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

Friday, February 6, 2015

Billions at Stake as West Coast Ports Shut Down


By Dennis Romero, February 6, 2015

Billions at Stake as West Coast Ports Shut Down

In what could amount to a $1 billion a day loss in economic activity, the operators of all 29 West Coast say they're shutting down loading and unloading operations for the weekend.

The temporary suspension is a response to an ongoing contract dispute with dockworkers, whom operators say have been conducting job slowdowns so severe that it's better to close up shop than pay them to loaf. "It makes no sense to pay extra for less work,” said Wade Gates of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which negotiates contracts with dockworkers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

The West Coast shutdown will affect the busiest ports in the United States, those of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

A full West Coast suspension of operations hasn't happened since 2002, when a 10-day shutdown cost an estimated $20 billion in lost revenue, Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the ILWU, told us. He said he believes this shutdown could be worth $1 billion a day.

That 2002 suspension was also a reaction to a labor disagreement.

The PMA calls this a partial shutdown, because yard, rail and gate operations will continue "at terminal operators’ discretion," according to a statement from the association. "Processing containers and moving them for rail and truck delivery to customers can continue through the weekend at terminal operators’ discretion," Gates explained to us.

He said weekend loading and unloading at time-and-half "premium pay" made no sense "if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock."

Billions at Stake as West Coast Ports Shut Down

Both sides agree the labor dispute will have widespread economic effects. Gates:
The ongoing ILWU slowdowns have created delays and backlogs up and down the West Coast, and there’s been resonant economic harm – from growers in Washington and California who can’t get their crops on ships and off to foreign markets, to businesses that are experiencing long delays in receiving goods, or manufacturers who have had to airlift parts.
Merrilees of the dockworkers union called the shutdown "reckless and irresponsible."

"This ... looks more like an economic terrorism tactic than good-faith bargaining," he told us. "We have to resolve our differences at the bargaining table. Those differences are now very small, and we're very close to an agreement."

Workers have not shut the ports down since 1971, he said.

"Vessel operations are scheduled to resume Monday," PMA said in a statement.

South Bay state Sen. Isadore Hall is not happy with the suspension of loading and unloading, calling it a threat to the nation's economic security. He blames the PMA, and he clearly sides with the longshoremen:
The PMA has entered into a very dangerous and unnecessary game. California’s and the United States’ economic security is no game - it is central to our national security and to the economic wellbeing of nations and continents throughout the world. I demand that the PMA reconsider its decision to suspend port activity this weekend, reopen our ports, re-enter into good faith negotiations with ILWU, Local 13 and stop being a barrier to California’s economic recovery.

Oil-Soaked Interest Groups Doing Their Best to Kill Mass Transit

'Eliminating all funding for transit, biking, and walking, which people who can’t afford a car rely on? Not a problem to these guys.'


By Deirdre Fulton, February 5, 2015

 The federal gas tax, which has sat at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, finances the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and pays for roads and bridges around the country.

Fossil fuel-backed, billionaire-friendly interests are doing their best to kill any increase in the federal gas tax—in turn, hobbling efforts to boost mass transit or fix America's crumbling infrastructure.

Last Wednesday, a laundry list of about 50 anti-government groups, including the Koch Brothers-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, and Club for Growth, sent a letter (pdf) to Congress stating "strong opposition" to raising the gas tax. The tax, which has sat at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, finances the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and pays for roads and bridges around the country.

Earlier this year—with gas prices hovering at just over $2 a gallon—there were hopeful signs that conservatives, who have in the past vehemently opposed raising the gas tax, might be willing to bend. As Ben Adler notes for Grist:
In the first week of January, Senate Republican Conference chair John Thune (R-S.D.) and Environment and Public Works Committee chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Republicans might want to boost the gas tax. Days later, Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said a higher gas tax is "a small price to pay for the best highway system in the world." Inhofe admitted to The Hill that his colleagues would probably reject covering the entire Highway Trust Fund shortfall with new gas tax revenue, but he suggested that maybe they could combine a modest gas tax increase with another new source of funding.
But last week's letter seems to have dampened whatever level of support may have existed.

"Everyone knew it would be difficult, but you had a lot of senators and representatives saying privately that they would be open to raising the gas tax, so long as it could be framed in a certain way," a high-ranking American Public Transit Association official told Rachel Cohen of The American Prospect. "This letter just killed our momentum, I think permanently."

Cohen reports: "While incredibly frustrating, this move is unsurprising given the rise of anti-tax groups committed to blocking serious public investment in national infrastructure. In addition to opposing the gas tax increase, the letter also calls for an end to all federal funding for biking, walking and public transit. Ever so disingenuously, the organizations claim they just want to look out for the needs of poor people."

Indeed, the letter claims that "[a] higher gas tax means higher prices not just on gas, but on goods and services throughout the economy. These increased costs would inevitably be passed down to consumers, resulting in a regressive tax hike on middle- and lower-income Americans."

The letter also criticizes Washington for continuing "to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit." Or, as Adler put it, "the Koch brothers just kicked mass transit in the face."

But people who can't afford to own and maintain cars rely on such alternative methods of transportation.

"The billionaire-friendly coalition is trying to play the populist card," Angie Schmitt writes at Streetsblog USA. "Raising the gas tax to pay for roads, they say, is 'regressive' because poor people will pay more than rich people if the gas tax is increased. But eliminating all funding for transit, biking, and walking, which people who can’t afford a car rely on? Not a problem to these guys."
Of course it isn't, Adler writes at Grist, given that "[t]he Kochs make their money largely in fossil fuels."

"They, and other backers of conservative pressure groups, oppose the gas tax because they see it as a disincentive for driving," he continues. "The Kochs especially hate public transportation because it gives their consumers an alternative to driving."

President Barack Obama's budget plan would raise money for transportation projects with a one-time tax on the profits that U.S. corporations have amassed overseas. White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said Obama has no plans to raise the gas tax.

The idea isn't entirely off the table, however. As NPR reported Wednesday, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, "a Democrat who sports a bicycle pin on his lapel, is not giving up."
Blumenauer has introduced a bill to raise the gas tax by a nickel a gallon in each of the next three years, and to be indexed to inflation after that. He has the backing of groups across the political spectrum, from the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO to the American Trucking Associations and AAA.

"Nobody likes the idea of paying more," AAA vice president Kathleen Bower told NPR. "But what we do know is that our members want better and safer roads. Now is a good time because the impact will not feel as painful."

The Usual Bureaucrats: Pushing Hard For The 710 Tunnel


February 6, 2015


Yes, it really could get a lot worse here. And for reasons that you are not being told. 

Mod: My tolerance for this sort of thing is way down lately. Not that it was ever all that elevated, mind you. On Wednesday of this week, in the very 210 Freeway-centric San Gabriel Valley Tribune, three of the lesser leadership lights in this smoggy valley cranked up their noise machine and came up with some remarkably indistinct arguments for going forward with the 710 Tunnel. Something that most people here don't want, and will worsen our quality of life.

They called their guest commentary "Clearing the air on SR 710 North" (link), and it was written by Gary Toebben, Hilary Norton and Cynthia Kurtz. A hat trick of suspect commentators, and all people who have been hustling a living on the local government/bureaucracy circuit for a while now. There are a lot of these kinds of folks floating around the neighborhood while you're off working. So many in fact that they write their opinion pieces three bureaucrats at a time.

I thought I would discuss a couple of the more remarkable nonsense passages from their article, and then share with you what I believe really is hurling the Metro-Caltrans juggernaut towards a tunnel they have been hellbent on building all the while. No matter what the ginned up PR justifications for their so-called "process."

First, when the authors are talking about "The Gap," they are not discussing any local mall clothing store. They are talking about that part of the 710 Freeway where they plan on putting a tunnel connecting the heavily polluted 710 Corridor to the portion of the planet where we live. A place called the San Gabriel Valley. All of the health statistics they cite here will become even more a part of our world as vast volumes of additional diesel truck and auto traffic are funneled onto the 210 Freeway, a thoroughfare that already is a nightmare for those using it to commute back and forth to work.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation is also amusing, in a pliable nonsense numbers kind of way. Can you name all of the local business nonprofits and government bureaucracies that specialize in predicting the future? In order to justify certain agendas, along with their corporate and taxpayer funding? There are so many. And based on the track record you'd be better off going to a palm reader.

None of this makes much sense of course, especially for those who live in the area covered by the newspaper that published their views. The San Gabriel Valley already comes to a near standstill twice each day. What happens when there is a direct route from the 710, 5 and 10 freeways straight onto the 210 freeway? Chaos, obviously.

That so-called "congestion solution" they have been pushing from the start, this 710 Tunnel, will mean little appreciable difference in the areas they claim to care about, while at the same time making the congestion here far worse than it is already.

And how strange that Cynthia Kurtz, who works for an organization called the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, should be pushing for this. Should the 710 Tunnel ever be built few of those esteemed local leaders of commerce will be able to make it to their frequent SGVEP meetings on time.

So what is the real reason for building this 710 Tunnel? In January of 2013 I wrote a guest op-ed commentary of my own for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. It was called "Economic Imperialism and the 710 Tunnel" (click here). In my humble opinion these are the real reasons why compliant lifer bureaucrats like the authors of the baloney cited above are scampering about pimping their tunnel. And in ways that have little to do with the what is actually going on.

It is kind of sad, and even a little frightening. So many of those we trust to run our local governments, planning organizations and regional transportation agencies such as Metro and Caltrans, have actively involved themselves in promoting the interests of less than friendly overseas economic interests. And at our expense. From getting cheaply produced foreign manufactured products out of the ports and to market more quickly, to enabling McMansions in Arcadia.

Quite obviously our unctuous bureaucratic functionaries have sold us out. Apparently in their eyes the deals are done, plans made, and we the people have become little more than a public relations problem. People not worthy of being told much actual truth, and as such something to be handled with care.

At least until all of the geopolitical global power changes and required infrastructure are in place and running. After that we won't matter.