far away, but it's crucial to the city's life. Every year, more than $250 billion worth of cargo passes through its 7,500 acres of docks and cranes. Cruise ships load and unload. The battleship Iowa is docked there. The cargo alone is enough to support nearly 1 million jobs in Southern California and about 3.6 million nationally. As an industry, it makes Hollywood seem trivial.

Given that, you might think both mayoral candidates would have volumes to say about how they plan to run this facility. Nope.

Controller Wendy Greuel recently released her comprehensive "Leading L.A. Forward," an impressive and detailed menu of her policy prescriptions for balancing the city budget, creating jobs and reforming education, among other things.
But here's all it says about the port: "I will work closely with … the Port of Los Angeles to expedite green-growth projects that will position the port to compete in the face of the Panama Canal expansion."

And Councilman Eric Garcetti's summary of his "record and agenda" doesn't mention the port at all.

Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can point to his stewardship of the port with pride — traffic plummeted at the outset of the recession but has steadily climbed. Emissions have been dramatically reduced. But there's still room for improvement. Some port customers complain that projects take too long to approve, and some Long Beach residents and leaders feel Villaraigosa has treated them high-handedly.

The good news is that the management of the port is capable and on the case. Under the leadership of Geraldine Knatz, its executive director, the port has compiled a five-year plan to keep the facility competitive while maintaining its relationships with customers and neighbors and building on its financial strength.

That's a sound start, but the future will be complicated. Even as the port is preparing to accommodate larger ships that will soon pass through the widened Panama Canal, Knatz warns that some cargo from Southern Asia is turning west and making its way through the Suez Canal. At the same time, shipyards are upgrading on the west coast of Canada and Mexico, both eager to pick off Pacific traffic.

"You can't just focus on one thing," Knatz said of the shipping business. "You've got to watch your back."

It's a constant struggle to supply shippers with efficient berths and ready access to the national rail network. As long as shippers have those, they can unload quickly and disperse their goods across North America.

But there are other concerns. Port traffic creates jobs but also congestion and air pollution as trucks shuttle cargo from the docks to the closest rail yards. Today, that means a 24-mile trek up the 710 Freeway.

A much-debated proposal to build a new yard just a few miles from the port would create shorter trips and reduce air pollution but concentrate loading activity in Wilmington. The next mayor will need to find ways to help the area balance the economic and environmental benefits of the rail yard with the concerns of neighbors.

Garcetti has shown an inclination to flinch in the face of pressure, recently announcing that he would not favor the reconfiguration of the north runway at LAX, which is opposed by neighbors. He hedged a bit last week on the port rail yard project, saying he supported it but wanted some more details about displaced jobs and zero-emission trucks.

Greuel was in about the same place: She supports it, while also saying she wants to mitigate negative effects.

That's a frustrating microcosm of the campaign: Both support it. Sort of.

There are real issues needing the mayor's attention at the port. When automated cranes were installed there a few years ago, for instance, Villaraigosa transferred safety responsibility from the city's Building and Safety Department, which had no expertise in that machinery, to the harbor staff, which did. That small shift expedited the project and helped keep the port competitive.

City Councilman Joe Buscaino represents the area and knows it well. He said the next mayor — Buscaino has endorsed Garcetti — needs to focus on keeping the port competitive, protecting the environment and developing the waterfront from San Pedro to Wilmington. The port must respect its neighbors, he stressed, but it must thrive as a business too.

"The port is a huge asset," Buscaino said. "We have to make sure it's competitive."

What If We Never Run Out of Oil?

 New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare. 


By Charles C. Mann, April 24, 2013




As the great research ship Chikyu left Shimizu in January to mine the explosive ice beneath the Philippine Sea, chances are good that not one of the scientists aboard realized they might be closing the door on Winston Churchill’s world. Their lack of knowledge is unsurprising; beyond the ranks of petroleum-industry historians, Churchill’s outsize role in the history of energy is insufficiently appreciated.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911. With characteristic vigor and verve, he set about modernizing the Royal Navy, jewel of the empire. The revamped fleet, he proclaimed, should be fueled with oil, rather than coal—a decision that continues to reverberate in the present. Burning a pound of fuel oil produces about twice as much energy as burning a pound of coal. Because of this greater energy density, oil could push ships faster and farther than coal could.

Churchill’s proposal led to emphatic dispute. The United Kingdom had lots of coal but next to no oil. At the time, the United States produced almost two-thirds of the world’s petroleum; Russia produced another fifth. Both were allies of Great Britain. Nonetheless, Whitehall was uneasy about the prospect of the Navy’s falling under the thumb of foreign entities, even if friendly. The solution, Churchill told Parliament in 1913, was for Britons to become “the owners, or at any rate, the controllers at the source of at least a proportion of the supply of natural oil which we require.” Spurred by the Admiralty, the U.K. soon bought 51 percent of what is now British Petroleum, which had rights to oil “at the source”: Iran (then known as Persia). The concessions’ terms were so unpopular in Iran that they helped spark a revolution. London worked to suppress it. Then, to prevent further disruptions, Britain enmeshed itself ever more deeply in the Middle East, working to install new shahs in Iran and carve Iraq out of the collapsing Ottoman Empire.

Churchill fired the starting gun, but all of the Western powers joined the race to control Middle Eastern oil. Britain clawed past France, Germany, and the Netherlands, only to be overtaken by the United States, which secured oil concessions in Turkey, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The struggle created a long-lasting intercontinental snarl of need and resentment. Even as oil-consuming nations intervened in the affairs of oil-producing nations, they seethed at their powerlessness; oil producers exacted huge sums from oil consumers but chafed at having to submit to them. Decades of turmoil—oil shocks in 1973 and 1979, failed programs for “energy independence,” two wars in Iraq—have left unchanged this fundamental, Churchillian dynamic, a toxic mash of anger and dependence that often seems as basic to global relations as the rotation of the sun.

All of this was called into question by the voyage of the Chikyu (“Earth”), a $540 million Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel that looks like a billionaire’s yacht with a 30-story oil derrick screwed into its back. The Chikyu, a floating barrage of superlatives, is the biggest, glitziest, most sophisticated research vessel ever constructed, and surely the only one with a landing pad for a 30-person helicopter. The central derrick houses an enormous floating drill with a six-mile “string” that has let the Chikyu delve deeper beneath the ocean floor than any other ship.

The Chikyu, which first set out in 2005, was initially intended to probe earthquake-generating zones in the planet’s mantle, a subject of obvious interest to seismically unstable Japan. Its present undertaking was, if possible, of even greater importance: trying to develop an energy source that could free not just Japan but much of the world from the dependence on Middle Eastern oil that has bedeviled politicians since Churchill’s day.

In the 1970s, geologists discovered crystalline natural gas—methane hydrate, in the jargon—beneath the seafloor. Stored mostly in broad, shallow layers on continental margins, methane hydrate exists in immense quantities; by some estimates, it is twice as abundant as all other fossil fuels combined. Despite its plenitude, gas hydrate was long subject to petroleum-industry skepticism. These deposits—water molecules laced into frigid cages that trap “guest molecules” of natural gas—are strikingly unlike conventional energy reserves. Ice you can set on fire! Who could take it seriously? But as petroleum prices soared, undersea-drilling technology improved, and geological surveys accumulated, interest rose around the world. The U.S. Department of Energy has been funding a methane-hydrate research program since 1982.

Why Los Angeles could become the next technology epicenter


 By Ilya Pozin, April 28, 2013

Los Angeles is one of the world’s largest and most glamorous cities — it dominates the entertainment industry, produces tremendous wealth and stands as symbol of American promise and success.

That’s what made the city’s longtime status as a second or third tier technology hub perplexing. The emerging tech scene in the area comes nowhere close to Silicon Valley’s technological prominence. Other U.S. cities — including New York, Seattle and Boston — have also seemed to leave the City of Angels in the dust.

But thanks to a gradual cultural shift and several municipal initiatives, Los Angeles has gained the moniker “Silicon Beach,” and is finally becoming a tech destination in its own right. Incubators and accelerators are popping up everywhere; multi-million dollar startups with worldwide recognition are tracing their roots back to L.A.; and celebrities are adopting tech companies as pet projects. Generally speaking, there is an aura of tech promise and excitement in the city.

Perhaps the continued growth of the industry nationally — despite the slumping economy — convinced more people that a Northern California area code was no longer necessary for tech success. Today, resources for the industry in L.A. are more readily available. A new wave of entrepreneurs have moved to the area. Accelerators are providing mentors, educational events and seed money to entrepreneurs with great ideas but little support. And there are co-working spaces, meetup events, panels and other resources for those joining this burgeoning tech scene — creating the palpable sense of community that makes San Francisco and New York enviable tech destinations.
The rise of L.A.’s tech scene has been a grassroots effort

The rise of L.A.’s tech scene has been a grassroots effort. As with New York City and Boston, if the trend is to continue, L.A.’s public domain must increasingly encourage tech development.

“We’re known as the entertainment capital in the world, but we’re not known for Silicon Beach, and that needs to change,” said L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a recent tech event. Villaraigosa and the Mayor’s Council have proposed a number of initiatives to change the perception of L.A. and encourage entrepreneurs, investors and students alike to consider the area for their next venture. These initiatives include:

  • Reaching out to venture capital firms and wealthy locals, to publicize early-stage companies forming in the area.
  • Launching the Edge.LA Fellowship Program, which will connect recent graduates to established businesses and entrepreneurs (according to the council, 54 percent of UCLA’s engineering graduates have chosen to relocate outside of L.A. since 2008).
  • Extend the Expo Line to Santa Monica, bridging the disparate tech communities around the county — such as Venice, Culver City, Hollywood and other areas — to ease collaboration and uniformity.
It’s important to remember, however, that becoming a great tech city doesn’t mean abandoning that which made your city great in the first place. New initiatives and companies are good, but combining tech sensibilities with the established entertainment culture will be a great step to assure sustainability.

That means continuing to attract big name celebrities as investors. Some notable celebrity-backed startups include The Honest Company, co-founded by Jessica Alba, which recommends and sends safe baby products to members on a monthly basis; ShoeDazzle, from Kim Kardashian, mails celeb-stylist selected shoes to users each month as well; and Justin Timberlake was involved in the recent revamp of Myspace. As more celebrities look to attach their names to exciting projects, the spotlight will shine brighter on L.A. as a whole.

It also means encouraging companies that are disrupting and transforming the entertainment industry to base themselves in L.A.

“With the massive growth of YouTube and Hulu and startups providing alternative solutions, the TV industry is really changing and it creates opportunity,” venture capitalist Dana Settle told Business Insider last year.

Companies that can help Hollywood take full advantage of the tech revolution — through new video platforms or communication solutions, for example — will undoubtedly be leaders in the L.A. tech scene moving forward.

Between individual ambition, government enthusiasm, entrepreneurial leadership, celebrity-branded ideas and the courage to disrupt long standing local industries, there are many exciting elements coming together that will likely catapult L.A. into the upper echelon of tech epicenters.

Obama to Nominate Charlotte Mayor to Transportation Post


By Peter Baker, April 28, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday plans to nominate Anthony R. Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., to be the next secretary of transportation, choosing a rising young African-American from the South to balance out a cabinet criticized for a lack of diversity.

 Anthony R. Foxx

Mr. Obama also appeared close to nominating Penny Pritzker, a hotel magnate, longtime friend and fund-raiser, as the next commerce secretary, and Michael Froman, his international economics adviser, as the United States trade representative, although neither nomination was scheduled to be announced on Monday.

The selections, all of which would require Senate confirmation, would help fill out Mr. Obama’s second-term cabinet more than five months after his re-election. Consumed by fiscal clashes and legislative battles and delayed by painstaking vetting, Mr. Obama has been slow to finish assembling a team to carry him through the second half of his administration.

Word of Mr. Foxx’s nomination, confirmed on Sunday by White House officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss it before the formal announcement, comes at a time when the president has been scrutinized for the demographic makeup of his circle. After drawing criticism that many of his initial second-term national security picks were men, Mr. Obama has named a succession of women and minorities to other top-level posts.

The issue provoked one of the laugh lines at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association on Saturday night. “Mr. President, your hair is so white it could be a member of your cabinet,” Conan O’Brien joked.

Mr. Foxx, who turns 42 on Tuesday, has served as mayor for nearly four years. But just three weeks ago, he announced that he would not seek re-election this year because he wanted to spend more time with his family, including two children born after he joined the Charlotte City Council in 2005. “I do not want to be a father who looks back and wishes I had spent more time with them,” he said in a statement on April 5.

Mr. Foxx, who was raised by a single mother and his grandparents, became the first black student body president at Davidson College and earned a law degree from New York University. He worked as a lawyer for a private firm as well as for the House Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department before returning to Charlotte to begin his career as an elected politician.

He has said that during his four years as mayor, he has turned around an economically afflicted city, adding 13,000 jobs, making Charlotte more hospitable to business and hosting the Democratic National Convention last year.

While Mr. Foxx does not have a transportation background, he did work as mayor to extend a light-rail line, open another runway at the airport, complete a major highway widening, improve a major bridge and bring streetcars back to Charlotte.

He would be the second black member of the cabinet, joining Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. He would succeed Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman who led the Transportation Department for four years and said in January that he would step down as soon as his successor was confirmed.

The commerce job has been open for nearly a year since John E. Bryson stepped down in June, citing medical reasons after a sequence of car crashes. The deputy secretary, Rebecca M. Blank, has filled in since then. Ms. Pritzker, an heiress to the Hyatt hotel fortune, has been in the wings for months as the likely candidate, but vetting her family’s wealth and intricate business ties evidently delayed the nomination.

Mr. Froman, a former managing director of Citigroup and a law school friend of Mr. Obama who serves as his deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, appears likely to be the new trade representative, a cabinet-level post. Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor who had the job in the first term, stepped down last month; he spent time with Mr. Obama during the president’s trip to Dallas last week and played golf with him over the weekend.