Badlands Journal
Sauve qui peut...Badlands Journal editorial board
A very fancy corporate consulting firm announced recently that Merced would lead the way out of recession in the north San Joaquin Valley because of UC Merced. As intrepid Modesto Bee business reporter J.N. Sbranti noted, the fancy new economic model unveiled by the consultants from outer space failed to include the foreclosure rate. This blip failed to live up to the big shot firm’s slogan: “Bringing you the power of perspective.”
There is another problem hovering beyond the dreams of developers, for whom UC Merced is the anchor tenant. Merced is the second largest milk-producing county in the nation. Stanislaus is ranked third. Milk prices have been in drastic decline for six months. The anecdotal figures one hears range from losses of $30,000 to $100,000 per dairy per month, depending on size. There is a report that feed suppliers cut off feed for 60 dairies in recent weeks.
Unlike most of the nation, California -- ranked #1 in milk production, producing about a third of the total national supply -- has its own milk marketing order and sets its own prices. Three components of the California milk-price formula are related to the same indices used by the feds: the prices of block cheddar, bulk butter and non-fat dry milk on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The fourth and highest-value component to the price is the fluid milk pool.
What has been the response to the bleeding? After McClatchy editorialists opined the best solution was to open the entire industry to the “free market,” Modesto-based dairy trade association Western United Dairymen expressed their utmost faith and trust in the character of local dairymen to continue to produce without asking for any kind of bailout, despite enormous hardship, given present prices right up to the day they pack their suitcases and leave their dairies and to the bankers. WUD, like McClatchy and many others, sees the problem as over-supply. Production figures, import and export data, and most obviously the drastic rise in feed and fuel costs, dispute this analysis. Nevertheless, WUD opposes a recent state Legislature bill that would make the situation worse.
Below, you will find a bill, authored by state Sen. Dean Florez, which has passed the Senate and is now in the state Assembly. This fine example of special interest legislation will benefit exactly seven vertically integrated producer/distributors in the state and, as written now, will take a quantity of milk out of the fluid-milk pool, and, through subsequent consolidation in this desperate period, may pave the way for removal of more fluid milk from the high-value pool. The seven producer/distributors that will benefit from this legislation were exempted from some pool quantity as a result of grandfathering into the current state milk-pricing system in the 1960s.  The only beneficiary in Merced County could be Foster Farms, represented in the Assembly by Agricultural Committee Chair, Cathleen Galgiani.
This is special interest legislation to benefit the growth of seven dairy operations at the expense of the other 1,845 dairies that participate in the state fluid milk pool, including more or less 370 in Merced County, depending on how many are going down right now.
Florez' bill does not rise to the level of public policy. It is anti-public policy. It will work an even larger hardship on the dairies and their surrounding economies. It is one more example of the contemporary American way of government: a consortium of special interests, a little oligarchy in this instance, combining for their mutual special advantage at the expense of their industry with the immediate aim of locking in a special advantage and a longer-range aim of consolidating market share. This is the sort of legislation that rots government, the economy and society. Considering the economic damage the overall damage milk prices are doing Merced County, and the added damage Florez' bill will do, Merced County supervisors and city council members ought to all resolve to oppose the bill and to help as they can with the pricing situation. Or are they afraid to go up against the idiot McClatchy editors and the dairy oligarchs on behalf of the other 365 dairy families and the businesses that supply them with everything from feed to equipment to wrist watches?
In support of this legislation, lobbyists are muttering about the "socialistic" milk-price system that ought to be jettisoned to let the "free market" do its magic. Behind that there are legitimate calls for reform of milk pricing both in California and nationally because the indices used to establish the prices are an invitation to manipulation on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which has been accepted and employed. The giant cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America is facing a $12-million fine for a price-rigging scandal on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2006. But, that's just the highest cube on the iceberg of price corruption in the industry.
Anyone who has ever done any farming at all will know the difference between milk production and other commodity production. Milk comes twice or more times a day, 365 days a year. This is a market that was long ago and wisely recognized to require regulation, for the sake of producers and consumers. Unregulated greed has never been any better for the dairy industry than for banks, which, if this disaster remains unchecked, may become the largest holders of dairy property in America.
To add that je ne sais quoi that raises the familiar odor to any Sacramento deal these days, Capitol lobbyist Anthony Gonsalves is supporting Florez' bill. He is the son of Joe Gonsalves, who after his career in the state Legislature, which included authoring the 1960s dairy pricing bill, founded the lobbying firm his son now heads. Joe Gonsalves started his political career as a councilman of Dairy Valley, now Cerritos but then a special Los Angeles County dairy zone. Dairy Valley eventually gave way to the developers' blade and the LA dairy industry moved to Chino in San Bernardino County. When Chino was developed, many of those dairymen moved to the San Joaquin Valley and those real estate sales are said to have accounted for a great deal of increase in milk production in California as the Southern California dairymen moved north, bought mega-dairies and expanded their herds.
Eventually, in the milk-price disaster of 2009, the public will become aware that dairy products are controlled by a tiny oligarchy of very powerful, perhaps over-indebted corporations and "cooperatives" (in name only) that are gouging the public and the producer in a fine old 19th-century style that raises a question growing more critical every day: has deregulation and corruption of market regulation thrown the US back into an economy best understood by Thorstein Veblen, c. 1904?
Badlands Journal editorial board
INTRODUCED BY   Senator Florez
            FEBRUARY 25, 2009
An act to amend Sections 62708.5 and 62722 of the Food and Agricultural Code, relating to milk.
SB 362, as amended, Florez. Milk pooling: exemptions...
SECTION 1.  Section 62708.5 of the Food and Agricultural Code is amended to read:...
SEC. 2.  Section 62722 of the Food and Agricultural Code is amended to read:...
Capital Press
Western United Dairymen  
Dairy industry: Florez bill would degrade milk pool
Total exemption would be ‘very, very harmful,’...Wes Sander

SACRAMENTO - California's dairy industry says a bill to alter the state's milk pool would degrade the pooling system and lead the industry toward consolidation.
SB362, by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, would allow the state's handful of remaining producer-handlers - those who produce and process milk - to exempt all of their own production from pooling requirements.
Opponents say that would allow vertically integrated operations to expand milk production unencumbered by the cost of pool participation...
Merced Sun-Star
Merced supervisor in hot water over comment at air quality board...CORINNE REILLY
Local air quality activists and the State Senate's majority leader are calling for the resignation of Merced County Supervisor Mike Nelson from a local air quality board, citing what they call Nelson's irresponsible remarks about his role as a board member.
Their complaints follow a comment Nelson made last month during a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District governing board meeting. Nelson, who serves as Merced County's representative to the board, said he sometimes "tunes out" anti-pollution activists who he's deemed untruthful when they're giving testimony before the board.
In another public meeting last year, Nelson called his assignment to the air quality board "a sentence" that he was stuck with because no other county supervisor would take the position.
Nelson has defended the remarks, as has the air district's executive director, Seyed Sadredin, who said he believes they were taken out of context.
In a June 5 letter to Nelson, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, D-Shafter, said Nelson's statements "create an unwarranted level of hostility, damaging to the concepts of transparent government and public participation." The letter added that Nelson should consider leaving the air board.
Local air quality activists plan to demonstrate outside the air board's next meeting in Fresno on Thursday, where they'll ask Nelson to step down, said Merced resident Melissa Kelly-Ortega, who is organizing the event. She said she expects a few dozen participants.
"As a well-paid public official, Mr. Nelson doesn't have the right to tune out any of his constituents," Kelly-Ortega said. "If that's what he's doing, he needs to step aside and leave the job to someone who's interested in solving our air quality problems."
In an interview Monday, Nelson said he doesn't plan to step down and that he doesn't regret the remarks.
He said his comment about tuning out some environmental activists was taken out of context; it was part of a larger statement about the importance of listening to all sides in the debate over how to best implement anti-pollution regulation, he said.
According to transcripts from the May 21 meeting, Nelson said, "If we don't listen and work together, we won't get it. And that's good for me to remember, too. Because honestly when (some activists) get up here, I tend to tune out because ... I don't think they're telling the truth."
Nelson said the fact that he has voted in favor of air quality regulations that developers opposed shows his willingness to listen to all sides before making decisions.
"I don't always agree with environmentalists, but I also don't always agree with the business community, even if that costs me their support in the end," he said.
In a June 15 reply letter to Sen. Florez, Nelson said he stands by his argument that some environmental activists misstate facts when speaking before the air board.
Sadredin, the air district's executive director, said he agrees that some of Nelson's remarks were taken out of context and that he doesn't believe Nelson should be removed.
"Actions speak louder than words, and there's no evidence that any of our board members have paid less than full attention when making important air-quality decisions," Sadredin said.
Nelson was elected to his second four-year term on the Board of Supervisors in 2006. He's served as Merced County's representative to the air board since 2003.
Investigator: Two Livingston city officials put pressure on city staff for one's personal gain...JONAH OWEN LAMB
A former Livingston mayor violated city codes governing council conduct, and a current council member violated state conflict of interest laws in 2007 and 2008, according to the findings of an independent investigator hired by the city earlier this year.
The investigation found that both former Mayor Gurpal Samra and council member Rodrigo Espinoza pressured city employees for the personal gain of Espinoza.
The investigation concluded that Espinoza violated the state's Political Reform Act, noting that his actions constituted an obvious conflict of interest.
Samra was found only to have violated city code since it was not clear what he may have gained from his interference with city staff.
The investigation was opened in response to the postscript of a 2008 Merced County civil grand jury report that laid out similar allegations regarding both Samra and Espinoza. The postscript was sent to the new council after the election because the grand jury felt that the city's initial reply to the grand jury's findings was wanting.
The independent investigation centered on several cases where Samra, Espinoza or both interfered with city staff for personal gain or the appearance of such gain, or for the preferential treatment of specific individuals.
According to the investigation, Samra phones Police Chief William Eldridge approximately nine times in order to "influence the chief to change his directive about not towing the cars of persons found to be driving with a suspended driver's license."
It further states that Samra knew that any increased towing could influence Espinoza financially because of his towing company. "Even after the police chief explained to former Mayor Samra that he believed the mayor's conduct was unethical and bordered on conflict of interest, Samra continued to attempt to influence the police chief to change his decision because of adverse personal financial consequences to council member Espinoza," the report stated.
The investigation also found that Samra coerced city staff to give preferential treatment to the owner of 2740 Colleen Court.
In regards to Espinoza, the investigation found that he not only contacted the police chief in order to coerce him into changing his towing rules, but also coerced city staff two different times to delay an abatement order at 2741 Colleen Court and to approve a building plan for a patio at 2005 Park Street.
The report recommended that the City Council remind Espinoza that any contact with city staff regarding his business should be written down in the future, so as to ensure his compliance with city codes governing interaction with city staff.
It also recommended the City Council go over its own rules, reminding the council that it can only contact staff for the "purpose of compiling facts and for possible action by the council."
Gurpal, who did not cooperate with the investigator, said that the investigation was nothing more than a political witch hunt directed by City Manager Richard Warne.
"The whole damn thing is that the city manager wants total control. If you don't do what he wants, this is what he will do to you," said Samra. "This is all nothing more than a witch hunt so Richard can have total control of the city."
Samra denied he had broken any rules, explaining that he only called Eldridge to ask him questions -- not to give him directions on behalf of Espinoza or anyone else.
Neither Warne nor Espinoza could be reached for comment Monday.
Should state Highway 99 be promoted to an interstate?
South Valley congressmen back designation; Cardoza doesn't...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Valley counties differ sharply over renewed congressional efforts to promote Highway 99 into a federal interstate.
Fresno and Tulare counties support a new bid by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, to waive certain interstate requirements.
The waivers would make it easier for the heavily trafficked highway to win interstate designation and secure federal funding.
But Merced and Stanislaus counties, among others, resist the move to interstate status. The conflict leaves the highway's future status in doubt and complicates relations within California's congressional delegation.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said through a spokesman Monday night that he supports the views of his local council of governments. That puts him on the other side of the fence from Costa and Nunes.
"People want to have safe freeways, and they complain that Highway 99 isn't good enough," Nunes said Monday, "and then the local elected officials say they don't want this."
Nunes and Costa are now drafting the Highway 99 legislation that they hope will be included in a big transportation bill planned by Congress this year.
The current transportation bill, dubbed SAFETEA-LU, authorized converting Highway 99 into an interstate but only after standards were met and the state had applied.
The current bill expires Sept. 30, giving lawmakers a fresh opportunity to rewrite plans for the 46,000-mile interstate highway system, as well as mass transit and more.
The draft Highway 99 provision would waive some of the usual interstate standards covering bridge heights, paved shoulders, lanes and the like.
Instead of immediately updating the highway to interstate grade, California could put off meeting federal requirements until it was time for regularly planned maintenance.
Skeptics stress the estimated $920 million cost for bringing Highway 99 up to interstate standards. Even with waivers allowing the work to be postponed, the cost eventually must be borne.
"Where would that money come from?" Candice Steelman, public information officer for the Merced County Association of Governments, asked Monday. "Certainly not from the state of California, which is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy."
In time, eventual interstate designation could make the current Highway 99 eligible for federal interstate dollars currently flowing to California.
But if more federal funds are steered toward the current Highway 99, fewer funds would be available for the other 2,455 miles of interstate within California. Politically, that's likely to diminish enthusiasm for the Highway 99 notion in other parts of the state.
Steelman, moreover, added that "there's no guarantee it will receive federal funding" even if the highway gets interstate status.
Differences of opinion likewise prevail through the region served by Highway 99, which is also called State Route 99.
Some other lawmakers, including Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, say they support measures to ease interstate conversion. Others question the costs and benefits.
"Redesignation of State Route 99 to interstate status is not warranted," the Merced County Association of Governments declared in a written statement.
Last week, Stanislaus Council of Governments leaders likewise concluded that "there is not a benefit" to interstate conversion, in the words of Stanislaus County Supervisor Jeff Grover.
"There is no technical benefit to the SR 99 interstate designation," Patricia Taylor, executive director of the Madera County Transportation Commission, advised Nunes in a June 11 letter, adding that "there is no guarantee" that waivers will be accepted.
In writing, transportation policy leaders in Fresno and Tulare counties have advised Nunes' office that they continue to support moves toward interstate status.
Sacramento Bee
Sacramento, Yolo county DAs join suit against Target...Bill Lindelof. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and 20 district attorneys, including DAs in Sacramento and Yolo counties, have filed suit against Target Corp. to stop the retailer from allegedly dumping hazardous waste in landfills.
"Target has shown a willful disregard for California's hazardous waste laws by dumping flammable liquids and toxic chemicals in local landfills over a period of eight years," Brown states in a news release.
Target spokeswoman Bethany Zucco said the company has been following all state environmental laws.
The lawsuit is intended to force Target to comply with state laws governing handling and disposal of toxic and corrosive waste, Brown said. The retailer carries bleach, paints, pesticides and other products that sometimes are damaged during shipping, returned to stores by customers or past expiration date.
The retailer, according to the attorney general's office, is required to employ a licensed hazardous waste hauler to pick up the waste and take it to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
However, since 2001, the attorney general submits, local health inspectors have served Target with 300 violation notices for breaking hazardous waste control laws. Among those incidents cited in the news release was a March 2002 incident in which a Sacramento County Target employee dumped leaking containers of swimming pool chlorine into a store's trash compactor, releasing toxic fumes. That led to a store evacuation and several people being sent to the hospital.
Among the district attorneys who joined in the legal action were Sacramento County DA Jan Scully and Yolo County's Jeff Reisig.
Attorney General Brown also anounced that his office and three counties have reached a settlement with retailer Kmart over similar claims. The settlement requires Kmart to stop disposing toxic substances in landfills and pay more than $8.65 million in civil penalties, costs and funding for improve environmental protection.
New UC Davis chancellor says she wasn't aware of admission process at current school...Diana Lambert
The woman tapped to be the new chancellor at UC Davis says she knew nothing about alleged influence-peddling in the admissions process at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, despite the fact that she oversees the department.
"It makes me sad that this whole thing happened in the first place," said Linda Katehi, currently provost at Urbana-Champaign.
"I was not aware of all this. I considered it very inappropriate," Katehi added.
A Chicago Tribune investigation reported late last month that the school admitted hundreds of students with weak academic records after influential people had lobbied on their behalf.
The investigation was based on 1,800 pages of documents, including e-mails from politicians and university trustees advocating for friends and relatives.
Katehi wasn't specifically named in the Tribune investigation.
She told The Bee on Monday that she never saw the particular category of admissions – Category I – to which the Tribune referred in its investigation.
"I don't know what Category I is," Katehi said.
The Tribune article said the category included a list of students whose status had drawn inquiries from trustees or politicians.
Katehi is scheduled to begin her job at UC Davis on Aug. 17. She will be paid $400,000 – $85,000 more annually then outgoing Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, according to UC Davis officials. Katehi also will be provided with housing, a $9,000 annual car allowance and a $100,000 relocation allowance, among other benefits.
Katehi wrote about the investigation in an e-mail Monday to UC Davis officials.
"I want to be clear to you and others at UC Davis that I was not involved in the admissions decisions that were the subject of the Tribune's 'Clout goes to college' investigation," she wrote.
"Because of the governmental relations aspect and the involvement of University of Illinois System trustees," the Category I admissions process was handled at a higher level, she wrote.
She told The Bee she first learned of the admissions practice when she read about it in the Tribune.
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, issued a statement early Monday asking that Katehi respond to questions about what she knew about the admissions practice.
Contacted Monday afternoon and told Katehi's comments to The Bee, Yee said he plans to write a letter to UC President Mark Yudof asking him to look into the matter.
"Her response is absolutely incredible," he said. "Here you have someone who is the person in charge of admissions and there is a separate admissions policy and a way to get in she didn't know about."
The senator said he would want a UC chancellor to be aware of any graft or corruption at the campus.
"What kind of administrator are you?" Yee said. "How many things are going on under your nose that you don't know about?"
Katehi said she would have questioned the policy had she been aware of it.
She said a committee set up by the Illinois governor is looking into the allegations against the university, but that she has not been called before the body nor has she been questioned by the chancellor. She said the investigation is expected to take two months.
Katehi said she's happy the UC system has a policy against preferential treatment in admissions.
"I support that policy," she said. "It's a great thing that they have a policy that allows the university to bring in the best and the brightest."
Yee expressed concern that Katehi would bring "more of the same" to the UC system. He said that system has had problems with executive pay, retaliation against whistleblowers and secrecy contracts.
"We need chancellors that will be open and above-board," Yee said.
Katehi says there is nothing to worry about.
"I truly believe in transparency. … My whole career has been centered around bringing about transparency," she said.
San Francisco Chronicle
Lawmaker demands answers from new UC Davis head
...Nanette Asimov
The new chancellor of UC Davis hasn't even arrived yet from the Midwest, but already she's neck deep in California politics, with a state lawmaker demanding that she respond to "corruption charges."
Incoming Chancellor Linda Katehi is provost at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where it was revealed last month by the Chicago Tribune that about 800 underqualified students won admission to the prestigious campus only after powerful people intervened.
Katehi has responsibility for student admissions, but was not named in the Tribune series, called "Clout Goes to College."
She takes over at UC Davis on Aug. 17.
The situation - and Katehi's hefty $400,000 salary and benefits - caught the eye of state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who saw an opportunity to call attention to his bill pushing for more legislative control over the University of California.
Yee says his bipartisan bill is needed "to hold UC Regents accountable to the people of California" following regents' efforts in recent years to withhold financial decisions from the public, and the regents' practice of raising student fees while also raising top salaries. (Katehi will earn 27 percent more than the current UC Davis chancellor, and the regents voted last month to raise tuition by 9.3 percent - the sixth increase in seven years.)
When Yee noticed that Katehi refused to comment last week when a Sacramento Bee reporter called her to ask about her role in the admissions scandal at the University of Illinois, he pounced.
On Monday, the senator sent out a scathing press release titled "Yee Calls on Incoming UC Chancellor to Respond to Corruption Charges."
"The students and taxpayers of California deserve to know the level of Ms. Katehi's involvement in this scandal," he wrote. "The University of California obviously has a bad history when it comes to transparency, and we do not need another executive who is willing to cover up wrongdoing."
Yee saw it as a lack of disclosure that underscored the need for his bipartisan bill, SCA21, which would amend the California Constitution to let state lawmakers override financial decisions and policies approved by the UC regents.
The university opposes the bill, with some regents pointing out that lawmakers have shown little expertise in running their own business.
Unknown to Yee, Katehi had already sent a note to UC Davis officials on Friday, attempting to clarify her role in the admissions scandal at the University of Illinois.
"I want to be clear to you and others at UC Davis that I was not involved in the admissions decisions" addressed in the newspaper investigation, Katehi wrote in a two-paragraph e-mail to Fred Wood, vice chancellor of student affairs, and copied to four others.
"The so-called 'Category I' admissions process was not part of the regular admissions system and was handled at a higher level in the institution," she wrote.
Katehi added that she supports a "transparent admissions process" and was pleased to learn that the University of California prohibits favoritism when admitting students.
But Yee was unsatisfied.
"It's interesting that she says, 'It's above my pay grade,' and that's that," he told The Chronicle. "Is she going to continue this 'see no evil, hear no evil,' approach, and just cover up what may be going on?"
Yee's proposed constitutional amendment will require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for passage followed by voter approval.
California Receives $2.8 Million in Economic Recovery Funds to Improve Water Quality, Create Jobs...U.S. EPA Region 9
SAN FRANCISCO June 15, 2009 - In an effort to improve water quality and create jobs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $2.8 Million to the California State Water Resources Control Board under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A total of $39 million will be awarded nationally to states for Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) grants, which will keep and create jobs to help prevent water pollution and protect human health and the environment.
"The Recovery Act investments are meeting urgent needs for economic growth and protecting human health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Communities across the nation can count on green jobs to help pull them out of this downturn and ensure the long-term strength of our economy and our environment."
"With this infusion of Recovery Act funding, California will have more resources for high priority projects and the promotion of water and energy efficiency projects," said Laura Yoshii, acting Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Pacific Southwest. "This funding will not only make it possible to focus on this critical work, it will also create and save California jobs."
Planning is an important step in EPA's goal to improve water quality in America's lakes, rivers and streams. WQMP grants support a broad range of activities, such as setting standards, monitoring the quality of the water, developing plans to restore polluted waters, and identifying ways to protect healthy waters from becoming polluted. States are also encouraged to use these funds for more innovative planning activities like developing plans to adapt to climate change, analyzing trends in water availability and use, and creating low-impact development programs. Grants are awarded to state agencies and some of the funds can be awarded to regional and interstate planning organizations.
President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 17, 2009, and has directed that the Recovery Act be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability. To that end, the American people can see how every dollar is being invested at Recovery.gov.
For information on EPA's implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, visit http://www.epa.gov/recovery/.
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, Long Beach port traffic falls in May
Some economists say the import and export numbers at the nation's busiest port complex could improve late in the year...Ronald D. White
Traffic at the nation's busiest seaport complex showed another steep drop in May compared with the same month in 2008, although some economists say the ports could begin to recover late this year.
Last month, container imports at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest, were down about 18%. Exports from the port were down 7.1% for the month, dropping by the equivalent of about 150,000 cargo containers.
Through May, imports to the port were down 17.7% to about 1.4 million containers, while exports were down 15.5% compared with the same period in 2008.
At the Port of Long Beach, No. 2 in the U.S., container imports fell 22% in May. Exports fell 23.8%. For the year, Long Beach imports were off 27.4% and exports were down 29.3%.
Despite the steep drops, Long Beach port spokesman Art Wong said, exports in May were up slightly from monthly totals late last year.
"Hopefully, it means these are raw materials going out to be used to build imported goods for us," Wong said.
If there was any improvement for employment on the docks, it was hard to find. At two ports that required the help of hundreds of so-called casuals, or part-time dockworkers, to help load and unload cargo during the boom years, they were still finding no work in May.
John Husing, an economist who tracks the goods-movement industry in the Inland Empire, said that the recovery had yet to begin there. Unemployment in the Inland Empire was still running at 12.6%, which was second in severity only to Detroit's 14% among urban areas, Husing said.
"I live near the main line of the old Southern Pacific railroad track that Union Pacific uses now," said Husing, referring to one of the two transcontinental railroads that haul cargo to and from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
"I'm seeing far fewer trains," Husing said.
Paul Bingham, managing director of the global trade and transportation group IHS Global Insight of Lexington, Mass., said the ports would not see year-over-year improvements in import and export numbers until late this year. IHS tracks cargo movement to and from North America's busiest ports on behalf of the National Retail Federation.
"We're not in the rebound yet, but that's not new bad news," Bingham said. "From November through April, we still think consumers and businesses will be spending more than they did last year."
One local firm that does a lot of port business is seeing a slight improvement.
Ventura Transfer Co. in Long Beach has been in the bulk-products hauling business since the 1860s. Its work includes transporting liquid cargo such as fuel additives, cleaning agents and solvents, and dry cargo such as various kinds of plastics, as well as some hazardous cargo.
"Our business, from the end of last year to early this year, was always flat or dropping. In the last few weeks, we have had some good days and some good weeks," said Randy Clifford, the company's chairman. "We're not getting new bites yet, but we're getting more nibbles, more calls."
But Clifford said that the little bit of improvement that the company had seen felt tenuous at best.
"Whether it's sustainable or not is very hard to say," he said.
Budget woes, building drop-off may prolong state's hardships
Unemployment will reach 12.1% by the end of the year, UCLA economists forecast...Alana Semuels
Despite some healing in the national economy, California still faces significant difficulty, in part because of the state's budget woes, economic forecasters at UCLA say.
Unemployment in the state will reach 12.1% by the end of this year and will not return to single digits until late in 2011, economists predicted in the quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast, which was set to be released today.
"California is in for a continued rough ride for the balance of 2009 and is not going to see economic growth return until the end of the year," wrote Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist at the forecast.
Driving California's difficulties are a shrinking state budget, a disappearing non-residential construction market and sluggishness in housing construction.
Construction jobs, which fell 12% in 2008, are expected to drop more than 15% this year as demand continues to fall for both residential and commercial development. Already, activity has dropped so dramatically in the state that developers are now under-building for the size of California's population, sowing the seeds of another housing bubble, the report said.
The state's fiscal woes make the picture bleaker. The budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year will probably lead to program cuts and layoffs on top of spending decreases in last year's budget.
"California's state government . . . has no choice but to contract at the worst time," Nickelsburg wrote.
The cuts don't affect only government jobs. Some of the program reductions will be in healthcare and education, damaging two sectors that haven't yet experienced massive job losses in California during this recession.
Bill Watkins, executive director of California Lutheran University's Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, agreed with the Anderson group that California faces a rougher road than the rest of the nation.
"California's economy is quite a bit weaker than the U.S. economy, and we don't expect to see a recovery any time soon," he said. The state will not come out of recession until the second half of 2011, he predicted.
The state's regulatory agenda is making it more expensive to do business here, and higher-education cutbacks will probably affect the state's competitive advantages in the long term, he said.
The situation looks a little less bleak nationally.
"It looks like we're beginning to come out of it, and that the worst is over," said UCLA senior economist David Shulman, who wrote the national section of the forecast.
Action by the Federal Reserve and Treasury to ease the credit market stopped the economy from declining any further, Shulman said, making it easier for companies to borrow money to pay their bills. Although borrowing is still challenging, the credit market is more malleable than it was three months ago.
That should also help ailing countries such as Japan, Mexico and Germany, Shulman said. Their rebound will in turn increase demand for U.S. goods, which has slid so steeply that economists predict exports will drop 12% in 2009.
Still, Main Street might not feel the effects of any of this for some time. UCLA forecasts that the national unemployment rate will continue to rise, peaking at 10.4% in 2010. June job numbers will be especially ugly, Shulman said, as college and high school graduates dependent on seasonal employment find that the traditional companies just aren't hiring.
What's more, the new administration is still shaping its healthcare and energy policies, making it difficult for companies to make decisions about big investments, Shulman said. A healthcare institution, for example, doesn't want to make major changes until it knows if the government is going to change how it gets paid.
There is a bright spot, though, said Larry Harris, a professor of finance at USC's Marshall School of Business. Consumers are becoming more confident and are beginning to spend again, as are some companies. "People are no longer as afraid as they used to be," he said. "They're starting to get on with their business."
New York Times
Government Study Warns of Climate Change Effects
WASHINGTON — The impact of a changing climate is already being felt across the United States, like shifting migration patterns of butterflies in the West and heavier downpours in the Midwest and East, according to a government study to be released on Tuesday.
Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies, transportation and human health.
The study was prepared by the United States Global Change Research Program, a joint scientific venture of 13 federal agencies and the White House. Under a 1990 law, the group is required to report every 10 years on natural and human-caused effects on the environment. The current study, which began in the George W. Bush administration, builds on the findings of the 2000 one.
The study, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be posted at www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.
Some of the effects being seen today and cited in the report are familiar, like more powerful tropical storms and erosion of ocean coastlines caused by melting Arctic ice. The study also cites an increase in drought in the Southwest and more intense heat waves in the Northeast as a result of growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases in the atmosphere.
Reduced mountain snowpack means earlier melt-offs and reduced stream volumes across the West and Northwest, affecting residential and agricultural water supplies, habitats for spawning fish and reduced hydroelectric power generation, the study found.
But the speed and severity of these effects in the future are expressed with less certainty in the report and will depend to some extent on how quickly the United States and other nations move to reduce emissions.
“What we would want to have people take away is that climate change is happening now, and it’s actually beginning to affect our lives,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a principal author of the report. “It’s not just happening in the Arctic regions, but it’s beginning to show up in our own backyards.”
Dr. Karl said that unless the country acted soon to reduce emissions and to adapt to inevitable effects of a changing climate, the costs would be severe.
“Our destiny is really in our hands,” he said. “The size of those impacts is significantly smaller with appropriate controls.”
Dr. Karl said the section of the 188-page report dealing with human-health effects generated the most discussion and uncertainty among the agencies. The study said rising average temperatures would cause more heat-related illnesses and deaths, along with some reduction in deaths from extreme cold.
The study also showed that higher temperatures combined with air pollution would cause a higher incidence of asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Michael C. MacCracken, a leader of the 2000 study and a principal outside reviewer of the current one, said in an e-mail message that the new report was a useful overview of the state of current climate science in the United States, but “there is not much that is new.”