Oakland City Council Passes ‘Abolish ICE’ Resolution

OaklandOakland’s city council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday evening calling on Congress to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made headlines months before Democratic-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) upset longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in a primary earlier this year when Schaaf alerted illegal immigrants in the Bay Area of impending ICE raids. Schaaf also signed a letter calling for ICE to be abolished.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who authored the resolution, told the East Bay Citizenthat “ICE’s actions have had ramifications in our own backyard.”

“ICE came into West Oakland and tore apart a family while falsely slandering them–claiming it was a criminal case–when they were filing a civil deportation action and no criminal charges,” she reportedly said. “We’ve now experienced enough of ICE telling lies, ripping apart families, and leaving guns loose where they get into the hands of murderers and spreading racism.” …

Click here to read the full article from Breitbart.com/California

Las Vegas to L.A. rail line gets new backer

Las Vegas railThere might be hope again for high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Brightline, which already operates passenger rail service in Florida, has agreed to acquire XpressWest.

The federally approved project includes 38 acres of land adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip.

If approved, the light rail would transport passengers between Las Vegas and Victorville, California, in a little under two hours.

There has been talk of a high-speed rail for several years. The XpressWest project was once expected to break ground in 2012. Brightline says that construction is expected to begin next year.

The company has already launched a passenger service in Florida, running between Miami and West Palm Beach. …

Click here to read the full article from ABC13 News

Jerry Brown Signs Law Legalizing Street Food in California

Street FoodCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to operate legally in the state.

It’s one of dozens of bills Brown announced signing Monday, including measures to help voters ensure their mail ballots are counted and standardize balcony inspections.

The new sidewalk vending law will let cities and counties create permit programs for vendors and limits when they can be criminally prosecuted.

“We can start seeing sidewalk vendors for who they are – women and seniors, single parents, and micro-business owners taking that first step to starting their own business,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara, the Bell Gardens Democrat who authored the bill, SB946. “Gov. Brown’s signature validates that thousands of sidewalk vendors are an important part of our economy.”

Sidewalk vendors, who typically sell food or other goods, can be required to hold business licenses and pay taxes under the law. Cities and counties can also establish health and safety policies for vendors. …

Click here to read the full story from ABC7

200,000 California Drivers Set to Lose Clean-Air Carpool Decals

carpool-laneFor some California commuters, cutting down on carbon emissions isn’t a sexy enough reason to buy an electric car. But the ability to bypass freeway traffic without having to carpool — that’s another story.

So there is grumbling in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes across California these days. On Jan. 1, the owners of as many as 220,000 low- and zero-emission vehicles stand to lose the white and green clean-air decals that allow them to drive solo in the diamond lanes.

The decal program was designed to get more clean-air vehicles on state roadways. But it also clogged the lanes, sometimes to the point of gridlock.

So the state Legislature passed a measure last year that significantly limits the number of people eligible for these decals. As of New Year’s Day, drivers who received their clean-air stickers before 2017 will have to buy new vehicles to qualify for the program. And some who earn above a certain amount won’t be eligible for the stickers at all. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

Why Is Public Employee Disability Claim Data Being Kept Secret?

TransparencyIn the preamble to California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s 1953 law governing the public’s access to government meetings, the Legislature noted, “The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.” Likewise, the people “do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.” The public insists “on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

The same noble sentiment forms the foundation of California’s public-records laws, which govern the release of government documents. Yet a new lawsuit alleges that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which operates the largest state pension fund in the country, has been withholding some information that’s necessary to help the public to oversee the system and protect it from waste, fraud and abuse. It deals with disability benefits paid to pensioners.

Specifically, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which cofounded with California Policy Center Transparent California (the website that publicizes the pay and benefit packages received by California employees), argues that CalPERS has denied its “request for records which would document the type (service, disability or industrial disability) of benefit received,” despite many requests. This information is so important because of the many news reports about the questionable workers’ compensation claims, the lawsuit argues. CalPERS itself recognizes the problem—”it has established a disability fraud tip hotline where it encourages the public to call in and report cases of suspected disability fraud.”

If CalPERS expects the public to help root out bogus disability claims by public employees, then why shouldn’t it provide the public with information that helps it do so? The research institute is merely seeking a one-word designation of the type of pensions that California retirees are receiving. Such information has not been specifically exempted from the California Public Records Act. Anything not exempted is, according to the lawsuit, fair game for public disclosure.

“CalPERS’ claimed sensitivity of information pertaining to the benefit ‘type’ (disability or service) is untenable because hearings related to appeals of denial of disability pensions are public hearings and recorded for broadcast,” according to NPRI’s court filings. Furthermore, the lawsuit argues that CalPERS “has consistently indicated” that it would not release that information. The lawsuit includes correspondence between NPRI and CalPERS backing that claim. CalPERS has yet to respond to the lawsuit and has declined comment to the media, but it has indicated that it believes such information to be an invasion of the recipient’s privacy. …

Click here to read the full article from Reason.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

California’s poverty rate is still the highest in the nation

PovertyNewly released federal estimates show California’s poverty rate remained the highest in the nation, despite a modest fall, and the state’s falling uninsured rate slowed for the first time since before Medicaid expansion.

According to the Census Bureau, the share of Californians in poverty fell to 19 percent — a 1.4 percent decrease from last year. However, policy experts warned that in spite of the good news more than 7 million people still struggle to get by in the state.

The poverty figures released Wednesday are said to paint the best picture of life for California’s working poor since it encompasses income from government programs and factors in the high cost of living in some corners of the state.

Although California has a vigorous economy and a number of safety net programs to aid needy residents, it’s often not enough to forestall economic hardship for one out of every five residents, the data show. …

Click here to read the full article from the Merced Sun Star

UC Berkeley professor blames rent control for California’s housing crisis

UC BerkeleyKenneth Rosen, a UC Berkeley economist and real estate consultant, published a paper Wednesday titled The Case For Preserving Costa Hawkins, in hopes of swaying voters against Proposition 10.

Proposition 10, which will go before voters in November, would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, a state law that severely curtails rent control in California cities. For example, under Costa-Hawkins, only San Francisco apartments built before 1979 may be subject to rent control.

Passing Proposition 10 would not in and of itself create any new rent control housing, but it would allow cities to expand rent control stock for the first time in decades if they so choose.

Rosen, however, argues that turning the clock back to 1994 will stifle new housing and drain apartment stock. …

Click here to read the full article from SF Curbed

California’s Illegal Weed Industry Is Doing Better Than Ever

Marijuana smokingIt was 2004 when William P. first got into the weed game. He was 18 years old and spent much of his life on the road, traveling between Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego to deliver chocolate edibles and sell weed. In the 14 subsequent years, he tried his hand at nearly every aspect of the cannabis supply chain, from starting a delivery service to hauling pounds of weed from the Emerald Triangle—Northern California’s famed farming epicenter—to dispensaries and buyers across Southern California.

“It’s an adrenaline rush that you cannot describe,” William told me. “That becomes a drug. And the money is good too.”

His plan was to secure a license and join California’s newly created legal market this year but “money talks,” as William said, and instead he ended up working with a illicit medical marijuana collective that funneled weed out of state, tapping into that “OT” or out-of-town money, as he calls it.

William, who operated largely out of Southern California, is just one small part of California’s booming illegal market. Even though recreational (or “adult-use”) marijuana has been legal in the Golden State since January 1, the cannabis industry is still functioning largely as it has for for decades—in the shadows. …

Click here to read the full article from Vice

Oroville Dam repair costs soar past $1 billion

Oroville Dam 2Fixing the Oroville Dam spillway wrecked by storms in 2017 will cost $1.1 billion — a $455-million hike from initial estimates — the state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday.

The swelling cost can be blamed on design changes that have been made over the last 16 months and damage to the facility near Oroville, Calif., that was far more extensive than initially presumed, the department said.

The Department of Water Resources designed the repairs and issued a contract to Kiewit Corp. in April 2017 based on an estimate that the company could perform the work for $275 million. But the cost of that portion of the project has shot up to $630 million. In addition, the department’s internal costs have grown by $100 million, reaching $310 million. The agency also paid $160 million in emergency response costs, including removing sediment and installing temporary power lines.

In total, the cost of getting the spillway repaired and upgraded has gone up by about $1 million every day since April 2017. …

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