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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gov. Brown extends use of carpool lanes for electric cars, others


By Patrick McGreevy, September 28, 2013

 210 Freeway
 Traffic is backed up along the 210 Freeway in Irwindale after an accident earlier last month. Gov. Jerry Brown acted Saturday on a trio of bills that affect who can use the carpool lanes and when.

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday approved a four-year extension of carpool lane access for electric cars and low-emission vehicles, but vetoed a bill that would have allowed solo motorists access to those lanes on two Los Angeles County freeways during off-peak hours.

All together, the governor signed 20 pieces of legislation Saturday, including six bills promoting the use of low- and zero-emission cars.

“Today, we reaffirm our commitment in California to an electric vehicle future,” Brown said in a statement.

Under one bill approved by Brown, cars with white vehicle stickers from the state -- including electric, hydrogen fuel cell and compressed natural-gas vehicles — will be able to use carpool lanes until Jan. 1, 2019. Without Brown’s signature, the access would have expired Jan. 1, 2015. Former Assemblyman Robert Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) introduced AB 266.

The governor also signed a companion measure that the extends the state's green sticker program allowing  certain low-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, to drive in high-occupancy or “diamond” lanes until 2019, or until federal authorization expires. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) wrote SB 286.

Related bills signed by the governor make electric-vehicle charging stations more accessible to all drivers, develop new rules to include charging stations in apartment buildings and non-residential structures and provide $30 million in incentives for hybrid and zero-emission trucks and buses.

But Brown vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that would have allowed lone motorists in regular cars to use the carpool lanes on a 13-mile stretch of the 134 Freeway in Los Angeles County during off-peak hours, the rule in much of the state.  The bill also would have allowed solo drivers to use a section of the 210 Freeway when it was not rush hour.

Brown suggested traffic in the area justifies the special rules. “Carpool lanes are especially important in Los Angeles County to reduce pollution and maximize use of freeways,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “We should retain the current 24/7 carpool lane control.”

LAPD chief defends car impound policy


By Joel Rubin, September 28, 2013

 LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
 A day after rescinding the policy to adhere to a court ruling, Charlie Beck refuses to back down from his belief that the impound rules are legal and should be allowed to remain in place.

A day after he rescinded the LAPD's controversial car impound policy to adhere to a court ruling, police Chief Charlie Beck refused to back down from his belief that the impound rules are legal and should be allowed to remain in place.

On Friday, Beck quietly sent word to his officers that they should not follow the impound rules, called Special Order 7, in light of a recent decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry Green to strike down the policy because it violates state law.

In an interview Saturday, Beck declined to say outright whether lawyers for the city would appeal Green's ruling, saying that was a decision for City Atty. Mike Feuer to make. Beck, however, signaled strongly that an appeal was likely, saying he "looks forward to the next phase of the judicial process."

Beck also reaffirmed his stance that he acted within his powers when he implemented Special Order 7 and that Green's ruling "undermines the authority of the Police Department to regulate the conduct of its officers."

Despite his disagreement with the judge, Beck said he had no choice but to comply with Green's order to rescind the impound rules. Prior to Beck's move on Friday, it had been widely expected that city lawyers would try to keep Special Order 7 in place during the lengthy appeals process by asking a state appeals court to set Green's ruling aside pending their decision.

A spokesman for Feuer did not return calls for comment on whether he would still request the stay on Green's ruling from the appellate court. Michael Kaufman, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has joined the city in defending the legality of the impound rules, said his group would do so with or without the city's help.

Under the terms of Special Order 7, if police stopped an unlicensed driver who met several requirements -- including having auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving -- officers could no longer invoke the part of the state vehicle code that allowed them to confiscate the vehicle for 30 days, a punishment that came with fines and charges often exceeding $1,200.

In a city with an estimated 400,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally and forbidden by state law from obtaining driver's licenses, Beck and the LAPD’s civilian oversight board, which approved the policy, argued that Special Order 7 was needed for moral and practical reasons. The 30-day holds, they said, unfairly burdened such drivers, who often are poor and feel they have no choice but risk having their cars seized to drive to work or take their children to school. Beck said he expected that the policy would encourage unlicensed drivers to take steps such as buying insurance to avoid the monthlong holds.

“It's not so much that I am a dove on immigration,” Beck said in an earlier interview with The Times. “It's that I'm a realist. I recognize that this is the population that I police. If I can take steps -- legal steps -- to make them a better population to police, then I will.”

The union that represents rank-and-file officers and Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning watchdog organization based in Washington, sued the department over the policy, arguing it improperly attempted to supersede the state’s impound laws that gave some discretion to officers on whether to use the 30-day hold on a car or not.

Tyler Izen, president of the police union, said in an interview Saturday, "I always believed that what the chief was doing was not the solution to a problem that I agree needs to be addressed."

"Letting people drive without driver's licenses is reckless, and that's what he was trying to allow," Izen said.

Emphasizing that the union has not taken an official position on a bill passed this month by the state Legislature that would allow immigrants in the country illegally to receive licenses, Izen said: "We've made the decision that healthcare and education are humanitarian issues. We should make the decision whether a driver's license ... is a humanitarian issue as well."

Beck issued a new directive Friday to replace Special Order 7. “The purpose of this Notice is to provide guidance to officers when making a vehicle impound/removal decision concerning drivers without a valid license,” he wrote on the department’s internal computer network. In perhaps what was an indication that the city still plans to appeal Green’s ruling, Beck added that officers should not adhere to Special Order 7 “until further notice.”

The switch from the order returns to officers some level of authority when deciding on impounds, but instructs them to take a common-sense approach spelled out in a legal principle called the Community Caretaking Doctrine. They should, Beck wrote, “take into account the ‘totality of the circumstances' to determine whether an impound/removal is appropriate.”

For example, Beck instructed, an impound is acceptable if there is no other way to prevent “the immediate and continued unlawful operation” of a car. However, according to the Caretaking Doctrine, if someone else in the car has a license or the unlicensed driver is already at his residence when he is pulled over, then the officer should not impound the car, Beck said.

Beck also tried to clarify for officers the multiple sections of the state vehicle code that authorize officers to use the 30-day hold in some cases and a less severe impound in others, under which a driver can retrieve his car immediately.

Beck repeated on Saturday his belief that the various sections of the code overlap with each other and are confusing for officers. The result, he said, is that unlicensed drivers are left at the mercy of individual officers, some of whom may take a more lenient approach than others.

“Officers should determine which statutory authority is most appropriate for the given circumstance,” Beck wrote.

Big rig crash causes major delays on SB 5 Freeway


September 28, 2013

 A big rig accident caused delays on the southbound 5 Freeway near Paramount Boulevard in Downey for several hours Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.
 A big rig accident caused delays on the southbound 5 Freeway near Paramount Boulevard in Downey for several hours Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.

A big rig overturned in Downey Saturday snarling traffic on the southbound 5 Freeway for several hours. 

The accident occurred near Paramount Boulevard and shut down all but one lane around 4:30 a.m.
CHP officials said the collision involved a vehicle versus big rig and left the big rig on its side.
All lanes were reopened around 7 a.m.

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Pedestrian struck and killed by Blue Line train in South L.A.


By Victoria Kim, September 27, 2013

 Metro Blue Line

 Pedestrians cross the tracks at a Metro Blue Line station. A man was struck and killed Friday evening by a Blue Line train in South L.A., disrupting service during rush hour and causing delays.

A man was struck and killed Friday evening by a Metro Blue Line train in South L.A., disrupting service during rush hour and causing delays.

The incident took place about 6:20 p.m. at the Vernon Avenue station, according to Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales.

The pedestrian, in his 30s or 40s, stepped onto the southbound tracks about 20 yards shy of the station just as a train was arriving, Gonzales said.

Witnesses told investigators the man appeared to be checking for a train coming from the opposite direction and may have been distracted, according to Metro. Gonzales said the crossing arm was down, and audible signals and flashing lights functioned properly.

The Los Angeles Police Department's Southeast Division was investigating the death, Gonzales said.
Trains in both directions were running on the northbound tracks, with a delay of about 12 to 15 minutes by 8 p.m., according to the Metro spokesman. He said normal service could resume as early as 9 p.m.

52% want bullet train stopped, poll finds

California voters are showing signs of buyer's remorse over the $68-billion bullet train project, poll finds. 


By Ralph Vartabedian, September 28, 2013

The massive project to link Los Angeles and San Francisco by trains traveling up to 220 mph has fallen a year behind schedule.

A majority of voters want the California bullet train project stopped and consider it a waste of money, even as state political leaders have struggled to bolster public support and make key compromises to satisfy critics, a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found.

Statewide, 52% of the respondents said the $68-billion project to link Los Angeles and San Francisco by trains traveling up to 220 mph should be halted. Just 43% said it should go forward.

The poll also shows that cracks in voter support are extending to some traditional allies, such as Los Angeles-area Democrats, who have embraced the concept of high-speed rail as a solution to the state's transportation problems. The survey results suggest that the current plan and its implementation are of specific concern to those voters, according to officials with the Republican and Democratic firms that jointly conducted the poll.

"I don't think they are against the concept, but they are against the way it is being executed," said Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm in Washington.
The massive project has fallen a year behind schedule and is facing lawsuits that threaten to stall the momentum of the project and a groundbreaking now likely to come early next year.

The new findings mirror a USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll taken last year, just before the state Legislature approved funding to start construction, under political pressure from the Obama administration and the state's Congressional leaders. At that time, state rail officials argued that public backing would increase as improvements to the rail plan became clear.

But a wave of new support hasn't materialized. Instead, signs of buyer's remorse among voters for approving a 2008 ballot measure to fund the current project have increased. The poll found 70% of respondents want the project to be placed back on the ballot — up from the 55% measured in last year's USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll.

As public opposition solidifies and the start of construction nears, the question of whether the state should go forward with one of the biggest and most technically difficult infrastructure projects in California history is taking on greater urgency.

"It should have public support to go forward," said former state Sen. Quentin Kopp, a former champion of the rail project who has become one of its most influential critics. "The lack of support reflects a general disbelief of the authority leadership, which has become a public relations game."
Kopp, who served for years on the California High-Speed Rail Authority board, said the agency will almost certainly need another bond measure to complete construction, making public opinion potentially crucial to the project's survival.

The results include some good news for the project. A 61% majority said the bullet train would help reduce traffic on highways and at airports, and 65% said it would create jobs. And by one measure, public opposition appeared more pointed last year. At that time, 59% of poll respondents said they would vote against high-speed rail if it were on the ballot, though they were not asked whether the project should be stopped.

Rail agency officials declined to be interviewed. Spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said in a statement: "We will continue to uphold the will of the voters, Legislature and federal administration to help modernize California's transportation system and create tens of thousands of new jobs."

Fifty-one percent of respondents called the project a waste of money, and 63% said they would never or seldom use it. Given the choice, 58% of voters would rather fly or drive from Southern California to the Bay Area, and 39% would take a bullet train.

Voter concerns about the project have been heightened by the tough economic times that continue across the state, the poll shows
"Over the last five years, voters have had to tighten their belts, and they feel the government should be doing the same thing," said David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, the Republican firm that helped conduct the poll for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and The Times.
Poll respondent Lara Erman, a Burbank resident, cited those concerns as the basis of her opposition to the project. "Our state and our country are in a lot of trouble right now with the condition of the economy and the job market," she said. "It would be better served as a private enterprise project."
Bryan Koenig, an aircraft mechanic in Ridgecrest, said he objects to the project mainly because he won't use it and "the cost is exorbitant."

The bullet train network is supposed to begin carrying passengers between the Bay Area and Los Angeles by 2028. Construction was supposed to have begun late last year, but it now appears it will not begin until 2014, assuming a court ruling does not sidetrack it. A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled this summer that the state violated the legal protections imposed by the 2008 voter-approved bond measure that will provide $9 billion in funding. A second ruling, due this fall, would determine how to remedy the violation.

The sampling of 1,500 registered voters conducted in mid-September found significant differences in voter opinion about the project across the state. In Southern California, 56% of respondents said they want the project stopped. Even in the Bay Area, where support has historically been strong with the backing of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, only 51% endorsed the project. The margin of error in the poll was 2.9 percentage points.

Nowhere is the project more controversial than in the Central Valley, where farmers, businessmen and homeowners have formed coalitions to overhaul or derail it. Even though Gov. Jerry Brown touts the benefits to the Central Valley, 59% of voters there want to call it off, according to the poll.

Opposition is even stronger in the Northern California counties, where 61% say it should be killed.
"The best thing for Brown is to have one of the lawsuits stop the project until he leaves office," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

The poll also asked about a quixotic proposal by high-tech businessman Elon Musk, chief of Space Exploration Technologies and Tesla Motors, for a tube-type transport system, called the Hyperloop, that would move people between L.A. and the Bay Area in 30 minutes at a cost of $20 per trip. Sixty-five percent of the respondents said the proposal was not realistic. Nonetheless, they liked the idea, and 55% said they would take the Hyperloop, compared with only 13% who would opt for the high-speed rail.

The Tattler Weekend News: Information You Need, When You Need It


September 28, 2013


 Hundreds learning to face their fears

(Mod: Have you ever wondered what a former scourge of the British punk rock movement would look like if he was doing a butter ad? Your dreams will come true if you click here. Have you ever wondered what a very large rubber duck would look like if it was towed down Pittsburgh's historic Allegheny River? I never have, but if you want you can click here. And what if you really needed to know how many books you'd have to read in order to get a free cheeseburger? Then you would click here. We are all about getting you the answers you want here at the Sierra Madre Tattler. And this is exactly why we are honored to bring you the Weekend News. So that you too can share in our dream.)

Chinese doctor builds new nose on man's forehead (KansasCity.com link): A surgeon in China says he has constructed an extra nose out of a man's rib cartilage and implanted it under the skin of his forehead to prepare for a transplant in probably the first operation of its kind.

In this Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013 photo, a 22-year-old patient, with a surgical made extra nose out of his rib cartilage and implanted under the skin of his forehead, rests at Fujian Medical University Union Hospital, in Fuzhou city, in southeast China's Fujian province. A surgeon in China said he has constructed the extra nose to prepare for a transplant in probably the first operation of its kind. Surgeon Guo Zhihui at the hospital spent nine months cultivating the graft for the man whose nose was damaged.

Surgeon Guo Zhihui at Fujian Medical University Union Hospital in China's southeastern province of Fujian spent nine months cultivating the graft for a 22-year-old man whose nose was damaged.

The striking images of the implant — with the nostril section facing diagonally upward on the left side of the man's forehead — drew widespread publicity after they began to circulate in Chinese media this week. Guo plans to cut the nose from the forehead while leaving a section of skin still connected, and then rotate and graft it into position in a later operation.

"We were just interested in helping the man and did not expect it would stir up this much attention," Guo said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.

(Mod: You can only hope that this won't develop into a fashion statement. Or that multiple forehead noses won't evolve into some sort of a prestige issue.)

What California Comeback? (Real Clear Politics link): Since November’s election and, with it, a referendum in the Golden State on higher taxes—Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30—reporters have a new pet story: the so-called “California Comeback” and the tale of a state that’s rediscovered its economic footing.

However, judging by the results of the Hoover Institution’s latest Golden State Poll, which surveyed Californians on their economic confidence, the resurgence is fragile, with skepticism easily trumping optimism.

Following the passage of Prop 30, the state became flush with tax revenue, helping to “balance” the budget (that balancing act being a game of numerical smoke and mirrors). However, Californians aren’t convinced Sacramento won’t come a-knocking’ again. Seventy four percent of Californians in our Hoover survey believe state taxes will increase either a little or a lot over the next three years—this despite the fact that Prop 30’s tax increases won’t expire until the 2019 fiscal year. Just 15 percent of Californians think their taxes will remain the same, while 2 percent believe taxes will decrease.

The Golden State Poll showed that higher taxes are a concern that crosses incomes levels. Seventy five percent and 73% of those making between $40,000 and 100,000 and under $40,000, respectively, believe state taxes will increase a little or a lot. Interesting, liberals and Democrats (59 percent and 67 percent, respectively) predicted taxes would go up—reaffirming that the State Legislature, with a supermajority of liberal lawmakers in both chambers, has a default position of raising taxes and fees.

(Mod: It is time we all moved to Jefferson. I know a couple of Sierra Madre people who are in the process of doing just that. They are very happy and have no regrets.)

The FPPC’s New Role: The Internet Cop (Fox & Hounds link): Last week, as a parting gift to its chairwoman, Ann Ravel (who is slated to be confirmed to the Federal Election Commission), the California Fair Political Practices Commission enacted a sweeping proposal to regulate online political communication. The move makes California the first state  to attempt to require the disclosure of online communication by someone paid by a campaign to engage in social media.

The reason for this pioneering regulation, insist FPPC officials, is that voters deserve to know if someone expressing their free speech rights is getting a paycheck to do so. On the face of it, that makes some sense. But here’s the reality: self-policing by the online community, as well as current reporting requirements, has made paid non-reported blogging almost nonexistent in our state. Most blogs typically require that authors disclose their affiliation with any campaign.

But pressed, the FPPC repeatedly fails to provide more than a handful of examples of when those engaged in social media didn’t already report their activity — or tried to conceal it.

Nonetheless, the FPPC has enacted a regulation in search of a problem, one that will be unworkable and unenforceable and will result in an avalanche of unnecessary paperwork. The net will result will be less online activity, and reduced voter engagement.

(Mod: You know why this doesn't mean anything to The Tattler, right? We don't take any money. Here we can say any old thing we want and we don't have to divulge the source. Which more often than not is the lack of sleep and a bad reaction to my own cooking.)

New Poll Finds Americans View Death Of Close Relative More Favorably Than Congress (The Onion link): According to a poll released Friday by the Pew Research Center, the favorability rating of the U.S. Congress has sunk so low that the legislative body is now looked upon more negatively than the death of a close relative.

“When asked whether they would prefer to select a casket for their child or endure the forthcoming congressional showdown over the debt ceiling, 89 percent of Americans said they would rather bury their own offspring,” said Pew spokesperson Diana Shostak, adding that the figure went up to 96 percent when it was specified that the political brinksmanship could go on for weeks without a single piece of legislation ever making it to the floor for a goddamn up-or-down vote.

“Watching one’s grandmother weep uncontrollably at the impending death of her husband of 60 years, having the agonizing conversation about whether to pull the plug on his life support unit, and looking on as he gasps for his final breaths—these situations all enjoyed higher approval ratings than any individual member of the House or Senate.”

The poll also found that the prospect of suffering one’s own death by slow asphyxiation was viewed four times more favorably than anything having to do with filibusters.

(Mod: Has anybody ever done a poll of this sort in regards to government here in Sierra Madre?)

Hill prediction: Headed for shutdown (Politico link): House and Senate leadership aides in both parties are increasingly convinced the federal government will close for the first time in more than 17 years on Tuesday morning.

There is still time to avoid such a climactic stalemate, the aides acknowledged. But unless there is a dramatic change in momentum, the likelihood that a partisan showdown over government funding and the future of Obamacare could lead to a shutdown has increased dramatically.

With a special closed-door meeting meeting of House Republicans set for noon Saturday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his top lieutenants have not yet formulated their next play in their quest to keep the government open. It’s not even clear that the House will vote on Saturday.

There have been repeated contacts between GOP and Democratic leaders and senior aides in recent days but no negotiations of any sort – or sign those are about to start – to resolve the standoff. Both sides feel they have made their position known to the other side, and are unwilling to make any concessions at this moment.

(Mod: You know what? They should just do it. Shut the damn thing down. What the hell. The time is coming when nobody is going to want to lend us money anymore, so why wait? Federal government collapse is inevitable, so let's at least do it on our own terms. The only can we should be kicking down the road now is the one attached to whatever politician happens to be in front of us at the time.)

L.A. County workers demand higher pay, plan rally on Tuesday (Los Angeles Times link): On the verge of having their contract with Los Angeles County expire, labor organizers on Thursday urged their members to participate in a march and rally next week.

“Our purpose right now is to make sure we send a message to the media, educate the public and we tell the county what they are proposing is unacceptable,” said Norma Herrera, a worksite organizer with SEIU Local 721, which represents 55,000 county workers.

Speaking to more than 50 workers gathered at lunchtime outside the Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles, she said, “The most powerful part of any contract is the threat of the workforce.”

The current contract expires at midnight on Monday, and there is no chance that a new one could be ratified before the rally next Tuesday.

The county Board of Supervisors’ cancelled their weekly meeting that day, an action Herrera called “cowardly” and attributed to the labor dispute. County officials say the meeting was cancelled on Sept. 10 when supervisors realized they would not have a quorum.

The proposal on the table is similar to one accepted by several other bargaining units. It calls for workers to receive a 6% raise over 30 months. Other proposals are being debated, including raising the amount employees pay for their medical coverage.

In fliers sprinkled around the Hall of Administration urging participation in a “Day of Action,” SEIU argues that for low-wage workers, the cost of health care is greater than the raise, resulting in a pay cut.
(Mod: It was good to see these folks getting out of their offices and taking in a little sunshine for a change. Some of them obviously needed it.)

23 Pieces Of Evidence That Punk Is Dead (BuzzFeed link)

(Mod: I was going to send this to our friend Tony Brandenburg, but then I figured I'd just put it here and see if he noticed. That Justin Bieber/Black Flag t-shirt is particularly compelling. Of course, punk has been dying since just after it started. Tragedy is a part of its enduring appeal.)

You're right, I need to stop now.