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TRANSPORTATION: "High-speed rail agency urged to rethink planning"; "Watchdog panel raises concerns about bullet train" 

***Reports today in both the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times regarding peer review analysis of California's high-speed rail program....

* San Francisco Chronicle: "High-speed rail agency urged to rethink planning" - From the Chronicle:

   California's nascent high-speed rail program "needs a thorough reassessment" of how it is being planned and managed, a peer review group has concluded. The eight-person group, created after voters approved the $10 billion high-speed rail bond measure in 2008, includes experts in high-speed rail, transportation, finance and planning. It is headed by former Caltrans Director Will Kempton, now executive director of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

   The group, which is assigned with analyzing the feasibility of the high-speed train plan, concluded that the California High-Speed Rail Authority lacks sufficient staffing; a clear financial plan; a business model dictating who will plan, build, own and operate the system and how; as well as a plan to manage inevitable cost increases.

   The authority also needs to acknowledge that it could have problems with obtaining access to rights-of-way from other railroads, and needs to determine how much of the system will be built using tunnels and elevated structures to accurately estimate costs, the report concluded.


   Many of the issues identified in the report have been raised earlier by critics and overseers. But the peer panel focuses much attention on the importance of a business model. It lays out five models that range from running the system like BART, with the authority handling all planning, construction and operation, to simply buying the right-of-way and turning over all responsibilities for construction and operation to a private entity.

***Also, LAT:  "Watchdog panel raises concerns about bullet train" - "Money, staffing and planning challenges must be met, report warns."


L.A. CITY HALL: LAPD budget; LAX (concessions; project labor agreement; Palmdale renewable energy plant)....



***Sad news this afternoon in the Los Angeles business community.  Passing of well-known economist Jack Kyser at age 76....

* Daily Breeze:  "Economist Jack Kyser dies at 76" - From the DB:

   Jack Kyser, a longtime analyst who for nearly three decades gave his authoritative voice on the Southern California economy, has died at 76, sources confirmed today. The cause of death has not been released.

   Longtime friend George McQuade of Mayo Communications confirmed the news.


   Born in Huntington Park, Kyser graduated from Downey High School and later earned a bachelor's degree in industrial design and a master's in business administration from USC. After graduation, Kyser worked for a number of banks in Southern California in the 1970s and '80s and was an economist with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce before moving to Omaha, Neb., where he studied transportation economics for Union Pacific Railroad. It was there that he began a long career in media, working as a business reporter for an Omaha-based radio station and teaching economics at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

   In 1991, Kyser joined the nonprofit LAEDC and began an aggressive campaign to build the organization's reputation as the top economic research firm in the nation's second-largest city. His reputation grew rapidly during the recession of the early 1990s, which devastated Southern California's aerospace and manufacturing industries, including in Long Beach and Downey, which each saw tens of thousands of layoffs at jet, satellite and research-and-development companies that had been a mainstay of local employment since World War II.

   By the mid-1990s, Kyser was a frequent guest on local radio and television and was writing dozens of reports on local film, trade, transportation, manufacturing and tourism industries.


BAY AREA: "Oakland Police Department shrinking fast"

* San Francisco Chronicle, Matier & Ross column:  "Oakland Police Department shrinking fast" - From the Chronicle:

   Sound the alarm - Oakland's Police Department is shrinking so fast that it doesn't have enough officers to cover some patrols and many of its investigative units have been stripped to the bone. 

   Everyone knows about the 80 officers the city laid off in July to save money. But since then, 21 more have retired, 12 have decamped for other police departments, five have simply quit and one has been fired - dropping the total number of officers to 670. Meanwhile, 30 more officers are undergoing background checks by other departments seeking to hire them. And another 40 will be eligible to retire by year's end. Even that doesn't tell the whole story.

   Another 77 cops - or more than 10 percent of the entire force - are on the shelf because of injuries. That's about double the usual rate. Twenty will be going back to work in the next two weeks, but only for "light duty." And thanks to a provision in a parcel tax that city voters passed in 2004, 63 cops have to be assigned as community problem-solving officers who ferret out trouble spots and crime trends in designated districts. That means they can't be assigned to investigations or to work in other neighborhoods.

   Put it all together, and you have investigative units such as the burglary and robbery details being raided to fill patrol beats. There are now just five cops investigating everything from auto thefts to burglaries to identity theft. But even so, street coverage is becoming a challenge. On an average day, six of the city's 33 patrol car beats go uncovered for lack of officers.

   Chief Anthony Batts- who estimated the city needs at least 925 cops to get the job done - is trying to make up for the loss by partnering up with federal, state and county law enforcement units. "We're going to keep trying," he said. "We are not going to give up."

   The fight isn't getting any easier.

   After voters rejected a measure last month that would have helped hire back cops, City Administrator Dan Lindheim said Oakland could afford only 637 officers next year. Considering the exodus under way, the city is likely to hit the 637 level - or even go lower - without the political embarrassment of more layoffs. Mayor-elect Jean Quan has said she wants to hire more cops, but can do so only if officers agree to kick in 9 percent of their pay to help cover their pensions. "The trouble is, the cops don't trust City Hall," said police union head Dom Arotzarena. "There's no guarantee they won't just take the money and spend it elsewhere."


WASHINGTON, D.C.: Republicans lining up for 2012 Senate races; also, big-money fundraising by GOP freshmen....  

***A couple items in today's Washington Post....

* "Just weeks after 2010 election, Republicans lining up for 2012 Senate races" - From the WP:

   The 2012 presidential race may be off to a slow start - not a single Republican has announced his (or her) intentions to run - but aspiring GOP pols are falling all over themselves to get into Senate races nationwide.

   Last week, former Missouri state treasurer Sarah Steelman became the latest to make an early leap into the candidate pool when she announced her intention to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in nearly two years. "We need jobs - urgently. We need to balance the budget - urgently," she said. "We have to fight if we're going to save this country for our kids and grandkids. There is no time to wait."

   Another factor in Steelman's quick candidacy was the looming presence of Jim Talent (R), who lost his seat to McCaskill in 2006 and has been pondering a rematch ever since. Those close to the former senator say he is likely to decide by January, which, in most other election cycles, would be extremely early to make such intentions known.

   Missouri is not the only state where the Senate race is starting fast.

***WP piece notes that a somewhat similar situation is also taking place in Nebraska, Florida and Montana, along with a discussion as to the details in each of these states....


* "Incoming GOP freshmen rapidly embracing big-money-fundraising" - From the WP:

   After Francisco "Quico" Canseco beat Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) as part of the Republican wave on Nov. 2, the tea party favorite declared: "It's going to be a new day in Washington." Two weeks later, Canseco was in the heart of Washington for a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club. The event--hosted by Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.)--was aimed at paying off more than $1.1 million in campaign debts racked up by Canseco, much of it from his own pocket.

   After winning election with an anti-Washington battle cry, Canseco and other incoming Republican freshmen have rapidly embraced the capital's culture of big-money fundraisers, according to new campaign-finance reports and other records.

   Dozens of freshmen lawmakers have held receptions at Capitol Hill bistros and corporate townhouses in recent weeks, taking money from K Street lobbyists and other powerbrokers within days of their victories. Newly elected House members have raised at least $2 million since the election, according to preliminary Federal Election Commission records filed last week, and many more contributions have yet to be tallied.

   The aggressive fundraising efforts underscore the financial pressures facing new members of Congress even before they take their seats. The contributions also represent a symbolic challenge for the Republican class of 2010, many of whom gained office by running against the ways of official Washington and monied interests.