Sunday, March 18, 2018

Labels: , ,

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 17, 2018

High-speed rail fiasco rolls on

...Proposition 1A authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion to get the project going. Information about Proposition 1A in the November 2008 Official Voter Information Guide stated that “the total cost to develop and construct the entire high-speed train system would be about $45 billion.”

This $45 billion “entire high-speed trail system” included service to Sacramento and San Diego as well as the route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also assumed dedicated track for the entire system, as opposed to the current “blended” plan in which high-speed trains share track with commuter light rail at the “bookends” near San Francisco and Los Angeles.

See the text of Proposition 1A and the ballot material related to it: Prop 1A: Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act...

Meanwhile, the groups making money off of California High-Speed Rail continue to push for the project to continue. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, a coalition of unions with a monopoly on the construction workforce for the project, issued a statement on March 9 supporting the 2018 Business Plan: SBCTC Statement on California’s New High Speed Rail Plan.

With politically powerful unions continuing to support this project, the spending will continue until the courts finally stop it. Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) and other organizations will continue to argue to the judicial branch that the state’s legislative and executive branches have failed to uphold the promises made to voters in Proposition 1A.

In the meantime, the property takings and cultural erosion of agricultural communities far away from San Francisco and Los Angeles will continue at the hands of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Rob's comment:
As a Democrat, I hate to say it, but for once this shamefully stupid project is all the fault of the Democratic Party, not the Repugs. The unions cited above are an important part of the Democratic Party's base, and even dumb projects create jobs for those unions, which is all they care about. It's hard to find elected Democrats willing to speak out against this project.

Alas, Gavin Newsom, leading candidate for Governor of California, is flip-flopping on the issue:

Antonio Villaraigosa, stopping off Wednesday in the Central Valley to survey construction of the state’s oft-debated high speed rail system, accused Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of repeatedly equivocating on the project, criticizing his Democratic rival for governor of being “for it, before he’s against it, and then he’s for it again.”

The former Los Angeles mayor suggested Newsom, the frontrunner in next year’s contest, was revising his positions “when the winds blow in his direction.” Newsom was an early backer of the rail project, and he campaigned for the $9.95 billion bond measure in 2008. But his opinion soured over route and business plan deviations. Newsom told a Seattle radio program in 2014 that he would use the money for “other, more pressing infrastructure needs”...

In today's Examiner:

Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom’s first campaign ad touts his “courage” for marrying same-sex couples 14 years ago in The City, a move that bucked state law and catapulted the former San Francisco mayor into national headlines. But closer to home, the nation’s historic first LGBT Democratic club has voted “no endorsement” for the June gubernatorial primary, leaving the slick-haired trailblazer out in the cold...

Odd that the gay club didn't endorse Newsom. Still, Newsom's boldest policy move was on homelessness in San Francisco, the issue that helped elect him mayor back in 2003. He actually screwed up the gay marriage issue with his terrible timing, which helped George W. Bush get reelected in 2004.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 16, 2018

Americans support torture

Kevin Drum

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

The American public supports torture by a pretty wide margin, and Republicans support it almost unanimously. This means there’s really not much reason for anyone to feel ashamed about it or to think it will hurt their reputation or their ability to work in government.

The bottom half of the poll graphic explains why so many people feel this way: they’re scared. 

This is hard for people like me to understand: It never even occurs to me to feel scared in any of the situations they asked about. At airports I mostly feel annoyed. At movies I mostly wish Hollywood made better stuff. At sporting events I wish the guy in front of me wasn’t wearing a big hat.

But scared people support bad policies. They support interning people of Japanese ancestry. They support napalm and carpet bombing. And they support torture. The only way to change this is to figure out a way to make people less scared. Obviously we haven’t done that yet.

Rob's comment:
Senator Feinstein is steadfast against torture, but President Trump isn't. He wants to put a woman in charge of the CIA who oversaw a torture site under President George W. Bush:

It is a matter of public record that Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to be the next director of the CIA, played a key role in the agency’s now-defunct program of “enhanced interrogation techniques”—an Orwellian euphemism for a system of violence most Americans would recognize as torture. Haspel oversaw a black site in the Bush era. At least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was tortured during her tenure...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 15, 2018

SB 827 and WIMBYs: "Wall Street in My Backyard"

Photo: Dyami Serna

Zev Yaroslavsky is a former Los Angeles County Supervisor and City Councilmember and is now Director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Zev Yaroslavsky: 
SB 827 is not a housing bill; it’s a real-estate bill. It is intended to monetize real estate. This bill is not about YIMBYs vs. NIMBYs; it’s about WIMBYS: Wall Street in My Backyard. With one stroke of the pen, the State Legislature could totally transform the economics of real-estate development in Los Angeles—while totally eviscerating decades of planning...

As Senator Wiener would have it, the legislation is about transit-oriented development that creates added zoning near transit stops. At the town hall, for example, he spoke about subway and light-rail stops. But that’s not all that this bill is about.

Wiener’s definition of a “transit corridor” is not simply subways and light rail. It’s every bus line in the state that runs at least once every 15 minutes during the morning and evening rush hours. In Los Angeles, that’s almost every bus route on almost every commercial street from Boyle Heights to Brentwood, and from the San Fernando Valley to south Los Angeles.

Moreover, his definition of a “major transit stop” includes any bus stop at the intersection of two transit corridors—e.g. Melrose and Fairfax Avenues, Soto Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Ventura and Van Nuys Boulevards, and hundreds of similar intersections throughout most of the LA basin and a good part of the San Fernando Valley.

Under SB 827, a developer would have the right to build, at minimum: 1) an eight-story-high apartment building within a quarter-mile of a major transit stop or transit corridor, or 2) a building of four to five stories within a half-mile of a major transit stop or a transit corridor.

What does this all mean? Think of the corner of Melrose and Fairfax. Under this bill, the bus stop at that corner qualifies as a “major transit stop.” That means that if a developer bought the commercial properties on those two streets, and/or any residential properties within a quarter-mile radius of that corner, they would have the right to build eight-story apartment buildings there—with no parking and no limit on density.

That’s right: Wiener would prohibit the city from requiring a single parking space in an eight-story, 100-unit apartment building. A “brilliant” idea for LA.

That would impact the shops on Melrose—one of LA’s most unique shopping streets—as well as all the rent-controlled apartments and single-family homes within a quarter-mile radius. The same can be said for the corner of Exposition and Crenshaw in Leimert Park, the corner of Nordhoff and Reseda in Northridge, the corner of Pico and Westwood in southern Westwood, and so forth...

Is that what we want to do to these neighborhoods? Does Scott Wiener want to take a wrecking ball to most of the retail villages and residential communities in Los Angeles? It’s nuts. Every responsible planner with whom I’ve spoken about this bill speak of it with great disdain. It is classic overreach—a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the planning of the largest city in California. That’s why I say this is not a transit-oriented development bill; it’s a real-estate play of the worst kind.

A San Francisco state senator cannot possibly understand the complexities and nuances of a city the size of LA—and he really shouldn’t try. Maybe he should use his own city as a guinea pig; let’s see how this brilliant idea works out in his hometown...

In an effort to gain the support of tenants’ groups, Wiener has amended his bill, with great fanfare, to appear to address their concerns about the demolition of what’s left of our affordable housing stock, especially rent-controlled apartments. He has failed to do so...

We didn’t pass two sales-tax measures over the last 10 years in order to raze the city to make it look like New York. We didn’t promote Measures R and M as growth machines that would densify every linear foot along the new rail lines and existing bus routes. If we had, they would not have passed...

How would SB 827 affect different communities differently? 

That’s precisely the problem with Wiener’s bill: It is oblivious to the uniqueness of the communities that make up Los Angeles and every other city in California. He treats them all equally—abrogating local zoning laws and giving the real-estate industry a gift of increased property values, increased building, and increased profits. In other words, put a bull’s eye on every community in our city, and let the developers have at it.

This is an arrogant and wrong-headed approach. Land-use policies, and their impacts on a community, must be left to local government—not the State Legislature—to determine. The Legislature cannot possibly know the unintended consequences of a broad-brush bill. And there are hundreds of unintended consequences.

Every member of every community cares deeply about where they live and work. Whether you live in Echo Park or Beverly Hills, in Chatsworth or Wilmington, your community is your community. Businesses, residents, and other stakeholders fight to maintain a community’s values—and its value. That doesn’t make them NIMBYs; it makes them the responsible citizen stakeholders who make a city what it is...

I don’t blame developers for trying to change the rules rather than playing by them; it’s much more lucrative to do the former. But that effort has driven up land values, ultimately resulting in prevailing rents that fewer and fewer people can afford. It’s part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in—and it’s dead wrong.

At the same hearing, in response to hostile questions, Senator Wiener said, “I do not advocate a state takeover of housing policy. I’m advocating looking at a balance, where the state sets basic standards that are enforceable, and local communities [have] control within those standards—just like public education.”

Scott Wiener has said a lot of things, but this one made me laugh. Of course he’s advocating a state takeover of local housing policy!

He’s willing to leave it to the city to permit demolition of rent controlled apartment buildings—but not to determine which retail villages or single-family neighborhoods live or die. He’s advocating the destruction of what’s left of our affordable housing stock.

Wiener’s bill is the most audacious takeover of local zoning powers in the state’s history. If he’s going to propose it, he shouldn’t be afraid to accurately describe what it does...

The affordable housing crisis is not simply a matter of zoning, and it’s not simply a matter of supply and demand. Wiener’s bill doesn’t require developers to set aside a significant percentage of units for affordable housing. All it will induce is the development of market-rate rentals that will command rents that are unaffordable to a large percentage of our population.

If the Senator wants to do something about affordable housing, he might work a little harder to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, which prevents cities from enacting meaningful rent stabilization laws that protect our affordable housing stock.

Metro is about to engage in an effort to reconfigure all of its bus lines countywide. Given the definition of transit corridor in SB 827, is it possible to truly know what tracts in the city will be subject to state legislative exception to local zoning? As writer Bob Silvestri asked:

"What happens when bus frequency suddenly rises above or falls below SB 827’s frequency criteria? Will cities then be required to immediately up-zone or down-zone large swaths of land as bus intervals rise and fall? And, how will a city or a developer deal with zoning that is in constant flux and essentially unpredictable? What if a street is “transit rich” one year but not the next, and in the interim a developer has broken ground on a housing project? Does that neighborhood then end up with high density housing but no public transit?"

That’s one of the most insidious features of this bill: It determines the size, height, and density of allowable development based on how often a bus comes down the local business street during peak hours. 

If a bus runs every 15 minutes, you get to build eight-story apartments in the Melrose/Fairfax neighborhood—destroying businesses, rent controlled units and single-family homes. If it runs every 16 minutes, the neighborhood is saved.

I suggest we all get to know the chief bus scheduler at Metro, because he or she will determine what gets built and where. Who’s the genius who thought that scheme up?

See also California’s housing crisis and the density delusion.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Rolling them out in their wheelchairs in the rain"

Photo: Jessica Christian, SF Examiner

From a SF Examiner story earlier this week:

 ...41 deaths of homeless residents recorded in San Francisco between Dec. 1, 2014 and Dec. 1, 2015.

The potentially deadly outcome of homelessness is often overlooked amid today’s tense political and cultural debate over how best to address the issue, which was heightened in recent weeks by sweeps of tents along Division Street. But the fact remains that homeless residents suffer from severe health issues at earlier ages and hundreds have died on San Francisco’s streets, their lives cut short, in the past decade.

The San Francisco Examiner obtained details of the homeless deaths on record at the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Public Health Department since July 2005 through the Freedom of Information Act...a review of homeless deaths by a small group of city officials is bringing renewed attention to the mortality of San Francisco’s homeless residents in ways that could change services and rethink approaches to housing.

Rob's comment:
No need to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to get that information, since at my request the helpful folks at DPH have provided me copies of the Homeless Death Form every year since 2007.

I started listing the names of homeless people who die on city streets after the Newsom administration stopped publishing the annual death totals, apparently for political reasons. 

City Hall should be publishing these numbers, not an obscure blog, since it provides a sense of urgency about the reality of the chronic emergency of homelessness.

From a Chronicle story last Saturday:

Unlike Oakland, San Francisco compiles the number of homeless people who die each year. But officials caution that their count is probably a significant underestimation because homeless people who spend their last days in housing or a hospital may not make the tally.

That is, like me the city "compiles the number" but then it doesn't publish it, which is surely a political decision. Providing that annual body count makes the city look bad, the thinking apparently goes, so why do it?

From the Chronicle story:

Josh Bamberger, a UCSF physician who has been treating homeless patients for the past two decades, said there’s already sufficient data on the perils of homelessness. “We have mountains of data to tell us why homelessness is bad,” he said. “It’s bad for your health, it’s expensive, and it kills you at a younger age.”

He pointed to a 2009 research paper he co-authored that examined the impact of housing on the survival of homeless people with AIDS. Only two out of 71 placed in housing died after five years. In the same period, three-quarters of the 610 people without housing had died. Some studies have indicated that homelessness is correlated with a 25-year decrease in one’s life expectancy.

“If the health care system embraced housing as the one and true treatment to improve the health of homeless people, that money would be well spent,” Bamberger said. “I used to believe I should put my energies in providing the best care...But there’s an absurdity in having a patient with perfect blood pressure, perfect control of their sugar and treatment of their cancers and then rolling them out in their wheelchair into the rain.”

Back in 2000, I sent this message to the publisher of the "progressive" Bay Guardian:

Subject: A Weekly Body Count?
Date: Friday, Feb. 04, 2000
From: Rob Anderson
To: Bruce Brugmann

Mr. Brugmann:

Since the Public Health Dept. tells us that 169 homeless people died on our streets last year, why not run a weekly body count of such deaths? The body counts the media used during the US war on Vietnam prevented anyone who read the papers or watched the news on TV from forgetting about the war. If you could pry a weekly body count from Public Health, why not box it off and run it up front in the Guardian?

Brugmann didn't respond, and the Bay Guardian left in San Francisco continued its historic failure on the homeless issue, which provided Gavin Newsom with the political opening to become Mayor of San Francisco.

Now that the homeless, with the tent camps sprouting on city streets, are so highly visible they can't be ignored, the fatality numbers are unlikely to have the impact they might have had years ago. But the numbers are a reminder of how the city---and the country, for that matter---is still falling short on this ongoing emergency.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Krugman on Kudlow

Trump tells people he is selecting Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn
Larry Kudlow

President Trump apparently has picked Larry Kudlow as his economic adviser to replace Gary Cohn.

Paul Krugman's professional opinion of Kudlow in 2016:

Kudlow is to economics what William Kristol is to political strategy: if he says something, you know it’s wrong. When he ridiculed “bubbleheads” who thought overvalued real estate could bring down the economy, you should have rushed for the bomb shelters; when he proclaimed Bush a huge success, because a rising stock market is the ultimate verdict on a presidency (unless the president is a Democrat), you should have known that the Bush era would end with epochal collapse.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pic of the Moment
democratic underground

Labels: ,

Monday, March 12, 2018

Aaron Peskin, the Bicycle Coalition, and congestion pricing

Aaron Peskin was elected supervisor in 2000 and termed out in 2009. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle / ONLINE_YES
Aaron Peskin

Not surprising that Supervisor Peskin supports Scott Wiener's congestion pricing legislation:

“I’ve long been a proponent of congestion pricing as a way to change driving behavior and reduce traffic,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who also serves as board chair on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. “While this won’t raise significant revenue toward our massive citywide transportation infrastructure and operations needs,” he added, “it’s an important tool to address vehicle gridlock in our transit-rich downtown core. I’m ready to sponsor a local ordinance to create the pilot, should this enabling bill pass.”

Why Aaron Peskin ever got a reputation as a leader is a mystery. In reality he's always been running with the political lemmings, beginning with the progressive failure on homelessness, an issue that then-supervisor Gavin Newsom took control of in 2002 with Care Not Cash. Can anyone remember Peskin ever saying anything about homelessness?

Actually, even before the homeless fiasco, Peskin voted with the prog majority for a resolution asking for a new trial for cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia was black and the cop he killed was white, so he must have been innocent, right?

After Newsom rode the homeless issue into the mayor's office, city progs made bicycles their big issue. In 2005 the Board of Supervisors---Peskin was then president of the board---unanimously passed the Bicycle Plan with no debate and no environmental review, though we tried to warn them that was illegal, which was confirmed by Judge Busch's decision the next year. Does anyone remember Peskin saying anything about the Bicycle Plan issue before or since?

Long before the advent of Scott Wiener, Peskin supported highrise development in San Francisco, except in low-rise North Beach where he lives.

Peskin supported the Central Subway before opposing it.

From the Examiner's story on congestion pricing:

Ed Reiskin, director of transportation at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, told the Examiner that international cities like London and Stockholm have demonstrated congestion pricing can work to reduce the number of cars on the road.

London is much larger than SF, with a population of more than 8 million, though Stockholm's is closer to ours, with around one million people. Recall that Reiskin is a bike guy, which is why City Hall chose him in 2011 to lead the MTA as the city remodeled city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists:

Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the booming number of cars in San Francisco “means more traffic, more dangerous streets and more air pollution.” Wiedenmeier supported a possible fee to enter downtown and said “a congestion pricing pilot would allow dense California cities, like ours, to find the strategy that best fits our communities’ needs.”

The Bicycle Coalition has long supported congestion pricing---and anything else that makes it harder and more expensive to drive in San Francisco.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Of course Scott Wiener supports Congestion Pricing

The proposed no-go zone

Of course State Senator Scott Wiener supports congestion Pricing. Anyone following his inexorable rise here in Progressive Land isn't surprised (Drivers might soon need to pay to enter downtown San Francisco).

Wiener fancies himself a political visionary, which is why he supports digging subways under San Francisco at a billion dollars a mile and the dumb high-speed rail project that, fortunately, is likely to be dumped by the next governor when Jerry "I-like-trains" Brown is termed out next year. 

To Wiener the money for these projects is mere "pixie dust" to be provided by taxpayers.

Like President Trump, Wiener also has an uncomfortable relationship with the facts, since he lies when it suits him---on CEQA and on the Geary BRT project.

Wiener is a crude elitist who early in his career in SF tried to water down our initiative rights. (See also Wiener's ploy out to save City Hall's face.)

One intractable reality that Wiener and supporters of congestion pricing face: when the people of San Francisco are polled, they overwhelmingly reject the idea of paying a fee to drive downtown in their own city.

In 2016 city voters rejected the idea 72% to 24%.
In 2015 they rejected it 76% to 20%.
In 2014 they rejected it 72% 21%.
In 2013 they rejected it 69% to 26%.
In 2012 they rejected it 75% to 23%.
In 2011 they rejected it 78% to 19%.
In 2009 they rejected it 72% to 10%.

For some reason, the Chamber of Commerce didn't ask a congestion pricing question in 2017 and 2018. Maybe they thought that, in light of past poll results, the issue is a dead letter. Wrong! Like all religious fanatics, the anti-car folks keep coming at you.

Even a pilot program for the idea seems fanciful when you consider that restaurants, theaters, hotels, retail businesses, etc., are unlikely to welcome the idea of actually discouraging people from driving downtown San Francisco by charging them a fee.

But the anti-car policies that City Hall has been implementing for more than ten years require that anyone who drives a wicked motor vehicle in the city must be penalized whenever possible. Doing so not only punishes those who violate City Hall's anti-car ideology it raises a lot of money to pay for the city's growing bureaucracy that had 39,634 employees as of 2016.

Tomorrow: Aaron Peskin's and the Bicycle Coalition's support for congestion pricing. 

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pic of the Moment

Labels: ,

Friday, March 09, 2018

Allow drug dealers and the homeless to take over a BART station?

A letter to the editor in today's Chronicle:

Reality check

Wait a minute, what? BART’s board director Bevan Dufty fears they may have to close down the Civic Center BART station because of the intimidating homeless, drug dealers and grime? 

When will someone be announcing that the entire city of San Francisco will be closed down due to the exact same reasons? That reality should be a somewhat larger worry for the arts groups here, indeed.

Catherine Luciano
San Francisco

Rob's comment:
That isn't surprising. As District 8 Supervisor, Dufty had a history of waffling and questionable judgment. I thought he was just waffling when UC was scheming to rip off the extension property on lower Haight Street. But it turned out that Dufty was negotiating behind the scenes to reserve some of the planned housing units for gay seniors.

Dufty helped the Bicycle Coalition take away parking for small businesses on Market Street.

Supervisor Dufty, along with "progressive" supervisors, voted for a resolution calling for a new trial for cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal.

When he was Mayor Lee's guy on homelessness, he thought that giving panhandlers puppies would somehow mitigate the problem.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Why Trump hates Obama

From the new book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff:

...Back in the United States[in 2013], Trump tweeted out the good news: “I just got back from Russia—learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place!” The next day he tweeted at Aras Agalarov, “I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!

The project moved further along than publicly known. A letter of intent to build the new Trump Tower was signed by the Trump Organization and Agalarov’s company. Donald Trump Jr. was placed in charge of the project.

Trump was finally on his way in Russia. And shortly after the Miss Universe event, Agalarov’s daughter showed up at the Miss Universe office in New York City bearing a gift for Trump from Putin. It was a black lacquered box. Inside was a sealed letter from the Russian autocrat. What the letter said has never been revealed.

In February 2014, Ivanka Trump flew to Moscow to scout potential sites for the Trump Tower project with Emin Agalarov. “We thought that building a Trump Tower next to an Agalarov tower—having the two big names—could be a really cool project to execute,” Emin later said.

But international events would quickly intervene. Weeks after Ivanka’s visit, the Obama administration and the European Union imposed tough sanctions on Russia in response to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his military intervention in Ukraine. It would be a kick to Russia’s faltering economy, already struggling because of the plummeting price of oil. 

And one round of sanctions imposed by the European Union targeted Russian banks in which the Russia government held a majority interest—that included Sberbank, which had agreed to finance the Trump deal. Its access to capital was now hindered.

In this environment, the plans for the Trump Tower in Moscow crumbled. According to the Trump Organization, Ivanka Trump, after touring Moscow with Emin, killed the deal for business reasons. But Rob Goldstone suspected the demise of Trump’s project with the Agalarovs influenced Trump’s view of sanctions: “They had interrupted a business deal that Trump was keenly interested in.”

That deal was dead. But Trump’s involvement with Russia and Putin was not done. He still had a close bond with an influential oligarch, Aras Agalarov, who was wired into the Kremlin. And he stayed in touch with his Miss Universe pals, Emin and Goldstone. In January 2015, nearly a year after Putin’s invasion in Ukraine, Trump had Emin and Goldstone as guests to his office in Trump Tower—a meeting that was never publicly revealed during the investigations that followed the 2016 election...

Seventeen months later, in June 2016, Goldstone would return to Trump Tower—this time escorting a Russian-led delegation dispatched by the Agalarovs, offering potentially derogatory information on Hillary Clinton, courtesy of the Kremlin, to the top officials of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Muni raising fares again: $1.2 billion not enough!

Image result for muni workers pictures
In yesterday's SF Chronicle:

...The MTA Board of Directors will discuss the possible fare changes Tuesday as part of its budget planning process, which will also include consideration of increased fees for everything from residential parking permits to parking citations. The agency needs to close an anticipated $23 million gap for the coming budget year that starts July 1 and $20 million for the following year.

The deficits are the result of a variety of factors, including free fares to low-and moderate-income youth, seniors and disabled riders, reductions in towing fees for low-income drivers, an increase in the number of MTA staff, and pension and health care costs...

Rob's comment:
The story tells us the MTA has a $1.2 billion budget. 

How many people are now working in the MTA? Hard to say, since the numbers on the state's Government Compensation site are from 2016, when it had 6,345 employees, a $488,856,216 payroll, and $157,880,371 in retirement and health costs. Click on "2016" to see how the number of employees has been steadily growing in recent years. 

What do all those people do?

More from the story:

Visitor passports, which offer unlimited rides for one, three or seven days, would drop sharply under a proposal to discount passes purchased and loaded on Clipper cards and the MuniMobile app. Now $22 for a single-day pass, including cable car rides, $33 for three days and $43 for seven days, the price would drop to $12 for one day, $24 for three and $39 for seven — if purchased electronically. Passports bought in person, with cash or credit cards, would cost $23, $34 and $45 respectively. Muni is also proposing a new type of fare — a one-day pass valid for unlimited rides except on cable cars — and priced at a rate equal to 2.5 rides, or $6.25.

If it's any consolation to city residents, the above shows that Muni has been ripping off tourists even more.

We learn that other cities don't rip off tourists for day passes as shamelessly as San Francisco: 

Day passes are common at many transit agencies, including AC Transit, which charges $5, and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, where passes cost $7. Nationally, day passes range from $5 in Portland, Ore., to $10 in Chicago.

Having a hard time paying off your parking tickets, which are the most expensive in the country? Compassionate Muni has a program that allows you to make payments---or to work it off doing community service: Making it easier for low-income people to pay off citations

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Daily Kos

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 05, 2018

What we're waiting for: "The farewell helicopter ride to Mar-A-Lago"

Alec Baldwin is right. Yes, Trump is going down. I too have been waiting for the inevitable fall of this contemptible human being. He's terrifyingly unfit for the job, easily the worst president we've ever had, even worse than George W. Bush, who ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Labels: ,

Homelessness in LA: Sound familiar?

From the editorial board of the LA Times (Los Angeles' homelessness crisis is a national disgrace):

At last, the problem became so acute — and so visible — that Los Angeles took extraordinary action. To your credit, to all of our credit, the citizens of this city and this county voted in November 2016 and again in March 2017 to raise our own taxes to fund an enormous multibillion-dollar, 10-year program of housing and social services for the homeless.

As a result, Los Angeles now has its best chance in decades to combat homelessness — an opportunity that surely all can agree must not be wasted. It is neither desirable nor morally acceptable nor practical for this city or this county to blithely tolerate the signs of destitution more commonly associated with 1980s Calcutta or the slums of Rio de Janiero or medieval Europe. 

We cannot go on shutting our windows to beggars at freeway offramps or stepping casually over men and women curled up in sleeping bags or turning away when people who have no access to public bathrooms use the city streets as toilets. We cannot indefinitely roust people who have nowhere to go or confiscate their belongings or criminalize their struggle for basic necessities. Such desperate stopgap measures are not solutions, but emblems of a deteriorating city, admissions of failure. We now have the opportunity to do better.

But here’s the bad news: Passing Measures H and HHH was the easy part. Money alone doesn’t solve problems, and in the end the tougher questions are how to spend it, where to spend it, on whom to spend it and how to measure success. 

If we hope that the crisis will be gone — or, more realistically, under control — when the money runs out in 10 years, we need city and county officials to explain what actions they’re taking and why, how many people they’ve housed or failed to house, what they expect to accomplish by the end of the year and by the end of the decade — so that we can hold them accountable for their actions.

All the region’s politicians must step up, but especially Mayor Eric Garcetti — whose legacy and political future will rise or fall on how he handles this colossal urban crisis — and the members of the Los Angeles City Council, who have too often allowed political expediency and timidity to guide their actions. Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles has risen every year since Garcetti took office in 2013. Over the course of his tenure, it is up 49%.

County officials have made some progress — breaking down bureaucratic silos, leveraging new federal Medicaid dollars, setting sensible goals and priorities, using Measure H money to quadruple the number of homeless outreach teams, add shelter beds and help with rental subsidies — but they too have an enormous task ahead of them. 

And homelessness, which does not recognize municipal boundaries, is also present in most of the other 87 cities in L.A. county, many of which have historically tried to push the poor and homeless out, hoping the problem would go away. 

Only three cities in the county are on track to meet their “fair share” housing construction goals...

Labels: ,

Tech companies: Legions from Hades

Joel Kotkin in The Orange County Register:

Once seen as the saviors of America’s economy, Silicon Valley is turning into something more of an emerging axis of evil. “Brain-hacking” tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, as one prominent tech investor puts it, have become so intrusive as to alarm critics on both right and left.

Firms like Google, which once advertised themselves as committed to being not “evil,” are now increasingly seen as epitomizing Hades’ legions. The tech giants now constitute the world’s five largest companies in market capitalization. Rather than idealistic newcomers, they increasingly reflect the worst of American capitalism — squashing competitors, using indentured servants, attempting to fix wages, depressing incomes, creating ever more social anomie and alienation.

At the same time these firms are fostering what British academic David Lyon has called a “surveillance society” both here and abroad. Companies like Facebook and Google thrive by mining personal data, and their only way to grow, as Wired recently suggested, was, creepily, to “know you better.”

The techie vision of the future is one in which the middle class all but disappears, with those not sufficiently merged with machine intelligence relegated to rent-paying serfs living on “income maintenance.” Theirs is a world in where long-standing local affinities are supplanted by Facebook’s concept of digitally-created “meaningful communities”...


Still waiting for all the JFK files

Image result for magic bullet theory jfk
Warren Commission's Magic Bullet theory

Hard to believe that those who conspired to kill President Kennedy haven't already sanitized government files of any incriminating evidence. But why the continuous fiddling about releasing all the files?

...According to the JFK Records Release Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1992, all still-classified documents related to the assassination of JFK were to be made public in full by October 26, 2017 — unless the president personally decided that certain documents posed such a risk to national security that their continued suppression outweighed the public good of disclosure.

There was great anticipation leading up to the deadline — researchers and enthusiasts had been waiting 25 years to see these documents. NARA helped pump up the excitement with an early release of a small batch of documents in July. And President Donald Trump seemed to allay fears that he might succumb to pressure from the intelligence community to withhold documents; a series of presidential tweets appeared to indicate that the scheduled release was on track.

But that didn’t happenCome the day of the deadline, the White House explained that the various agencies needed time — six months’ worth — to “re-review” all of the records to make sure that national security was not at risk...

The various agencies involved — CIA, FBI, State Department, and others — were given until April 26, 2018, to determine how much of the redacted material would need to remain so.

“The National Archives’ commendable efforts to make the new records available online notwithstanding, overall the release process has been disappointing and disheartening,” Rex Bradford — president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which hosts one of the premiere sites for searchable, online JFK documents — told WhoWhatWhy.

“The amount of continued withholding by the CIA and other agencies — including huge stretches of whited-out pages in newly released records — is beyond anything remotely like that contemplated under the JFK Records Act. And the process itself has been marred by abundant errors and moving targets.”

But back in late October, John Greenewald of the Black Vault filed a FOIA request seeking the number of still-withheld documents at that time. He finally received a response in late January from NARA’s Office of General Counsel:

We conducted a search and were able to locate an EXCEL spreadsheet that lists everything that has not been released since December 15th, 2017 (the last release date). We are releasing this document [in] full with no redactions. The spreadsheet lists the JFK record number, the decision, the file number, document date, number of pages, and the origination agency.

The list contains 22,933 record numbers. When comparing it to NARA’s master spreadsheet of 2017 releases, it appears that the majority of files on the FOIA list were already made public last year. So “not been released” includes all of the many files that were in fact released in 2017, but with redactions, and are now awaiting the final review deadline in April.

Curiously however, there are 2,901 files listed that are not on NARA’s spreadsheet. That’s certainly a much larger number than the 86 files NARA mentioned in December. WhoWhatWhy has created a spreadsheet detailing these files....

Labels: , ,