AP NEWS
Related topics

California Editorial Rdp

May 16, 2018

May 16

The Press Democrat on solar power making sense for California homes:

Californians — and a lot of armchair analysts from outside the state — hyperventilated or cheered in response to a requirement that new homes include solar panels for electricity starting in 2020. A more measured response is called for. This is neither disaster nor panacea, but it probably was inevitable. And, on balance, it’s a smart move.

About 15 percent of new homes already come with solar panels. Under the rules adopted by the California Energy Commission, solar will be required for all newly built houses and apartments and condos of three stories or fewer. A few sensible exceptions are built in, most notably for homes under a lot of shade. The commission also adopted new energy efficiency measures for insulation, air conditioning, etc.

The changes will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help consumers save on utility bills. Similar requirements are targeted for commercial development by 2030, when state law requires that 50 percent of the energy used in California to come from carbon-free sources.

California continues to lead on combating climate change. The Trump administration might be living in denial about the effects of greenhouse gases, but here in the Golden State we are doing what we can.

Doing good is rarely free, though. Requiring solar panels — or some other solar power technology — will increase the cost of new houses, although it’s much cheaper to install during construction than after a house is built. The official estimate is about $10,000, though unofficial estimates vary.

It’s true that housing already is outrageously expensive, and this is one more cost. Yet the expense upfront is more than offset over time. The average mortgage payment will increase about $40 per month, but homeowners will save $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting. That might not soothe people saving for their first down payment, but it should help.

People worried about costs also should remember that the requirement only applies to new houses. The millions of homes that already exist don’t have to add solar.

About 135,000 homes in the state add solar annually, according to industry figures. Hopefully, more will over time. Research has shown that when people see solar power in their neighborhood, they are more likely to install it themselves. Requiring it on new homes could nudge the established market in a greener direction.

Costs also could come down over time. With widespread adoption, economies of scale will improve, and there will be incentives for innovation.

Expense isn’t the only reason to temper enthusiasm. Widespread availability of solar power can strain the grid when the sun is shining, and demand from solar-equipped buildings tends to rise after the sun sets. This phenomenon — amusingly called the “duck curve” — won’t be easily fixed, but it isn’t insurmountable. It will require investment in the grid and also in-home electricity storage, so people can generate power during the day and use it when the sun isn’t shining.

There are better, cheaper ways to fight climate change. More urban density is high on that list, but a bill in the Legislature this year that would have set aggressive new standards failed. Reducing vehicle emissions is another great approach, but the Trump administration wants to roll back emission standards.

The political reality is that a solar mandate was possible at this time, with little opposition presented to the Energy Commission. It’s not enough by itself, but it’s a step that will keep California moving toward a cleaner environment.

___

May 16

Los Angeles Times on mandatory armed guards in California’s K-12 schools:

Mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida, in February are terrifying, abhorrent and a sign of something extremely troubling in our society. But we shouldn’t be misled into believing they’re common.

In fact, in the more than five years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, there’s been one shooting involving an injury or fatality for every 1,000 schools in the country. According to David Ropeik, a Harvard scholar who studies risk, the chance of a child being shot and killed in school is far lower than the chance that he or she will have an accident on the way to or from school, catch a potentially fatal disease while in school, or suffer a potentially deadly injury playing sports at school.

Of course that doesn’t mean that school shootings shouldn’t worry us, or that we shouldn’t take serious steps to prevent them. But it does suggest that, despite the attention and news coverage they get, these events are relatively infrequent and not imminent at any given school — and that we should be tactical and thoughtful about the best way to prevent them.

That’s not the case with Assembly Bill 2067, which would mandate that an armed security officer be posted at every publicly funded school in California, including elementary schools and charter schools. The state would pick up the tab, estimated at $1 billion per year, according to the office of the bill’s author, Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City).

Armed security guards might make sense at some schools; Los Angeles Unified already has such officers at almost all of its high schools and about 20% of its middle schools. But it has long resisted placing them at elementary campuses; and why should it or any other district be forced to? The state is supposed to be ceding more control to local school districts, which are in the best position to determine their safety needs.

Besides, even if the state has an additional $1 billion to hand to schools, it’s unclear whether this would be the wisest expenditure. It’s easy to rely on the cliché, “whatever it costs to save even a single life . ,” but, in fact, dollars are limited and choices must be made about where they will do the most good. Perhaps this money could be better spent providing improved medical and mental HealthCare to children, more nutritious food or outstanding recreational facilities.

It’s hard to imagine how this bill passed through the Assembly Education Committee — on a unanimous vote, no less. Was that the result of a lack of courage among Assembly members desperate to show they cared about campus safety?

Gallagher is currently working on amendments to the bill, which could improve it. But he has a long way to go. At this point, no one knows whether or how much this proposal would improve school security or protect students. Officers currently working at L.A. schools were hired mainly to keep peace among students and to protect them in potentially dangerous neighborhoods, not to respond to random shootings.

Gallagher cites the March case of an armed school officer in Maryland who bravely ran to the scene of a shooting after the gunman had injured two students. That act may have prevented further injuries or even deaths. But then, of course, there’s also the armed security officer at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who stayed outside rather than enter the building and confront the gunman.

Even if a security officer is brave enough for the job, school campuses can be large spaces with multiple access points. Would a single armed officer really be able to prevent a random shooting by a crazed person determined to wreak havoc? Is it clear that adding another gun to the mix and increasing the chances of a firefight would reduce the overall number of deaths?

Maybe, but the evidence is lacking. We prefer the approach taken by Los Angeles city and school officials, examining the issue in a more comprehensive way, involving the community and multiple agencies, and looking for multipronged answers to frightening new questions about safety.

___

May 15

The San Diego Union-Tribune on Gov. Brown telling pension-hammered cities they’re on their own:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent declaration that local governments are on their own in dealing with the huge costs of overly generous pensions has a surface logic to it. These cities and districts weren’t forced to approve pensions that ended up being hugely costly and bear responsibility for their decisions.

Nevertheless, it was the state government’s actions in 1999 that directly led to the pension tsunami now eating up 15 percent or more of the budget in many cities, forcing cuts in library and park hours and increasingly squeezing public safety. That year, the state Legislature and, to his subsequent regret, then-Gov. Gray Davis, bought the astounding claim of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System that the then-booming stock market would keep booming in perpetuity and approved a retroactive pension boost of 50 percent for state employees. This led many local governments to believe they too could sweeten pensions without consequence, as documented in a League of California Cities report.

Brown isn’t responsible for CalPERS’ perfidy. But the modest pension reforms he got passed in 2012 haven’t had nearly the positive effect he promised. The governor should have kept pushing the Legislature and CalPERS for pension policies that are much fairer to taxpayers. That would be far nobler than dismissing the huge pension nightmares faced by cities across the state with a shrug.

___

May 15

Santa Maria Times on making the shoe really fit:

Gov. Jerry Brown has revealed his revised budget for state spending, thus launching the annual budget dance with the state Legislature.

Maybe “dance” isn’t the appropriate word. Perhaps “battle” would be a better choice.

Brown’s budget plan totals $137.6 billion, which is $6 billion higher than his preliminary proposal made in January. The bump up is a result of better-than-expected revenues, mostly because April state income returns exceeded expectations.

Thus, Brown’s belief that the budget features an $8.8-billion surplus, most of which the governor believes should be socked away in the state’s reserve fund.

It’s all supposition at this point, because the actual surplus — if there is one — will be fought over by majority Democrats in the Legislature, with minority Republicans in both the Assembly and Senate in the usual policy tug-of-war.

Democrats are already talking about boosting spending on health-care services, especially for the poor and undocumented residents. The point the majority party leaders are making is that if California is in the midst of good economic times, the benefits should accrue to all Californians.

Republicans in the Legislature point out that Brown’s proposed budget of $137.6 billion, with its anticipated surplus, does not acknowledge the realities of state finances, the $200-billion portion of which includes outstanding state debt and other fiscal liabilities.

And the GOP faction correctly asks why various state taxes continue to be increased when there is a budget surplus.

Like we said earlier, expect a legislative battle between now and mid-June, which is when the state Constitution requires a signed budget. In fact, if the two sides — three sides really, when you count the governor — can’t agree by midnight of June 15, lawmakers’ pay can be cut.

That would be a reasonable policy at the federal level, docking pay when lawmakers fail to do their jobs. But don’t hold your breath on that one.

We have to admit that this budget cycle is a stark turnaround for state government. As recently as 2011, when Brown took office for the second time in his life, the state budget was wallowing $25 billion in the red. But since then the economy has been cooking, putting more money in the pockets of mostly wealthy business owners, who pony up two-thirds of the income tax revenue each year.

We like Brown’s plan to enhance the state’s reserve fund, because as we’ve all witnessed in recent years, California has and will continue to have pressing needs to pay up for unanticipated calamities.

Government in general has this annoying habit of ramping up spending in the economically fat years, while not worrying about the lean years. But the lean years always, always come around.

For example, it’s a safe bet that we’re in for another monstrous wildfire season, because once again, California is becoming bone dry. The state’s firefighting agencies are asking for more money, knowing what’s coming in the months and perhaps years ahead.

We also have to plan for extended periods of drought, torrential rains and flooding, earthquakes — you name it, we’ve got it, and it all needs to be paid for when and after it happens.

And the state’s solid economy also is on unsteady ground. The first sign that economic growth may be on the ropes can be found in rising gasoline prices. When the dominoes start falling, it’s best to just stay out of the way.

Still, California needs a proactive budget and spending plan. With the world’s fifth-largest economy, that’s important.

___

May 14

Chico Enterprise-Record on Gov. Brown’s levee repair funding being a pleasant surprise:

With tax revenues running billions of dollars ahead of expectations, Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision was bound to have some surprises.

One of the biggest surprises for us was the inclusion of an additional $125 million for levee repairs.

It’s always surprising when rural needs get the attention of anyone in Sacramento, with the governor at the top of that list. In the almost eight years he’s been in office, he’s made it into the north valley just three times that we can recall: in 2010 when he was running for office, in 2012 to promote the Proposition 30 tax increase, and last year when he helicoptered into Oroville for a quick look at the dam spillway.

He understands that he doesn’t need the north valley, and it shows.

Yet here’s $125 million out of the blue. It may all go to shoring up levees in Natomas or some other Sacramento suburb, but it’s a start.

It’s just a start though. It’s been estimated that there is $800 million in levee repair work needed in the Central Valley. It could be higher than that, as the water dumped into the Feather River during the spillway crisis tore up a lot of infrastructure, whether the Department of Water Resources admits it or not.

It seems like a lot of money, unless you compare it to things a like a bullet train, or two tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. But of course those aren’t designed to help rural California, unless you’re a farmer on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Well, the bullet train might end up a rural project too, just linking Madera and Bakersfield, the way the cost estimates keep soaring.

What a legacy that may end up being for Brown. Wouldn’t it be better to be remembered for securing the safety of the millions of Californians who live near rivers?

Fixing levees isn’t high-tech or iffy. It’s pretty straightforward and well understood. It’s going to work. The costs aren’t going to spiral out of control. But it’s just not sexy.

Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Red Bluff and Assemblyman James Gallagher of Yuba City thanked the governor for including the money.

“While more is needed,” they said in a press release, “we are pleased to see the governor’s revised budget includes funding for this purpose.”

Hopefully this proposed spending will survive the budget’s dance through the Legislature. There aren’t a lot of friends of rural California in that place.

AP RADIO
Update hourly