Global Warming

UC, Inc.

Submitted: Mar 25, 2007

The price of academic integrity

Jennifer Washburn lays out the case against the British Petroleum/UC,Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of Illinois-Urbana deal: $500 million from BP to set up an Energy Biosciences Institute to do BP-directed science for BP profits, using public facilities and publicly paid university sciences.

"Big Oil buys Berkeley" lays out a completely compelling case against the deal. The one thing I thought she missed was consideration of how much $500 million in industry funds could suppress science tending to suggest that biofuels are not the silver bullet for our energy woes.

She touches on another theme, which I would have liked to see her explore further. I guess I'll have to buy her book, University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education.

This is shameful. The core mission of Berkeley is education, open knowledge exchange and objective research, not making money or furthering the interests of a private firm. In the last two decades, however, Cal and other universities — increasingly desperate for research dollars — have signed agreements that fail to protect their essential independence, allowing corporations excessive control over their research.

I agree it is a shameful, probably dangerous corruption of academic independence and the public mission of UC. It is as ethically indefensible as the salaries UC administrators get "so that they will be competitive with private industry standards." I also believe it will have the effect of suppressing ethical concerns at Cal, worsening an already blighted history in that area.

But, is the economic concern accurate? Are universities "increasingly desperate for research dollars"? And, if so, why? I am sure that the answer to that question is extremely complicated, involving the privatization of many formerly government functions, particularly in institutions like the Pentagon and the Department of Agriculture. Bear in mind that UC is a land grant university, whose Cooperative Extension has been working at the county level in California agriculture for many decades, with varied results depending in recent years on what agribusiness lobby is dominating the USDA at the moment.

Public funds, at least in California, account for roughly 25-percent of the UC operating budget. I don't know what the percentage is in New Mexico, where the UC/Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of the state's top employers. While it is safe to say that without that 25 percent, a great many things at UC could not happen. On the other hand, this percentage, shrinking through the years, is not in the commanding position it once was to enforce, economically, the mission of the university -- "education, open knowledge exchange and objective research." State funding of UC has suffered erosion, and is now seen as "local matching funds" somewhat similar to a local sweetener to attract federal highway funds for road projects. UC is funded, overwhelmingly, by private corporations and the federal government (the latter being in some instances pretty much like the former).

Passage in 1980 of the Bayh-Dole Act didn't help. This law enabled universities to

Public confidence in the objectivity of research may be eroded

Academia's relationship with private industry changed in the United States when Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980.1 This law enabled universities to patent their discoveries and license them to private corporations. This policy fostered collaboration between academia and industry, which created jobs and products of immediate commercial value. But the delicate balance between academic and corporate expectations has swung too far toward private profit at the expense of public trust. Universities are threatened by a growing public concern that industry funding distorts research and undermines its traditions of objectivity, independence, and free exchange of ideas. -- The unhealthy alliance between academia and corporate America

--Spyros Andreopoulos, Director emeritus, Western Journal Med. 2001 October; 175(4): 225–226.

Furthermore, the process is well-established and champions of academic independence are not found either on the UC Regents or among UC administrators, who together comprise a committee that must rank among the premier grant whores in the world.

But, what if the public has doubts about ethanol and the genetic engineering that this oil company-funded scientific institute will be doing? How can the public compete against $500 million? What state legislator, during committee meetings on the UC budget (that little 25-percent matching fund) is going to stand up against a half a billion bucks? One can almost hear the sneer of UC lobbyists.

In short, the state's "public research university" has been hijacked by an oil company in what top UC officials are calling another win-win, public-private partnership. This is certainly not the first time this has happened -- consider the land boondoggle of UC Merced as a recent example, and UCM's proposed University Community as another. Novartis paid a mere $25 million to Cal for genetic research a few years ago. Conflict took place, involving Cal environmental scientist, Ignacio Chapela, indigenous cultivars of corn in Oaxaca, GMO gene drift, Nature Magazine and the awesome flak machine of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Novartis chose to duck the heat and leave town. Chapela eventually got his tenure, blocked until he brought a lawsuit, by UC administration.

Let us, for a moment, consider another way of framing the issue, different from the win-win, public-private flak. We do this with apologies to another Cal professor, George Lakoff, one of the nation's leading sophists, who appears to be trying to patent the breath-takingly new idea of teaching liberals rhetoric.

UC depends on prestige for its grants. A one-tune pony, it must constantly employ legions of flaks to sing its song: "UC is the greatest public research university in the universe." In fact, it makes much more sense, producing a much richer sense of reality, to consider UC a public front for corporate and federal government research (much of which is guided by corporate lobbies).

What happens if you take the "public" out of the win-win, private partnership between UC and the oil company? If the public, with its mere 25-percent ante on the table, is unable to guide UC research to something of importance to the public, why not remove the ante and take its money off the table? UC isn't committed to educating the youth of California. UC is about UC prestige in some of the most lethal science and technology known to man. Arnold the Hun and the Legislature remain in the game of matching funds strictly to be seen as Big Shots in the glowing reflection of UC "public" research, which isn't public and may not even be research so much as it is flak-money spent to suppress science suggesting that the corporate sponsor du jour is researching things of actual danger to the public.

Badlands Journal
---------------------

3-24-07
Los Angeles Times
Big oil buys Berkeley...Jennifer Washburn
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-washburn24mar24,1,2582704.story

ON FEB.1, the oil giant BP announced that it had chosen UC Berkeley, in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to lead the largest academic-industrial research alliance in U.S. history. If the deal is approved, BP will give $500 million over 10 years to fund a new multidisciplinary Energy Biosciences Institute devoted principally to biofuels research. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, UC administrators and BP executives immediately proclaimed the alliance — which is not yet a done deal — a victory for higher education and for the environment. But here's another way to see it. For a mere $50 million a year, an oil company worth $250 billion would buy a chunk of America's premier public research institutions, all but turning them into its own profit-making subsidiary. This is shameful. The core mission of Berkeley is education, open knowledge exchange and objective research, not making money or furthering the interests of a private firm. In the last two decades, however, Cal and other universities — increasingly desperate for research dollars — have signed agreements that fail to protect their essential independence, allowing corporations excessive control over their research. Most corporations sponsor university research one study and one lab at a time. With the Energy Biosciences Institute, BP would exert influence over an entire academic research center (spanning 25 labs at its three public partners), bankrolling and setting the agenda for projects that cut across many departments. What's more, BP would set up shop on campus:... BP also would set up private labs on these campuses, where all the research would be proprietary and confidential. The fine print of the plan, which UC made public only after it was leaked, doesn't create much confidence. Californians need to know that their public university is dedicated to pursuing the best science, not just science that generates profits for BP. Five hundred million dollars is a nice chunk of change, but does any amount of money justify "reinventing" UC Berkeley's academic integrity?

| »

A Plague of Big Shots

Submitted: Mar 24, 2007

submitted by Bill Hatch

Big Shots are found everywhere in American society. So, viewing them from the San Joaquin Valley of California, once a great agricultural area now mindlessly converting itself as fast as violation of environmental law and regulation and common sense permits to another Western slurb, is as good a place as any to observe Big Shots.

American society is plagued with Big Shots, people that have gotten to some position of power through an excess of aggression, which they use to bully others. The rest of us all too often take the bullying in stride, hoping for a better day or, under the relentless onslaught, cave and grow permanently afraid.

All Big Shots have some self-righteous ideology, fundamentalism or doctrine to shout down at the rest of us from their positions, just a little above us one way or another.

The self-justification can be anything from “good work habits” to “the war against global terrorism.” All of it is a smoke screen for big-mouthed little cowards playing authoritarian games, throughout the sick institutional structure of this nation – from the orchard and tomato field to the packing shed to the city council to the school to the development corporation and the oil company to the White House.

We sit and read and hope somehow the “We the People” of the high-school texts will miraculously manifest that mythical unity We are said to possess to get the Big Shots off our backs, without risking anything. But, there is too much power, too much money floating around America, too many weapons in obedient hands and way too little human dignity left to stop this imperial cannibalism that is devouring millions of people in our imperial way – the toll rising, unabated by weak political resistance within the empire’s “homeland.”

Americans now confuse order and government in the “homeland” with bullying and being bullied. We elect a majority of Democrats in Congress to stop the war and their “leadership” blows us off in favor of the military contractors, the oil companies and the Israel lobby. But, will the public stand up to them? Call them by their name: hypocrites, sanctimonious bribe-takers, hacks and buffoons? Sue them? Prosecute them? Call their propaganda by its name?

America is a frightened, ruthless, unjust and ugly society full of denial and a guilt growing too large to measure, let alone accept. More than 600,000 Iraqis are dead because of a 30-year political “vacation” taken by the citizens of the USA, culminating in this atrocity. Our health care system is broken because America does not care about its people’s health. Top American political leadership is sociopathic because it serves at the pleasure of transnational corporations with no commitment to anything but their profits and the destruction of government regulation rather than the people and law. But the people are too besotted with corporate propaganda to know their rights, their interests and how to defend either. Yet, the US is losing “the war against terrorism” for the same reason it long ago lost the “war on drugs”: the Big Shots are too corrupt to win a war or stop the carnage of this one. Or rebuild New Orleans. Or save our environment. Or even put a dent in global warming.

Big Shots dominate our federal, state and local legislatures and our media corporations. The political situation in America is, in fact, much more critical than most Americans can imagine. There are entire institutions, vital to a functional society that have dropped off the map of the civilized world because they have been so rotted out by the greed of special interests, bribery and corruption. A small example, that will be familiar only to the very few remaining candid souls living in rural America, will be this year’s Farm Bill, which will demonstrate again that the Department of Agriculture is so corrupt it cannot identify national interest or even farmers’ interests. Likewise with the Food and Drug Agency, that has made unwitting guinea pigs of the entire American society and any foreign markets for our crops too stupid or oppressed to avoid it for the free, unregulated experimentation of the health effects of genetically modified organisms. Resource agencies charged with enforcing environmental law and regulation are daily corrupted by development corporations. Agency-by-agency, institution-by-institution, where can we find one that is working for the People? As glad as we may be made by tidings of churches, with congregations 10,000 strong, doing incredible feats of community outreach and care, can they replace a government that is supposed to serve 300 million people and is not supposed to be owned by transnational corporations?

American universities promote those character traits of sycophantic aggression prized by the corrupt corporate power elites that fund research for private profit rather than public benefit. High school dropouts, unlike the PhDs that staff the nation’s national laboratories, are not recorded to have produced American weapons of mass destruction that menace the world. These weapons aren’t the products of education; they are from its simulacrum, the university/corporate technology/military complex. To these must be added the “independent experts” whose regular gigs are at the brothel think tanks.

As ever, on the cutting edge of military technology, the Pentagon now conducts war by hurling immeasurable (at least by its accounting) tons of pork at the enemy, possibly hoping to crush him under the sheer weight ham and bacon. While the Pentagon appears to have crushed our side, the insurgents have long ago gone on to their own civil war.

Jake Plummer is outraged over the treatment of Pat Tillman: They knew it was friendly fire then–it makes you sick

By: John Amato on Friday, September 15th, 2006 at 4:15 PM - PDT
On HBO’s Inside the NFL, Peter King interviewed Denver QB Jake Plummer about the horrific treatment the Tillman family have received over Pat’s death. There have been four investigations into what really happened to him and now a fifth one is getting close to being completed. How reprehensible has this been for the Tillman family? Pat is killed and they were repeatedly lied to. The family is not speaking out, but Plummer is. Good for him. Somebody has to.

Video-WMP Video-QT (rough transcript)
http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/09/15/jake-plummer-is-outraged-over-the-treatment-of-pat-tillman-they-knew-it-was-friendly-fire-then-it-makes-you-sick/

King: When you first heard that they hid these irregularities, were you outraged?

Plummer: It just made you feel kinda sick that they’d cover up something like that to–for whatever reason. We were all led to believe he died in leading his troops up the hill and then they come tell us it wasn’t–it was friendly fire. What can you do– you’re at their mercy and you just feel for the family…

I mention Big Shots only because there might be lingering in the American collective unconscious – that immense psychic ocean of all that is suppressed and ignored – some residual folk memory of resentment against Big Shots. Perhaps a residual sense of the political taste that caused people to fight to the death against the British so many years ago. However, it is probable that Americans, after 30 years of corporate propaganda, have been so overwhelmingly persuaded of their unique brilliance, success and that Beautiful Freedom we all enjoy, that they all conceive of themselves as Big Shots, entitled citizens, above the masses. In our area, the masses are imagined by our fictitious Big Shots to be foreigners, Mexicans and Asians and such. Casual observation suggests, however, that when Americans, convinced of their Big Shot status, are muscled by the equally convinced, the former group – rather than getting down to political realities – tends instead to develop a severe case of the vapors. “How dare they!” etc. Generally, their croquet balls are carefully aimed and demurely stroked at a non-lethal local official, in no position to help or to harm, simply one more minor Big Shot on his or her way up or down the ladder to Big Shot Heaven. Missing the target amounts to an alliance with one’s own gravedigger, but if one doesn’t know that, there is not point in bringing it up.

“Use it or lose it,” voter registrars used to mutter in front of supermarket doors at the feckless passers-by. They didn’t use it and they did lose it. Everyman the Big Shot, on his way into WalMart, was above mere voting.

The proper American hero of today is Yossarian, the terrified WWII bombardier of Catch-22. When you tell the truth to power, power will fire back. Yossarian wasn’t crazy. Fighting fascism is dangerous work. But, having allowed this unaccountable, authoritarian power to take root on the ground, it must be defeated even though it fights back. That would take courage and spirit, and probably fewer vacations. But, of course, Catch-22 was just a funny novel written 50 years ago, which said some rather off-message things about the “greatest generation.”

Our local McClatchy Chain corporate outlet is a Big Shot with barrels of ink that is never off-message. The Chain is part of the immense advertising/public relations empire in charge of controlling our taste, distorting all issues with one aim – the destruction of a truly public perspective in favor of the very private, “special” perspective of the private profits of their paymasters and their social equals in the Club de Big Shots. In the San Joaquin Valley, the McClatchy Chain relentlessly attacks the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement, reached between local, state and national environmental groups and farmers and local, state and federal water agencies. The idea of accord between agriculture and environmental groups is an abomination to McClatchy advertisers – principally real estate development, finance and insurance – and they cannot allow this agreement to live, which would put Sierra snow melt back into the state’s second-longest river all the way to the Delta. To this destructive end, the Chain has taken to quoting every inane utterance of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, a bullyboy for corporate agribusiness welfare. The Big Shots the Chain does not name, who are bankrolling Nunes’ attack on the settlement, are smoother and worse.

The Big Shots intend to protect their power and their wealth. That’s all they have to say now, and all they ever had to say, millions of barrels of ink ago. Where’s the “Progress”? What did agribusiness, built on federal water, crop subsidies and low wages, really accomplish? Where is the quality in those islands of wealth surrounded by poverty and economic anxiety? What was the ideal served? Where is the happiness?

Do we live to buy what we don’t need to keep corporate CEOs in the style to which they have become accustomed, averaging 300 times higher compensation than the median income of their employees? Do we live for the fame of having invaded and destroyed already crippled nations to plunder their resources? Do we live to support and applaud or suffer in fearful silence the fraud and corruption of predatory plutocrats? Were we born to become the generation that forgot the difference between news and advertising? Is our purpose in life here in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere to stand at attention and sing hymns of praise to the destroyers of the Public Trust and the builders of grotesque slurbs – just because Big Shots have the “freedom” to do it?

Is this nation’s destiny freedom for Big Shots and the shaft for the rest of us?

“Of course not, of course not,” I hear you saying.

I end in communion with the great Dodge City lawman, Bat Masterson, who went on to a distinguished career as a New York City sports writer. He wrote:

There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed, for example, that we all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter. -- Bat Masterson

| »

Badlands antidote for 2007

Submitted: Dec 31, 2006

The Badlands Journal antidote for recession and bloody-minded blithering idiots at the wheel will not:

· stop inflation and falling home prices
· negative real yeilds on US Treasury securities
· stop pressure to weaken the dollar
· stop sharp rise in grain prices as biofuel processors bid up food prices
· stop precious metal prices from rising
· stop war and rising political instability in the Mideast, Southeast Asia and Africa and production discipline from keeping the supply of oil below demand
· stop the combination of rising defaults, foreclosures and falling collateral values that is beginning to weaken the balance sheets of mortgage lenders, including several of America’s largest banks
· stop wages from falling
· stop a stock-market slump
· cool bond market volatility
· stop a 20-percent depreciation of the dollar against the yen, the Swiss franc and the pound, and a 10-percent depreciation against the Chinese yuan
· stop a recession in Mexico that will drive more people north
· support "cash-out" mortgages to stimulate consumer spending
· stop the Democrats from aggressive trade legislation aimed at opening more Asian markets
· stop Chinese and Japanese irritation with this legislation
· stop global warming
. turn you into a faith-based knucklehead.

However, it may restore some lost sanity as an economic crisis you can’t do anything about anyway develops and political and economic leaders pump up the volume of lies, send in more troops, start more wars, and do more of what they have done so well -- steal, kill and destroy the earth in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Badlands Journal antidote for 2007:

The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin (1859)
-----------------------------

Notes:

RISKY BUSINESS
Global economy faces a dangerous year
By Jephraim P Gundzik
Asia Times, Dec. 23, 2006
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/HL23Dj01.html

Cash-out mortgage refinancing
http://www.lendingtree.com/cec/yourhome/yourmortgage/cash-out-mortgage-refinancing.asp

The Housing Crash Recession of 2007
By Dean Baker
Truthout, Dec. 5, 2006
http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=644

Fed Treading on Thin Ice as US Housing Bubble Weakens
By Mark Weisbrot
http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=362

| »

Grassrooters' factual flyer on the racetrack

Submitted: Dec 11, 2006

THE OPPONENTS OF RMP WANT YOU TO KNOW:
The attitude of Riverside Motorsports Park and Merced County government toward your environment, health and public safety is: Gentlemen, start your engines, put your pedal to the metal and pass every law and regulation protecting public health and safety on the right as fast as you can.

RMP Chief John Condren claims he’s got your elected officials in his pocket.

Although it’s too early to start planning a ground-breaking party, we can report that RMP has won the support of 4 of the 5 members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors … and we may succeed in securing the unanimous support of the Board once the EIR is released. In addition, RMP has secured the approval and support of State Senator Jeff Denham, US Congressman Dennis Cardoza, 5 Chambers of Commerce within Merced County, the City Councils of Atwater and Merced, and RMP has the support of the California Builders Industry Association. Added to this list are over 1,500 local Merced County citizens who have signed to be on our project update mailing/e-mail list.

--Riverside Motorsports Park, 1 January 2005 “To all our valued investors and supporters, Happy New Year!”

A quorum of supervisors should be disqualified from voting on this project at all, when a developer is bragging that loudly about how he owns them. To begin with, Jerry O’Banion and Kathleen Crookham. O’Banion is widely known as having steered the project from the west side to its present location. Crookham gave a promotional talk on the RMP project before the Clipper Club at Central Presbyterian Church. Their involvement with the project ought to disqualify them from voting on it.

In a January 1, 2005 letter to RMP investors, Condren claimed:
· The traffic plan for the project was complete; NOT TRUE
· Zoning restrictions pertaining to noise impacts have been amended such that unlimited Motorsports activities
may occur without additional restrictions; NOT TRUE
· The RMP Master plan is approved; NOT TRUE
· RMP event schedule will include all the largest names in motorsports. NOT TRUE

Two years later, there is no traffic plan; the EIR simply states that the noise level from auto racing is a “significant, unavoidable impact” to be overridden by a vote of the supervisors; the RMP master plan is only a draft that will be rewritten after – not before – the supervisors approve the project; while RMP tells its investors it will draw all the big names in auto racing (and hundreds of thousands of spectators), it tells the locals the eight tracks in the project will be almost exclusively for local car clubs, drawing only a few thousand spectators.

The Big Consultants Shuffle. The County recommended a firm it has done a great deal of work with, including the lion’s share of planning for UC Merced. It couldn’t come up with a traffic plan, so RMP replaced them with another firm willing to say there is a traffic plan when there isn’t one.

RMP wrote its investors two years ago the traffic studies are all done by Jan. 2005. At the Nov. 15 public hearing on the project, county Public Works informed the public there was no traffic plan. The RMP traffic consultant agreed: there is no traffic plan beyond waiting to see what roads spectators choose.

On Nov. 28, for the first time, county Public Works informed the people of Delhi, that Shanks Road, El Capitan and Palm were going to be a major thoroughfare for race traffic until two weeks ago, that some county roads would need to be widened, which might call for eminent domain if residents and RMP cannot agree on prices.

Who are RMP’s investors? These people are presumably underwriting a project that will significantly worsen our already severe air pollution, fill our country roads with frequent, periodic traffic jams, and fill our ears with the din of racecar engines. The Merced public has a right to view a full financial disclosure statement on who these people are who are investing in the destruction of our environment – before the supervisors we elected vote to approve this project. The public needs to ask how much RMP investor money will end up in campaign coffers of officials we elect.

Indemnification. The County and RMP have an agreement:

Indemnification and Hold Harmless
Approval of this Project is for the benefit of Applicant. The submittal of applications by Applicant for this Project was a voluntary act on the part of the Applicant not required by the County. Therefore, as a condition of approval of this Project, the Applicant agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the County of Merced and its agents, officers, employees, advisory agencies, appeal board or legislative body of Merced County (collectively, “County”) from any and all claims, actions and proceedings against the County to attack, set aside, void, or annul an approval by the County concerning the Project occurring as a result of the action or inaction of the County, and for any and all costs, attorneys fees, and damages arising
therefrom (collectively, “Claim”).”

– INDEMNITY AND HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENT BETWEEN COUNTY OF MERCED AND RIVERSIDE MOTORSPORTS PARK, LLC, Sept. 12, 2006.

This agreement allows the County to approve this project without taking any responsibility for these new, impacts to our environment added on top of UC Merced and its induced housing boom – air, traffic and noise – because they aren’t liable for legal costs.
However, the County has not yet signed the agreement. nor did they include it in the conditions in the staff report on the project.

Water. A year ago, Board Chairman Mike Nelson misspoke, saying Atwater would supply RMP with potable water. Winton doesn’t have enough water. Water Castle is supplying off-base residents is contaminated. So, where’s the drinking water?

Overweening control of Planning Director.

Modifications to the Development Plan and Administrative Permit may be approved administratively by the Planning Director if determined consistent with the intent of the Master Plan, the RMP EIR, and the procedures and finds defined in Section 18.50.02(D) of the Merced County Zoning Code.

-- P. 7-1, RMP Draft Master Plan

This means that planning director, in concert with RMP, can change the plans for the project any way they want to, unless the public challenges it. In other words, the planning director works from RMP, not for you.

Conflict of interest. The Merced County Board of Supervisors is the land-use authority for all unincorporated land in the county. But, it is also the land-use authority for the former Castle Air Force Base. The RMP project, which adjoins Castle, cannot be approved until the board overrides the noise-zone for the Castle airport established by the airport commission. The board plans to do this on Dec. 12. But, these are two separate actions, both with large consequences to the noise level, and the airport override must be analyzed in the RMP environment impact report. The County did not do that. In fact, there is no analysis on the environmental, public health and safety impacts from this decision. The County is in conflict of interest on these two projects.

Contempt for the public. The County did not make the new staff report to the public (including state and federal agencies) available until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, the day before the hearing. Nothing could better express the County’s complete contempt for the public and favoritism for special development interests. It also perfectly expresses the County’s lack of respect for law and elemental fairness. In violation of public access provisions within the California Environmental Quality Act, the public has not been allowed to view the working file of this project without recourse to the state Public Records Act. This is illegal.

The lack of analysis of cumulative economic and environmental impacts from the chaotic growth in Merced requires the public to demand a moratorium on any more projects not already approved by appropriate local, state and federal agencies. RMP is not approved by the appropriate agencies, therefore the board should not approve it before the county general plan has been fully updated in a legally compliant fashion.

The board of supervisors must deny the Riverside Motorsports Park General Plan Amendment No. GPA03-005, Zone Change Application No. ZC03-007, the Board of Supervisors’ override of the Castle Airport Land Use Commission, the Environmental Checklist, the Notice of Application, Draft Master Plan, Draft EIR, Final EIR, Appendices to Vol. 2, Response to Comments, Vol. 1, Staff Report, Findings, Resolutions and Overrides, and Indemnification.

The process that produced these documents was seriously flawed by

· an inadequate project description that can be modified at will by administrative decision without public review;
· serious conflicts of interest involving at least two members of the board voting on the project and the applicant’s claims nearly two years ago that he already had a super-majority of supervisors in his pocket;
· segmenting and peacemealing the entirely different project of the override of the Castle Land Use Commission decision, which requires its own EIR;
· deliberate failure of the County to make essential project documents available to the public in a timely manner;
· failure of the land-use authority to perform its mandatory duty to consult federal resource regulatory agencies on the environmental impacts of the proposed project;
· failure to do any analysis on the economic impacts of the proposed project on the Castle Commercial-Aviation Economic Development area;
· failure of the County to do cumulative economic impact studies on the impacts of this proposed project and other commercial, growth-inducing anchor tenants;
· failure of the County to consider the negative impact on the proposed project of the third failure of the transportation tax measure;

OPEN APPEAL TO MERCED COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Dear Supervisors Pedrozo, Crookham, Nelson, Kelsey and O’Banion: November 27, 2006

Thank you, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, for scheduling three town-hall meetings this week to address the immediate impacts that the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park will have on your district. We would ask that supervisors Pedrozo, Crookham, Nelson and O’Banion also schedule meetings in their districts and listen to their constituents’ concerns about the RMP project.

Town-hall meetings are not formal hearings and we question how much impact they will have. However, the Board of Supervisors has closed the public hearing. At this stage, town-hall meetings appear to be the best way we have to afford citizens the opportunity to participate in the process.

At the close of the public hearing on RMP, there was still no traffic plan. The traffic study that had been done was based on a flawed, deceptive traffic count in the wrong season for either agricultural harvests or auto racing. This is unacceptable to the public.

The RMP project proposes that District 4’s rural two-lane roads be used as highways for thousands of cars to reach the raceway site. The RMP project will negatively impact the roads, environment and public health and safety of other districts as well. Districts 1, 2, and 3 (Livingston, Atwater & Merced) will be impacted by traffic congestion, slowed response by emergency vehicles, noise, and air quality threats of the project.

All residents will be impacted by road deterioration. Our nationally recognized air pollution could ultimately cause the federal government to stop highway funds until we make greater efforts to clean up our air. We will then be asked to raise our taxes to fix the roads because development does not pay its way.

All Merced County residents will be impacted when the Board of Supervisors lowers the standards of our out-dated General Plan to accommodate the RMP project. The Board should not even consider projects with the massive impacts of RMP before it updates the county General Plan.

We request that the Board of Supervisors do the following:

· hold meetings in all the districts and be accountable to those that elected you to represent our County, not developers’ interests;
· re-open the public hearing on RMP, since about 50 people were not able to testify at the last hearing;
· re-circulate RMP environmental documents to allow the public to review RMP’s and the Planning Department’s responses to public testimony;
· re-circulate RMP environmental documents to allow the public to review the traffic study, which was not finished at the time of the public hearing.
· not decide on RMP or other large development projects before the County has finished updating its General Plan.

Thank you.
Tom Grave
Merced County- Citizens Against the Raceway

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Write and call your supervisor and tell them to reopen the public hearing and/or deny this project.

Attend Board of Supervisor meetings on Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. and on Dec. 19 at 10 a.m.

Write and call Congressman Cardoza, whose wife is a doctor.

Write and call state Sen. Jeff Denham and Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani.

Paid for by Citizens Against RMP

| »

Public letter in opposition to the Riverside Motorsports Park

Submitted: Nov 14, 2006

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water (POW)
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 523-1391, ph. & fax

Merced County Board of Supervisors November 14, 2006
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-7977
Ph: (209) 385-7366 Via Hand Delivered and Email

Re: Public hearing on Riverside Motorsports Park General Plan Amendment No. GPA03-005, Zone Change Application No. ZC03-007, the Board of Supervisors’ override of the Castle Airport Land Use Commission, the Environmental Checklist, the Notice of Application, Draft Master Plan, Draft EIR, Final EIR, Appendices to Vol. 2, Response to Comments, Vol. 1, Staff Report, Findings, Resolutions and Overrides, and Indemnification.

1. Development Plan and Administrative Permit

The Riverside Motorsports Park Development Plan and Administrative Permit are the second stage of project approval following adoption of the Master Plan, as required by Merced County’s Planned Development Zone. When submitted, the Development Plan will include a precise plot plan, elevations, landscaping, lighting and other more detailed plans for development of the entirety of the project. The Development and Administrative Permit implement the goals, vision and requirements of the Master Plan. The Administrative Permit will provide the “entitlement” for the RMP project and include a list of conditions of approval under which the facility will operation. All development will be required to be consistent with the Development Plan and Administrative Permit (as may be amended.)

Modifications to the Development Plan and Administrative Permit may be approved administratively by the Planning Director if determined consistent with the intent of the Master Plan, the RMP EIR, and the procedures and finds defined in Section 18.50.02(D) of the Merced County Zoning Code.

-- P. 7-1, RMP Draft Master Plan

The public finds this “implementation” completely unacceptable. Merced County seems to be following the policy that if a sizeable portion of the supervisors’ constituents oppose a project, the final master plan could include changes so substantial to it that they would nullify the project description of its final EIR will be done administratively, without any further public or even legislative review. How excellent a technique for elected officials to wash their hands of the problems this project will cause their own constituents. “Sorry, we can’t do a thing,” the supervisors will be able to say. “It’s all being decided ‘administratively.’”

So, the “master plan” referred to by the county Planning Commission on Oct. 25, either does not yet exist or has not been made available to the public. For example, under the present “administrative” set up, the proponents and the County could create another Pacific Comtech industrial park in RMP final master plan, approved under an EIR to build a racetrack. It would be a radical violation of the project description, but on the other side of Merced we have the UC Community Plan, which every day looks more like the area where the UC Merced campus expansion will go, instead.

2. Disqualification of some supervisors for voting on the RMP project

Coupled with whatever indemnification agreement the County and RMP has reached (not available to the public), this “implementation” insures that once again the elected supervisors will have shielded themselves from any accountability for their decision. The last handicapping of the board of supervisors’ vote was written by RMP CEO John Condren in a letter to his investors last year:

Although it’s too early to start planning a ground-breaking party, we can report that RMP has won the support of 4 of the 5 members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors … and we may succeed in securing the unanimous support of the Board once the EIR is released. In addition, RMP has secured the approval and support of State Senator Jeff Denham, US Congressman Dennis Cardoza, 5 Chambers of Commerce within Merced County, the City Councils of Atwater and Merced, and RMP has the support of the California Builders Industry Association. Added to this list are over 1,500 local Merced County citizens who have signed to be on our project update mailing/e-mail list.

-- Riverside Motorsports Park, 1 January 2005 “To all our valued investors and supporters, Happy New Year!”

Although Foster Farms representatives reported last month being unable to meet with supervisors about their concerns with the project, Condren had apparently met with supervisors nearly two years ago. But the public isn’t as cynical as the RMP boss; we expect surprising acts of good sense from our supervisors.

To begin, it would be a surprising act of good faith if the board disqualified two of its members from voting on the RMP final EIR: Jerry O’Banion and Kathleen Crookham. O’Banion is widely known as having steered the project from the west side to its present location. Crookham gave a promotional talk on the RMP project before the Clipper Club at Central Presbyterian Church. Their involvement with the project ought to disqualify them from voting on it. The appearance of conflict-of-interest mars the deliberations on this extremely important decision in advance.

The board of supervisors needs to recall that it is not required by law to approve a fatally flawed EIR.

3. Airport Land Use Commission decisions

On Oct. 24, the Board of Supervisors voted to override a decision by the Castle Airport Land Use Commission that the RMP project is inconsistent with state Department of Transportation guidelines on projects near airports.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, this “decision” is in fact a project. As presently proposed, it is an unanalyzed and unmitigated segment of the Riverside Motorsports Park (RMP) environmental impact report.

There is a basic flaw in the description of this project and the approval process is being illegally segmented because two parallel, unrelated planning processes are going on.

According to Planning Department staff, the ALUC met last week to reconsider the decision overridden by the board on Oct. 24.

The County has obstructed public access to the airport commission’s decision, although Planning Director Robert Lewis is secretary of the commission. The commission met last week and reached a decision that the public is obstructed from knowing. Apparently, the Planning Department takes the minutes, but they were not available for view on Monday. Therefore, the public, including state and federal agencies, have no chance to analyze the commission’s recommendation. The public does not know if this recommendation requires state and/or federal approval and if that approval is or is not forthcoming, or when it might be. Yet, according to planning department staff, whatever the decision of the ALUC may be, whatever state and federal approval or disapproval it requires, somehow the reduction in size of the noise zone around the airport will appear in the final RMP EIR after the public hearing is closed, at the board’s Dec. 12 meeting.

This project should not go forward until the public and agencies have had a chance to analyze the impacts of the proposed changes at the airport. The FEIR needs to be recirculated, incorporating all documents related to the ALUC recommendation. The airport decision must be treated as a separate project now, because throughout the development of the RMP project, it has been on an unrelated track and cannot be joined at this late date.

According to testimony by the airport manager, the RMP would bring a significant increase in air traffic to the airport. There is no environmental analysis of this significant increase. In fact, there is no environmental or economic analysis of this significant increase. However, in terms of RMP project, it represents a significant, unanalyzed change in the project.

Just because the RMP project cannot go forward without adjustments to the airport noise regulations does not mean that the FEIR and the ALUC decision are part of the same project for planning or bureaucratic purposes. Under CEQA, the needs of the public for access to information and public debate, not the needs of the developer, define the description of the project and proper legal processes in the decision-making.

We submitted the same packet of material to the county Planning Commission on the following day, Oct. 25. We were unable to finish our testimony orally in the time permitted. At the end of the meeting, after the planning commission had made its decision to advise the board to approve the project, our packet was still lying in the basket beside the podium – one more example of the failure of the county to respect and properly consider important information about this project submitted by the public.

4. Immediate issues of public information access

The County has failed to provide the public with a copy of the indemnification agreement between it and RMP. The public has been unable to obtain a copy of the indemnification agreement, therefore the citizens of Merced County do not know what is and what is not indemnified by the developer of this project, who will pay what to whom in case of litigation on a number of possible problems, including fire and police protection, public safety and environmental issues.

The board public hearing on the RMP project was scheduled on the Tuesday following a three-day weekend. Normally, the public would have had access to the staff report for the hearing on Friday. On Friday, the office was closed. But, on Monday, at noon, the public and state and federal resource agencies were unable to get a new staff report, unable to get the ALUC decision, and was not given the opportunity to review the public testimony submitted, the summary report or the minutes of the planning commission hearing. The County is once again obstructing public access to vital information as if the County were above the laws of CEQA and public process.

The County did not make the new staff report to the public (including state and federal agencies) until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, the day before the hearing. Nothing could better express the County’s complete contempt for the public and favoritism for special development interests. It also perfectly expresses the County’s lack of respect for law and elemental fairness.

5. Failure to consult federal resource agencies

Canal Creek, along with its associated wetlands and limited tree cover, passes through the northeast corner and to the east of the RMP site. From the project site, Canal Creek flows southwest through Atwater into Black Rascal Creek and eventually into Bear Creek and the San Joaquin River. Canal Creek is a perennial tributary.

Just beyond the northeast boundary is the Castle Dam, a 6,400 acre-foot capacity dry flood control facility operated by the Merced Irrigation District.”

--P. 2-3 Riverside Motorsports Park Draft Master Plan.

This statement, in conjunction with state Department of Fish and Game directive, triggered the necessity of County and proponent consultation with federal resource regulatory agencies. The County and proponents failed to engage in that consultation, fatally damaging the environmental review of the RMP project.

The RMP project lies inside the federal Endangered Species Act critical habitat designation for the 15 endangered species associated with vernal pools. It also lies directly across an endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox migration corridor. The creek running through the project area connects with navigable waters of the US.

However, there is no evidence that – despite the state Department of Fish and Game advise to the County and project proponents – that either the County or proponents ever consulted on these three important federal resource issues, growing more critical in Merced County by the month with the cumulative impacts caused by development induced by UC Merced on valuable eastern Merced County wildlife habitat.

The recent federal court ruling upheld the critical habitat designation. The project area lies well within the US Fish & Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Vernal Pools, and the Service has designated the project area as part of a vital corridor for kit fox east-to-west migration. Until the issue of the connectivity of the creek running through the project site is established by the US Army Corps of Engineers, this project cannot go forward just because the County and proponents have ignored their legal obligations under ESA and the federal Clean Water Act to consult with the federal resource regulatory agencies.

In addition, this project lies within the boundaries of UC Merced and state and federal agencies’ Contiguous Band of Natural Lands and Wildlife-Compatible Farmland that Should Be Maintained. UC Merced regards the existing orchard on the project site as important agricultural land for protection and for the mitigation of take of wildlife habitat. In addition to failing to consult with federal resource regulatory agencies, the Merced County Department of Planning and Community Development failed to consult with the UC Merced Development Planning office.

Merced County, home of UC Merced, is long past the point where it can claim ignorance of federal resource agency jurisdiction over large parts of eastern, as well as western Merced County. The County was notified in September by the state Department of Fish and Game to consult with federal resource agencies.

The RMP project should be re-circulated because the federal agencies were not properly notified by either project proponents, which is understandable, or by the land-use authority, Merced County, which is neither understandable nor legally defensible.

There is no analysis of the impact to species associated with wetlands immediately north of the project at Castle Dam. There is no environmental analysis of the effects of the proposed sound berm on water flowing toward the site.

In the draft EIR, p. 4.4-1 project consultants refer to the Merced Basin Groundwater Management Plan. In fact, the plan does not exist and cannot be used as an authoritative policy document.

6. Failure to do economic analysis on impacts to the Castle Commerce-Aviation & Economic Development area.

A Castle airport manager testified to the planning commission that the RMP project would increase traffic to and from the airport. The RMP final EIR lists 34 significant, unavoidable environmental impacts. The board will have no basis on which to override them but economic. This it will done without any analysis of the economic impacts to the Castle economic development area from being adjacent to a regional auto racing facility subject to periodic traffic jams that, if the track is successful, can only increase in number over time. How will the racetrack economically impact the Castle enterprise with its foreign-trade zone designation, conducive to a number of enterprises that could have provided thousands of jobs fitting the skill level of tens of thousands of Merced’s existing residents? We don’t know and this EIR doesn’t mention the subject. An economic override that lacks any analysis of the economic impacts of the project is not legally compliant.

7. Moratorium until General Plan Update

Planners in Merced County – whether they work for the county planning department, UC Merced, Castle, Merced County Association of Governments or the various cities – have failed to consider the cumulative economic as well as environmental impacts of rapidly sprouting commercial zones, particularly along the Highway 99 corridor. Following on the section above, this is working an economic hardship on plans for the development of Castle, but, overall, it is creating a series of disconnected “anchor tenant” areas, which will induce growth around them. In light of the third failure to pass a sales tax increase to fund road construction and improvement in a county with a general plan so weak and out- of-date it is useless as a planning-guidance tool, these competing commercial zones will soon create traffic-circulation havoc, adding measurably to air pollution, and may produce economic havoc as well. But we don’t know, because there has been no analysis of the economic impacts of chaotic growth in a county with a moribund general plan.

The lack of analysis of cumulative economic and environmental impacts from the chaotic growth in Merced requires the public to demand a moratorium on any more projects not already approved by appropriate local, state and federal agencies. RMP is not approved by the appropriate agencies, therefore the board should not approve it before the county general plan has been fully updated in a legally compliant fashion.

8. Conclusion

The board of supervisors must deny the Riverside Motorsports Park General Plan Amendment No. GPA03-005, Zone Change Application No. ZC03-007, the Board of Supervisors’ override of the Castle Airport Land Use Commission, the Environmental Checklist, the Notice of Application, Draft Master Plan, Draft EIR, Final EIR, Appendices to Vol. 2, Response to Comments, Vol. 1, Staff Report, Findings, Resolutions and Overrides, and Indemnification.

The process that produced these documents was seriously flawed by

· an inadequate project description that can be modified at will by administrative decision without public review;
· serious conflicts of interest involving at least two members of the board voting on the project and the applicant’s claims nearly two years ago that he already had a super-majority of supervisors in his pocket;
· segmenting and peacemealing the entirely different project of the override of the Castle Land Use Commission decision, which requires its own EIR;
· deliberate failure of the County to make essential project documents available to the public in a timely manner;
· failure of the land-use authority to perform its mandatory duty to consult federal resource regulatory agencies on the environmental impacts of the proposed project;
· failure to do any analysis on the economic impacts of the proposed project on the Castle Commercial-Aviation Economic Development area;
· failure of the County to do cumulative economic impact studies on the impacts of this proposed project and other commercial, growth-inducing anchor tenants;
· failure of the County to consider the negative impact on the proposed project of the third failure of the transportation tax measure.

Sincerely,

Lydia Miller Steve Burke

Attachments:
TNC Predicted Vernal Pool Taxa
Dept. F&G San Joaquin Kit Fox Approximate Distribution
UC Merced San Joaquin Kit Fox Habitat Map
UC Merced Vernal Pool and Related Wetlands Map
“Supervisors override ban on building near airport,” Merced Sun-Star
Eastern Merced Bird List
US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Upland Species Map
US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Vernal Pool Ecosystems
( hard copy of Service recovery plan and above items delivered by hand along with this letter to the Board of Supervisors at its public hearing, Nov. 14, 2006)

All other attachments submitted electronically:
Eastern Merced Bird List
Silviera Bird List
UC Merced San Joaquin Kit Fox Habitat Map
UC Merced Vernal Pool and Related Wetlands Map
“Supervisors override ban on building near airport,” Merced Sun-Star
RMP articles
BadlandsJournal.com Riverside Motorsports Park CEO Letter to Investors
Vernal Pool Critical Habitat Lawsuit
Pacific Comtec lawsuit petition
Coalition Statement
US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Upland Species Map
TNC Predicted Vernal Pool Taxa
Dept. F&G San Joaquin Kit Fox Approximate Distribution

Cc: Interested parties
BadlandsJournal

| »

Measure G press update

Submitted: Oct 30, 2006

Merced, among other Valley counties are producing measures for the General Election to increase sales taxes to pay for roads. These roads -- as the top contributors to these campaigns, public officials, and everybody else knows -- will not reduce traffic congestion. But, business is business, and Measure G supporters don’t care about consequences. They will just pave the way for more growth and more traffic congestion. That’s why hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to convince the public to vote against its own interests for more growth, more traffic, worse air and, not so indirectly, utility-rate hikes – because development does not pay for itself or provide stable employment at any wage. It is a boom that busts.

But, our congressman tells the local McClatchy outlet his latest vision, which some say he stole from Jerry McNerney as part of a move to distance himself from Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Crook-Tracy:

"I believe we can make this area the Silicon Valley of renewable energy,” Cardoza said. “There are technological advances that could come out of this university that we are not even contemplating." – Merced Sun-Star, Oct. 27, 2006.

In one sentence, the Incumbent Boy manages to trivialize the San Joaquin Valley, Silicon Valley, renewable energy and technological innovation and invention.

The San Joaquin Valley is the “Silicon Valley of Agriculture.” It remains in the forefront of agricultural technological innovation – at least while it has enough agricultural land to be worth the effort.

Every local growth hustler in America has been claiming Silicon Valley can be transported to his or her little burg or rust bowl – but there is only one Silicon Valley.

UC Riversides, Irvines and Merceds may multiply by land-deal boondoggle, but there is only one Cal.

Real inventors of alternative energy technology tend to be like brahma bulls in milking barns, not good little academics or “one voice” politicos.

Urban sprawl does not "another Silicon Valley" make.

The Pomboza (Pombo/Cardoza) continues to want one thing: real estate development. It is about the least innovative policy imaginable for the San Joaquin Valley.

Measure G creates a moving target for development by opening up new growth corridors. In the process it makes a mockery out of planning, the county General Plan update and all the other community and special urban development plans.

Sooner or later, the Federal Highway Administration must look at funding more highway construction in the nation’s second-worst air pollution basin. Measure G is part of a political game to make the FHA look away from Valley air pollution for as long as possible.
---------------------

Oct. 29, 2006

Fresno Bee
Keep our tax dollars at home...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/v-printerfriendly/story/10060.html
If we don't help ourselves, our money subsidizes other counties. There are plenty of good reasons for Valley voters to approve transportation sales tax measures on Nov. 7... There are 10 counties with transportation sales taxes on the Nov. 7 ballot. Eight are in the Valley; the exceptions are Santa Barbara, Amador and Orange counties. Fresno and San Joaquin counties are voting on renewals. Kern, Tulare, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus are voting on new measures. Seventeen counties already have such taxes in place. All are in the Bay Area or Southern California, with the exception of Fresno and San Joaquin counties. Most of those taxes are set in place for many years; Los Angeles' tax is permanent. Vote "yes" on Measure T in Madera County, Measure R in Tulare County, Measure I in Kern County and Measure G in Merced County. Vote "yes" on Fresno County's Measure C. Keep our tax dollars at home to work for us, not our neighbors on the coast.

Oct. 28, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
More taxes means more power for politicians...Jim Cardoza
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948144p-13602157c.html
Long before bilingual forms and cell phones, services like police, firemen and road maintenance were local government's top priorities. But now, no matter how fast the tax base grows, politicians routinely tell us we must pay more to sustain those vital functions...how can elected officials justify spending a dime on perks, charities and other nonessential expenditures? Pleading with overburdened taxpayers to raise their allowance would be straightforward, but not likely to bear fruit...instead, they choose to wring their hands in seemingly reflective and insightful public concern as they peddle a perception of impending crisis, such as too few cops or otherwise unfixable roadways. When voters bite the hook, the old money is then freed for use throwing around political weight. That political shell game often triumphs because it takes advantage of the widely believed fallacy that taxes are the result of need. The truth is, tax hikes are almost always about beliefs. Just five decades ago, a middle-class American family of four paid about 6 percent of their annual income in taxes of all types. Today, such a family pays well over 40 percent. This state of affairs has resulted from a combination of factors...: the politicians' desire for power, which is the ability to control money; the wasteful nature of bureaucracy, which shares the cancer cell's mission of growth for the sake of growth; and the massive power wielded by public employees unions, of which the California Legislature has long been an identifiable subsidiary. More taxes only encourage politicians to conjure new ways of expanding government. Stripped of sugarcoating, taxes are simply instruments of force used by the state to seize your money... Even less defensible is the enormous amount of resources government fritters away mindlessly within tail-chasing bureaucracies. Whereas private industry looks to streamline costs, bureaucracy's goal is to vaporize every cent in their budgets as a means of getting more next year. Presiding over such a world of waste, it is little wonder politicians view the perks and privileges they shuffle to each other as chump change. More taxes only encourage politicians to conjure new ways of expanding government. Why not insist their focus be limited to providing uncompromised essential services...

Complain, or change the way campaigns are run...Jim Boren
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948146p-13602167c.html
Elections have become the province of the special interests and political professionals. That has driven down voter turnout and increased political cynicism. A survey released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California says voters are discouraged in this year's campaign because the candidates aren't talking about issues that concern them. David Schecter, an assistant professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, says voter turnout is going down for several reasons other than negative campaigning. Many voters don't think their vote counts and others are frustrated with the political system...also points out that gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts limit competition and interest in those races.

Spending out of control...Ted Brodalski...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948147p-13602176c.html
...school districts demand money from new home buyers by intimidating the builders to pay higher fees. They get funding per student from Sacramento. They demand money using school bonds to correct deferred maintenance and build new schools. There is never enough money to meet their demands. The bonds are directed at real property. This is the topper that is asking for our vote for a constitutional amendment and statute to create a statewide parcel tax of $50 per parcel (Prop. 88). No one in education wants to talk about the broken school spending.

Oct. 27, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Politicians ruining state...ROBERT C. SHERWOOD, Los Banos...Once again the rulers of perpetual debt (the California state government) are spending more than we pay them to spend. Business is good in California...the gas tax is up higher...Property taxes are up higher... state sales tax revenues are higher...state even got about $400 million income tax from the sale of Google stock... If our local officials don't succumb to this coercion and get the voters to pass a local sales tax increase for good sounding causes like schools or roads, then we are not a "self-help" county and cannot receive matching funds or other funds that are long overdue. That compares to a thief offering to sell you back the goods he has stolen from you at a half-percent more than the price that you have already paid for the goods. Remember the "pothole tax" a few years ago? This doubled the road taxes and was supposed to keep them fixed. What did the state do with that money? Remember the state lottery? Vote no on any tax increase because it is never enough.

Oct. 25, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Measure G half page ad...too large to send out
A6 Wednesday, October 25, 2006 LOCAL&REGION Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif
Vote Yes! on G...Myths and Truths about Measure G paid for by Merced County Transportation Alliance...FPPC #1281519
Myth Truth
The Cities and County already have money in their budgets for roads....Yes...most general fund money budgeted...
The gas tax should pay for our roads..............................................................Yes...CA gas tax...money allocated based on population.
The State of CA should pay for Hwy. 99...........................................................Yes...we can't wait that long...
The State of CA will take Measure G money for its own projects................No...Measure G is a locally approved and a locally controlled tax...
All Measure G money will go toward highways..............................................No...approx. 1/2 of the funds divided among all cities and uncorporated areas throughout the County for local street and county road repair
There is no Measure G money for local projects...........................................See above response.
Measure G will pay for new roads needed as a result of all new
development.........................................................................................................Projects chosen for Measure G funding include maintenance and improvements to EXISTING roads
County legislators will use this money for projects other than
transportation.......................................................................................................Measure G is a special tax...can ONLY be spent on the transportation projects and programs that VOTERS APPROVE.
The majority of voters don't support a transportation measure..................In June...62.8% voted in SUPPORT...we need two thirds...67%.

Modesto Bee
Want good roads in Merced? It'll cost nearly $50 million...Ellie Wooten...Community Voices
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12933540p-13590144c.html
The simple truth is Merced's streets and roads are not aging well. The solution is to keep the roads in shape with regular maintenance and repair...there is a gap between the amount of roadwork that needs to be done and the money available. Until we obtain the money, there will be rough roads ahead.

Oct. 24, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Road initiative misleading...David A. Bultena, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929954p-13586799c.html
I recently received a copy of the voter pamphlet for Measure G...first page marked "24G1" and noted first of all, at the top it says "Measure A." I think Measure A was the last attempt to pass the sales tax. under "Measure A," the text asks the question, "Shall Merced County voters approve a one-half cent transportation?" Note that it says "one-half cent" and not "one-half percent." In the paragraph titled "Summary," the same language is used a second time. It seems to me that there is a great difference between collecting a half-percent sales tax and a half-cent sales tax. ..with all the high salaried people in charge of the county, members of the supervisors, etc., someone would have been smart enough to know the difference between the income from a "half-cent" sales tax and a "half-percent"sales tax.

Vote down higher taxes...Wayne Hein, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929955p-13586809c.html
Utopia is soon to descend upon our Merced community, according to the proponents of Measure G. For the third time in four years, the "powers that be" are trying to brainwash the voters that this tax issue is a "must!" nine major donors have given approximately $130,000 for convincing purposes. Aren't some heavily funded developers anticipating with glee that if passed the measure will give a boost to their development activities? And where is the limit to the sales tax? Proponents say that it is only -- repeat only -- a "few dollars" per year. Isn't that what the same voices said when the last sales tax increased to our current amount? Must Merced be in the same class as San Francisco and San Rafael? And when we are told in a few years that a need (?) exists, and a bond is needed for the funding, can we not expect the same voices to tell us that the added amount would be "only a few dollars?"

Measure G not the answer...Robert Wood, Atwater...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929956p-13586797c.html
Measure G is back again and I don't like it at all. I voted against it in June, I voted against it in 2002, and I'll vote against it again on Nov. 7. Special interest groups are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make voters believe that more taxes is the answer. Take all the gas tax money that we pay at the pump and spend it where it is supposed to be spent, on the roads! The message is, nothing gets done unless we say yes to Measure G. I say take some of the thousands of dollars that is spent to push this unnecessary tax and use it to fix our streets. Please don't let our local government put a gun to your head with this tax increase. Tell them to fix our roads with the money they already have. Twice before, we told them the answer is no. Vote no on Measure G and say no one more time.

Oct. 22, 2006

Stockton Record
'Taxpayers not only have subsidized, but will continue to subsidize, developers'...Dario Marenco
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061022/OPED02/610220306&SearchID=73260638368660
In 1990, when Measure K was placed on the ballot, one of the key features presented to voters was that a regional transportation impact fee would be placed on all future developments...15 years late, San Joaquin County Council of Governments is just now implementing this feature with a minimum fee of $2,500 for every new home built. That means developers have pocketed - and taxpayers have unnecessarily paid - at least $200 million for developments the past 15 years. If Measure K passes again...taxpayers not only have subsidized, but will continue to subsidize, developers...there are various loopholes in the Measure K renewal resolution that would enable developers to avoid paying the regional transportation impact fees under certain circumstances....costs... The San Joaquin Council of Governments, a 26-employee agency with an annual budget of $4.3 million, spent $86,000 for travel and conferences in 2002... Both Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, have staffs that cost our taxpayers over $1 million to represent these identical interests. Obviously, we already have professional, well-paid representatives in place in San Joaquin County and Washington, D.C., to protect and work for these same county interests. How then is a one-week, 50-person, $90,000 trip to Washington, D.C. - organized and promoted by the Council of Governments but paid for by taxpayers - justified to make our interests known?

Oct. 21, 2006

Merced Sun-Star

Your Views: Letters to the Editor:
B2 Saturday, October 21, 2006 Merced Sun-Star

Community at stake
Editor: We must do something locally to make the necessary improvements to our roads. Voting yes for Measure G is the answer. It's not just the porholes -- it's the long-term economic vitality of our community that's at stake. Having adequate and well-maintained roads is vital if we are to continue to meet the needs of our existing business community and citizens and continue to attract new business to Merced County.
If we truly want to preserve our quality of life, vote yes on Measure G.
Bob Carpenter, Merced

Who should pay road tax
Editor: Why more taxes to pay for streets, roads and highways? Why should law-abiding citizens in Merced County or any county be asked to pay more taxes to repair streets, roads and highways? They are already paying one of the highest gasoline taxes of any state in the United States and using more gasoline than any other state and the gasoline tax is supposed to be used to build and repair roads
Those who ought to be charged extra to pay for streets, roads and highways are the law-breaking speeders who ignore all posted speed limit signs. However; there is practically no visible law enforcers on any of our streets, roads and highways. My wife and I recently drove all the way across the United States and only saw three highway patrols. We went from Atwater to Gallup, N.M., before we saw the first highway patrol.
Just think of how many millions of dollars in fines that could be collected each day if the millions of California speeders were stopped every day. Hardly any drivers are obeying the posted speed limit signs, not only the drivers of autos, but truck drivers as well.
Never will I vote for a tax to repair streets, roads and highways until this situation is corrected. It is no wonder that so many people are being killed in auto accidents at the speeds they are traveling on the highways.
Lloyd 'Lefty" Stepp, Atwater

Fresno Bee
Group disputes EPA air ruling...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/8888.html
Environmentalists last week accused air authorities of ignoring pollution violations in their haste to acknowledge a milestone cleanup of dust and soot in the San Joaquin Valley. Earthjustice, an Oakland-based legal watchdog, threatened a lawsuit over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's finding on Tuesday that the Valley has not violated the dust and soot standard in three years. Earthjustice lawyer Paul Cort said authorities disregarded readings last November that showed violations in Bakersfield and Corcoran. Earthjustice's allegation refers to secondary monitors used to help forecast daily pollution warnings, district planning director Scott Nester said. The monitors are in Corcoran, Bakersfield and Tracy, and they are not part of the federally sanctioned network. Kerry Drake, associate director of the EPA's regional air division, confirmed that the readings from the secondary monitors don't count unless they have been operated in accordance with federal regulation.

Oct. 20, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Your Views:
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12916106p-13574265c.html
Roads not safe for cyclists...Dough Fluetsch, Merlock Athletic Association, Merced...2nd letter...The roads, due to budget constraints of our city and county officials, have been deteriorating to the point where safety has become a major concern for cyclists. Measure G will enable each community within Merced County to address safety issues for bicyclists and drivers alike.
Re-inventing the wheel...Beverly Quigley, Merced...3rd letter...I have a simple question regarding Measure G... Doesn't Measure G basically request that I pay those taxes again (matching funds)? Why would I pay for one purchase twice? What happened to the monies I've been paying for 13 years?

Oct, 19, 2006

Merced Sun
Builder outlines coming shops...Leslie Albrechthttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911855p-13570464c.htmlA shopping center so grand that its creators call it a "power center" was the star attraction at a Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce event updating members on new commercial development Wednesday...breakfast gathering highlighted several developments -- some still just concept drawings, others under construction -- that will shape Merced's shopping future...so-called "power center" is the Merced Gateway Park, a 133-acre regional shopping center slated for construction between Gerard Avenue and Mission Avenue on the east side of Coffee...center would offer world-class shopping on par with Fresno's River Park shopping center. Street in southeast Merced...include office space, hotels and possibly a movie theater. The site is now pasture land that's belonged to Pluim's family...shopping center will sit next to 196 condominiums that developer Matthews Homes plans to build at the corner of Gerard Avenue and Coffee Street....a half-mile to the west on Gerard Avenue is the site where Wal-Mart wants to build. Other projects highlighted at the chamber breakfast included: • A 15-acre shopping center planned for Yosemite Avenue between El Redondo Drive and Compass Pointe Drive (between R Street and Highway 59) in North Merced. • A 26-acre shopping center across Coffee Street from Merced Gateway Park called Merced Forum... • A neighborhood shopping center now under construction at Yosemite Park Way and Parsons Street

County expects voter turnout to be strong...Corinne Reillyhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911857p-13570484c.htmlTwice as many Merced County residents are expected to cast ballots on Nov. 7 compared to last June's primary election. As of Wednesday morning, 92,826 people are registered to vote in the county...expected to climb until Monday, the last day to register to vote in the November election. Only a quarter of Merced's registered voters cast ballots in June...county expects 45 to 50 percent of registered voters to show up in November. Stephen Nicholson, a political science professor at UC Merced who studies elections and voting behavior...high campaign expenditures on statewide ballot items will likely bring more voters to the polls. National issues, such as the war in Iraq and recent scandals within the Republican party, could also boost voter turnout...Measure G, a half-cent sales tax measure to fund local transportation improvements, could also bring more voters to the polls this time around. Brown said some of the 21,000 absentee ballots the county has mailed to local voters since Oct. 10 are already coming back, but the county has yet to begin counting them. Local voters can request absentee ballots through Oct. 31. Those not registered to vote can do so for November's election through Monday.Merced Sun-Star Tip List:

City street named after capital of North Dakota is misspelled...Leslie Albrechthttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911861p-13570456c.htmlWe're a university town and we need to start acting like it," said an anonymous tipster who left a message for the Tip List last week...Loughborough Drive in Merced is blighted with a typo. The street, like 18 others in the neighborhood, was named for a state capital: Bismarck, North Dakota. Unfortunately, the sign reads "Bismark." Local fifth-graders should be able to spot the misspelled street sign right away if they've been studying hard. Fifth-graders are responsible for knowing the location of all 50 states and the names of their capitals, said Nanette Rahilly, director of curriculum for Merced City School District. But she noted that the curriculum doesn't say anything about actually spelling the capitals correctly."I don't know how long that sign has been there," said Lesch of the Bismark sign. "It might be 30 or 40 years old. I'm surprised no one has said anything."

Oct. 18, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Be a responsible editor...David A. Ginsberg, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12907856p-13566807c.html
I read where you are endorsing Measure G, even on the front page. I can understand that endorsement if it is a corporate endorsement. After all, the Sun-Star is a major user of the county's roads and it makes sense that better roads mean a more efficient and therefore a more profitable newspaper. If, however, you are writing as an individual, then shame on you...you are in a position to see that the result of its passage would mean more land speculation, more development, loss of productive agricultural land, and the pollution of our Valley...the Sun-Star editor is in a position to see the effect another half-cent sales tax would have on the wage-earners of this county who are having trouble with increasing house payments, utilities, energy and food costs. ($82.50 a thousand doesn't sound like much until you are financing a $10,000 car). You are in a better position than anyone to investigate into whose pocket our gas taxes and gas sales taxes go that are some of the highest in the country that are supposed to pay for our roads. You are in a better position than anyone to realize that with the next serious public threat (like flood control) our elected leaders will be coming again, with hat in hand, asking for more money but we will already be committed to 30 years of higher taxes for roads that by then won't work. Yes, shame on you, Mr. Editor. You know better.

Vote down taxes...Geraldine Alsop, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12907852p-13566781c.html
It has come to my attention that there are four propositions on the November ballot to raise our taxes...I am 84 years old this November. I am a property owner so anything that undermines Prop. 13 is like shooting property owners; we can be taxed right out of our homes if you don't go to vote no on Proposition 88. Proposition 89...having to pay taxes for ads that attack candidates and causes you support, and support the candidates and causes you oppose. Proposition 86...hospital industry trying to get back some of their losses on treating the uninsured by allowing them to charge taxpayers more than they charge insurance companies for the same services. Proposition 87 will increase California taxes.

Modesto Bee
Readers sound off on the coming election
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12901954p-13561399c.html
Measures G, K pave way for growth...Robby Avilla, Stevinson...Merced County's half-cent sales tax for transportation, Measure G, is equivalent to Stanislaus County's Measure K. As both counties fill up with massive subdivision growth, we are told that we cannot lure industries and jobs until we fix the roads. However, if we do the large road projects that state matching funds will address, we can be assured that even more massive housing tracts will be approved. It is a Catch-22 situation. Give us measures that truly do just fix and maintain our roads, instead of these top-heavy measures that will create grand roadway projects for still more overdevelopment. When a tiny town like Stevinson, with a population of 400, is asked to absorb a 3,500-unit gated community, the situation has grown out of control. In Merced County, the developers have financed the heck out of Measure G. Of course they have — it literally paves the way for their projects. Put the brakes on developer's megaprojects and vote "no" on Measures G and K.

Oct. 17, 2007

Merced Sun-Star
Vote no on taxes...Nancy Hart...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12901776p-13561215c.html
If passed, these proposals will cost you and me several hundred dollars every single year for decades. I have never seen such a flood of proposed taxes and bonds as there is this time around. The Merced Sun-Star has pointed out that Measure G and E alone will cost the average family per year $83 and $90 respectively, totaling $173. That does not include the following: Proposition lB, Proposition 1C, Proposition 1D, Proposition 1E, Proposition 84, Proposition 86, Proposition 87, Proposition 88, Proposition 89 -- $200 million in new taxes annually to pay for political campaigns, also Measure E and G as outlined above. It won't stop here either. More and more bond issues will be introduced as the years go by. Even when a bond issue is defeated, it keeps coming back. Look at Measure G which has been resubmitted under new names three times in the past four years.

Oct. 16, 2006

Fresno Bee
Road levy will need a bevy...Russell Clemings
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12901245p-13560698c.html
County's Measure C...proposed 20-year extension of the half-cent transportation sales tax, which is due to expire next summer...
half-cent tax first was enacted in 1986, only a simple majority was required. It got about 57.5%. Now, for the proposed extension, a two-thirds vote is required. A previous extension attempt in 2002 won 54% approval, but by then, a court ruling had already raised the bar, so it failed. The 2002 effort also was crippled. This time, local leaders have crafted a spending plan for the 20-year extension that divides $1.7 billion in expected revenues among three major purposes - public transit, local street repairs and improvements, and major streets and highways. Four counties - Merced, Monterey, Napa and Solano - tried to get local transportation sales taxes approved in the June primary. All failed. Only Merced, with 63%, even came close. Ten counties are trying in November, including Merced and Tulare, both of which have failed previously, and Madera, where a half-cent tax expired last year after a failed extension effort in 2002. The largest share of contributions to the committee so far comes from the building industry and associated businesses...Former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, now chairman of Fresno-based Pacific Ethanol, gave $10,000. Jones and Smith are co-chairmen of the chamber's committee.

Oct. 15, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
10-15-06Merced Sun-StarSales tax rates in California...Source: California State Board of Equalization...10-14-06A 8 Saturday, October 14, 2006 BACK PAGE Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif.
Madera County 7.25%
Marin County 7.75%
City of San Rafael 8.25%
Merced County 7.25%
City of Merced 7.75%
San Francisco County 8.50%
San Joaquin County 7.75%
San Joaquin County, City of Stockton 8.00%
Stanislaus County 7.375%

Major Donors to Measure G...Source: Merced County Board of Elections...10-14-06Merced Sun-Star, Merced Calif. LOCAL&REGION Saturday, October 14, 2006 A7Business Location AmountBrookfield Castle LLC , Del Mar $27,500
A. Teichert & Son, Sacramento $
E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto $15,000
Foster Farms, Livingston $15,000
K. Hovanian Forecast Homes, Sacramento $15,000
WellingtonCorporation, Morgan Hill $10,000
Team 31, Inc. , Morgan Hill $10,000
Atwater East Investors, Danville $10,000
Ferrari Investment Company, Balico $15,000

Major Donors to Measure A...Source: Merced County Board of Elections...10-14-06Merced Sun-Star, Merced Calif. LOCAL&REGION Saturday, October 14, 2006
California Alliance for Jobs, Sacramento $50,000
Atwater East Land Develop. Co., Danville $15,000
Ranchwood Homes, Merced $15,000
Ferrari Investment Co. , Turlock $15,000
KB Home Central Valley Inc. , Sacramento $15,000
Gallo Cattle Co., Atwater $10,000
H/S Development Co., Bakersfield $10,000
Florsheim Land, LLC , Stockton $15,000
Crosswinds Development, Novi, MI $15,000
Brookfield Sac. Holdings , Sacramento $15,500
Lennar Communities , San Ramon $10,000
A. Teichert & Son, Sacramento $10,000
Granite Construction, Watsonville $10,000

Modesto Bee
Road to Progress: Merced Co. needs road tax, too: Yes on Measure G...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/2006/election/2006_progress/story/12898807p-13558229c.html
Editor's note: Measure G is Merced County's version of Measure K. The following is an editorial reprinted from the Oct. 7 edition of the Merced Sun-Star. Have Merced County's roads improved since June?...no...June as a reference point because that's when Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase proposal to help fix our dilapidated streets and highways, narrowly failed to get the required two-thirds of the vote to pass. Had it passed, a long list of projects to improve our roads would have swung into motion by now -- most bolstered with state and federal funds that only are available to counties that pass "self-help" tax increases. Now, Measure G -- which essentially is identical to Measure A -- is on the November ballot. Voters must vote "yes." Why?...there's simply no other way to get the transportation dollars this community, No one has a better idea because there isn't one that is realistic or makes sense.

Road to Progress: No matter which way you look, we need to pass half-cent sales tax...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898795p-13558233c.html
We, the citizens of Stanislaus County, are in the driver's seat...to our transportation future, and we're at a crossroads...we can see the mistakes of the last 15 years...other counties were willing to put their own money into local roads. With the passage of Measure K...half-cent increase in the sales tax from 7.375 cents on the dollar to 7.875 cents...1 billion over the next 30 years, and that money would help pay for several new interchanges on Highway 99 and for making Highway 219 a four-lane road across the northern part of the county...provide money for cities to fix dangerous intersections and to fill some of our infamous potholes...
provide money for transit for seniors and the disabled, and to boost commuter rail. Opposition to Measure K centers on two themes - mistrust of government and a dislike of higher taxes. All the money will be generated and spent within Stanislaus County. Local elected officials will make the spending decisions, with strong oversight by a citizens' committee.

Road to Progress: Who will keep an eye on how Measure K's funds are spent...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898794p-13558232c.html
Spending decisions will be made by local elected officials - mayors, council members and county supervisors - and those officials will have a citizens' committee looking over their shoulders...expenditures will be audited annually in a document to be made available to the public. The policy board: It consists of all five county supervisors; three members of the Modesto City Council; and one member each from the Turlock, Ceres, Oakdale, Riverbank, Patterson, Newman, Hughson and Waterford councils. The technical advisory committee: This consists of the nine city managers and the county's chief executive officer, or their designees. The Citizens Advisory Committee: This veers from the current StanCOG organization. Measure K contains specific qualifications and responsibilities for the citizens oversight committee, which would be in place by July 1. Each city and the county will appoint one member, who will serve without pay. Members cannot be an elected official or a staff member of any city, county or state transportation agency. Members can serve no more than two four-year terms.

Road to Progress: San Joaquin gets money's worth from its version of Measure K...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898788p-13558221c.html
San Joaquin County's roads are better than the roads in Stanislaus...Fifteen years ago, San Joaquin County voters decided to tax themselves a half-cent on most purchases, dedicating the money to fixing roads and building new ones...has completed 19 major projects. Santa Clara County was one of the first to pass a self-help sales tax in 1976... Los Angeles County has two permanent sales taxes (a half-cent each)... There also are permanent half-percent taxes in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. In all, there are 17 self-help counties and five agencies (such as BART) that have permanent sales taxes dedicated to transportation. Nearly 85 percent of all Californians live in self-help counties or districts. In November, voters in five more counties will be asked to pass sales-tax initiatives to fund road improvements. San Joaquin County wants to extend its half-cent tax through 2036. If Stanislaus' Measure K passes, San Joaquin will have a partner county to the south. That's critical because San Joaquin and Stanislaus share several vital roadways — Highways 132, 120 and 99 and Interstate 5...

Road to Progress: Not enough to keep roads where they are...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898797p-13558236c.html
"I already pay enough in gas taxes. Use that money to fix and build roads."... We do pay a lot... There are two big factors at work: First, the price of road maintenance and construction is nothing short of astonishing. Second, gas taxes at both the state and federal levels also go to mass transit systems... Below is a summary, relying on information from several sources but primarily the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan organization based in Sacramento. It illustrates the complexity of the financing to note that when the organization prepared a background paper to explain the subject, it required 15 pages, much of it single-spaced. (The full copy is available at www.cbp.org.) FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION DOLLARS: Most of the U.S. Department of Transportation budget comes from federal excise taxes on fuel, which have been levied in every state since 1932. It started at a penny a gallon. The rate is 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. STATE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: More than half of the California Department of Transportation budget comes from the state excise fuel tax and weight fees (paid by commercial truckers). Both charges went up substantially in the early 1990s as a result of voter approval of Proposition 111. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION MONEY: By the time state and federal funding reaches individual cities, counties and transportation agencies, it's a thin trickle with lots of strings attached.

Road to Progress: Blaming developers for potholes is simply wrong...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898785p-13558217c.html
Some people believe...all of our area's road problems were caused by developers...only people who truly benefit from better roads are developers...developers are making so much money that they can afford to fix all our road problems. We can blame housing developers for seizing opportunities; for uncomfortably reducing our green space and for playing the game of politics just a little too well. But we can't blame developers for our badly maintained, overcrowded and largely inadequate roads. For a variety of reasons, our existing roads have been allowed to deteriorate for years. Whether developers are paying their fair share to fix our roads is still open to debate.

Road to Progress: Should Stanislaus County voters enact the half-cent sales tax...Dave Thomas, former radio-TV talk show host, is one of two official spokesmen for the No on K/We're Taxed Out committee
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12898799p-13558235c.html
No: More money for bureaucratic bunglers? The proponents of Measure K promise a wonderful result...they will use it wisely... Well, let's look at what they say, and compare it to the facts found in the Stanislaus Council of Governments' "30-Year Transportation Financial Expenditure Plan" of June 2006. They say Measure K will "fix potholes and maintain local streets and roads in every community." But the plan allocates only 9.8 percent of the funds to "local transportation improvements." They say Measure K will provide "matching funds." Unfortunately, the plan allocates no matching funds to local projects, no matching funds to state projects, and only $1.3 million annually for all the promised federal projects. And the feds still determine which projects proceed. About 60 percent of Measure K funds will go to state highway corridors and interchanges. They say Measure K will not promote growth. But the plan identifies state and federal roads that go right to the areas of growth already identified by the cities of Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Riverbank and Oakdale. They say they do not have enough money to maintain our roads. But the truth is, StanCOG already receives a quarter-cent of the current sales tax, which gives it more than $17 million every year. They say they are interested in fixing local roads. But the plan allocates only 24 percent of the funds for "local and regional" pavement fixes. Consider the obvious: Local bureaucrats have withheld funds to fix our roads in order to bludgeon you into raising your taxes. Have our local officials ever tried to lobby the state Legislature or the federal government for funds to fix our highway problems? Where are our elected Assembly members and senators? Why has our mayor never gone to Sacramento to obtain state grants in recognition of our abundant needs? Why have our supervisors not used their considerable clout to gain state and federal funds? Why have our federal congressmen not lobbied the feds to help us? Need I mention that the "watchdog" audit committee would be appointed by the politicians? Are you and I going to be appointed to that committee? You have seen the slick, multicolor mailers that tell only the part of the story they want us to believe. I encourage you to read the plan...

Road to Progress: Should Stanislaus County voters enact the half-cent sales tax?...Crag C. Lewis, Modesto businessman, chairman of the Yes on K campaign
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12898798p-13558225c.html
Yes: Benefits individuals, cities, county alike. First, Measure K is the only way for us to take control of our own collective destiny as it relates to transportation. citizens wonder why Measure K is necessary to improve our roads given that we already pay a transportation sales tax (Proposition 42) at the gas pump...answer is that it will take about $48 million annually to maintain safe roads throughout the county...we can expect to receive no more than $11 million annually from Proposition 42...it alone is insufficient to maintain safe roadways. Measure K has ironclad safeguards that prevent the diversion of any funds to nontransportation projects... cities receiving Measure K money cannot substitute funds previously allocated to transportation with Measure K money... a citizens oversight audit committee... an annual independent audit... Second, Measure K will give Stanislaus County a much-needed advantage in qualifying for state funds... Third, Measure K will create new jobs and invigorate our local economy... Fourth, Measure K is the tax that literally pays for itself... Measure K will cost most residents $55 to $200 annually. Measure K will literally put money back into our pockets. The bonus is merely safer roads, less traffic congestion and air pollution, and a more robust economy

Oct. 14, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Smoother roads ahead?...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12897397p-13556945c.html
Measure G...For the third time in four years, voters will be asked to support a sales tax increase for road improvements...needs approval from 66.7 percent of voters to pass, debuted in November 2002 as Measure M. It failed, earning 61 percent of the vote. In June 2006 it was reborn as Measure A and garnered 63 percent of the vote, falling 795 votes shy of winning. Just five months later, it's back as Measure G. But with each failure, the voices of those opposed to the measure have grown louder. While there is no organized campaign against Measure G, grumblings from the Letters to the Editor section of the Sun-Star show the battle to finally pass the measure is far from over. If it passes, Measure G will hike the sales tax in the city of Merced to 8.25 percent -- within spitting distance of San Francisco's 8.5 percent -- for the next 30 years...would generate $446 million to help fund transportation projects countywide, from reconstructing Livingston's Main Street to building a new Bradley Overhead. Half the money would go to road maintenance. Kelsey said a Caltrans representative told the county earlier this week that if the governor's infrastructure bond measure passes and Merced achieves self-help status with Measure G, the county will be eligible for funding to widen Highway 99 from the Stanislaus County line to Livingston. The measure's most prominent critic is Cathleen Galgiani, a Democrat running for Assembly against Republican Gerry Machado...said the statewide transportation bond measure on the November ballot will provide funding for Merced County roads...noted that the transportation bond will set aside $614 million for eight Central Valley counties in addition to the $1 billion earmarked for widening Highway 99. William Stockard, a retired superintendent of Merced County schools, said Measure G only benefits developers and other businesses like the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park and the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center that "want to get free money."...said the county should cover the cost of road maintenance by charging developers higher impact fees when they build here. Charles Magneson, a farmer near Ballico-Cressey, said he's opposed to Measure G because some of the projects it would fund will create sprawl and eat up farmland..."(Measure G is) heavily funded by developers that are looking for those roads to encroach on farmland to make their developments possible." In June, fliers denouncing Measure A as "welfare subsidies for the Building Industry Association" appeared in the Sun-Star three days before the election. Measure G campaign has tweaked its strategy...raised about $200,000...with the large contributions from donors like developer Brookfield Castle LLC, Del Mar; construction company Teichert & Son, Sacramento; Foster Farms, Livingston; E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto; K. Hovanian Forecast Homes, Sacramento; Wellington Corporation, Morgan Hill; Team 31, inc., Morgan Hill; Atwater East Investors, Danville; and Ferraire Investment Company; Balico...endorsements from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, all three Merced chambers of commerce, five county newspapers including the Sun-Star, the entire County Board of Supervisors and the entire Merced City Council. If it doesn't win, Measure G could come back, but by law supporters would have to wait until the November 2008 election.

Vote no on Measure G...Robby Avilla, Stevinson...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12897288p-13556793c.html
Merced County Association of Governments is telling Merced County residents, "It's the matching funds, stupid"...to elicit our votes in favor of Measure G....at the same time they stress that Measure G is for road maintenance. Matching state funds do not occur for local road maintenance projects. Matching funds are for major highway projects that will service still more developer-driven, farmland-robbing projects...look who has been the backbone of funding for these continuous half-cent sales tax measures that MCAG has been sponsoring. When developments with 3,500 housing units for a single project start coming before the Merced County Board of Supervisors for approval, we need to start putting the brakes on local developers' delusions of grandeur. Even if Measure G were to be passed, it would not be able to create enough fancy interchanges and bypasses to handle the traffic of the added development that it will green light. Give us a measure that we can support.

Modesto Bee

Measure K funds will misspent...Bruce R. Frohman, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12897443p-13557039c.html
30-year tax on November's ballot will be spent on growth-inducing projects which should be paid for by fees on new development. Proponents told me the tax will promote development similar to San Joaquin County, which will lose all of its prime farmland in 40 years at the current rate of urban growth. Merced County recently rejected a sales-tax increase. Yet, it is presently building two major freeway interchanges! If the sales-tax increase is not passed, another proposal will appear on the ballot in the near future. Should we hold out for a better deal? Or would we prefer a second sales-tax increase to actually fix the roads?

| »

Letter to Merced County Planning Commission regarding the Riverside Motorsports Park final environmental impact report

Submitted: Oct 25, 2006

The following letter, partially read at the public hearing before the Merced County Planning Commission, remained in a basket beside the podium for speakers -- unread, therefore unconsidered by the commission -- for the duration of the hearing at the end of which the commission approved the EIR, General Plan amendment, zoning change and four other items on the project.

Bill Hatch
-------------------

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 523-1391, ph.

Mr. James Holland October 25, 2006
Merced County Planning Department
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-1710

Merced County Planning Commission
2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340
Tel: 385-7654 Via Hand Delivered

Re: Merced County Planning Commission Public Hearing on General Plan Amendment Application No. GPA03-005 and Zone change Application No. ZC3-007, Merced County Board of Supervisors’ Oct. 24 Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Finding as to consistency between the Airport Land Use Plan and the Riverside Motorsports Park Project, RMP Master Plan, staff reports, findings, resolutions, and overrides.

Merced County Planning Commissioners:

This comment is made at the Merced County Planning Commission Public Hearing on Application No. GPA03-005 and ZC3-007, Oct. 25, 2006.

We challenge the propriety of the Merced County Planning Department to put this item before you today because the whole of the Riverside Motorsports Park project is dependent on an item heard but not decided yesterday by the county Board of Supervisors: Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Finding as to consistency between the Airport Land Use Plan and the Riverside Motorsports Park Project (attached find our letter and attachments submitted to the board on Oct. 24).

First of all, we believe that RMP developers and Merced County were able to successfully lobby CalTrans into temporarily shrinking the size of the real hazard zone to 6,000 feet around the Castle airfield and that, once the racetrack is approved and built, the state will reinstate the original 10,000-foot zone.

For the commission to come to a decision today on this RMP application risks multiple violations of public process, which began when the board held a hearing yesterday on this illegally segmented, intrinsic element of the RMP application.

Yesterday’s board of supervisors’ hearing violated public processes and environmental review.

The staff report on yesterday’s public hearing on the proposed decision regarding the ALUC’s findings was so flawed that supervisors’ were not sure what they were voting on. One supervisor agreed to vote affirmatively only after it was explained that she would not be voting for an override of the ALUC’s consistency findings, but that she was only voting on a proposed decision that must be reviewed by the state Department of Transportation and the ALUC over the next month. In fact, the board was directed by staff to vote for an override.

“Proposed decision: Based on the foregoing recitals and findings, the Board of Supervisors overrules the ALUC Oct. 1, 2003 finding of inconsistency between the RMP project and the ALUP.” – Staff report on Board of Supervisors’ Public Hearing # 2, Oct. 24, 2006.

However, another glaring error occurred in the conduct of the board’s Oct. 24 meeting during the public comment period before the public hearing on the ALUC’s findings was even opened. The public packed the room and the lobby. The board chairman did nothing to stop them or direct the testimony to the proper time. Therefore, the bulk of the testimony given by both sides in the public-comment period will not become a part of the record of this public hearing. This raises even deeper concerns about the validity of the hearing.

We believe that legally compliant public process requires that the County incorporate the oral and written testimony given both during the public-comment period and during the public hearing and that the testimony be forwarded to the state Department of Transportation, the ALUC and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The issue of the override, upon which the RMP project depends, has not been decided and the validity of the board’s vote is in question. Therefore, the commission cannot know what it is voting on today and should not vote on the RMP application. If it does vote on the application, it will be complicit in a flawed public process and a flawed environmental process, because the ALUC’s findings and decision is intrinsic to this project and is being illegally segmented.

The public is constantly criticized for submitting material at public hearings. In this case, the County and the developers waited until a day before the planning commission public hearing on the RMP final EIR to railroad the board into overriding a local agency decision of such major importance that without it the project can’t go forward.

The Castle Master Plan, adjacent municipal and community plans, and the county General Plan updates have just begun. The purposes of these plans and their goals and guidelines are to act as reference points for judgment on new projects. These plans are crucial for guidance on projects with impacts the size of RMP, a regional motorsports facility adjacent to the longest airport runway in the San Joaquin Valley and a federal penitentiary, in the middle of one of the nation’s two worst air pollution basins.

General and specific plans are effectively the only means the present Merced County public has to defend its future against rampant growth. Deciding on these projects before these new plans have been adopted is similar to another example of county planning leadership under Robert Lewis: Hostetler’s illegal 42-inch pipeline through a mile of county land without any permit at all. Like that sewer line, RMP will determine the pattern of growth in its respective areas. Those development-driven plans will have very little to do with official “plans,” which the public pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to have prepared by trained planners. Nor is there any difference between the behavior of John Condren and Greg Hostetler in their blatant, successful efforts to influence county staff and special-interest-funded elected officials. Both of them use helicopters in interesting ways.

A letter from Condren to his investors stated:

Although it’s too early to start planning a ground-breaking party, we can report that RMP has won the support of 4 of the 5 members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors … and we may succeed in securing the unanimous support of the Board once the EIR is released.

In addition, RMP has secured the approval and support of State Senator Jeff Denham, US Congressman Dennis Cardoza, 5 Chambers of Commerce within Merced County, the City Councils of Atwater and Merced, and RMP has the support of the California Builders Industry Association. -- http://www.badlandsjournal.com/old/getarch2.php?title=RMP%20racetrack%20letter%20to%20investors

Hostetler told Supervisor Crookham in a telephone message:

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! -- http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=84

In the RMP project before you today, a similar corrupt pattern is evident: county Planning Director Robert Lewis is an officer of the ALUC, a direct conflict. Mr. Lewis is a very interested party in this project.

The RMP project is another perfect example of how Merced County does business and calls it government.

The county Planning Department has consistently failed to present the public with clear statements of the public processes involved in its projects. For example, the County cannot plead ignorance for its systematic failure to notify federal resource agencies on environmental review processes. The County knows the maps for habitats for endangered species like the San Joaquin Valley kit fox, and the County knows where Critical Habitat and Recovery Plan areas are located. The County understands that analysis of environmental impacts in Merced County cannot ignore compliance with federal regulations. The County also understands that it cannot indefinitely defer rapidly mounting quantities of unmitigated environmental impacts.

The Merced County public has raised the issue of living wages and health benefits in connection with Wal-Mart. We are also concerned that no one in this corrupted process of the RMP project has addressed the issue of union labor or benefits for non-union labor.

The Merced public understands that RMP and Wal-Mart are the anchor tenants for both ends of the UC Merced loop road. This isn’t planning. It is an absurd level of environmental destruction and it threatens public health and safety.

Yesterday’s board hearing segmented an essential part of the whole RMP plan away from environmental review as well as segmenting the timeline for public hearings on this project. Improper segmentation of the RMP project has occurred on four levels:

· Administrative: the ALUC decision, an essential element in the RMP project, has been improperly segmented from the whole of the project;
· Environmental: the ALUC decision is a part of the project as a whole and requires environmental review;
· Timeline: the County and the developer broke the hearings on what is one project into two days and two different forums;
· Administrative record: the County and the developer are fragmenting the records of these hearings to create an obstacle to legal challenge.

We strongly urge the planning commission not to vote on the RMP application today. In view of the mounting number of procedural flaws in the RMP permitting process, deciding on this application will only deepen the morass of conflicts into which the county is falling as a result of this and several other major projects.

The oral public testimony made yesterday during the public-comment period at the board meeting and the oral and written testimony offered during the public hearing on the ALUC decision must be incorporated into this project. The ALUC decision is so intrinsic to RMP’s project that it cannot construct the racetrack unless that decision is overridden.

We also urge RMP proponents to voluntarily withdraw their application before the commission today for the good of the county’s public process.

Finally, we would like to express our frustration at the County for having shared our letter with the RMP developers, causing a racetrack rally at the board chambers yesterday morning, while the County did not share with the public an adequate amount of information. This offers the public no incentive to get their comments in before public hearings.

Following yesterday’s board hearing, when members of the public requested a list of any additional written comments for the hearing from a clerk at the board office, the public was presented with forms to fill out. Members of the public now make an official request that before the County shares our comment letters with developers, it must first make a formal request to whatever members of the public wrote the comments so that we can track you, as you track us. Stacking information access against the public and tracking the public must stop.

Attached you will find our Oct. 25 letter to the Merced County Planning Commission and to the county Board of Supervisors on Oct. 24, and attachments.

We reserve the right to submit additional documents at the public hearing.

Sincerely,

Lydia M Miller Steve Burke

Cc.

Federal agencies
Marsha Burch, Esq.
Babak Naficy, Esq.
Don Mooney, Esq.
James Marshall, Esq.
Rose Zoia, Esq.
Susan Brandt-Hawley, Esq.
Bruce Owdom, Esq.
Keith Wagner, Esq.
Hal Candee, Esq. NRDC
Kim Delfino, Esq. Defenders of Wildlife
Mike Sherwood, Esq. Earthjustice
John Williams
Tom Adams, Esq.
Badlandsjournal.com
Other interested parties

| »

Wal-Mart, workers and brain-dead Babbitts

Submitted: Oct 13, 2006

Some recent clips on one of the greatest enemies of working people.

If this keeps up, Wal-Mart may go down in history as the poster child for resurgent unionism in America. If so, thank you, Wal-Mart, for being such a loud, domineering, shrill, braggart, rapacious and ugly corporation that you have become a huge symbol for corporate harm to working people, even to the extent of creating sustained, militant labor resistance to the pain you have caused through almost every one of your policies.

Wal-Mart is no longer a business firm; it is pure matastasis of unregulated capitalist greed and political juice. It will stand as the domestic retail-business equivalent of the Iraq wars as the legacy of the Republican Reagan and Bushes regimes.

Wal-Mart's plans for Merced would bring nothing but harm to public health and safety. Yet it continues, with the connivance of Merced City officials and the enthusiastic, suicidal rantings of the chambers-of-commerce crowd.

If the history of this period is written, it will be mentioned that the road to the Hell of global warming, class warfare, and air that kills was paved by local land-use authorities who ignored the cumulative impacts of environmentally, economically and socially destructive projects demanded by the sheer, energetic stupidity of business interests, rendered brain-dead Babbitts by Republican and church-sanctified greed.

Bill Hatch
----------------------

http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/1013-05.htm
WakeUpWalMart.com Statement on Wal-Mart's Decision to Target Democrats in the 2006 Midterm Elections
WASHINGTON - October 13 - The following is a statement from WakeUpWalMart.com on Wal-Mart's decision to target Democrats in the 2006 midterm elections, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Today's Star Tribune reports, "The world's largest retailer is about to take the unusual step of distributing information about specific candidates to its 1.3 million employees nationwide, according to a company official. …Wal-Mart said it will specifically target local, state and national leaders who appeared this summer at a series of anti-Wal-Mart rallies organized by WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-backed group that has called on the retailer to offer workers better pay and benefits."
The following statement is attributable to Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com:
"Rather than embrace our positive vision for a better America, Wal-Mart has officially declared war on the Democratic Party, elected leaders, and every American who believes we should pay workers a living wage, provide affordable health care to all, protect American jobs and keep America safe.
Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, now reject President Bush's right-wing agenda that has brought us a culture of corruption, repeated scandals, shipped American jobs overseas and even jeopardized our national security, Wal-Mart is launching a political campaign to help keep President Bush in power by trying to defeat Democrats who called on Wal-Mart to be a more responsible employer.
From this day forward, no citizen, regardless of their party affiliation, should doubt how right-wing Wal-Mart's agenda really is. By opposing expanding health care to hard working families and their children, opposing a living wage of $10 per hour, lobbying to ship American jobs to China, and even lobbying against strengthening America's national security, Wal-Mart's agenda is extreme, misguided, and wrong for America. It is an agenda that no American could support, jeopardizes the future of our country, and is one of the key reasons why Wal-Mart's public image continues to collapse.
On behalf of the American people, we are not going to allow big corporations like Wal-Mart to take America in the wrong direction. In that spirit, WakeUpWalMart.com, with the help of 276,000 grassroots supporters, will be announcing a major new initiative next week that will make it clear to Wal-Mart and its right wing operatives that our movement will never stop fighting until the day Wal-Mart truly changes for the better.

Wal-Mart loses suit on work breaks...AP
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-walmart13oct13,1,18655,print.story
Philadelphia - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. forced employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock, violating Pennsylvania labor laws, a state jury found Thursday. The jury, however, ruled in Wal-Mart's favor on the claim that it denied workers meal breaks. The jury now must decide damages in the class-action suit, which covers as many as 187,000 current and former hourly Wal-Mart workers. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant is facing a slew of similar suits around the country. Wal-Mart settled a Colorado case for $50 million and was appealing a $172-million award handed out last year by a California jury. "This is the second [verdict]. With 56 more to go, I think it reinforces that this company's sweatshop mind-set is a serious problem, both legally and morally," said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-funded effort to improve working conditions at the stores.

Washington Post
Wal-Mart workers win wage suit...Amy Joyce
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/12/AR2006101201608_pf.html
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated Pennsylvania labor laws by forcing hourly employees to work through breaks and beyond their shifts without overtime pay, a jury decided yesterday. The lawsuit, brought by two employees on behalf of almost 187,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees, claimed that the company made workers in Pennsylvania miss more than 33 million rest breaks from 1998 to 2001. At least 57 other wage-and-hour cases have been filed across the United States against the world's largest retailer, and many of them are awaiting class-action certification, according to company filings. In court, the lawyers argued that the company denied breaks to cut labor costs and increase productivity. The case is one of several class-action wage-and-hour suits against the company to go to trial. In December, a jury awarded $172 million to about 116,000 current and former Wal-Mart and Sam's Club workers in California who claimed that they were illegally denied lunch breaks. Wal-Mart is appealing the verdict. In 2002, a federal jury in Oregon found that Wal-Mart employees were forced to work off the clock and awarded back pay to 83 workers. In 2004, Wal-Mart settled a similar lunch break case in Colorado for $50 million. One of the pending cases, which accuses the company of paying men more than women nationally, is the largest private employer civil rights class action in history. Wal-Mart has asked an appeals court to overturn the class-action status of the case.

New York Times
Jury says Wal-Mart must pay $78 million in damages...Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-retail-walmart-damages.html?pagewanted=print
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania jury said on Friday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, must pay $78.47 million in damages to current and former Pennsylvania employees for forcing them to work ``off the clock'' or during rest breaks. On Thursday, a state jury in Philadelphia found in favor of Michelle Braun and Dolores Hummel, formerly employed by Wal- Mart, saying the company violated Pennsylvania labor laws by failing to pay employees for the work. It awarded about $2.5 million for off-the-clock working and about $76 million for lost rest breaks between March of 1998 and May of 2006. The award was another blow to Wal-Mart's image, which has been tarnished by accusations by labor unions, politicians and others that it pays poverty-level wages and mistreats workers. Before deliberations began in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas, Donovan argued that Wal-Mart employees were forced to work through their breaks because the company wanted to maximize profits.``Wal-Mart doesn't understand anything but numbers,'' he said. ``In order for Wal-Mart to understand this, it needs to see numbers, big numbers. ''Neal Manne, an attorney for Wal-Mart, who asked the jury to award $287,000 for off-the- clock working and $6.65 million for missed rest breaks, argued that many employees had in fact taken breaks without swiping their ID cards to indicate they were on a break. In December, a California jury ruled that Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, should pay $172 million in damages and compensation to about 116,000 current and former employees for denying meal breaks. Plaintiffs in the 2001 California lawsuit claimed Wal-Mart had failed to pay hourly employees for missed or interrupted meal breaks.

City going wrong way...John S. Holmes, M.D., Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12892244p-13552691c.html
Valley only going to get hotter," Sept. 30, and "Work still needed on our air," Oct. 4...You correctly point out that our air quality is still bad and that global warming is looming as a huge problem in the near future. You also make the connection to automobiles and trucks as major culprits. What is so perplexing is why you have so much difficulty connecting the dots to the kinds of economic development Merced County is pursuing. The Riverside Motorsports Park and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center will only aggravate our air quality problems. The local air board has all but admitted we won't be able to meet the 2010 deadline for clean air. Economic development is important, but only within responsible parameters that protect the public health. Your editorial "Study underscores need for clean air," April 4, clearly shows the extent air pollution in the Valley is jeopardizing the public health. A free, independent press is essential for our democratic system to function properly by holding those in power accountable. It is past time for the editors to start connecting the dots on air quality issues.

City wants subdivision to build roads, fund fire station...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12892435p-13552938c.html
Modesto released a draft environmental impact report Thursday for a development that would bring more than 3,200 homes and a regional commercial center to the city's northeast border...Tivoli...454-acre project backed in part by Modesto real estate magnate Mike Zagaris...the city expects Tivoli's backers to cut checks for everything from widening roads to wetlands preservation. As is, Tivoli requires a zoning change because the area's land-use designations would limit the project to about 900 fewer homes. The city's zoning restrictions also would permit less space for commercial development. The initial environmental report urges city leaders to require that developers: Set aside money for farmland preservation by contributing to an agricultural resource fund. Designate land for a new fire station and give the city money to build it. Pay their share of a series of road improvements, including projects to extend and widen Claratina Avenue, expand three McHenry Avenue intersections and add lanes to Briggsmore Avenue.
Take steps to limit air pollution during construction by refraining from idling trucks, using new technology and building wind barriers. Encourage alternative transportation options by installing bike lanes and reserving space for bus routes. Dig two new wells to maintain water pressure. People have 45 days to comment on the environmental report before the city begins revising it.

| »

Annals of UC flak

Submitted: Sep 10, 2006

Hypocrisy at Davis (1)

UC Davis, where pedestrians must constantly dodge bicyclists, presents itself as an environmental paradise. Recently, it has decided to voluntarily study its own greenhouse emissions, joining a group of 88 members of

the climate registry ... created by state law in 2000 as a strictly voluntary program for businesses, governments and organizations wishing to measure their output of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the
atmosphere.

Davis "prides itself on environmental research, eight cents of every research dollar goes to air-quality studies." It also graduates legions of environmental specialists who become consultants to teach local land-use authorities how to dodge the California Environmental Quality Act, the federal Endangered Species, Clean Air and Clean Water acts so that California can continue to grow, particularly in the only two areas -- Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley -- where air quality has reached a unique nadir: "extreme non-attainment" of the health goals set by the Clean Air Act.

In the last decade, UC Davis has also sought to include the most dangerous level of biowarfare laboratory in the nation (and probably the world) on its campus. The Davis City Council made its extreme displeasure known and UC backed down. Now, UC's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is trying to site the same kind of facility just outside Tracy. UC Davis successfully defeated a citizen's group in court in its plans to build faculty housing on a plot originally deeded to the campus for agriculture. This housing project will worsen air quality in Davis.

UC Davis was perhaps responding to the hoopla around the recent passage by the state Legislature of AB 32, California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

"I give them a lot of credit because they're willing to do this," said Joel Levin, the registry's vice president of business development. "Some of the campuses are very reluctant to turn the microscope on themselves."

This is despite avid support by the UC Office of the President for systemwide
participation.

Maric Munn, associate director of energy and utilities for the UC system, said many of the campuses are growing, and officials are nervous that their global-warming emissions are rising as a result.

"They're afraid of criticism from the outside," Munn said. "That's been a huge
impediment."

UC Merced's former chancellor, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, is so nervous about global warming that in public she called it "climate change."
------

UC Bobcatflak

The Discovery Room (2)

At UC Merced, thanks to a donation from the Gonella family, it seems as if both the campus and students will have a place to test new technology. First in line is an electronic blackboard.

Our only question is so dumb it is almost not worth asking, nevertheless ... Given the enormous amount of flak ceaselessly generated from the most efficient offices at the campus, its public relations group, this is supposed to be the greenest, most environmentally friendly UC campus among the 10 of them. Completely contradicting this claim is the equally ceaseless barrage of flak about the high energy-use technology installed there. It is as if, in the weird world according to bobcatflak, in order to be a legitimate UC campus, UC Merced must master the bad-faith lingo of environmental hypocrisy while bulking up on energy-squandering technological gadgets.

"This is like the IMAX classroom instruction," said Instruction Librarian Michelle Jacobs.

"It really engages students."

Dude!
-------------

Meanwhile, down on the boardwalk (3)

UC Santa Cruz is suing to obstruct two measures that would give City of Santa Cruz residents the right to vote to approve extending sewer and water services to further expansions of the campus beyond Santa Cruz city limits.

This is viewed by UC flak as a "town and gown" problem, of the sort the new town beyond the city limits of Merced is supposed to cure (with other peoples' sewer and water services). It is also intended to conjure up images of barefoot Parisian beggars mugging gowned professors disputing nominalism and realism during the Black Plague.

What the story fails to mention, because it is sourced solely from UC flak and city officials, is that local citizens -- neither barefoot, poor or uneducated -- have brought an excellent suit against UCSC expansion plans on environmental grounds.

The local rebellion against UCSC expansion also reveals that UC can almost always come to some sort of agreement with the local land-use authority, whose pro-growth elected officials seem to nearly squeal with joy to be in the company of UC officials, while the citizens of the city and surrounding region are no longer charmed.

Another coastal cloud shadowing these proceedings is the recent state Supreme Court decision concerning nearby CSU Monterey Bay (the former Fort Ord), which clearly states that public universities and other state agencies in California can no longer get by with just identifying off-site impacts from their construction and growth -- they have an obligation to pay for them.
--------

UC Merced

Guinea Pigs (4)

The campus received a $300,000 grant to

work with undergraduate students over the next three years to gain new information about how humans make logical and intuitive decisions.

The research aims to produce a computer model of how the brain works when making decisions, and to determine if people can be taught to use logical deliberation, even when it conflicts with their intuition and personal beliefs.

Apparently, the grant is shared with the University of Massachussetts, which will dispatch graduate students to study UC Merced undergraduates.

Bobcatflak claims the study as

an opportunity to engage more undergraduate students in research -- a top priority for the university.

From guinea pig to research scientist in one easy lunge for the pork!

Problems we see in this study:

U Mass is not a bastion of California culture, considered by a number of students of the state to be one of the most complex cultures in the world. UC Merced takes great pride that its students are the "true face of California." There are going to be some interesting culture clashes that may not relate too clearly to either logic or intuition.

The way to teach logical deliberation is to teach logical deliberation. There are books on the subject -- a great many of them, all the way back to the Greeks. You teach and study them to develop an understanding of logic. It is called education. It is quite a venerable tradition that has worked for a lot of people.

The way to develop intuition in students is to give them good literature to study and to discuss it with them.

Students' personal beliefs ought to be left alone. That route can very quickly lead to violation and psychological trouble.

The purpose of an education is to develop the students' capacity for both logic and intuition. It is not to make them guinea pigs in an experiment to develop a computer model.

The bobcatflak, of course, contradicts the fundamental rules of such research projects and invites the problem of the "dreaded Hawthorth Effect," in which the human objects of the study become engaged in the study and contaminate the data. Either the flak is just the usual UC babble to the barefoot townies, or these people are incompetent to run such a study.

In fact, the whole idea of UC involvement with logic is suspect, given that its public utterance is almost entirely purile sophistry, only occasionally leavened with a bit of mediocre rhetoric.

In the Badlands editorial board's research into logic, we have noted that it is often accompanied by critical thinking. We propose that UC Merced students be placed before the environmental impact reports on the campus and asked to grade them according to logic. Following that exercise, perhaps they could study transcripts from the hearings of the various local land-use authorities that approved these documents, the legal briefs arising out of those approvals, and the judges' decisions. From this study, they might intuit something new and different, something critical, in fact.
-------------

Bobcatflak

A real heavyweight (5)

Dr. Rolland Winston received the first annual Frank Kreith Award for his advanced original work in non-imaging optics, which improve the efficiency of solar power panels, among other applications. This year Dr. Winston also completed the first textbook on the subject.

If the community, the university, and its shared newspaper had any sense of priority in these matters, this item would have led, because this is authentic research, brought to fruition and of great potential significance.

We live in a community whose congressman, Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced, has just introduced a modestly title bill, "Empowering America Act of 2006," to provide more federal government subsidies to the solar power industry. No more gutting the ESA for the former Shrimp Slayer. He's into
energy now.

Solar energy lobbyists analyze the bill this way:

The "Empowering America Act of 2006" would extend federal solar investment tax credits for homeowners and business through 2015, and make modifications similar to those contained in S. 2677 and H.R. 5206, the "Securing America's Energy Independence Act." The popular solar tax credits are currently set to expire next year.

In other words, small potatoes with a pompous title, about what we would expect.

We have also seen in the last week passage of a bundle of alternative energy bills in the state Legislature, the largest of which is the momentarily famous California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Kreith, a professor of mechanical engineering in Colorado, worked for years at the government's solar power lab in Golden.

Winston did most of his work at the University of Chicago. In 2004, a North Carolina-based company, Solargenix, obtained from the University of Chicago exclusive worldwide licenses and rights to develop and market Winston's technology for "all solar applications."

Art Linkletter, a Solargenix investor, proclaimed at the time with a hyperbole to which Cardoza could only aspire, “We have, through Dr. Winston, a patent on the sun.”

What Linkletter and other investors had, in fact, was technology good enough to interest Acciona, a Spanish construction and energy corporation, who bought a controlling interest in Solargenix in February of this year for around $30 million.

The solar industry strategy of the moment is to use solar power as a domestic or
commercial peaker plant, supplying the last 10 percent of energy during peak-use times. This seems to account for the problems of manufacturing and installation. The California bill provides more subsidy in the beginning than at the end of the program. It doesn't seem to make sense from the solar industry point of view, but it may relate to expectations of lower state revenues in coming years.

Cardoza installed solar panels on his house. More people in town ride bicycles, too, but mainly because they are desperately trying to save on gasoline bills. Cardoza's installation and a great many more like it, if they occur, are not going to lift this Valley out of the extreme non-attainment category it shares only with Los Angeles.

The problem is primarily the cars that come with all the new houses, not the houses themselves. But, if, like Cardoza, you've made your entire career out of politically clearing away obstacles to the manic growth boom -- starting with siting the UC campus in Merced on through the various attempts to change environmental law and pressure the regulatory process -- you have done nothing but worsen the environment and public health in Merced, feathering a few favored nests along the way.

It is almost impossible to imagine in the midst of this housing boom, but there are 10 states in the northeast and the midwest with static populations and North Dakota is losing population.

Hats off to Dr. Winston for his achievements. But, we should not be diverted by the glamor of UC technology or Winston's fame, from the fact that air quality, water quality and quantity, and public health diminish here with this manic construction boom induced by the location of UC Merced. In the Valley we don't need UC to teach us how pork barrels work and for how few they work.

Bill Hatch
-----------------
References

1. UC Davis takes stock of its own air impact
School with a reputation for environmental study tallies its greenhouse emissions as part of a climate registry program.
Sacramento Bee - Sept. 5, 2006

At the University of California, Davis, which prides itself on environmental research, eight cents of every research dollar goes to air-quality studies. Yet the university does not know how much its campus contributes to global warming pollution.
An answer to that question is coming.
As one of the newest members of the California Climate Action Registry, UC Davis is in the midst of calculating its own emissions of greenhouse gases.
Once an obscure exercise done mainly by organizations most interested in environmental stewardship, taking inventory of greenhouse gases is going mainstream ...

2. UC Merced opens room for technology
Merced Sun-Star - Sept. 7, 2006

Today's college students are accustomed to living in a technology-infused world. Laptop computers and the Internet are standard in most college classrooms.
But as a 21st century research university, UC Merced is aiming to take campus technology to the next level, university officials say.
In a small classroom on the second floor of the university library -- the Gonella
Discovery Room -- some of the latest technology is auditioning for a campuswide role.
Among the technologies the university is testing is a Smart Board, a modern-day chalkboard that operates electronically.
The 72-inch board allows instructors to project an interactive image of a computer screen large enough for students in the back of the room to see.
Colored electronic marking pens -- they work by sending signals to the computer
controlling the board -- allow teachers and students to "write" on the board over
projected information, such as lecture notes, outlines, maps or diagrams.
"This is like the IMAX classroom instruction," said Instruction Librarian Michelle Jacobs.
"It really engages students."

3. UC sues Santa Cruz over water measures that could limit expansion
San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/06/BAGD7L01C71.DTL&type=printable

The University of California is suing to block...city of Santa Cruz from casting ballots on two measures that could restrict expansion of UC's local campus...measures placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by the Santa Cruz City Council and would...give city voters the final say over providing water and sewer services for future campus growth. The university...opened its Santa Cruz campus in 1965, believes the measures would undercut and violate its historic water rights granted under agreements signed with the city decades ago. In two weeks, UC's governing Board of Regents is expected to discuss a long-range development plan that would expand the Santa Cruz campus northward to add about 4,500 more students by 2020. All of UC's nine undergraduate campuses are expected to grow in coming years. Measure I would bar the city from providing any municipal services for the northward expansion outside city limits until the university has mitigated any negative impacts from the growth, particularly on housing, traffic and water. Measure J would amend the City Charter to require voter approval before the City Council could provide water and sewer services for the new growth. The university's suit alleges that the city did not do an adequate environmental review as required by state law before
placing the measures on the ballot and did not provide enough opportunity for public review and comment. In addition, the suit says, the city and university have contracts dating to the 1960s for the city to provide UC Santa Cruz with water service. Under agreements from 1962 and 1965, the city is obligated to provide water services to all parts of the Santa Cruz campus, including areas outside city limits, the suit says. Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone...We are not opposed to growth. What we are opposed to is campus growth that is not mitigated....the city relies on surface water, and during the last drought, the city had to impose water rationing...the city wants the university to delay its expansion until the city knows it will have more water.

4. Professor to explore reasoning
Merced Sun-Star -- Sept. 8, 2006

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to UC Merced professor Evan Heit to fund research that will explore human reasoning.
Heit will work with undergraduate students over the next three years to gain new
information about how humans make logical and intuitive decisions.
The research aims to produce a computer model of how the brain works when making decisions, and to determine if people can be taught to use logical deliberation, even when it conflicts with their intuition and personal beliefs.
Heit says the research is not only a way to discover new information about how humans think, but also an opportunity to engage more undergraduate students in research -- a top priority for the university.
Eventually, the research could help track the development of thinking skills in elementary and high school students.
UC Merced shares the grant with the University of Massachusetts, which will send graduate students to Merced to participate in the project.

5. Research honored
Merced Sun-Star -- Sept. 8, 2006

UC Merced professor Roland Winston has been honored for his research in solar technology.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which honors innovations in conservation and renewable energy, chose Winston to receive its first-ever Frank Kreith Energy Award for his work in nonimaging optics.
Winston will accept the award in Chicago in November at the ASME's annual conference.

6. National Center for Photovoltaics, PV Roadmap, Executive Summary

| »

California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 passes state Legislature

Submitted: Sep 04, 2006

The state Legislature passed a bill to address global warming.

www.leginfo.ca.gov, AB 32, Enrolled

AB 32, Nunez Air pollution: greenhouse gases: California Global
Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

This bill would require the state board to adopt regulations to
require the reporting and verification of statewide greenhouse gas
emissions and to monitor and enforce compliance with this program, as
specified.

The bill would require the state board to adopt a
statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to the statewide
greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be achieved by 2020, as
specified.

The bill would require the state board to adopt rules and
regulations in an open public process to achieve the maximum
technologically feasible and cost-effective greenhouse gas emission
reductions, as specified.

The bill would authorize the state board to
adopt market-based compliance mechanisms, as defined, meeting
specified requirements.

The bill would require the state board to
monitor compliance with and enforce any rule, regulation, order,
emission limitation, emissions reduction measure, or market-based
compliance mechanism adopted by the state board, pursuant to
specified provisions of existing law.

The bill would authorize the state board to adopt a schedule of fees to be paid by regulated sources of greenhouse gas emissions, as specified.

Nearly the same dismal roll call of Valley Assembly members that helped defeat a bill to add a doctor and an environmental specialist to the Valley air board voted against this one:

NOES

Aghazarian, Blakeslee, Cogdill, Matthews, Maze, McCarthy, Parra and Villines.

The political careers of Valley Assembly members hinge on their ability not to see air pollution, smell it, hear about it or speak its name. The believe in the Maricopa County AZ version of heaven: carpenters building houses for other carpenters.

Assemblyman Dr. Keith Richman, who declared to the Sacramento Bee this weekend that "the system is corrupt," also opposed this historic bill. He must have taken the Hypocritic Oath.

The bill passed in the Senate along straight party lines.

How does a commitment to confronting global warming violate Republican Party principles? Is the only kind of aggressive bipartisan support in this political system to be acts of destruction of environmental law, like the gut-the-ESA bill launched last year in Congress by representatives RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy and Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced, on behalf of the greediest, most environmentally destructive special interests in their districts?

The bill is fairly vague and there will be a lot of room for polluters to maneuver -- but it showed some political imagination, at least. If, however, this "vision" is allowed to overcome reality, nothing will be done about the present, the urgent, the immediate environmental problems, as local, state and federal resource agencies vie to ignore or sidestep existing law and regulation and to create firewalls against having to enforce any of them. Bellowing a vision is impressive, but in these matters a large stick is required.

The bill was opposed by the entire array of agribusiness, aggregate and shippers, the Building Industry Association, the state Chamber of Commerce and several Valley chambers.

It was supported by nine pages of impressive, diverse and prominent interests. But it is entirely possible the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is just a huge LA feel-good con and and a latter-day gasp of California can-do arrogance.

| »


To manage site Login