callen's blog

CHSRA Board Approves Blended Plan, Bond Sales

By Robert Cruickshank

The California High Speed Rail Authority board met Monday and took action on two rather significant items.

First, the board voted to approve the Memorandum of Understanding with Caltrain that allows the "blended plan" to move forward. Approval had been delayed earlier this month when Lynn Schenk voiced her concern that the "blended plan" wasn't workable and fell short of the Prop 1A guidelines. Other longtime HSR supporters welcomed the MOU and the "blended plan":

Fixing the Economy's Real Problem

By Robert Reich

"Our biggest problems over the next ten years are not deficits," the President told House Republicans Wednesday, according to those who attended the meeting.

The President needs to deliver the same message to the public, loudly and clearly. The biggest problems we face are unemployment, stagnant wages, slow growth, and widening inequality - not deficits. The major goal must be to get jobs and wages back, not balance the budget.

Paul Ryan's budget plan - essentially, the House Republican plan - is designed to lure the White House and Democrats, and the American public, into a debate over how to balance the federal budget in ten years, not over whether it's worth doing.

The American Dream: A Conspiracy Fact

By Tina Dupuy

I've been assured my in-laws don't read my column. However, because of their mix of shame, guilt and blame, I'll be vague on some details. They've fallen on hard times. No one wants to talk about it, let alone have it written about and syndicated.

But I think their story is illustrative:

My in-laws live in a generic suburb of modest mid-century tract homes in the middle of strip mall sprawl. They have a well-attended lawn; two mid-range cars in the driveway, a loyal Lab mix sleeping on the porch. They both worked in middle management in not-important-enough-to-name small businesses tangentially related to serving the housing industry for over 20 years each. They paid off their mortgage. Their son, my husband, was the first in their family to attend college. During the housing boom they looked at the massive amount their small three-bedroom home was worth and opted not to partake in the equity, but knew it meant they were secure. The future was bright.

In short: They were living every part of the real American Dream. Not the grandiose one where we're all millionaires or soon-to-be millionaires. The one where we all have a job, a home and our kids are better off than we were. My in-laws had that.

Lawmakers Pressed for Better Patient Safety, but Californians Must Demand Change

By Jamie Court

There aren't too many great days for patient safety in state capitols, where the medical establishment tends to rule the roost through the power of its political giving and tentacles. But Monday was a great day for patient safety in Sacramento, when powerful testimony reminded legislators of the human cost of inaction.

Unions, Environmental Groups and Tribal Leaders Join Together to Defend CEQA

By Steve Smith

Yesterday, a growing coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and tribes made clear that protecting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state's landmark environmental protection law, is essential to California's future.

Wealthy developers and corporate special interests have attacked CEQA as a hindrance to job creation, and are pushing to "reform" (i.e. gut) the law. But the facts just don't support their claims. At an event on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning, the Labor Management Cooperation Trust released a report that finds that since CEQA became law in 1970, California's manufacturing output, construction activity, per capita GDP and housing (relative to population) all grew as fast or faster than the other 49 states.

Diminishing Returns: Where Have All the Voters Gone?

By Rev. Jim Conn

Let the hand-wringing begin! In last week's primary election, just over 16 percent of Los Angeles voters turned out at the polls, less than four years ago, which was less than the election before that, which was less than the election before that - and on and on. In Southern California municipalities - big city or small - elections draw about 20 percent of the vote. This is a problem in a democracy.

Peripheral Tunnel Plan Will Hurt Trinity River Also

By Dan Bacher

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels not only threatens the Chinook salmon, steelhead and other fish species of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, but also the fish and communities of the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River.

Legislature Passes Historic Medi-Cal Expansion Bills

By Linda Leu

"We are in an Extraordinary Session because we must do extraordinary things to move the state forward," said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada in her testimony in support of ABX1 1 (Speaker Perez), the bill to expand and streamline the Medi-Cal program. The bill enjoyed spirited debate before passing off the Assembly Floor today with a 53-22 vote.

Budget Sequestration Cuts and California Schools

By Lisa Schiff

A friend of mine emailed me last fall incredibly worried about the impact of potential sequestration cuts on schools and students across the country. He was a long-time Washington D.C.-based public education advocate, so I was simultaneously unshaken and unnerved by his concern. Sequestration seemed like a D.C.-based fear, so unlikely to actually happen given the blowback that would surely come from such imprecise cuts. But my friend's many years of fighting for resources for children's education meant that I couldn't really ignore his concerns, and so his words remained a low-level worry until March 1st, when I had to concede that he'd been right all along.

High Speed Rail: Relief for California's "Mega-Commuters"

By Robert Cruickshank

New data from the US Census Bureau has found that Northern California has the largest proportion of "mega-commuters" in the country - defined as morning commutes of at least 50 miles and 90 minutes. The numbers aren't huge - 2% of workers in the Bay Area core are mega-commuters - but it is a clear sign that something is not working in Northern California.