Orca Welfare and Safety Act is a Game of Opposites

Grey Stafford
PhD, Director of Conservation at the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium in Phoenix

For the sake of killer whales and marine mammals currently living at SeaWorld San Diego, and ultimately animals living at zoos everywhere, I urge the California Assembly to show strong leadership and reject AB 2140. Although this proposed legislation is euphemistically called the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, the bill would actually ensure just the opposite. It is ironic the word ‘welfare’ is used in the title of this proposed bill, because welfare, through the language of the initiative, would be greatly diminished, not enhanced, for the ten killer whales at SeaWorld.

I have been involved with animals for most of my adult life as a biologist and animal manager, including several years as a killer whale trainer. Based on my research and zoological background I know this bill would have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of animals that thrive on the enrichment they receive from their trainers whether during shows, training exercises or husbandry sessions. This initiative would prohibit the important social interactions and lessen relationships that currently exist between the whales and their trainers. The ‘no breeding’ provision of this bill would be catastrophic. To satisfy this portion of the ban, the five male and five female killer whales at SeaWorld would have to be separated and housed by their gender in different pools. This, of course, is not how killer whales naturally organize in the wild or at SeaWorld.  This imposed isolation would destroy the enriching social structure that already exists with the whales.  If enacted, the bill would force these animals to be permanently separated in unnatural groupings that would decrease their welfare.

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We Owe Rod Wright An Apology

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)

Rod Wright doesn’t deserve this.

Yes, the state senator was convicted of lying about where he lived. But does that mean he should be haphazardly lumped into some kind of State Senate Gang of 3 with accused bribe takers and gun runners?

The media, by describing Wright as one of three lawbreakers are doing most of the wrong here. But Wright’s colleagues did him no favors when they suspended him along with Ron Calderon, accused of taking bribes, and Leland Yee, accused of a host of things, including weapons dealing, at the same time. Wright should have been left out of the suspensions.

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How To Build A Winning Water Bond

Jim Mayer
Executive Director, California Forward

Six months ago, few people seriously thought there would be talk about a 2014 water bond, except the need to remove or postpone again the controversial measure now slated for the November ballot.

But last fall, public opinion polling showed that voters were starting to renew their trust in lawmakers when it came to spending their money. That may be due to a combination of reforms, including simple majority vote to pass the budget, which eliminated partisan stalemates; temporary tax increases and a recovering economy that reduced the red ink; and, good old-fashioned fiscal discipline imposed largely by the Governor.

This rebounding trust was detected before the drought worsened and water rose to the top of the political agenda.

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Construction Unions Should Fight for Infrastructure that Helps the Economy

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

One primary reason California has the highest cost-of-living (and cost of doing business) in America, combined with a crumbling infrastructure, is because California’s construction unions have allied themselves with environmental extremists and crony “green” capitalists, instead of fighting for what might actually help their state.

California’s construction unions ought to take a look around the rest of the country, where thousands of jobs are being created in the energy industries – really good jobs – doing something that actually helps ordinary people. Because the natural gas revolution unleashed in North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio is creating thousands of jobs in those states at the same time as it lowers the cost of energy for consumers who struggle to make ends meet.

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Who To Vote For, No Names Allowed

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

(Editor’s Note: I wish this editor’s note was an April’s Fools joke, but, unfortunately, it is not — John Wildermuth’s column here is his last for Fox and Hounds. John has been pulled back onto the political reporting team at the San Francisco Chronicle so he must forgo his writing for F&H. John’s contributions to the site have been immeasurable and helped us to achieve a solid reputation for incisive commentary from different perspectives. You can continue to follow John’s political reporting at the Chronicle www.sfgate.com or he can be followed on Twitter @jfwildermuth. Perhaps, we can at least coax him into writing his annual Black Bart Award nomination piece at the end of the year.)

With election season getting into gear, voters across California can start being leery of turning on the television or going to their mailbox for fear of being assaulted by one political ad or another.

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Fallout from the Senate Scandals

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

Senator Leland Yee is innocent until proven guilty, but in the court of public perception his high profile arrest will ripple through the political landscape like aftershocks from an earthquake.

A few places where the fallout of the Yee affair as well as the indictment of Sen. Ron Calderon and the conviction of Sen. Rod Wright just might play out—

The California Citizens Compensation Commission is considering approving a raise in the salaries of state elected officials. Indications are commissioners were leaning in that direction even though California legislators are the highest paid in the country.

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If You’re an Independent Voter Don’t be AIPrl Fooled

Mark Vargas
Small Business Owner, Advisor for the Burbank YMCA’s Youth & Government program, and Former Member of the Little Hoover Commission

This April 1st, let’s protect voters from being AIPrl Fooled.

What if an annual prank placed a half-million voters into a political party they didn’t want to be in?  What if that prank was played on 130,000 Latinos, Asians and African Americans, who were tricked into registering for a political party that was formed to advance segregation and eliminate all immigration?

You’d have to be a fool to think that was funny.  An AIPrl Fool.

Today I’m launching Don’t Be AIPrl_Fooled, a grassroots campaign to bring awareness to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Californians are accidentally registering as members of the American Independent Party (AIP) based on their assumption that checking off the AIP designation means that they are now registered as “independent” of any party.  Previous attempts to remedy this situation have focused on either legally challenging the way the AIP party is presented on the ballot or by getting them to change their name.  But these efforts have had limited results.

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Value-Added Tolling: Getting to “Yes” on Interstate Tolling

Robert Poole
Director of Transportation Policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation

The Interstate highway system is wearing out. Over the next two decades, nearly all of its 47,000 miles will have to be rebuilt, to make it serviceable for another 50+ years. In addition, several hundred major interchanges are horrible bottlenecks and need to be replaced with more modern designs, and some corridors need additional lanes to cope with growth, especially in truck travel. A major Reason study last year estimated the cost of Interstate reconstruction and modernization at $1 trillion.

That sum is far beyond what current federal and state highway funding can provide. Congress some years ago created a pilot program to let states reconstruct three aging Interstates using toll finance. Those pilot projects would be exceptions to current federal law that bans tolling on existing non-tolled Interstates. Three states won slots in the pilot program, but so far none has gained political consensus to proceed with any toll-financed reconstruction.

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Main Street Menace of the Week: Assembly Bill 1522 (Gonzalez)

John Kabateck
California Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

While the legislature is in session, the National Federation of Independent Business/California will be profiling anti-small business bills and initiatives and the adverse effect they would have on California’s job creators.  This is the second column of the 2014 series.

Sometimes the proposals that the legislature comes up with are enough to make small employers feel ill.  Such is the case with Assembly Bill 1522, the proposed mandatory paid sick leave bill authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.  AB 1522 mandates that all employers provide paid sick leave to all employees after only seven days of work in a calendar year.  This bill requires that employers provide all employees with paid sick leave at a rate of one hour per thirty hours worked regardless of size of employer or ability to compensate for the loss.

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Cesar, The Brand

Luis Alvarado
Strategic Advisor to Revolvis Consulting and a Political Analyst for CNN Español and Telemundo

Today students in selected schools will either have the day off or will hear of the achievements of Cesar Chavez and his movement in California’s Central Valley in the late 60’s.  They will hear a narrative about the struggle against grape farmers in Delano, CA.  They will hear about the insurmountable obstacles Cesar Chavez and his team of leaders had to overcome, oppression by the farm owners and their government agents, Legislators and police.

Outside the schoolroom we hear and also celebrate the accomplishments in political proclamations as we cut ribbons at new schools, streets, a USS ship and USPS stamp-naming ceremonies.  As with many other historical narratives, the unsavory parts of the story is sniped a little here and there as the cool parts are amplified for dramatic effect.

For Latinos who feel that they are always swimming against the tide, the battle cry of “Si, Se Puede” (Yes, It Can be Done) holds a special sense of pride.  Kind of the same way “Don’t Tread on Me” did during the War of Independence.

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