Road taxes, fracking and the Adam-Condit-Gray mob

Submitted: Aug 22, 2016

Prop. 13 is a gift that keeps on taking from the California public. The real estate special interests, including the financial and insurance industries, advertise throughout the world the advantages of California famous Proposition 13, which sharply limit the annual increase of property taxes and, as George Skelton reminds us, required a two-third vote of the state Legislature to raise any taxes.

The two-thirds requirement is generally an insurmountable obstacle to the 120-member state Legislature. The state Secretary of State's office doesn't post (or in any convenient place) the number of registered lobbyists doing business in the state Capitol. However, starting at the beginning of the alphabetical list, we reached 120 at William Barnaby III, a ruggedly handsome young fellow with a law degree and fashionable stubble who is a hereditary member of the lobbying firm Barnaby and Barnaby. 

Below, you will find a case in point, the innocuously named Independent Voters Project, a "non-profit" enterprise with certain ties to Assemblyman Adam Gray.

-- blj

 

Referring indirectly to Pat Brown’s son Jerry, the senator adds: “If all you want to do in your career is balance the budget, that’s the easy thing. You can balance it on the back of infrastructure falling apart. Then that becomes another unfunded liability.

“We’re putting ourselves in a hole that we’ll never get out. I am pessimistic. I’m sick and tired of it.” -- George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 22, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8-22-16

Los Angeles Times

Capitol Journal 

California's crumbling roads won't fix themselves. Neither, it seems, will state lawmakers

George Skelton

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-skelton-transportation-crumbling-roads-20160822-snap-story.html

 

Gov. Jerry Brown called a special legislative session last year to speed passage of a bill to repair California’s crumbling roads. The politicians have failed miserably.

It’s worse than gridlock. Lawmakers haven’t even moved out of the driveway.

Yes, it’s symptomatic of why Donald Trump, although uncivil and ignorant, has attracted a desperate following of frustrated, angry voters. He’s their Pied Piper fighting the arrogant establishment.

Never mind that Trump also is a dangerous buffoon.

But back to mousy Sacramento.

As legislators flail toward adjournment of their two-year regular session on Aug. 31, they’re cranking out bills by the minute. Most are inconsequential, even nonsensical — favors for special-interest patrons. If they never became law, few would be missed.

The truly important issues — substantive tax reform, regulatory streamlining, public pension controls, highway fixes — aren’t seriously being addressed. They’re too tough.

Highway work needs money. That means tax increases. Enacting them requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative house.

“I’m not sure the analysis needs to go much further than that,” says Brian Kelly, Brown’s head of the state Transportation Agency and, before that, a longtime consultant to legislative leaders.

Ah, yes. Proposition 13. The dark side of property tax relief.

There once was a time — back in the infrastructure-building regimes of Govs. Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan — when lawmakers could raise some taxes and lower others on simple majority votes. That changed 38 years ago when voters passed the property tax-cutting initiative.

A little-noticed feature of Proposition 13 raised the legislative vote requirement for any tax hike to two-thirds. Now Republicans seem genetically incapable of voting for taxes.

Here’s why gasoline taxes need to be raised to pay for highway repairs: They haven’t been since the early 1990s and, back then, weren’t adjusted for inflation. Consequently, the tax buck buys only half of what it did 22 years ago.

Moreover, vehicles are more fuel-efficient today, so motorists buy fewer gallons.

Brown last year said the gas tax was generating $2.3 billion annually for repairs, but $5.7 billion more was needed. There was a $136-billion backlog of necessary repairs on state highways and local roads. 

So the governor called the special session. Lawmakers yawned.

Potholes spread. Bridges weakened. Concrete crumbled. Roads got more congested.

A national transportation research organization called TRIP reported last week that poor roads in California are costing motorists about $54 billion annually. It found that 37% of major roads are in bad shape. A quarter of the bridges “are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”

In Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana, the report said, drivers are spending $2,826 each year for vehicle repairs, personal delays and operating costs. It’s roughly the same in San Francisco and Oakland; a little less in Sacramento.

“This is a problem that will not fix itself,” notes Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana City Council member and president of the Southern California Assn. of Governments. “The only real solution is to make investing in our transportation infrastructure [an] urgent priority.”

“It’s past time for our elected officials in Sacramento to step up and deal with this problem,” says Will Kempton, a former Caltrans director who heads the advocacy group Transportation California.

Brown did call the special session and offer a remedy of tax increases. But he hasn’t personally leaned hard on legislators.

 

 

Two Northern California Democrats — Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose and Assemblyman Jim Frazier of Oakley — have led the fight, but haven’t recruited enough followers.

Last week, in a last-gasp effort, they jointly proposed a $7.4-billion plan highlighted by a 17-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax. That was more than double Brown’s previous $3.6-billion offering with a 6-cent gas tax hike.

Under the Beall-Frazier plan, there’d also be a 30-cent-per-gallon increase in the diesel tax, a $165 annual fee for zero-emission vehicles (they don’t burn gas, after all) and regulatory streamlining. There’d be money for transit. And the state cap-and-trade kitty — fed by peddling permits to emit greenhouse gases — would be tapped.

But nothing can pass without some Republican support for raising taxes. And there’s little prospect of that, even if Brown were willing to significantly compromise.  Democrats are just shy of the two-thirds needed, with 56 votes in the Assembly and 26 votes in the Senate.

“We can’t get any [Republican] to support reasonable taxes,” Beall says.

Should the governor push harder? “The governor himself clearly is not engaged,” Beall asserts. “He wants us to push harder. I can only push so much.”

He continues, “I kind of like the LBJ or Pat Brown style, calling people into your office, saying, ‘I know you’re worried about your reelection. I’ll take care of that.’”

Referring indirectly to Pat Brown’s son Jerry, the senator adds: “If all you want to do in your career is balance the budget, that’s the easy thing. You can balance it on the back of infrastructure falling apart. Then that becomes another unfunded liability.

“We’re putting ourselves in a hole that we’ll never get out. I am pessimistic. I’m sick and tired of it.”

There’s vague talk of perhaps bringing the Legislature back in November after the election to pass a highway bill. Yeah, right! That’s junket time — the time for special-interest-funded trips to fun places like Maui.

Fortunately for legislators, they won’t have to drive.

 

The six-day conference hosted by the Independent Voter Project is held annually at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort, where rooms go for $365 or more a night, but lawmakers who have some of their expenses covered by IVP did not have to disclose them for months, under state law.

Democratic Assembly members who went to Maui included Rob Bonta of Alameda, Cheryl Brown of San Bernardino, Nora Campos of San Jose, Jim Cooper of Elk Grove, Tom Daly of Anaheim, Mike Gipson of Carson, Adam Gray of Merced, Chris Holden of Pasadena, Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, Evan Low of Campbell, Jose Medina of Riverside, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona and Tony Thurmond of Richmond. -- Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2016

 

 

3-1-16

Los Angeles Times


Essential Politics archive from March 1-20

Patrick Mcgreevy 

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-sac-essential-politics-20160301-htmlstory.html#3877

These are the lawmakers who went to a lavish Maui conference. Here's who paid.

Twenty-one state legislators on Wednesday disclosed that they attended a conference in Maui last November that was paid for by a non-profit group funded by special interests including the oil industry and state worker unions.

Public outrage over the annual event has sparked legislation that would bar lawmakers from accepting such travel paid for by those seeking favor at the Capitol and to require more sunlight on who is providing favors to legislators.

The six-day conference hosted by the Independent Voter Project is held annually at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort, where rooms go for $365 or more a night, but lawmakers who have some of their expenses covered by IVP did not have to disclose them for months, under state law.

Democratic Assembly members who went to Maui included Rob Bonta of Alameda, Cheryl Brown of San Bernardino, Nora Campos of San Jose, Jim Cooper of Elk Grove, Tom Daly of Anaheim, Mike Gipson of Carson, Adam Gray of Merced, Chris Holden of Pasadena, Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, Evan Low of Campbell, Jose Medina of Riverside, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona and Tony Thurmond of Richmond.

Republican Assemblymembers who made the trip include Assemblyman Frank Bigelow of O’Neals, Donald Wagner of Irvine and then-Republican leader Kristen Olsen of Modesto.

Democratic Sen. Bob Wieckowski of Fremont also attended, as did Republican Senators Tom Berryhill of Modesto and Anthony Cannella of Ceres.

New Republican leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley also attended, but did not accept reimbursement from the non-profit.

The costs varied. Bonta reported receiving $3,082 in travel expenses from IVP.

Sponsors of the event, many of whom paid $10,000 or more, included the Western State Petroleum Assn., Shell Oil, Sempra, tobacco giant Altria, payday lender Advance America, Anheuser Busch, AT&T, the California Cable and Telecommunications Assn., Koch Industries, VISA, Walmart, and the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., according to organizers. Many sent lobbyists or representatives to rub elbows with the elected officials poolside or on the golf course.

***

The criminal conspiracy against the public that is the Adam-Condit-Gray local political machine is all totally legal. It just stinks to High Heaven. -- blj

 

The Independent Voter Project is a non-profit with a number of subsidiary entities, including IVCMediaLLC, which lists Cadee Condit Gray on staff in charge of "Government Affairs." Ms. Condit-Gray is not a registered lobbyist, however her father, former Rep. Gary Condit, Blue Dog-Ceres and a veteran of "government affairs," is.

An example of the clever PR which is not taxed as the lobbying it is, was a conference organized by Ms. Condit-Gray was the pro-fracking political fandango held at the environmentally shameless UC Merced on November 1, 2013. Chip Ashley, Community Alliance, Dec. 3, 2013,

in a year when petroleum interests "topped spending" with $4.67 million reported lobbying expenditures and $2.5 million in contributions to Gov. Jerry Brown in the years immediately prior to passage of the so-called "fracking regulation bill," Senate Bill 4 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills). Dan Bacher, DailyKos, Feb. 6, 2014.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Perea, Gray and several other “moderate” Democrats were among 12 guests treated in September to a $13,000 dinner hosted by the Western States Petroleum Association at a posh Sacramento restaurant, the Kitchen, “where guests sit in the kitchen as cooks share details of the five-course meal.” Other Democratic diners included Assembly Member Cheryl Brown and State Senators Norma Torres, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa.

“The dinner was held on Sept. 4, as Senate Bill 4 was awaiting a vote on the Assembly floor. The oil industry the next day added amendments that further weakened the already weak legislation opposed by a broad coalition of over 100 conservation, environmental justice and consumer groups.” Bon appétit! -- Ashley, Community Alliance, Dec. 3, 2013.

 

 

 

 

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How quickly can you forget this story?

Submitted: Aug 20, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

The problem with the "mistakes" developers make in the heat of a construction boom is the decision the homeowner has to make once the "mistake," life-threatening or not, is discovered.

 To disclose or not to disclose, that is the question.

If I don't disclose, no one can help me.

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Worse news than the election campaigns

Submitted: Aug 20, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 8-15-16

Common Dreams

The Earth Just Experienced the Hottest Month on the Books. Period.

Plus, scientists say there's a "99 percent chance of a new annual record in 2016"

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Western and west side-water madhouse

Submitted: Aug 17, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 In the meantime, the Resnicks have been going hog wild with all that water. Based on current estimates, their Central Valley crops receive more yearly water than the amount used by every single home in Los Angeles combined. Their citrus crops alone use up more water than the city of San Francisco. -- Elijah Chiland, la.curbed.com, Aug. 10, 2016

It is our duty as journalists, in fact it is our precise duty as writers, to try to find plain words to describe what is happening in our world. But when it comes to the irrigated agribusiness of the West and the feudal social structures erected upon it, it is easy to become speechless or simply to document the ecological atrocity as if you were a fax machine spewing out pages to an empty newsroom.

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Merced City Council 8-1-16

Submitted: Aug 15, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Streets, roads, marijuana, and recreation-department salaries highlighted the August 1st meeting of the Merced City Council. 


Streets

The amount of $876,000 in CalTrans funds has been made available to the city through the Merced County Association of Governments. MCAG, as you might remember, is the only local agency authorized by CalTrans to either forward local jurisdiction requests for US Highway Administration funds, and is the only agency authorized to distribute those funds.

At the last meeting, the city council voted to stop payment of certain funds to MCAG that may end the city's eligibility to either propose projects or dispose of highway funds.

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Jeeves willikers, the country shore has changed!

Submitted: Aug 11, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

Bernardus Lodge debuts new lodgings

The Villas & Suites at Bernardus Lodge & Spa in Carmel Valley has opened with 14 new guest lodgings.

The new lodgings debuted on Aug. 2 and have rates from $950 to $2,500.

The new accommodations transport guests to a private sanctuary paired with butler services, free Mercedes-Benz convertibles, alfresco rain showers and a three-to-one staff ratio focused on exceeding guests' expectations.

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Father of the USSC Citizens Alliance decision

Submitted: Aug 10, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

  

With his appointment of Anthony Kennedy to the US Supreme Court, Ronald Reagan foisted on the nation a hereditary Sacramento lobbyist decorated with lipstick in a very special shade called "Well-educated, straight-laced, sober jurist and distinguished professor of law." -- blj

 

 


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State to add protections for Spotted owl

Submitted: Aug 10, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 At first glance, 66 million dead trees may seem like a very large number, but it is important to remember that there are 33 million acres of forest in California, so the total effect of the recent pulse of tree mortality has been to add an average of only two snags per acre. To put that number in perspective, forest animals that live in snags generally need at least four to eight snags per acre to provide sufficient habitat and some species require even more snags. For example, California spotted owls use forests with eight to twelve snags to nest and rest and they prefer even higher levels of snags in the areas where they gather their food. And black-backed woodpeckers depend on snag forests with at least several dozen dead trees per acre. These points and many others were addressed in a letter from scientists to California Gov. Brown in February. -- Douglas Bevington, EcoWatch.com, Aug.

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The Big Grift?

Submitted: Aug 08, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board


 

The pollsters and statisticians are predicting that Trump will lose the election to Hillary Clinton. But of course, this hinges on how one defines “lose.” Donald Trump will likely find a way to financially profit from his political adventure, his supporters are giving him millions of dollars, his narcissism has been further expanded and fueled, and if this was all just an elaborate hustle, Trump has, in many ways, lost nothing and gained much. -- Chauncey DeVega, AlterNet, Aug. 5, 2016

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Merced Development Rodeo: Jobs, jobs, jobs?

Submitted: Aug 04, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Since the Merced County public is again being assaulted by the claims that housing and commercial construction are the one and only way of reducing unemployment in our economy, dominated by government subsidized agribusiness, we thought we would compare some unemployment statistics from past years.

These numbers are for Merced County as a whole, but since construction is ramping up on both sides of the county, they seem indicative.

All figures are for June of the year.1.

6/2016: 10.6 percent

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