Federal Government

Oily Pomboza slithers through town

Submitted: Sep 02, 2006
Cardoza is co-sponsoring a bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and earmark the federal income from it for alternative energy development. - Modesto Bee, Aug. 23, 2006

Of course the principle sponsor of the bill is Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy. We pondered the Pomboza's co-sponsorship of this bill and considered upgrading their party affiliations to suit their growing arrogance and destructiveness. Pombo should now be called Whale Slayer, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced.

While covering a complicated debate about milk nutrition at the state Capitol in 1999, I asked Cardoza, then chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, how legislators, very few of whom are scientists, deal with conflicting expert scientific testimony. He replied that not all scientific testimony was always the best, leaving unanswered how legislators judge between the best and the rest. In that case, an Arizona dairy processor was trying to crash the California skim milk market with lower-standard federal skim milk. The Arizonan had a lot of money and Southern California was rapidly losing its dairies in Chino and San Diego County. However, he was going against the biggest dairy state in the nation.

His argument that there was no difference between the nutritional quality of federal standard skim milk and California standard skim milk was found not to have been the best science.

After several days of reviewing clips on the so-called 2007 Farm Bill and the Pomboza's recent, perfectly coordinated tangents, I recalled the story, the tedious research, the mountains of material presented by the California dairy lobbyist and the Assembly ag committee's chief consultant, and my editors' irritation at the convoluted results. Yet, no one asked the simple question: if it's good enough for 49 states, why isn't it good enough for California? Presumably this was because Cardoza represented our district, was the chief of Assembly ag, and Merced is the second largest diary county in the nation. The debate was about market share, not science.

The same was true about Cardoza’s plan to mitigate the loss of farmland caused by UC Merced and its induced growth through the Williamson Act, which turned out to help developers holding farmland as much as it has farmers in his district.

On Aug. 23, Cardoza, now a congressman and a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, held a breakfast at the Stanislaus Agricultural Center where, in an address supposedly focused on the 2007 Farm Bill, he spoke almost exclusively about alternative fuel sources, mainly ethanol. Two days later, Pombo, appointed vice chairman of the agriculture committee in March, held a workshop in Stockton on alternative fuel sources, centered on a proposed site for a biodiesel plant. At present, Pombo remains chairman of the House Committee on Resources, where Cardoza also serves.

Little if anything was reported about either congressman addressing local farm issues, even dairy subsidies, let alone cotton and rice. Cardoza waxed rhapsodic about alternative energy, the Modesto Bee reported:

The upcoming federal farm bill provides a chance to pursue alternative energy sources, Rep. Dennis Cardoza said Tuesday.

Cardoza, speaking to about 75 people at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, said the bill could promote ethanol and other fuels extracted from corn, dairy manure, cottonseed and other farm sources.

The legislation would outline five years of spending on agriculture and nutrition. Cardoza said the bill, which he is helping to craft as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, could include a section on energy.

The Merced Democrat said farmers in the upper Midwest are prospering because of ethanol production from their corn, and windmills and solar energy systems on their land.

Huh? So what? The highest priority in Cardoza's district is saving farmland from urban development. To legitimately represent farming in his district, he had to address Farm Bill programs that might help arrest slurb.

The most obvious effect of more Midwest corn and soybeans going into ethanol is a rise in corn and soybean prices California dairymen import from the Midwest. According to one Merced dairyman, they are already receiving a $15/ton fuel surcharge from the railroads to account for higher fuel prices.

So, given that Cardoza is just babbling to an audience of Washington energy lobbyists about the 2007 Farm Bill, let's drift back to the money and see if anything is revealed. According to the Environmental Working Group's farm subsidy databank, corn is the commodity that receives the largest amount of farm subsidies: $42 billion from 1995-2004, while dairy program subsidies amount to only $3 billion. We would have thought, in the second largest dairy-producing congressional district in the nation, the congressman might have spoken about raising that a bit.

But, there is another factor that probably provided the primary guidance for Cardoza's remarks – he lives in Pombo's hip pocket. At a workshop on alternative energy attended by the US Secretary of Commerce, Pombo took aim at next year's energy bill to say that the federal government must help private energy companies develop alternative fuel supplies. Presumably, this means tax credits and subsidies. However, it might also mean that Pombo is in the tightest race of his career against a wind energy consultant, Jerry McNerney. McNerney, a Democrat, has already been endorsed by US Army Gen. (ret.) Wesley Clark and Pombo's two Republican primary opponents, Tom Benigno and Pete McCloskey. Pombo, is a crook, voted one of the 13 most corrupt members of US Congress, who should have gone the way of Tom DeLay, has been blasted by the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury-News and the Sacramento Bee for his corrupt, lawless activities as chairman of the resources committee.

Given the stench of corruption surrounding Pombo, it is a certainty that it extends to Cardoza, the rear end of what some local dairymen call the "Pomboza."

We inquired into the subject of biofuels, the ostensible reason for Pombo's all-day theater at the Port of Stockton, because it did not quite ring true to us that the Pomboza is now promoting small, independent entrepreneurs to replace the large energy companies.

In fact, it occurred to us that whatever happens in the upcoming energy bill, it will -- probably regardless of what party controls the House at the time -- be dominated by the Bush/Cheney administration, committed to the obscene profits of oil and gas company top executives.

We did not have to look any farther than the UK Monsanto website for the answer to our question in its informative article about biodiesel. When Rudolph Diesel first demonstrated his engine at the 1900 Paris Exposition, he ran it on peanut oil. He designed the engine to run on a variety of fuels so that farmers far from a source of petroleum would be able to use locally produced vegetable oils. He was quite possibly murdered by agents of oil interests for this fuel promiscuity. Fascinating as the fate of Diesel was, more to the point was the observation made by an executive of a Colorado biofuel start-up, SunFuels, who expressed confidence "big oil" would not try to suppress them:

"They are going to need us once they need to improve their fuel because of the EPA's requirement to remove sulfur from diesel," Lafferty says. "The big boys let the little boys-like us-hash it out, work out the kinks, then buy us out. It's a common trend."

In other words, the Pomboza, acting at the direction of the energy corporations, gets as much R&D subsidy and credits as possible for the entrepreneurs to work out the price, then the energy corporations buy them out. What looks like a pitch for the creative innovation sparked only by economic competition is a front for the oil cartel's control of the creators, the government, the politicians and the market.

Lafferty's remark provided context for the comments of a biofuel executive attending the Port of Stockton workshop, where nothing but a biofuels plant site has yet been proposed:

American Biodiesel Chief Executive Office, Lisa Mortenson, who led the tour of the proposed facility, applauded the renewable energy incentives in the last energy bill.

By extending a biodiesel tax credit, you have given our investors confidence, she said. It is very important to have that commitment at the Federal level.

(In other words, without sizeable federal subsidies, this industry will not begin.)

American Biodiesel's website announces that it will begin construction by mid-2006 on a biodiesel plant in Toledo, Ohio. It's main investor is Michigan-based Delta Fuels, a high profile Clean Air Act violator. American Biodiesel also announces it will produce a 100-percent biodiesel product but will also produce blends

Biofuels produce less greenhouse gases. Depending on the blend, biodiesel is somewhat cleaner than ethanol, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is instructive, however, to ask the question: how does this help California? If we converted our entire shrinking farmland acreage to the production of corn and soybeans to take advantage of the new market for biofuels, would we be better off?

Not only would our economy certainly not be better off, but an argument proposed by UK Guardian science columnist George Monbiot suggests that biofuel is one of the most dangerous enthusiasms of the times. Markets, he points out, are not about people; they are about money. The exploitation of natural resources in a finite world reaches a finite end, and there is an immense cruelty when, on the anticipated global level, land committed to subsistence farming is converted into biofuel production. He noted the tremendous destruction ongoing in Malaysia as forests are burnt to make way for palm-oil groves, which will soon wipe out an entire suite of rare and endangered species starting with the Orangutan. He noted huge destruction of Brazilian rain forests for the production of soybeans for livestock feed. He predicted that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plan to turn Africa into a biofuel plantation would cause immense human suffering and starvation. He concluded his investigation into the subject with these words:

We need a solution to the global warming caused by cars, but this isn’t it. If the production of biofuels is big enough to affect climate change, it will be big enough to cause global starvation.

About the time Pombo was holding his workshop on alternative energy, farmers and developers in his district were trying to reach some accommodation about mitigation for farmland loss. They failed, as usual and as badly as the state Legislator failed to produce a flood bill that would provide responsible local land use policy, including fiscal responsibility for land-use decisions, and would at the same time appease the insane greed of developers.

So, what happened politically in the north San Joaquin Valley last week? This latest performance was straight Pomboza Theater of Diversion. People here, as everywhere in the nation, want to know how to get out of Iraq before we leave an army there, as Napoleon once did in Egypt. Farmers, naturally, want to know what is in it for them in the new Farm Bill. Many people were appalled by Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, particularly by the unexploded cluster bombs left in the last 72 hours of hostilities, when Israel knew the war was ending. Already, these unexploded bomblets have claimed nearly 100 victims. Growing numbers of people from all political persuasions, many of them Jews, think Israel is guilty of major war crimes in that assault. Bush’s popularity has not been out of the mid-30-percent range for weeks. Yet Democrats, even a Democrat like Cardoza, running unopposed, will not stand up.

A friend counseled me that there are many people these days who don’t know the difference between right and wrong and have no moral fiber. Perhaps that’s the answer and perhaps it can be extended to a majority of the members of Congress.

What we may be witnessing here is a large group of elected officials who have enormous power, given the nation in which they serve, without any idea of how to use it for anything but bad purposes because ideologically they don't believe in government and are hopelessly bought by special interests with single issues and no responsibility for intelligent compromise to produce wise policies.

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas, put it this way:

What we have watched unfold for a few decades, I have argued, is a broad reversion to 19th-century political form, with free-market economics understood as the state of nature, plutocracy as the default social condition, and, enthroned as the nation’s necessary vice, an institutionalized corruption surpassing anything we have seen for 80 years. All that is missing is a return to the gold standard and a war to Christianize the Philippines.

Nick J. Rahall, II, Ranking Democrat on House Resources Committee spoke against the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, enthusiastically supported by Pombo, the chairman of the resources committee. Rahall is from West Virginia, where they know more about human costs of energy production, worker exploitation and corporate greed than the Pomboza will ever comprehend. It is so utterly unlike any political discourse we will ever hear in this region and it is the voice of a patriotic American, I quote it in full. Rahall names the national enemy to which the Pomboza sold its soul.

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in opposition to the pending legislation on the basis that I am unwilling to vote against America’s energy independence.

This bill would continue to mortgage our Nation’s future to a handful of multinational oil conglomerates. It demands a continued addiction to a petroleum diet. It would only further enslave us, as a Nation, as a society, to the oily ways of the past, which do not bode well for our energy future.

It is telling that the so-called "Energy Week" proclaimed by the Republican Majority consists of a single piece of legislation that would only further shackle the Nation to the whims and caprices of the petroleum industry.

It is telling that this is their idea, as it has been all along, of what energy
independence means.

As Paul Revere did on that famous midnight ride, those of us opposed to this ill-conceived bill are raising an alarm.

The drumbeat that we hear pounds out a call of freedom.

Freedom to be done with those who profit and plunder at the gas pumps throughout this country. Freedom from the price gougers, and freedom from the merchants of profit and power over our American values. And the freedom to devise new and alternative fuels to our petroleum dependency.

It is time to stand up and be counted. To hoist up the flag and salute it. To strike a
resounding chord that will reverberate across this great land of ours.

I say to my colleagues that today is truly Independence Day here in the House of
Representatives for we are given an opportunity to vote against this bill.

And vote against it on the following grounds.

First, it would improperly and, perhaps unconstitutionally delegate to the coastal States virtually all decision-making powers over the disposition of a federal resource. It says to all of the other owners of our offshore waters and energy resources – whether they reside in Arizona, Idaho, Ohio or West Virginia – that you have no say in the matter. No say whatsoever. That we are going to vest all of the power with a few, to the detriment of the many.

Second, it would grab the second largest source of income to the Federal government after personal income taxes, yank this revenue out of the Treasury, and redistribute it to those few.

Let us be clear. This bill would reallocate existing revenue from OCS oil and gas leases to willing coastal States. Not just future, potential, revenue streams but also those currently being dedicated to the benefit of the Nation as a whole.

It would rob the majority of the American people, and bankrupt the Land & Water Conservation Fund so cherished by communities and localities across this great land.

According to the Administration, the revenue sharing provisions of this bill alone, alone, would constitute a $74 billion hit over the first 15 years.

Envision this massive raid on America’s resources and what it will mean to the average American.

Third, this bill would deprive most of us of jobs and economic benefits in most of our regions.

Those of you from the Midwest – from the cornbelt – forget about ethanol. This bill demands petroleum. Vote for it, and you vote against your interests. You vote against jobs in your region, and against the economic benefits the production of ethanol brings to your farmers.

Those of you from the coalfields – where we have sought for many years to broaden our employment base, and to reduce our Nation’s petroleum fixation, with liquid fuels made from coal – vote for this bill and you are voting against the future of your coal miners.

With a Nation hard and fast on a petroleum diet for decades to come brought forth by the pending legislation, the widespread commercialization of coal-to-liquids technology to fuel our vehicles will continue to be an elusive goal.

I have never forsaken the coal miners in my Congressional District, and I am not about to do so now.

And fourth, this bill is simply not necessary. Under the Bush Administration alone, the Interior Department has offered leases covering 267 million acres of the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf-BH). Industry has only sought to acquire 24 million of those acres. Contemplate that for a moment. There are still 243 million acres available for leasing that the oil and gas industry has not yet seen fit to bid upon.

In all, in total, over 40 million acres of the OCS are under lease and less than 7 million of those acres are in production.

Is there a crisis in the OCS? Is there evidence that legislation such as that before us, which shreds long-standing moratoria, is needed?

The facts tell us not.

Those who bring forth this legislation represent an era that should now be in our past, seeking to place all our eggs in a black basket woven of petroleum.

They would defend the predominance of Big Oil, those with wealth and power, over our energy destiny.

Those of us opposed to this legislation bring with us the conviction that there are limits to what the American people will suffer for the sake of profit and power.

This is indeed a turning point for America. I urge the defeat of the pending legislation and reserve the balance of my time.

Nope. I don’t buy the Pomboza Theater of Diversion. This four-footed thing in humping along into the pockets of Big Oil. This is bad for the 11th and 18th congressional districts of California and for the nation.

If the San Joaquin Valley had the character of Appalachia and not just similar economic problems, we would not elect representatives like Cardoza and Pombo. But as long as we act like political chumps, the Pomboza is what we deserve.

Bill Hatch
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References

1. Cardoza promotes farm-based fuels, Modesto Bee, Aug. 23, 2006
2. Interior secretary travels to ANWR to promote oil drilling, Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2006
3. Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Databank, ewg.com
4.Incumbency has its privileges for Pombo, Stockton Record, Aug. 24, 2006
5. Experts buzzing at Port of Stockton, Inside Bay Area, Aug. 25, 2006
6. www.votepomboout.org
7. www.jerrymcnerney.org
8. It's like oil and water, Stockton Record, Dec. 21, 2005 12-21-05
9. The Biodeisel Revolution, http://www.monsanto.co.uk/biofuels/, July 12, 2002
10. Pombo named vice chairman of ag committee, Ag Alert, California Farm Bureau, March 22, 2006
11.Feeding Cars, Not People, www.monbiot.com, Nov. 23, 2004
12. Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll Announces Six State Class Action Filed against Bayer, CropScience, Aug. 28, 2006
13. Plan to save SJ ag land is discussed, Modesto Bee, Aug. 23, 2006
14. 'New Democrats' Rendezvous With Oblivion, New York Times, Sept. 1, 2006
15. Statement by U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, II, Ranking Democrat - House Resources Committee, Floor Consideration of H.R. 4761, June 29, 2006
16. americanbiodiesel.net

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The Shrimp Slayer’s black-box future

Submitted: Aug 21, 2006

The new Silicon Valley of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, we suggest, is simply another flak attack on his weary constituents, who are slowly beginning to realize up what creek he has led them.

First, let's remember a little history: every major growth project in California for the last 30 years has somewhere in its pitch that it is going to be the new Silicon Valley of Nameyourburg. Second, let us recall the brave words of our culture's newest intellectual elite, as they contemplated the glories of the real Silicon Valley (during a period of growth rather than recession, when you could buy BMWs on every weedy corner used car lot), and declared the "end of history." The content of the famous declaration was that capitalist technology had triumphed over all and any problem could be fixed by a new black box.

Surely, the last refuge of scoundrels in the American political classes is this black-box future, which, if again we call upon human memory and awareness, does not yet exist. Therefore, choices made based on its assumption, amount to selections among fantasies. If, however, you are a member of that political class who has done everything in his power to corrupt local, state and federal environmental law and regulation to establish a university in your district, and this university is floundering in a seething mass of consequences for irresponsible, incompetent planning, led until the end of the month by a chancellor some begin to think is deranged, perhaps you think your best choice is to take this campus by the hand and leap together into the void of the black-box future.

The introduction of a bill in Congress to make solar panels a standard option on all residential development throughout the US (yeah! even Buffalo NY) strikes us as being in the same vein of pious posturing as Cardoza’s bill in Congress to put corrupt congressmen in prison, just another example of the well known substance from Shrimp Slayer Central.

For sincerity, go to his two bills to destroy the natural habitat designation in the Endangered Species Act and his "bipartisan" co-sponsorship, with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy of a bill to gut the entire ESA.

At the moment, Cardoza seems to be struggling to get out of being considered the nether part of the ESA-devouring Pomboza, which has failed so far. To this end, he has gone off to make whoopee with Westlands Water District, he's sponsoring a fundraiser for the opponent of state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced (who dared introduce legislation to try to make the University of California more forthcoming about executive compensation), and now he wants to solarize the Central Valley through federal legislation -- creating a fund for UC Merced to take the lead in development of the next solar black box.

In short, do anything but face the rapidly deteriorating present in which the overbuilt housing market is rapidly crumbling, leaving a social wasteland in its wake.

Yo, Denny: the roof is only a problem for water quality and supply. The cars in the garage and on the street are the problem, and there are more and more of them, particularly on the north side, while the streets of the rest of the city are full of dope-dealing bicyclists.

As a state legislator and now as a congressman, nobody left in office has had more to do with creating the rapidly deteriorating present than Dennis Cardoza, except for the motley crew on the Merced County Board of Supervisors, with whom Cardoza shares adjoining offices. He runs for reelection unopposed, a nominal Democrat, because Republican developers in his district can find nothing wrong with his record or his willingness to serve them.

But, if he is serious about making his district the Silicon Valley of Solar Power, we have a few suggestions.

· Require all vehicles passing through Merced County to be solar-powered cars and trucks.

· Require Union Pacific and Santa Fe to run only solar-powered locomotives through Merced County.

· Require as a condition of permit approval, that the Riverside Motorsports Park become the Solar NASCAR of America, running only races between solar-powered vehicles and, of course, admitting only customers arriving in solar-powered vehicles.

· Require that the Wal-Mart distribution center be powered entirely by solar energy and that the thousand or so trucks coming to and going from it each day be likewise solar-powered.

· Require all staff, faculty, and students of UC Merced drive only solar-powered vehicles.

· Require all developers, construction workers, realtors and new homebuyers in Merced County to drive only solar-powered vehicles.

If that seems impractical -- the Shrimp Slayer's staff would say the political timing isn't right and such a course is not growth inducing -- there is one practical matter that can take some of the pressure off existing residents of the county. As a result of the state Supreme Court's recent decision in Marina et. al v. CSU Monterey Bay, state agencies (like UC) must pay for their off-site environmental impacts.

So, why is the county, under the ruse of Merced County Association of Governments, having been rejected in the primary, bringing back another measure to raise sales taxes to pay for transportation, including $10 million for the Mission Interchange -- Gateway to the UC Campus Parkway?

To begin, this measure, like its two unsuccessful predecessors, is NOT about fixing crumbling city and county streets and roads. It is about building new roads to accommodate new growth, particularly what the absconding UC Merced Chancellor calls “smart growth” induced by the campus.

Why, in fact, should the existing residents of Merced County have to pay one dime for the entire UC loop road -- from Atwater to the campus and down to the Mission Interchange? In its letter to the court in support of CSU, UC said it stood to lose $200 million in Merced if the court decided against the argument that state agencies are not required to pay for off-site environmental impacts. That $10 million for the Mission Interchange should come UC's $200 million. The rest of that loop road should be paid by UC, not existing Merced residents.

Or, to put it more bluntly: why doesn't development pay for itself?

Vote no on whatever they're calling the measure this week (I believe it will be called Measure G in November) to increase your sales taxes. Stay in the present. Do not follow the Shrimp Slayer into the black-box future.

In fact, what the Shrimp Slayer has done for Merced during his professional political career in the state Assembly and in the House of Representatives is to support every development from UC onward, cashing in personally on a few land deals along the way to establishing himself as one of the major Developer's Democrats in Congress.

As the bills come due and the consequences of this reckless path become obvious, the Shrimp Slayer seeks to hide in the black-box future, piously intoning his environmental commitment as he does it.

On the other hand, miracles happen every day. Perhaps he means it and perhaps this is a kind of personal atonement. If so, good. But, the fact is that as a result of the policies and activities of the Shrimp Slayer and others, the north San Joaquin Valley is rapidly becoming a continuous slurb, instead of remaining the valuable farmland and agricultural economy it has been.

The idea that agriculture has a future is nothing new, particularly in the Valley. The present agricultural economy must be given a chance to evolve. But, in a surfeit of greed and stupidity, fomented by irresponsible leadership and this witless UC project, it is in extreme danger of simply disappearing under the developer’s blade.

Concentration of solarizing hundreds of thousands of new homes on this fine land is the lazy, wrong way of looking at “development.”

It is a mystery why an area that has benefited so enormously from agricultural development for more than a century should have produced a generation that hates agriculture so much that today’s leaders and many of their followers will not defend it beyond cloying lip service.

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

8-19-06
Merced Sun-Star
Cardoza wants renewable energy to be Valley focus...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12608951p-13314619c.html
With his new solar energy bill and leading solar technology experts at UC Merced, Rep.
Dennis Cardoza said Friday he believes the Central Valley is well equipped to become a
national leader in renewable energy. "We believe it's time for a new energy source, and we believe in solar power," said Cardoza, D-Merced. "We can make the Central Valley the Silicon Valley of renewable energy." Cardoza's bill -- dubbed the Empowering America Act -- seeks to make solar power affordable for all Americans. And, he said, building the solar technology industry locally would vastly expand the Central Valley's economy. "This is an environmental issue, but it's also more than that," said Cardoza. "I'm confident the Valley will lead the way in this next generation of energy technology."

8-20-06

County may clip mega-lot divisions...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12612810p-13318380c.html
Town hall meetings to gather public comment on the draft document are scheduled Sept. 12 in Stanislaus County Agricultural Center's Harvest Hall, 3800 Cornucopia Way, and Sept. 18 at Bonita Elementary School in Crows Landing. Both meetings start at 6:30 p.m. Proposed changes in Stanislaus County's growth policy would give leaders more power to slow a rush on creating ranchettes. Alarmed at increasing requests for manor homesites in rural areas, DeMartini spearheaded a rewrite of the agricultural element to the county's general plan. The most sweeping change would clamp down on a recent proliferation of estate ranch-ettes, loosely defined as home-sites larger than city lots...proposed revision would make it easier for county leaders to deny requests to split large agricultural tracts into 40-acre parcels. More than 33,000 ranchettes have compromised genuine farming on 178,000 acres in 11 valley counties from Sutter to Kern, the American Farmland Trust determined in an April report. Ranchettes account for 25 percent of urban areas but house only 2 percent of the valley's population, according to the report. Revisions also would do away with references to soil quality, because advanced techniques allow production on poorer ground, DeMartini said.

Businesses looking for ways to avoid the traffic crunch...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-v2storylist/story/12612718p-13318289c.html
Valley trucking companies simply can't afford to get stuck in traffic jams on Highway 99
or on their way there. Some are moving closer to Highway 99, and others are installing
computer equipment to help drivers circumvent traffic jams...companies that would bring
hundreds of jobs to valley communities are demanding road improvements upfront to
guarantee easy highway access. Two distribution centers Stanislaus County recently lured Kohl's Department Stores and Longs Drugs Stores - chose a spot near less-crowded
Interstate 5 in Patterson. The county had to throw in road improvements to seal the deal.
Merced is working on a similar agreement for a proposed Wal-Mart distribution center off Mission Avenue. The proposal could lead to a center handling 900 truck trips each day. If it's built, it would hook up with a new interchange at Mission Avenue under construction and a leg of Merced's Campus Parkway - a road that would carry traffic from the highway to the University of California at Merced. Merced Assistant City Manager Bill Cahill said those improvements would benefit a group of distribution centers near the proposed Wal-Mart site. Getting them highway access is a key to the area's development. "The nature of distribution requires access to freeways and good transportation systems," he said.

8-18-06
Modesto Bee
Count on sprawl as usual if Stanislaus movers and shakers have their way...Eric Caine
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12603320p-13310174c.html
Despite the buzz about regional planning and periodic announcements to the effect that
"we've got to save our precious farmland," valley politicians are sending a loud and clear
message that when it comes to growth, they prefer that public discussion and influence be
even further out of bounds than our sprawling cities and suburbs...palpable fear that
voters might put limits on development, and that would mean real problems for any number of projects and plans that dominate the agendas of politicians, landowners and developers. Politics and profit do indeed go hand in hand, but to hear Simon, it's almost as though he never accepted those large campaign contributions from the likes of Don Panoz, whose financial interest in Diablo Grande has been well-served by political support from Stanislaus County supervisors, including Simon. Lost in the discussion of disappearing farmland and politics as usual is a valleywide comprehension of the ongoing harm our sprawling growth is causing quality of life. And unless we get a handle on sprawl, we're in for a repeat of the Los Angeles basin, on an even bigger scale. Until then, we can watch dozens of tracts of farmland, like in Salida, go under the pavement, as citizens ponder what happened to their right to participate in the making of their world.

8-17-06
Merced Sun-Star
School district OKs $40,000 for mailers...Doane Yawger
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12598204p-13305642c.html
CASTLE -- Merced Union High School District trustees approved a $39,550 contract with a Sacramento consulting firm to prepare and distribute three direct-mail fliers to voters for the district's November bond measure. William Berry Campaigns Inc. of Sacramento was retained to design, print and distribute about 16,000 fliers to households explaining the $104 million general obligation bond measure. Michael Belluomini, the district's director of facilities planning, said while school districts are prohibited by law from campaigning in favor of passage of bond measures, they are allowed to spend public resources to provide fair and impartial information to voters. Save Atwater Fix Education Coalition in Atwater...unnamed circulator ... urges residents to tell trustees to "stop paying for political consultants and lawsuits." alleges mismanagement of funds, overpaid
administrators and high-priced political consultants and lawyers come at a tremendous cost to the school district, especially when there are underpaid teachers, high attrition rates and gang violence. Trustee Robert Weimer said he has attended several bond measure committee meetings in the evening. He said it is going to be an intense election but hopefully Measure E will be successful. Costs for the three Berry-designed fliers will be paid from the general fund, Belluomini said.

8-14-06
Los Angeles Times
Bending Prop. 13. California voters have been restoring taxes, including on property, bit by bit...Editorial
http://www.latimes.com/business/taxes/la-ed-property14aug14,1,4469539,print.story
PROPOSITION 13 AND THE TAXPAYER REVOLT launched in 1978...politically untouchable for nearly three decades. The measure made it clear that Californians had lost faith in their government's ability to tax and spend judiciously. It stemmed the revenue flow to Sacramento, to counties and to cities, but the hunger for California-quality services - schools and libraries, hospitals and police, roads and bridges, parks and pools, even zoos and museums - remained unabated. So voters began to selectively restore taxes, one at a time, for clearly delineated programs. We have done it slyly...to convince ourselves that we are not really rolling back Proposition 13. With state bonds... We tax ourselves directly for some programs, like transportation. In 1990, voters doubled the gasoline tax. Loopholes remained, allowing Sacramento to divert transportation money for other uses in the event of fiscal crisis. But voters believed that their lawmakers were abusing their power to grab the money and passed a bevy of measures to make sure that the money remains essentially a user fee that can be applied only to transportation. A measure on the Nov. 7 ballot attempts yet again to guarantee this money is used for its intended purpose. But even if it passes, lawmakers will find other loopholes. That's what legislators do. We also impose new taxes on people we don't like much... Now we are going beyond simple ballot-box budgeting and repadding our property tax bills, mostly with local bonds. Unlike deceptively pain-free state bonds, city and county debt to finance schools, libraries and police stations get charged to property owners. As we gradually layer onto ourselves the property taxes we once slashed, we are compelled to reflect on what we are doing. We have distorted not just property taxes, but our entire tax and budgeting system. Our governance, in fact. Some of this fall's tax and bond measures may make sense, given our predicament. We must adopt new bonds and taxes to pay our bills, even as those measures produce larger bills down the road. But the time is near when voters and their elected representatives must have a frank conversation about untying the budget knot we began knitting together soon after adopting Proposition 13.

8-9-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure to be voted on...Measure G
Wednesday, August 9, 2006 E9 CALSSIFIED Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif. Notice is given that a special County 00711A on Tuesday, November 7, 2006 for the purpose of submitting to the qualified elector or the County the proposition set forth in the following measure to wit. Merced County Traffic Relief, Road Repair and Safe Streets Measure G:-- a one half cent sales tax for 30 years. Notice is given by the County Clerk of the County of Merced that Friday August 18, 2006 is the final date arguments for and against the measure appearing upon the ballot may be submitted to the County Clerk for printing and distribution to the voters of the County of Merced as
provided by law.

8-5-06
Modesto Bee
Proposition makes bond moot...John G. Wetzler, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12549804p-13261166c.html
Proposition 42 requires that revenues resulting from state sales and use taxes on the sale of motor vehicle fuel be used for transportation purposes. Starting in 2008-09, about $1.4 billion (before the current raise in gas prices) in gasoline sales-tax revenues, increasing thereafter, would be used for state and local transportation purposes.
With Proposition 42 now in effect, why do we need a state or local bond for transportation?

8-2-06
Modesto Bee
Tax increase for roads lands on ballot...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12533230p-13246736c.html
Voters in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties will decide Nov. 7 whether to raise their sales taxes to help pay for road and rail projects. Supervisors in Stanislaus and
Merced counties on Tuesday formally placed the matter on their respective November
ballots. Merced County supervisors haven't decided whether to leave their item as Measure O or step out of sequence. Voters in that county in June turned down an identical proposal called Measure A. Supervisors decided Tuesday to give it another go to avoid missing out on proceeds from a huge transportation bond going before California voters Nov. 7.

MCAG
Public Support puts Transportation Measure back on Ballot in November 2006...Press
Release...Press Release
http://www.mcag.cog.ca.us/newsrelease/2006/080106TM.pdf
Merced, California, Aug. 1, 2006 – For the second month in a row, county residents stood one by one before the MCAG Governing Board to tell their stories of why a transportation measure was badly needed in Merced County. On July 20, after more thoughtful discussion – this time among Board members – the Board, with Merced Councilman Bill Spriggs as chair, voted unanimously to put the measure back on the ballot in November, where other ballot items, such as several statewide bond measures, will bring more voters to the polls. "In June, the majority of voters showed that they wanted a transportation measure," said MCAG Executive Director Jesse Brown. Brown pointed out that members of any other organization would not be happy if 62% voted for a project to benefit their community but couldn’t go forward because a few voted against it. The MCAG Governing Board hopes that the transportation measure will be a main source of funding for local projects, including repair and maintenance of local roads.

7-25-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A may make return trip to ballot...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498850p-13214958c.html
Despite a poll conducted this month that says the half-cent sales tax that failed in June
will do even worse if it is put up for a vote later this year, Merced County officials
decided last week to place it on the November ballot. They say the measure, which would
raise $446 million over 30 years to fix roads, will get the required two-thirds vote this
time because more people will show up to the polls in November than in June. Measure A's failure...stunned many of its supporters. A much more attractive November ballot includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters. MCAG board members, which includes all five county supervisors and an elected official from each of the six cities in the county, say the county has a one-shot chance at taking advantage of $1 billion that will be set aside for "self-help" counties if voters approve the state bond measures on the November ballot.Sacramento-based Jim Moore Methods...polled 400 county residents earlier this month about the possibility of a November sales tax, concluded that the measure would get only 58 to 66 percent of the vote. "I would not recommend going forward with Measure A again this November," Jim Moore wrote in a letter to Brown. "The survey clearly shows that a November 2008 election date would provide Measure A with the next best chance for passage." If voters reject the measure again in November, it would be the third time a transportation sales tax would fail in Merced County in the last four years.
New measure:
• $10 million for Phase One of the Campus Parkway
• $85 million to widen Highway 99 to six lanes throughout the county
• $10 million for the Highway 152 bypass in Los Banos
• $8 million to widen Highway 59 from 16th Street to Black Rascal Creek
• $8 million to replace the Highway 140 Bradley overhead
• $6 million for Dos Palos street reconstruction

7-22-06
In Brief...Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12487775p-13204301c.html
People can give opinions...Merced County residents are being asked to give their thoughts on the area's future through 10 community workshops. The meetings are the first step in updating the county's general plan. There will be presentations about the plan, as well as about the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Project, which is being led by the Merced County Association of Governments. The first meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday at the Hilmar Community Center. All eight valley counties are participating in the San Joaquin project, which aims to develop a plan for the future of the valley. The general plan discussions will include issues like agricultural land preservation, land use and development, street and highway systems, environmental resources protection, economic development, water supply and public infrastructure, according to a Merced County press release.

7-13-06
Modesto Bee
StanCOG board agrees to put transportation tax on ballot...Inga Miller
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12444598p-13165725c.html
The Stanislaus Council of Governments swiftly agreed Wednesday to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot. Dubbed "Measure K"..., it would raise a projected $1.02 billion over 30 years for a raft of projects including commuter rail service, highway and interchange improvements and road maintenance. Jim DeMartini criticized the spending plan, and Tom Mayfield criticized brochures touting the measure as too optimistic about how far money would go. They ultimately voted to approve the measure, however. The supervisors have to vote again, this time to formally ratify the measure for the ballot. Though eight of the nine cities support the measure, the Oakdale City Council declined Monday to take a position. The plan doles out the road maintenance money by population. Modesto would get the lion's share at 41.2 percent, the county would get 22 percent and the remainder would be divided among the other cities.

7-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure set up for failure...Maria Giampaoli, Le Grand
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/letters/story/12439985p-13161477c.html
I knew the day the Merced County Board of Supervisors, with the help of the Planning
Department, voted against a Guidance Package B to the general plan (a small measure that would have protected agriculture land and small unincorporated cities against invasion by developers) that Measure A would fail. Our board on a 4-1 vote and now a 3-2 vote has appeased only two entities in the last 10 years: UC Merced and developers. Agriculture preservation is scrutinized continuously. Equal blame should be placed on the Department of Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers who throw the fairy shrimp in our faces... In the future all social infrastructure issues should be dealt with credibility and I'm sure the voters will respond in a positive manner at the polls.

Merced County Planning Commission agenda
http://web.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/commissionarchive/2006/07122006.pdf
VII. GENERAL BUSINESS
The San Joaquin Valley Regional Blueprint is a planning effort envisioned to support long range regional planning. The goal of the Blueprint process is to develop a preferred
future growth vision for the San Joaquin Valley region. The public outreach for the
planning process has been created with the intent to build a regional vision by developing
local and regional collaboration from the bottom up.

Modesto Bee
Sales tax bump gets supes' OK...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12440099p-13161665c.html
The proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation in Stanislaus County got a name —
Measure K — and some criticism Tuesday from county supervisors...$1.02 billion over 30 years for road and transportation projects. The spending plan, which is based on
population, would give Modesto 41.2 percent of the $250 million earmarked for road
maintenance. The county would get 22.7 percent. Supervisor Tom Mayfield criticized a
brochure funded by StanCOG and the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, a public-private economic development agency, for overselling what the sales tax could accomplish...Little of the money would be spent on rural and collector roads that carry the most traffic... The Oakdale City Council agreed to take no action on the
transportation tax at its meeting Monday night, a move interim City Manager Steve Kyte
said is the council members' way of expressing their frustration with StanCOG. Though the board endorsed the plan, a separate action is required to put the measure on the ballot.

7-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
No more money for roads...Robert C. Sherwood, Los Banos...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12425129p-13147545c.html
Editor: Measure A failed because more than 33 percent of those who voted believe that more money collected on a half-cent sales tax countywide should not be used to fix our horrible roads. We have the absolute worst, rotten dysfunctional state government of all the 50 states. These contemptible parasites spend every dime that we pay in taxes and demand more. They coerce our local city and county officials into selling us on the idea that more sales tax will get us some of the roads we need after we have already paid twice over for them. We even have an "Association of Governments" in Merced County, for what? The state of California gets most of its money from property tax, sales tax and state income tax. All of the state revenues are higher than ever before. Yet it is not enough. It's
never enough. Why should we Merced County taxpayers pay to bypass Los Banos State Highway 152 and widen state Highway 99 through Merced? Those are state highways and are the responsibility of the state of California. To those who had the wisdom to vote no on Measure A, thank you. To those who voted yes, I say "giving more money and power to government is like giving whiskey and the car keys to teenage boys."

6-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
Hundreds help map Valley's blueprint...Russell Clemings, Fresno Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12385361p-13111938c.html
FRESNO -- Land use planning seminar...650 people attended the kickoff of a two-year effort to define what the San Joaquin Valley will look like 20 years from now...San Joaquin Valley Blueprint project will spend $2 million in state funds to plan for a population that is expected to double by 2040. By late 2007, the effort is expected to publish a set of goals for areas such as transportation, economic development, housing and environmental protection. Other products will include plans for better coordination of major infrastructure, such as highways, with local land use decisions, and a joint pool of data to analyze planning decisions and their effects. ...it is likely to meet with skepticism
if not resistance among local leaders reluctant to cede control over land use and related
matters. Mark Baldassare, director of a newly released Public Policy Institute of
California survey of 2,000 Valley residents, said the results showed widespread public
support for regional planning to deal with issues such as air pollution, population growth
and loss of farmland.

Modesto Bee
Proposed half-cent road tax gains speed with Turlock's approval...Michael R. Shea
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12385475p-13112068c.html
TURLOCK — The City Council backed a $1 billion countywide traffic plan. Voters likely will have their say on the tax in November's election. The Stanislaus County Council of Governments has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase that could bring $34 million a year over 30 years to pay for road improvements. But before the plan reaches the taxpayers it needs city, then county approval. Turlock joined Hughson, Riverbank, Patterson and Newman in voting in favor of the plan. The plan needs nods from five of the nine councils, representing more than 50 percent of the county's city-based population...consumers would pay 7.875 percent sales tax, up from 7.375 percent. The lion's share of the money would be dedicated to maintenance and improvement projects.

6-28-06
Modesto Bee
Valley worried about growth...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12380798p-13107739c.html
Increasing numbers of valley residents say they are concerned about growth and are willing to limit development to preserve agriculture and environmentally sensitive areas,
according to a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Those results
tell Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center in Modesto, that people want
solutions to growth-related problems they experience - whether it's snarled traffic or
unhealthy air. The institute's survey shows people increasingly concerned about traffic
congestion but not necessarily willing to support a sales tax measure to raise money for
road improvements. It also indicates people distrust the way governments spend tax money, with 64percent saying "government spending money on the wrong things" is a major problem. In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, 41 percent of those surveyed said the area is going in the wrong direction, up from 32 percent in 2004. In the greater Central Valley, 37 percent said the region is going in the wrong direction. 73 percent of Central Valley residents favored slowing development to protect wetlands, rivers and other environmentally sensitive areas. Similarly, 65 percent said they favored limiting urban development to protect farmland.

6-27-06
Merced Sun-Star
Eight counties to meet for blueprint planning...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12376475p-13103689c.html
Eight area counties, including Merced County, will join up for their first regional
"blueprint" planning session on Wednesday in Fresno... costs $30 to attend and includes a
lunch, will go from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center.

6-26-06
BadlandsJournal.com
Letter to the Merced County Board of Supervisors on the General Plan Update

process...6-20-06
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=140
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?

6-25-06
BadlandsJournal.com
The desperation of MCAG
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=156
Last week the Merced County Association of Governments decided to put Measure A, the transportation sales tax defeated in June, back on the ballot in November, despite a poll that indicated it might not do any better then than it did either in June or in 2002. The
MCAG, composed of all five supervisors and one elected official for each of the six
incorporated cities in the county, in their judgment overrode the poll results, declaring that the November election will draw more voters than the primary did. The Merced Sun-Star opined without attribution that:...

Fresno Bee
Measure C votes set to begin...Russell Clemings
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12369664p-13097113c.html
The effort to renew Fresno County's half-cent Measure C transportation sales tax will kick into high gear this week as the county and its 15 cities begin a monthlong series of
ratification votes...$1.7 billion, 20-year extension plan...hints of a possible court
challenge from one of the holdouts, the Valley Taxpayers Coalition, represented by former Fresno City Manager Jeff Reid. At the policy board meeting, Reid raised a number of objections to the board's handling of an environmental impact report on the spending plan. Sierra Club's Tehipite chapter..."Our immediate feedback is that we want to see the ballot language," "We want to make sure the voters are not being misled" on the extent of potential air quality benefits from the Measure C extension said the chapter's
representative, Kevin Hall.

Support Measure C...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/12369655p-13097111c.html
"What if," the commercial begins, "there was no Measure C?" If all goes well, by the end of next month 15 city councils in Fresno County and the Board of Supervisors will have voted to approve Measure C, an extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax. But the first Measure C has lived up to its promises... Extending Measure C for another 20 years also would mean capturing additional matching funds from the state and federal governments. The extension differs from the original measure in several ways. The 1986 version allocated almost three-quarters of the money to major street and highway projects. Now we need to balance our transportation options... The Measure C extension package is a good, balanced plan, thanks to the work of a steering committee that included experts on health, the environment, agriculture, business, government, labor, education, trucking, rural and urban interests.

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Memoir of the neighborhood Crying Man: Reflection on the Girl Blog from Iraq

Submitted: Aug 21, 2006

... Are the lives of Arabs worth so little?

... And the world wonders how ‘terrorists’ are created! A 15-year-old Lebanese girl lost five of her siblings and her parents and home in the Qana bombing… Ehud Olmert might as well kill her now because if he thinks she’s going to grow up with anything but hate in her heart towards him and everything he represents, then he’s delusional.

Is this whole debacle the fine line between terrorism and protecting ones nation? If it’s
a militia, insurgent or military resistance- then it’s terrorism (unless of course the
militia, insurgent(s) and/or resistance are being funded exclusively by the CIA). If it’s
the Israeli, American or British army, then it’s a pre-emptive strike, or a ‘war on
terror’. No matter the loss of hundreds of innocent lives. No matter the children who died
last night- they’re only Arabs, after all, right?

Right?

-- July 30l 2006, Baghdad Burning, "I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend..." Girl Blog from Iraq... let's talk war, politics and occupation.
-----------------------

There was a man in our neighborhood in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, who cried all day long, openly, quietly, with no other manifestation of mal-adaption but poverty. I assume he slept in our neighborhood park, fairly safely, in the lee of our cathedral.

The neighborhood was popular with tourists from around the world and the mafia kept the streets fairly crime-free for the sake of the restaurant trade. Eventually, the lords of our neighborhood, who had tolerated the crying man among a number of docile street people, granted him a job bussing tables at a coffee shop. I noticed one day in 1979, watching him clearing cups and plates off tables, that his tears had diminished to sniffles. I felt a slight tremor of alarm, but reflected that extreme collective grief cannot be indefinitely maintained, and left the coffee shop to go try to make some money.

But, there was a time, 1975, when he cried for all of us. It was such a time that many of us knew he cried for all the grief over Vietnam and America.

In our neighborhood, however, we had Chinese immigrant people so wracked and ruined by war they babbled and gnashed their teeth out in front of God and everybody. Ours was a picturesque neighborhood but not without its sorrows. Who could forget the earnest Chinese evangelist preaching on the traffic island at our busiest intersection? We were a neighborhood, adored by tourists, yet full of incomprehensible speech and futile gestures.

The Crying Man was as simple as a patient of Jesus. He was the answer to the question asked in the Gospel of St. Mark: Where is the salt? He leaked it. He donated it to the neighborhood. It was his rent check and security deposit.

One analysis of present times is that the Americans sought empire too late in the game. The formerly colonized cut off that avenue for the expansion of power. During the Cold War we could see it all as a vast thriller by Greene, Ambler or Le Carre. After that, America declared the "end of history," and dissolved back into nuclear-armed, oblivious adolescence.

“The Americans have gone mad again,” John Le Carre noted in 2003.

A society that has replaced the knowledge of 30 years ago that “what goes around comes around,” with the arrogant corporate slang that “shit happens,” is actually brain dead.

Right?

Even a spider plunging into the void creates a strand of web behind it. This administration plunged us into a void, leaving behind a trail of nothing but destruction and corruption.

But, wait! Something lurks in the void, more terrifying than this void of corporate nihilism itself: slow moving, society-ruining economic and political consequences.

How do Americans benefit from this fascist plutocracy? How will Americans get rid of it? If we succeed, what then?

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

Notes:

http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts08212006.html
August 21 , 2006
Will the Unemployed Become Cannon Fodder for Bush's Wars?
Artificial Recovery; Real Job Losses
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
…The July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists 113,000 new jobs, all of which are in services.“Leisure and hospitality” accounted for 42,000 jobs, most of which are waitresses and bar tenders. “Education and health services” accounted for 24,000 jobs.
“Professional and business services” accounted for 43,000. Manufacturing lost another 15,000 jobs. In the US today, government employs 7.7 million more people than does manufacturing. Little wonder we have an $800 billion annual trade deficit when the government sector is larger than the manufacturing sector. American economists are yet to face up to the fact that offshoring high productivity, high value-added jobs that pay well and replacing them with waitresses and bartenders is a knife in the heart of the US economy. Charles W. McMillion of MBG Information Services reports that compensation is falling behind price rises and that the US economy has been kept afloat by consumers overspending their disposable incomes by drawing down their accumulated assets and going deeper into debt.
McMillion reports that according the Bureau of Economic Affairs, households outspent their disposable incomes by 1.5% in the second quarter of this year, a rate of dissaving equaled only by the depression year of 1933 … What kind of economic recovery is it when the purchasing power of wages falls instead of rises?
In my opinion, the recovery was artificial. It was based on extremely low interest rates orchestrated by the Federal Reserve. The low interest rates discouraged saving, but the low rates reduced the mortgage cost of real estate, inflated home prices and encouraged consumers to refinance their homes and to spend the equity. The federal government has been overspending its income also, and has wasted a minimum of $300 billion on an illegal, pointless, and lost war that has turned Iraq into a terror zone … Considering the loss of good jobs, the high debt burden, and the dependence on imports, it is unclear what will enable America to pull herself out of the next recession.
--------------

http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/08/21/minimum-wage-%e2%80%98take-this-pay-and-shove-it%e2%80%99/
Minimum Wage: ‘Take This Pay and Shove It’
Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised. The 10 long years minimum wage workers have earned just $5.15 an hour shows the “skewed priorities” of the Republican-controlled Congress, writes AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on The Hill, the blog recently launched by the influential congressional insider newspaper The Hill.
Says Sweeney in the Aug. 20 post:
If ever an issue clearly showed the skewed priorities of this Congress’ leadership, it’s the minimum wage. Two weeks ago the Senate rightly rejected a cynical ploy by Republican leadership to poison the current minimum wage increase with yet more massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans…
--------------------------

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0820-23.htm
Published on Sunday, August 20, 2006 by the New York Times
Five Years After 9/11, Fear Finally Strikes Out
by Frank Rich
The results are in for the White House’s latest effort to exploit terrorism for political gain: the era of Americans’ fearing fear itself is over.
In each poll released since the foiling of the trans-Atlantic terror plot — Gallup, Newsweek, CBS, Zogby, Pew — George W. Bush’s approval rating remains stuck in the 30’s, just as it has been with little letup in the year since Katrina stripped the last remaining fig leaf of credibility from his presidency. While the new Middle East promised by Condi Rice remains a delusion, the death rattle of the domestic political order we’ve lived with since 9/11 can be found everywhere: in Americans’ unhysterical reaction to the terror plot, in politicians’ and pundits’ hysterical overreaction to Joe Lieberman’s defeat in Connecticut, even in the ho-hum box-office reaction to Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center.” … The administration’s constant refrain that Iraq is the “central front” in the war on terror is not only false but has now also backfired politically: only 9 percent in the CBS poll felt that our involvement in Iraq was helping decrease terrorism. As its fifth anniversary arrives, 9/11 itself has been dwarfed by the mayhem in Iraq, where more civilians are now killed per month than died in the attack on America … We look at Mr. Chertoff and still see the man who couldn’t figure out what was happening in New Orleans when the catastrophe was being broadcast in real time on television …Dick Cheney’s credibility is also nil: he will always be the man who told us that Iraqis would greet our troops as liberators and that the insurgency was in its last throes in May 2005. His latest and predictable effort to exploit terrorism for election-year fear-mongering — arguing that Ned Lamont’s dissent on Iraq gave comfort to “Al Qaeda types” — has no traction because the public has long since untangled the administration’s bogus linkage between the Iraq war and Al Qaeda. That’s why, of all the poll findings last week, the most revealing was one in the CBS survey: While the percentage of Americans who chose terrorism as our “most important problem” increased in the immediate aftermath of the London plot, terrorism still came in second, at only 17 percent, to Iraq, at 28 percent … What Republicans really see in Mr. Lieberman’s loss is not a defeat in the war on terror but the specter of their own defeat. Mr. Lamont is but a passing embodiment of a fixed truth: most Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake and want some plan for a measured withdrawal. That truth would prevail even had Mr. Lamont lost. … As the election campaign quickens, genuine nightmares may well usurp the last gasps of Rovian fear-based politics. It’s hard to ignore the tragic reality that American troops are caught in the cross-fire of a sectarian bloodbath escalating daily, that botched American policy has strengthened Iran and Hezbollah and undermined Israel, and that our Department of Homeland Security is as ill-equipped now to prevent explosives (liquid or otherwise) in cargo as it was on 9/11. For those who’ve presided over this debacle and must face the voters in November, this is far scarier stuff than a foiled terrorist cell, nasty bloggers and Ned Lamont combined.
--------------------------

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,,1855568,00.html
Tories open nine-point lead as Labour drops to 19-year low
Julian Glover
Tuesday August 22, 2006
The Guardian
David Cameron is on course for a possible general election win, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today that shows support for the Conservatives climbing to a lead that could give them a narrow majority in the Commons, while Labour has plunged to a 19-year low.
The Tories have gained over the last month while support for Labour has fallen heavily in the wake of the recent alleged terror plot against airlines. An overwhelming majority of voters appear to pin part of the blame for the increased threat on Tony Blair's policy of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ministers - including Mr Blair - have repeatedly denied that there is a connection. But 72%, including 65% of Labour voters, think government policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists. Only 1% of voters believe the government's foreign policy has made Britain safer, a devastating finding given that action in Iraq and Afghanistan has been justified in part to defeat Islamist terrorism.
--------------------------

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0820-30.htm
Amateur Warlords
Bush, Cheney, Blair - and now Olmert - have demonstrated they have no grasp of military affairs
by Eric Margolis
Toronto Sun (Canada) -- Aug. 20, 2006
For a leader who styles himself "the war president," U.S. Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush's military record now stands at 0 for 4. Even Italy's born-again "imperial Roman conqueror," Benito Mussolini, fared better.
- Fiasco I: Five years after Bush ordered Afghanistan invaded and proclaimed "total victory," U.S. and allied forces are fighting a losing war against Afghan resistance groups. Afghan heroin exports are up 90%. The U.S. just quietly deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan to hunt Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in a desperate attempt to save Republicans from getting clobbered in November midterm elections.
- Fiasco II: "Mission accomplished" in Iraq. Bush's war in Iraq is clearly lost, but few dare admit it. The U.S. has spent $300 billion on Afghanistan and Iraq, with nothing to show but bloody chaos, deficits, body bags, and growing hatred of America. The Bush/Dick Cheney "liberation" of Iraq has now cost more than the Vietnam War.
- Fiasco III: The White House had the CIA and Pentagon spend tens of millions bribing Somali warlords to fight Islamist reformers trying to bring law and order to their strife-ravaged nation. The Islamists whipped CIA-backed warlords and ran them out of Somalia. Following this defeat, the U.S. is now urging ally Ethiopia -- shades of Lebanon -- to invade Somalia, thus raising the threat of a wider war between Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Good work, Mr. President.
- Fiasco IV: Bush and Vice President Cheney egged Israel into the hugely destructive but militarily fruitless war in Lebanon over the past month, in what many view as the first part of their long-nurtured plan to militarily crush Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. They did their best to thwart world efforts to halt the conflict …
No sooner had bombing stopped last week than Hezbollah bulldozers were busy clearing rubble, and Hezbollah social workers resettling refugees. Perhaps Bush should ask Hezbollah to take over rebuilding New Orleans … The "war president" has become the fiasco president. The White House should stop listening to bogus military advice from neocon couch commandos who thirst for Muslim blood, and start listening to experienced Pentagon officers who understand the meaning and cost of war.

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Peltier, water, and the cold hard cash

Submitted: Aug 18, 2006

by Chico del los Pozos

I have concluded over the years that when writing about the complexities of California’s byzantine water world, it is easiest to write about water in terms of cold hard cash. A flowing, living river has aesthetic value to environmentalists and preservationists while a river of dollar bills appeals to a different set of values that even the most apathetic taxpayer can understand.

The dry statistics are that an acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or enough to cover 93 percent of a football field a foot deep. It will meet the domestic needs of two families of five for a year, if used wisely. At this point, readers usually start getting glassy-eyed and losing interest in any further discussion of water. However, if you equate all those gallons to cash, reader interest perks back up.

Does a $25 billion federal taxpayer gift to a few hundred people pique your interest? Read on.

Depending on where you are in the bucket line, California’s river water stored behind dams can be: (1) free; (2) cheap; (3) well below true retail value; (4) expensive; or (5) in the case of bottled water, extremely expensive. Public water that goes to farmers for free or at subsidized rates as small as $20 to $75 an acre-foot, when placed in plastic bottles with scenic labels and treated slightly, can go for up to $2 million or more when sold by the pint or liter in the grocery store or fancy restaurant. For comparison purposes, that $2 million acre-foot of bottled water can also be sold via ditch to Fresno Irrigation District growers for $12-15 an acre-foot.

Thus, it is understandable that deal-making in California’s changing water world, particularly for irrigation water, is usually done behind closed doors and out of the public spotlight. A glaring example is the current secretive negotiations between Fresno County’s Westlands Water District and the United States Department of Interior. A key negotiator for the Department of Interior - and supposedly the general public’s advocate - is Jason Peltier, named assistant Secretary for Water and Science in July.

Peltier’s previous job was as a lobbyist for the Central Valley Project Contractors’ Association, which represents the irrigation water interests of growers from Redding to Bakersfield. Westlands, not surprisingly, is the largest water district in the Contractors’ Association. Here’s how the spinmasters in the Department of Interior, in a recent press release, explained Peltier’s 13-year stint as a lobbyist.

“As manager of California’s Central Valley Project Water Association from 1988 through 2001, Peltier directed the public education and advocacy efforts of this not-for-profit membership organization,” the press release said.

The New York Times, in a March 3, 2006, article, described Peltier much differently. The Times reported, “Mr. Peltier's role influencing decisions that could have a direct financial impact on his former employer is part of a pattern at the Interior Department over the last five years, critics say, with a revolving door between managers on the government side, and the people who buy or lease federal water, land or forests on the other side.”

Peltier told the Times that when he first came to the Bush administration in 2001, he recused himself from some decisions involving the water district he used to represent, but he said he was granted an exemption because of his expertise in California water issues.

''I was given dispensation early on because of my knowledge of these issues,'' Peltier said, adding, ''I have not had the strict bar of separation on certain issues, but I've been very mindful of the appearance of a conflict and operated accordingly.'' Dispensation? Did the Pope grant that?

Interior officials told the Times Peltier had “cleared” his activities with the ethics office. Assistant Secretary Mark Limbaugh, Peltier's boss, claims Peltier's role is only “advisory.” Peltier '”provides background, insight and advice. He is not in a position to make the ultimate decisions,'' Limbaugh told the Times.

In other words, the fox can guard the henhouse as long as the fox is “very mindful” of the “appearance of a conflict.” At least it’s a family affair. Peltier’s wife, Jean-Mari Peltier, a former lobbyist for citrus growers, served as special adviser on pesticide issues at the EPA during the first Bush administration term before returning to being an Ag lobbyist.

Westlands, with their former employee on the other side of the table, is now putting the finishing touches on a new water delivery contract that could bring the 600,000-acre district of 400 to 600 growers as much as one million acre-feet of water a year for the next 50 years (a 25-year water delivery contract with a virtually automatic renewal for another 25 years).

Do the math.

The water, which comes from hundreds of miles away on Northern California’s Trinity River, is worth up to $500 an acre-foot for urban developers in Central and Southern California. Five hundred million dollars a year of water for 50 years = $25 billion. That averages out to almost $42 million worth of retail water on average over 50 years for each of the 600 growers (less the purchase price which will be under 20 percent of retail value). Expensive water bought cheap and used in some cases to grow subsidized crops like cotton. And under current law the Westlands is free to sell any excess water to the highest urban bidder. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is definitely interested.

The water delivery contract negotiations are being concluded as part of an overall settlement of the Westlands growers’ lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for failure to provide a drainage system. Bureau officials recently unveiled a drainage “solution” for the Westlands’ selenium-laced problem farm lands that could cost taxpayers another $1 billion.

The proposed drainage “solution” has provoked an outcry from national environmental groups who contend it is merely a re-creation of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge disaster in early 1980s when Westlands toxic agricultural drainage poisoned the food chain at the Merced County refuge, where the tainted water was funneled to evaporate in deadly ponds.

The Los Angeles Times reported July 8 that the proposed solution, including building over 3,000 acres of new evaporation ponds, has raised fears of another Kesterson-like environmental catastrophe.

“My God,” Ed Imhoff, a retired Department of Interior officials who headed a five-year, $50 million study of the western San Joaquin Valley drainage problem in the late 1980s, told the LA Times. “Why would we be replicating something that caused all the deaths and deformities at Kesterson? Why would we do that?”

When Imhoff’s study group released their final report in 1990, it recommended, among other water-saving measures, idling all the high selenium lands in the Westlands that were generating the poisonous drainage water - up to 300,000 acres.

Jason Peltier, who was then a lobbyist for the Westlands, told the media at that time, “The sooner this report gets put on a shelf and starts gathering dust the better.”

Under an earlier proposal as part of the drainage plan, Interior would have bought out the badlands and idled them. Westlands and Peltier see if differently. The last proposal calls for Interior to merely buy the federal irrigation rights to the badlands. In other words, Westlands growers will get to keep their high selenium lands and will be give well over three-quarters of a billion dollars to simply stop irrigation with federal water. However, they will still be able to use that land for other purposes, including irrigating with non-federal water.

When asked by the Los Angeles Times if this could be true, Kirk Rodgers, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, responded, “No decisions have been made on that.”

One thing is certain. America’s most expensive irrigation project in the middle of a salty desert is about to get a lot more expensive.
-------------------------

West side tractor drivers know Chico de los Pozos as a tall man in a huge sombrero riding a camel, backlit by the setting son on the ridges of the western hills.

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COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

Submitted: Aug 14, 2006

Members of the San Joaquin Valley public would like to invite you to the first annual UC Pombozastan Pot Luck.

We’ve got the barrel; you bring the pork.

Public/private partnerships get preferential picnic tables behind gated, straw-bale walls, just like they did it at the old-time Condit Country extravaganzas.

The Valley public would like to invite you all to Merced to help us get this UC Merced 900-acre expansion past them damn federal environmental regulators. Our largest developer, the University of California Board of Regents, is having trouble getting a pesky little Clean Water Act permit out of the Army Corps of Engineers so they can build on land in a ESA designated critical habitat area containing the richest fields in the state of vernal pools, environment for 15 endangered species of flora and fauna, for which one cannot help but think a responsible, institution of public higher education would have secured a permit before commencing construction. The UC Regents are at least not supposed to be typical California fly-by-night developers.

But, who cares? COME ON DOWN! Bring the People’s Money, we’ll run it through UC and it will pick up your tab. Stay anywhere, pay as much as you want for breakfast, lunch and dinner, rent only the most expensive cars – if you need further instructions we can refer you to UC consultants, who can teach you also how to add that absolutely mandatory 10-20 percent on every expense chit.

COME ON DOWN and see UC Merced, which the last state Senate Pro Tem called the “biggest boondoggle ever.” – New campus still faces obstacles, William Trombley, Spring 2004, National CrossTalk, a publication of National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, http://www.highereducation.org/crosstalk/ct0204/news0204-obstacles.shtml

"I don't know why anyone would be surprised," said Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which has offices in San Jose and Washington, D.C. "It was just the wrong campus in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was pork-barrel politics and institutional arrogance that led us to this. There was a belief at UC that you could just hang a UC shingle out and that would attract students."

-- Merced: Some students at brand-new UC campus say they want out, Tanya Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2006, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/17/BAGOLK0B6M1.DTL

And, hey, be sure to bring the People’s Money with you, because UC Merced wants all of it. UC’s talented team of tax-paid flaks and lobbyists can give you all the details. The effort will no doubt be headed by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. Surely, you know the Shrimp Slayer – he’s the guy who’s making Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy’s war against the Endangered Species Act “bipartisan,” on behalf of a few developers, large landowners, financial institutions and realtors in their adjoining districts. Down here we call them the “Pomboza.”

WASHINGTON — ... On Tuesday, Cardoza and Pombo split roughly $50,000 raised at a bipartisan fund-raiser sponsored by prominent developer Greenlaw "Fritz" Grupe. Grupe is active in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, with subdivisions underway in Modesto, Turlock, Hughson, Waterford and Stockton.
Grupe also favors the kind of collaborative work Cardoza and Pombo have done on the Endangered Species Act and other issues. While agreeing the joint fund-raiser held at the developer's Lodi ranch was "rather unique," Cardoza said it sent the right kind of signal.
"Frankly, if we cooperated more aggressively, we would all be better off," Cardoza said.

--Valley political bonds strong, Oakland Tribune, Apr 1, 2005 by Michael Doyle, MODESTO BEE http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20050401/ai_n14615689

What Cardoza calls aggressive cooperation, we call the Pombozation of the San Joaquin Valley.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and watch Pombo and Cardoza pombozate the West’s federal resource agencies.

COME ON DOWN and bring us the People’s Money. We don’t have enough of it. You’ve no doubt read the Congressional report about how the San Joaquin Valley is poorer in some ways than Appalachia. We appreciate our subsidized water, our subsidized cotton, dairy and cattle industries, and all the health and human services aid you’ve been sending. But we need more of it, more and more and more of it. We can’t make it without more and more of the People’s Money down here in Pombozastan, the former San Joaquin Valley. And if we don’t get it, we’re going to pave over the largest, richest agricultural valley in the West.

So there!

COME ON DOWN!

Listen to the UC Merced Chancellor (until she quits at the end of the month)! We need a UC Merced research medical school down here to specialize in respiratory illnesses, cancer clusters, pesticide related diseases, diseases related to contaminated ground water, drug addictions, rural mental illnesses and disorders arising from bovine flatulence here in the epicenter of the dairy industry in the nation’s top dairy state. Pledge the People’s Money to build out UC Merced, which will stimulate a tremendous amount of growth because it will be the anchor tenant for development down the east side of the Valley from Sacramento to Kern counties along a planned eastside Highway 65 and an Eastside Canal.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and help replace Valley life with mega-dairy subdivisions-in-waiting and slurbocracy. And while you’re at it, explain why you’re doing it, because we really don’t know and the Pomboza won’t tell. Nevertheless, Cardoza provides thoughtful continuity for the slurbocracy from his top floor offices in the Merced County Administration Building.

COME ON DOWN! We know this all sounds a little grim, but we want to assure you that the Valley is a really funny place. We’ve got comedians galore here in Merced. Consider the UC Chancellor Until the End of the Month, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, for example. She had the whole Valley rolling on the floor in helpless mirth this week, when she told the McClatchy chain reporter:

"I needed to make (congressmen) aware that this is the beginning of the process," Tomlinson-Keasey said. "People speak out all the time and say their opinion, (but) I have talked with the Corps, and they have assured me they will play by the rules."

Choking back life-threatening guffaws, members of the public asked: “What rules could she possibly be talking about?”

Surely, she could not be talking about local, state or federal environmental law and regulation. Beyond urging the Pomboza onward to alter it to suit UC’s needs in eastern Merced County, she has no tolerance for it.

Surely, she could not be talking about the rules of good taste, whose university campus sponsors a yearly Fairy Shrimp Festival, hosted in its inaugural year by the unemployable son of a recently ousted provost.

Surely, she could not be talking about those rules of candor said to govern testimony before legislative committees.

Surely, she could not be talking about regulations governing the rehabilitation of wildlife, when she purloined a bobcat for the UC Merced mascot that should have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Surely, she must be speaking about the UC RULE: UC is sovereign and gets what it wants.

Another great Merced comedian is the businessman Mr. UC Merced, Bob Carpenter, who appeared in the pages of the Los Angeles Times this morning:

So why didn't the university secure permission to build the entire campus before beginning work? "It's easy to criticize after the fact," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced resident who has helped with university planning for 18 years. "But you could argue that if you wait until all the I's are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, probably no projects would ever get done."

But then, the chancellor, not to be trumped in the comedy game by a mere UC Merced booster, even if Carpenter could be called, justly, The UC Merced Booster, concludes:

She expects the Merced campus to infuse the area with a smart-growth population and jobs. "We're contributing enormously to the community."
"We believe we deserve an Olympic gold medal, and not have every bump being foreseen as some Mt. Everest to climb."

An Olympic gold medal, some would say, requires a sports team of some sort. The UCM Golden Bobcats are undefeated so far, but they remain in smoky backrooms rather than taking the field in any sport in which they would have to play by any rules other than their own.

UC built the first phase of the Merced campus without getting a Clean Water Act permit. They spent millions in state public funds on conservation easements to mitigate for wetlands habitat, as the result of backroom deals in the state Capitol between the governor, congressmen, state legislators vying to see who was the Biggest Mr. UC Merced of them all, state and federal resource agency officials, The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society and other prominent state and national level environmental sluts. Yet, today, when federal agencies look at these easements, they discover many of them aren’t on the right land and have no financial mechanism for monitoring. In some cases, landowners are under the impression they can take millions in public funds for easements yet refuse to let resource officials on the land to monitor the condition of the natural habitat.

COME ON DOWN! The pombozated federal resource agencies are holding a raffle on our remaining natural resources, wildlife habitat and wetlands – piece by fragmented piece.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN! Watch the Developer Dutch Auction on San Joaquin Valley land-use planning.

COME ON DOWN! Watch the sales-tax increase sweepstakes so that the Valley can match funds with the federal government on new freeways, highways and loop roads to stimulate even more growth, as the rural county roads crumble before your eyes. Come on down and watch them fill the potholes in front of the Merced County Association of Governments office!

COME ON DOWN and learn the mystical process of making plans to make plans to make plans to make plans and get public funds to do it.

COME ON DOWN and listen to some whoppers about the Merced County water supply plan, which ain’t, but they all say it is.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and observe, first hand, the latest design in up-scale yuppie labor camps – zero lot lines, no yards, parks and play areas closer to the freeway than to the home. Watch childhood asthma develop before your very eyes as you are stalled in freeway traffic.

COME ON DOWN and join the fun, if you want to play by the rules UC, the Pomboza, the developers and our wise, far-seeing local governments make up as they go along for the benefit of themselves and their families.

COME ON DOWN! We got a lake to sell you full of Anglo rowing teams.

COME ON DOWN! Maybe you can be an early student in UC Merced’s Coelho Institute of Honest Graft (and public policy), or the McClatchy/Singleton School of Conglomerate Media Management, or study the nanotechnology of nuclear weapons triggers. If you’re lucky and everything goes right, you might get a joint appointment with UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to study Ebola and Anthrax in a genuine safety level 4 biowarfare lab.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

We got the barrel; you bring the pork.

Badlands editorial staff
---------------------------

Notes:

Los Angeles Times
Wetlands give UC Merced growing pains...Tanya Caldwell
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-merced13aug13,1,7214931,print.story
University of California Merced - which cost more than $500 million and took nearly 20 years to plan - still lacks federal permission to build on wetlands near the fledgling campus. UC Merced is developing 105 acres as part of Phase I of the campus and plans to build Phase II on 805 adjoining acres it purchased near Lake Yosemite...that second parcel includes 86 acres of federally protected wetlands. Now, university officials are hoping for an environmental permit to destroy the vernal pools on those wetlands and build, among other things, institutes to study the environment and energy. So why didn't the university secure permission to build the entire campus before beginning work? "It's easy to criticize after the fact," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced resident who has helped with university planning for 18 years. "But you could argue that if you wait until all the I's are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, probably no projects would ever get done." That's true especially in the era of the federal Clean Water Act, which demands permits before wetlands can be destroyed, said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "I think we've shown that this is a very reasonable site." The Corps released - and then swiftly rescinded - a draft environmental impact statement detailing concerns about losing the vernal pools. Corps officials said the draft was incomplete and had been released prematurely. They expect to issue an official draft in a few months. But the draft has already created a buzz in Merced, where the Merced Sun-Star and Fresno Bee ran stories July 29 in which a Corps official said a permit for the university's preferred expansion plan "will not likely be granted." Kevin Roukey, the Corps' senior project manager...quoted in the Sun-Star...the site's vernal pools have "basically been determined to be the best in the state, and maybe even the country." Some local environmentalists, such as Carol Witham, have threatened to sue if the Corps grants the permit despite what she calls the university's "flagrant disregard for federally protected land." "They assumed that by having the campus there, that they can force their way into building the rest of the site," Witham, founder of the website vernalpools.org, said of university officials. "We advised them early on that they should've done all of their permits ahead of time. They're essentially gambling with the taxpayers' money." Saturday - the chancellor released a statement saying that Roukey's evaluations "represent the personal opinions of a single individual" and don't foretell the Corps' final decision. Corps officials later agreed and said it was too early to predict what would happen at UC Merced. They added that concerns found in the report wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker for the university's proposals. For years, the chancellor said, the Central Valley has been "underserved." She expects the Merced campus to infuse the area with a smart-growth population and jobs. "We're contributing enormously to the community."
"We believe we deserve an Olympic gold medal, and not have every bump being foreseen as some Mt. Everest to climb."

Sacramento Bee
Comments...Pressure's on for UC campus expansion
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/nation/story/14292794p-15132061c.html
Should have located it at Castle...blindman at 3:37 PM PST Friday, August 11, 2006 wrote:
The infrastructure for a new community exists near Merced - it's the abandoned Castle AFB. As usual, UC administrators demostrate that those in ivory towers have little practical sense. A castle location would have been cheaper, and demostrated better overall stewardship of open space.

Stockton Record
Let's get serious...Editorial
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060813&Category=OPED01&ArtNo=608130306&SectionCat=&Template=printart
More Californians are classified as being poor than at any time in the state's history. Only the Great Depression of the 1930s compares. One of every two public-school students is from a family that qualifies for federal aid. That's a staggering 50 percent. Poverty isn't an ethnic problem. It knows no skin color. It's not confined by geography. People can't build enough gated communities. Poverty crosses every line and creeps into every area of life. Those mired in poverty struggle through each day trying just to survive, unable to do anything meaningful to elevate themselves or their families. Too many leaders...consider progress to be more houses and businesses without adequately accounting for a deterioration in the quality of life for those unable to participate fully in that growth. Obviously, it's difficult to develop a truly meaningful blueprint for change, but we have to try. It's even harder to convince the comfortable and affluent that breaking the cycle of poverty is in their best interest, too. If we don't, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor will reshape California and San Joaquin County in regrettable and regressive ways.

Inside Bay Area
UC, lab, want to build huge biodefense lab...Ian Hoffman
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_4176406
On rolling, grassy hills between the Bay Area's cities and the farms of the Central Valley, the University of California and scientists of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory see a sprawling biodefense lab as large as two Wal-Mart Supercenters. The University of California and Lawrence Livermore lab are proposing construction in the middle of the lab's Site 300, a once-remote explosives testing area. University officials have rounded up endorsements from the mayor of Livermore to U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, and from the state Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura to the California cattlemen's and poultry associations. Much of the new lab would operate at Biosafety Level 3, a category of biocontainment used for plague and tularemia. But some of the lab, perhaps a fifth or more, would operate at Biosafety Level 4, the highest level of biocontainment. BSL4 is reserved for diseases having no known vaccine such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, foot and mouth disease or avian flu and requiring researchers to wear "moonsuits" inside airlocked labs. Federal officials have not elaborated on exactly which microorganisms would be studied in the new lab and the degree to which those germs would be modified. The university rejected a request by Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, a Livermore lab watchdog group, for a copy of its proposal. Twenty-nine teams, mostly led by U.S. universities, leaped to make proposals. On Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department narrowed the list to 18 teams in 11 states. A smaller list of semi-finalists will be visited by federal officials in October, and the finalists will be evaluated in a full, environmental impact study over the next year, with a final decision in July 2008 and operations in 2013.

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Tensions mount over USCS growth...Shanna McCord
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/August/13/local/stories/01local.htm
The battle to stop UC Santa Cruz from expanding student enrollment by nearly 50 percent to 21,000 in the next 15 years, along with 2,000 new faculty and staff members, came to a head this week. The University of California threatened to sue the city unless two measures were pulled off the November ballot that seek to stop growth identified in the long-range development plan without UCSC paying its share of impacts on city services such as water, housing and transportation. Almost in the same breath, UC last week offered the city a proposal if the ballot measures were halted. Details of the proposal were not released publicly. The City Council, during a special closed-session meeting Wednesday, unanimously rejected the University of California's proposal and agreed to move forward with the ballot measures even if that means a lawsuit looms. It won't be known exactly how much the city is seeking from UCSC for mitigation costs until a final environmental impact report for the long-range development plan is certified. Since UCSC's long-range development plan of 1988 was written, the university has paid the city roughly $1.2 million to help cover off-campus impacts on infrastructure, including water pump upgrades, a new traffic signal, new turn lane and widening Mission Street. Looking at UCSC's projected water use in the future shows increased demand of 500,000 gallons a day, bringing total daily use at the campus to 2.5 million gallons, which Kocher says the city doesn't have the capacity to provide. To meet the increased water demand, Kocher said UCSC would be forced to rely on the proposed $40 million desalination plant. The additional 500,000 gallons a day for UCSC represents about one-fifth of the desalination plant's estimated capacity, which Kocher said would mean the university should contribute one-fifth of the cost - $8 million - toward its construction and operation. City and county leaders won confidence that the Santa Cruz ballot measures would be less at risk of drawing a lawsuit after the state Supreme Court recently ruled that California State University can't skirt its obligation to pay for off-campus impacts associated with growth.

8-10-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced seeks aid of lawmakers. University looks to Congress to allow expansion plans...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12569266p-13279371c.html
WASHINGTON -- UC Merced advocates are turning the political dials to avoid permit problems with the Army Corps of Engineers...university's chancellor is calling members of Congress. Lawmakers are leaning on the Corps...all in hopes of salvaging a 900-acre expansion plan favored by the university. "This project is too important to face setbacks over communication," Jennifer Walsh, chief of staff for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced... The joint university and congressional maneuvering follows a warning - since disputed - that UC Merced's preferred expansion plan probably won't get a permit... Tomlinson-Keasey stressed that Roukey's comments should be considered personal and not a foreshadowing of the final Corps decision. "I needed to make (congressmen) aware that this is the beginning of the process." "People speak out all the time and say their opinion, (but) I have talked with the Corps, and they have assured me they will play by the rules." One San Joaquin Valley congressional tactic now is to ensure that officials more senior than Roukey are engaged in the project, one congressional staffer explained. This entails enlisting officials both at Corps headquarters in Washington and California. "Political pressure has driven a lot of this project from the start," said Carol Witham, founder of the Sacramento-based organization called VernalPools.org. "The draft as originally written would not have withstood a legal test,..."but I think they were under pressure by the university." The university's stated position is that the alternative campus sites are "not reasonably available, obtainable or practical because they would require the acquisition of dozens of new tracts of land, in contiguous parcels, from many different owners, at a cost of more than $100 million in new taxpayer outlays."

8-4-06
San Francisco Chronicle
UC barred from deciding pay packages in private...Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/04/BAGENKB8LT1.DTL&type=printable
An Alameda County judge has given The Chronicle a partial victory in a lawsuit by ruling that a committee of the UC Board of Regents cannot decide behind closed doors whether to recommend pay packages for top officials...said the University of California's regent committees cannot make "a collective decision'' in closed session on possible future action to be taken concerning compensation matters. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith ruled against The Chronicle, however, on other elements of the newspaper's lawsuit, which sought to force the regents' compensation committee to meet in public when it discusses pay for its top 20 officials...said discussion of compensation in closed meetings is legal under state law if no action is taken. She also declined to order UC to tape future meetings of its Committee on Finance and Special Committee on Compensation...also rejected The Chronicle's request that UC be compelled to divulge minutes and other records from previous committee meetings that dealt with compensation. Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill, AB775, that would require UC to open its compensation meetings. The bill -- opposed by UC officials -- passed the state Senate Education Committee, and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.

City officials blast UC development proposal...Rick DelVecchio
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/04/BAG2AKB7KU1.DTL&type=printable
UC Berkeley's planning for a new sports and academic complex is flawed because it doesn't deal with the impact of a major disaster in a remote part of campus split by the Hayward Fault and fails to seriously look at alternatives... Cal's draft environmental impact report describing the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects should be redone because it lacks detail on the impact of the developments described in it and on possible alternatives, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said in a letter to campus planners. Despite the university's name for the plan, the projects aren't really integrated and are being presented in a way that's against the spirit of state law requiring detailed environmental review, Kamlarz said.

7-21-06
San Diego Union-Tribune
UC regents retroactively approve lucrative compensation packages … Eleanor Yang Su
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060721/news_1n21uc.html
SAN FRANCISCO – University of California regents retroactively approved lucrative benefits and payouts yesterday to dozens of UC executives whose compensation had been criticized in recent months as being in violation of university policy.
In one instance, regents decided to not only retroactively approve but also continue a monthly payment to UC San Diego Medical School Dean Edward Holmes, whose case was highlighted in a state audit in May as problematic.
The state audit had found that Holmes had been overcompensated $128,649 since 2002 because he had received an extra $5,000 per month to offset money he paid to UC San Diego for earnings from his external board service.
UC policy requires certain health science employees who receive stock from corporate boards to provide a percentage of the value of the stock to the university. Even after Holmes fulfilled his percentage, UCSD continued to pay him the additional money per month, according to the audit.
Yesterday, regents defended their decision to continue paying Holmes and many others, stating that they are underpaid compared to their peers at other universities.
“What happened here was not that someone received money that they should not have received,” said Regent Judith Hopkinson. “What happened was there was money that was approved at a level that didn't include regent approval.”
Hopkinson added that in Holmes' case, he was promised that the extra income would be part of his permanent salary. His current annual salary is $453,400.
“He was entitled to it,” Hopkinson said. “It was the honorable thing to do because he was represented that this, in fact, was his new salary.”
Regents, however, have decided to seek repayment in at least two situations. Regents authorized the university to negotiate some repayment by UCSD Senior Vice Chancellor Marsha Chandler for an $8,916 auto allowance she inappropriately received while on sabbatical in the 2004-05 fiscal year. The allowance was paid in violation of UC policy, according to the regents item …

8-10-06
Merced Sun-Star
Sheriff's brother evaded DUI jail time...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12569265p-13279409c.html
When Sheriff Mark Pazin's brother showed up to court in March to be sentenced for a drunken- driving arrest last year, a judge told him he had to pay a fine and take a class. It turns out that despite a policy to almost always bring DUI offenders to jail -- or at least fingerprint and photograph them -- after they are arrested, Merced police decided to forego that procedure with Pazin, the Sun-Star has learned. Instead, police reports show, an officer called the sheriff on a December night and told him to pick up his intoxicated brother. Booking information would have been sent to the state Department of Justice, said David LaBahn, who heads the California District Attorney's Association. In this case, Richard Pazin's arrest file will be "incomplete" and without a photo and fingerprint -- leaving open the possibility that his 2005 DUI conviction could be challenged if he was caught driving drunk again, LaBahn said.

Maneuvers on measures reveal who pulls strings...John Michael Flint
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12569317p-13279474c.html
Item 1 — Our Board of Supervisors recently made sure the "Stamp Out Sprawl" measure would not appear on the November ballot. The maneuver, though sleazy and cynical, was entirely legal — and it produced an outpouring of shock, outrage and criticism. What do the following have in common: Bruce Frohman, Denny Jackman, Balvino Irizarry, Carmen Sabatino? All faced opposition from candidates funded by real-estate developers. All were handily defeated
Item 2 — A week after derailing the sprawl measure, the supervisors voted to put the long-awaited road tax (Measure K) on the November ballot, and anyone who tells you this isn't a cost of growth is shining you on. It will be promoted relentlessly - by the Chamber of Commerce, the real-estate industry and this newspaper... Also answered, as if it weren't already obvious, will be the question of who really pulls the strings hereabouts.

Modesto Bee
Officials seeking help with growth...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12569320p-13279458c.html
Stanislaus County's mayors and county supervisors say they want to wrestle control of the county's future from big developers, but they need to hire someone to help them do that. The mayors and supervisors have been meeting to develop a blueprint for what the county should look like in 50 years — where it should and shouldn't grow and what kinds of public facilities will be needed to handle that growth. Supervisor Jim DeMartini said such plans need to protect farmland from developers. "The problem is, some developer comes in from out of town, options a bunch of land, and pressures the council to grow another way … They really only care about the land they control," DeMartini said. "We really need to work together."

Tracy Press
Bioterror...Eric Firpo
http://www.tracypress.com/local/2006-08-10-Bioterror.php
A bomb test site in the hills upwind of Tracy has made the “short list” of 18 spots where a research laboratory might be built to help protect against bioterrorism, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday. Homeland Security is looking for a spot to build a 500,000-square-foot research lab to replace a similar, but antiquated, laboratory at Plum Island in New York, which was built in the 1950s. The University of California asked to run the new lab at Site 300, 7,000 acres in the hills west of Tracy that’s part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Homeland Security said the UC has made the first cut, along with 17 other applicants in 11 states. Now that Site 300 has cleared its first hurdle, the anti-nuclear group Tri-Valley CAREs is launching an effort to prevent it from being built west of Tracy...group fears the new lab will research bioweapons, since it will have Level 3 and Level 4 labs...says a nuclear laboratory is no place for a biological laboratory because it sends a message that the lab will be used to develop offensive bioagents instead of trying to defend against them.

8-9-06
Merced Sun-Star
Director of university dining hall out of job...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12564634p-13275230c.html
UC Merced's director of dining and retail services has resigned following an investigation by UC auditors that determined he used university vehicles for personal business, purchased food for his private catering business using UC credit accounts and regularly took food from the university without payment. Prompted by a whistleblower complaint, the university began examining possible policy violations by Thomas Welton in April. Welton told investigators he was unaware of a university policy that prohibited personal use of university cars, used university credit accounts to purchase nearly $2,500 in merchandise, much of which he used for his private catering business, investigators found. Vendor records showed that Welton's wife -- who isn't employed at UC Merced -- signed for some of the purchases. While Welton eventually paid vendors for the purchases, he used university credit to delay personal payment, and only made the payments after the university's investigation began.

8-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
County violating sell-back policy...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12560598p-13271482c.html
An investigation that the Merced County Retirement Board launched last month to look into the legality of new perks given to the county's CEO has found something even more troubling: The county has been overpaying 25 retired employees -- mostly top-level managers and elected officials -- by thousands of dollars each year... inquiry found that the county has been violating the terms of a 2000 legal settlement -- known as the Ventura Agreement -- that limits the number of vacation hours county employees can "sell back" to boost their pensions. San Francisco attorney, Ashley Dunning said in an interview that the Ventura Agreement "could not be clearer" in limiting how many sold-back vacation hours can count toward pensions. Kathleen Crookham, who is the only supervisor who sits on the retirement board and voted to give Tatum the extra sell-back hours, said she also is OK with the retirement board's legal findings. "I guess if that's the legal opinion, you know what, I support it," she said.

8-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Pension policy rips off taxpayers...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12579690p-1328813
...Merced County has decided to cut back the pensions of 25 retirees that were inflated by a complex vacation "sell-back" that boosted their final year's salary, which is used to calculate the pension payouts they earn every month for the rest of their lives. Instead of being able to sell back 240 hours upon retirement -- or even more for CEO Dee Tatum, who has a separate contract with the board -- the new limit will be 160 hours. But why stop there? We don't think county employees should be able to boost their retirements at all with this bogus vacation "sell-back," which is mandated by something called the "Ventura Agreement." It's the gift that keeps on giving -- all at taxpayer expense. And our local politicians wonder why voters turn down tax increase measures.
Sheriff wasn't involved...Michael H. Sofranek, Catheys Valley...2nd letter
I retired from the Merced County Sheriff's Department's Corrections Division. Knowing the system and knowing how the system works, I do believe the sheriff would not interfere with the process, but I do not believe that the sheriff was not aware that his brother slipped through the cracks in serving his jail time.
Sell-back hours ridiculous...Phil McDaniels, Merced...3rd letter
Let me see if I have this right: The county retirement board increases the sell-back vacation hours for the county CEO, Dee Tatum. Then, as the stink from this rises, the board decides to get a legal opinion and hire outside counsel...investigation shows... they've been committing a no-no since 2000. The first question...how much of an overpayment are we talking about and how does the board plan on getting it back? Secondly, couldn't some common sense be used next time and get a legal opinion first?

March 10, 2006
Badlandsjournal.com: Merced County Development Rodeo: Ranchwood Event

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and other members of the concerned public always wondered how developers in Merced County rode roughshod over local, state and federal environmental laws, regulations, agencies and its own public. But, rarely have they been granted the insight provided by this telephone message, recorded on Feb. 3, 2006.
Badlands has blocked out the last two numbers of the telephones the developer left for return calls from the supervisor he thought he’d called as a courtesy to the developer.
Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ...

Consult Badlandsjournal.com for a number of posts on government in Merced County, for example: Byrd sues on civil rights violations, July 28, 2006, which includes a brief filed in federal court against the county DA, the Sheriff and other county notables, and notes, including the news clips cited below:

7-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
Amid turmoil, Spencer quits…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12456073p-13175492c.html
After a tumultuous week that included a dramatic car crash, a concussion, calls from the Board of Supervisors to step down, and continuing criminal investigations by the state Attorney General’s Office, District Attorney Gordon Spencer said on Friday he will resign immediately. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said his agency will continue to investigate Spencer.

7-14-06
Merced Sun-Star
County workers get brush up on ethics…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12450025p-13170424c.html
Amid investigations by the state Attorney General’s Office and growing questions about government accountability, county officials got an earful from Graham and other ethics speakers this week. All county department heads and elected officials, as well as middle managers, were required to go to Graham’s session on Monday. Elected officials and top-level employees also had to go to a two-hour course Tuesday taught by a Sacramento law firm that reviewed accepted guidelines for government openness and accountability. But not everyone attended…four officials, including Spencer, didn’t go to Monday’s meeting… Spencer, who was in the hospital Tuesday after a car accident Monday, didn’t attend Tuesday’s session. The four no-shows Monday — Spencer, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, Human Services Agency Director Ana Pagan and County Counsel Ruben Castillo — must go to Graham’s Aug. 24 course for low-level managers if they want to keep their allowances. Morris said Kelsey had a family emergency and Pagan had a medical emergency Monday. He said he didn’t know why Spencer and Castillo didn’t attend. Supervisor Kathleen Crookham…felt Hedlund’s session was “dull,” she was glad to attend the ethics courses. “It reinforces the kind of things we should remember,” Crookham said.

Correction…Last Updated: July 14, 2006, 02:51:25 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12450026p-13170466c.html
• A headline on Page A1 of Thursday’s Sun-Star about District Attorney Gordon Spencer was incorrect. No representative from the hospital said Mr. Spencer suffered a head injury.

7-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
D.A. still in hospital…Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439963p-13161488c.html
The Merced County district attorney remained in the hospital Tuesday night with short-term memory loss after a rollover crash Monday night, his attorney said. The California Highway Patrol is continuing its investigation into the crash, though it doesn’t look like any charges or citations will be filed, Public Information Officer Shane Ferriera said. Spencer called his wife from Smith’s phone, and she took him to the hospital… The investigating officer interviewed Spencer at the hospital and tested him for driving under the influence…said the test includes looking for the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or red, watery eyes. Ferriera said he did not know if Spencer was given a breathalyzer test.

Panel may ask Spencer to resign from his post…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439964p-13161513c.html
Merced County Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said Tuesday that embattled District Attorney Gordon Spencer should resign immediately to help restore the District Attorney’s Office from months of “turmoil.” O’Banion told supervisors at their meeting Tuesday that he wants the board to vote sometime soon on whether Spencer should resign. He later said the vote will be at the supervisors’ next meeting on Tuesday. “I’m not going to take any action until we have the attorney general’s report,” Kelsey said…”I’m not going to let the newspaper tell me what to do and I’m not going to grandstand for the public or for the newspaper.” “We don’t have all the facts.” O’Banion brushed aside Kelsey’s accusations
…”I don’t look at it as grandstanding, I look at it as a responsibility we have to take back a department that is in turmoil.” Supervisor Mike Nelson…when asked if Spencer should resign, he replied. “It would be nice if he would do that, yeah.”

Police chief secrecy isn’t right way…Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439980p-13161532c.html
Plenty of mystery surrounds the disappearance and alleged kidnapping of Kou Xiong, the Merced Police Department officer who was missing for two days before being located in the Madera County foothills. Now, after an internal affairs investigation by the police department, we’re told Xiong is no longer on the force. But that’s it as far as any official accounting of what may have taken place. The public deserves more of an explanation than that…police officials should divulge some reason for Xiong’s termination.

Letters to the editor:
Spencer should step down
…Mark Seivert, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439981p-13161523c.html
Editor: How many investigations need to be done on our district attorney from the state Attorney General’s Office before we demand he step down? I think three in one year should be more than enough for anyone.
Pazin’s actions a let-down…Phil McDaniels, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439957p-13161493c.html
Editor: With Gordon Spencer involved in Cellphonegate and SUVgate, it is not surprising to find him involved in yet another scheme as nefarious as the purchase of land of a jailed man. What is surprising is the behavior and attitude of one of his partners, the sheriff of Merced County… Sheriff Mark Pazin admits to knowing who the seller of the land was in the “final stages of the deal.” …the sheriff let the chase for big bucks place a cloud over his name and the office of sheriff of Merced County.

7-11-06
Merced Sun-Star
District Attorney Spencer injured in creek car crash…Scott Jason — Chris Collins; — Mike De La Cruz; — The Associated Press
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12435800p-13157709c.html
The Merced County district attorney was taken to the hospital Monday night after he rolled his Ford pickup truck into Bear Creek, a California Highway Patrol officer said. For unknown reasons, Spencer let the Ford F-150 pickup truck drift off the road and into the creek, he said. …CHP Web site said the victim in the crash had minor injuries.

7-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Spencer purchased land from jailed man…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12425122p-13147572c.html
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney’s Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer’s potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was “absolutely impermissible” by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. “There was a conflict of interest. ” Dougherty, the county’s presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd’s attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd’s land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county’s biggest developers to buy the land.

7-5-06
Merced Sun-Star
Tatum had a smorgasbord…Phil McDaniels, Merced…Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12409089p-13133720c.html
Editor: Many thanks to City Editor Mike Fitzgerald for putting in words how many voters feel about the Merced County Board of Supervisors and its constant giveaway of our money to the hierarchy of county government. For someone who flew low under the radar during the Gordon Spencer matter AND the department heads’ perks matter, County Executive Officer Dee Tatum surfaced long enough for another feast at the public trough. The board members have been in office too long and have lost sight of who they work for and who their decisions should benefit.

6-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
County supervisors clarify management policies…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12347503p-13077932c.html
Board of Supervisors approved sweeping changes on Tuesday to Merced County’s policies on car and phone allowances given to top-level employees…also set new ethics training requirements and accountability standards for elected officials and department managers. It was the first official action the supervisors have taken in response to District Attorney Gordon Spencer’s misuse of government equipment…county Auditor Stephen Jones said that the county’s attorney, Ruben Castillo, had advised him that a state law giving district attorneys and sheriffs the right to charge business expenses to the county may also give Spencer legal grounds for getting both a county phone and an allowance. The revised policy means:
• The 33 “A-level managers” in the county, which includes department heads, supervisors and other elected officials, must now sign a new form each year that says they will use their own car and phone for their jobs if they choose to receive monthly allowances as reimbursements.
• The state-mandated conflict-of-interest disclosure forms that county department heads and elected officials fill out each year will now be frequently audited by an outside firm.
• All department heads and elected officials must now attend an ethics training course once a year or lose out on their phone and car allowances.

6-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
Valley politicians report lands sales, wealth…Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12321524p-13054529c.html
WASHINGTON — San Joaquin Valley lawmakers are a diversified lot, especially when it comes to their personal finances. They own land, though not necessarily as much as they used to. They own stocks. Several have spouses pulling political salaries. Cardoza reported that, last October, he sold 6.2 acres in Atwater. The land at the intersection of Bellevue Road and Redwood Avenue brought the Cardoza & Cardoza Landholding Partnership between $500,001 and $1 million. Cardoza turned to stocks. He reported purchasing some 32 different stocks in November and December. Cardoza’s wife works as a physician in Merced.

Crookham is off the mark…Lorraine Dawson, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12321534p-13054545c.html
Editor: Some Merced County supervisors dismissed concerns that their allowances were excessive. Supervisor Kathleen Crookham said she was frustrated that questions were being asked about her pay. “It’s really unfortunate when this kind of scrutiny takes place.” “And then it’s really unfortunate when no one wants to run for office because they come under that type of scrutiny.” “Does the rest of the world have to justify what they spend? No. This is a thankless job and one you don’t get rich on.” Mercedians have a right to know where the tax revenue is spent and why. Then there was this comment in a May 2 Sun-Star story: “Supervisor Kathleen Crookham said she’s known for the past few months that (District Attorney Gordon) Spencer has been using a county vehicle while receiving a car allowance at the same time, but she said she doesn’t think it’s a serious violation.” Look no further than comments like these as to why Measure A was not passed.

6-13-06
Merced Sun-Star
OES faults Spencer over grant…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12312342p-13045915c.html
The state Office of Emergency Services says it will closely scrutinize Merced County’s use of grant funds in the future after a report it released Monday concluded that District Attorney Gordon Spencer violated the terms of an OES grant. State will monitor county closely but funds won’t have to be repaid. The report also found that the District Attorney’s Office misled OES when it said it would assign a full-time deputy district attorney to prosecuting people who committed rural crimes. The OES report found three other grant violations:… There is no set deadline for when the attorney general’s report will conclude.

Letters to the Editor…Last Updated: June 13, 2006, 01:52:58 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12312355p-13045923c.html
County wears blindfold…James V. Haslouer, Merced…1st letter
Editor: So let me see if I understand this correctly. If you are a county employee and you jeopardize a state- funded program for your own personal pocket stuffing and accept false cell phone and vehicle reimbursements (embezzlement), you can then use those monies to compute and enhance your retirement! …who was signing the vouchers that District Attorney Gordon Spencer was submitting for five years or perhaps even longer? Pay Spencer more than $150K a year for what? His disdain for the law is obvious.Supervisors, stand up for your constituents and do the right thing.

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star

Spencer violated Grant…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12270485p-13006930c.html
District Attorney Gordon Spencer violated the terms of a grant by driving a $27,000 SUV that he was never supposed to use, a report by a private auditing firm has found…conducted by Sacramento-based Macias, Gini and Co. The SUV, a 2005 Ford Expedition, was purchased a year ago with money from a state grant and was intended for Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Morse. Instead, the vehicle was “assigned solely to the County’s District Attorney,” the report concluded…”could jeopardize eligibility of the vehicle” and future funding from the grant. “It basically reinforces the fact that the car was not supposed to be used by the individual who was using it,” county Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said. Last month, the state Attorney General’s Office launched an embezzlement investigation into Spencer’s use of county-owned equipment. The Office of Emergency Services is making its own inquiry into Spencer’s actions. Both investigations are ongoing.

July 16, 2006
http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=local&id=4372012
ABC Action News 30
Fire Damages Offices at Merced County Courthouse
July 16, 2006 - A scandal forced their boss to leave and now there's a new struggle for Merced County prosecutors after fire tore through their offices over the weekend.
Investigators will begin digging out the five offices on Monday, hoping to find out what started the fire. For now, they are breathing a sigh of relief after rescuing a very important case file from the burned building.
Once the smoke cleared, investigators and county leaders got a glimpse of the damage.
"The intensity of the fire was severe. It had buckled a lot of the metal, windows had been blown out, desks, chairs and such were absolutely melted to the ground," said Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin.
Fire officials say the west portion of the building suffered the worst damage. Four district attorneys offices are ruined, two others damaged by smoke and water and two courtrooms unusable because of the intense heat.
"At the height of the firefight operations, we actually had flames I would estimate to 50 to 60 feet in the air above the building. Very major major operation," said Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten.
The fire came just two days after District Attorney Gordon Spencer resigned in the middle of three separate investigations by the attorney general's office. His office was not in the building that caught fire and officials do not believe there is any relation between the two sudden events.
Incoming district attorney Larry Morse left the building just three and a half hours before the blaze began.
"I'm sure I was the last one to leave this building. It was close to 2:00am when I left. I didn't see anything remotely suspicious. I've been in the office until one or two for the last seven or eight days, as you are during trials," said Morse.
Morse says one of the files that burned in a felony office is the case against Tao Rivera. Police say he's the Merced gang member who gunned down police officer Stephan Grey. Luckily, Morse found a copy that was spared in his office. He has now moved it to a safe location.
He says many other criminal cases also went up in smoke, but he doesn't think any accusers are off the hook, because multiple copies are usually made on each case.
Despite the damaged courtrooms, court will go on as scheduled. Those cases set for the affected courtrooms will be moved to other buildings in the complex.
Fire damages are about $750,000

November 17, 2005
Modesto Bee
UC regents increase fees by 8 percent…Michelle Locke, AP
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11490731p-12229564c.html
Cost of going to university has going up 89% since ‘01. The vote came amid heightened criticism of the UC’s spending after reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that the UC has paid millions in bonuses and pay hikes to top executives. …students were not happy with the hikes, demonstrating their opposition by chanting “Education, not corporation!”

Merced Sun-Star
UC tuition fees going up again…Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11491100p-12229815c.html
Students will pay about $500 more per year. UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said she knows some students are struggling with educational costs, but the fee increases are needed right now. “We certainly don’t want to exacerbate that,” Tomlinson-Keasey said of student financial woes. About 80 percent of UC Merced’s inaugural class applied for and received financial aid, and 64 percent of those students qualified for need-based financial assistance, according to campus records.

Sacramento Bee
Fifth fee hike since ‘02 gets UC regent OK…Leslie A. Maxwell
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/california/story/13870111p-14709573c.html
UC officials said the fee increases - part of a $2.9 billion budget that they will request from the Legislature for next year - were necessary to maintain their “compact” with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, argued for the board to hold off on the hikes until Schwarzenegger unveils his new state budget proposal in early January. Much of the audience also was angry about recent news reports that hundreds of UC’s senior-level employees received generous housing allowances, bonuses and other perks during a budget crunch.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC president promises increased disclosure about pay packages. Task force also will consider further policy changes…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/BAGVTFPO5L1.DTL&type=printable
After facing days of withering criticism, University of California leaders promised Wednesday to disclose more information about how much they pay employees. ” Dynes promised that UC would: … — Provide regents with a summary of UC leaders’ total compensation once a year, including outside income. Dynes said he wasn’t sure whether that information would be released to the public. There is a dark cloud over the university that we really have to reckon with, and it speaks to the question of transparency and honesty,” Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, an ex-officio regent, said. “There is a lot of outrage,” said Bruce Fuller, professor of public policy and education at UC Berkeley. “Is the quality of the university really tied to attracting managers, or is it tied to attracting top faculty?”

Zero hour for Los Alamos. UC has run the nation’s top weapons lab for six decades.
Will it all end this week?…Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/MNGQ9FPOD81.DTL&type=printable
Los Alamos National Lab…climax of a four-year saga: a decision that will determine who runs the world’s most glamorous and controversial nuclear weapons lab and that also could end the University of California’s unchallenged six-decade domination of the U.S. weapons program. An announcement could come soon, perhaps even Friday. UC and its industrial partners, including San Francisco-based Bechtel National Inc., are competing for the contract against aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. and its allies — the huge University of Texas system, several New Mexico universities and various industrial partners. Loss of the contract by UC would be a crushing blow to the university system’s reputation and, perhaps, to the state of California, which owes much of its international economic clout and attractiveness to investors’ perception of the state as the Nobel laureate-packed front line of scientific and technological advances. …the Lockheed-Texas team has benefited from continued leaks of bad news from Los Alamos. The latest case involved an “Occurrence Report,” which came to light late last month concerning an incident in October 2003…

UC regents boost next year’s student fees…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/BAGVTFPETK1.DTL&type=printable
Hours after the University of California Board of Regents voted Wednesday to impose steep fee increases on students, a regents’ committee recommended that hundreds of top university administrators get pay raises. The proposed “annual merit” salary increases, … average about 3 percent. “Even with this year’s merit increases, the salaries of many senior UC managers still significantly fall below market,” according to the statement. A recent study by Mercer Consulting found that UC offers lower salaries than other prestigious universities, though UC pay is comparable when retirement and other benefits are factored in. However, the Mercer study did not include all forms of compensation used by UC, leaving it unclear whether UC employees are paid better or worse than the average pay of their counterparts elsewhere. …Wednesday, the regents disregarded assurances from state Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez that the Legislature would likely allocate enough money to make the higher fees unnecessary

November 16, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
Outrage in Capitol at UC pay revelations…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/16/BAG1RFP4R61.DTL&type=printable
State lawmakers demanded Tuesday that University of California leaders answer questions about UC’s growing payroll, hidden compensation and a rising inequity between low-paid employees and senior administrators and faculty. Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who sits on the Senate Education Committee, “I’m not going to allow UC to become the Wal-Mart of education. The university’s money is public money. They have to be very careful. Before we do anything more with salaries, we have to have transparency.” “This is outrageous,” Denham said. “While students face rate increases every year and UC rank and file workers face salary freezes, the top UC administrators will be getting secret salary hikes. The regents should postpone their vote and let the public see the documents.”

UC’s hidden pay…Editorial
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/16/EDGODFOD701.DTL&type=printable
FOR AN institution devoted to openness and truth, the University of California is falling short. It refuses to speak plainly about the eye-popping compensation packages for its top leaders. The timing for the new salary increases couldn’t be worse. …regents are due to vote on a plan to raise student fees by 8 percent. …after fees have nearly doubled in four years. UC must explain its compensation policies more fully. It isn’t showing the openness that taxpayers expect and deserve from a public university.

Fresno Bee
UC gets $8 million to study San Joaquin Valley’s bad air…AP
http://www.fresnobee.com/state_wire/v-printerfriendly/story/11479672p-12219067c.html
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The University of California, Davis, will receive an $8 million federal grant to study the effects of one of the country’s most polluted air basins on public health.

11-14-05
San Francisco Chronicle…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years.

Merced Sun-Star
Famers say UC helps rivals too…Olivia Munoz, AP
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/business/ag/story/11478748p-12218475c.html
UC President Robert C. Dynes met with about 35 growers… San Joaquin Valley growers expressed frustration Thursday that research they help the University of California conduct ends up helping their rivals in the global agriculture market. …also concerned that the system’s budget cuts were affecting the extension office program.

San Francisco Chronicle
Free mansions for people of means…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO0JJ1.DTL&type=printable
For all the attention paid to university salaries, some of the biggest perks at the university are noncash items, such as free housing. At UC, the system spends about $1 million a year to maintain spacious homes for Dynes and the 10 campus chancellors. I think taxpayers would be outraged to discover the nature of this extraordinary perk,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association. Schwartz…said the homes are important to help chancellors cover the high cost of living in California, where many chancellors otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford homes on their university salaries. Public records show that many of the chancellors already own their homes, sometimes close to campus. And at least two chancellors earned tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual income by moving into university-owned residences and renting out their own nearby homes. In addition, records show hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on maintaining some of the estates.. “I suspect this will make it in our 2005 piglet book” of examples of government waste, Coupal said. “This is the kind of stuff that shows that at some point (government leaders sometimes) lose touch with reality.”

Services cut for students as high-pay jobs boom…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years. Payroll records show that 2,275 university employees earned more than $200,000 last fiscal year, up 30 percent over two years. The number of employees making at least $300,000 annually climbed 54 percent to 496 last year. Some employees got raises. Others were hired or promoted to new posts with increased salaries. Still, the boom in top salaries comes at a time when UC leaders say they have been forced to raise student fees 79 percent over four years, increase class sizes and curtail student services to cope with cuts in state funding. “This is not something you want the Legislature to learn about,” said Velma Montoya, who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. “It is unfair and impolitic.”

The home used by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Chronicle photo by Mark Costantini
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/14/mn_a9_uc00_156_mc.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable

More higher-paid employees on UC payroll
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/14/mn_higher_paid.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable

Monterey Herald
The teacher pay UC doesn’t discuss…System shells out millions while claiming poverty…San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/news/state/13163302.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Despite complaints from University of California officials that the system has suffered severe cuts in state funding, prompting tuition and fee increases, many faculty members and administrators get paid thousands more than is publicly reported. ‘’We should be comparing full compensation, including the perks, not just the salary, because when you look across the country, you shouldn’t be comparing apples to oranges,'’ said Velma Montoya, an economist who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. ‘’It’s ludicrous to increase student fees… when you’re talking about executive officers making this much money, and no one knowing about it,'’ said Anu Joshi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and president of the systemwide UC Student Association.

11-13-05
UC’s higher profile…Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/11476112p-12215740c.html
The recent visit to Fresno by the president of the University of California underscores how the landscape has changed in higher education for Valley students in just a few years. For decades, the Valley was given short shrift by UC. Higher education was left in the hands of California State University campuses, such as Fresno State. Now UC Merced has opened, creating a new opportunity for Valley students. …the UC system is working much harder to spread the word about UC among Valley students and their families. That’s what brought UC President Robert Dynes to Fresno on Thursday…

San Francisco Chronicle
UC piling extra cash on top of pay…Tanya Schevitz, Tod Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&type=printable
Despite UC’s complaints that it has been squeezed by cuts in state funding and forced to raise student fees, many university faculty members and administrators get paid far more than is publicly reported. In addition to salaries and overtime, payroll records obtained by The Chronicle show that employees received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year. That was more than enough to cover the 79 percent hike in student fees that UC has imposed over the past few years. The bulk of the last year’s extra compensation, roughly $599 million, went to more than 8,500 employees who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries. And that doesn’t include an impressive array of other perks for selected top administrators, ranging from free housing to concert tickets.

Bringing in the big bucks
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/13/mn_big_bucks.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&type=printable
Here are UC’s highest-paid employees based ontotal compensation. Base salary is a small fraction of their total pay.

Overall payroll
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&o=1&type=printable
Over the last few years there has been an increase in the UC’s payroll…2002 – 2005

Other perks include parties, gifts, travel…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGQPFJ9DJ26.DTL&type=printable
In addition to their cash compensation, many senior UC employees receive significant fringe benefits. A partial list includes:
– Housing: Some employees receive free or subsidized housing near campus, including spacious homes (and in some cases, mansions) reserved for chancellors. UC also issued thousands of low-interest mortgages to administrators and faculty…3 percent interest rate. — Jobs: — Entertainment: Gifts:– Travel: Parties: Expensive parties are common.
Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education…”This is not a slush fund,'’ Callan said. “Every dollar that the university gets is public. It is a public institution. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Livermore Lab’s future tied to risky laser project…Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNG1AFNKRE1.DTL&type=printable
The fate of a super-laser — a multibillion-dollar project under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is in serious doubt, despite Congress’ decision to grant it a reprieve. …eight years after the facility’s groundbreaking at Livermore lab, the project has cost taxpayers more than $3 billion, at least three times the projected cost, and the tab should exceed $4 billion between now and the projected completion in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, only a small percentage of the projected 192 lasers have been installed and tested. Worst of all, there is serious scientific doubt whether the laser will achieve its near-mythic goal: ignition, the holy grail of nuclear physics. ..recent study by top Pentagon advisory panel cites many technical obstacles and says there’s no assurance the project will work. The group, known as “Jason,” pointed out in a recent report that the project is rife with technical problems. This is an embarrassment that UC can ill afford at a time when federal officials are close to making a crucial decision on another one of the university system’s vital relationships with the Department of Energy.

11-12-05
Fundraiser helps MC students get to UC…Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11472660p-12212399c.html
With the rising cost to earn a bachelor’s degree, students need scholarship support more than ever. The Merced College Foundation wants to make sure its transferring students have all the help they can get to attend the newest University of California campus. Currently, full-time equivalent Merced College students pay a total of about $800 per school year including campus fees. UC Merced undergraduate students pay about $7,000 in tuition per school year. But that doesn’t include housing costs that range from $14,000 to $20,000 annually.

Anxiety marks Los Alamos mood ahead of lab contract announcement…Heather Clark, AP
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/11472441p-12212115c.html
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Many people in this isolated mesa-top community are anxious or fearful about who will win a contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory. The main contenders for the contract are two limited liability corporations, one headed by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas and the other led by Bechtel Corp. and the University of California… …contract worth up to $79 million. The announcement of the winner is expected by Dec. 1. Six percent of the lab’s work force resigned, up from a 4 percent annual norm over the last decade. …poor business practices at the lab led to a purchasing scandal and a series of embarrassing security and safety lapses that culminated in a seven-month shutdown, which the Department of Energy estimated cost about $367 million. UC put the cost at $110 million.

7-3-06
Contra Costa Times
A feeling of 'siege'...Julia Prodis Sulek
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/14952474.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Sixteen months ago, when Denton started as chancellor, she seemed like a perfect fit. If any community would welcome this openly gay academic who overcame discrimination from her earliest days in a small Texas town, who became nationally renowned for her commitment to women in science and social justice, surely it would be the progressive seaside town of Santa Cruz. Instead, she told friends, ``I'm under constant siege.'' She arrived at the university already trailed by controversy and, during her short tenure, endured unrelenting attacks. ``It wasn't any single story or any single cartoon, but it was a continuing, rolling, unending set of stories and set of cartoons; it was the continuing everyday assault,'' said Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the chancellor of UC-Merced. When a new chancellor arrives in Santa Cruz, the community very nearly holds its breath. In this city of 55,000, the chancellor carries more prestige than the mayor or state legislators. But just weeks before her Feb. 14, 2005, start date, Denton's name was linked with scandal. The timing couldn't have been worse. While the UC president's office acknowledged it should have disclosed the deal from the start, it was Denton who took the heat in Santa Cruz. If Denton had more serious mental health issues, or her medication wasn't right, or she had other personal problems, no one is saying. But Tomlinson-Keasey knows that the problems in Santa Cruz weighed heavily.

8-2-06
Sacramento Bee
Tragedy looms over wildland debate...David Whitney, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/14285230p-15098739c.htmlhttp://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14285230p-15098739c.html
WASHINGTON -- Nearly 15 months after the manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument killed herself after months of frustration on the job, the federal Bureau of Land Management is reviving the process of creating a management plan for the 250,000-acre grasslands preserve that will be forever associated with Marlene Braun's tragic death. The backdrop for the battles was more political than personal. Created by presidential proclamation just hours before President Clinton left office in 2001, the Carrizo Plain had become a battleground over cattle grazing on public lands -- an issue on which the BLM typically found itself siding with cattlemen. ... public lands, on the border between Kern and San Luis Obispo counties, are the last big patch of wild grasslands left in California and the home of the largest concentration of endangered species in the state. Some, like the giant kangaroo rat, are in direct competition with cattle. Braun had openly complained that she felt efforts to curtail grazing were being resisted at higher pay grades in the agency, and that she was suffering the fallout. Posthumously, Braun prevailed.

4-1-05

CRS Report for Congress: California’s San Joaquin Valley: A Region in Transition, Dec. 12, 2005, Tadlock Cowan, Coordinator, Analyst in Rural and Regional Development Policy, Resources, Science and Industry Division

Honest Graft: Big Money and the American Political Process, Brooks Jackson, 1990

“This is the tragic story of one of the most fascinating characters in recent Washington history, Congressman Tony Coelho of California (D-Merced) … He rose to power in the house by collecting millions of political dollars for the Democratic party from whatever sources were at hand, creating a modern political machine in which money and pork-barrel legislation replaced the old Tammany Hall patronage …” p. 3

As Coelho himself says, “the system buys you out.” The system doesn’t require bad motives to produce bad government. P. 320

Italics added.

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The desperation of MCAG

Submitted: Jul 25, 2006

Last week the Merced County Association of Governments decided to put Measure A, the transportation sales tax defeated in June, back on the ballot in November, despite a poll that indicated it might not do any better then than it did either in June or in 2002. The MCAG, composed of all five supervisors and one elected official for each of the six incorporated cities in the county, in their judgment overrode the poll results, declaring that the November election will draw more voters than the primary did. The Merced Sun-Star opined without attribution that:

Only 24 percent of registered voters in the county -- about 22,500 people -- showed up to the polls, partly because of lackluster statewide issues and little competition among county races.

A much more attractive November ballot that includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters.

Evidently this is the received political wisdom on the upcoming General Election.

Might one suggest an alternative analysis?

Billion-dollar infrastructure bonds might get a few Mercedians out to vote against them, which does not on the surface, seem to favor a local half-cent sales tax increase.

The governor's race, featuring the Hun against the Developer's Democrat, Angelo's Boy in the Capitol, is shaping up to be a real ho-hummer of a race.

Locally, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is running unopposed. Kathleen Galgiani, chief of staff of retiring state Assemblywoman, Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, appears to have wired her succession to her boss's seat several years ago. The state Senate race, between incumbent Jeff Denham, Knucklehead-Salinas, and Wiley Nickel, Water Plutocrat-Merced, seems to turn on the fascinating political question of who can accurately define an exchange contract.

One can see long lines in front of polling places, stretching into the frosty night this November. The campaigns are so intense we cannot even see paid voter registrars chasing old ladies to their cars, begging for their signatures, whether they are registered to vote or not. Perhaps they are moving too fast for the human eye.

What could be called strength of leadership, if only by scribes paid to write it, from a charitable point of view could be called stubbornness. In fact, it is suspected resubmitting this measure to the voters in November is an act of sheer political desperation, and perhaps an unintended referendum on how much voters like leaders in the pockets of developers, UC, WalMart and the Riverside Motorsports Park -- the only real beneficiaries of this measure.

MCAG has a huge reputation problem on its hands, stemming from our newly acquired exalted political position after having won the Valley-wide sweepstakes for the San Joaquin Valley UC campus.

In the squalid fashion of UC flak, top bobcatflakster Larry Salinas told the Merced City Council last week that UC Merced was the only UC campus in the Central Valley. And here we thought there was a highway, I-80, that passed along the border between the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, not far from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, through a college town called Davis, said to have been the site of a UC campus for nearly a century.

MCAG has been designated by the Hun administration in Sacramento to lead an eight-county San Joaquin Valley program, including eight councils of government working with Modesto-based Great Valley Center, to create a blueprint for growth to override the niceties of public process and state and federal environmental laws and regulations. These transportation COGS and CAGS are political institutions of nebulous land-use authority, which have banded together as the public in their counties have grown politically restive and are more actively resisting at the city and county government level the developer-driven slurbocracy the most immediate consequences of which are rapidly deteriorating air quality as well as other impediments to a decent quality of life.

Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which includes among other jurisdictions, Yolo County, where some say there is another UC campus, is the model for all this fine regional planning to avoid the niceties of law and regulation. Sacramento and nearby Placer counties have vied with Bakersfield for years for the worst air quality north of Los Angeles, and now they are winning the prize. Following these institutions will help you, your children or your parents' chances of being a candidates for a UC Merced study in respiratory disease once it gets that new medical school started.

If the Merced Board of Supervisors and city governments cannot con thier own citizens into voting a half-cent raise in sales tax to create a matching fund to attract Federal Highway Administration funds to build roads, how can they lead the other COGs and CAGs into a dimming, asthmatic future of slurb. If they cannot even con their own voters into making an abundant contribution to local greenhouse gases that will affect the Sierra snow pack, how can they lead other CAGs and COGs in the pockets of CalDevelopment, Inc., our real rulers, into this absurdly unhealthy future?

Oh, well, there are always the county’s new electronic voting machines, if all else fails.

Perhaps, Merced voters can send a message to the Federal Highway Administration that they do not want millions spent on widening Highway 99 so that WalMart can more easily get its 900 diesel trucks a day in and out of its proposed distribution center at the Mission Interchange. Perhaps, Merced voters can inform the FHWA that they are not interested in funding that interchange to provide one blue-and-yellow brick road to UC Merced. Perhaps, the Merced voters can explain to the FHWA that they are also disinterested in funding another blue-and-yellow brick road from Atwater to UC Merced, one which passes by property acquired in 2004 from an inmate of Sandy Mush County Jail by the sheriff who was incarcerating him, the DA who was prosecuting him, their good friend, the president of Ranchwood Homes, and several other prominent local investors.

All new roads and widened highways in Merced mean is more air pollution and more growth. Obviously, for example, a widened Highway 99 would make it more convenient for millions of stock-car racing fans to come to the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park in Atwater, and they would bring their ozone with them and leave it here.

Perhaps, people in Merced are smart enough to understand this and have begun to get irritated that their leaders are so willing to sell them out to any developer with another air-polluting, traffic-increasing, country-destroying project, and are growing more irritated by the day by their leaders ongoing insult to the voters' intelligence.

Yes, we do realize that something like 30 percent of our air pollution is blown over the hill to us from the Bay Area. But, it does not outrage us that we cannot become Fremont. We do have one of the more important agricultural economies in the world. Perhaps we need to work on that a little more than working on becoming the next great slurbocracy in California. And if we find that our elected officials want Growth Above All, maybe we need new elected officials, because this gang is not working for the best interests of its own public.

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

Notes:

June 5, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Monday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.

We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)

Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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 new development just doesn’t pay for itself.

Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax

Measure A Claim: "We can be sure one thing won't go to Sacramento ... Every single dime of Measure A funds will stay right here in Merced County"

Fact: The Major funder behind Measure A is the California Alliance for Jobs, a consortium of statewide highway construction contractors and unions. We can be sure this additional sales tax will go here, there, and everywhere, including Sacramento.

Measure A Claim: "The state and federal governments cannot take one dime of Measure A funds"

Fact: Measure A is a matching fund gimmick to attract more than a billion dollars in state and federal highway funds that may arrive and be spent as state and federal government agencies decide. Your potholes are not on their lists. This is a make work scheme for statewide contractors and out- of- town union members.

Measure A Claim: "We're not betting the farm"

Fact: Measure A is certainly betting Merced County farms will be absorbed by urban growth. Even the Measure A “farm picture” appears to be out-of-state. Minnesota, perhaps?

Fact: Fresno County has had a transportation sales tax in place since 1986. Since that time, entire farming districts in Fresno County have been swallowed by urban sprawl. Fresno citizens are paying for development that does not pay for itself.

Fact: Measure A will induce Fresno-level sprawl, Fresno-level air pollution, Fresno-level asthma and Fresno-level political corruption investigations.

Fact: But even Fresno subjected its reauthorized transportation tax plan to public environmental review. Merced leadership wants you to pay the Measure A tax before they begin any public environmental review of the consequences of the sprawl these funds will induce.

Measure A Claim: "Projects include: Ensuring safer routes to school for local children"

Fact: The highest priority project Merced County leaders have is the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced, connected to Highway 99 south of Merced and north of Atwater. There are less than a thousand UC Merced students and they come from all parts of California.

Measure A Claim: “using developer impact fees to supplement Measure A funds so that new growth pays its share of transportation costs”

Fact: Special interests want you to tax yourselves so they won’t have to pay for their impacts on your county. These special interests include: public developers like UC Merced and CalTrans; local, national and international homebuilders; highway construction companies and their unions; the statewide and international aggregate companies mining your rivers and creeks; your elected public officials and their staffs; and the local media.

Measure A Claim: "Citizen oversight: An independent taxpayer watchdog committee and annual third-party audits will ensure that Measure A funds are spent wisely"

Fact: Presently Merced County oversight is by ‘special interest’ only: This conversation between Ranchwood Homes owner and county supervisor Crookham shows how economic development really works in Merced.

Feb. 3, 2006: Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ..."

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.

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,

Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,

Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,

Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,

Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.

Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.

San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,

The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,

San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2

Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.

Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!

What You Can Do:

Vote No on Measure A Tax
Demand to participate in General Plans and community plan update process
Support public statements advocating slow growth or no growth until General Plans and Community Plans are legally compliant.

Paid for by the Committee Against Measure A Tax
-----------------------------------------------

7-25-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A may make return trip to ballot...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498850p-13214958c.html
Despite a poll conducted this month that says the half-cent sales tax that failed in June will do even worse if it is put up for a vote later this year, Merced County officials decided last week to place it on the November ballot. They say the measure, which would raise $446 million over 30 years to fix roads, will get the required two-thirds vote this time because more people will show up to the polls in November than in June. Measure A's failure...stunned many of its supporters. A much more attractive November ballot includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters. MCAG board members, which includes all five county supervisors and an elected official from each of the six cities in the county, say the county has a one-shot chance at taking advantage of $1 billion that will be set aside for "self-help" counties if voters approve the state bond measures on the November ballot.Sacramento-based Jim Moore Methods...polled 400 county residents earlier this month about the possibility of a November sales tax, concluded that the measure would get only 58 to 66 percent of the vote. "I would not recommend going forward with Measure A again this November," Jim Moore wrote in a letter to Brown. "The survey clearly shows that a November 2008 election date would provide Measure A with the next best chance for passage." If voters reject the measure again in November, it would be the third time a transportation sales tax would fail in Merced County in the last four years.
New measure:
• $10 million for Phase One of the Campus Parkway
• $85 million to widen Highway 99 to six lanes throughout the county
• $10 million for the Highway 152 bypass in Los Banos
• $8 million to widen Highway 59 from 16th Street to Black Rascal Creek
• $8 million to replace the Highway 140 Bradley overhead
• $6 million for Dos Palos street reconstruction

Wal-Mart project opinions sought...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498854p-13214978c.html
Concerned about what 450 trucks driving in and out of the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center every day would do to Merced's air quality. The city wants to hear from you Thursday... planners will host two public meetings. The answers will be ready in January 2007, when consulting group EDAW, Inc. is slated to finish the environmental impact report. The City Council approved EDAW's $344,655 consulting contract in May; Wal-Mart will pay for the entire project. Wal-Mart meeting...WHAT: Two public meetings about what should be studied in the environmental impact report for the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center. WHEN: 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday WHO: The afternoon meeting is for state and local government agencies and the public. The evening meeting is for the public. WHERE: City Council chambers, 678 W. 18th St.>/b>

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

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.
---------------------

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...
-------------------------

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."
------------------

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.

| »

Sierra snowpack problem

Submitted: Jul 12, 2006

Viewing Al “the former next president” Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” at the State Theater in Modesto the other night reminded me of the political disaster of the last six years and taught me that the velocity of climate change is faster than I had imagined. The installation of the Bush regime by the US Supreme Court in 2001 inaugurated a period of pure destruction in the US, a rampage of injustice, imperialism and greed, an orgy of lawless aggression by the wealthy against the rest of us few if any living Americans have ever seen. One casualty of the war of the Bush regime against the world was any concern for the environment. Fortunately, there were a number of wise laws in place and although they have been attacked and weakened greatly, and although enforcement of them has been savaged by this regime, most of them are still in place.

One has to wonder how this purely destructive policy over the last six years has contributed to the increased velocity of global warming, in view of the fact that the US is the world’s top producer of greenhouse gases. Perhaps if Gore had been chosen by the high court instead of Bush, we might be watching a decline in greenhouse gases; perhaps the US would be trying to do its duty, trying to be responsible, trying to help, instead of merely destroying everything on behalf of a plutocracy in favor of the government.

When we come to the problem of the decrease in the Sierra snowpack, however, we must consider that the closest contributor to the conditions causing it is the Central Valley between Sacramento and Fresno. Rampant, uncontrolled, irresponsible growth in this region has roofed over and paved over hundreds of thousands of acres of farm and ranch land that absorbed heat rather than radiating it. Yet, despite the research, all the state seems to be able to conclude from it is that our water supply will change – there will be less water stored for shorter periods as snow and more flooding from rain. Practically speaking, all this means in the near term is that the Great California Water War will continue and become more fierce because, clearly, we are all victims of each other and, of course, the fish or the laws that protect them.

We will think and say absolutely anything to avoid responsibility for our profound and growing contribution to melting the snowpack that provides most of our water. There is no malefactor too bogus to attract the enmity of our leaders, whose fingers are resolutely pointed outward. This is because the Central Valley, particularly the San Joaquin Valley, has clawed its way up from being a large, wet horse pasture to the verge of becoming the next San Fernando Valley, almost entirely as a result of the willingness of government to make the investment in irrigation systems that converted the Valley into an agricultural marvel. People in Bangor, ME, Mobile AL, Chicago, Beaumont TX, Helena MT, Las Truchas NM – people from all over the US contributed taxes to create the federal water projects that got the Valley past the horse-pasture stage. As they contributed to the construction of the railroad before the water.

As a result of this government largesse, our leaders believe that everything is nothing but another deal. But if Gore and the abundant responsible science behind him are correct, global warming cannot be solved by another political deal. Even the perpetually gullible, generous federal government cannot bail us out of this one.

The irresponsibility of the lastest speculative building boom, induced locally by the arrival of UC Merced, is reduced by the local McClatchy chain outlet to a story of how a DA and a sheriff ripped off a prisoner in a land deal. While it is evidence of the general stupidity, venality and political corruption occurring during any huge speculation, and “personalizes” the story, it diverts our attention from the problem. The public did not protect itself from its politicians. The public did not stand up for its own interests against the small, powerful cabal of businessmen, landowners, investors, politicians and their obedient propagandists. The public did not stand up against the awesome, amoral authority of the University of California and its edifice complex. The public in this region, contributing so much greenhouse gas to the Sierra, no longer seems capable of critical thought, can be bullied by two-bit frauds in office, accepts the lies of the local media at face value, is effortlessly intimidated by any authority, and is losing power economically, socially and politically the larger its population grows because no population anywhere near this size was ever intended to live in this place and support itself.

The only real question in the minds of our leaders today is how can the federal and state government fix the Sierra snowpack problem. They will rally prominent citizens and go to Washington and Sacramento and make their Big Whine again. It’s their one tune and it is getting more ridiculous by the year. Our leaders want clean air, more clean water, a healthy environment and, most of all, more growth. Now that we have the UC among us, ghoulishly planning medical research into lung disease with such a growing population of subjects, we are told that through the magic of UC marvelous technological inventions, it will all soon be OK again, we can become the new San Fernando Valley with a wonderful environment.

Our leaders have created a perfect set of mirrors to conceal reality and to admire themselves.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------------------------
Notes:

Sacramento Bee
Climate report sees a thirsty future...Matt Weiser
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/v-print/story/14276733p-15086051c.html
As global warming continues and California's mountain snowpack decreases, the state can expect to see a drastic drop in its drinking and farm water supplies, as well as more frequent winter flooding...findings in a report released Monday by the state Department of Water Resources...338-page study, offers the most detailed look yet at how climate change could affect California water supplies. Average deliveries to cities and farms from state and federal water systems could shrink by more than 10 percent, according to the report. Called "Progress on Incorporating Climate Change into Management of California's Water Resources," the report employs two climate-change models and two emissions scenarios, one involving rapid growth and the other presenting a slower, more sustainable growth pattern. The results were not ready to be included in the California Water Plan Update, a report released last year that helps plan the state's growth. But Kelly said it offers a vital message for local governments.

Merced Sun-Star
Spencer purchased land from jailed man...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12425122p-13147572c.html
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney's Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer's potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was "absolutely impermissible" by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. "There was a conflict of interest. " Dougherty, the county's presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd's attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd's land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county's biggest developers to buy the land.

Modesto Bee
Valley's environmental problems don't get fair hearing...Brad Baker
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12409164p-13133834c.html
Are you ready for the equivalent of 10 new Fresnos? That's how many new people are expected in the San Joaquin Valley by 2040, according to experts from the Great Valley Center.... it's time to update the old cliché, "Growth is inevitable." Here are the replacements: Soul-sucking monstrous growth is inevitable. Don't like that one? How about: Cookie-cutter developments covering the most productive farmland in the history of the world are inevitable. Or maybe: Growth that is extremely unhealthy for children and other living things is inevitable. Which is your favorite? I moseyed down to Fresno last week for the Blueprint Summit. I hope for a fair presentation of the environmental perspective; I'm always disappointed. A token environmentalist often is included in the program...the "environmentalist" was a river runner from ElDorado County. His remarks avoided the most pressing environmental issues of the valley: air quality, sprawl, farmland preservation and the influence of the building industry on local politics. Sprawlocrats rule. In local elections, our only choices are the candidates who seem least likely to receive text-message instructions from the building industry during public meetings.

Los Angeles Times
Repeat of tragedy feared in San Joaquin Drainage Plan. Proposal for tainted San Joaquin drainage raises concerns about causing a new ecological disaster....Bettina Boxall
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-kesterson8jul08,1,3140367,print.story
LOS BANOS, Calif. — More than two decades after toxic farm drainage emptying into a small wildlife refuge stilled the chatter of migrating waterfowl with death and deformity, the federal government is on the verge of deciding what to do with vast amounts of tainted irrigation water still produced by San Joaquin Valley croplands. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is under court order to do something about the drainage problem. But its proposed solutions — which involve treating the tainted water and taking a huge chunk of farmland out of production — have raised alarms that they could wreak more environmental havoc while costing federal taxpayers a potentially enormous sum. Now, the Bureau of Reclamation's proposal to create at least 1,270 acres of evaporation ponds as part of the drainage treatment has again raised the specter of Kesterson. A final decision is expected this summer.

Stockton Record
Delta salt battle intensifies...Warren Lutz
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060709/NEWS01/607090319/1001
STOCKTON - The fight over salt in the Delta appears headed to court. Several groups, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, have filed lawsuits against state water officials over new salt standards. And the Department of Water Resources, the other main supplier of drinking water to 23 million Californians, is considering the same. They are not the first legal actions involving Delta salt levels, which plague local farmers with lower crop yields. But they are the first since the state Water Resources Control Board ordered water exporters to meet a new salt standard or risk losing permits that allow them to control the bulk of the state's water. Agencies that buy Delta water also are suing the water board. One of them, the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, claims the water exporters are not the only ones responsible for high salt in the Delta. Several lawsuits were filed against the state Water Resources Control Board on June 15 in Sacramento County Superior Court. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also has filed a federal lawsuit, a water board spokeswoman said.

Modesto Bee
We're ready for next step to improve valley air...Seyed Saredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12432034p-13154335c.html
The San Joaquin Valley's severe air-quality problems present an opportunity for the valley to shine. Success will require bold, innovative actions by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District; the public's willingness to make air-friendly behavioral changes; better land-use decisions and design for communities that will minimize vehicle travel; and continued investment by valley businesses in technology and pollution control...we will need the state and federal governments to do their share through funding and regulatory assistance to reduce emissions from cars, trucks and locomotives. Ours was the first region in the nation to take steps to regulate emissions from on-field agricultural operations and dairies; to require mitigation from new commercial, residential and industrial developments; and to control emissions from large wineries. The San Joaquin Valley air district was the first in the state voluntarily to expand Smog Check II, a model now used to check Bay Area vehicles for emissions compliance. We have successfully implemented some of the toughest air regulations in the nation, while offering businesses reasonable operational flexibility. Over the next year, the district will formulate a plan to meet new standards. We will hold town hall meetings... The first meetings are July26 in Bakersfield and Delano, July27 in Fresno and Huron, and July28 in Modesto and Stockton. Please visit www.valleyair.org for more information.

There's plenty of water -- we just need to manage it intelligently...Dan Walters
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/state/walters/story/14277088p-15086272c.html
All Californians should know that their water doesn't come from a faucet, but is collected, stored and distributed through monumental arrays of dams, reservoirs, canals and pipelines that supplement nature's own impressive water systems. It's an imperfect system, to be certain, but it has worked admirably... California must expand and refine its waterworks. To do nothing in the face of that change is to move backward. The governor's warning about potential flood peril was underscored by the 338-page Department of Water Resources report on potential effects of global warming... DWR also noted that as the weather warms, California may receive more of its water in the form of rain and less in the form of snow, which could heighten winter flood dangers and reduce the natural reservoirs of mountain snowpacks. In truth, California has lots of water, more than enough to satisfy all reasonable demands for human and natural uses, if it's managed intelligently and with users paying its full, unsubsidized costs. We do not need to radically change our lifestyles or adopt doomsday scenarios. Even if the effects of global warming seen in the DWR report come true, stronger winter flows can be converted into better summer supplies, if we do what's needed and stop circular debates that serve other ideological agendas.

Sacramento Bee
Water's coming battle...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14277040p-15086253c.html
A new report warning of global warming's effect on California highlights the different approaches for solving the problem of a shrinking water supply. When it comes to calibrating water supply and demand, two opposing political philosophies rule. There is the concrete crowd that wants to increase supply. And there is a conservation crowd that seeks to lower the demand. The singular political fixation on reservoirs as good or evil creates a set of false choices. On the supply side, there is groundwater storage or better groundwater management... The right mix of solutions depends on the specific circumstances and terrain. The wrong solution is to think concrete or conservation alone can solve all our problems.

Stockton Record
Smelt still at record lows...Warren Lutz
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060712/NEWS01/607120330/1001
STOCKTON - The Delta smelt are hanging on, but just barely. The endangered fish that are used to gauge the overall condition of the Delta remain at record lows, according to the latest survey. Meanwhile, scientists studying the decline are being asked increasingly how to reverse the trend. Last week, the federal government said it would re-examine the effects of pumping Delta water, but there has been no formal discussion about changing the way the pumps are run, said Louis Moore, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman. The California Department of Water Resources, the other agency responsible for exporting Delta water, will draft a Delta smelt action plan by October. Johns agreed scientists are under pressure for answers, not just data.

Los Angeles Times
Schwarzenegger acts to guard State Wilderness. The governor will ask federal officials to ban new roads for mining and other development in 4.4 million acres of national forest...Robert Salladay
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-roads12jul12,0,7373545,print.story?coll=la-home-local
SACRAMENTO — Ending one of his remaining fights with environmentalists, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will ask the federal government today to protect 4.4 million acres of national forests from any new roads for timber, oil or gas exploration or other development. If approved, the Schwarzenegger plan would allay environmentalists' fears that national forest land in California would be opened to development, endangering fish and wildlife. The governor's request was in response to a controversial Bush administration rule that opened millions of "roadless" areas nationwide.
Seabird slaughter in a 'Safe' Harbor. Could the deaths of thousands of terns in Long Beach have been prevented?...Kimball L. Garrett and Kathy C. Molina
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-garrett12jul12,0,5232993,print.story?coll=la-home-commentary
IT SHOULD SURPRISE no one that the coast of Southern California is a difficult place for wildlife to make a living. Tens of millions of people, busy ports, toxic urban and agricultural runoff, overexploitation of marine resources and the relentless destruction of rivers and estuaries make it astonishing and somehow reassuringly life-affirming that thousands of terns - slim seabirds related to gulls - manage to nest along our shores. But the events of last week - when the bodies of several hundred young Caspian and elegant terns were found littering the Long Beach Harbor shore, and the nesting efforts of perhaps 2,000 adult terns on two barges in the port were carelessly erased - underscore the clumsiness of our wildlife-protection efforts and the tenuous threads that sustain our remaining natural heritage. "Terngate" also points to a fundamental problem: Our management of wildlife is disproportionately centered on the protection of the few species that have met the proper political tests to earn and keep an "endangered" or "threatened" designation. The only tern colony site in Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor that has received protective management is for the California least tern, listed by the state and federal agencies as endangered. That's insufficient when species such as the Caspian and elegant terns are kept on the run.

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Just one more day in Corruptionville

Submitted: Jul 10, 2006

The land speculation that has set in on Merced County has turned men into pigs. It seems that one of the parallel phenomena to real estate speculation in the county was a renewed focus on "leadership." Suddenly, everybody was talking about "leadership." "Leadership" got as popular as huge, oversized, flipping real estate investment, stacking water allotments on the west side, and gutting the federal Endangered Species Act.

Lord save us from "leadership" like this.

Bill Hatch
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Spencer purchased land from jailed man...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12425122p-13147572c.html
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney's Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer's potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was "absolutely impermissible" by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. "There was a conflict of interest. " Dougherty, the county's presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd's attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd's land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county's biggest developers to buy the land.

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Who does the Pomboza think it is, anyway?

Submitted: Jul 05, 2006

Given the money at stake, it's highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. FEMA had planned to release the maps in October, weeks before the November election. -- Sacramento Bee editorial, July 2, 2006
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That Pomboza is up and galloping through the countryside again, all four legs working together as it tries to stomp those new FEMA flood maps somewhere far beyond the sunshine of timely public review. But as the ugly beast runs along the levees of the Delta, note well the rigging that control its coordinated movements. You are watching political corruption in action right before your very eyes, selling out public health and safety to developers.

The Pomboza's mumbled protests of innocence are unintelligible absurdities. All that happened here was that the Pomboza got caught. All we hear is the sound of wind whistling through the rigging, the clop-clop-clop of the Pomboza's hoofs upon the levee road, and the plop-plop-plop of one more sell-out of the public to special interests.

Who does the Pomboza think it is, anyway? The public better pay attention to this beast because it means no good to anyone but itself, it has expensive tastes, and it does not believe the public has a sense of smell.

Bill Hatch
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7-3-06
Sacramento Bee
Reality bites...Editorial...7-2-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14273956p-15083900c.html
Delaying release of FEMA maps would help politicians, not communities at risk. Egged on by developers and local politicians seeking re-election, several Central Valley congressmen are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the release of updated maps that will provide homeowners and businesses a more accurate picture of flood risks. FEMA should resist this pressure. The government hasn't updated most of these maps for 20 years, despite several damaging -- and revealing -- floods during that period. The problem is that new maps frighten local officials... Given the money at stake, it's highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. As Cardoza notes, these FEMA maps are preliminary. The reason for releasing them is so communities can review them, debate them and understand how they might affect insurance and land-use plans before any final versions are approved. FEMA recently bowed to pressure in remapping flood plains in New Orleans, putting thousands at risk. It shouldn't do the same here -- especially not for a handful of politicians who would rather enhance their re-election chances than face the realities of floods.
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Tracy Press
Delaying the inevitable?...Phil Hayworth
http://www.tracypress.com/local/2006-07-03-Delay.php
Many people living along California's 1,600-mile levee system are living in a flood plain, but government maps often don't designate the area as such...new federal flood insurance maps coming out in October could put many more businesses and homes in the designated flood plain, forcing cities to spend millions on repairing local levees and homeowners to spend roughly $1,200 a year on mandatory flood insurance. A group of California lawmakers led by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is hoping to stall the release of the new maps - some think at least until the November election. "This information is critical and must be calculated correctly," Pombo said...along with 17 other California congressional representatives... Jeffrey Mount, a U.C. Davis geology professor and former state reclamation board member..."Don't you want to let the people who live behind the levees know what the level of risk is?" Mount and others think the lawmakers are trying to stall the release of the maps because they will bring more -- perhaps many more -- areas into the flood plain that weren't in it on the old maps. That scenario will certainly cost people and the building industry -- and possibly cost the lawmakers at the polls in November. Mount figures new development will get the lion's share because that's where the money is.

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