by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
I previously reported on the 110 Pages of Gobbledygook that represents the Chargers' proposal to build a combination football stadium and convention center expansion in downtown. It looks like its not going to happen because Mayor Kevin Faulconer and a lot of other conservative businessmen are against it. The Chargers probably assumed that Faulconer would immediately climb on the bandwagon and start cheering for the so-called convadium. Faulconer, however, to his credit has been cautious, questioning the $1.15 billion in new debt the City would have to take on as its part in this endeavor. The Chargers casually gloss over this in their gobbledygook proposal. And they say nothing about the $50 million still owed on Qualcomm Stadium as if that's not even something worth mentioning.
As if this wasn't bad enough, recent state Supreme Court rulings mean that the Chargers will probably have to have a two thirds approval from the voters in November instead of a simple majority. This makes their uphill climb that much steeper especially since it has finally dawned on the American public that tax giveaways to billionaire owners of professional football teams are not a good idea.
Local Politicians Don't Want Convadium
I have now read or scanned the 110 pages, and I have a few (quite a few) reservations about the proposal, but they pale in comparison to the developments involving prominent politicians and businessmen who are against it. Joe Terzi, the head of the Tourism Authority, said the Chargers’ plan is just not something industry leaders wanted. Terzi continued:
by John Lawrence
On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, there was a well attended meeting of the Rules Committee of the San Diego City Council. Many diverse topics were covered, some at exhaustive lengths. The meeting lasted over three hours with a dozen or more speakers pleading their causes. Most were asking the Rules Committee to take their issues to the full City Council and have them vote to put them on the November ballot.
There was a discussion of the nature of the voting system. The way it is right now someone running for office who gets 50% of the vote plus one in the June primary is considered elected. Any less than that and there is a run-off on the November ballot between the top two vote getters. Jeff Marston of the Independent Voter Project maintained that, since more voters vote in the November election than in the primary, all final votes should be in that election in which more voters would have a say. A new voter Marissa Gomez, 19, favored that approach.
Will San Diego Adopt Instant Run-off Voting?
Councilman Kersey said that this would only lengthen the voting process and make the November ballot that much more unfathomable with options and propositions so numerous as to boggle the average voter's mind. Better to get some things out of the way on the June ballot. He suggested that perhaps Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) was a better way to go. IRV is an electoral system whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference. In the event that one candidate fails to achieve a sufficient majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and these votes redistributed, the process being repeated until one candidate achieves the required majority. Talk about getting down to the nuts and bolts of voting! A motion was made and carried 3 to 2 to bring the proposal, that the 50% + 1 rule be eliminated, to the full City Council and have them vote on it.
Next came the Public Health and Social Welfare Ballot Proposal. Stephanie Johnson made a slide presentation about the many homeless people she had met and what their problems were. Those problems included Tammy's which was that she couldn't afford lodging despite getting around $1000. in Social Security each month. With the average rent for a studio apartment more than $1000., Social Security would have to pay about twice that before a person could afford a roof over their head and food too.
Stuck in a System With No Exit
Melissa and Jason had their children taken away from them, and were "stuck in a system and cannot get out". Minor fines added up, jobs were not forthcoming because of outstanding fines and prior criminal records. Homeless people are fined for sitting. That comes under the heading of loitering, and so homelessness becomes criminalized. The Colonel had his social security check withheld because he can't pay his fines for being homeless.
Ms Johnson talked about how some of the homeless she encountered were "incredibly high" off of Spice which is sold legally in Hillcrest. Another homeless woman had been raped since childhood and was presently pregnant with twins. It was a veritable litany of hard luck stories that she pleaded with the City to do something about.
John Stump added, "We're measured on how we treat the least of these, and we're not doing enough." He noted that we had an Arts and Culture Commission that made sure arts and culture prospered in the City but there was no Human Services Commission that would provide oversight and look out for the interests of the less fortunate. The City was hoarding money, as Katheryn Rhodes has also repeatedly pointed out, in the LMIHAF fund and other places, and a City Commission could possibly force this money out the door and point it in the right direction - to help those who needed help.
Rodney Hodges, a homeless man, spoke very eloquently about his situation and about the one civic virtue we lack - compassion, caring for someone other than ourselves. He said the City has vacant facilities all over town, and the point that the City has money that it is hoarding has been made repeatedly with no counter-arguments from any of the members of the Rules Committee.
I think a lot of the detail that Katheryn Rhodes has dug up is really too deep for most of them. I think they are incapable of comprehending it, but maybe upon repeated exposure some of it will sink in. Her presentation today included the fact that online hoteliers such as Expedia and Trivago pay no TOT taxes which represents money the City could use if it wanted to solve the homelessness problem which evidently it does not. It just wants to tinker around the edges to show that it is doing something while not doing very much.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Women's Club (DWC) wants the City to reinstate charter sections 60 and 61. Section 60 had to do with the establishment of a Public Health Commission and a Director of Public Health. This section of the City Charter was repealed in 1963. Section 61 had to do with the establishment of a Department of Social Welfare and a Director of Social Welfare. This section was also repealed in 1963.
Do the Poor People of San Diego Need a New Football Stadium?
The lady from the DWC said that poor people have needs that aren't being served by building a new stadium. While there's always money available for rich people's needs, poor people are left in the unenviable position of sucking hind teat (my words, not hers). The City cannot make the excuse that the County will deal with the homeless situation and the needs of poor people because the County gets its funds from HUD, and those funds do not serve the needs of homeless women and children. Jeeni Criscenzo has made the point many times that homeless women and children numbering some 22,000 (which can be ascertained from official school records) are routinely left out of the Point In Time count.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald said that she's engaged in this issue and that the City was spending millions of dollars to help the homeless. I guess that's not enough since the homeless population gets larger every day. She mentioned the Continuum of Care meetings. The Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) is a community-based association focused on ending homelessness in San Diego and charged with overseeing millions of dollars in federal funding under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) program. I guess this HUD funding is what the Democratic Women's Club spokeswoman referred to as being unavailable for women and children.
Ms Emerald mentioned Girls Think Tank which is doing admirable work with the homeless. Girls Think Tank is now called Think Dignity so I guess the well-intentioned Ms Emerald is a little bit behind the times. She said, "I believe that together we can find new solutions." She said that they are pushing the County to "do better." She wants to establish more senior centers.
Councilman Chris Cate chimed in that he and other City Council persons were volunteering their time working with non-profits. Well that is not exactly what San Diego citizens were asking them to do. Whether or not they are personally involved in activities outside the purview of the City Council is not the issue. The issue is, in their role as City Council persons, how can they best contribute to getting the job done? Their position does give them considerable leverage. Councilman Cate mentioned "how do we get the most bang for our buck" Simple: release the hoarded money and earmark it for affordable housing! He said, "we're working hard to do more with the dollars we do have." I don't think so. They always plead poverty when it comes to helping the impoverished. But they don't have a problem with slinging around billions of dollars for a new convadium, for instance. They don't bat an eyelash over borrowing $1.15 billion for that. Poverty indeed!!
Let the People Pay for Trash!
The League of Women Voters (LWV) wants the City to get rid of the Peoples' Ordinance which lets single family homeowners in the City get free trash disposal. Those that don't live in single family homes, which is the majority of City residents, don't get it. The LWV wants this ordinance recalled. It should be. It would add another $47 million to the General Fund. The City wouldn't have to borrow as much for the new Convadium or it could almost pay off the $60 million on Qualcomm Stadium that it still owes. Still the City does nothing. They don't want to piss off a lot of their constituents who are attached to their freebies. There was no second to Marti Emerald's motion to bring this proposal to the full City Council for a vote to place it on the November ballot.
Next it was Women Occupy San Diego's (WOSD) turn to take the floor. Notice a trend here? Most if not all of these groups are women. I guess men are out pursuing their corporate greedy jobs.The WOSD want a reform of the Citizen's Review Board to include a review of all police shootings and in custody deaths. They want police accountability. Right now the police review themselves. I wonder what could go wrong there? They want 3 things: independent investigators, independent legal council and subpoena power. She said, "The police shouldn't be in charge of investigating their own misconduct."
What struck me is that there are people of all ranks and abilities involved in civil discourse from the WOSD attorney who spoke to those demonstrating in the streets. The level of civic involvement in particular for social justice issues is impressive. Of course the rich corporate lobbyists do their work behind the scenes. The Chamber of Commerce types weren't present at the Rules Committee meeting.
A Smorgasbord of Issues Boggles the Mind
The ever present citizen advocate, John Stump, brought up a smorgasbord of other issues from the subsidy the City gives to the zoo that it doesn't need (it is very profitable, thank you) to the fact that the "Council has the authority to own and operate a public utility" whether this be the internet, energy or something else. They said we need "community choice aggregation" in order to get to the City's "Climate Action Plan" goal. Oh, and he mentioned that the school board should be enlarged to better serve the citizens since the population has grown considerably while at the same time no new seats have been made available on the school board. There is currently no high school in City Heights which has a tenth of the City's total population.
Finally Katheryn Rhodes spoke about the need to redefine what a hotel operator was in order to tax online hotel operators. Since the number one complaint of tourists is the downtown homeless population (it sort of takes the fun out of visiting San Diego when you have to step over turds in the street), it makes sense to have part of the TOT tax go to clean up the streets by housing the homeless.
As Katheryn has pointed out repeatedly, there is money available if only the City would stop hoarding it. We need more CAFRs (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports). I don't think the acronym challenged City Council can get their heads around Katheryn's work. She also advocated for Tiny Homes for the homeless and pointed out the mismatch between City Ordinances and State Laws. What needs to take place is a lawsuit ala Cory Briggs against the City to spring loose those hoarded funds in the LMIHAF and other equally abstruse funds and get the ball rolling. San Diego residents want it. Tourists want it. The Chamber of Commerce wants it. The only people who don't want it are the compassionless which was pointed out earlier, those people who think every resident should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, even those entrapped in a cycle of poverty.
A Heartening Example of Civic Democracy. Let's Hope It Does Some Good
Today was a heartening exercise in civic democracy. Let's hope it is to some avail. The Democratic Women's Club, the League of Women Voters, Women Occupy San Diego, Stephanie Johnson, Katheryn Rhodes and many other women - all were there. Where were the men's groups or the LGBTQ groups for that matter? It's clear that women are among the most compassionate members of society. The only men there were John Stump, Rodney Hodges and a few others. Men are clearly not as advanced in the compassion index as are women.
by John Lawrence
Friday, May 27, Lori Bell had one of her long standing gigs at the La Jolla Community Center with Mike Garson, piano, and Ron Satterfield, guitar and vocals. Amiable and buoyant, Lorie established good rapport with the packed audience. She's the kind of person you wish you had for a classmate when you were going to school. The music was excellent with stellar performances from Ron Satterfield, a major talent, and Mike Garson, former pianist with David Bowie. That being said this review will be packed with anecdotes like the time Lorie gave piano lessons to my granddaughter, Monique. She was so good with her and a wonderful teacher.
Lorie has a new CD out, Brooklyn Dreaming, which has gotten rave reviews. Brian Zimmerman, writing in downbeat gave the album 4 stars and said this:
West Coast flutist Lori Bell has been quietly amassing acclaim as a composer and improviser for the past three decades. Daughter of a bandleader father and an accordion-playing mother, she grew up in a music-filled household in Brooklyn. As a youngster, she would take the train to Manhattan to hear jazz in the tiny clubs of Greenwich Village. On Brooklyn Dreaming, her ninth album, Bell returns to her Big Apple roots for a nine-track program featuring six bold originals and three New York-centric interpretations. Bell’s playing is lithe and energetic, her lines unspooling with ease.
It cannot be stated too strongly what a great pianist Tamir Hendelman is and how much he contributes to the album. He swings hard, more so than most contemporary jazz pianists these days, reminiscent of Oscar Peterson. The album creates a unified mood, a reflection of the locale Lori inhabited growing up. Lori's compositions evoke Brooklyn as she knew it long ago. The tributes on her website testify to the excellence of the album and Lori's playing and composing.
The pianist for Lori's gig at the La Jolla Community Center was Mike Garson who has a connection with Brooklyn as well having studied at Brooklyn College. He is best known for his association with the late David Bowie with whom he performed for 25 years and whose presence was felt and alluded to many times throughout the concert. He made his mark on numerous Bowie albums and has traveled thousands of miles on Bowie tours. As a pre-med student Mike was interested in the power of music to heal.
From his website:
Mike premiered his commissioned work, "Symphonic Healing Suite" on March 1, 2014 at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California. Written in collaboration with patients with various disorders and ailments, this work is a set of movements of original music compositions. The follow-up concert, Music Heals II, in conjunction with the Foundation for Neuroscience, Stroke and Recovery, took place on November 2, 2014.
Ron Satterfield has played with Lori for years. There's not too much biographical information about Ron online, but, suffice it to say, he played up a storm last Friday night especially on a tune Lori wrote for Mike, Avant Garson, on which the interplay between Garson and Satterfield was fantastic.
Lori's playing throughout the evening tied the whole group, which could have easily flown off in different directions, together. Her beautiful tone and fluid scalar lines and emphasis on melodicism makes her music especially accessible to audiences for whom hard core, Charley Parkerish bebop jazz is not a way of life. Her style is characterized by fluid runs and trills rather than arpeggiated chord changes. You can tell she has listened to flute master Hubert Laws.
They started off with a rubato introduction to Stella by Starlight before kicking into the groove. That was followed by Joe Henderson's Inner Urge. As one of the anecdotes I referred to earlier, I almost presented Joe at a concert for the San Diego Jazz Society. Our Board member, Ann Williams, who knew all the jazz greats, was supposed to contact him, and offer what our constrained budget was capable of. Instead she offered him $1500. more, figuring he was worth it, and putting the balance of the tab on her own credit card. Well, Ann was not a rich person and we felt she shouldn't have done that so I had to write Joe a letter canceling the whole event. Such are the experiences and lessons of life.
Joe's composition was followed by Ron singing a David Bowie tune, Wild is the Wind. "Love me, love me, say you do. Let me fly away with you." The emotional urgency and consummate musicianship Ron put out there the entire evening was overwhelming at times. The crowd ate it up.
Next came Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring. Freddie was, after Clifford Brown, my favorite trumpet player. He was a veritable gladiator of the trumpet; he was fearless. He tried for anything and everything like a high wire artist and usually made it. That made it even more of a heart break when I saw him at the now defunct club Anthology in Little Italy on his 70th birthday tour. Freddie could hardly play at all. In place of the power and elan there was only the inability to get the meagerest air flow through his horn. I thought to myself, "He must have had a stroke."
That made it a little frustrating when Lori engaged Mike, who had played with Freddie, in repartee which was inaudible. I wished Mike had been on mike, because I'm very curious about Freddie's life and what happened to him. Anecdotally again, Freddie stuck John Rubino, proprietor of the Bella Villa jazz club in Cardiff, many years ago with a $3000 bill for cocaine. Freddie himself said his later misfortunes were caused by "partying too much with the rock crowd". Freddie's son, Duane Frederick Hubbard is keeping Freddie's legacy alive on the website. I wish someone would write a biography though. He suffered a heart attack in late November 2008 in Sherman Oaks, California, and died a few weeks later, on December 29, at the age of 70.
From Lorie's website:
In December 2011 Lori received a Global Music Award, the Award of Excellence for her depth of playing, composing and arranging for the "Lori Bell" CD (Beezwax Records). In April 2014 Lori won a second Global Music Award, the Gold Medal Award for her composition "Une Chanson Pour Claude" on the CD "Night Soliloquy" (Azica Records). In March 2016 The GMA's honored a third award for Outstanding Achievement for her 9th studio CD "Brooklyn Dreaming" for album and composition.
They did Miles Davis' All Blues for an encore leaving the crowd wanting more. One more anecdote... Some years ago I presented Lori at the San Diego Library and in the advanced notices I made up a name for her group, - the "ergonomic gastronomers." Lorie didn't get offended and took it all in stride. Thank you Lori for bringing us great music and being your good-natured, happy-go-lucky self.
by John Lawrence
A packed house at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park was treated to a flute duo billed as Flute Fusion featuring Holly Hofmann, inveterate jazz flautist and promoter, along with Beth Ross-Buckley, classical flautist and promoter. Both Holly and Beth have been long time music presenters in San Diego. Holly started at the Horton Grand and had a memorable gig for many years at the San Diego Museum of Art. Beth started a chamber music group called Camarada in 1994. This night they joined forces. They were backed by a jazz rhythm section composed of Holly's husband, Mike Wofford on piano, Gunnar Biggs, bass, Duncan Moore, drums and Jim Plank, who spanned both jazz and classical worlds, on vibes. My friends, Anna and Rich, accompanied me and were impressed by the quality of the musical offerings.
Holly has never played better, digging in with her trademarked ability to swing and her proficiency on both the standard C flute as well as her specialty, the alto flute, on which she recorded her latest standout CD, Low Life. On her foray into the jazz world classical flautist, Beth Ross Buckley, deserves much credit for her courageousness. She took an improvised solo on Thelma Blue, dedicated to her late mother, for the first time before a public audience and did just fine with a kind assist from Holly who adjusted her microphone so we all could hear. It isn't easy for a classically trained musician to start improvising. They can read anything you set in front of them, but improvising? That's a whole new world.
The tune selection was superb. They did Antonio Carlos Jobim's How Insensitive, a lilting Bossa Nova tune by the Brazilian composer. Mike Wofford either arranged or composed most of the tunes. Lee Morgan's Ceora, a beautifully poignant melody, evoked memories of the jazz great who died tragically at a young age when he was murdered on the bandstand by an ex lover. One of his tunes, The Sidewinder, written on a piece of toilet paper during a break in a recording session, became the second most listened to jazz standard of all time right behind Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Unfortunately, Morgan was also a heroin addict and lost years of what could have been career building productivity to the habit.
Saturday night, in the culmination of the Jazz @the Jacobs series @ Symphony Hall, jazz vocalist Gregory Porter and his band were featured along with an opening set by curator and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. Gilbert was in fine embouchure as usual and he was backed up by the becoming legendary Marshall Hawkins on bass and pianist, local guy, Joshua White on piano. My initial reaction was "Where's the drummer?" Guess none was available for this particular occasion. After what seemed like an interminable 20 minute break, out came Gregory Porter, a former football player at San Diego State. Who says San Diego doesn't have jazz talent? Locals guys and gals know how to play, what to play, when to play, but as Hal Crook once said, it's a bitch figuring out where to play.
Porter won the 2014 Grammy for best jazz vocal album, Liquid Spirit. The New York Times described Porter as "a jazz singer of thrilling presence, a booming baritone with a gift for earthy refinement and soaring uplift" in its review of Liquid Spirit. His just released album Take Me To the Alley reflects his mother's avocation as an advocate for the homeless and the downtrodden as opposed to the Take Me to the Penthouse penchant of so many who ignore the plights of the less fortunate.
As a singer songwriter, Porter can write poetically. All the tunes performed except one were written by him which contributed to a sameness that could have been overcome by throwing in a few more compositions by others. Porter has a powerful, almost operatic voice and sings with a lot of soulfulness. The melodies he constructs, however, are not memorable or hummable; they all have a singsongy similarity which seems to be par for the course in popular music these days. Where are the Irving Berlins and Cole Porters for whom melody was the most important aspect of being a composer? And about that hat that he's never without: In a 2012 interview with Jazzweekley.com he explained why he started wearing it: "I’ve had some surgery on my skin, so this has been my look for a little while and will continue to be for awhile longer.
His backup band was excellent with tremendous sax and bass work. The concert, however, went on too long. The opening set, the 20 minute break and then Porter's portion took the evening's festivities, which started at 8 PM well past 10 o'clock. The cramped up seats at Symphony Hall, as bad as any airplane's, got to me after two hours, and finally I had to get up and leave before the concert was over.
It was announced to everyone's delight that the Jazz@the Jacobs program would continue in the fall starting with the Count Basie (tribute) Orchestra in a tribute to Frank Sinatra featuring Jane Monheit and Dave Damiani. Whew, that should be a knockout! That would be followed in 2017 by a salute to West Coast Jazz. The third in the series is dedicated to Women in Jazz featuring none other than flute virtuoso, Holly Hofmann herself, along with other well known jazz women.
Jazz at Symphony Hall is a good thing. Finally, the jazz world and the classical world are speaking to each other as last weekend's festivities demonstrate. As Duke Ellington said, "There are only two kinds of music—good music and bad music," regardless of how it's labeled. There is so much bad music out there that jazz and classical are finally teamed up together in providing music that is palatable to the audience that has even a modicum of taste and musical sophistication. It needs to be applauded, supported and preserved. Saturday evening's jazz and blues at Symphony Hall and Sunday's merging of jazz and classical at the Mingei Museum are a huge step in the right direction combining the best of both worlds. My friends, Anna and Rich, picked up a copy of Holly Hofmann's Low Life CD on the way out on my recommendation. I'm sure they enjoyed it after they got home.
by John Lawrence
This article was originally published in the 1969 print edition of the San Diego Free Press. It follows on to our 4 part series on affordable housing in San Diego. So what else is new? Nothing except the price of real estate.
The housing situation in San Diego, especially for people with low incomes, bears all the earmarks of a terminal illness. The condition is grave and seems destined to get worse. The City will tell you that 1968 was a year in which San Diego experienced a record boom in housing construction, but their figures are completely misleading. It is true that there were 12,525 units of housing begun in 1968, as compared with 6,100 units in 1967, and that while city building doubled, rural building was up 47% in 1968 over the previous year. Yet most of this activity was in the realm of plush apartments and condominiums which cater to middle and high income groups, thus leaving people with low incomes at the mercy of soaring prices and a vacancy rate for the entire city of less than one percent.
This critical situation in San Diego is by no means unusual nationally. 90% of the family residential units in the US cost the purchaser over $20,000. [As an aside, coastal real estate in San Diego County could be purchased for below $20,000 in 1969. Today it would be hard to find anything for less than $1,000,000.] Yet half the people earn less than $7,800 per year. To make the payments on a $20,000 home, a person must earn at least $9,000 per year. A little simple arithmetic shows that at least half the people in this country can afford only 10% of the housing now being constructed. When it comes to low cost housing today, the law of supply and demand seems to have gone awry.
What makes housing so expensive? The housing industry is one of the most inflated sectors of the US economy. The construction industry represents 10% of the GNP--80 billion dollars a year which is divided up among a lot of relatively small companies. There hasn't been the centralization that has taken place in the automobile industry, for example. Mass production of industrialized homes could cut costs considerably, but this does not occur mainly because the rate of profit in low cost housing does not compare with that in higher cost housing.
Construction costs have increased 85% since 1951. In the past year the cost of some materials, particularly lumber, has increased as much as 100%. But labor has been the chief reason why costs have increased so spectacularly. Many plumbers and carpenters now earn $20,000 per year, often for a 32 hour week. Craftsmen in general now earn at about twice the hourly rate of college graduates. Another reason for the high cost of housing is land. The cost of urban residential land across the nation has risen nearly 400% since 1934. Land costs are rising so high that it is fast becoming a reality that the land costs more than the structure built upon It. Since land is becoming so expensive, houses are being crowded closer and closer together and multi-family dwellings are becoming more common.
The attitude of the business community toward low coat housing is negative. The general trend is to replace dilapidated housing by high cost housing, thus upgrading the property values and leaving those who cannot afford it literally out on the street. Poorer people are eventually forced out of suburbs and into the already crowded city ghettos and barrios. This type of policy is being implemented here in Ocean Beach where business interests are trying to oust hippies and other low income people by raising rents and/or replacing low cost with high cost housing.
What is being done to correct this situation in San Diego? There is a group of businessmen called "San Diego Housing", a non-profit development corporation headed by Dan Grady, whose purpose is to give assistance and expertise to people who want to avail themselves of Federal housing programs. They have projects in Linda Vista and Southeast San Diego. Some of the Federal housing programs are the following: Model Cities, Leased Housing program, Rent Subsidy program, Community Housing Improvement and Revitalization program and Home Ownership Mortgage Insurance Assistance program. Many of these programs were put into effect by the 1965 Housing Act. The Model Cities program is an attempt to plan a 5 year action program to resolve problems in 10 different areas including housing, welfare, crime and transportation.
$268,000 has been allocated to San Diego for the first year. This money will go to analyze problems and come up with a plan. Additional money will he required to actually implement a program. The MC [Model Cities] project is concentrating on two areas of San Diego: Southeast and San Ysdro. This program is good in that it is intended to be a comprehensive approach, but it is doubtful whether the Federal funds needed will be forthcoming.
The Leased Housing program involves cities leasing housing units from private owners. The city then subleases these to needy people who pay rent amounting to 25% of their income.
The San Diego Housing Authority administers the program and federal subsidies finance it. This year San Diego had a quota of 1000 units. This program has been unsuccessfull because private owners are reluctant to lease their homes to needy people when they can rent them more profitably on the open market. The quota was never filled.
The Rent Subsidy program involves the subsidization of rent paid by poor people who qualify. Under the program people pay out only 25% of their income.
The purpose of the Community Housing, Improvement and Revitalization program is to conserve property values and improve the living environment. Under this program San Diego's current budget is 1.7 million dollars. The [purpose of the] Home Ownership Mortgage Insurance Assistance program is to reduce the interest on the home purchases mortgage rate to 1%. [This could be accomplished more efficiently with a public bank.] All of these programs are fragmented, piecemeal attempts to solve a problem which needs a massive unified, concerted approach. They are not adequate to the dimensions of the problem.
They all in effect subsidize the rich landlords, property owners, and capital investors by paying them inflated market rates for the use of their property and then letting the poorer people use it at prices they can afford. It seems everybody is happy, both rich and poor, but it means that the rich get richer and the poor stay where they are [thus driving income inequality]. If the goal of those programs is to solve the problems of inadequate and insufficient housing, they fail miserably. The difficulty is that the federal government makes inefficient use of the tax dollars at its disposal. Instead of using the money directly to provide low cost housing for those who need it, the government funnels the money to the wealthy property owners in return for the limited use of their land.
If the federal government's programs are not adequate to the need, can private industry fill the void in low cost housing? There are no handsome profits to be made in this field. Industry will only venture into it when subsidized by the federal government and then only as a measure of profiteering off government funds--again off our tax dollars.
A good example of this is the South Bay Terrace project owned by a Mr. Kahn. Subsidized by Federal funds, Kahn is building what many people regard as another ghetto--crowding as many units into one parcel of land as possible. Many urban experts think that for low cost housing to be effective, it must not he all concentrated in one location, but should be dispersed throughout the city. This leads to a more homogeneous distribution of income groups and a healthier social situation.
The reason that it is unprofitable to build low cost housing on the open market is that the cost of any housing is dominated by land, labor and profits. These are used to practically the same extent regardless of the "quality" of the structure being built. A very small fraction of the total cost goes into aspects that separate high quality housing from low quality housing. In other words it costs almost as much to build "low" cost housing as "high" cost housing, but "high" cost housing is more profitable.
Without even considering "communitizing" the land, many housing experts have concluded that the only solution to this problem is the introduction of the mass-produced prefabricated housing. This industry could he organized by the government as a non-profit enterprise. In one form this has happened with the mobile home business, and nearly one out of every four Californians live in a mobile home. But this industry in still run by profit making business men and it isn't that much cheaper. [Factory produced tiny homes could get the homeless off the streets at a minimal cost.]
As it stands now, the poor will remain dependent on a handout and remain in sub-human dwellings, while the tax payer gets pissed off at government waste. Too often the taxpayer will blame the poor for what is a government fuckup that aids the rich. Realistic low cost housing, which would curb inflation and save tax dollars, will remain a long way off unless the profit motive and the profit makers are expurgated from the solution.
by Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
The City Needs to Build and Own More Affordable Units
According to a recent Zillow report: "Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego are unaffordable for both renters and buyers. ... Looking forward, the picture doesn’t look bright for renters. Rents will likely keep rising at roughly their current pace for at least the next few years, which will lead to a continued affordability crunch unless wage growth significantly improves."
Enter the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) whose job is to redress the balance of unaffordable rents to make it possible for San Diego to be inhabited by other then rich folks.
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC)does a variety of projects to assist low and moderate income folks. From their website it would seem that they are doing a lot, but is it merely tokenism or are they using all available resources to build affordable housing as quickly as possible? After all, there is a declared emergency in terms of the increasing numbers of the homeless population that aren't being taken care of. In addition rents are skyrocketing to the point that teachers, police, firefighters and other government workers cannot afford to live in the City or County of San Diego. To the extent possible they, especially the police, are taking jobs elsewhere.
According to the SDHC Annual Report they have three major program areas:
1) Providing Rental Assistance to Low-Income Households – 15,455 housing vouchers for families, seniors and veterans
2) Addressing Homelessness – $55.8 million invested in programs
3) Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing – $675 million partnership developments
In this report Mayor Faulconer declares that "over the next three years the SDHC will award up to $30 million to create permanent supportive housing rental units for homeless individuals and families." This is all well and good except for the fact that $30 million doesn't go very far in building rental units, and "awarded" means that a big cut of this money will be taken by developers and various business interests instead of the SDHC building and owning the units themselves. There is much more than $30 million available for affordable housing as outlined in Part 1 of this series.
According to the San Diego Affordable Housing Fund Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report, the SDHC has access to two funds - the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and the Inclusionary Housing Fund (IHF). HTF revenues for FY15 totaled $2,623,540, and IHF revenues for FY 2015 totaled $16,354,345. It may seem like a lot of money, but it's a pittance compared to what's needed and the monies that are available and being hoarded by the City in various unaudited funds. And when the Mayor says "over the next three years" up to $30 million will be made available, that's 10 million a year, folks. Politicians are always uping the amounts and then spreading them over the next 3 to 10 to 30 years to make the amounts sound more impressive. Case in point - the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour is spread over 6 years!
According to City Council Policy 600-13 last amended 24 years ago, the former 20% Affordable Housing set-aside, now the Low Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund (LMIHAF), was to be put into the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) under the control of the SDHC. This happened for FY-1993 and FY-1995, then stopped, and the 20% set-aside was given to Centre City Development Commission (CCDC) instead. And what did the CCDC do with it? Build luxury high rise condos in downtown San Diego instead of affordable housing, tearing down Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units in the process and destroying the homes of many low income individuals who subsequently became homeless. This led to the accusations of corruption and the termination of the CCDC.
The Effective and Timely Use of Funds
The relevant City Council Policy is City Council Policy 600-13 Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Policy 7:
"It is further the intent of Council to provide for the contribution of the San Diego Redevelopment Agency housing set-aside funds in addressing the affordable housing issue in San Diego and to require the Redevelopment Agency to coordinate with the Housing Commission to ensure the effective and timely use of these funds."
The City of San Diego is violating their own Council Policy by letting Civic San Diego be in charge of the LMIHAF instead of the SDHC.
The County of San Diego's Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) program also states that the City will be using LMIHAF through the SDHC to house the Severaly Mentally Ill (SMI) Urban Homeless within city limits. However, nothing happens. The SDHC has stated they do not want to step on the toes of Civic San Diego.
Programs involving the County of San Diego are administered by the Board of Supervisors, an all Republican, all white, all San Diego State graduates group with a $5 billion budget. These guys and gals, all true Republicans, have shorted health and human services for years with only 7% of their discretionary budget going thereto. No wonder County administered programs like food stamps, Medi-Cal, In Home Supportive Services (IHSS), CalWORKS and other programs are understaffed and poorly managed with huge wait times for services.
I noticed a few things from the San Diego Affordable Housing Fund Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report that lead me to believe that the SDHC could be doing much more than they are doing right now to build affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) which comprises the HTF and the IHF has five goals:
1) Meet a portion of the need for housing that is affordable to households with very low to moderate incomes;
2) Leverage every $1 of City funds with $2 of non-City subsidy capital funds;
3) Support the Balanced Communities Policy by fostering a mix of household incomes in projects assisted by the AHF and dispersing affordable housing developments throughout the City;
4) Preserve and maintain renter and ownership affordable housing; and
5) Encourage private sector activities that advance these goals.
And then about the leveraging. Instead of non-City capital funds, why not go to the capital markets the way it is proposed for the new Convadium and leverage 5 to 1 instead of 2 to 1? If the City can borrow $1.15 billion which is proposed by the "People's Initiative" (in reality the Chargers' Initiative) to build a new stadium for the Chargers along with an extension to the convention center, why then the City can damn well get more mileage out of leveraging whatever money it can gets its hands on to build affordable housing and not just a paltry 2 to 1 ratio.
So what's the leverage on the proposed $1.15 billion for the convadium? They are going to leverage a few million in hotel taxes to get over a billion from Wall Street. That's some leverage, friends.
But then the establishment of a public bank would obviate the necessity of going to Wall Street at all, and the interest would accrue to the general fund saving the taxpayers money.
Low Income People Need Rent Assistance Not 30 Year Mortgages
Another thing - why is the SDHC involved in supporting home ownership for low income families? Low income families need affordable rents not home ownership. Money is squandered on purchasing single family houses when many more units of apartment style housing could be built for the same money. Low income families are precisely the ones who are likely to be foreclosed on as they were during the 2008 housing crisis. They don't need to be on the hook for 30 year mortgages. These houses would be obtained at market rates which are ridiculous for low income families in San Diego and represents a waste of money for the SDHC.
The SDHC needs to build and own apartment style affordable units for low income and homeless people, not developer built units that revert to market rates after so many years. That is a good investment for developers but not for the SDHC which will then have to build more housing to support the same number of subsidized units.
The SDHC doesn't need to worry about building market rate houses and apartments. Let the "free market" take care of that. However, it does need to step up to the plate and build apartments for low income and homeless people. That's the business it should be in, and it needs to cut out all the middle men, the developers, the underwriters and in particular the Wall Street financiers. How many cities have been snookered by Wall Street from Milan, Italy to Birmingham, AL? If the SDHC isn't up to the task, another City agency which is more hands on should take over - something like a San Diego Building Commission whose job would be to simply let contracts to build affordable housing. IMHO, they would just say to a contractor, "Here's the plans. Get to work." It's the KISS principal - Keep It Simple Stupid - and eliminate as much bureaucracy as possible in the process.
One of the solutions is for the San Diego Housing Commission to buy old run down motels and apartments and fix them up. Instead of new public/private construction where developers get rich, a more sustainable solution is to buy and rehabilitate. This is what they did at the Lighthouse at 3880 Rosecrans for homeless people who were getting out of jail. No Conditional User Permit (CUP) or public hearing was required because the Lighthouse is located in an area where Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing is allowed Ministerially by Right on the same map that includes downtown. The Midway Pacific Highway Planning Board was upset with the change in use from Run Down Motel to Housing for Felons without recourse by the community through the CUP process. My advice to the community: suck it up. According to SB-2, Cedillo, a CUP is not required.
Affordable Housing is a Good Deal for Developers
Sorrento Tower at 2875 Cowley Way in the Clairemont area provides 197 low income housing units, and a contract was let in 2011 to rehabilitate the aging project. “Here at Sorrento Tower, what we’re doing is preserving senior housing for decades to come, while at the same time preserving its affordability as well,” San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard C. Gentry said at a re-opening ceremony.
Rent protections in the original federally assisted Sorrento Tower mortgage were due to expire by 2016, allowing the property to convert to market-rate rental housing. The units had been restricted to people earning 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) - $33,050 for a 2 person household.
Instead, the owners sold the building to a new development team under terms that maintained affordable housing and incurred another developer fee of over $2 million as well. At the time of the rehab, all units were renting for $335 a month. Developers for projects such as these receive substantial fees for their services in rehabing old projects. For this project their fees represented almost 12% of total costs. And then there's all the interest on the $13.6 million in bonds paid to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms. In the end the developer also ends up owning the project and has the option of cashing out after the affordable time period expires. Not a good solution except for developers, Wall Street financiers, underwriters, lawyers and realtors. Is this is the best use of funds to provide permanent low income housing? I don't think so.
Sorrento Tower is now owned by Sorrento Tower Housing Partners, LP, a limited partnership, not the City of San Diego. What this means is that, after a certain time period (55 years in this case), the project will revert to market rate housing and the city will have to go through this merry-ro-round all over again. If the City owned it, that would not be the case.
There needs to be housing units built to replace all the old Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels that have been torn down. It doesn't need to be El Primo with a kitchen and bathroom in every unit. Communal kitchens and bathrooms like those found in most college dorms should be sufficient thus saving money. Hostels usually have just communal facilities.
The main thing is a lockable room or rooms with sufficient social services for people with handicaps, physical or mental, services for children, provisions for pets, communal laundry facilities and whatever it takes to get people off the streets and into affordable housing. Once this basic purpose has been accomplished, more extensive units can be added or market rate units with rental assistance can be built. This would be the best use of limited funds. Make sense? OK let's get to work.
The housing crisis for poor people is worse now after the financial crisis of 2008 than it was previously according to Jed Kolko, a senior fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley who said:
“U.S. housing markets are more unequal today than they were before the housing bubble. The spread in home values has gotten bigger. The spread in incomes has gotten bigger. America’s cities today are less like each other on these measures than they were before the bubble.”
By Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
San Diego One of Most Unaffordable Housing Markets in Nation
In the City of Palo Alto, if you make less than $250,000 a year, you're eligible for a housing subsidy. The city council has voted to study a housing proposal that would essentially subsidize new housing for what qualifies as middle-class nowadays, families making from $150,000 to $250,000 a year.
Here in San Diego the situation is not much better as teachers, police and government workers cannot afford to live in the city they work in. So if middle class, college educated professionals can't afford to live here, how can anyone else lower on the economic ladder afford to live here either? In particular those on the bottom most rung, the homeless, can't even afford a foot in the door.
According to the San Diego Housing Commission's report Addressing the Housing Affordability Crisis in San Diego (November 26, 2015):
This report finds that nearly 50% of San Diegans face housing affordability challenges in rentals and homeownership, and over 70% of San Diegans are priced out of the homeownership market....
The City of San Diego is one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the nation. Zillow recently surveyed nearly 300 cities and found San Diego to be one of the most unaffordable six markets in the United States. Both renting and owning in San Diego are increasingly out of reach for average families. The average home price in San Diego is $506,000 according to Zillow – affordable only with an income over $80,000 per year. The average two-bedroom rental in San Diego is $1820 per month, affordable only with an income of $72,800 per year. ...
San Diego’s median income is approximately $73,000 for the city, which is consistent with our estimate that about half of San Diegans are unable to afford a minimally sized unit. A minimal unit would be priced at approximately $400,000 based on current San Diego home prices.
Translating the affordability challenge into wages, the Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that nationally, in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the U.S., renters need to earn a wage of $19.35 per hour.
Good luck with that as minimum wage workers will be making $15 an hour 6 years from now and still will not be able to afford a modest two bedroom apartment, that is if rental prices do not go up in the meantime! Fat chance of that. SANDAG estimates that, as the production of new housing falls behind, only 6% of the housing that is being constructed is for people with low incomes. Obviously, there's more money to be made by building housing for upper income people.
The report continues: "As of 2013 there were approximately 120,000 extremely low-income families and only 20,000 affordable units available for them in San Diego. The pace of new construction for very low income, low income and moderate-income units is lagging severely behind the estimated need in San Diego ..." To say the least!
It doesn't have to be this way. The City has squirreled away millions of dollars in off budget funds which could be used for affordable housing and housing for the homeless. Besides that the City of San Diego owns numerous parcels of land on which affordable housing including housing for the homeless could be built. Since they're not recognizing the emergency situation that lack of housing represents, they are actually in violation of a state mandate, Senate Bill 2 from 2007, authored by Senator Cedillo which stated the following:
This bill would add emergency shelters to these provisions, as specified, and would add provisions to the housing element that would require a local government to identify a zone or zones where emergency shelters are allowed as a permitted use without a conditional use or other discretionary permit. ... By increasing the duties of local public officials, the bill would create a state-mandated local program.
That was 9 years ago and the City of San Diego has done nothing about it. This bill "create[s] a state-mandated local program." Still the City insists that emergency housing like the Tiny Homes project requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). No it doesn't! The corner of 17th Street and Imperial Avenue is identified on a 2006 general plan map as one of many locations that the city has deemed suitable for emergency shelters. Yet Arian Collins, supervising public information officer for the City of San Diego, said a conditional use permit (CUP) would be needed to put shelters on any of the sites identified in the map. Has he read SB-2 Cedillo which says that, for zones where emergency shelters are allowed, there is no need for a CUP? Are these people dumb or ignorant or they just don't care?
San Diego Has the Money to Build Affordable Housing
Civil engineer Katheryn Rhodes has identified several funds where the City, the County, the San Diego Housing Commission and Civic San Diego are hoarding cash that could be used for emergency shelters and/or affordable housing or even pay for Emergency Shelter Tents and Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Housing Vouchers. There's $28.7 million in the Low and Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund (LMIHAF). There's also $259 million in long term assets that can be leveraged by using it as collateral and issuing bonds for much more. So why is the City contemplating issuing over a billion dollars in bonds for a new "Convadium" which, by the way is an architectural monstrosity with a convention center in the basement of a football field, when it is not doing its duty as mandated by the state of California to build emergency shelters for the homeless and affordable housing?
The Successor Agency (SA) to the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC) which facilitated the building of high rise condos in downtown San Diego by private developers has a lot of money at its disposal that's not being used that could be used to build affordable housing. According to Katheryn, they have $66,907,786 in unencumbered bonds plus $3,369,053 in reserves and $21,727,112 in other fund accounts. The Successor Agency cash can be used for any Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) and infrastructure projects including Affordable Housing with the approval of the City Council. Why won't the City Council take action?
The SA evidently is continuing the massive corruption of the CCDC that resulted in using HUD funds for building luxury condos that should have been used for building low income and affordable housing. CCDC President Nancy Graham was taking money from developers who were building the luxury condos tearing down Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels that housed many who have become homeless in the process.
Rusty Bee saw a direct connection between the tearing down of inexpensive housing units downtown, the augmentation of the homeless population and the investment buying of luxury high rises that weren't even occupied:
Twenty years in now, hundreds of downtown hotels razed making more people homeless, thousands of apartments and condos still empty, and when and where do the voodoo economics stop? The joke is that San Diego now has a million downtown condos that nobody is stupid enough to buy.
CCDC corruption which involved using money to renovate "blighted" areas to build luxury high rises instead of building affordable housing resulted in the termination of CCDC and "redevelopment." That's why there's a "Successor Agency" which in reality folks is the City Council which has turned over the winding down of CCDC activities to Civic San Diego. Now Civic San Diego has the cash to build affordable housing so why isn't it doing it?
The Capital Outlay Fund has a Cash Reserve Fund Balance of $125,729,000 as of June 30, 2015. When properties are sold, normally any cash money from the sale goes into the Capital Outlay Fund. The Balance in FY-2014 was $40,878,000. The balance in FY-2013 was $35,775,000. So it's building up with no purpose in mind. Money is just being hoarded.
The FY-2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) shows a Public Facilities Financing Authority (PFFA) Cash Reserve Fund Balance of $170,448,000. In FY-2014 it was $90,397,000, and in FY-2013 it was $93,902,000 so it too is building up with no purpose in mind. This does not even take into account JPA bonds. So there is plenty of money that could be used for affordable housing and emergency housing for the homeless. If San Diego wanted to get them off the streets, they could take action to do so tomorrow.
The Mayor's Budget
In his new budget released the other day, Mayor Kevin Faulconer did not even mention affordable housing, and gave only lip service to homelessness. There is something in there about housing 1000 homeless veterans, but what about the tens of thousands of homeless mothers and children? There's something in there about providing 24/7 access to restrooms for the homeless and getting serial inebriates off the street, but these are drops in the bucket compared to what needs to be done. The proposed FY 2017 budget calls for no expenditures from the Capital Outlay Fund which could be used for affordable housing. There is likewise no expenditure called for from the PFFA Funds. However, the budget does call for spending over $17 million on golf courses.
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) budget, which is separate from the City's budget, can be found here. From their website it sounds like the SDHC is doing a lot about affordable housing. The question is are they doing all they can and are they using all available resources to do it?
This is from Civic San Diego's website which is also separate from the City's budget:
"Since CCDC's (now CivicSD) inception in 1975, more than 3,500 affordable housing units have been created in downtown neighborhoods, using redevelopment funds, and more than 450 units are in the pipeline. To date, $130 million in downtown redevelopment funds have been invested to produce affordable housing downtown. An additional $38 million have [sic] been committed for projects currently in the pipeline."
This all looks good on paper, but then why are there still so many homeless and the numbers are only getting larger? The City Council promptly approved Mayor Faulconer's budget, and it will take effect July 1.
San Diego Has Land It Could Build Affordable Housing On
Not only is the money available, land is available as well. The City of San Diego owns several parcels of land on which affordable housing could be built. But instead of doing that, the City wants to sell the land and place the proceeds in the Capital Outlay Fund, another Fund where money is accumulating with no declared purpose in mind.
The City's Real Estate Asset Department (READ) is supposed to ask the public if there are potential uses for surplus property owned by the City, but so far it has failed to do so. At the Committee for Smart Growth and Land Use meeting on February 16, 2016, the items on the agenda were all about selling off surplus parcels, not asking the public if there were alternative uses for them like building affordable housing.
Regarding the State Government Code Article 8 on Surplus Land :
The Legislature reaffirms its declaration that housing is of vital statewide importance to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of this state and that provision of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every Californian is a priority of the highest order. The Legislature further declares that there is a shortage of sites available for housing for persons and families of low and moderate income and that surplus government land, prior to disposition, should be made available for that purpose.
Did they? Hell, no. For example, the property at the SE corner of Jamacha and Cardiff has been cleared for sale in accordance with California Government Code Section 54220. City departments were also notified and given an opportunity to retain the property. No City department has any current or foreseeable use for the property and the property has been determined to be excess to the City’s needs. So why isn't the property being used to build affordable housing? And there are tons of other city owned properties that the City doesn't need that could be used for this purpose as well.
Want to know more? Contact Mary Carlson, Asset Manager of READ. I couldn't find any contact information for her. Maybe that's intentional. Their website isn't very informative either. Nothing about all these properties they're trying to sell off to investors at fire sale prices.
Jay Powell has gone into this issue more extensively.
There are currently 28 properties throughout the City up for sale. ...
READ is required by State Law to offer the property to internal and external agencies for a minimum 60 day period to see if they have interest in purchasing or leasing the property to provide low income housing, park and recreation or open space purposes, school facilities construction or use by a school district for open space purposes or for enterprise zone purposes if located in such a zone.
The READ files reviewed last December did not include a reply from the Parks and Open Space Department to the READ email sent July 16, 2013 initiating the for sale proposal. The noticing email basically said if we don’t hear from you in 60 days, we are proceeding with the sale.
It is getting pretty obvious that READ would rather offer the properties to rich investors and developers and pay realtor commissions than to have them developed for affordable housing or parks. By the way who picks the lucky realtors who have commissions falling into their laps like manna from heaven?
Murtaza Baxamusa, PhD, AICP, is the Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council Family Housing Corporation, said:
America’s Finest City has an ugly problem.
The homeless population in San Diego is among the four largest in the nation and getting worse, with over 8,700 people living without shelter. [Actually several times that amount; that's just the "official" count.] And while this kind of weather is rare in San Diego, it is not new, yet even after anticipating the storm for months and knowing the severity of our homelessness problem, there was marginal galvanization of resources by local government. Simultaneously, the city was able to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds for supporting downtown development with an expanded convention center and a Chargers stadium that the NFL does not want, all of which will likely be built in the very neighborhood these people call home.
Next Time: Part 2 of 3: Homeless Population Undercounted
by Katheryn Rhodes and John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Homeless Population Undercounted
The 8700 people identified by the Point-In-Time-Count are not anywhere close to the total number of homeless people in San Diego City and County. They didn't count all the people sleeping in their cars nor the many that are staying with friends or couch surfing. Nor did they count the many that sleep "off the beaten track" in the many hidden gullies and the river bed. Nor did it count all those who slept in places unlikely to be found by the volunteers who did the counting who after all could not be expected to expose themselves to dangerous situations and environments.
Jeeni Crescenzo has come up with a more accurate count by studying the data for homeless children that each school district is required to maintain by the McKinney-Vento Act. There are some 22,000 children by this count and each has at least one parent with them. That's at least 22,000 families and 44,000 people! The City and the County don't want to acknowledge these figures. Jeeni said, “They are not being counted because single mothers, who for a myriad of reasons become homeless, will wisely prioritize their personal safety and the safety of their children over anything else. So while their male counterparts will often sleep “rough” on the streets or in the canyons, or compete for the few emergency beds in City and County shelters, 80% of the kids reported as homeless by the schools are spending their nights doubling up with friends and relatives.”
In San Ysidro 29% of the school children are homeless. They are often living in motels and junkyards.
Barbara Zaragoza writes:
For the last nine years, Medina has been the homeless liaison for approximately 1,408 students, or 29% of the 4,832 total enrolled in the San Ysidro School District, the largest student homeless population percentage-wise in the entire county. Her title has changed over the years— she is now the Student & Family Services Manager—but her work has never changed.
“It’s always trying to get those resources for our children. Getting them enrolled in schools, especially when they don’t have receipts or any proof of residency. I go out and do the home visits so I can see where they actually live and sign the documents at the school sites.”
Medina says she personally reaches out to at least 1,000 homeless students every year. “It’s ironic that I have to do this for our students who sometimes get kicked out, especially if they are in a hotel or they’re couch surfing. I have to vouch for them. It’s so ironic how I am advocating for children who are just like me."
Thanks to the McKinney-Vento Law, the definition of a homeless student includes more than just kids sleeping on the streets. Medina explains that homeless students are those who have been abandoned by their parents and are staying with extended family members, children who live in motels or abandoned trailers, and children who live in ‘doubled up’ housing.
Medina takes me on a driving tour in her truck, showing me where her students live and the challenges they face: in particular, eviction. San Ysidro has a high number of motels, approximately fifteen, where many homeless families live. With the high cost of rents in the area—a one bedroom averages $1,100 per month—living in a motel for months or even years is often cheaper. Medina knows of twelve families staying permanently at one of the San Ysidro motels.
Families who live in the junkyards, however, aren’t eligible. Located on the Otay Mesa hill where a large number of auto salvage & storage lots contain run down trailers, a few homeless families have found a way to rent them. The roads are unpaved and the trailers often don’t have running water or electricity. Families might use the nearby trucker station to take showers.
David Flores of Casa Familiar explains, “Different motels around San Ysidro are really functioning like some of those last resort shelter places. Very low rents, but very low amenities. Some of them without kitchens. I’m not sure if we can try to figure out a solution by having those private commercial property owners process something so that they can transform their places and have them become official shelters.” ...
In 2012 Casa Familiar had a vision to create two affordable housing complexes: Los Abuelitos, a 23-unit building that would serve seniors who are primary caretakers for their grandchildren, and ‘Living Rooms at the Border,’ a 10-unit building with flexible sizes from studios to four bedrooms.
Casa Familiar secured a grant from a New York non-profit called Parc Foundation, which would match any money given by the city one-to-one. When Casa Familiar presented the $3 million project to the City of San Diego’s Housing Commission, they wouldn’t approve the $1.5 million funding necessary, saying it was too expensive.
If you would like to donate to the San Ysidro homeless, contact the San Ysidro School District and ask for Veronica Medina.
And yet as this series of articles has shown, $1.5 million is a paltry amount compared to the amount of funds that are hoarded in various City Funds that they don't want you to know about and which could be used for this and other projects.
The McKinney-Vento Law
The McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students.
Defining Homeless Children
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." The act provides examples of children who would fall under this definition:
Homeless with Severe Mental Illness
According to the 2015 Point-In-Time-Count, conducted by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, more than 18 percent of the 8,500 homeless individuals living throughout San Diego County are estimated to be suffering from a Serious Mental Illness (SMI). At their January 26, 2016 meeting, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously approved a series of recommendations from our Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to immediately expand an array of behavioral health contracts to serve a limited number of homeless individuals experiencing a SMI and other co-occurring conditions.
According to a February 2, 2016 report to the Board of Supervisors:
Homeless individuals with a severe mental illness are the least likely among us to be able to secure and maintain housing without intensive assistance. They are also the most expensive, inappropriate users of emergency medical and law enforcement resources as well as often causing the most distress for the community. To change those circumstances, it is imperative that the County offer intensive intervention and complete wraparound services to those homeless individuals with a severe mental illness for whom we can locate acceptable housing through the cooperation of our housing partners.
The County must actively engage and partner with cities, organizations and agencies working with the homeless, as well as with landlords and housing officials to identify housing for these seriously ill people living on the streets, who, with behavioral health services would be able to function with shelter and treatment.
So why isn't there any "partnering" going on. There is money that's available that's not being spent except in "unincorporated areas"! This so-called "Project One for All" is so far a Project One for Not Very Many. They are currently only allowing the $170 million in the Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) Reserve funding to be used to provide housing for homeless in the unincorporated areas, and that is a crime and a shame. It should be used to house ALL Severely Mentally Ill (SMI) homeless. If this is County BOS Policy, then the Policy is discriminatory against urban SMI homeless. Right now only 1,184 SMI are provided housing in the unincorporated areas using the MHSA funds. All other SMI are either living with their families, on their own, living in cars and vehicles or on the streets.
There is a lot of money available to help the homeless that the City of San Diego is hoarding because it hasn't the will to help the homeless except by token efforts. See Part 1 for details. Stay tuned for Part 3 next week.
by John Lawrence
On Saturday, April 2, the Chargers published a whole section of the San Diego Union-Tribune devoted to their proposal to build a football stadium for the Chargers combined with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. The title of this section was "Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition." Right off the bat I found several things wrong with this proposal. But before I go into that I want to discuss the MAJOR thing wrong with this proposal.
You see the Chargers think combining a Convention Center Expansion with a new stadium will make it more palatable to San Diego voters especially if the tax that will be raised to pay for it will be a tax on visitors not on locals. This will make it possible to wring money out of hotel tax increases to pay for a third of their stadium. But not only that, the $1.15 billion in bonds that the City (actually a subsidiary of the City - a Stadium Authority) will issue will pay the entire cost of the convention center annex. I don't think a better combination of a football stadium with $600 million of affordable housing ever even crossed their minds.
With This Kind of Money You Could Build a Contiguous Convention Center Expansion
However, with this kind of money coming from increased indebtedness by the city, why not go ahead and just build the convention center addition where the Mayor and others want it built - right next to and contiguous to the present Convention Center. This makes a lot more sense than building an architectiral monstrosity of a stadium on top of or next to what amounts to a mini-convention center which is not integrated with the present convention center and has little relationship to a football stadium.
And the question must be asked if the City can borrow $1.15 billion dollars by raising the TOT taxes, why not use the money half for a convention center annex right next to the present facilities and half for infrastructure including affordable housing? The Chargers then can issue their own bonds of indebtedness for the remaining $350 million they're trying to get from the City really under false pretenses, the false pretenses being taxing visitors for something that will mostly be used by locals. This is tantamount to taxing one constituency for the benefit of another constituency. And when it comes right down to it, the City's General Fund will still be on the hook.
So now on with the "Notice of Intent ..." Right off the bat in Section 2 it states "The people of the City of San Diego Find and Declare the following:" This amounts to outright lying because the People of the City of San Diego had nothing whatsoever to do with this proposal. It was generated and perpetrated entirely by the Chargers organization. It goes on to say "The People of San Diego desire" this and "The people of San Diego" desire that. Nonsense. The proposal is disingenuous from the start. The proposal does not even mention the Chargers. Yet they are the sole initiators of it.
Under item #7 it says "In order for the ... Project to be undertaken in a financially sound manner, the Initiative increases the existing Transient Occupancy Tax [TOT], which is paid for by persons staying in hotels, motels and other lodging establishments in the City, and establishes a ... Fund to pay for the development and construction of the Convention Center Expansion and to pay certain incremental costs of the Stadium resulting from an integrated Convention Center Expansion and Stadium Project ...
Item #7 is a mouthful. Here's the first point: the TOT tax is not only to be paid by persons staying in the high end hotels but persons staying in motels many of which are fairly low end, (that is, that's where poor people stay). Not only that but the TOT tax will be paid by persons staying in "other lodging establishments in the City." Hmmm, wonder what those could be - AirBnB perhaps?
The Perfect Solution: Visitors Not Locals Will Pay for the Stadium
And what could those "certain incremental costs of the Stadium resulting from an integrated Convention Center Expansion and Stadium Project" be? Is this a way to fleece the public ostensibly because a football stadium is being commingled with a mishmash of a convention center? Basically the Chargers propose to create an architectural monstrosity, something which is neither fish nor fowl, and get the public to pay for it out of gratitude for the Chargers including a convention center addition in the mix. Oh, and they promise to stay here for 30 years. Riiiight.
The following item #8 is the clincher though, and I quote: "As provided in this Initiative, the Transient Occupancy Tax is increased by an additional six percent (6%) and the new revenues are dedicated to special trust funds, the Convention Center Expansion and Stadium Fund and the San Diego Tourism and Marketing Fund, as provided by this initiative."
Trying to slip in a fast one on us, are ya? All the publicity on this proposal and I mean all says that the TOT taxes are to be raised 4% not 6 %, from 12.5% to 16.5%. Was this just a typo? If so, a very significant one. My feeling is that there must be a lot more of these "typos" buried in this abstruse document. I'm still on the first page. Crafty lawyering, I presume.
The elephant in the room of this Chargers proposal is the $1.15 billion in bonds that the City is supposed to be on the hook for. Of course, the implication is that they will get the money from Wall Street which must be salivating at the thought because underwriting fees, legal fees and interest will certainly add another couple of billion to the indebtedness of the City of San Diego which will try to sidestep its indebtedness by creating a Fund which is supposedly distinct from the General Fund. Wall Street will get tremendous upfront fees, and this will drain the "collateral" represented by the TOT taxes. The taxpayers will still be holding the bag. Wait till the final legalese is written - especially with Wall Street - regarding the loan.
San Diego Taxpayers Will Still Be on the Hook
But when it comes right down to it, this will not be a non recourse loan. The taxpayers of the City of San Diego will be liable if everything does not go as planned. If there's a downturn in the economy, if the TOT taxes don't come in as planned because Comic-Con and other large conventions go elsewhere, if the managers of this Fund engage in interest rate swaps or other derivatives, the only beneficiary here would be Wall Street, and this looming debacle could make the pension fund shortfall seem like a child's game in comparison.
And the big conventions will go elsewhere where they'll get a better deal on TOT taxes. That leaves the hoteliers in the position of lowering their room rates in order to attract the high rollers. This will decrease their profits, and, I'm sure, this is not what they had in mind when first they considered a Convention Center Expansion.
Finally, it's a travesty that the City should take on over a billion dollars in bonded debt while the homeless are sleeping on the streets, in cars and couch surfing so that a few ultra rich people can have skyboxes in downtown San Diego. Why not use the money or money that's already in other City "Funds" to build affordable housing, repair and replace infrastructure, improve poor neighborhoods, repair potholes and increase teacher and police salaries instead of catering to a concussion producing football team. Let them use private money to build their own stadium for which they will have to pay the operating and maintenance costs, not the City. The City is still paying for Qualcomm stadium. In fact we the taxpayers of San Diego still owe $50 million on improvements to Qualcomm which the Chargers insisted they needed in order to stay competitive.
Affordable housing bonds can be issued as non-recourse loans because HUD will back them up. In addition to that why give Wall Street 2 or 3 billion dollars in interest on a 30 year loan when the City of San Diego could start a public bank as they have in the state of North Dakota and bring all that interest home to be used on other local projects like infrastructure and affordable housing. And buyer beware of those interest rate swaps Wall Street is sure to sell to whatever hapless bloke ends up managing this Stadium and Convention Expansion agency.
I'll have to get to the rest of this petition/proposal at a later date. But let's not rush to go into debt to build a deformed monstrosity of a convadium, one that would be an architectural blight on the City of San Diego. It would be better to build the Convention Center addition contiguously with the present Convention Center and finance it by creating a public bank rather than going further into debt to Wall Street. With a public bank like the state of North Dakota has, the interest would accrue back to the San Diego General Fund so that infrastructure could be rebuilt. With bonds issued by Wall Street it would be like throwing money out the hotel windows.
by John Lawrence
Joe Marillo passed away Saturday, March 26. Born in Niagara Falls, NY, 83 years ago, he moved to San Diego in 1974 from Las Vegas where he had played in show bands for 10 years. He started out playing saxophone in Atlantic City, NJ while swinging from a trapeze.
He was dedicated to bringing straight ahead, mainstream jazz to San Diego for almost 50 years both with his virtuoso playing and his skills as a presenter and impresario. He received the San Diego Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
After moving here from Las Vegas, Joe immediately started playing and performing in San Diego clubs. I first saw and heard him at Chuck's Steak House in La Jolla where Joe lived "in the ghetto" for his entire life.
There were so many clubs that have gone in and out of business in the last 50 years, and Joe played in all of them. The Crossroads, Elario's, Our Place, Bella Via in Cardiff, Henry's in Oceanside, George's in Encinitas, the Jazz Mine, the Catamaran. The list goes on and on. The ephemeral nature of most jazz clubs is contrasted with the constancy of Joe's presence and dedication to jazz in San Diego over several decades.
Joe initiated a jazz policy at the Catamaran in the 70s that was very successful. He brought in all the greats from the Golden Age of Jazz, roughly 1945 to 1970. People like Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Ahmad Jamal, Supersax, Bobby Hutcherson. I was in the audience for many of these gigs. I particularly remember when Bill Evans was there with Philly Joe Jones on drums. Bill's playing was wonderful that night, but Philly Joe sat patiently behind his drum kit in a supporting role not given many chances to solo. Finally, Joe said, "Let Philly Joe go!" Then on the last tune of the set Philly Joe got to play a long drum solo and everyone breathed a sigh of satisfaction. Joe Marillo sat in with all these greats and in the process became one himself.
Unfortunately, Joe's Society for the Preservation of Jazz was too successful at the Catamaran. Management got the idea that they could save money, get rid of Joe and still bring in all the big guys. Of course, it was the beginning of the end. The dolts who thought they could emulate a true and natural impressario like Joe just didn't understand the simpatico in the jazz world that was necessary to make a good thing happen, and the jazz program at the Catamaran was doomed. Joe was the Pied Piper. When the Catamaran got rid of the Pied Pied Piper, the musicians didn't come any more.
As my trumpet playing improved, I got up the nerve one night to ask Joe if I could sit in at his gig at a club in Encinitas. The club was in the corner of an L-shaped strip mall where, it seemed, a lot of jazz clubs were located. Joe let me sit in for one tune and then called something at a furious tempo. I had all I could do to keep up. Many years later I started the San Diego Jazz Society similar to Joe's Society for the Preservation of Jazz. There were a number of jazz societies in those days including the Society for Straight Ahead Jazz and the San Diego Jazz Festival. We presented Joe in numerous venues on many different occasions as well as many other artists. Joe was kind enough to let us use the silhouette of him from his "Lady Caroline" album on our brochure for the San Diego Jazz Society.
We did a series of gigs at the North Coast Repertory Theater. Like many venues there was no piano. This problem was solved by moving my piano from home, a 1908 Story and Clark upright, to the gig. I asked Joe if he would do one of the gigs with him and me as the front line. He graciously consented, and I practiced my head off to be worthy of being on the same stage with him. One of the tunes I called was Charlie Parker's Donna Lee. I cranked up the metronome at home because I wanted to be able to play the head at an ungodly tempo. I counted it off, and Joe, ever the consummate professional, pulled it off without breaking a sweat.
Like many of us Joe was inspired by Charlie Parker, "Bird", as he was known to his fans. I never got to see Bird in person as I was in eighth grade in 1955 when Bird died, but Joe bought him a drink once. Joe didn't get interested in music until he was 20. "That's when I heard my first Charlie Parker record," he said, "and immediately got turned on. It's a strange thing--who knows why we like certain types of music. All I know, to this day, is that something about Parker's sound, his ideas, his saxophone, really got to me, and before long I was buying every Parker record I could find."
Joe was lucky in that he got to do what he really loved in life, and, if he didn't make a great living, at least he survived. He said, "I'm a lot more concerned with realizing my dream of becoming a polished improviser, which is what be-bop is all about. And that's a continual learning process that will never end.
Joe was true to his calling till the very end. He was a teacher, an improvisor, a promoter. Be-bop, as Parker's music was called, was his inspiration. For the last almost 50 years, Joe Marillo has been Mr Jazz in San Diego. Clubs have come and gone; venues have come and gone. The one constant was Joe's prescence on the jazz scene having played and presented in all of them. Now he's graduated to playing celestial harmonies with Bird, Diz, Stan and all the rest from the Golden Age. We were fortunate to have shared the same window of time with them and San Diego was fortunate to have had Joe Marillo as our guiding light for the best in jazz for the last 50 years. Joe, we will miss you. RIP, my friend.
A Memorial concert honoring Joe is scheduled for May 24 at Dizzy's, 4275 Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109.
by John Lawrence
At Least For a Year
The Romans used to provide Bread and Circuses for their populace to keep them pacified. Nothing much has changed in 2000 years. The San Diego Chargers want taxpayers to spend $350 million to buy them a new Colosseum. And they're not really even the San Diego Chargers. They are the Dean Spanos Chargers. He owns them. The players should all be wearing "Dean Spanos Chargers" on their shirts. The Chargers merchandise should all bear his name. As we've seen recently, the Chargers would think nothing of "Bolt"ing to Los Angeles if the grass were greener there. But their quest for a shiny new stadium in another locale has been stymied at least temporarily.
The only team that can rightfully be called by a city's name is the Green Bay Packers. Although not exactly owned by the City of Green Bay, the Packers have been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since August 18, 1923. Close enough. If the Mayor wants the Chargers to stay in San Diego (that's questionable after Spanos' quasi-betrayal), why doesn't he offer to have the city buy the team? Oops. That's not possible because NFL rules forbid it. They even made an exception for Green Bay.
But seriously, folks, wouldn't it warm the cockles of your collective hearts more if San Diego made the decision to forego professional, concussion inducing (look what happened to home town hero Junior Seau) NFL football whose goal is to pad the pockets of billionaires and instead spend that money solving the homeless problem and repairing infrastructure in order to indeed become a world class city? Or would it diminish your civic pride to not be able to tune into the "Dean Spanos Chargers" on TV and brag about what a great place San Diego is to live although you have to step over the homeless on your way to the game. Would you be crestfallen if you could not rent or own a skybox in a brand new multibillion dollar Colosseum?
Without Taxpayer Subsidies Professional Football Would Not Exist
NFL football has never been profitable except for the fact that they've gotten (up to now) taxpayers to pay for their stadiums. And like petulant children whose old bicycle is never good enough, they want a new one every few years. Wahhh! I want my new stadium and I want you all to pay for it. The Dean Spanos Chargers will be very angry if you, the taxpayers, don't grant them their entirely justifiable (in their eyes) wish. In fact they will take their marbles (or footballs, deflated or not) and move away. But where? They thought they had a new home, but their new home turned out to be a will 'o the wisp. It turns out that another billionaire got there first.
St. Louis, former home of the LA Rams, was snookered by them according to David Williams writing in the Tulsa World:
St. Louis and Missouri taxpayers paid the full $280 million cost of construction for the Edward Jones Dome in 1995. In an effort to keep the Rams in St. Louis, government officials tried to persuade the team to stay with the promise of $500 million for a new billion-dollar stadium.
Rams owner, and billionaire, Stan Kroenke decided to move despite the generous taxpayer gift. The problem is that Missouri taxpayers aren’t off the hook because they will be paying $12 million [a year] until 2022 on the Edward Jones Dome.
In addition, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, "An effort to persuade the owner of the St. Louis Rams to keep his team in Missouri by building a new riverfront football stadium not only failed, but also left the public on the hook for $16.2 million in expenses."
The article also noted that, "Architecture firm HOK made more than $10.5 million for its work on the stadium plan, while the Dome authority’s attorneys, Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch, billed almost $900,000. Thompson Coburn bond and financing lawyers charged an additional $760,000."
Taxpayers have funded all but two of the NFL stadiums to the tune of $7 billion in subsidies. And people wonder why there is such an inequality gap between the 1% and the 99%. It's at least partly because the 99% have voted to give their money away to the 1%! Politicians claim that building new stadiums, er Colosseums, where present day gladiators do battle while sustaining concussions, creates jobs and helps the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main result of taxpayer financed Colosseums is to line the pockets of billionaires who don't always use their money for philanthropic and charitable purposes:
A study released in September 2015 by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance measured poverty rates and median household income for the areas in which the stadiums were located. In 60 percent of the cases studied, poverty rates increased and median household incomes decreased. In only 20 percent of the case studies was there an improvement in poverty rates and median household income.
The most expensive stadium for taxpayers is Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) with an astounding $619 million in taxpayer funds used.
Taxpayers’ massive investment in building a stadium for Colts billionaire team owner Jim Irsay proved disastrous for the Indianapolis economy. Since the construction of the stadium, the poverty rate in Marion County, the county in which Indianapolis is located, skyrocketed from 12.7 percent to 21.3 percent and the median household income dropped more than $10,000, from $51,553 to $41,478.
Pushing off 86 percent of the cost of stadium construction on to the backs of taxpayers freed up plenty of spending money for the Colts. Some of that money was used to buy a condo for Kimberly Wundrum, Irsay’s mistress. Wundrum later died of an overdose in the Colts-owned home. Soon thereafter, Irsay was arrested for DUI and drug possession, was suspended six games by the NFL and attended rehab in several facilities around the country.
Dean Spanos and Chargers Face Greek Tragedy
Be that as it may, Chargers owner Dean Spanos is in a dilemma of mythic proportions, a veritable Greek tragedy. Taxpayers are hip to the fact that they've been bamboozled and hornswoggled by the non-profit NFL which is owned by 18 billionaires (non-profit?) and by the Big Daddy of the NFL universe, Commissioner Roger (front man) Goodell. Actually, the NFL gave up its tax exempt status in 2015 following public criticism. Commissioner Roger Goodell labeled it a "distraction". You think? Billionaires getting away with not paying taxes - what else is new?
But getting back to Spanos. He is left in the position of playing second fiddle to Kroenke if he moves to LA or staying in San Diego among the fans who have been betrayed by his shananigans and those of his henchman, Fabiani, whose arrogance is beyond the pale. “If it’s a plan that’s just thrown out there to provide political cover for elected officials so that people can say, ‘Hey, we tried’ then we probably wouldn’t wait around to watch the thing go down in defeat in 2016,” Fabiani said. Oh, but Roger Goodell and the NFL told him to do just that - wait around! And now that they are stuck in San Diego waiting around for another year, Fabiani and Spanos are singing a different tune. It looks like he may have to have his Chargers play in that icky piece of shit - Qualcomm Stadium - for another year at least. Now they want the fans back. Good luck with that.
Spanos: "My Focus is on San Diego"
“We have an option and an agreement with the Los Angeles Rams to go to Inglewood in the next year, but my focus is on San Diego,” Spanos wrote in a letter to Chargers fans. Spanos' "My focus is on San Diego" didn't add the words "for now" but that's what it amounts to. He didn't say "My commitment is to San Diego." Since he's building a headquarters and a training facility in Santa Ana, it definitely doesn't sound like he's committed to the Chargers staying in San Diego.
In a supposedly conciliatory letter to San Diego Chargers fans, Spanos talks about the "world class stadium experience San Diego fans deserve." What about the world class football experience San Diego fans deserve? Why don't you concentrate on that first? Spanos can't get two words out of his mouth without talking about a "new stadium" with the same exuberance and exultation that someone on the Price is Right makes over a "new car"! Maybe if Spanos provided Chargers' fans with a world class football team, they would build him a world class stadium.
Of course, if San Diego voters are foolish enough to build Spanos a world class stadium so that they get the "world class stadium experience they deserve", Spanos might reconsider moving. Spanos has hardcore Chargers' fans genuflecting and kissing his butt over the fact that the Chargers are staying probably just one more year. Note to Chargers fans: you're being played like a fiddle. Most of you won't be able to afford seats in the "world class stadium" so relax and watch the game on your 65 inch world class TV like you would do anyway wherever the Chargers play.
Spanos wants San Diegans to pony up hundreds of millions in tax money or else he's going to take his marbles or football, as the case may be, and go home except for the fact that he has no home and Kroenke is an abusive parent. Mayor Faulconer is a willing patsy because it's in his interest to keep an NFL team in San Diego in a brand new stadium that the majority of fans will never be able to afford to see the insides of. And as for Fabiani, Spanos' lawyer, he's already pissed off most of San Diego with his arrogant, self serving bullshit.
David Cay Johnston in his book Free Lunch nails the NFL con game:
The huge gifts of money that wealthy owners of sports teams wheedle out of taxpayers are a free lunch that someone must fund. Often that burden falls on poor children and the ambitious among the poor. Sports-team subsidies undermine a century of effort to build up the nation's intellectual capacity and, thus, its wealth. Andrew Carnegie poured money from his nineteenth-century steel fortune into local libraries across America because he was certain it would build a better and more prosperous nation which indeed it did. These libraries imposed costs on taxpayers, but they also returned benefits as the nation's store of knowledge grew. That is library spending is a prime example of a subsidy adding value.
Many people born into modest circumstances have risen to great heights because they could educate themselves for free, and stay out of trouble at the public library. ...
But today library hours, as well as budgets to buy books, have been slashed in Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, and other cities, yet there is plenty of money to give away to sports-team owners.
Art Modell, who pitted Cleveland and Baltimore against each other in a bidding war for his football team, was asked in 1996 about tax money going into his pocket at a time when libraries were being closed. It was a well-framed question. His Baltimore Ravens is the only major sports team whose name is a literary allusion, to the haunting poem by Edgar Allen Poe for his lost love Lenore.
"The pride and the presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries," Modell said. He spoke without a hint of irony or any indication that he had ever upon a midnight dreary, pondered weak and weary the effect of his greed on the human condition. How many Baltimore children who might have become [successful] will instead end up on the other side of the law? That may not be measurable but that some will because of Modell's greed is as certain as the sun rising in the east. ...
We starve libraries—and parks, bridge safety, and schools—to enrich sports-team owners. ...
The value of the leagues' exemption from the laws of competition is illustrated by the odd fact that Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city, has no football team. So long as that city remains teamless, the owners of football franchises use the threat of moving to the nation's second largest market to extract money through public financing of new stadiums, rent rebates, and other official favors. Surely this would seem incongruous to the settlers who called their community El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de la Porciuncula, [in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who was devoted to serving the poor].
Taxpayers Should Just Say No to Building Billionaires New Stadiums
We taxpayers can no longer afford to subsidize these 'welfare queen' billionaires who live off of government handouts. They need to learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps instead. That's the American way instead of sucking off the government teat. Furthermore, they ought to not be let off the hook by discharging their debts in bankruptcy court. Students can't get rid of their debts that way; neither should billionaires be able to. We need to keep government taxing and spending down, and that means no more subsidies for billionaires and their sports teams. At the same time we need to show compassion for the less fortunate as Jesus preached: "Insofar as you've helped the least of these, my brethren, it is as if you've done it unto me."
Will San Diego become a world class city by enacting its Climate Action Plan, repairing infrastructure, creating a world class transit system and housing the homeless or will it continue down the American Road of worshiping billionaire owners and millionaire players by giving them gargantuan stadiums at taxpayer expense? I, for one, would take more civic pride in the former accomplishment.
by John Lawrence
San Diego Has the Fourth Highest Number of Homeless in the US and That Doesn't Even Count Most Homeless Families
I met a homeless woman at a coffee shop in downtown San Diego. She had emailed me to correct a few points in a previous article I had written about the homeless. Her name is Jingles, not her real name, of course. That's the name she goes by downtown. She's tough, savvy, intelligent, resourceful, wise to the ways of the street. She is 55 years old with several health related problems and three small dogs. One of them is 20 years old and won't be with her much longer. The three dogs prevent her from being taken in by a shelter, but she won't give them up, and I don't blame her. They are the best friends she has.
Her cell phone is her lifeline to the outside world and is what lets her know what's going on out there. That's how she was able to read the San Diego Free Press and then email me. It's also a lifeline to 911 in case of a heart attack or other severe medical problems. Several of her cell phones have been stolen; then she has to start all over again spending money she doesn't have.
She suffers from a variety of ailments including fibromyalgia, arthritis, manic depression, COPD, anxiety disorders and PTSD from living on the streets. She had a heart attack three years ago. She gets General Relief (GR). She has three GR workers who deal with various aspects of her case.
In addition to her cart, she has a storage locker which she pays $113. a month for. After paying for her cell phone and storage locker each month, there's not much left. I told her about Think Dignity, a group that provides free lockers for the homeless. There are 304 lockers and 130 bins. Over 100 people have been able to gain employment/housing and move off the streets due to the service the Transitional Storage Center (TSC) provides.
TSC is located at 252 16th Street at a lot owned by the San Diego Housing Commission and graciously provided for TSC use. She was very knowledgeable about the available resources, but she hadn't heard of Think Dignity. I gave her the newspaper article about them.
She grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts and graduated from high school there. She was taken away from her abusive birth parents by the state and adopted by a military family when she was two. After graduating from high school, she lived in Vermont for awhile with a hippie commune, the Rainbow Family. The Rainbow Family is still around. They have national gatherings in national forests every year. As many as 25,000 can get together. She was a big follower of the Grateful Dead in her teen age years. She was a hippie then and she's still a hippie now.
Regional Rainbow Gatherings are held throughout the year in the United States, as are national and regional gatherings in dozens of other countries. These Gatherings are non-commercial, and all who wish to attend peacefully are welcome to participate. There are no leaders, and traditionally the Gatherings last for a week, with the primary focus being on gathering on public land on the Fourth of July in the U.S., when attendees pray, meditate, and/or observe silence in a group effort to focus on World Peace. Most gatherings elsewhere in the world last a month from new moon to new moon, with the full moon being the peak celebration. Rainbow Gatherings emphasize a spiritual focus towards peace, love, and unity.
Jingles was married twice. Her first husband died. Her second husband was abusive. She's been single for 20 years. She has no biological children, but raised several children of her two sister-in-laws. She's still in touch with them. There have been no significant male others in her life since her divorce, but she has a lot of male friends for protection. A woman needs that especially when sleeping at night on the streets.
She's traveled around - Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee. She's been in San Diego for about two years. She's been homeless since 2009 when she lost her job as a cook because "my health went in the toilet." She worked in many restaurants since she was 19 and was certified as a chef in Michigan. When she lost her last job, she bought an RV and took to the road.
She was living in Tennessee on Hippie Hill. The hippies there took in a lot of homeless people for periods of time. There's a tenuous link between hippieness and homelessness. Hippies are at odds with the present day competitive, acquisitive, materialistic, capitalistic society that values money above all else, the Wall Street values that separate the 1% from the 99%.
Jingles had to leave the commune due to a misunderstanding with a man who had first befriended her after her heart attack and then later accused her of stealing. She had to exit suddenly leaving behind several thousands of dollars in tattoo and jewelry making equipment and her RV. At this point she had no transportation or residence. She was on the road and homeless.
The Job hat Never Materialized
She teamed up with another woman and helped her drive to California where she had the promise of a job as a nanny. After she got here, the job never materialized. Her friend was at Vantage Pointe apartments in San Diego, but the daughter that needed nannying turned out not to be there. So she was on the street again.
She doesn't use drugs or alcohol. Some housing has opened up, but the rules are too restrictive. She says that Alpha Square has room inspections. "Why are you making grown adults go through room inspections, like you're in a reformatory or a prison system? It's not going to integrate people back into society," she said.
She can't use the library resources because she can't take her dogs in there except if she has someone to watch the dogs outside. Her credentials for the dogs saying they were service dogs got stolen. If she had those credentials, she would be able to go in a lot more places. The last dog she acquired, she rescued last summer. The dogs all get along pretty well. Has anyone ever considered pet sitting services for the homeless?
She can't work any more due to her health problems. Her purse with all her ID got stolen so she has to go about the process of reacquiring all her ID and important papers. She has tried to start a disability case several times, but she's not been able to get anywhere with it. Despite her health problems, the disability Board says she still has the capability to work. Her former attorney let her down. She needs a strong advocate to get her benefits. The fact that a person is homeless should qualify them for disability in and of itself. But she says, "The government doesn't look at it that way." Every homeless person needs an advocate basically, or they're up shit creek without a paddle. And there are too few of those - advocates that is.
Disability Benefits Down the Tube
I handed her a printout that lists all the things you need to even apply for disability. Name of current spouse and prior spouse, spouses' dates of birth and social security numbers, beginning and ending dates of marriages, place of marriages etc etc. What if you don't know all that stuff or have the relevant paperwork? It's a bureaucratic nightmare. Jingles doesn't remember when her first spouse was born, and he's dead. She needs a committed advocate to fight the system for her. Without that help from a lawyer or social worker, the task of climbing out of the deep hole she's in is too daunting. Too many people are dying on the streets for lack of paperwork.
I told her about the Tiny Homes project that is proceeding downtown. They are lockable and a safe place to sleep at night. One of her friends overslept recently and was woken up by police who made her throw out her tent because it supposedly was illegal to have a tent in downtown. Jingles makes it a point to get up early and go to bed late, and to make sure she's with friends she trusts to protect her at night.
Jeeni Criscenzo of Amikas: Housing for Homeless Women and Children and the San Diego Free Press estimates there are 20,000 homeless families in San Diego County. This can be computed from school records since schools are required to report the number of homeless children in their systems. This is far more actually homeless people than the official reports indicate.
WeALLCount is a group of 1700 volunteers who were up before dawn last Friday, January 29th, to count the homeless in San Diego. HUD money comes to the city based on this count. Problem is the count is flawed. Many homeless are hidden away, not sleeping on the streets where they can be identified. A true count would add Jeeni's figures of 20,000 additional families or at least 40,000 additional people.
Lisa Kogan had donated a tiny home to Michael Clark in San Diego only to have the police show up, arrest the man and haul the tiny home away. But she's not giving up. She and others along with Jeeni and Bryan Kim have teamed up to build more tiny homes on a vacant lot in downtown. This time they have the required permissions and permits to do it. The group is called Homeless to Housed.
Rob Greenfield is trying to raise $10,000 so 10 tiny shelters for our homeless brothers and sisters can be built. He is auctioning off his own Tiny House to make the money to build 10 more.
Think Dignity is taking on the project of portable showers and port-a-potties are in the works to be provided at the Homeless to Housed Tiny Homes site. Until Housing First can provide enough apartments for all the homeless, the Tiny Homes project is a best solution to provide temporary housing for the least amount of money.
The Tiny Homes movement is sweeping the country. See In a Tiny House Village, Portland's Homeless Find Dignity in Yes! magazine. As cities search for solutions to homelessness, Portland’s Dignity Village offers 60 men and women community and safety.
There was one last story before we said good-bye. Her friend, Mike, has a heart defibrilator. The device malfunctioned when they were sleeping underneath the B St bridge last February to stay out of the rain. She was on the phone with 911 turning her locator on and off. Because they were under a bridge, they couldn't find them. She went out to the edge of the bridge and the signal got out and they found them on 18th street according to the GPS. But there's no 18th street. The EMTs kept saying that address doesn't exist. "It's in the middle of the freeway." Jingles kept saying, "No, we're in the middle of the freeway, but under it." Somehow they got found and Mike got the medical attention he needed. If it hadn't have been for Jingles' cell phone, Mike wouldn't be here.
If you're a lawyer reading this and want to help Jingles navigate through the maze of applying for disability benefits, please send your contact information to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward it on to her.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Amy Goodman did a recent show about the refugees living in a camp in Calais, France. She walked around the camp interviewing several refugees all of whom spoke good English. Most of these people were sleeping in tents similar to the ones you see on the sidewalks of San Diego. Some had built simple structures. As she walked around, I began to notice some facilities that they had there which are nowhere to be found for the San Diego homeless. First I noticed a dumpster. There's no dumpster for San Diego's homeless. The trash just gets left on the street.
Then I noticed a whole row of Port-a-Potties. San Diego had one Portland Loo which they are getting rid of. Unlike San Diego's homeless, the refugees in Calais, who are from all over the Middle East - Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan - everywhere the US has bombed, had a place, places, to go to the bathroom. There were other services. A barber and a restaurant were mentioned. A little later there was a guy doing laundry. There was running water - a sink with faucets. Are there facilities like this for San Diego's homeless? No. Not at all.
America's homeless numbering some 600,000 have become a sub-class. While George Orwell in his book 1984 divided society into four classes - alphas, betas, gammas and deltas - the American homeless have surely metamorphosed into zetas. They have no services, no civil liberties, no human rights because the US does not believe in human rights. Sleeping in public or in vehicles is even being criminalized. US laws criminalizing sleeping in public have grown 60% in recent years.
I was rousted out of my van in which I was sleeping on an Encinitas street several years ago. It seems the homeowner, whose house I was sleeping in front of, had called the police. He had a beach front estate. The cop said "How would you like to look out your window and see this?" What, you mean a properly licensed Ford E-150 van has no right to be parked on a public street because it's a visual eyesore to some private property owner who doesn't exclusively own the public streets?
Some Cities Are Criminalizing Homelessness
According to Nation of Change:
• City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates.
• Last year, Tampa, Florida — which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city — passed an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping in public, or “storing personal property in public.” The city followed up with a ban on panhandling downtown, and other locations around the city.
• Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it.
• Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.
In Calais, the refugees wait for a chance to get through the Chunnel to the UK. Six to seven thousand people are camped out in makeshift tents. Each night members of the camp set out along the highway to the Channel Tunnel, where they attempt to cross into Britain by jumping on top of or inside trucks or to somehow get on the high speed train. In the meantime they had some services which make life livable - bathrooms, dumpsters, barbers.
Tiny Home Confiscated by Police
In San Diego a tiny home that a homeless man parked on the sidewalk was confiscated by police and the man, Michael Clark, was taken to jail. It was parked in front of the International Love Ministries of God in the 400 block of 16th Street. There is a movement afoot to provide tiny (60 square feet) homes for the homeless in San Diego. They just need somewhere to put them and hook-ups for utilities or at least communal facilities. They're lockable - so possessions are secure not left on the street to be looted or vandalized.
They've already done this in Nashville. A Good Samaritan in Nashville used the GoFundMe site to raise $50,000 to build six tiny homes. With the cooperation of a church owned vacant lot, he set them up for the homeless.
The point is that the homeless need a variety of solutions at different stages before they can reintegrate into the mainstream society. Many of these partial solutions elevate their quality of life without costing much money. Just providing lockers and Portland Loos or Port-a-Potties would alleviate some of the worst problems for both the homeless and for society at large. At San Diego events such as the Summer Pops series for the San Diego Symphony, they provide dozens of Port-a-Potties and even portable hand washing facilities. But yet no one in San Diego government or San Diego's ubiquitous philanthropists can provide them for the homeless. Even a vacant lot with Port-a-Potties and sinks with faucets would provide some of the facilities that Europeans are providing for refugees there. The homeless are America's refugees and are worse off than their counterparts in France.
San Diego's Homeless Sleeping on the Streets
San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the nation. Nearly 48% of those without housing are sleeping on the streets. San Diego's homeless population rose to 8,742 in 2015 from 8,506 in 2014, a 2.8% increase that bumped it into the top four for the first time behind the metropolitan areas of Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City.
Father Joe's Villages and other agencies and organizations are doing a lot to help the homeless. Housing First is a concept that has caught on in many places where the homeless are housed and social services provided to help them with their life situations whether it's addiction or joblessness or something else. The problem is that there are never enough of these various services to do more than to put a minor dent in the problem. They are partial solutions not comprehensive solutions.
San Diego's sidewalk tent cities keep growing. So there should be a ladder of solutions where all those who don't get into Father Joe's or other programs at least get something - even a dumpster and a Portland Loo or a safe vacant lot to sleep or put a Tiny Home on. Many of these solutions for those on the street cost practically nothing and could be implemented immediately without waiting for a shelter bed to be available.
American taxpayers have shelled out roughly $1.6 trillion on war spending since 9/11, according to a new report from Congress’ nonpartisan research arm. That’s roughly $337 million a day or $14 million per hour every single day for 13 years. Result? The Middle East is totally destabilized and terrorism has risen. US bombing pushes more people into the arms of ISIS every day according to the European refugees at Calais that Amy Goodman interviewed. US bombing kills 200 civilians a day according to one of the refugees. Is it any wonder they hate us?
Despite spending $14 million an hour on war, US and San Diego authorities can't even provide the homeless with a dumpster or a safe place to sleep off the sidewalk. The only impetus to solving this problem has been when some bigwig woke up recently and figured out that some homeless man had been calling 911 repeatedly and cost taxpayers $537,000 in ambulance services alone when he was taken to the emergency room on numerous occasions.
Compassion-R-Not-Us but economic incentives just may be. In this tourist town it's disheartening for local consumers and out-of-towners to have to step over homeless people and/or their trash and/or human feces on their way to Petco Park or Sea World or some other tourist destination. The authorities are afraid that, if they provided more services which would cost practically nothing like Loos and Dumpsters and safe vacant lots, the homeless would flock to San Diego. Well so what? Maybe we could pride ourselves on being a compassionate city which is doing its best to solve the homeless problem like a lot of other cities have. Contrary to the cities which have criminalized homelessness, some cities are actually trying to solve the problem. In eight years, Utah has reduced homelessness by 78 percent.
Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of emergency room visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.
Phoenix and Salt Lake City Ended Homelessness Among Vets
Two years ago the city of Phoenix, AZ announced that it had ended homelessness among veterans. Salt Lake City, which was in a friendly competition with Phoenix to see which city would be first to end homelessness among veterans, announced that it had done so about a year later. However, this does not solve the homeless problem in general - just among vets. The point is that, while some cities are criminalizing homelessness, other cities are doing their best to solve the problem. My point is that to solve the problem in a comprehensive manner requires giving those that can't be housed and provided with a social worker because of lack of funds or whatever, something while they are still "homeless" - Port-a-Potties, lockers, a safe vacant lot, a transit pass, a bicycle - SOMETHNG!
The concept of "homeless magnet" be damned. We should endeavor to become a homeless magnet and take pride in our efforts to solve the homeless problem. Instead of spending trillions of dollars fighting wars which have only exacerbated the terrorism problem, America should realize the error of its ways and defund militarism. But too many people are making too much money from it. They have created the refugee problem, the terrorism problem and the homeless problem by benign neglect. It's a world wide war on poor people so the rich can live a pampered, protected life in luxury real estate while others sleep on the street without even sanitation facilities.
No wonder Washington, DC is the only city where salaries are going up in line with productivity for everyone, not just the rich. The average compensation for an employee in Washington, DC in 2015 was $119,934. The Washington, DC suburbs dominate the list of the most affluent places in the United States. Among more than 3,000 counties across the nation, Loudoun County, VA is the richest, with a median household income of almost $119,000. Maryland’s Howard County and Virginia’s Fairfax, Arlington and Stafford counties also made it into the top 10. The city of Falls Church, VA, where the median income is $121,000, is the richest city in the nation.
The outsized military-industrial complex and America's first priority, fighting wars, along with lobbyist salaries make the Washington, DC area the richest in the nation while hundreds of thousands of American refugees sleep on the streets. The only well paying jobs in America as of 2016 are on Wall Street or Washington, DC. College graduates take note.
Safe Parking Lots
In San Diego there is a group that sponsors safe parking lots for the many thousands of vehicular homeless - those living in their cars - because, although most of them work, they still can't afford a motel room. A group called Dreams for Change has provided safe parking lots in San Diego, Chula Vista and Vista. The San Diego location is at 766 28th Street just across from the New Life Church and just off the Martin Luther King freeway. They ask that you call (619) 497-0236 before you come. Sleeping in your car is illegal as I found out many years ago although I parked on the street and was only rousted out twice in two years. One of them was my fault for violating my own rules of never parking where I stood out like a sore thumb. A Neighborhood Watch guy got me.
This is from the Dreams for Change website:
The idea of the Safe Parking Program was developed by seeing the rise in newly homeless due to sudden loss of employment and homes. A student group from SDSU School of Social Work and Cal Western Law School researched and started the ground work for the Safe Parking Program to be a viable program here in San Diego.
We at Dreams for Change believe an individual’s vehicle is often times their last asset. We see the value of this asset which allows them to continue to access resources, look for employment and get to and from school. A loss of their vehicle is seen as one of the final step[s] to chronic homelessness; thus we focus on stopping the downward spiral of homeless and bring stability to families and individuals.
The idea is that, since the traditional programs to house or shelter the homeless only accommodate about half the actual homeless at any given time, things should be done to ease the situation for those that are left over, who haven't been accommodated by social services or Housing First or those who have fallen through the cracks. That is the point of this article - that society should spend a pittance to provide some services to those who are still on the street whether it be lockers, used bicycles, a safe place to sleep, port-a-potties or Portland Loos, sanitation facilities.
If society wants these people to be cleaned up, providing some basic sanitation facilities might be a good place to start. Ditto for the streets. Another point: if you want homeless off the streets and into shelters, provide some accommodation for their possessions and their pets. All these things could be done at little expense and would also provide the benefit of getting the homeless and their material possessions off the streets so a walk in certain areas is not so intimidating for the average homed person.
Human Rights for the Homeless aka American Refugees
Human rights advocates point out that according to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25:
• Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his [or her] control.
• Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
by John Lawrence
Peter Sprague brought an extremely talented all star group into Dizzy's last Saturday to play classics from the Golden Age of Rock. Although he's primarily known as a jazz musician, Peter has mastered the essentials of all musical traditions and genres. As a teen-ager growing up in Del Mar, Peter and his siblings were exposed to their father's jazz record collection. But like most teen-agers in their rebellious mode, they were attracted not to the music of their parents' generation but to the sounds that were happening around them and listened to by their contemporarires. That would be rock 'n roll, the music of the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Cream, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. They also condescended to give credence to one of their father's jazz rock albums by Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Peter is such a talented arranger that he took arrangements off these albums and created something wonderful for a septet of marvelous musicians spanning the generations including Leonard Patton and Rebecca Jade on vocals, Danny Green, piano, Justin Grinnell, acoustic and electric basses, Duncan Moore, drums and his brother Trip Sprague on sax, flute and harmonica.
Peter must have a veritable library of arrangements for all the configurations of musical groups that he has created from duo gigs at Roxy's ice cream parlor in Encinitas to symphonic arrangements he's performed on the concert stage at San Diego's Symphony Hall. In addition to local gigs, Peter travels all over the world as a sideman with Diane Reeves and others. From the concert stages of Europe, Peter will come home to do a local gig in San Diego. He's never idle. I guess all that surfing revs up his energy level.
The sell-out crowd at Dizzy's was treated to a melange of classic rock including BST's arrangement of the jazz classic "God Bless the Child" written and performed by the great Billie Holiday. Despite the fact that this song was an arrangement of an arrangement of an arrangement, it retained all the power and soulfulness of Billie's original recording. Rebecca Jade, who was superlative the entire evening, seemingly channeled Billie Holiday whose tragic life was cut short by the racism and police brutality of the 1950s.
As usual Peter's sidemen were the best musicians in San Diego. Duncan Moore, sitting behind a brand new drum kit, anchored the band with his usual aplomb. I was impressed by the musicianship and expertise of bassist Justin Grinnell. As in most rock groups, the bassist plays a key role in setting the mood and revving up the energy. And speaking of energy, this band had it coming out their ears. Peter made his double necked guitar sound like a multitude of different instruments with his synthesizer hook-up. Pianist Danny Green, who contributed some fantastic solos, could also make his instrument sound like everything from a Baby Grand to a Hammond B3.
In addition to his consistently professional sax work, Tripp Sprague covered all the bases as the only horn in the group. Leonard Patton gave voice to Stevie Wonder's historic compositions. Peter can put these arrangements away in his library and pull them out again whenever he is in the mood to assemble a rock group and remember the classic era, the quality of which is not being produced by the rock musicians of today.
I've known Peter for a long time from the days that he would open his guitar case and play on the sidewalks of Del Mar for tips through the days when I was President of the San Diego Jazz Society in the 1980s. Peter was the only musician to take advantage of our non-profit status to send out a monthly newsletter. Today those newsletters are electronic emails, but young musicians should take note of Peter's career to understand what it takes to build a successful life as a musician. It's not enough just to play well. You need to be not only versatile like Peter is but you have to be a self-promoter as well or at least find someone else to promote you. You need to take any gig no matter how humble, and eventually you might make it, as Peter has, from being just a local musician to playing on the world's most venerable concert stages.
Chuck Perrin, proprietor of Dizzy's has been in the business of presenting and promoting musicians for 20 years. Say what you will, but his formula has been successful and has given aspiring musicians, as well as established ones, much needed exposure to San Diego audiences who always seem very appreciative as this audience was. Peter's arrangements and San Diego's most talented musicians gave a performance worthy of the record books.
Chuck is an accomplished writer and performer himself. Korean reissue specialist Beatball Records is preparing to release the most comprehensive collection of Chuck and Mary Perrin’s original folk music yet assembled. The 7 CD box set contains remastered paper package replica versions of their long-sought after Webster’s Last Word LP’s: “Brother & Sister” (1968), “Next of Kin” (1969), and “Life Is A Stream” (1971).
Peter and Chuck are both lucky in the sense that they are doing and manifesting in reality what remains their passion in life. There are some lessons here too for young people just starting out. Contrast this with the jazz club, Anthology, that debuted a few years ago in San Diego's Little Italy. This club had everything: high tech gear up the wazoo, three levels of seating and bars and food nonpareil. A lot of money went into it. But what happened? A couple years later it went defunct. I guess it wasn't the owners' passion; maybe money was.
So Chuck Perrin labors on, a labor of love. Dizzy's in Pacific Beach is a jet ski rental place by day. And if you want to rent a U-Haul, you can do that there too. By night it's a jazz club. The comestibles and aperitifs are somewhat limited - just coffee, hot chocolate and cookies, but the music is an essential part of the San Diego jazz scene.
From the San Diego Free Press circa 1969
Reprinted by the OB Rag
Transcribed by John Lawrence
Police patrolmen have apparently shifted their tactics from Field Interrogation type harassment to outright threats and intimidation. Officer McLean told a gathering of youths in front of the In-Between on Newport Ave, "I've been watching you guys ... milling around ... We're just watching, for we're not gonna give you a ticket, but we're gonna take you to jail. All we're looking for is the sacrificial lamb. Any of you guys want to step forward and be first?"
Reactions of the hippies to this hardened police attitude have ranged from anger to desperation and resignation. Many feel that the police are actively trying to make any modus vivendi impossible, and that their real purpose is to drive the hippies out of town, despite token measures of the police public relations department to 'open up ways of communication.' The general feeling is that a mass confrontation between police and hippies is inevitable if the police continue on their present course, and rumors are that it could take place during Easter vacation.
Such a confrontation would be disastrous in its effects, according to many hippies. Said one of them at a meeting at the In-Between at which the problem was discussed: "We're just beginning to establish a certain amount of communication and understanding with local church groups and businessmen, and a thing like this would turn the community entirely against us, thus playing right into the hands of the police."
The situation thus defined, a course of action was decided upon. First the Hinky-Dinky Report, a newsleaflet published by and for Ocean Beach youths, is to be distributed more widely to inform all hippies of the situation and invite them to join in the effort to rally the community to their cause.
Second, it was agreed upon that the hippies are to take the initiative and attempt to gain community support by proving to the more orthodox residents that hippies, also, care about the community in which they live. Tactically, it was decided that the best way to do this was to counter the prevalent impression of hippies as being dirty, etc. by cleaning the streets of Ocean Beach. This is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 16, beginning at 10 AM with the Newport Ave area from Bacon to Abbott streets. Brooms and food will be provided, and the 0. B. Drum Company is expected to be there. Coordinator for the Street Sweep is Andy McKinney, who may be contacted at the In-Between.
Third, and last, plans are now being made to try to prevent the feared confrontation between police and hippies during Easter by rechanneling the energies brought by the people into a more constructive and peaceful meeting, where grievances are rapped about and solutions sought.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
There is a nice little jazz series running in San Diego at the Handlery Hotel's 950 lounge at 950 Hotel Circle North. This has been put together by Holly Hofmann who has been presenting concerts in San Diego for 30 years or more. In addition she plays a helluva flute. Recently I saw Stef Johnson with Rob Thorsen and the week before Gilbert Castellanos and Bobby Cressey. The place has a nice happy hour menu and reasonably priced libations. There is no admission or cover charge. Parking is free with validation.
Jazz does not have that many dedicated venues in San Diego so the jazz loving public has to rely mainly on the musicians themselves to create their own gigs. There are no institutional venues such as classical music has. No Symphony Halls. No billionaire sponsors. For that you have to go to New York City, the epicenter of jazz. We do have a dedicated jazz radio station - KSDS-FM - 88.3. Now we just need a billionaire to step up and underwrite the equivalent of New York's Dizzy's Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center. Holly would make a wonderful impresario for such a venue because her connections in the jazz world are endless and her dedication, nonpareil.
San Diego Has Great Jazz Talent
The talent pool in San Diego and LA is considerable. Many jazz musicians have attempted to make a go of it in San Diego, but then moved on to greener pastures when prospects became untenable. One such was Hal Crook who started a school here and had an excellent big band which performed weekly. Like Hal said about his book, How to Improvise, at a workshop I attended, "My book will explain to you what to play, when to play, how to play. The only thing it can't tell you is where to play." That's the hard nut to crack. Having moved on, Hal is now at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
The aforementioned Bobby Cressey, in addition to playing jazz organ at the Handlery, is also the organist for the San Diego Padres. A man of many hats, in addition to jazz he plays electro, hip hop, dubstep, reggae, classical, rnb, ska, gospel and blues. He currently plays with the world famous DJ Skee’s Skeetox band. I guess one has to be involved in many aspects of the music business these days to make a go of it. But maybe he's spreading himself too thin as a jazz artist. Just sayin.
On the other hand Gilbert Castellanos, winner of San Diego Music Awards artist of the year in 2013, is a full on dedicated jazz musician. His mastery of the trumpet has increased by leaps and bounds over the years that I've been following him. Gilbert honors the history and tradition of jazz with every performance. In particular he played Clifford Brown's composition "Delilah" and Charlie Parker's "Segment." Clifford Brown and Charlie Parker were two of the most important musicians in the development of jazz. Unfortunately they both died young, much too young.
Quincy Jones: Brown Was the Very Essence of Musical and Moral Maturity
Charlie Parker was a heroin addict and died at the age of 34 on the Jazz Baroness', Pannonica de Koenigswarter's, couch. He had multiple organ failures. He created the greatest revolution in any art form in the 20th century. Unfortunately, he couldn't overcome or transcend the racist society he grew up in or his own lifestyle.
Clifford Brown was clean living, hardly even touching alcohol. He was an inspiration to other players who had thought that they had to be high to play well. On going through my old vinyl albums recently, I spent some time reading the liner notes of a few rare Clifford Brown albums which went into detail about that tragic rainy night when Clifford lost his life in an auto accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on his way to the next gig. It was in 1956.
He and pianist Richie Powell were catching some shut eye while Powell's wife, Nancy, was at the wheel. Nancy was known to be an erratic driver. There were no seat belts in those days. Brown and the Powells were all killed instantly after the car hit a bridge abutment. It was Clifford's second wedding anniversary with his wife LaRue. It was her 22nd birthday. Clifford was 25 and, despite having spent a year in the hospital following a prior auto accident in 1950, is a major part of jazz history having only been active for about four years.
Nearly everyone who knew Clifford agree on his likeability and welcoming personality. “To me, the name of Clifford Brown will always remain synonymous with the very essence of musical and moral maturity,” Quincy Jones said. “This name will stand as a symbol of the ideals every your jazz musician should strive to attain.”
After his death, Clifford's wife LaRue remained active in the jazz world establishing in 1994 the Clifford Brown Jazz Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to Brown's memory and inspiring a love for jazz among young people. The Foundation is currently under the direction of Clifford Brown III, Brown's grandson and a respected Bay Area trumpeter and music producer.
Clifford's son Clifford Brown Jr has received the Ampex Award of Excellence as the nation's top jazz Program Director, and in 1996 he received the Beverly Anne Johnson Media Award for his many years of being a "positive Black male role model." Since 1979 Clifford Brown Jr. has been one of the most popular radio personalities in the San Francisco Bay Area and has made the Brown name synonymous with broadcasting there.
So life goes on.
Clifford Brown Is My Ideal As a Jazz Trumpet Player
Clifford Brown is my ideal as a jazz trumpet player and composer - beyond Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie. He adhered to and transcended the tradition of Charlie Parker who pointed the way for others before his young life came to an end. Gilbert Castellanos, Holly Hofman, Rob Thorsen and a few other local San Diegans follow in that venerable tradition while expanding it at the same time. Who knows what heights could have been scaled had Clifford Brown survived that crash that rainy night?
While Pannonica de Koenigswarter was called the Jazz Baroness, Holly Hofmann certainly deserves the epithet: Jazz Empress of San Diego. Holly has presented concerts at Diego's Loft from 1988-90; Horton Grand from 1990-1997; Bristol Hotel from 1998-2000; San Diego Museum of Art from 2002-2009; Birch North Park Theater from 2010-2012 and Croce's First Thursdays from 2015-.
In addition to her impressive resume as an impresario, she placed eighth in the flute category of the Down Beat Critics Poll last year. On her latest CD, "Low Life," made with her husband, pianist Mike Wofford, she plays the alto flute exclusively. Jazz critic Dan McClenaghan says this in his review of the album:
Holly Hofmann, one of the jazz world's premier flutists, explores a deeper-toned territory with Low Life: The Alto Flute Project. Primarily a conventional C flautist—with an impressive discography—Hofmann has broken out the lower tone of the alto flute in her concerts, and occasionally on record. Now it's time for a full length CD featuring her expertise on the instrument....
Hofmann's lone writing contribution to the set, "Lumeiere de la Vie," is a five minute long gold nugget of a tune, a smooth and gorgeous masterpiece, and the CD's closer, guitarist Pat Metheny's "Farmer's Trust" blossoms like a spring flower, a sweet and unpretentious ballad, so delicate and lovely in the hands of this band and flutist Hofmann that it can make a grown man cry.
This Friday, October 30, Rob Thorsen will be at the Handlery with L.A. guitarist Steve Cotter. Steve comes from the Wes Montgomery school of great, swinging guitarists. Fernando Gomez is back on drums.
Upcoming in November:
11/6 Latin Percussionist Tommy Aros with Irving Flores, piano and Dean Hulett, bass.
11/13 Guitarist Peter Sprague with Mackenzie Leighton, bass and Charlie Weller, drums
11/20 Los Travellers: Carlos Vasquez, drums, Ray Briz, piano and Glen Fisher, bass
11/27 Two Guitar Trio: Mundell Lowe, Bob Boss and Rob Thorsen, bass
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
In Bel Air One Household Used an Astonishing 11.8 Million Gallons
Hey, we're in a drought and people are being encouraged to take shorter showers and only wash their cars sparingly. But that doesn't apply to the rich. They are using millions of gallons of water and neither the state or local water districts are limiting them in any way. The water bill for this 11.8 million gallon user for the 12 months ending April 1 was $90,000. This guy was only charged 0.76 cents a gallon! No wonder he consumed water excessively; it was so cheap! California is in the fourth year of a water crisis, but the rich are using water as if there were no tomorrow.
Mother Jones nailed the zip code data on this although no water district would reveal their excessive users by name. Privacy trumps the public's right to know who these water gluttons are, but it's not hard to guess. They all come from exclusive neighborhoods. Take San Diego, for instance. There are 92 persons or families who have consumed more than a million gallons, mainly in La Jolla and Carmel Valley. The biggest single user in San Diego was someone who consumed 4.6 million gallons in a year. Anybody want to step forward and admit what a scofflaw you are and try to justify your excessive water usage?
The rest of us are encouraged to stop watering our lawns, even rip them out and put in desert plants. (Take a virtual tour of the water conservation garden at Cuyamaca College led by Ms. Smarty-Plants.) But there are two sets of rules, just like in everything else: one set for the rich and another set for the rest of us. While the water districts have mounted a campaign to get us to cut our water use, these big shots continue their wanton and profligate ways. Hey, after all, it's the drought of the century. But that's only as far as poor and middle class people are concerned. For the rich it's business as usual. Don't ask them to rip out their manicured lawns and private golf courses. When the rest of us are dying of thirst, their lawns will still be green.
While the water agencies have fined hundreds of Californians for watering down their driveways or not replacing broken sprinkler heads, the rich go their merry ways indulging their gargantuan appetites for a boundless supply of agua pura. David Wilson got fined $600 for watering his lawn on the wrong day of the week and letting runoff flow into the street.
But you can bet that the richies are spraying their private orchards with the good stuff, not gray water. Only the best for them. Money talks and the rest of us will be fined for disobeying the water agency's silly rules. Here's a rule for you. Limit their water intake and charge a premium for any water use over what the average household uses.
Angelenos can pump as much water as they want said Martin Adams, senior assistant general manager for the water system at the Department of Water and Power. "There's no ordinance on the books in Los Angeles to go after an individual customer strictly for their use," he said.
San Diego Has Some of the Biggest Water Guzzlers
When it comes to million gallon plus users, San Diego is no slouch. San Diego's biggest user weighing in at 4.6 million gallons lives in La Jolla where Mitt Romney and John McCain have homes. Is it one of them? Two other La Jolla residents consumed 4.5 million gallons. 29 La Jollans consumed more than a million gallons in a year, the third highest number of million gallon users in the state. That's a lot of grass kept green. Or maybe they have orchards and vineyards in their back yards. For sure swimming pools and fountains. Luxury knows no bounds. Just go ahead and gorge yourselves, richies. Us plebes will go on conserving water as best we can so you can enjoy your rich lifestyles.
Carmel Valley had 36 customers who used a million gallons or more. Must be growing tomatoes or avocados in their yards. Or maybe it's those half hour showers from 10 Rainfall shower heads. Even Rancho Bernardo weighed in as having the tenth largest number of million gallon users in the state: 12.
During the 1991 drought it was a matter of public record who the biggest water users were, and they could be identified by name. But guess what happened? Rich people got the law changed to protect themselves so their identities could not be revealed in the future. The law was pushed by the City of Palo Alto citing the privacy concerns of Silicon Valley executives. Think the deck is not stacked against you if you're not rich? This is only one small instance of how rich people are changing the nature of democracy to favor themselves. Magnify that small change in the law by a million and you get some sense of what has happened to turn this democracy into a plutocracy.
In The Divide Mat Taibbi details how America has turned into a nation that has one set of laws for the rich and quite another for the poor. Witness: rich people caught using drugs go to rehab. Poor people, especially poor black people, go to jail. Taibbi wrote this book to demonstrate that unequal wealth is producing grotesquely unequal outcomes in criminal justice. Taibbi shows that, just as income disparities are growing ever wider, so are disparities in who attracts the attention of cops and prosecutors and who doesn’t. Strangely enough, the Divide also applies to water usage.
Water Usage of the Rich and Famous
LA has 92 of the top water users in the state. On average LA's mega-users pumped 4.2 million gallons of water per year apiece. They live in the zip codes of the rich and famous: Hollywood actors and moguls, real estate executives, lawyers, plastic surgeons and such. What they pay for water is just a small blip in their portfolios. Maybe they should pay more, a lot more, just as they should pay a lot more in taxes, especially on the billions held offshore that go tax free.
Bel Air harbors not just the biggest water user in the state but four of California's top five with water usage ranging from 7.4 million gallons to 11.8 million gallons. Beverly Hills zip code, 90210, is not far behind. In the 90210 lives the third most gargantuan appetite for water. His or her consumption is enough for 60 normal families - 8 million gallons per year. This exorbitance and extravagance when it comes to water usage reflects the other aspects of their lives. Too much is never enough!
Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting sought information on the biggest users. At most they got information for zip codes. Here are some of the lame excuses they got: "City does not maintain records", "wanted $2100 for 'programming' to produce data", "by law, data is exempt from disclosure", "district does not have an existing list of big users."
So average Joe Schmoes, you better watch your butt if you wash your car on the wrong day or your sprinkler heads are not in good working order. And just jump in the shower, get wet and jump out again before you soap up. Then feel free to turn the water back on, jump back in and wash the soap off. The other guys behind those tall hedges and locked gates don't have to worry about a thing. They can shower at leisure, and who cares if they leave the water running while they take an important phone call. Their water districts are protecting their identities.
From the original San Diego Free Press circa 1968, we reprint the rundown on Qualcomm Stadium
Transcribed by John Lawrence
Hi, sports fans. Big Jim here.
Well, fans, there is a big spat brewing in major league San Diego and from this experienced observer's view the losers in this main event are going to be the city's middle- and lower-income taxpayers.
This whole new controversy is revolving around that great concrete muskmelon in Mission Valley, the San Diego Stadium.
As the Free Press goes to the printers, the news is out that the City of San Diego is suing the San Diego Chargers for one year's back rent (more than $200,000). The Chargers apparently have decided that they don't want to pay rent, at least not for the next seven years.
But that is just one of a long series of rubs - one of the first rubs in how that stadium got there in the first place.
Who Wants It?
The San Diego Stadium holds 50,000 people. The city of San Diego holds nearly 800,000 people. This means that 750,000 people in San Diego couldn't use the stadium on a day that everyone decided to see a ball game. But that doesn't mean that these 750,000 squabbling over a knot hole in the stadium's wall, are not paying for the place.
The stadium and its accoutrements cost $27.75 million, ostensibly. Actually, after interest is paid on the stadium's bonds, the total cost of it is at least $52.4 million.
The stadium is the brain child of local millionaires, who euphemistically call themselves "sportsmen," who emphatically pointed out to the public that property taxes would never be used to pay back the principle and interest on a the stadium bonds.
Instead of using property tax, these sports czars explained, the City would pick up the tab with the sales tax it received back from the state, along with some other revenues (which ultimately proved to have originated as sales tax, too).
The local media played the sports czars' tune with feeling, assuring the public that the stadium would cost little more than a "Yes" vote on the Stadium proposal on the November, 1965, general election ballot. And 100,000 of the 140,000 voters that turned out swallowed the bait.
No economist would argue against the notion that sales taxes are the most regressive form of tax we have. That means that the middle- and lower-income families are the hardest hit and carry the heaviest burden of sales taxes, while the wealthy are hardly scathed.
On the other hand, equitably administered property taxes put the brunt of the cost on the people most capable of bearing it and who ultimately benefit most from projects like sports stadiums - the wealthy.
(Even though equitably administered property taxes only exist in Camelot, they are still less burden on the middle-and lower-income families than are sales taxes. Dubious homeowners should sit down one day and figure how much they pay in sales tax compared to property tax each year.)
But the people have been conditioned to believe (by corporate media and those corporations who exercise control over them through advertising) that property tax is their ultimate bugaboo — and 100,000 of more than 600,000 San Diegans voted "Yes" on the stadium proposal.
So let's take a look at the old score board and see who's winning in the final quarter.
Sports czars ahead!
This far in the game, the middle- and lower- classes seem to be trailing. About 17 percent of San Diego's 1965 population committed the people of San Diego to pay $144 million annually for the next 35 years. People's score: minus $52,4 million.
Local and out- of- state contractors, architects and building suppliers hauled in $15.5 million on the stadium's construction and about another $12.3 million in trimmings. Construction companies' score: $27.8 million.
Two Chicago bond houses won the stadium bond issue at 3.94126 percent interest. Chicago financiers' score: $24.7 million of tax-free profit.
Motel and restaurant interests in San Diego anticipated an increased annual take of $24.9 million because of stadium visitors. Motel and restaurant interests score: $24.9 million annually.
The San Diego Chargers, whose annual revenue has risen from $660,000 in 1962 to $2.1 million last year, are demanding that they be allowed the use of the stadium rent tree for the next seven years. If they get away with this, they will augment their already mounting earnings by an estimated $2 million for those years. A great deal of their earning power was directly a result of the stadium. Chargers' score is difficult to determine but in the neighborhood of $3 million annually.
The San Diego Padres baseball team has worked out a [indecipherable] deal with the City administration. For the next seven years they will pay eight percent of their ticket sales to the City as rent.
The City estimates that this will amount to $500,000 annually. But then the City turns around and pays the Padres (going under the name of the San Diego Stadium Management Company) $306,000 each year to manage the stadium.
This will make the Padres actual rent about $194,000 per year. The Padres score, by the City's own figures: slightly over $6 million gross.
How does that grab you, sports fans? It looks like San Diego's "sportsmen" have learned something from San Diego's defense industries about government subsidy.
Welfare for the Rich
In 1965, when the designs were laid for the San Diego Stadium, the city manager, then Tom Fletcher, admitted that the stadium would not be an earning proposition. He estimated that with just a major league football team the stadium would make about $120,000 annually. If the City were to pick a Major league baseball franchise, the figure might be boosted to $340,000.
What Fletcher forgot to tell us was that the City would lose property tax revenues on the 166 acres on which the stadium stands. In 1965, the land was valued at $4.1 million. At present property tax rates, the City is losing between $100 000 and $120,000 each year. As Mission Valley property values soar in the next decade, these losses will be compounded.
Defenders of the stadium argue that in 35 years the stadium will be all paid off and be a "real moneymaker" for the people of San Diego.
In 35 years- - considering our present rate of architectural and technological growth -- the San Diego Stadium will look to us like the Whaley house looks to us now.
There will be groups of "sportsmen" wanting to tear it down and set out on another publicly subsidized project (unless, of course, today's revolutionary groups haven't changed all that by then), and there will be groups of monument minders who will want to preserve the structure for historical reasons.
Who Let the White Elephant in?
Why did such a beast ever get by the voters? Because there was no critical media. There was no scrappy little newspaper like the San Diego Free Press. There were only corporate mass media intent on getting a piece of the action.
James Copley, owner-publisher of the San Diego Union-Evening Tribune, certainly wasn't going to torpedo the stadium. He owns about a million dollars worth of the Chargers.
That's about all for this issue, sports fans. Next issue Big Jim will really lay some heavy facts on you about who, how and how much on that concrete muskmelon. There should be some really interesting playbacks on the San Diego sport czars.
In the meantime, Big Jim is going to see about opening up a jock strap factory and having the City of San Diego subsidize me, because, after all, "It's not whether you win or lose that counts; it's how your capital gains!"
How Our Stadium Saved Hilton's Ego & Other Chuckles To Cry Over
by Jim Knastick (Part 2 of a 3 part Article)
Hi sports fans. Big Jim, again.
Well, fans, last issue - - when we looked into that great muskmelon in Mission Valley - - we found a bill for $52 million addressed for the little taxpayer in San Diego and nothing but profits for local sports czars (your druggist knows them as merchants, financiers and industrialists).
Current vignette, fans: Taking Care of Barron.
The Boys Club
The story of our stadium goes back to late 1959 when Lamar Hunt, son of the right-wing zealot billionaire H.L. Hunt, Bud Adams, Jr., son of the chairman of the Phillips Petroleum company, and Barron Hilton, son of the hotel magnate Conrad, pitched together several million dollars to create the American Football League.
Hunt was suffering a rebuff by the National Football League that had just refused to grant him an NFL franchise for Dallas. So he threw in with Adams to form his own league.
Hunt took a Dallas franchise, Adams took one for Houston and they set up six others. The Los Angeles franchise went to Barron Hilton.
As head of the Carte Blanche credit card company, Hilton decided to call his team the Los Angeles Chargers in hope of stimulating business.
In its first year of operation the AFL had a combined loss of $4.5 million. Hunt bore the heaviest losses - - $1 million, and Hilton ran a close second at $900,000.
It took Hilton less than a sing [?] to draw only 11,000 people in the LA Coliseum, which holds 101,000. The day they won the AFL’s Western Divisional Championship they drew 9,900.
It took Hilton less than that year to decide that his AFL Chargers were no competition for the LA Rams. He found it very embarrassing to draw only 11,000.
Hilton knew he had to do something. His old man couldn't bail him out; he was too busy trying to keep Castro from taking over the Havana Hilton.
Then young Hilton smelled a fish to the south: San Diego. The local sports czars (though still would-be) also smelled a fish: the public. The "civic leaders" of San Diego fell all over themselves to get the Chargers to move to San Diego, which they eventually did - - but not before Hilton got a promise from the City government to make some improvements in the Chargers' future home, the Balboa Stadium.
Hilton wanted the Balboa Stadium's seating accommodations increased from 22,000 to 34,500 seats at the City's expense.
The City followed Hilton's bidding. The cost was estimated at $800,000 originally. By the time the work was done the cost was $1.5 million. Then the Chargers' rent was waived for the first year and only a pittance was paid in successive years.
During a series of preseason exhibition games, the largest audience the Chargers could draw was 13,000 paid admissions. Charger stock, which had sold at $3 a share when the team first moved to San Diego, dropped to $2.25. It slowly inched back up to its original price after the Chargers had a winning streak during the regular season. Even then their games did little better than draw an average of 30,000 spectators, and Hilton began to feverishly look for buyers.
Enter Sports Czars
As Hilton was trying to find himself (or whatever else he was trying to find in San Diego), a group of 200 San Diego "sportsmen" organized the Greater San Diego Sports Association (GSDSA).
These men, heads of banks, bottling companies, contracting and construction firms, stated the aims of the Association as: 1. seeking a major league baseball franchise for San Diego. 2. boosting the Chargers, and 3. getting an all-purpose stadium built.
George Kirksey, the man who ramrodded a $22 million bond issue in Houston for the Astrodome, was the keynote speaker at the GSDSA organizational meeting. A. B. Polinsky, the head of the San Diego Coca- Cola Bottling Company was named as the acting president.
From the time of its inception the GSDSA had been bucking for a multi-purpose stadium. It came as no surprise in December, 1963, when Mayor Curran appointed GSDSA president, Paul Carter, to preside over The Mayor's All-American Stadium Committee, another group of "sportsmen" that was delegated the responsibility of determining the feasibility of the stadium.
The Committee was authorized by the City to spend $100,000 on the study. When the announcement was made, City officials said that they hoped private funds would be used. Apparently almost the whole amount came from the public's purse.
Other members of the All-American Stadium Committee included William Black, president of the Bank of La Jolla; William Elser, president of the Elser Elevator Company; Kenneth H. Golden, head of the Kenneth H. Golden Construction Company and a director of the City Bank of San Diego; A. B. Polinsky, head of Coca-Cola here; and Harry Sugarman who ran his own investment company. (These are among others about whose sports interests Big Jim wonders.)
Bailing Out Barron
Rumors have it that by 1964, Barron Hilton was spending more time knocking on the doors of prospective buyers for his team and franchise than he was with his team. He was also threatening to move the team to another city.
Should he actually move the team to another city, all justification for building a stadium (replete with lots of tasty profits for the czars) would be lost. So once more Paul Carter made another unsurprising entrance. This time it was before the City Council in August, 1964.
The deadline for putting issues on the ballot was drawing near, and Carter told the Council, "We have to place something on the ballot now or we are cooked for another year." That Carter's committee was still waiting on the $35,000 stadium feasibility study that wasn't due until October, might make Big Jim think that Carter was in something of a hurry.
But the cooler heads prevailed, to both the chagrin of Paul Carter and Barron Hilton. A general obligation bond issue would have required approval by 2/3's of San Diego's registered voters.
William Quirk, president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce at the time, told the Council that Carter's proposal "reflected poor timing" because there wasn't sufficient time to "mount a campaign that will guarantee passage of the bond issue." If the bonds lost November, 1964, Quirk explained, the stadium measure would be set back for years. Besides, he added, the bond issue could jeopardize other ballot issues. (Other ballot issues included pay raises for Council members and the Mayor.)
Hilton was dejected when the Council announced that it wou1d not act to put the bond issue on the November ballot.
It was about then that Hilton, who knew little about the odd machinations of San Diego's fine establishment, started to sell his team to C. Arnholt Smith, a local industrialist (and owner of the San Diego Padres) who knows plenty about the machinations of San Diego's establishment. The sale price was set at a pitiful $750,000, which would just start to cover his first year losses in Los Angeles.
Then, apparently, someone put a bug in Hilton's ear, and he dropped the idea like a hot football.
All through 1965, San Diego "sportsmen" waged a super campaign. Their theme was that the stadium would be a boon for local tourism, which they stressed was some kind of panacea for the San Diego economy.
Tourism's appeal is based on the remembrances of the '50s and the defense layoffs. Obviously, explained the "sportsmen," the stadium would bolster tourism and take San Diego's economic emphasis away from defense. (Well, fans, tourism accounted for about 6 percent of San Diego' s gross income last year, while the 11th Naval District made up 25 percent. San Diego's 5 largest corporations are General Dynamics Convair, Ryan, Rohr, Solar and National Steel and Shipbuilding Company. San Diego is the same old war baby it has always been.)
Despite the chest beating of stadium boosters, public support wasn't really very strong during the campaign (or at the polling places for that matter).
The Citizens for a Stadium, the only campaign committee for the stadium, reported only receiving $932.25 in contributions of $10 or less (if each, of all those contributions in this category, gave only $1, that's only 932 and 1/4 people.
The $11 to $25 contribution category amounted to $660. Considering that the total contributions were $39,617.09, small contributions only accounted for 4% of the committee's backing.
All contributions over $25 were listed by the contributor at the City Clerk’s office, and, fans, let Big Jim tell you that they're interesting. Surprisingly, the GSDSA was the second largest contributor. They only contributed $10,000. But what's more interesting is the first and third highest contributors, The Associated General Contractors of San Diego County and The San Diego County Rock Producers Association, respectively.
The General Contractors describe their Association as an organization of local "heavy construction contractors, the builders of freeways, airports, dams and high rise structures." They contributed $12,500.
The Rock Producers Association is an organization of 18 local transit mix concrete companies, cement and sand and gravel companies. They donated $4,000. Rancho Bernardo, Inc. contributed almost $3,000, and the San Diego Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company (then headed by the late Frank Alessio) put $500 on the line. A Schlitz-Burgie and Lucky Lager distributor put up $1,000. And the list goes on, with many $50 contributions from all sections of the White-Power-Structure.
By the registration deadline, September, 1965 there were over 244,000 registered voters in San Diego. Only 140,000 voters showed at the polls in November. According to Big Jim's slide rule, that’s about 58 percent of the registered, and only 100,000 voted "Yes" on the stadium proposal – that’s 41 percent of the city’s registered voters.
But, then, the average fan is asking himself, how did the stadium get built?
Well, fans, the City wanted to simplify the administration of the bonds, according to the City. So it did an appendectomy on the "general obligation" bond (like Big Jim said, that would have required a 2/3’s vote of all registered voters) and changed it into a City charter amendment (which requires only a simple majority of people voting).
The charter amendment proposed to form a "joint power agreement" between the City and the County governments to administer the stadium, hold title to it and to issue bonds for its construction.
After the election, all the City’s czars were beating their chests, bragging about the "72 percent landslide victory". Home safe, a local sportswriter said that he wanted to "make it clear once and for all" that what the public voted on wasn't a general obligation bond issue, but a charter amendment. Big Jim felt badly that the sportswriter (who has been described as the richest small town sportswriter in the country and was a member of the GSDSA) didn't tell his readers that before the election.
The charter amendment's bond wording leaves the so-called Stadium Authority an open-ended power to issue bonds. So the idea that they will only issue $27 million of bonds ain't necessarily so. If they wanted to, they could issue bonds from now through the next 50 years.
Barron Is Back In The Saddle
After the new stadium was approved, Barron Hilton was a new man. During a half-time ceremony in Balboa Stadium, Hilton walked onto a platform before thousands of San Diegans and signed a ten-year occupancy agreement, saying that the Chargers would pay 10 per-cent gross of all ticket sales at the new stadium and receive a third of all concession and parking profits.
Less than a year later (to show his gratitude to San Diego), he sold the controlling interest of the Chargers to two Los Angeles tycoons for $10 million. Quite an improvement over $750,000 eh, fans? Well, fans, Big Jim is running out of newspaper faster than he's running out of facts and other historical curiosities. So I guess Big Jim will stretch this out one more issue after this one so we can take a look at how the contracts were awarded and where those profitable bonds went.
Until next time, fans, this is Big Jim with a few late scores off the sports wire: $3.5 million to $329,000; $275,000 to $578,000; and $20.1 million to $1.95.
Big Jim Says: ‘Let’s Put the Lid on Her, Sportsfans.’
Part Three of a Two Part Series
Hi, sports fans. Big Jim, King of the Sport Freaks, here.
Everybody in the press box is getting upset with Big Jim taking up so much newspaper, so I’m going to wrap up the stadium thing, PDQ.
When construction bids were open for the stadium, the lowest bidder was from a group of three companies: Alex Robertson and W. D. Larsen companies of San Diego and the Donovan Construction Company of St. Paul.
Their bid was $14,082,240. The other two bids were about $15.4 million and $15.8 million, therefore the Robertson, Larsen and Donovan bid was accepted.
But, alas, the City Manager of that day, Tom Fletcher, exclaimed at what a bargain that was -- such a bargain that he and the City Council approved an additional $1.5 million worth of keen 'additions,' including some extra elevators, escalators, a restaurant and such.
That put the final cost above the bid of the next highest bidder.
Not that the costs stopped there, either.
By the time the actual edifice was completed, the Robertson, Larsen and Donovan people had submitted about 50 changes in cost to the City Council for approval. The City was free with its approval. The cost changes amounted to $620,433 above the $15,546,891 figure - - totaling $16,167,324.
That is more than $2 million above the original bid and almost $400,000 above the highest of the three original bids. How does that grab you, sales tax fans?
Robertson-Larsen-Donovan wasn't the only company submitting price changes. All in all there were probably several hundred cost changes by people who had one kind of contract or other on that silly stadium.
Then there is the question of the bonds that were issued to pay for the stadium.
The latter part of 1965 and early 1966 were excellent times for selling municipal bonds. People were looking around to jump on the next issuance of bonds and interest rates were low.
Today, tax-free municipal bonds are getting interest rates as high as 5.1 per cent. In the days of the stadium bonds, they were only getting about 4 per cent -- that means there were a lot of people interested in getting hold of the bonds. So one might ask, "How do we assure ourselves that insiders involved in the issuance of the bonds don't take unfair advantage of their knowledge in making a bid?"
Two Chicago bond houses submitted the lowest bid on the bonds: 3.969847 percent. That amounts to $24,672,203.74 of tax-free profit over a period of 35 years.
There are a lot of Chicago interests in San Diego and vice versa. So, Big Jim asked himself, "Where did that money go?"
Big Jim called the City Treasurer’s office and asked who received the bonds. The people there said they didn't know. They thought it went to two Chicago bond houses. "Sure," said Big Jim, "but they are only middle-men. Do you know where they went after that?"
"No," said the City, "All we care about is that we got the money."
Big Jim then learned that Southern California First National Bank (SCFN) was the trustee for the stadium authority. So Big Jim called their trust department and they were unaware (or so they said) as to where the bonds went.
(Little vignette, fans: You may already know that the Foodmaker Company - -Jack-in-the-Box - - owns a controlling interest in Southern California First National. According to the recent Patman report on bank trust departments, SCFN has 73 percent of all San Diego's trust funds and one of its directors, Richard T. Silberman, is head of the Stadium Authority, the people authorized to spend stadium money.
Rumor has it that SCFN branch drive-thru windows are serving Bonusburgers to anyone with one hundred or more dollars in their checking accounts.
That's enough for now, sports fans. But remember, this week is International Eat the Rich Week, paying tribute to one of the fastest growing indoor sports in the world.
by John Lawrence
In 2009 then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 1388 which eliminated prudent controls over how much debt school districts could enter into. Wall Street bankers then swarmed all over the state promoting Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs), the equivalent of payday loans for school districts. One fantastic advantage of these loans was the "buy now, pay later" aspect. School districts could get their money now and not have to raise taxes on current residents. Easy money. There would not have to be any payments made for 20 years. Current residents would be off the hook. But their children and grandchildren would enter an era of crushing debt when the bill became due. And Wall Street is patient, very patient.
The ticking time bomb could cause crushing property tax increases for later generations or even bankruptcies by municipal governments. For example, San Diego County’s Poway Unified will have to pay $982 million for a $105 million CAB it issued. Poway has a payback ratio of $9.35 paid for every $1 borrowed. The final payout will be almost $1 billion. This is payday lending for school districts. They end up with shiny new auditoriums and gymnasiums but then the same old cramped classes and underpaid teachers since CABs only apply to capital improvements, not current expenses.
According to Ellen Brown:
Then-State Treasurer Bill Lockyer called the bonds “debt for the next generation.” But some economists argue that it is a transfer of wealth, not between generations, but between classes – from the poor to the rich. Capital investments were once funded with property taxes, particularly those paid by wealthy homeowners and corporations. But California’s property tax receipts were slashed by Proposition 13 and the housing crisis, forcing school costs to be borne by middle-class households and the students themselves.
Buy now, pay later is an old marketing ploy attributable to every commercial enterprise from furniture stores to car salesmen. Nothing down, no payments till 20 whatever. Now school districts have been suckered by easy money and Wall Street salesmen eager to cash in on the public's aversion to tax increases, but, nevertheless, wanting it all -NOW.
Poway won't have to start paying on its loan for 20 years. That payment will be a little more than $30 million, $24 million of which is interest. That should let most of the principals who entered into this disastrous decision off the hook. They will be long forgotten having left a legacy of crushing debt for their children to pay off. After the first payment Poway taxpayers will have to pay for the next 19 years - until 2051 - about $50 million per year essentially paying off their initial loan every two years for the next two decades.
In a September 2013 op-ed in SFGate.com called “School Bonds Are a Wall Street Scam,” attorney Nanci Nishimura wrote:
Unlike conventional bonds that have to be paid off on a regular basis, the bonds approved in AB1388 relaxed regulatory safeguards and allowed them to be paid back 25 to 40 years in the future. The problem is that from the time the bonds are issued until payment is due, interest accrues and compounds at exorbitant rates, requiring a balloon payment in the millions of dollars.
Wall Street exploited the school boards’ lack of business acumen and proposed the bonds as blank checks written against taxpayers’ pocketbooks. One school administrator described a Wall Street meeting to discuss the system as like “swimming with the big sharks.”
Wall Street has preyed on these school boards because of the millions of dollars in commissions. Banks, financial advisers and credit rating firms have billed California public entities almost $400 million since 2007.
Poway Unified is not the only San Diego school district that has been lured by the promise of shiny new facilities and no payments for 20 years. Vista Del Mar Elementary is the newest school in the San Ysidro School District. It got the school virtually for free using CABs. The district won’t have to make any payments on its CAB for three decades. But starting in 2041 the district will pay, on average, almost the full cost of Vista Del Mar each year for a decade. By 2050, the San Ysidro School District will have paid out $228.9 million, almost $15 for every $1 the district borrowed. From 2041 to 2050, the district will pay, on average, $22.9 million each year.
According to inewsource, Santee School District issued the most expensive capital appreciation bond in San Diego County and the fourth most expensive in California in 2011. Its payback ratio beats San Ysidro’s at $16.57 to $1. The district got $3.5 million from that bond, and by 2051 will pay back $58.6 million.
If these school districts cannot pay when their free money time is up and the bill becomes due, public school districts could be sold off to private investors. The conservatives' wet dreams of privatizing everything could become a reality. After all it was the stupidity of the democratic system of elected school board members which will have gotten them into such difficulty. Hedge fund managers wouldn't have been so stupid and out of touch with financial reality.
What could have happened is that the Federal Reserve could have made low interest loans available to municipalities and school districts, the way it did for GM and AIG during the 2008 financial crisis. But by charter the Fed can only make them available to banks. After all the Fed is owned by the large Wall Street banks and it serves their interests. By keeping money and debt creation in the hands of Wall Street, the Fed guarantees that Wall Street will continue to reap exorbitant profits while the rest of us labor under increasing debt.
There is a better way for school districts to borrow money. Take the state of North Dakota for example. One might think that North Dakota can afford to spend money on schools because of the oil boom there, but that would be wrong.
Ellen Brown assesses the matter correctly:
One thing that does single the state out is that North Dakota alone has its own depository bank. The state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) was making 1% loans to school districts even in December 2014, when global oil prices had dropped by half. That month, the BND granted a $10 million construction loan to McKenzie County Public School No. 1, at an interest rate of 1% payable over 20 years. Over the life of the loan, that works out to $.20 in simple interest or $.22 in compound interest for every $1 borrowed. Compare that to the $15 owed for every dollar borrowed by Anaheim’s Savanna School District or the $10 owed for every dollar borrowed by Santa Ana Unified.
How can the BND afford to make these very low interest loans and still turn a profit? The answer is that its costs are very low. It has no exorbitantly-paid executives; pays no bonuses, fees, or commissions; pays no dividends to private shareholders; and has low borrowing costs. It does not need to advertise for depositors (it has a captive deposit base in the state itself) or for borrowers (it is a wholesale bank that partners with local banks, which find the borrowers). The BND also has no losses from derivative trades gone wrong. It engages in old-fashioned conservative banking and does not speculate in derivatives. Unlike the vampire squids of Wall Street, it is not motivated to maximize its bottom line in a predatory way. Its mandate is simply to serve the public interest.
No exorbitantly paid executives with million dollar bonuses? But that isn't the capitalist way, you say. A bank set up to serve the people instead of the pursuit of private profit? Again, not the capitalist way. Doesn't that verge on socialism maybe even communism? Why isn't the GOP up in arms insisting that North Dakota be ostracized, maybe even booted out of the union unless they conform to capitalist principles. Oh well, we have a perfect example right here in the good old US of A of how a bank could be set up to serve the people instead of gouging the people. Instead of money sent to Wall Street, money could stay and generate interest right in the same state or municipality or even school or hospital district.
In fact there are movements afoot in many states to do just that. A Connecticut legislator is seeking a study of whether the state should create a publicly held bank as a way to provide a stable source of funding for various projects, among other potential benefits. State Rep. Susan Johnson proposed the bill, which is under deliberation by the Connecticut General Assembly's Banking Committee, co-chaired by Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford. Johnson said she became interested in the concept of a public bank following the financial collapse of 2008 and 2009, when many consumers and business owners voiced frustration with banks for what they felt were restrictive credit policies.
Pennsylvania is doing the same. Across the nation, in Pennsylvania and more than two dozen state legislatures and city councils, a well organized effort is underway to create a new tool to insure sound municipal finances and economic development: the creation of public banks; to take hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds out of Wall Street banks, and put them to work locally with our community banks and credit unions for locally directed economic development and jobs creation. The Wall Street banks and their allies are not anxious for the competition for our deposits, and want to keep them to underwrite their speculation in derivatives and commodities.
Even Canada is considering going back to the debt free issuance of money for public benefit rather than private profit. A landmark Canadian federal appellate-court ruling could conceivably lead to the cancellation of Canada’s debt-based money system, and its repercussions are expected to be felt by central banks around the world. On December 12 of 2011, the Committee for Monetary and Economic Reform filed suit to legally restore the former arrangement wherein The Bank of Canada—which, unlike the United States Federal Reserve with respect to U.S. citizens, is owned by the people of Canada—would return to the monetary practices it followed from 1938 to 1974, under the Bank of Canada Act. During those years, the Canadian government borrowed money free of interest from the public Bank of Canada and made significant national progress.
In fact the movement for public banking is becoming so successful that the Big Wall Street banks are pushing back against this movement:
At the beginning of March , responding to the impressive wave of state-level public banking movements in the news, Mark Calabria of the Cato Institute wrote a template that became two different published OpEds. The Denver Post titled Calabria’s piece “Colorado would be wise to reject state-owned banking,” while American Banker titled the piece “Promises of Public Banks Don't Match Reality.” The wording differs in the two pieces, but the message points are the same. In the course of delivering those points, Mr. Calabria distorts other scholars’ published research, gets some historical anecdotes wrong, and plays on tired old fears of “government control” while glossing over the rampant, widespread corruption of Wall Street banking.
Although ostensibly associated with libertarian thought, Cato really argues in the interests of its supporters, who, in addition to the Koch family, include American Express, Chase Manhattan, CME Group, and Citicorp/Citibank. Mr. Calabria does not disclose Cato’s or his own financial interest in maintaining those corporations’ business, which might well be undercut by the success of both public and community banks. These are not “libertarian” interests in the sense of being genuinely committed to local control or even qualitatively less regulation. These companies know that regulatory systems covering powerful private banks are easier to game, and the rewards are big for those who can play the system. Public banks are regulated too, but their structurally limited power and absolute transparency create substantially fewer incentives for corruption. That Mr. Calabria can’t find any anecdotes of corruption from a currently existing public bank nearing 100 years of age (the Bank of North Dakota) is more informative than his Bill and Ted-style trip through history.
Why doesn't San Diego get with the public banking movement? It could have prevented Poway, Santee and San Ysidro among others from being sucked into CABs by Wall Street. Those municipalities now face devastating property tax increases 20 years from now. Until then all is well. It always is until you actually go over the edge of a cliff. Instead of the money leaving San Diego and migrating to Wall Street where it will become grist for the derivatives mill, where hedge fund managers will bet against those school districts and others ever being able to pay it back, the money could have been deposited right here and been made to serve the public rather than private interests.
As it turns out there is a movement afoot to form a public bank in San Diego. Ian Mackenzie is a member of the nationally recognized Public Banking Institute (PBI) (www.publicbankinginstitute.org) a non-profit, nonpartisan public policy organization, engaged in campaigns of public education through the New Economy Academy to create a new economy with public banks at the state, county and city levels. Ian is presently forming a PBI San Diego Chapter and looking for people who want to join the movement. Parties interested in joining with Ian to promote public banking in San Diego can contact him at email@example.com.
by John Lawrence
Everywhere in San Diego you see solar panels being installed on single family homes and large businesses. But hardly anywhere do you see them going in on the large number of local apartment buildings and condos. Now the Department of Energy SunShot initiative has made a $712,000. grant to San Diego's Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to study the reasons and do a pilot project to implement solar in such projects. Condos and apartment buildings represent a huge amount of rooftop real estate which could be gathering in the sun's rays to provide energy to the occupants within.
For example, the condo project I live in, of which I'm President of the HOA, has three buildings each of which has approximately 6000 square feet of flat roof on which solar panels could easily be installed. There are 48 units here. In addition there is a smaller building which houses the rec room and laundry which has about 1000 square feet of flat roof. The only things currently up on the roofs are the individual AC units for the individual condos. These buildings are located in El Cajon where the intensity of sunlight is high with very few cloudy days the whole year.
CSE will supposedly study the barriers to solar implementation by condos and apartments. I can tell you what they are right now since I have been on a quest to have solar installed at our complex to no avail. The way the laws are written, there is no way to pay the upfront costs that solar implementation would entail. It would require approval by every owner within the condo project and a special assessment to each of them to pay for it. This makes it for all intents and purposes impossible. Similarly, a loan from a bank or credit union is not practicable either.
Also, the cost of a solar installation cannot by law be added to the monthly HOA fees since it is a capital project, and monthly HOA fees can only go to certain types of maintenance such as painting, pool maintenance, janitorial costs etc. The state laws and local ordinances are very specific about how monies can be spent in a condominium project.
Most homeowners have a lease option. That means they lease the panels from the company that installs them. The beauty of this arrangement is that there are no upfront costs and the monthly payments on the lease are less than their monthly payments to SDGE. This makes it a no brainer for detached single family homes. Unfortunately, solar installation businesses don't seem to have a leasing option available for condo projects. We've contacted several installers and this is the case with all of them. I have urged them to make one available but so far without much success.
While California continues exponential growth in solar energy with rooftop system installations more than doubling in the past two years, condos and apartments are being left out of the progress in replacing fossil fuel energy with renewables. Originally, we were thinking of just enough solar installation to cover the electricity needed for common area needs such as lighting, laundry area, rec room HVAC, sprinkler system and vehicular gate. We didn't think it possible that we could implement solar for all the individual owners who are billed individually by SDGE. However, CSE is looking into just this possibility which would make solar installation that much more desirable as it would not only save the HOA money but it would save all the individual homeowners money.
This is from CSE's website:
The project’s goal is to expand use of a special utility billing arrangement, called virtual net metering, that allows the “virtual” sharing of energy generation credits from a single solar system among multiple tenant accounts with separate meters, such as apartment buildings, commercial offices and shopping malls. This ability to share the credits while bypassing the need to connect the solar power to every meter greatly improves the value proposition of installing solar for property owners as well as providing tenants with direct utility bill savings.
“Nearly all of the residential solar energy installations in California have been made on single-family housing, yet a third of the state’s residents live in multi-unit dwellings, and in addition, there are tens of thousands of multimeter commercial facilities,” said Ben Airth, a senior manager at CSE. “The regulations that permit virtual net energy metering were put into effect in California several years ago, but for a variety of reasons both solar contractors and property owners have not taken advantage of the potential for energy and cost savings.”
Airth said that CSE estimates there are more than quarter of a million properties in California that could take advantage of shared solar resources, yet less than 100 are doing so now within the service territories of the state’s three large investor-owned utilities.
If the lease option were widely available to condos and apartment buildings, solar energy implementation in California would surge to new heights. This would also provide many new jobs as demand for solar would skyrocket. I have emailed CSE to promote one of their pilot projects at my cond complex in El Cajon. In addition I could chronicle the project right here on the San Diego Free Press. This would help not only to disseminate information regarding solar implementation in multi-unit dwellings, but El Cajon is probably the most sun intensive locale in the whole state of Califiornia.
Currently, many communities are mandating that solar be a part of new developments. Cities like Tucson, AZ, Carbondale, CO and Chula Vista, CA have developed requirements or incentives for new homes to be “solar ready.” Since new apartment buildings and condo projects will probably be a large part of new developments as many college graduates these days are not in a position to buy detached single family homes as a result of the load of student loan debt they are carrying, it makes sense to install multiunit, multitenant shared metering.
CSE has also been active in advising local communities in how to streamline and simplify its permitting procedures for solar installation so as to speed up and reduce the costs of that part of a project. The California Solar Permitting Guidebook addresses provisions of the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (Assembly Bill 2188) signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. California cities and counties must adopt streamlined solar permitting processes by Sept. 30, 2015. California is the first state to mandate standardized solar permitting processes.
Incentivising solar installation by means of relevant financing plans for condos and apartment buildings is an important aspect of future solar development. Solar needs to become ubiquitous in San Diego and in California in general. Unlocking practical financing alternatives will help make it so. Let's hope that one of the pilot projects to make this happen occurs right here in San Diego. In particular did I mention that a particular condo project in El Cajon would be ideal?
by John Lawrence
A rare night out on the town took Judy and I to San Diego's premier jazz supper club, Croce's Park West, at 2760 5th Avenue, to hear Los Angeles pianist Josh Nelson and his trio for a tribute to the great American composers - Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and the Gershwins. Arriving there we decided to use the valet parking since Judy is ambulatorily challenged. For $5 it was cheaper than a lot and within 10 steps of the door. What a deal! Croce's has a music room separate from the noisiness of the bar area, full of comfortable seating, warm ambiance and great sight lines. The non-amplified music was gentle on our ears.
Josh was running a little late having had a harrowing day. His car carrying himself and drummer Dan Schnelle had broken down in Long Beach. Fortunately for him and for us, there was a rental agency nearby. It was a miracle that he made the gig at all. Judy and I settled into our seats and ordered off the prix fixe menu for $35. The ala carte menu was a little more expensive. The food consisting of salad, entrée and dessert did Chef Russell Rummer proud and was more than we could eat. The low, low cover charge of $10 per person compares favorably with the $35. cover at the Blue Note, Iridium or Village Vanguard in New York City.
After a warm-up tune, the group launched into Cole Porter's "So in Love," one of my favorite Porter tunes. During ubiquitous and staunch bassist Rob Thorsen's solo, I found myself thinking "he's just doing too much rollicking for this tune." "So in Love" is intensely emotional music and one must almost channel Cole Porter to elucidate the nuances thereof. The musician should be thinking the words and melody and forgetting the harmonic structure. Thorsen, however, seemed to be wailing on the changes.
"So in Love" is painfully poignant with an undercurrent of mystery like a lot of Porter tunes. Is it about unrequited love? Is it about his inability as a closeted gay man to be comfortable with the role he set for himself of hiding behind a sham marriage? Is it about the shame he felt in not being able to fulfill his wife's desires? Perhaps it was the ache he felt for someone he loved and hated the thought of possibly losing. He was genuinely devoted to his wife, Linda, on an emotional level and they remained married for 35 years until her death in 1954. "I'm yours till I die. So in love. So in love. So in love with you am I."
For an emotion laden jazz performance of this genre, check out Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "If I Loved You," a show tune by Rodgers and Hammerstein written for the musical Carousel. Rahsaan's passion is unmistakable and evidentiary.
Next up was the composer of "Over the Rainbow" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," Harold Arlen. Arlen, composer of over 500 songs, was a veritable contributor to the Great American Songbook. "Out of This World," with words by Johnny Mercer, one of Arlen's more obscure works, was nicely done showing off the great musicianship of all concerned. Resurrecting great tunes like this is a way of testifying to the timelessness of the great American composers while ignoring the fads that are such an inherent part of "popular" music.
The classic "Embraceable You" by George and Ira Gershwin came next. You can hardly go wrong with tune selections like this. The trio's interpretation, especially Josh's out of tempo solo on the last chorus, was sensitively carried out. Next Josh, a very personable fellow, expounded on his interest in space travel with a monologue about the Mars Rover, the inspiration for his own composition, "Spirit," which is on his latest album due out February 15 entitled Discovering Mars. I thought "Oh, no. This is going to be some sort of techno punk stuff," but was I surprised. This was the sleeper of the set, a beautifully crafted tune that was Judy's favorite of the night. They finished off the set with Porter's "In the Still of the Night," the definitive version of which in my opinion is on Frank Sinatra's 1961 Ring-a-Ding Ding album.
I wasn't familiar with Josh Nelson before the night began, but I'm glad I came and am the better for having experienced his music. He seems like such a young guy, but yet he's been on the music scene for 17 years and presently tours as part of Natalie Cole's band among other things. He has some impressive credentials like winner of the Louis Armstrong Award and finalist in the Thelonius Monk competition. I wish him well. Check him out at his website.
Jazz on the first Thursdays of the month is presented at Croce's by jazz impresario and master flutist, Holly Hofmann, San Diego's only acknowledged down beat magazine poll participant. Having garnered 100 votes in down beat's "Rising Star" category, Holly remarked, "It makes me smile that I can be a “Rising Star” in midlife and with thirteen recordings as a leader."
Equally important is Holly's dedicated role keeping jazz alive in San Diego which she's been doing for more than 25 years while at the same time performing around the globe. If Holly is the presenter, you know the music is going to be good. Her latest album Low Life, rated 4 stars in down beat, is one of my favorites, so much so that I have sent copies to my friends. Alto great Phil Woods said of Holly “Along with Hubert Laws, Holly is frankly the best jazz flute player today.”
Croce's reminds me of the sophisticated supper clubs that stars such as Peggy Lee used to perform in. Having just finished reading James Gavin's biography of her, Is That All There Is?, I was taken back to the 1950s and 60s when Lee performed at such clubs as Basin Street East and the Copacabana, making as much as $12,500 a week. Of course this was nothing compared to the remuneration at later Las Vegas gigs. Since Little Italy's Anthology closed, Croce's Park West is one of the few remaining places where high quality music and comestibles in a sophisticated atmosphere are extant.
Judy and I attended the 6 PM dinner show which was just right for aging hipsters who don't like to stay out too late. There was another show at 8PM. We were home in our pajamas by 8:15 PM having enjoyed an infrequent night out on the town. We're already looking forward to the first Thursday in March and taking our friends with us on a return trip to Croce's Park West.
by John Lawrence
In the best of all possible worlds water main breaks would not happen. Local government would replace old water mains with new ones on a regular basis. That means that money for this and other infrastructure needs would be allocated systematically and appropriately. If we had our priorities straight, money for infrastructure would take precedence over money for football stadiums and convention centers. But in San Diego and in fact throughout the US this rational approach is to be seen rarely if at all. The Romans gave their citizens bread and circuses to keep them in line. Here in fact only circuses seem to be necessary.
Instead of replacing creaky water mains on a regular basis, water main breaks occur on a regular basis. The most recent one occurred only a few days ago on Shelter Island, home of posh restaurants and yacht clubs. Oh, how the patrons were inconvenienced! Last Friday the rupture left most of Shelter Island without functional plumbing through the late morning and the entire afternoon. The failed 63-year-old concrete pipeline began drenching the roadway in the 2300 block of Shelter Island Drive about 9 a.m., according to the San Diego Water Department. Workers determined that a corroded connector attaching two segments of the 12-inch-diameter main was the problem.
Trolley service between the Santa Fe Depot and Middletown Street was temporarily suspended, Metropolitan Transit Services officials said.
Several businesses along India Street were flooded with several inches of water.
“Not much you can do when you have water flowing in everywhere…about six inches up to my leg so I got soggy socks right now,” said Craig Mann, area manager for Burger Lounge restaurant.
Mitigation crews dried the inside of the business and checked for potential water and mold damage.
“None of the water got into the food production areas, it’s only on the ground so on that end it’s only superficial,” Mann said. “The health department has been on the street checking with the businesses … cleaning and sanitizing. We should be back open tomorrow.”
Well, this is par for the course. A lot of inconvenience because there are no adults in charge of repairing and replacing our infrastructure. They only tend to the fantasy land business of new football stadiums and new convention centers which translates into supporting billionaires in tights crashing into each other (giving each other concussions) and supporting the hotel and restaurant industry by guaranteeing a regular flow of tourist dollars. People who actually live in San Diego are given short shrift. Repairing infrastructure is not as romantic, and we live in a fairy land where spectator sports and giving money to billionaires is more important than taking care of the needs of the hoi polloi.
In the US a water main breaks every two minutes. That's a lot of water wasted. Besides, the cost of fixing a problem after it occurs is much more than that of fixing it in advance. We're penny wise and pound foolish. Not too smart. But then hoopla and fol de rol take precedence over rational thinking and orderly planning. We will be entertained at all costs, even the cost of being inconvenienced or perhaps even killed by falling bridges and pot holed roadways.
On September 3, 2014 there was an enormous water main break in San Diego's Birdland community in Serra Mesa when an 18 inch cast iron pipe broke. Roughly 2,600 customers had water service disrupted including four hospitals, among them Sharp Memorial, Sharp Mary Birch and Sharp Mesa Vista. At Rady Children's Hospital, the outage in water service happened while one surgery was underway. Water was also out at Juvenile Hall. Some cars parked on the road had water up to their bumpers. What a mess, eh?
The biggest and costliest water main break over the past eight years was on Polk Street in North Park on March 1, 2010. An estimated 24 million gallons flooded from a cast iron pipe into the street and surrounding homes. In all, the city paid about $1.4 million to make repairs, house people and settle property claims related to the main break.
Elsewhere in San Diego County a family was flooded out of their home after a water main break in Vista on September 24, 2014. Damage to the house was estimated at $100,000 with another $25,000 for furniture and furnishings. Vista firefighters gave the family a Target gift to help defray expenses.
On October 16, 2014 a massive sinkhole opened when a 30 inch water main broke in Oceanside. All northbound lanes on El Camino Real between Oceanside Blvd and Mesa Drive were shut down. A large storm drain pipe that runs atop the busted 30-inch water main was also damaged. It took about a week to open all lanes. A similar problem with a similar sinkhole happened on North River Road the previous year.
Since 2010, San Diego has paid at least $3.9 million for issues related to water main breaks. In 2013 alone, taxpayers shelled out $33,459 just for the cost of water that spilled into the street as a result of main breaks. The city estimates 6.6 million gallons gushed from ruptured mains in 2013. By comparison, that’s enough water for the average San Diegan for 205 years, according to the city’s estimated average daily use of 88 gallons per day.
As significant delivery lines are nearing the end of their service life across San Diego, mains are breaking at a pace of more than 100 a year, according to an analysis of city data by inewsource. Those breaks plus tens of thousands of leaks have sent an estimated 360 million gallons of water rushing or seeping into streets, homes and businesses between 2004 and 2012. And this at a time when water is getting scarcer and scarcer. We can't afford any more to waste water in this way.
San Diego has paid out at least $10 million to settle claims and pay contractors for repairs to private property that was damaged by water main breaks during the past eight years. More than $350,000 of that was to house people forced from their homes by the breaks.
The city maintains that it is too expensive to do the routine inspections of water lines to see which ones are perilously close to collapse and need replacing. The city has inspected only about 5 1/2 of its 505 miles of large transmission pipelines since 2005, and none of its 2,958-mile network of smaller distribution pipelines. The city doesn’t know exactly where the biggest problems are. So they just throw up their hands and fix them when they break down regardless of the damage, inconvenience and property loss to San Diego citizens. Here's a hint: replace all the 100 year old cast iron pipes first. The city needs to replace rupture prone cast iron pipes with PVC which is not as apt to rupture. Only about 51 miles of the most rupture-prone cast iron pipes have been replaced since 2007. There are 129 miles to go.
Here's an idea - smart pig technology, the kind that is used to inspect oil pipelines to see where the problems are:
Smart Pigs or Pipeline Inspection Gauges are large pieces of machinery pulled together with powerful technology that help with the maintenance of transmission pipelines. These pipeline pigging devices are major components to pipeline safety and accident prevention. These inspection tools provide data on the condition of pipelines which help gauge the health and integrity of the pipes. In a time where environmental protection is key and of global concern, smart pigs are the peacekeepers of the delicate relationship between pipelines and Mother Earth (and regulators). In addition, these smart pipeline pigs make sure that transmission of the product doesn't stop due to pipeline integrity issues, which can be disasterous [sic] to the bottom line.
The same technology used in oil pipelines could be used in water pipelines obviating the necessity of digging up the pipeline in order to inspect it.
There are not many paid lobbyists lobbying for replacing old cast iron pipelines before they rupture like there are lobbying for new football stadiums and additions to convention centers. The wheelers and dealers will lobby the city to get their way first. Somehow there is always money available for such purposes while money for infrastructure is located in the pauper's economy of vanishing funds. Glitz and glamour predominate over levelheaded prudence as befits America's finest city and second happiest place on earth (next to Disneyland). But hey, at least there's no measles.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
It Saved 300 Jobs. Really? Really?
San Diego's Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently signed a deal with Illumina Corporation that was supposedly designed to keep the corporation from jumping ship and landing in another state or jurisdiction. The City of San Diego agreed to rebate $1.5 million in sales and use taxes. In return Illumina promised to keep a number of jobs in San Diego for the term of the agreement. With revenue of just over $1 billion last year, Illumina sells machines that sequence the human genome. The company leases 6 buildings in San Diego totaling over 560,000 sq. ft. and currently has 1500 employees.
Illumina likes to brag about itself as being the "Apple of the genomics industry." It wrote to its shareholders in 2012:
“Illumina is like the Apple of the genomics business. Tools made by the San Diego company are revered by genomics researchers around the world just like millions of consumers love their iPhones and iPads. And Illumina holds its dominant position at an enviable moment in history, as we’re heading into a scientific golden age when human genomes will be sequenced for $1,000 or less.” – Xconomy reporter Luke Timmerman, March 6, 2012
MIT has called it the "World’s Smartest Company" ahead of Tesla Motors, Google and Samsung.
But the deal the City has entered into with Illumina is fishy on several levels. For starters in 2007 GenomeWeb News reported that Illumina signed a fifteen year lease for a new 84,000-square-foot facility currently under construction in San Diego that will enable it to expand its laboratory and office workforce. BioMed Realty Trust, a real estate investment company focused on the life sciences industries, said the new facility will expand an existing 110,000-square-foot facility that Illumina leases at the University Towne Center. Furthermore, Illumina said it had added a 15-year extension to the lease on the existing property. The new facility will allow for the creation of as many as 1,200 new jobs in the San Diego area, according to BioMed.
This was news to some pretty smart folks in Poway and Memphis.
"That really surprises me, because we've never been in contact with the company," Poway Mayor Don Higginson told Spin. "I checked with our economic-development director, and he said we were never approached by them."
Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.— a key organizational player in reaching the Illumina agreement — suggested that Memphis was the big player here in luring Illumina away. Au contraire, said Reid Dulberger, head of economic development for the Memphis area. He'd never heard of such a thing. Asked if the offer suggested by Mark Cafferty was in the ballpark, he replied, "There is no ballpark."
Similarly, representatives of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce and Mayor's office knew nothing about any courtship involving Illumina. It seems like this courtship of Illumina by outside jurisdictions was a fig newton of Mark Cafferty's imagination. After all a CEO of an Economic Development Corporation has to do something to earn his pay. Why not gin up a $1.5 million tax giveaway to some leading corporation which by the way Illumina doesn't really need. They are quite profitable thank you very much.
As the article, Mayor Kevin Faulconer's Illumina-ting Pitch stated: "Going forward, will city leaders throw a bone to every company that mentions Texas or some other far-off land of fiscal opportunity?"
300 Jobs Saved. 2400 Jobs Free To Go
ALMIS UDRYS: That is correct, $1.5 million with interest as well, over the time while they are claiming the rebate, interest would be accrued as well. In the end it would be over $1.5 million.
So the "tax break up to $1.5 million." Not true either. Illumina will get $1.5 million plus 3% interest, and the payout will be in one lump sum which maximizes the interest.
By the way Almis Udrys also noted that this is the third incentive deal that the city has signed off on this year: "Two of them were craft breweries, Ale Smith and Ballast Point, earlier in the year..."
And then there's the matter of how the $1.5 million is rebated to Illumina. It is rebated out of taxes that Illumina expects to pay in the future above and beyond what they are paying now plus 30%. Illumina is expected to grow, have more sales, pay more sales tax and have even more employees than it has now. So they would go on paying the amount of taxes they paid last year (the benchmark year) plus 30%. Any sales tax above that would be rebated once the $1.5 million is reached. A fine detail is that the 30% only applies to sales tax; use tax rebates would be 100% above those paid in the benchmark year.
So last year Illumina paid about $1.3 million in taxes. Since the rebate amount must sit in city coffers until it totals $1.5 million to be paid out in one lump sum, it will accrue interest until Illumina decides to ask the city for a check. When the full $1.5 million has been received by Illumina (plus interest) or 10 years has elapsed, the deal will be terminated. That means that, if Illumina's sales skyrocket, those 300 jobs it promised to keep in San Diego could evaporate in just a few years not the 10 years the media has reported. And since Illumina is heading into a "scientific golden age" for human genome sequencing, they do expect their sales to skyrocket.
Illumina is adding 1200 jobs almost doubling its workforce. Therefore, it is a reasonable guesstimate that it expects to double its sales. Doubling its sales doubles its sales tax. So next year or the year thereafter Illumina could be paying $2.6 million in taxes which would put it at or near the $1.5 million rebate level. The point is that in just a couple years Illumina could have satisfied conditions for the rebate, taken the $1.5 million and left town except for the fact of those 15 year leases. Oh well, they could leave at least by 2022 so that the 10 year deal to save 300 jobs would be moot.
The rationale is that keeping Illumina here keeps the sales and use taxes coming at least at the present rate plus the employees that it keeps here pay sales tax and other taxes themselves and generate up to three ancillary jobs. Of course, Illumina could move about 90% of its employees to another state immediately. The deal with the city doesn't constrain them from doing that.
Moreover, Alan Gin noted in the same KPBS interview that this sort of tax giveaway "will then impact the level of services that can be provided, spent on infrastructure, and other things." That's $1.5 million plus that won't be spent on parks, libraries, schools, repairing potholes, replacing watermains and improving neighborhoods. Remember K-Faulc's mantra: “There is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole.” Whoops, I guess those Democratic potholes won't get fixed after all.
The New York Times reported:
[The tax] giveaways are adding up to a gigantic bill for taxpayers.
A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.
City Council's Approval a Mere Afterthought
So did Illumina shake down the city and threaten to move elsewhere if they didn't get their spif? Not at all. The tax giveaway was initiated by Kevin Faulconer's team itself with a little help from the folks at San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. which gave the mayor's office the heads up. It seems that the city undertook to shake itself down.
On July 21 the City Council took up the Economic Development Incentive Agreement (EDIA) with Illumina, Inc., to provide a sales and use tax rebate. On the Council Docket was the following item description:
Authorize the Mayor to enter into an Economic Development Incentive Agreement with Illumina, Inc., to provide a sales and use tax rebate to encourage this company to retain its manufacturing operations and its taxable product sales operations with the City of San Diego.
From an email inquiry to the members of the City Council, I received this reply from Councilmember Lorie Zapf's office:
Yes, the City Council approved the Illumina deal. It came before Council twice; the first time was on July 21, 2014 and all members were present. The second time was also unanimous on August 7, with Councilmembers Kersey and Emerald absent.
However, according to the docket, it was noted that this item was pursuant to Section 99 of the City Charter (10 day published notice, approval by Ordinance and 6 votes required). There was no mention that the item was voted on at all on July 21. And remember the Mayor had already signed the agreement on July 15!
NOTE: If some of the subsequent links generate a "File or Directory Not Found" message, click here and then scroll down and click on
and the documents will be found on the right hand sidebar. The City should really fix this problem so that links to its documents always work.
The Request for Council Action dated July 24 stated the following in the Executive Summary of Item Background:
Illumina would be obligated to retain all of its manufacturing jobs within the City, at any site of its choice, during the term of the EDIA. The term of the EDIA would be the lesser of 10 years or the year that Illumina has generated new additional (above the benchmark) sales and use tax revenues of $1.5 million.
This is interesting for two reasons: (1) Illumina is not required to maintain jobs in the City for ten years as reported in the media but for "the lesser of 10 years or the year that Illumina has generated new additional ... sales and use tax revenues of $1.5 million" and (2) Illumina would not be required to maintain 300 jobs in the City but "all of its manufacturing jobs within the City."
Under the item Community Participation and Public Outreach Efforts it was noted: "None - Confidential municipality-taxpayer negotiations" So the inner workings of the City in this regard are meant to be shrouded in secrecy.
Jay Flatley, CEO of Illumina, signed the Economic Development Incentive Agreement with the City on July 7 long before the City Council "approved" it. The agreement specified the following:
Job Creation and Retention. During the Term of this Agreement, Company shall (i) create or retain all manufacturing jobs existing in the City of San Diego as of the Execution Date; and (ii) make commercially reasonable efforts to create Sales Force jobs, or retain at least the same number of Sales Force Jobs, located in the City of San Diego as of the Execution Date.
The exact number of those manufacturing jobs is not mentioned nor is it specified what a "commercially reasonable effort" is. This would probably not hold water in a court of law.
On July 10, the following document was ready for Mayor Kevin's signature: "AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO AUTHORIZING THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT WITH ILLUMINA, INC. AND APPROVING CERTAIN RELATED ACTIONS." approved by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. This document contains a lot of legalese in the form of Whereas this and Whereas that followed by Therefore, Be It Ordained blah, blah, blah. However, one of the Whereases is particularly, well, illuminating:
"WHEREAS, Illumina is committing to create or retain over 100 middle-wage manufacturing job opportunities within San Diego, jobs which are likely to be filled by San Diego residents"
Wait a minute, the legal agreement specifies only 100 manufacturing jobs as opposed to the 300 manufacturing jobs widely reported by the media?! You mean to tell me that this $1.5 million rebate was created to retain 100 jobs in San Diego for what might turn out to be far less than the ten years reported in the media? And that's 100 jobs out of approximately 2700 jobs that Illumina expects shortly to have? Or approximately 1% of its jobs?
The City and its taxpayers have been hoodwinked.
On July 8 David Graham, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Neighborhood Services, sent a Memorandum to City Council President Todd Gloria with a Direct Docketing Request which consisted of urging the City Council to go ahead and approve the Economic Development Incentive Agreement that Jay Flatley had already signed. It noted: "A proposal for an EDIA would normally be considered by the Council Committee on Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations (ED&IR) prior to consideration by the full City Council." But Graham wanted it ramrodded through the City Council without further consideration because after all the details had already been worked out and it had already been signed by Flatley. It was awaiting Faulconer's signature as soon as the City Council complied.
The City Council did not give final approval to the Illumina deal until August 7 no doubt because of that Section 99 of the City Charter that required a 10 day waiting period. In any event the deal had already been done, and the City Council's "approval" was after the fact. Faulconer's deal with Illumina was a fait accompli.
Jumping the gun on the City Council's approval, on July 15 Mayor Kevin Faulconer put out a press release:
Mayor Faulconer Announces "World’s Smartest Company" Will Stay, Expand in San Diego
Agreement with Illumina Inc. will keep hundreds of high wage jobs in the city
San Diego, CA – Today Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer joined Illumina Inc. CEO Jay Flatley to announce an agreement that will keep the medical device company and its good-paying jobs in San Diego. Illumina was recently named "World’s Smartest Company" by the MIT Technology Review, ahead of Tesla Motors, Google and Samsung.
The City will provide a tax rebate in exchange for Illumina retaining approximately 300 middle-class manufacturing jobs in San Diego.
So did the City Council merely ratify a deal on August 7 that had already been consummated on July 15? And the retention of 300 middle-class manufacturing jobs? What about the 1500 other higher paying R&D and sales jobs that Illumina now provides and the 1200 new jobs it will add according to Biomed? Illumina has in no way committed itself to maintaining those jobs in San Diego. And as it turns out, the 300 manufacturing jobs had magically diminished to 100 manufacturing jobs when the ink was put to paper.
Nothing about this deal is what it seems. The $1.5 million rebate. It's actually $1.5 million plus 3% which the city will pay out in one lump sum. That 3% really adds up year after year. The 10 year time period? It's really the lesser of 10 years or whenever Illumina can claim the rebate. Illumina moving to Poway or Memphis? It turns out neither Poway nor Memphis had ever heard of that. Illumina seeking a tax advantage not to move out of San Diego? Illumina CEO Flatley didn't approach the City. The Mayor's office in the person of Almis Udrys, Kevin Faulconer's Director of Government Affairs, approached him. The City Council's approval of the deal? The City Council's "approval" came after the deal had already been signed by Faulconer and Flatley. Did anyone on the City Council do their homework or due diligence to check this deal out? The first clue, Sherlock, was that Illumina had signed 15 year leases on all or some of its properties. Doesn't seem that they were going anywhere any time soon.
The Illumina deal sets a disastrous precedent for other corporations to seek out their own tax deals. It is just the harbinger of things to come. With the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation giving the "heads up", and Almis Udrys as liason, Mayor Faulconer is only too able and willing to do tax giveaways to San Diego corporations. Hey, we're open for business. C'mon down! The City Council's approval will just be an afterthought. Someone from the Mayor's office, like David Graham, will send the Council a Memorandum telling them to hurry up and ratify the Mayor's deals.
That's money that won't be used for parks, libraries, schools and infrastructure repairs like replacing 100 year old water mains and filling potholes. The Republicans' goal is to defund government and give the money to corporations. As their spokeman, Grover Norquist, has said, "We want to make government so small that it can be drowned in the bathtub." That's the Republican mantra. Corporate welfare of the type given to Illumina Corporation is a handy means for defunding government and transferring the money to the private sector.
Peter D. Enrich, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law has written:
The proliferation of state and local tax incentives designed to attract or retain business investment ... has proven troublingly resistant to reform. Despite a growing recognition ... that the competition over business incentives is at best a zero-sum game... the size of the incentive packages offered for large corporate facilities reaches ever-new heights ... The only consistent winners are the large businesses that can pit one jurisdiction against another for reduced tax burdens, while other taxpayers and citizens pay the cost in constrained government services and higher taxes ... The states and localities face a classic collective action problem: when they each pursue their individual self-interest, they all end up worse off.
CEO Jay Flatley was not going to move Illumina Corporation out of San Diego. He needs to stay close to the world class research universities in San Diego and the relationships developed therewith. His executives and highly paid employees don't want to trade San Diego's climate, the best in the nation, for Rich Perry's Texas hell hole. His kids want to continue surfing at the beaches. They all love their houses in La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe. The wives want to continue shopping at University Towne Center. To uproot all these executives and highly paid employees would be unthinkable. Why then, does Mayor Faulconer think he has to offer tax rebate incentives to get major corporations to stay here? And to bum rush the City Council who obviously had not done their homework and due diligence on this issue. The best policy is to have faith and believe in San Diego as a place that major corporations would want to locate and, once located, would want to stay. The urge to offer tax incentives to corporations must be resisted. A Democratic Mayor would have resisted.
The Illumina rebate is just the beginning, the advent of a new era in San Diego politics, the signal that more is yet to come. The Mayor is sending a message to business. C'mon y'all, line up for your free tax giveaways. Mayor Kevin is open for business!
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
San Diego's P100 program involves intrusive, invasive home searches by law enforcement officials from the DA's office for everyone that applies for welfare benefits. These searches are unannounced and the potential welfare beneficiary must be at home whenever the investigator chooses to come or else they will be denied benefits. This makes it difficult for someone who has even a part time job. When the investigator comes, as we reported last time, he will look for any evidence that the applicant has lied on her application. That could be a pair of work boots in a single mother's closet or a pair of sexy panties in her underwear drawer, evidence of a boyfriend who could help her pay bills.
Some of these situations approach the Kafkaesque as stifling bureaucracy is combined with clueless non sequiturs on the part of the DA's office to produce epidemic frustration and humiliation for poor people applying for a modest amount of help. Such was the case for a Latino couple, Diego and Anna Alvarez, who jumped through seemingly impossible hoops while trying to get a little help. The following is freely adapted from Matt Taibbi's book, The Divide.
Anna and Diego met at the gym in early 2011 and fell in love. At first they were doing quite well. They were both working - Anna at Carl's Jr and Diego at Panda Express. "I was making pretty decent money there," Diego said. "We were doing OK." "We were able to pay our rent," Anna said. Then Panda Express downsized, Diego lost his job and at about the same time Anna got pregnant. She was not going to be able to keep her job on the night shift at Carl's Jr which required a two hour bus ride each way. In late 2011 they made the decision to go on benefits to help them at least through the birth of the baby.
Trying to get help at the welfare office is a little like trying to get a ticket to a Rolling Stones concert in the 1970s. You have to camp out in front long before they open for business. Then you go in, take a number and wait ... and wait ... and wait. You sit there all day long while people scream and yell around you. You bring your kids and their lunches. You have to be careful taking them to the bathroom to be sure you don't miss your number when they call it.
"It's worse in the afternoon," says Anna. "The kids get hungry and they start screaming and acting out." If you're lucky, you get your meeting the same day. Otherwise, you have to come back. If you get approved, they tell you to go home and wait for the P100 inspector to come and search your house. You have no idea when he will arrive, but you better be home when he comes; otherwise you won't get any benefits.
The couple handled their vigil in shifts. Usually Anna stayed home while Diego went out to his new job at Little Caesar's. The inspector showed up 6 days later. Despite the fact that Diego and Anna were doing everything right, they still ran into immense problems.
Diego had immigration status because his mother had been the victim of domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994, signed into law by Bill Clinton, gave temporary immigration status to victims of domestic violence. Diego had had his U visa since 2006 and had qualified to receive his own benefits as an adult for two years but he only applied for food stamps. Anna, however, applied for the full CalWORKs package. CalWORKs is a welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. They went into the Market Street Family Resource Center (FRC) in December 2011, and at first everything seemed fine. "The woman was really nice," Anna said. "We had no problems at all. She told us we qualified."
The rules surrounding who qualifies for benefits are opaque and seemingly incomprehensible. In Diego's and Anna's case they could not have an income of more than $714 a month and still have qualified for CalWORKs. Everything stated on the application form better be correct - no mistakes tolerated - or else they could be jailed for 3 years for lying about cash aid and up to 20 years for lying with regard to food stamps.
You're then asked 19 questions such as "How much income does everyone, including children, get or will get this month?" That means everyone in your household. God forbid there are any relatives also experiencing hard times that might be eating any of your food. If you're on any kind of public assistance you have to fill out a form every quarter and attest to questions like "Who do you live with?", whether or not you have a car, where you work, how much you make and so on. If any of this doesn't jibe with what the state knows or thinks it knows, you might be headed down the road to a fraud case.
As the New Year rolled around Diego and Anna started thinking that they would get through their present situation OK, and they started thinking about the time when they would be able to get off the benefits. Diego was working again at Little Caesar's. Anna was getting $246. monthly in cash benefits from CalWORKs and they both were getting food stamps.
Then they got a letter in the mail.
Almost immediately after receiving their first month's benefits, Anna got a letter stating that, upon further review, the state had ruled that Diego was not eligible for benefits. Therefore, Anna - not Diego! - now owed the state $148. to compensate for the month of food stamps that Diego had "improperly" received. Even though the state was wrong and Diego did qualify for food stamps, that didn't matter. They were told to pay back the money or else the money would be withheld from their paychecks. And then more notices began coming in. One informed them that Diego had earned more than $700. in January.
In fact Diego had gotten only one paycheck from Little Caesar's and it was for a total of $36! In late January they went to the FRC to try and straighten things out. This was one of ten different trips they would make there in a short period of time. In the course of that meeting something strange happened. Diego saw that the caseworker had his photo ID on file. When he asked for a copy of that document, the caseworker exploded. He got up, threw a pair of scissors down on the desk and stomped out. Not surprisingly, nothing got resolved at that meeting.
Although the couple tried to enjoy the last month before their baby was born, the notices kept coming. By March there would be more than 20 of them, mostly harping about the food stamp money. Then two weeks before their son Jonah was born, they got a bombshell in the mail. Anna said: "It said I had received an overpayment. They said I had received $516. in cash aid. But I'd actually received only $246. I had the stubs to prove it and everything."
As a result of this "overpayment", Anna was now permanently denied benefits. Both young people were pushed off the rolls due to errors made by the state. The total amount of "overpayment" was now perilously close to the $400. figure which is considered the minimum threshold for the state to press a fraud case. As it was, the Alvarezes were going to be out at least that much money in taxes which would be taken out of future paychecks earned by either Diego or Anna.
According to the state, Diego and Anna had committed fraud at least three times: (1) when Diego received benefits without qualifying for them (which he actually did); (2) when Diego lied about his January earnings (which he didn't); (3) when Anna overcollected in cash aid (which she didn't) without paying the money back.
After all this Anna and Diego were in a stressed out state of panic. They could be charged with a crime at any time, and once so charged chances are they would be convicted and sent to jail. In addition to having an uphill climb just to keep food on the table, she and her husband were in a situation where one wrong move, one wrong number on some form, one slip of the tongue, one computer error and they would be in legal jeopardy forever. "It is literally dangerous to be poor," said Joni Halpern, a San Diego lawyer who has spent the last decade defending people on public assistance.
The young couple's only hope was to get some volunteer lawyer to help them sort things out before their situation turned into a criminal case. And it had to be sorted out post haste because once prosecutors file in a case like this, it's over. "Welfare recipients are so unsympathetic that public defenders don't even bother trying to fight the cases," said Hilda Chan, a young lawyer who works with the poor in San Diego.
The frustrating thing is that, every time Anna and Diego tried to get their case resolved, they found themselves dealing with a different case worker. They had to start all over again and explain everything from the beginning which they wouldn't have had to do if they were assigned to the same caseworker each time. Like Kafka in a room with many doors where every door leads to the same room all over again, this young couple had been put in a box for which there was no exit door. There was no way out.
They might think they're talking to a social worker, someone who is there to help them, and find out later that they were actually talking to a fraud investigator, someone who is trying to put them in jail. In San Diego welfare caseworkers and fraud investigators working for the DA's office work out of the same building. San Diego has satellite DA's offices in the welfare office. In fact there are so many welfare workers that have migrated to law enforcement that they have their own union and their own lobbyists. In California it is called the California Welfare Fraud Investigators Association. It has lobbied for more welfare fraud prosecution and investigation much in the same way that lobbyists for the private prison industry lobby for more criminal prosecutions.
This results in huge numbers of fraud cases - not for banksters, who, despite their many fraudulent activities, have gotten away scot free, but for the poorest of the poor. Counties like San Diego file upwards of 40 or 50 cases a month. At the end of 2007 there were more than 52,000 welfare fraud investigations pending in California. DAs love these cases because they almost never lose.
In cases like Anna's and Diego's a numerical glitch can turn into a criminal charge, and people really do end up in jail. It could be that a casewoker at a FRC sees an applicant leaving in a nice car or a P100 investigator sees a nice pair of Victoria's Secret panties in a dresser drawer or a neighbor calls in with a tip in exchange for a cash award. "No one can snitch you off like your ex or your ex's girlfriend or your neighbor or your landlord," says one former California district attorney whose county in the late 1990s processed more than a hundred fraud cases a month.
I find the majority's analysis troubling in several respects. To begin, the majority admittedly draws a “fine line” between searches to determine eligibility and those aimed at investigating fraud. In practice, the distinction is one without a difference. In verifying eligibility, fraud investigators - as their job title suggests - necessarily are investigating potential fraud through their enforcement of welfare laws and regulations. Indeed ... the investigators testified that as peace officers they have a duty to - and do - look for and report evidence of crimes. Thus, we do not, as the majority suggests, deal here with a visitation that “serves to discourage misrepresentation or fraud” as a mere “byproduct of that visit,” as was the case in Wyman [a precedent case]. At the same time, the majority overlooks a key distinction between the New York home visits and those carried out by the County of San Diego, namely, that the Project 100% home visits have only a minimal, if any, rehabilitative function. The record reveals that the program is operated exclusively by the District Attorney's Public Assistance Fraud Division, which is the County's Special Investigative Unit (SIU), as an “early fraud prevention and detection program;” the County's welfare agency does not exercise any supervisory responsibility over the program. Thus, whereas in Wyman the home visits were conducted by social workers who had “profound responsibility” for the aid recipient, here the visits are conducted by agents of the district attorney charged only with verifying welfare eligibility and detecting fraud using investigative techniques. Unlike in Wyman, these fraud investigators do not interview the applicant inside the home to discuss “any changes in [the applicant's] situation that might affect her eligibility [or] the amount of [her] assistance, and [whether] there are any social services which the Department of Social Services can provide to the family.” Quite the contrary, the County's fraud investigators are trained not to give advice to applicants because their focus is “highly limited” to legal compliance. According to the defendants themselves, the program's objective is not to assist the needy, but to “increase welfare fraud prevention efforts and to increase program integrity.” Thus, that the fraud investigators are not exclusively engaged in a criminal investigation does not alter an important purpose of the home visits, which is to investigate and detect welfare fraud.
Finally, it is far from clear that Project 100% forbids “snooping,” ... When walking through the welfare applicant's home, a fraud investigator may request to look at the contents of bedrooms, closets, kitchens, bathrooms, medicine cabinets and drawers in search of evidence of ineligibility or fraud. The majority reasons that because consent is required, the investigator's activity “cannot fairly be characterized as ‘snooping.’ ” But obtaining consent to snoop cannot change the nature of the ensuing conduct - snooping - any more than obtaining consent to search changes the nature of the search that follows. The question is whether looking in medicine cabinets, laundry baskets, closets and drawers for evidence of welfare fraud - even with consent - constitutes snooping. I doubt my colleagues in the majority would disagree that an IRS auditor's asking to look in such places within their own homes to verify the number of dependents living at home would constitute snooping.
The majority concludes that the Project 100% home visits, even if considered searches, were reasonable under both the Supreme Court's decision in Wyman and its subsequent line of “special needs” cases. Respectfully, I disagree. Neither Wyman nor the special needs doctrine renders constitutional the entry and inspection of homes under Project 100% by agents of the district attorney without warrants, probable cause or individualized suspicion of ineligibility or fraud.
Project 100% clearly makes the price of welfare assistance the waiver of both federal and state constitutional rights, with consent being coerced by the threat of denial of benefits. This is precisely the sort of conditioning of benefits that California's unconstitutional conditions doctrine forbids.
Finally, I tried to find the outcome or resolution of the case involving Diego and Anna. I emailed Matt Taibbi and got no response. However, Hilda Chan, a young lawyer who works with the poor in San Diego, responded. She was quoted in the book as saying, "Welfare recipients are so unsympathetic that public defenders don't even bother trying to fight the cases." Here's the email exchange I had with her:
Hi Hilda,I’m a reporter for the San Diego Free Press. I am doing a series of articles based on Matt Taibbi’s book, “The Divide.” The first one – “San Diego’s P100 Program Targets the Poor and Vulnerable While Letting the Rich and Powerful Off the Hook” – appears here. I am trying to find out the resolution of the case involving Diego and Anna Alvaraz chronicled in the book. Matt Taibbi doesn’t tell what happened in their case. The editors want to know the resolution before publishing the next article.Any help you could give me will be appreciated.Thank you.John LawrenceHilda wrote back:Hi John,Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately I haven't had contact with Diego and Anna since Matt interviewed them 2-3 years ago.Please let me know if I can help in any other way.Hilda
by John Lawrence
Since 1997, San Diego County has required all families applying for California's version of welfare called CalWORKs to submit to warrantless, suspicionless, unannounced home searches and interrogations by District Attorney investigators. As of June 2013 about 150,000 families, or about 9,300 families each year, have been subject to these searches. This policy, called Project 100% or P100, diverts money away from the poor and has not been shown to be effective at detecting or preventing fraud. San Diego is the only place in the whole nation which has such an intrusive, untargeted policy making it America's finest city - NOT - for the poor and vulnerable. These searches are a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids "unreasonable searches" of peoples' homes.
Money to fund the DA office's P100 search program is money taken away from the CalWORKs program which could have gone to help needy families. In fact almost $2 million per year could instead be used to hire 42 new welfare-to-work employment counselors. Not only are blanket home searches ineffective, they are harmful to children and parents in crisis. Simply for requesting government aid for which they are potentially eligible, families are forced to endure the frightening and degrading intrusion into the private spaces of their homes by law enforcement officials.
People signing up for welfare have to agree to these unscheduled searches, and make themselves available at all times during the day since, if they're not home when the inspector arrives at the door, they get turned down for welfare benefits. When the inspector comes, she must invite him in or forego benefits. Investigators for the program - not social workers mind you, but accusatory and sometimes rude investigators from the DA's office - pay over two thousand unannounced visits a month, taking note if they find a man's name on a prescription bottle in the medicine cabinet or boxer shorts in a sock drawer. If the inspector finds a pair of work boots in her closet, he will accuse her of harboring a man in her home and she will lose benefits. If there are two toothbrushes in her toothbrush holder, she will lose benefits. Investigators have even threatened to take the applicant's children away if they find any evidence of welfare fraud. These situations have actually happened to real people.
One inspector picked up a Victoria's Secrets bra with the erasure tip of a pencil and waved it in her face claiming that, if she were really poor, she wouldn't have such an expensive bra in her dresser. Who was she trying to impress - a boyfriend perhaps? The same technique was used on a pair of her sexy panties. If she didn't have a boyfriend, what would she have needed those for? Anything that would tip off the inspector that she may have lied on her application is grounds for denying her a few hundred measly dollars a month. Authorities are looking for evidence that the applicant has a secret job or a boyfriend who could pay bills.
The general idea is that being really poor means you should naturally give up any ideas you might have about privacy or dignity. If you are poor, you should have to give up your Constitutional rights such as the Fourth Amendment. You are not afforded the benefit of being protected from unreasonable searches. Welfare fraud is subject to harsh penalties while bankster fraud goes unpunished. No bankster would have to undergo a peremptory search of his premises despite the massive frauds involving billions of dollars that some of them have committed.
And what about the Balboa Park Centennial Inc (BPCI) that spent almost $3 million of taxpayer money with no results whatsoever. Are they being investigated for fraud? Hell, no. They are part of San Diego's white collar, white faced elite. They can waste any amount of money whatsoever and the DA's office will look the other way. Only City Councilman David Alvarez is questioning where millions of taxpayer dollars meant for the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration have gone. The insiders on the BPCI paid themselves handsomely, and they have taken the money with impunity, with no obligation to pay it back despite their pathetic results. No one is accusing them of fraud. No one is carrying out unreasonable searches and seizures at any of their homes. There are two standards of justice - one for the rich who steal millions and one for the poor who may, if they're lucky, get a few measly bucks to pay their electric and water bills.
In Matt Taibbi's book, The Divide, he chronicles the experiences of Maria Espinosa, Karen Bjorland, Markisha and the couple, Diego and Anna [more about them next time], as they were hassled by the P100 program in San Diego:
Maria Espinosa was a pioneer. The sifting-through-the-dresser-drawer search she experienced in the early years of the George H. W. Bush presidency was an informal precursor to a [program that] would become formalized in her new home county of San Diego. In San Diego County ... the state preemptively searches for evidence of fraud in the homes of the tens of thousands of people who have applied and are applying for cash assistance via CalWORKs, the California version of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF - what we used to call welfare.
Today, every single person who applies for aid and is accepted has to be preemptively searched. These people are almost all non-white. And while in L.A. in the late 1980s the person visiting the home of someone like Maria Espinosa was just a social worker from the local welfare office, the state has since upgraded. In San Diego now it's a law enforcement official, a representative of the district attorney's office, who comes in to look through your underwear drawer. The city has a team of investigators whose sole purpose is to conduct the searches for this program ... .
One hundred percent compliance, that's the idea. No outliers, no excuses. Fraud must not be tolerated, not even the smallest kind. So the program must be large, and appropriate resources must naturally be devoted to crime detection. In just one year, 2011, the county conducted an astonishing 26,000 home searches.
P100 generates, by the thousand, stories that sound like testimonials culled from refugees of some distant, low-rent, third-world despotate. The stories are terrible, humiliating, abusive.
On the other hand, Taibbi continues:
... while the San Diego District Attorney's Office spent more than a decade sifting through thousands of dresser drawers and bringing felony cases all the way to court for frauds as small as four hundred dollars, executives in the same general area of Southern California, at companies like Countrywide and Long Beach Mortgage, were pioneering the mass fraud scheme that involved the sales of toxic mortgage-backed securities.
... Not one home was searched. No banker ever had someone pick up his underwear by a pencil and wave it in his face.
Twenty-six billion dollars of fraud: no felony cases. But when the stakes are in the hundreds of dollars, we kick in 26,000 doors a year in just [San Diego] county.
Finally, six women who had experienced these travesties got together and with the help of the ACLU filed a lawsuit. In Sanchez v, the County of San Diego, they argued before the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, that these intrusive home searches were a violation of their Fourth Amendmant rights. They lost. The argument that prevailed was basically that, by virtue of their applying for taxpayer supported aid, the state's interest took precedence over their right not to have their homes peremptorily searched, that they had forfeited that portion of their Constituional rights.
However the minority opinion of the Court was quite striking. They wrote the following:
[A visit from a social worker] is a far cry from the program carried out by the County of San Diego, whose Project 100% home visits entail a law enforcement agent - trained not to give advice to welfare applicants - walking through the applicant's home in search of physical evidence of ineligibility that could lead to criminal prosecution either for welfare fraud or other crimes unrelated to the welfare application. In light of the significant differences in scope and implementation between the home visits at issue in Wyman [a precedent case] and those challenged here, I disagree with the majority's conclusion that the home visits do not rise to the level of a Fourth Amendment search. Nor do I agree with the majority's improper discounting of the Appellants' heightened privacy interest in their home. In the majority's view, even if the home visit is a search, it is reasonable because the Appellants' relationship with the state as potential welfare recipients “reduce[s] the expectation of privacy even within the sanctity of the home.” ... By suggesting that welfare applicants may be treated the same as convicted criminals, the majority ignores the limits - implicit and explicit - in [another precedent case].
Courts have been chipping away at the Constitutional rights of the poor and people of color for many years while giving a free pass to rich, white collar and white faced criminals. The County of San Diego with its P100 program is the worst offender along these lines in the entire US. If you're black or brown and live in the ghetto, you don't get protection against illegal searches and seizures. Whether it's possession of microscopic amounts of drugs or accusations of welfare fraud, that's just the way it is.
NEXT TIME: How P100 Screwed Diego and Anna.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
City Council: Equivocation and Prevarication Are Us; No Lobbyist Left Behind
The San Diego Climate Action Plan calls for an action item to be passed by the City Council in 2014: the plastic bag ban. More than 110 other California Cities and Counties have already passed one. Los Angeles City and County both have bans on plastic bags. San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a ban on plastic shopping bags in April 2007. In February of 2012, the Board of Supervisors voted to expand the ordinance to more stores. Since San Jose’s ban took effect in 2012, plastic-bag litter in storm drains, which can contribute to flooding, has fallen by 89 percent. You know the way, San Jose. Since you raised the minimum wage, unemployment has actually diminished. Take that, job creators. In San Diego County Solana Beach is the only city to enact the ban.
“The objective is to wean ourselves from temporary bags,” said San Diego Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who shepherded the plastic bag ban ordinance through the Rules and Economic Development Committee, which approved the draft rule last October, eight long months ago. The ban could eliminate 348 million single-use plastic bags from San Diego each year, the Equinox Center estimated in a report that coincided with the committee vote. It could save the city $160,000 per year in bag cleanup costs, preserve precious space at Miramar Landfill and keep plastics out of the ocean, the report concluded.
This is from lacounty.gov:
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has adopted an ordinance banning single use plastic carryout bags at stores in the County unincorporated areas, while requiring they charge 10¢ for each paper carryout bag sold to a customer. The 10-cent charge on paper bags is not subject to State sales tax and will be retained by stores for use in complying with the ordinance.
The intent of the ordinance is to promote the use of reusable bags over single use plastic and paper carryout bags in order to reduce the negative economic and environmental impacts associated with single use bags. This is one of over 70 [Ed. note: now 110] single use plastic carryout bag bans adopted in California alone. And approximately 50 jurisdictions around the country have also adopted carryout bag restrictions. Within Los Angeles County alone, there have been 11 incorporated cities who adopted bag ordinances: Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Culver City, Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.
But as with anything else having to do with the City Council, they are experts in diluting, watering down and delaying stuff that the majority of their constituents think it makes sense to do. Look at their equivocating with regard to raising the minmum wage for example. Their first tactic is to water down the amounts. Their second tactic is to delay the implementation. Their third is to phase it in over a number of years. The fourth is to restrict the range of businesses that it applies to.
The same forces are at work with regard to the plastic bag ban. Instead of just saying, Hey the plastic bag ban starts tomorrow - deal with it - they will probably "phase it in" over a number of months, years, decades, because we don't want to inconvenience the job creators who might lay people off if they can't use their beloved plastic, freakin' bags. Then the next thing is that those businesses which have lobbied them to death will be exempted from the plastic bag ban like, for instance, Home Depot. Then it will only apply to grocery stores and supermarkets having a certain amount of revenues. By the time they slice it and dice it, they will have eliminated a few plastic bags without offending the business community which will lobby hard for plastic bag "freedom" - the freedom to use any type of bag they damn well please.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders will appear on our TV screens representing the San Diego Chamber of Commerce to tell us of the dire, horrorific events that will certainly transpire if we so much as ban one plastic bag. Consumers will go all the way to Poway or Escondido, mind you, because they have not and will not consider a plastic bag ban there. Consumers will go out of their way to get their plastic bag fix. They will not tolerate a paper or reusable bag for their groceries and especially if they have to pay 10 cents for one. Why of all the outrage! First gub'mint is meddling with our freedom to use whatever bag we please, and then they have the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to charge us for it!
And then there are the germophobes who wouldn't consider using a bag more than once for fear that that would be tantamount to contracting some uncurable tropical disease, some disease that antibiotics have lost their power to mitigate. What if their e coli infused chicken dripped or leaked into the canvas? They want their meat wrapped in plastic. Will that be a thing of the past once the plastic bag banners get their way?
They could care less that whales and large birds often swallow plastic carryout bags inadvertently during feeding, which become permanently lodged in their stomachs. So what! There are too many whales and large birds around anyway. Turtles swallow plastic carryout bags since they resemble their main food source, jellyfish. If I want to see a turtle I'll go to the zoo. Don't tell me that we humans have to take a back seat to turtles. Right, Jerry?
And then there's the "gyre", that large patch of pollution in the Pacific Ocean 1000 miles off San Diego's coast that's a virtual garbage dump of plastic where all our plastic bags, bottles and other crap go not to die but to live on in perpetuity. The Chamber of Commerce position would probably be to just tell sailors to avoid that stretch of ocean. Out of sight; out of mind! Work your way around it, guys. Nobody lives there anyway except a bunch of fish. And they're a dime a dozen - before they're caught and processed anyway.
Lawmakers in Sacramento are trying to make California the first state to approve a blanket ban on this most ubiquitous of consumer products - the plastic bag. But their efforts have so far failed twice due to astute lobbying by Hilex Poly, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of plastic bags. They single-handedly spent more than $1 million lobbying against the bill to ban plastic in California in 2010. That bill failed, as did another attempt in 2013. Hilex Poly, based in Hartsville, S.C., has made political donations to every Democrat in the California Senate who joined Republicans in voting against last year’s bill.
So there you have it. They don't even need to bribe Republicans who are against banning plastic bags just on the face of it. They only need to grease the palms of Democrats who need a little ... persuasion. Give the Democrats some sugar and they will vote your way. Remember, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.
Mark Daniels, vice president at Hilex Poly, said a ban would cost the state up to 2,000 jobs. Oh those job creators again. We have to cater to them even at the expense of the poor whales and turtles. “This is going to cost Californians millions and millions of dollars,” Mr. Daniels said of the bag banning legislation. “They’re going to have to purchase millions of supposedly reusable bags from China.” Supposedly reusable? Mr. Daniels has a point. How do we really know that a bag made in China is really reusable? It will probably collapse after only a few outings.
California taxpayers on the hook again - this time for millions of dollars worth of reusable plastic bags made in China! What's the matter with the good ole USA for making reusable bags? Consider our balance of payments. A plastic bag ban will ultimately mean that China will take over reusable bag production. We'll lose our sovereignty to a communist - make that state capitalist - nation.
But state Senator Alex Padilla is not giving up.
“It has become increasingly clear to the public the environmental damage that single-use plastic bags have reaped,” said Alex Padilla who is sponsoring yet another round of legislation for a statewide ban. “This is the beginning of the phaseout of single-use plastic bags — period,” he said.
Mr. Padilla’s measure would ban the bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and other locations where they have long existed. Paper bags and more robust, reusable plastic bags will be available for 10 cents, with the goal of forcing shoppers to remember their canvas bags. But after you're liquored up, who can remember to bring that reusable canvas bag? Who cares anyway? C'est la vie!
But in the heartland of the US, controlled by Republicans, the plastic bag aficionados are not giving up. Florida has issued a ban against local municipalities passing bans on plastic bags. Take that California, you liberal oasis. We'll ban your bans.
There has never been a simpler, more easily understood ordinance. It's not rocket science. Don't prevaricate. Don't equivocate. Don't tergiversate. City Council, quit dragging your feet, get your haunches in gear, join 110 other California Cities and Counties and pass the plastic bag ban NOW.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
San Diego has a flashy new Central Library and it's all paid for without taxpayer funds thanks to local philanthropists. We wrote in another article about the Grand Opening. But that brings up the question: what are we going to do with the old library, a historical landmark, that sits vacant on E Street downtown across from the Post Office.
There have been some suggestions. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria stated: "As soon as we open up that new facility, I want to make sure we have a plan in place for the old facility, and make sure that we put it back into a useful life for the citizens, the taxpayers, and of course the residents of downtown."
Well, the new library opened September 28, 2013, eight long months ago, and there are no plans at this time for doing anything with the old building which is increasingly turning into an eyesore. We are coming up on the one year anniversary, June 9, of the closure of the old library and still there are no plans for it. The longer it remains vacant, the more it might share the same fate as the California Theater, also designated an historical landmark, which is literally rotting away. Nobody wants to put up the money to restore it to its former glory so it just sits there, an eyesore.
Why not convert it into studio apartments for homeless people in accordance with the Housing First vision. I wrote in a previous article, A Challenge to Kevin Faulconer: End Homelessness Now:
You kibitz with the homeless in your campaign ads. Now that you’re Mayor Kevin Faulconer, are you really going to do anything about it? Or are you going to continue to procrastinate. Other cities are ending homelessness from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to Nashville.
You have the model to follow. It’s a no-brainer. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just follow their successful models. You don’t have to continue to study the problem in order to address it ten years from now.
These cities and others have decided that treatment and supportive services should not be conditions or precursors to permanent housing. Instead, the very ability to address personal mental health goals, beat addiction and gain stable employment stems from the safety and stability that comes from having a permanent home. This approach is called Housing First.
Well, K-Faulk, here's your perfect opportunity to put your money where your mouth was. This would be the perfect use for the old building - put all the homeless people that are sleeping outside it ... in it. There's no conflict with the historical designation bit. While historic designation can sometimes be a hindrance to development, Bruce Coons, Executive Director of Save Our Heritage Organization, believes that the building will not have trouble working around any historic constraints. “It can be anything four walls and a roof can be,” he said.
Of course the East Village Residents Group opposes using it as a homeless shelter. But apartments to house the formerly homeless are not exactly the same thing as a homeless shelter. And what else would you expect from the East Village Residents whose primary goal is to get the homeless out of East Village altogether? But, note to the EVRA, a housed formerly homeless person is not a homeless person.
According to Voice of San Diego, the East Village Residents Group recommended the following alternatives:
• An entrepreneurial “startup” innovation center
• Art gallery and exhibition space
• Permanent (or interim) home for the YMCA
• A larger or more attractive space for San Diego colleges like the Art Institute of California, San Diego, John Paul Catholic University and New School of Architecture.
I suppose all these alternatives would mean privatizing what is currently a public asset and selling it off. As apartments for the formerly homeless in accordance with Housing First principles, a public asset could be used to help solve a public problem.
It has also been proposed to use the space as a "neighborhood mixed-use center" in accordance with the San Diego downtown community plan. This would require that a certain percentage of the street level be used for commercial recreation and entertainment such as restaurants, theaters and retail. Just what we need - more unoccupied street level restaurant and retail space in downtown!
And if there are no moral qualms for leaving people to sleep on the street, how about the financial incentives for getting them off the street. It has been found that the homeless consume more tax dollars in emergency services and incarceration costs than they would if the taxpayers just paid for an apartment for them. A study in Florida showed that, when accounting for a variety of public expenses, Florida residents pay $31,065 per chronically homeless person every year they live on the streets vs $10, 051. to house them and pay for treatment.
Most homeless persons, given half a chance, clean up and become productive citizens again as has been attested to by before and after pictures more of which can be found here.
Andrae Bailey, CEO of the commission that released the Florida study, noted that most chronically homeless people have a physical or mental disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. “These are not people who are just going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a job,” he said. “They’re never going to get off the streets on their own.” Without some help from society, that is.
What the East Village residents, whose only interest is self-interest, don't understand is that creating permanent housing for the homeless will get them off the streets and make East Village a more salubrious location for residents and visitors alike as well as providing a housing solution for the least fortunate among us. And it's cheaper to provide permanent housing (as opposed to sheltering) and supportive services than it is to leave them on the street and pay for emergency room visits and police services.
by John Lawrence
City of San Diego Sending Billions of Dollars to Wall Street Needlessly
Public banks are financial institutions owned by government entities, such as cities, states, and nations. Establishment of a Public Bank of San Diego would return millions in profits to the city instead of winding up in Wall Street bankers' private pockets.
Each year the City of San Diego deposits millions of dollars of city revenues in Wall Street banks. The budget for 2014 General Fund Revenues is $1.2 billion. That includes revenues from property taxes, sales taxes, Transient Occupancy Taxes and Franchise Fees among other things. That money has to be deposited somewhere. The City pays these banks transaction fees and loses whatever interest might be gained if the City of San Diego deposited the money in its own public bank with profits earned deposited in the City's general fund. Under the current arrangement, interest earnings for the projected 2014 budget are a pathetic 0.1%. Why? Because the Wall Street banks earn most of the interest on the deposited City revenues and pay out interest to the City bordering on zero. Revenues from interest to the City alone could be millions of dollars, and interest the City pays out could effectively be reduced to zero if the City of San Diego owned its own bank.
The City of San Francisco is considering the establishment of a public bank in order to recoup the money that now is being paid to Wall Street banks:
The city of San Francisco moves between $10 billion and $12 billion through 133 bank accounts in roughly 5 million transactions every year; and its deposits are held chiefly at three banks, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Union Bank. The city pays $2.7 million for banking services, nearly two-thirds of which consists of transaction fees that smaller banks and credit unions would not impose. But the city cannot use those smaller banks as depositories because the banks cannot afford the collateral necessary to protect deposits above $250,000, the FDIC insurance limit.
San Francisco and other cities and counties are losing more than just transaction fees to Wall Street. Weidner pointed to the $100 billion that the California pension funds lost as a result of Wall Street malfeasance in 2008; the foreclosures that have wrought havoc on communities and tax revenues; and the liar loans that have negatively impacted not only real estate values but the economy, employment and local and state budgets. Added to that, we now have the LIBOR and municipal debt auction riggings and the Cyprus bail-in threat.
The other consideration is that Wall Street banks have defrauded California jurisdictions and others.
On July 23, 2013, Sacramento County filed a major lawsuit against Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and other mega-banks for manipulating LIBOR rates, a fraud that has imposed huge losses on local governments in ill-advised interest-rate swaps. Sacramento is the 15th government agency in California to sue on the LIBOR rigging, which Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi calls “the biggest price-fixing scandal ever.” Other counties in the Bay Area that are suing on the LIBOR fraud are Sonoma and San Mateo, and the city of Richmond sued in January. Last year, Bank of America and other major banks were also caught rigging municipal debt service auctions, for which they had to pay $673 million in restitution.
According to Ellen Brown:
“Epic in scale, unprecedented in world history.” That is how William K. Black, professor of law and economics and former bank fraud investigator, describes the frauds in which JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has now been implicated. They involve more than a dozen felonies, including bid-rigging on municipal bond debt; colluding to rig interest rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars in mortgages, derivatives and other contracts; exposing investors to excessive risk; failing to disclose known risks, including those in the Bernie Madoff scandal; and engaging in multiple forms of mortgage fraud.
It is to be noted that JPMorgan Chase is among the City of San Diego's list of approved brokers as well as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.
The question is why would San Francisco, LA or San Diego want to invest in Wall Street banks that are defrauding them and ripping them off? Not only that but if any of these big banks goes bankrupt, cities and counties would likely not get their money back because they would have to fall in line behind derivatives claimants which now have super-priority. And they wouldn't get a taxpayer bailout either because the Dodd-Frank law now bans taxpayer bailouts. Bank of America now commingles its $1 trillion in deposits with over $70 trillion in risky derivatives, and has been pegged as one of the next banks likely to fail in a major gambling mishap. So the question is why would San Diego or any other city not form a public bank in order to protect itself and maximize returns to the City Treasury?
According to Green Light for City-Owned San Francisco Bank:
A government that owns its own bank can keep the interest and reinvest it locally, resulting in government savings of an estimated 35% to 40% just in interest. Costs can be reduced, and taxes can be cut or services can be increased. Banking and credit can become public utilities, sustaining the local economy rather than mining it for private gain; and banks can again become safe places to store our money.
The state of Vermont is considering the establishment of a public bank. They think that it will save the state millions in tax revenues and put the state on the road to a sustainable economic future because a public bank invests locally. Money doesn't take a hike for Wall Street and into the pockets of private bankers, the 1%. The spread between interest charged on a loan and interest paid on deposits is reaped for the political entity whether the state of Vermont or the City of San Diego rather than going to CEO salaries and rich out-of-state shareholders.
During the last fiscal year, the state of Vermont deposited funds totaling more than $313 million in two banks, TD Bank and Peoples Bank. The state could earn a better rate of return on those funds by switching to a state bank, a study written by the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and compiled by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts said. If deposits of state cash funds were used for economic development loans, $263.2 million in public lending could result in 2,535 jobs, $192 million in value added (gross state product) and a $342 million increase in state output. “If used to finance state capital expenditures, funding through a public bank could save close to $100 million … due to most interest payments no longer leaving the state,” the study said. The study supports the views of proponents that Vermont could save hundreds of millions of dollars, stimulate business and create jobs by establishing a state bank.
There had been some concern about whether or not establishment of a public bank in the state of California was legal. That has been cleared up for charter cities including San Diego. The law in question was California Government Code Section 23007. The section has been interpreted as barring cities and counties from establishing municipal banks. But Deputy City Attorney Thomas J. Owen has now put that issue to rest in a written memorandum dated June 21, 2013. So for chartered cities establishment of a public bank is OK. A charter city is one governed by its own charter document rather than by local, state or national laws.
So far only the state of North Dakota has a public bank. The North Dakota bank typically returns 70 percent of its earnings to the state. In 2009, during the national banking crisis, the state bank delivered a $30 million dividend to public coffers. Loans go for students, businesses and farmers in North Dakota which builds up the state's economic well-being instead of being spent on risky derivatives and fraudulent trades on Wall Street.
The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is a major money-maker for North Dakota, returning about $30 million annually in dividends to the treasury – not bad for a state with a population that is less than one-fifth that of the City of Los Angeles. Every year since the 2008 banking crisis, the BND has reported a return on investment of 17-26%, a much bigger gain than could be gotten by gambling on Wall Street. So why do it?
Like the BND, a Bank of the City of San Diego (BSD) would provide credit for city projects – to build bridges, restore infrastructure, and pay bills – and this credit would essentially be interest-free, since the city would own the bank and get the interest back. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of public projects by 35% or more.
Matt Stannard writes in Why Cities Should Use Public Banks Instead of Big Banks:
Public school districts should not have to refinance their outstanding bonds in order to reduce the interest burdens on their debt. A school district should not be spending $2 million annually to pay interest on their debt. And a big part of the problem is that conventional thinking sees the only route for the financing of public projects as a trip to big, private banks to apply for a loan, the interest of which will go into the hands of private investors and entities with no connection to the community where the project is located. The case of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge retrofit illustrates this principle. Six billion dollars of interest and financial fees went to private investors. Had a public bank financed the project, the interest would have been paid to that bank, which would then have returned the vast majority of that money to the state’s treasury.
20 states are considering some form of public banking legislation including Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Vermont, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington. In addition, current candidates for political office in eight states – California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington State – are pushing a state-run bank as part of their platform. Also a Pennsylvania county is considering a public bank.
Finally, city owned public banks can protect city workers' pensions and stop the rash of municipal bankruptcies caused by speculation by City Treasurers on Wall Street. This is what caused the bankruptcy of Orange County a few years ago. Orange County was at the time the largest American county to have gone bankrupt, when in 1994 longtime treasurer Robert Citron's investment strategies left the county with inadequate capital to allow for any rise in interest rates for its trading positions. When the residents of Orange County voted down a proposal to raise taxes in order to balance the budget, bankruptcy followed soon after. Citron later pleaded guilty to six felonies regarding the matter.
Wouldn't it be better to eliminate the threat of casino gambling on Wall Street by City Treasurers as well as the threat of municipal bankruptcies by establishing a Public Bank of San Diego?
by John Lawrence from San Diego Free Press
You kibitz with the homeless in your campaign ads. Now that you're Mayor Kevin Faulconer, are you really going to do anything about it? Or are you going to continue to procrastinate. Other cities are ending homelessness from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to Nashville. You have the model to follow. It's a no-brainer. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just follow their successful models. You don't have to continue to study the problem in order to address it ten years from now.
These cities and others have decided that treatment and supportive services should not be conditions or precursors to permanent housing. Instead, the very ability to address personal mental health goals, beat addiction and gain stable employment stems from the safety and stability that comes from having a permanent home. This approach is called Housing First.
By moving people directly into permanent housing and then continuing to work to address their health, mental health and employment needs, thousands of chronically homeless people have been moved off the streets for good - many of whom were homeless veterans. The idea is to provide the homeless with homes right away and then address other problems as needed.
This approach was invented and pioneered by Dr. Sam Tsemberis, the founder of Pathways to Housing, in New York City in the late 1990s and soon adopted by the federal government and many state, local and non-profit agencies. In contrast to less effective, more traditional models, housing first does not force homeless people to complete or comply with treatment, mental health care, employment training or other services in order to access and maintain permanent housing. Instead, it rests on the evidence-based view that stable housing puts people in a better position to benefit voluntarily from these services over time.
The transformation of the appearance of some of the formerly homeless once they are housed is simply miraculous, and most of them make the transition successfully providing some additional social services like drug and psychological counselling are provided. The homeless are just like you and me except that they have no support system. They have run out of friends' couches to sleep on, run out of friends and, in some cases, never even had any friends to begin with. But as the Good Book says: "There but for the Grace of God go I." They need society to be their support system. No matter how many mistakes they've made in life, they don't deserve to be sleeping on the streets. Just as the father accepted the Prodigal Son with open arms, we as those who have been much luckier despite our many screw-ups need to accept them back into the human family. A home is the first step in turning their lives around, and it has been demonstrated in many cases to have brought stability into their lives while at the same time lowering taxpayer burdens.
Unrecognizable--that’s how homeless advocate Becky Kanis described the transformation of hundreds of thousands of homeless people once they are given a home.
“There is something that's really dehumanizing about living on the streets in so many ways,” Community Solutions’ Kanis told 60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper. “And then, really, in a matter of days, from having housing, the physical transformation is almost immediate and they're unrecognizable from their former selves.”
Take Donald Shelton for example. He was homeless for 15 years. Much of that time was spent in front of Union Station in Washington, DC, where he was often referred to as “The General.” In August 2010, Donald was placed in an apartment with his cat, Crystal. When asked what housing means to him, Donald said, "You have your privacy and it’s yours.”
“It really changes your perception of the problem of homelessness and the people who end up being homeless,” said Cooper. He took the lesson home to New York City, where a homeless man panhandles and camps outside Cooper’s front door.
“Before the story, it really annoyed me,” says Cooper “I just ignored him. I just pretended he wasn't there. And after the story, I was like, ‘This is ridiculous. This is my issue. Me pretending not to see this person is insane and offensive.’"
After the assignment, Cooper decided to approach the homeless man, ask his name, and engage him in conversation. Now, he regularly greets the man and talks with him.
“Anytime you stop and talk to somebody and you learn about them, you start to walk in their shoes a little bit and you see things through a different lens,” said Cooper.
The Housing First approach has also been shown to be beneficial to taxpayers as the cost of providing housing and social services has been found to be cheaper than multiple visits to the emergency room and other costs of dealing with the homeless on the streets. As a result, they make less frequent use of expensive, publicly funded services like emergency rooms, shelters and jails. If a homeless person receives social security or disability income they must pay 30% of their income towards their housing in the 100,000 homes program. Some landlords and other local philanthropists have offered 1% of their units free to the homeless in the effort to get them off the streets. Some cities are matching up their millionaires with their homeless and asking the millionaires to provide support for a few units.
For instance, Nashville with the help of its Partners, Sponsors and Allies is doing the following:
The How’s Nashville campaign is driven by community partners who assist vulnerable and chronically homeless people with permanent supportive housing. Our goal is to move people who are at risk of dying in the streets into apartments. Once housed, How’s Nashville partners are linking people with case management – a social worker who connects a resident with support services and follows up with the resident on a regular basis. Our ultimate goal is to support people so they can successfully remain in housing.
There is also the additional good feelings generated by knowing that you live in a city that truly provides for "the least of these our brethren." Stepping out onto the sidewalk knowing that you won't have to stumble over people sleeping on the street, navigate a row of homeless tents and carts or step in feces upgrades the image of a city beyond measure. Housing First looks for the most disadvantaged homeless and takes them off the streets first so they won't die there. This is also the most humane approach servicing the needs of "the least of these."
So how about it, Mayor Faulconer. Were your campaign ads featuring the homeless only so much balderdash? Or are you willing to follow up your purported concern for the homeless by putting your energy and efforts into really doing something about it as so many other cities have done and are doing among them Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Nashville, Houston, Los Angeles and many others. Talk is cheap. Campaign ads are cheap. Let's see some commitment and some action. It speaks louder than words.
See a list of 100,000 Homes sponsors and partners here.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
In 1961 President Eisenhauer warned us about the military-industrial complex (MIC). He said, "We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations." Since then spending on the military and the MIC has only skyrocketed. Taken together, they, not the rich, are the main job creators in the US. If you graduate from high school and can't get a job, no problem. The military will accept you with open arms, provide you with on-the-job training, even give you a signing bonus. Why stand in an unemployment line or apply for a job along with 500 other applicants? Or go into debt to attend some schlock college?
If you're a college graduate and can't get hired, try the MIC: the NSA, the CIA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics - they're the real job creators. The cost plus contracts that the defense contractors work under guarantee that there will be lots of jobs available. Why? Because the more they spend on labor including unionized labor, the more they make in profits. That's the essence of a cost plus contract. The more something costs, the more profits they make. Usually they make a 10 % profit over and above all they manage to spend including cost overruns. It's the exact reverse of the commercial economy where they try to get rid of unions. Unions and the MIC are on the same wavelength. The more they pay labor, the more profits they make.
Despite spending trillions of dollars on war and preparation for war since 9/11, the US has managed to destabilize the middle east, incur great loss of life and limb of both US and foreign citizens and create millions of displaced persons and refugees. AND FOR WHAT? Iraq was a stable society before George W Bush decided to invade it in order to be a war time President and wrap himself in glory (remember "Mission Accomplished"?). Now it's being taken over by Al Qaeda and people there have to fear for their lives on a daily basis. When Saddam was there, Iraq was a stable society and there was no possibility of Al Qaeda gaining a foothold because Saddam hated them. Egypt was a stable society before they decided to get rid of Mubarek and now Egypt is in a state of chaos. Syria is busy blowing everyone and everything up. Same goes for Libya. What has been accomplished by the US military? Answer: the destabilization and widespread misery of the middle east and northern Africa and the waste of trillions of dollars that could have been spent on improving the lives of American citizens.
The Syrian refugee crisis has exploded from about 270,000 people a year ago to today’s tally of more than two million who have fled the country. The pace of the diaspora has been characterized by the United Nations as the worst since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In addition, an estimated 4.25 million Syrians have been displaced within their country, bringing the total number forced into flight to more than six million.
If we hadn't spent a cent on the military and the MIC, great portions of the world would be better off today, and we could have spent that money on improving the lives of American citizens and the state of American infrastructure. The United States has spent more than $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Results? Destabilization, chaos, refugee crises and lost opportunities to improve the lives of American citizens and citizens of other countries.
If we want to shrink the size of the MIC, a good place to start is here in San Diego. San Diego is home to the largest concentration of military in the world. Total employment in the sector accounts for one of every four jobs in the San Diego region. This includes uniformed military, defense contracting and civilian employment, and related support employment. San Diego is the home port for more than 60 percent of the ships in the Pacific Fleet. Expertise in the defense-related research and development includes command and control systems, reconnaissance and surveillance systems, unmanned vehicles and cyber security. Not to mention - drones.
If we want to establish a demilitarized-industrial-complex zone in San Diego, what necessarily follows is a loss of jobs in San Diego. Yet no politician, not even David Alvarez, will consider such a possibility. There is no possibility of transitioning military related jobs to jobs in the civilian sector. We are stuck with the world's largest military and being a militarist nation, the world's largest bully! The U.S. spent more on defense in 2012 than did the countries with the next 10 highest defense budgets combined. The fact that we are absolutely dependent on military and MIC jobs in San Diego is tantamount to the fact that the US is stuck in the mold of a national militarist state. The US economy is utterly dependent on war and preparation for war despite the fact that all this spending and all these jobs have done nothing to make the world a better place. In fact it has done a lot to make the world a worse place.
The Barrio Logan Community Plan has had to do battle with defense contractor General Dynamics which owns NASSCO, a division that repairs Navy ships. GD even enlisted the help of its unionized workers to lobby against the BLCP on the grounds that jobs would be lost if the BLCP was approved. However, when the union figured out it was lied to by GD and NASSCO, they switched sides. The city council finally gave approval to the BLCP, but GD and NASSCO were not giving up. They have run a campaign to get enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot and have the voters decide. Meanwhile, they can lobby, advertise and try to convince the voters that the BLCP should not go into effect. The MIC is firmly committed to staying in San Diego.
This issue now is at the heart of the mayoral race between Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez. Alvarez wants the BLCP implemented while Faulconer continues to purvey the lie that 46,000 union jobs will be lost. Imagine that - a Republican campaigning for union jobs! It is inconceivable that any candidate, left or right, would campaign on the platform that military related jobs should leave San Diego. That's how you know we are deeply and inextricably living in a national militarized state - when military related jobs are necessary to the functioning of the economy and to the maintenance of jobs. All those trillions of dollars spent on the military and MIC went to someone's job or to corporate profits.
Meanwhile, a staggering number of women and children are at risk of falling into poverty. An estimated 42 million women — and 28 million dependent children — are saddled with financial hardship. According to a recent report, Maria Shriver said, ""These are not women who are wondering if they can 'have it all'. These are women who are already doing it all — working hard, providing, parenting, and care-giving. They're doing it all, yet they and their families can't prosper, and that's weighing the U.S. economy down."
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the US gets a D+ on its infrastructure which needs $3.6 trillion in repairs. But fear not. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing a vast construction program in Afghanistan, renovating bridges and building facilities for Afghan security forces. How nice of them. Do you think they might some day renovate bridges in this country?
Will San Diego ever transition to a truly civilian economy and away from a military related economy? 2014 doesn't auger well for that scenario. "San Diego has emerged as an Unmanned Systems [that's MIC speak for drones] hub. Recognizing the talent and opportunities present in the region, defense innovator Northrop Grumman designated San Diego its Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence. The designation meant 300 more jobs at the company's Rancho Bernardo location."
And then we have this quotidian prognosis: "The United States defense strategy has deemed that a Pivot to the Pacific, aligning defense resources with the Pacific Rim, is a crucial foreign policy strategy. Because of San Diego's location and existing military footprint, this meant the region was well-positioned, despite sequestration, to gain valuable resources. The USS Reagan and its 2,500 person crew returned to San Diego after a year in maintenance. The USS Vinson, and its 6,000 plus crew, also returned to its port in San Diego. According to the SDMAC Military Economic Impact Study, the two aircraft carriers home ported here will each add about $500 million to the economy."
by John Lawrencefrom the San Diego Free Press
Phoenix and Salt Lake City have ended chronic homelessness among veterans. Why can't San Diego follow their example?
Phoenix has become the first city to end homelessness among veterans. The Obama administration had set a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015, but Phoenix reached that mark a year early. After housing the last 56 veterans a week before Christmas, Phoenix announced that it had eradicated chronic homelessness among veterans in that city. Phoenix and Salt Lake City had been involved in a frierndly competition to see which city could end chronic homelessness among veterans first. Phoenix won, but Salt Lake was not far behind.
The fact that Phoenix and Salt Lake City Mayors had gotten involved in the homeless issue was a significant reason why this problem has been solved in those cities. In an effort to raise awareness about veteran homelessness, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker proclaimed November “Housing Veterans Month.” In response, roughly 40 landlords contacted the city to say they had units available for veterans. Becker had also engaged Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton in a friendly competition to see whose city could end chronic veteran homelessness first.
“That’s where your mayors make a big difference,” says Tamara Kohler, director of Utah’s community services office. As the city leader, Becker could highlight veteran homelessness and convene important stakeholders, such as the city’s public housing authority and landlords.
According to the Washington Post:
The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA have awarded millions of dollars in grants to local groups helping to further the cause. In July, for example, the VA announced that it had awarded nearly $300 million to more than 300 community agencies to help homeless or at-risk veterans and their families.
Phoenix used more than $6.5 million in federal grants to fight homelessness this year, the city said in its statement. And the City Council provided an additional $1.8 million in general funds to help combat homelessness.
And this was not an entirely altruistic action. The city fathers calculated that it would be cheaper to house the homeless veterans than to deal with the strain on emergency services to treat them for health, substance abuse and other emergency services. They call their brainchild "Housing First" and don't require the veterans to be alcohol and substance abuse free first.
Now that the Housing First model has taken hold, it should be a no brainer to extend this to the entire chronically homeless population. With half the homeless being children, US Mayors need to step up to the plate and give this issue the highest priority. It has always been a cop-out to require people to be little angels before they could be given social services. The wisdom is that the veterans will be in a better position to deal with their substance abuse problems after they are housed rather than before.
Will the City of San Diego follow the examples of Salt Lake City and Phoenix? It probably depends on who's elected Mayor. Alvarez will be receptive to the idea. Faulconer... not so much. He represents the downtown developers and tourism industry. But if they were smart, they would get on board with the idea. Nothing offends a tourist more than having to sidestep a pile of human feces in the middle of the sidewalk as they are making their way to Petco Park. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than having to run a gauntlet of homeless people camped out on the sidewalk to get to where you're going. Ending homelessness would not only be good for the homeless; it would be good for tourism and downtown condo sales as well. My major reason for moving out of downtown was so that I didn't have to deal with this blight on "America's Finest City." That appelation should go to Phoenix now.
Phoenix was in a friendly competition with Salt Lake City to become the first to end chronic homelessness among veterans. “Phoenix can take its place as role model city for gratitude and care towards veterans,” Mayor Greg Stanton said. "We congratulate the City of Phoenix on the milestone accomplishment of being the first city in American history to end chronic homelessness for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces," said Clarence Anthony, executive director, National League of Cities (NLC) in a statement. "For those who have served and sacrificed for the safety and security of our nation, even a single homeless veteran is one too many. We call on all cities across America to follow Phoenix's example and work to ensure all veterans have access to safe, stable and affordable housing."
The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) has founded a hotline to ensure that homeless Veterans or Veterans at-risk for homelessness have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. If you, or someone you know is a homeless veteran, call 1-877-4AID VET; ( 877-424-3838 ) to be connected with trained VA staff member.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
The City of San Diego has developed an elaborate Climate Action Plan (CAP), the goal of which is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The County of San Diego has one too as does the City of Chula Vista as does the Port of San Diego as does SANDAG as does the University of California at San Diego as does the San Diego County Water Authority. In fact, as mandated by the state, almost every political jurisdiction in the state has developed a CAP. The CAPs in general are long on bureaucracy and time frames and short on specific mandates and orders for compliance.
In a recent opinion column in the San Diego U-T, San Diego interim mayor Todd Gloria said in response to an earlier column by climate change naysayer Steven Greenhut:
If you accept that climate change is both real and caused by humans — and the scientific evidence for both of these propositions is overwhelming — then we need a game plan. Everyone should play a role, including local government. We have a fundamental responsibility to this planet and all the future generations who will inhabit it.
The city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan provides a road map to help our city meet its moral responsibilities in the decades ahead. Mr. Greenhut suggests the plan will saddle local businesses and residents with expensive regulations. This is misleading. In reality, the plan sets a wide variety of targets and goals. Some of these goals — such as making our streets more bike-friendly and encouraging people to make their homes more energy-efficient — will actually help San Diegans save money in the long run.
So let's get down to the nitty gritty about what the CAP calls for. Later we can decide if any of it will actually be accomplished or will it remain on the drawing board and be debated ad infinitum while lobbyists put the kibosh on the whole thing as being too expensive and too much of an inconvenience to implement. The CAP comprises both adaptation (how to deal with the results of climate change that can't be prevented) and mitigation (how to change business as usual in order to reduce GHGs and prevent the negative results of climate change).
According to the CAP, San Diego will transition from business-as-usual growth and development practices to a clean, low-carbon economy. According to landmark legislation at the state level, cities are mandated to substantially reduce GHG emissions. CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible. The key words here are "if feasible." Lobbyists will attempt to prove that feasibility, insofar as reducing GHGs is concerned, is dubious.
There are three target dates: 2020, 2035 and 2050. 2020 is sufficiently far away that politicians will have ample time to bloviate to excess while accomplishing very little. Based on the 2010 community-wide baseline inventory, the City of San Diego emits approximately 13.1 million metric tons of GHG emissions annually. In order to reach its goals, the City will have to reduce emissions to approximately 11.1 million metric tons by 2020 and down to approximately 7.6 million metric tons by 2035.
Changes in local policies, ordinances and building codes will be fought every step of the way by the building industry. For instance, Matt Adams of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of San Diego County maintains that "“It’s getting more and more expensive every day just to build houses...” Therefore, the implication is that the CAP requirement that all new residential and business construction be pre-wired for solar panels and pre-plumbed for solar water heaters is impractical.
According to the CAP:
The City will incur costs to implement many of the implementation mechanisms. These include initial start-up, ongoing administration, and enforcement costs. While some actions will only require funding from public entities, others will result in increased costs for businesses and residents. However, most of the implementation mechanisms provide substantial savings in the long term. The City will be diligent in seeking strategic funding opportunities and the use of partnerships to share the cost.
The CAP puts forth five strategies for reaching its goals:
1. ENERGY & WATER EFFICIENT BUILDINGS
2. CLEAN & RENEWABLE ENERGY
3. MULTIMODAL TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS
4. ZERO WASTE MANAGEMENT
5. URBAN FOREST & LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTION
The BIA has already declared number 1 to be impractical and adding too much to the price of residential housing and commercial buildings.
As far as transportation is concerned, there is no attempt to expand trolley lines or otherwise encourage public transportation. Platitudes about building new housing projects near transit hubs lack any enforcement mechanism or positive incentive for doing so. At the very least the trolley system should be expanded. While there's no money for that, there's plenty of money for building ever more freeways thus adding to the major source of GHGs (54%) in San Diego.
What is needed is a light rail system in the major freeway corridors such as I-5, I-15 and I-8 with incentives to increase ridership. Instead, freeway construction continues apace, and there is more than ever stop-and-go traffic and freeway bottlenecks which add to GHG emissions due to all the idling motors.
The CAP is long on bureaucratese and short on specific mandatable proposals. There is much ado about monitoring and building superfluous databases so we can track and measure the results of a bunch of lightweight proposals. There is nothing with any teeth in it that won't be lobbied to death with the result that none of these so-called goals will probably ever be met. It's so much pie in the sky, but the words emanating from politicans' mouths about climate change sound good as long as it isn't your ox that is being gored.
For instance, a plastic bag ordinance is supposed to go into effect in 2014, and there is already movement afoot to implement the removal of plastic bags from the City. But will the City Council finally vote for the ordinance which councilwoman Sherri Lightner has championed?
As part of a growing push to cut litter and conserve landfill space, San Diego could join some of California’s biggest cities in outlawing plastic checkout bags over the next year.
The proposed bag ban would eliminate disposable plastic bags from San Diego retail stores such as markets and pharmacies, encourage shoppers to bring reusable totes and require businesses to charge 10 cents for each paper bag.
“The objective is to wean ourselves from temporary bags,” said Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who shepherded the ordinance through the Rules and Economic Development Committee, which approved the draft rule last month.
The ban could eliminate 348 million single-use plastic bags from San Diego each year, the Equinox Center estimated in a report that coincided with the committee vote. It could save the city $160,000 per year in bag cleanup costs, preserve precious space at Miramar Landfill and keep plastics out of the ocean, the report concluded.
But the proposed rule has sparked opposition from some retailers who say its provisions would hurt mom-and-pop markets and their customers.
Mark Arabo, president and CEO of the San Diego-based Neighborhood Market Association, which represents small markets in California, Arizona and Nevada has already started a campaign against the banning of plastic bags claiming that the cost of purchasing a paper bag (10 cents) would hurt poor people. Of course poor people and others are free to bring their own reusable bags to market. Another irksome thing is that hardware stores such as Home Depot would be exempt from the plastic bag ban. That sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it, as Home Depot is one of the largest commercial operations and largest perpetrators of plastic bag proliferation in San Diego.
The CAP purports to encourage job creation in San Diego especially green job creation. However, there is no recommendation for feed-in tariffs or any other mechanism that would really spur green job creation. San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) will see to that. Feed-in tariffs would hurt their bottom line. So a bunch of lip servive will be given to job creation without any identifiable legislation or tax incentives that would incentivize it. The City's ideas about job creation are limited to the following: "Create a Sustainable Workforce Engagement Public Advisory Committee to evaluate and make recommendations on equitable green job creation." More committees and more evaluation! The net result: more wasted taxpayer money and more jobs for consultants such as the one that created the CAP in the first place and more talking points for politicians while in the meantime there is more inaction.
If the City and County were really serious about reducing GHGs, they would do something about transportation which is responsible for 54% of them according to the CAP. Here are some of the helpful things the report suggested:
1 Increase Commuter Mass Transit Ridership
2 Increase Commuter Biking
3 Increase Commuter Walking
4 Support SANDAG’s GHG Reduction Targets
5 Reserve Parking for Electric Vehicles
6 Reduce Vehicle Fuel Consumption
7 Increase Electric Vehicle Miles Driven
8 Increase Municipal Zero Emissions Vehicles
9 Convert Municipal Waste Collection Trucks to NS
The keys to all these proposals are the implementation mechanisms. While we will write more on this next time, here is an example:
"Adopt a Residential Water and Energy Conservation Ordinance by 2015 to require building energy consumption disclosure at time of sale or lease."
This proposed mechanism will, however, do absolutely nothing to reduce GHGs. It is mere window dressing, and there's too much stuff like this in the CAP. I get the uneasy feeling that the CAP is a feel good document meant to appease environmental concerns and cover politicians' asses. I wonder how many of the City Council have even read it. A good question for the mayoral candidates, Faulkner and Alvarez, is "HAVE YOU READ THE CAP AND DO YOU SUPPORT IT?"
When I lived downtown from 2000 to 2005, I was elected to the Center City Advisory Commission (CCAC), an advisory group to the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC). What I oberved was that it was common for the City to outsource a study to a consultant group in the way that the CAP was outsourced to Krout Associates, pay them $100,000. or whatever and then have a nice report on hand which nobody does anything about. I saw this happen with the "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness." Somebody was paid a lot of money for a worthless piece of paperwork which has accomplished absolutely nothing.
I herad interim mayor Todd Gloria mention the CAP recently on the KPBS local news and also defend it in print so I have some hope that he, at least, will fight for it. The rest of the city council has to too. It's up to the citizens of San Diego to pressure them to implement it as much or more than the lobbyists probably will to sideline it.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
In this fourth part of our series on Public Banking (check out Parts 1 - 3 here, here and here), we explore how a Public Bank could benefit the taxpayers and citizens of the City of San Diego. To recapitulate, the Public Bank of San Diego (BSD) would be owned by the City of San Diego and would provide functions similar to the Bank of North Dakota which is the nation's only public bank as of this date. All BSD deposits would be guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the City of San Diego. The primary deposit base would be the City of San Diego itself. All city revenues and funds such as the pension fund as well as funds of city institutions would be deposited with the BSD, as would be required by law. The BSD would also accept deposits from other sources including residents, local corporations and businesses and other San Diego County government entities.
One of the primary benefits would be student loans at affordable rates and without Draconian penalties. Since profits would not have to be maximized like they must be for Wall Street banks, creative and ethical systems could be devised for paying back the loans. For example, student loan paybacks could be made a portion of future earnings for a certain period of time with balances forgiven for certain professions like medicine or teaching providing that the recipient stayed within the City or County for a certain period of time. Because the BSD would not be a publicly traded corporation, there would not be the requirement to maximize profits as there is for Wall Street Banks who have to maximize profits in order not to be sued by their investors.
Therefore, the BSD would be involved in basic banking activities like taking in deposits and giving out loans with the profits coming from the spread between interest paid on deposits and interest gained from loans. There would be no derivatives, no interest rate swaps, no collateralized debt obligations, no mortgage backed securities, no casino gambling. It would not even be possible for speculation in the stock market since the BSD would not be a publicly traded company. Why not you might ask?
A publicly traded company is vulnerable to a takeover by a hedge fund or some other entity. Let the Co-op Bank in the UK be a cautionary tale. The Co-op bank, similar to a credit union, was owned by its customers. However, as a publicly traded company, to the extent that the public bought stock in it, it was not actually completely owned by its customers; it was also partially owned by the investors who bought stock in it. Ahh, there's the rub. The Co-op Bank was eventually taken over by US hedge funds Aurelius Capital Management and Silver Point Capital (established by Goldman Sachs alums), thereby losing any pretense to be customer owned. As an aside, Silver Point was also involved in the Hostess Bankruptcy as I reported in the article Junk Food Devoured by Junk Bonds with people fearing they would not be able to eat a Twinkie again. There was nothing to fear, however, because another hedge fund bought the right to the Twinkies name out of bankruptcy and now they're back on store shelves along with their sister products Ho-Hos, Zingers and Ding Dongs.
A credit union is another example of a cooperative bank. It is owned by its members and does not have to maximize profits. The benefits or profits go to the members and not to Wall Street executives or impersonal investors (mainly rich people). Credit unions differ from banks and other financial institutions in that those who have accounts in the credit union are its members and owners, and they elect their board of directors on a one-person-one-vote basis regardless of the amount invested. Credit unions see themselves as different from mainstream banks, with a mission to be "community-oriented" and "serve people", not profit. The difference between credit unions, cooperatives and public banks on the one hand and conventional banks including Wall Street banks on the other is that, for privately owned banks, profits go to the investors in that bank not to the members of a co-op or to the public. With a publicly owned Bank of San Diego, profits would go to the citizens of San Diego.
Another thing the BSD would do is to make loans to local businesses and government entities on favorable terms in order to encourage local economic development. Similar to the BND which gives loans to local medical and health care facilities for expansion, the BSD would first and foremost make loans that would provide for the maintenance and expansion of local infrastructure although it would consider loans to non-local entities that were on particularly good terms and would lead to favorable returns for local taxpayers and citizens as well.
The BSD's profits could go to funding the pension fund for local government employees in such a way that the pension fund would not be always in the position of asking taxpayers for more money. Pension funds have increasingly been gambling with their assets in the Wall Street casino and losing requiring even more taxpayer funding than otherwise would have been necessary. This has come about because money that should have been allocated to the pension fund was diverted to pay for popular San Diego city initiatives, such as the Petco Park ballpark, the (previous) convention center expansion, and for the cost of hosting the 1996 Republican national convention. With a public BSD there would be no need to enter the Wall Street casino capitalism arena in order to make up for losses from the diversion of taxpayer money to politically popular expenditures such as a new stadium for the Chargers. Let the money spent on Petco Park (and denied the pension fund) be a cautionary tale.
The publicly owned BSD would not gamble in derivatives making it essentially a very conservative public institution. As Ellen Brown says in Public Bank Solution: "North Dakota does not keep its revenues in Wall Street banks but deposits them in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota by law. It has a mandate to serve the public. It does not gamble in derivatives. The bank of North Dakota was the only US bank to completely escape the 2008 banking crisis."
Ellen Brown continues:
State and local governments can, however, share in the perks enjoyed by Wall Street. They can do it by setting up their own banks. North Dakota, the only state that actually does this, is also the only state to be in continuous budget surplus every year since the banking crisis of 2008. The Bank of North Dakota was formed in 1919 to free farmers and small businessmen from the clutches of out-of-state bankers and railroad men. Its stated mission is to deliver sound financial services that promote commerce, agriculture and industry in North Dakota. Today it is a major source of profit for the state, generating a whopping 25% return on equity even in 2008, when revenues in other states were plummeting. North Dakota has the lowest foreclosure rate in the country, the lowest credit card default rate, and the lowest unemployment rate. It has no debt at all and it has had no bank failures at least in the last decade.
Finally, A BSD could pay a decent rate on savings accounts which would support senior citizens who are now subjected to zero percent interest on their savings and might just as well put their life savings under their mattresses. Credit cards could be provided at less than the present usurious rates charged by Wall Street banks. A public BSD could take over foreclosed homes and rent them back to prior owners until they could regain their financial footings and buy them back again. These are only a few of the things an ethical Bank of San Diego could do.
So why are we waiting? An ethical bank that profits the entire community vs a Wall Street bank that profits only its investors and executives. It's a no brainer.
by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Saturday, September 28, 2013 will go down in San Diego history as the day the much awaited central library opened in San Diego. The opening ceremonies started at 11 AM and lasted for about an hour. All sorts of dignitaries were seated on the platform, and many of them spoke. The event was presided over by Mayor pro tem Todd Gloria. The gay men's chorus warmed up the crowd as if they needed any warming on this beautiful sunny San Diego day. The navy band did their John Philip Sousa thing and the children's choir sang the national anthem.
It was announced that the new library was totally paid for after the funding came down to the wire. A few months ago they were $20 million short. Joan and Irwin Jacobs, having given $20 million previously to get the ball rolling, came up with another $10 million in the form of a challenge grant. In other words they challenged their rich friends to come up with the remaining $10 million. That they almost did until a day or so before the opening festivities when they realized they were still $1.2 million short. Finally, at the last minute, Darlene Shiley donated the last $1.2 million. She received a nice ovation from the crowd as did Dr. Irwin Jacobs. All in all 40% of the costs were donated from over 3000 private individuals, certainly a record for a public project of this kind. This historic level of private support means the library was built with no new taxes, bonds or even one cent of San Diego’s General Fund money.
Turner Construction Project Manager Carmen Vann, the woman overseeing construction of the new library, spoke of the remarkable safety record for this project. There was not one accident that caused a time delay, and all 1100 workers returned intact and safely to their families. Carmen is the only female construction project executive in San Diego County. Architect Rob Quigley spoke as well. It was mentioned that an award had been received just the day before for the structural engineering of the dome which was certainly a feat in and of itself.
At nearly 500,000 square feet and nine stories, the library includes a 350 seat auditorium, a three story domed reading room, a 9100 square foot children's room, a teen center, a technology center and a multi-purpose room. It also features an outdoor garden courtyard, a cafe and 250 parking spaces on two levels. A charter high school will occupy 76,000 square feet on the sixth and seventh floors of the building.
The last speaker was Dr. Irwin Jacobs without whose donations this new library, a project 30 years in the making, would not have been possible. He explained that his wife Joan could not attend the event due to the fact that she had had recent back surgery and was not feeling up to snuff. He explained the naming of the new library as "The San Diego Public Library" with a subtitle of sorts: @ the Joan (upside down "V") Irwin Jacobs Common. The @ everybody who has email is familiar with by now, but the upside down "V" probably makes sense to no one but a few math majors. In logic the upside down "V" means "and," while the right side up "V" means "or". This use of symbols is probably too clever by half. If you get it wrong and since nobody has an upside down "V" on their keyboard, it could be taken to mean "at the Joan or Irwin Jacobs Common." Well, comedians will have fun with this one. Jacobs explained that he was from Boston and the use of the word "Common" was akin to the Boston Common, a meeting place for the people. He hoped that this new central library would be a meeting place for the people of San Diego.
A word about Joan and Irwin Jacobs. They are San Diego's foremost benefactors having saved or contributed to many local institutions and enterprises. For instance, they are responsible for saving the San Diego symphony with a $100 million donation. Note that even though he made most of the money as the founder of Qualcomm, San Diego's largest employer, his wife's name always goes first on all the naming rights, a gentlemanly gesture to be sure. Dr. Jacobs has gotten some bad press lately due to the Plaza de Panama project which would have removed vehicular traffic from Balboa Park and converted thousands of acres of asphalt to parkland. San Diego mayoral candidate and preservationist Bruce Coons was his chief antagonist. Full disclosure: Jacobs was my graduate advisor over 40 years ago at UCSD where he started out in San Diego as a professor, and I remain a fan of his, something I may not share with some of my San Diego Free Press colleagues.
While I don't agree with Jacobs on everything, I have a lot of admiration for someone that has created employment for many San Diegans, started a Fortune 400 company, and given back to the citizens of San Diego as a prolific philanthropist. The guy is brilliant, a hard worker and very sociable. He doesn't take himself too seriously and has retained his sense of humor. While I don't envy him for his money, I am somewhat envious of the ball he's having giving much of it away. Nobody seemed to enjoy the goings on at the opening festivities for the new San Diego Central Library more than Dr. Irwin Jacobs. We wish his wife Joan a speedy recovery.
The sun sets on San Onofre. (Photo: dolanh/cc/flickr)
From his California beach house at San Clemente, Richard Nixon once watched three reactors rise at nearby San Onofre. As of June 7, 2013, all three are permanently shut.
It’s a monumental victory for grassroots activism. it marks an epic transition in how we get our energy.
In the thick of the 1970s Arab oil embargo, Nixon said there’d be 1000 such reactors in the US by the year 2000.
As of today, there are 100.
Four have shut here this year. Citizen activism has put the “nuclear renaissance” into full retreat.
Just two of 54 reactors now operate in Japan, where Fukushima has joined Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in permanently scarring us all.
Germany is shutting its entire fleet and switching to renewables. France, once the poster child for the global reactor industry, is following suit. South Korea has just shut three due to fraudulent safety procedures. Massive demonstrations rage against reactors being built in India. Only the Koreans, Chinese and Russians remain at all serious about pushing ahead with this tragic technology.
Cheap gas has undercut the short-term market for expensive electricity generated by obsolete coal and nuke burners. But the vision of Solartopia—a totally green-powered Earth—is now our tangible long-term reality.
With falling prices and soaring efficiency, every moving electron our species consumes will be generated by a solar panel, wind turbine, bio-fueled or geothermal generator, wave machine and their green siblings.
As of early this year, Southern California Edison's path to a re-start at San Onofre seemed as clear as any to be expected by a traditional atomic tyrannosaur.
But with help from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator-to-be Ed Markey (D-MA), a powerful citizen uprising stopped it dead.
So did the terrifying incompetence and greed that has defined the nuclear industry from the days of Nixon and before.
San Onofre Unit One shut in the 1990s due largely to steam generator problems.
In the early 2000s, Units 2 & 3 needed new steam generators of their own. In the usual grasp for more profits, Edison chose untested, unlicensed new designs.
But they failed. And the whole world was watching. In the wake of Fukushima, two more leaky tsunami-zone reactors surrounded by earthquake faults were massively unwelcome.
So a well-organized non-violent core of local, state and national activists and organizations rose up to stop the madness.
At Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, Seabrook, Davis-Besse and dozens of other reactors around the US and world, parallel opposition is escalating.
Make no mistake—this double victory at San Onofre is a falling domino. Had the public not fought back, those reactors would have been “fixed” at public expense.
Today, they are dead.
Worldwide, there are some 400 to go. Each of them—including the 100 remaining in the US—could do apocalyptic damage. We still have our work cut out for us.
But a huge double-step has been taken up the road to Solartopia.
There will be no Fukushimas at San Onofre.
A green-powered Earth is that much closer.
And we have yet another proof that citizen action makes all the difference in our world.
So seize the day and celebrate!!!
The new Northgate Gonzalez supermarket opened on December 12, 2012 bringing fresh foods and groceries to an area long neglected by mainline supermarket chains - Barrio Logan. It is located at the corner of Cesar Chavez Parkway and Main Street. Prior to opening, this ethnic Latino neighborhood had the usual complement of fast food restaurants offered to poor ethnic neighborhoods such as McDonald's and Church's and Popeye's fried chicken chains. In a food desert there is little in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables, but thanks to the Mercado Redevelopment Project, Barrio Logan has been considerably spruced up and is a food desert no more! In 2010 The San Diego City Council approved plans to transform two city blocks of vacant land in Barrio Logan into the Mercado Project which also featured 92 affordable housing units.
Carlos Castañeda, who grew up in Barrio Logan, said it was about time the neighborhood had a source of fresh produce and reasonably-priced groceries.
“The city just totally neglected us for decades, Castañeda said.
"So the fact that we’re sitting in an area that had junkyards, had toxic waste sites, believe it or not, and now we’re sitting in a beautiful market that’s going to serve the very community that it’s surrounding, it is a very big deal.”
The San Diego City Council and Mayor Bob Filner proclaimed December 11, 2012 Northgate Gonzalez Mercado Day.
The Northgate Gonzalez supermarket chain was started by Miguel Gonzalez who migrated to the US with his late father, - also named Miguel - from Jalisco, Mexico in the late 60s. They both worked factory jobs until they were able to open their first supermarket in a Latino neighborhood in Anaheim in 1980. Miguel Jr sold his house and his father refinanced his to come up with the money to finance the first Northgate Gonzalez supermarket. Initially, they knew nothing about the supermarket business. After they managed to open, they had $240. left to actually run the business so they employed only family members at first. Luckily, they came from a large family. Miguel has 12 brothers and sisters.
Miguel Sr made the hot carnitas and chicharrones which went down well with their mainly Latino customer base. A couple of brothers ran the meat counter while the sisters worked the cash registers. Today the stores have bulk food sections like you find in health food stores. They have a large variety of ethnic Mexican foods like carnitas, ceviches, salsas and aguas frescas. Cumbia plays over the speaker system and television screens in the meat department show soccer games and Mexican talk shows.
Today the supermarket chain employs over 5000 people at 37 stores, most of them Latino, and including dozens of family members. The stores are located all over southern California from Anaheim to Los Angeles to Santa Ana to Long Beach. There are 3 stores in San Diego and 4 more in San Diego County including stores in Vista, Fallbrook, Chula Vista and Escondidio.
They have even branched out to financial services at Barrio Logan. Northgate Financial, now Prospera Gonzalez, will provide a complete suite of financial products to Northgate customers to satisfy their current and future financial needs and will guarantee the quality and delivery of these services with respect and an honest price. Payroll checks are cashed for free unlike the check cashing services normally found in the ghetto which charge exhorbitant rates.
While ethnic supermarket chains are growing, traditional supermarket chains are declining. For instance, in El Cajon recently a huge Ralphs on 2nd Street closed just as two Iraqui owned supermarkets located nearby opened. The so-called ethnic supermarket industry has seen its revenues grow around 2 percent annually during the past five years, while the supermarket industry as a whole has been losing money. There is a large Vietnamese supermarket, Thuan Phat, in Linda Vista and a Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa, in Kearney Mesa. The signs at Thuan Phat are in Vietnamese and Spanish.
Even Michelle Obama in her perennnial attempts at promoting healthy foods spoke at a Northgate Gonzalez supermarket in Los Angeles last year. She was there in behalf of The California Endowment which sponsors the California FreshWorks Fund. Northgate Gonzalez was the first recipient of loans totaling $20 million from the FreshWorks Fund. Now they will be able to open more stores.
“We just think they're a phenomenal operator,” said Tina Castro, director of investing for The California Endowment. “Their stores are beautiful, they offer a tremendous selection of produce and they really care about their consumers and engage with the communities that they're based in,” Castro said.
"Northgate Gonzalez’s efforts to improve their customers' health include in-store cooking demonstrations and a line of foods identified for shoppers as healthy choices.
"Back in Barrio Logan, customers say they love the beautiful produce, huge selection of meats, prepared Mexican dishes and tortillas made in-store from scratch.
"A reviewer on Yelp called Northgate Gonzalez, 'Whole Foods Market for the working class Latinos.'
"One shopper said what he loves most is when he hits his local Northgate Gonzalez market on the weekend, it’s like being in Mexico."
In April of 2000, Miguel Jr and his brothers and sisters created the González Reynoso Family Foundation to give back to the community.
Their website states:
"Our foundation is proud to continue our support of our community and our heritage by focusing our efforts to help those in need."
In 2011, they donated more than $100,000 to local schools and neighborhood sports teams. In addition, they also serve neighboring communities by maintaining sports facilities and by donating to families in need during the holiday season. They also support various orphanages and convalescent homes in Mexico.
Barrio Logan is the latest recipient and beneficiary of the González Reynoso Family's success. Latinos as well as all San Diegans can celebrate the fact that these good people have brought not only fresh meats, fruits and vegetables to Barrio Logan, but have done it as a family owned business not a corporate owned entity beholden to Wall Street.
We have written before regarding how electric utility companies try to get ratepayers rather than stockholders to pay for repairs to their equipment. In particular, we wrote previously how SDG&E appealed to the California Public Utility Commissioon (CPUC) for a rate increase after the disastrous Witch Creek fire:
"It’s standard operating procedure for San Diego based SEMPRA Energy, parent corporation of San Diego Gas and Electric, to delay costly maintenance and then, when there is a breakdown in the system such as the 2007 Witch Creek Fire which burned 198,000 acres, killed two people, injured 40 firefighters and destroyed more than 1,100 homes, to go to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and get a ruling that would allow them to charge the ratepayers for costs associated with that disaster."
Now Southern California Edison (SCE) and SDG&E, majority and minority owners, respectively, are using the same playbook with regard to the repairs undertaken at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Almost exactly a year ago the plant was shut down because of a radiation leak. Now after extensive repairs SCE and SDG&E want to reopen one of SONG's reactors at 70% of full strength, and they want the ratepayers to pay for testing and repairs that took place in 2012 even though no power whatsoever was put on the grid in 2012. But this is nothing new. This is standard operating procedure for electric utilities all over the country. Case in point: Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) after the Superstorm Sandy debacle.
The steam generators at SONGS were replaced in 2010 at a cost approaching a billion dollars for which the ratepayers have been paying. Those steam generators were supposed to last 20 years. Instead they lasted just two as a radiation leak was discovered in January 2012. SONGS did not generate power for the whole year of 2012, but ratepayers are still paying as if it did. The question is should ratepayers get a refund for paying for power they did not receive. In addition what about the billion dollars that was paid by ratepayers to replace the steam generators in 2010 which only lasted two years. Should ratepayers get reimbursed for that? Also should ratepayers pay another billion dollars to fix SONGS again or should it be relegated to the dustbin of history?
John Geesman, former member of the California Energy Commission and now an attorney with the watchdog group Alliance for the Nuclear Responsibility says that, until the Commission decides otherwise, ratepayers will still be on the hook for San Onofre – about $10 a month per household. “The real key from my perspective is whether the senior management at Edison, once they realize they’re playing with shareholder dollars rather than just something they pass through to ratepayers, will make faster decisions on San Onofre,” Geesman said. The question is whether San Onofre is cost effective at all at this stage or whether ratepayers should be footing the bill for a nuclear generating plant that is not even operating at full capacity.
But even cost considerations take second place to the issue of whether SONGS is safe at all and should even be operating so close to so many households in an earthquake prone area. Remember Fukushima? Many local citizens like San Clemente Green chairman Gary Headrick are adamant that San Onofre should not be reopened. Reopening the plant could endanger 8 million people living nearby in Carlsbad, San Clemente and even San Diego. Critics also say that San Onofre is not needed since we got through the summer of 2012, one of the hottest ever, without a power outage. At a meeting held to air local concerns, a local resident said, "We demand a full, transparent adjudicatory hearing and license amendment process, including an evidentiary hearing and sworn testimony and cross-examination. We cannot be [an] experiment waiting for more radiation leaks." Such a hearing would allow outside experts to testify.
It seems that SCE and SDG&E knew for some time that there were problems at San Onofre, but did little about them. Repair work that should have been undertaken to address vibration that led tubes to rub against each other and against support structures inside the generators was never undertaken. And this is typical for electric utilities that go by the philosophy that repair work is costly and detracts from the bottom line. Wall Street will not approve. That's why many utility companies are laying off workers whose job it is to replace aging equipment. In fact in August 2012 SCE announced plans to lay off more than 700 workers. Their attitude is 'let it break down; then we'll ask the PUC for a rate increase to make repairs.' This way it comes out of the ratepayers' hide and not the shareholders'. This maximizes stock prices and consequently CEO pay. Only this time we're not just talking about utility poles that should have been replaced snapping and cutting power lines; we're talking about nuclear radiation that could make the homes of 8 million people uninhabitable at the very least.
In “The Fine Print,” David Cay Johnston writes:
“The problem … with poorly maintained equipment is widespread. America is using up its infrastructure instead of rebuilding it. We grow slowly poorer as roads crumble, dams weaken on their way to deadly collapses, and the electric utilities siphon off funds customers pay for reliable power.
“One indicator of this? From 1983 to 2010, the number of Americans rose 36 percent, but the number of utility workers fell 15 percent. As the electric grid and the pipes carrying water and natural gas under high pressure age, more workers are needed for maintenance, repair and replacement, not fewer.”
As of January 31, 2013, California's Attorney General, Kamela Harris is getting involved as to whether ratepayers should pay the billions in repairs both in 2010 and 2012. She is joining the CPUC investigation that could either cost or save ratepayers a lot of money. Should the public get reimbursed for the large expenditures which seemingly have done little good? SCE wants the CPUC to wait until 2015 to make a decision. Why does SCE want the PUC to wait? Obviously, so they have even more chances to lobby the CPUC to make ratepayers not shareholders pay the costs of their blunders and so they can plan more travel junkets to Hawaii. Of course ratepayers would like to have their bills lowered now and to be reimbursed for energy they paid for but did not get.
It is well known that SCE has lobbied the CPUC for years. In fact they have paid for travel junkets for CPUC commissioners. I wrote previously that "... politicians who support the utility corporations’ agenda get their share of free travel as well. Each year more than a dozen California state lawmakers enjoy a free trip to Hawaii. In 2011 they checked into the luxurious Fairmont Kea Lani hotel in Maui. California law prohibits state lawmakers from taking more than $400 a year in gifts. But as ever there’s a loophole. The $13,000. trip to Maui for lawmakers was paid for by a nonprofit corporation, the Independent Voter Project (huh?), which is a front group for [PG&E and Southern California Edison.]"
The San Onofre nuclear power plant has been offline for a year, due to faulty steam generators, but ratepayers are still paying more than $50 million a month for the non existent power. The CPUC is considering whether ratepayers should be reimbursed and whether they should be reimbursed for the billion dollars in repairs they did a couple years ago or only for recent repairs. SCE has lobbied this one to death and it looks like the CPUC will only favor ratepayer reimbursement on a more limited basis.
Don Kelly of the Utility Consumers Action Network (UCAN) said in an interview on KPBS, "We need to decide whether we should spend another billion dollars repairing a plant that was repaired a couple of years ago for a billion dollars." And don't forget the billion dollars that was spent running the plant in 2012 that produced no electricity!
But the question should be asked: why doesn't Carlsbad, San Clemente and San Diego form a municipal utility district instead of relying on corporate owned utilities to generate their power? Why is the head of Southern California Edison paid more than $3.5 million a year while the general managers of the municipally owned LA Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District each earn around $350,000. These municipally owned utilities have for years provided reliable power at lower costs then corporate owned utilities.
The CPUC is currently investigating whether ratepayers should be on the hook for those costs and if they should get a retroactive refund for the time the plant has been offline. The CPUC has scheduled two hearings on Feb. 21 in Costa Mesa to get public comment about ratepayer issues.
The Washington Post reported on December 27, 2012 that Victory Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in San Diego, was forced to pay $11.4 million to resolve Federal civil and criminal liabilities related to kickbacks to doctors in return for prescribing their drugs. Victory is a privately held company, founded in 2003, and is focused on acquiring, developing and marketing products to treat pain and related conditions. As it turns out, part of the marketing strategy was to offer kickbacks to doctors in return for prescribing its products.
The kickbacks included tickets to professional and collegiate sporting events, tickets to concerts and plays, spa outings, golf and ski outings, dinners at expensive restaurants, giving a doctor money to help make a house payment, paying for a doctor’s staff’s outing to a strip club including “lap dances” for the female staff and offering a doctor and his staff an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas. A former sales representative for Victory, Chad Miller, blew the whistle on them and received $1.7 million for his efforts as a whistleblower.
Chad Miller was represented by Boston attorney, Joseph M. Makalusky, who said the following:
“By bribing physicians with cash, concert tickets, tickets to sporting events, dinners and other inducements, Victory Pharma compromised what is supposed to be the physician’s independent and sound medical judgment when they prescribe drugs to their patients. The practice of providing these kickbacks, which puts a patient’s health secondary to profits, is a clear violation of the False Claims Act. I am proud that my client had the courage to step forward and put an end to this fraud, and I hope that this case and others like it [embolden] would-be whistleblowers to do the same.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery, in the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said kickback schemes “undermine the integrity of medical decisions, subvert the health marketplace and waste taxpayer dollars.”
“We will continue to hold accountable those who refuse to play by the rules and provide illegal incentives to influence the decision making of health care providers,” Mr. Delery said.
Victory Pharmaceuticals is or was located at 11682 El Camino Real, Suite 250, San Diego, CA 92130. The CEO is Matthew Heck; Executive Chairman, Jim W Newman; Senior Vice President of Trade Relations, Doug Baratta; Chief Compliance Officer and Vice President, Michael Hercz; Chief Accounting Officer, Dan Stokely.
Its products include NAPRELAN tablets for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, tendinitis, bursitis, and acute gout, as well as for the relief of mild to moderate pain and treatment of primary dysmenorrheal and XODOL for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain.
The Justice Department has made fraud and abuse a key area of focus under the Obama administration, collecting more than $4.9 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. The Victory Pharma agreement comes on the heels of two high-dollar settlements. Last week, biotech giant Amgen agreed to pay $762 million over its marketing of the anemia drug Aranesp, and drugmaker Sanofi US agreed to pay $109 million to resolve anti-kickback allegations relating to its marketing practices.
Victory Pharma is no longer in business after selling its nine marketed products in July 2011 to Shionogi Inc based in Osaka, Japan. Shionogi Inc paid over $118 million for the products. After paying a $11.4 million fine, Victory Pharma's principals have a nice pile of cash left over. They can laugh all the way to the bank or all the way to Las Vegas. Maybe a few doctors are laughing too.
And there is no guarantee that once these corporations have received said financial incentives that they will ever provide the jobs or that they won't pull up stakes after a short period in order to take advantage of even better incentives elsewhere. According to a New York Times investigation, states, counties and cities in the US are giving up more than $80 billion per year in order to get corporations to build plants or even offices in their areas. The beneficiaries encompass oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains - even dental offices, architect firms and wineries!
There are mayors and governors who are desperate to create jobs and who don't have the expertise to negotiate with corporations or even fact check what they are telling them. Corporations demanding subsidies threatened to move jobs overseas if they did not get subsidies in the United States. The state of Texas awards more incentives, over $19 billion a year, than any other state. As a consequence, Texas has the most underfunded school system in the whole country. Recently there was a border war between Kansas and Missouri. Last year Kansas recruited AMC Entertainment away from Missouri. This required a move of only a few miles from one side of the border to the other. In return Missouri lured Applebee's headquarters across the border from Kansas. The workers just had a littler farther to commute, that's all.
Cabela's sporting goods chain put the Mom and Pop sporting goods store, Weaknecht's, out of business in Hamburg, Pennsylvania based on tax giveaways. They had the local politicians in surrounding counties in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey competing with each other to see who was willing to pay the most in tribute to the sporting goods chain. They wanted at least $32 million. At this rate subsidies would cover more than half the cost of construction. Cabela's wanted an exemption from paying property taxes. But that wasn't all. They also wanted to pocket all the sales tax. According to David Cay Johnston in the book, Free Lunch:
"The tribute Cabela's demanded from Hamburg amounted to roughly $8000 for each man, woman and child in town. Hamburg was not a unique example, but part of a strategy to build Cabela's stores across the country. Multiply the tribute in Hamburg by as many struggling little towns off the interstates as Cabela's has plans for retail stores and the figures balloon. Cabela's plans to build stores until, like Holiday Inns, it is everywhere. Imagine how many of those towns are run by burghers who could be persuaded to opt for hope and forget about reason. To become the dominant outdoor retailer Cabela's would need only to find a few dozen or, if it could, a few hundred towns whose political leaders were willing to pay tribute. By doing so it could cut the risks of expansion and gain an advantage over business owners like Jim Weaknecht who offered better service and lower prices. Mining local and state governments for tribute could even turn into a business more lucrative for Cabela's than actually selling sporting goods."
President Bush and Dick Cheney campaigned at Cabela's in 2004 and Dick Cheney let on that it was his favorite place to shop. Presumably, it's where he bought the gun that shot his hunting companion in the face. Dick and Mary Cabela gave $11,000. to the Bush campaign.
Since he closed his store, Jim Weaknecht has worked as an assistant manager at a grocery store chain. He holds down a second job to in order to make ends meet, and sent his wife out to work for the first time instead of caring for the children. Cabela's offered him a job for $13.50 an hour.
In California Twitter cashed in on $22 million in payroll taxes after it threatened to leave San Francisco last year. It really didn't need the money. A Saudi prince invested $300. million and a private consortium, another $800. million. But Twitter was able to report to shareholders that it had made them as much short term money as it possibly could have. While the two investors got Twitter equity, the city of San Francisco got a hollow promise that Twitter would stay put. Of course there would be no consequences if it didn't. The
Like many places, San Francisco has been cutting its budget. Public parks have lost about $12 million in recent years, though workers at Twitter will not lack for greenery. The company’s plush new office has a rooftop garden with great views and amenities. Enjoying the perks, one employee sent out a tweet: “Tanned on Twitter’s new roof deck this morning as some dude served me smoothie shots. This is real life?”
Rick Perry likes to brag about all the jobs he's creating in Texas even though the state has the third highest proportion of hourly jobs paying at or below minimum wage and the 11th highest poverty rate among states.
During a visit to San Diego, he bragged to local officials that about a third of the companies moving to Texas were from California according to Ruben Barrales, the chief executive of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Barrales said that Rick Perry visited San Diego quite often and let companies know that if they chose to relocate, Texas would greet them with open arms. When he was asked if he had qualms about taking jobs from other states, Rick Perry said, “Competition is what drives this country.”
California spends at least $4.17 billion per year on incentive programs, according to the most recent data available. That is roughly:
Twitter and Tesla Motors got a combined $42 million in corporate income tax credits, rebates or reductions from the state. Northrop Grumman got $9.8 million in 13 free services from the state. Hyatt Corporation got $3.07 million for 2 free services statewide. Raytheon got $2.74 million for 6 free services. The National Alliance of Business has received $1.08 million for two free services. Dunn-Edwards Corporation received $809,030 for 4 free services. Exxon Mobil received $596,596 for 1 free service.
The following is a not even an exhaustive list of subsidies to corporations in San Diego County:
Foundation College, LLC has received two grants worth $2.95 million for free services. Aetna, Inc has received $2.82 for 4 free services. Foundation Foods LLC has received $2.35 million for 3 free services. Comprehensive Training Systems has received $1.17 million for 4 free services. Prime Healthcare Services received $749,658 for 2 free services. BAE Systems received $688,563 for 5 free services. General Dynamics received $583,364 for 1 free service. Rohr, Inc received $459,432 for 2 free services. Invitrogen Corporation received $387,810 for 1 free service. Coxcom, Inc received $343,477. for 1 free service. Calloway Golf received $338,016 for 2 free services.
The following have received subsidies for various amounts of free services:
San Diego Paradise Point Resort - $331,760. MSS Technologie Inc - $304,709. Pharmingen - $301,252. San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council - $278,700. Remek Defense and Space Inc - $192,190. Southwest Marine Inc - $190,320. Geico - $149,682. Ericsson Wireless Communications - $90,320. Elgar Corporation - $171,984. Unisys Corporation - $163,475. Technology Integration Group - $143,691. Viasat Inc - $141,911.
Avail Medical Products Inc - $133,816. Cubic Defense Applications Inc - $114,525. Harbor Packaging - $110,235. Gemini Plastics Inc - $89,896. Sempra Energy - $89,136. Booz Allen Hamilton - $81,844. Spa Builders Support Group Inc - $81,150. Eaton Leonard Inc - $77,586. General Atomics - $76,963. San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau - $76,640. Stillman Seal Corporation - $66,560. Hughes Network Systems - $64,350. Z Microsystems Inc - $63,084. CSA Travel Protection - $60,343.
Peregrine Semiconductor Corporation - $59,241. Taylor Guitars - $54,860. Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce - $52,783. Sumitomo Metal Mining USA Inc - $50,684. Nextbio Inc - $49,140. Diversa Corporation - $48,685. Sony Electronics Inc - $44,213. Taylormade Golf Company Inc - $42,666. Standard Pacific Homes - $41,613. Natural Alternatives International Inc - $40,866. Nu Visions Manufacturing Inc - $36,791. National University - $32,654. Kyocera America Inc - $30,706.
Finally, Energy Innovations got $3.5 million in cash grants, loans or loan guarantees from the city of Poway and then went out of business costing 70 employees their jobs.
And it goes on and on for 90 pages! There are dental groups, sheet metal fabricators, platers, architects, cab companies, office products companies, engineering companies, bamboo companies, filter companies etc. You name it! If you're a corporation and you're not getting a piece of the government pie, you're a total LOSER.
One notable exception to this list - Qualcomm, San Diego's largest employer and a Fortune 400 company. I guess they figure they're profitable enough to pay their own way, but that hasn't stopped the likes of Exxon Mobil or Chevron from seeking and accepting taxpayer subsidies. My hat's off to Qualcomm for not picking the public's pocket.
Whew!!! When you add all this up, pretty soon you're talking about real money! Money that could have been spent on schools, parks and public services - and this is only a partial list! I challenge a commenter to add it all up and come up wth a total for San Diego County. I don't have the time or patience to do it.
This represents corporate welfare or another term for it is corporate socialism. So much for the free market. Do you think that this amount of money could have been spent on schools, parks, police, firemen and filling potholes instead? Why the San Diego Free Press would be happy to receive $50,000 in free services. Do you think that's possible? Don't bet on it.
The only solution to this mess is a national economic policy that would prevent this race to the bottom and ridiculous competition among states and local governments. The US should have an industrial policy that would promote trade and restrict competition for plant location. Obama has mentioned a cabinet level position of Secretary of Business. That might be a good start.
It's standard operating procedure for San Diego based SEMPRA Energy, parent corporation of San Diego Gas and Electric, to delay costly maintenance and then, when there is a breakdown in the system such as the 2007 Witch Creek Fire which burned 198,000 acres, killed two people, injured 40 firefighters and destroyed more than 1,100 homes, to go to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and get a ruling that would allow them to charge the ratepayers for costs associated with that disaster. This is standard business procedure for SEMPRA which has the CPUC in the palm of its hands. They have played this game time and again.
The problem is aging infrastructure, infrastructure that SEMPRA has a responsibility to maintain and upgrade. But upgrading infrastructure and maintaining its power and gas lines is expensive and subtracts from its bottom line profit margins. So SEMPRA's strategy is very simple. Don't spend the money on maintenance and then, when a disaster happens, go to the CPUC whose members it has wined and dined, and ask for a rate increase so that the ratepayers, not SEMPRA, pays for the costs associated with the disaster such as paying off homeowners whose homes have been burned down in the fire. Hey, it's cheaper than doing routine maintenance.
SEMPRA's problems in the Witch Creek fire arose because its insurance policy was not sufficient to cover all the costs of the fire. Total costs of the fire are in the $2 billion range with insurance only covering $1.1 billion. A state inquiry found that SDG&E lines ignited the 2007 firestorms because the company did not properly design, build and maintain its equipment. So naturally instead of SEMPRA hitting up its stockholders for the difference, it expects its ratepayers, many of whom were actual victims of the fire, to pay the bill. It has filed with the CPUC for approval for a rate increase on the grounds that it is needed to pay for the fire that SDG&E itself caused due to lack of maintenance and negligence. An attorney for UCAN (Utility Consumers' Action Network) said it works out to about $356 more a year for an average utility customer. How could the California PUC make it possible for SEMPRA to charge its ratepayers for its own negligence which caused a large swath of death and destruction in San Diego County in 2007?
Simple. The CPUC is in the pocket of not only SEMPRA but the other big California utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric based in San Francisco. For example, commissioners have twice approved rate increases in the tens of millions of dollars for SDG&E customers to cover the company’s higher wildfire liability insurance costs. CPUC members and staffers have had paid vacations courtesy of SEMPRA, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. After Mike Peevey ended his term as President of the CPUC, he helped to create the California Public Utilities Commisssion Foundation which held a fund-raising dinner where tables sold for $20,000. each. Among the buyers were San Diego Gas & Electric, child of parent SEMPRA. Up until 2000, the CPUC was regarded as the best utility regulatory body in the nation, but under Peevey it became the utility corporations' best friend. Par for the course for the Bush years.
And politicians who support the utility corporations' agenda get their share of free travel as well. Each year more than a dozen California state lawmakers enjoy a free trip to Hawaii. In 2011 they checked into the luxurious Fairmont Kea Lani hotal in Maui. California law prohibits state lawmakers from taking more than $400 a year in gifts. But as ever there's a loophole. The $13,000. trip to Maui per lawmaker was paid for by this loophole which in this case is a nonprofit corporation, the Independent Voter Project (huh?), which was a front group for the utility companies. San Diego politicians are among other recipients of SEMPRA's largesse. Bob Filner is the only mayoral candidate who has not received money from SDG&E, its parent company SEMPRA, or their employees. Nathan Fletcher, Bonnie Dumanis and Carl DeMaio have all taken SDG&E or SEMPRA money, but claim that it hasn't affected their judgment or proclivities. Yeah, sure.
But free trips for regulators and cozying up to lawmakers is not the only way utility corporations screw the public. There's another way. While your payroll and income taxes are taken out of your paycheck before you get paid, Congress lets corporations earn money today and defer taxes till years later. For example, Pacific Gas & Electric, a company responsible for the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion which killed 8 people and destroyed 38 homes, had about $450 million of deferred taxes in its ADIT (Accumulated Deferred Income Tax account) in 2011 when it filed with the CPUC for a rate hike. The filing explained how long it holds on to this money before actually paying the government. In some cases it was 37 years. Meanwhile, inflation has reduced the value of the money it owes and investment has increased it. From 1954 to 2006, corporate-owned electric utilities got tax benefits worth $450 billion. So while you pay your taxes upfront, utilities can delay paying them for up to 37 years.
It's important to realize that not only does SEMPRA want San Diego ratepayers to pay for the 2007 Witch Creek fires; they also want the CPUC to rule that ratepayers should pay for all future fires. “The people of San Diego County will rise up if they find out they’re going to be charged for past fires, future fires, negligent behavior or not," said Diane Conklin, of the citizens watchdog group Mussey Grade Road Alliance. "They will be furious.”
It's not like SEMPRA thinks it has the CPUC in their hip pocket or anything. Profits are maximized by deferring maintenance, waiting for disasters to happen and then gouging ratepayers and taxpayers, average citizens, to pay for it. David Cay Johnston in his newly published book, The Fine Print ,says:
No other modern country gives corporations the unfettered power found in America to gouge customers, shortchange workers and erect barriers to fair play. A big reason is that so little of the news, which informs us about the world around us, addresses the private government-approved mechanisms by which price gouging is employed to redistribute income upward. When news breaks about one company buying another, the focus is almost always on the bottom line and how shareholders will benefit from higher prices and less competition; much less is said about added costs for customers as competition wanes. This powerful yet subtle bias appeals to advertisers such as mutual funds and other financial services companies who wish to address investors.
Even as a little girl Claire Russo wanted nothing more than to grow up and serve in the military. At 14, she was a Senate page for Dan Coats, worked at the Republican National Convention in San Diego, and interned for Senator Judd Gregg the following year. Later she said "I became obsessed with the Marine Corps after that. I knew the legacy of the Marine Corps was elite and the legacy of Guadalcanal. They were pretty tough and if I was going to join, I’d join the toughest out there."
When she grew up, she became a Marine who served in Iraq and later as an advisor for the Army in Afghanistan. At Officers Candidate School, where she finished fourth in a class of 65, she started hearing stories about women who had been raped by other Marines. One of her drill instructors told her, "You're either a bitch or a slut."
In 2004 she was assigned as an intelligence officer to Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. She moved in with her cousin Tom, who was a Navy F-18 pilot and instructor on the base. Just a month after Claire arrived at Miramar, the festivities surrounding the Marine Corps' annual birthday celebration were in full swing. She accompanied her cousin Tom to his Marine Corps Ball since he didn't have a date. Before the Ball officially began they partied in a hotel room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego with some friends.
As the evening wore on, Claire had several drinks, and, since Tom had hooked up with a date, she started feeling like the odd woman out. She had been introduced to several of Tom's pilot friends for whom she had the utmost repect. She had wanted to work with pilots as part of her mission in the Marines. She made small talk and danced with some of them to whom she was introduced by their call signs such as Wallet and Dirty.
Later Dirty, who was a Marine Captain, invited her to join a group of friends at a room party upstairs. Claire said, “I would certainly never question the integrity or motivation of the Marines—certainly not at that point. I didn’t doubt this guy at all.” It turned out that the "room party" was at Dirty's room, and there was no one else there. The next thing she remembers is being forced to give Dirty a blow job during the course of which she started vomiting. The only thing she remembers him saying to her was "You're so disgusting."
After that she was in the bathroom where Captain Dirty was trying to penetrate her anally to the point that she started bleeding. He left her there naked on the bathroom floor covered in blood and vomit. She then heard her cell phone ringing in the other room. She entered the bedroom where Dirty had already retired to bed and answered the phone. It was one of cousin Tom's friends. She's incoherent. He tells her to get a cab and go home. She puts on her vomit-and-blood stained dress and jacket, leaving behind ripped stockings and a broken necklace. Without a word from Captain Dirty, she leaves, wanders abjectly around the hotel lobby looking for Tom and catches a cab home around 3 AM.
Her boyfriend Josh, another Marine who was on duty that night at Camp Pendleton calls her around 7 AM, and she can't tell him what happened. While Josh comes to get her, she takes a shower and realizes she's still bleeding. Around 4 pm Claire returns home with Tom and begins to go into shock—crying, shaking, feeling cold and panicky—as she relived the events of the previous night with Tom. A dutiful pilot, he immediately phones his Unit Executive Officer to report that there was an incident at his Marine Corps Ball, despite Claire’s protests. He then takes Claire to the Emergency Room at Balboa Navy Medical Center. Tom then receives a call from NCIS, (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) Special Agent Zach Paton, who says, “Do not let them examine her. They’re going to screw it up,” referring to the Navy Medical Center. He tells Tom to bring Claire to a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurse who specializes in sexual assault exams at Palomar-Pomerado Hospital, a civilian facility.
After several conversations with different agencies of the military, Paton was told that there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute; that it was a “he said, she said” case and there wasn’t anything in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that would allow them to prosecute a rape by intoxication. So Paton took the case to the San Diego District Attorney’s office. “They about crapped in their drawers,” says Paton. “Because of his [Dirty’s] position and rank and the potential media outcome, they wanted to keep it as small as possible.”
And so Dirty whose real name is Captain Douglas Alan Dowson went on trial in civilian court in San Diego. It turns out that he had a prior record of deviant sexual behaviour but no prior conviction. Gretchen Means was the Deputy District Attorney in San Diego's Sex Crimes Unit who prosecuted Claire's case. Dowson was charged with six counts of sexual assault. Two days into the trial Dowson accepted a plea on one count of sodomy of an intoxicated person. He was sentenced to three years in prison but served just 19 and a half months. Given the sentencing laws, Means says, it was likely he would get more time if he had been found guilty on multiple counts. Dowson is now registered as a sex offender and was discharged from the Marine Corps with an other than honorable discharge in 2006. In the summer of 2007, Claire sued Dowson for damages and he settled for $13,000.
After the rape, Claire remained dedicated to the military. In 2006 she was deployed to Iraq. After being sexually harrassed there, she returned home with PTSD and was given a medical discharge from the military in 2007. She married Josh and they traveled the world. But she still had the desire to serve. In 2009 she was hired by the Army to be part of the Female Engagement Team in Afghanistan.
Claire said the way that the military dealt with her was far more traumatizing than the actual assault. But somehow she persevered and maintained her belief in military service. Gretchen Means has seen a lot of rape victims, but Claire stands out among them:
“I’ve known Claire for a long time, I went to her wedding, I’ve seen her inside and outside this crime. I was always really super impressed with how engaged she was in getting through it.
“Look what she’s done with her life. This took away her dignity and love of her country for a little bit, but look what she’s done; amazing stuff.”
Claire is currently a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington D.C. where she interviews men in the Special Operations forces about their experiences employing women and the role of women in the military.
Claire now has a one year old daughter named Genevieve.
This article relies on an article in Business Insider entitled, "This Marine Was Raped By A Captain and the Military Did Nothing."
In the quest for renewable sources of energy, a battle is looming that most people are not even aware of. We need to replace electric power generated by coal and gas fired plants with power generated by solar and wind to be sure, but who owns the means of such production is a vital and crucial issue. Let's take solar, for instance. There are two models basically to choose from. The first is the large solar installation in the desert owned and operated by the large power generating corporations like SEMPRA Energy. That's logical, you might say. There are acres and acres, square miles and square miles of desert real estate that is not much good for anything else. Why not build solar arrays there and truck the electrons so created via transmission lines to the urban areas where electricity is needed? The problem with this model is that transmission lines are inherently wasteful. Energy is lost for each mile the electricity has to flow to its destination just as water whose source is far away is evaporated and hence lost by canals as it traverses the route from source to destination.
A far better model is distributed generation. Why not site the solar arrays close to where the energy is to be consumed? That way there is little or no energy lost in transmission. Instead of putting solar panels in the Anza Borrego desert and trucking them to San Diego, a better solution is to put the solar panels on the rooftops of San Diego. Large warehouses are a pretty good place, but suburban homes are pretty good too. But this brings up another conumdrum. If I put solar panels on my house and feed the excess electricity so generated back into the grid, who makes the profit from this operation - myself or the energy corporation like SEMPRA parent of San Diego Gas and Electric? This is at the heart of solar energy policy in the US at this time. The energy companies are fighting battles to maintain control of energy generation. It's all right to have a distributed network so long as they own that network. What they are deadset against is distributed ownership. If I own the solar panels on my roof and sell excess energy back into the grid, not only does SEMPRA lose money from not being able to collect a monthly bill from me for energy consumed, but it loses money if it has to buy excess energy from me at market rates and redistribute it to others. In effect it is providing a service for free.
Germany solved this problem by incentivizing the average homeowner or entrepreneur to produce as much PV (photovoltaic) energy as possible by paying people to sell excess energy back onto the grid. At the heart of the debate is the Renewable Energy Sources Act. It requires power companies to buy all the alternative energy produced by these systems, at a fixed above-market price, for 20 years. The mechanism they used, known as a feed-in tariff, gives entrepreneurs and home owners a powerful incentive to install solar panels on their roof tops. They can earn a reliable return on their investment. Homeowners have rushed to clamp solar panels on their roofs and farmers planted them in fields where sheep once grazed. The amount of energy generated by this measure has skyrocketed making Germany one of the most solarized countries on the planet despite the fact that Germany has relatively few days of sunlight compared to the American southwest or the Iberian peninsula. In Germany the excess energy put back onto the grid must be bought by utility companies at above market rates and resold to other customers at those same rates. So actually the utility companies are losing money. Ahh, there's the rub. American energy companies will lobby their hearts out (corporations are people, remember) to not let that happen here. Whereas the average German can actually make money selling PV energy, in the good old USA only corporations will profit, that is if campaign contributions and lobbyists have anything to say about it.
By its very nature, since solar is decentralized, it is a threat to the energy companies both here and in Germany. Utilities would much rather build wind farms because most home owners cannot put a windmill on their roofs.
In San Diego there has been much ado about the Powerlink transmission line. According to the San Diego Smart Energy Solutions Campaign sponsored by the Sierra Club, Powerlink is SEMPRA Energy's dirty little secret. It has been sold as a way to bring renewable energy from the desert to San Diego. But that's not what it's really about at all. It Is about completing SEMPRA/SDG&E's "fossil fuel corridor," connecting dirty power plants on the Mexican border to markets in Los Angeles. It turns out that Sempra has a dirty electricity generating plant just over the border in Mexico where environmental standards are lower which burns Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). The electricity so generated will be sent north via Powerlink not necessarily to San Diego because Powerlink is the missing piece in a network connecting up with Los Angeles as well. LNG is imported from Russia and Indonesia to Mexico's Costa Azul terminal near Ensenada. From there the LNG is sent by SEMPRA pipelines to its Mexicali export terminal where it generates electricity which is then sent north to San Diego and LA. The energy is generated by fossil fuels, not renewables, and pollutes the border area. Furthermore, it dumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. And this whole set-up does nothing to lower rates for consumers. After all, Sempra is a profit making company not a consumer serving company.
An alternative energy plan, "San Diego Smart Energy 2020: The 21st Century Alternative," has been developed by professional engineer Bill Powers. It not only saves consumers money. It also reduces San Diego's greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5 million tons of carbon dioxide compared to SDG&E's plan. The Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32, September 2006) commits California to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 percent to 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050. SEMPRA pulls a fast one on this by using imported LNG with power plants in Mexico which violates the spirit if not the letter of the law. The Smart Energy plan emphasizes distributed generation which requires much less electricity since none is lost in long transmission line hauls and PV panels which don't spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Hence much efficiency is gained.
The Coalition for Reliable Power reports that rooftop solar systems are on the cutting edge of solar power overtaking the efforts of the large centralized power corporations such as SEMPRA. The big utility companies are losing their grip on power generation and are fighting back to protect their profits.
In some cases, utilities are actually taking direct steps to thwart rooftop solar. Two weeks ago in Colorado, the state's biggest utility, Xcel, tried passing a surcharge on homes and businesses using rooftop solar power. The public went ballistic, and with pressure from Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, the proposal was eventually shelved. In early July, New Mexico's biggest utility, PNM, filed an official request to dramatically reduce incentives for businesses and homeowners to install solar panels, and is now fighting with state lawmakers over whether it has the right to exclusively own solar panels systems hooked up to its grid.
Charitable institutions are arising to put decentralized solar power in the hands of average home owners for a fraction of the cost of manufactured turnkey systems. This is a threat to the centralized profit making power generating corporations.
One additional thing to consider is the environmental impact of large centralized solar systems in the desert. According to Mother Jones:
The Mojave, where the sun shines more than 300 days a year, would seem like a perfect home for the solar hub—unless you happen to be a threatened desert tortoise, in which case you can kiss your burrow goodbye. Across the country, environmentalists are finding themselves in the awkward position of having to choose between clean energy and wildlife: In the Midwest, wind farms ensnare bats and migrating birds, and hydropower dams in the Northwest decimate salmon spawning grounds. "We've been supportive of efforts to accelerate clean-energy projects," says Jim Lyons, who studies renewable energy at the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife. "But the scale of these new projects is massive, and they could be enormously destructive to plants and animals."
However, just off the desert are many big box stores and warehouses where solar panels could be placed. But the large utility corporations don't want to place them there because they'd lose money. According to Bill Powers, a solar energy expert in San Diego, "Utilities make money off power plants; they'd lose money if big-box stores started making their power on the roof."
In one sense, though, constructing a large national green energy system is sort of like buying organic food at the supermarket; it's an improvement, in that the fields where it's grown aren't soaked in pesticides, but that produce is still traveling an enormous distance along vulnerable supply lines. And instead of building stronger local communities, the money you spend buying it just builds the bank accounts of a few huge firms. With food, people are starting to understand the virtues of going not just green but local - and the same thing might be happening with energy. For two decades some farmers have built CSAs, or community-supported agriculture operations, where members pay an annual fee for a share of the produce. Now advocates like Greg Pahl are talking about CSE, or community-supported energy, and pointing at examples like the wind power associations and cooperatives that have built thriving facilities across Germany, Denmark, Holland, Sweden and Canada.
By the summer of 2009, in fact, the main force holding back distributed power - the microgrid - was the simple reluctance of the big utilities to surrender their monopolies. With their political sway, they were backing congressional bills that, in the words of business journalist Anya Kamenetz, would "subsidize constuction of multi-billion-dollar far-flung supersize solar and wind farms covering millions of acres, all connected via outside transmission lines." An array of research demonstrated that the faster, cheaper way to build renewables was to find a few rooftops on every block and put up panels, but the "utilities have been so adamant about thwarting these programs," says Jim Harvey, the founder of the Alliance for Responsible Energy. But don't take his word for it - ask the industry itself. Here's Ed Legge of the Edison Electric Institute, the chief lobbyists of the nation's utilities: "We're probably not going to be in favor of anything that shrinks our business. All investor-owned utilities are built on the central-generation model that Thomas Edison came up with. You have a big power plant.... Distributed generation is taking that out of the picture - it's local."
So there you have it. The model which the large corporations are fighting to preserve is one in which they continue to make high profits off of centralized power generation. The much ballyhooed SDG&E Powerlink will not only transport energy that was created by renewables, but will in fact be carrying over its transmission lines energy generated by Liquified Natural Gas imported from Russia and Indonesia. How much of which will be determined by corporate maximization of profits in accordance with state laws. The alternative is not government owned Soviet style power generation but distributed, decentralized power generation which would result in a dispersion of profit making over a large swath of the public, and result in less carbon dioxide being transmitted into the atmosphere. It would be better for the general public and better for the environment. Meanwhile, less than a month ago with officials from San Diego Gas and Electric standing by, Governor Jerry Brown dedicated the Powerlink Transmission Line.
Published on Friday, July 6, 2012 by The Nation
Not long after the meltdown at Fukushima, workers at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, north of San Diego, discovered radioactive steam leaking into the air. Hundreds of steam tubes had been banging together and vibrating, investigators said, until one of them sprung a leak. And the tubes had been installed less than two years ago.
So in January they shut down the reactors.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the two reactors won’t be restarted until the end of the summer. But many here are calling for the plant to be shut down permanently.
Southern California Edison (SCE), which runs the facility, doesn’t call it a “nuclear plant”; instead it uses the musical acronym “SONGS”—for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. What kind of people, they ask, would want to put an end to SONGS?
The answer: it’s not just Helen Caldicott and the local no-nukes activists. They have now been joined by powerful mainstream voices, including the Los Angeles Times editorial page
Even before the January 2012 incident, activists argued that the plant should be shut down because it is threatened by both earthquakes and tsunamis. New studies show the seismic threats are greater than those the plant was designed to face.
If an earthquake cuts the power that runs the cooling system that keeps the nuclear core from overheating, San Onofre has diesel backup generators that are supposed to take over. But in May a study found that the backup generators could inadvertently shut down in an earthquake, causing a nuclear meltdown—exactly what happened in Fukushima.
One more thing: more than 7 million people live within fifty miles of the plant.
Also, the state wants San Onofre to stop using seawater for cooling because it’s killing the fish. As the LA Times editorial pointed out, “A replacement cooling system could cost even more than new steam generators.”
And of course there’s the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste, which currently remains on-site and thus vulnerable to those earthquakes and tsunamis.
San Onofre has the worst safety record of all 104 reactors in the United States, but you won’t learn that from SCE. “Nothing matters more to the men and women who operate our San Onofre facility than safety”—that’s what SCE says.
Yes, but workers who have reported safety problems say they have been fired in retaliation. The LA Times reported on July 5 that several former workers sued SCE under the state’s whistleblower protection act—but lost because of an obscure technicality in the law: because San Onofre lies inside Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base and thus federal land, SCE is exempt from state law.
Edward Bussey, who worked at the plant as a health physics technician, sued SCE in state court after he was fired in 2006. He said the firing was retaliation for complaining about safety issues to his supervisors and the NRC. According to the LA Times, SCE got the case moved to federal court, where a judge dismissed it, declaring that “wrongful-termination claims didn't apply in a federal enclave.”
Defenders of nuclear power say it’s cheap—but the new generators at San Onofre that turned out to have crippling design flaws cost $671 million. SCE reports that more than 1,300 tubes that carry radioactive steam are so heavily damaged that they will have to be replaced—once they figure out what went wrong with the design.
Defenders also say the state needs nuclear power to meet its air quality standards. But natural gas has become cheap and plentiful, while wind and solar sources can be greatly expanded. And the state right now has a power surplus, even with San Onofre offline.
Leading the fight to shut down San Clemente have been locals Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green, Gene Stone of Residents Organized for a Safe Environment and Donna Gilmore of San Onofre Safety, along with Dan Hirsch of the Committee to Bridge the Gap. They've gotten help from Arnie Gundersen and Friends of the Earth and of course Helen Caldicott. Activists have held rallies, spoken at official meetings and petitioned the NRC and Congress.
It’s hard to disagree with the conclusion of LA Times editorial: “Now is the perfect time for Edison, and the state as a whole, to begin the planning for a non-nuclear future.”© 2012 The Nation
5:44 PM – Big Ed Schultz of msnbc mentions the West Coast ports shut down, while highlighting east coast actions around voting rights.
5:41 PM - Protesters arrive at Port of Oakland less than an hour ago -
As three helicopters hover overhead, as many as 2,000 protesters are entering the port, a much larger crowd than there was at the early morning action. One group of activists is carrying a tent, and there’s three helicopters overhead. There’s no immediate sign of police.
Music is blasting from a flatbed truck that was rented for the occasion. People are playing drums and dancing, about six blocks deep.
5:19 PM – And in Loveland, Colorado, near Denver … Police make arrests outside Walmart
Loveland police have made several arrests of Occupy protesters outside the Walmart distribution center near the Budwiser Events Center. Protesters were arrested by police after blocking the intersection where trucks were trying to enter and leave the distribution center.
”At about 12:45 p.m., demonstrators blocked the Walmart truck traffic entrance with people and tents. The roadway was cleared immediately by police and several arrests were made,” Loveland police said in a statement. Loveland police had a heavy presence in the area all day, with more than 10 marked and unmarked law enforcement vehicles in the area of of Crossroads Boulevard and Greenfield Drive.
5:16 PM - Lawyer only arrest at PortHueneme -
It didn’t take long for Frank Chimienti to become the first and, so far, only person to be arrested at Monday’s Occupy protest at the Port of Hueneme.
Within an hour of joining protesters picketing outside the deep-water port, he decided to lie down in the middle of the road to block a long line of trucks trying to enter, said Chimienti, 41. When police asked him to get up, he refused. They asked again and when he refused a second time, they arrested him.
5:13 PM – More from the Port actions: Vancover update -
Vancouver Occupiers blocked two access routes to Canada’s biggest port Monday, acting in solidarity with U.S. protesters’ efforts to shut down West Coast ports from Alaska to California. The protest at Port Metro Vancouver began with roughly a dozen demonstrators blocking the Clark Drive entrance before 8 a.m., disrupting traffic and preventing employees from getting to work, according to police who arrived on scene.
At about 1 p.m., dozens more gathered to block the Commissioner Street entrance but were met by a heavy police presence as they approached port property.
The port, which handles $200 million per day in cargo, hired extra security in anticipation of the protest and executive Peter Xotta said the port was “prepared to do anything necessary to see port operations continue.”
5:09 PM – Injured Vet Leads Oakland Evening March to Port
Scott Olsen, the Marine Corps veteran who was struck in the head during a clash between police and Occupy Oakland protests, is leading the evening march to the Port of Oakland. Olsen, whose speech is still a bit slow after his skull was fractured on Oct. 25, was holding a banner leading nearly 1,000 Occupy Oakland members as they left City Hall toward the port on Monday evening.
He told the AP that it felt good to be back out in the thick of things and that he was proud of the turnout. He said he was focused on getting better and “spreading the fruit of truth.” The 24-year-old Iraq war veteran had been attending Occupy protests after working his day job as a security software engineer.
5:03 PM – Tacoma Washington update: Occupy movement protest peaceful at Port of Tacoma
About three dozen Occupy protesters brandished banners and passed out leaflets Monday on a key arterial leading to Port of Tacoma, but didn’t attempt to halt commerce at the port’s terminals.
Occupy Tacoma participants said they wanted to show solidarity with Longshore Union workers seeking a contract with a new grain terminal in Longview and with non-union truck container truck drivers asking for higher wages at Southern California ports.
Occupy protester Sarah Morken said she came to the port Monday noon to support workers’ efforts for better wages and working conditions, but not to alienate the truckers and others whose work lives would have been disrupted if Occupy tried to halt work at the port.
4:55 PM – Latest from Occupy San Diego : General Assembly will be held at Freedom Plaza at 7pm as planned. The workgroup from Chicano Park planning meeting will be presenting plan for tomorrow at the General Assembly tonight. Get down to the plaza for GA tonight and help plan tomorrows action.
4:51 PM – Seattle Update:
About 100 Occupy Seattle protesters briefly blocked a street near a Port of Seattle facility. Several dozen police cleared the road after the group stopped traffic for about 20 minutes Monday afternoon. At least one person was taken into custody.
The Seattle group had marched several miles from a downtown shopping area. At the port entrance the crowd chanted and waved signs at Terminal 18, near Harbor Island.
4:49 PM Updates: Bellingham WA where protesters laid down on train tracks -
About 100 protesters in Bellingham blocked railroad tracks near downtown Bellingham. Some were seen lying down, bound together by bicycle locks around their necks.
A train expected at 3 p.m. was delayed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and police were arresting protesters who refused to clear the tracks.
4:26 PM PT – NYPD Still Harassing Reporters -
Tensions between the NYPD and journalists continued to run high on Monday as police officers forcefully prevented New York Times photographer Robert Stolarik from taking pictures of Occupy Wall Street arrests.
Stolarik was covering the protests at the World Financial Center when police blocked him from getting shots of people being arrested. One police officer shoved Stolarik when ordering him off the stairs, and another pushed him back with a baton.
4:20 PM Looks like the livestream is back on. Go to the sidebar and click on OSD’s livestream link.
4:10 PM – Here’s an account by Eugene Davidovich of what happened after folks left the Midway Carrier park area:
After staying at the port all morning, we marched down the middle of Harbor Dr. to Midway where we proceeded to protest and regroup. Now the rain has passed and everyone is gathering at Chicano Park (NOT BARRIO TROLLEY). We will be planning the direct action for tomorrow from Chicano Park starting at 4pm. Get down here and join the Occupation. The Plaza is still Occupied with a core group as well.
4:07 PM – OccupySD activists are regrouping at Chicano Park – the site of San Diego’s successful early “occupation”. No livestream yet.
3:46 pm – As Occupy San Diego protesters regroup at the Barrio Logan Trolley Station at 4pm, there does seem to be a lull for right now at the different cities on the West Coast. Protesters are gathering again ahead of action later on today. Many of the demonstrations at the West Coast ports will be repeated from 4pm PDT (7pm ET) onwards, in a bid to prevent longshore workers from entering for night shifts and continue the port shut downs.
3:43 PM – There may be efforts by the Occupy movements at the different port cities to return at 4pm to continue the blockades for the afternoon shift.
3:38 PM – CNN just gave all of 5 seconds to the efforts to shut down West Coast ports.
3:18 PM Here’s an update from Huston: 20 Arrested Near Port of Huston
HOUSTON - Several protesters associated with Occupy movements across Texas were arrested near the Port of Houston on Monday.
Occupy Houston protesters were joined by protesters from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth near the Port of Houston’s executive offices on the East Loop Monday afternoon. About two dozen protesters connected themselves with PVC pipes to block the road leading to the Port of Houston’s main entrance.
Firefighters were called in to cut the PVC pipe off the protesters. They put a tent up over the protesters to block sparks. Police said they took about 20 people into custody. Officials have not said what charges they will face. The protesters managed to delay three trucks and two cars that were on the ramp when the protest began. Other truck traffic was diverted to another entrance until the protest was cleared.
3:14 PM – Check out this crazy tactic (video) by Huston police and fire and rescue personnel against Occupy Houston protesters laying in the street. Cops bring up a huge red tent and cover the protesters with it in order to block the view of the arrests themselves.
2:56 PM – An unconfirmed report : OcccupySeattle cameraman just reported that 30 protestes tied themselves to the railroad tracks in Bellingham Wash to stop the trains.
2:53 pm – Big news from Bellington, Washington: Bellingham protesters block railroad tracks,
About 100 protesters blocked railroad tracks and an intersection near downtown Bellingham Monday, Dec. 12, in what they said was a show of solidarity with Occupy Oakland and other events aimed at shutting down ports on the West Coast.
Bellingham police said they would not arrest any of the protesters unless they were still blocking the tracks when trains made their next scheduled run through the area.
After a brief rally at nearby Maritime Heritage Park, the protesters – some carrying signs that read “Stop the 1% in their tracks” – marched two blocks to the intersection of Roeder Avenue and C Street. Most stood in the intersection, but about a dozen lay down on the tracks.
2:29 PM – Some will meet @ Barrio Logan trolley stop, 4pm.
2:07 PM – We have reports that the entire intersection of Harbor and Cesar Chavez is closed by police. People are still at the Midway Carrier park area; some have left to get warm clothes and some hot food.
2:00 PM – Occupy the Port protest underway in Seattle
About 300 Occupy Seattle supporters left Westlake Park about 1:30 p.m. marching south, and will eventually gather at one or more Port of Seattle terminals for as part of “Occupy the Port” rallies up and down the West Coast.
Port rallies are expected at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
1:58 PM - Oakland longshoremen sent home due to protests
OAKLAND, Calif. — Most longshoremen at the Port of Oakland were sent home Monday after Wall Street demonstrators blocked entrances as part of a coordinated West Coast port blockade effort.
Shipping companies agreed with workers’ concerns that the protests were creating unsafe working conditions and released about 150 out of about 200 workers on the morning shift, said Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Workers in unaffected parts of the port remained on the job.
1:55 PM – Here is the rest of Occupy San Diego’s schedule for today:
12:30 – Flying pickets leave Cesar Chavez Park for the Women’s Picket of the USS Midway Museum
1pm – Women’s Peace Picket of the USS Midway Museum
3:30M – Flying pickets leave Cesar Chavez Park for unannounced Port targets
4pm – FLASH MOB gathers at the Barrio Logan Trolley Stop
Elegant potluck dining, extraordinary DJ’s, music, dance, and party in and around Cesar Chavez Park. All day until late! Bring a dish, sing a song, dance a dance, or just join the general merriment. Come before work, come during work, and come after work – EVERYONE IS WELCOME TO JOIN US!
1:22 PM Here is a video of two arrests of Occupy SD.
1:14 PM – An occupy supporter just tweeted that he could barely get out of his car down at the Midway Carrier park area without being harassed by cops. Be careful out there!
1:08 PM – WOW! Hear that rain!
Occupy Denver: Protesters Plan Walmart Disruption In Solidarity With Shut Down Of West Coast Ports
Occupy Denver is planning a rally to disrupt the large Walmart Distribution Center in Loveland on Monday. The rally is intended to show solidarity and support for the simultaneous protests planned to shut down West Coast ports from San Diego to Alaska coordinated by other occupy movements, according to CNN.
In a press release, Occupy Denver had this to say about the Walmart rally:
On 12/12 Occupy Denver will be rallying at the Walmart Distribution Center, 7500 Crossroads Boulevard, Loveland, Colorado, in order to illustrate the problems with a globalization solely based on the interests of multi-national corporations and total disregard for human values or human beings.
12:58 PM – More updates from earlier today: (msnbc)
12:51 PM- NBC reports that in Oakland, Calif., shipping companies and the longshoremen’s union agreed to send home about 150 workers, essentially halting operations at two terminals.
In Longview, Wash., workers were sent home out of concerns for their “health and safety.”
12:25 PM (PT) Report from New York City – today:
While Occupy protesters on the west coast blocked ports, occupiers in New York staged their own demonstration, with about 200 people gathering at the World Financial Center, according to the New York Times.
Some 17 people were arrested during the protest, which apparently sought to portray Goldman Sachs as “a giant squid with tentacles that spread throughout the global financial system”, the Times said.
The World Financial Center is owned by Brookfield properties, which also owns Zuccotti Park – Occupy Wall Street’s base before they were cleared out by police last month.
12:20 PM – We’re getting reports that OccupySD protesters are marching from the north gate northward to the Midway Aircraft carrier park area.
11:47 AM – We have a photo of OccupySD Bobbie getting arrested.
11:39 AM – SignOnSanDiego reports:
Harbor police Assistant Chief Mark Stainbrook said the port was shut down about an hour and 15 minutes. Trucks that were forced to turn around at Harbor Drive and Cesar Chavez Parkway were eventually admitted about 9 a.m., Stainbrook said. …
San Diego police Assistant Chief Boyd Long said he explained to the protesters that they were allowed to protest and peacefully assemble but that officers had to balance that with the rights of workers who needed to use the roadway. “I wish we didn’t arrest anyone out here,” Long said.
11:33 AM Occupy San Diego will be holding an emergency General Assembly at the north gate very soon.
11:30 AM – Check out this Open Letter from American Port Truck drivers:
We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.
We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face.
Go here for the remainder of this Open Letter.
11:20 AM – News from Vancover, Canada:
Occupy protesters in Vancouver intend to block an entrance to Canada’s largest port on Monday as a show of solidarity with a movement crawling up the West Coast.
Demonstrators say they’re ready for a 12-hour blockade of the New Brighton entrance to Port Metro Vancouver. The protest is slated to begin shortly after noon local time.
The spot is one of two major access points to the bustling shipping port which trades about $75 billion in goods annually with more than 160 economies, according to the port’s website.
More from Vancover:
Police cleared two port entrances of protesters Monday morning as the Occupy movement’s planned disruption of Greater Vancouver ports fizzled. Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton said the attempted blockade began at about 7 a.m. Monday morning at several entrances to Vancouver’s port.
But only a dozen or so protesters showed up, and after disrupting traffic for over an hour, they were dispersed by police by about 8:30 a.m. Houghton said there were no arrests.
11:16 AM – San Diego demonstrators are all moving to the north gate as police have declared the main south gate an illegal assembly.
11:09 AM – This just in from Oakland: demonstrators are pulling back.
10:53 PST OAKLAND — Protesters who successfully blocked entrances to the Port of Oakland this morning are pulling back and leaving after an unconfirmed report that an arbitrator closed the port because the protests posed a risk to worker safety.
10:51 AM – KPBS says a Port spokesperson has reported that 5 have been arrested in blocking the port in San Diego.
10:38 AM – News from Tacomo, Washington: Occupy Tacoma protest set for noon at Port of Tacoma
Occupy protesters are planning an informational protest at noon today beginning at the Port of Tacoma Road bridge over the Route 509 freeway.
According to the organization’s web site, the protesters are meeting at 11 a.m. at Pugnetti Park as South 21st Street and Pacific Avenue to carpool to the port.
Though the original plan by the Occupy movement was to shut down ports up and down the West Coast today, it appears that the group plans only informational activities today, unfurling signs on the overpass and passing out fliers to truckers.
10:28 AM – News from Seattle:
SEATTLE — Occupy Seattle demonstrators planned a march and two rallies Monday as part of the campaign to shut down West Coast ports.
Organizers said on their website they would rally at 1 p.m. at Westlake Plaza in downtown Seattle then march to Port of Seattle property for rallies at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. near the Spokane Street bridge and under the West Seattle bridge.
The website says demonstrators do not plan to break into port property or to sabotage equipment. Occupy marches and rallies also are planned Monday in Tacoma and Olympia.
10:16 AM – This from Portland, Oregon:
Hundreds Occupy Portland protesters effectively shut down two of the Port of Portland’s busiest terminals, preventing about 200 longshore workers from going to work today.
The demonstrations began about 6 a.m. and were largely peaceful. Demonstrators planned to break up about 10 a.m. and said they would return to rally at Kelly Point Park. They said they hoped to disrupt the second shift of workers at the port.
Port spokesman Josh Thomas said longshore workers at terminals 5 and 6 were told to stay home. They will not be paid for today, he said.
10:13 AM – From Oakland:
09:26 PST OAKLAND — A group of protesters have succeeded in stopping a line of big-rigs from entering the Port of Oakland this morning during their march to shut down the busy cargo terminal.
10:08 AM – Report from Port Hueneme in Ventura County: About 150 Occupy protesters picket Port of Hueneme
A crowd of about 150 soggy protesters held signs and formed a picket line Monday outside the entrance to the Port of Hueneme, a deep-water port in Ventura County, just south of Oxnard.
They were protesting shipments Monday by Del Monte Foods, which is owned by KKR, a private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts. Marshall Getto, an Occupy organizer out of Santa Barbara, called the firm “one of the worst companies representing the abuses of the 1%.”
Getto said protesters tried to get the longshoremen to join the demonstration, but the union declined.
”We understand that they have to work and feed their families,” he said. “We know they support us in spirit.”
10:06 am - Here’s a report from the Port at Long Beach:
Occupy protesters who briefly blocked an entrance to a Port of Long Beach pier Monday morning were dispersed by police. About 200 protesters blocked the south entrance to Pier J for about half an hour before police herded them out of the area and into a parking lot by Harry Bridges Memorial Park, where the protesters had assembled at the beginning of the morning.
Before moving to block the pier, protesters picketed in front of SSA Marine, a shipping company that is partially owned by investment bank Goldman Sachs. At least two protesters were arrested.
10:04 AM – Here’s the latest SignOnSanDiego brief report from this morning.
9:47 AM – The picket line at the south gate has been broken up and trucks are getting through. Police swept through the picketers, arresting at least 4 and cleared the road. Demonstrators have gathered about a block away from that gate, along E. Harbor Drive and Cezar Chavaz Parkway.
9:40 AM – Four arrests have been made at the main (south) gate.
9:33 AM – Just back from the Port shutdown with photos; Patty has created a photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
9:15 AM: Brother Hex was arrested about 10 minutes ago, also with a young woman who was arrested for blocking traffic.
8:55 AM: Police have cleared the intersection at the south gate (Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy & Crosby Rd.) declaring unlawful assembly by circling protesters and forcing them out of the street to allow trucks to pass. Someone being arrested right now.
8:30 AM: Protesters continue to hold 2 gates in San Diego. OccupySD media group streaming live from the North Gate. Trucker who is sitting in line is supportive of the protest.
8:00 AM: Police have issued the order to disperse. Unconfirmed reports that Paddy wagons have been seen at the south gate.
Occupy San Diego and other groups show solidarity with West Coast Occupy movements in efforts to close the ports, including Los Angeles/Long Beach; Port Hueneme, CA (central coast); Oakland; Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.
7:50 AM: Frank reports that the North Gate at Park Blvd. and Harbor Drive has been blocked also. There is a long line of cars and trucks backed up trying to enter but protesters are holding their ground. Harbor Police are also present.
7:00 AM: As a light rain falls in San Diego about 150 protesters have gathered in an attempt to block entry to the port at Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy & Crosby Rd. Reports indicate that picketers have been successful in keeping this gate closed (but that port workers may be funneled to another gate), and there are large numbers of police and media present.
We’ll report more as information becomes available.
When a few of us in Occupy San Diego this past weekend heard that our sisters and brothers in Occupy LA were facing eviction early Monday morning, about two dozen of us traveled up to LA and camped out with them in solidarity.
When OSD veteran Julie M. put up on facebook that she wanted to drive up to LA and show support for their occupation, a number of us jumped at the chance to drive up there with her. So Howard, Humberto, Claudia and I crammed into Julie’s Prius and headed out for LA, leaving from the Civic Center Plaza on Sunday, the 27th. We had plans to stay at least one night and be there when the occupiers at the LA City Hall faced off with their eviction – which was set for 12:01 a.m. Monday morning.
We arrived at downtown LA in the late afternoon, and after wandering around in wonder at the sight of hundreds of tents in the sprawling encampment that surrounded the LA City Hall – the largest occupation on the West Coast – we set up a San Diego occupation of one small section of the concrete steps next to where their General Assemblies were held. Music was playing and a large crowd was partying in the middle of the small plaza – the atmosphere being one of a grand festival.
And even though the site was facing an eviction by the police that night, there was virtually no great police presence. In fact, during our first hours there, we only saw a couple of cops. We muttered to ourselves, “if this was San Diego ….”
To us, in comparison, there was a real lack of any tension in the air, and we couldn’t help but contrast what we found in LA with what Occupy San Diego has been facing over these last few weeks with the stand-offs with police and city government in general. LA was so much more laid-back even as it was so much larger in scale than the height of OSD’s tent city at our City Hall in early October.
LA had 400 – 500 tents at its peak, and even though it was evident by the time we got there that many tents had been removed, there were still so many standing, that it didn’t matter. We watched the scene in envy – and as LA is the place to people watch – their tent city was no different. There was a huge media tent, a “Kids Village”, several tributes to sacred land and other symbols.
Other San Diegans arrived – and by night’s end we counted nearly 25 of us who had traveled north in a half dozen vehicles. A bunch of us gathered around where Julie had set up her tent – two San Diegans were already slumbering in it.
The massive city hall buildings were surrounded by tents, and as I took a walk around the building, I found several committees meeting near the great entrance to the place. There was a legal observer training at one place, and about 50 yards away, a GA-process type committee was planning for the assembly meeting itself. They had more people at this committee meeting that we have sometimes at our own GA.
As night drew its curtains, we returned to the steps where we had raised our invisible San Diego banner. Being LA, I was not that surprised when I saw my first actress briefly milling about near the GA steps by 5:30. More and more people showed up and by time the GA started at about 7:30 pm, there were literally thousands in the park-like setting that engulfed this corner of LA. Later, organizers had declared this was the largest GA ever in the history of Occupy LA.
The co-moderators and others who spoke and guided the assembly were so-LA; they were polished, experienced, accomplished, and were immersed in a self-deprecating humor that strengthened the patience and energy of the crowd. The guy in charge of the stage craft sounded like a professional radio announcer. The “Raid Committee” gave their report, as did the other important committees at this crucial time. Committee reports were timed and everything flowed fairly well.
Ron Kovic – the fairly famous anti-Vietnam war protester – whose antics had been made into a movie, “Born On the Fourth of July” with Tom Cruise – gave a very stirring speech, praising the occupiers as the hope of the nation.
Over the next couple of hours, two resolutions passed – each with a tight consensus of thousands of people. The one I recall blasted the Supreme Court’s classification of corporations as people coupled with an affirmation of freedom of speech. Somewhere between 10:00 and 10:30 the GA broke up – there had been an announcement that a march was to begin soon after. We along with the other masses waited for the anointed hour – 12:01 – the moment of supposed eviction. One former San Diegan had gone around collecting cigarette donations to be ostensibly handed out at that minute.
The park was packed and around 11, many people poured out into the darkened, empty streets. Banners and chants dominated a couple of street corners. Some people sat down in the middle of the street, some began dancing to a drum circle, most simply milled about. Lots of people wore bandanas and had some form of mask on top of their head, waiting for the tear gas or mace or pepper spray which they were convinced would be sprayed that night. The excitement was growing and when the cops finally showed up in mass about a block away from the encampment, hundreds ran down to greet them. A bunch of young men climbed on top of a bus stop and took a defiant posture.
Others pleaded with the crowds to return to the park with bullhorns and chants. Some did. But as those who were persuaded to go back to the encampment moved away, others flowed over to the police lines as they were the sites of excitement.
Predictably, more police showed up and began to block off entrances to the area. One police vehicle closed in and broadcast a warning that those in the streets would be subject to arrest. Each time the police formed a line, protesters formed up in front of them. This went on for a couple of hours it seemed. The stream of protesters leaving the scene began to tell on those numbers remaining.
Finally, police announced that the street was an illegal assembly. When that happened, most did return to the park, and as the cops closed in after 4:45 am, the intensity of the scene climbed to the scorching zone. Three protesters were arrested as they sat in the street. People lining the street linked arms. Chants and yelling intensified.
Back at the center of the encampment, dozens had encircled several tents and were prepared to be arrested in one final act of resistance if the police had moved into the camp itself. At least two of our San Diego compatriots had been part of that circle.
There was some minor pushing and shoving at the camp’s front lines when police tried to grab somebody. But the line held and even though the streets were declared off-limits to the protesters, eventually police withdrew before the dawn of light. It would be rush-hour soon. As they witnessed the withdrawal, scores sang Steam’s one-song wonder: “nah-nah-nah-han, hey-hey-hey, good-by”. (Three years ago, at Obama’s inauguration as Bush flew out of DC in his helicopter, thousands had sang the same thing.)
There hadn’t been much food and water at the camp for several hours as much of the camp’s infrastructure had been carted away in anticipation of the mass eviction.
With the tension over for the time, the crowds melted into the camp, some collapsing where they could as most had been up all night, others remained upright still on their adrenalin. I found refuge in a space formed by large tree roots, later in a chair, and finally laid down next to other San Diegans slumbering over at our corner of the encampment site.
With the sun coming up, more tents vanished even while a few were freshly erected. Hungry and in need of coffee, I got up and wandered around downtown LA for what seemed like hours looking for something, anything. Finally, I did locate a coffee and breakfast place not far from the demonstration site. As soon as I made my way up to the counter, a dozen police officers walked in to get their share of the java. But all were polite.
Back at the camp, the dozen porta-potties were overflowing. Parts of the camp looked evacuated. People mingled about in a state of numbness and exhaustion. The thousands of the night before had disappeared and there were only hundreds at the camp. Pizza slices and jelly and peanut butter sandwiches were handed out. There was now water, the medical tents were functioning again as the camp began to pick up its pieces and move back to its regularity. Speculation that the police would move in over the next 48 hours was very easy to hear.
Yet, things were different. Hundreds of tents were gone. And the intensity of the weekend faded into rumors of the next “raid” which some were convinced would come at 2 am Monday morning. Many of the San Diegans wanted to stay another night, assured of this. I joined a car that was heading home and we left the encampment at 1pm and returned two hours later to hear stories of the “mini-tents” at our own Plaza. Most of us had only had an hour of sleep so we collapsed back into our San Diego lives and back to the hazards and pain of Occupy San Diego, where the cops are meaner than their LA counter-parts and the cold, harsh aloof posture of the local mayor here in our southern citadel of paradise remains simply amazing.
But we had been part of history. We had stood in solidarity with our sisters and bros up north at the hour of their need. We had experienced something that we could only imagine down here, a real “tent city” that has lasted for some sixty days now in downtown LA.
UPDATE: I called one of our San Diego activists camped out at Occupy LA late this morning, and he reported that they had had “an uneventful night.” And they were packing up to come home.
Local progressives have been watching in bemusement for several years as The San Diego Union-Tribune – once Richard Nixon’s favorite news source – radically chops staff, loses circulation and, more importantly, sees its once-dominant and domineering position as a right-wing political and cultural force in the area fade.
The fall of the U-T, which some newsroom insiders believe is heading for its last press run, would mirror the predicament of other major U.S. dailies long confronted by the ubiquitous Internet and similar burgeoning alternative media, as well as by a dwindling passion for reading among the young.
“My guess is, (the U-T) is barely breaking even, if that,” said a veteran staffer. “Everybody here is looking over their shoulder.”
The turbulence at the U-T commenced in 2006 when the paper announced the first of what would be seven rounds of layoffs and buyouts of newsroom, circulation and other staff (even the cafeteria closed).
Three years later, publisher David Copley, whose rabidly conservative family had monopolized the local newspaper industry and dominated the city’s civic affairs for decades, sold the business to Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills-based private equity group.
However, Platinum’s involvement has hardly cut the flow of red ink. Daily circulation has dipped in the past three years from 242,705 to 218,614, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
Efforts by Platinum to attract subscribers with a hyper-local emphasis in its news columns have failed to draw readers’ interest, as have circulation promotions which essentially give the paper away. (A U-T booth at a recent home improvement show at the local convention center, for instance, offered new subscribers $10 worth of free Starbucks gift cards for a $10-a-month sub.)
Some observers nevertheless think that Platinum’s plans for the U-T have little to do with keeping it in the black, or even in print.
Indeed, Platinum announced in July that it had hired the investment banking advisory firm Evercare Partners to examine “strategic alternatives” for the U-T – code words to some for finding a buyer.
It would all seem to be business as usual for Platinum, which owns more than 100 companies in such sectors as infotech, telecommunications and real estate. Platinum’s annual aggregate revenue from these firms is $27 billion or so.
The company has a reputation for acquiring distressed properties like the U-T at bargain rates, then quickly turning them around for sale at a tidy profit.
Potential U-T suitors, according to the newsroom rumor mill, include Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Tribune Co. and local hotel magnate Doug Manchester.
Murdoch’s interest in the U-T seems unlikely, however, since he would face a recalcitrant News Corp. board still fuming over this summer’s newspaper hacking scandal in the United Kingdom. The board would also seemingly balk at extending the company’s already substantial involvement in the shrinking newspaper industry, however enthusiastic Murdoch might be for supplementing his print portfolio.
Still other speculation has the paper eventually merging with various large regional newspaper properties (the Orange County Register, even the Los Angeles Times) to form one pervasive Southern California daily.
Such a consolidation could be operated with a fraction of current newsroom staffs and costs.
But at least one U-T editor thinks Platinum will instead soon simply stop printing the paper altogether – “it’s essentially worthless now,” the editor said – and sell the real estate on which the paper’s editorial offices and printing press are situated in the lush commercial hub of San Diego’s Mission Valley.
The editor noted that Platinum paid between $40 million and $50 million for virtually all of the U-T’s assets in the 2009 deal, even though the U-T’s headquarters alone reportedly sits on land assessed at about $90 million.
Progressives seemingly would hail the demise of the once-pervasive U-T, which for years has maintained a stridently right-wing sensibility in its opinion pages and news columns alike.
Among the lowlights:
- Well into the 1970s, U-T publisher James Copley routinely lent his political writers gratis to the successful mayoral, gubernatorial and senate campaigns of Pete Wilson, as well as numerous other Republican politicos. The late Herbert Klein, for example, worked alternately for years as an editor at the newspaper and a mouthpiece for GOP candidates, all the while collecting a Copley paycheck. Klein ultimately served as communications director for Nixon, who often referred to the Union as his favorite newspaper.
- In the late-1960s, a memo issued from the publisher’s office advised editors to avoid running photos of black people on section fronts. The policy remained in force, if unofficially, into the mid-1970s.
- During the same period, The San Diego Union (which later merged with its sister publication the Evening Tribune to form the Union-Tribune) targeted the late Marxist philosophy professor Herbert Marcuse in conjunction with threats and harassment by the Secret Army Organization, a militant right-wing vigilante group made up of San Diego Police officers and military veterans. Marcuse, who was teaching at UC San Diego at the time, often was wrongly characterized in Union news columns and editorial cartoons as a dangerous Soviet agent promoting violent revolution in the U.S. Union executives routinely bragged that the Marcuse campaign was designed to run him out of town, if not kill him.
- The vending machines of alternative newspapers like the O.B. Rag, the San Diego Door and the San Diego Free Press were routinely plucked off the streets by Union circulation drivers in the late-1960s at the behest of Victor Krulak, an executive in the U-T publishing office. (Krulak had earlier served as President John Kennedy’s counterinsurgency expert in Vietnam.)
Through it all, the newspaper used its news columns to pimp for conservative candidates and issues near to the heart of the Copley family, while downplaying or completely ignoring alternative progressive voices.
This stifling pro-business, pro-military stance has hardly diminished in the new century.
For instance, the U-T unwaveringly backed the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, including giving ad nauseum support for George W. Bush’s premise that Iraq was a repository for so-called weapons of mass destruction.
The intimate nature of the long Copley-GOP relationship could until recently be seen in the U-T executive offices, where a large photograph of David Copley, former editor Karin Winner and Bush – all three of them in the throes of laughter – had been prominently displayed for years.
A cursory read of Thursday’s U-T indicates that little has changed under Platinum’s stewardship.
The op-ed page features a Q&A with Mayor Jerry Sanders and other business leaders griping about how difficult it has been to find money to build a new football stadium for the Chargers, while the lead piece in the local section trumpets the police union’s endorsement of Republican newcomer Nathan Fletcher against liberal Democrat Bob Filner in the local mayoral race.
Of course, all of this debate about the U-T’s pernicious influence through the years may soon be relegated to the stacks.
A Web site dedicated to U-T retirees carried still a fresh newsroom rumor Thursday that the paper is being sold and that the transaction with a private buyer is in escrow.
Herbert Marcuse is smiling somewhere.
FRANK GREEN is a veteran journalist and lives in the San Diego area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
from the OB Rag
While it remains to be seen whether the Occupation of America, from Wall Street to San Diego, will be able to sustain its amazing initial momentum, it has unquestionably struck a nerve and sparked a national discussion about class, power, and politics. The heavy weights at the New York Times have recently staked out an interesting range of opinion on the occupation movement. You have Paul Krugman, the paper’s reliable progressive, observing the panic of the plutocrats and astutely noting that, “The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.”
This has been followed by the less hysterical reactions of the paper’s liberal to moderately conservative hegemonists, Thomas Friedman and David Brooks, whose takes on Occupy Wall Street range from cautious skepticism to condescending dismissal. Friedman’s column on the protests starts by citing Austrian author Paul Gilding who argues that the American and global uprisings:
“are a sign that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits . . . Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken . . . This particular round of protests may build or may not, but what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the system lied and who have now woken up. It’s not just the environmentalists, or the poor, or the unemployed. It’s most people, including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades go to the top 1 percent.”
Friedman then counterbalances Gilding’s take with the views of John Hagel III who argues that the new opportunities of the global economy have resulted in “a huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and new market opportunities. This flow is constantly getting richer and faster. Today, they argue, tapping the global flow becomes the key to productivity, growth and prosperity. But to tap this flow effectively, every country, company and individual needs to be constantly growing their talents.” He then predictably concludes that his “heart is with Hagel” and his “opportunity-based” narrative rather than the “threat-based” narrative of Gilding but he thinks we ignore Gilding’s points at our peril.
…let’s hope that Occupy America is a sign that people are beginning to wake up…
Finally we have the sage of the affluent suburbs, David Brooks, the conservative every NPR-listening-liberal wishes was the face of the loyal opposition rather than that of the snarling tea baggers. His take on the occupation of America is patronizing at best:
If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent. This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite. Unfortunately, almost no problem can be productively conceived in this way. A group that divides the world between the pure 99 percent and the evil 1 percent will have nothing to say about education reform, Medicare reform, tax reform, wage stagnation or polarization. They will have nothing to say about the way Americans have overconsumed and overborrowed. These are problems that implicate a much broader swath of society than the top 1 percent.
Brooks follows this up by knocking down the strawman argument that taxing or taking the wealth of the top 1% would eliminate the federal deficit as if that was the key point of the entire protest. His answer is to look toward the “boring” folks proposing real policy solutions that make use of “market forces.” It’s the insiders like Sam Nunn, Pete Domenici, and former Clinton staffer Matt Miller who are the real visionaries, not the “milquetoast radicals” occupying Wall Street.
What is interesting about this discussion in the Times is that: 1) these elite columnists think it’s necessary to opine on the subject of the occupation; and 2) that the usual apologists for neoliberal globalization and corporate hegemony are both struggling to find a way to avoid basic facts just as their colleague Krugman suggests. This makes for some interesting ideological maneuvers.
The Friedman strategy is a kind of inoculation—acknowledge the obvious through another writer’s words but hold it at a distance and don’t address the key point about real economic power while shifting the discussion to a more comfortable ideological frame with regard to globalization (the world is “flat” remember?). Hence, Friedman is not in favor of a global system that benefits the economic elite, he is for “opportunity.”
The Brooks strategy is to pooh-pooh the very notion of an elite altogether as a simplistic fantasy, a facile oversimplification by the simple-minded rabble on the streets. Clearly only these conspiracy nuts who don’t read his columns regularly enough to know that Pete Domenici is out there fighting for us are a silly bunch indeed.
By obfuscating the very real existence of the American and global elite, Friedman and Brooks do what they always do and what much of what constitutes American mainstream political and economic discourse always does: fail to give Americans an accurate cognitive map of political and economic power. This is crucially important because if people don’t have the tools to clearly understand the nature of power, they don’t know how to contest it and frequently place blame for our country’s problems in the wrong places.
But let’s hope that Occupy America is a sign that, despite the obstacle of a corporately owned media system, people are beginning to wake up.
While recent discussions of the “Buffet rule” have focused people’s attention on the fact that the rich have gotten richer while the rest of us have suffered, they have also exposed the truth that, as opposed to the decade’s old mantra of the anti-tax zealots, the affluent pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the rest of us. The rich have gained, the poor are poorer, and the middle class is shrinking. You don’t have to have a Nobel Prize in economics to know that this is not fair.
What this phenomenon has done is push us further towards plutocracy or the rule of the dollar. And for those out there who think this is a conspiracy, all one need do is check out the activities of American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
What is ALEC? As the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed website explains:
ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. We agree. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.
More specifically ALEC (which is 98% corporate funded) pushes a corporate agenda at the international, national, state, and local levels with regard to union busting, workers’ rights, the privatization of education, healthcare, the environment, energy, agriculture, voting, taxes, prisons, immigration, and much more. It is not a conspiracy of the imaginary “nefarious elite” as David Brooks puts it; it is how the very real economic elites have high-jacked our government at every level. It’s how the Koch brothers’ money talks and democracy walks. To put it another way, this is what plutocracy looks like.
To review ALEC’s activities on a state by state level, see where their money comes from and which politicians are part of the organization, see: www.alecexposed.org.
John Coltrane: One Down, One Up
Monk and Coltrane: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
Best album of 2005 (*****)
Doug Ramsey: Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond
This is a great book! Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck formed the heart of one of the best all time jazz groups. Paul was the quintessential intellectual, white jazz musician. A talented writer, he never published anything. However author, Doug Ramsey has collected Paul's letters here. How ironic that now his writing in the form of letters to his father and ex-wife, among others, is finally published showing another window on the mind of this talented person. A sideman, for the most part, his entire life, the Dave Brubeck Quartet might never have happened at all due to the fact that Paul had managed to offend Dave to the point where he never wanted to see him again. It had to do with a gig that Paul actually was the leader of. Paul wanted to take the summer off to play another gig, and Dave wanted Paul to let him take over the gig at the Band Box in Palo Alto, CA. Paul wouldn't let him and Dave, married with two children, proceeded to starve. Due to an elaborate publicity campaign, when he realized the error of his ways, Paul managed to worm himself back into Dave's good graces. The rest is history. This book is remarkable for the insight it gives into a working jazz musician's mind, wonderful pictures and interviews with the significant figures in Paul's life. Author Ramsey, not a remarkable penman himself, has nevertheless done a magnificent job of assembling all these various materials. Unlike a lot of jazz authors, he doesn't overly idolize his subject with the result that you get the feeling that you have met a real person and not a idealized version. That's high praise indeed for any biographer. (*****)