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California Editorial Rdp

August 8, 2018

Aug. 8

Los Angeles Times on California settling for Hollister Ranch’s dismal offering:

In California, no one owns the beach. Public access to the sand and the ocean — natural treasures that belong to all of us and that may not be bought — is a fundamental principle of the law.

But in Santa Barbara County, an eight-and-a-half-mile (13.7 kilometers) stretch of pristine beach, punctuated by coves, is the subject of a decades-long battle. The landowners of Hollister Ranch clearly believe the beach is theirs, and have done everything in their power to keep others out.

In the annals of wars between owners of beachfront property and the public, the Hollister Ranch fight is as protracted as they come. On one side is the Hollister Ranch Owners Assn., which includes the owners of 136 parcels of property that sit on 14,500 acres of land, west of Gaviota State Park. On the other side is the state Coastal Commission.

Since the 1980s, Hollister Ranch owners have fought attempts by the state to set up any kind of public access through their property. And now, after years of legal battle, the Coastal Commission (and the Coastal Conservancy) have caved to their wealthy antagonists, reaching a pathetic settlement with Hollister Ranch homeowners that gives the state little more than what it had before this fight started: The ranch will run educational programs on the beach for selected visitors (like schoolchildren and disabled veterans). The state will have no control over access. Oh, and anyone can use a three-quarter-mile stretch of the beach — if they can get there from the ocean, because there will be no land access. That means a boat ride or paddleboard trip through treacherous waters.

Some deal the Commission got us.

The Coastal Commission has long maintained that Californians have a right to use a public easement granted in 1982 by the YMCA when that organization owned land that later became part of Hollister Ranch. In 2013, Hollister Ranch filed suit contending that the YMCA never had the right to grant access to the Coastal Commission in the first place.

It is that lawsuit that resulted in the current settlement. Almost as disturbing as the settlement is the way it was reached. The commissioners agreed to it in closed session months ago. It only became public thanks to a judge’s order, over the objections of the state attorney general’s office.

Since then, the Coastal Commission has received more than 1,500 emails, mostly protesting the settlement. A consortium of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit objecting to the settlement and seeking to intervene. The judge still must finalize the settlement. So this is not a done deal yet.

It’s disturbing to watch public access being thwarted up and down the coast. In addition to the Hollister settlement, Martins Beach estate owner Vinod Khosla is challenging not just a right to public access across his property but the legal foundation of the Coastal Act itself. And in Santa Cruz, a community put up an imposing 9-foot (2.7-meter) gate at the entrance to a park that leads to Opal Cliffs Beach; the community charged an annual fee of $100 for a key to the public beach, although the fee-taking has been temporarily stopped.

At Hollister Ranch, the owners cast themselves as self-appointed protectors of the fragile coast. But while it is not unreasonable for the state to put some restrictions on access to ecologically important and fragile parts of the coast, that’s not for private property owners to decide or enforce. Bottom line, these are rapacious landowners stubborn and wealthy enough to figure out ways to keep the public off their beach.

What can the Commission do now? Some commissioners believe they didn’t have enough information on the Hollister Ranch case before they agreed to let the state’s attorneys settle the lawsuit. But it’s unclear if they can back out now. They should try. Or the judge could toss the settlement out. If any of this happens, Hollister Ranch will, no doubt, continue to fight to keep control over the beach. But, for the state and for the sake of the people of California, that is a fight worth continuing.

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Aug. 7

The Sacramento Bee on the increasing toll on California firefighters on the front lines:

Across California, 14,000 firefighters are battling 16 major wildfires, including the fire at the Mendocino Complex, the largest one in the state’s recorded history. It takes courage and herculean efforts to prevail over Mother Nature, and sometimes they lose their lives protecting us.

Many others carry hidden, lasting scars. A recent study highlighted a startling statistic: Last year, more firefighters died by suicide than on duty — 103 compared to 93.

This long and destructive wildfire season is also taking an increased toll on firefighters and their families, as Adam Ashton and Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee and William Ramirez of the Sierra Star reported.

It’s good that Cal Fire is trying to get out ahead of this potential crisis, as increased stress leads to substance abuse, domestic violence and, too often, taking one’s life.

Director Ken Pimlott is putting more money into support services to help firefighters and their families cope. Counseling is being offered in the field, as well as at fire stations by a Cal Fire unit with seven full-time employees and trained liaisons around the state. Firefighters are being taught to spot post-traumatic stress in each other.

Firefighter unions are also offering similar programs, dispatching peer counselors after suicides and on-duty deaths. The trauma can be deep; it took two days for fellow firefighters to recover the body of Braden Varney after his bulldozer tumbled into a steep canyon in Mariposa County on July 13.

As of Tuesday, with the official fire season just starting, two other firefighters have died. Redding fire inspector Jeremy Stoke was killed July 26 in the Carr Fire. Brian Hughes, captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crew, died July 29 while battling the Ferguson Fire.

No matter your politics, Californians should agree with Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who paid tribute Tuesday: “We are all immensely grateful to the tens of thousands of firefighters and first responders from California, other states and other countries currently risking their lives and safety to battle wildfires throughout our state,” she said in a statement. “Our firefighters are our nobility, and their courage on the front lines of these blazes is an act of profound heroism.”

A special joint legislative committee met Tuesday, and is to meet again Thursday, to talk about how to better prepare for wildfires. The panel also is trying to referee a big-money lobbying fight between utilities led by PG&E and insurance companies over who should pay for damages.

But people who lose their homes and businesses aren’t the only victims of wildfires. Committee members must also pay attention to firefighters. So should we.

A popular video made the rounds last week of a little girl handing out burritos to tired and hungry firefighters near Redding. That’s a good example for the rest of us.

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Aug. 7

The Fresno Bee on putting measure on November ballot to see how much Fresno voters value their parks:

Fresno’s parks have been a sore point for a long time. The Trust for Public Land has routinely ranked the city among the worst in the nation for its lack of green space and its rundown parks. This year is no different: Fresno was ranked 94th out of the largest 100 cities in the nation for park quality. Eighty percent of the city’s parks are just in fair or poor condition.

Local leaders frequently talk about wanting Fresno to become a “great city,” but the truth is poor parks will be a barrier to ever achieving such a status. Put another way, having healthy parks — where residents can be outdoors, get exercise, learn sports or other skills and simply take a mental break from the bustle of life — is a key component of any great city.

So a chance to ask voters whether they support a tax measure specifically to improve parks could not come at a better time. On Thursday the City Council will consider putting that tax measure on the November ballot, and it should do so without hesitation. It is time to let the voters decide the value of their parks.

The Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative is a proposal by a coalition of citizens, community leaders and nonprofits. It seeks to raise the sales tax in Fresno by three-eighths of a cent. In so doing, $37.5 million would be generated annually for 30 years for parks.

The money would be used to update existing parks so they are cleaned up and safe to be in. New parks would be constructed in neighborhoods that don’t have green spaces. Playgrounds and restrooms would be fixed. Access for disabled people would be added where needed. There would be a focus on reducing criminal activities, like vandalism, and removing graffiti. Homeless people would be directed to places for help so camping in parks would be reduced.

Backers of the initiative say it would cost an average of $39 per household each year — or $3.25 a month. A commission of citizens would be formed to make sure the money raised is being spent as promised.

Councilmen Steve Brandau and Clint Olivier have made it clear during their time in office how much they dislike taxes. That point also seemed to resonate with other council members in June, when Mayor Lee Brand wanted to combine a parks measure with one to raise more money for hiring police and firefighters. The resounding lack of council support caused Brand to pull back his attempt.

But the matter before the council Thursday is not to back a tax. Rather, it is to let the people decide. The council should put the measure on the November ballot so the question of how much parks mean to locals can be an answered.

The parks initiative ballot measure is to be considered by the Fresno City Council at 3 p.m. Thursday.

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Aug. 7

San Francisco Chronicle on immigration crackdown never being about the law:

The issue of illegal immigration, however legitimate, provides a convenient hiding place for bigotry. But the Trump administration is not hiding.

The White House’s next reported move to prevent lawful immigrants from becoming permanent residents or citizens is another strike in its escalating war on immigration regardless of legality. In targeting the immigrants who are least likely to be wealthy or white, these policies dispense entirely with any pretense that President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is about law, order or anything other than xenophobia.

The proposal at hand would make it more difficult for immigrants who have used any of a range of public services, including the Affordable Care Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and nutritional assistance, to obtain a green card or citizenship, NBC News reported. Attributed to the Mephistophelian White House adviser Stephen Miller, a glowering anti-immigration zealot associated with the administration’s inhumane family separations, the proposal would target law-abiding immigrants of modest means.

Potentially affecting tens of millions of legal immigrants, this would be among the more ambitious but far from the first of the administration’s efforts to reverse the United States’ fundamental embrace of immigration.

In June, for instance, the administration announced that it would hire dozens of lawyers and immigration officers in an accelerated effort to “denaturalize” citizens who obtained their status improperly. While officials claimed that the initiative would have a narrow focus, it sent a troubling signal that even naturalized citizens, traditionally thought to have acquired all the rights of other Americans, are newly vulnerable.

The administration has also sought to discourage and alter legal immigration by reducing the overall allotment of green cards by half; favoring better-educated, English-speaking immigrants; eliminating an immigration lottery for those from underrepresented nations, known infamously to the president as “shithole countries”; curtailing legal residents’ ability to sponsor the immigration of close relatives, the family reunification policy that Trump has rechristened “chain migration”; limiting refugee admissions, particularly from Muslim-majority countries; and adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census.

Trump’s response to illegal immigration, from caging children to constructing neo-medieval fortifications, has never been justified by the problem it supposedly addresses. Unlawful border crossings were at their lowest ebb in decades when he was sworn in, and the U.S. employment he claims to be protecting is close to an 18-year high. A Government Accountability Office report this week questioned the wisdom of Trump’s beloved border wall project, citing a lack of information and analysis that increases the risk it “will cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected.”

The administration’s broader immigration crackdown reveals that such rational concerns are beside the point. This is a sustained appeal to the irrational forces of fear and hatred.

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Aug. 6

The San Diego Union-Tribune on Gov. Brown’s record delay in filling California Supreme Court vacancy:

It’s been more than 17 months since California Supreme Court Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar announced that she was retiring as of Aug. 31, 2017. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Werdegar — a moderate judge appointed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson — gave Gov. Jerry Brown plenty of advance notice in the hopes that he would choose a replacement who could join the seven-member high court, keep it at full strength and prevent major issues from going undecided because of 3-3 tie votes.

“Lacking a permanent member of the court is disruptive,” Werdegar cogently told the Chronicle.

Yet, without explaining his thinking, Brown has chosen no one to replace her. The assumption among political observers is that the governor wants to avoid having his newly chosen justice face a public confirmation vote in November, as would have been required if his nominee was approved by Aug. 30, the final day candidates can be put on the fall ballot. Even if Brown announced his choice this week, it’s unlikely the nominee could be reviewed and advanced by Aug. 30 by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments, a three-member panel led by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. That means the governor’s nominee, if approved by the commission, would face a public confirmation vote in 2022.

But this explanation should satisfy no one. Brown’s history of having three of his high court picks swept out of office by voters in 1986 should not lead him to try to delay Californians from being able to weigh in on his picks. There was nothing nefarious about the ouster 32 years ago of state Justices Rose Bird, Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso. It reflected the fact that the three had overturned dozens of death penalty convictions on flimsy grounds, reflecting their personal views — not the Legislature’s or voters’ — that the death penalty is an abomination. No other state justices have been removed since 1934, when voters amended the state Constitution to mandate that appointed appellate judges be reconfirmed periodically by voters.

This history should have led Brown to nominate a highly qualified judge, law professor or attorney long ago and then to assume voters would give the individual a fair chance. Instead, the governor’s machinations inevitably have produced speculation that he wants to make a radical choice who will join with his other three confirmed nominees (Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Goodwin H. Liu and Leondra R. Kruger) to create a majority on the seven-member court to advance a specific policy agenda — one that couldn’t make it through the Legislature or gain passage in a ballot initiative. It’s worth noting that all three voted in June 2016 to allow Brown to “gut and amend” what became Proposition 57 to change its focus from juvenile justice reform to changes in pardon procedures —without the normal vetting. This decision was disastrous. The amended ballot measure, which voters approved in November 2016, classified several sex crimes, including rape of an unconscious person, as nonviolent, and thus subject to early parole consideration. This debacle should have chastened the governor — not made him ready for new machinations involving the high court.

Of course, it’s possible that there’s less here than meets the eye. Brown’s three confirmed nominees have hardly seemed inclined to radicalism. And as the Chronicle noted, Brown was also responsible for the second longest high court vacancy in 2014 and 2015, when he took nine months to replace retired Justice Joyce Kennard with Kruger. Perhaps the governor has been quietly interviewing candidates and will announce his decision soon.

Last month, he urged the court to hold a hearing on a disputed pension reform of his. The court agreed to review that case in April 2017, a month after Werdegar’s announcement she was leaving. Brown’s inaction speaks louder than his words. Whatever he is thinking, Brown should explain it.

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