Saturday, October 20, 2018

Life in the early days of Suburbia

California Democrats Test the Limits of Anti-Trumpism

California Democrats Test the Limits of Anti-Trumpism

They want to campaign on national issues, but voters are focused on progressive failures closer to home.



119 Comments
By
Allysia FinleyOct. 19, 2018 6:46 p.m. ET


Gavin Newsom, a Democratic candidate for governor in California, in Los Angeles, Oct. 16. PHOTO: LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS

Democrats are targeting eight of the 14 California congressional districts currently held by Republicans. Voters in seven of the 14 districts favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. Opposition to Donald Trump has raised Democrats’ hopes that they can topple GOP incumbents in the Golden State, even in the conservative fortress of Orange County, easing their path to a House majority.


But revulsion toward liberal governance in California is growing as its failures compound. This may counteract animus toward Mr. Trump. California Democrats might have an easier time defeating Republicans if all politics were national. Instead, they have to contend with the litany of local problems that their progressive policies have wrought.


For starters, government pension costs are soaring across the state, forcing tax increases and cuts to public services. Seven cities in Orange County are asking voters to approve sales tax hikes in November. Santa Ana, a low-income, predominantly Hispanic city, is seeking to raise its sales tax 1.5 percentage points to 9.25%.

The League of California Cities warned earlier this year that local pension costs were projected to increase 50% by 2024 and could drive some municipalities into bankruptcy. The Los Angeles Unified School District is making emergency budget cuts and layoffs to avoid bankruptcy, yet the teachers union is threatening to strike if its members don’t receive a 6% raise.

Underfunded public pensions are diverting precious taxpayer dollars from transportation and other public-works projects. Last year the Democratic Legislature jammed through a 12-cent gasoline-tax hike meant to fund repairs to rickety roads and congested highways. Other than Hawaii, California’s gas prices are the highest in the country—95 cents a gallon higher than the nationwide average. In June voters recalled Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman—whose Southern California district favored Mrs. Clinton by 13 points—because of his vote for the gas-tax increase. The tax hike is so politically toxic that even progressive Democrat Katie Porter, who is challenging Orange County Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, has been running TV ads declaring, “I oppose higher gas taxes.” GOP Rep. Jeff Denham’s Democratic opponent, Josh Harder, has likewise touted his opposition.


Mr. Newman’s recall deprived Democrats of the legislative supermajority they need to raise taxes without GOP support. But this November Democrats are looking to flip two state Senate and two congressional districts—held by Mr. Denham and David Valadao—in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley. Democrats hold the registration advantage in these districts but are weighed down by their long-running support for unpopular environmental policies that restrict water to farmers in the region. Worries about water are helping keep Messrs. Denham and Valadao afloat despite voters’ disdain for President Trump.

Then there’s the Department of Motor Vehicles fiasco. The sclerotic agency is struggling to meet surging demand for Real ID licenses that will be needed to board domestic flights starting in 2020. Californians wait three to four months for a DMV appointment. Democrats recently charged the agency with automatically registering voters who renew or replace their driver’s licenses. Recently the agency reported that its ill-trained technicians made 23,000 registration errors. All of this is raising questions about government competence. Former Republican Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who is running for his old job as an independent, has compared the single-payer legislation that his Democratic opponent, Ricardo Lara, sponsored in the state Senate to putting the DMV in charge of health care. Mr. Poizner is ahead in most polls.

The wariness of progressive ideology is most evident in the governor’s race featuring Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and GOP businessman John Cox. During the state’s open primary, the Democrat sidled up to progressives and public-employee unions, endorsing single-payer health care and a moratorium on charter schools. But Mr. Newsom has lately found himself on defense as Mr. Cox makes hay of the state’s vagrancy epidemic and soaring housing costs. At a recent campaign event in the Orange County exurb of Seal Beach, Mr. Newsom mused: “What happened to our state?” At another campaign stop, in Torrance, he dubbed homelessness “the ultimate manifestation of our failure” and acknowledged that “we own that.”

During a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, Mr. Newsom even criticized city officials for condoning vagrancy and drug use. “You can be too permissive, and I happen to think we have crossed that threshold in this state—and not just in this city,” he said.

Mr. Newsom and his liberal allies have raised seven times as much money as his GOP opponent, but Mr. Cox is beating the spread. A KFI-NBC poll this week shows the Republican trailing by 7 points even though Democrats boast a 19-point voter-registration advantage. At this time in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown led in the polls by more than 20 points.

So where does that put Republican House candidates? Most Republican incumbents in districts that favored Mrs. Clinton won handily in 2016. Mrs. Walters and her fellow Orange County Republican Dana Rohrabacher both carried their districts by 17 points. The electorates in most of these districts remain conservative, but projections of huge liberal turnout give Democrats a polling edge.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose safe Republican district includes Bakersfield, is nonetheless hoping that conservatives will be driven to turn out to support Mr. Cox and repeal the gas tax. The test this November is whether California voters’ distaste for President Trump exceeds their disdain for their own state’s progressive leadership.

Ms. Finley is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

Appeared in the October 20, 2018, print edition.

A Tough Shed can be installed in Marinwood Park in less than a week



A new maintenance shed in Marinwood Park doesn't have to be complex or expensive.  We can keep the current Modular office that has a bathroom, office and break room and install a modular shed like the above and save HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS.  Virtually EVERY PARKS DEPARTMENT/ SCHOOL DISTRICT in Marin County uses modular units for their landscaping facilities. 

 Above are some of the product offerings available locally from Tuff Shed in Rohnert Park.  They can be installed quickly for hundreds of thousands less than the Marinwood Maintenance Compound.

Why do you think most localities prioritize sound fiscal management and preservation of open space, over a custom architectural design for utilitarian structures? 

Here is a video of a modular garage installation in five hours.



Living in the "ideal" Urbanist Environment in Japan

Friday, October 19, 2018

Should Marinwood CSD build a Modular Garage like this and save $$$?



Similar modular buildings are available for commercial uses.   Much time and money can be saved with modular construction. The above garage is approximately 640 square feet or the same as the 640 square foot garage that McIniss Park uses for their Staff building pictured below on the right. The McInnis office on the left is another 600 square feet.

Staff building in McInnis Park for six employees. It is 1/3 of the size of the Marinwood Maintenance Compound. Their park is THIRTY TWO times the size of Marinwood Park.



Pat Eklund to MTC: One Size Doesn't Fit All


 Only two people spoke at the meeting. She is an amazing hero for all of the Bay Area people. It is too bad more people don't know what is going on. All these small towns are going to get screwed once they fall underneath the MTC juggernaut. So proud of Pat. She deserves our support.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Locals seek new levies despite $4B property tax surge

Locals seek new levies despite $4B property tax surge

By Dan Walters | Oct. 17, 2018 | COMMENTARY, DAN WALTERS




Local government officials throughout the state got some very good financial news when county tax assessors toted up changes in taxable property values for their 2018-19 budgets.

The state’s uber-strong real estate market generated a 6.51 percent increase in those values, adding another $374 billion to the property tax rolls and pushing the total to $6.1 trillion.

That increase, three times the rate of inflation, translates into $4-plus billion more in revenue for cities, counties and other local governments. While schools also receive property taxes, they don’t directly benefit from the increase because of how state aid is structured.

The big winners are cities because, unlike counties and schools, they are almost totally dependent on local taxes and fees to finance their budgets. San Francisco, which is both a city and a county, reported the state’s strongest assessed valuation gain, 10.35 percent.

The very strong growth in property tax revenue, however, raises a pithy question: Why then are so many local governments, cities especially, complaining that they can’t balance their budgets unless local voters raise taxes?

There are 254 local tax increases on the November ballot – sales taxes, parcel taxes, utility taxes and hotel/motel taxes, mostly – according to the California Taxpayers Association, 65 percent more than there were four years ago.

The reason is that even with strong property tax gains, local governments’ pension costs are growing faster than revenues, thus putting the squeeze on their budgets.

Cities have been hit the hardest by increases in mandatory payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) as it tries to shrink its large “unfunded liability.” City officials have repeatedly complained about the specter of insolvency if pension payments continue to grow and the League of California Cities has labeled the situation “unsustainable.”

With very rare exceptions, however, officials who place the tax increases on the ballot will not publicly say the extra revenue is needed to offset rising pension costs. Officials believe that telling the truth would make voters less likely to vote for the new taxes. It could also make employee unions less likely to provide money for tax campaigns.

Rather, on the advice of high-priced consultants, they say the money is needed for popular police and fire services and parks.

Unfortunately, most local news media are carelessly complicit in this conspiracy of silence, tending to accept the official reasons at face value, rather than analyze them critically. That’s true even though data about what revenue the new taxes would generate and projections of pension costs are readily available.

Over the weekend, for instance, the Sacramento Bee published a long articleabout proposed tax increases in Central Valley cities, quoting officials about what they hoped to do with the extra revenue, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who called his one-cent sales tax hike a “game changer.”

However, the article only tersely mentioned pensions as something brought up by unnamed “critics,” even though the city’s own budget complains about pension costs and data indicate that the new taxes would largely go to pensions.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel, in a similar piece about new hotel/motel tax proposals in its region, took the opposite – and more responsible – tack by delving into how pensions are straining local budgets and driving tax hikes.

The Sentinel’s article, unfortunately, is a very rare exception. Otherwise, local officials and local media seem to believe that ignorance will be blissful.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Lisa Grady of Bridge Housing to RWQCB: "We want protection from liability after we buy Marinwood Plaza"

History of Marinwood Plaza in 2014


Renee Silveira was shocked to learn that Bridge Housing wants a guarantee after purchasing Marinwood Plaza that they will not be liable for the toxic waste.* It seems no one wants to be the responsible party to clean up all of the residual toxins that could find its way to the Silveira Ranch water source, poisoning the dairy herd, the residents and potentially thousands of people that drink milk.  

Supervisor Susan Adams called multiple times and Assemblymen Mark Levine called on behalf of the developers and landowners to vacate the toxic waste clean up order and extend the final clean up date  so they may have additional time to get financing and permits.  

Why didn't they consider the risks to PUBLIC HEALTH first?  
Lisa Grady, Marinwood Village, Former Senior Project Manager

See full Board Packet with the Geologica Report responses from Marinwood Plaza, LLC, Bridge Housing and Silveira Ranches HERE

Email sent to the RWQCB on January 8, 2014.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: Lisa Grady
To: Aue, Kent@Waterboards
Cc: Tom Graf (tom@grafcon.us)
Subject: Water Board Order Regarding the Marinwood Plaza site
Date: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 4:47:12 PM

Kent:

As you know, BRIDGE intends to develop the site post-remediation and we have assumed
that vapor mitigation in the form of sub-slab ventilation or ventilated flooring will be
necessary for some period of time in the areas currently showing vapors exceeding
allowable concentrations. We want to make sure this is taken into account with regard to
the order.

Additionally, without understanding the constraints and regulations governing the
Waterboard, it would be ideal if staff were able to modify the order with regard to timing.
While we hope this won’t be the case, the entitlements and environmental approvals may be litigated. We were anticipating that the completion of the soil removal would occur once BRIDGE has secured the necessary financing to begin construction. We anticipate that the entitlement and environmental approvals will be secured in 12 to 18 months from today. Once that occurs, and assuming there is no litigation, we would proceed with the completion of the construction documents, financing and building permitting. Typically, that takes about a year’s time. So, the earliest construction start date isn’t likely to be until June of 2016.

The other item I would like to discuss at some point is the Prospective Purchaser document
we need to protect us from liability once we take title. You indicated that the Water Board
no longer issues these but I’d like to understand how we get to an equivalent level of
protection absent that document.

Please give me a call if you have questions. Thanks and Happy New Year.

Lisa

Lisa Grady | Senior Project Manager
BRIDGE Housing Corporation | 345 Spear Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, Ca., 94105
Direct: 415.321.3534
p. 415.989.1111 ext 7514
f. 415.495.4898

lgrady@bridgehousing.com

Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to toxins in the environment.
*Of course, if anyone were to receive such a guarantee, then the public will never be certain that a full cleanup has taken place.  It simply gives the buyer a permanent "get out of jail card" free.

Postscript:  Lisa Grady left employment with Bridge Housing shortly after this letter was discovered and made public.

Victor Davis Hanson - WTF Happened in California?



Professor Victor Davis Hanson offers explanation as to why the once great state of California now dominates the in poverty, high taxes, poor education, and low performance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

MTC's CASA committee Plan to raise $72 billion dollars from Bay Area Taxpayers and give it to developers.



Check this meeting out on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 for detailed plans HERE

Attachment 3 is the specific plan to raise $72 billion dollars from Bay Area taxpayers and give to developers and bureaucracy for affordable housing.

I wonder how the middle class is going to take the news?

Transparency In Local Government:Protecting (Marinwood CSD) Against Corruption

Transparency In Local Government:Protecting Your Community Against Corruption


This column is a service of the Institute for Local Government’s Ethics Project, which offers resources on public service ethics for local officials. For more information, visit www.ca-ilg.org/trust. Special thanks to Burke, Williams & Sorensen for its support of this column.
Juli C. Scott, chief assistant city attorney, Burbank, and Rob Ewing, city attorney, Danville, also contributed to this article. ILG gratefully acknowledges the ongoing guidance and support of Santa Monica City Manager and former ILG Board Member Rod Gould, whose insights contributed to this article.

QUESTION

Like many officials, we watched in dismay last summer as media coverage of excessive compensation and pension levels in some communities caused our local press and residents to think that such pay packages are the norm, not the exception. We posted our compensation on our website to assure the community that our agency’s compensation levels are significantly more moderate than Bell’s.
Even so, the effects of the scandal are still taking a terrible toll on the public’s trust in our local leaders. What can we do to prevent this kind of scandal from ever happening in our community? Are there steps we can take to repair the damage that has been done?

ANSWER

As events unfolded this past summer about multiple irregularities in the City of Bell, many local officials were understandably shocked and dismayed. Many also experienced the public’s understandable but disheartening question, “If these things happened in Bell, are they also happening in our community?”
Many conscientious and concerned local officials asked a similar question: “What can we do to make sure that what happened in Bell never happens to our community?”

NO SILVER BULLET

First, there is no one step local officials can take that will inoculate a community against what happened in Bell. Publishing compensation rates on websites is an important first step, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the public’s concerns and conclusions about Bell. These concerns are that public officials — elected and appointed — are putting their interests ahead of the public’s interests in managing the agency. Moreover, in Bell a profound lack of transparency, if not downright deception, was an issue.
Thus, the excessive compensation packages were a symptom, not the cause, of the underlying problem. The question is: What were the circumstances that allowed the excessive compensation packages to be approved?
In Bell, an organizational culture existed that tolerated, or even supported, the pursuit of self-interests over the public’s interests. This, along with weaknesses in the system of traditional checks and balances against abuses of power, led to a scandal of such magnitude that it affected every local agency in California.
What can local officials and their communities do to prevent such a culture from taking hold? What can they do to make sure that such abuses of authority do not occur in their communities? Proactive strategies include:
  • Understanding and applying public service ethics laws and principles;
  • Encouraging the public’s active engagement in public agency decision-making; and
  • Supporting an ongoing exchange of information within communities that keeps both officials and the public abreast of what they need to know to make informed judgments.
These strategies get to the heart of what makes democracy work at the local level. Together they constitute a community’s civic infrastructure, which is no less vital to the health and well-being of a community than conventional physical infrastructure.
Such approaches offer leaders the tools to focus exclusively on pursuing the public’s interests and also provide critical checks on the efforts of officials who might put self-interests ahead of the public’s interests.

UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC SERVICE ETHICS LAWS AND PRINCIPLES

In public service, the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of the public’s interest is fundamentally an ethics issue. Ethics is what one ought to do. Regardless of whether any laws were broken, the city manager in Bell ought not to have exploited his position of influence to secure such disproportionate salary and benefit packages for himself and others in the city.

An Emphasis on Values and Process

With respect to public service ethics, the goal is to foster a culture of ethics within a local agency. When such a culture is robust, decision-making criteria include such values as trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness and respect. The means by which worthy ends are pursued matter as much as and sometimes even more than the ends themselves.
For public servants, worthy ends never justify questionable means. In a democracy, the means — which typically revolve around processes designed to promote public input and information — are truly the ends, as both Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi observed.

Laws as Minimum Standards

Promoting understanding of and compliance with the laws governing public service ethics is necessary but not sufficient. As this article goes to press, the degree to which laws were broken in Bell remains unclear. The public is anxious to see those who were responsible for the scandal held accountable and divested of what the public understandably considers to be ill-gotten gains. Law enforcement officials are rigorously reviewing Bell’s records to determine what the options may be.
The fact that it’s difficult to write enough laws to protect the public from all such abuses is exactly why it’s so important for conscientious local officials not to treat compliance with the law as the end of the analysis. When an agency has a robust culture of ethics, members of the local agency team embrace the notion that the law creates minimum standards — not the standard.
The prevailing analysis should be along the lines of “Now that we know what the law requires in a given situation, are there steps we can take to go above and beyond the law’s minimum requirements?” and “What approach will best promote the public’s trust and confidence in our agency?” It needs to take into account a prevailing public distrust (deepened as a result of the Bell scandal) of public officials’ actions and should err on the side of extreme caution.

Ethics and Values Statements: Walking the Talk Is Critical

Many organizations adopt values statements and/or values-based codes of ethics to underscore their commitment to how the agency pursues its objectives. These can be helpful, but the hard work begins after the adoption of such statements or codes. For such measures to make a difference, the question of how one walks the talk needs to be an ongoing part of the dialogue within the agency by elected officials and staff alike. Unless an agency is prepared to commit to such an effort, adopting such a statement can simply make an organization look hypocritical at best or deceptive at worst.

Starting off on the Right Foot

Walking the talk can start before an individual becomes a member of the local agency team. Information about public service ethics can be part of candidate orientation materials, as can campaign ethics. Communities can also encourage their residents to “vote ethics.”
Ethics can play a role in the selection of employees. Does a candidate for a position adhere to his or her profession’s code of ethics? The candidates can be queried on how they have handled or would handle situations where their interests might conflict with those of the public.
Once on board, the organization’s commitment to ethics needs to be part of each employee’s orientation and also a part of evaluation and advancement.

ENGAGING THE PUBLIC IN COMMUNITY DECISION-MAKING

What steps can a public official take to create external support for public service ethics and decision-making grounded in the public’s interests? An active and engaged community helps, which is why former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis observed that “the most important political office is that of private citizen.”

Fostering Community Traditions of Public Engagement

An active and engaged public can serve as an important check on abuses of public positions. How do today’s public servants foster traditions of public engagement to protect their communities from abuses now and in the future? Such efforts involve five elements:
  1. Informing the public so residents have a capacity for and interest in participating;
  2. Providing ongoing opportunities for residents to become involved in the community’s civic and political life;
  3. Learning from the experience;
  4. Refining approaches; and
  5. Making these practices inherent in the way that local agencies govern.
These five elements contribute to habits and a culture of participation that make it less likely for a Bell scenario to develop.

Reaching Out Beyond the Usual Participants

Successfully developing public capacity for engagement in local government means seeking out those who don’t already attend public meetings. It also means restructuring such meetings to make them responsive to both organizers’ and attendees’ needs. Again, these efforts require both work and resources; there are no silver bullets.
An assertive education and recruitment effort to involve the public can include citizen academies and other leadership development and engagement opportunities. People who have been involved in local government sometimes forget how unfamiliar local agency structures and processes can seem to the uninitiated.
Other strategies for success involve forging partnerships with organizations whose members are part of the communities that agencies are trying to reach; for example, community-based organizations, local congregations and business groups. Consider, too, the ways that an agency communicates information about what is going on. Do these communication efforts involve local ethnic media, social media and more informal communication channels?

Authentic Engagement, Not Just Going Through the Motions

All of these activities need to be undertaken with an overarching commitment to authenticity. This means public agencies should:
  • Ask for information from the public when agency officials really want it; and
  • Take the public’s ideas and recommendations into account once they are offered.
Authentic public engagement builds community ownership. Not only does such engagement make it more likely that members of the public will participate again, it also increases the likelihood that members of the public will hold local officials accountable for pursuing the public’s interests as opposed to narrow self-interests.

SUPPORTING A STRONG COMMUNITY INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE

Another step leaders can take to protect their communities against unscrupulous officials is to support responsible and conscientious participants in the community’s information infrastructure. Watchdogs help not only detect and shine a light on abuses, but they also play a deterrent role in discouraging such abuses in the first place.

Local Leaders Need Solid Information

The place to start is within the local agency. Do elected and appointed officials have access to resources and networks of other local officials that help and support them in asking the right questions? Do staff members have the training, expertise and access to peers that help them give the right answers, make hard choices and speak truth to those in power?
In these difficult economic times, resources are often stretched thin. However, there are low-cost ways to make sure people have access to peer-to-peer support groups and learning networks, webinars and information resources. For example, the Institute for Local Government offers a variety of resources on its website (www.ca-ilg.org) to help local officials in their service to their communities, including a recently updated and expanded list of questions local officials can ask in their role as financial stewards for their public agencies (www.ca-ilg.org/financialmanagement).  

Reliable Community Information Channels Also Critical

Communities as well as leaders benefit from a strong information infrastructure. Staying informed about what is happening locally helps people identify and connect with their community. Such a connection is vital for local agencies to function effectively. In addition, robust information flows are an important prerequisite if communities are to address pressing issues in a coordinated way.
Information flows also foster accountability. Because they play a watchdog role, journalists provide an important check against abuses. In Bell, the traditional media (the Los Angeles Times) broke the story about the salaries of staff and elected officials.
However, evidence suggests that business models for journalism are changing. Journalists and those who recognize the important role journalism plays in a democracy are experimenting with new business models, including foundation funding and more entrepreneurial models that take advantage of the Internet’s efficiency.
Of course, others who do not adhere to journalists’ standards for accuracy also take advantage of this same efficiency. When the forces of misinformation dominate the community information environment, it indicates that more needs to be done to support the flow of accurate information. Surrendering information forums to providers of misinformation is an unwise strategy.
Similarly, it’s not a good idea to resist requests for information to which the public is entitled. As one city manager observes, the reality of public administration is that the public is entitled to virtually all information related to how the agency conducts the public’s business. If there are concerns that information may be misinterpreted or taken out of context, then the task becomes how to provide the most complete information possible to minimize that likelihood.

Local Officials’ Role in Supporting Community Information Flows

Local agencies play an important role as information providers. Information flows help local agency officials connect with the community, work with residents to identify solutions to challenges and then build support for those solutions. Such flows also help the community understand the constraints under which local agencies operate. When local agencies are genuinely working hard to address community needs with limited resources, as the vast majority are, such information flows are essential to their success in those endeavors.
While local agencies and officials are important sources of information, a robust community information system that functions apart from local agency efforts is vital in several ways. In addition to being a check against abuses, it helps leverage local agency communication efforts to reach diverse segments of the community. It helps the public evaluate the information local agencies make available and supplements public agency information with background and data from other sources.
In addition, participants in the flow of community information can generate feedback that can assist local officials in potentially identifying additional tactics for addressing community challenges and assessing community support for different strategies. This can in turn lead to public agency decisions that have more broadly based community support and, as a result, are more enduring.

CONCLUSION

The City of Bell scandal did deep and lasting damage to the public’s trust in local government. Local agencies’ repair efforts need to be concerted, visible, authentic and sustained. Again, there are no quick or easy fixes.
The Institute for Local Government has developed a number of resources to assist local agency officials in redoubling their efforts as they relate to ethics, engagement and information flows (see “Resources to Help Local Officials Promote Good Government at the Local Level” in the sidebar below).
The task can seem daunting given all of the many challenges local agencies face — however, the public’s trust and confidence is critical to addressing those other challenges. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu observed that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When it comes to rebuilding and maintaining the public’s trust in local government, the task is to keep putting one foot after the other along the path of that critical journey. 


This article appears in the December 2010 issue of Western City

Monday, October 15, 2018

The New Feudal Society in California

California Feudalism Report HERE

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 California was built by people with aspirations, many of them lacking cultural polish or elite educations, but dedicated to hard work, innovation, family and community. A large number came from other countries or poor backgrounds: sharecroppers from the South, campesinos from Mexico, people fleeing communism and poverty in Asia, escapees from Hitler’s Europe or Okies and others fleeing the dust bowl. 

This proud legacy is threatened. California has now taken on an increasingly feudal cast, with a small but growing group of the ultra-rich, a diminishing middle class, and a large, rising segment of the population that is in or near poverty. Indeed, amidst some of the greatest accumulations of wealth in history, California has emerged as a leader in poverty, particularly among its minority and immigrant populations and throughout its interior. 

Something is clearly wrong with this picture. Yet our state leaders, and too many of our business and civic leaders, are convinced that California, far from being something of a cautionary tale, offers a great “role model” for the rest of the country.1 The state’s drift towards an ever more unequal, feudalized society, characterized by concentrated property ownership, persistent poverty levels, and demographic stagnation does not seem to concern our Sacramento leadership. 

What needs to change? If we want to again be a place of opportunity for all, we need to dial down California’s increasingly expensive, messianic land use and climate change policies, which have dramatically increased housing and energy costs, forcing individuals and companies elsewhere. This will allow us to develop more housing and midd le-class jobs, especially in more affordable areas such as the Central Valley and the Inland Empire. A dramatic reform of our education system, which underserves our next generation, particularly in poor and minority communities, needs to be enacted. Other steps, like investing in basic infrastructure—roads, dams, electric transmission—could boost the flagging blue collar economy of the state. 

 “California has now taken on an increasingly feudal cast, with a small but growing group of the ultra-rich, a diminishing middle class, and a large, rising segment of the population that is in or near poverty"

RESTORING LOCALISM

RESTORING LOCALISM

Lincoln_Community_Center,_looking_west_01.jpg
Americans are increasingly prisoners of ideology, and our society is paying the price. We are divided along partisan lines to an extent that some are calling it a “soft civil war.” In the end, this benefits only ideological warriors and their funders.
One key source of this deepening division is the relentless centralization that has overtaken both our economy and our politics. Leaders of both parties have sat by while the forces of capital and government have centralized power and authority in ever fewer hands. When the federal executive branch changes hands, it’s not a political shift in the constitutional order but something closer to the kind of regime change associated with unstable countries. Increasingly, progressives favor ever more government control over people’s lives while conservatives see no limits to the power of the market.
Fortunately, there is a way out of this dilemma: a shift to local control. In a country that is ever more diverse culturally, racially, and economically, the best option is, within limits, to allow localities to determine their own fate, congruent with their own values and aspirations.
The issue here is not the irrelevance or intrinsic evil of government itself, but rather how to best address society’s primary challenges. Does the concentration of power make government more effective in addressing problems, or less so? Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates notes that the country needs to return to “the system of government bequeathed to us by the Founders,” saying that the expansion of government should be restrained “when so much of what we have works so poorly.”
Central authority is useful in such things as waging war, but a more expansive government has not, for example, improved education or seen more poor students attending college. A half century after the Great Society legislation, poverty remains higher than it was before it began. Leviathan has grown immense, but it has also failed.
Listening to the Founders
When the Founders crafted the Constitution, they understood the need for a strong federal government, but were profoundly aware of the dangers posed by the concentration of power. They had studied the successful growth of the Roman Republic, with its intricate system of checks and balances, followed by its devolution into a centralized state under one ruler.
The American Republic itself emerged in large part against monarchical control and the political oppression dealt to the colonies by the central government in London.[1] In Federalist 47, James Madison wrote: “The accumulation of powers legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”[2] The Constitution divided power in two ways: between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government, and between the powers of the federal government and those “reserved to the states.”
The federal Constitution was enacted to ensure stability and security, but with limited powers. Madison believed a successful republic would require “checks and balances” between society’s “factions” to prevent them from gaining too much power and subverting the republican system, as occurred in Rome.[3]
Since then, localism has been a critical source of America’s dynamism. Participation in politics at the neighborhood and community level was one of the “habits of the heart” of which Alexis de Tocqueville spoke—one of the essentials in forming the American character, and sustaining free institutions.
In the ensuing nearly two centuries, this local spirit has decreased, in part due to the linkage between local control, or state’s rights, with the pure evil of slavery. Later, the challenges of the Depression, the Second World War, and the ensuing battle against communism favored the concentration of power in Washington, and increasingly in the executive.
The Rise of Leviathan
The view of the federal role as preeminent has deep roots in progressive thought. Herbert Croly’s 1909 book, The Promise of American Life, helped define progressivism beyond the ideas of the old Jacksonians and populists. It would fundamentally reshape American life; and the reshaping would be guided, promised Croly, not by the “monarchism” of the Constitution but by the disinterested ministering of “poet-leaders,” experts and social scientists.[4]
This notion of leading from the center accompanied a massive expansion of the federal bureaucracy. There were about 3,000 federal bureaucrats at the end of the Federal Period (approximately 1789 to 1823), and 95,000 when Grover Cleveland took office in 1881.[5] Since 1929, the federal government’s share of total public spending has risen from 39 percent to 53 percent. The federal bureaucracy has grown from a mere 600,000[6] employees to 2.7 million (a 2014 estimate).[7]
This role has expanded, fairly consistently, under both parties. For his part, George W. Bush increased the regulatory apparatus by 90,000 workers. Bush also expanded the federal role in education and health, and generally did little to reverse the inexorable concentration of power in Washington that already reached beyond the traditional federal role in fielding and deploying the U.S. military.
Federal power is increasingly based on the power of the purse and regulation. While the number of federal employees has not grown rapidly in recent years, the share of government spendingcontrolled by the federal government—but often distributed through states and localities—has risen from 3 percent of GDP in 1900 to almost 22 percent in 2016. Every decade has brought more regulations, more agencies and departments, and more expansions of federal authority.
But perhaps no leader did more to expand federal power in peacetime than President Barack Obama. Under his “pen and phone” regime, the federal government issued more and more regulations, vastly expanding the power of the executive branch. The Heritage Foundation estimated that, as of 2015, the Obama administration had passed at least 184 “major rules” (regulations with at least a $100 million economic impact) and thousands of smaller rules. During its first six years, the Obama administration promulgated more than twice as many major rules as the first six years of the predecessor Bush administration.[8]
President Obama’s directives—particularly those dealing with the environment, housing, labor, race and gender—were implemented without legislative approval or even consideration, a marked shift from earlier eras of legislative-executive cooperation.[9] All of this has threatened the federalist vision, note authors Richard A. Epstein and Mario Loyola, turning local governments into “mere field offices of the federal government.”[10]
Can We Mount a Decentralist Rebellion?
President Trump, woefully ignorant of constitutional issues, is not likely to lead us away from centralization, although he may, for his own reasons, curb some of Obama’s worst excesses. More important may be public attitudes. By a wide margin—64 percent to 26 percent, according to a 2015 poll—Americans say that they believe that “more progress” comes from the local level than the federal level. Majorities of all political affiliations and all demographic groups hold this same opinion. Local governments, according to another 2015 survey, are thought to be particularly better at economic development, and at improving neighborhoods and education.
The tilt toward localism also extends to attitudes toward state governments, many of which have grown more powerful and intrusive in recent years, notably in California. Some 72 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, trust their local more than their state governmental institutions. Even in California, far more people prefer local control than being ruled from Sacramento. Strong majorities (70 percent of adults) prefer local government over state government.
Millennials, largely liberal on issues such as immigration and gay marriage, also are strongly in favor of community-based, local solutions to key problems. They might be, as one commentatorsuggests, more “socially conscious,” but they do not necessarily favor the top-down structure embraced by earlier generations; they prefer small units to larger ones. “Millennials are on a completely different page than most politicians in Washington, D.C.,” notes pollster John Della Volpe. “This is a more cynical generation when it comes to political institutions.”
Toward an Ideological Consensus
President Trump may have little interest in decreasing power, now that he holds it, but his presidency has increased support for a decentralizing strategy among some progressives. This includes such figures as the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz and urbanist Richard Florida, left-leaning pundits who now embrace the idea of freeing cities and regions from the grip of federal control.
Democrats, as liberal thinker Ross K. Baker suggests, may “own the D.C. swamp” but they are beginning to change their tune in the age of Trump. Even dutiful cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s imperial presidency, such as the New Yorker, are now embracing states’ rights.
Perhaps the most coherent case for left-of-center decentralization comes from a recent book by three prominent Democrats: former Al Gore aide Morley Winograd, pollster Mike Hais, and longtime Michigan political leader Doug Ross. In Healing American Democracy: Going Local, they make the case for decentralizing decision-making as one way to reduce polarization and the growing disillusionment with representative government as practiced in the United States today.
Within basic constitutional limits, the authors suggest a system which prefers that decision-making be as close to the citizens as possible. “That is where consensus and effective solutions are most likely to emerge,” they suggest. There’s little point, short of preserving basic constitutional protections, in forcing a common ground between, say, citizens in Portland, Oregon and those in the conservative eastern part of that state, or in making California harmonize with Mississippi.
Of course, once back in power, many progressives will once again find federal power appealing. But as millennials become more important, and information technology disrupts the political norms of former generations, many progressives might embrace a decentralist solution, particularly if they recognize that the nation remains, for the most part, center-Right in orientation.
The Conservative Conundrum
Historically conservatives have favored local control—after all, they are supposed to favor small government. But when in power at the national level, they have shown an unfortunate tendency to act with the centralizing zeal of Soviet apparatchiks.
In states like Texas and North Carolina, right-wing legislators have actually expanded state powers in order to limit political heterodoxy on environmental issues and cultural issues. As analyst Aaron M. Renn points out, these assaults on local control are carried out by conservative legislators who want to contravene the progressive agenda of core cities while, in blue states, progressive-dominated state governments frequently seek to override more conservative local governments.
There is another, and perhaps even more pernicious, conservative trend: to refuse localities the right to protect themselves from the unwanted ramifications of untrammeled capital. Throughout much of the past quarter century, libertarianism—largely averse to government regulation and fervent about reliance on private initiative—has been the unofficial faith of the GOP. Yet this tendency also has a downside when it comes to the realities of how people want to live.
A classic case came up recently in California, with a bill, proposed by state senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco, to remove local government control of housing development in certain areas. This bill is part of a concerted progressive attempt to attack the suburban way of life embraced by most Americans. Some libertarian conservatives, supposed champions of “small government,” supported a measure that would leave local governments and communities out of decisions affecting their day-to-day lives.
Needed: A New Political Paradigm
If progressives and conservatives could come to an agreement on localism, it would constitute the electorate’s best protection against ideologically driven, unwanted intrusions by both capital and government. What is needed is not enforced unanimity but the nurturing of multiple alternatives. We need to allow states to serve as what the progressive Justice Louis Brandeis described as “laboratories of democracy.” These entities, he suggested, can “try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” In other words, let Oregon legislate one way, and Texas and Oklahoma another. Voters could then judge what approach they prefer and try to prove what works best.
Under these localist principles, states also would decentralize authority. California’s coastal power structure, largely concentrated in the Bay Area, should not be so able to impose policies that mean real hardship in Fresno, Riverside, or Redding. Similarly, progressive redoubts in places like North Carolina should be able to legislate their preferences without being gagged by the more conservative rural areas.
The country’s Founding was based largely on the idea of giving communities control over their own money and their own fate. The decades-long rush to centralize power—whatever the political orientation—has undermined our union, and left the country on the road, inevitably, to a new kind of interminable conflict. It is time to reverse course.
[1] See John Adams’s recounting of the history of Rome in Defence of the Constitutions: “We may affirm the contrary; that a standing authority in an absolute monarch, or an hereditary aristocracy, is less friendly to the monster than a simple popular government; and that it is only in a mixed government, of three independent orders, of the one, the few, and the many, and three separate powers, the legislative, executive, and judicial, that all sorts of factions, those of the poor and the rich, those of the gentlemen and common people, those of the one, the few, and the many, can at all times be quelled. . . . The only remedy is to take away the power, by controlling the selfish avidity of the governor, by the senate and house; of the senate, by the governor and house; and of the house, by the governor and senate.”
[2] Madison’s full quote in Federalist 47: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
[3] Charles and Mary Beard, The Rise of American Civilization (MacMillan and Company, 1930), pp. 334-35.
[4] Fred Siegel, Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class (Encounter, 2013), pp. 9-10.
[5] James Q. Wilson, “The Rise of the Bureaucratic State,” The Public Interest, Fall 1975.
[6] Irving Stern, “Government Employment Trends, 1929 to 1956,” Monthly Labor Review 80:7 (July 1957), 811-815, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
[7] “Total Government Employment Since 1962,” Historical Federal Workforce Tables, Office of Personnel Management, Washington, D.C. Available at: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/data-analysis-documentation/federal-employment-reports/historical-tables/total-government-employment-since-1962/
[8] James Gattuso and Diane Katz, “Red Tape Rising: Six Years of Escalating Regulation Under Obama,” the Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., May 11, 2015.
[9] For example, the working relationship between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Marinwood fire chief retires after 27 years of service

Marinwood fire chief retires after 27 years of service









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Tom Roach is retiring after 27 years with the Marinwood Fire Department. (James Cacciatore/Marin Independent Journal)

By ADRIAN RODRIGUEZ | arodriguez@marinij.com | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: October 12, 2018 at 5:15 pm | UPDATED: October 12, 2018 at 7:00 pm


Tom Roach, the Marinwood Fire Department’s longtime fire chief, is retiring this month after a 27-year career at the department where he began as a volunteer firefighter.

“It’s been a pleasure serving the Marinwood community,” said Roach, who moved to Marinwood with his family in 1974 at the age of 6. “I feel blessed being able to serve in a community that I grew up and live in. I’m lucky to have served in a community that I care so much about.”

Roach, 50, has been fire chief for nearly 16 years. For the past year, Roach has been planning his retirement, over which time he helped shepherd a new five-year shared services agreement with the San Rafael Fire Department. Under that agreement, San Rafael fire Chief Chris Gray and the department’s top officers will be at the helm of Marinwood fire, overseeing operations and administration of the department.


See Article HERE

Sunday, October 14, 2018

THE WOLF AND THE CRANE

THE WOLF AND THE CRANE

A WOLF had been feasting too greedily, and a bone had stuck crosswise in his throat. He could get it neither up nor down, and of course he could not eat a thing. Naturally that was an awful state of affairs for a greedy Wolf.

So away he hurried to the Crane. He was sure that she, with her long neck and bill, would easily be able to reach the bone and pull it out.

"I will reward you very handsomely," said the Wolf, "if you pull that bone out for me."

The Crane, as you can imagine, was very uneasy about putting her head in a Wolf's throat. But she was grasping in nature, so she did what the Wolf asked her to do.

[Illustration]

When the Wolf felt that the bone was gone, he started to walk away.

"But what about my reward!" called the Crane anxiously. "What!" snarled the Wolf, whirling around. "Haven't you got it? Isn't it enough that I let you take your head out of my mouth without snapping it off?" 

Expect no reward for serving the wicked.

Marinwood CSD meeting Oct 9, 2018 Full meeting




Full meeting video of October 9, 2018.  Marinwood Fire/San Rafael JPA agreed to.  Residents demand answers about the Marinwood Park Maintenance project but are rebuffed.  Chief Tom Roach retires.

Marinwood Fire Department kitchen is still not completed.

Why did Marinwood CSD turn down a donation for safety improvement?



Marinwood resident asks for hand railing for the steep access point at the Quietwood walk path at the Western end of the path.  It is slippery during rainy conditions. Many seniors walk this path.  Despite a generous donation, the Marinwood CSD has failed to make improved access a  priority for Marinwood Park.  It is yet another example where reasonable citizen requests are being ignored by the Marinwood CSD staff and Board of Directors.