California unemployment rate at record low 4.1%

JobsCalifornia’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in September, a record low since it started tracking the number this way in 1976, the Employment Development Department reported Friday.

The Bay Area boasted the state’s lowest unemployment rates, falling below 3 percent in eight of the nine counties, all but Solano, where it was still under the statewide average.

The San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose metro areas all posted unemployment rates that were the lowest for the month of September since 1990. They fell below the lows set in September 1999, the peak of the dot-com boom.

Economists cheered the numbers, coming 10 years after the financial crisis that sent the country into a tailspin, but said they may be overstating the health of the labor market. Wage growth is still subpar, with benefits and bonuses making up a growing percentage of total compensation. And the labor force participation rate, which measures the percent of the adult population with a job, is markedly below where it was 10 year ago. This suggests that there are still discouraged workers sitting on the sidelines who could be pulled back into the labor force if wages were more enticing and employers more willing to hire them. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

California cities top list of towns with worst roads in U.S.

road_blockCongratulations, California. The top three cities with the worst roads are all from the Golden State.

The nonprofit organization TRIP, which researches transportation issues, released a report on Wednesday listing the country’s roughest roads.

California drivers probably are not surprised by the findings, which state that the top three worst areas in the nation for rough roads comes from our state.

The San Francisco Oakland area – congrats to you, you’re No. 1. According to the report, 71 percent of the roads there are in bad shape.

San Jose came in second with 64 percent, and the Los Angeles area came in third with 57 percent. …

Click here to read the full article from ABC7 News

San Francisco School Board President Scraps Pledge of Allegiance

American Flag 1The new president of the San Francisco school board purposefully skipped the traditional recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of his first meeting, choosing instead to read a quote from poet Maya Angelou.

Stevon Cook had pondered the idea of replacing the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance after his election to lead the school board. Cook replaced the customary pledge with a quote from Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”

“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” Cook said, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is how I plan to do that.”

District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said that while schools are required to perform a daily patriotic exercise, public school district meetings are not.

“Although there is a requirement that schools conduct a pledge or similar activity, there is no such requirement for school boards,” Blythe said.

Nevertheless, in San Francisco, the Pledge of Allegiance has been the first order of business at school board meetings for decades, reports the Chronicle. As a member of the board, Cook stood for the pledge, but declined to recite the words.

“We should stand for (the pledge) because those ideals are important to me,” he said. “To speak them is another thing.”

Cook added he finds the current national political climate disappointing, and the Trump administration “has been attacking our liberties.”

School board member Rachel Norton said replacing the Pledge of Allegiance with the Maya Angelou quote “feels respectful and it feels thoughtful.”

“Maya Angelou is an alumnus of (San Francisco’s) Washington High School, so who better to start a new tradition?” she explained.

Cook said he will replace the pledge at each meeting with quotes from various inspirational Americans, including writer Toni Morrison, gay rights icon Harvey Milk and novelist James Baldwin.

“I’m not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he said. “I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Court Says California Cities Must Let Homeless Sleep On Streets

homelessA ruling this month by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which holds it is unconstitutional to ban homeless people from sleeping on the streets is likely to complicate the attempts to crack down on homelessness problems by local governments in California.

While the ruling involved a 2009 law adopted by Boise, Idaho, it is binding on California, which is one of the states under the 9th appellate court, which is based in San Francisco.

“[J]ust as the state may not criminalize the state of being ‘homeless in public places,’ the state may not ‘criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless — namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets,’” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for a three-judge panel.

The finding that the law is a cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment was welcomed by activists who have long argued that such restrictions make being poor a crime.

Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, told the Idaho Statesman that “criminally punishing homeless people for sleeping on the street when they have nowhere else to go is inhumane, and we applaud the court for holding that it is also unconstitutional.” Her group provided an attorney to the handful of Boise homeless men and women who sued over the city’s law.

If Boise does not appeal the ruling, the 9th Circuit will have expanded on the protections for the homeless that it created in 2007. The appellate panel ruled then that Los Angeles could not ban people from sleeping outside when shelters were full.

Legality of living in cars is next battleground

Meanwhile, the next fight over homeless rights in California has already emerged. It involves regulations in many cities that have the de facto effect of banning people from sleeping in their vehicles, even if the practice is not specifically singled out.

In Los Angeles, for example, a city ordinance that bans overnight parking in residential areas and a growing number of such restrictions in commercial areas have made it increasingly difficult for vehicle dwellers to find anywhere to sleep. This has made life difficult for the estimated 15,000 people who live in their cars, trucks or recreational vehicles in the city. The policy prompted sharp criticism from some quarters this spring over a perception that City Hall was insufficiently sympathetic to those without shelter.

City officials in San Diego and Santa Barbara are going in the opposite direction, starting trial programs in which car dwellers are allowed to use a handful of designated parking lots overnight – so long as they meet a handful of rules meant to preserve public safety and to minimize littering and public defecation and urination.

But San Diego may have to expand its program or develop other new policies as well. Last month, federal Judge Anthony Battaglia issued an injunction banning the city from ticketing people for living in their vehicles.

Unlike in the other high-profile federal cases involving city laws and homelessness, Battaglia’s argument wasn’t based on the idea that penalties which appeared to single out the homeless were cruel and unusual.

Instead, he concluded that “plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the ordinance is vague because it fails to alert the public what behavior is lawful and what behavior is prohibited.” He noted that some people were given tickets merely for reading books in their cars.

The injunction is not permanent, but Battaglia indicated he is likely to make it so in coming months.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Governor Moonbeam: California to launch its ‘own damn satellite’

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

He’s mostly shed the “Governor Moonbeam” nickname, but Gov. Jerry Brown pointed California toward the stars as he closed out a global climate change summit here Friday.

“We’re going to launch our own satellite — our own damn satellite to figure out where the pollution is and how we’re going to end it,” Brown told an international audience on the final day of the San Francisco gathering.

California will work with San Francisco-based Planet Labs to launch a satellite capable of tracking climate-altering emissions, Brown said. The effort will lean on the expertise of the state’s Air Resources Board, which has taken the forefront in pursuing climate-related innovations.

The governor’s choice of words in making the announcement deliberately echoed his late 2016 challenge to Donald Trump, amid rumors that the incoming administration would undercut NASA’s climate research role.

“If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite,” Brown said at the time, after musing on his celestial history: “I remember back in 1978 I proposed a Landsat satellite for California. They called me ‘Governor Moonbeam’ because of that,” he said. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico

San Francisco Bans Plastic Straws While Hypodermic Needle Caps Litter Its Streets

San Francisco’s streets are reportedly littered with plastic hypodermic needle caps from the free syringes provided by the city as officials ban the use of plastic straws.

City leaders approved a ban on plastic straws and stirrers in July in the hopes the plastic would not pollute the San Francisco Bay, but tiny plastic caps from hypodermic needles have been causing pollution on land.

The Washington Post reported Monday that many of the orange plastic caps from the needles the city provides to drug users to prevent the spread of disease have wound up on city streets and sidewalks.

“Napkins, straws, and bags are available upon request,” one local sandwich shop, the Sentinel, notes on its menu. “You can still get needles for free though. Welcome to SF.”

The city gives out, on average, 400,000 syringes per month to drug users but does not control how used needles are disposed of. At least 154,000 of those needles have ended up on playgrounds, parks, streets, and sidewalks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The used needles and other waste products scattered across the city streets without being disposed of properly have taken a toll on the city’s cleanliness.

An investigative report revealed in February that San Francisco — one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to live in — was on track to become one of the dirtiest cities in the world on par with some third-world countries.

The problem had become so severe that a major medical association decided in July to back out of holding its annual 15,000-plus member convention in the city.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Kaepernick ads spark Nike boycott campaign

Nike Just do it KaepernickProtesters burned their Nike shoes, investors sold shares and some consumers demanded a boycott after the footwear and apparel maker launched an advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who sparked a national controversy by kneeling during the national anthem.

But the brand recognition that comes with the campaign may be just what the company wanted, and marketing experts predicted it would ultimately succeed.

The ad revived a raging debate in the United States that started in 2016 when Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest multiple police shootings of unarmed black men.

While some fans praised Kaepernick and other players who joined him in kneeling as patriotic dissenters, critics led by U.S. President Donald Trump blasted the protesters as ungrateful and disrespectful. …

Click here to read the full article from Reuters

San Francisco leaders overwhelmed by homeless crisis

sanfranciscohomelessOn June 30, 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom won national headlines when he announced his “Ten Year Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness.”

Newsom said he wanted a “dramatic shift” from reactive policies used to deal with those without shelter who often suffer from addiction, mental illness or both. He promised that the aggressive transients seen in downtown areas harassing storekeepers, residents and tourists would get indoor housing; that the newly homeless would have access to immediate help to prevent them from going on downward spirals; and, perhaps most remarkably, that emergency homeless shelters eventually would have to close because they would have no transients left to serve.

Fourteen years later, Newsom’s promises seem like fantasies – or cruel jokes – in a city where the quality of life and the tourism industry feel under siege from 7,500 or more homeless people. Despite spending more than $2 billion on the problem since 2004 – vastly more than big cities with similar homeless issues – San Francisco officials sometimes convey the sense of feeling overwhelmed.

The notion that the problem is out of control is frequently illustrated by visiting journalists who make parts of the city seem like obstacle courses covered by feces, used needles and surly, erratic individuals ready to intimidate passers-by into giving them money.

Yet San Francisco’s problem is actually in some ways both better and worse than in similar cities. Despite a brutal housing crisis that makes paying rent difficult even for those making $100,000 or more, the total number of homeless has been flat in recent years, unlike other large California cities. San Francisco has also managed to avoid the emergence of mass encampments of transients seen in neighboring Oakland and elsewhere in urban areas.

Disturbed, disruptive homeless more common in city

So what is driving the perception that the homeless problem is worse than ever in the city? An article in the June 1 issue of The Economist made the case that San Francisco had an intense concentration of the most disturbed, disruptivehomeless – individuals who generally make up a relative handful of the homeless in much of Southern California.

“[The] rates of mental illness and addiction among the homeless have increased. Use of more potent mind-bending drugs, like fentanyl and methamphetamine, has risen, too. Nearly 70 percent of psychiatric emergency-room visits by the homeless are the result of methamphetamine-induced psychosis,” The Economist wrote.

This psychosis may be driving a public health crisis spurred by open defecation in the streets. Complaints about human feces in the city nearly tripled from 2009 to 2017, reaching 21,000 last year.

Tourists are noticing. On July 2, the city’s convention and visitor bureau announced that it had lost one of its biggest accounts – an unnamed medical group which had a long tradition of regularly bringing 15,000 free-spending conventioneers to the Bay Area. Given tourism – not tech – remains San Francisco’s biggest industry, city officials werealarmed.

Long before that announcement, London Breed – the Willie Brown protege who took over as mayor on July 11 – said reducing homelessness’ impact on the city was her top priority. So far a key focus has been on giving the city newauthority to use conservatorship laws to allow interventions into the lives of the most troubled individuals.

Newsom plans ‘granular’ approach to issue if elected

As for Newsom, the lieutenant governor is now the heavy favorite to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown. Undaunted by what’s happened in San Francisco since his 2004 pledge, he’s touting the most aggressive efforts yet by the state government to reduce homelessness.

If he defeats Republican John Cox in November, Newsom told the Sacramento Bee that he’d “get deeply involved at a granular level where most governors haven’t in the past.”

“I want to be held accountable on this issue, and I want to be disruptive of the status quo,” Newsom said. “I’m willing to take risks. I’m not here to be loved. What’s going on is unacceptable, and it is inhumane.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Cities are Banning Plastic Straws and It Sucks

Straws1On July 24, San Francisco city officials unanimously passed an ordinance forbidding the city’s restaurants and bars from giving customers plastic items, including straws, cocktail swords, and takeout containers treated with fluorinated chemicals. The ordinance will have to be voted on a second time and if it passes it’ll go to the mayor for approval.

San Francisco will be the second major city to take steps to ban plastic straws, joining Seattle in spearheading the ever-growing anti-straw crusade. Malibu, Santa Cruz, Manhattan Beach and San Luis Obispo — all in California as well — have also passed plastic straw bans. Santa Barbara not only banned plastic straws, but compostable straws too.

Local governments aren’t alone, as a handful of businesses have taken a stand against plastic straws. Starbucks is perhaps the most high profile company who has decided to ditch straws in exchange for strawless plastic lids. On July 9, Starbucks announced that by 2020 it will eliminate over 1 billion plastic straws from all its stores. Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels Corps and Hilton Hotels all have made similar commitments.

While plastic straw bans may make people feel good and think they’re saving the environment, in reality, they hardly make a dent in overall plastic pollution.

For one, the number of plastic straws used by Americans on a daily basis is in dispute. Like several other ban proposals, the San Francisco ordinance cites a statistic that Americans go through 500 million straws a day. Reason writer Christian Britschgi tracked down the source of that number: a nine-year-old boy.

In 2011, Milo Cress conducted a phone survey of straw manufacturers. Now 16, Cress told Britschgi that the National Restaurant Association has endorsed his estimates in private.

But, as Britschgi points out in his article, the number of straws used each day isn’t as important as knowing how many actually end up in our waterways.

“We don’t know that figure either,” Britschgi writes. “The closest we have is the number of straws collected by the California Coastal Commission during its annual Coastal Cleanup Day: a total of 835,425 straws and stirrers since 1988, or about 4.1 percent of debris collected.”

A 2015 study published in Science calculated out of 275 million metric tons of plastic produced from 192 coastal countries in 2010, anywhere between 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons entered the ocean. East Asian and Pacific countries were responsible for the majority of plastic pollution with China, Indonesia and the Philippines topped the list of plastic polluters. China contributed 27.7 percent of all mismanaged plastic waste compared to the United States which was responsible for 0.9 percent.

The researchers point to improving waste management as the solution to the environmental problem. Countries like the Philippines and China need to invest in infrastructure to better deal with waste and recyclables. Without these improvements, plastic pollutions will dramatically increase.

Out of the top 20 countries contributing to this problem, 16 are middle income countries “where fast economic growth is probably occurring but waste management infrastructure is lacking.” Addressing those infrastructure problems could make a major difference in plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

But reforming waste management infrastructure in countries halfway across the globe is a massive project requiring far greater effort than banning plastic straws. City officials, like those in San Francisco, are taking a largely symbolic stance when they ban plastic straws. This wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t mean restaurant or bar owners faced fines or even jail time for providing plastic straws to customers.

First time offenders of the San Francisco ban face a written warning, but after that they can be hit with fines anywhere between $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for repeated offense. In Santa Barbara, a second violation of the code means a $100 fine and a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor is punishable up to a max $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The Santa Barbara City Council is reconsidering the ban to include an exemption for those with disabilities who rely on straws to enjoy their drinks.

There’s a reason most businesses give their customers plastic straws: they’re relatively cheap and people want them. Companies like Starbucks are free to eliminate plastic straws from its stores if it wants to, but imposing that same choice on all businesses, big and small, is wrong.

Wanting to protect the environment is a noble goal, but good intentions don’t always translate to good policy. The market could provide the environmentally friendly goods that consumers want if the government wasn’t busy micromanaging every aspect of it.

Reusable or biodegradable straws — although far from perfect — are increasing in popularity and could prove to be the answer to our plastic straw woes. Or perhaps the plastic straw alternative has yet to be invented, but in any case, providing people with better options instead of depriving them of choice is the key to shaping consumer behavior. It could even make the oceans that much cleaner.

Lindsay Marchello is a Young Voices Advocate and an Associate Editor with the Carolina Journal. Follow her on Twitter @LynnMarch007.

The Slower Reality of California High-Speed Rail

High speed rail constructionWhen California voters approved construction of a bullet train in 2008, they had a legal promise that passengers would be able to speed from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.

But over the next decade, the state rail authority made a series of political and financial compromises that slowed speeds on long stretches of the track.

The authority says it can still meet its trip time commitments, though not by much.

Computer simulations conducted earlier this year by the authority, obtained by The Times under a public records act request, show the bullet train is three minutes and 10 seconds inside the legal mandate. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times