Economy

The Empty Cowboy Hat rides again

Submitted: Jul 17, 2006

Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, is grabbing headlines again after former Rep. Pete McCloskey knocked a few of his teeth out in the primary. If he can keep his fight up to gut the Endangered Species Act until November, the public may never know a Democrat named McNerney is running against him.

That's the first thing: show them how powerful you are. Opposition? What opposition? Even if the Senate is skeptical about the wisdom of gutting the ESA, you go, cowboy, you are Tracy's one and only Buffalo Slayer.

The second thing is to attract that Big Money by championing the cause of big landowners and big developers, whose plans to make really Big Money are just being tied in knots by all the red tape at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the ESA. Or so goes the Pombo script.

Paint the Service as the enemy, the mean, nay-saying government, standing in the way of private property rights and Big Money. Don't look to close at how much the Service panders to landowners and developers and how weak its will to enforce and its powers of enforcement actually are. But, before you judge, walk a mile with Pombo breathing fire and brimstone down your neck every time you try to do your job, threatening to cut your budget more than he and the Bush administration have already cut it. It's combat biology.

Blame the critical habitat designation sections in the ESA and describe them as no-growth nature reserves where only endangered species are allowed to walk. Don't accurately describe the conditions under which the Service gets involved with projects in a critical habitat designation. And never talk about federal water, developers and areas designated critical habitat. You could be stepping in something there.

Measure everything by whatever money figures you can dredge up. On the critical habitat designation for the Red-Legged Frog: "The estimated cost in San Luis Obispo County alone is $165 million." Whose estimated cost? Is it costing the county or some landowners $165 million and year to preserve the frog? More than a year? Or is what Pombo saying is that the local Building Industry Association and realtors came up with that number? Or, is he saying someone in his office or the Bush administration came up with that number, which would be shot down by a federal judge as was done in a critical habitat lawsuit over vernal pools several years ago -- shot down as exaggerated, phony, as a lie?

"When conflict is unavoidable, TESRA (Pombo's gut-the-ESA bill) requires compensation for private property owners' loss of property or the use thereof." Even Bush is worried about that because it is as open-ended as Bush's commitment to Halliburton of Iraq.

Earth Justice, analyzed this provision of TESRA:

Representative Richard Pombo’s (R-CA) Endangered Species Act bill (HR 3824) will be voted on this week in the House of Representatives. However, instead of focusing on recovering endangered species, it would force taxpayers to pay unlimited amounts for any business losses from speculative development schemes that corporations never had the right to pursue in the first place. It would give companies and developers the ability to extort taxpayers’ money simply for complying with the law.

If H.R. 3824 passes: Taxpayers would be required to pay.H.R. 3824 would force taxpayer to pay “the fair market value of the forgone use of the affected portion of the property including business losses” for any use that would not comply with the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) Section 9 prohibition on actions that would illegally kill or otherwise “take” a protected species. Corporations would receive windfall payments even if they paid little, or nothing, for the property, and even if they can make massive profits on permissible remaining uses of the property.

Rep. Pombo’s bill would create a new unlimited corporate welfare entitlement.

It would require taxpayers to break the budget to provide “aid” to corporate or other property owners who have not lost any property rights. H.R. 3824 would require payments for ANY reduction in value from ANY forgone use of ANY affected portion of property. In each of these respects, it is contrary to every court ruling on “takings” of property and the views of every member of the Supreme Court. Thus, it would require taxpayers to write checks to companies that have not lost any rights.

It would create perverse incentives to propose environmentally destructive activities solely to be denied permission and thus be entitled to “aid.”

Payments would overwhelmingly go to big corporations.Reflecting the highly concentrated nature of land ownership, Professor C. Ford Runge testified about the 1995-96 “takings” bills that 2.1 million large farm operators and timber operators “own 1,035 million acres of land. That means that 2.65 percent of all private land owners own 78 percent of all private land.”

H.R. 3824 is not necessary.The ESA ensures that agencies respect private property interests through separate “4(d) rules” for threatened species; reasonable and prudent measures; reasonable and prudent alternatives; and incidental take permits and Habitat Conservation Plans. The bill unjustifiably singles out the ESA and sets a dangerous precedent. When the 1995 ESA and Clean Water Act takings bill reached the Senate, it was expanded to cover all federal laws, before it was stopped by a bi-partisan filibuster threat.

This bill attempts to revive the takings approach that has repeatedly failed to pass Congress in the face of strong bi-partisan opposition, including taxpayer groups; state and local government organizations; and a wide range of national religious denominations; as well as labor, conservation and other groups.

For more information contact: Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Glenn Sugameli (202) 667-4500 gsugameli@earthjustice.org -- www.earthjustice.org/library/policy_factsheets/takings_factsheet.pdf

Pombo and the extremists in the White House worry about how much litigation is costing the Fish and Wildlife Service. How much more would this open ended subsidy cost?

So, when you are next considering buying a new breed bull or a John Deere, invest your money in a piece of Pombo instead.

Pombo lines up some figures on how much it is costing us to bring back endangered species to healthy populations. The whole bill amounts to less than a day in Iraq.

"Like many aspects of the ESA, critical habitat is driven by litigation, providing an endless supply of slam-dunk lawsuits to activist groups that can bag taxpayer dollars in the form of attorney's fees."

What is the point of having a wholly developer owned congressman if the public can still sue on the act to defend its environment against the developers? It threatens the economic order, in which the public is often suing against development to defend its own health and safety as well as the right of endangered species to exist and evolve. The way the political system is now going, as just one more lucrative field of investment if you have that kind of money, the public can never gain access or have meaningful dialogue with congressmen of either party so completely bought and sold as
these are today. The implication that activist groups are composed of nothing but lawyers collecting their fees for these easy lawsuits is yet another Pombo lie.

What Pombo and his allies, like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, want to do is deny the public the right to sue at all so that in the future open space and wildlife habitat will be gobbled up in a quiet, orderly way as the result of legal, out-of-sight deals between developers, congressmen and whatever is left of environmental regulatory agencies. It amounts to simply lopping off the public and the judiciary from the discussion. This is one of the hallmarks of investment-driven legislature: efficiency, privacy, no judicial review, and total control for the investors who bought the bill fair and square.

If you like Pombo as champion of a few very rich developers and landowners, you'll love him next year as the champion of the same investors when he becomes chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, charged with drawing up a new Farm Bill.

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee today, Pombo expressed his objections to the ESA:

Q: What are your problems with the Endangered Species Act now?

A: I didn't like the way it treated private property owners. It was heavy-handed. It didn't really matter what the facts were on the ground or what the science was. It was decisions being driven by somebody in Washington who had never even been to the area being regulated.

I felt it was wrong for them to come in and tell someone who had been farming for a hundred years that you can no longer farm it any more because it was endangered species habitat.

But the more I got into it, I began to realize that the act didn't work. At some point, the agency began to focus on land-use control and forgot all about recovering species.

This was driven by lawsuits. (Environmentalists) would file a lawsuit on the designation of critical habitat, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would lose. As more of a defensive posture, they began focusing on designation of critical habitat and they forgot all about recovering species and whether or not the habitat that was being protected actually did anything.

First, the Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a large office in Sacramento staffed with biologists, who do as much science as they have funding for. They have been in the regulated area. It is the developers who send their lawyers to Washington to lobby for exemptions from enforcement for illegal takes. We think it highly unlikely, for example, that the staffer for an Oregon US Senator, who wrote the Service on behalf of a Los Banos developer, had inspected the land under discussion anymore than the recipient of the letter at the Service's Washington headquarters. But a letter from a senator can have more impact on a federal bureaucracy than a biological study.

While we have never personally heard of a century-old farmer being told he could not longer farm, we have seen several thousand acres in Merced County, pasture land that is prime habitat for 15 endangered species, deep-ripped by developers to clear up any ESA issues, to plant almonds for a few years to hold it for real estate development. But, 100 years ago, farmers didn't use the wildlife-destroying pesticides they use today, yet still, somehow, managed to eke out a precarious and healthy existence, which is why Pombo knows a 100-year-old farmer being crushed by the ESA.

The constant effort of developer-owned legislators and congressmen to sever the
relationship between habitat and species ought to raise the simple question in the public mind: what does an animal or plant species do when it has no habitat? The answer is that it goes extinct, as the San Joaquin Kit Fox, among others, is doing at the moment. If Pombo wanted to actually know, scientifically, what good critical habitat designations were doing for the recovery of endangered species, he would have to quit blocking adequate funding for the Service to conduct the surveys necessary to determine that, as he consistently blocked adequate funding for the CalFed process on the Delta. At the present level of funding, surveys on species are a melange of state and federal studies, salted
with developer-consultant studies. Baselines become acts of business negotiations instead of the results of science. Developers have fought environmental law and regulation relentlessly and inventively, particularly in California, since its inception. The result, from a public point of view, is a scientific swamp full of predators.

Investors in politicians like Pombo and Cardoza are betting that there are not enough people left in California anymore who can remember the abundance of wildlife -- the bird flocks of the San Joaquin Valley, for example -- that used to thrive here. Why should the public sacrifice its memory and its desire to see those flocks building up again to the bottom line of a handful of extremely wealthy developers and their bought congressmen? Why shouldn't we want our environment to become cleaner and healthier for birds and humans and all species, rather than become one more California slurb? While we are asking questions, why wouldn't the public want cleaner and healthier politics in California, something natives also remember.

The velocity of global warming and its impact on the Sierra snowpack, as reported recently by the state Department of Water Resources, may be Nature's way of saying, "Whoa, thar, big cowboy."

Bill Hatch
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Contra Costa Times
Endangered species need real recovery now...Rep. Richard Pombo
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/columnists/perspective/15051396.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

CALIFORNIA, as much or more than any other state, has witnessed first-hand the Endangered Species Act's shortcomings. Despite the state's obvious stake in ESA, little has been done to move reform legislation through the U.S. Senate. Californians, with untold resources tied up due to ESA, deserve real reform and should demand action from their elected officials. To work, the ESA must refocus on recovery instead of conflict. For TESRA to work, the Senate must get the job done. Endangered species, and Californians, deserve better. Ignoring the need to improve the ESA is a dereliction of Congressional duty and an unrecorded vote to perpetuate a failing conservation program.
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Sacramento Bee
Pombo lays out case against species act...David Whitney, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14278671p-15087482c.html

Endangered Species Act...The House approved Pombo's sweeping rewrite of the 1973 law...in September. In the Senate, Pombo's bill was greeted even by Republicans with a measure of skepticism. The Bush administration, while supporting it, is worried about the cost of Pombo's plan to compensate landowners for restrictions on their property use. In an interview, Pombo discussed why he thinks the act signed into law by President Nixon needs
an overhaul and how his bill would work.
Q: What are your problems with the Endangered Species Act now?
A: I didn't like the way it treated private property owners...
Q: There have been some reports, peer reviewed, that have shown the act has been working, that species on the list 13 or more years are by and large stable or improving.
A: That's not accurate...
Q: So you don't think the act is working at all?
A: I wouldn't say it hasn't worked at all. But it hasn't worked the way it should...
Q: How would your bill change it?
A: It completely changes the focus. (By) getting away from the current process of protecting habitat...
Q: The environmentalists claim your bill is just a wholesale elimination of essential habitat. \
A: The funny part is the idea for doing away with critical habitat and going with
recovery habitat actually came from environmental groups...
Q: How would that work?
A: This is where science comes in...
Q: It's late in the congressional session. Are you resigned to this carrying over until next session?
A: Not yet...
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Counterpunch.com
June 7, 2003

Bush's War on Endangered Species
Going Critical
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

The Bush administration has given up on the art of pretense. There are no more illusions about its predatory attitude toward the environment. No more airy talk about how financial incentives and market forces can protect ecosystems. No more soft rhetoric about how the invisible hand of capitalism has a green thumb.

Now it's down to brass tacks. The Bush administration is steadily unshackling every restraint on the corporations that seek to plunder what is left of the public domain.

For decades, the last obstacle to the wholesale looting of American forests, deserts, mountains and rivers has been the Endangered Species Act, one of the noblest laws ever to emerge from congress. Of course, the ESA has been battered before. Indeed, Al Gore, as a young congressman, led one of the first fights against the law in order to build the Tellico Dam despite the considered opinion of scientists that it would eradicate the snail darter. Reagan and the mad James Watt did also violence to the law. Bush Sr. bruised it as well in the bitter battles over the northern spotted owl. Despite green credentials, Clinton and Bruce Babbitt tried to render the law meaningless, by simply deciding not to
enforce its provisions and by routinely handing out exemptions to favored corporations.

But the Bush administration, under the guidance of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, has taken a different approach: a direct assault on the law seeking to make it as extinct as the Ivory-billed woodpecker. Give them points for brutal honesty.

On May 28, Gale Norton announced that the Interior Department was suspending any new designations of critical habitat for endangered and threatened species. The reason?

Poverty. The Interior Department, Norton sighed, is simply out of money for that kind of work and they've no plans to ask Congress for a supplemental appropriation.

It's no wonder they are running short given the amount of money the agency is pouring out to prepare oil leases in Alaska and Wyoming and mining claims in Idaho and Nevada.

Critical habitat represents exactly what it sounds like: the last refuge of species
hurtling toward extinction, the bare bones of their living quarters. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service must designate critical habitat for each species under the law at the time that they are listed. It is one of three cornerstones to the hall, the other two being the listing itself and the development of recovery plans.

The law hasn't worked that way for many years. Of the 1,250 species listed as threatened or endangered, the Fish and Wildlife Service has only designated critical habitat for about 400 of them. Despite what many mainstream environmentalists are saying, the attempt to unravel critical habitat has a bipartisan history and has even included the unseemly connivance of some environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund.

During the Clinton era, Bruce Babbitt capped the amount of money the agency could spend preparing critical habitat designations. Babbitt tried to wrap this noxious move in the benign rhetoric that was his calling card. He piously suggesting that designating the habitat wasn't as important as getting the species listed. Of course, it's the habitat designation that puts the brakes on timber sales and other intrusions into the listed species' homeground.

Babbitt's monkeywrenching was not viewed kindly by the federal courts, which issued order after order compelling the Department of the Interior to move forward with the designations. Those court orders piled up for eight years with little follow through.

Babbitt could get away with this legal intransigent because the DC environmental crowd was too timid to hold his feet to the fire.

Now the Bush administration has inherited the languishing court orders and a raft of new suits, many filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson and the Alliance of the Wild Rockies in Missoula, two of the most creative and tireless environmental groups in the country. The Bush administration is not embarrassed about losing one lawsuit after another on this issue for the simple reason that it wants to engineer a legal train wreck scenario that it hopes will destroy the law once and for all.

The scheme to pull the plug on critical habitat began soon after Bush took office.

Beginning in 2001, Gale Norton ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to begin inserting disclaimers about critical habitat into all federal notices and press releases regarding endangered species. The disclaimer proclaims boldly: "Designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection to species."

This is simply a bogus claim as proved by the Fish and Wildlife Service's own data. In its last report to congress, the agency admitted that species with habitat designations are 13 percent more likely to have stable populations and 11 percent more likely to be heading toward recovery than species without critical habitat designations.

Then in May of 2002 the Bush administration, at the behest of the home construction industry and big agriculture, moved to rescind critical habitat designations and protections for 19 species of salmon and steelhead in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The move covered fish in more than 150 different watersheds, clearing the way for timber sales, construction and water diversions.

The next move the administration made against critical habitat was to begin redrawing the existing habitat maps to exclude areas highly prized by oil and timber companies. Since 2001, the Bush administration has reduced the land area contained within critical habitat by more than 50 percent with no credible scientific basis to support the shrinkage.

The administration had practical motives. In coastal California, Norton ordered the BLM to speed up new oil and gas leases in roadless lands on the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, home to more than 20 endangered species, including the condor and steelhead trout. Where once the burden lay with the oil companies to prove that their operations would not harm these species, now it is reversed. Environmentalists must both prove that the listed species are present in the area and that they will be harmed by the drilling.

Next on the hit list was the coastal California gnatcatcher, whose protected habitat had already been shrunk to landfills and Interstate cloverleaves under Babbitt. Carrying water for California homebuilders, Norton lifted protections for the bird on 500,000 acres of habitat in order to "reevaluate its economic analysis" from the habitat protection plan released in 2000. The administration also moved to rescind protections for the tiny San Diego fairy shrimp.

If you want a case study on how endangered species flounder without benefit of critical habitat designations look no further than the mighty grizzly bear of the northern Rockies.

The grizzly was listed as a threatened species in 1975, but it has never had its critical habitat designated because a 1978 amendment to the Endangered Species Act granted the Fish and Wildlife Service the discretion to avoid making the designation for species listed prior to that year. The provision was inserted in the law by members of the Wyoming congressional delegation at the request of the mining and timber industry.

Grizzly populations are lower now than they were when the bear was listed. Tens of thousands of acres of grizzly habitat have been destroyed by clearcutting, roads and mines. Within the next 10 years, grizzly experts predict that key habitat linkages between isolated bear populations will be effective destroyed, dooming the species to extinction across much of its range. Even biologists in the Bush administration now admit that grizzly population in the Cabinet-Yaak Mountains on the Idaho/Montana border warrants being upgraded from threatened to endangered.

Now the terrible of fate of the grizzly is about to be visited upon hundreds of other species thanks to the Bush administration's latest maneuver. "When opponents of the Endangered Species Act seek to gut the critical habitat provision, they are gut-shooting endangered species, in direct offense to national public policy and our system of majority rule," says Mike Bader, a grizzly specialist with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "In their zeal to fatten corporate profits, they seek to bankrupt our national heritage."
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Counterpunch.com
July 13, 2006

$11 Million Every Hour
What the Iraq War is Costing Us
By Rep. JOHN P. MURTHA

We are spending $8 billion a month in Iraq. that equates to 2 billion dollars a week, or 267 million dollars a day, or 11 million dollars an hour.

Attached are some comparisons between what we are spending in Iraq as we "stay the course" indefinitely and what those funds could be used for instead.

I've been fighting for our military to get out of Iraq because I'm concerned about the loss of our troops and the future of our military and also because I believe they have accomplished their mission there and the Iraqis must resolve their internal conflict themselves. However, I also wanted to demonstrate what these expenses mean to domestic policy in the United States and give you an idea of just some of the things that what we could accomplish with this amount of money.

NATIONAL SECURITY

$33.1 billion/yr Department of Homeland Security FY 07 budget (4 months in Iraq)

$10 billion (1-time) Equipping commercial airliners with defenses against shoulder fired missiles (5 weeks in Iraq)

$8.6 billion/7 years Shortage of international aid needed to rebuild Afghanistan (one month in Iraq)

$5.2 billion (1-time) estimated need for capital improvements to secure public transportation system (trains, subways, buses)

(3 weeks in Iraq)

$1.5 billion/year Radiation detectors needed at all US ports (rejected due to cost) (5 days in Iraq)

$1.4 billion/ year Double the COPS (community police grants) program (5 days in Iraq)

$800 million/year public transportation personnel training and technical support (72 hours in Iraq)

$700 million/year 100% screening of all air cargo - rejected because of (2 days in Iraq) cost (1/4 of domestic shipping and 1/2 of international shipping is done on passenger planes)

$350 million (1-time) Make emergency radio systems interoperable (1.2 days in Iraq) (recommended after 9/11 but hasn't happened yet)

$500 million/year Double the firefighters grant program (2 days in Iraq)

$94 million/year Restore cuts to cities hit on 9/11 in Homeland Security budget (8-1/2 hours in Iraq)

HEALTH CARE/VETERANS

$36 billion/5 years reduction for Medicare spending in President's FY 07 budget (4-1/2 months in Iraq)

$5 billion/5 years Cut in Medicaid in President's FY 2007 budget (2-1/2 weeks in Iraq)

$2.5 billion/5 years VA health care premium increases in this year's budget. Premiums will double and triple and drug co-payments will increase, costing our military retirees $2.4 billion over 5 years (9 days in Iraq)

$100 million Additional funding recommended for mental health research for Veterans (9 hours in Iraq)

$48 million Medical and prosthetic research for Veterans (half a day in Iraq)

$65 million/yr National Institutes of Health research funding cuts in this year's budget (scientists are leaving the field of health research because funding has been cut so severely) (6 hours in Iraq)

$15 billion/yr Provide health insurance to 9 million children with no health insurance (1-1/2 weeks in Iraq)

$118 million/yr The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides nutritional food packages for less than $20 a month to more than 400,000 elderly people - eliminated in the President's budget (12 hours in Iraq)

EDUCATION

$3.4 billion/yr Cut in education budget in President's FY 07 budget from FY 06 funding level (over 40 programs including drug-free schools, federal support for the arts,technology and parent-resource centers). (13 days in Iraq)

$664 million/yr Perkins Loan program cut in President's FY 07 budget (would help 463,000 low-income students attend college) (2-1/2 days in Iraq)

$99 million/yr Even Start (eliminated in President's budget) (9 hours in Iraq)

ENVIRONMENT/INFRASTRUCTURE

$300 million President's cut to EPA budget in FY 2007 (1 day, 3 hours in Iraq)

$253 billion/30 years Clean up contaminated sites in US (Up to 350,000 contaminated sites will require cleanup over the next 30 years according to a report released by the EPA.) (2 years in Iraq)

$9.11 billion National Park Service maintenance backlog (1 month, 10 days in Iraq)

$6 billion Forest Service maintenance backlog (3 weeks in Iraq)

$2 billion Fish and Wildlife Service maintenance backlog (2 weeks in Iraq)

$47.2 billion/yr Miscellaneous user fees throughout government imposed by President's budget on taxpayers (6 months in Iraq)

$1.7 billion/yr Grants to states cut in 2007 budget (1 week in Iraq)

$15 million/yr Double the Save America's Treasures program (cut in half from last year's budget) (1.3 hours in Iraq)

DEFENSE

$6 billion Double the number of Navy ships we are buying in the 2007 bill from 6 ships to 12. (3 weeks in Iraq)

$8 billion Double the number of total Air Force aircraft we are buying in this bill. That's right ? we could double the number of F-22s, Joint Strike Fighters, C-130's, Global Hawks and Predators we are buying. Or, we could double the number of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft we are buying F-18s, V-22s, KC-130Js, and so on. (1 month in Iraq)

Rep. John P. Murtha is a member of Congress from Pennsylvania.

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Happy Bastille Day

Submitted: Jul 14, 2006

The other revelation is that being highly educated was no guarantee of sharing in the benefits of economic growth. There’s a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better — like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers — that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004. – Paul Krugman, July 14, 2006
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We read this news of the rapidly growing inequality of income in the United States on Bastille Day, the beginning of the French Revolution, 217 years ago. We appreciate the above revelation about the relationship between higher education and economic benefit, which allows us to dismiss one more persistent claim of UC Merced’s bobcatflackers -- that a UC degree is a highway to economic heaven. -- Bill Hatch
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http://select.nytimes.com/2006/07/14/opinion/14krugman.html

July 14, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist
Left Behind Economics

By PAUL KRUGMAN

I’d like to say that there’s a real dialogue taking place about the state of the U.S. economy, but the discussion leaves a lot to be desired. In general, the conversation sounds like this:

Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”

Informed economist: “But it’s not a great economy for most Americans. Many families are actually losing ground, and only a very few affluent people are doing really well.”

Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”

To a large extent, this dialogue of the deaf reflects Upton Sinclair’s principle: it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. But there’s also an element of genuine incredulity. Many observers, even if they acknowledge the growing concentration of income in the hands of the few, find it hard to believe that this concentration could be proceeding so rapidly as to deny most Americans any gains from economic growth.

Yet newly available data show that that’s exactly what happened in 2004.

Why talk about 2004, rather than more recent experience? Unfortunately, data on the distribution of income arrive with a substantial lag; the full story of what happened in 2004 has only just become available, and we won’t be able to tell the full story of what’s happening right now until the last year of the Bush administration. But it’s reasonably clear that what’s happening now is the same as what happened then: growth in the economy as a whole is mainly benefiting a small elite, while bypassing most families.

Here’s what happened in 2004. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent, a very good number. Yet last August the Census Bureau reported that real median family income — the purchasing power of the typical family — actually fell. Meanwhile, poverty increased, as did the number of Americans without health insurance. So where did the growth go?

The answer comes from the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, whose long-term estimates of income equality have become the gold standard for research on this topic, and who have recently updated their estimates to include 2004. They show that even if you exclude capital gains from a rising stock market, in 2004 the real income of the richest 1 percent of Americans surged by almost 12.5 percent. Meanwhile, the average real income of the bottom 99 percent of the population rose only 1.5 percent. In other words, a relative handful of people received most of the benefits of growth.

There are a couple of additional revelations in the 2004 data. One is that growth didn’t just bypass the poor and the lower middle class, it bypassed the upper middle class too. Even people at the 95th percentile of the income distribution — that is, people richer than 19 out of 20 Americans — gained only modestly. The big increases went only to people who were already in the economic stratosphere.

The other revelation is that being highly educated was no guarantee of sharing in the benefits of economic growth. There’s a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better — like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers — that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004.

In short, it’s a great economy if you’re a high-level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport.

Can anything be done to spread the benefits of a growing economy more widely? Of course. A good start would be to increase the minimum wage, which in real terms is at its lowest level in half a century.

But don’t expect this administration or this Congress to do anything to limit the growing concentration of income. Sometimes I even feel sorry for these people and their apologists, who are prevented from acknowledging that inequality is a problem by both their political philosophy and their dependence on financial support from the wealthy. That leaves them no choice but to keep insisting that ordinary Americans — who have, in fact, been bypassed by economic growth — just don’t understand how well they’re doing.
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The fact that the rich are getting both relatively and absolutely richer, and the poor are getting relatively (if not absolutely) poorer, in the United States today is abundantly clear to all – although the true extent of this trend defies the imagination. Over the years 1950 to 1970, for each additional dollar made by those in the bottom 90 percent of income earners, those in the top 0.01 percent received an additional $162. In contrast, from 1990 to 2002, for every added dollar made by those in the bottom 90 percent, those in the uppermost 0.01 percent (today around 14,000 households) made an additional $18,000. – “Aspects of Class in the United States: An Introduction,” John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, July-August, 2006.

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Bravo, Rose Burroughs

Submitted: Jun 29, 2006

When, in the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, the state Reclamation Board began to take a hard look at building on flood plains along the Sacramento River and the Delta, as it has the authority to do, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired them all in September 2005.

Nearly a quarter of the governor's campaign financing, about $17.25 million, had come from developers by the time the board began to act to protect the levees and residents alongside them.

Judging from the odd comment by out-going board members, developers have big plans for the levees. One example was this from Jeffrey F. Mount, fired board member and chairman of the UC Davis department of geology.

In an interview several months ago, Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees."

Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory.

"Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry."

The violence building industry lobbyists and spokespeople do to the truth of the destruction they are causing to public resources, public health and to the environment was brought home yesterday at a round table where a BIA official from Bakersfield insisted air quality is better there now than it was 20 years ago. The statement echoed one made by a Fresno BIA flak last summer, claiming there was no speculation going on in the Valley housing market.

These people will lie to the public -- and they are paid well to lie -- whenever their greedy interests and desire to exploit the environment are challenged in whatever forum. Many of them, we imagine, have never had an experience of earning an honest living and in their hearts lying and earning are inextricably combined.

This week the new, all-Hun board, approved

a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.

The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer is British, the Cambay Group, so presumably the atop-new-levee estates will be suitably classy for whatever elite-of-the-week the Bay Area is creating when they go on sale.

Putting aside the environmental and aesthetic destruction of this project, it is another example of colonization of the San Joaquin Valley by global capital groups. Other examples, just in Merced County, include a German aggregate-mining corporation and a Canadian development corporation, alongside all the national home-building corporations, WalMart distribution centers in the nation's top or second worst air pollution basin and the NASCAR track proposed for Atwater.

Let them breathe diesel! say the Walton heiresses.

What made life bearable for generations of low-wage workers in the San Joaquin Valley was access to nature, to the "country." The Bay Area has extruded gated pods of rich, "active seniors" to settle on what was once fairly open, accessible land for recreation in the huge, greedy rush to privatize everything, seal it off, patrol and protect it, warping the life of the older community around it.

Developers have the state over a barrel in California as the result of a court decision that charged the state for damages caused by a levee break several years ago. So the main concern of the board seemed to be how to make sure the new, British-built levee won't break, conveniently forgetting that this folly could depend on what might break well above the new "super levee" adorned with chateaux de silicon. But, before levees are strengthened along the Delta, Cambay and its bankers must build their project, or the global economic system will doubtless crumble.

Federal water runs between state levees, without which Cambay could not build their super levee in the first place. Our Hun, in thrall to developers as every politician in California, fires a board for questioning the wisdom of building on flood plains behind state levees channeling federal water. Then, after the dramatic spring floodwaters recede, here comes the project again. It arrives and is approved as if to remind us that California is now so over-built, over-crowded, its population so beyond the carrying capacity of its resources that coal-fired power plants pollute the Arizona and New Mexico to power California desert air conditioners, and its politicians and courts are so completely in development's pockets that when a levee breaks and floods houses on flood plains behind it, the state pays for the damage.

But -- Sell it and ruin it, it's only the Valley! is the battle cry of our hard-right decision-makers. Their political leader in San Joaquin County is Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and scion on the Pombo Real Estate Farms clan. They call it the "courage" to stand against reason, ethics, economic sanity, environmental law and regulation, and the future possibilities of agriculture in the richest, most productive agricultural valley in the world. Their kind of courage is to sell off the Public Trust, subsidize the damage and endanger public health, approve subdivisions on farmland, then enthusiastically support University of California plans for a research medical school at Merced. According to some statistics, the Valley is short of physicians. UC hopes to attract research physicians specializing in pediatric and geriatric respiratory diseases to this evolving research bonanza of gasping victims of the San Joaquin Valley slurbocracy, which features all the pollution of Los Angeles plus pesticides, along with a derelict levee system.

But the board was not unanimous. Merced County's Rose Burroughs opposed the decision.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said.

Bravo, Rose! May many elected and appointed officials follow her lead and vote their conscience, common sense and environmental awareness.

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

Notes:

ttp://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/14272102p-15082546c.html

Homes approved near river with 'superlevee' protection
State board satisfied with barrier guarding San Joaquin project
By Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff Writer
June 27, 2006

State flood-control officials gave a green light Monday to a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.
The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer, British-owned Cambay Group, plans to build 224 of those homes on top of a new 300-foot-wide "superlevee" overlooking the San Joaquin River.

The Reclamation Board approved an encroachment permit that determines where private structures can be built on the levee. It reserves 60 feet of space inland from the San Joaquin River for levee maintenance.
But critics said it could open the door to more development in the Delta and expose thousands more people to flood risk.

"I believe they have insulted the public, and I believe they have permitted projects that are injurious to the public," said Tom Foley, president of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Growth, a Marysville-based group that opposes the project.

Susan Dell'Osso, River Islands project director, said the levee gives her project some of the highest flood protection in California.

"We think the proposal before you today treats us the same as other applicants," she told the board. "In fact, it's a little harsher on us, yet it's something we can live with."

The board voted 4-1 to approve the permit. RoseMarie Burroughs cast the only "no" vote.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said. "Building homes on levees makes the hair stand up on my back with fear."

River Islands has already received approval from the city of Lathrop to build the homes on Stewart Tract.

The city also granted a grading permit that allowed River Islands to build a new private ring levee inside part of the existing federal levees on Stewart Tract. About 2,400 homes will be built inside this new levee during the first phase of construction.

The Reclamation Board has the right to review any levee alterations on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers systems.

On June 16, the Reclamation Board gave the Cambay Group approval to fill in the space between the new and old levees on Stewart Tract to create the new levee.

Monday's vote determined how much of that levee must be left accessible for maintenance and repairs.

The Reclamation Board effectively decided that only the old federal levee needs to be accessed for long-term maintenance, even though it will be partially buried by the new levee.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed with that conclusion.

As a result, Monday's action excludes private development extending 60 feet back from the San Joaquin River's edge. The rest of the levee will be open to construction of private homes, swimming pools and outbuildings.

The Reclamation Board also reserved an "excavation easement" over an additional sliver of private land up to 25 feet wide. This allows the state to access backyards to dig a trench down to the original federal levee in case repairs are required.

It will have no legal right to access the rest of the massive levee.

Les Harder, deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources, said it is unlikely levee problems would develop farther back on the levee, such as underneath new homes.

He also said that since it is likely housing will be built on Stewart Tract regardless of any Reclamation Board actions, a "superlevee" may be a good idea.

"It's my sense that this superlevee would be far better protection than anything else you have in the valley," he said.

The permit also allows River Islands to make public improvements for a recreational parkway in the 60-foot easement, subject to staff approval. This could include planting trees and building public structures like restrooms.

Board member Butch Hodgkins said this would help ensure that private structures are not eventually built across the levee, which would impede access for flood control.

"There is a common interest between flood control and public use and open space," Hodgkins said.
---------------------------

http://www.calcoast.org/news/cpr0050928.html

Schwarzenegger fires flood control panel
The state Reclamation Board had begun resisting development along vulnerable levees

Nancy Vogel
The Los Angeles Times
September 28, 2005

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday fired all six members of the state Reclamation Board, an agency that oversees flood control along California's two biggest rivers and had recently become more aggressive about slowing development on flood plains.

The Republican governor replaced the members — who serve indefinite terms at the governor's pleasure — with seven of his own appointees, most with ties to agriculture and the engineering profession. One board seat had been vacant since spring.

Five of the fired members had been appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and one had first been appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, then reappointed by Davis.

Fired board member Jeffrey F. Mount, chairman of the UC Davis geology department, said he was given no explanation for his dismissal. It was not completely unexpected, he said.

"It's perfectly reasonable for a governor to want to have his own people who represent his policies on flood control," Mount said. He added, "All I know is, we made a lot of people unhappy."

When Hurricane Katrina breached levees and flooded New Orleans a month ago, the board voted to review all urban development plans proposed for Central Valley flood plains — a power it has long held but only occasionally used.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said the appointments had been in the works for "quite some time to ensure the most qualified individuals were chosen."

"The appointees are representative of the valley and experts in engineering and water issues," she said.

In a prepared statement earlier Tuesday, the governor made no mention of the former board members but praised their replacements.

"California faces significant flood challenges," Schwarzenegger said. "To protect our communities, economy and keep Californians safe we need a comprehensive and ongoing effort to reduce these risks with better planning, new investments and improved flood infrastructure." He added that "each one of these individuals shares my commitment to ensuring these lifesaving efforts are not ignored or postponed."

State law gives the Reclamation Board substantial power to review development in the extensive flood plains along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries. The board can make recommendations that local governments cannot ignore without legal findings that justify their plans. Until the last few years, that power was rarely used.

The board had recently begun to challenge local governments' development plans. Along the Feather River south of Marysville, for example, the board balked at Yuba County's plans to build subdivisions in an area that had been flooded by a 1997 break in a levee the state was responsible for.

The state recently agreed to pay more than 600 victims $45 million as a result of that flood.

The Reclamation Board eventually reached an agreement with Yuba County to limit construction to 800 homes in the area this year. The county also agreed to waive the state's liability for future flood damages in the area, known as Arboga.

Mount and other members of the fired board have argued for tougher restrictions on home building near levees. Many stretches of Central Valley levees were built decades ago to protect farmland; they are now aging and weakening at the same time they are being expected to protect thousands of new homes.

In an interview several months ago, Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees."

Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory.

"Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry."

Outgoing board members said Tuesday they had heard rumors that Schwarzenegger was contemplating changes and understood that he has a right to make his own appointments. But they were surprised that he removed an experienced board when the state faces important decisions about the safety of its levees.

"It is not a good time for a change," said fired member Anthony J. Cusenza, a retired dentist from Modesto. "There is so much going on right now with these issues."

One of the biggest challenges for the new board, he said, is reviewing flood plain development. "We were pretty tough on developers," he said. "We are not in the land use [business.] Our concern was levees. The heat we were getting was — we were adamant about not putting people in harm's way."

Outgoing board President Betsy A. Marchand, a former Yolo County supervisor, said the timing of the board's replacement "does surprise me because this board was very active…. I guess I was thinking that perhaps they were going to let us continue with our program of bringing these issues to the forefront."

Former Sacramento city manager and board member William H. Edgar said the board was also very concerned about home building where levees had not been upgraded. He said it would be difficult for the new board to catch up and address such issues now, "but we wish them well."

In the recently ended Legislative session, the Schwarzenegger administration sponsored a bill that would have created a new Central Valley authority to assess property owners for better flood control. The bill was amended to require simply a study of levee strength and repair priorities, but it still failed, in part for lack of GOP support.

Schwarzenegger's budget this year boosted levee maintenance by $26 million, reversing cuts made in the last several years. This month, he called on California's congressional delegation to seek more than $90 million to pay for strengthening Central Valley levees.

But the governor also has strong ties to the building industry. A Times analysis of Schwarzenegger's donors shows that at least 23% of the $75 million he has raised since 2002 has come from businesses or individuals involved in residential or industrial construction, development and real estate.

The California Building Industry Assn., which represents home builders, and its members are among his biggest donors. The trade group has given the governor's campaigns $180,000.

The others terminated Tuesday are retired Stockton school administrator Floyd H. Weaver and former Tehama County supervisor Burton Bundy.

The new members are Cheryl Bly-Chester, owner of a Roseville engineering firm; Rose Burroughs, owner of a livestock company in Denair; Benjamin Carter, a Colusa farmer; Maureen Doherty, a Maxwell rancher; Francis "Butch" Hodgkins, former executive director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency; Emma Suarez, a Folsom attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation; and Teri Rie, a Contra Costa County civil engineer.

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Where do "growth" profits go?

Submitted: Jun 17, 2006

I have a dumb question I am proud of. It is so dumb it is worthy of a citizen of the new Appalachia, as the San Joaquin Valley is known in fashionable political circles. None of the smart people in charge of our Merced County growth are talking about this question, at least in public. And if you don't want to live in the shade of a speculative real estate boom, why -- for Land's sake, son, -- you can go straight back to the old Appalachia, at least as far as our fashionable political circles are concerned.

None other than the president of the University of California said UC Merced would be a high-tech and bio-tech engine for growth, and the implication behind his statement was that no community could ask for anything better than such a thing as that because growth raises all boats and brings the long-sought universal prosperity where pies fall from the sky and money grows on trees.

But, where do the profits from all this “growth” go?

Merced County is in the midst of a speculative housing boom. The local paper reports that, “Housing prices have soared to 77 percent above where they should be,” but a housing industry consultant said they should sink “about 35 percent to 40 percent over a period of three years.”

But the essence of a speculative boom is that is bust, as much a part of it as that 77-percent over value, cannot be predicted. From a speculator’s viewpoint, however, it’s a fair guess the housing prices are just about where they should be – maybe a little low, but not bad if you can flip the property before the bust.

Since most of the investment comes from the outside, would the capital and its profits (or losses) return to the outside? Where does the money go that developers paid farmers and ranchers for their land? Pretty places in the mountains and on the seashore? Farm or ranchland in some other, cheaper state? Where does the money a homeowner receives for his or her house go? If you sell your farm, ranch, or house, it seems logical to assume your money goes with you, elsewhere. What economic incentive would there be for local people who had just sold to buy agricultural land or a house in Merced County at the moment? Wouldn’t they want to go raise some other community’s real estate values? Or would they just blow it on golf, cutting horses, really expensive SUVs or trips to Thailand? Has there been any real public benefit from all this money? Has there been any thought that all this investment and profit should produce some public benefit?

It’s clear that one dumb question leads to others, even dumber.

UC Merced’s vice chancellor for money raising, John Garamendi, Jr., announces a big increase in donations to the school now that the campus is open. Does that money benefit the people of Merced? Nope. Primarily, it gratifies the prestige cravings of the donors, UC research, and UC staff after the large cut for administrative fees is taken. If donors want to benefit the educational progress of the people of Merced, isn’t the best bang for the buck still Merced College, which educates local students in practical skills and transfer credits so that they can attend universities and colleges later?

As far as the Great Merced Speculative Housing Boom is concerned, is that a genuine, huge, Perotian sucking sound we hear?

All that obstructs the glorious flow of the boom are the niceties of the land-use laws. But, if Merced County is nearly devoid of the kind of entrepreneurs who created new industries and jobsites, it is exceedingly rich in the kind of politicians and planning departments adept at getting around the niceties of the law.

To begin, everybody who is anybody in Merced County is his or her own planning department.

There are the county and the incorporated cities, which actually have legally constituted planning departments.

There is UC Merced, which had a completely separate planning department until recently. Now they have turned over development of their UC Community to Lennar Homes, a national home building and another de facto planning department.

There is the county Public Works Department that planned the Campus Parkway.

There are large projects like WalMart and the Riverside Motorsport Park, which create their own plans and count on their own political influence to drive them through the legal land-use authorities. Others in this category would include: Gallo’s Yosemite Lakes, Toronto-based Brookfield Homes, KB Home Central Valley, Inc., Florsheim Land, LLC, Crosswinds Development at Bellevue Ranch, the Gallo/Kelley Stevinson new town, and Ranchwood’s Geneva at Planada. This by no means exhausts the list.

Greg Hostetler’s Los Banos-based Ranchwood Homes is in a class by itself, the local boy who pay wages to other local boys and girls. But, nonetheless, some dumb questions about Ranchwood arise. Does Ranchwood operate on its own money? If not, where do its investor profits go? Los Banos? San Jose? San Francisco? Los Angeles? Chicago? Hong Kong? Does being the local developer mean Ranchwood should be granted dispensation from every local, state and federal environmental law and regulation and public process? Or just the laws it wants to break? Who, for example, granted dispensation to Ranchwood to disk or deep-rip several thousand acres of habitat for endangered species? Who excused Ranchwood from installing a 42-inch sewer trunk line from Livingston, entirely in county jurisdiction, without any county permits, to open a corridor for residential development from Livingston’s pathetic sewer plant all the way to Stevinson? What planning department actually authorized Ranchwood to build settling ponds that flooded this winter in Franklin-Beachwood?

There is also the special category of Fox Hills, a new town near Los Banos, one of whose developers is Steve Sloan, also chairman of the Merced County Planning Commission.

There is the Merced County Association of Governments (McAg, as some locals call it) which claims the land-use authority to act as the lead agency and planning department for an entire transportation plan for the county. Although MCAG tries, and reported having spent $420,000 on its latest multi-year campaign to get Merced County citizens to raise their sales taxes to pay for UC’s roads, it has still not added successful political campaign consulting to its resume of expanding powers. McAg’s latest transportation plan would remove 2,000 acres of Valley agricultural land. Now, what has that got to do with the county’s existing General Plan?

There is Gov, Schwarzenegger’s San Joaquin Valley Partnership (whose vice chairman is San Joaquin County’s most prominent developer), which will define what areas between Lodi and Arvin will become exempt from environmental law and regulation for the purpose of development.

Finally, there is the Great Valley Center (known to some as the Great Valley Economic Development Corporation) a non-profit corporation acting as a regional planning agency to push an eight-county council of governments to create a blueprint of those same areas to be exempted from environmental law and regulation.

All this goes on in the bureaucratic stratosphere while the legally constituted land-use authorities stall on updating their general and community plans, the legally compliant documents that include local public comment that are supposed to guide how these jurisdictions want to grow. Merced County has been so completely dominated by UC, by developers and by grifting hordes of planning and environmental consultants, that its officials no longer even see its citizens and their diminishing natural resources, much less hear public doubt. But, hey, how about that Measure A?

Isn’t the speculative housing boom in Merced County “trickle up and out” economics? It has corrupted and destroyed the land-use authority of local government, charged with balancing the impacts on existing citizens from speculative housing booms, their busts and consequences.

This growth boom creates a magnet for chain retailers, extracting more profits from the community, driving local retailers out of business, making downtown a haven for antique franchises -- all perfect according to the impeccably stupid ideology of the far right business community, dominated by developers and realtors. Who benefits when people who should not have tried to buy homes on adjustable rate mortgages cannot meet their balloon payments, meeting instead their natural predators, the foreclosure vultures? Is there anything less conducive to civic harmony than the naked hand of the real estate marketplace?

Ironically, the workers that have probably realized some benefit from the boom have been those farmworkers able to find work in construction. Personally, I would be skeptical of the ability of a tomato picker to construct a roof gable that doesn’t leak, but who cares in a real estate boom? For the rest of Generation Me, when the real estate deal bottoms out, it will be back to McJobs. While local government planners mutter about preserving land for industry to improve the jobs/housing ratio, some members of the public wonder if the owners of parcels zoned for industry are simply getting a property tax break while they hold the land for residential development.

Speculators and developers have bought thousands of acres of Merced farmland and realize a state subsidy on property tax under the Williamson Act. County supervisors only voted in the Williamson Act in 2000, 35 years after the act was established to help farmers keep their land in agricultural production. It was sold politically under the entirely bogus theory that it would be “mitigation for UC Merced,” language not appearing in the legislation nor contemplated in its intent. However, it was very popular among a select group of large landowners and land speculators, who, by 2000 could not be distinguished one from the other. The late passage of the Williamson Act in Merced County, for corrupted reasons, raises the question of what Merced farmers and ranchers might have been able to achieve with 35 years of property tax savings, had supervisors supported agriculture from the act’s inception.

Watching the founding of UC Merced led some members of the public to revise their entire theory of the American university, deciding that there are really only two divisions left: Science and Technology incubating new high-tech, bio-tech engines of growth; while all departments of what was once called Humanities have become nothing but propaganda incubators. Could a university with a beginning as destructive as UC Merced ever produce anything but weapons of mass destruction? We put our hope in Rep. RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy and his local supporters: let those super patriots become neighbors of UC’s new level-4 biodefense laboratory. We prefer not to. There is something about proximity to Ebola that does not inspire confidence in a UC education.

After nine months of campus operation, UC Merced’s chancellor, provost, one vice chancellor, its environmental compliance officer and the dean of social sciences have fled. Why? It’s just another dumb question.

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

6-16-06
Merced Sun-Star
Planada...Chris Collins...In Brief
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326846p-13059086c.html
PLANADA
Planada board to hold meeting about development
The Planada Municipal Advisory Council will host a meeting June 29 to discuss the proposed Geneva Estates development.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Planada Community Hall at the Senior Annex Building.
For more information, call 385-7366. -- Chris Collins

Hot housing likely to cool...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326842p-13059033c.html
Housing prices have soared to 77 percent above where they should be, which means Merced is "at risk for a price correction," according to the study released earlier this week by financial services company National City and economic information company Global Insight. When prices dip, they'll probably sink about 35 percent to 40 percent over a period of three years, said DeKaser.Developers and real estate agents alike have been forced to slash prices lately.

Grand Jury scolds planners over service...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326844p-13059085c.html
A report released by the Merced County Civil Grand Jury accuses the county Planning Department of poor customer service, using faulty computer records, and refusing to carry out an order issued by the five-member Planning Commission.
UCM pledges increase fourfold...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326841p-13059087c.html
Fundraising efforts at UC Merced this year have drawn the most private support in the university's history, with total donations for the year at more than $19 million, according to university officials. Of the 612 gifts made by 462 private donors this year, the largest - at $5 million - will support the university's proposed medical school. The national corporation that made the donation will be publicly announced soon, said Garamendi. Systemwide, UC has brought in more than $1 billion a year for the past five years, according to the UC Office of the President.

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After another week of flak

Submitted: Jun 11, 2006

If for some reason, one finds oneself trying to look at things while standing somewhere in
grass roots, one of the first problems met is smoke generation. Part of learning the lay of
the land involves locating the local, regional, state and national smoke generators operating
near the grass roots one stands in. In other words, what flak, generated by whom, is smogging
local communications with propaganda for whose profit?

Public relations, as it is called, is among our newest professions. Related, and somewhat
newer, are our "environmental consulting firms," known in some circles as "bio-stitutes,"
because they sell their science for fees. If the grass roots in which one stands are
withering, there are biostitutes ready and willing to declare with scientific authority that
the withering is only in the eyes of someone who happens to be standing in grass roots in
the path of development.

One of the worst examples of smoke generation, combining science and PR, is promotion of
genetically engineered seed, crops with patented gene modifications in their seeds whose
pollen spreads the modified genes around the surrounding countryside. The GMO corporations
seem to be companies run almost entirely by their PR departments, with a few scientists in
the lab shotgunning strands of DNA with foreign genes to "see what sticks." Of course,
any farmer knows who ever asked any pesticide salesman why any pesticide worked, only to
receive the answer, "We don't know but it sure kills bugs," there is virtually no
environmental or even agricultural concern involved in the "corporate culture" of the giant
pesticide companies now producing GE seed.

If one's grass roots are in the San Joaquin Valley, the mental smog comes from a variety of
smoke generating equipment, some of it old, some of it new. Pesticide and fertilizer
companies have been promoting their ever-changing products and extracting their profits from
the Valley for decades. Farmers have come and gone, the entire scale and crop mix of Valley
agriculture has changed, but the pesticide (now GE-seed) corporations go on, immortal,
fictional persons that they are. Sometimes it takes a word from afar, even from as far as the
North Dakota wheat deal, to remind us that seed is life, corporations are just pieces of
paper. Some of the commodities -- dairy, cotton, rice, poultry, some fruits -- are old and
possess venerable smoke machines. An odd, and oddly unacknowledged aspect of our economic
system is that although the PR of its biggest winners has never failed to preach the holy
mystery of the market and competition, while doing everything they can to control their own
markets and protect their own government subsidies. The current one-party, far-rightwing
House of Representatives is a psychotic case in point. Taking big telecommunications' firms
money, they vote against enshrining in law the principle of neutrality on the Internet,
proving again the old political adage the the only truly free market in America is Congress,
where everyone is for sale. They call that being conservative and even godly when in fact it
is just religiously sanctified graft.

The grass rooter may take the privilege of remaining skeptical about the economic benefits of
market control and subsidies on certain agricultural commodities. Likewise, he may take a
skeptical position on various governmental strategies to keep land in agricultural production
rather than letting it go to the developer's blade. California's Williamson Act and
Agricultural Preserve laws, which provide a property tax subvention to farmers and ranchers,
has probably been the best law for preserving agriculture in the state -- not that it has not
and cannot be perverted by developers planting large, newly acquired parcels in crops of
convenience (grapes and almonds are popular) waiting for the right time to build the next
subdivision. Meanwhile, of course, this business strategy add to the supply of the commodity
they are growing, lowering the price for everyone else trying to make a living growing that
commodity.

There is the additional strife among generations in farming families that works its mischief. Families get tired of the struggle to make a living with each other on farms. Selling is a good way of settling up. It's an amazing thing to the urban supporters of agriculture, but farmers do not always love their farms. Another factor is the low social status of farmers, which can be attributed more to the eyes of those who hold themselves above farmers than to farmers themselves, although farmers play status games among each other, too. For a number of reasons, farmers in the Valley seem more conventional than farmers on the coast, for example, although this is a more recent phenomenon than it appears. Valley history is full of stories of colorful, inventive, incredibly creative farmers. The chances are they are still out there, but for some reason, they are not as visible as they once were to the public.

In a place where rapid urban development is occurring, farm commodity groups develop forms of
thinking that would be better taken to a competent psychiatrist for examination and reflection than taken to the public as policy. The skeptical grass rooter can entertain the idea that farm commodities in the US are in a longterm crisis caused by input prices ratcheting ever upward while commodity prices continue their languid wave-like motion in the middle of the graph. Sooner or later, commodity by commodity, despite whatever help the government can and does provide, that rising line bisecting the price graph from lower right
corner to upper left corner cuts through the wave-like motion of commodity prices. Once it cuts through the surface, the gap grows over time. During price troughs farmers are forced out of the commodity; and during peak prices they pay off their mortgage and wait for another price fall. If the commodity is heavily subsidized, it only awaits a new chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture like Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, for the axe. Although Pombo has not yet been named chair of the agriculture committee, it seems that is the plan if the wind-power consultant doesn't beat him after McCloskey placed a few
bandilleras and picks in his neck in the primary.

RichPAC, the political strong arm of a San Joaquin County clan of ranch realtors, knows exactly what to do when agricultural inputs rise too far above agricultural prices: sell the land to the developer and import the fruits and vegetables from some other country. It is a popular, practical approach to any agricultural crisis, at least in California, assuming no way for agriculture to evolve out of its crisis. The farmer is caught between the prospects for his commodity and the Pombo approach. This leads to hysterical contradictions in the public utterance from farm groups, as land ownership becomes more important than agricultural production in their family budgets. HBO could do a comedy series on it.

A minor form of flak that occurs within agriculture is the condemnation of farming by organic gardeners or truck farmers. The conventional, commercial farmers get it from all sides. Yet, one of the things they say that rings true is that it is not a good idea for the United States to become food importers just to pave over good farmland for subdivisions.

Development flak is funded by a consortium of interests -- construction unions, building contractors, aggregate mining firms, engineering firms, hordes of consultants serving all development's needs, developers themselves, and the manifold branches of their financial investors. These are largely statewide, national and even international operations, and the larger ones all have flak departments or consultants, ready for a fee on instant notice to flood a promising real estate market in the midst of a speculative housing boom with
flak-to-order for the issue at hand (Measure A in Merced County, for example).

It is when we get to the propaganda of large landowners that the smoke generator is hard to see from the grass roots. However, keeping with a skeptical view, it is possible that the landowning interest is so entrenched in local government it virtually needs no lobby or propaganda, at least to persuade the land-use authorities. The Merced County Board of Supervisors, for example, seems to possess a comfortable quorum of ranch and farm owners whose properties are not far from the path of urban growth, and the chairman of the county Planning Commission is one of the largest land-owning developers on the west side of the county. Some might consider this connection to sizeable tracts of private property -- in view of the de facto pro-growth policies of the board -- to represent what used to be called in a more democratic era "a conflict of interest." But we don't live in a very democratic era, there is a huge amount of money flowing into Merced County in real estate speculation, possibly even a larger amount of money is flowing out of the county, and it is definitely not polite in governing circles to mention the "C-word."

Yet, there are still other forms of flak billowing up in the Valley. There are the "public information" operations emanating out of state and federal bureaucracies like the regional boards for air and water quality and the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Air and water quality in the Valley is deteriorating. The water board recently announced a huge coup: it levied a multi-million-dollar fine against Hilmar Cheese for ruining water quality in its area. Then the water board permitted Hilmar Cheese to sink deep injection wells to pump its waste deep below the surface. The state air board is limited to stationary sources of pollution. The grass rooter looks at this regulatory truncation and speculates that it must be the result of a high level of special interest investment in the free market of politicians, because it certainly doesn't make any sense in terms of the common good or the Public Trust. The federal BOR, which controls federal water projects, has agendas utterly beyond the comprehension of mere mortal grass rooters. Why the BOR produced so much propaganda against the US Fish and Wildlife Service's discovery of the damage done to wildlife at the Kesterson preserve as the result of subterranean drainage of heavy metals from west side farms is still difficult, 20 years later, to understand from a grass roots perspective. Does the BOR just hate birds or fetuses in general? Does the BOR take a pro-cancer position? Can wildlife biology and the BOR exist on the same planet? The mild-mannered Valley grass rooter shudders to think what went on in the free market of congressmen when biological whistles started tooting at Kesterson.

There is also the flak produced by the water districts and irrigation districts, these public agencies that behave so often like private corporations and over whom there is so little real public oversight. They all have marvelously glossy brochures, pamphlets and magnificently jargoned, lengthy reports that could put a grass rooter to sleep before finishing reading the executive summary. There is no subject in California history over which there has been more political conflict (not to mention the gun battles) than water. As a result, water propaganda represents perhaps the most opaque, obscure, slithery official jargon in the state.

Reading California water policy documents conjures up the image of what happens to the San Joaquin River halfway across Fresno County, where it disappears below the sands of the river bed for 40 miles. There has always been too much missing to make sense of it. And when the San Joaquin resurfaces, it meanders northward beside two canals flowing south.

Nevertheless, it is extremely gratifying that so many earnest people, connected to the real sources of information about issues vital to our region are willing -- at other peoples' expense -- to do our thinking for us. It is so gratifying, actually, that it seems as if some people have forgotten how to think without the aid of flak, contenting themselves with parroting the last opinion to which they were exposed.

In our area there is also University of California flak, in a class by itself. First, UC appears to believe that it invented and hold patents (no doubt in fruitful win-win, public-private partnerships) on the truth. Secondly, as manager of two national laboratories of weapons of mass destruction, whatever it says and does not say
carries with it the authority of National Security. For both reasons, UC is very certain what people should know and what they should not know about UC. UC flak is the most impenetrable obstacle to comprehension in the local flak environment because it constantly changes its story depending on what it thinks simple peasants need to know. UC flak games with history -- its own or anything it thinks it ought to control -- are among the most bizarre in the flak industry. The intent appears to be to completely deny the existence of history, at least any other version of it but the current line promoted by the UC flak-du jour, for whatever
the advantage of the moment it is for UC. Perhaps in the highest echelons of UC, they actually believe history is over. Another view might be, however, that as it develops a new generation of nuclear weapons, it simply believes history is UC.

Finally, there is the effortless repetition of flak in the local press.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12289754p-13025572c.html
6-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A: Road fixes to take longer...Leslie Albrecht

While the county can charge developers impact fees to cover the cost of new residents' impact
on roads, those fees can only pay for projects related to new growth, not maintenance
projects like reconstructing Livingston's Main Street.

... because, obviously new residents in Livingston won't be using Main Street like old
residents do?

This is an example, taken from an article that is supposed to achieve a professional journalistic "objectivity" about Measure A, which recently failed. Instead, it is mindless regurgitation of developer flak, the main purpose of which is to disguise by any and all means available the fact that development doesn't pay for itself. In the speculative real estate boom Merced County is now experiencing, two things that under no circumstances can be said by public officials or local media organs are: a boom busts; and development doesn't pay for itself.

Another example:

UC names committee to look for new chancellor of Merced Campus...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12295105p-13030135c.html June 9, 2006
UC President Robert Dynes has named a 14-member search committee that will advise him in
selecting the successor to UC Merced founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who is set
to leave the university's top seat Aug. 31. Three UC Merced faculty members, two UC Merced
students and four UC regents are among the committee members, who are scheduled to meet for
the first time at the university later this month ...

The article continues on its gagged path, announcing that a "diverse" committee including one
representative from the Merced community, will choose the new chancellor. The local representative is none other than Bob "Mr. UC Merced" Carpenter, who has never represented anything but local business -- mainly real estate -- interests from the beginning of the first committee he set up to lure UC to Merced to induce the present speculative development boom.

But, of course, the reporter doesn't know this, because she is perhaps the seventh reporter at the paper to have covered UC Merced since Carpenter was dubbed by a predecessor, "Mr. UC Merced," and her editors have forgotten or simply don't care.

The story mentions in disconnected paragraphs that the top two UC Merced administrators have both left. In fact, that is the story and the question Why? screams for some response. But, as in all stories generated by UC flak, the public gets no answer. Why is Larry Salinas, UC Merced's top flak, on a committee to select a new chancellor at all? Who really runs that campus?

How about Carpenter, Regent Fred Ruiz and Salinas for a guess? An insurance agent, a frozen food tycoon and a professional flak man. The ingenue who has inherited the Blessed Beat doesn't ask who the Hun replaced with Ruiz on the Regents and what was the nature of that insult to farmworkers.

This is a university? Or is it a shell waiting to be filled up with substances too dangerous for the Livermore Valley?

Our problem in the Valley is that the various contending creeds, expressed in propaganda, don't jibe with our history, experience or daily reality. In fact, taken as a whole, they don't produce a coherent path for the human mind. Agriculture, in particular, is currently producing masses of contradictory claims, all commanding our belief (but perhaps increasing our disbelief). In the face of these contradictions, developers and the investors behind them come with a very simple political remedy to all our confusions: sell the land. Lately, we have been seeing farmers who have become developers, along with the well-known path of developers holding land in agriculture until the next boom comes, producing distortions in the supply of the commodity they choose to farm.

But, considering local projects like the WalMart distribution center, Riverside Motorsports Park, and UC Merced, the average grass rooter must remain quite skeptical about whether they will deliver any of their proposed promises for the common good.

But flak is beautiful, anyway. It does all your thinking for you, it promises you wonderful things, and gives you an unerring guide for correct opinions -- and never mind if, taken together, it make any sense except for the people who pay for the flak. The thing to admire is that flak is so smooth and shiny next to your own lumpy, half-finished opinions riddled with unanswered questions and doubts -- those niggling things in the mind that flak deals with so effectively by completely ignoring them.

Flak is also very flattering. Flak cares about you. Flak invites you to join its side, always the "good" side, urging you to march forward to wealth, prosperity and security. Flak is so nice you forget to ask why these talented, clean, wholesome citizens would be working so hard to send you these warm, smiling messages that do your thinking for you. Flak is thought in a chauffeured limousine.

Nevertheless, we are privileged at the moment to get a glimpse at what happens with the American profession of propagandist itself falls under attack, in the following brace of articles from CommonDreams.com.

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

Notes:

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0608-21.htm
Published on Thursday, June 8 2006 by the Center for Media and Democracy

Confronted with Disclosure Demands, Fake News Moguls Cry "Censorship!"
by Diane Farsetta

Be afraid, be very afraid! If television stations are required to abide by existing regulations and label the corporate and government propaganda they routinely pass off as "news," the First Amendment will be shredded, the freedom of the press repealed, and TV stations will collapse overnight!

At least, that's what the public relations firms that produce and distribute video news releases (VNRs) and other forms of fake news would have you believe. PR firms are banding together and launching lobbying and PR campaigns to counter the growing call for full disclosure of VNRs, the sponsored video segments frequently aired by TV newsrooms as though they were independently-produced reports.

This alarmist campaign comes as no surprise; the PR industry is like any other business interest. And if there's one thing business is good at, it's avoiding meaningful oversight ...

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0609-31.htm

Published on Friday, June 9, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Framing Versus Spin
by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson

Two weeks ago, Rockridge published The Framing of Immigration by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson, an analysis of the framing surrounding immigration used by progressives and conservatives, as well as a discussion of framings not being used, but which would reveal important truths. Late last week, the DailyKos leaked a memo by Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging strategist, advising Republicans how to talk about immigration. If you want to compare what Rockridge does with what Luntz does, this is your chance ...

| »

Notes on random evidence of the people's voice

Submitted: Jun 08, 2006

Several rapidly growing counties, including Merced, put sales-tax increases on their ballots in the June 6 election earmarked for transportation improvements. Costly mailers, paid for by developers, road construction companies and their unions, explained to the voters that without this "self-help" fund emanating from the county, CalTrans would not be likely to fund their projects. The voters seemed to ask why development doesn't pay for itself. (1)

In Humboldt County, voters passed a measure to prohibit outside special interest contributions to local political campaigns. Humboldt's forests are largely held by outside corporations, the largest and most belligerent being Maxxam's Pacific Lumber Co., which recently funded a recall campaign against newly elected DA Paul Gallegos, who had the gall to sue the lumber company for back taxes. Gallegos also won reelection. (2)

In Mendocino County, a supervisor who claims to be impeccably green but recently closed down a mill to develop it on the outskirts of Willits, lost to John Pinches. Hal Wagonet, the loser, narrowly defeated Pinches in the last election. Pinches' margin of victory was greatly aided by local citizens against Wagonet's development plans. (3)

In Placer County, rapidly developing Lincoln-based Supervisor Robert Wagonet beat back a challenge funded by the Tsakopoulos family, irritated that he had held to proper planning processes on a Tsakopoulos development in his district that would have featured at its center a "world-class university." (4)

Former Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, won the primary for Oakland mayor (to replace Jerry Brown). Alameda County is having to hand count its ballots so it is not yet certain whether Dellums will have to face a runoff election in November. Dellums took courageous stands on national defense spending and on the right of Palestinians to exist. (5)

Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy received 62 percent of the Republican vote in the 11th congressional district against former Rep. Pete McCloskey's 32 percent. McCloskey came, as a former Marine officer and lawyer, to defend the Constitution against the one-party, far-rightwing that has advanced Pombo so rapidly in the House. He came from out of the district as a co-author of the Endangered Species Act and several other key environmental laws, and as co-founder of Earth Day, to cause Pombo, co-author of the gut-the-ESA bill now stalled in the US Senate, as much political harm as possible. McCloskey came to do battle with Pombo as a Republican, to save the soul of the Republican Party.

It is doubtful McCloskey knew much more about the real estate manias of San Joaquin County, the basis of the power of Pombo and his extensive Pombo family clan of ranch realtors, than does Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, House Minority Leader, who backed the loser in the Democratic Party primary. The core of the district, San Joaquin County, is mysterious to Bay Area types. But Pombo needed 70 percent to scare away big Democratic Party money. If the Democrats can bring themselves to back the winner of their primary, Jerry McNerney, and run a decent voter registration drive, the could continue wounding Pombo and possibly beat him.

However, there is a sense Democratic Party treachery may be afoot in poor old San Joaquin County. The Democrats may be keeping their money for a state Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, campaign for Congress in two years. Meanwhile, if one follows the Delta press, it appears that Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Pelosi, both San Franciscans, are too chummy with Pombo by far. (6) (7)

Oakland Mayor and former Gov. Jerry Brown walked away with the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general. State Senator Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, his opponent, threatens a harsh campaign on Brown's record. Fresno doesn't like it that Brown marched with Cesar Chavez and created the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. So what, Chuck? (8)

With an infusion of $8.6 million from the Tsakopoulos family, state Treasurer Phil Angelides defeated state Controller Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley magnate who funded his own campaign. Angelides, a former Sacramento developer and protege of Angelo Tsakopoulos, has also been a long-time Democratic Party funder and has served as state chairman of the party. His knowledge of Wall Street, through investment of billions in state retirement funds and his involvement in the many billions in bonds by which the state now finances itself -- because development doesn't pay its way -- may be an asset for the state government. Whether that expertise translates into assets for the state's people is a mystery. We think it is unlikely that the Tsakopoulos family will not receive some benefit for their generosity in the primary campaign. (9)

Voter turnout was generally, wretchedly low. Arnold the Hun was voted in on a "progressive reform" platform, a purely nostalgic confection of the public relations profession aimed at conjuring up images of Hiram Johnson and Teddy Roosevelt in the Age of Bush, Tom the Hammer, Pombo, Cunningham and Jack Abramoff and the K Street Project. Yet, the feeling for reform is genuine in the populace, if only it can sort out the flak to get to its best shot for a little bit of it. The people might conclude that Angelides serves too many masters. At least with the Hun, you know he serves only one master.

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

Notes:

(1) Measure A: Road fixes to take longer

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12289754p-13025572c.html

By Leslie Albrecht
Last Updated: June 8, 2006, 01:58:29 AM PDT

… "It's devastating," said District 2 Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, who starred in television ads promoting Measure A, the half-cent sales tax that would have raised $446 million for transportation projects throughout the county.

The initiative fell 795 votes short of achieving the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, leaving Merced County leaders disappointed and wondering what kept voters home.

A May 19 poll showed 71 percent support for the initiative, but those numbers failed to materialize on Tuesday.

It wasn't only in Merced.

Transportation tax initiatives in Monterey, Solano and Napa counties all went down in flames. (Merced's fared the best -- Monterey's measure got 56 percent, Napa's got 52 percent, and Solano's got 45 percent.)

A few anti-tax groups campaigned against the Solano and Napa measures, but Merced's saw no organized opposition except for some fliers inserted into newspapers two days prior to the election.

"The fact that we lost millions and millions of dollars by just a few percentage points is just unbelievable," said Crookham. "It was local people who made the decisions about which projects it would fund.

"Why they didn't go to the polls and vote for what they wanted just leaves me baffled" ...
------------------------------------

(2)
http://www.eurekareporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?ArticleID=11963

Measure T passes with 55 percent majority
by Rebecca S. Bender, 6/7/2006

Humboldt County sent a message to out-of-area corporations looking to throw their weight around in local elections Tuesday night: Go away.

Measure T, also called the Ordinance to Protect Our Right to Fair Elections and Local Democracy, would prohibit non-local corporations from donating to county elections.

“We’re really excited!” enthused campaign co-manager Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap said close to midnight on Tuesday. “We’re very proud of our community — but we’re not surprised!”

As of press time, with 94 percent of precincts reporting, Measure T was ahead with 54.97 percent of votes stacking up in its favor and 45.03 percent against.

Absentee ballots, reported shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., fell along a similar divide, with 52 percent yes votes and 48 percent no, giving an initial indication of which way the vote might go.
------------------

(3) http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/local/ci_3909566

3rd District voters choose Pinches' Colfax leading in 5th district race
By KATIE MINTZ The Daily Journal

John Pinches and David Colfax look to be the likely 3rd and 5th District supervisors following Tuesday's election...

With 100 percent of 3rd District precincts reporting, Pinches was the unofficial winner of the 3rd District supervisor seat with 54 percent of the votes...

-------------------------
(4)
http://www.thepresstribune.com/articles/2006/06/07/news/top_stories/05weygandt.txt
Weygandt wins county supervisor race Tuesday

By: Joshua W. Bingham, Gold Country News Service
Wednesday, June 7, 2006 10:09 AM PDT

Through receiving 70 percent of the votes with 92 percent of the precincts rep-orting at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, Robert Wey-gandt clearly was elected to his fourth term as District 2 Supervisor on the Placer County Board of Supervisors ...

Simmons estimated his team spent about $380,000 on the campaign. Weygandt, however, estimated the Simmons camp spent twice as much as his own.

Causing much media coverage was the fact the Tsakopoulos family, major developers in the area, donated $100,000 to Simmons' campaign on May 31.

Although a Placer County Elections Division spokesperson relayed that, according to late contribution reports, while $118,500 was given to Weygandt's campaign and $232,251.83 was given to Simmons' campaign between May 25 and June 2, a true receipt of how much money was spent wouldn't be available until required in a report later in the year...
------------------

(5)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/08/BAG46JAKDK1.DTL&type=politics
ELECTION 2006
Oakland Races
Dellums leads, but counting not over
Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Ron Dellums was winning Oakland's mayoral race by the slimmest of margins Wednesday, but with thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted one by one, the outcome was nowhere near assured.

The former congressman, who gave what sounded a lot like a victory speech Tuesday night, had just 125 votes more than the 50 percent majority needed to win the election outright, election officials said Wednesday.
-----------------------

(6)
http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=POMBO-06-07-06

Primary vote shows 'vulnerability' for Pombo

By MICHAEL DOYLE
McClatchy Newspapers
07-JUN-06

WASHINGTON -- Republican Richard Pombo could pay a price for his victory in his most challenging Republican primary ever.

It all depends on what the meaning of "win" is.

The seven-term congressman from Tracy, Calif., did handily defeat his GOP challenger Tuesday, former congressman Pete McCloskey, 62 percent to 32 percent. In a general election, that would be a more than comfortable margin.

But in a primary, facing a 78-year-old challenger who only recently had taken an apartment in the Northern San Joaquin Valley congressional district, the win could be spun in several ways. Not all of the interpretations favor Pombo.

"The result shows a serious vulnerability, but no more than that," Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said Wednesday. "At a minimum, it means that the Republicans will have to put money into this race, which they certainly did not want to do."

Money is certainly abundant. Helped by his perch as chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo reported raising $81,300 in just the past week. All told, Pombo has raised more than $1.7 million this election cycle.

But it wasn't just the congressional candidates pouring money into the race. In an interview Wednesday, Pombo estimated that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, among others, spent several million dollars attacking him with ads. Some even ran on expensive San Francisco stations, a rarity for a San Joaquin Valley race ...
----------------------

(7)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/08/BAG46JAFDG1.DTL&type=politics
11TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Pombo basks in his decisive victory
30 percentage point win over McCloskey 'pretty convincing'
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Rather than proof of weakness, Rep. Richard Pombo's 62 percent- to-32 percent primary victory over former Rep. Pete McCloskey just as likely signaled how strong the seven-term Tracy Republican will run in November.

Pombo benefits from a district centered in his home San Joaquin County with 44 percent GOP registration to 37 percent Democratic and a challenger in favor of increasing taxes -- including gasoline -- whom Pombo defeated handily two years ago.

"People can dream all they want but it was a pretty convincing win," said Wayne Johnson, Pombo's chief political consultant. "We stopped our advertising two weeks out because we didn't see what the point was."

Environmental groups, angered by the House Resources Committee chairman's desire to weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, spent more than $1 million to defeat him.

They, and national Democrats, see Pombo as vulnerable, particularly if voters carry through in November on an anti-incumbent mood showing up in public opinion polls.

"He isn't motivating his base. He's got a large anti-Pombo vote within his own party," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, which spent more than $400,000 against Pombo in the Republican primary ...

"Pombo won the primary by more 30 points. And for anyone who thinks that's a blow to him you have to look at Pete McCloskey," said Bob Giroux, a former Democratic campaign consultant, now lobbyist. "McCloskey was known in the district but he's also a legend. You could put him in San Bernardino and he'd still get 32 percent" ...

But Pombo is likely to zero in on McNerney's support for increasing a number of taxes.

In a survey on the Project Vote Smart Web page, McNerney said he supports slight increases in alcohol, cigarette, inheritance and gasoline taxes. He wants large increases in capital gains and corporate taxes.

"On just about every issue, he is on the wrong side for the district," Johnson said. "I've never seen a political suicide note this long."
-------------------------

(8)
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/08/us/08brown.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Jerry Brown Wins Nomination for California Attorney General

By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: June 8, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, June 7 — Jerry Brown, the former governor of California and the current mayor of Oakland, handily won a Democratic primary for state attorney general on Tuesday, setting up a fight with a lesser-known but well-financed Republican candidate.

Skip to next paragraph
Related
Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems (June 8, 2006)
Schwarzenegger Voices New Confidence (June 8, 2006)
This Time, Jerry Brown Wants to Be a Lawman (June 5, 2006)With all precincts reporting, Mr. Brown had received 63 percent of the vote versus 37 percent for Rocky Delgadillo, the city attorney of Los Angeles. The Republican candidate, Chuck Poochigian, a state senator from Fresno, was unopposed.

On Wednesday, Mr. Poochigian blazed through a series of interviews, promising a serious challenge to Mr. Brown, the son of a former governor, Edmund G. Brown Sr., and a three-time presidential candidate who has spent nearly four decades in politics.

"My biggest challenge is overcoming Jerry's name advantage," Mr. Poochigian, 57, said in a telephone interview from Sacramento. "But Jerry has a bigger challenge to overcome, and that's his record."

Mr. Brown embarked on his own campaign tour, barnstorming through the state on a private plane, traveling from Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay, to a pair of Southern California stops in Burbank and San Diego; then north to Sacramento; and south again to Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

Along the way, Mr. Brown ventured to Mr. Poochigian's turf in the Central Valley to address police officials. At every stop, he sought to remind voters of his credentials, including his "practical hands-on experience" as a governor and a mayor.

"I've been an independent leader, not just an appendage of narrow partisan politics," said Mr. Brown, 68, before boarding a plane in San Diego. "I'm running against a man who has basically been a staffer or bureaucrat or a legislator. He's never run a darn thing."

But Mr. Brown said he expected a tough campaign, and predicted that Mr. Poochigian would use negative advertisements to try to paint him as being out of step with average Californians.

Mr. Poochigian promised to run "a truthful campaign," but he was already hammering Mr. Brown for a recent spike in crime in Oakland. "In the case of Jerry Brown, the truth is going to hurt," he said.

In the election to determine Mr. Brown's successor in Oakland, the former congressman Ron Dellums appeared to have won, although officials were still counting the ballots.

Mr. Poochigian has $3.3 million in his campaign chest, aides said, and has already raised more money than any other Republican running for statewide office except Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But he probably faces an uphill battle in a state that often votes Democratic. Mr. Brown's vote total among Democratic voters on Tuesday was just 771 shy of what Mr. Poochigian received from all Republican voters.
-------------------

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

OFF AND RUNNING
'NEW ERA': Angelides opens campaign after joining Westly in a unity pledge
Carla Marinucci, Tom Chorneau, Chronicle Political Writers

Thursday, June 8, 2006

M

Sacramento -- Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the skies and roads Wednesday, kicking off what's expected to be a pricey general election contest and a raucous debate over who can best protect California's future.

Angelides, on a state fly-around that began just hours after he was declared the winner of a bruising primary battle against state Controller Steve Westly for the party's gubernatorial nomination, promised to bring Democrats together in a unified campaign to lead "a new era of progressive action in California."

"I'm full of hope and optimism ... about what this state can be," said Angelides, surrounded by supporters including Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Garamendi.

In a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel near Universal Studios, Angelides and Westly declared unity, clasped hands, shared a brief hug and tried to downplay the vitriol that dominated the primary campaign.

Westly said Angelides is "committed to the environmental values" of the Democratic Party -- a statement in stark contrast to ads Westly ran during the past week accusing Angelides of playing a role in the dumping of millions of gallons of sludge into Lake Tahoe.

Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, who for months has appeared at events designed to showcase his gubernatorial policies and status, also went into full campaign mode ...

"The other side is talking about the future; we are building the future," he said. "The other side is talking about all the problems California has; we are solving the problems" ,,,

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, the president of Sacramento-based AKT Development and daughter of developer Angelo Tsakopoulos -- who with her father donated $8.7 million toward the Democratic candidate's effort to an independent expenditure campaign -- said yesterday that her family was "absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do" and was "enormously proud" of Angelides' win.

But in an interview with The Chronicle, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis said "I don't know" if the Tsakopoulos family will play another major financial donor role in the general election.

She said the primary effort was aimed at helping firefighters, police officers and teachers get out their message of support for Angelides and level the playing field for the treasurer in his battle against the wealthy, self-funded Westly.

"Phil Angelides is now the Democratic Party candidate -- and the Democratic Party is going to do what it needs in this election," she said. "The party is going to support him" ...

Just how quickly Democrats can recover from the wounds of a bloody political primary competition and turn full attention to Schwarzenegger was openly questioned by former San Francisco mayor and radio talk show host Willie Brown in the state Capitol.

"I think probably Westly will be able to do it -- I don't know about Angelides," Brown said. "He's the one who's most offended" ...
------------------

| »

Some things to think about on Measure A

Submitted: Jun 04, 2006

URGENT

City of Merced Measure C raised sales tax to 7.75%. With passage of Measure A, Merced City sales tax would be 8.25%. A half a cent less than the highest sales tax rates in the state. Sales taxes fall hardest on people with fixed incomes ( senior citizens and citizens with special needs) and low incomes. Merced leaders constantly repeat that Merced County is poorer that Appalachia.

So why are they asking us to pay close to the highest sales tax rate in the state?

Rankings by per capita income of California’s 58 counties whose sales tax measures are mentioned in articles below (http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income):

1st -- Marin ($44,962)
4th -- Santa Clara ($32,795
5th – Contra Costa ($30,615)
7th – Alameda ($26,860)
8th – Santa Cruz ($26, 396)
9th – Napa ($26,395)
21st – Solano ($21,731)
23rd – Sacramento ($21,142)
27th – Monterey ($20,265)
39th – San Joaquin ($17,365)
42nd – Stanislaus ($16,913)
49th – Fresno ($15,495)

54th – Merced ($14,257)

One proponent of Merced County’s Measure A advanced the following argument:

Small price, big benefit...Connie Warren, Merced...Measure A will increase the Merced County sales tax by one-half of one cent per dollar: This means an increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase. You would need something in the $1000 range before the increase would impact a 16-year-olds (allowance driven) buying power. Ever heard the phrase "New York minute"?

In fact, Measure A would add 50 cents to a $10 purchase, not a nickel. If Measure A sales tax passes, the City of Merced would have a one(1%) percent tax increase within a year.

It is also important for Merced County voters to note well (from the articles below) that, once these sales tax measures are voted in, local governments come back again and again asking for extensions for them and additions to them.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
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Mercury News
Sun., June. 4, 2006
Support health and transit; vote for ethical leadership...Mercury News Editorial
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/14739038.htm
Nothing on Tuesday's ballot is more important to Santa Clara County than approving Measure A. The additional half-cent sales tax will finance badly needed road and transit improvements as well as help preserve the county's public-health system, which under current state and federal funding trends is spiraling toward disaster.
The last Measure A sales tax in 2000 was supposed to cover the local share of the costs of bringing BART from Fremont to San Jose and improving other mass transit, including the bus system. Nobody predicted the subsequent plunge in the local, state and federal economies after Sept. 11, or the failure of the local economy to completely recover.
Money from all sources now is short, but the need for transportation improvements -- including road improvements that were not part of the last measure -- is as strong as ever. And the cost of building mass-transit systems will only increase if we don't build now for the future.
The same plunge in revenue from all sources now endangers the health and social-service safety net that the county has provided for decades.
As the pot of money shrinks, the need for county public-health programs grows greater, from threats of a pandemic to growing numbers of people needing expensive, publicly funded emergency room care because they can't afford routine doctor visits. There is no sign that the state or federal governments will remedy the health care crisis in this decade or even the next. If we want a sure safety net here, we need to pay for it.
Measure A would take our sales tax to 8.75 percent, tying Alameda County and several other cities as one of the highest in the state. But contrary to what a group of anti-BART opponents of this measure say, business leaders from large and small companies strongly support this tax. They believe that a good transportation system and a healthy community are as essential to the business climate as they are to our quality of life. And they join an amazing coalition of labor leaders, social-service and housing advocates and other community leaders urging a yes vote on Measure A.

6-3-06
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Santa Cruz seeks sales tax hike...Shanna McCord
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/June/03/local/stories/05local.htm
SANTA CRUZ — City leaders are preparing to ask voters to boost the sales tax in Santa Cruz to 8.5 percent, a quarter-cent increase. Santa Cruz would join San Francisco as one of the few cities in the state with an 8.5 percent sales tax, among the highest sales tax rates in California. First, voters must choose to make permanent the temporary quarter-cent sales tax hike known as Measure F, approved in March 2004 and set to expire in 2009. Second, voters must approve the proposed additional quarter-cent hike. Both would be on one ballot measure.

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star
Attachments(4):
VOTE NO on Measure A Tax....Merced Sun-Star Flyer Insert
Front - flyer insert
MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!
REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!
In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because development doesn’t pay for itself.

Reverse - flyer insert
Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.
Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.
City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,
Commercial Development
Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls
….and the list goes on!

Letters to the Editor Merced Sun-Star B2 Saturday, June 3, 2006
Measure questions...Ronald Ashlock, Atwater...Measure A, the half-cent sales tax...leaves serious doubts...Citizen Oversight Committee only has auditing and advisory rights. To whom do we turn...if money going for private benefit. Who is the Transportation Alliance and the Alliance for Jobs? and who has spent all the money for the vigorous campaigns to pass this measure...mailers and television ads?

Leaders are the problem...Marvin R. Wallace, Merced...Measure A must be defeated...Measure A will mean a Merced sales tax of 8.25 percent on every dollar we spend to purchase merchandise. For years we've been paying premium prices for gasoline...because of the huge federal and state fuel taxes... Those funds were intended to maintain the roads... Between sales tax, income taxes, and property taxes, we're all being made poor by the tax and spend inefficient people voters have put in office.

Officials should do job...Pat Shay, Atwater...Measure A should NOT be passed. I am very concerned that local elected officials support this proposal. If they had been doing their job in the first place...Why should tax payers in Merced County pay TWICE to maintain roads?

Vote no to developers...Bobby Avilla, Stevinson...Measure A is being funded and driven by developers. Developers are pay for studies on roads, financial feasibility studies for incorporation (Delhi), pay for the costs to lead steering committees...(Stevinson). If developers can pay to make sure they can keep on paving over our farmland...let them also pay for the infrastructure...

Small price, big benefit...Connie Warren, Merced...Measure A will increase the Merced County sales tax by one-half of one cent per dollar: This means an increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase. You would need something in the $1000 range before the increase would impact a 16-year-olds (allowance driven) buying power. Ever heard the phrase "New York minute"?

Let's look out for selves...Margaret M. Randolph, Merced...As an advocate of Measure A...it is also true that in order to compete for those funds with other counties it is necessary to step up to the plate and become a "self-help county."

6-1-06
Modesto Bee
Incomes in valley keep pace with rest of state...Ben van der Meer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12259133p-12997240c.html
Merced County moved up in rankings of the state's 58 counties, to 50 from 52. Snaith and Mark Hendrickson, president of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, said the University of California at Merced, being built at the time, did play a role...he expected Merced's upward trend to continue as the university, which opened in the fall, develops and a motor sports park and Wal-Mart distribution center come on-line.

Modesto Bee
Sales tax in trouble...Tim Moran...5-31-06
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12254662p-12993245c.html
A proposed initiative for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Stanislaus County appears to be in trouble, according to the Modesto Bee-California State University, Stanislaus, poll. Slightly less than half the county voters polled in mid-May said they would support the tax... planned for the November ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Many proponents are watching to see how the Merced County transportation sales tax initiative fares on Tuesday, Madison said.

Fresno Bee
A crucial consensus...Editorial...2-28-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/11873741p-12645476c.html
The group planning an extension of Fresno County's Measure C has overwhelmingly signed off on a spending plan for the half-cent transportation sales tax...plan must now be approved by each of the county's 15 city councils, the transportation authority itself, and finally by the Board of Supervisors. If all goes well, it will appear on the November ballot. This is not a new tax, but the extension of the current one. The original Measure C was passed in 1986. Its 20-year run expires next year...effort to extend the measure failed in 2002... extension would run for another 20 years.

Measure C plan is approved...Russell Clemings...2-25-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/11848579p-12561582c.html
The committee working on plans for extending Measure C — Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales tax — finished its work Friday by approving a plan that devotes large shares to public transit, local street work and major highway construction...proposal goes to the Council of Fresno County Governments, which consists of mayors or other leaders from each of the county's 15 cities and the county Board of Supervisors. Then it will be submitted to each city council, the county Transportation Authority and the supervisors. A final vote on whether to place the extension plan on the November general election ballot is expected to be made by the Board of Supervisors sometime this summer.

Committee hones Measure C...Russell Clemings...1-7-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/11663200p-12391447c.html
A committee drawing up plans to renew the Measure C transportation sales tax made its last major decisions Friday. committee also voted to add to Measure C's expected proceeds by devoting 75% of Fresno County's state highway funding to Measure C projects over the next 20 years. But it left details vague on another supplement — a proposed fee that would be charged to new development for road impacts. Like the current Measure C, passed by voters in 1986, the extension would be for 20 years.

Sacramento Bee
Arena's strategy for tax assailed...Terri Hardy...5-27-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/sports/basketball/kings/v-print/story/14261224p-15074828c.html
A strategy to finance a new Sacramento arena with a quarter-cent sales tax approved by a majority of voters would likely violate state law, according to the author of the state proposition that outlined how such levies are imposed. Any proposed sales tax to be used for a specific purpose, such as an arena, would need to be approved by a two-thirds vote -- not the simple majority that arena backers have stated, said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association on Friday. "If this (proposed) tax is intended to pay for an arena, it's a special tax requiring a two-thirds vote."

Stockton Record
Plan to put Measure K back on ballot nears OK...Erin Sherbert...4-23-06
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060423&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=604230313&SectionCat=&Template=printart
STOCKTON - Transportation leaders are poised to approve a plan to place a major transportation tax renewal proposal on the November ballot despite wavering support among Ripon city officials. The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's transportation planning agency, on Thursday will consider adopting the new spending plan for a renewed Measure K, the county's half-cent sales tax voters passed in 1990. Without renewal, it would expire in 2011. If voters renew Measure K, it will generate about $2.5 billion over 30 years. If the COG board adopts the spending plan, it will go to the cities for final approval from their councils, as well as the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. The county government and four cities - one has to be Stockton - must approve the spending plan before it can be placed on the ballot. Ripon city leaders say they believe more of the tax money should come back into local coffers instead of paying for regional transit and highway projects, said Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn, who sits on the COG board.

Supervisors ready for battle over Measure K...Greg Kane...3-28-06
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060328/NEWS01/603280321&SearchID=7324639488627
Measure K, half-cent sales tax adopted by San Joaquin County voters in 1990, is expected to generate $750million for county roads by the time it expires in 2010. The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's primary transportation planning agency, wants to bring a $2.5billion, 30-year extension before county voters in November.

San Francisco Chronicle
Voter's guide to the June 6 California Primary...Michael Cabanatuan, Simone Sebastian, Patrick Hoge...5-28-06
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL&type=printable
Separate measures to raise sales taxes in Napa and Solano counties by one-half cent to fund transportation improvements in the only two Bay Area counties without such self-help taxes for streets, highways and public transit. Approval by better than two-thirds of those voting is required. Napa County -- Measure H: $537 million over 30 years...county's first attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Solano County -- Measure H: Would raise $1.6 billion over 30 years... county's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax.
Napa, Salano counties to vote on sales levy...Michael Cabanatuan...5-15-06

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/15/BAGS8IRUB01.DTL&type=printable
Seven of the Bay Area's nine counties have sales taxes that raise money for transportation improvements. Residents of Solano and Napa counties will face separate ballot measures on June 6. A two-thirds majority vote is needed for the measure to pass. In Santa Clara County, where voters in 1984 passed the state's first transportation sales tax, community leaders are trying a different approach. Voters are being asked to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund general county services -- affordable housing, health care and transportation, including the proposed BART extension to San Jose. A simple majority vote is needed for the measure to pass. Eighteen of the state's 58 counties have transportation sales taxes, and the residents of those counties combine to make up about 80 percent of the state's population. Measure H is Solano County's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Napa County voters are being asked to approve their own Measure H, also a 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure. It is the county's second attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Santa Clara County's Measure A also proposes a half-cent sales tax that would last 30 years...
Contra Costa Times

Measure would benefit transportation projects...Danielle Samaniego...5-31-06
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/14705571.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Solano County is hoping the third time is the charm for a sales tax to finance transportation improvements needed throughout the region. Voters have rejected similar measures twice. Measure H would authorize the Solano Transportation Improvement Authority to impose a half-cent sales tax for 30 years to fund traffic safety improvements, projects and programs identified in the county's transportation expenditure plan.

Mercury News
Tax increase advocates raise more than foes...Barry Witt...5-26-06
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/14672741.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Measure A - The campaign for a half-cent increase in Santa Clara County's sales tax reported Thursday that it raised more than $1.3 million in 10 weeks, with much of the cash coming from the county's biggest labor union, major Silicon Valley employers and contractors working on the planned BART extension to San Jose...that needs 50 percent, plus one vote to pass, there are no restrictions on how county supervisors can use the estimated $160 million a year in new revenue the tax increase would provide. If approved, the county's sale tax rate would be 8.75 percent, tying Alameda County for highest in California.

Monterey Herald
Measure A campaign picks up big boosters...Larry Parsons...5-26-06
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/living/community/14677167.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
The campaign to pass Measure A, the half-cent transportation sales tax on the June ballot, is picking up major financial support from expected sources -- Monterey County's agricultural, tourism and construction industries. Measure A would impose a half-cent sales tax for 14 years to raise an estimated $350 million for regional highway and transportation projects. Opponents contend the tax would be a wasteful burden on county residents for a badly conceived, pork-barrel package of highway projects and other transportation programs.Two of the biggest contributions to the Measure A campaign came from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, $25,000, and Granite Construction Co., $20,000.

Tax measures articles...Modesto, Santa Clara, Napa, Solano

Modesto Bee
Sales tax in trouble...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12254662p-12993245c.html
A proposed initiative for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Stanislaus County appears to be in trouble, according to the Modesto Bee-California State University, Stanislaus, poll. Slightly less than half the county voters polled in mid-May said they would support the tax... planned for the November ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Many proponents are watching to see how the Merced County transportation sales tax initiative fares on Tuesday, Madison said.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/31/EDGDOIJLR81.DTL&type=printable

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Invest in valley's future
-
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MEASURE A, the half-percent sales tax increase on Santa Clara County's June 6 ballot, should get a "yes" vote from every voter with an interest in Silicon Valley's transportation and health-care systems.

Measure A is proposed as a general-fund tax because those require only a simple majority to pass. (In 1996, a similar measure eked by with just 51.8 percent of the vote.) But its backers are lobbying for the annual revenue increase of up to $180 million to fund public health and transportation improvements.

This strategy worked well in the 1996 measure -- the county Board of Supervisors respected the voters' wishes, and virtually all of the funded projects, such as the construction of a new interchange at the junction of Highways 101 and 85 in Mountain View, were completed on time and on budget.

To ensure the same results, Measure A's backers have written it in a responsible, thoughtful manner. An independent citizens' review committee will report progress to the community. There's a 30-year sunset clause. Because Measure A is the result of nearly two years of brainstorming with different interests -- business and labor groups, families and religious organizations -- it has an outstanding slate of sponsors. Its biggest supporter is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents 200 of the valley's largest companies.

The only problem with Measure A is it will lift Santa Clara County's sales taxes to 8.75 percent. But this is the path we've set out for ourselves in California, where local governments have few places to turn for revenue.

Our roads, buses and hospitals are worth the investment. We recommend a "yes" vote on Santa Clara County's Measure A on June 6.

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VOTER'S GUIDE TO THE JUNE 6 CALIFORNIA PRIMARY
BAY AREA MEASURES
- Michael Cabanatuan, Simone Sebastian, Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL&type=printable

Sunday, May 28, 2006

TRANSPORTATION TAXES
What's on the ballot

Separate measures to raise sales taxes in Napa and Solano counties by one-half cent to fund transportation improvements in the only two Bay Area counties without such self-help taxes for streets, highways and public transit. Approval by better than two-thirds of those voting is required.

What they would do

Napa County -- Measure H: Would raise $537 million over 30 years to pay for local street and road maintenance and improvements; widening and improvement of Highway 12 through Jamieson Canyon; a commuter trip-reduction program; express bus service from Napa to Fairfield/Suisun City; a mobility program for senior citizens; pedestrian improvements and a Napa downtown transit center. This is the county's first attempt to pass a transportation sales tax; voters approved an advisory measure in 2004.

Solano County -- Measure H: Would raise $1.6 billion over 30 years for a new interchange at the junction of Interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 12 in Cordelia; widening and improving Highway 12; new commuter rail service to and from the Bay Area and Sacramento; expanded Vallejo Baylink ferry service and expanded express bus service serving all Solano County cities. This is the county's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Measures in 2002 and 2004 received a majority of votes but fell short of the two-thirds requirement.

Fiscal impact

In Napa County, would raise the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent beginning Jan 1. In Solano County, would raise sales tax from 7.375 percent to 7.875 percent beginning Oct. 1.

-- Michael Cabanatuan

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SCHOOL TAX AND BOND MEASURES
What's on the ballot

A dozen school and community college tax and bond measures in the Bay Area that would raise nearly $2 billion for school repairs, remedial education programs and classroom technology upgrades. Nine school districts in the region are seeking voter approval of parcel tax and bond measures, while three community college districts -- Peralta, Contra Costa and Foothill-De Anza -- have bond measures on the ballot. Bond measures need 55 percent approval to pass. Parcel tax measures need two-thirds.

What they would do

Oakland Unified -- Measure B: The $435 million bond measure is the largest school tax measure in the region. It is the second of three bond measures the district says it needs to fulfill a $1 billion wish list of school improvements -- the first measure, which raised $303 million, was approved in 2000. Measure B would replace hundreds of decaying portable classrooms on campuses throughout the district with permanent buildings, according to district officials. Some of the portables date back to the 1970s and are suffering from rot and water damage.

"Who knew (back then) that you were going to need phones, intercoms and computers; things that in many classrooms are now regular resources," said Jody London, co-chair of the Yes on B campaign. "We need to give these kids nicer facilities."

Tamalpais Union High School District -- Measure A: Voters in the Marin County school district will consider an $80 million bond. About $20 million would go toward rebuilding a 22-classroom building at Tamalpais High School that was closed in August because of mold. Another $15 million would go toward reconstruction of swimming pools at the district's three comprehensive high schools to give them the depth and size necessary for more athletic competitions, according to district officials.

Fiscal impact

If approved, the Oakland measure will cost residents a maximum of $48 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The Tamalpais district measure, if approved, will cost residents a maximum of $19 per $100,000 of assessed property value. -- Simone Sebastian .

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NAPA LAND-USE COMPENSATION
What's on the ballot

Measure A would require property owners in Napa County to be compensated for property value losses resulting from new county policies. Sponsored by the Napa Valley Land Stewards Alliance, it is supported by the Napa County Republican Party. It is opposed by most of the county's political leaders, the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Napa County Farm Bureau, police and firefighter unions, business chambers and environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Greenbelt Alliance. A majority vote is needed.

What it would do

Measure A would require that the county financially compensate property owners if their land is devalued by future county regulatory or policy decisions. County supervisors could avoid paying for impacts of their actions by getting their acts ratified by voters, or by exempting specific property owners. The measure grew out of a successful 2004 referendum campaign that nullified a county ordinance restricting development near streams. Critics said the ordinance's definition of watercourses needing protection was so expansive that it would have rendered significant portions of properties unusable.

Fiscal impact

Critics say Measure A would wreak havoc on local land-use planning and produce a tidal wave of expensive litigation that could drain funds from other county programs. Administrative and legal costs alone could be almost $3 million annually, not including awards for successful damage suits, according to an analysis that the county commissioned. Backers say such claims are overblown.

-- Patrick Hoge

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©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK

MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341

| »

Vanishing Hakuta

Submitted: Jan 09, 2006

It seemed to begin so auspiciously. UC presented us with a builder of educational bridges, here in the Valley, a man who came talking about a "balance between excellence and equity." We were dazzled, as we were meant to be.

Stanford Professor Kenji Hakuta Named as Dean of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at UC

Merced
May 13, 2003

MERCED, CA. --- Kenji Hakuta, Ph.D., is an experimental psychologist by training, a teacher and researcher by profession, and a builder of bridges by nature. He will bring this passion for building bridges to educational excellence, opportunity and enlightenment to the University of California, Merced as the newly named founding Dean of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts...

Hakuta is best known for his research on the psychology of bilingualism and second language learning, as well as for his work in education policy and equal educational access for minority students...

"At UC Merced, I will be busy hiring and developing the academic program, but the precious time that I have for research will be trained on improving access to higher education," Hakuta said. "I look forward to partnering with K-12 educational institutions to increase regional student access to the University of California and developing methods to more extensively track progress toward improvement. Fortunately, there is great staff in student outreach already in place at UC Merced, and my goal is to give that effort as much research backing as possible..."

Hakuta is particularly excited about applying knowledge he has acquired from the field of education toward building the liberal arts component of the campus. He has a clear vision for the academic foundation he hopes to help create: an educational environment that fosters critical and reflective reading, persuasive and analytic writing, and effective and responsible leadership.

"I feel it is important to achieve a balance between excellence and equity," Hakuta said. "As a new campus, there also is the really interesting challenge of creating the kind of culture where teaching has a shared priority with research. We want to recruit faculty who have spectacular research programs, but who also see themselves as teachers. That kind of supportive teaching environment is especially vital given UC Merced's special mission to serve students of the Central Valley, many of whom may be the first in their families to attend a university, along with students from the balance of California."

As with the mix of students, Hakuta aspires to attract a mix of faculty, including some with local connections. Another personal priority is hire faculty members whose interests cut across divisions of academic discipline and who are committed to increasing educational access and, more broadly, to regional development such as the environment and the economy. He is intrigued by the opportunity to contribute to the World Cultures Institute, one of UC Merced's two signature research institutes. Looking at the institute as a means to facilitate cultural and linguistic understanding through scholarship and internship programs, he points to the learning opportunities that arise when connections are made between the cultures and languages at the local scale with cultures and languages at the global scale...

So went the UC Merced bobcatflak campaign around the arrival of Dr. Hakuta at UC Merced in the spring of 2003. Last week UC Merced announced he would leave in July 2006.

He said he had considered the move for the past two months, but new job opportunities leading research teams at two California universities would allow him to live closer to his aging mother in the Bay Area.

"There's a lot of things I want to get done," Hakuta said. "We figured the campus is open now, and this is a pretty good time to make the move."

One job option is at a UC campus and the other is at a private university, but he would not say which one he is interested in, because those job searches are still ongoing. His decision should come in February, he said.

Hakuta is the primary caretaker for his mother, who lives in Woodside, so he wants to live in closer proximity as her needs increase.

He was also itching to get back to conducting research in his scholarly work, which emphasizes the psychology of bilingualism and second language acquisition.

"Some of my friends in the field kept saying they missed me, my research," Hakuta said. "I felt guilty to not be training some of these faculty members..."

A research university in the Central Valley would be a fertile ground for bilingual research projects, but the life of an administrator leaves little time for direct contact with research...

Beyond his leadership role as one of three founding deans, Hakuta has made contributions to creating a campus culture that values academic excellence and promotes community interaction, said David Ashley, UC Merced executive vice chancellor and provost...

Regionally, Hakuta has been actively engaged in building connections with the Great Valley Center, where he also serves on the Board of Directors. The non-profit think tank recently entered into a formal partnership with UC Merced.

He said he would continue to serve on the board as long as the Great Valley Center wants him there. He and his wife, Nancy Goodban, will continue to be advocates for the region.

"The Central Valley is something that we'll always carry with us," Hakuta said. "The future of California depends on how successfully the Central Valley transforms itself..."

In the meantime, Hakuta said he still has to lead his school in searches for 10 new faculty members, fundraising and helping current faculty get research funding. But establishing the UC Merced Child Development Center is a project that is very close to his heart.

The childcare center is expected to serve 150 children up to 5 years old, and will include an infant care unit. Officials are aiming to open the campus center in early 2008.

He said he would help the chancellor in the search for a successor, and announcing his departure in January will allow the university to make a smooth transition.

There's no prescription for the perfect leader, he said, but maintaining a Valley focus should be a major focal point for the new dean.

It’s good to know that Hakuta and his wife, who seems to have founded a group called Valley Hopefuls, will continue to advocate for the region from back in the old Bay Area. We got the impression, from more than one Hakuta public appearance, that UC was finally going to explain us Valley people to ourselves and to the rest of the world. Why are we so poor, for example.

But these were the naive speculations of the untutored masses. Instead of a live dean of social science, arts and humanities, we now have a partnership between UC Merced and the Great Valley Center. UC Merced and the recipients of its "outreach" have been saved from intellectual ferment for as long as the grants hold out.

A man, two of whose favorite authors are Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and Noam Chomsky, should be missed out at the former municipal golf course. But who, in our humble Macondo, could tell what goes on out there? We are, after all, or were, the objects of research, not its subjects. The objects of UC research are, by definition, incapable of speculation. This explains why whatever UC says to us sounds like flak, and whatever we say to UC sounds like pure cafone.

We were interested in the high praise given Hakuta for a

clear vision for the academic foundation he hopes to help create: an educational environment that fosters critical and reflective reading, persuasive and analytic writing, and effective and responsible leadership.

People have come to the Valley and stayed their whole lives with a vision less clear and grand than that. Here we thought leadership was at least as much about what the leader did as what he said, except that there shouldn’t be too much difference between the two. But, again, you see, we just lack the culture. What sort of example did Hakuta set for the students and faculty, we ask, rudely.

Sal, si puedes? (Get out if you can?)

It is not for us to judge the ways of UC professors or even to attempt to interpret them from the dubious sources broadcasting the rumor of Hakuta's departure. We don't possess the culture to understand. Possibly, it is a question of options.

But, stumbling through the Internet in our crude auto-didactic way, we did learn that UC Merced just hired another professor.

Renowned Berkeley Physicist Raymond Chiao to Join UC Merced Faculty

December 14, 2005

In a major recruiting triumph for the University of California, Merced, Professor Raymond Chiao of the UC Berkeley Physics Department has accepted a joint faculty appointment in the fledgling university's schools of Natural Science and Engineering. He plans to pursue a new line of research in gravitational radiation when he assumes his new post.

"Professor Chiao's expertise and experience as a researcher and teacher will be enormous assets," said Dean Maria Pallavicini of the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences.

"Faculty members and students will benefit from his insight and example, and his high-level research is going to have a major impact on the physical sciences and engineering academic programs. It's an honor for UC Merced that he has decided to join us."

"The potential for engineered applications based on Professor Chiao's scientific research is tremendous," said Dean Jeff Wright of the School of Engineering. "We're extremely pleased that he will be part of UC Merced's Energy Institute, where we are already working on solar energy solutions that use advanced optics. His work will simultaneously fit our mission and expand our capabilities ..."

Clearly, Chiao is a man who deals with immutable facts of nature, not the ephemeria of social life and living languages. Here's solid man, who can produce a win-win public/private partnership to capture earth radiation, just like UC captured cow farts.

Hakuta’s departing insight, with its theme of "balance," suggests prolonged, unhealthy exposure to Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced and the Great Valley Center leaders of "smart growth."

"There needs to be a balance between the regional and national aspect of this university. It can't just be a UC campus that happens to be in the Valley."

Thoughts like that could end up costing people money, if UC administrators don't remain diligent in their sustained efforts to suppress anything resembling rural sociology in California. That would be because people in the Valley need money and there are reasons that they don't have money. If you started studying that topic, there would be rumblings from the trustees of the UC Merced Foundation, who have all the Valley money.

But, whatever are the Valley Hopefuls going to do without the Hakutas?

V.I. Ratliff

Notes:

http://www.ucmerced.edu/news_articles/05132003_stanford_professor_kenji_hakuta.asp

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11663623p-12391714c.html

http://www.ucmerced.edu/news_articles/12142005_renowned_berkeley_physicist_raymond.asp

Fontamara, Ignacio Silone

One hundred years of solitude, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez

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Timing is everything

Submitted: Jan 06, 2006

While some in Merced scratch their heads and chew their pencil erasers trying to comment on a large Riverside Motorsports Park Master Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report and others don their black RMP caps to rally in support of the track, John Condren, CEO of RMP, and Kenny Shepherd, RMP president, take their dog-and-pony show to Tracy to talk about the wonders of an expanded Altamont Speedway and about expanding their lease on the Speedway from two to 10 years.

Although these guys are too cute by half, in their various pitches here and there about the Valley, they manage to drop things.

“We’ve had more tracks close in the past 12 months than in the entire period (from) 1975 to 2005,” he said. With Stockton 99 due to close at the end of 2006 “we cannot afford to lose another track, so we stepped up to the plate.”

Timing is everything. Condren is a talented man. Perhaps, given the timing, he should consider promoting bicycle tracks, popular during the McKinley administration, widely adored by the present administration at war for oil and the right to torture anyone to get more of it.

Bill Hatch
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Changes come to local raceway
Christopher H. Roberts

Tracy Press -- Jan. 6, 2005

Major changes are afoot at Altamont.

Just three weeks after the surprise announcement that Riverside Motorsports Park, LLC, of Atwater are the Altamont raceway’s new managers, the company’s CEO and president revealed the vision for the track’s future at a meeting Thursday in Tracy.

Among the planned improvements are a new Musco lighting system, membership in NASCAR, a remodeled pit area, effective wind-screens and the ability to convert the quarter-mile oval track into 27 different street courses.

Riverside, currently in the middle of a $230 million racetrack construction project in Merced, chose to take on the added burden of managing and improving Altamont for the overall good of the sport, CEO John Condren said.

“We’ve had more tracks close in the past 12 months than in the entire period (from) 1975 to 2005,” he said. With Stockton 99 due to close at the end of 2006 “we cannot afford to lose another track, so we stepped up to the plate.”

The meeting began with a blend of urgency and fatalism.

“Motorsports is in trouble,” Riverside president and former racer Kenny Shepard said. “If we don’t do something, Altamont will be a business park in two years.”

“Failure is not an option,” Condren said.

To explain the business side of the venture, Condren and Shepard used a mix of racing talk and corporate speak.

Condren announced that the days of one event a week at Altamont are over, as a wider variety of events spread over three to five days make for “multiple revenue streams.”

“I like to call this a paradigm shift,” he said.

However, many racers present raised fears that their particular racing classes would be phased out at Altamont, fears that neither Condren nor Shepard allayed.

“We’re looking at what’s going to work for the next 10 years,” Condren said. “If your class gets eliminated
— I’m sorry.”

The problems that have plagued Altamont for years — shoddy lighting, primitive pits and the legendary high winds — were specifically addressed.

And news that a new Musco lighting system was already on the way drew a round of applause.

Still, the 200-odd assembled drivers, mechanics and racing fans were skeptical at first.

“These are promises we’ve heard before,” Ken Benhamou of Pleasanton said to Condren. “You’ve got a big task ahead of you — if you make promises, I want to see you commit.”

To this, Condren pointed to the $1.5 million already invested by Riverside in Altamont as proof that the new management will stay for longer than the initial two-year lease.

He also emphasized the large amount of work already done.

“We’ve moved a mountain in three weeks” since signing the agreement to lease the track, Condren said.
The plan is simple at its core.

“The goal is to get the stands full,” Shepard said. “This conversation means nothing if that track is a
ghost town.”

To do that, Riverside will need to make sure Altamont’s image becomes much more ubiquitous.

“A lot of people in this town don’t know that the track is still around,” Gayle Widgay of Tracy said.

Condren and Shepard assured that a sophisticated marketing plan is already under way, including extensive media advertising and corporate sponsorships.

The professionalism seemed to encourage those present that 2006 would truly usher in a new era at Altamont, and any fears held going into the meeting were relieved — at least for now.

“They seem like real businessmen,” racer Ryan Steele of Pleasanton said. “Not just some old guys running a track. And that’s what Altamont needs.”

http://www.tracypress.com/sports/2006-01-06-raceway.php

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The circus

Submitted: Dec 17, 2005

This week here in Merced we got into our drama about the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park. RMP chief, John Condren held informational meetings in Atwater and Merced and the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the comment period on the project draft environmental impact report, but not as long as opponents wanted it.

On Tuesday night, a group of track opponents expressed their passion with boos, hisses and catcalls when Board of Supervisor Chair Jerry O’Banion, whose district is across the Valley from the project, said the only reason he voted for any extension was because the applicants had already agreed to it. The comment period for this project, O’Banion reminded the crowd, is now longer than it was for the DEIR on the UC Merced Long Range Development Plan, and the track EIR is about half the size the UC document was. O’Banion, the Westside’s hereditary supervisor, had a lot of fun, I thought.

Condren made the same point during his pitch at the Boys and Girls Club in Merced on Thursday evening. Both O’Banion and Condren challenge track opponents for their hypocrisy of supporting one huge anchor tenant for growth, UC Merced, while opposing another, the racetrack.

Everyone followed their passions in a well-orchestrated manner. High quality rhetoric swirled in the storm of this absurd project, a Temple to the Automobile in the nation’s worst air quality basin and richest farming area. One teacher opposing the project noted that Tuesday was a critically bad air quality day and children were asked to stay indoors at school. On Thursday, one teacher in favor of the project said the racetrack brings hope to her students, who do not see UC in their future. Both statements are true.

O’Banion and Condren made much of the fact that racetrack opponents were in favor of UC Merced. In other words, after the university should come the circus. In fact, both projects are all about outside corporate investment for outside corporate profit. Merced was ripe for it. From the standpoint of local government, this is all good.

I oppose both projects because the east side of the San Joaquin Valley was where I learned the intrinsic value of nature as it is and because the doctrine of Public Trust is one of the oldest Western legal principles.

Bill Hatch

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