CA Fossil-Fuel Foes Want To Ban More Than Just Fracking

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

California foes of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have been surprised and disappointed at their inability to get Gov. Jerry Brown or the Legislature to ban the practice. Brown’s support for a law regulating but permitting the newly improved drilling technique barely seemed to discomfit the oil industry.

But now frack phobes are borrowing a tactic from anti-fracking activists in Colorado and New York state and focusing on county-level moratoriums. This is from KQED, the San Francisco PBS station and website:

In May, Santa Cruz County supervisors voted to pass a fracking ban. Voters in San Benito and Santa Barbara counties will vote on bans in November. Activists in Butte and Mendocino counties are still working to qualify ballot measures.

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Why the State and Local Pension Problem Will Get Worse

Steven Malanga
Senior Editor of City Journal and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute

When unions agreed to a deal last month with Detroit city government to freeze the city’s underfunded pension system and create a new, less expensive one, some experts hailed it as a model that other troubled cities might adopt. News reports prominently mentioned governments with deep retirement debt, including Chicago and Philadelphia, as candidates for similar reforms. But the agreement came about under a Michigan emergency law that applies to struggling cities like Detroit, which is in bankruptcy. In many states, by contrast, local laws and state court rulings have made it virtually impossible to cut back retirement benefits for current government employees, even for work that they have yet to perform. These state protections, which go far beyond any safeguards that federal law provides to private-sector workers, are one reason why so many states and localities are struggling to dig themselves out of pension-system debt, amid sharp increases in costs. It will take significant reforms to state laws—or bigger and more painful bankruptcy cases—to make a real dent in the pension crisis.

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Groundwater: Everyone Is Finally Talking About It

Michael Villines
Former Assemblyman from Fresno, President of the Villines Group, LLC and Advisor to the California Water Foundation

When I was in the Assembly, there were many heated debates over water. Fast forward five years and water issues are still just as contentious as ever. It’s being compounded by the drought, which after three years, is producing a lot of uncertainly and concern amongst Californians. But the drought has contributed to one major water crisis that everyone agrees we can work on together – and that’s groundwater.

Groundwater is a critical part of California’s water supply, used to meet approximately 40 percent of the state’s water demands in an average year and up to 60 percent or more during droughts. In some regions, groundwater provides 100 percent of the local water supply. Yet, California is the only state without comprehensive statewide groundwater management programs.

To address this void, the Groundwater Voices Coalition, sponsored by the California Water Foundation, launched a new website today (wwww.groundwatervoices.com) and released a poll that underscore the current situation in regards to California’s groundwater crisis.

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Judge Kills the Death Penalty

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

A federal judge in Southern California declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional yesterday, which will give impetus to a plan introduced by three former governors to push for reforms of the death penalty that would deal with the judge’s main objection of long delays.

In February former governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis announced an initiative to streamline the slow appeals process in death penalty cases. It is the uncertainty and unpredictable delays with the process that caused federal judge Cormac J. Carney to strike down the death penalty. The case he ruled on dealt with a man condemned to die in 1994.

Of course, one way to eliminate a process is to throw many obstacles in the functioning of that process, and then declare that it is not working and must be shut down. That is essentially what is happening with California’s death penalty. Those who object to the death penalty use all legal means to delay carrying out the sentence then complain because of those delays the death penalty is uncertain and should be declared unconstitutional.

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California Needs a New Vision of Its Apocalypse

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

What explains the success of California? Fear of the apocalypse.

Fear of a publishing apocalypse, to be precise. Most of us never would have heard about Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, about a post-apocalyptic Golden State, except for a battle between Amazon and book publishers. Here’s a short version of a long story: California’s publisher, Hachette, refused to go along with the giant retailer’s pricing demands, so Amazon retaliated by making it more difficult and expensive to buy Hachette books on its website. Then, in retaliation for retaliation, the comedian Stephen Colbert asked the whole world to protest Amazon’s behavior by buying an obscure new Hachette novel: California.

For all the attention and sales that have come to the book, precious little has been said about what’s in the novel. Which is too bad. Because California has a lot to say about California—and especially the state of our thinking about how the state might end.

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The Draper Dream Would Be Our Nightmare

Richard Rubin
Writes about political issues and is President of a public affairs management firm

California has launched more than a few inventions considered utopian that were eventually adopted throughout the nation.

Some of the more famous are Sour Dough Bread, Barbie Dolls, Pet Rocks, Hula Hoops, wetsuits, theme parks, the computer mouse, and—yes—even the Martini!

But no state has ever put forth a plan to completely replace itself—until now.

Tim Draper, a multimillionaire venture capitalist, would like to do just that.

If the constitutional amendment he is proposing succeeds, it would divide the Golden State into 6 separate duchies each with its own sovereign government.

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STEM Jobs Pay Well But Take Twice As Long To Fill

Reporter, California Forward

The salaries of Silicon Valley tech interns have grabbed headlines recently but the bigger story of educating California’s next science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is ever present.

STEM jobs hold the promise of consistently low unemployment rates and high salaries, yet finding people skilled enough to fill vacancies has been increasingly difficult in recent years.

“We need to really change the narrative around STEM education and make sure that kids not only know that it’s an option, but are encouraged to pursue it,” Cal State Long Beach research associate Lily Gossage said.

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Fifty Years Ago: A Speech To Remember

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Fifty years ago today, one of the least successful candidates ever to seek the presidency, Sen. Barry Goldwater, gave his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination at San Francisco’s Cow Palace.  The speech was roundly denounced by the political class as an appeal to extremism. Yet that speech marked the beginning of a new era in American politics that no one at the time could see, and over the years many of Goldwater’s “extreme” ideas came into the mainstream.

In 1964, Goldwater’s candidacy challenged the comfortable assumptions of American politics that had been embedded in the political culture since the New Deal.  Since the 1940s, American policy had accepted the division of the world into the free and Communist halves; Goldwater challenged that, for which he was branded a frightening warmonger.  Even in the Eisenhower years, Republicans had not tried to reverse the New Deal, now Goldwater said they should do just that.

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Supreme Court Decision in Defibrillators Case Good News for CA Businesses

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that large retailers such as Target have no legal obligation to keep defibrillators on hand for customers stricken by heart attacks or other medical emergencies. This decision came as a result of a lawsuit brought on behalf of a Southern California family against Target after a woman collapsed in one of their stores back in 2008. She died before paramedics arrived.

In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court concluded that it was up to the legislature, not the courts, to create a legal requirement for large retailers to provide defibrillators. In the unanimous decision, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote, “It is appropriate to leave to the Legislature the policy decision about whether a business entity should be required to acquire and make available (a defibrillator) for the protection of its patrons.”

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Holding Stonewalling Union Boss d’Arcy Accountable for Wasting Millions

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

On Wednesday, Controller Ron Galperin indicated that he will not authorize the “improper” payment of almost $4 million to the Joint Safety and Joint Training Institutes because these two nonprofits have refused to disclose how they spent in excess of $40 million of Ratepayer money over the last fourteen years.

Later in the day, City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit requesting that the court appoint a receiver to oversee the trusts’ activities as these two dysfunctional entities are a “personal fiefdom” for Union Boss Brian d’Arcy, the business manager of IBEW Local 18, our Department of Water and Power’s union.

Mayor Eric Garcetti is also playing team ball: “On behalf of the Ratepayers, I urge the Court to appoint a receiver to run these trusts to restore oversight and transparency.  This is the Ratepayers’ money, and they have a right to follow their money.” 

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