Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Night Videos

KaapiN">">KaapiN - Taxi Taxi (PART I)
from Megan">">Megan Palero on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Everybody">">Everybody In: Episode 5 // LA FEMME
from Monster">">Monster Children on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Charles">">Charles Bukowski. Uncensored.
from Quoted">Quoted> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> TALISCO">">TALISCO - Your Wish
from zack">">zack spiger on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> The">">The Most Wanted Man in the World: Behind the Scenes with Edward Snowden
from WIRED">WIRED> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Skateboarding">">Skateboarding Time Collapse: Shot with the Lumia 930
from Microsoft">Microsoft> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Citius">">Citius, Altius, Fortius
from Felix">">Felix Deimann on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> SHOWstudio">">SHOWstudio: Evening In Space - Daphne Guinness / David LaChapelle / Tony Visconti
from SHOWstudio">SHOWstudio> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> 
Creature Feature: Golden Sweet from CollectiveCreature on Vimeo.

Millenials/Silicon Valley Tech Professionals for Liberty

The Culture of Police Harassment in Ferguson, MO.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons

The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons

The department is part of a federal program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S. 
AP/Jeff Roberson

According to Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency, the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program called 1033, in which the Department of Defense distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S. 
That surplus military equipment doesn't just mean small items like pistols or automatic rifles; towns like Ferguson could become owners of heavy armored vehicles, including the MRAPs used in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"In 2013 alone, $449,309,003.71 worth of property was transferred to law enforcement," the agency's website states.
All in all, it's meant armored vehicles rolling down streets in Ferguson and police officers armed with short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters hovering near the citizens they're meant to protect. 
Unnecessary? Absolutely, says Washington Post reporter and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop Radley Balko, who told NBC's Chris Hayes the following:
The militarization itself is part of a larger trend... That is a willingness or a policy among domestic police in the United States of using more force more often for increasingly, you know, petty offenses.
It is a mentality that sees the people they are supposed to be serving not as citizens with rights but as potential threats. If you look at the racial makeup of Ferguson, Missouri, it is about 67 percent black. 52 of the 55 police officers at the Ferguson police department are white.

The police militarization is unsettling to many in Ferguson, a town that, since the events of Saturday that saw a police officer shoot and kill 18-year-old Michael Brown, has seen massive protests and increased police presence in response, as well as an FAA ban on low-flying aircraft—treatment that undoubtedly transforms a Midwest town of 21,000 into a what looks just like a war zone.

Even Portland, can't stop evictions of low income renters with "Smart Growth" Policies when they upzone.

Editor's Note: This is the type of "densification" that the Board of Supervisors and Plan Bay Area wants to do in Marin.  Do they expect we will experience different economic pressures and people will keep rents low? Do they think renters will not be evicted from developers seeking a quick profit?  The massive urbanization of Marin is a developer's dream. We will stop it. We will save Marin Again!

Affordable housing in Portland: No recourse for renters losing cheap apartments to infill development

joe clement.jpg
Joe Clement, 27, wants Portlanders to have an open, honest discussion about the city's role in protecting affordable housing and renters' rights. (Melissa Binder/The Oregonian)
Melissa Binder | By Melissa Binder | The Oregonian Email the author
on March 27, 2014 at 7:31 AM, updated March 27, 2014 at 8:12 PM
For 15 years Linnette Horrell watched Sellwood change.
Coffee shops cropped up, a library was built, New Seasons moved in, and housing prices increased. Developers purchased old homes, demolished them, and built new ones.
Until recently Horrell’s apartment building was an anomaly: Low month-to-month rent that rarely rose in a close-in, desirable neighborhood. Within the last year, however, the building has become representative of two major issues facing the broader Portland area: Infill development and the loss of affordable housing.
lambert apartment.jpg1208 S.E. Lambert St.
Horrell lived at 1208 S.E. Lambert St., a drab beige 1905 house divided into five rental units. She and other rentersmpaid less than $600 a month for one-bedroom apartments. The house has a large front porch, but no seating. The backyard is plotted with the tenants’ gardens.

Horrell suspects rent stayed low because the property managers, who did not respond to a request for comment, were familiar with their tenants.

“They were very hands-on managers,” she said. “They knew you, they knew your personality, they knew your living style.”

The property sold for $600,000 last June to Dilusso Homes, and in February the city approved the developer’s proposal to split it into four lots with four houses. The land beneath the house totals 10,000 square feet and is zoned as R2.5, which means it can be broken into separate lots as small as 2,500 square feet.
The new lots will be only 25 feet wide on a block with lots twice as large. Regardless of their design, the new homes are likely to be skinny compared to the surrounding neighborhood. Neighbors fought the lot split on the basis of potential tree loss and traffic hazards but failed to block the changes.
Dilusso Homes has not responded to questions, despite initially agreeing to do so.

Tenants received 60-day notices to move out Saturday. Horrell had already moved, figuring eviction was inevitable.
“It took me a long time to come to terms with leaving,” she said. “I had never lived anywhere but Southeast in Portland. In Sellwood you had this sense of living in a small community, and that was hard to give up.”

Another tenant, Joe Clement, has held out. The 27-year-old said he loves the apartment, but sees how others might view it as “kind of a dump.” There are no laundry facilities in the building, and the brown shag carpet likely dates to the 1970s.
Clement and neighbor Noah Jenkins, who also hasn’t left yet, said they’re frustrated by rising rents citywide and the ongoing displacement of poorer people and families to the city’s fringe.

“It's a positive thing to have people from all different strata living amongst each other,” said Jenkins, 41. 

The urban core is increasingly becoming a “playground” for the well educated and well off, while the fringes of Portland are almost indistinguishable from neglected areas of other cities, said Jonathan Ostar, executive director of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, a non-profit that advocates for low-income communities in Portland.
rent by neighborhood graphic.jpg
“We’ve seen not just growing income inequality, but a tale of two cities,” he said.
People with low income are ideal urban dwellers, Jenkins said, because many don’t have cars, which means they use public transportation and shop close to home. Pushing low-income people out of inner Portland pushes them away from the services they depend on.
Displacement isn’t a problem unique to Portland. What is more unique to the City of Roses, Ostar said, is a culture that claims to value equality and fairness.

“People are attracted to Portland by a feeling of openness and genuineness,” he said. “It's not the fair, equitable, livable place that we sometimes pretend it is.”

Clement, 27, sees his impending eviction as an opportunity to raise big questions about renters’ rights.

The eviction of low-income tenants is “invisible in a lot of ways,” he said, because it happens on a case-by-case basis. Landlords raise rent, developers level old properties, and nobody outside the immediate area talks about it.

"It happens under the cloak of 'business as usual,’” he said.

Justin Buri, interim director of the Community Alliance of Tenants, said some cities require buyouts when a property owner makes tenants move for redevelopment. A buyout policy might not stop redevelopment, he said, but the money would at least help the tenants cover their moving costs.

Jenkins and Clement said they wish there was legal recourse to fight the razing of their home. Commissioner Amanda Fritz confirmed the absence of options in an email to Clement.

“Unfortunately, the State of Oregon forbids rent control, and values land ownership rights over tenants’ rights,” Fritz told Clement in an email. “There is no way for me to block the demolition permit. I wish I could give you better news.”

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the housing bureau, is working on two ideas he hopes will curb displacement and the loss of affordable housing.

The first, he said, is to offer a floor area ratio bonus as an incentive to include affordable units in new rental development. Under such a bonus program, developers would be allowed to construct larger buildings than the zoning code allows if they include affordable units. He said he hopes to present the idea to the City Council within six months.

The second idea is trickier, he said, but might be more effective at preventing displacement. He’d like to see half of all units in any project in which the city has invested money be reserved for residents who already live in the neighborhood.
Other city efforts
Commissioner Dan Saltzman has requested $3 million in general funds to invest in affordable housing near good schools and transportation. The housing bureau would prioritize acquiring and rehabilitating existing housing rather than building new units, he said, because doing so is more cost effective.
The housing bureau also has $10.3 million in available funds for new construction and rehabilitation projects. The bureau will announce winning projects in June.
“I’ve also been having conversations with private developers, just to make sure… they’re familiar with the incentive programs we already offer,” he said.

The city is limited in its efforts to preserve and provide housing affordable for those living on 60 to 80 percent of the median income, much less those living on even more finite resources. According to the federal government, the 2014 median income in the Portland area is $48,580 for an individual. For a family of four it is $69,400.

Within most urban renewal areas, Portland designates an average minimum of 30 percent of government spending go to affordable housing. Urban renewal districts are areas in which the city can use tax increment financing to stimulate economic growth or pay for physical improvements.

But Sellwood doesn’t benefit from that policy, and neither does roughly 90 percent of Portland.

Oregon is reportedly one of only two states that bans mandatory inclusionary zoning, which further limits the city’s power to maintain a mix of housing options. The policy allows local governments to set rules requiring developers to build affordable units in larger projects.

That’s an issue Ostar, from OPAL, cares deeply about. Inclusionary zoning isn’t a “magic bullet,” he said, but it is the most effective anti-displacement tool.
(READ: Why the lobbyist behind the inclusionary zoning ban still thinks it’s a good idea)

Neither inclusionary zoning nor one of Saltzman’s ideas would likely help Clement, Jenkins and other renters at 1208 S.E. Lambert St. Their situation is a reminder that infill -- or in this case, what planners sometimes refer to as “refill” -- and affordable housing are intertwined. But proactive policies could help tenants in their position find other low-rent apartments in close-in neighborhoods.

Jenkins said he and his wife, Lora, might consider purchasing a house. If a decent apartment is going to cost roughly $1,200 a month, he said, he might as well pay a mortgage.

Horrell moved to Bethany, an unincorporated area of Washington County north of Beaverton. Even so far out, the 66-year-old pays twice as much for rent as she paid in Sellwood. She misses the urban feel of her old neighborhood, and sometimes spends an hour getting home from her job downtown via light rail and bus. But ultimately, she’s happy. She felt stuck in Sellwood, and impending eviction forced her to make changes. She’s closer to her daughter and lives in a much nicer unit.

She hopes the other tenants are as fortunate, she said. Change isn’t always welcome, but sometimes it’s for the best.
-- Melissa Binder

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Full Moon over Marin

Full Moon Pacific Blanket - SF Bay from Gary Yost on Vimeo.

The Bay Area is famous for its dense fog, and when you're in it the fog is cold and grey. But there's another side to the fog and the only way to see what happens when it fully comes in and blankets the SF Bay Area at night is to be above it. Because Mt. Tam is closed to everyone but rangers and fire lookout volunteers after sunset, very few people have ever seen the majestically mysterious vapors of the Pacific ocean as it flows in to completely cover the Bay. What starts as a partial blanket quickly rushes in to fill the gaps and by 1am, the lights of the cities below eventually become completely smothered. Because this specific night (8/9/2014) was a 96% full moon, the top of the fog and the slopes of Mt. Tam were fully illuminated by silvery-blue light and the only traces of humanity left were aeronautical... the lights at the summit of Mt. Diablo, the FAA radome on Tam's West Peak, and the jets that are guided by that radome's radar safely through the fog.
music: "Tsunami" (Die Welle) by RĂ¼diger Oppermann (

Local photographer Gary Yost posts another nature poem from his perch high atop Mt. Tam fire observatory.  What a wondrous place Marin!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dick Spotswood: Housing 'density bonus' can make numbers misleading

Dick Spotswood: Housing 'density bonus' can make numbers misleading

Marin Independent Journal
Posted:   08/12/2014 12:29:56 PM PDT
One source of the controversy surrounding Fairfax's just-repealed ordinance that would have facilitated construction of 124 new housing units in the Ross Valley community, is that when it comes to Bay Area planning, 124 doesn't mean 124.

Thanks to California laws mandating housing "density bonuses," when certain criteria are met, 124 can really mean something significantly higher than the number of residential units contained in any particular zoning ordinance's text.

The confusion associated with housing density bonuses inevitably fuels public distrust of government. The state Legislature and its regional minions, including the Association of Bay Area Governments, invented and then adopted upzoning bonuses that automatically increase density, effectively overriding local planning.

Once zoning is established or project approval is granted, there is a "bonus" of an extra 25 percent of units for developers who designate at least 20 percent of the projected units for lower-income residents. An additional 10 percent is granted for very-low-income apartments and 50 percent more for senior-allocated housing.

Incentives are fine, but the number of units assigned after bonuses are calculated are the numbers that need to be disclosed in black letters when zoning is set or specific plans considered. 
In their booklet "Density Through Affordability," the prominent law firm of Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann and Girard advises potential clients, "This ability to force the locality to modify its normal development standards is sometimes the most compelling reason for the developer to structure a project to qualify for the density bonus."
Real estate lawyers understand that developer profitability is all about density and that state-mandated bonuses equal increased density. They know going in what they can get. It's time the public is supplied the same information in an easy-to-understand fashion well before zoning regulations or housing developments are approved.

Editors Note:  It is even worse than this.  The Community development department counts under counts smaller units and studios as "less than a full unit.  Therefore the development that has 82 units like Marinwood Village may actually build up to 164 studio apartments PLUS a density bonus of 32 units for a total of 196 units!   Funny thing, these people have cars, need government services just like the rest of us but the non profit developer can AVOID the majority of taxes for 55 years!  

Paramilitary Police Are Changing Law Enforcement in the Suburbs

Paramilitary Police Are Changing Law Enforcement in the Suburbs

SWAT teams, riot gear, armored vehicles, and other super-sized police equipment and tactics are spreading into smaller spaces and conflicts.
Police in riot gear respond to demonstrators protesting at the McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, in May. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Of the many tragic images to emerge from Ferguson, Missouri, over the weekend, one of the most disturbing—and increasingly common—was the sight of a military vehicle patrolling suburban streets. Protesters outraged by the police killing of 18-year-old Ferguson resident Michael Brown were met bypolice in riot gear, police carrying assault rifles, and police aboard a LENCO BearCat, a type of military armored vehicle.

According to a public information officer with the St. Louis County Police Department, the county dispatched two armored vehicles on Saturday in response to "unrest." Yet it was not until Sunday that some grieving community members answered perceived injustice with violence, looting about a dozen shops. As of Saturday, when the BearCat took to the streets of Ferguson (population 21,000), protesters were assembling peacefully.

St. Louis County is just one of the many municipalities in the U.S. that now commands access to military equipment meant for war. The paramilitarization of suburban police forces, or the suburbanization of paramilitary police forces, adds another question to those lingering over Brown's tragic death: Did the police response only make matters worse?

"There isn't a great amount of tracking on all the military equipment going out in the U.S.," says Samuel Bieler, a research associate with the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. "But you can definitely see evidence of militarization of the police in the suburbs. You can find examples basically anywhere."

While the use of SWAT teams generally came to prominence in the 1970s as an answer to urban unrest (and as a form of police brutality), increasingly, the paramilitary tactics and equipment adopted by law-enforcement agencies are spreading beyond the cities to suburban areas and rural counties.
For example, the Indianapolis Star recently compiled a database of the equipment acquired by Indiana city and county law-enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, which parcels out surplus Department of Defense equipment. Among the findings: Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which are armored vehicles designed to withstand improvised explosive device attacks, were dispersed to eight different municipalities, the smallest being Pulaski County, population 13,402.

Despite the fact that a Department of Homeland Security report once listedmore potential terrorist targets in Indiana than New York or California, the state has never been hit by a terrorist attack, much less an assault involving IEDs. The MRAP vehicles amount to only a small fraction of the $45 million in materiel that Indiana has acquired from the Pentagon since 2010. While such detailed findings aren't available for every state, The New York Times reports that 432 MRAP vehicles have been distributed to law-enforcement agencies across the states, in addition to 435 other armored vehicles, 533 planes and helicopters, and nearly 100,000 machine guns.

The police department of St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis, possesses an MRAP vehicle. The Metropolitan Police Department for the city of St. Louis also owns two armored military vehicles, according to a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department, which has acquired several military vehicles.

"The records kept on this equipment aren’t great," Bieler says. "It's certainly something that doesn't have the oversight you'd expect given the nature of the military equipment being distributed."

In a lot of cases, these advanced armored military vehicles are only ever used for parade pieces, Bieler says. That's in stark contrast to SWAT deployments. Peter Kraska, a professor and senior research fellow at Eastern Kentucky University, reports that between 1980 and 2000, police paramilitary teams registered a 1,400 percent increase in deploymentsEarlier this year, the ACLU released a report showing that 79 percent of the SWAT team deployments reviewed by the organization executed search warrants on suspects' homes. In Maryland, the only state that tracks SWAT deployments, search warrants make up almost 90 percent of these actions.
A 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Justice tracks the militarization of police back to the 1920s, when law-enforcement agencies adopted a more regimented martial style. With the explosion of SWAT deployments since 1980, though, the DOJ frets that the "growing militarization of U.S. policing may be threatening community policing." It is only in more recent years, though, that police militarization has become so widespread.
Nowhere was that clearer this weekend than in Ferguson, where protesters demonstrated with their hands raised in surrender in the vicinity of police—a disgraceful sight in America. At a broader level, there is no research that tracks how police using military tactics and equipment affects civilian safety (or police safety, for that matter).
"How are these tactics actually working? Are they making citizens and police safer or are they increasing adverse outcomes?" Bieler asks. "There are some tactical case studies about riots, but that doesn’t cover what we’re seeing in police using SWAT teams for search warrants or riot gear for protests."

Right now, the people of Ferguson need answers to more pressing questions about Brown's death. But one question for Ferguson applies to law-enforcement agencies everywhere: Why did police deploy an armored military vehicle to a protest? What are the legitimate uses for an MRAP vehicle in a community that has never experienced terrorism?

"You can definitely see that, even in a small town like Ferguson, it says something important about the degree that militarization is now accessible to every law-enforcement agency," Bieler says. "Agencies that aren't in major metro areas are getting access to this military gear."

It is far from clear that a weapon of war is a tolerable answer to civil unrest even under the worst circumstances. Ferguson is hardly the only community where assemblies protected by the First Amendment have been met by paramilitary force. The police reaction following Brown's death—the latest in the hopeless litany of young black men killed by authorities—shows how far the militarization of law enforcement is spreading.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How Loud will the Smart Train be?

Rolling Blunder: Why Light Rail is REALLY favored by Planners and Policitians.

Streetcars and urban renewal

Rolling blunder

Federal subsidies have inspired some silly transit projects

A streetcar named desire
LATE and over budget, streetcars are finally rumbling to life in Washington, DC. The long-awaited service, which has cost at least $135m to build, spans 2.4 miles along H Street in the city’s north-east. But it is not taking passengers yet. Operators are still learning how to drive the electric trains, which may come into service by the end of the year. In the meantime, locals can hop on the bus: plenty of them already ply this route, and often at a faster clip.
Most American cities paved over their streetcar tracks decades ago, deeming the services slow, rickety and inconvenient. Commuters have long preferred cars and buses. But streetcars—sometimes known as trolleys or trams—are making a comeback. Services are rolling out in at least 16 American cities, with dozens more in the works. Even bankrupt Detroit has begun work on a three-mile line that is expected to cost $137m.
Fans say streetcars create jobs and spark urban investment. Developers like them because they run on fixed tracks, which means official commitment to a route is locked in. Boosters point to Portland, Oregon, which unveiled America’s first streetcar line with modern vehicles in 2001. One study found that the city’s westside line attracted new business and housing valued at more than 24 times its construction cost. Plans in Atlanta and Tucson have similarly generated hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment and raised property values. The District’s H Street neighbourhood has been moving upmarket for years, but some credit the promise of a streetcar with accelerating development.
Others are more sceptical. The relationship between streetcars and development is not clear, say researchers funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In cities where streetcars have led to urban renewal, they are part of larger, heavily subsidised development plans, with changes in zoning, improvements to streets and other upgrades. And while streetcars are cheaper than other rail projects, they are still costly to build and maintain. Operating expenses are more than twice those for buses, according to data from the FTA, and capital costs are hefty. Tucson’s project, for example, cost nearly $200m and opened years late, in part because the city had to clear utilities from under the tracks, install overhead electrical connections and repave much of the four-mile route.
All this investment might make some sense if streetcars offered an efficient way to move people around. But here, too, the evidence is flimsy. Unlike European trams, which often cover long stretches in independent lanes, American streetcars tend to span walkable distances and share the road with other vehicles. This means they inch along with traffic, often at less than 12 miles per hour, on tracks that make it impossible to navigate busy streets or ride around obstacles. Indeed, their slow speeds and frequent stops mean they often cause more congestion. A bus route could move up to five times more people an hour, says Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute, a think-tank.
If streetcars are so slow and costly, why are there suddenly so many? Because federal subsidies have encouraged them. Under Barack Obama the Department of Transportation has made grants of up to $75m available to “small” projects that promise to revitalise urban areas and cut greenhouse-gas emissions. They need not be cost-effective in the conventional sense if they make a place more liveable or offer other vague benefits.
America’s streetcar revival is gobbling up funds that might otherwise go towards cheaper, nimbler forms of public transport, such as buses. This is not only wasteful, but tends to favour better-off riders, such as tourists and shoppers. Poorer residents are mainly served by buses, if at all, says Daniel Chatman of the University of California, Berkeley, who studies regional planning. “The economics of many light-rail and streetcar projects is abysmal,” he adds.
Well-designed bus routes can spur development, too, and at far lower cost, says Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, another think-tank, Cleveland’s rapid-bus service has attracted $5.8 billion in private investment along its 6.8-mile route. It was built in 2008 for around $50m—just a third of the cost of the District’s streetcar.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marin has Highest Property Taxes in the State.

Marin frontrunner for highest property taxes in California


Single-family homeowners in Marin County pay the highest property taxes in the state, according to an analysis by a national online real estate company.
Zillow, a Web-based real estate marketplace, reported last week that an analysis of 50,000 single-family properties in Marin showed homeowners paid an average of $8,434 in property taxes in 2012. Zillow spokeswoman Camille Salama said the company has been calculating this figure for counties across the nation.

"At the property level, we record the amount of taxes paid, the home value, and the ratio of the two, which equals the tax rate. Within a county, we averaged all three of those fields to compute the average amount of property taxes paid on a single-family home, the average home value of homes in the sample, and the average tax rate of those homes," Salama said in an email.

According to Zillow's analysis, single-family homeowners in Santa Clara County ranked second and paid $7,496 in property taxes in 2012, followed by San Mateo County with $6,901 in property taxes and San Francisco County with $5,776 in annual property taxes.
But Richard Benson, Marin County assessor, said Marin wasn't at the top of the list when he divided Zillow's annual tax figures by the state Board of Equalization's average assessed value per parcel figure for single-family homes, which is $657,424. When he did this, Santa Clara County had the highest average tax rate per parcel. Marin came in third after Alameda County.

"If we were to make the assumption that Zillow's numbers could be correlated to the state Board of Equalization's, there's a little bit of uncertainty whether Marin truly ranks first," Benson said. 
His calculations show Santa Clara has a tax ratio of 0.014, followed by Alameda with 0.0137 and Marin with a 0.0128 tax ratio. He said the ratios are nestled together in the same category.

"The rates aren't all that dramatically different," Benson said.

While all California homeowners pay 1 percent of their homes' assessed value as the basic property tax, rates grow when there are additional taxes that have been voted into existence by taxpayers, such as school, library and hospital bonds. These additional taxes vary in Marin from Novato to Sausalito.

San Rafael resident Joe Salama, a Marin United Taxpayers Association board member, said it's not a shock Marin homeowners pay some of the highest property taxes in the state.
"It's not surprising given the level of what I understand to be inefficient spending of taxpayers' money," he said. "It's upsetting."

San Anselmo resident Nancy McCarthy, MUTA secretary, said many voters don't understand the consequences of approving additional property tax measures.

"When they put out these bond issues on the ballot, they do not tell the taxpayers what the total amount will be to repay the bond," McCarthy said. "It's really deceiving to not let people understand the full extent of the price of that bond."

She said every ballot should have a list of the property taxes voters are already paying for, so people have an idea of the financial impact on property owners.
Benson said the amount of money Marin homeowners pay in property tax is less driven by the actual tax rate and more driven by the value of the real estate. Marin has the most expensive real estate in the state, with an average assessed value per parcel of $657,424 for single-family homes.

"We're a small county. Most of our real estate is open space and we have limited growth. We have high-value real estate," Benson said. "That's what's driving it."
San Mateo has the second-highest average assessed value per parcel for single-family homes at $603,166. Santa Clara comes in third at $536,537 and San Francisco takes fourth place at $522,119.

Contact Megan Hansen via email at or via Twitter at Follow her blog at
Highest California Property taxes by County in 2012:
Marin: $8,434
Santa Clara: $7,496
San Mateo: $6,901
San Francisco: $5,024

— Source: Zillow

Making Math Education Even Worse. Berkeley Math Professor Explains

Making Math Education Even Worse

American students are already struggling against the competition. The Common Core won't help them succeed.

Aug. 5, 2014 8:01 p.m. ET
I first encountered the Common Core State Standards last fall, when my grandson started sixth grade in a public middle school here in Berkeley, Calif. This was the first year that the Berkeley school district began to implement the standards, and I had heard that a considerable amount of money had been given to states for implementing them. As a mathematician I was intrigued, thinking that there must be something really special about the Common Core. Otherwise, why not adopt the curriculum and the excellent textbooks of highly achieving countries in math instead of putting millions of dollars into creating something new?
Reading about the new math standards—outlining what students should be able to learn and understand by each grade—I found hardly any academic mathematicians who could say the standards were higher than the old California standards, which were among the nation's best. I learned that at the 2010 annual conference of mathematics societies, Bill McCallum, a leading writer of Common Core math standards, said that the new standards "would not be too high" in comparison with other nations where math education excels. Jason Zimba, another lead writer of the mathematics standards, told the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the new standards wouldn't prepare students for colleges to which "most parents aspire" to send their children.
Martin Kozlowski
I also read that the Common Core offers "fewer standards" but "deeper" and "more rigorous" understanding of math. That there were "fewer standards" became obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics—for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry—were taken out and many were moved to higher grades.
As a result, the Common Core standards were several years behind the old standards, especially in higher grades. It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.
It remained to be seen whether the Common Core was "deeper" and "more rigorous." The Berkeley school district's curriculum for sixth-grade math was an exact copy of the Common Core State Standards for the grade. The teacher in my grandson's class went through special Common Core training courses.
As his assigned homework and tests indicate, when teaching fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6 divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the teacher followed the instructions: "Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient . . ."
Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?
This requirement of visual models and creating stories is all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn't draw anything loses points.
Here are some more examples of the Common Core's convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: "draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression."
This model-drawing mania went on in my grandson's class for the entire year, leaving no time to cover geometry and other important topics. While model drawing might occasionally be useful, mathematics is not about visual models and "real world" stories. It became clear to me that the Common Core's "deeper" and "more rigorous" standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the actual content taught was primitive.

Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are "internationally benchmarked." They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.
For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.
The teaching of math in many schools needs improvement. Yet the enormous amount of money invested in Common Core—$15.8 billion nationally, according to a 2012 estimate by the Pioneer Institute—could have a better outcome. It could have been used instead to address the real problems in education, such as helping teachers to teach better, raising the performance standards in schools and making learning more challenging.
Ms. Ratner is professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. She was awarded the international Ostrowski Prize in 1993 and received the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences, of which she is a member, in 1994.