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Monday
Jul282014

POLITICS (State, Local/Bay Area): San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, controversy, statewide ballot measure, reclassification of drug possession and property crimes ....  

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):

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Ouch: San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is catching flak from prosecutors elsewhere in the state over an initiative he and recently retired San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne helped qualify for the November ballot to make most drug possession and property crimes misdemeanors.

In an e-mail to Gascón, Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse complained that "to the best of my knowledge, none of our elected colleagues were consulted by you regarding its merits, its drafting or the anticipated consequences which certainly will reverberate in every one of our counties if it passes." Morse was also burned that Gascón never brought up his proposal at any of the California District Attorneys Association confabs that the two attended.

Morse characterized the initiative, Proposition 47, as "essentially a unilateral gambit by one D.A. representing one county of less than 1 million people purporting to tell those of us who represent the remaining 37 million Californians what is best for public safety. ... It is breathtaking in its hubris."

Gascón said the ballot plan was hardly a secret. And he noted that the district attorneys association also opposed last year's Proposition 36, which removed nonserious, nonviolent offenses from "three strikes and you're out" sentencing rules. It passed easily.

"I find it incredible that people who are elected officials have such a hard time asking the voters whether we should continue to waste billions of dollars in prison space for low-level offenders," Gascón said.

 

Monday
Jul282014

MORNING MEMOS: Dodgers, Time Warner Cable, politics, "FCC should help reach deal to end Dodgers TV standoff, lawmakers say"; commentary (Dan Walters), "Legality of advisory ballot measures needs judicial clarity"; commentary (Matier & Ross), "The high toll of needed tsting on Bay Bridge rods and bolts" .... 

***Various items this morning from across the spectrum of politics and/or public policy....

* Los Angeles Times:  "FCC should help reach deal to end Dodgers TV standoff, lawmakers say"

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):  "The high toll of needed testing on Bay Bridge rods and bolts"

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "Legality of advisory ballot measures needs judicial clarity"

Monday
Jul282014

POLITICS (National): Citizens United decision, outside spending, "explosion of political advertising on television": "Outside Money Drives a Deluge of Political Ads" ....

* New York Times:  "Outside Money Drives a Deluge of Political Ads" - From the NYT:

WASHINGTON — An explosion of spending on political advertising on television — set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election — is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates’ own efforts to reach voters.

In the first full midterm cycle where outside groups have developed a sophisticated infrastructure, the consequences are already becoming apparent: a harshly negative tone dictated by the groups and a nearly nonstop campaign season that could cause voters to tune out before Election Day. “They have become a shadow party that’s effectively impossible to dislodge, and they will shape, if not control, the dialogue in key races and therefore nationally,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics. “All of this sets the stage for 2016.”

The phenomenon, which is playing out in races across the country, is particularly pronounced in several competitive Senate contests. . . . . . . .

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Spending from outside groups has been on a swift ascent since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. . . . . . . .

The outside groups are dictating the terms and message of the 2014 contests, defining candidates long before the candidates are able to define themselves and start reaching voters. “It makes it harder for the campaign to control the message,” said Will Feltus, senior vice president for research and planning at National Media Inc., a Republican media-buying company. “Somebody else can set the message agenda for the campaign.”

The top three outside groups alone — Americans for Prosperity, Senate Majority PAC, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — have already spent a combined more than $80 million in congressional races. Americans for Prosperity, backed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent $44 million on House and Senate races. Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic Senate candidates, has spent more than $22 million on Senate races, and the Chamber of Commerce has spent up to $17 million on House and Senate races.

Unlike in 2010, Democrats, who assailed the impact of Citizens United, have joined in the political arms race.................................

Monday
Jul282014

POLITICS (National, Local/New York City): New housing development on Upper West Side, separate entrances, wealthier residents vs. occupants of project's affordable units: "On the Upper West Side, a House Divided by Income" ....  

* New York Times:  "On the Upper West Side, a House Divided by Income" - From the NYT:

Even as so many crises roiled the world recently, the news that a development on the Upper West Side of Manhattan would proceed with a brand of distasteful social engineering still managed to command international attention. The building, in what is known as Riverside South, a stretch of land reaching below 72nd Street that seems largely like a pop-up location for people who have never heard of Katz’s deli or the G train, had received approval from the city for separate entrances — one for wealthy residents and one for those earning far less who would occupy the project’s affordable units, in a separate wing.

This seemed to provide more evidence that living in Manhattan has become increasingly like a flight to Houston in which one is made to board in Zone 4 and eat only stale pretzels.

The “Upstairs, Downstairs” effect was permissible under a change to zoning codes made during the Bloomberg era that gave developers who provided affordable housing in market-rate projects discretion over these particulars, in addition to the considerable tax breaks they receive. Although the building’s configuration is anathema to the values embraced by the de Blasio administration, forcing the developer to abandon it would involve costly, not entirely tenable litigation, which would slow the progress of the city’s affordable-housing plans, the administration said. The focus now is to reverse the zoning change, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen told me, a process that should take about a year.

The “poor door,” as it has been called, is an odious response to a problem whose solution is neither obvious nor easily achievable through the mechanisms of policy: How, and to what extent, should the city mandate economic integration? The Riverside development is unusual, and even vaguely radical, in the sense that its luxury units are condominiums rather than rental apartments.

Typically, buildings like it, which combine market-rate and affordable units, offer none of them for sale. In this case, a building in which apartments are trading at $2,000 a square foot will also contain 55 apartments for households earning $35,280 to $50,340 a year. (At the top range the household must contain at least four people.)

As nearly the entire Upper East Side from Lexington Avenue to Fifth can lay testament, rich people like to live among rich people. A developer erecting a structure with $3 million apartments is going to worry, not irrationally, that those apartments will be less marketable if they are next door to those renting for $1,000 a month. It isn’t simply that rich people find poorer people yucky, though in some cases that will certainly be true, but that owners typically prefer living among other owners, out of the belief that this arrangement best protects the value of their asset. Renting has the taint of transience, diminished stability and so on.

(While only one-third of New Yorkers are homeowners, close to 60 percent of those making over $500,000 a year fall into that category, according to the Furman Center at New York University.)

So how to accomplish mingling when it can seem so at odds with the essential preferences and justifications of an entire social class? . . . . . . . .

In an ideal universe................................

Monday
Jul282014

POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION: San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, investigation, construction problems: "State senator calls for criminal probe of Bay Bridge construction problems" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "State senator calls for criminal probe of Bay Bridge construction problems" - From the Bee:

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is calling for a criminal investigation into construction problems on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and said the release this week of a Senate investigative report will show how the California Department of Transportation knowingly accepted substandard work at taxpayer expense. DeSaulnier said the investigation for the Transportation and Housing Committee he chairs will expand on construction and management lapses described in a January draft report, and that these warrant a criminal investigation by the California attorney general or U.S. attorney.

The report also confirms a June investigation by The Sacramento Bee that revealed how Caltrans knowingly accepted flawed, potentially hazardous work by a Chinese firm that welded most of the new suspension span roadway and tower, DeSaulnier said.

His committee will discuss the report at an Aug. 5 hearing. New witnesses will corroborate earlier testimony about the welding problems and issues with the concrete foundation of the span’s iconic tower, originally reported by The Bee in 2011, DeSaulnier said. He said some expected testimony is “quite disturbing.” The hearing will cap years of investigations by The Bee and others into construction lapses and apparent management malfeasance of the $6.5 billion bridge, which opened last fall.

DeSaulnier also called for a comprehensive review of the new span’s known and possible defects by experts not biased by previous affiliations with the project, and an examination of the adequacy of oversight by the Federal Highway Administration. The California Highway Patrol is also investigating how Caltrans and its contractors handled weld cracks produced by the Chinese fabricator.

Asked if he foresaw the need for a criminal probe, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty deferred to the CHP, which does not discuss pending investigations. “I don’t have any indication that (a criminal investigation will be launched). But I would rely on CHP’s input,” Dougherty said...................................