Archive | State

How Yolo County Went Grid Positive

 

–With No Upfront Capital Investment,

Creates 152% More Energy Than It Uses

 

By Laurie Guevara-Stone
Rocky Mountain Institute RMI Outlet

 

California is known for being a leader in solar energy, but a small county in Northern California has taken things
a step further.

It has become the first county government in the state to not only zero-out its electric bill with renewable energy, but also to become grid positive.  Yolo County– population 200,000, just west of Sacramento County– now produces 152 percent more energy from solar panels than it uses.

Terry Vernon, deputy director of Yolo County General Services, is behind much of the solar success.

In 2010, the Yolo County government was facing an annual $1.4 million electric bill.  Vernon knew there was a better way, so in the 1980s he helped Stanford University put power back into the grid with a cogeneration plant that heated the entire campus.

No stranger to innovative energy solutions, Vernon knew he could power Yolo County with renewable energy.  

The issue he was facing, however, was that Yolo County was, like the rest of the country, in a serious recession.

“I had to look for a way to do a zero-capital investment because we didn’t have any capital funding,” Vernon told RMI.  “It had to pay for itself the very first day.”

Vernon said it took a lot of effort; he had to go to the county board numerous times.  Fortunately, the board was extremely supportive of the project.  Even before board members knew it would produce a positive cash flow, they saw the potential to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

Once they approved the proposal, the first solar project was under way.

 

AN INNOVATIVE SOLAR PLAN

Working with SunPower, Yolo County installed a 1-megawatt solar power system at the Yolo County Justice Campus in the county seat of Woodland.  

Yolo County owns the system and associated renewable energy credits, and financed the purchase using multiple funding sources, including a $2.5 million loan from the California Energy Commission, and clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The system produced $162,000 the first year of operation, and is predicted to earn the county $10 million over the first 25 years.

With the success of that project under his belt, Vernon decided to do even more.

In 2013, the county installed three arrays totaling 5.8 MW of power as part of its County Wide Solar Project.

The first array produces .8 MW for three buildings on the county government campus in Woodland, reducing the campus’ electric bill by 75 percent through net energy metering.  Two 2.5 MW arrays were installed at Grassland Regional Park in Davis and sell power back to PG&E, the local utility company, through a feed-in-tariff (FiT). 

These projects also were installed with no upfront capital investment.  In partnership with the Yolo County Office of Education, the county secured $23 million in qualified zone academy bonds (QZAB).

The projects not only eliminated the county’s electric bill, but also earned just under $500,000 the first year.

The county sells electricity to PG&E for 10-cents/kilowatt hour, although when its 20-year FiT contract is over, that price might rise.  The county conservatively predicts it will generate $60 million over the next 35 years and avoid 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

“We not only did it with zero upfront capital investment,” Vernon stated, “we eliminated our electrical bill, and we generate cash, which goes into our revenue stream.”

In July, the EPA recognized Yolo County on its list of green power partners that generate and consume the largest amount of green power on-site, alongside companies such as Walmart and Apple.  

Although Yolo County came in 13th in the nation for the amount of kWh used on-site (13.5 million), if ordered by the percentage of total electricity use, Yolo County would be first at 152 percent– with no other entity even coming close.  Even second place electrical partners elsewhere only reach 75 percent.

 

EFFICIENCY FIRST

Even before the solar projects were installed, Yolo County was at the forefront of environmental action.  In the 1980s, it adopted an energy plan that was the first of its kind, and built a gas-to-energy facility at the county landfill that generates 20 MWh/year and captures 90 percent of methane emissions.

From 2002 to 2004, the county enacted the County Wide Energy Conservation Retrofit Project, through which it replaced lights, boilers, HVAC equipment, chillers, fans, water heaters and motors in all major county buildings.

In 2008, Yolo County approved a plan to change the temperature set points in all county office buildings (3 degrees higher in summer, 2 degrees lower in winter), to change air conditioning and lighting system schedules to the minimum hours per day of operation, and to perform retro-commissioning on all building outdoor air economizer systems, among other actions.

These actions annually save the county over $200,000 and reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,200 tons.  And in 2011, the county passed the Climate Action Plan, designed to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.

 

EDUCATING THE YOUNGER GENERATION

Yolo County officials realized that public education is key to their climate goals.

Part of the QZAB education bonds acquired through their partnership with the Yolo County Office of Education, along with a donation from SunPower, financed the construction of seven “solar academies” to bring environmental education to K-12 students. The academies teach school children about climate change, environmental science, renewable energy technologies and energy auditing.

The Qualified Zone Academy Bonds typically are used by K-12 school districts, community college districts and county offices of education to fund capital projects accompanied by an educational component.

For Yolo County’s solar projects, the bonds were structured as a lease payable from the county’s general fund with a term of 20 years.  In addition, the bonds required a 10 percent match by a private or nonprofit entity, which came from SunPower.

The benefit of using these bonds to finance the county’s solar projects is twofold — first, the county benefits from a direct federal subsidy (ability to pay back the bonds at no interest); and second, the County Office of Education benefits from the 10 percent contribution to implement the academies.

But “the real winners,” explained Vernon, “are the children of California.”

Santa Clara County and Orange County already are trying to replicate Yolo County’s successes, and Vernon would like to see other counties follow.

“Global warming makes me nervous for my children and grandchildren,” Vernon told RMI.

“Other counties and municipalities can duplicate a piece of this project and achieve the same results. Even if they only did one megawatt, which most cities can do, it would make a big difference.”

* * * * * * * * * *

This article also appeared on Public CEO and Greenbiz as part of RMI’s monthly institutional column.  RMI Outlet, Rocky Mountain Institute’s blog, explores topics critical to the mission of driving the efficient and restorative use of resources.

Share this with other municipal leaders and organizations you know. 

Humboldt, in particular, could benefit from a similar example using the progressive smarts, coordination, and innovation like Yolo County did– that is, if the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors were on the same page and not so wrapped up in the petty issues of unraveling the GPU that’s been consuming much of our local energy resources lately.

Sunlight is the most abundant source of potential energy on the planet.  If harnessed properly, sunlight could easily exceed current and future electricity demand.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, enough energy from the sun reaches the Earth every hour to meet the world’s energy usage for an entire year.

The future is ours.  At least it is if we take it back.

 

Solar Roadways | Michéle Ohayon from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Please share us with others
and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Posted in State0 Comments

Governor Brown Wary Of Marijuana Legalization in the Golden State

 

‘The World is Too Dangerous for Competition and Potheads’

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

SAN FRANCISCOThe Golden State hopes to remain golden– and not too stoned and tarnished.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said he is not sure legalizing marijuana is a good idea in his state because the country could lose its competitive edge if too many people are getting stoned.

If pot smoking gains more legitimacy in the nation’s most populous state, Brown said he worries it could have negative ripple effects.

“The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes,” he said in a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

”And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown said.

Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.  But Brown said he is watching closely to see how Colorado and Washington handle their new laws that go a step further by regulating the growth and sale of taxed recreational marijuana at state-licensed stores.

Colorado’s pot shops opened Jan. 1, and Washington’s are expected to open later this year.

“We have medical marijuana, which gets very close to what they have in Colorado and Washington.  I’d really like those two states to show us how it’s going to work,” he said.  

“The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive.  I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

Brown, who was interviewed remotely from San Francisco, also discussed California’s drought problems, climate change and his future political career.

Now, as he prepares to run for his fourth term as governor, Brown said that despite his progressive politics, the key to turning California’s budget deficit into a projected multibillion-dollar budget surplus was exerting fiscal discipline.

“You’ve got to be tough on spending. No matter how liberal you want to be, at the end of the day, fiscal discipline is the fundamental predicate of a free society,” he said.

Brown also mused about the Democratic Party’s future, saying he favored a Hillary Clinton bid for president in 2016.

“She’s got more experience, both domestic and international,” he said. “I mean, it’s her nomination if she wants it, as far as I’m concerned.”

 

Via Google News/SF Gate News

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

 * * * * * * * * * *

Posted in State0 Comments

California Couple Stumble Across $10 Million Gold Hoard

 

Largest Treasure Horde Ever Found in North America

 

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The California couple who stumbled on what may be the most valuable cache of gold coins ever found in North America while on their daily walk were so taken aback that they reburied them in an old ice chest until they could figure out their next step.

That was the story relayed by John and Mary in an interview transcript posted by the numismatic firm Kagin’s Inc., which is representing the couple and keeping their identities confidential.

The pair had walked the path on their Gold Country property for years before they spotted the edge of a rusty can peeking out of the moss in the shadow of an old tree last February, they told Kagin’s.  When they cracked the lid off with a nearby stick, they found dirt-encrusted coins.  All together, there were eight cans filled with coins beneath the surface.

The face value of the coins were $28,000.  If the coins were melted down, the gold alone would be worth $2 million, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin
Grading Services in Newport Beach, who recently
authenticated the coins.

On the market, however, the “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” named for the space on the couple’s property, may be the most valuable treasure cache ever found in North America, with an estimated value of more than $10 million. 

Most of the coins are $20 gold pieces, known as double eagles.  All of those were made at the San Francisco mint, founded in 1854 to process the nuggets that prospectors were finding in the newly discovered California gold fields.

But at least one of the coins came from a much earlier bonanza—a rare $5 piece known as a Dahlonega half eagle.  That’s Dahlonega, Georgia.

The couple said that when they realized what they had found, they dug a hole in their wood pile, placed the rare and perfectly preserved 1,400 coins in bags and boxes in an old ice chest and buried them again.

“I looked around over my shoulder to see if someone was looking at me — I had the idea of someone on horseback in my head.  It’s impossible to describe really, the strange reality of that moment,” John said in the interview.

All dated between 1847 and 1894, 13 of the coins are the finest of their kind.  One “miraculous coin,” an 1866 $20 piece made in San Francisco and missing “In God We Trust,” could bring $1 million on its own, Hall said.  When the motto was added to the coin in 1866, some were still minted without the phrase, he said.

Had the couple attempted to clean the delicate surface of the piece, they could have reduced the value to $7,000 or $8,000 in under a minute, said David McCarthy, senior numismatist for Kagin’s, who evaluated the hoard.

“A lot of people see stuff like this and all they see are dollar signs,” McCarthy said.  ”If I got to bestow these treasures on people, I would do that on this family without even blinking an eye.”

John and Mary,” who prefer to remain anonymous and their property location undisclosed, said they plan to keep some of the coins and sell others on Amazon.com with the intention of donating part of the proceeds to charity.

More important, they said, they will use the money to pay the steep taxes expected to be levied on the find and to hold on to their home.  They did not explain further.

“Whatever answers you seek, they might be right at home,” Mary said.  “The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years.”

The bigger mystery remains, however, as to who the original owner of the cash stash was– and why he let $10 million of cold hard gold slip from his fingers and go buried and forgotten for over a hundred years.

* * * * * * * * *

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share with others

Posted in National, State3 Comments

The Octopus Affair

 

Diver Captures Wrestling Encounter on Video

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Octopi are incredibly smart invertebrates and very curious 
when it comes to new things.

Just ask diver Warren Murray when he went scuba diving off Bluefish Cove in Carmel, California, on February 1.

First thinking he’d happened upon a large rock, sudden movement quickly turned into a tussle when an eight foot long octopus took an interest in his diving camera.

“I wasn’t too worried.  Generally they are not too interested in people. They’ll just take off,” Murray said.  

“I was thinking he would take off as soon as I got close to it.  When he wasn’t moving, I was excited.”

Even more amazing was that this species of octopus doesn’t normally inhabit the waters where Murray was diving. 

The Giant Pacific Octopus is normally found in deeper, cooler waters of the northern Pacific, anywhere from California
to Japan, and 2,500 feet down. 

They’re truly giant, ranging from around 14 feet and 33 pounds, although some specimens have gone as far as 30 feet and up to a whopping 600 pounds.  They feed on a wide diet, typically fish and shrimp, but aren’t adverse to larger prey such as birds or sharks, either.

With a highly developed brain and acute vision, they are masters of camouflage and can quickly change the color and texture of their skin to match their background surroundings.  They typically pounce on their target, enveloping it with its inter-arm webbing and using their powerful beak to break open hard-shelled prey.

As intelligent as they may be– they’ve been observed opening jars, solving mazes, and other complex activities– the octopus’ reaction may have been a case of mistaken identity.  Because of the camera’s reflective surface, it’s possible the octopus saw his own reflection and believed it was another octopus, spurring him to action.

The struggle didn’t last long, as Murray’s diving partner, David Malvestuto, captured clear video for a few moments in the calm water before the octopus gave up and ran away.

“I was a little concerned … but we both knew they are harmless,” he said.  ”He was very cool and collected.  I wanted to make sure nothing bad would happen.”

Though powerful, octopi are generally not dangerous to humans unless they feel threatened.  The pair said they never felt that they were in any real danger during the ordeal.

“Pacific octopus not a fan of being photographed, apparently,” Malvestuto mused in the description of the video encounter  above.

* * * * * * * *

 

Via DailyNews/National Aquarium/David Malvestuto/YouTube

Please share with others and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Posted in Media, State0 Comments

The California GOP’s Fake Health Care Website

 

Dirty Tricks on the Taxpayer’s Dime

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.org

 

In this wicked world of woe, there are hucksters, flimflammers, plain ol’ crooks… and Republican members of the California Assembly.

This last bunch of scoundrels went out of their way to monkeywrench the rollout of President Obama’s new health care law.  Obama’s computer geniuses were making a hash of the initial rollout in October, but the sign-up was finally smoothing out – and with any Obama success, GOP lawmakers automatically start tossing out monkeywrenches.

This time, the tool they tossed is a fake website created by California Republican legislators in August to look like the state’s official health exchange site, where people can sign up to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  

When things finally got worked out on the national health care exchange in November, the Repubs mailed a pamphlet to their constituents, directing them to the decoy site, calling it a “resource guide” to “help” them navigate the ACA sign up process.

Far from help, however, the faux site is a trap.  It’s filled with boilerplate Republican propaganda against the law, gimmicks to discourage viewers from even applying for the health care they need, and a rash of distortions and outright lies.  

There’s so much bunkum on the site that its fine print includes a disclaimer saying they don’t vouch for “the quality, content, accuracy, or completeness of the information” it provides.

The silliest thing about the lawmakers’ blatantly political ploy is that even if it convinces some people to forgo the ACA’s benefits, who does that hurt?  Not Obama – but their own constituents!

I know there’s no IQ requirement to be a state legislator, but what were they thinking?

We can laugh at their low comedy and nincompoopery, but if you’re a California taxpayer, congratulations: You paid for the GOP’s bogus website and mailings.  So much for that party’s opposition to wasteful spending!

 

Sources:

“A Bogus Health Care Website, Courtesy of the GOP,” www.msnbc.com, December 4, 2013.

California Republicans Defend Fake Obamacare Site,” www.abcnews.com, December 3, 2013.

“California GOP Creates Fake Health Care Website to Discourage Constituents from Obtaining Insurance,” www.dailykos.com, December 2, 2013.

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.  You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

* * * * * * * * *

It’s been a long time since the American people have seen such dirty tricks.  The Republican party of today makes the party of Richard Nixon look like a collection of altar boys.

Please consider sharing the Sentinel with others

Posted in Media, Politics, State4 Comments

Swimming in the Rain

 

The Golden Days of Aquafornia

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Golden State hasn’t been so golden lately. 

It’s been more of a bone-dry brown color, and if it keeps up there
will be more wildfire days than swimming ones come summer.

The rain currently falling is a welcome respite.  Over the past few days most of California has experienced an atmospheric phenomenon not experienced in quite some time: measurable rain and snow has fallen across much of the state for the first time since early December.

Two systems have moved through the state.  The first dropped significant precipitation primarily in the Sierra foothills, and the second (and ongoing) system is currently bringing cold showers to California’s coastal regions.

Between these two systems, the incredible zero-rain spell across nearly the entire state has finally been broken.  

While runoff into rivers and streams from these two events has been virtually nonexistent, the observed rainfall has drastically lowered the risk of wildfire (and Central Valley dust storms) for the short term.   In a rather dramatic contrast to the all-time record warmth measured several weeks ago, accumulating snowfall has been reported today in parts of Northern California.

January 2014 will probably go down in the record books as the warmest and driest in California history.  This is certainly the case for most of California’s major cities while many other places also exceeded their previous all-time record for consecutive dry days during the so-called “rainy season.”  Our all-too-familiar Ridiculously Resilient Ridge—an unprecedented offshore high-pressure barrier stretching 4 miles high and nearly 2,000 miles long– dominated the weather throughout January, pushing moisture away to the south and north of us in California.

The incredibly dry conditions brought about by the RRR mean that much of the San Francisco Bay Area has been drier than Death Valley over the past six months or so– and perhaps even drier than parts of the northern Sahara Desert.

At a recent press conference detailing the unprecedented measures currently being undertaken in response to California’s exceptional drought, a Department of Water Resources official claimed that California would need to receive heavy precipitation every other day between now and the beginning of May to eliminate the existing precipitation deficit.

That’s not likely to happen.  It is becoming increasingly clear that at least some towns and cities in California do not have enough drinking water to make it through summer, and emergency contingency plans are being put into place in anticipation of even more water districts running dry as the drought continues.

For the first time in history, State Water Project  deliveries will not occur south of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta this year.  The announcement marks the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that such an action has been taken, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland.

The 29 agencies that draw from the state’s water-delivery system have other sources, although those also have been hard-hit by the drought.  State officials say 17 rural communities—including Willits– are in danger of a severe water shortage within four months.  Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities.  Others have long-running problems that predate the drought.

It’s hard to say exactly how much rainfall we would need to stave off the worst effects of the drought. 

2/3 of the rainy season has already passed and it will be hard to reach even a modest level of water security without much-above-normal precipitation for the rest of the traditional wet season.  Right now, that scenario just doesn’t appear to be in the cards even as the 2014 political water wars heat up

Conserve.  Do the rain dance.  Pray.  Swimming in the Golden State of Aquafornia may soon become a distant memory of our youth if the weather holds out.

* * * * * * * *

“I Go Swimming” performed by Peter Gabriel. 

Our appreciation goes out to Doug Curran and family for sharing his vacation video with us here.

Please feel free to share this post with others and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Posted in Environment, State0 Comments

Smith & Wesson, Ruger Quit California Over Stamping Requirement

 

Making Handguns Obsolete Through Legislation?

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

A new gun law proponents say helps law enforcement has driven Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger out of California, and affirmed the suspicions of firearms rights advocates that the measure is really about making handguns obsolete.

The two companies have announced they will stop selling their new wares in the nation’s most populous state rather than try to comply with a law that requires some handguns to have technology that imprints a tiny stamp on the bullet so it can be traced back to the gun.  The companies, and many gun enthusiasts, say so-called “microstamping” technology is unworkable in its present form and can actually impair a gun’s performance.

“Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms,” the Springfield, Mass.,-based manufacturer said in a statement.  “A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”

“The microstamping mandate and the company’s unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.”

Southport, Conn.-based Sturm Ruger also announced this month that they will also stop selling their guns in California due to the microstamping law.

Firearm microstamping, or ballistic imprinting, works by engraving a microscoping marking onto the tip of the firing pin.  When the gun is fired, it leaves an imprint, usually of a serial number, on the bullet casings.  The telltale mark theoretically allows law enforcement investigators to trace the bullet to the registered gun owner.

California’s law is the first in the nation to be implemented and was originally signed into effect in October 2007, but not implemented until recently.  Several other states are considering similar measures.

Law-enforcement is exempt from microstamping requirements.

Critics say tracing a bullet to a registered gun owner does little to fight crime, since criminals often kill with stolen handguns.  Many believe tracing bullets was never the real intent of the law in the first place.

“This is the latest attempt to undermine the Second Amendment in California by politicians with little to no knowledge of firearms, who seek to impose their liberal values upon those who choose to protect their families with the constitutional right to own a handgun,” said Chuck Michel, West Coast Counsel for the National Rifle Association, an Adjunct Professor at Chapman University and author of the book “California Gun Laws.”

One of the main arguments critics pose is the claim that
the technology is not perfected, yet the requirement has been put into effect.

“The technology doesn’t fully exist yet, but by making it into a law, they [California] in fact enacted a gun law without actually passing one,” David Kopel, a constitutional law professor at the Denver University Sturm College of Law and Research Director of the Independence Institute, said.  

“This is an indirect way to ban new handguns from being sold,” Kopel said.

The patent holder of microstamping tech, Todd Lizotte, was part of a Department of Justice study team which concluded that, “legitimate questions exist related to both the technical aspects, production costs, and database management associated with microstamping that should be addressed before
wide scale implementation is legislatively mandated,” according to the study
which was published in the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners Journal.

Lawsuits were also filed against the Golden State this week by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute challenging the microstamping law, saying in a statement this week that they predicted back in 2007 when the law was first passed that it would result in a “de facto semiautomatic handgun ban.”

Other states considering a microstamping requirement include Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.

Smith & Wesson said it expects sales of its California-compliant revolvers, which aren’t required to have microstamping, will offset the impact to the company.  Company President and CEO James Debney vowed to continue to work with industry groups to oppose the law, while providing California customers with products that do comply with it.

Two trade groups, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, filed a legal challenge to the law in California Superior Court earlier this month.

 

Posted in State1 Comment

California Drought in Pictures

 

Statewide Rain Average:  4 Inches of Rain in Last 13 Months

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

California has seen its share of droughts, but — at least in recent years — it hasn’t seen something like this.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last week, shortly after it was revealed that 2013 was the state’s driest year in recorded history.  San Francisco saw a low record-shattering 5.59 inches of rain– compared to the previous low record of 9 inches– while dry Los Angeles saw just 3.6 inches of precipitation in all of 2013.

To make matters worse, there isn’t a drop of rain in sight.  Right now, with snow and freezing temperatures battering the rest of the country, the forecast was a sunny 77 degrees in Los Angeles.

While those bundled and shivering on the East Coast might have little sympathy for the Golden State’s January summer-like beach weather, take a look at what the drought has done to the water supply across our state:

 

A bathtub ring around the San Gabriel Reservoir in the Angeles National Forest reveals the low water level

 

Girls walk on rocks that normally make up the water’s edge at Folsom Lake

 

Forestry experts feared the drought would prime the Sierra Nevada mountain range for a major fire, a prediction that sadly came to fruition during the devastating Rim Fire that burned through hundreds of acres of Yosemite National Park

 

This month’s Colby Fire, which destroyed several Southern California homes, was also worsened by the drought.  Drought conditions and an early season is a predictor of the worst forest and wildland fires expected on state record.

 

Signs opposing California lawmakers — seen by some as responsible for worsening drought conditions with legislation — are common in the inland Central Valley and display the increasing tension over water rights in the state

 

A fish washed ashore on the banks of Folsom Lake

 

Governor Jerry Brown compares satellite photos of the Sierra Nevada snow pack from 2013 and 2014 at a press conference to declare the state in a drought emergency

 

Researchers at the Department of Water Resources look over a meadow that is usually covered in snow during the final survey of the 2012/2013 season in May

 

Researchers at the Department of Water Resources measure snow levels near Echo Summit in January, 2014. The readings showed the water content in the snowpack was at 20 percent of average for this time of year

 

The drought isn’t limited to California: the low water level can be seen at Hoover Dam in Nevada, as well

 

Conditions are expected to worsen further as officials apprehensively monitor the state’s water resources

 

 

It’s not looking pretty anywhere. 

* * * * * * * *

Who says climate change isn’t happening?

(Via Huffington Post/Discover/Yahoo News)

Please feel free to share this post with others and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Posted in Environment, State1 Comment

California Poised To Legalize Marijuana by 2016– Or Sooner

 

Different Initiatives in the Works

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It’s coming.  Again.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Californians support legalizing,
regulating and taxing recreational marijuana in the state,
according to a
Tulchin Research poll.

The figure, based on responses of 1,200 likely 2016 voters surveyed during the last two weeks, shows a “solid majority” back proposals to legalize adult recreational marijuana, the San Francisco-based pollster said.  The poll found 32% oppose legalization and 3% were undecided.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and American Civil Liberties Union representatives released the poll results during a news conference last month and announced the launch of a two-year research effort focused on proposals to legalize recreational marijuana.

Newsom will chair a panel of 16 experts, including professors, medical professionals and policy researchers, who will study legal and policy issues involved in adult recreational marijuana.

“This is about real people,” Newsom said to The Huffington Post.  ”Communities are devastated because of this abject thing called the drug war.  Forget the politics.  This is the right thing to do.

“But we need to answer the tough questions before we put it on the ballot,” Newsom said.  ”I want the research in order to be more convincing to others.”

Not everyone is willing to wait until 2016.  Two groups have filed
proposals to put recreational pot initiatives on California’s 2014 ballot.

Both proposals — the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative and the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act — would regulate and tax marijuana similar to alcohol.  And both face an uphill battle in gathering enough funds and volunteers to collect the 504,000 signatures in 100 days needed to make it onto the ballot.

The organizers behind the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative are collecting signatures, and backers of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act are awaiting approval from the state to begin collecting signatures.

Other marijuana advocacy groups– including Newsom’s panel– are working toward a California voter initiative for 2016.

“Voter turnout tends to be much higher in presidential election years,” Mason Tvert, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said.  “We believe a 2016 initiative will best demonstrate just how much support there is for ending marijuana prohibition in California.”

The Drug Policy Alliance echoed this sentiment, saying more education
is needed to rally voter support.

“The support for marijuana legalization in California is there,” Amanda Reiman, policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, said.  ”It just may not be there strongly enough or from the right populations to claim victory in 2014.”

California voters narrowly rejected marijuana legalization in 2010 with Proposition 19.  About 53% of California voters voted no.

Drug Policy Alliance co-hosted a symposium on legalization in California with the California Society of Addiction Medicine in Denver.  
Reiman said that working with that organization is part of an effort to
win support from California’s medical community, which she said is
essential to persuade the public.

Drug Policy Alliance also is working with environmental and agriculture groups, since much of California marijuana cultivation is outdoors, particularly in the northern counties of Humboldt, Mendocino and Ukiah.

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996.  

Since then, the medical cannabis industry has flourished, generating upwards of $100 million in annual tax revenue.

“This is not a matter of 2014 or bust, or 2016 or bust,” Reiman said. “Legalization of marijuana in California is going to happen.”

 

* * * * * *

Surprising Facts About Marijuana and the US Economy

 

$13.7 Billion Saved On Prohibition Enforcement Costs

The government would save an estimated $13.7 billion on prohibition enforcement costs and tax revenue by legalizing marijuana, according to a paper endorsed by 300 economists.

 

Marijuana Inmates Cost Prisons $1 Billion per Year

Inmates incarcerated on marijuana-related charges cost U.S. prisons $1 billion annually, according to a 2007 study, AlterNet reports.

Marijuana Prohibition Costs Taxpayers $41.8 Billion A Year

Including lost tax revenues, a 2007 study found that enforcing the marijuana prohibition costs tax payers $41.8 billion annually, Forbes reports.

California Marijuana Crop Worth $14 Billion A Year

Marijuana growers account for $14 billion a year in sales in California, making it the state’s most valuable cash crop, TIME reports.

Illegal Marijuana A $36 Billion A Year Industry

It’s estimated that illegal marijuana is a $36 billion industry in the U.S., MadameNoire reports.

One-Third Of Americans Think Legalization Would Boost The Economy

About one-third of Americans say they think legalizing marijuana would boost the economy, according to a 2010 poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

Dispensary Ads Boost Newspapers’ Revenue

The Sacramento News and Review saw a big boost in ad revenue when it offered advertising space for more than 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, enabling the publication to hire three additional employees, according to News10.nets

Mendocino Zip Tie Program Raised $600,000

Mendocino County, California’s zip tie program aimed at regulating medical marijuana growing by charging permits for each plant raised $600,000 in revenue in for the Sheriff’s department in 2011.

Oakland Raised More than $1 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue

The City of Oakland, California raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011, 3 percent of the city’s total business tax revenue, according to The New York Times.

Colorado Pulls In $5 Million From Pot Sales Tax

In 2011, Colorado pulled in $5 milllion in sales taxes from medical marijuana businesses, The New York Times reports.

Legal Marijuana Could be $100 Billion Industry

Economist Stephen Easton estimated in 2010 that legal marijuana could be a $45 to $100 billion industry, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Majority of States Support Taxing Marijuana

More than 60% of states agree with taxing marijuana, according to a poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

Marijuana Affects Workplace Motivation

Sorry to say, but a Norwegian study 25 years in the making came to the shocking conclusion that frequent marijuana use lowers employees’ motivation at work.

Denver Counts More Dispensaries than Starbucks

As of July 2011, the city of Denver counted more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks franchises.

 

Via Huffington Post/Mark Newcomb/Los Angeles Times/Forbes

If you liked this post or others, please consider sharing them

Posted in Scene, State1 Comment

News of the Redwoods

 

New Study Reveals Redwoods Contain Climate Data Over the Ages

 

Sonoma County Slowly Destroying Forests for Wineries

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Seeing the forests for the trees depends upon how you view the whole situation.  Take these two articles making the rounds in the news today, for example:

 

SEATTLE, WA– Many people use tree ring records to see into the past.  But redwoods – the iconic trees that are the world’s tallest living things – have so far proven too erratic in their growth patterns to help with reconstructing historic climate.

A University of Washington researcher has developed a way to use the trees as a window into coastal conditions, using oxygen and carbon atoms in the wood to detect fog and rainfall in previous seasons.

“This is really the first time that climate reconstruction has ever been done with redwoods,” said Jim Johnstone,  He is corresponding author of a study published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

While coastal redwoods are not the longest-lived trees on the West Coast, they do contain unique information about their foggy surroundings.  Coastal redwoods in Northern California use fog as a water source, incorporating the molecules in their trunks, Johnstone found.

“Redwoods are restricted to a very narrow strip along the coastline,” Johnstone said.  “They’re tied to the coastline, and they’re sensitive to marine conditions, so they actually may tell you more about what’s happening over the ocean than they do about what’s happening over land.”

The new study used cores from Northern California coastal redwoods to trace climate back 50 years. Weather records from that period prove the method is accurate, suggesting it could be used to track conditions through the thousand or more years of the redwoods’ lifetime.

Tree-ring research, or dendrochronology, typically involves a detailed look at a cross-section of a tree trunk.  But the rings of a redwood are uneven and don’t always fully encircle the tree, making it a poor candidate for anything except detecting historic fires.

The new paper uses a painstaking approach that’s more like processing ice cores.  It uses the molecules captured in the wood to sample the atmosphere of the past.

Most oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere has an atomic mass of 16, making it O-16, but a small percentage of oxygen is the heavier O-18 isotope.  When seawater evaporates off the ocean to form clouds, some drops fall as rain over the ocean, and more of the heavier O-18 molecules rain out.  The remaining drops that fall on land thus have a higher proportion of the lighter O-16 molecules.

Fog, on the other hand, forms near shore and blows on land where it drips down through the branches until the trees use it like rainwater.

By looking at the proportion of O-16 and O-18 in the wood from each season, the team was able to measure the contribution of fog and rain.

“We actually have two indicators that we can use in combination to determine if a particular summer was foggy with a little rain, foggy with a lot of rain, and various combinations of the two,” Johnstone said.

Related research by Johnstone shows that the amount of West Coast fog is closely tied to the surface temperature of the ocean, so redwoods may be able to tell us something about the long-term patterns of ocean change, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  Understanding the cycles could better distinguish natural and human-caused climate change.

“It’s possible that the redwoods could give us direct indication of how that’s worked over longer periods,” Johnstone said.  “This is just a piece that contributes to that understanding in a pretty unique place.”

* * * * * * * * *

 SONOMA COUNTY, CA– Would you like a little whine to go along with that cheese?

A coalition of environmental groups in California is fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from chopping down 154 acres of redwood trees and Douglas firs to make room for yet more grapevines, NPR reports.

The fight, according to the report, is a global one, with a 2013 study finding climate change would profoundly impact ecosystems, with wine grape production being “a good test case for measuring indirect impacts by changes in agriculture.”

In the California case, the groups, which filed suit in 2012, are charging that state officials violated California’s environmental protection laws when they approved the plan to clear the area, which is in the wine mecca of Sonoma County.

According to the NPR report, Artesa Vineyards and Winery, owned by the Spanish Codomiu Group, will spare two old-growth redwoods on the property.  According to a company spokesman, most of the trees at the site are less than 100 feet tall.  ”There are no forests on this site,” spokesman Sam Singer told the station.

Redwoods are among the biggest trees on Earth, and can stand more than 350 feet high.  Some are more than 2,000 years old.

The redwoods at the center of the controversy are not the old-growth trees.  Thousands of trees slated for removal are between 50 and 80 feet high, according to Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called Friends of the Gualala River, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  He says the trees provide important habitat to local wildlife and guard the soil against erosion, which has been a significant challenge for streams in the area that once harbored salmon as well as steelhead trout.

Dennis Hall, a higher official with CalFire, says his department’s approval of Artesa’s project in 2012 came only after a lengthy review process found that it would not significantly damage the environment.

Still, Poehlmann feels CalFire has been too lenient on proposals by developers to level trees.  ”They are acting as if they are actually the ‘department of deforestation,’ ” he told the station.

“But at least we’ll have plenty of wine to drink,” he quipped, “while we bemoan the fact that our forests are all used up.”

Friends of the Gualala River and the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, another plaintiff in the current Artesa lawsuit, have tried several times over the past 10 years to successfully stop ‘timberland conversion’ projects.  Those projects, proposed by winery groups, were approved by the state.

But from 1979 to 2006, 25 conversions occurred in Sonoma County at an average rate of 21 acres per year– for a total loss of 560 acres of forest– according to county officials, NPR reported.

 

 

Articles via University of Washington, NPR News, and Inhabitat.com
–If you liked this article or others, please consider sharing them–

Posted in Environment, State0 Comments

Rare Sea Serpent Found Off Catalina

 

18-Foot Oarfish Monster Brought to California Shore

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It was a monster of a find.

The 18-foot oarfish found dead off Catalina Island over the weekend was rare not only because they live nowhere near coastlines, but also because it was among the biggest reported in nearly 20 years.

26-year-old science instructor Jasmine Santana brought the oarfish to shore at the Catalina Island Marine Institute.  The long, snake-like fish usually resides in deep oceans, but Santana happened upon it in less than 15 feet of water at Toyon Bay, about 2 miles west of the island’s main town of Avalon.

“I was out snorkeling, and I saw it just west of the pier on the sea floor,” Santana said.  “I didn’t have a camera, and I thought to myself, if I just tell everyone I saw this huge thing, they probably won’t believe me.”

So, she dove down to inspect the creature and, after making sure it was dead– and checking to make sure nothing else even bigger was around that might have killed it– Santana began pulling the fish by its tail to shore.

“It was so heavy, there was no way I was lifting that thing out of the water,” she said.  “It felt like I was in life-saving training for lifeguards.”

Once she got the oarfish to shallow water, other instructors ran toward the find in disbelief, helping her pull in the estimated 200-pound creature.  Fellow instructor Michelle Sakai-Hart was offloading gear from the Institute’s tallship Tole Mour at the pier when she saw Santana in the water, struggling with the oarfish.

“I had heard of an oarfish, and had seen footage of a baby one, but nothing like this,” Sakai-Hart said.  In total, it took 15 adults to get the silvery, slimy fish onto shore.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Jeff Chace, program director at Catalina Island Marine Institute, said.

Rick Feeney, ichthyology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said giant oarfish only “wash up occasionally” because they’re typically found deep in open ocean.  When oarfish come closer to shore, they could be starving, disoriented or landed in shallower water because of a storm. 

“It may be a sign of distress.  They’re usually in the deep ocean, away from land,” Feeney said.  Giant oarfish get up to maximum length of about 27 feet, he said, adding that stories of them reaching 50 or more feet haven’t been verified. 

One of the museum’s existing specimens, a 14-foot oarfish recovered from Catalina Island in 2006, is well-known to visitors.  It is suspended in alcohol in a giant case in the grand foyer.  “Not a whole lot is known about them, because they are sort of secretive,” Feeney said.  “We’re slowly finding out more about them.”

The Catalina Island Marine Institute is awaiting results of several samples sent out to researchers of its 18-foot specimen.  Until then, staff members say they lack the capacity to keep it refrigerated.  In the absence of preserving the carcass, the institute may go with one option on the table:  Bury the dead fish in 3 feet of sand and let it decompose over a couple of months.  After that, the skeleton could be exhumed and mounted.

Oarfish live most of their lives at depths between 700 and 3,000 feet.  While thought to be capable of growing to 50 feet in length, little is known of the fish’s behavior and sightings of the animal alive are rare.  Oarfish are thought to be the basis of sea serpent legends accounted for by ancient sailors.

A 12-foot oarfish washed ashore in Malibu in 2010, but it was a much smaller — and thinner — variety with its silvery scales and a scarlet red dorsal fin.  But not since a group of Navy SEALS found a 23-foot-long oarfish off Coronado in 1996 has such a large oarfish
been reported as this one.

In recent years, researchers have captured video of an oarfish swimming deep underwater in the Gulf of Mexico and spotted one swimming not far from the shore in Baja California.  

Recent video of the creature alive and well was published in the Journal of Fish Biology this summer, as remotely operated vehicles surveying oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico incidentally captured video of the fish swimming in its natural state.

“By sheer luck, we encountered five oarfish while conducting surveys down there,” said Mark Benfield, professor at Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences.  What caught Benfield’s eye was the animal’s movement in water. 

“Normally, they just move by this curious undulation of the dorsal fin, but when it wants to pick up the pace, it can serpentine quickly through the water,” Benfield said.

* * * * * * * * *

 

Via Google/Discovery News
If you like this post, please share it

Posted in Environment, State2 Comments

California Hikes Minimum Wage to $10 an Hour

 

Increase One of the Highest in Nation

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

LOS ANGELESCalling it a “matter of justice,” California Governor Jerry Brown signed a minimum-wage hike Wednesday that raises the hourly rate to $10
an hour within three years.

Brown signed the bill into law at a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles.

The minimum wage, currently at $8 an hour, will rise to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014.  On January 1, 2016, it will rise to $10 an hour.  California’s minimum wage will be one of the highest rates in the nation and the increase is the first to California’s minimum wage in six years.

Brown called the bill an overdue piece of legislation that will help working-class families and close the gap between “workers at the bottom and those who occupy the commanding heights of the economy.”

The raise comes amid a national debate over whether it’s fair to pay fast-food workers, retail clerks and others wages so low that they often have to work second or third jobs.

Supporters said the bill by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, would help workers left behind during the recent recession.

Miguel Aguilar, a worker at a Los Angeles car wash, thanked the governor for signing the bill.

“We work really long hours,” said Aguilar, who has a union contract. “Now, with the increase in the minimum wage, we’ll be able to sustain an income that can support our families.”

The governor was joined by state legislators and business owners who supported the measure, saying increased wages would boost the state’s economy.

“A higher minimum wage will mean much-needed money in the pockets of millions of workers in the state, and that’s good news for businesses throughout California that will benefit from increased consumer spending,” Gary Gerber, founder and CEO of Sun Light & Power in Berkeley, said in a statement.

The state Senate approved AB10 on a 26-11 vote Sept. 12, and the Assembly followed hours later on a 51-25 vote.  Both chambers voted largely along party lines.

In opposing the measure, Republican lawmakers said increased wages would encourage businesses to cut jobs and automate.  The California Chamber of Commerce was against the bill, saying it will drive up businesses’ costs by ratcheting up other wages and workers’ compensation payments.

“Small business owners will now be forced to make tough choices including reducing employee hours, cutting positions entirely, and for many, closing their doors altogether,” said John Kabateck, head of the California branch of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Federal law sets a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but California is among 19 states and the District of Columbia that set a higher state minimum wage.

The federal minimum provides $15,080 a year assuming a 40-hour work week, which is $50 below the federal poverty line for a family of two.  More than 15 million workers nationally earn the national minimum, which compares with the median national salary of $40,350, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

President Barack Obama has sought an increase of the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

Among states, Washington has the top minimum wage at $9.19 an hour, an amount pegged to rise with inflation.  But some cities have set higher rates, including San Francisco, which has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $10.50 an hour.

The California bill does not index the rate to inflation, meaning it would remain at $10 per hour unless the Legislature raises it again in the future.

 

(Via Yahoo News and Capitol Review)

 

* * * * * * * *

Thank you for following us
on Twitter and Facebook and
sharing the Humboldt Sentinel 
with others

Posted in State0 Comments

Pomo Archaeological Site Destroyed by Willits Bypass Construction

 

Federal Agency Slams Caltrans for Failing to Protect Historic Properties

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Jennifer Poole
Willits Weekly

The Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians (SVR) got a notice from Caltrans on Friday, September 13 that an archaeological site with Pomo cultural resources known to Caltrans in the Little Lake Valley has “been destroyed by construction activities,” said SVR Tribal Chair Mike Fitzgerral in a statement given to the Willits Weekly.

As per the September 13 notice from Caltrans: “Caltrans has discovered that one of the sites” – CA-MEN-3571 – “is actually located within the area of direct impact” of the Little Lake Valley project.  “As you know,” the notice continues, “wick drains have been installed in that area and 3 feet of fill has been placed.”

The exact location of CA-MEN-3571 and specific descriptions of cultural resources found there and at other known archaeological sites – discovered before and after construction started in the bypass area – is not public information.  Federal and state law keeps this information confidential due to the potential for theft or vandalism.

According to the tribe’s statement, CA-MEN-3571 was identified by Caltrans in 2011, during archaeological investigations of the area, as part of the bypass footprint’s “area of potential effects,” but: “later, in 2012, Caltrans claimed that changes for the project (i.e., changes to the bypass route) resulted in the site no longer being located in
the project footprint.”

“However,” the statement from the tribe continues: “Caltrans has just confirmed that the site does indeed exist within the project and has, over the last four months, been severely impacted by the removal of topsoil and the installation of 1400-1500 wick drains.  What little, if anything, remains of CA-MEN-3571 is now inundated with 3 feet of fill.”

A September 18 letter to Caltrans from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency in Washington, D.C., characterizes this destruction of CA-MEN-3571 as a “major breach of the protection of a historic property that Caltrans committed to protect as part of its determination of ‘No Adverse Effect’ in the project’s environmental impact statement.”

The Advisory Council is charged with administering the National Historic Preservation Act’s review process for agency projects, which includes identification and analysis of historic properties, analysis of the proposed project’s effects, and exploration of ways to avoid or mitigate those effects.

In the environmental impact statement for the bypass project, Caltrans states: “If buried cultural materials are encountered during construction, it is Caltrans’ policy that all work in that area must halt until a qualified archaeologist can evaluate the nature and significance of the
find.”

The Willits Weekly asked tribal chair Fitzgerral and consultant Lee Rains, who’s been working with the tribe since May on bypass issues, why the Caltrans notice about CA-MEN-3571 came so long after topsoil was removed, with wick drains already installed and the fill process well underway.

“That’s the $20 million question,” said Rains, who consults on historic preservation law and regulatory compliance.  “What actions took place, or didn’t take place as far as what Caltrans is calling ‘an error,’ we don’t know,” chairman Fitzgerral said.

The tribe hopes to get “a thorough accounting” in an upcoming meeting scheduled with Caltrans staff.  But, the tribal council has been “frustrated” by previous meetings with Caltrans, Fitzgerall said, “where a lot of words were said,” but nothing seemed to change as far as consultation with the tribe or actions on the ground.

The tribe has asked Caltrans repeatedly since May to “plot all known cultural resource locations onto existing project plans so as to avoid damaging the resources” and to ensure “responsible in-field monitoring of these locations.”

The tribe has also requested that Caltrans place protective barriers around seven known archeological sites, including CA-MEN-3571.  These requests have been “summarily dismissed” by Caltrans, the statement says.  Requests for explanation have gone “unanswered.”

The Caltrans draft environmental impact report for the Willits bypass project reads “Once a preferred alternative is selected, and if that alternative is one of the ‘build’ alternatives, Caltrans will conduct a detailed examination of archaeological properties.  The Final EIR/EIS will report the findings of this examination and determine the level of impact and if further mitigation is required.”

But in the final environmental impact statement, that paragraph is struck out, with this sentence added under it: “Mitigation Measure is no longer required.  This has already been accomplished.”

The letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also reports three and potentially four “post-review” discoveries of “NR eligible” historic properties that have occurred during construction of the bypass project.  “NR eligible” means the sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The undertaking is being carried out in a way in which historic properties that were supposed to be avoided are now substantially affected,” the letter states, “and the undertaking activities are affecting NR eligible historic properties” within the bypass area.

The Advisory Council is recommending that Caltrans “re-open the consultation” and work with the Sherwood tribe, the California State Historic Preservation Officer and “other …consulting parties” on “appropriate steps to resolve the adverse effects of the undertaking on historic properties and to resolve concerns.”

Re-opening the historic consultation process, the letter states, could result “in an outcome that would sufficiently address all of the historic property concerns with this project to avoid further delays.”

Tribal council members believe “the unnecessary destruction of
CA-MEN-3571 serves as a powerful illustration of what non-
compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act can reap,”
the statement reports.

“SVR can only hope that this stark realization will now compel Caltrans to heed the tribe’s long-voiced call for the agency to re-open consultation under the national Historic Preservation Act, review their previous identification efforts, revise their Finding of Effect, and create a Memorandum of Agreement for this project that would, from this point forward, ensure that injuries like that experienced by CA-MEN-3571 are not repeated,” the statement said, “and that the history and the homeland of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Little Lake Valley are treated with all due respect and protection.”

(Via Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly Facebook page, and slightly abridged)

 

Cropped map image courtesy Chris Hardaker.  This image shows detail of a map of Little Lake Valley Pomo village sites and dialectic subdivisions, from the 1908 book by S.A. Barrett, “The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo Indians” from UC Berkeley’s collection.

Thank you for following us
on Twitter and Facebook and
sharing the Humboldt Sentinel 
with others.

Posted in Environment, Local, State1 Comment

House GOP Pass Massive Food Stamp Cuts

 

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Meal– Except for Congress

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

On Thursday, House Republicans passed sweeping cuts to the nation’s food stamp program, reducing spending by
$40 billion over 10 years and imposing new work require-
ments.

The Congressional Budget Office says the measure would strip nearly four million people of food stamp benefits starting next year, followed by another three million for every year after.

In a speech on the House floor, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California held up steak, vodka and caviar to mock Republicans who want to cut food stamps while charging expensive meals to taxpayers during trips overseas.

Speier said:

“In my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more.

Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps.  

Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business.  They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar.

They receive money to do this. That’s right; they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.”

 

The budget office said that, left unchanged, the number of food stamp recipients would actually decline by about 14 million people — or 30 percent — over the next 10 years as the economy improves.  A Census Bureau report released on Tuesday found that the program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty.  

The census data also showed nearly 47 million people living in poverty — close to the highest level in two decades.

The House measure sets up a showdown with the Senate and likely will delay passage of a new farm bill until at least next year. 

While poor American families may end up receiving the food stamp cuts, large corporate Agri-farm businesses are set to receive billions of dollars in ever-increasing agricultural Farm Bill subsidies, boosting their bottom line.

The New York Times has more of the details here

* * * * * * * *

The House GOP sure has been on a tear lately.

 

 

 

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook 
and share us with others.  Thank you.

Posted in National, State0 Comments

Medical Marijuana Not Immune From Seizure

 

California Appeals Court Rules on Humboldt County Cannabis Case

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

SAN FRANCISCO (Courthouse News)The mere presence of users’ medical marijuana recommendations
at a grow site did not immunize the crop from seizure, nor
did it require police to prove the growers were guilty of a
crime before they could destroy the harvest, a California
appeals court ruled last week.

 The case stems from a 2008 open field eradication project by Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies and agents from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) task force.

 ”The facts are largely undisputed,” P.J. McGuiness and J. Jenkins wrote for the appellate court.

Officers “entered a garden that contained 118 marijuana plants ranging from three to eight feet tall with an average diameter of six to seven feet,” according to the ruling.  

Four medical marijuana recommendations were posted on the gate, for Sylvia, Timothy and Roscoe Littlefield, specifying conditions that included degenerative joint disease, low back pain, anxiety and glaucoma and indicating “the use of up to two ounces of cannabis per day, the equivalent of 45.6 pounds per year,” the court noted.  A fourth recommendation, for Jeffrey Libertini, did not specify a condition or dose.

Officers found a second plot on the property with “an additional 96 flowering marijuana plants from three to eight feet tall and averaging four to six feet wide.  Medical marijuana recommendations for Richard Littlefield and Summer Brown, each of which indicated up to two ounces daily for degenerative joint disease and low back pain, were posted in this garden,” the appellate court wrote.

The Sheriff’s Department “believed the recommendations were invalid and the marijuana should be seized.”  The appellate court noted the quantity was “enough of a supply for two ounces of cannabis daily for six people for five and one-half years.”

An affidavit by Deputy Cyrus Silva stated that destroying the marijuana complied with Health and Safety Code requirements and that it was not reasonably possible to store it elsewhere.

“Humboldt County does not have adequate storage facilities, or sufficient personnel to guard the marijuana.  In addition, recently harvested marijuana gives off great volumes of heat and may erupt into fire,” he wrote.  Most of the two large crops were destroyed, though some samples were kept for evidence, and a few other plots on the property were left undisturbed.

The Littlefield family sued Humboldt County for “the replacement value of the confiscated cannabis, physical and mental suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses,” the appellate court wrote, but Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson did not find their arguments compelling.

Wilson ruled that the quantity of marijuana would lead “a person of ordinary caution or prudence to believe, and conscientiously entertain a strong suspicion of the guilt of the accused,” that the requirements of probable cause had been met, and that the Littlefields did not lawfully possess the marijuana.  He did not buy into statements by an expert witness for the Littlefields, who failed to convince him that he had specific knowledge of the plaintiffs’ medical needs.

 California’s First Appellate District reviewed the facts of the case and examined each of the Littlefields’ arguments, agreeing with Wilson that the seizure and destruction of the marijuana was neither unconstitutional nor illegal.

 The appellate court agreed that the seizure was supported by probable cause and cited case law on the limits of medical marijuana legalization.

 ”The most salient fact here is the vast quantity of marijuana found,” the ruling states.  ”The CUA [Compassionate Care Act, California's medical marijuana statute] protects the possession of marijuana only in an amount reasonably related to the user’s current medical needs.”

 The appellate court agreed that the seizure was supported by probable cause and cited case law on the limits of medical marijuana legalization. “The most salient fact here is the vast quantity of marijuana found,” the ruling states.

The court also expressed skepticism about the recommendations themselves. “Each purports to authorize the use of up to two ounces per person per day, or 45.6 pounds of cannabis per year – 15 times the three pounds per year deemed reasonable under the County’s Ordinance,” the court wrote (emphasis in original).

The Littlefields claimed the County unlawfully destroyed their stash, but the appeals court agreed with Deputy Silva’s affidavit, quoted above, that the destruction complied with the Health and Safety Code.

The appeals court backed the trial court’s ruling that the Littlefields did not bring admissible evidence showing their possession was lawful, and ultimately concluded the trial court’s ruling was sound.

Kym Kemp, a writer who has followed medical marijuana issues in Humboldt County, told Courthouse News that the ruling could influence the dynamics of marijuana policing.

Referring to California’s Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana use with a doctor’s recommendation, Kemp said, “An officer in the field now can feel more comfortable pulling out plants even with 215 recommendations, without having to worry about being sued or having to reimburse the growers.  It could be a game changer for growers and for law enforcement.”

Khurshid Khoja of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, former general counsel for the Emerald Growers Association, told Courthouse News, “Given the number of plants that were seized and destroyed and the nature of the recommendations, it seems like a reasonable decision by the court.”

He added that there are some medical marijuana preparations on the market today, such as highly concentrated oils, which might require the use of up to two ounces a day to produce, but that the Littlefields had not brought a credible medical witness to testify during
summary judgment proceedings that they needed that much.

* * * * * * * *

Article courtesy of Barbara Wallace and the Courthouse News Service 
Images by the Humboldt Sentinel

Thadeus Greenson’s article in the Times-Standard news has more details of the case.

Posted in Local, State0 Comments

Marijuana and Farm Poisons Contaminating California’s National Parks

 

New Study Indicates Problem Worse Than Originally Thought

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

CALIFORNIA (Live Science/Yahoo News)– Pesticides from California’s valley farms are collecting in the tissues
of a singing treefrog that lives in pristine national parks,
including Yosemite and Giant Sequoia, a new study finds.

The chemicals include two fungicides never before found in wild frogs, said Kelly Smalling, lead study author and a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research hydrologist.  The study was published today (July 26) in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

“Fungicides have been registered for use for many years, but for some reason, they haven’t really been on anybody’s radar screen until recently,” said Smalling, who is based at the USGS California Water Sciences Center in Sacramento.

California’s Central Valley is one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions; crops include stellar wine grapes, nuts and kiwis.

Agricultural pesticides and fungicides have been detected more than 100 miles to the east, in the rural Sierra Nevada’s snow, water, air and amphibians.  

But valley farmers aren’t the only source of agricultural chemicals: Illegal marijuana gardens hacked into public lands also expose wildlife to fertilizers and toxic rat poison.  Rare predator species, such as spotted owls and fishers, eat the poisoned mice and die.

“The marijuana cultivators make trail systems to go in, and put toxicants at every clearing,” said Mourad Gabriel, a University of California, Davis, wildlife disease ecologist who studies the effects of rodenticides on rare species.  “A lot of predators will use any type of trail system, so you can imagine the potential risk to multiple different species.”

Scientists first noticed sharply declining frog populations in the Sierra Nevada starting in the 1980s.  The problem, however, is a global one– amphibians everywhere are suffering steep population losses and strange deformities.  Earlier studies by the USGS researchers found toxic pesticide concentrations in several frog species living in the national parks.  In 2009 and 2010, the scientists resurveyed many of the same sites, Smalling said.

Researchers collected Pacific chorus frogs on a north-south transect across Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument.  They tested frog tissue, water and sediment samples for more than 90 different pesticides and fungicides.

Complex Causes

The most common chemicals in the frogs were the agricultural fungicides pyraclostrobin and tebuconazole and the herbicide simazine.  DDE, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, was also frequently found.

“This hammers home the point that even if you’re in an area that looks wild and natural, it can have very serious impacts from human activities 100 miles, or even more, away,” said Brad Shaffer, director of UCLA’s La Kretz Center
for California Conservation Science.

The chemical concentrations were often higher in frog tissues than in the environment.  ”The contaminants in the water and sediments were ridiculously low,” Smalling said.  The frogs may store up small exposures over time, or there simply wasn’t any pesticide when the water and sediment samples were taken, the researchers suggest.

While scientists agree that pesticides likely contribute to the dramatic decline in amphibians, there are many reasons that frogs are disappearing.  The heavyweight is habitat destruction and degradation.  Climate change is another factor.

Toxic Pot Gardens

Most pesticides in the Sierras come from the Central Valley.  The pesticides travel to the mountains as aerosols, tiny particles that waft into the atmosphere on warm, rising air currents.  Winds coming off the Pacific Ocean blow the aerosols west to the mountains, where they fall out of the atmosphere in rain and snow.

However, a boom in illegal pot farms in the past five years has brought a new chemical source into the parks. 

The cannabis cultivators spray pesticides and fertilizers and spread rat poison.   Rodents that eat the poison live for two to seven days before keeling over, giving predators plenty of time to capture their dazed prey.

UC Davis’ Gabriel and his colleagues are seeing the effects of these chemicals on the fishers, a carnivore being considered for Endangered Species Act listing.  

Fisher cats nibble on everything from acorns to deer carcasses.  The scientists found rat poison in 85 percent of fisher cat carcasses collected on public and tribal lands, according to a study published in June.

The animals are also passing the poison on to their kits when the babies nurse, Gabriel said.

The UC Davis group is now testing barn owls, which rely more heavily on rodents for food than fisher cats do.  Spotted owls have tested positive for rodenticides in Oregon, and Gabriel said preliminary data indicates barn owls are also
snaring poison-laced mice.

* * * * * * * *

To note, amphibians such as frogs are considered the bellweather of an ecosystem’s health– the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. 

If the Pacific tree frog is being affected by agricultural pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and rodenticide blowoff and fallout as studies suggest, you can bet other species are being affected too, such as insects (think bees), fish, larger predators– and yes, even you.

Posted in Environment, State0 Comments

California Public Pension Reform Heads for First Hearing

 

San Jose Court Battle Could Present Landmark Case for the State

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel 

 

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California’s third-largest city, San Jose, and its employee unions faced off in court
on Monday over public pension reforms in a case that has
major implications for other local governments across the
state trying to rein in the costs of retirement benefits.

The lawsuit, led by San Jose’s police union, shows how difficult it is for local governments to break benefit promises to current and past employees even when other public services are being cut to pay for them.

San Jose’s pension overhaul was promoted by Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed and approved by nearly 70 percent of voters in 2012 but city unions argue the move violates the rights of its members and is in breach of the California constitution.  They want the court to block the measure from going into effect and to maintain the current pension plan.

“If the unions prevail it will give local leaders elsewhere reason to pause.  If Mayor Reed prevails, they may get even more ambitious in finding new ways to reduce pension outlays,” said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University.

In opening remarks in court on Monday, Arthur Hartinger, a lawyer for the city of San Jose, said that the pension measure was necessary given the city’s strained finances.  ”Retirement cost increases have gone through the roof,” he
said.

But Gregg Adam, a lawyer for San Jose’s police officers, countered that employees’ vested rights are at issue, adding that they can’t be legislated away.  ”Decades of California law say ‘No’,” he said.

The trial is expected to run through Friday.  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas will have up to 90 days to make a ruling on the trial’s central issue of whether the city’s pension overhaul of current employee’s benefits is at odds with state law.  Analysts say her ruling will be appealed.

Reed told Reuters outside the courtroom the city is ready for a long legal fight regardless of Lucas’ ruling.  He said the city would appeal all the way to the California Supreme Court if necessary.

In recent decades, municipalities across the country have provided their workers with higher retirement benefits, both pensions and health coverage, often in lieu of pay increases.  But this has often created a future burden for budgets, made worse in some cases by skipping payments
into pension funds.

Two other California cities, Stockton and San Bernardino, last year filed for bankruptcy due to deep financial problems that include spiking pension costs.  Detroit’s decision to file for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy filing ever, was also partly related to the cost of pension and other post-retirement benefits for city employees.

San Jose’s pension reform, which has not yet been adopted because of the lawsuit, does not reduce benefits already earned by employees, but would require them to either pay higher contributions to maintain current benefits or receive lower benefits.

It also requires new city employees to split pension contributions evenly with the city.  San Jose, which has two pension funds, currently pays $8 toward pension benefits for every $3 contributed by its employees, according to Dave Low, a spokesman for the mayor.

Reed made tackling San Jose’s pension spending, which rose to $245 million last year from $73 million in 2001, a priority.  San Jose has had to slash other spending to help cover the costs and balance its budgets.

Savings from the measure will help balance San Jose’s books in future years and restore services cut over the past decade in response to budget shortfalls, said Low.

Unions for public employees don’t see it that way.

“The mayor’s initiative was flawed from the get-go because it pulls the rug out from employees who have worked hard, played by the rules and expected the city to keep its promise,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition representing more than 1 million public employees.  “The foundation of California’s public pension system for nearly a century is that pensions are a legally protected promise,” Maviglio added.

The unions argue that any change in employee benefits needs to be negotiated and cannot just be imposed by the city.  They say the law shields their pension benefits from changes as they are the property of employees tied to their compensation.

San Jose’s public pensions are generous in comparison to others in California, which are already well above the country’s average.

The average San Jose police officer and firefighter who retired in the past decade, and worked for 26 years, gets an annual pension of $100,000, while the average civilian city employee who retired in the past decade, and worked for 20 years, has an annual pension of $45,000, according to proponents of the city’s pension reform measure.

Link:  http://news.yahoo.com/california-cou…232622160.html

* * * * * * * *

….To note, the City of Eureka is not far behind the salary levels of San Jose.

Posted in State1 Comment

Global Tipping Point

 

Governor Brown Joins Global Scientists to Call for Action on Climate Change

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Rebekah Kearn
Courthouse News Service

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif.– Hundreds of the world’s top scientists outlined five
crucial environmental concerns that “policymakers must address” to avoid
a global tipping point, in a call to action endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

global warming flaming earth“This is not just about science, this is about activism,” Gov. Brown said in a statement Thursday.  “This is an important challenge, cause and undertaking.  We can do it, but we have to do a lot more than we’re doing now.”

The scientists released the call to action and a 51-page consensus statement at the fourth annual Water, Energy and Smart Technology Summit and Showcase at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Drafted at Gov. Brown’s behest, the consensus statement “translates key scientific findings from disparate fields into one unified message” that seeks to help policymakers address
climate change at the political level.

“Here are 520 scientists from throughout the world making a very strong statement … about Earth’s environmental problems, and we’re putting it in the hands of policy makers so they can understand and start formulating solutions,” Anthony Barnosky, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and lead author of the consensus statement, told UC Berkeley’s News Center.

global warming lightbulbThe consensus statement identifies 5 key areas wherein human impacts threaten the quality of life for future generations: climate change, extinctions, ecosystem loss, pollution, and population growth, according to the press release.

The scientists claim in the press release that, given current global trends, Earth will reach its hottest climates in human history by 2070, and lose “75 percent of vertebrate species” within 300 years.

They also say that humans have irreparably altered 40 percent of the planet’s “ice-free lands,” which has reduced its biodiversity; have exposed the environment and millions of people to record levels of toxic pollutants; and have increased levels of greenhouse gases through unchecked population growth.

The consensus statement offers several possible solutions to these issues, including:

  • Switching from fossil fuels to “carbon-neutral energy technologies
  • Developing newer, safer chemicals and phasing out older ones
  • Curbing urban sprawl
  • Investing in ecosystem restoration projects
  • And eventually halting population growth by ensuring that everyone, especially women, has access to birth control.

The consensus statement has been signed by more than 500 scientists from 44 countries, including “two Nobel laureates, 33 members of the U.S. National Academy of the Sciences and members of the international scientific academies,” according to the Governor’s release.

global warming polar bears

Posted in Environment, State0 Comments

Del Norte District Attorney in the Hot Seat Again

 

More Allegations of Misconduct Face DA Alexander in Federal Court

 

By Chris Marshall
Courthouse News Service

 

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California officials shielded a child molester who contributed to a district attorney’s campaign,
and arrested a mother when she took the children to be examined
in another county, the mother claims in court.

Barry and Jennifer Brown sued Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander, the county itself and five other people, in Federal Court.

Jennifer is the mother of two co-plaintiff children Jane Does 1 and 2; Barry, her father, is a former investigator for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

They claim Alexander refused to investigate claims that defendant Donald Crockett – Jennifer’s Brown’s ex-husband – had molested their children.

And, the Browns claim, Alexander et al. had Barry Brown falsely charged with kidnapping when the Browns took the children to Eureka to be examined.

 

DA Alexander’s Woes

DA AlexanderThis lawsuit is not the only challenge facing Alexander.

The San Jose Mercury News reported in May 2012 that Alexander faces possible disbarment for professional misconduct: allegedly taking a loan from a defense attorney working on a case he later dismissed.

The newspaper reported , in an Associated Press article, that Alexander was a recovering methamphetamine addict when he was elected in campaign using the slogan “Death to Meth.”

Alexander also has been sued by Michael Riese, the former Del Norte County district attorney whom Alexander defeated in the 2010 election. Riese claimed Alexander tried to frame him for child endangerment and driving under the influence.

 

Allegations of the Suit

gavelIn the Browns’ lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that when Jennifer told a sheriff’s deputy in June 2009 that her 2-year-old daughter said Crockett “had hurt her vagina with his finger” and that it appeared red and irritated, the sheriff took no action.  A local hospital refused to examine the girl and neither she nor her daughter were interviewed by police about these or earlier complaints against Crockett, the Browns say.

Crockett is co-owner of a flower-growing business, which is one of the largest employers in the county, and has other business interests, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs claim Crockett and his family contributed to Alexander’s election campaign and “have exerted their personal and political influence throughout county agencies to effectively protect Crockett from criminal and child protective investigations and also to inflict harm on plaintiffs.”

Crockett and Jennifer Brown divorced in 2009 after 4 years of marriage, after which they shared custody, with Jennifer the primary caregiver of their twin girls, born in 2007.

The Browns claim that sheriff’s deputies in November 2011 destroyed a tape of a police interview with Crockett, after Jennifer Brown reported that her children said he had showed them movies of men and women “naked belly dancing on a bed.”

When Brown asked police why they destroyed the tape, they told her that “showing pornography to children is not a criminal offense,” according to the complaint.

Alexander and his co-defendants again refused to investigate Crockett after Sutter Coast Hospital Urgent Care filed a report against him for neglect and molestation after both children alleged that Crockett had molested them, the complaint states.

The Browns claim the defendants “were made aware of the claims of Jane Doe 1 and 2 and that the defendants decided not to investigate Jane Doe 1 and 2′s claims about Crockett, whose family exerted political and personal influence over the defendants, whose careers rose and fell on the favor or disfavor of the Crockett family.”

Concerned that the officials were ignoring their claims, Barry Brown claims he contacted his former employer to obtain a Sexual Assault Response Team exam.  He was told the children could have the exam if they went to Eureka, the seat of Humboldt County.

 

Falsely Arrested

scales of justiceBarry says he wrote a letter to the defendants and told Alexander over the phone that he was temporarily removing the children from Del Norte County for their safety and under the terms of California Penal Code Section 278.5.  But Alexander and other officials had a magistrate judge issue a warrant accusing the Browns of kidnapping the girls, and said they did not know where they were, according to the complaint.

“These defendants knew that the basis for the warrant was false when it was presented to the judge for issuance,” the complaint states.

An all points bulletin was issued for Barry Brown and he was arrested the next day at the Crescent City office of the California Highway Patrol while working on a separate investigation, he says.  He works now as a licensed private investigator.

Alexander and defendant Deputy Sheriff Ed Fleshman agreed that no criminal charges would be filed, but booked and photographed Barry Brown on felony child-stealing charges, creating a felony arrest record that made its way into national criminal background databases, according to the complaint.

Barry Brown says he was released within a few hours and no charges were filed against him.  He says he suffered financial loss and personal embarrassment when the all points bulletin with an enlarged photograph was sent to police in Humboldt County.

Jennifer Brown claims that in March 2012, county sheriffs used excessive force while arresting her, though she was not resisting. They took her to the Crescent City jail and put her in a holding room with glass walls, which was brightly lit day and night and in full view of male correctional officers and the public, according to the complaint.

Jennifer claims she was held in jail there for two days while the jail staff mocked her and refused her requests for medical attention for lupus.

She claims the jail staff even threw a pizza party in front her cell, “celebrating her arrest and further humiliating her.”

After she was arrested, Child Welfare Services took her children into custody “without benefit of due process hearings,” while Crockett had unfettered access to the children, the Browns claim.

Crockett was grated custody of the children in June 2012 and Jennifer Brown was limited to 10 hours of visitation per week, according to the complaint.

 

Officials Turn a Blind Eye

whistle blowerOne of the girls told defendant Child Welfare Services worker Cindy Salatnay in January this year that Crockett had molested her, according to the complaint.  Salatnay examined the other girl’s vaginal area and told court-appointed visitation monitor Arlene Kasper “there’s something there,” the Browns say in the complaint.

When Kasper asked Salatnay what she was going to do, Salatnay “said there was nothing she could do as she had been told by her supervisor, defendant [Julie] Cain, that no matter what Jane Doe 1 or 2 said, she (Salatnay) was to come back with either an inconclusive or unsubstantiated report,” according to the complaint.

Kasper said her “hands were tied,” and repeated it in front of two other witnesses, according to the complaint.  Kasper is not a party to the complaint.

Though Child Welfare Services documented the molestation allegations, they placed the children in a foster home instead of returning them to their mother, Jennifer Brown claim.

She claims the defendant claimed that she had “created stress on the children by reporting abuse and molest.”

Salatnay returned the girls to Crockett’s custody without supervision in March this year after they refused to repeat the allegations to a male detective, which was done without court authorization though a child dependency petition hearing had been held and a subsequent jurisdictional hearing was set for the next week, the Browns say in the complaint. Jennifer Brown says she was allowed to be with the girls only 5 hours per week under supervised conditions in a small room.

Salatnay then lied to and misled the court in a jurisdictional report in which she argued the girls should be left in Crockett’s custody, the Browns claim.

They claim that “only sham investigations were conducted so as to protect Crockett from scrutiny by law enforcement.”

They seek millions of dollars in damages for conspiracy, false imprisonment, false arrest, defamation, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, vicarious responsibility and other civil rights violations.

Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson also is named as a defendant.

The Browns are represented by Thomas N. Petersen, with Black, Chapman, Webber & Stevens, of Medford, Oregon.

* * * * * * * * *

Article by Chris Marshall and the Courthouse News Service

Posted in Media, State3 Comments

Missing: Sterling “Buggy” Gilbert

 

25-Year-Old Youth Last Seen March 13; May Have Been in Arcata

 

“Help Me Find My Son”

 

– UPDATE BELOW:  FOUND! –

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

We received an urgent plea yesterday from Tricia Gilbert, Buggy’s mom.

She’s worried sick.  She hopes you will forward and share this information to others via links, Facebook, Twitter, social media, and/or any other avenues as much as possible.  Tricia’s tired, exhausted, and needs the help of others:

MISSING: Our Son, Sterling “Buggy” Gilbert, age 25.

Buggy openingOriginally from Alaska, Sterling was homeless in Springfield, Oregon, for the last 2 years and left on approximately March 1, 2013 on a Greyhound bus to Redding, California.

When he was in Oregon he had been involved with dangerous people who had shot at him and were trying to kill him.  That’s why he fled to California.

My Stepson Sterling Gilbert hasn’t been heard from by family since March 6, 2013.  We know he was homeless and hitchhiking to Arcata, California.  When he contacted family, he was in Redding.  Regardless of anything, Sterling ALWAYS phoned a family member no matter what was going on at least 2-3 times a week.

From Redding, he supposedly met Stephanie and her husband Kris Cosentino who helped him out in Redding and were hitchhiking to Los Angeles.  Sterling and the couple (Stephanie is pregnant) made it to Lodi, California, where he called the family on approximately March 6, 2013.

buggy2We made a Missing Persons Report to Lodi Police, Case # 13-1837 on 3/17/2013.

There may be connection to this Stephanie and Kristopher in Oregon.  We don’t know if they met in Oregon, or Redding.  They may know people in Oregon who wanted to hurt Sterling.  Stephanie may have been known as Stephanie Skinner.  She, according to posts on her Facebook, had a history of meth and her 2 young children were with her family, not her custody.

According to the last known number belonging to Stephanie Cosentino, we called to get information.  They
supposedly got stuck there a few days and then made their
way to Stockton.  Unfortunately they separated in Stockton
when they got bus fare the remaining way.

buggy carSterling was last seen getting into newer white sedan, heading south towards Los Angeles.  The destination for Stephanie and Kris was El Monte or Downey, California.

The last known photo from Springfield, Lane County, Oregon, shows he had died his hair.  So it’s most likely growing out and two tone, or he has had his head shaved with short hair.  He was last seen wearing blue jeans, grey t-shirt, black jacket/or hoody with dirty white tennis shoes.  He had with him a blue beany cap, green tent, and a green floral blanket.

Buggy1Anyone with information on Sterling Gilbert (he may use his brothers name Donavan or Levon) or his whereabouts, please contact:
Lodi Police 209-333-6727, or the local police regarding missing person Sterling Gilbert, Case #13-1837.

….or give him these phone numbers:  #818-554-2563 for Tricia Gilbert; or #907-322-3668 for Donald Gilbert– and please tell him to call family.

Our son’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Help-Me-Find-My-Son-Sterling-Gilbert/358969454219668

 Tricia adds:

buggy and baby“Sterling Has a spiderweb tattoo on his hand and a weed leaf growing plant on his arm.  Its Between the elbow and wrist.   He was last seen wearing dirty white tennis shoes, grey t-shirt, blue jeans and a black jacket or hoody.
 
He was last seen 3/13/2013 getting into newer white sedan near Greyhound in Stockton, CA.
 
Please go to our page for flyers and pics.
 
Anyone wanting to help, please copy & paste or link this page to any FB pages for the areas of :
 
Arcata, CA
Humboldt, CA
Lodi,CA
Redding,CA
Stockton, CA
San Joaquin County, CA
 
–And any areas relating to the above, whether its a bar, restaurant, law enforcement, new, etc.”
 
We are praying for his safe return.  His dad is very ill and his brother, Mom, and myself are very afraid of his safety.  Thank you for everything.
 
* * * * * * * * *
 
We hope for the best, Tricia.  We hope Buggy isn’t in danger and he makes it home safely.  And we hope you can get some rest.
 
Readers can click on the pictures to enlarge.  Please share this page, information, and Tricia’s Facebook page with others.
 

missing

 

 UPDATE:  From Tricia Gilbert:

He’s been found.  Safe!  He turned himself into a rehab.  Thank you for everything :)
https://www.facebook.com/pages/FOUND-our-Son-Sterling-Gilbert/358969454219668

 

Posted in Local, State2 Comments

Bombing Biodiversity

 

Action Alert: Protect California’s Marine Life from Violent Military Sonar and Explosives

 

Navy Plans on 8.8 Million ‘Takes’ of Marine Mammals

 

Amber Jamieson
Environmental Protection Information Center

 

Take action now.

Over the next five years, the United States Navy plans to conduct large scale training exercises involving intense sonar pulses and explosives off the California coast, which is expected to result in more than 9.5 million instances of harm to whales and dolphins between Dana Point and San Diego and extending more than 600 nautical miles out to sea.

navy ship and whaleImpacts to marine resources could spread as animals travel in and out of toxic debris leftover from explosives.  In addition, the Navy’s blast of high intensity noise from mid-frequency sonar pulses can impact animals far from their source.

However, before these training exercises can begin, the Navy must ask the California Coastal Commission to determine that these activities are consistent with California’s Coastal Zone Management Act, including goals to protect, preserve, and enhance the coastal environment. 

EPIC has been tracking  the Navy’s proposed warfare testing along the Pacific coast and since October of 2010.  Over the last few years, we have had over a thousand people take action online and nearly 2,000 people filled out post cards requesting Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment Committee, to hold congressional hearings to address cumulative effects to marine life and to stop the unnecessary and harmful warfare testing along the Pacific coast.

beached whalesThe threat has not gone away, and we still need your help to speak out against these acts of violence towards sentient marine mammals and other sea life that will be affected if the Navy does not comply with environmental standards that have been put into place to protect us and all other life that depends on a safe and clean marine environment.

On Friday, March 8th, the California Coastal Commission will hold a hearing to determine whether the Navy’s proposed training activities are consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The Coastal Commission has already prepared a staff report and additional background materials on the Navy’s Sonar and Munitions Program, which can be found at: www.coastal.ca.gov/fedcd/hstt/hstt.html

Please take a moment to ask the Coastal Commission to protect our coastal waters by requiring the Navy to implement additional measures to reduce harm to marine mammals and other coastal resources. 

Click here to take action now.

* * * * * * * *

We understand the need for the Navy to be well-prepared.  We also understand the concerns of our local citizens who packed the Wharfinger Building a few years back when the Navy came to town explaining their plans.  They were courteous, prepared, and came to listen to the public’s input with seemingly deaf ears.

Looking into the 188-page staff report, we were struck by the Natural Resources Defense Council letter on page 156.  It stated in part:

subThe Navy’s consistency determination, along with other documents it has prepared to satisfy federal law, details extraordinary harm to California’s marine resources.  That harm includes hundreds of mortalities of marine mammals and other species; numerous cases of lung injury and permanent hearing loss in marine mammals; literally millions of instances of temporary hearing loss, a significant impact for species dependent on their hearing for survival and reproduction; and millions of additional cases of disruption of vital behaviors, such as calving and foraging.

In total, the Navy estimates that its activities – including high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations – will cause more than 8 million biologically significant marine mammal impacts on its Southern California Range Complex.  This number represents a 1,300 percent increase over the harm estimated in the Navy’s prior five-year review, including much higher levels of mortality, injury, and hearing loss.

Unfortunately, the dramatic increase in impacts did not trigger a corresponding effort on the Navy’s part to identify better means of mitigation.  Indeed, the Navy has proposed virtually the same environmental mitigation as it did in 2008 for its current five-year operations period, when the Commission was obliged to set conditions to bring the Navy’s activities into consistency…

.sonar..The Navy estimates that training and testing off Southern California will result in more than 8.8 million takes of marine mammals… including nearly 1,700 instances of permanent hearing loss or other permanent injury, 130 mortalities, and millions of instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions in vital behaviors.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in State1 Comment

Field Poll: Californians Favor Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

 

Largest-Ever Margin Supports Sales– and Having the Feds Butt Out

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Californians support legalizing weed in greater numbers than ever.  Additionally, they want the federal government
to
butt out and stop cracking down on medical marijuana
dispensaries.

Field PollIn a Field Poll released today, a greater margin of California voters, 54% to 43%, supported allowing the legal use and sale of recreational marijuana– as long as it’s treated like alcohol:  with age restrictions, consequences for driving under the influence, and licensing distributors.

The new numbers represents the highest level of support since the Field Poll began asking the question 44 years ago.  Back then, most Californians believed pot was the gateway drug to more hurtful substances.  In 1969 — the year of Woodstock– only 13% of California adults supported legalizing marijuana.

Times have changed as recent poll results show.

“We’re getting to the point where baby boomers have lived with this stuff for most of their lives now,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

California voters across party lines also seem to be taking issue with federal threats, raids, and prosecutions involving medical marijuana businesses.  The state’s four U.S. attorneys have brought criminal cases against some medical marijuana providers and growers and sent letters threatening seizures of properties of others.

While all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, U.S. prosecutors assert California’s medicinal cannabis industries have been “hijacked by profiteers” violating both state and federal laws. 

Californians, however, take a slightly different view.

weighing budTwo-thirds of 834 registered voters said they opposed the Obama administration’s ongoing raids on medical marijuana outlets, according to the poll.  Nearly 200 dispensaries — most in California — were targeted in President Barack Obama’s first term.  Local governments have taken cues from the administration crackdown: Two hundred cities and counties have banned medical marijuana dispensaries.  The California State Supreme Court is also poised to issue a ruling on whether local governments can shut down dispensaries.

“It’s certainly not winning over the hearts and minds of Californians,” DiCamillo said of voters’ reactions to federal enforcement efforts.  “The getting tough policy by the feds is not impacting public opinion in a positive way.”

Nearly three-fourths – 72% — of Californians back the state’s existing medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996.  A strong majority – 58% — would support allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in their own community.

keep off the grass“Certainly, it’s a rebuke of the Obama administration’s tactics,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. “It should indicate that the Justice Department’s tactics are unacceptable and should be reconsidered.”

Obama once criticized President George W. Bush for his aggressive approach to shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries.  But make no mistake, Obama is on pace to exceed Bush’s
record of medical marijuana busts.

Though voters support medical marijuana, remember that just over two years ago they rejected Proposition 19, the ballot measure to legalize pot, by a 53 to 47% margin.  With only narrow support, legalization by the measure was derailed by what analysts called a lackluster campaign and a vague regulatory plan.

In contrast, heavily financed and well-run campaigns, and more detailed regulatory plans, led to marijuana legalization last November in the states of Colorado and Washington.

Uncle Sam and weedA coalition of Proposition 19 supporters met in December and discussed potential California legalization ballot efforts. They’ve said that they will be targeting the 2016 presidential election ballot, though they haven’t ruled out putting it on the ballot as early as 2014.

They may have a chance judging by the numbers.  A younger and more tolerant electorate is changing the political landscape:

  • Among voters between the ages of 18 and 29, legalization has a 58-39% edge
  • Among 30- to 39-year-olds, it has a 61-38% advantage
  • Voters 65 or older are the least likely to support legalization, with only 43% in favor and 52% against
  • Independent voters most strongly support legalization– at 59%, closely followed by Democrats, at 58%

Not surprisingly, only 42% of Republicans favor legalization.  Latinos are just as against it, with only 41% in favor.  But Latinos between the ages of 18 and 39 support it, 53 to 47%.

weed girlsVoters living in the Bay Area are most likely to support legalizing pot, with 66% in favor.  Voters along the coast south of Los Angeles County are the least likely, at 47%.

Not everyone favors the new numbers.  Bishop Ron Allen of Sacramento’s International Faith Based Coalition, a member of Californians Against Legalizing Marijuana, said the poll results show that “we have to do a better job of educating the community about the harms of marijuana.”

The Field Poll was conducted February 5 through February 17 with 834 voters.  The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Posted in State0 Comments

California AG Sues Standard and Poor’s to the Tune of $3 Billion

 

Claims Rating Agency Mislead Consumers and CalPERS

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed a lawsuit against one of the nation’s major credit
rating companies for allegedly inflating its ratings of structured
finance investments, which caused California’s public pension
funds and other investors to lose billions of dollars.

The Complaint

harrisThe complaint, filed on February 5 in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. and Standard and Poor’s Financial Services violated the False Claims Act and other state laws by using a ratings process based on what senior executives described as “magic numbers” and “guesses.”

“For years, S&P placed its priority on maintaining its market share, instead of the investors who trusted in its supposedly objective ratings,” said Attorney General Harris.

“When the housing bubble burst, S&P’s house of cards collapsed and California paid the price— in billions.  S&P must be held accountable for its conduct that contributed to one of our country’s worst financial crises,” Harris said.

Investors relied on Standard and Poor’s and its competitors to rate these securities because they had access to only general descriptions of the assets backing their investments, which often included mortgages.  California’s public pension funds also relied on S&P because they are often required to buy securities that received a coveted “AAA” rating, signaling that the investment was top-tier and bore minimal risk, Harris’ office said.

Misrepresenting Investors

sp1The complaint alleges that, from 2004 to 2007, S&P systematically misrepresented to the public, and to CalPERS and CalSTRS, that its ratings of structured finance securities were based on an independent, objective and reliable analysis, and not influenced by S&P’s economic interests.

In doing so, S&P lowered its standards for rating securities to gain market share and increase profits, and violated the False Claims Act by making false statements about the nature and risk of investments
to investors.

The complaint also describes the company’s efforts to suppress the development of new and more accurate ratings models.

In mid-2007, the housing bubble burst.  After securities that S&P had deemed the least risky began defaulting, S&P downgraded many residential mortgage-backed securities investments.  The market collapsed; of those securities issued in 2007, more than 90 percent were downgraded to junk status.

$1 Billion Dollars: Times Three

casheThe California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) – two of the nation’s largest institutional investors – lost approximately $1 billion.

Attorney General Harris today joined the U.S. Department of Justice and 12 other states and the District of Columbia in announcing lawsuits in Washington, D.C.  The other lawsuits allege violations of the federal Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act and State Unfair Competition Laws.

However, California’s suit is unique because its being filed not only under California’s unfair competition laws but also under the state’s False Claims Act.  This suit includes a claim for triple damages – because when the state makes a purchase based on a false statement, the defendant is responsible for three times the amount.

20-Month Investigation into Misconduct

glasses clinkingThe lawsuit arises from a 20-month investigation into the issuance and rating of mortgage-backed securities by Attorney General Harris’s California Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which she formed in May 2011 to comprehensively investigate misconduct in the mortgage industry.

The Attorney General’s additional efforts to investigate the mortgage crisis include securing an estimated $18 billion for California in the National Mortgage Settlement and sponsoring the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of laws instituting
permanent mortgage-related reforms.

The AG’s complaint can be found here.

Standard and Poor’s replied with a press release the same day the lawsuit was filed, claiming the DOJ lawsuits in California and other states are “Untrue, unjustified, and without merit” and that the ratings the company used were based on available market information at the time.

* * * * * * * * *

cartoon wall street pay

Posted in National, State0 Comments

Dorner in Gun Battle with Police

 

Christopher Dorner Takes Hostages, Flees in Stolen Vehicle, Barricades Self in Cabin

 

LIVE Updates in Real Time

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Dorner1Christopher Dorner was engaged in a shootout with federal authorities in the Big Bear area moments ago, law enforcement source told The Los Angeles Times.

The shooting occurred after Dorner burglarized a home, tied up a couple and stole their white pickup truck, the source said.  It’s reported the couple may have been maids, a cleaning crew arriving to clean the Big Bear vacation rental.

It was not immediately clear whether Dorner was in custody.  A second source said there was an active crime scene but did not have details.

Law enforcement and SWAT officials are swarming the area and witnesses
are reporting it “is a madhouse” in the area of Highway 38 and Glass Road
in Big Bear.

UPDATES FROM OUR LIVE FEED:

cops61:45 pm:  California Assistant Chief Dan Sforza confirms that his officers exchanged gunfire with suspect Dorner in a white pick-up truck.

1:59:  Authorities appear to have the suspect pinned down in a cabin in the Seven Oaks area.  It’s reported, but not confirmed, that two officers have been hit by gunfire.  Schools have gone into lockdown in the area.

2:09:  Sheriff: Two law enforcement officers being airlifted to hospital with unknown injuries.

2:13:  Several reports indicate that Dorner appears to be holed up in a cabin, and police have surrounded the cabin.  Schools on lockdown in Bear Valley Unified are Big Bear High School, Chautauqua High School, Fallsvale Elementary, and North Shore Elementary.

2:15:  Dorner reportedly holed up in Angelus Oaks cabin, which is completely surrounded.  Police told media to cut their aerial video feed.

2:18:  San Bernardino Co. Fire:  All mountain access roads (18, 330, 38) closed.  The San Bernardino Sheriff asks TV choppers to pull back from cabin where Dorner is barricaded.  Shots fired.

2:19:  Two deputies wounded.  Third person may be shot, officers believe it may be Dorner.

media2:22:  FCC granted San Bernardino Sheriff restrictions on media helicopters.  Must fly above 10K feet.  SB County Sheriff is cutting news feeds.  Moving SWAT in place per police scanner traffic.  Two wounded cops.  SBCSD confirm the man believed to be Dorner has barricaded himself in the cabin.

2:28:  Humboldt Sentinel crashes due to high volume of web traffic.  Will keep posting updates until our site comes back up.  If you can read this, we’re up and running.

2:31:  Ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner is reportedly barricaded in a cabin in Big Bear, where authorities have him surrounded.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials have confirmed that a man believe to be Dorner has barricaded himself in a cabin. No known hostages are believed to be in the cabin.  Dorner, a rogue police officer who claims he was unjustly fired from the police department, has been on the run for several days after allegedly killing three people last week.

He was first spotted Tuesday at about 12:30 on Highway 38 near Big Bear, where he was reportedly holding a couple hostage. One of the victims was able to escape and call authorities.  Dorner escaped in a stolen white pick-up.  A state Fish and Game Department official first spotted a man who looked like Dorner driving, turned around, and a massive shootout ensued.

cops12:32:  200 police have entered Big Bear area.  Authorities checking vehicles on Highway 38 at checkpoints.  The SWAT Bearcat ‘Bunker Buster’ vehicle has been called out to the scene.

2:37:  Scanner traffic:  words saying, “Don’t shoot ‘til someone comes out of the house.”  Report that the cabin has a cement-walled basement.  The site is 6 miles (as the crow flies) south of Big Bear, about 16 road miles from Big Bear by way of Highway 38.

2:47:  CBS News showing instant replay of officers throwing smoke bombs at cabin and also showing a huge rifle still in the road, presumably Dorner’s.  Cop tells ABC News ‘the whole mountain is a crime scene,’ and all cars leaving Big Bear will be checked out.

2:49:  LAPD press conference coming in about 10 minutes.

2:50:  Our live feed has been unusually quiet for the past 5 minutes.  News blackout?

2:55: CBS-LA played back audio of the gun battle…it lasted almost two minutes.

cabin2:56:  LA Times reporting Dorner broke into cabin “days ago” to tie up a couple.  The 911 call today reported a woman was tied up, with two other people.  It’s believed the caller was one of the hostages who had escaped from the cabin.  Dorner almost made it down the highway from Big Bear but now seems to be in another  home as the manhunt moves in.  Man barricaded in the cabin has not yet been positively identified as dormer, one LAPD official says.

Christopher Dorner Manhunt: Listen to live police scanner http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_22574500

 

3:08:  CNN reports that the injured law enforcement personnel were wounded in separate incidents, not together.  Law enforcement officials have asked the media to stop tweeting about the incident, fearing officer safety.  Nick Chatterton, who works at Snow Valley Ski Resort, said Snow Valley was shuttling heavily armed SWAT team members and Sheriff’s deputies in the area.  LAPD reading from the SBCSD press release about the barricade situation now.

cops23:12:  Barricade and standoff still in progress.  Cabin owner in ‘state of shock’ when she saw her vacation cabin on TV surrounded amid reports of a shootout.  We are going to report broad, non-tactical details, as per the San Bernardino DA’s request.

3:20:  Asked if they’ve positively ID’d Dorner, LAPD’s Smith said, “until we get him in handcuffs we’re not going to be sure.’”  San Bernardino SWAT heading up Highway 38.  Numerous L.A. and LAPD satellite trucks on mountain.

3:24:  CNN:  According to a L.A. Times interview with a woman who claims to be the cabin’s owner, the cabin Dorner is believed to be in was supposed to be vacant and disconnected from Internet and cable.  It has many windows for visibility.  FAA has restricted airspace above Big Bear Lake.  Non-law enforcement aircraft are being temporarily diverted from area.  LAPD’s Smith says officers are “under a tremendous sense of apprehension… Until Dorner is in custody, no one in the Department is going to rest”
 
3:27:  Lockdowns liftted at Big Bear High, Chautauqua High and Baldwin Lane Elementary schools.  Students and teachers leaving quickly.  Sources tell us the 2 wounded officers were San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies;  Loma Linda Medical Center to hold briefing shortly on 2 injured.
 
cops53:30:  Two sources are reporting that one of the deputies has died from shootout.  Not confirmed.
 
3:31:  LAPD says they may hold additional news conferences at HQ if needed, and added Chief Charlie Beck has not gone to San Bernardino county.  LAPD officers are staged at San Bernardino International Airport if needed, but San Bernardino County Sheriff is lead agency.  “This is a San Bernardino county sheriffs investigation, they have the lead, we are there to support only if asked,”
said LAPD’s Smith.
 
cops73:35:  Helicopters that brought wounded deputies to hospital being sent back to mountains in case more transports are needed.
 
3:43:  The Dorner shootout apparently started out vehicle to vehicle; a CDFW officer traveling Hwy 38 saw Dorner driving in the opposite direction, turned his vehicle around, and a shooting ensued.  One SB County deputy died of wounds suffered during a shootout with murder suspect, sources said.
 
cops74:00:  No word on suspect presumed to be Dorner’s status.  However, it is believed he has an arsenal of weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle, in the cabin.  Watch live at : 4.nbcla.com/WZzZ1y

 

 
4:01:  Big Bear residents asked to stay indoors.  No evacuations at this time?  The Humboldt Sentinel is posting pictures from our live feed as soon as we get them.
 
4:07:  Red Cross opens evacuation centers due to Big Bear road closures at St Frances Xavier Church in Yucaipa & Elks Lodge in San Bernardino.  Reporters in the field have confirmed with sources that one deputy has died of his or her wounds.  One helicopter has left and two have arrived at San Bernardino airport.
 
4:13:  Vehicles no longer being checked as they go down mountain ABC-7 News says; this indicates some conditions have changed.  Reporters have no access to incident scene due to security perimeter.  Fox-LA reporter who knows the fatally shot SBSD deputy says his wife just had a baby.
 
cops44:20:  Tear gas and flash bang grenades have been fired– and a tactical operation is under way at the cabin.  The cabin is on fire;  flames seen from ground and in the air.  Police standing guard.
 
4:23:  Flames growing quickly.  The entire building is engulfed in flames.  Police standing still, in place, guns drawn.  Four or five more tear gas shots fired at cabin where Dorner is holed up, ‘significant’ smoke rising skyward.
 
4:25:  One shot fired inside the house.  SWAT team has entered the burning cabin.  Final operation underway.
 
4:27:  Sheriff John McMahon confirmed a deputy was killed in action today; other deputy injured will recover.
 
4:30:  Large plumes of black smoke erupting from cabin where suspect, presumed to be Dorner, is holed up after tear gas rounds were fired and SWAT entered several minutes ago.
 
cop94:34: Ammo being heard exploding inside cabin.  Unconfirmed report SWAT teams have killed Dorner.  Stand by for confirmation.  Sheriff officials at the scene have said that the smoke seen is ammunition burning, not the cabin.
 
4:36:  No status update yet. 
 
What we know now:
 
Police are believed to be deploying an operation in and around the cabin now, and smoke is rising from the area. 
 
• Two sheriff’s deputies were shot earlier, and one has died from his injuries.  The other “should be fine” officials said.
 
• Before taking cover in the cabin, Dorner is believed to have broken into a nearby home, tied up the occupants and stolen their car, authorities said.  He is believed to have left the home with the car this morning and encountered a California Fish and Wildlife officer, who exchanged gunfire with Dorner.  The officer was unharmed, but Dorner then encountered San Bernardino Sheriff Officers as he holed up in the nearby cabin.

4:46:  Several unconfirmed reports out there of
Dorner being down.  CNN says SWAT may hacabinve
rushed the cabin after tear gas canisters ignited
the fire in order to evacuate it.

 4:51:  The cabin Dorner was believed to be in is now fully engulfed in flames.  No movement inside, according to law enforcement at the scene.  Visible smoke.  Police scanner:  there is a basement in cabin– as a precaution officers are going to let fire burn through to the basement.  The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy killed today was the first slain in the line of
duty since 2005.

4:55:  San Bernardino County Sheriff spokesperson Cindy Bachmann said, “I can’t talk to you about the fire … we don’t know if Dorner’s still inside, the cabin is on fire now, that’s all I can tell you.”  Bachmann confirms that there’s a suspect barricaded in the cabin.  The second deputy injured by the suspect is in surgery now and is expected to survive.  “We have reason to believe that it is him. The victims who had their car stolen reported to us that it is him, ” Bachmann said.  Also says she hasn’t been advised of any hostages.

cop85:02:  Cabin structure is starting to deteriorate and fall.  Bachmann says she doesn’t believe any neighbors have been ordered to evacuate. Regarding how law enforcement are going to address the burning cabin:   “It’s an active scene … they have a plan.  And they haven’t had time to update me on every aspect of that plan.”

5:05:  Officers assisting sheriffs deputies are downing their tactical gear and bugging out.  Sheriff’s Dept has tactical control.  Police now smoking cigarettes with rifles down, as fire burns
down the cabin. “I don’t see a roof anymore,” one said.

5:07:  Roads will be closed for several hours.  Law enforcement will enter cabin “When it’s determined to be safe to do so.”  Cabin was reportedly searched two days ago and was a rental.

5:12:  It is presumed Dorner is deceased, or to a far lesser degree, taken into custody.  No details have been released or confirmed.

5:14:  The Humboldt Sentinel will take a momentary break.  Our servers remain up.

5:21:  Cabin burnt to the ground.  Will be awhile before remains of cabin can be examined.  Waiting for all clear signal.  County Fire units are staged on fire in the Barton Flats.  Due to safety, units have not been able to attack the fire.  Cabin owner’s son says that cabin was fueled by a propane gas and tank.  Says there are six other cabins nearby that the suspect could have taken shelter in, if he did escape.

media5:24:  Sheriff is waiting to search burned cabin.  We still do not have confirmation that the suspect in the cabin has been killed.  Riverside police have arrived.  An LAPD cruiser just left the scene and is escorting Fire Crews headed down to put out the fire.

5:26:  Members of SWAT are packing up and heading out.

5:27:  The woman who owns the burning cabin is texting NBC-LA as she watches TV.  She says it’s a compound of 7 structures.  To note, Dorner’s mother has arrived home elsewhere.  Flight restrictions for public and media expected to be released soon.  SBSO spokesperson Bachmann:  “We have to let it burn simply because there’s an armed and dangerous subject believed to be inside.”

dorner cabin5:32:  SBCSD Bachmann:  “We had reports that he was heavily armed …but she have no idea of the weapons he used.”   Information learned from officers on the scene that Dorner was killed is still unconfirmed.

5:35:  Our live feed of events is unusually quiet.  It’s a waiting game now.   LAPD says there’s no word on when the next press briefing here will be.

5:44:  BREAKING: AP Source: Suspect never emerged from burning California cabin.

5:45:  CHP announced Highway 38 is open to residents of Forest Falls, Angeles Oaks, and Mountain Home Village now.  Units on scene at Barton Flats now deploying lines on the fire.  The mayor of Big Bear, Jay Obernolte,  doesn’t know if the barricaded man was Dorner, but confirmed the man inside the cabin never came out.

half mast5:48:  Residents are being allowed back in to their homes.  Flags at LAPD headquarters were already at half-staff for the slain Riverside officer. “Another slain officer to mourn.”

5:52:  LA Mayor Villaraigosa speaking at a press conference now.  “We want to thank all of the law enforcement professionals who have, day and night, tried two bring Christopher Dorner to justice.”

6:04:  BREAKING: Dorner’s body has not been found.  The police search will now be focused on the basement area.

6:09:  No news.  There’s a curious lull in the live feed as reporters rush to make their 6 pm deadlines.

candlesLAPD says a protection detail is still in place until they confirm Dorner was in the house. Says no one has entered the burning house yet.  LAPD says its security is unchanged until Dorner is confirmed dead or captured: 50 officers, families being protected; no one-person police cars to be on patrol.

Sadly, two candles have been placed by the Loma Linda Hospital Emergency Room to represent the two San Bernardino County deputies who were shot.

7:00 pm:   It looks like it’s a done deal:

An unnamed LAPD source confirmed that a charred body that was found in the burned cabin at 6:30 pm was that of fired LAPD Officer Chris Dorner.  However, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Cindy Bachmann
said, “We haven’t been into the cabin yet; and we will not confirm rumors a body
was removed.  It is too hot and dangerous to enter.”

barrierOfficials will be looking for identifying marks such as tattoos before confirming the identity of Dorner.

7:30:  Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said, “Dorner was in the cabin– and is dead.”

Officials said a press conference will be held tomorrow, although no time has been set.  The delay is out of respect for the fallen officers and their families, and for the Riverside officer’s funeral arrangements, they said.

You can see CBS News’ exclusive footage of the gun battle and police standoff here.

* * * * * * * * *

flagsThe Humboldt Sentinel will be signing off now– stay tuned to your local news for further updates.

Our appreciation goes out to the numerous agencies and reporters sharing their live news feed live exclusively to the Humboldt Sentinel so we could report– in real time– the events as they transpired to our Humboldt County readers and beyond.

As reporter Rick Storza said to us, “I’ve never seen such an effort among us, the media, to share as we have with the Dorner story, the stories, photos, videos and tips.”

True.  Thank you, Rick, and to everyone for your help–

~Skippy Massey

Posted in Crime, State2 Comments

Kai, Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker, Defeats Racist Jesus

 

“Dude, that Guy was Fucking Kooked Out!  Smash, Smash, Smash!”

(VIRAL VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Kai is a homeless hitchhiker.  He’s being hailed as a hero
after saving a woman several days ago from the clutches of

the man who was giving him a ride — who suddenly crashed
his car into a utility worker, began spouting racist invectives,
and claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus.

kai2Kai was hitching a ride with 54-year-old Jett Simmons McBride, of Tacoma, Wash., when McBride decided to run his car into a black Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) worker in West Fresno.  With the worker was pinned against his utility truck, McBride hopped out of his vehicle and began physically pulling on the injured worker.

A local woman, Tanya Baker, witnessed the crash and tried to stop McBride from continuing his assault or leaving the scene.  That’s when McBride reportedly grabbed her in a bear hug her while claiming to be Jesus Christ and uttering racist epithets.

“The guy just went crazy and was trying to pull the guy from underneath the car and the truck.  Then he gets in his car and tries to move the car… and we weren’t going to let him do it,” Baker told local Fox News affiliate KMPH.

Kai, the hitchhiker who was sitting in the car, saw McBride assault Baker– and sprang into action.

“Like, a guy that big can snap a woman’s neck like a pencil stick,” he told KMPH.   Kai grabbed his hatchet and battered the six-foot, 300-plus pound McBride with the blunt end, reportedly saving Baker’s life.

“I fucking ran up behind him with a hatchet — smash, smash, smash!” Kai said afterwards.

Kai4When first responders arrived on the scene, the PG&E worker was rushed to the hospital with two broken legs.  McBride was also removed from the scene with non-life-threatening injuries and is now in police custody and booked into jail on suspicion of attempted murder.

Kai has become a minor internet folk hero of sorts; a person who didn’t have to get invoved– but did so only because it was the immediate and right thing to do.

Kai said he wants to spread the love:

“Before I say anything else, I want to say no matter what you’ve done, you deserve respect, even if you make mistakes.   You’re lovable and it doesn’t matter your looks, skills, or age, or size or anything.  You’re worthwhile—no one can take that away from you.”

Since his interview with Fox affiliate KMPH went viral (below), there has been next to no news about Kai’s current whereabouts.

kai3A year-old video of the homefree celebrity strumming his ukulele on a British Columbia beach and in a music store surfaced, but that hardly provided any insight into the man behind the myth.

“He’s kind of like a superhero,” reporter Jessob Reisbeck said.   ”He’s impossible to get ahold of because he has no phone and he’s this mysterious guy, but he has this hero status.”

But Kai is still out there.  He recently said in a Facebook post:  “I’m sleeping in a hay field across I-99 from the chevron/days inn in Lathrope CA.  Do any, uh, new friends feel like sharing couchspace?”

kaiReisbeck managed to track Kai down yesterday not far from the site of the incident that made him a digital star.

“Shock and awe,” Kai responded when Reisbeck asked him for his thoughts on his overnight fame.

But besides feeling a bit more loved by the Universe than before, Kai remains unchanged.

“He’s just doing the exact same thing he’s always done,” Reisbeck said.  “Living a homefree
life, as he calls it.”

* * * * * * * * *

Identifying with Humboldt, Kai has spent time wandering through and living in Eureka and in Arcata.

The interesting and must-see viral KMPH interview of Kai describing the incident is here.

The original KMPH newscast is here.

UPDATE May 16, 2013Kai is arrested for murder.

Posted in Crime, Media, State3 Comments

Humboldt County Man Murdered in Prison by Cellmate

 

Delbert Miller, 69, Pronounced Dead

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

CORCORAN – Investigators at Corcoran State Prison and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office said yesterday they are investigating the death of inmate Delbert
Miller,
69-years-old, as a homicide.

corcoran3It is believed the former Humboldt County man serving time for murder was killed in his own cell at the hands of his much younger 20-year-old cellmate.

Miller was found unresponsive in his prison cell and was pronounced dead Thursday morning, January 24, according to the press release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Miller was serving an 81-year-to-life sentence beginning in May of 2008 for the first-degree murder of
miller38-year-old Lori Ann Jones, whose decomposing body was found in Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park in 2004.  Prosecutors convinced jurors during his trial that Miller murdered Jones because he believed she was stealing from him and had accused him of rape, the Times-Standard reported.

Miller had a prior 1988 conviction from Humboldt County for rape and forced oral copulation of a child.  He had been housed at Corcoran State Prison since last July.

Miller’s cellmate, Kyle Alexander Osborn, has been identified as the only suspect.  Osborn has since been removed and placed into an Administrative Segregation Unit.  Details of the alleged killing have not been released.

corcoranOsborn, 20, was admitted to state prison from San Bernardino County in June of 2009 with a 26-year sentence for lewd and lascivious acts on a child with force and violence, and burglary and first-degree robbery.  It is unknown how long he has been at Corcoran, or sharing the same cell with the older Miller.

The Kings County Coroner will perform an autopsy.  The Office of Inspector General’s Bureau of Independent Review was notified, the CDCR said.

Ms. GipsonA small city in and of itself, California State Prison-Corcoran opened in 1988 and houses 4,595 minimum to maximum high-security level inmates.  It employs 2,300 people and is one of 32 adult facilities located throughout California.

Ms. Connie Gipson is the current warden of the all-male prison which has had as many problems as notorious inmates over the years.

Posted in Crime, Local, State0 Comments

‘Lock Your Doors and Load Your Guns’

 

San Bernardino City Attorney Makes Stunning Announcement

 

–Details of City’s Bankruptcy: Runaway Pensions–

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

San Bernardino City Attorney Jim Penman is under scrutiny for telling residents to “lock their doors and load their guns” during Wednesday’s city council meeting. The official explained the city is bankrupt and with the slashing of public safety budgets, people need to start protecting themselves. Afterwards, he said he doesn’t regret what he said.

To note, San Bernardino had 45 murders this year– a 50% rise from last year.

So what happened?

 

Excerpts from Reuters: The Fall of San Bernardino: How a Vicious Cycle of Self-Interest Sank a California City

When this sun-drenched exurb east of Los Angeles filed for bankruptcy protection in August, the city attorney suggested fraudulent accounting was the root of the problem.

The mayor blamed a dysfunctional city council and greedy police and fire unions. The unions blamed the mayor. Even now, there is little agreement on how the city got into this crisis or how it can extricate itself.

“It’s total political chaos,” said John Husing, a former San Bernardino regional economist. “There’s no solution. They’ll never fix anything.”

Yet on close examination, the city’s decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case is straightforward — and alarmingly similar to the path traveled by many municipalities around America’s largest state. San Bernardino succumbed to a vicious circle of self-interests among city workers, local politicians and state pension overseers.

Little by little, over many years, the salaries and retirement benefits of San Bernardino’s city workers — and especially its police and firemen — grew richer and richer, even as the city lost its major employers and gradually got poorer and poorer.

 

Runaway Pensions at Heart of Fiscal Woes

 

In bankrupt San Bernardino, a third of the city’s 210,000 people live below the poverty line, making it the poorest city of its size in California. But a police lieutenant can retire in his 50s and take home $230,000 in one-time payouts on his last day, before settling in with a guaranteed $128,000-a-year pension. Forty-six retired city employees receive over $100,000 a year in pensions.

Almost 75 percent of the city’s general fund is now spent solely on the police and fire departments, according to a Reuters analysis of city bankruptcy documents – most of that on wages and pension costs.

San Bernardino’s biggest creditor, by far, is CalPers, the public-employee pension fund. The city says it owes CalPers $143 million; using a different calculation, CalPers says the city would have to pay $320 million if it left the plan immediately.

Second on the city’s list of creditors are holders of $46 million worth of pension bonds – money borrowed in 2005 to pay off CalPers. The total pension-related debts are more than double the $92 million owed to the city’s next 18 largest creditors combined.

Complicating matters were obscure budgeting procedures that left residents in the dark. The word “pension” doesn’t appear once in the most recent 642-page budget, and retiree costs are buried in detailed departmental line items.

“I’ve been asking for years for the pension costs,” said Tobin Brinker, a former council member and pension-reform advocate, who lost his seat last year to a challenger backed by nearly $100,000 in contributions from the fire and police unions. “I still don’t know the number.”

James Penman, the longtime city attorney who critics say is closely aligned with the unions, alleged during a council meeting this summer that 13 of the past 16 city budgets had been falsified. Penman, in office since 1987, earned $164,799 last year, according to city payroll data.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an informal inquiry into the San Bernardino situation because of the city’s bond obligations. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has provided funds to the city in the past, says it is conducting an audit of the city’s books. Recently hired city finance officers do say they have found evidence of terrible accounting and record-keeping.

But unlike in the small Southern California cities of Bell, where eight city officials face trial on allegations that they stole from the public, and Vernon, where three officials have been convicted of corruption, San Bernardino’s problems appear to be mainly the result of back-scratching on an epic scale.

By the time San Bernardino’s council met behind closed doors on September 17, 2007, it was already clear the city was in trouble. Yet on this day in 2007, the city raised pension benefits again, in a deal allowing non-public-safety workers to retire at age 55 with a pension equal to three-quarters of their salary. Called “2.7 at 55,” it calculated annual pensions at 2.7 percentage points of final salary for each year worked – 81 percent for 30 years.

It wasn’t nearly as good a deal as police and firefighters enjoyed – a “3 percent at 50″ plan passed a year earlier. That enabled the public-safety workers to retire at 50 with a pension of up to 90% of their final salary.

Meanwhile, San Bernardino continued to boost wages along with benefits. The average salary for a full-time San Bernardino firefighter in 1997 was $75,610, adjusted for inflation into 2010 dollars. By 2010, it was nearly $147,000, according to a Reuters analysis of Census Bureau data.

City workers took advantage of compensation rules, common among public employees in California, that made retirement deals even better. Key to this was boosting an employee’s eve-of-retirement wages, which form the basis of the pension calculations.

Mike Conrad, chief of the fire department from 2006 to 2012, said he saw managers negotiate a promotion in their final year, to boost their final salary. It was not uncommon for someone to move into a position with a $30,000 annual pay rise shortly before retirement, he said.

Retiring employees are also able to extract big one-time “cash outs.” In San Bernardino, eight hours per month of unused sick time can be rolled over and saved year after year, without limit. Come retirement, 50 percent of the total can be taken in cash. The same goes for unused vacation time: up to 460 accrued hours of vacation – nearly three months of salary – can be cashed in at the fire department, Conrad said.

The police have a similar deal. In 2009, patrol lieutenant Richard Taack retired at the age of 59, after 37 years of service. He took home $389,727 that year, including $194,820 in unused sick time and $33,721 for unused vacation time, according to city payroll records. Shortly after Taack retired – on an annual lifetime pension of $128,000 – he was hired part-time by Penman’s city attorney’s office, at $32 an hour.

City wages were a runaway train, according to the Management Partners report. The city charter automatically calculated police and firefighter pay using a formula linked to wages offered by comparably sized cities – most of which were much wealthier than San Bernardino. Efforts to amend the charter were strongly opposed by the safety unions and voted down by the council earlier this year.

 

Roads and Potholes

Taack’s 2009 income was nearly double that of the city’s entire street-sweeping department. In 2011, overtime pay alone for the police department – $2,766,175 – exceeded the total payroll of 12 other San Bernardino city departments, according to the Reuters analysis of payroll data. Taack didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“I can’t begrudge the man for receiving what he’s entitled to under the contract,” said David Green, the head road sweeper, who has seen his department cut to five people from 13 when he joined in 1995. But he said there should be a better balance between the safety forces and other departments. “Nobody wants to drive a car and have to hit a three-foot pothole.”

Indeed, potholes scar downtown San Bernardino. Many stores are shuttered. Abandoned lots sit unkempt. Since the bankruptcy filing, city finance officials have put forward proposals to close libraries, senior centers and a cemetery.

Andrea Travis-Miller, interim city manager, told the council this summer that 250 non-safety positions had been eliminated in the past three years to save money – and implied that police and fire benefits were crowding out other essential services. “I believe that city buildings, roads, trees and parks that have begun to show neglect would deteriorate further if more cuts are made,” Travis-Miller said.

Scott Moss, head of the firefighters union, said 20 positions had already been cut from the fire department, leaving about 120 people.

“There’s been mismanagement for years,” Moss said, over coffee in a local restaurant. “The mayor and his people are trying to make us look bad.”

Moss, 46, a fire paramedic, said he might retire at 53. Payroll records show a base pay of $94,500, and total 2011 wages, with overtime, of about $147,000. Moss confirmed the base figure but didn’t comment on the overtime number.

“This is a dangerous city. It’s an old, decayed city. It burns. There are gangs. The pay and benefits attract the police and firefighters it needs. Without them, you
lose all the good ones. That’s the balance,” Moss said.

 

Miserable Company

San Bernardino and Stockton are hardly alone. A handful of other small California cities, including Atwater, Hercules and Compton, are teetering near bankruptcy.

Big California cities that run their own pension plans also have deep problems. San Jose, hub of Silicon Valley, and San Diego, biotech center of California, both passed pension reforms in June in the face of unmanageable retirement benefits. They are now defending those measures in court against public-employee lawsuits.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former labor organizer, led a push to raise the retirement age and cut pensions for new, non-safety city staff. He exempted police and fire employees. A ballot measure sponsored by former Mayor Richard Riordan aims to include them in the cuts, too.

The chronic mismanagement in San Bernardino, though, is a common feature of local government in California and around the United States. Much power over municipal finance lies in the hands of those with the most at stake — city employees, elected officials and others who depend directly on government for their livelihood.

* * * * * * * * *

You can read the full Reuters article here.

Let’s hope Humboldt County and the City of Eureka don’t follow suit in San Bernardino’s wake. A look at our administrative salaries– and the number of administrative positions in departments– are shocking. And the roads in Eureka are still a potholed mess with little improvement to show of.

We hope the incoming Eureka City Manager, paid $158,000 per year, can fix things. Of course, we’ll also be paying the outgoing City Manager his percentage retirement of nearly the same amount, too.

For now, however, Eureka’s Measure O shoring up safety budgets has kept the fiscal problems at bay and citizens from arming themselves for protection. For now.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

 

Posted in State4 Comments

Nevada City to Issue Permits for the Homeless

 

Police Chief’s Unique Program:  Have Permit or Leave

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

A Nevada City police chief says he’s found a one-of-a-kind way to manage a growing problem in his city, and it’s putting the homeless on the hot seat, the Nevada City
News
reported.

A new law would give Nevada City the power to hand out permits to a small group of homeless, which would give them permission to sleep in public.

While the new ordinance would give some homeless a place to stay, it would tell others, mostly the troublemakers and the criminals, to stay away.

“The goal is to start managing the homeless population within our city,” said Nevada City Police Chief James Wickham.  Wickham had asked council members to pass a no-camping ordinance which was approved.

“It just basically means you can’t set up a tent.  You can’t live in your vehicle. You can’t live in the woods in Nevada City,” he said.  “That is, unless you have a permit.”

The police chief says his program is unique, making only a select few of the city’s homeless population an exception to the law– like William Peach.

“There’s some of us out there like me who try and want to blend in with the community,” said Peach, a homeless individual camping out in the rural areas of Nevada City.

For Bob Barton, another homeless man who chooses to live in Nevada City, the new ordinance is music to his ears, he said.

“I come down here every fall and don’t want no trouble,” Barton said.

The new ordinance would essentially identify law-abiding homeless and reward them with a permit and hassle-free immunity as long as they behave appropriately.

For others, however, who come to Nevada City to commit crimes or
with a criminal history, well, they won’t be so lucky.  They won’t be issued permits.

“Those are the ones we really don’t want in our city and that we’re trying to keep from camping in our city,” said Wickham.

“We’ve seen a huge upsurge in homeless people,” Teresa Mann said.  Mann, who owns a business in downtown, says it’s about time– and so do the homeless who stay out of trouble and want trouble to stay away.

“If they’re homeless and heartless, hey, we got a place for them,” said “James”, who is homeless. “It’s called County Jail.”

For now, the police chief will give out about six to 10 permits.  He’ll check back in six months to see if the program is working.  If it is, that’s when he says he’ll give out more.

Chief Wickham says he’s identified at least 60 homeless in his community, and 500 homeless countywide.

 

* * * * * * * *

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

 

Posted in State4 Comments

Unique Salary Cap Inititiative Approved in Santa Clara

 

Voters Pass Measure M Limiting Pay to Hospital Executives

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

This one caught our eye.

Of the different ballot measures taking place in California, Santa Clara County’s Measure M was the more interesting, intriguing, and groundbreaking development decided by voters Tuesday.

Highly paid public officials and union employees everywhere may want to take note.

Voters in Santa Clara County approved a ballot initiative — Measure M — that will cap the salaries and compensation packages of executives at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, the San Jose News reported today.

After votes were counted in all of the county’s 108 precincts, about 51.9% of voters supported Measure M, while 48.1% rejected it.  It’s not quite a done deal yet as absentee ballots remain to be counted, but it’s heading in that direction with the votes already cast.

The measure stems from a labor dispute between the hospital and Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West (SEIU-UHW ), which represents some of the lowest-paid workers at El Camino’s two publicly owned hospital campuses.

The dispute was triggered earlier this year when the hospital imposed a contract requiring workers to pay more for their health care benefits.  SEIU-UHW collected signatures to put Measure M on the ballot.

Under Measure M, annual salaries for El Camino executives will be capped at twice the California governor’s salary, which is $173,987 annually. Currently, El Camino CEO Tomi Ryba earns $695,000 annually– and is eligible for a bonus of up to 30% for meeting specific professional goals.  That’s a million dollar executive if he does his job well.

Chris Ernst — a spokesperson for the hospital — said that compensation of at least nine other hospital executives also will be reduced under the measure.

Suprisingly enough, Kary Lynch — a psychiatric technician and union official for the SEIU-UHW — said that Measure M originally was intended only to influence the outcome of labor contract talks with El Camino.

Lynch said, “Truthfully, the measure was initially proposed as a bargaining chip in the negotiating process,” adding, “We picked salaries because it was something that resonated with the voters.” 

The end result on Tuesday was better than labor organizers and hospital employees had hoped for, as a majority of Santa Clara County voters sided with their position.

Hospital officials had contended that capping executives’ salaries would hinder the hospital’s ability to attract and retain talented leaders.

Ernst said that the board of directors for both the hospital and hospital district likely will consider whether to challenge the measure in court.  He said that hospital officials “questioned the legal premise from the very beginning.

* * * * * * *

It sounds as if voters were tired of high public salaries for the fortunate few at the top of the ladder while looking out for the lowly plebes scraping by at the bottom.  The bumping of the highly-paid status quo by ballot initiative will be decided, ultimately, in a court of law. 

Measure M could have wide ranging ramifications should the unique salary-capping victory spread to other counties, municipalities, and union organizers through their own ballot initiatives.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in State0 Comments

Atkins Defeats Bonino In Election Night Finale

 

All local measures pass — except Rio Dell’s road bonds

 

By Charles Douglas
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Another whirlwind set of national, state and local campaigns have come to an end as the 2012 General Election has come and gone.

Incumbent Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected President by over 2 million votes (58,331,418) over former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney (56,214,017), while former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson scored over a million votes (1,087,503) as the Libertarian nominee, the best third party showing since Ralph Nader in 2000. The Green Party’s Jill Stein finished a distant fourth place with 368,324 votes.

Obama won nearly all the so-called “swing states” which play a key role in Electoral College calculations, while Florida was the only state still too close to call as of press time, with Obama hanging on to a 42,836 votes lead over Romney — a margin less than the 43,397 cast for Johnson thus far.

In Humboldt County, the nail-bitter of the night was the Eureka City Council race for the contested Second Ward seat, where incumbent Linda Atkins, the lone liberal remaining in office in the county seat, fended off a strong challenge from Republican Central Committee stalwart Joe Bonino.

Atkins received 3,935 votes (50.75%) over 3,727 (48.07%) for Bonino, while 35 write-in votes (0.45%) were cast for Charlie Bean. This was despite a nearly two-to-one fundraising advantage for Bonino, who received the unanimous endorsement of the rest of the Eureka City Council along with campaign bucks from Supervisor Rex Bohn and noteworthy developers such as Kurt Kramer and Bill Barnum.

In Eureka’s Ward Four, appointed incumbent Melinda Ciarabellini received only 67% as an unopposed candidate, while 2,486 ballots were apparently cast blank.

The race in Fortuna was no contest, as Mayor Doug Strehl cruised to re-election with 2,675 votes (47.2%), while the second at-large seat will go to newcomer Tami Gillam-Trent 1,817 (32.0%). Notably pro-big box candidate Josh Brown was a distant third at 1,141 (20.1%).

Ferndale wins the prize for the strangest result of the night — the Victorian Village is the only municipality besides Eureka to directly elect its Mayor, and Ken Weller is tied with Stu Titus in this race with 287 votes each. Unqualified write-in candidates received 22 votes, while two votes were apparently “over votes” where voters attempted to vote more than once in this race.

In local ballot measures, Fortuna citizens gave the thumbs up to a new round of school bonds; Measure D gets 4,095 (60%) support, while it needed 55% to win; 2,732 (40%) were opposed.

Arcata Elementary School District voters passed a pair of measures to fund local education. Measure E, a school parcel tax which needed to surpass two-thirds support as a property tax,  grabbed 3,811 (77.3%) against 1,118 (22.68%); Measure F, which will issue school bonds for the district, passed with 3,610 (74.8%) in favor and 1,217 (25.2%) opposed.

Trinidad will maintain its status as tied for the highest sales tax in the county — Measure G, which keeps in place the 0.75% additional sales tax rate, passed with 97 votes (55.4%) in favor and 78 votes (44.6%) against.

In a purely symbolic move, Arcata decided to declare that corporate personhood no longer existed in the city — except in cases where such a local ordinance was preempted by state law, which is essentially a permanent situation so long as corporate personhood is recognized in the California Corporations Code. Measure H, the so-called “Corps Ain’t Peeps” campaign by former Arcata Councilmember Dave Meserve, passed with 5,140 (81.6%) against 1,162 (18.4%).

Arcata might not like corporations, but small time growers are also on the hit list, as Measure I, which imposes a huge tax on “excessive” energy use, passes with 4,287 (69%) in favor and 1,930 (31%) against.

The only failed local measure? Poor Rio Dell, whose second attempt at a street repair bond falls well short of two-thirds support. Measure J garnered only 492 votes (54.9%) with 404  (45.1%) against.

In the North Coast’s new Second Congressional District, Marin-area Assemblymember Jared Huffman (Dem.-San Rafael) cruised to victory with 151,010 (69.8%) over 65,359 (30.2%) for Mill Valley investment banker Dan Roberts.

Wes Chesbro (Dem.-Arcata), who has spent 12 years in Sacramento representing the region, will have one last term in the State Assembly, as he garnered 75,164 (63.1%) votes. Sonoma County Planning Commissioner Tom Lynch made a respectable showing, for a candidate with no money, receiving 43,979 (36.9%).

Statewide, the sales and income tax increase package known as Prop. 30, which Governor Jerry Brown (Dem.-Oakland) staked his political career on, appears to be passing after trailing early on Election Night. Also passing are Prop. 35, to enhance human trafficking penalties, Prop. 36, to reform the Three Strikes law, Prop. 39, to increase taxes on out-of-state businesses, and Prop. 40, a referendum approving the State Senate maps developed by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Yes 30   Temporary Taxes to Fund Education  4,233,202  53.5%    3,684,802  46.5%
No 31   State Budget, State and Local Government  2,934,526  39.7%    4,458,524  60.3%
No 32   Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction  3,463,115  44.4%    4,334,258  55.6%
No 33   Auto Insurance Prices Based on Driver History  3,486,043  45.4%    4,187,907  54.6%
No 34   Death Penalty  3,651,512  46.9%    4,133,154  53.1%
Yes 35   Human Trafficking  6,308,888  81.4%    1,445,294  18.6%
Yes 36   Three Strikes Law  5,327,115  68.7%    2,425,226  31.3%
No 37   Genetically Engineered Foods Labeling  3,643,910  46.5%    4,194,469  53.5%
No 38   Tax for Education. Early Childhood Programs  2,117,872  27.4%    5,609,815  72.6%
Yes 39   Business Tax for Energy Funding  4,545,866  59.9%    3,043,648  40.1%
Yes 40   Redistricting State Senate  5,266,033  72.0%    2,048,272  28.0%

 

Posted in Local, National, Politics, State0 Comments

Large Vacation Payouts Made to State Employees

 

Vacation Accrual Without Caps Costs California Taxpayers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

 

County Employees in Similar System

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

State employees are receiving hundreds of millions of
dollars in payouts for unused vacation days upon
retiring, the San Jose Mercury News reported yesterday.

California does not allow state employees to cash in their vacation time while still employed, so workers receive their entire vacation payouts when they retire.  More than 4,000 people retired from the state over the past three years with an extra $50,000 or more for unused vacation and comp time.

The Mercury News found the state paid a total of $800 million in vacation payouts from 2009 through 2011. The total includes $293 million in vacation payouts distributed to retiring prison employees, including health care workers and corrections officers.

The state doesn’t allow employees to cash in vacation time while they are still employed. But earlier this year, several state parks employees were disciplined and one fired after auditors found a secret program that allowed more than 50 parks employees to cash in a combined $270,000 worth of unused time.

The newspaper’s analysis showed the biggest payouts go to state workers with vital jobs, like firefighters, highway patrol officers and doctors at state hospitals or prisons. But others — lawyers, researchers at obscure state commissions, traffic engineers — also got fat checks. Managers are supposed to help workers keep vacation balances under 640 hours or 80 days, and Ashford said 87 percent of current state employees are under that cap.  However, state officials said in interviews, nothing stops employees from exceeding it.

According to the Mercury News, many of the largest payouts went to state workers who have vital jobs, such as physicians in prisons or state hospitals.

The analysis found that 27 workers — including 19 prison physicians and dentists — received checks for more than $250,000 when they retired. Some of those 27 employees retired with more than 500 unused vacation days.

Topping the list was Napa State Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Gertrudis Agcaoili, who retired after 33 years with 642 days of accrued vacation and comp time.  It cost taxpayers nearly $609,000.

How did she manage to bank so much time?

“It’s none of your business,” Agcaoili said in a brief telephone interview. “I deserve all of it. I worked very hard.”

A veteran observer of government spending said six-figure payouts like Agcaoili’s can be crippling and called on the state to revise its personnel policies.

“It’s an unfunded liability and a burden on the taxpayer,” said Thomas Schatz, executive director of Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group.  ”California needs to look very closely at it. They have to enforce the 80-day limit.”

Payouts in state government spiked in 2010, topping $300 million, data shows.

Nancy Kincaid — a spokesperson for the state Correctional Health Care Services department — said, “You can’t force people to take time off. I’ve never been able to do that in my time as a manager.”

However, private employers can cap vacation day accruals and require workers to use days off, according to the Mercury News.  It’s an accounting liability that private companies work aggressively to avoid, but one that continues to pile up in Sacramento.  And, ironically, the problem grew even worse in recent years when the state tried to save cash by forcing workers to take unpaid furlough days as an emergency budget fix.  As a result, banks of unused vacation grew even larger.

When asked last month about vacation and comp time payouts, Gov. Jerry Brown downplayed the issue, saying the state makes employees take vacation before it piles up.

Elizabeth Ashford, spokesperson for Gov. Jerry Brown (D), said that the governor intends to address the vacation payout issue.

“The problem, like the $26 billion deficit, is a carry-over from a prior era,” Ashford said, adding, “Employees were furloughed for short-term savings, which has left a long-term debt in the form of accumulated leave.”

Identical to State workers, Humboldt County employees also accrue unused vacation and comp balances paid out at the highest rate of pay at the time of retirement or severing from employment.

Vacation and comp time for Humboldt County workers earned initially at lower rates of pay are paid out at higher, significantly increased dollar amounts later as the employee reaches higher step levels, takes promotions, receives coast of living adjustments, or transfers to more highly paid positions within the County during their employment.

Like State employees, County employees are allowed to accrue and bank their time without restriction and are not forced to cap hours or take time off which would reduce County payroll costs.

One County administrative official retiring after 29 years received a nearly six-figure retirement payout of unused vacation and comp time that doubled in value during the course of employment.  The County consequently had to make a special monetary bank transfer accomodating the final payout paycheck.

* * * * * * * *

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in Local, State2 Comments

Danny DeVito and Friends: Your Right To Know

 

“Yeah, You’d do Some Dumb …’Stuff’ If You Knew” (VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 37 requiring that genetically engineered (GE) foods be labeled.

Just as labels list fat, sodium and sugar, labels should tell the buyer whether or not the product includes genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs).

Unfortunately, major out-of-state corporations are pouring millions of dollars into this election in order to confuse voters, and protect their bottom line.

The largest donation, $7.1 million, is from the Missouri-based Monsanto company.  Monsanto is a major producer of genetically engineered seeds and of Roundup, which is used on crops engineered to withstand the herbicide.

Proponents of the ‘Right to Know’ Prop 37 campaign haven’t raised enough money to run this spot on television yet.

Because we have the best democracy money can buy– and following in the wake of Citizens United– we decided to even the playing field a bit.

You can level the field, too, by passing it on.

Posted in Local, State0 Comments

What a Failed Vegas Sex Pill and The Meningitis Outbreak Have In Common

 

Part II: Compounding Pharmacies and Lack of FDA Oversight Led to National Meningitis Outbreak

 

By Marshall Allen
ProPublica, Oct. 10, 2012

 

Imagine my surprise when I heard about Vegas Mixx, the latest club drug being promoted in Las Vegas.  Marketing materials described it as a combination of Valium, to relax the mind, and Viagra, to stimulate the, well, you know. 
Vegas Mixx promised to make users perform “Like a Porn Star.”

I’m no medical expert, but this didn’t sound like a good idea.  Valium, a controlled substance, can have serious side effects.  And Viagra, well, warnings about erections lasting longer than four hours should give anyone pause.  Was it legal?  When I was a reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, the guys running the local compounding pharmacy that made Vegas Mixx had no problem telling me they were just trying to make a buck.  They claimed it was legal.  And indeed, the pharmacy never was disciplined by the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy.  They only stopped producing the drug because it wasn’t profitable.

Vegas Mixx turned out to be a bust.  But it highlighted an evolution in the drug compounding industry, which has come under intense scrutiny after steroids produced by a Massachusetts company were linked to 12 fungal meningitis deaths and 137 infections in 10 states.  The New England Compounding Center, which made the injectable steroids linked to the outbreak, acted more like a drug manufacturer than a traditional compounding pharmacy, said David Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacies.

Compounding pharmacies typically provide custom-made drugs based on individual physician prescriptions tailored to specific patients, who, for example, might be allergic to a mass-produced product. In contrast, the compounding pharmacy that made Vegas Mixx was making and marketing a drug combo before a doctor had prescribed it.  The New England Compounding Center shipped more than 17,000 doses of steroid injections to 23 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Those steroid doses, and other concoctions by compounding pharmacies, are exempt from traditional review and approval by the Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with assuring the efficacy, purity and safety of manufactured drug compounds and strict adherence to sanitary manufacturing standards.

An FDA official said in an email that state pharmacy boards are the front lines of enforcing the activities of compounding pharmacies.  The FDA can step in, but there have been conflicting court rulings about how federal law applies to compounding pharmacies, the FDA official said.

That means compounding pharmacies operating as manufacturers are below the radar of FDA oversight, Miller said, potentially putting patients at risk.

This could have been prevented.  More than a decade ago, David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, issued a warning about the future of compounded drugs at a Congressional hearing prior to passage of the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997.  He said that ambiguity in the law could allow for “large scale manufacturing under the guise of pharmacy compounding,” leading to a “shadow industry” of unapproved generic drugs.

Provisions in the act designed to clarify FDA oversight of compounding pharmacies — including restrictions on their ability to advertise drugs — were later struck down by courts.  Still, the FDA says it can act in some circumstances, such as when a drug is contaminated or mislabeled.

Miller said he believes only a few rogue compounding pharmacies are operating outside traditional boundaries.  The New England Compounding Center “appears to have been acting as a manufacturer without being registered as a manufacturer with the (Food and Drug Administration), or registering with the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy as a manufacturer,” he said.

“Something does need to change. That’s something our association is grappling with right now,” he said.  In the wake of the outbreak, officials from the academy are in contact with congressional staffers to discuss how to
increase oversight without stifling traditional pharmacy practices, Miller added.

Other cases have raised alarms.  In 2007, a Portland Tribune investigation revealed patient deaths that were linked to a bad batch of drugs, used to treat back pain, from a Texas compounding pharmacy.  A pharmacist who consults with the advocacy group Public Citizen called the compounding pharmacy industry a “shadow drug industry,” in an interview with the newspaper.  And this week the Tennessee attorney general filed a complaint against HRC Medical Center, a hormone replacement therapy company that used a compounding pharmacy to produce the testosterone pellets for women.

In the past year, I interviewed several women who were treated at HRC facilities, and they complained of testosterone treatments that led to excess facial hair, uncontrollable rage and genital growth.  One doctor who reviewed an HRC patient’s medical records on behalf of ProPublica said her testosterone levels were more than four times normal – into the range of a man. 

It’s unknown whether the alleged problems at HRC Medical were caused by the providers, by the pharmacy, or both.   Officials from HRC Medical did not return calls for comment.  But according to the attorney general’s complaint, the hormone pellets the compounding pharmacy supplied to HRC Medical could trigger an unpredictable release of hormones
in the blood stream due to their unproven method of manufacturing.
The pharmacy’s production standards, material handling practices and
operating procedures were not FDA approved
, the complaint stated.

Miller said responsibility for the fungal meningitis outbreak goes beyond the compounding pharmacy involved and regulatory gaps.  Doctors and medical providers purchased the drugs and should also be held accountable for the patient harm, he said.

“What due diligence did those facilities do to assure the drugs they were purchasing were appropriate, safe and effective?” he asked.

Sagar Atre of ProPublica contributed reporting to this story.

* * * * * * * * *

This is part II of a two-part series on the national meningitis outbreak.  Readers may also want to see the Sentinel’s previous story here:

600 Californians Received Shots Linked to National Meningitis Outbreak: Mendocino County Medical Center on Watch List for Non-FDA Regulated Drug.”

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and 2011, ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, according to their website

Based in Manhattan with a newsroom of 34 working journalists, the organization is dedicated to investigative reporting on stories with “moral force” and a significant potential for major impact.

Images by Humboldt Sentinel
Posted by Skippy Massey

 

Posted in National, State1 Comment

600 Californians Received Shots Linked to National Meningitis Outbreak

 

Part I: Mendocino County Medical Center on Watch List for Non-FDA Regulated Drug

–Cases and Deaths Rising–

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

A national fungal meningitis outbreak linked to epidural steroid injections has affected the eastern half of the
United States and is continuing to grow, according to the
Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The CDC, which
is coordinating the investigation into the outbreak,
said the infected states include Florida, Indiana,
Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio,
Tennessee and Virginia.

State and federal officials said 75 health care facilities in 23 states received the contaminated product.  As of Monday, 105 meningitis cases and eight deaths had been reported.  On Wednesday afternoon, those numbers rose to 137 cases and 12 deaths in 10 states linked to the outbreak.  It is believed that 13,000 patients may have been exposed by injection nationwide.

No cases or deaths have occurred so far in California– but about 600 California patients were treated with steroid shots from the recalled batches of the pain medication used as an epidural injection for chronic pain.

According to CDC, four California facilities that received the recalled batches of medication are:

  • Ukiah Valley Medical Center
  • Cypress Surgery Center in Visalia
  • Encino Outpatient Surgical Center
  • Universal Pain Management in Palmdale

Health officials are continuing to monitor patients in the North Coast
region who received the steroids.  None of the facilities or patients
appear to be in Humboldt County.

The outbreak has been linked to batches of methylprednisolone acetate used to make injectable steroids and manufactured by the New England Compounding Center, which federal officials suspect was contaminated with the fungus.

Unlike drug manufacturers, which are regulated by FDA, compounding pharmacies are licensed by states and not subject to federal oversight.  California officials are now eyeing tougher restrictions and considering ways to strengthen the regulation of medical products shipped from out-of-state compounding pharmacies due to the outbreak.

The California Board of Pharmacy is responsible for licensing pharmacies in California, as well as out-of-state pharmacies that ship products into California.

Virginia Herold — executive officer of the California Board of Pharmacy — said state regulators are working on proposals that would strengthen licensing requirements for out-of-state compounding pharmacies that ship products into California.  Proposed regulations could require that accrediting agencies use California inspection standards for out-of-state manufacturers that ship to California, according to Herold.

“If we’re going to accept their accreditation, it should be to our standards,” Herold said.

New England Compounding Center located in Framingham, Mass., began a voluntary recall of the steroid drugs on Sept. 26.  Among those receiving the infected batches was the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, which last week sent out letters to patients notifying them of the issues of fungal meningitis, a swelling of the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord.

The CDC said infected patients have developed a variety of symptoms approximately one to four weeks following their injection. The symptoms include fever, new or worsening headache and nausea. Some also have suffered strokes.

The CDC investigation thus far has revealed that the meningitis linked to the steroid injections was caused by a fungus that is common in the environment but rarely causes meningitis. The source of the fungus, however, hasn’t been identified.  Officials said the fungal meningitis in this outbreak is not contagious.

Anyone who has had one of the epidural steroid injections since May 21 should talk to their doctor immediately if they experience a worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, new weakness or numbness in any part of your body or slurred speech, according to the CDC.

In a released statement earlier this week, the Ukiah Valley Medical Center said it selected the New England Compounding Center in spite of a 75 percent higher cost for the compounded medication because the center is a specialized “compounding-only pharmacy” dedicated to providing medications and services to patients and prescribers.

 “The product was selected because it contains no preservatives or buffers that other pharmaceutical manufacturers offer that may cause higher risk of infection or other complications,” a Ukiah Valley Medical Center spokesperson said on Monday.

* * * * * * * *

This is part I of a two-part Sentinel series on the national meningitis outbreak and compounding pharmacies.  Part II: “What a Failed Vegas Sex Pill and the Meningitis Outbreak Have in Common” may surprise you– and  can be found here.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in National, State1 Comment

Oakland First to Challenge Fed Stance on Medical Marijuana

 

City of Oakland Fights Federal Clampdown on Medical Marijuana

–Claims Statute of Limitations Has Expired

 

Chris Marshall
Courthouse News Service

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Federal officials reneged on promises to let the states regulate medical marijuana shops without interference, Oakland claims in federal court.

The complaint filed on Wednesday asks to block civil forfeiture proceedings against a Northern California dispensary recently featured on the “Weed Wars” television show.

Oakland claims Harborside Medical Center complies with all state and local laws and should remain open.  The federal government filed civil forfeiture proceedings in July against the dispensary’s two locations in Oakland and San Jose, accusing them of selling marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.  While medical marijuana is legal in California, it is still illegal under federal law.

Earlier federal crackdowns had focused on dispensaries close to schools or parks, but U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag focused on Harborside because of its size.

Defending the action against Harborside, Haag had said: “I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside.  The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.”

In a pair of July complaints filed against the two separate locations, Haag does not accuse the properties of selling marijuana to customers who are
not medical marijuana patients, nor does she claim
that they let nonpatients obtain marijuana.  Rather, she
quotes the Controlled Substances Act and federal forfeiture statutes that prohibit the manufacturing or sale of illegal substances.

Courthouse News had asked the prosecutor’s office at the time of the filing if it had proof Harborside allowed medical marijuana to get into the hands of nonpatients.

Spokesman Jack Gillund replied: “Other than the statement we issued yesterday, we have no comment.”

Oakland claims that Haag’s actions contradict promises
made by the federal government not to circumvent state
laws concerning medical marijuana.

The Obama administration has allegedly repeatedly stated it would not go after marijuana dispensaries operating within state law.  One spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle that “Obama would end U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana suppliers in states with their own laws,” according to the complaint.

After being elected, Obama’s attorney general appointee, Eric Holder, said: “what the president said during the
campaign, you’ll be surprised to know, will be consistent with
what we’ll be doing here in law enforcement.”

Holder later stated that the “policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law.”

Oakland claims these promises led it to “further legitimize the medical cannabis industry by taxing its revenue and allocating this increased revenue to the general fund.”

The city estimates the shops will bring in over $1.4 million in business tax revenue in 2012, noting the revenue is “sufficient to pay for a dozen additional police officers
or firefighters, or even more librarians, park directors,
or other essential municipal services.”  Oakland levies a voter-approved 5 percent gross sales tax against the shops.

Though the U.S. government allegedly knew about the existence of Harborside since 2006, and even earlier for other dispensaries, it did not take action until this year, according to the complaint.

Thus, Oakland says that the five-year statute of limitations on civil forfeiture proceedings has lapsed.

“Defendants exceeded their authority by filing civil forfeiture actions more than five years after they knew or should have known that the dispensaries were operational,” the complaint
states.

“Defendants’ failure to comply with the applicable statute of limitations is an abuse of discretion, contrary to law, and in excess of defendants’ authority,” Oakland added.

Shuttering Harborside will allegedly cause the city to suffer irreparable harm in the form of the lost tax revenue, patient suffering and increased crime.

“Instead of obtaining medicine from a city-regulated dispensary located in a commercial area with ample
lighting and security, medical patients, including the elderly
and disabled, will have no option but to seek medical cannabis from street level drug dealers,” the complaint states.  ”This will increase crime and divert scarce Oakland Police Department resources from addressing the violent crime, illegal guns, and other public safety crises that are causing the loss of many lives in Oakland.”

Oakland added: “Well-regulated dispensaries provide affordable medical cannabis in a controlled setting, which decreases the market for illegal marijuana.  Closing dispensaries will not reduce the demand for medical cannabis, but will instead create a distribution vacuum that likely will precipitate price increases, crime and street violence.”

City Attorney Barbara Parker said the lawsuit “is about protecting the rights of
legitimate medical patients.”

“I am deeply dismayed that the federal government would seek to deny these rights and deprive thousands of seriously ill Californians of access to safe, affordable and effective medicine,” Parker said in a statement.

The city sued Holder and Haag for estoppel, and asked the court to declare that the civil forfeiture action falls outside the statute of limitations.  The lawsuit applies to the Oakland location only.

Oakland is being represented by Cedric Chao of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.

Chao said that “the federal government has acted beyond its authority by initiating the forfeiture action outside the statute of limitations.”

“Moreover, the government has indicated for many years by its words and actions that so long as dispensaries and medical patients acted consistently with state laws, the dispensaries would be allowed to operate,” Chao said in a statement.  “Oakland has reasonably relied on these assurances, and the government should be prohibited from disrupting Oakland’s medical cannabis program.”

U.S. Attorney Haag’s office did not return a call for comment.

* * * * * * * * *

The suit comes as federal prosecutors have ramped up efforts to shutter dispensaries statewide, targeting those close to schools as well as operations such as Harborside, which are in compliance with local and state laws but in which prosecutors have deemed “superstores.”

Founded in 2006, Harborside now counts 108,000 collective patients and paid $3.5 million in taxes last year, $1.1 million of that to Oakland.  The dispensary is the largest in the nation.   Co-founder Steve DeAngelo, pictured above, worked closely with Oakland officials as they crafted one of the nation’s strictest regulatory models to monitor and tax the industry.

Advocates for medical marijuana said they know of no other instance in which a city has sued federal prosecutors in an attempt to protect a dispensary.

“I would definitely welcome them to the fight,” said Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access. “The symbolism of this is very important.”

Meanwhile, a preliminary federal court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1, Harborside’s DeAngelo said.  He called Oakland’s lawsuit “the first time that any official governmental body has formally challenged the federal government’s attacks on medical cannabis laws.”

“I think the city realizes that Melinda Haag is not only attacking Harborside but attacking the entire system of regulated medical cannabis sales that the city painstakingly developed,” he said.

 
Article courtesy of Chris Marshall and the Courthouse News Service
Images by the Humboldt Sentinel

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in National, State0 Comments

CSU Names New Chancellor

Timothy White to take over system in crisis

 

By Paul Mann
HSU Now

 

The California State University Board of Trustees today named Timothy P. White, chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, as the seventh chancellor to lead the 23 campus CSU system, the largest four-year public higher education system in the country.

“I am humbled to have been chosen to lead the California State University system at such a transformative time,” said White. “As Chancellor, I look forward to engaging with faculty, students, staff, campus presidents and CSU trustees, along with the communities we serve, as we advance this vital system of higher education for California’s future.”

White, 63, has served as UCR Chancellor since 2008 and was among the finalists for the position to succeed Chancellor Charles B. Reed who announced his retirement following a 14-year tenure with the system.

“Tim White’s background and experience reflect the institutional values and mission of the CSU,” said CSU Board Chair Bob Linscheid. “His demonstrated leadership and commitment to student success are the right combination for the university’s future.”

White is the eighth chancellor of UC Riverside, and has led the growth of the campus to almost 21,000 students, a record for the campus that opened in 1954. Shortly after arriving at UCR, he formed a committee of faculty, staff, students and community stakeholders to develop a 10-year strategic plan for the university’s next stage of development. He also furthered UCR’s goal for the establishment of a School of Medicine by hiring its founding dean and securing $100 million in gifts and financing for the initial years of the school’s operation. The school this week received preliminary accreditation to serve students. In addition, he recently announced the opening of the UCR School of Public Policy.

Under White’s leadership, UCR has consistently been rated well in the U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings both in academic quality and diversity. Within the UC system, UCR has proportionally more minority students than any other campus, and more than 53 percent of UCR students receive Pell Grants.

“As a long serving member of the board, we are grateful to appoint a chancellor with Tim White’s commitment to reaching out to underserved students that was initiated by Chancellor Reed,” said CSU Trustee Bill Hauck who led the search committee. “Tim has experienced firsthand the powerful impact of higher education, and has the leadership qualities to guide the system through these fiscally challenging times.”

Prior to serving at UCR, White was president of the University of Idaho from 2004 to 2008. There he established a strategic direction to further the university’s role as the state’s land-grant and flagship research university.

White also served as a dean, provost and executive vice president, and interim president at Oregon State University. He previously held positions as professor and chair of the Department of Human Biodynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, and as professor and chair of the Department of Movement Science and research scientist in the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Michigan.

White is a member of numerous national organizations, and is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. In addition, he has served on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment on Sustainability, the Big West Conference Board of Directors, and the University of California systemwide Working Smarter Initiative and Rebenching Committee.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, White immigrated to Northern California, and is a first-generation college student who has matriculated within every college system in California. After beginning at Diablo Valley Community College, he earned a bachelor’s from Fresno State, a master’s degree from Cal State Hayward (East Bay), and a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. He also spent two years as a post-doctoral scholar in physiology at the University of Michigan before starting his academic career in Ann Arbor. He is internationally recognized for his work in muscle plasticity, injury and aging.

White is expected to start in his new position at the end of December, and will receive an annual salary at the same level as the current chancellor, $421,500 plus a $30,000 supplement from CSU Foundation sources, as well as the standard benefits package for CSU employees.

White and his wife Dr. Karen White have four sons. She has been engaged with UC Riverside as a part-time assistant clinical professor for the Biomedical Sciences program, and as director of Operation Education, a scholarship program that supports veteran students with disabilities.

Posted in Politics, State0 Comments

Brown Signs Internet Phone Deregulation Bill

 

Big Win for ALEC, Transnational Telecom Giants

 

Staff Report
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Despite the best efforts of consumer rights groups and universal Internet access advocates, the Goliath beat the daylights out of David this weekend with the signing of
California Senate Bill 1161.

The bill guarantees a regulation-free future for telecommunications corporations pushing to end the old land-line lifeline in favor of Internet Protocol telephones.

In his signing statement, Governor Jerry Brown (D–Oakland) pointed to the weak power of the California Public Utilities Commission to compile complaints and report them to the Federal Communications Commission and the Legislature as sufficient to keep the telecoms in line.

“VoIP providers will continue to contribute to the State’s universal service programs and provide E-911 access,” Brown stated.”  The bill does not affect the authority of the California Public Utilities Commission regarding the construction and maintenance of facilities and access to utility support structures, including pole attachments.”

SB 1161 was hatched by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a 50-state spanning lobby of many of the world’s largest transnational corporations, including AT&T and Verizon.

It was in their interest that SB 1161 powered through the state legislature this summer, with the support of corporatist Republicans and neoliberal Democrats alike. 

Lobbyists Jim Hawley of TechNet and Kristine Berman of TechAmerica crowed about their victory on their respective websites:

“The Governor’s signature on this legislation will improve California’s worldwide technology leadership by establishing an Internet policy that supports innovation, investment and job creation,” Hawley and Berman stated.  “Continued investment and innovation will bring California consumers more of the products, devices and services like VoIP they want and that are enhancing their lives.”

The motley crew of opponents — including The Utility Reform Network, Communications Workers of America, Media Alliance and local legislators like Assemblymembers Wes Chesbro (D–Arcata) & Jared Huffman (D–San Rafael) and State Senators Noreen Evans (D–Santa Rosa) and Mark Leno (D–San Francisco) — were simply overwhelmed by the lobbying power and campaign cash of ALEC and the telecoms.

“Governor Jerry Brown’s signing message for SB 1161 yesterday indicates that he believes the promises of private industry when their advocates say they will protect consumers, ensure public safety and secure universal access to open internet services,” Access Humboldt executive director Sean McLaughlin stated in a release. 

“Given the history of telecommunications market failure and the lagging status of universal access to open internet in California and across the US, we see a great need for localism, competition and diversity in the communication networks that form our marketplace of ideas,” McLaughlin said.

“These are not trivial goals that industry has failed to meet, in spite
of many past promises, huge subsidies and large profits.  So, we do
not agree with the Governor’s assessment of SB 1161,” he added.

McLaughlin’s warnings were echoed last month in a Wired.com op-ed by Harvard Law School professor Susan Crawford, who blasted the Legislature for caving in on open access concerns in favor of private profiteers fully exploiting public airwaves and spaces.

“Reliable, affordable, high-capacity, and neutral communications services are a vital input to the entire range of California businesses,” Crawford stated.  “But the carriers want to be able to charge everyone for everything, without any oversight, and without any obligation to serve everyone; they’d like to have a two-sided market, in which the communications provider not only charges the consumer for network access but also charges service providers for access to the consumer.  Big companies are fine with this, because they’ll have leverage in these negotiations.  Smaller companies, poorer Californians, startups, and society as a whole will suffer.”

“Like the wildfires that are racing through Northern California, the carriers are sweeping the country with bills like SB 1161, gutting legislative and regulatory authority wherever they can.  Having an unregulated monopoly over a basic input into all economic activity is a great business.  California is just an example of an overall trend.  But it’s a very big and important example.”

The bill’s signature jeopardize parts of the Telecommunications Element under consideration next month by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
as part of its General Plan Update process.

Read on for the full text of Governor Brown’s signing statement:

“Office of the Governor
September 28, 2012

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am signing Senate Bill 1161 that limits California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) regulatory authority of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol (IP) enabled services until January 1, 2020.  This bill encourages the continued growth of these and other innovative services that have become a hallmark of our state.

The existing consumer protections safeguarded by this bill are crucial.

VoIP providers will continue to contribute to the State’s universal service programs and provide E-911 access. The bill preserves enforcement of State and federal civil and criminal laws and local ordinances of general applicability, including consumer protection rules and proscriptions against unfair competition.  The bill does not affect the authority of the California Public Utilities Commission regarding the construction and maintenance of facilities and access to utility support structures, including pole attachments.

Importantly, the bill emphasizes the Commission’s authority to monitor, track and report complaints from VoIP customers to the Federal Communications Commission, and empowers the Commission to report their findings annually to the Legislature.

I know the Commission stands at the ready to be diligent in this effort.  Likewise, I expect VoIP providers to cooperate fully and promptly to resolve consumer complaints brought to the attention of the Commission.

Sincerely,
Edmund G. Brown Jr.”

Posted in Politics, State1 Comment

California Debt Is Much Worse Than You Thought

Crisis Task Force Estimate:

$167 - $335 Billion in the Red

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

When Jerry Brown Brown whisked into the Governor’s Office he gave us the glum news we already knew:  we
were $28 billion in arrears.

Now it turns out the State’s real red ink is far worse than any of us could have known.
The estimate revealed by one blue ribbon commission is, at the very least, shocking.

On Thursday, the State Budget Crisis Task Force released a report estimating that California’s “debt wall” is at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion, much more than previously projected by state officials, the New York Times reported yesterday.

According to the Times, a spokesman for Governor Brown “did not dispute the report but said the governor was making progress in his effort to restore fiscal balance.”

We’re glad he’s making progress, but the Governor didn’t exactly dispute those disturbing Task Force figures, either.

The Task Force was created last year and charged with analyzing the budgets of six states (California, Illinois, New York, Texas, Virginia and New Jersey).  It was founded by Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, and Richard Ravitch, a former New York lieutenant governor, out of “deep fiscal concern for these states receiving insufficient attention in Washington.”

California was chosen by the Task Force because it constitutes the world’s ninth-largest economy and is having more than its share of “intractable fiscal problems.”  The Golden State has also experienced an unusual run of municipal bankruptcies in recent years.

Vallejo, San Bernardino, Mammoth Lakes, and Stockton all filed for bankruptcy protection.  Three of the municipalities suffered under crushing pension obligations.  Stockton, however, is planning a major surprise.  It wants to walk away from the principal and interest owed on one of its bonds.

Analysts are watching California, and especially Stockton, closely.  They’re troubled that should Stockton succeeds, other troubled cities in California and throughout the nation will follow suit.  Some contend that the State of California should be doing more to keep its cities out of bankruptcy and shielding municipal bond investors.

Last year, Brown introduced the ‘Wall of Debt’ concept to encompass various forms of borrowing by the State over the past few years.

According to a Department of Finance report issued in July, the debt wall is $34.2 billion and would drop to $8.9 billion by the end of fiscal year 2015-2016 if voters pass a compromise tax hike plan in November.

The tax hike measure — listed as Proposition 30 on the ballot — would increase the personal income tax by one percentage point for individuals who earn $250,000 annually or couples who earn $500,000 annually, and by two percentage points for individuals who earn $300,000 annually or couples who earn $600,000 annually.  It also would increase the sales tax by a quarter of a cent, among other changes.

State Budget Task Force researchers examined numerous debts that weren’t included in state projections, such as pledges to provide health care benefits and pensions for retired public workers.
They also cited unpaid bills from previous years in the new estimates.

Lo and behold– those figures, California’s true debt, add up to a way significant amount.

According to the Task Force, even if voters pass the compromise tax hike plan — which would provide the state with an additional $50 billion over the next seven years — the state’s debt wall still would exist from somewhere between $167 billion to $335 billion.

That’s a lot of billions.  Like stars in Carl Sagan’s universe, it’s hard to fathom the unfathomable.

The Task Force didn’t provide concrete solutions but suggested two very brief policy recommendations:

It urged the State to ‘rethink‘ how it provides health care and
pension benefits for retired workers.

It also advised that California ‘develop‘ a two-year spending plan
to replace its annual plan.

* * * * * *

That’s it?  Two?  ‘Think’ and ‘Develop’?

There’s a bit more, but in a nutshell, yeah and yup.  It shows that if stupidity got us into this mess, it can get us out.  Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this’, and they didn’t.  They got worse.  Maybe we should be thankful we’re not getting all the government we paid for.

Fortunately California is still running, in spite of it.

 
Here’s a suggestion the Task Force might have made:  When a dog gets a bone, he doesn’t go out and make a down payment on a bigger bone.  He buries the one he’s got.

We can suggest others:  Retire early if you’re a municipal worker having milked it for all it’s worth.  If you’re not so fortunate, make more dough.  You’ll need it.  Buy and rent property.  Good renters are golden.  Buy gold.  It’s shiny, it glimmers, and other people want it.  Go on a diet.

And move.  Out of state.

Hundreds of billions of dollars IS a big deal.  We don’t seem to be able to check debt, so why not legalize it and then tax it out of business?

(The New York Times and Will Rogers contributed to this article)

 

Posted in National, State3 Comments

Northern California’s Fires

Pictures Show the Efforts and Devastation of the Raging Blazes

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Clicking on the pictures will enlarge and enhance their resolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Scotts Fire, above, is west of Scott Valley Road on Cow Mountain, located in steep and rugged terrain 8 miles east of Ukiah.  A total of 4,618 acres have burned with 15% of the area contained.

With 300 residences and 40 outbuildings threatened, an evacuation warning has been issued for Scotts Valley Road from Highway 20 south to Hendricks Road.  A heavy commitment of aircraft, bulldozers, and fire crews will continue to build and strengthen containment lines today protecting residences, BLM lands, and critical communications infrastructure.

The North Pass Fires northeast of Covelo, above, burned 41,983 acres with containment rising to 97%.  In the picture on the right, you can see a very small tanker plane engulfed in the large smoke plume.

 

The Wye Fires in Lake and Colusa Counties near Highway 20, east of Highway 53 and Clearlake Oaks, burned nearly 8,000 acres– but is now extinguished with mop-up operations underway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yolo County Fires, right and belowbroke outside of the small community of Guinda in Yolo County.  They burned 520 acres before coming under control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ponderosa Fire, belowburned 27,800 acres in Shasta and Tehama Counties, two miles east of the town of Manton.  It was 100% contained, but not before it destroyed 52 residences and 81 outbuildings in its path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stafford Fire, right, is 5 miles southeast of Hayfork in Trinity County.

Consuming 4,460 acres with 45% containment, mandatory evacuations and road closures are in effect for certain areas of the region.

1,479 personnel, 126 engines, 37 fire crews, 8 helicopters, 18 bulldozers, and 25 water tenders are battling the stubborn blaze in steep and rugged terrain.

* * * * * * * * *

Our appreciation goes to CalFire Incident, Facebook, and the firefighters.

The crew picture on the left is a good one to click and biggify:  they may be tired and dirty, but they can still smile together.

To note, these are only a few of the fires currently burning in California at this time.

Photo Credits:  CalFire Facebook page and Matthew Henderson

Posted in State0 Comments

Governor Brown Targets Pension Envy

Major Pension Reforms to be Introduced to California Legislature Soon

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

William Dotinga
Courthouse News Service

 

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday unveiled a “sweeping pension reform agreement” he claims will save taxpayers billions of dollars by capping benefits and increasing the retirement age for state workers.

Brown said the agreement with state Democratic leaders will stop abuses and require state employees to pay at least half of their pension costs.

“These reforms make fundamental changes that rein in costs and help to ensure that our public retirement system is sustainable for the long term.  These reforms require sacrifice from public employees and represent a significant step forward,” Brown said.

Brown said that if the Legislature passes the reforms, public retirement benefits would be lower than when he took office during his first go-round as governor in 1975.

Brown said the agreement includes benefit rollbacks for public employees.  It will require all current and future state employees to fund at least 50 percent of their own pensions, something Brown hopes becomes “the norm for all public workers in California,” since the agreement removes state barriers that prevent local governments from increasing employee pension contributions.

Brown’s plan also raises the retirement age for new state workers by two years and allows cities and counties to raise the retirement age of their employees as well.

The governor said the agreement bans abusive practices state workers have used to enhance pension payouts, such “spiking” and “air time.”

Spiking gives employees big raises during their last year of employment to inflate their pensions.

Air time – which allows state employees to pad their retirement benefits by buying service credits – is one of several scandals rocking California’s Parks Department.

“No more spiking, no more air time, no more pensions earned by convicted felons,” Brown said.  “We’re cleaning up a big mess and the agreement reached with legislative leaders today is historic in its far reaching implications.”

Pension reform has been on legislators’ minds this year, particularly since the state’s two main pension funds are underfunded by at least $150 billion.

Democrats seek to appear fiscally responsible as voters prepare to decide the fate of Brown’s tax hikes in November.

If the initiatives fail, another sweeping round of trigger cuts will sting the Golden State again.

It remains to be seen whether the Legislature will send a bill to Brown’s desk before the session ends Friday – especially in light of disapproval from of California’s powerful public employee unions.

“We’re upset that a Democratic legislature and Democratic governor feel obligated to take this out on working men and women in California,” SEIU spokesperson Terry Brennand told KGO-TV Monday.  “That’s going to damage the ability of working men and women to retire in dignity.”

(Article by William Dotinga and courtesy of the Courthouse News Service.  Pictures by the Humboldt Sentinel)

* * * * * * * * *

With municipalities struggling with pension costs overwhelming local budgets, it looks like Governor Brown’s pension reform is on the table a year earlier than he promised.  With the bankruptcies of Stockton, Vallejo, and San Bernardino, the Governor is promptly getting down to the brass tacks of fiscal responsibility.

It’s happening.  Voters in San Jose and San Diego Tuesday overwhelmingly approved public pension reform for their cities.  These results send a clear and unmistakable message to municipalities everywhere failing to meet pension obligations.  If pension reform can pass in major California cities, it can pass anywhere.  Cities and counties across the country will surely  follow suit putting pension reform on their ballots, too.

The subject isn’t so much about unions as it is about finance and cities struggling to remain solvent.  Public unions did put up some resistance to these measures, but they, too, appear resigned to the fact they would pass.  It’s a fiscal reality and quite the pickle we’ve found ourselves in.

San Diego, for example, currently spends 20% of their general fund budget on their retirement fund.  In San Jose, it is 27%.  Clearly, these kinds of obligations are unsustainable.  This means the cities are forced to spend money on pensions badly needed elsewhere.  Looking forward, their financial situations are even direr. Unfunded public pension obligations reach into the billions for both cities.

The reforms?  In San Jose, public employees will now pay more to keep existing pensions or accept more modest benefits.  New hires would get less comprehensive benefits.  The San Diego pension measure freezes pay levels for six years which will lead to lower costs– but can be overridden by a city council vote each year.  New hires get 401k-type plans rather than the current defined benefits packages.  Both plans are noteworthy because they address what was once untouchable:  lowering benefits for existing employees.

It’s not a pretty picture.  When times were good, no one complained.  Now it appears everyone’s leaping on the bandwagon to shrink the State’s pension envy with a cold shower.

The Humboldt Sentinel received from sources the following semi-confidential letter below, signed by the eight mayors of California’s largest cities pleading to the Legislature and Governor for help and fast tracking the issue– lest they, too, become overcome by the rising tide of their unfunded pension obligations. 

Shhh– this is for your eyes only:

Pension Reform Letter

Pension reform has arrived.  Except in Humboldt County.

How will Humboldt County, Eureka, and our other cities handle their pension obligations in their administrative top-heavy pension hierarchy?  Good question.  The figures may surprise you.  No wonder Eureka streets are crumbling while City Hall needed Measure O to pass.

The Sentinel will be having a report on the surprising sums of the city of Eureka soon.  Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Politics, State1 Comment

SB 1161 Amendments Released: “Woefully Inadequate”

Big Business and ALEC Wants Your Internet Access

 

Staff Report
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Senate Bill 1161, an ALEC supported bill in California that would gut State and local regulation of broadband media services using Internet Protocol (IP-enabled), was amended Thursday, August 16, in the California Assembly, Access Humboldt Executive Director Sean McLaughlin said today in a release.

After a vote today on the Assembly floor allowing the amendments to be considered Thursday, a revised version of SB 1161 was released and made available to the public late today.  Amendments to SB 1161 made public are attached below.

Along with County of Humboldt and other local jurisdictions, dozens of consumer advocates and public interest groups across the nation are actively opposed to SB 1161.  Access Humboldt has twice testified in Sacramento in opposition to SB 1161 and has been posting testimony sharing concerns and updates on the web since April 13, 2012.

Following a review of the amendments adopted today, Sean McLaughlin, Executive Director of Access Humboldt and a Knight Media Policy Fellow with New America Foundation said:

“SB 1161 amendments offered today are woefully inadequate – they follow the pattern so far, only accommodating basic legacy protections and propping up outdated regulations.  SB 1161 still fails to address forward looking concerns for public safety, privacy, universal access, and other consumer issues.”

McLaughlin added:

“Measured against our most important policy goal for the State: universal access to open internet, SB 1161 is extremely harmful and will hinder development of community broadband and local media access.

This ALEC sponsored bill, tying the hands of State and local governments, will only benefit private telecommunications providers at the expense of consumers and the public interest. Ultimately, SB 1161 as proposed is very damaging to public safety, health care, education, and other local community interests.”

Access Humboldt recently shared an e-mail from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services to the Assembly Appropriations Committee expressing detailed concerns about the negative and costly impacts of SB 1161 on public safety and emergency response for remote rural communities.

Those public safety concerns have not been addressed in the latest amendments offered.

People who would like to register their concerns about SB 1161 are encouraged to use the Action Alert pages provided by The Utility Reform Network (TURN):

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/746/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=10157

AARP:  https://action.aarp.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2213

National Rural Assembly:  http://www.ruralassembly.org/news/action-alert-sb-1161

 

For more information, please contact Sean McLaughlin at 707-616-2381

~Sean McLaughlin
Knight Media Policy Fellow
New America Foundation

Executive Director
Access Humboldt
P.O. Box 157, Eureka, CA 95502
tel: 707-476-1798
dir: 707-476-2873
fcel: 707-616-2381
e: sean@accesshumboldt.net

Visit our Website:  http://accesshumboldt.net
Follow us on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/accesshumboldt
and Twitter:  http://twitter.com/accesshumboldt

* * * * * * * *

Thank you for the update, Mr. McLaughlin.

We’ve been following the issue, too, as have our readers.  The SB 1161 legislation curbing public access to the Internet is being promoted by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), an industry-led lobbying group writing rules and regulations favoring their corporate sponsor’s interests to legislators– while sidelining citizen input.

 

 

 

Image credit:  Wikipedia public domain images.  ALEC logo covered under Fair Use conditions.
(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in Local, State0 Comments

The Red Ink And Herrings Of Governor Brown’s Budget

Governor’s Tax Hikes and State Excesses Won’t Erase ‘Wall of Debt’

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Governor means business by enacting his tough set of fiscal reforms.  He’s broken Sacramento’s legislative partisan gridlock and delivered the budget on time.  But the ink is still dripping– and curbing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is going to be a tough sell.

The compromise tax hike initiative supported by Governor Jerry Brown won’t raise enough revenue to eliminate California’s whopping $34 billion “wall of debt” in four years, according to a report from the state Department of Finance, the Sacramento Bee reported Monday.

The Bee’s report doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the Golden State.

The Sentinel has been following the State budget and the Governor’s attempts at reigning an out of bounds roller coaster ride back into fiscal balance.

 

Red Ink: Details of the ‘Wall of Debt’

Last year, Brown introduced the ‘wall of debt’ concept to illustrate various forms of borrowing by the state over the past few years.  Think of it as the opposite of Winco’s ‘wall of values.’  It’s bad, very bad, and it ain’t no bargain like two boxes of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese for a buck.

According to the Department of Finance report, the wall of debt currently is at $34.2 billion and would drop to $8.9 billion by the end of fiscal year 2015-2016– that is, if voters pass the compromise tax hike plan in November.  The projection falls short of Brown’s goal to eliminate budget-based borrowing in four years with the approval of the tax hike, the Bee said. 

California’s borrowing from special fund accounts has already reached nearly $4.3 billion, more than five times the amount from June 2008.

 Details of the Compromise Tax Hike Plan

The compromise tax hike plan — developed by Brown and supporters of the “Millionaires Tax” to help balance the budget – would:

  • Increase the personal income tax by one percentage point for individuals who earn $250,000 annually or couples who earn $500,000 annually; and by two percentage points for individuals who earn $300,000 annually or couples who earn $600,000 annually.
  • Extend the income tax increases on wealthy residents from five to seven years.
  • Increase the sales tax by a quarter of a cent.  The sales tax hike would expire in four years.

The combination of taxes would raise an estimated $9 billion over the next fiscal year.

Last month, Brown signed the fiscal year 2012-2013 budget agreement, which factors in presumed revenue coming from the compromise tax hike plan.

 More Red Ink

We still have the Governor’s multi-billion-dollar building proposals for a high speed bullet train ($4.7 billion) and the massive twin water tunnels ($14.7 billion) for the southern portion of the state to contend with.  Together, those two projects will cost nearly $20 billion—and that’s just for starters.

The good news, perhaps to many, is that the Governor has promised he’ll apply a tight tourniquet to the ever-widening costs of public pensions with his serious reforms next year, cutting some of the flow of the State’s hemorrhaging red ink.

 Red Herrings

Bruce Anderson of the Anderson Valley Advertiser brought us the following gem regarding the State Parks fiasco the Sentinel reported on last week. 

You remember the scandalous story:  $54 million dollars was ‘found’ in two hidden funds, causing longtime State Parks Director Ruth Coleman to resign and her chief deputy, Michael Harris, to be fired after the missing money was discovered.

Mr. Anderson noted:

“Manuel Lopez, former deputy director of administrative services for the Department of Parks and Recreation, told the Sacramento Bee that he informed agency Director Ruth Coleman about a $20 million surplus in the Parks and Recreation Fund ‘at least five times over approximately a five-year span.’

“Nonprofit groups and local governments helped raise money and assumed responsibility to keep the 70 state parks open past a July 1 closure deadline.  The attorney general and state finance officials are investigating the scandal.  State lawmakers also are promising oversight hearings and plan to seek an independent audit of the department.  The state Finance Department also is reviewing all the state’s 560 special funds to make sure the actual fund balances match what has been reported to the administration and the state controller.

“State officials said Friday that the department had maintained the unreported money in its accounts for at least 12 years, including the entire time Coleman was director.  She served under three governors but said in her resignation that she was ‘personally appalled’ to learn of the hidden money.”

Right.  Got that.  But hang on, folks.  Our favorite Mendocino Muckraker torments us with yet another one of his irksome pearls here:

NOW IT’S $37 BILLION?  As California State government tries to explain how State Parks misplaced millions, we now learn that the State has no way of accounting for $37 billion in “special funds” squirreled away in some 500 accounts, relying, they say, on an “honor system” to keep track of the money.

No one checks to see that the money reported as being in these accounts actually matches the money on hand.  Only last week it was revealed that State Parks had sequestered $54 million in two special-fund accounts by not reporting them over the last 12 years.

 The Governor’s take on all this hoopla?  Last week he downplayed the scandal, saying it was the first time he’s seen the government get in trouble “for saving money.”

“When somebody comes and says, ‘Hey, guess what, we have some money over here,’ that’s better than saying, ‘Whoops, we don’t have the money,’ Governor Brown said.  “More money is better than less money,” the Governor quipped at a news conference.

Right.  And please let us know when pigs can fly through the smoke and mirrors.

* * * * * * * *
Red ink and red herrings and billion-dollar projects.  We don’t know whether we’re coming or going in terms of revenue.  Money’s flying out the door.  Can it possibly get any worse—or better—for the Golden State?

If we didn’t have California as a case study of fiscal insanity, someone would have to invent it.

Posted in Politics, State1 Comment

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • Furthermore. . .
    Watch the state by state incarcertation rate grow from 1978 to 2012 All four Republican candidates in the North Carolina Senate race were asked on Earth Day if they believed climate change is a proven fact. And all four candidates said 'no. […]
  • How to become a Nobel Prize winner: Eat chocolate
    This story is two years but too self-serving to forgetReuters -  Of all the chocolate research out there, the most unabashed tribute to the "dark gold" has to be a study just published in one of the world's most prestigious medical journals.The higher a country's chocolate consumption, the more Nobel laureates it spawns per capita, accord […]
  • Taxpayers subsidize Walmart and the Walton family by $7.8 billion a year
    AFL- CIO - A new report from Americans for Tax Fairness shows that taxpayers in the United States subsidize Walmart and the Walton family, who owns the majority of Walmart stock and is the richest family in the country, by at least $7.8 billion annually. At the same time, the report shows, taxpayers help pad Walmart and the Walton family's profits.The r […]
  • Yes, the cowboys and the Indians can be friends
    DC Media Group-    [A] campsite by the Cowboy Indian Alliance for a week-long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline began on the National Mall in Washington, DC . . .So far seven tipis standing 20 feet tall have been assembled with one in progress and more to go up tomorrow. Several will be painted with ceremonial tribal designs as the week progresses.Ran […]
  • John Kerry: Secretary of Buffoonery
    Justin Raimando, Anti-War -  Oh, the burden of empire! It weighs so heavily on John Kerry’s shoulders:"Secretary of State John Kerry attested Tuesday to the massively complex challenges Washington faces in Ukraine, Russia, Iran and the Middle East, declaring ‘it was easier’ during the Cold War."In a candid moment during a State Department speech, t […]
  • USAID bribes foreign officials
    Jonathan Turley, Information Clearinghouse -  Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development ) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, inclu […]
  • Supreme Court says all it takes is an anonymous 911 call to abolish 4th Amendment
    Slashdot -  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers are legally allowed to stop and search vehicles based solely on anonymous 911 tips. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority opinion, reasoned that 'a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers' as well as for recording their calls, both of which […]
  • Chances are your vegatable oil is genetically modified
    Mother Jones - Soybeans are the second-largest US crop after corn, covering about a quarter of US farmland. We grow more soybeans than any other country except Brazil. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them inv […]
  • The FBI's illegal mistreatment of American Muslims
    Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake - A lawsuit brought on behalf of four American Muslim men has been filed against the FBI for allegedly punishing them by placing them on the No Fly List when they refused to become informants and spy on American Muslim communities.According to the complaint, the American Muslim men are “among the many innocent people who find the […]
  • Department of Good Stuff: Community Courts
    Center for Court Innovation  - Community courts are neighborhood-focused courts that attempt to harness the power of the justice system to address local problems. They can take many forms, but all focus on creative partnerships and problem solving.. And they test new and aggressive approaches to public safety rather than merely responding to crime after it h […]
  • The phlosophy of donut holes
    Improbable Research - In 2001, professor Achille C. Varzi, of Columbia University, New York, very probably became the first philosopher to author a paper focusing specifically on the ramifications of holes in donuts, as we reported. In 2012 the subject received further attention, this time from professor Stephen Barker and Mark Jago at the philosophy departm […]
  • Pocket paradigms: The Mid East
    The most misleading myth about the Middle East is that an end to violence is a necessary precondition to peace negotiations. An end to violence should rather be one the goals of peace negotiations. Killings emphasize the need for such talks rather than serving as justification for avoiding them. If what goes on in the synagogue doesn't stay in the synag […]
  • Word
    Implicit in the term `national defense' is the notion of defending those values and ideals which set this nation apart -- Justice Potter Stewart, 1967 The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without. -- Dwight Eisenhower […]
  • Today in history
    1932 -- Jim Fixx, author of Complete Book of Running, which kick-started the 1970s jogging craze, lives. He fixated on running until his bum ticker seized up like a rusty chain saw. At age 52, Fixx walks out of house & begins jogging. Goes a short distance when he has a massive coronary: His autopsy reveals one coronary artery 99% clogged, another 80% ob […]
  • From our overstocked archives: The real reason for the war on public education
    One of the stop stories on our pages in the past 24 hours has been School "reform" is about class, not classrooms in which the gentrifying aspects of the war on public education was discussed back in 2010. […]