By Robert Cruickshank
Over at his blog, Alon Levy has an interesting post calling for more democracy in the planning and authorization of transportation infrastructure. Levy points to Switzerland as an example of a political system where transportation projects are routinely put to a referendum and the results are generally positive. He contrasts that with the California high speed rail project, which he argues was the product of a flawed political process:
I've begun to believe that California's original sin with its HSR project is that it refused to do the same. Prop 1A was a referendum for what was billed as one third of the cost, $10 billion. In reality it was $9 billion and $1 billion in extra funds for connecting local transit; in year of expenditure dollars the estimated budget then was $43 billion, so barely a fifth of the project's cost was voted on. The HSR Authority planned on getting the rest of the money from federal funding and private-sector funding. Prop 1A even required a 1:1 match from an external source, so confident the Authority was that it would get extra money.
By Mark Naison
For some time, I have argued that School Reform is the most destructive bi-partisan initiative we have suffered in the United States since the Vietnam War, a policy which has, and will continue to inspire mass movements to limit the damage it inflicts through universal testing of the nation's children, and the humiliation and micro-management of the nation's teachers.
Some have argued, correctly, that people have not lost their lives as a result of School Reform even when schools are closed, teachers are fired, communities destabilized, instruction has been reduced to test prep, and young people's minds have been reduced to mush by relentless testing. That is certainly true. But one thing does seem similar. Both produced PTSD.
By Robert Reich
The West Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn't been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)
OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.
There's no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for the years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.
By Leila Monroe
Good news came last week when the California Assembly Natural Resource Committee passed Assembly Bill 521, a bill that would protect our oceans, coasts and communities by adopting a statewide goal of reducing marine plastic pollution by 75 percent by 2020, and by 95 percent by 2025.
By Linda Leu
The California Senate Health Committee had extensive discussion Wednesday about a number of issues related to improving the health and well-being of Californians.
The first revolved around workplace wellness programs. While some large employers have claimed success in promoting prevention and health at the worksite, other employers have used wellness programs tied to health insurance to shift coverage costs to employees and to discriminate against workers with health conditions.
By Robert Cruickshank
Ray LaHood gave some parting remarks this week as he wraps up his tenure as U.S. Transportation Secretary. He was full of praise for President Barack Obama, but high speed rail was at the top of the list.
By Dan Aiello
In a vote along party lines, three bills calling for a halt to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Golden State moved forward Monday.
"At a minimum, there is a crisis in public confidence" with the state's ability to regulate fracking and keep Californians safe, Assembly Natural Resources Chair, Wesley Chesbro (D-Humboldt) told oil and gas lobbyists who testified before his committee which passed all three fracking moratorium bills; AB1323 (Mitchell), AB1301 (Bloom) and AB649 (Nazarian).
In response, the usually confident Paul Deiro, one of the Western States Petroleum Association lobbyists, lamented bills heard at the committee's previous hearing "were far more reasonable than the three moratorium bills you hear today" and argued that there is no evidence that fracking is unsafe.
By Lizzie Buchen
After a year of defying court orders to alleviate the state’s prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have finally pushed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to its limit. In an April 11 ruling, having already "exercised exceptional restraint," the exasperated federal judges declared the state "will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States," giving Brown until May 2 to develop a plan that will reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 people by the end of the year.
By Rachel Hooper
There is no question that the game of football is dangerous. NFL players get injured on the job - so many that an "injury report" section is ubiquitous in our sports page. In fact, a study run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that the risk of death associated with neurodegenerative disorders is about three times higher among NFL players than the rest of the population.
NFL athletes are not merely players, they are also employees.
Their employers are now trying to take away their collectively bargained right to Workers Compensation Benefits in California. It is not right, and it sets a dangerous precedent.
By Chuck Idelson
National Nurses United
They came, they danced, they marched, 2,000 people spirited and strong, Robin Hood's merry band of men and women, through the streets of Washington April 20.
Ending up astride a prominent government building, christened with a new name and a naming ceremony. No more U.S. Treasury, now, the banner declared, "The U.S. Treasury. A Citigroup Subsidiary. Jack Lew, Inc., CEO."
"We could end AIDS, reverse climate change, fund jobs and health care. Who do you work for Secretary Lew?" asked Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP (Global Action Project). "You work for the people, not Wall Street."