Friday, January 9, 2015

On Militarization of the Police/ The Root of Police Militarization/ Pentagon Cop Aid hits Snags


Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.


From: Chief Z. Z. Lawless, Mumsdorf Police Department, Mumsdorf

To: “Gifts for the Good Guys,” c/o the Pentagon

My men and I sincerely appreciated the overnight railway-flatcar delivery of the XX-B Annihilator Halftrack Urban Ambassador, which is already earning its keep. Thanks to its jumbo rubber shells and its six-hundred-per-second firing capacity, those local moms are going to think twice before they try organizing a march to protest school-lunch cuts. However, I have one question: Our XX-B is out of fuel and nobody in the department can find the gas cap. Help!


From: Gus Lard, Jr., Commander-in-Chief, Finksville Metropolitan Volunteer Fire Brigade

To: “Gifts for the Good Guys,” c/o the Pentagon

The instruction manual that came with the UT-777 Barbarian helicopter you sent appears to be printed in Chinese (next time in English, please, and no MSG!), so we’re having trouble figuring out the recommended effective height for dropping napalm bombs on the public-housing complex without torching the greens of the nearby golf and country club.

Can you lend a hand?


From: V. Vern Cudgelson, Director of Public Works and Law Enforcement, Hyena County

To: “Gifts for the Good Guys,” c/o the Pentagon

Our department’s first outing aboard the M333 Kaboom all-terrain defensive heavy tank you so kindly gave us was going great—pedestrians scattered like chickens as we traversed Main Street, rotating the unit’s suite of cannons for range-finding purposes—until we hit a glitch. My men hadn’t realized that Main Street was being repaved that day. After locking down for half an hour to set up and launch the department drone, pursuant to pursuing a suspected no-parking agitator, our crew returned to find that the asphalt had hardened and the twenty-three-ton Kaboom was stuck, completely immobilized.

Could someone at the Pentagon e-mail us a requisition-request form for the Marine Corps’s biggest crane? The M333 Kaboom is blocking traffic all the way past the Route 632 intersection.


From: Buster Mashfoot, Chief Sergeant, Pankster City Bureau of Citizen Surveillance, Pankster City

To: “Gifts for the Good Guys,” c/o the Pentagon

Me and my deputy, cousin Roy, are pleased to report complete success in uncrating the A-498-Class Mayhem Jr. automatic self-propelled semi-mobile peace-delivery system that was recently delivered by an Air Force cargo plane to this bureau. A hearty thanks to the “Gifts for the Good Guys” Law-Enforcement Self-Defense Program.

The accompanying instructional CD classifies this as a two-man item, but we reckon it needs a crew of three: one to man the laser direction indicator, one to control the computer readouts, and one to operate it. And our department’s 2014-15 budget has no room for hiring a third officer.

Also, although it was obvious right away that this item is a breathtaking technological advance, can you please inform us exactly what it is for? Roy thinks it’s something to do with intercepting Greenpeace smoke signals. If you could send a diagram, a certified trainer, and that “third man” to help us get the thing moving, it would be much appreciated.


From: Arnie Dunceforth, Acting Chief Pro Tem, Department of Human Control, Whackem Center

To: “Gifts for the Good Guys,” c/o the Pentagon

Our department hereby acknowledges receipt of five hundred fifty-litre cannisters of XXXX Lungbuster troublemaker-dispersion vapor. I am writing in place of our chief, who, in the name of speed, removed the lid of one cannister with a crowbar. So, does the Pentagon by any chance stock pairs of human lungs? If so, please forward to the Department of Human Control, Whackem Center, stamped “RUSH.”


From: Sergeant Rocco Smith, Admiral of the Silt City Regional Marine Armada, Town of Silt City

To: “Gifts for the Good Guys,” c/o the Pentagon

Thanks for the G.F.G.G. night airdrop. Question: Is the NX-900 King Crocodile Amphibious Water-Rescue and Ground-Attack Vehicle seaworthy? Reason I ask: the skipper barely escaped with his life when the King Crocodile gurgled and sank as soon as he entered deep water in our local swimming hole while pursuing semi-nude bathers. A design flaw, perhaps? Also, if we manage to locate a licensed plumber with scuba gear who can effect repairs, might the Pentagon pick up the bill? ♦

Bruce McCall is a satirical writer and artist who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1980.

Redevelopment 2.0 reviving Crony Capitalism


California Democrats are reviving crony capitalist agencies
SACRAMENTO — The same Jerry Brown who ended California’s controversial redevelopment agencies in 2011 is now considering legislation that would bring back something similar, but arguably with fewer restrictions on eminent-domain abuse and debt spending.
Redevelopment agencies sprung from the state’s 1940s-era urban-renewal law — designed to help local officials clean up blighted inner cities. But they morphed into a financing tool by which officials could clear away homes and businesses and float bonds that help developers build tax-generating shopping centers sought by city officials.
Redevelopment died in California — not because of official concern about the abuse of eminent domain, but because Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature needed a source of funds to balance the budget. These agencies diverted 12 percent of the general-fund budget from traditional public services through a mechanism known as Tax Increment Financing, which sent property-tax growth to the redevelopment agencies.
The League of California Cities and Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, have been pushing measures that would bring back redevelopment in some form, but without the tax-increment financing that let localities unilaterally grab other agencies’ tax dollars.
Brown has vetoed past measures, but reportedly is supportive of SB 628, which was one of those last-minute gut-and-amend bills that didn’t go thorough vetting before passage. It passed by one vote in the Senate, with that coming from Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, whose wife has worked for one of the bill’s prominent supporters (City of Industry’s Ed Roski, who is pursing an NFL stadium there).
Redevelopment revivalists have promoted the use of Infrastructure Financing Districts as a partial replacement for the defunct agencies. This bill would create something called Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts that puts those districts on steroids.
“It’s Redevelopment 2.0 without any protections whatsoever,” said David Wolfe, legislative director of the conservative Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. In a letter to the Legislature, Wolfe noted that under the old redevelopment law, a city would have to determine that there is blight before creating a project area.
“While in our view, this finding of blight was never comprehensive enough … at least some guidelines were in place,” he added. “No findings of blight need to be made in the EIFD process under SB 628. This makes it far too easy to use eminent domain to abuse taxpayers by taking private property for a private use.”
The old blight findings often were a joke. But now as soon as these districts are approved, there are even fewer restrictions on what kind of projects can be funded. These new infrastructure districts are pitched as a way to help cities upgrade roads, sewer pipes and levees. But nearly anything will be OK including “sustainable communities strategies,” “brownfields restoration,” “watershed land” and commercial property uses. Redevelopment offered wide latitude to publicly fund private development projects — and this bill could make it even wider.
Compared to standard infrastructure finance districts, these enhanced ones would lower the threshold from two-thirds voter approval to 55 percent approval. They would expand the bond-repayment time from 30 years to 45 years. The bill specifically allows the funding of these facilities for private benefit.
Some groups that represent low-income residents are fearful of the bill will give city officials more power to remove existing residents from downtown areas — and without requiring that they set aside money for low-income housing.
My first taste of California’s “redevelopment” law came in the late 1990s, when I reported on a “public” parking structure being built at a private shopping mall. Over the years, I wrote about many redevelopment projects that ran up public debt and ran roughshod over property rights.
Cities need to find money to upgrade infrastructure. It would have been nice had the Republican leader at least first exacted some taxpayer protections. Furthermore, this Legislature has consistently blocked city efforts to rein in their existing labor costs through pension reform and other measures. Instead it offers to replace a bad financing law with something that may arguably be worse.
Steven Greenhut is the California columnist for U-T San Diego. Write to him at

Redevelopment: A Tale of Two Cities- Eminent Domain for Smart Growth?

Recently Supervisor Susan Adams and other Marin county Supervisors removed the Marinwood Priority Development Area first proposed by Supervisor Adams on August 7, 2007.  It includes all land with 1/2 mile of the 101 corridor in Marin.  This will likely be superceded by a new redevelopment law, if passed as projected will have the same effect as a priority development area.  Property can be seized by "eminent domain" if they are determined to have "inefficient land use patterns" i.e.  less than 20 units per acre density.  All land east of Las Gallinas will be threatened.

We are in the midst of a major power grab of California property rights, not seen in our lifetimes.  It is time to fight against this intrusion on our California way of life and preserve liberty for future generations. We must defeat this Plan Bay Area and restore our freedoms.

If you live in the shaded area your home may be subject to eminent domain.  PDAs are no longer needed

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Unintended Consequences of Smart Growth

The Unintended Consequences of "Smart Growth" from Mackinac Center on Vimeo.

Why the We Should Welcome More Immigrants (Even Illegals!)

Here are a few reasons why immigration is GOOD for the U.S.:
  • Immigrants make up 13% of the U.S. population, but represent 18% of small business owners
  • Immigrant businesses employ 1 in 10 Americans 
  • 18% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants, generating  $1.7 trillionin revenue
  • Immigrants are three times more likely to file a patent than native citizens
  • 75% of farm workers are foreign-born
  • As consumers, immigrants pump over $2 trillion into the economy
  • Without immigrant labor, milk prices would increase by 61%
  • Immigrants on average pay $1800 more in taxes than receive in benefits
  • 66% of ILLEGAL—ILLEGAL!--immigrants pay Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes via payroll withholding
  • Immigrants (legal and illegal) are less likely to commit crimes or be on welfare butmore likely to work than similarly situated native-born Americans
So instead of trying to reduce immigration by “securing the border,” “completing the dang fence,” and forcing ALL residents to show work papers and ALL employers to become agents of the federal government, why don’t we just...
 Let (a Lot More of) Them In...
In the new Congress, immigrant-friendly lawmakers in both parties can pass laws “that enjoy bipartisan start fixing the system.... These include a GUEST WORKER PROGRAM for low-skilled workers and DEREGULATION of the high-skilled visa program.”—Shikha Dalmia, in the February 2015 Reason.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lesson in Liberty-Should Majorities decide Everything?

Relax Environmental Red Tape?

You gotta have a chuckle listening to these guys justify ignoring responsible environmental planning for their "Smart Growth" projects.  They sound like any other business people crying "unfair" when the rules are difficult for them. 

The earth and the community does not care whether the negative environmental impact is caused by "for profit housing" or "non profit housing" , "smart growth" or "subdivisions".  Irresponsible environmental policy makes us all poorer.

The point of CEQA is to protect the earth. It is not to penalize developers.  We should not have special exemptions for "smart growth developers".   Is there really a difference when protected species die when an affordable housing is built vs for profit housing?

They also reveal the tactic of changing "red tape" as an essential legal strategy to shift the legal burden to the county to avoid legal action by the "pesky NIMBYS" that may have a problem with their development.  So according to them, low income, Smart Growth developers should have special legal protections not available to ordinary citizens or private developers.

In this video they acknowledge that high density infill development DOES CAUSE MORE POLLUTION AND TRAFFIC.   Somehow, they feel they should get a free pass because they are keeping pollution out of areas they didn't develop.

Some logic.

Do we really want these fools bringing pollution and traffic into our community so they can make a quick buck?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Single Mom in Marinwood Speaks Out for Fairness and Common Sense.

What about FAIRNESS for Marinwood-Lucas Valley homeowners?

A Neighbor  from Lucas Valley/Marinwood

I have been following the comments and editorials from our neighborhood forum and the IJ regarding affordable housing. This issue is complicated on many levels. Concerns I am hearing are over lower property values, higher crime rates, more traffic, negative education impact, high rise/high density apartment structures, and who will be our new neighbors. These are all valid concerns of the residents who live in neighborhoods where redevolopment is being proposed. Thankfully, my neighbors are not expressing that they don't want to live near people of color. This is not a race issue, it's a quality of life issue. Yes, everyone has the right to live in a safe neighborhood with good schools, but it's impossible to accommodate everyone.

There are a number of beautiful places I would love to live, but simply can't afford. I moved out of Marin due to the high cost of housing and was only able to move back when the recession hit. With my life savings as a down payment, I could finally afford a tiny condo for me and my son in a peaceful neighborhood with great schools. According to most statistics, I am low income, as are the majority of my neighbors (some on Section 8). The Roundtree neighborhood in which we live is a mix of young families, senior citizens, single moms, etc. There is a wide range of ethnic diversity and income levels among my neighbors. I have good neighbors and some I could do without, as with any place where you share a common wall. This is not my dream house, but it's what I can afford. Looking around my condo complex, this is affordable housing. It's not pretty, we have our share of police activity, we are very close to the freeway, and we have a high rental turn over rate. Had I know there was a plan for urban sprawl (Plan Bay Area) in Marin, I would have thought otherwise about moving back to this beautiful county that I love.

I keep thinking to myself, there has to be a better way for the county to implement affordable housing without making it such a big deal. How could Marin accomodate the working class with housing that is not built next to a freeway? (I have lived near high traffic areas and it's not pleasant.) Could existing, privately owned apartment complexes be offered funds through the state to offer cheaper rent? Could Marin implement rent control? Could Marin build single family homes below market value so these families could actually own and add to the tax revenue of the county? I am no politician or city planner, and maybe these are silly suggestions; but is there a way to have a civil county meeting where other suitable options are offered by the community? Affordable housing is definitely needed in Marin, yet it needs to work for the existing residents who will pay a high price if this plan fails.

So what's on my mind lately? Should I continue with small remodeling projects on my condo, or should I sell before my neighborhood is transformed into ??? Here is that fear again of the unknown. Does that make me an elitist, a racist, or a white entitled person? No, just a concerned mother who works hard and wants the best for her child. 

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Freeway Revolt of 1956-1966 proves Citizens can make a difference.

The Freeway Revolt

Historical Essay
by Chris Carlsson
Freeway protesters in City Hall, c. 1960
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Image:Picketers protesting against the Southern Freeway marching at City Hall April 18 1961 AAF-0671.jpg
Picketers protesting against the Southern Freeway marching at City Hall, April 18, 1961.
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Save the Panhandle Park rally in Golden Gate Park, May 17, 1964.
Photo: Bancroft Library
Image:Malvina-Reynolds Save-the-Park-rally-in-Golden-Gate-Park-to-stop-a-freeway-from-being-built-on-Panhandle-Parkway,-May-17,-1964.jpg
Malvina Reynolds sings her anti-freeway ballad at the May 17, 1964 rally to save the Panhandle in Golden Gate Park.
Photo: Bancroft Library
New ramps to Washington and Clay Streets from the Embarcadero Freeway, August 15, 1965.
Image:Embarcadero Freeway mid-1950s AAB-3553.jpg
Construction of the Embarcadero Freeway stopped here at Broadway due to popular anger.
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Freeway protestors walk along Embarcadero, old Embarcadero Freeway and Ferry Building in background, c. 1964
Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
In the 1950s, the California Division of Highways had a plan to extend freeways across San Francisco. At that time the freeway reigned supreme in California, but San Francisco harbored the seeds of an incipient revolt which ultimately saved several neighborhoods from the wrecking ball and also put up the first serious opposition to the post-WWII consensus on automobiles, freeways, and suburbanization.
Image:Fwy NBeachIntx.jpg
Early plan for 8-lane freeway to cut under Russian Hill on its way from the Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge
The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC), one of the city's oldest and most persistent neighborhood groups, dates its origins to the initial struggles against the proposed Panhandle-Golden Gate Park freeway, which was to extend the central freeway up the Oak/Fell corridor, slice 60% of the Panhandle for the roadway, and tunnel under the north edge of Golden Gate Park before turning onto today's Park Presidio towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
On November 2, 1956 the San Francisco Chronicle graciously published a map of the proposed and actual freeway routes through San Francisco even though its accompanying editorial was already chastising protestors: "The remarkable aspect of these protests and claims of injury is their tardiness. They concern projects that have for years been set forth in master plans, surveys and expensive traffic studies. They have been ignored or overlooked by citizens and public official alike—until the time was at hand for concrete pouring and when revision had become either impossible or extremely costly. The evidence indicates that the citizenry never did know or had forgotten what freeways the planners had in mind for them."
Highway 101 just south of Cesar Chavez exit, 2007
Photo: Chris Carlsson
James Lick Freeway under construction in 1953: San Francisco's first. Seals Stadium, the old ballpark is visible in center-left of photo
Photo: Ed Brady
Just three years earlier San Francisco had opened what became known as "hospital curve" both for its location behind General Hospital and its high rate of accidents. On October 1, 1953 the Bayshore Freeway opened from Army to Bryant/7th Street, nearing a later direct link with the Bay Bridge. San Franciscans could now drive three unmolested miles of "divided no-stop freeways" from Alemany to Bryant. The new Bayshore Freeway was the first highway to open after the failed effort of state highway authorities to build a 2nd Bay Bridge right next to the first, a plan they pursued from 1945-49 before it was finally defeated, in part thanks to Mayor Elmer Robinson appealing to military authorities to halt it because it would reinforce the bottleneck the Bay Bridge already presented for getting in or out of the City.
California passed the Collier-Burns Act in 1947, which allowed the construction of freeways to proceed without charging tolls. The Act reoriented the state highway system from multipurpose rural roads to limited-access superhighways and extended them into the cities for the first time. The assumption, which was borne out by developments, is that by building the new highways into the cities, the state gas tax revenues (which were raised 50% in the same bill) would rise rapidly because of all the additional driving the highways promoted among urban dwellers. As it turns out, it was California’s lead that shaped the 1956 Interstate Highway System, which followed the same funding formula. As Katherine M. Johnson has written, the “major flaw of this solution to the rural bias of American highway[s] was precisely its fiscal logic.” Focusing on solving a funding problem ignored basic issues of design standards and integration into the urban fabric. Instead, new highways were marketed as solutions for urban blight, dovetailing with the massive urban renewal programs that were gutting central city neighborhoods in dozens of cities from the late 1950s into the 1970s.
As the plans unfolded, public opposition grew. By the time the Embarcadero Freeway was nearly under construction in 1958, a loud opposition had formed, going on to campaign for its removal after its completion. Over 30,000 people signed petitions at meetings organized in the Sunset, Telegraph and Russian Hills, Potrero, Polk Gulch and other threatened areas. In 1959 The Supervisors voted to cancel 75% of planned freeway routes through the city, much to the shock of the Department of Highways and the state government. But that was not the end of the freeway revolt.
Image:Proposed freeway routes embarcadero.jpg
Proposed freeway routes
Freeway builders continued to resurrect various routes, encountering persistent, well-organized resistance by San Francisco neighborhoods, especially in the Sunset and Richmond where neighbors were dedicated to stopping the proposed Western Freeway. Supervisor William Blake was a key opponent of the freeway planners.
Lost in the story of the Freeway Revolt is the role it played in helping BART get institutional support. After the 1959 Supervisorial defeat of freeway plans, BART advocates got surplus Bay Bridge tolls allocated to the proposed transbay tube. After the 1961 vote against the Western Freeway, Mayor George Christopher and the influential Bay Area Council both endorsed the proposed BART system. As freeway proponents continued to advocate for their plans, Supervisor Blake proposed burying a freeway in a “crosstown” tunnel as an alternative to the “beautified” Panhandle freeway. But state highway officials derided it as an unrealistic and costly plan, and after a year of study, ruled it out. San Francisco officials, including new Mayor Jack Shelley, made it clear they wanted the Embarcadero Freeway taken down and replaced with an underground route, the proposed Golden Gate Freeway, that would connect to the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 1964 the Panhandle-Golden Gate Freeway plan reached a climax, with a May 17 rally at the Polo Grounds to save the Park, featuring a "Natural Anthem" and a dedicated tune by Malvina Reynolds, the famous left-wing folk singer, and a speech by poetKenneth Rexroth. Months later, in a final, climactic 6-5 vote, the Board of Supervisors rejected the Park Freeway on October 13. Black supervisor Terry Francois cast the deciding vote, delivering a point-by-point six-page rebuttal to the pro-freeway arguments. (It is interesting to note that the other No-votes on that Board were future mayor George Moscone, future CAO/auto dealer and consumer of sexual services Roger Boas, future Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy, William Blake and Clarissa McMahon. In favor of the freeway were "progressive" supervisors Jack Morrison, Joseph Casey, Jack Ertola, Joseph Tinney and Peter Tamaras.) Mayor Jack Shelley was all for it, as was the Labor Council from which he hailed. The Supervisors' Transportation Committee had received a petition with 15,000 signatures, 20,000 letters and telegrams, and had received opposition from 77 community organizations.
After all that, it seemed to be decided. But it wasn’t. More bureaucratic studies and fears of losing several hundred million in federal financing for the City’s highways led to another climax. In 1966, the Panhandle and Golden Gate Freeways were once again brought forward, pissing off the thousands of people who thought they’d already stopped the plans. Ultimatums from the State Highway Commission and much bluster from pro-freeway politicians failed to carry the day. Mobilized citizens and their community organizations won over organized labor, who now opposed the plans too, arguing that jobs would actually be lost if the city became “one long strip of concrete for commuters with bigger and better ghettoes.” Finally, on March 21, 1966 both the Panhandle and Golden Gate freeways were defeated 6-5 by Supervisorial votes.
New Bayshore Freeway soon after opening, April 7, 1955. View from Bernal Heights southeast, with Bayview Hill in background.
View southeast from Bernal Heights towards Bayview Hill, 2009.
Photo: Chris Carlsson
Today, San Francisco's freeways have changed again, thanks to the Loma Prieta 1989 earthquake. The much maligned Embarcadero Freeway has been removed, as has an unsightly spur of the Central Freeway. A raging debate over the future of the Central Freeway ramps that go north across Market was finally resolved and has now been replaced by the surface Octavia Boulevard. The 101-280 interchange was a mess from 1989 to 1996. New offramps were added to I-280 to serve a new waterfront roadway and the planned Giants ballpark at China Basin in 1997, but no new freeways will be built in San Francisco. New transit money goes to BART and MUNI, while Caltrans and SF Dept. of Public Works continue to spend vast quantities of social wealth on maintaining the San Francisco road system. The rapid rise in value in both areas where freeways were removed, along the now open waterfront, as well as the rapidly gentrifying Hayes Valley/Civic Center area, show that profits can be drawn from forward looking urban planning, de-emphasizing cars and re-emphasizing neighborhood, community, and nature. But most U.S. urban planners still adhere religiously to the cult of the car, hence constant efforts to expand roads and parking at the expense of numerous more sensible alternatives, from decent mass transit to ubiquitous bikeways.
For a deeply detailed account of the 1956-66 freeway revolt, see Katherine M. Johnson’s article “Captain Blake versus the Highwaymen: Or, How San Francisco Won the Freeway Revolt” in Journal of Planning History 2009; 8; 56, originally published onlineNov. 28, 2008.
See also, William Issel's excellent article "Land Values, Human Values, and the Preservation of the City's Treasured Appearance: Environmentalism, Politics, and the San Francisco Freeway Revolt" in Pacific Historical Review 68, no. 4 (1999).