Friday, June 15, 2018

Swinging for the fences, California sports teams keep asking lawmakers for special deals

The Oakland A's want to move out of the Coliseum and have asked the Legislature for help fast-tracking approval of a new arena. Photo by Kwong Yee Cheng for Creative Commons.

Swinging for the fences, California sports teams keep asking lawmakers for special deals

By Laurel Rosenhall | June 14, 2018 | LEGISLATURE, POLITICS

It’s become almost a summer tradition in the California Capitol.

As basketball season hits its final buzzer and baseball season gets into full swing, it’s also peak deal-making season for legislators rushing toward their August adjournment. Now is when professional sports teams hoping to build new stadiums staff up with Sacramento lobbyists, typically seeking to speed up construction of their new digs by persuading lawmakers to grant them exceptions from state environmental rules.

Lawmakers are considering two such proposals this summer—one to help the Los Angeles Clippers build an arena in Inglewood, another to help the Oakland A’s construct a stadium in Oakland.

They’re the latest in a long string of legislation to assist professional sports teams. In the last decade, lawmakers passed bills that fast-tracked new venues for the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers. They also approved bills meant to help build new football stadiums in Los Angeles and San Diego that never came to pass.

The proposals routinely stir up debate over California’s environmental laws and whether to grant special deals for wealthy sports franchises. Making the debate even more poignant now: A lag in home construction has contributed to skyrocketing rents and increasing homelessness. Though lawmakers have taken steps to speed up projects that include homes for low-income residents, they have not granted housing developments the same favored treatment they’ve given sports teams.

“It’s bad to have two systems of law—one for rich people and one for everybody else. And that’s what we’re seeing,” said David Pettit, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that fought a bill last year to waive some environmental rules for a new Clippers arena.

At the heart of the debate is the California Environmental Quality Act, a nearly 50-year-old law that some see as a sacrosanct protection and others as an excuse for lawsuits that drag on so long they doom ambitious projects.

With environmentalists staunchly against loosening its requirements, Democrats who control the Legislature have resisted making sweeping changes to the act. Instead, they’ve approved a series of one-off arrangements to help individual teams by: expanding the use of eminent domain to acquire land, making it harder for courts to delay construction, or limiting the length of time for resolving environmental lawsuits. They even passed a law in 2011 entitling big projects to expedite environmental lawsuits under certain conditions, but teams continue to seek special deals for broader relief.

Lawmakers don’t always approve them. Last year they shot down the Clippers’ request—but it was unusual because moneyed interests were lobbying on both sides. Owners of the Forum, a nearby concert arena, lobbied hard against the Clippers. The dueling interests combined spent more than $1 million lobbying on the bill, and owners of the Forum aired commercials attacking the state senator who carried it. A few months after Forum owners killed the bill, they showered legislators with $45,000 in campaign contributions.

Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, a Los Angeles Democrat carrying this year’s version of the Clippers bill, said she expects another tense fight. The Clippers want to build their arena about a mile from the Forum, creating competition for big events.

“With so much money on the line,” she said, “I can only suspect that they’re going to pull out the stops to defeat this.”

Opponents of the Clippers arena point out that the team’s proposal would impact much more than construction of the arena alone, which would cover just one-sixth of the land for the entire development project. They say it could allow stores, offices or homes to be built on the site without the normal environmental review—even if an arena is never constructed.

Kamlager-Dove and other supporters of big sports projects cast them as economic boosts to their communities, bringing construction jobs during the building phase and concessions jobs afterward. These benefits can be lost or delayed, they say, by environmental litigation. The Clippers and A’s bills this year would limit the timeline for environmental lawsuits to nine months.

The Los Angeles Clippers photographed by David Jones for Creative Commons.

That’s a critical perk for developing a new Oakland A’s stadium with surrounding shops and homes, said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, an Alameda Democrat carrying the bill for his hometown team.

“They can’t allow the project to be delayed forever. They need some certainty,” he said. “This is not something to benefit rich and powerful folks. It’s to benefit a community that needs housing, that needs good jobs.”

The courts have argued that limiting the time to review environmental lawsuits unfairly puts those cases at the top of the heap, denying ordinary Californians equal access to justice.

“A case involving elder abuse or asbestos litigation involving dying plaintiffs would move back in the line. A personal injury action involving a severely brain damaged child, whose parents are simply seeking to get their recovery to take care of that child, would move back in line. And there are not lobbying groups that come to this Legislature to represent those interests,” Dan Pone, a lobbyist for the Judicial Council, said at a hearing earlier this year.

Lawmakers approved the nine-month limit for the Kings and Warriors arenas, but this year rejected applying it challenges over community plans and construction of new housing.

And yet they’re on the cusp of approving a bill as part of the state budget that would place the nine-month limit on environmental lawsuits over a project close to home: a $1.2 billion re-make of their Capitol offices.

Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, who carried the bill to expedite court review of environmental lawsuits over housing that was shot down by fellow Democrats, called out the irony in a hearing this week:

“And now we have here… this expedited process not for billionaires and their stadium projects, but for us, the politicians, and our own building. So where does that help us on our issues of affordable housing, when we’re going to provide that fast-track for us but not for everybody else, except for the wealthiest and the most powerful?”

Marinwood Csd calls the Sheriff to remove me in 2016 (and they are still trying in 2018)

Justin Kai, Marinwood CSD director attempts to eject a citizen during the April 2016 Marinwood CSD meeting . A new "Speech Policy"  was adopted and the public strongly objected.  The Marinwood CSD approved two obviously illegal policies to prohibit commentary during and after business items are discussed.  Letters to the board must be received BEFORE the agenda and staff reports are printed.    A similar policy on speaking during the meeting that states the public can only comment on items BEFORE the Board discusses them.   It is an outrageous form of censorship and violation of civil rights.

This video is the interaction between the Marin County Sheriff and me. Notice how he is subtly provoking a confrontation by physical intimidation by moving in close.  I explain the situation and step away from him several times but he moves in closer.  I explained my actions and was firmly standing my ground with my rights to attend and film the meeting.

Justin Kai, Marinwood CSD president has called the Sheriff's twice in the four meetings he has conducted.  He believes that his authority should not be challenged and has used the police to intimidate the public.

"Let this be a warning that I will have you arrested" Kai threatened me after the meeting.

5/5/2016 Update:  I also learned this morning that the Sheriffs would have removed me by force had the Board sign a "Citizen Arrest Warrant" to absolve responsibility from them. The Sheriff's also suggested pursuing a "Civil Harassment Restraining Order" which is used for physical threats.  A week later, a phony charge was levied against me  by Justin Kai that was also thrown out of court.  This is the subject of an entirely new story.

6/15/2018 The current Marinwood CSD board has issued new censorship and subjective standards of meeting conduct to give them “the right” to eject the public.  Ever since this video, they have attemped harass and intimidate the public into silence. Apparently, they feel they are entitled to make decisions without the inconvenience of debate and discourse. The board declared that will not consider a policy that will instruct the CSD manager, Eric Dreikosen to respond to the public within 48 hours. And they wonder why the meetings get racous at times.  They abuse the democratic process . We need leaders who understand their role is to engage the public and lead. They have not been elected dictator.  In the 6/12/2018 meeting Leah Green issued me a Warning and i expected they will make another illegal attempt to have me removed from the meeting. I am not too worried since i have hours of docunentation on video that exposes illegal and unetical behavior. Democracy dies in the dark and i will make certain that it does not happen in Marinwood.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Marinwood CSD 6/12/2018. Threats, Intimidation, Massive Waste and Still No Decisions on Fire Department

More petty behavior from Leah Green interrupting the public during speaking time, threats and intimidation.  Board approves pay scale but  also allows special pay outside normal course of business.  Large payments to private contractors for the Martha Stewart kitchen makeover that costs the CSD TEN TIMES the cost of a competing bid.  Plans move forward for a massive maintenance facility in the stream conservation area in violation of environmental law and the wishes of the  citizens.  

A Board election  for November was announced for 2 positions currently held by Bill Shea and Irv Schwartz.   Both of them bring interesting experience to the board but neither has done anyone to change the tenor of the meetings dominated by the petty behavior of a few of the board.  We need an independent voice and people willing to improve the Marinwood CSD, not just blindly vote yes on questionable practices just because we have always done it that way.  

To me the maintenance shed is a perfect analogy for the Marinwood CSD.   It was initially just a garden shed but over time it grew haphazardly and now a decrepit, rotting structure remains and the site occupies a ridiculously large area with hazardous debris, chemicals, rusting tools and piles of junk.

We need to plan for success and discard the decay.  It is time for a new prosperous and beautiful Marinwood. This is our home.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018



By David L. Hudson Jr., First Amendment Scholar
Updated January 2013
A citizen feels strongly about an issue in the community. He or she attends a city council meeting to voice those concerns. Unfortunately, the powers that be prohibit the citizen from addressing the controversial topic. Have the citizen’s First Amendment rights been violated?
Such a scenario is not a product of a healthy imagination. It is a daily reality for countless citizens across the country.
Sometimes government officials need to silence disruptive citizens or to prohibit endless repetition. However, other times the officials may be squelching citizen speech because they want to suppress the message. This article seeks to explain the legal parameters surrounding the regulation of citizen speech.
Many government meetings are open to the public and reserve a “public comment” time for citizen commentary on issues. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained in its 1990 decision White v. City of Norwalk: “Citizens have an enormous First Amendment interest in directing speech about public issues to those who govern their city.” These meetings, particularly the “public comment” period, are at the very least a limited public forum during which free-speech rights receive heightened protection.
Types of public forums
In First Amendment jurisprudence, government property that has by tradition or by government operation served as a place for public expression is called a traditional public forum or a limited public forum. In a traditional public forum, such as a public street, speech receives the most protection and the government generally must allow nearly all types of speech. Restrictions on speech based on content (called content-based restrictions) are presumptively unconstitutional in a traditional public forum. This means that the government can justify them only by showing that it has a compelling state interest in imposing them, and that it has done so in a very narrowly tailored way.
At limited or designated public forums, however, the government designates certain types of subject matter. One court explained as follows: “After the government has created a designated public forum, setting boundaries on classes of speakers or topics, designated public fora are treated like traditional public fora.” This again means that content-based exclusions face a high constitutional hurdle. Even in nonpublic forums, restrictions on speech must be reasonable and viewpoint-neutral.
One must be careful in discussing the public-forum doctrine, because courts do not apply the doctrine with consistency. For example, some courts equate a limited public forum with a designated public forum. Other courts distinguish between the two, as a 2001 federal district court in Pennsylvania did in Zapach v. Dismuke. That court noted that “there is some uncertainty whether limited public fora are a subset of designated public fora or a type of nonpublic fora.”
Just because something is called a public forum doesn’t guarantee a person unfettered freedom to utter whatever is on his mind. Public bodies can limit their meetings to specified subject matters. Also, the government may impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech as long as those restrictions are content-neutral and are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest.
In other words, the government could impose a 15-minute time limit on all participants as long as it did not selectively apply the rule to certain speakers. Council members would violate the First Amendment if they allowed speakers with whom they agreed to speak a full 15 minutes, but allowed speakers they did not agree with to speak for only five minutes.
It bears stressing that First Amendment rights are not absolute during public-comment periods of open meetings. Speakers can be silenced if they are disruptive. Disruption has been defined to include far more than noisiness and interference. For example, a federal district court in Ohio wrote in Luckett v. City of Grand Prairie (2001) that “being disruptive is not confined to physical violence or conduct, but also encompasses any type of conduct that seriously violates rules of procedure that the council has established to government conduct at its meetings.”
“A speaker may disrupt a Council meeting by speaking too long, by being unduly repetitious, or by extending discussion of irrelevancies,” the 9th Circuit wrote in White v. City of Norwalk. “The meeting is disrupted because the Council is prevented from accomplishing its business in a reasonably efficient manner. Indeed, such conduct may interfere with the rights of other speakers.”
Unfortunately, many situations arise in which citizens are silenced because of the content of their speech or because they have disagreed previously with a government official. This raises the specter of censorship. Government officials may not silence speech because it criticizes them. They may not open a “public comment” period up to other topics and then carefully pick and choose which topics they want to hear. They may not even silence someone because they consider him a gadfly or a troublemaker.
In City of Madison Joint School District No. 8 v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, (1976) the U.S. Supreme Court said in a collective-bargaining dispute case arising out of teachers’ speaking at a board of education meeting:
“Regardless of the extent to which the true contract negotiations between a public body and its employees may be regulated — an issue we need not consider at this time — the participation in public discussion of public business cannot be confined to one category of interested individuals. To permit one side of a debatable public question to have a monopoly in expressing its views to the government is the antithesis of constitutional guarantees. Whatever its duties as an employer, when the board sits in public meetings to conduct public business and hear the views of citizens, it may not be required to discriminate between speakers on the basis of their employment, or the content of their speech.”
A federal district court in Pennsylvania explained in the 1993 decision Wilkinson v. Bensalem Township: “Allowing the state to restrict a person’s right to speak based on their identity could quickly lead to the censorship of particular points of view.”
An Ohio appeals court refused to dismiss the lawsuit of an individual who sued city officials after being thrown out of a city commission meeting for wearing a ninja mask. In City of Dayton v. Esrati (1997), the Ohio appeals court reasoned that the individual wore the mask to convey his dissatisfaction with the commission. “The public nature of the legislative process and the right of citizens to participate in and voice their opinions about that process are at the heart of democratic government,” the court wrote. “The government may not impose viewpoint-based restrictions on expression in a limited public forum unless those restrictions serve a compelling state interest and are narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”
Other issues
Courts have also been wary of laws, rules or regulations that prohibit criticism or personal attacks against government officials. A federal district court in California invalidated a school district bylaw that prohibited people at school board meetings from criticizing school district employees. In Leventhal v. Vista Unified School District (1997), the court wrote: “It seems clear that the Bylaw’s prohibition on criticism of District employees is a content-based regulation. … It is equally clear that the District’s concerns and interests in proscribing public commentary cannot outweigh the public’s fundamental right to engage in robust public discourse on school issues.”
Similarly, a federal district court in Virginia struck down a school board bylaw that prohibited personal attacks during public comments at meetings. (SeeBach v. School Board of the City of Virginia Beach, 2001.)
However, a higher court – the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – questioned the reasoning of the federal district court decision in Bach. In Steinburg v. Chesterfield County Planning Commission, the 4th Circuit wrote: “We conclude that a content-neutral policy against personal attacks is not facially unconstitutional insofar as it is adopted and employed to serve the legitimate public interest in a limited forum of decorum and order.” The appeals court reasoned that the policy was content-neutral, as people could still present their viewpoints and messages disagreeing with certain policies without resorting to personal attacks.
Another kind of restriction on citizen speech at public meetings involves residency. One federal appeals court determined that a city council rule prohibiting nonresidents from addressing the city council was constitutional. InRowe v. City of Cocoa (2004), a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit determined that a resident rule was reasonable and viewpoint neutral. “A bona fide residency requirement … does not restrict speech based on a speaker’s viewpoint but instead restricts speech at meetings on the basis of residency.”
When a government decides to offer a “public comment” period at an open meeting, it provides that citizens may exercise their First Amendment rights. Government officials can limit comments to the relevant subject matter, control disruptive or overly repetitive speakers and impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech. However, when government officials create a public-comment forum, they have created a limited public forum in which greater free-speech protections apply. The government may not silence speakers on the basis of their viewpoint or the content of their speech. The government must treat similarly situated speakers similarly. In essence, the government must live up to the values embodied in the First Amendment.

Solar Panel Mandate Displaces 150,000 Home Buyers

Solar Panel Mandate Displaces 150,000 Home Buyers

June 12, 2018 By Ted Gaines 2 Comments

While Democrats in the state Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown debate how to spend our state’s budget surplus, they continue to push policies that bust the budgets of ordinary California families.

The California Energy Commission’s mandate that all new homes in California include a minimum $10,000 solar panel system is the latest such attack. With this mandate, the governor’s hand-picked commission has priced out 150,000 California homebuyers.

Why? Because the National Association of Home Builders says that for every $1,000 increase in the price of a home, 15,000 buyers are priced out of the market. So this one action by the Energy Commission will shut out 150,000 Californians from buying a home.

And even that $10,000 is a shameful government fiction. New solar arrays average more than $19,000 in California now, and larger homes could cost double that. California’s “solar tax” could be forcing hundreds of thousands of people into a permanent renter class and barring the door to the American Dream.

With the new gas-tax forcing prices up toward $4 a gallon, “cap-and-trade” taxes pushing electricity rates 50-percent higher than the national average, and the cost of renting or buying a home continuing to spiral out of control, the once Golden State now is home to a quarter of the nation’s homeless population – 134,000 people who can’t afford to have a roof over their heads – solar or not.

This isn’t how our government is supposed to work. Your state and local representative is supposed to figure out ways to make life better for their community, not come up with umpteen-hundred ways to see just how much more money they can pluck from your wallet.

The solar panel mandate is just one more example of the Democrats’ endless experiments in social engineering.

You deserve better than this.

Editor's Note:  What do you do if your home on a shady street or a ravine?  Must you still pay for this addition.  I like solar and think it is great when properly installed and maintained but it doesn't make sense for everyone.  I live on a shady street and I believe the money saved on cooling costs likely outweighs the benefit of solar.  Besides, trees are also pleasant addition to the landscape and give home to many animals and clean the environment.

North Coast’s ‘Great Redwood Trail’ wins approval in California Senate, but lacks funding

North Coast’s ‘Great Redwood Trail’ wins approval in California Senate, but lacks funding

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | June 9, 2018, 11:31PM

Imagine a 300-mile trail from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay taking hikers, bicycle and horseback riders through a stunning North Coast river canyon and old growth redwood forests.
It would cost untold millions of dollars and won’t come soon, but the idea for what’s called the Great Redwood Trail is embodied in state Sen. Mike McGuire’s bill, which would also abolish a debt-ridden public agency and put commuter train operator Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit in charge of railroad freight service in its two counties.
SMART to take over Rail Service?  It is the taxpayers that are going to suffer.
The buzz is all about a trail along railroad tracks through some territory most people have never seen and which advocates are likening to the 210-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada.
“It’s an amazing prospect,” said Alisha O’Loughlin, executive director of the 1,000-member Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “Something we’re very enthusiastic about.”
The trail, affording “gorgeous recreational opportunities,” would draw cyclists and equestrians from far and wide, she said.
The coalition’s only concern is that work on the trail not take priority over completion of pathways along the 70-mile SMART corridor in Sonoma and Marin counties. Just 16 miles of pathways have been built to date in segments from Healdsburg to San Rafael.
Caryl Hart, the former Sonoma County Regional Parks director and past chairwoman of the state Parks and Recreation Commission, said the proposed trail runs through “some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.”
North of Willits, the trail would adjoin unused tracks through the 50-mile Eel River Canyon, a remote, pristine area rich in wildlife with few public access points.
Following the designated wild and scenic river as it snakes toward the ocean near Arcata, the trail would pass by the Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County, including visitor favorite Founders’ Grove.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said McGuire, a Healdsburg Democrat whose district spans the North Coast from Marin County to the Oregon border.
His bill, SB 1029, zipped through three committees and final Senate approval, which came on May 30, without a single no vote.
Even the two Republican members of the Senate Appropriations Committee supported the trail bill — with cost estimates running into the hundreds of millions of dollars — most likely because there was no actual spending included.
Behind the lure of creating a world-class outdoor experience, the bill addresses the matter of an obscure public agency created in 1989 to preserve the North Coast freight rail line and oversee service. It operates on revenue of about $500,000 a year, primarily from property and equipment leases, but loses about $250,000 a year. In the absence of state funding, it has amassed a debt of about $9.5 million.
The bill would dissolve the Ukiah-based North Coast Railroad Authority, which has been faulted by its own auditor and the California Transportation Commission as a financial failure, leaving the state to resolve the debt.
Moving forward, creation of the Great Redwood Trail would require millions of dollars worth of studies, track improvements and maintenance and ultimately “very major” costs, “potentially in the hundreds of millions,” to build and operate the trail and rail line, according to a Senate committee analysis.
McGuire said $4 million has been earmarked in the Senate’s budget proposal for rail crossing repairs and the start of a right-of-way study and trail master plan — and nothing more.
But he is resolute about the need to abolish NCRA, deal with its “suffocating debt” and proceed with the trail, steps that have support from 21 organizations, including the state transportation commission, Sonoma County Regional Parks and a host of environmental groups.
“We know it’s a multiyear process,” McGuire said. “We’ve always known we couldn’t snap our fingers and clean up this financial mess in one year.”
NCRA has only two full-time employees — the executive director and his assistant — and four contract employees. Its payroll spending accounts for about half its operating budget.
Its persistent losses and excess liabilities were cited in an independent auditor’s report in 2016.
“This raises substantial doubt about NCRA’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the report by the Napa firm Pisenti & Brinker said.
The transportation commission said in a December report to state lawmakers that NCRA had failed to develop a plan “that makes the business case for its existence,” noting that it also is “routinely unable to pay its obligations.”
Hart, an Occidental resident who is also a new member of the NCRA board of directors, made the motion to give McGuire’s bill a qualified endorsement at her first meeting in March. It was unanimously approved.
“This isn’t an either-or proposition,” she said. “This is a ‘you-have-to-do-something issue.’ ”
Allowing the NCRA to go bankrupt and still have to pay its debts, along with abandoning the railroad right of way, is “not an option,” she said.
Nor would environmental groups, such as Friends of the Eel River, tolerate harm to the river from ruined rails collapsing into the water, Hart said.
There is no intention to restore freight train operations through the river canyon, where estimates of the cost of repairing the storm and slide-damaged line run as high as $1 billion.
California voters have consistently supported parks and waterways, Hart said, pointing to Tuesday’s 56 percent approval of Proposition 68, which authorized $4 billion in state bonds for parks and natural resources protection.
The November ballot will include a proposed $8.9 billion bond that earmarks $2.4 billion for parks and conservancies to restore and protect watershed lands.
Hart contends that bond measures, state funding and private philanthropy can ultimately pay for the trail, which supporters say could provide a sorely needed economic boost to the North Coast.
McGuire’s bill would abolish the NCRA and transfer management of the rail line’s northern segment, from Willits to Arcata, to a new public entity called the Great Redwood Trail Agency by July 2019.
The line south of Willits would be transferred by April 2019 to SMART, which began operating commuter train service from near the Sonoma County Airport to San Rafael in August.
SMART would be required to conduct a study of rail freight service south of Willits, create or assign the positions of trail manager and freight rail manager and submit annual reports to the Legislature.
McGuire noted that SMART’s original mandate was to “advance both rail and trail,” as well as passenger service.
“They can take on freight service,” he said, adding that freight holds “revenue potential” for SMART.
Debora Fudge, chairwoman of the SMART board of directors, said the organization supports McGuire’s bill.
“It makes sense to us that one agency manages both passenger and freight rail,” she said. “SMART understands that freight is important to some businesses in Sonoma County.”
Asked if SMART might consider a new approach to freight operations, she said the board has put off that discussion until the bill becomes law.
Northwestern Pacific, a private company, operates nighttime freight trains two or three times a week between Napa and Windsor, partly on tracks it shares with SMART.
Doug Bosco, an NWP co-owner, said the company has 88 years remaining on a 2006 contract with NCRA. If the state were to deprive NWP of any contract benefits, the state Constitution would require compensation to the company, Bosco said.
In addition, NWP, the line’s sole freight operator, has “a right and an obligation” to serve its customers under a license from the federal Department of Transportation, he said.
Bosco said he “totally favors” the trail “but we are going to have to work the railroad into that.” The railroad is profitable, he has said, declining to cite recent annual revenues.
Bosco is a former North Coast congressman and an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.
McGuire said that NWP representatives have been “active and engaged” in discussions of the freight operator’s future in the event NCRA is abolished. Among the issues to be resolved is the $4.4 million NCRA owes to NWP, accounting for nearly half of the agency’s debt, McGuire said.
The contract, scorned by critics of the close ties between NCRA and NWP, allows the freight operator to pay nothing for use of the rail line until it earns more than $5 million a year, which has never happened. Freight operations were restored in 2011.
Bosco and NCRA officials have agreed it is time to renegotiate the contract.
Senate approval of McGuire’s bill came on a bipartisan 36-0 vote and the measure now moves to the Assembly.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

“Public policy have not made land scarce enough”

“Public policy have not made land scarce enough”

Portland Metro Is Raising Rents, Land Value & Housing Costs to Force High Density

From: metrourbancentersreport.pdf, (local copy) (some bold added)

Page 6:

As a result, higher underlying land values can change the financial equation to favor higher density development forms. This higher-density development could only be supported if supportable rent levels rose

page 7


An impediment to substantive changes in rent levels in Urban Centers is competition from other areas,often neighboring Urban Centers.Many Regional Centers are participants in the same sub-regional market for certain goods and services.Another competition related problem for the Urban Centers is the loss of traditional office space demand to industrially zoned land.In terms of residential development,only highly desirable housing markets can support the values necessary to allow for high-density

page 8:


The primary reason for underbuilding in urban areas is the lack of financial feasibility.There is little evidence to support the conclusion that the high densities required in Urban Centers,in the absence of public assistance,are profitable under current market conditions,and that developers and property owners are either unaware that they could make more money by building denser,or prohibited from doing so by physical or policy constraints.

Land values are good indicators of when density becomes profitable.If land values stay low,density does not work financially. If the public sector wants the private sector to build more densely it must do something to affect demand and supply conditions so that land prices increase,1 or it must subsidize development cost so that there is profit to developing more density before the market would otherwise provide it.

• Zoning is still ahead of the market.Market conditions and public policy have not made land scarce enough, have not made central locations superior enough in terms of transportation or amenity,and have not seen demand great enough to cause land values to rise fast enough in Urban Centers that rents can be demanded that make high density profitable without public assistance (e.g.,land assembly,fee

waivers,tax abatement).

• The fact that zoning is ahead of the market is not a condemnation of public policy. Planning is looking ahead to encourage the metropolitan area to be a metropolis it is not quite ready to be. Getting lower than planned densities should be expected.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Despite wages that rank in the top 1% nationwide, Marin union considers striking

Despite wages that rank in the top 1% nationwide, Marin union considers striking

by Robert Fellner

The average wage for Marin County local government workers is richer than what their peers in 99.8 percent of counties nationwide receive, according to new wage data released from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last week.

In 2017, local government workers in Marin County received an average annual wage of $76,138 — which ranked 6th out of the 2,867 counties surveyed nationwide, and was 53 percent higher than the $49,712 received by local government workers nationally.

Remarkably, even after accounting for regional cost differences among the 50 states, Marin County local government workers’ average wage still ranked firmly within the top 1 percent of counties nationwide, placing 8th out of the 2,867 counties surveyed.

Accounting for regional cost differences was achieved by adjusting the nominal wages received by each state’s 2016 Regional Price Parity, as calculated and reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For example, Marin County’s average was of $76,138 was reduced to $66,554 to account for average prices in California that were 14.4 percent above the national average, according to the BEA.

As indicated above, after a similar adjustment was made for all 2,867 counties nationwide, Marin County’s RPP-adjusted average wage for local government workers ranked 8th highest nationwide.

Government wages as % of private

In addition to outranking their local government peers in over 99 percent of counties nationwide, Marin County local government workers’ wages were significantly above average when measured against private-sector earnings.

Nationwide, average local government wages were 10 percent below private-sector workers. In Marin County, however, local government received an average wage that was 13 percent above what Marin County private-sector workers earned:

Similarly, while Marin County private-sector wages were 6 percent above private-sector wages nationally, Marin County local government workers’ wages were 34 percent higher than local government wages nationally:

Why government pay matters

Because employee compensation is by far the single largest category of government expenditures — accounting for nearly 70 percent of Marin County’s general fund budget — it is critical that taxpayers have complete and accurate information regarding the government pay packages that they are required to fund.

While the BLS data reflects all local government workers in Marin County and not just those employed by the County of Marin, it is nonetheless a strong indication that county wages are already at very competitive levels.

This is particularly true given the average $86,629 wage[1] received by County of Marin employees — excluding police and fire officers — was significantly above the $76,138 reported by the BLS for all local government workers in Marin County.

Beyond Wages

In addition to wages, compensation for Marin County employees includes employer-paid health and retirement benefits, paid leave, job security and retiree health benefits.

Because the terms of benefits vary by collective bargaining group, this analysis will focus solely on the Marin Association of Public Employees (MAPE)General Bargaining Unit, sometimes referred to as “rank-and-file” workers.

In addition to being Marin County’s largest bargaining group, an assessment of these workers overall compensation is particularly relevant given the union has called for a strike vote over allegedly insufficient pay.

Like all government workers, Marin County employees receive significantly greater levels of job security than their private-sector counterparts. Academic research has estimated the job security premium for California local government workers to be worth between 5 and 15 percent of wages.[2]

Marin County government workers also receive significantly richer amounts of all non-wage benefits than the average private-sector worker[3], as shown below:

Type of Compensation

Average Private Sector

Marin County Government

Marin County Government vs Private

Employer-Paid Retirement, as a Percent of Wages




Employer-Paid Share of Employee Medical Premium




Employer-Paid Share of Family Medical Premium




Paid Holidays




Annual Paid Sick Leave for 10+ year employees




Annual Paid Vacation Leave for 10-20 year employees




Annual Paid Vacation Leave for 20-30 year employees




The cause

Such outsized pay packages for California’s local government workers — and the burden they impose on the taxpayers who, on average, earn much less themselves — are the inevitable result of the state’s mandatory collective bargaining laws.

Because California state law forces local governments to bargain with a single government union, the union is able to wield this monopoly power to push labor costs well above market prices — a cost that is then passed on to captive taxpayers.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that these negotiations are done entirely in secret — ensuring that the taxpaying public is shut out of the process entirely.

Unsurprisingly, this arrangement has resulted in about $10 to $20 billion annually in added costs to California taxpayers, according to the most comprehensive study ever conducted on this issue by scholars at the Heritage Foundation.[4]

The current landscape is a result of the profound differences between unionization in the public and private sectors — which is why, historically, the idea of government unions was widely opposed by economists, policymakers and politicians on all sides of the ideological debate.

In addition to well documented opposition from traditionally pro-union policymakers such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, even labor unions themselves historically opposed the concept of unionizing government workers.[5]

For example, in 1955, AFL-CIO President George Meany said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Four years later, the AFL-CIO executive council passed a resolution declaring that, “In terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress — a right available to every citizen.”[6]

So what changed?

As Geoffrey Lawrence and Cameron Belt document in The Rise of Government Unions: A review of public-sector unions and their impact on public policy, the shift towards favoring government unions didn’t occur because of any change in logic or analysis, but was simply the result of union bosses scrambling to find new dues-paying members in response to declining private-sector membership:

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was the first labor organization to explicitly acknowledge these points and to begin a systematic effort to bring compulsory collective bargaining to state and local governments. “Industrial unions seem to be at the end of a line…as more and more plants are automated,” and craft union membership “is growing only slowly,” the organization observed. “In public employment, however, there is an expanding reservoir of workers.”

While the original labor movement was created to prevent the exploitation of workers by profit-hungry corporations, no such justification exists for unionization in the public sector, which has neither owners nor profits over which to negotiate.

And because the government is funded via taxation, it faces none of the cost restraints found in the for-profit private sector. Private employers, on the other hand, are only able to generate revenue to the extent that consumers voluntarily purchase their goods or services.

Governments, by contrast, can finance above-market compensation by simply taxing the public. Most problematic is that the elected officials who approve these labor contracts bear none of the cost. In fact, these elected officials are routinely rewarded for doing so, as the concentrated political support bestowed upon them by appreciative government unions far outweighs the cost of taxpayers’ dispersed frustration.

On this point, Lawrence and Belt observe that:

Instead of resisting union demands, politician-employers have a keen interest in encouraging unionization among government employees because they can use government unions as political machines to secure election.

Thus, mandatory collective bargaining in the public sector has led to the very one-sided, exploitative arrangement that private-sector unions were originally designed to prevent — albeit with organized labor wielding the power, and the taxpaying public at large left largely powerless.

Given such a lop-sided power dynamic, it is little surprise that California’s public unions continue to push for more, despite already receiving compensation packages that, on average, significantly exceed market levels.

Illustrating the point

Despite belonging to the top 1 percent of counties with the highest-paid local government workers nationwide, in addition to receiving benefits that dwarf private-sector levels, the Marin County union (MAPE) recently rejected an across-the-board 7 percent pay raise over the next three years, and is demanding 11 percent instead (3.5 percent in FY19, 4 percent in FY20 and 3.5 percent in FY21).

It is worth mentioning that these across-the-board raises are on top of average yearly step increases of nearly 5 percent, which are available to employees who receive a “meets standards” or above assessment in their annual performance review and have not already reached the fifth step maximum.

So an employee still working their way up the step pay ladder would receive annual wage increases of roughly 7 percent under the county’s offer, and 8 to 9 percent under MAPE’s counter-offer.

As this example shows, government unions are not in the business of securing fair wages for workers who are being underpaid by profit-hungry employers. Instead, the incentives are such that most unions have one simple, unchanging goal: More.

Indeed, this approach is precisely what drove public compensation so far above market levels to begin with.

This is why, despite already having one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, municipalities across the state are seeking to raise that burden even further. And because the vast majority of these tax hikes — sales tax and fees for public services — are regressive in nature, it is precisely California’s lower- and middle-income residents who will fare the worst.

[1] Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association
Actuarial Valuation Report as of June 30, 2017.

[2] Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs, “Are California Public Employees Overpaid?” The Heritage Center for Data Analysis, March 17, 2011.

[3] Employee benefits data for private-sector workers in not available on a state level, and thus this analysis uses national data for private-sector workers’ paid leave data and Pacific regional data for retirement and health benefits.

[4] How Government Unions Affect State and Local Finances: An Empirical 50-State Review, The Heritage Foundation, April 26, 2016.

[5] Cameron Belt and Geoffrey Lawrence, The Rise of Government Unions: A review of public-sector unions and their impact on public policy, Nevada Policy Research Institute.

[6] Ibid.

Robert Fellner | June 11, 2018 at 7:45 am | Tags: Marin County | Categories: Blog | URL:

Why rethink single family homes?

Why Rethink Single-Family Homes?

“We are in a new century where we need to rethink single-family zoning,” says Robert Liberty, the man who is more responsible than anyone else for Portland’s unaffordable housing. The question any sensible person should ask is just what is behind Liberty’s obsession with and objection to single-family homes?
As of 1989, Oregon law required that Metro, Portland’s regional planning agency, maintain housing affordability by regularly expanding Portland’s urban-growth boundary. In that year, Liberty — then head of 1000 Friends of Oregon — conceived of the “land use-transportation-air quality” (LUTRAQ) project. Based on analyses by pro-density consultants, LUTRAQ purported to show that increasing urban densities would lead people to drive less and help clean up the air.
In fact, as USC planning professor Genevieve Giuliani pointed out in 1995, LUTRAQ really showed that density had very little to do with driving. Instead, the LUTRAQ model reduced driving by assuming that every business in the Portland area would charge parking fees at their offices or shopping areas equal to at least one third of downtown parking charges. Of course, the region still has free parking almost everywhere except in downtown Portland.
Nevertheless, Metro was inspired by LUTRAQ to persuade the Oregon legislature in 1993 to allow it to meet housing needs by upzoning neighborhoods to higher densities instead of expanding the growth boundary. But people don’t really want to live in higher densities. So, not only do neighborhoods object to upzoning, but the market for higher densities is limited enough that Portland and other cities have to subsidize such development.
Metro, for example, plans to ask voters to allow it to sell $652.8 million worth of bonds that it will use to build high-density housing. Supposedly, the purpose is to provide more affordable housing. But we know that’s not true because high-density housing costs more to build, per square foot, than low-density housing. Besides, the bonds will be repaid out of increased property taxes, which in turn will make housing less affordable. 
Liberty implies that “we need to rethink” single-family zoning because it isn’t affordable. But almost every city in the country except Houston has single-family zoning, and most of them are affordable. What makes housing unaffordable is restrictions on development at the urban fringe. As Matthew Ridley explains it, the regulation that’s harmful is that which defines “whether you can build,” not “what you can build.”
Moreover, as Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox recently pointed out, no city in the world has ever become more affordable by growing denser. In fact, the reverse is true: density policies make housing less affordable, first by driving up the cost of land and second because mid-rise and high-rise housing costs 50 to 68 percent more to build per square foot than low-density housing.
So what has Liberty got against single-family housing? We were once friends, and when I told him in 1995 that I lived on a third-of-an-acre lot, he solemnly replied, “I grew up on a 50×100 lot, and what was good enough for me should be good enough for anyone else.” This arrogant attitude suggests that, while he may object to large lots, he isn’t necessarily against single-family housing.
In fact, as his name suggests, he believes everyone should have the liberty to choose whether they live in a single-family home or a multi-family complex. But he also believes that he and his planner friends should have the liberty to influence people’s decisions by driving up the price of single-family housing. In 1997, Metro was inspired by LUTRAQ and 1000 Friends to adopt a plan that set a target of reducing the share of Portland households living in single-family homes from 65 percent to 41 percent by 2040.
Originally, Oregon’s land-use laws were passed to protect farmland. But Oregon and the United States both have huge surpluses of agricultural lands, while cities occupy a tiny share of the country. USDA’s 2012 Natural Resources Inventory found that only 2.3 percent of Oregon had been developed, while just 1.4 percent was urban. Well over 97 percent of the state remains available for farms, forests, and open space.
Despite this, as Portland State University planning professor Gerard Mildner points out, Liberty and Metro have an obsession with “density at any cost.” Mildner has clearly explained how Portland’s growth boundary makes housing expensive, but it has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, he is demonized by the powers that be as some kind of radical. In fact, the real radicals are those who take away people’s property rights and make housing expensive with the goal of creating what has been described elsewhere as the ideal communist city.
Some of the two dozen cities in the Portland area do want to expand the urban-growth boundary. But even if Metro approves any of these expansions, you can be sure that 1000 Friends will challenge those decisions in court, which at the very least will delay the process for years. Even after lands have been added to the boundary, Metro red tape has prevented development for another decade or more. That’s not the way to make housing affordable.
The bottom line is: why should Portland deliberately make housing unaffordable to protect abundant rural land when doing so doesn’t provide any real benefits for air quality or anything else? There are no good answers to that question except that Robert Liberty and his planner friends have obtained a lot of power in the region. Having lost sight of their original goals of cleaning the air, reducing congestion, and improving the region’s quality of life, they are now solely focused on the objective of increasing density whether it does any good or not.