November 2011

Brown Administration Instructs Counties to Implement a 20% Across The Board Cut in IHSS Hours If State Budget Trigger Pulled

By Marty Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

Under the shadow of a projected $13 billion budget deficit the Department of Social Services under the Brown Administration released yesterday official instructions to the counties - called an "All County Letter" or ACL regarding implementation of a 20% across the board reduction in service hours to all persons receiving In-Home Supportive Services, effective January 1, 2012 if the State Budget "trigger cut" is pulled.  

The Occupy Movement Focuses on Foreclosures

By Alan Jenkins
The Opportunity Agenda

As the Occupy movement enters its third month, it is moving into a new phase. Colder weather in the north, combined with aggressive push back from city officials around the country, is requiring the movement to adopt new, innovative approaches that include, but transcend, public presence as protest.

Pundits are wondering aloud whether Occupy is through. But this young movement is just getting started. An exciting piece of evidence to that effect is a new focus on foreclosures.

Alongside its call for job creation, corporate accountability, and relief from crushing student loan debt is a growing demand that Wall Street and Washington make right the disaster that their greed and neglect respectively caused. The movement has deemed December 6th a National Day of Action to Stop and Reverse Foreclosures.

California Health Reform 2011 Year in Review

By Anthony Wright
Health Access California

In 2011, Californians are getting new coverage and new consumer protections, as a result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the state’s active efforts to take advantage of the new resources and benefits for a beleaguered health system.

After federal passage of the health reform in 2010, California started its work implementing the law with the adoption of a “bridge to reform” Medicaid waiver agreement with the federal government, and the passage of several bills that established a new Health Insurance Exchange, instituted rate review, and adopted key consumer protections in the federal law.

That progress was not guaranteed to move forward, with a new Governor focused on a major budget crisis, and significant work left to do to ensure Californians get the health reform benefits that they need and are entitled to now, and for the state to be ready for the full implementation in 2014.

California Still Needs High Speed Rail (HSR)

By Brian Leubitz

While there are still some serious issues to be dealt with before construction, HSR is still a good idea. Sure the HSR Authority could have done a better job at the initial planning and outreach.  Former chairman Quentin Kopp, also known as "San Francisco's Favorite Crank," and his shall we say less than convivial tactics didn't really suit the situation all that well. Fortunately for HSR, Kopp is now removed from the situation and doing what he does best, acting cranky from the sidelines.

That all being said there is still much to like in the in the new HSR plan, and really it lies at the heart of the New California Dream.  From a letter from Jim Earp, Chair of 2008's Prop 1A and also the executive director of California Alliance for Jobs:

California Has One Option Left to Stop The Bleeding

By: Rick Jacobs, Joshua Pechthalt and Anthony Thigpenn

When we think of California, we imagine the state that allowed the three of us to be who we are, a state that gave us the California Dream. For years now, that dream has been quickly slipping away and now it's in danger of being lost forever.

California is not in crisis; crises are sudden and acute. California is in a chronic, grinding decline and it's providing a window into America's tomorrow.  Here we have the richest and poorest, the most diverse population, high technology centers which lead the globe. And yet, here with 38 million people - 20% of the United States - we cannot find a path to leave the bounty that invigorated us for the next generation.

The Chemical Industry’s Money to Burn

By Liza Gross
Environmental Health News

Facing growing concerns over the health risks of flame retardants in household products, the chemical industry spent at least $23.2 million over the past five years to lobby California officials and donate to campaigns in a successful effort to defeat legislation. During that time, five bills that would have regulated the ubiquitous chemicals failed to pass the California Legislature. The four top recipients of industry's donations, three Democrats and one Republican, never voted in favor of any of the bills. Two of them were members of a committee that rejected the bills.

A five-month investigation by Environmental Health News revealed an infusion of chemical industry cash into California that has global implications. During the five years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people's bodies, including breast milk, around the world.

Texas Transportation Institute’s ‘2011 Urban Mobility Report’: Not All Is Doom and Gloom

By Alan Kandel

In “Californians Spend Hours In Traffic, Waste Gallons Of Fuel,” I bring to bear the negative consequences of overwhelmed roadway infrastructure; that is, wasted time, wasted fuel and wasted money. I would be remiss if I did not add the exhausted emissions that contribute to air pollution. The upside to the story is that there are proven remediation techniques that can be put into action today to help rid cities of that antithesis of localized or area travel – immobility. The techniques consist of what the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in its “2011 Urban Mobility Report” refers to as “Operational Treatments.” But not to be excluded is public transit use and sound land-use planning and development.

Such “Operational Treatments” can include:

• Get as much service as possible from what we have

Foreclosed Homeowners Re-Occupy Their Homes

By Zaineb Mohammed
New America Media

Carolyn Gage was evicted from her foreclosed home in January. Earlier this month, she moved back in.

“I’ve been in here for 50 years. I know no other place but here. I left and it was just time for me to come back home,” said Gage, who is in her mid-50s.

Gage’s monthly payments spiked after her adjustable rate mortgage kicked in, and she could no longer afford the payments on her three-bedroom house in the city’s Bayview Hunters Point district. She says she tried to modify her loan with her lender, Florida-based IB Properties, but to no avail.

SFPUC Refuses Public Hearing on Hetch Hetchy Restoration

By Dan Aiello

In a letter to Restore Hetch Hetchy’s executive director, Mike Marshall, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has rejected a request by the non-profit to hold a public hearing on the feasibility and benefits of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

The refusal comes after poll results indicate mounting support by San Francisco’s citizens for the restoration of the valley.

Currently, Hetch Hetchy Valley is one of nine locations used by the City of San Francisco to store water and it is the only reservoir located in a national park. The cost to restore the valley is a major source of contention, with the SFPUC and California Department of Water Resources citing a cost ten times that of RHH, but without study or documentation to support their estimate.

The Alchemy of Our Awesomely Affluent

By Sam Pizzigati
Campaign For America's Future

Today's super rich can't turn tin into gold. But they can get Uncle Sam to loan them free money. At the expense, of course, of America's bottom 99 percent.

How much money is pouring into the pockets of America's richest 1 percent? How much of this income are America's richest paying in taxes?

Major media outlets have been asking questions like these ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement first started gaining traction earlier this fall. But the numbers in their answers, suggests a groundbreaking new analysis from Bloomberg reporter Jesse Drucker, aren’t telling the full story.

San Francisco PUC fails to Support $9.8 Billion Estimate to Restore Hetch Hetchy

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

Preceding qualification of a 2012 San Francisco ballot measure that will ask city residents to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the National Park Service for restoration, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission admits its nearly ten billion dollar cost estimate for the project was not based on any study performed by it, but rather was an esitmate for the same state agency study that cites the SFPUC as the source of the cost estimate.

Mike Marshall, Executive Director of the Restore Hetch Hetchy non-profit organization, claims the nearly ten billion dollar figure comes from a 2007 California Department of Water Resources report that footnotes the estimates to undisclosed SFPUC documentation. 

Nicolas Berggruen’s Committee of Long Thinkers

By Peter Schrag

California has long been a political playpen for the super-rich – think Al Checchi, think Meg Whitman, think George Soros, think Charles Munger. But rarely have we seen a stranger animal than Think Long, billionaire Nicolas Berggruen’s lavishly-funded committee of 16 (mostly) familiar names, who aim to fix all that ails us.

In a 25-page manifesto issued last week, the long thinkers, among t hem a gaggle of other billionaires, two former Republican secretaries of state, two former California Assembly speakers, both Democrats, and one former Democratic governor, propose a list of reforms that’s anything but humble. To some people, this will look like nothing other than the one percent trying to instruct the other 99 percent.

How Students Landed on the Frontlines of Class War

By Juan Cole

The deliberate pepper-spraying by campus police of nonviolent protesters at UC Davis on Friday has provoked national outrage. But the horrific incident must not cloud the real question: What led comfortable, bright, middle-class students to join the Occupy protest movement against income inequality and big-money politics in the first place?

The University of California system raised tuition by 9 percent this year, and the California State University system upped tuition by 12 percent. The UC system is seriously contemplating a humongous 16 percent tuition increase for fall 2012. This year, for the first time, the amount families pay in UC tuition will exceed state contributions to the university system.

University students, who face tuition hikes and state cuts to public education, find themselves victimized by the same neoliberal agenda that has created the current economic crisis, and that profoundly endangers democratic values.

If Realignment Is an Opportunity Let's Not Waste It On Building Costly Jail Beds

By Emily Harris

Californians United for a Responsible Budget 

November 17th's "California's Prison System - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” conference, organized by Capitol Weekly and the University of California, brought together experts, advocates, and law enforcement and highlighted the devastating impacts of the expansion of California's prison system and consequent shift in state spending on education and social services. Conversations at the conference brought into sharper focus why California can't risk falling into the familiar pattern of failed corrections policies as it realigns public safety.

It has been seven months since the Supreme Court ordered California to drastically reduce the state's prison population. Beginning Oct. 1, responsibility for low-level prisoners was transferred from state prisons to counties. While politicians and pundits called the move unprecedented, many counties drafted ill-conceived plans that simply shift overcrowding from the state level prisons to already crowded county jails.

Student Activists Deserve Our Thanks

By Randy Shaw

These are not the best of times to be a college student in the United States. Spiraling tuition costs, huge post-graduation debt, and a shrinking job market could understandably demoralize an entire generation. But recent events demonstrate that college students are responding to the tough economic times not by giving up, but rather by redoubling efforts to create a more just society. In fact, as was true with the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s, today’s college students are in the vanguard of highlighting the profound disconnection between the nation’s stated ideals and its actual practices.
Students have played leading roles in the Occupy movement both on an off campus, inspiring longtime activists to regenerate their own efforts for change. On this Thanksgiving week, the students risking physical harm and school discipline to demand greater social and economic fairness truly deserve the nation’s thanks.

Tax the Rich! In Fact, Let's Double Their Taxes

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

Conservatives say they want to "bring back" the old USA, the one that existed during those decades of the twentieth century they only seem to see through a gauzy golden haze. Whatever its problems, that country was a place where Republicans and Democrats agreed on two simple principles: That the most fortunate among us should pay their fair share, and that our government must invest in the nation and its future.

When Rick Perry says he wants to bring back "the America I where I grew up," he's talking about the era when Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican President, built the Federal highway system. One of the reasons Eisenhower was able to do that is that the top tax rate was much higher than it is today. While today's highest marginal today is 35% and capital gains are taxed at only 15%, the highest tax bracket was 91% the year Rick Perry was born.

Governor Brown Announces Appointments To California Regional Water Boards

Governor Jerry Brown just announced the following new appointments:

Henry Abarbanel, 68, of Del Mar, has been appointed to the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. He has been a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego and a research physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography since 1983. Abarbanel served on the Del Mar City Council from 1992 to 1996 and 2000 to 2008. He was chair of the San Diego Metro Wastewater Commission from 2005 to 2008. Abarbanel received his doctorate in physics at Princeton University. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Abarbanel is a Democrat.

Educators Call for Fair Share of Taxes on the 1%

By Joshua Pechthalt
California Federation of Teachers

A University of Southern California (USC)/Los Angeles Times poll showed the greater majorities of Californians support increasing income taxes on the top 1 percent of earners. The idea resonates with all geographic areas of the state, age groups, ethnicities and political persuasions because the 99% understands what has been happening.

The top 1 percent of California's income earners has doubled its share of all income earned by individuals in the state, but pays a lower tax rate than before. Yet, when Congress extended Bush's tax cuts for the rich in December 2010, it handed California's wealthiest 1 percent a $9 billion tax windfall - equal to half this year's state budget deficit. It's time to rethink taxes.

Shift in US Natural Gas Market Will Hobble Economy, Harm Environment

By Rory Cox
Pacific Environment

Little noticed by most outside the energy business, the US is currently undergoing a seismic shift for the worse in its energy policy. This shift threatens to kick the cane out from under our hobbled, creaking economy, harming domestic manufacturing while also removing a critical piece of the puzzle in making progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the US energy grid has a strong strategic advantage in that there are plentiful natural gas reserves in North America. Natural gas is what supplies most of California’s energy grid, and increasingly is replacing coal plants in the US. It is supplied through a network of pipelines. This is different than, for instance, Japan, which relies on natural gas imports delivered by ship from around the world. While Japan pays upwards to $14 per unit for natural gas, the US’s unique situation means we’ve been paying much less—currently, natural gas sells for as little as $3 per unit.

Super Committee Out Of Way - Now Back To Reality?

By Dave Johnson
Campaign for America's Future

Let's hope that the failure of the "super committee" quest to take money out of the economy clears the media mist for a minute, so people can focus on real issues that matter to real people. What are the chances of that? Will our government now focus on creating jobs, reducing inequality, fighting climate change, providing health care, increasing justice, balancing trade, increasing education, enabling small business to compete against the multinational?

Real Issues

People are in the streets across the country, demanding that the government start addressing real issues that matter to real people. But the increasingly irrelevant Congress has instead focused on things like blocking the government from making school lunches more nutritious.

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