March 2014

Majority of Californians Support High Speed Rail Project

By Robert Cruickshank

Great news from the Public Policy Institute of California, which has a new poll out on various political issues in California. The poll shows that a clear majority of Californians continue to support high speed rail:

Funding for the War on Poverty Seems to Have Dried Up

By Virginia Hamilton

I started my career in workforce development in 1978 in Stockton California, at a local “employment office.” My job was to call employers to see if they had job openings, and transcribe those job openings by pen on to a piece of paper posted in the lobby. Unemployed people stood in front of the “job board,” and if they saw a job they thought they might qualify for, they would ask to talk to a job placement specialist like me, to see if they could be referred to the employer. I could also refer them to job training to gain skills, or to Public Service Employment, to gain work experience.

Restore the Delta Calls for Investigation into Water Mismanagement

By Dan Bacher

As supporters of corporate agribusiness interests carried signs proclaiming "Food and People Before Fish" at a Congressional field hearing in Fresno, Restore the Delta (RTD) today called on the federal government to provide drought relief to Delta farmers and business owners and to investigate the mismanagement of water resources in California.

Apparently, the public relations folks who crafted the signs didn't understand the irony of the fact that salmon and other fish that depend on the Sacramento River and the Bay Delta Estuary provide food for millions of people in the state of California - and support thousands of jobs in a multi-billion dollar industry.

Driverless Vehicle Regs Must Protect Users' Privacy

By John Simpson

I was up in Sacramento recently to call on the Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that the regulations that they are developing to govern the use of autonomous vehicles – popularly known as driverless cars –will protect the operators’ privacy.

The company that will be most directly affected by the new autonomous vehicle regulations is Google, which is pioneering development of the robot-driven cars. The Internet giant was the driving force behind SB 1298, which charged the DMV with the task of developing the regulations and also rebuffed attempts to require privacy protections in the law.

The Castaway Elders: Living Alone and Poor

By Viji Sundaram

New America Media

Somehow, the dozen or so hats piled atop Brenda Washington’s wardrobe and those hanging from hooks on her apartment walls initially draw a visitor’s gaze away from all the other items that clutter her 8 x 10-foot room.

Hats, some of them rather fancy, are the last things you’d expect to see in such profusion in a room where someone clearly lives in dire straits. Washington’s closet is crammed with clothes. “I paid a lot for some of them, like my London Fog,” she says of a coat. “I dress for success. Is there anything wrong with that?”

But signs of better times are few for Washington, 64, who says she hates living alone in a Central City single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel room.

Paid Sick Days a Win-Win for California

By Krista Collard

California Labor Federation

Every time I start to feel under the weather, I’m reminded of the wise words of a former supervisor. During cold and flu season she would always remind us that if we’re not feeling well or even just a little “off,” we should stay home. She’d sweetly say, “We don’t need a hero, guys. If you’re sick, please don’t come into the office. Stay home. Rest up.”

She had been around long enough to know that it took just one person trying to work with a cold to pass it around, and before long the whole staff would be down for the count. While she genuinely cared about our health and wellbeing, any smart supervisor understands that if the entire staff is ill, productivity goes down the tubes.

California's Radical De-Incarceration Experiment

By Mike Males

Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice

California has undertaken two gigantic experiments in de-incarceration, one of youths and the other adults. They were largely forced on the state by court mandates and budget constraints—but also by some key policy changes.

The first experiment is so radical that even the most progressive reformers could never have envisioned it. California has all but abolished state imprisonment and has sharply reduced local incarceration of youths to the lowest levels ever recorded—by far.

A Great Divide: The Election Fight for California's Schools

By Gary Cohn

An election campaign now being fought almost completely out of public view could radically alter the way California’s school children are taught. If Marshall Tuck unseats incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state’s public education system could become a laboratory for a movement that prizes privatization and places a high value on student test scores over traditional instruction. The contrasts between the two top contenders in the nonpartisan race could not be more dramatic – nor could the stakes for the country’s largest education system.

California AG Takes Lead In Cybersecurity

By John M. Simpson

Consumer Watchdog

Data breaches at major retailers Target and Neiman Marcus during last year's holiday shopping season affected more than 100 million people and focused new attention on the need to protect person information stored online.

While it's clear that tough data breach legislation must be enacted, California Attorney General Kamala Harris is taking action to improve cybersecurity in the state before new laws are passed. She recently released recommendations to California businesses to help protect against- and respond to- the increasing threats of malware, data breaches and other cyber risks.

Secretary of State Race Could Get Wild

By Brian Leubitz

The Secretary of State gig will be turning over this year, and there will be change. Lots of it. No matter which of the six announced candidates wins in November, the change from Debra Bowen will be stark. But as one of the two heavily contested races this year, I thought it would be worth a review of the current crop of candidates before the Democratic convention in LA this weekend. The race for the endorsement at this point seems to be Sen. Alex Padilla or a no endorsement position, but, of course, everything could change down at the CADem Convention. So, on to the candidates.

Jerry Brown Defends Use of Cap-and-Trade Funds for HSR

By Robert Cruickshank

The Sacramento Bee ran into Jerry Brown as he filed papers for his fourth campaign for governor, and asked him about funds for the high speed rail project:

Right now my main focus is the litigation in the 3rd Court of Appeals, I’m hopeful we will get that resolved quickly. And yes, in addition to the bond issues, the sources of funding have been one of the greatest questions of the critics, and I think cap-and-trade is very appropriate, because high speed rail reduces greenhouse gases [Brown emphasized that point], there’s no question about that, it’s much cheaper than building more freeways, or attempting to build more runways. So from an environmental and fiscal point of view, or even from a convenience point of view, given the fact that we have a number of people who are aging, and I hope to be one of those people over the next 20 years, it’ll be a lot better to be sitting on a high speed passenger rail than sitting behind a wheel trying to weave your way down I-5 or 99.

California Family Farmers Band Together to Halt Fracking

By Dan Bacher

California family farmers, now struggling with a record drought that has been exacerbated by poor management of the state's reservoirs and rivers by the state and federal governments, are calling on Governor Jerry Brown to place a moratorium on the water-intensive oil and gas extraction process known as fracking or hydraulic fracturing.

Governor Brown currently supports the expansion of environmentally destructive fracking operations in California, as well as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels.