California Editorial Rdp
By The Associated Press
Sep. 05, 2018
Los Angeles Times on funding for 'subway to the sea':
2028 is not all that far away. And as the Summer Olympics that will be held in Los Angeles that year draw ever closer, the track to keep an eye on isn't on the field. It is — or will be — underground, as engineers and construction crews hustle to finish the final and crucial leg of the Purple Line subway, connecting downtown to sporting venues across the city and to the Olympic Village at UCLA.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority desperately hopes to complete the $9 billion subway extension in 2026, two years before the Olympics. But Metro is facing a critical funding deadline next month that could determine whether the subway is completed in time for the games. Whether the project meets its deadlines is in the hands of the Trump Administration.
Earlier this year, Metro selected a contractor to dig the tunnels for the third and final section of the subway line between Century City and West Los Angeles, near the Veterans Affairs Hospital. However, the work cannot begin until the Federal Transit Administration sends a letter verifying that if Metro spends its own $492 million to expedite the work, the federal government will reimburse the money under a future grant, which Metro is widely expected to receive.
But the clock is ticking. The construction bid expires Oct. 3. If Metro doesn't get the funding commitment by then, the agency will have to rebid the contract. That could delay the project by nearly two years and increase the cost by $200 million, Metro officials say.
So far, they say the Federal Transit Administration has been helpful. With less than a month to go, L.A. leaders say they remain hopeful they'll get through the approval process in time to avoid having to rebid the construction contract.
But it is not out of the question that the Trump administration could put the brakes on this critical piece of funding for the project, as part of a larger assault on public transit construction nationwide.
Last month, the advocacy group Transportation for America released a report showing that the Federal Transit Administration is sitting on nearly $2 billion that Congress budgeted over the last two years for public transit projects across the country. The group accuses the agency of dragging its feet on distributing the money.
It's no secret that the Trump administration wants to slash federal funding for mass transportation and make local governments pay the bulk of the cost. The president's budget this year proposed cutting dollars allocated for public transit and eliminating funding for new projects. Congress restored the funding.
The president's much-hyped infrastructure plan — which has so far gone nowhere — envisions doing more with less by requiring localities to put up at least 80% of the funding for their projects. Traditionally, it was the federal government that covered 80% of major transportation projects, with locals contributing 20%. And conservative groups have lobbied heavily across the country to stymie public transit funding, often in favor of highway projects.
There's nothing wrong with requiring localities to kick in a significant portion of the bill for regional transportation projects. In fact, Los Angeles County is already planning to pay for 52% of this project.
Furthermore, voters have repeatedly approved sales-tax hikes to pay for more transportation infrastructure. The Measure M sales-tax hike that was approved in 2016 is the reason the Purple Line could be completed in 2026 instead of 2036, as originally planned. California lawmakers, too, have voted to increase gas taxes and vehicle fees to fund highway and public transit infrastructure. (Anti-tax hawks want to roll back the new gas-tax funding with Proposition 6 on the November ballot.)
But local and state dollars cannot replace federal funding. Nor should they. The federal government has a shared national interest in a country that's safe and well-connected, and where people and goods move efficiently. The Purple Line subway is the perfect example. It will help move people through one of the country's most congested corridors.
If the federal funding comes through, as it should, and the project is completed on time, the subway will be an integral part of the region's transportation system during the 2028 Olympics. This will be an opportunity to show the world that the United States is a country that works, that builds, that sees the importance of investing in its infrastructure. This is a nation that provides modern, efficient means of travel for its residents and is not a backwater still stuck in 20th century traffic.
The Sacramento Bee on Gov. Brown needing to right the wrong of making cops untouchable:
Months away from ending his governorship, Jerry Brown still doesn't talk much about his legacy. But it's clear that he cares about it, particularly when it comes to criminal justice reform in California.
In recent years, he has signed a number of bills to roll back sentencing enhancements that can add years of prison time for people with criminal histories. And four decades after signing strict, mandatory sentencing standards into law during his first term as governor, it was Brown out there stumping for Proposition 57, persuading voters to make it easier for nonviolent offenders to earn parole and to dismantle yet another piece of the tough-on-crime system of mass incarceration and over-policing that he helped build.
"You create a problem you figure out how to solve it," he said in 2016. "If politicians would do that we'd be in a lot better place."
We agree. That's why the governor should again take his own advice and solve another problem by signing Senate Bill 1421.
The legislation, which passed the Assembly last week and is authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would force law enforcement agencies to release the details of use-of-force investigations, as well as personnel records of cops who commit crimes while on duty.
Currently, all of this information — in addition to disciplinary records, annual appraisals and details on promotions — is confidential under the legislative straitjacket known as the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights. Only a judge can release such information as part of a criminal case or lawsuit. And not even prosecutors have direct access to it.
It was Brown, in the final months of his first term in the 1970s, who created the foundation for this excessive secrecy and the state's powerful law enforcement lobby has expanded and protected it ever since.
At the time, the goal was to stop defense attorneys from going on fishing expeditions for evidence in an officer's personnel file to prove a client's claim of self-defense.
But this isn't this 1970s. This is the era of smart phones and social media, and of officers being caught on video shooting unarmed people of color. With district attorneys who are either unable or reluctant to file charges in these situations, the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights has morphed into a shield for bad cops to avoid both public scrutiny and consequences for their actions.
For example, we still don't know much about the Sacramento police officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark in his grandparents' backyard in March. Nor do we know much about the Sacramento County sheriff's deputies involved in the deadly shooting of Mikel McIntyre in Rancho Cordova last May.
And an investigation by The Los Angeles Times found that misconduct by cops who testify in court is often kept hidden under the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights. This allows bad officers to move around the state, from department to department, without the public being the wiser.
This surely isn't what Brown intended. He should set his legacy straight by righting this clear wrong, and sign SB 1421.
Santa Maria Times on a common problem in our county:
Santa Barbara County has a homeless problem, as anyone who has visited downtown Santa Barbara or the Santa Ynez Riverbed near Lompoc already knows.
For verification, the federal government mandates what it calls the Point-in-Time count in January every other year. That's when various agents spread throughout local communities to get an actual head count of folks who have no place to call home.
The result of such a situation is that literally hundreds of thousands of Americans make a home where they can. Sometimes it's behind bushes by the freeway or under a bridge. One tell-tale sign is the sudden appearance of a small enclosure made of castoff cardboard boxes and tattered blankets.
In Lompoc, these make-shift abodes take the form of holes dug into the Santa Ynez River bank. Lompoc city officials call them "Hobbit holes." In many cases, the homeless who inhabit the holes have about as much chance as Tolkien's fantasy Hobbits had against the Orcs in the Middle-Earth showdown.
The most recent Point-in-Time count was last year, and it identified about 1,500 homeless people throughout the county, a figure that seems likely to under-represent the actual number, in part because many homeless people tend to avoid contact with non-homeless people.
What that recent count didn't report was that the death toll among the county's homeless population continues to rise. Living on the streets is just one close call after another. That, mixed in with mental-health and substance abuse adds another layer of risk.
Lompoc officials made a case to county officials last week for the county helping out with the financial burden of locating, then relocating homeless people. The Lompoc officials made some valid points, mostly that some of the land being squatted on is in the county.
There are other reasons the county should help Lompoc with its removal of homeless from the riverbed. For one thing, the detritus from the camps ends up in the ocean when the river flows. Another inducement is that when the homeless are told to leave one area, they generally migrate to another area — thus, Lompoc's problem becomes someone else's problem.
That proved to be the case after the Thomas fire and subsequent flooding in Montecito, and the reason why the homeless population in the Santa Ynez Riverbed camps grew larger earlier this year. In fact, the Point-in-Time count last January already showed more than an 80-percent jump in Lompoc's homeless population.
Santa Barbara has, by far, the largest homeless contingent — nearly 350 — and you can imagine if that city cracks down on the homeless, or there is a disaster on the South Coast, North County homeless populations will mushroom.
All of which supports the argument Lompoc officials are making that the county share in the costs of dealing with the riverbed inhabitants.
America is, and has always been a great country, but as a nation we seem to be shortchanging too many of our own citizens. A group that comes immediately to mind include our military veterans, an average of 9 million of whom seek medical attention every year at Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics, and who often have to wait months to see a doctor.
America's daily average homeless count is easily more than a half-million people, most of whom cannot or will not get the help they need. That is a tragedy, in a nation that prides itself on achievement and equality.
Lompoc officials are seeking solutions, but it really should be a collaborative, countywide effort.
Santa Clarita Valley Signal on California's answer to bail reform missing the mark:
There's a reasonable argument to be made that California's criminal bail system needed. something.
Some kind of reform. After all, if you have two people charged with the same crime, and their bails are set identically at, say, for the sake of argument, $100,000, and one is a multimillionaire and one works in fast food.
You can easily bet which one will await trial at home, and which one will await trial behind bars. Traditional bail is a system that favors the well-to-do versus the poor, and it's reasonable to say that it doesn't treat everyone fairly.
It's no surprise, then, that Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed into law Senate Bill 10, which virtually eliminates the traditional cash bail system from California and replaces it with "risk assessment" and judicial discretion.
On its face, you might think it's just another one of Brown's "get out of jail free" cards. After all, the governor seemingly hasn't met a category of criminal he wouldn't gladly return to the streets of California.
But a funny thing happened on the way out of jail toward Park Place and Boardwalk: Many who favor bail reform reversed course on SB10, and came out against it in its final days before passage, citing changes in the legislation that they say will only perpetuate the bail system's unbalanced treatment of the poor and people of color.
And, in fact, they contend that it will not result in less incarceration at all, which was one of the stated goals of those advocating bail reform.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates bail reform to reduce unnecessary incarceration and eliminate predatory lending practices in the bail bonds industry, withdrew its support at the 11th hour.
"We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventative detention," said a statement released by the ACLU. "This falls short of critical bail reform goals and compromises our fundamental values of due process and racial justice."
Good points, but we don't want to throw out preventative detention with the bathwater, either. We believe it still has its place, particularly for cases involving violent crimes. For those who are charged with serious crimes but might be good candidates for release, a new system should be created to incentivize them to stick around until their legal processes are complete, rather than skipping town.
That was the idea behind bail: It's an incentive to stay put. Even if you use the services of a bail bondsman, it's a powerful influencing factor to make you think twice about missing a court date. Meanwhile, you get on with your life, go to work, participate in the preparation of your defense, and hopefully stay out of trouble while you await trial.
Without bail, we face one of two scenarios: In one scenario, many more of those facing criminal charges will be released, perhaps to commit other crimes, and perhaps to flee since there's no longer any financial incentive not to.
Or, as the ACLU fears under SB10, we'll continue having high incarceration rates that disfavor the poor. Another side effect: It could saddle taxpayers with the cost of not only creating new "risk assessment" mechanisms, but also we could still be left with the cost of incarcerating many people who might otherwise not need to be incarcerated.
We hope California doesn't let this be the last word on bail, at least as it regards serious crimes. We would favor a system that is more fair than the old one, but still incentivizes defendants to return for court dates and be on their best behavior.
Our view on bail and "preventative detention" differs a bit from most bail reform advocates, including the ACLU, but the one thing we can all agree upon is this: The bail system needed something, but SB10 is the wrong answer.
The San Diego Union-Tribune on 3 ways Sacramento gambled with California's future:
The state Legislature wrapped up its annual session in a sprint that saw it pass boldly liberal legislation on bail reform, renewable energy and net neutrality. On these hugely important issues, California may inspire other states to follow its lead.
Or not. Being bold doesn't always mean being smart. And these measures have unresolved issues and deserve scrutiny as each is implemented.
Take, for starters, the newly enacted law that eliminates personal wealth as the key factor in whether an accused criminal suspect is jailed while awaiting trial. When a compromise bill from state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, emerged, critics weren't just the bail bondsmen who have long profited because of punitive state laws. Critics included the activists who fought against the bail system in the first place because it had turned county jails into the equivalent of modern-day "debtors' prisons."
Under the compromise, suspects will be rated on their potential danger to society. Those judged low risk will be freed and those judged high risk will be jailed. The fate of those in the middle will be evaluated by judges, who get final say on their detentions.
This infuriates reformers who worry judges will be inclined to lock people up rather than run the risk of having to face either recall or future election challenges because someone they let go committed a heinous crime. That seems alarmist; only one state judge has been recalled since 1932. On the other hand, that recall — of respected Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky — just happened in June. Voters were infuriated after Persky sentenced a Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted a woman behind a dumpster to just six months in jail.
Still, this judicial discretion is definitely worth watching. A reform of bail reform may at some point make sense. Hertzberg admits his bill isn't perfect.
The bill committing California to get 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free energy sources like solar and wind power by 2045, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is also motivated by idealism. But it too alarms well-meaning people. If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, some energy experts warn that it will put the Golden State on track to having perhaps the most expensive energy in the nation — which is a bad thing in the state that is the epicenter of American poverty. As with past mandates, it treats natural gas the same as oil, even though it is far cleaner and extremely cheap. Does that make sense?
If Brown listens to the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) — the nonprofit agency that operates much of the state's power grid — he may reconsider the idea. Or not, he's such a climate change combatant. But Cal ISO cautioned that a 50 percent renewable goal would lead to so much more energy-creating capacity than the state needs that solar and wind operators would either have to often sell electricity for below market price or to build costly power storage sites. What about now?
Thankfully, there seems to be far less of a risk with the third bold measure adopted by the Legislature. If signed by Brown, it would establish an even stronger version of the "net neutrality" rules that were scrapped in December by the new Republican board majority of the Federal Communications Commission. It would ban internet service providers from slowing down or refusing to allow specific websites and video streams and would forbid ISPs from charging websites for faster loading of pages.
Some question where states have the authority to act like mini-FCCs. Telecommunication firms warn that the bill would raise consumer costs. But if the bill's main effect is to return to the sort of internet regulations seen in the final years of the Obama administration, it's hard to see a major downside.
Easier to see after this session? A new California.