Thursday, April 18, 2019

California Has Become America's Cannibal State

California Has Become America's Cannibal State

In this Oct. 1, 2018 photo, Stormy Nichole Day, left, sits on a sidewalk on Haight Street with Nord (last name not given) and his dog Hobo while interviewed about being homeless in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
For over six years, California has had a top marginal income tax rate of 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. About 150,000 households in a state of 40 million people now pay nearly half of the total annual state income tax.
The state legislature sold that confiscatory tax rate on the idea that it was a temporary fix and would eventually be phased out. No one believed that. California voters, about 40 percent of whom pay no state income taxes, naturally approved the extension of the high rate by an overwhelming margin.
California recently raised gas taxes by 40 percent and now has the second-highest gas taxes in the United States.
California has the ninth-highest combined state and local sales taxes in the country, but its state sales tax of 7.3 percent is America's highest. As of April 1, California is now applying that high state sales tax to goods that residents buy online from out-of-state sellers.
In late 2017, the federal government capped state and local tax deductions at $10,000. For high earners in California, the change effectively almost doubled their state and local taxes.
Such high taxes, often targeting a small percentage of the population, may have brought California a budget surplus of more than $20 million. Yet California is never satiated with high new tax rates that bring in additional revenue. It's always hungry for more.
Scott Wiener, a Democratic state senator from San Francisco, has introduced a bill that would create a new California estate tax. Wiener outlined a death tax of 40 percent on estates worth more than $3.5 million for single Californians or more than $7 million for married couples.
Given the soaring valuations of California properties, a new estate tax could force children to sell homes or family farms they inherited just to pay the tax bills.
Soon, even more of the Californian taxpayers who chip in to pay half of the state income taxes will flee in droves for low-tax or no-tax states.
What really irks California taxpayers are the shoddy public services that they receive in exchange for such burdensome taxes. California can be found near the bottom of state rankings for schools and infrastructure.
San Francisco ranks first among America's largest cities in property crimes per capita. The massive concrete ruins of the state's quarter-built and now either canceled or postponed multibillion-dollar high-speed rail system are already collecting graffiti.
Roughly a quarter of the nation's homeless live in California. So do about one-third of all Americans on public assistance. Approximately one-fifth of the state's population lives below the poverty line. About one-third of Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's health care program for low-income residents.
California's social programs are magnets that draw in the indigent from all over the world, who arrive in search of generous health, education, legal, nutritional and housing subsidies. Some 27 percent of the state's residents were not born in the United States.
Last month alone, nearly 100,000 foreign nationals were stopped at the southern border, according to officials. Huge numbers of migrants are able to make it across without being caught, and many end up in California.
A lot of upper-middle-class taxpayers feel that not only does California fail to appreciate their contributions, but that the state often blames them for not paying even more -- as if paying about half of their incomes to local, state and federal governments somehow reveals their greed.
The hyper-wealthy liberal denizens of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the coastal enclaves often seem exempt from the consequences of the high taxes they so often advocate for others. The super-rich either have the clout to hire experts to help them avoid such taxes, or they simply have so much money that they are not much affected by even California's high taxes.
What is the ideology behind such destructive state policies?
Venezuela, which is driving out its middle class, is apparently California's model. Venezuelan leaders believed in providing vast subsidies for the poor. The country's super-rich are often crony capitalists who can avoid high taxes.
Similarly, California is waging an outright war on the upper-middle class, which lacks the numbers of the poor and the clout of the rich.
Those who administer California's plagued department of motor vehicles and high-speed rail authority may often be inept and dysfunctional, but the state's tax collectors are the most obsessive bureaucrats in the nation.
What is Sacramento's message to those who combine to pay half the state's income taxes and have not yet left California?
"Be gone or we will eat you!"

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of the soon-to-be-released "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," to appear in October from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Marinwood Drive Through Maintenance facility is a bust

The Marinwood "Drive Through" Maintenance Facility now before the Marin County Planning board is completely unworkable for the maintenance department and our service vehicles.  The video below shows why. Our maintenance department has a 2018 Ford F250 truck that is 22 feet long and a 16' dump trailer. Just like the truck in the short video, our F250 needs 51.9 feet to turn around .   
This means that our truck will be on the edge of Miller Creek stream bank every time it needs to turn around, rain or shine. More likely it will drive to the meadow to turn around and destroy this lovely area too.

In 2007, a catastrophic flood destroyed the stream bank below the current maintenance facility to prevent it from being lost.  If you look at the eastern edge of the maintenance shed, you will see the edge of the stream bank.

While the proposed maintenance facility is further away from the current garage area, it is still far too close to the stream bank where flooding occurs.  It is COMPLETELY within the restricted area under the 2007 Stream Conservation Ordinance.

This would be bad news for the CSD but fortunately,  Irv Schwartz, noted Marin Civil Engineer and former CSD Director came up with the best solution in 2017 called "Option 3".  It is a conventional maintenance facility design that is long and narrow and is situated next to the fence line.  It is the same size as the McInnis Park facility or about ONE THIRD the size and cost of the proposed Marinwood Park facility.
Option #3 is the "environmentally preferred" option for our next maintenance facility.

Tell the Marinwood CSD/ Marin County to stop wasting money on a maintenance compound that will destroy our park.  Design a new facility based on Option Three. 

Send your comments to
and Michelle Levenson, Marin County Planner  

Should the CSD Shipping Container Garage Workshop for Marinwood?

Different siding options can camouflage the shipping container.

A shipping container garage workshop like the one above can save Marinwood CSD hundreds of thousands of dollars and is environmentally responsible.  As you can see above, clever use of siding can make it blend into the landscape.  

Should Marinwood CSD consider a shipping container workshop for Marinwood Park?

Dixie School District to change name

SAN RAFAEL — The Dixie School District board voted Tuesday night to change the name of the 150-year-old district after critics linked it to the Confederacy and slavery.
Trustees voted 3-1, with one abstention, to change both the name of the Marin County district and the name of its elementary school by Aug. 22, when classes resume.
However, the board didn’t choose a new name. A committee made up of parents, other community members and district staff will be set up to solicit and evaluate suggestions from the public.
The board rejected some 15 names in February when it voted against a name-change on grounds that more community input was needed.
The cost of the name change, such as replacing signs, was estimated at nearly $40,000, but the Marin Community Foundation pledged to cover it.
Dixie is a nickname for the southern U.S. states that formed the pro-slavery Confederacy in 1860, sparking the Civil War. The legacy of the Confederacy prompts political, legal and cultural conflicts to this day.
Those who support changing the name say the district was named Dixie by James Miller, the school founder, on a dare by Confederate sympathizers. Those who oppose the change say the school system was named for Mary Dixie, a Miwok Indian woman that Miller knew in the 1840s.
The name-change issue has generated heated debate in overwhelmingly white San Rafael, with some insisting the Dixie name is racially insensitive while others complain the proposed change is political correctness run amok.
Both sides spoke out during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“You know Dixie is a racist name, so change it,” said Bali Simon, a fifth-grader at Dixie Elementary School. “I’m hoping I can go back to school next fall proud of our new district name.”
An opponent of the name change, Mette Nygard, said the “ugly insinuations” tarnished Miller’s reputation.
“The community is so far removed from the confederacy that it’s a ridiculous assertion,” Nygard said.
However, she was interrupted by demonstrators chanting “Dixie must go!” Critics of the current name also brought signs into the room that said “say no to racism.”
Some of the proposed names that were previously rejected by the board included “Marie Dixie Elementary School District” and “Skywalker Elementary School District.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

Why the proposed Marinwood Maintenance Compound will be a Mess.

The proposed Marinwood Maintenance Compound won't have a grassy area in front.
This area must be used for loading/unloading of landscape materials.

The Marinwood CSD maintenance crew generates big piles of landscaping debris and trash each week. They store this in the large open area next to the horse shoe pits in Marinwood Park to allow the convenient loading/dumping of material.  

Large piles of landscaping waste and trash is stored in the open at the Maintenance shed

A bucket loading operation requires much space as you can see in this video.   Generally, the dump trailer is loaded from the side into the center of the trailer. The operator must do this to balance the load for safety.  This means the bucket loader requires a large area for scooping material and turning.

The truck and trailer must be parked perpendicular to the bucket loader.  

In the site plan of the proposed Maintenance Facility below, you can see that the only area where this operation can take place is IN FRONT of the Maintenance Facility.  The architect has drawn a walking path in this area to deceive the planning department.  There is NO ROOM inside the walled maintenance compound to perform a mechanized loading operation.

Our Ford F250 is 22 feet long.and the dump trailer is approximately 20 feet long including tongue.

This means that 42 feet of space will be required for the truck/trailer and an additional 40' to 60' feet to the side will be required for the bucket loader and material.  This will occupy all the area between the maintenance building and Miller Creek.

Proposed Maintenance Facility with old facility overlay in brown

This drawing shows the footprint of the proposed Maintenance Bldg and the old building footprint in brown. The brown box on the left is the area the architect calls open storage. In fact the entire area from the current building to the horse shoe pit is used for landscaping debris, parking and tool storage.  Clearly there is no area suitable for loading and unloading material within the proposed Maintenance Building above. The architect shows this area as green space and a walking path but it will not happen. It will be used for parking and storage of debris and landscaping materials. The is no alternative.

What happened to the access road that the architect showed in previous drawings?  It has disappeared.  This is highly deceptive.  The architect must show where essential activities will take place on the building site. Safety vehicles and pedestrians must pass through this area.

The drawings do not show the true impact to the stream conservation area and Marinwood Park.

The proposed Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility is simply too big and inefficient,  harms the environment and occupies land that should be used for recreational purposes as intended.

I got Stoned and Did My Taxes

I Got Stoned and Did My Taxes

Being comfortably high makes the burden of taxes a bit less awful.

This is my first year married filing jointly, and also my first year being stoned while I do my taxes.
The first hurdle was trying to remember my TurboTax password. Well, the first hurdle was building up the motivation to do my taxes. I smoked a massive joint with my husband and browsed flights to Budapest and Dubrovnik before realizing that I could not procrastinate anymore and also could not fly to Eastern Europe to avoid my tax burden.
The TurboTax password was hidden in plain sight, right in our Dashlane password manager account. That didn’t stop us from staring at the screen for somewhere between five and 20 minutes trying to figure out which one was the password (time is hard to estimate, man). The thought occurred to me that I might be too high to do my taxes. I steeled myself and tried to concentrate.
High people can be quite functional. I have a decent sense of my own limits. I was high for the vast majority of college: an acolyte of the wake-and-bake school of thought, trotting to class each day under the influence of coffee and a spliff. Prattling professors and try-hard college students couldn’t get to me if I was stoned, so I would sit in the back of the class and read the news each morning in a slight stupor—my bookwormish ritual. Weed has always gently mellowed my naturally Type A, ultra-organized personality. If it can dull the pain of higher education, presumably it can dull the pain of taxes too.
At the beginning of TurboTax’s tour, they ask you to answer a few questions about ways your financial circumstance has changed over the past year. I had switched jobs and—more important to the IRS—had gotten married. “Most couples who file together save money on their taxes together! We’ll gather info for both of you, and help get your first refund as a couple.” TurboTax chirped, accompanied by a heteronormative graphic of a diamond ring intertwined with a chunky wedding band.
I uploaded my W2s and started tediously entering freelancing 1099s. I connected my Wealthfront investment account to the TurboTax platform. I attempted to demystify what a 1099-DIV is, and to figure out how to declare our various investments. No real roadblocks thus far, but my mind kept wandering.
As I got to the charitable giving part, a thought came to me: Maybe one good side effect of taxes is that they force people to confront whether charitable giving and (for the religious among us) tithing really matter to them. Oh no, am I becoming one of those people, the ones who let government incentives dictate their actions? I think so, just a little bit.
Last year we gave one-time donations to various causes, but nothing enormous. While filing taxes this month, we realized the error of our ways, and also that a write-off sounds nice. The day after filing, we set up monthly donations to our church (non-denominational, but Baptist-tinged) and to immigrant and refugee respite centers in the Rio Grande Valley. The government nudge wasn’t the single deciding factor—this is something we’d wanted to do for a long time—but it was the catalyst that brought it front of mind. (Tokes.) Thanks for the reminder, taxes!
As the legal theft droned on (asking about property taxes and mortgages), my stoned mind couldn’t help but marvel at the glorious invention of TurboTax. Our entrepreneurial overlords had created software that makes everyone’s yearly government takings way easier to calculate and complete. Now they have a near-monopoly on digital tax-filing services. Also, what a brilliant business concept: a platform that appeals and caters to almost everyone. Shark Tank‘s wise sage Kevin O’Leary has a saying about how entrepreneurs should focus on areas where there are built-in markets (i.e., weddings and funerals). The TurboTax inventors went even further! All hail the free market! I delighted in the built-in audit risk assessment for freelancers far more than any sober human being would. I smoked another joint on the porch and sipped some coffee.
Things took a turn for the worse when I got to the page that asked “Do you want to donate $3 to the presidential campaign fund? This will not reduce your refund or increase your tax due.” I clicked on the description, rightly fearing the worst. TurboTax explained that this opt-in funding of elections could “reduce candidates’ dependence on large contributions and, hopefully, to put everyone on an equal financial footing (so they’d have more time to discuss the issues).”
It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t sufficiently stoned anymore. As if candidates would focus on the substance—and as if that substance would matter to the many hobbits and hooligans swarming around the ballot boxes like flies. As TurboTax auto-checked for more credits and deductions, my brain descended into campaign finance reform, and I made some cannabutter tea (Thai red tea with milk, a hefty chunk of homemade cannabutter, and some sweetener), which produces a long-lasting but mild high.
By the time we were done, we owed the government a lot of money and the covered porch smelled like a hotboxed dorm room.
Pot isn’t a cure-all. It didn’t cure the pain of owing the government roughly $2,000, or the frustration of wondering whether we were entering all our stock holdings correctly. But it did make rote data entry just a little more fun. Marijuana apparently isn’t too dangerous to inhibit me from filing my tax returns. I even managed to figure out the 1099-DIVs.
Weed is one substance in our arsenal that makes the mundane necessities of life a bit more manageable, a bit more whimsical, and a bit less dreaded. If they’re going to make us surrender hard-earned wads of cash, we at least ought to be able to chief a blunt while we do it.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Urban Planning Dream or Nightmare?

Urban Planning Dream or Nightmare?

In Best-Laid Plans, the Antiplanner argues that cities are too complicated to plan, so anyone who tries to plan them ends up following fads and focusing on one or two goals to the near-exclusion of all else. The current fad is to reduce per capita driving by increasing density and spending money on rail transit.
The logical end product of such narrow-minded planning is illustrated by a SimCity constructed by Vincent Ocasla, an architecture student from the Philippines. His goal was to build the densest possible SimCity, and the result is a landscape that is almost entirely covered by high-rise towers used for both residences and work. There are no streets and residents travel either on foot or by subway. There is little need for travel, however, as most residents live in the same tower in which they work.
Magnasanti, as Ocasla calls his creation, does have a few down sides. Dirty industry allows for higher densities than clean industry, so the air is polluted and the average life span in the city is only 50. A strong police force keeps residents from rebelling. As Ocasla says, residents have been “dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going.” As another blogger points out, Magnasanti “teaches us the pinnacle of urban planning is a totalitarian death state.”
Naturally, urban planners will emphatically deny that they want to build magnasantis. But Ocasla’s creation raises important questions: if driving is so bad that we have to reduce it, where do we draw the line? If single-family homes are bad because they waste land and encourage people to drive too much, why allow people to live in single-family homes at all?
Planners respond that they just want to provide people with choices. But Portland planners (and planning-oriented politicians) are letting roadway bridges fall down even as they spend $1.5 billion or more on a light-rail line to a community that has repeatedly voted against light rail. (Portland planners even claim to have “found” $20 million in savings from the unfunded Sellwood Bridge project to spend on the light rail.)
Meanwhile, planners are perfectly happy for people to live in single-family homes as long as they can afford to buy them. But the same planners see nothing wrong with using urban-growth boundaries and onerous permitting processes in California to make such homes cost five times what they ought to cost.
There also seems to be no limit to what many transportation planners and rail advocates are willing to let other people pay for high-speed rail. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has vowed that nothing will stop the Milwaukee-to-Madison moderate-speed train (which initially at least will be slower than the existing bus), even though it will require $130 in subsidies per rider and compete against an unsubsidized bus whose average fare is less than $20. Just how ridiculously expensive does high-speed rail have to be before transportation planners say, “this makes no sense”? Instead, it seems most would support anything, no matter what the cost, if it would get even one person out of his or her car.
Not only are urban planners across the country overly focused on one objective, it is the wrong objective: because alternatives to driving are either slower or more expensive or both, reducing driving unequivocally means reducing mobility, and reducing mobility means reducing economic productivity (not to mention recreation, social, and other opportunities). Magnasanti shows, says Ocasla, “that by only focusing on one objective, one may end up neglecting, or resorting to sacrificing, other important elements.” The Antiplanner hopes that planners and planning advocates learn this lesson soon.



  A VERY young Mouse, who had never seen anything of the world, almost came to grief the very first time he ventured out. And this is the story he told his mother about his adventures.
"I was strolling along very peaceably when, just as I turned the corner into the next yard, I saw two strange creatures. One of them had a very kind and gracious look, but the other was the most fearful monster you can imagine. You should have seen him.


"On top of his head and in front of his neck hung pieces of raw red meat. He walked about restlessly, tearing up the ground with his toes, and beating his arms savagely against his sides. The moment he caught sight of me he opened his pointed mouth as if to swallow me, and then he let out a piercing roar that frightened me almost to death."

  Can you guess who it was that our young Mouse was trying to describe to his mother? It was nobody but the Barnyard Cock and the first one the little Mouse had ever seen.

"If it had not been for that terrible monster," the Mouse went on, " I should have made the acquaintance of the pretty creature, who looked so good and gentle. He had thick, velvety fur, a meek face, and a look that was very modest, though his eyes were bright and shining. As he looked at me he waved his fine long tail and smiled.
"I am sure he was just about to speak to me when the monster I have told you about let out a screaming yell, and I ran for my life."
"My son," said the Mother Mouse, "that gentle creature you saw was none other than the Cat. Under his kindly appearance, he bears a grudge against every one of us. The other was nothing but a bird who wouldn't harm you in the least. As for the Cat, he eats us. So be thankful, my child, that you escaped with your life, and, as long as you live, never judge people by their looks."

Do not trust alone to outward appearances.

The Man Who Helped Save the Bay by Trying to Destroy It

The Man Who Helped Save the Bay by Trying to Destroy It

A critical appreciation by Charles Wollenberg.
Boom California on April 14, 2015

Editor's Note Is @Scott_Wiener a modern day John Reber with a fixation to "Save the Bay Area" by destroying it with SB827? In the 40s and 50s Reber proposed to filling the bay to reclaim land/build water storage. He was taken seriously too.

by Charles Wollenberg

A critical appreciation

In 1961 three remarkable women—Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Ester Gulick— started Save the Bay, a grassroots citizens’ movement to preserve and protect San Francisco Bay. It turned out to be one of the most successful efforts at environmental activism in American history. As University of California, Berkeley geography professor Richard Walker has observed, the movement transformed the popular vision of the bay from a “place of production and circulation of goods and people… of no more aesthetic or spiritual import than today’s freeways” to a “vast scenic, recreational, and ecological open space.” New public policies ended bay fill, promoted the restoration of marshes and wetlands, and opened hundreds of miles of bay shoreline to the public. The bay became “the visual centerpiece of the metropolis, a watery commons for the region, and a source of pride to Bay Area residents.”1

Yet the dramatic achievements of the Save the Bay movement in the 1960s would not have been possible without the defeat of the Reber Plan in the 1950s. John Reber’s proposal to build two giant dams to transform most of the San Francisco Bay into two freshwater lakes would have destroyed the estuary as we know it. Had Reber’s dream come true, there would have been no bay to save. The Reber Plan also became a crucial and lasting symbolic inspiration for the movement to save the bay. Although the history of the Save the Bay movement is well documented, the rise and fall of the Reber Plan is less well known today. Almost entirely forgotten is the personal story of John Reber, a remarkable figure in Bay Area history who seemed to combine the ambition of Robert Moses, New York’s larger-than-life master planner, with the personality and personal frustrations of Willy Loman, the tragic hero of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.2

Via Flickr user Anika Erdmann.

When twenty-year-old John Reber came to California from his native Ohio in 1907, he planned to become a teacher. But he couldn’t resist the siren call of show business and instead became an actor, director, and writer. He wrote screenplays for Mack Sennet comedies. (Reber said his method was to write tragedies and then “throw in a couple of custard pies” for laughs.) For two decades, he made a good living writing and directing plays and pageants in communities up and down California. Local service clubs such as the Elks usually sponsored the productions, which featured townspeople in the cast. Reber estimated he staged more than 300 performances in sixty towns and cities with local casts of 100 to 5,000 people. This put him in contact with “all the best people,” influential men and women who might later support his bay plan. Senator and former Governor Hiram Johnson said Reber knew more people than anyone else in California. Reber believed his show business experience prepared him to create his grand plan. “What is master planning but stage managing an area?” he asked. According to Reber, the implementation of the plan would be “the greatest pageant on earth.”3

Reber argued the bay was “a geographic mistake,” interfering with the efficient operation of the surrounding metropolis. Because of the bay, the transcontinental railroad ended in Oakland instead of its natural destination, San Francisco. Reber initially favored an earthen causeway to bring the rails directly into the city. But as he traveled around California and learned of the extraordinary value of freshwater to the state’s development, his plan became far more ambitious. By 1929 his proposal included two large earth-filled dams, one located just south of the current Bay Bridge and the other at the approximate location of today’s Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. While the tops of the structures would serve as transportation corridors for rail and auto traffic, the dams would also block saltwater intrusion into both the north and south bays, creating two massive freshwater lakes. Under the Reber Plan, only about 15 percent of the present bay would have remained subject to ocean tides. Reber estimated the lakes would store about 10 million acre-feet of water, more than twice the capacity of Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir. The water would have been available for residential and industrial use around the bay and for irrigation in regional agricultural areas such as the Santa Clara Valley.4

The Reber Plan also proposed massive amounts of new bay fill, creating about 20,000 acres of additional dry land on what was once wetlands and open water. The largest fill would have been off the Richmond, Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville shoreline. The plan envisioned a twelve-mile freshwater channel through these new lands, linking the two lakes and allowing runoff from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers to circulate in both the north and south waterways. The plan included locks to allow shipping to pass from salt water to freshwater. Reber added features as time went on: additional port facilities, an aqueduct to transport water to the San Joaquin Valley, an airport, a regional transportation terminal, and a high-speed military freeway connecting the Bay Area to Los Angeles. As World War II approached, Reber planned new military elements, including naval bases on filled land along the Marin County shoreline and secure hangars and fuel storage facilities in caves created by the excavation of fill for construction of the earthen dams. Later Reber promoted the proposed transportation corridors as evacuation routes in the event of atomic attack.5 During its nearly thirty years of design and debate, the Reber Plan was an organic document, changing to reflect new circumstances and political realities. But the transportation links and the freshwater lakes remained the key elements of John Reber’s grand vision.

The Reber Plan, via Flickr user Eric Fischer.

Reber belonged to a generation of Americans who had great faith in massive public works. Beginning with the construction of the transcontinental railroad, an enterprise heavily