Assembly candidate given $2,900 after Wal-Mart OK...John Ellis
A development company seeking to build a controversial Wal-Mart Supercenter in Clovis donated $2,900 to Bob Whalen's state Assembly campaign the day after he cast a key City Council vote on the project.
Whalen was the only Clovis City Council member to receive a donation immediately after the vote from Paynter Realty & Investment, the Orange County-based firm developing the project. Paynter has made campaign donations in the past to other members of the council, including opponents of the project.
Political scientists and campaign finance experts were stunned at the timing.
"The appearance of it is just striking," said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles and former general counsel for the state Fair Political Practices Commission. "It looks like: 'You voted our way and here's our money.' "
Jeffrey Cummins, a political science professor at California State University, Fresno, agreed.
"The appearance is pretty bad and they should have done something more to disguise it," he said, "but this goes on all the time."
Even Whalen acknowledged "the timing of this one is not particularly good."
But he said the donation had nothing to do with his vote. Whalen said he has consistently supported Paynter's project and was a solid "yes" vote on June 29.
Whalen said David Paynter, president and chief executive officer of Paynter Realty & Investment, had "wanted to make a contribution to the campaign for quite a while." He added that it is "not uncommon in politics that we get contributions from folks who are in front of the council."
Whalen said he could have asked Paynter to wait and make the donation after June 30, which would have put it into the next reporting period. But that would have been dishonest, he said.
Paynter said he knows Whalen personally and has backed his campaigns for years.
"I'm supportive of good people in government and I think Bob's a quality guy," Paynter said.
Paynter Realty & Investment has projects throughout the central San Joaquin Valley, and has given campaign donations to many local office seekers. They include the campaigns of Fresno County supervisors, Fresno City Council members and all five members of the Clovis City Council.
Clovis Council Member Nathan Magsig has received the most from Paynter Realty, around $23,000 since 2004, much of it for his unsuccessful run for county supervisor. In that same period, Whalen has received a little less than $7,000.
The Clovis project has been controversial since plans were announced in early 2003. Even before Wal-Mart was named as a tenant, a lawsuit was filed that alleged Clovis violated state environmental law by approving the shopping center.
On June 29, Whalen joined a 3-2 Clovis City Council majority to approve certification of an environmental document for the 490,000-square-foot project, which has been delayed for years by court battles.
The following day, Paynter Realty & Investment donated to Whalen's Assembly campaign, according to his most recent campaign finance statement.
First elected to the council in 2003, Whalen is in the midst of his second term. Next year, he will seek the 29th Assembly seat being vacated by termed-out Republican Mike Villines.
Whalen said he was on a fundraising drive so his campaign finance report would show solid numbers on June 30 -- the end of the reporting period. Whalen's report showed $31,800 raised in the first six months of 2009, with $33,435 in the bank and more than $13,600 in unpaid bills, mostly owed to Republican fundraiser Wendy Warfield.
Madera resident Don McKinney, who is Whalen's main opponent so far for the Republican nomination, has more than $137,000 in his campaign war chest, though $99,000 is a loan McKinney made to himself.
Sacramento's top water users...Amy Pyle...8-7-09
The biggest local water users in 2008 and their increase.
Rank by total water use Name Annual Consumption (Gal) Change 06-08
1 Sacramento Power Authority Power Plant 311,614,825 -2.41%
2 Sacramento Power Authority Power Plant 293,874,988 -3.16%
3 UC Davis Medical Center 152,657,226 14.38%
4 Sacramento County Jail 125,090,284 10.41%
5 City of Sacramento Land Park 110,756,360 19.93%
6 City of Sacramento Tahoe Park 99,905,124 4.38%
7 Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District plant 92,775,936 56.51%
8 Dr Pepper Snapple Group plant 92,004,000 54.75%
9 California State University Sacramento 83,820,132 N/A
10 HP Hood LLC 73,112,512 N/A
11 Mercy General Hospital 61,986,012 3.93%
12 California Emergency Food Link 60,715,908 13.8%
13 Proctor & Gamble Manufacturing Co. 60,563,316 -13.05%
14 City of Sacramento South Natomas Community Park 57,496,666 N/A
15 Sacramento Coca Cola Bottling Co. 55,500,104 15.79%
16 Alhambra Water plant 51,211,072 26.02%
17 Alsco linen plant 41,557,384 33.16%
18 Sacramento Manor senior apartments 39,665,991 23.33%
19 Southgate Mobile Home Park 39,335,315 -53.88%
20 Luther Burbank High School 38,619,240 31.22%
21 Air Products & Chemicals 36,984,112 13.13%
22 Silverado Family Apartments 36,433,734 N/A
23 The Natoma Co. 34,309,862 0.82%
24 Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center 34,264,384 -7.75%
25 Red Lion Motor Inn 33,919,556 15.26%
26 State Capitol 32,594,848 -11.19%
27 Village Green Mobile Manor 32,234,753 2.2%
28 Sutter Memorial Hospital 32,030,108 8.7%
29 Brookemeadow Community 31,517,728 7.56%
30 Inderkum High School 31,018,064 3.73%
31 Gold State Services 30,439,112 -41.15%
32 Radisson Hotel Sacramento 30,157,864 -27.23%
33 Los Rios Junior College 30,013,276 0.54%
34 Almond Growers Exchange 29,604,344 35.31%
35 Elder Creek Transfer/Recovery Inc. 29,280,684 103.3%
36 Confernce Claim End Board 28,960,294 -3.42%
37 City of Sacramento Curtis Park 28,795,008 23.71%
38 John Stewart Co. 27,678,992 11.66%
39 Campus Commons Golf Course 27,468,056 N/A
40 City of Sacramento City Cemetary 26,924,260 75.52%
41 Bouwfonds Tuscaro LP 26,608,604 N/A
42 City of Sacramento North Natomas Community Park 26,518,096 N/A
43 Sacramento Housing Redevelopment Agency Marina Vista senior housing 26,314,640 22.76%
44 USAA Realty Co. 26,031,896 4.68%
45 Sutter General Hospital 25,860,604 -18.24%
46 Valley High School 25,616,756 16.34%
47 Soutwind Mobile Estates 24,636,876 -13.56%
48 GTE Regional Data Center 24,607,704 4.68%
49 City of Sacramento Natomas Park 24,012,296 11.4%
Building an S.J. for the future
County looking ahead to a blueprint for 2030...Zachary K. Johnson
STOCKTON - From the growth of cities to the challenges of job creation to the struggle against high unemployment, the issues facing San Joaquin County today are expected to be the same issues facing the county tomorrow.
To plan for that future, the county is updating its General Plan and creating a blueprint for 2030.
A recently released draft report contains hundreds of pages that will form a basis for a road map. A second, smaller draft report boils things down to an "issues and opportunities" document.
Much research and discussion is ahead before either report becomes policy.
"This is kind of the cream that's rising to the top," said Ted Holzem, project manager for Mintier Harnish, the consulting firm hired by the county to help update the General Plan.
The aptly named Issues and Opportunity Report incorporates staff research and the views displayed during a series of focus group meetings covering such topics as agriculture, transportation, land use and public safety.
A series of public meetings that begin this week will launch the county's "issues and opportunities" dialogue.
Cities have their own general plans, but municipal issues often overlap with the county. The two reports include areas of interest that cross agency boundaries.
Having this information helps plan policy and look at alternatives, said Kerry Sullivan, director of the county Community Development Department. "This helps identify what the issues are in the community." Here's a sampling of the conversation ahead:
People and jobs
* The countywide population is expected to grow from about 685,000 to about 1.3 million by 2030. Most of that growth will occur in cities, so only 67,000 of the new residents are expected to live in unincorporated areas.
* The population will get older. The percentage of county's total population over the age of 60 is expected to rise from 13 percent to 18 percent. Older residents generally have more health problems and demand different services and amenities.
* The county faces significant challenges in retaining a skilled workforce. San Joaquin County has a lower percentage of college graduates than the state average and more educated residents leave the county than move into it.
* Compared to the rest of the state, local wages are lower and the unemployment rate is higher.
* The Stockton-San Joaquin Enterprise Zone needs to provide incentives for bringing more companies to the area.
* Stockton Metropolitan Airport, the Port of Stockton, agriculture and technical manufacturing are existing assets that could expand.
* Agri-tourism and so-called "green jobs" connected to renewable energy technology could provide opportunities for economic expansion.
* How and where growth occurs is a major issue in the county.
* Since 1992, the number of acres in cities has grown from 28,000 to 90,000 - or roughly 10 percent of the county's total acreage of 922,000. An additional 56,000 acres of land are inside municipal spheres of influence.
* Demand for rural homes can lead to diminished flexibility and profitability for farmers.
* Conflicts arising from new residential growth near Stockton Metro could impede the role it plays contributing to economic expansion.
* Careful strategies can ensure open space buffers are maintained between urban areas.
* Opportunities exist for non-residential development in Mountain House, Patterson Pass, at reclaimed mining sites near Tracy and areas around freeway interchanges.
* As growth brings homes in closer contact with farms, conflicts between farmers and their new neighbors over dust, noise, odors and chemical use are likely to increase.
* Farmland preservation opportunities exist, including Williamson Act contracts and city mitigation ordinances.
Environment and natural resources
* Future planning must adhere to strict mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
* Agricultural lands could be used to sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
* Water supplies will continue to decrease as demand increases.
* The reliability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is increasingly threatened by its deteriorating ecosystem, drought and levee stability.
* Groundwater levels are decreasing and the water has become saltier. Efforts to "recharge" groundwater basins can be effective.
* Agricultural use and urban development pose threats to native plants and animals.
* Protection of mineral-rich areas can ensure resources available for future extraction.
* The county provides 4.3 acres of regional parkland per 1,000 residents.
* Public access to waterways is limited and public facilities inadequate to meet demand.
* The need for more efficient and expanded public transit is expected to increase.
* Bikeways lack continuity, resulting in a fragmented and inconvenient system.
* Rural traffic congestion has increased and is expected to worsen.
* Foster care, public health, libraries, law enforcement, courts, jails, elections and other county functions depend on dwindling sources of funding.
* Water, wastewater, drainage and other public infrastructure systems in unincorporated county lack funding to meet existing and future demands.
* Flood control infrastructure, including levees, require improvements to protect residents from heightened flood risk.
* Law-enforcement response time is a concern.
* Air quality in the county is among the worst in the state.
* Violent crime increased in the county by 32.3 percent from 2000 to 2006, at a time when the rate of violent crime decreased statewide.
San Francisco Chronicle
A river protection...Editorial
What we said:"California's rivers are diverted, drained and dammed. They're also sullied by a form of mining, a little-controlled practice known as suction dredging that scours river bottoms with vacuum pumps in search of gold. On Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk is a measure that would halt the activity while the state studies the effects on fish and water quality." - Editorial, July 17, 2009
What happened:Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill, SB670 by Sen. Patricia Wiggins, Öa Santa Rosa Democrat, Öinto law.
What's next:It places an immediate moratorium on the dredging - done with small motorized floats along North Coast and Sierra foothill rivers. The state Fish and Game Department will study the impacts of the mining, which can stir up buried toxics such as mercury and create muddy clouds that smoother fish spawning beds.
What you can do:E-mail your feedback to Schwarzenegger at email@example.com.
Water crisis getting national coverage Tuesday...Hanford Sentinel...8-8-09
The plight of Westside farmers will get national network television time on Fox News in the coming week.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sean Hannity is expected to do a live interview with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, comedian Paul Rodriguez and possibly some local growers in an abandoned almond orchard near Huron.
Hannity will remain in Fox’s New York studios and will conduct the interview by satellite. The segment will air live on Fox News on the Sean Hannity Show beginning at 6 p.m., according to Sarah Woolf, spokeswoman for Westlands Water District.#
Los Angeles Times
Army again asks to relocate tortoises...Julie Cart, Greenspace
As it prepares to expand training operations at Ft. Irwin in the Mojave Desert, the Army is proposing to move more than 1,100 threatened California desert tortoises -- an unprecedented number of an endangered species that has not fared well during previous relocation efforts.
The Army is seeking the approval of the federal Bureau of Land Management to move the tortoises from nearly 100,000 acres in portions of the National Training Center to lands managed by the bureau. The environmental assessment is being reviewed by the bureau, and the proposed action is open for a 15-day public comment period.
The Army began relocating more than 600 of the animals last year but suspended the $8.7-million program after the first phase when officials noted high mortality rates among the tortoises, chiefly because of coyotes.
About 90 animals were found dead from suspected coyote predation. But Clarence Everly, natural and cultural resources manager at Ft. Irwin, said only one animal died during the relocation.
The sheer number of tortoises to be moved in proposed operation alarms conservationists.
"Nothing's ever been done on this scale before," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity who says 252 tortoises have died in the translocation area. "Every time the animals recognize that they don't know where they are, they have some built-in mechanism that tells them to head for home."
After the last move, some tortoises traveled up to five or six miles to get back to their home range, Anderson said.
New York Times
Obama's EPA Plans Fewer Toxic Cleanups...THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For years, the Bush administration was criticized for not cleaning up enough of the nation's most contaminated waste sites. The Obama administration plans to do even less.
Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers railed against President George W. Bush's cleanup record. But this time, they're shying away from speaking out against a popular president who's considered an ally in the fight to clean up the environment.
In Obama's first two years in office, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to begin the final phase of cleanup at fewer Superfund sites than in any administration since 1991, according to budget documents and agency records. The EPA estimates it will finish construction to remove the last traces of pollution at 20 sites in 2009 and 22 sites in 2010.
During the eight years of the Bush administration, the agency finished construction at 38 sites on average a year.
''Certainly, we are very disappointed that we can't get our ... numbers up,'' said Elizabeth Southerland, the acting deputy of the EPA's hazardous waste cleanup program, known as Superfund.
The explanation by the Obama team is the same one put forward time and time again by Bush officials: The sites on the list have become increasingly complicated, contaminated and costly. That means it takes years for sites to reach the final cleanup stage, and as a result fewer are getting there.
Of the 527 contaminated properties still needing cleanup on the Superfund list, 40 have progressed to the point where all that's left is removing the last piles of contaminated soil, building a treatment plant to strip the groundwater of toxic pollutants, or capping a landfill so contamination does not enter the drinking water or air in surrounding neighborhoods.
At the other 1,060 hazardous waste sites still on the list, construction is finished and the last stages of the cleanup are under way -- a process begun before Obama took office.
When EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson explained this trend to a Senate committee this year, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., replied: ''That's the same answer the Bush administration gave us and I don't buy it.''
Later, in an interview with The Associated Press, Boxer elaborated. ''It doesn't matter to me who the president is. What matters to me is these sites get cleaned up,'' she said.
But not everyone is so critical of Obama's Superfund numbers.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and some Democratic lawmakers who highlighted how little the Bush administration did on hazardous waste cleanups are now silent. They say it's because Obama, unlike Bush, wants to address the problem that has plagued Superfund for years -- a lack of money.
A tax on petroleum, chemicals and large companies once helped EPA pay for the multimillion dollar cleanups. It expired in 1995 and Superfund has been on financial life support since.
The pool of money ran dry in 2004, when Superfund cleanups that did not have a company to foot the bill ceased to be subsidized by the tax on polluters and started being paid by taxpayers.
Obama, unlike Bush, has called for the reinstatement of the tax in 2011. That will require action by Congress. It will also be up to Congress to set aside more money for cleanups if the tax is reinstated. In the past, when Superfund was flush in cash from the tax, Congress did not always provide more money for cleanups.
The Bush administration ''didn't make an investment. They weren't willing to increase the tax and they weren't willing to shift general funds. They were just willing to limp along,'' said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who is sponsoring legislation to restore the tax.
''This administration is not willing to limp along. That's a profound difference,'' he said.
Supporters also point out that the Obama administration has asked for slightly more money in its budget for Superfund -- $1.31 billion compared with the $1.29 billion in Bush's last year. There's also an extra $600 million from the economic stimulus plan for cleanups at 50 sites across the country.
But neither has helped boost the number of sites ready for the final stage of cleanup, although they could down the road.
Since October, the EPA has installed the equipment necessary to complete cleanups at five sites in New York, Kansas, Missouri and New Jersey. At one of those sites, a former metal-plating facility in Franklin, N.J., it will take 30 more years for the treatment plant installed in June to remove the heavy metals and organic compounds in the water beneath the property so that it meets water quality standards.
The site was one of the first to be placed on the Superfund list in 1983.
Forty other sites in 19 states are ready for their last construction project, according to the EPA. While the Obama administration is working to address all of them this year or next, it can't guarantee it.
Cleanups come with surprises. Workers can discover contamination they didn't know existed, leading to a new series of delays.
Southerland, the Superfund manager, says that has happened more often in recent years as money has been more targeted on the cleanup, rather than studies to map out the contamination.
''The problems are the same,'' said Katherine Probst, an expert on Superfund at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Resources for the Future. ''The point is they need more money, whether it is under Bush or Obama.''
In the meantime, EPA officials say they are looking to find a new way to measure Superfund progress.
On the Net: EPA Superfund: www.epa.gov/superfund