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Giant tunnels planned for delta 'must move forward,' Brown says
As the hub of California’s sprawling water system, the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta has been the focus of the state’s water fights for decades. Competing interests — environmental, urban and agricultural — have defeated repeated efforts to come up with a “delta fix” that would keep copious amounts of water flowing south to the sun-drenched croplands of the San Joaquin Valley and millions of homes in Southern California. Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement Thursday that the state is scaling back part of a long-planned project to restore more than 100,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat and re-engineer the delta was a sign of how elusive that fix remains. Accompanied by top federal and state environmental officials at a news conference, Brown offered remarks that amounted to funeral rites for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Delta water exporters had hoped the program would yield a 50-year, federal environmental permit insulating them from continued cuts to their deliveries. The state is still proposing to build a new diversion point on the Sacramento River in the north delta. It would feed two proposed 30-mile tunnels that would carry water to existing delta pumps and southbound aqueducts. But in the face of continuing resistance from the federal fishery agencies that must approve the project, the state will now seek short-term permits that could grow stricter as delta conditions evolve with climate change. [Article]
by BETTINA BOXALL, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
Senate Democrats prod Gov. Jerry Brown for more drought spending
Democrats in the state Senate want Gov. Jerry Brown to take swifter action to battle California’s drought, such as spending relief funds faster and prodding farmers to use water more efficiently. The recommendations, sent to the governor in a letter this week, come as lawmakers prepare to work with Brown on a new budget proposal and the state braces for a dry summer. The letter praised the governor’s leadership. But Sonoma State University political science professor David McCuan said it also showed some frustration with what he called Brown’s “trust me, I know what’s best” demeanor toward lawmakers. With the drought increasing pressure on Sacramento to take action, McCuan said, “there are harder decisions that have to be made.” In particular, Senate Democrats are concerned that the Brown administration isn't doing enough with the money that’s available for drought-related efforts, including the water bond approved by voters last year. [Article]
by CHRIS MAGERIAN, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
Editorial Time to rein in California's traffic ticket surcharges
One reason you pay so much when you are ticketed for, say, driving with a broken taillight is that there's a surcharge added to your ticket to help victims of violent crimes. There's also an add-on that pays for training police officers, another to provide services to people with traumatic brain injuries, another to build new court facilities and one to protect the state's wildlife. In fact, about 80% of what Californians pay for their moving violations isn't part of the base fine at all, but is necessary to cover the many assessments and surcharges tacked on over the years to pay for state and county government operations that have nothing to do with cars or driving. These add-ons have raised billions of dollars over the five decades since the first assessment was levied on traffic tickets, a modest 5% charge to fund driver education programs in schools. But enthusiasm for this seemingly bottomless funding source has gone too far. Tickets are now so expensive that people are increasingly not paying them even though the alternative is the loss of a driver's license or jail time. [Article]
by EDITORIAL, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
Judge halts Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project
A judge on Thursday halted a developer’s plan to build two massive skyscrapers in the heart of Hollywood, ruling that the city of Los Angeles failed to fully assess how the $1-billion project would affect surrounding neighborhoods. The decision was a blow for the Millennium Hollywood development, which is backed by most of the city’s elected officials but opposed by community groups who fear increased traffic and the project’s proximity to the Hollywood earthquake fault. The proposed 39- and 35-story buildings — the largest development in Hollywood history — were seen as a major piece of the district’s ongoing revitalization. In a 46-page decision, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant said Los Angeles inappropriately disregarded the concerns of Caltrans that traffic on the 101 Freeway might significantly worsen with the development and be unsafe. [Article]
Five electric buses join Metro's fleet; more may be coming
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority continued down its greener path Thursday when five electric buses were delivered to transportation officials downtown. Chinese automaker BYD manufactured the buses at its Lancaster plant. Between the plant and the company's downtown headquarters, BYD employs at least 160 people. Company Chairman Chuan Fu Wang said he hoped to hire more people if purchase orders continued. Those orders may soon be coming. Metro's initial contract calls for the agency to buy 20 more buses if the first five meet expectations. Long Beach Transit has ordered 10 buses, with the option for 50 more. "A few short years ago, we stood together to open BYD headquarters here in L.A. Look how far we have come," Wang said. BYD and county transportation officials hope the buses will demonstrate how it's possible to have an electric fleet in metropolitan areas. [Article]
by JEROME CAMPBELL, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
Editorial Proposed bill on fighting wage theft is strong but needs more precision
The California Legislature last year considered a bill that would have given workers a mechanism for collecting unpaid wages by filing a lien against their employer. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it would have made it harder for business owners to evade their obligations. The measure failed to get enough traction for passage, though. Now Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) is revisiting the issue with an even better solution, putting the enforcement power in the hands of the state labor commissioner. Workers in California lose up to $1.5 billion a year in unpaid wages, according to the federal Department of Labor. And a UCLA Labor Center study found that only 17% of workers who had won back-wage judgments were able to collect. In most cases, the offending employer simply closed up shop, often shifting operations to a new company. [Article]
by EDITORIAL, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
Homeless services commissioner calls for probe of skid row shooting
A homeless services commissioner on Thursday called for an independent investigation into the death of a man who was shot and killed by Los Angeles police during a confrontation on skid row. The Rev. Kelvin Sauls, pastor at Holman United Methodist Church of Los Angeles, called Charly Leundeu Keunang "one of many unarmed black men who have died at the hands of the LAPD" and said his death should not be overlooked because he was homeless. About 100 skid row activists and friends gather at the shooting site on San Pedro Street to remember Keunang, who was known on the street as "Africa" or "Cameroon." "What we see is the LAPD continues to shoot to kill and blame the victim," said Sauls, whom former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority commission in 2013. "Even the homeless people have dignity. There needs to be a thorough investigation by the appropriate agency." Sauls spoke after a news conference outside LAPD headquarters to announce a $20-million claim that the Keunang family filed Wednesday against police and the city over the March 1 shooting. [Article]
by GALE HOLLAND, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
Smartphone app from ACLU of California aims to preserve videos of police
When George Holliday recorded grainy footage of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King outside his apartment in 1991, he sold the video to KTLA for $500 and watched it become a worldwide sensation. This year, a man used his cellphone to record a fatal LAPD shooting on skid row and uploaded the footage to Facebook, where it drew millions of viewers. Now, in a sign of how amateur video has heightened scrutiny of police conduct, the American Civil Liberties Union has created an app for that. The ACLU of California on Thursday unveiled a free smartphone app that allows users to send video of questionable police activity directly to the organization, protecting the recordings even if officers confiscate or try to tamper with the phones. “We want to multiply the number of cameras that can be trained on police officers at any time,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “They need to know that anything they do could be seen by the entire world.” [Article]
by KATE MATHER AND RICHARD WINTON, Los Angeles Times. 2015-05-01
California's Fire Season Is Shaping Up to Be a "Disaster"
On Monday, 200 firefighters evacuated an upscale residential neighborhood in Los Angeles as they responded to a wildfire that had just broken out in the nearby hills. Ninety minutes later, the fire was out, with no damage done. But if that battle was a relatively easy win, it belied a much more difficult war ahead for a state devastated by drought. California is in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record, so bad that earlier this month Gov. Jerry Brown took the unprecedented step of ordering mandatory water restrictions. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is currently the lowest on record for this time of year. And the outlook for the rest of the year is bleak: The latest federal projections suggest the drought could get even worse this summer across the entire state (as well as many of its neighbors): [Article]
by TIM McDONNELL, Mother Jones. 2015-05-01
555: The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind
Reporter Joe Richman visits a program in Richmond, CA that is trying a controversial method of reducing gun violence in their city: paying criminals to not commit crimes. Sounds crazy, but the even crazier part is…it works. To figure out how, Joe speaks to guys participating in the program, and to Sam Vaugn, a man whose job it is to monitor the criminals' progress and keep them on track. [Article]
by JOE RICHMAN, KQED (Public Radio SF). 2015-05-01
Legal Careers of Two County Supervisors Draw Questions
The legal careers of two Orange County supervisors and whether they intersect with their public duties are raising questions among good government and ethics experts. [Article]
by NICK GERDA, Voice of OC. 2015-05-01
'We want to be responsible people': Orange County officials find that it's a struggle to cut water use
For examples of the trials and triumphs facing Orange County water conservation efforts, look no further than the personal utility bills of local officials who decide residential water prices. Although dozens of these officials have cut their household water use in recent years, a Register analysis found just as many are consuming more water despite California’s severe drought. Their explanations vary. Officials who are using less water heralded installing more efficient sprinkler systems, allowing their lawns to brown and paying closer attention to bills for signs of leaks. [Article]
by KEEGAN KYLE and MEGHANN M. CUNIFF, Orange County Register. 2015-05-01
California's independent redistricting panel is at risk
Last November, California elected many new legislators due in large part to California’s independent redistricting commission and its creation of competitive districts, resulting in legislators who will be more accountable to their constituents. As a result of Proposition 11 in 2008 and Prop. 20 in 2010, California politicians can no longer draw their own legislative or congressional districts, which in the past has virtually guaranteed re-election. This new accountability has created a powerful incentive for legislators to work together to deliver for their district and not just for themselves. [Article]
by ROBERT C. LAPSLEY / Contributing writer, Orange County Register. 2015-05-01
OCTA buys open space for preservation
The Orange County Transportation Authority last week purchased 151 acres in Laguna Beach that will be protected as open space. This is OCTA's first coastal Orange County land purchase and seventh overall for its Measure M Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program. Under the program, OCTA buys open space from willing sellers through agreements with state and federal wildlife agencies in exchange for accelerated environmental permits for 13 freeway improvement projects. The agency paid Driftwood Properties LLC $2.2 million for property adjacent to the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and Moulton Meadows Park. [Article]
by BRYCE ALDERTON, Daily Pilot. 2015-05-01
Mental health a crucial part of our well-being
Everyone knows that if you have a sore throat or aching back, you can go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong and seek treatment with the hope of a quick recovery. When someone is suffering from a mental health issue, however, it’s not always clear when and where to seek help. One in five American adults – approximately 43.7 million people – experience a mental illness in a given year. Mental health conditions are often linked to higher risk of suicide, which is a serious problem in our community. The suicide rate in San Diego County increased over the past five years from 12 to 14 per 100,000, which is significantly higher than the national rate of 12.3 per 100,000. [Article]
by MICHAEL J. BAILEY / OPINION, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-05-01
North County cities eye sea level studies
Rising sea levels could play havoc with North County’s lagoons, eat away parts of Highway 101 and damage bluff-top properties in the coming decades. Carlsbad and Del Mar — two of North County’s five coastal cities — recently have secured grant money to study exactly how much harm rising sea levels may cause to their coastlines, and they both expect to complete their studies in April 2017. The other three cities — Solana Beach, Encinitas and Oceanside — are trying for funding, but haven’t been successful. [Article]
by BARBARA HENRY, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-05-01
Foreclosure proceedings start for landfill site
PALA — Foreclosure proceedings have begun against a 1,720-acre property in North County where the Gregory Canyon landfill has been long planned. Investors in the landfill project who say they’re owed at least $7 million by Gregory Canyon Ltd. have asked the court to appoint a receiver who would take control of the land and initiate a foreclosure and sale. On Thursday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel M. Pressman set a May 29 hearing to confirm a receiver. [Article]
by J. HARRY JONES, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-05-01
State auditor slams Victorville on wastewater treatment plant
Victorville’s possibly unlawful borrowing and lending practices totaling $41.9 million resulted in $4.6 million of unnecessary interest and a $31 million wastewater treatment plant that served no benefit for ratepayers, the state auditor concluded in a report released Thursday. The 74-page report, titled Apple Valley Area Water Rates, examined the rate structures of four High Desert water suppliers in San Bernardino County, two private and two public, and why some suppliers charge customers more. The audits, which began last year at the request of former state Sen. Steve Knight, examined the rates and fiscal practices of the public Victorville and Hesperia water districts and the privately operated Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. and Golden State Water Co., also in Apple Valley. [Article]
by JOE NELSON, San Bernardino County Sun. 2015-05-01
Supervisor Marion Ashley not seeking reelection in 2018
Here’s a campaign promise that Marion Ashley intends to keep: retirement. In 2013, one year before winning his fourth go-around as Riverside County supervisor, he spoke openly about it being his last. Three years from now, when his term ends, he’ll be 83. “I figure it’s time for the younger generation take over,” said Ashley, who plans to continue staying active in the community. “I’ve served long enough and I feel real good about what I’ve accomplished.” The son of a rodeo cowboy, Ashley is soft spoken and plain speaking — more Midwestern than So Cal. His accounting background may make him a bore at cocktail parties, but he’s widely respected among peers, particularly those in Desert Hot Springs, which he represented at the county level for eight years. [Article]
by JESSE MARX, Desert Sun. 2015-05-01
Car washing grabs share of drought spotlight
Four-plus years into the worst drought in the state’s recorded history, the amount of water it takes to wash the tens of thousands of vehicles in Kings County is not a trivial subject. A host of rules and regulations have taken effect. Others could come into play as cities move toward stricter water conservation ordinances. Every Kings County city requires you to use an automatic shut-off nozzle screwed onto the end of the hose when washing your car at home. Corcoran’s municipal code, however, throws a curveball into the mix. The southern Kings County agricultural town has a three-stage drought ordinance. As dry conditions tighten the screws, so do the regulations. [Article]
by SETH NIDEVER, Kings County Sentinel. 2015-05-01
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