Index
Monday
Oct292012

SACRAMENTO: Proposition 30, report, analysis, "Does California need more tax money?"....

* San Jose Mercury News:  "Proposition 30 analysis: Does California need more tax money?" - From the Mercury News:

In TV commercials and campaign stops, Gov. Jerry Brown has told Californians that voting against his tax-hike measure, Proposition 30, will mean devastating cuts for public schools. Yet the governor's finance team concedes that state spending will go up next year regardless of your vote.

So what's a voter to think? Does the state of California really need more of your money?

This newspaper's review of state budget figures found.................

Monday
Oct292012

POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION: Expo Line, Zev Yaroslavsky, "For jobs' sake, don't stop Expo"; Jim Newton op-ed, "Clear the Expo Line tracks"....

* Zev's Weekly Web Flash:  "For jobs' sake, don't stop Expo" - From Zev's blog:

For more than a year, construction crews have been hard at work on the second leg of the Expo Line, building bridges that will separate trains from surface street traffic and laying the groundwork to extend the popular light rail line all the way to Santa Monica. Some 400 construction workers are on the job today, along with more than 4,000 others whose work is directly or indirectly tied to the project. But, with $300 million already spent on this urgently-needed $1.5 billion project, there’s an obstacle that’s suddenly threatening to stop Expo in its tracks.

While this light rail project enjoys widespread public support as an important transit alternative to the severely clogged 10 Freeway that runs alongside it, a small group in the neighborhood has been waging a long-running battle against Expo. Their arguments, challenging the project’s environmental review process, already have been rejected at the state trial and appellate court levels, and now are before the state Supreme Court.

I’m confident that the Expo Authority, which won at both the state trial and appellate court levels, will prevail again before the California Supreme Court. But in the interim, there’s a new and worrisome twist in the case: the challengers are asking the high court to issue a stay that would immediately shut down work on the project until the justices have decided the matter...........

***ALSO:

* Los Angeles Times (Jim Newton op-ed):  "Clear the Expo Line tracks" - "The Westside light rail project is too important to be derailed by a last-ditch neighborhood effort."

Sunday
Oct282012

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Owens Valley dust rules, report, analysis, lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court vs. Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District....

* Los Angeles Times:  "DWP sues air district over Owens Valley dust rules" - "The department accuses the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and one of its officials of issuing unreasonable and unlawful orders." - From the LAT:

As a boy, Ted Schade couldn't get enough of old westerns with heroes standing alone in defense of towns that wouldn't stand up for themselves. Now a 55-year-old man, Schade believes he is experiencing his own version of "High Noon." As air pollution control officer in the 110-mile-long Owens Valley, Schade has forced the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to quell dust storms rising off the dry bed of Owens Lake, which L.A. drained to slake its thirst. Now the powerful utility is going after Schade.

The DWP filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fresno earlier this month accusing the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and Schade of issuing unreasonable and unlawful orders. The DWP argues that its ratepayers have already spent $1.2 billion for vegetation, gravel and flooding of Owens Lake that have reduced dust pollution by 90% — yet Schade wants more.

The lawsuit doesn't name Schade as a defendant, but it accuses him of bias and asks that he be barred from presiding over future decisions affecting the city. DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said in a statement that "our water consumers will no longer be victimized by an unaccountable regulator."

The Los Angeles City Council, with the support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is expected to vote on a resolution endorsing the lawsuit. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles and the Valley Industry & Commerce Assn. took out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times applauding the lawsuit. . . . . . . . .

   ****

The attacks have left Schade in a position he didn't expect — abandoned by many Owens Valley community leaders and environmental activists. In a place where L.A. owns most of the land and water and has a grip on the region's economic stability, few people were willing to comment about the man whose career is on the line. "It seems like everyone has a reason for staying out of it," Schade said.

   ****  

Actually, not everyone is staying out of the fight. Great Basin board chairman and Mono County supervisor Larry Johnston described Schade as "our guy" and said "we support him." Mark Bagley, executive director of the Owens Valley Committee, said, "Ted has a reputation for being a straight shooter."

Also in Schade's corner is S. David Freeman, who was general manager of the DWP in 1997 when it struck the first of two agreements with Great Basin to combat the powder-fine dust...............

Sunday
Oct282012

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Orange County, planned Great Park, a "victim of hard times," millions spent over past ten years on project with little to show for all the $$$.... ...

* Los Angeles Times:  "Orange County's planned Great Park a victim of hard times" - "Project promoted to the public years ago as a rival to Central Park has collapsed under the weight of a sagging economy, with little to show for the millions spent so far." - From the LAT:

Ten years after Orange County residents voted to turn a shuttered military base into one of America's most ambitious municipal parks, most of the land remains fenced off, looking very much like the airfield the Marines left behind. The city of Irvine has spent at least $203 million on the project, but only 200 acres of the promised 1,347-acre Great Park has been built, and half of that is leased out for commercial farming. Most of the money has paid for plans, designs and consultants, with less than a fifth of it going toward actual park construction, according to a Times analysis of the spending.

Now, the money to build "the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century" — as the city calls it — has just about run out, leaving Irvine leaders to contemplate radical measures: Selling off public land to raise funds or asking private business to step in and build the park for them.

The park, by now, was supposed to be filled with scores of sports fields and eventually museums, cultural centers, botanical gardens, and maybe even a university — all tucked into a bucolic landscape of forests, lawns, a lake and 60-foot-deep canyon that would be scooped from the earth once the barracks and runways were demolished. But there are no baseball diamonds or regulation soccer fields. No canyon, no forest, no sprawling museum complex.

As much as anything, the lofty plans for the park — an expanse intended to rival San Diego's Balboa Park or even Central Park in New York — collapsed under the weight of the sagging economy. When the housing market started to dive, developer FivePoint Communities Inc. halted its plans for building the thousands of homes that were supposed to surround the park and generate tax money to fuel its growth.

The most crippling blow landed last spring when the state — in an effort to trim California's ballooning deficit — grabbed the project's main funding source: $1.4 billion in property tax funds.

   ****

Officials now say the Great Park will take decades or even generations to finish.

Critics, who have long questioned the project's fiscal discipline, doubt Orange County will ever get the park that was promised....................

Sunday
Oct282012

POLITICS (National): Report, analysis, rebuilding nation's infrastructure, "burden to finance infrastructure projects will fall more heavily on local government entities or users"....

* Washington Post:  "Burden for rebuilding infrastructure may fall to states" - From the WP:

Maryland needs more than $100 million a year to fix bridges. Virginia needs $125 million a year to repave crumbling roads in suburban Washington. The District needs $806 million to replace a rusting bridge across the Anacostia River. The bill for all that, and more, eventually will land on taxpayers’ doorsteps. But the postmark won’t read “Washington.” Instead, the tax bill will come from state or local governments struggling to fill the growing void in federal funding.

Washington’s failure to come up with a long-term funding plan to repair the nation’s faltering transportation system is shifting the cost of critical infrastructure repairs to state and local taxpayers, according to Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. “The burden to finance infrastructure projects will fall more heavily on local government entities or users in the form of higher rates or tolls,” the financial analysts said this past week, “and some important construction could simply be deferred.”

Infrastructure has been the elephant in the room in Washington for years. Only a few of the people running for office this year have mentioned it, and none of them have embraced it. The reason was captured by a single sentence in the Standard & Poor’s report: The “country has a $2.2 trillion backlog of infrastructure projects.”

    ****

With new taxes an anathema in an anemic economy, and with the possibility of deep automatic budget cuts next year if officials can’t agree on alternative savings, a serious discussion about coming up with billions or trillions of dollars for transportation wasn’t on the top candidates’ debate agenda.

In four debates — three presidential and one vice-presidential — the single mention of infrastructure came on Oct. 16 when President Obama said that money saved by ending wars could be used to rebuild roads, bridges and schools. Attacking the federal budget deficit, which at a mere $1.1 trillion is half the size of projected infrastructure needs, made easier fodder for debate................