Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Los Angeles 2020 Commission calls for changes to improve the city

The panel recommends 13 steps, including higher wages and new DWP oversight, to 'put the city on a path to fiscal stability and renew job creation.'


http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-2020-report-20140410,0,1320689.story#axzz2ySWp4ryh
By David Zahniser and James Rainey, April 9, 2014
 
 
Port of Los Angeles

 Containers are unloaded from a ship at the Port of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles 2020 Commission, composed of prominent business, labor and civic leaders, recommended that the L.A. and Long Beach ports be combined into a single entity to bolster their market share.

Three months after it painted L.A. as a metropolis stumbling into decline, the Los Angeles 2020 Commission offered 13 recommendations Wednesday that it said would attract jobs and "put the city on a path to fiscal stability."

The group of prominent business, labor and civic leaders called on elected officials to enact a wide-ranging series of policy initiatives: increasing the minimum wage, combining giant twin harbors into a single port, altering oversight of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and bolstering efforts to promote regional tourism.

All the actions were necessary, commission members warned, to keep Los Angeles from becoming "a city left behind in the 21st century."

The panel released its report a day before Mayor Eric Garcetti was scheduled to give his first State of the City address.

"The City Council and the mayor ought to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to each one of these," said commission co-Chairman Austin Beutner, who was former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's "jobs czar."

Garcetti offered a brief response to the report, thanking the panel but declining to say whether he supported or opposed the various proposals. "Mayor Garcetti always welcomes new ideas as he works to reform City Hall and improve our economy," spokesman Yusef Robb said.

The commission, created last year at the prompting of City Council President Herb Wesson, called for city pension agencies to make more conservative projections about their investment returns. It proposed boosting voter turnout by moving city elections to coincide with even-year state and federal elections. And it called for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which compete fiercely for cargo shipments, to join forces to shore up their shrinking share of the U.S. market.

The panel did not delve deeper into some issues it raised three months ago in a strongly worded report on the city's economic health. In that document, the panel sounded the alarm over rising City Hall pension costs, saying leaders had been captive to "wishful thinking and avoidance of hard choices."

In its follow-up report, the commission offered no specific recommendation on the size of benefits. Instead, it suggested the city form a temporary Commission on Retirement Security to gather "an accurate understanding of the facts" concerning pension costs.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who heads the council's budget committee, voiced disappointment at the lack of specifics on pension benefits. "I would have hoped that the commission would have the facts that it needed in the time that it's been doing its work," he said.

Beutner, who once considered running for mayor of L.A., said a follow-up commission is needed because the 2020 panel received conflicting information on pensions. The 2020 group did specify, however, that it prefers preserving fixed pension benefits for city retirees because they help maintain "a stable and experienced workforce."

The panel included former Gov. Gray Davis, San Fernando Valley business leader David Fleming and Kathay Feng, who heads California Common Cause. Three union leaders also were on the commission, as was former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis — a candidate for county supervisor with close ties to unions.

Commission co-Chairman Mickey Kantor, a former U.S. Commerce Secretary, said the panel had to limit its scope. "We're 13 people without staff," he said. "So we dealt with … what we understood."

The 2020 Commission joined the national chorus favoring higher pay for low-skilled workers, saying the region can "do better than $10 an hour by 2016." In an interview, Kantor said the higher wage should be imposed at least countywide and predicted that other counties would follow suit.

"If it doesn't get to $11 for a full-time worker, you don't get out of poverty," Kantor said. The state minimum wage is set to go to $9 an hour this summer and to $10 by 2016.

A substantial portion of Wednesday's report focused on the reconfiguration of the city bureaucracy. Beutner said the commission's single most important proposal is the creation of an Independent Office of Transparency and Accountability.

That office would have an executive director and about 10 staffers and function like the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, providing an "honest score card" on how the city spends taxpayer money.

"There is no place for an average Angeleno or, for that matter, someone who works at the L.A. Times, or anything in between, to go for facts," he said in an interview.

Similarly, the 2020 panel recommended the creation of a Los Angeles Utility Rate Commission to oversee the Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest municipal utility. DWP commissioners currently volunteer their time and are appointed by the mayor. Under the 2020 Commission's recommendation, panel members would still be chosen by the mayor but would receive full-time salaries and their own staff.

The proposal would "take the politics out of the DWP," an agency "often subject to political interference," the 2020 panel said.

But former DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras said the changes would make the utility's leadership more political, not less, with members of the new utility commission currying favor from elected officials and others to keep their high-paying jobs.

Wesson promised to "properly vet" the 2020 panel's recommendations and said he is interested in some of its proposals. But he disputed the idea that city lawmakers intrude too much into DWP matters.

"We have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure the DWP functions as effectively as it can," he said. "We were elected by the people to be engaged, and we are engaged."

 Beutner ran the DWP in the months after the council blocked a plan by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for four consecutive electricity rate hikes. Another 2020 Commission member is Brian D'Arcy, who heads the powerful union that represents most DWP employees and has been at odds with Garcetti.

Other changes proposed by the commission could face political opposition. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have their own governing boards, although they have sometimes cooperated, as with the creation of the Alameda Corridor rail line to speed shipment of goods inland.

Beutner said Southern California could more effectively compete with other ports if Los Angeles and Long Beach worked together. But Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster criticized the idea of a port merger, saying Los Angeles has previously approved harbor projects that disproportionately affected neighborhoods in his city.

Foster noted that last year, L.A. approved a $500-million new rail yard. Long Beach officials argued that Los Angeles did not adequately address pollution and other environmental concerns that might affect nearby Long Beach neighborhoods. Kantor, an attorney, represented the railway company, BNSF, that proposed the project.

"There are some special interests that think it might be easier to deal with one [port], rather than two," Foster said. "I get very skeptical when I see consultants and lawyers trying to put together a deal."





California’s Most Polluted Neighborhoods Home To Ethnic Minorities

http://www.neontommy.com/news/2014/04/california-s-most-polluted-neighborhoods-home-ethnic-minorities-report-shows

By Alex Janin, April 8, 2014




 Screenshot of Southern California area, dark blue indicates most polluted (Janin/CalEnviroScreen)
 Screenshot of Southern California area, dark blue indicates most polluted (Janin/CalEnviroScreen)

Many California residents, particularly in big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, gripe about the ever-present smog that hangs over the skyline, but some communities have it far worse than others.

According to a report from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, ethnic minorities, particularly Latinos and African Americans, make up a large proportion of residents in the most polluted neighborhoods despite making up a relatively small percentage of the statewide population.

An online tool called the CalEnviroScreen depicts California’s pollution levels by ZIP code using a color scale. According to the OEHHA’s report, it represents immediate pollution levels and “potential vulnerability” for the pollution of a community. Initially launched in 2012, the tool has recently been updated to include racial and ethnic makeup of a population.

Clumps of dark blue represent the state’s most polluted areas. Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley encompass the worst scoring ZIP codes.

The report finds that African Americans, who make up less than 13 percent of the statewide population, comprise almost a third of the worst polluted ZIP codes.

Latinos, another ethnic minority group, make up a large majority of the ten percent most polluted ZIP codes. Only 37.6 percent of California residents are Latino.

What accounts for this disproportion?

Ed Avol, an expert on air pollution and its impact on public health, believes there is a socioeconomic element to consider.

“Simply put, people tend to live where they can afford to, and people generally prefer to live among their peers,” said Avol.

Others believe the connection between ethnic minorities and polluted neighborhoods is related to career opportunist rather than social circumstances.

Roberto Cabrales, a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment in Huntington Park, attributed the link to job availability.

“It’s important to consider the historic make-up of the community,” Cabrales said. “There was a demographic change in Southeast Los Angeles in the ‘70s and ‘80s when immigrants started fleeing gang activity and started buying homes here—affordability is a key factor and these weren’t the best paying jobs, which is why Latinos tended to go after them.”

Avol pointed out that lower-rent areas are in less desirable locations, often near busy freeways or industrial facilities. People who live in these neighborhoods often get overlooked when it comes to political determinations, he said.

“Without a political ally to represent their community’s point of view, people tend to get ignored in key developmental decisions such as where a new freeway or rail yard may be built, and these facilities are rarely built in highly affluent places like Beverley Hills or Palos Verdes,” Avol said.
However, certain community groups are working hard to get the attention of their legislatures to help eliminate pollution in their neighborhoods. CBE has built its organization around the mission to “build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low income communities to achieve environmental health and justice.”

Cabrales says his primary responsibility is to engage the local community to hold elected officials and polluters responsible for cleaning up the neighborhoods.

“We’re surrounded by manufacturing hubs, stationary sources [of pollution] that produce and handle chemicals, body shops, power plants, and mobile pollution,” said Cabrales.  “We’re boxed in by all the major freeways in Southern California, which elevates our risk for cancer so we make sure every decision being made involves the community.”

Seattle tunnel critic files lawsuit to stop Bertha repairs

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Tunnel-critic-files-suit-against-Bertha-repairs-254562591.html?mobile=y&clmob=y&c=n

By Corwin Haeck, April 9, 2014




Seattle tunnel critic files lawsuit to stop Bertha repairs



SEATTLE - A longtime opponent of the Seattle waterfront tunnel project has filed a lawsuit to stop repairs on "Bertha."

Elizabeth Campbell says plans to dig a hole to repair the tunnel drill amount to a whole new project.

"We feel that this project was not covered by the prior environmental review," Campbell tells KOMO Newsradio.

Bertha has been stalled underground since last December, due to damaged seals that protect the drill's main bearing. Contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners proposes to dig a 100 foot deep, 80 foot wide shaft to reach the drill and make repairs.

Campbell, who has previously mounted initiative drives against the project, has filed a suit in federal court, calling for a new environmental review. She believes the repair dig creates a new set of environmental hazards.

"They're going to do a lot of what they call 'de-watering,'" Campbell says. "That's an extensive amount of water that has to be treated. We really don't know what they have planned for that."

She's also concerned about the new dig's impact on nearby structures. "It could destabilize some of the buildings in Pioneer Square," she says. "None of that was addressed in the prior environmental review."

The suit filed March 27 in U.S. District Court seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the repair work until a new environmental review is completed. The suit names as defendants Seattle Tunnel Partners, the city of Seattle, the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Campbell remains opposed to the tunnel, but says she no longer seeks to stop the project altogether.

"It's breathtaking the size of it, and I just don't see that the project is going to end," she says. "At the same time, you need to keep making sure that it's safe, that it's environmentally friendly, and that the public's money is being spent well."

Former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck, a tunnel supporter, allows that Campbell raises legitimate questions about the impact of the repair project, but he tells KOMO Newsradio, “I’m not sure it warrants a full-bore new environmental review process."

Campbell believes a federal judge will address the issue of a preliminary injunction within a few weeks.

Delaney Testifies at Transportation & Infrastructure Committee P3 Panel Hearing

For more information on the P3 Panel, click here. http://transport.house.gov/news/documentsingle. aspx? Delaney's infrastructure bill, the Partnership to Build America Act is one of the largest pieces of bipartisan legislation in Congress and encourages the expansion of public-private partnerships in the United States. The American Infrastructure...

 http://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/2014/04/09/delaney-testifies-at-transportation-infrastructure-com

Rep. John Delany, D-Md., news release, April 8, 2014 


 Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) spoke at Tuesday's House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Special Panel on Public-Private Partnerships. The hearing, titled "The International Experience with Public-Private Partnerships" included testimony by Delaney, along with experts on global trends in public-private partnerships in infrastructure. For more information on the P3 Panel, click here.http://transport.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=367010

Delaney's infrastructure bill, the Partnership to Build America Act (H.R. 2084) is one of the largest pieces of bipartisan legislation in Congress and encourages the expansion of public-private partnerships in the United States. The bill currently has 31 Republican and 30 Democratic cosponsors in the House. The American Infrastructure Fund, created by Delaney's bill, is effectively a public-private partnership with private capital providing the initial $50 billion by purchasing infrastructure bonds. Delaney's bill requires 25% of projects be public private partnerships, for which at least 20% of the financing is private debt or equity.

For more information on the Partnership to Build America Act, click here. http://delaney.house.gov/information-on-congressman-delaneys-infrastructure-bill Congressman Delaney submitted the following statement to the panel:

Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Capuano, and esteemed colleagues on the P3 Panel:

Thank you for inviting me today to speak about public-private partnerships, the international experience, and my legislation to create a large-scale infrastructure finance entity to finance infrastructure projects here in the United States.

As today's subsequent panelists will no doubt explain in great detail, other countries have taken the lead in using public-private partnerships to build their infrastructure, and we in the U.S. are just starting to catch up.

Public-private partnerships can be used to provide a much needed capital boost to fund our infrastructure projects in certain circumstances. But in looking at the international experience around P3s and private capital held overseas alongside our infrastructure needs here at home, I thought it might be productive to highlight my legislation which uses a public-private model to provide up to $750 billion of infrastructure financing for our infrastructure projects.

My bill, H.R. 2084: the Partnership to Build America Act, creates a $50 billion infrastructure financing entity that isn't capitalized in the traditional way, by the government putting in the money. Instead this entity, called the American Infrastructure Fund, is effectively created as a public private partnership, with the $50 billion of capital being put in by the private sector in exchange for a one-time tax break. Specifically, the American Infrastructure Fund would sell 50-year bonds that pay a fixed interest rate of only one percent. The bonds in and of themselves would be a bad investment, but U.S. based multinational corporations will be incentivized to buy them because for every dollar of bond they purchase, they will be able to repatriate a certain amount of their overseas earnings tax free. That multiplier of how much they repatriate compared to bonds purchased will be determined by auction, but we expect that ratio to be around 4:1. The company can then sell the bonds--which you'll remember are a bad investment on their own--at a huge loss. If they sell them for around 20 cents on the dollar, then the "effective tax rate" of their loss on the bonds over the tax free repatriation will be in the 10%-15% range. This brings about $200 billion back from overseas into the U.S. economy in addition to the capitalizing the American Infrastructure Fund.


The $50 billion of capital in the American Infrastructure Fund can be safely leveraged at a 15:1 ratio to provide $750 billion of infrastructure financing, mostly in terms of low-cost bond insurance for muni-bonds, but also for low-cost loans. Access to low cost capital is important for states and municipalities to build their infrastructure, and expanding this access will pave the way for the increased infrastructure investment we desperately need. Additionally, the Partnership leverages private capital by encouraging public private partnerships by requiring a certain percentage of the projects to be PPPs.

The legislation is very bipartisan. In the House, we have 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats on the bill. In the Senate, they have 6 Democrats and 7 Republicans. The bill is also supported by a bipartisan group of think tanks and other stakeholders. As we look for ways to move the Surface Transportation Reauthorization forward and ensure solvency for the Highway Trust Fund, we should do so from the starting point that we need to INCREASE our infrastructure investment, not merely maintain the status quo which has left our infrastructure in its current deficient state. The bipartisan Partnership to Build America Act is teed up to do just that.

I know that two cosponsors of the bill are on this panel, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and Congressman Scott Perry. I'd like to end by thanking them for their support on this legislation, and thanking the panel for allowing me to testify.
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Bill Clinton, Yes — Sacramento, No

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2014/04/clinton-yes-sacramento/

By Gary Toebben, April 9, 2014

Last Thursday morning, former President Bill Clinton was at L.A. City Hall with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss strategies to finance economic development and to promote job growth, climate mitigation and resiliency through 21st century infrastructure. Clinton was joined by the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and spent much of his time touting the opportunity to use public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure projects in Los Angeles and California.

The business community in Los Angeles and California is in complete agreement. However, you won’t find strong support for public-private partnerships in Sacramento. The same day that President Clinton was in L.A., the California Assembly passed a resolution urging lawmakers to oppose contracting out for public services. Proponents of the resolution said that outsourcing leads to a lack of transparency and accountability for taxpayer dollars and that the private sector isn’t as reliable or efficient as the public sector.

Labor unions in Sacramento have objected to outsourcing and public-private partnerships for years always using the same logic. As a result, California lawmakers who would like to compare prices and those who have visited other cities and nations where public-private partnerships are working, have been handcuffed to the status quo.

President Clinton knows that there is not enough money in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento to address the infrastructure needs of our nation or state. He also knows that public-private partnerships are viable. “We should be organizing our financing around the challenges of tomorrow, not the solutions of the past,” the former president said. Obviously, that message has not yet seen the light of day in Sacramento.

The resolution:

mended  IN  Assembly  April 03, 2014
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 13, 2014


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2013–2014 REGULAR SESSION

House Resolution No. 29


Introduced by Assembly Member Gomez
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Alejo, Ammiano, Atkins, Bloom, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Buchanan, Campos, Chau, Chesbro, Dababneh, Dickinson, Fong, Frazier, Gatto, Gonzalez, Hall, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Lowenthal, Nazarian, Pan, John A. Pérez, Quirk, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Skinner, Stone, Ting, Weber, Wieckowski, Williams, and Yamada)

February 04, 2014


Relative to outsourcing public services.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


HR 29, as amended, Gomez.

WHEREAS, Public services and assets are the fabric that binds our communities together. They are also a ladder to the middle class; and
WHEREAS, Faced with severe budget problems in the wake of the Great Recession, state and local governments across America are handing over control of public services and assets to corporations that promise to operate them better, faster, and cheaper; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing these services and assets often fails to keep these promises, and too often it undermines transparency, accountability, and shared prosperity and competition - the underpinnings of democracy itself; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing means that taxpayers have less say over how future tax dollars are spent and have no ability to vote out executives who make decisions that could harm the public interest; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing means taxpayers are often contractually limited to a single for-profit corporation; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing frequently means that wages and benefits for public service workers fall and the local economy suffers while corporate profits rise. The Center for American Progress Action Fund has found that of the 5.4 million people working for federal service contractors in 2008, an estimated 80 percent earned below the living wage for their city or region. For-profit corporations are three times more likely than the public sector to employ workers at poverty-threshold wages; and two million private sector employees working for federal contractors earn less than $12 an hour - too little to support a family. That is more low wage workers than are employed by McDonald’s and WalMart combined; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing means that taxpayers often no longer know how their tax dollars are being spent. Meetings and records that used to be open to the public can become proprietary information when corporations take over; and
WHEREAS, The Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda is one model that may help ensure transparency, accountability, shared prosperity, and competition in the operation of public services and assets; and
WHEREAS, Planks in the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda would require governments to post information about their contracts online and require contractors to open their books to the public, ensure that governments have the capacity to adequately oversee contracts, to cancel contracts that fail to deliver on their promises, prohibit law breaking companies from getting government contracts, require contractors to pay their employees living wages and benefits, require competitive bidding on contracts that guarantee company profits at the expense of taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, Recent polling shows that taxpayers oppose the outsourcing of public services and assets to for-profit companies and support these common sense controls to ensure that their interests are protected; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly opposes outsourcing of public services and assets, which harms transparency, accountability, shared prosperity, and competition, and supports processes that give public service workers the opportunity to develop their own plan on how to deliver cost-effective, high-quality services; and be it further
Resolved, That the Assembly urges local officials to become familiar with the provisions of the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda; and be it further
Resolved, That the Assembly intends to introduce and advocate for responsible outsourcing legislation; and be it further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.
Last Thursday morning, former President Bill Clinton was at L.A. City Hall with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss strategies to finance economic development and to promote job growth, climate mitigation and resiliency through 21st century infrastructure. Clinton was joined by the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and spent much of his time touting the opportunity to use public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure projects in Los Angeles and California.
The business community in Los Angeles and California is in complete agreement. However, you won’t find strong support for public-private partnerships in Sacramento. The same day that President Clinton was in L.A., the California Assembly passed a resolution urging lawmakers to oppose contracting out for public services. Proponents of the resolution said that outsourcing leads to a lack of transparency and accountability for taxpayer dollars and that the private sector isn’t as reliable or efficient as the public sector.
Labor unions in Sacramento have objected to outsourcing and public-private partnerships for years always using the same logic. As a result, California lawmakers who would like to compare prices and those who have visited other cities and nations where public-private partnerships are working, have been handcuffed to the status quo.
President Clinton knows that there is not enough money in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento to address the infrastructure needs of our nation or state. He also knows that public-private partnerships are viable. “We should be organizing our financing around the challenges of tomorrow, not the solutions of the past,” the former president said. Obviously, that message has not yet seen the light of day in Sacramento.
- See more at: http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2014/04/clinton-yes-sacramento/#sthash.6MAYRhio.dpuf

The Fiscal Insanity of Highway Building

http://streetsblog.net/2014/04/09/the-fiscal-insanity-of-highway-building/

By Angie Schmitt, April 9, 2014

Dallas. Photo: David Herrara via Flicker (CC)

 Highways crisscross highways in Dallas, yet transportation officials never seem to think there are enough.



To peer inside the minds of highway builders, take a look at what’s happening in Dallas.

Patrick Kennedy at Network blog Walkable Dallas Fort Worth has been poring over a 2007 document produced by regional planners at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Interestingly, this seven-year-old document proclaimed an urgent need for the as-yet-unbuilt Trinity Toll Road, which highway builders are still trying to push through today.

Kennedy points out that without the Trinity Toll Road, Dallas has somehow avoided collapsing into chaos in the past seven years. He proceeds to attack the arguments for highway building, starting with the notion that Dallas needs a multi-billion dollar highway to reduce $66 million in congestion costs:
You’re telling me we need to spend $5 billion in order to save $66 million? And that’s just to build the roads, let alone the life cycle costs. This math and logic is why TxDOT is $35 billion in the hole right now. Congestion can’t be fought with more highway capacity. It can only be diminished by getting people out of cars and building more walkable communities. DFW is tied with Detroit for most car-dependent major city in the country…

Meanwhile, the cost of car-dependence is $2 trillion nationally. In Houston, they spend $33 billion unnecessarily on making the exact same trips that occur in Copenhagen. But in Copenhagen, they’re far more efficient and cost effective.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee shares the results of an online survey indicating support from county residents for more transit, while public officials at the state level only deliver service cuts. World Streets explains the Netherlands’ history with car sharing. And Strong Towns says Minnesota’s plan to spend $1.1 billion on road projects this summer is a complete waste.