The Starting Line – Both California Senators Blocking Filibuster Reform

by on January 7, 2013 · 1 comment

in Activism, Columns, Economy, Education, Government, Media, Politics

FilibusterReform

By Doug Porter

Two of the leaders of the effort to reform Senate filibuster rules, Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, are now saying that 48 senators have confirmed their support for making the filibuster a real, talking filibuster. Further, all 48 have committed to reforming the filibuster by using the “constitutional option”—that is, by changing the rules of the Senate with a simple majority of 50 votes plus the Vice President.

There are seven Democratic members of the Senate who have not yet committed to reforming the filibuster in this way: Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein of California, Carl Levin of Michigan, Max Baucus of Montana, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

You (should) know what to do. Contact Sens. Boxer & Feinstein today. Let’s get this done.

Earth Day Planners to Meet with Mayor

earthfairAfter sending out a major email blast and garnering plenty of media attention, organizers for San Diego’s Earth Day are meeting with Mayor Bob Filner today to discuss the City of San Diego’s refusal to issue a permit for this year’s event.

From the Earth Day website:

On Friday, Jan 4, 2013San Diego EarthWorks was notified by an official in office of Mayor Bob Filner that the City of San Diego will not issue a park use permit for EarthFair in Balboa Park in 2013.

I suppose we should not be surprised. In 2012, Park & Rec Department (that manages Balboa Park) initially denied our permit. Their primary stated reason was that EarthFair had “grown too big” for the Park. Now, this is simply not true: EarthFair has been large since the very first one in 1990, and, with some fluctuation from year to year, is the same size it always has been.

Ultimately, when questioned by the City Council at a public hearing, head of Park & Rec relented and said they would give us a permit. EarthFair 2012 was produced as it had been for 23 years.

This year, their excuse is that EarthFair cannot be held because of the Plaza de Panama construction project. When asked for specifics as to why the permit was denied, the official in the mayor’s office (that manages Park and Rec and controls the park) offered only vague comments about liability, and refused to meet with us to discuss the issue.

Although the City has reportedly offered site organizers an alternative location on the west end of the park, EarthFair 2013 planners say this option is unworkable. (See website for details)

It would seem as though a long-standing conflict between the event and year round organizations is at the bottom of this kerfuffle. From Earth Day:

Who, you might ask, would someone want to block this event – the world’s largest free environmental fair and Earth Day celebration, and repeatedly the largest single-day event in Balboa Park. And why?

The parties with a vested interest in keeping Earth Day out of Balboa Park are the Balboa Park lessees (museums, restaurants, etc.). Although we bring 50,000 to 60,000 people to the park every year, very few go into the buildings – they are busy with all the EarthFair activities. This means one day of reduced revenue for these institutions. Although we have asked for an accounting of the lost revenue, we have never received any specific dollar amounts.

Some also complain that their volunteers and employees have a hard time parking during EarthFair. This is certainly true. But in the past 15 years, none have requested any accommodation to attempt to address this issue. We note that, for the first 5 years or so of EarthFair, we accommodated requests from several museums by providing reserved parking for their staff and volunteers.

The Park and Recreation Department has reportedly also told organizers of “December Nights” that they’ll have to relocate in 2013, but there has been no confirmation of that claim.

From my (very limited) experience in dealing with the public employees that actually run Balboa Park, my read on this is that these large events are an operational nightmare. I’ll bet it’s true the museums and restaurants in the park see less business during Earth Fair. And it’s also clear that Earth Fair organizers can’t see any benefit in modifying their event.

So what we have here is a situation where everybody involved is unhappy. Mayor Bob’s challenge is going to be a tough one. Balboa Park’s role as a space that can accommodate all San Diegans and not just those with the means to pay the admission fees, menu prices and (soon) parking fees is at stake.  Here’s hoping he can prod all these groups into finding a way to make lemonade out of the lemons before them.  (I’ll update as more info becomes available.)

Nurses United (Finally)

cnanuhwThe California Nurses Association and the National Union of Healthcare Workers have joined forces following years of sometimes acrimonious relations.  The CNA abandoned the newly formed NUHW in 2009, leading to an attempted hook-up by the NUHW with the Machinists, an AFL-CIO union with little connection to California health care.

The most immediate impact of this affiliation will be critical help from CNA in NUHW’s ongoing drive to oust the Service Employees (SEIU) as the representative of 43,000 service and technical workers at Kaiser Permanente. Their union was born in late January 2009 when then-SEIU President Andy Stern trusteed his union’s third-largest affiliate, United Healthcare Workers-West.

Activists formed the independent NUHW and began the difficult process of wooing established bargaining units away from SEIU-UHW, while also organizing non-union hospital workers in the state. About 4,000 Kaiser Permanente workers, including nurses, social workers, psychologists, and optical employees succeeded in switching from SEIU to NUHW three years ago.  Since then they have struck repeatedly, by themselves and with CNA co-workers, against contract concessions sought by Kaiser, including retiree health insurance givebacks conceded by SEIU.  (Source: Labor Notes)

The Obamapocalypse is Coming

obama antichristHaving predicted doom and gloom should Democrats triumph in the November elections, Doug Manchester’s loyal minions at UT-San Diego set out to prove their case on Sunday with a front page “news” story by Christopher Cadelago and Paul Sisson about the terrible tax burdens threatening the very existence of California’s one percenters.

It doesn’t take but six sentences before the gospels of fear and falsehoods appear, disguised as real reporting.

“The increase in an already-high tax rate is a strong disincentive for people to live and work in California. I have friends who have already left for Florida and for other states that either don’t have personal income tax or that have ones that are far lower than California’s,” said Robert J. Shillman of Rancho Santa Fe, the chairman and chief culture officer at Cognex Corp., which designs and markets machine vision and industrial ID systems.

“The reason this is happening is very clear: There are more ‘takers’ than ‘makers’ in our society, and this is leading directly to the decline of free enterprise and capitalism, and this will inevitably lead to the decline in the standard of living … not only in California, but also in the entire country.”

Downplayed throughout the story are compelling studies by actual researchers suggesting that taxes are not driving millionaires and their “job creating’ businesses from California. There’s the study (mentioned at the very end) by Dr. Charles Varner and Dr. Cristobal Young of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality that used California income tax records to track people as they moved found little connection between top marginal tax rates the number of millionaires residing in the state.  In fact, it seems as though divorce seems to be a much more important factor. Money quote:

There is a strong out-migration effect for high-income earners who become divorced. In the year of divorce, the migration rate more than doubles, and remains slightly elevated for two years after the event. This shows that there are circumstances that do generate millionaire migration. The tax policy changes examined in this report are very modest compared to the life impact of martial dissolution.  

And there’s no mention at all of the Public Policy Institute of California study that examined a decade worth of statistics about business migration. They couldn’t find a connection between taxes and businesses ‘fleeing’ the State, a central talking point for California Republicans going back two decades.  (Emphasis mine in this quote)

Relying on the most recent data, this analysis reconfirms that business relocation—the movement of business establishments from one state to another—accounts for a very small share of California’s employment fluctuations. In fact, relocation accounts for a smaller share of job gains and losses in California than in most other states, in part because most California businesses lie far from the border of neighboring states. This report expands on our earlier research with a closer examination of births, deaths, expansions, and contractions of businesses, assessing in particular how much of these gains and losses occur among locally headquartered businesses. Although regional economic development policies often focus on encouraging businesses headquartered elsewhere to relocate, open, or expand local operations, the strong majority of job gains and losses are “homegrown” in that they take place in locally headquartered businesses.

There’s also no mention in the UT-San Diego story about the effect that the recent re-alignment of season ticket prices for the Chargers will have on this area’s wealthy. Fees for the pricier seats increased while two thirds of the stadium (seats for the non-wealthy) either decreased or stayed the same in price. If that’s not socialism, I don’t know what is. Where is the outrage?

California’s Diabetes Crisis

Meanwhile, the LA Times Sunday paper fronted with a real issue facing residents of the Golden State: diabetes.  But that disease affects the not-so-wealthy, so we can certainly understand why our local daily chose to highlight the woes of the wealthy. Diabetes is a serious problem:

A chronic illness that can lead to heart attacks, blindness and kidney failure, diabetes is exploding across the United States and raising enormous obstacles to the Obama administration’s drive to control costs and reform the healthcare system. In California alone, the disease costs taxpayers and businesses roughly $24 billion annually. One in seven California residents has diabetes — a 32% increase in the last decade.

Community health centers like T.H.E. Clinic are a crucial front line in the federal government’s war against diabetes. They’re charged with slowing the advance of the disease, which disproportionately affects poor patients whose care may be taxpayer-funded.

To do so, clinics must get millions of patients to change deeply ingrained eating habits, embrace regular exercise regimens and better manage their health to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations.

$10 Billion 2x for Foreclosure/Loan Screwups

foreclosureBOA-612x300The NY Times reported on Sunday that fourteen banks are ready to settle up with the feds over abuses in the foreclosure process in recent years to the tune of $10 billion. Sadly, there will be no repercussions included in this deal for the banks role in the financial crisis that triggered the wave of foreclosures:

An estimated $3.75 billion of the $10 billion will be distributed in cash relief to Americans who went through foreclosure in 2009 and 2010. Another $6 billion will be directed toward homeowners who are in danger of losing their homes after falling behind on their monthly payments. The deal follows a week of feverish negotiations, and it almost fell apart over the weekend. Some officials at the Federal Reserve threatened to scuttle it unless the banks agreed to pay an additional $300 million for their role in the 2008 financial crisis that torpedoed the housing market and led to millions of foreclosures. 

The paper is also reporting this morning on a separate deal involving Bank of America, with that financial institution agreeing to pay more than $10 billion to Fannie Mae to settle claims over troubled mortgages that soured during the housing crash, mostly loans issued by the bank’s Countrywide Financial subsidiary.

Finally, Something for Gun Nuts to Get Upset About

The Washington Post Sunday edition reported on the likely avenues the White House will be pursuing as it seeks to respond to public concerns following the shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sources are telling that paper the executive branch is considering a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition.

A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.

 …

The White House is also developing strategies to navigate the rocky and emotionally fraught terrain of gun politics once final policy decisions are made. The administration is quietly talking with a diverse array of interest groups, including religious leaders, mental-health professionals and hunters, to build as broad a coalition as possible, those involved in the discussions said.

 Filner’s Safe Access

Despite mutterings from the Twitterati and some in the press that he ought to spend more time at City Hall, Mayor Bob Filner continues to maintain a frenetic pace of meetings with groups around San Diego.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group, hizzoner will be a special guest. The gathering is scheduled for 6:30 pm (Jan 8th) at the La Jolla Brew House.  Here’s the Facebook link for that event.

On This Day: 1953 - President Harry Truman announced the development of the hydrogen bomb. 1955 - Marian Anderson became the first African-American to sing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. 1999 - President Clinton went on trial before the Senate. It was only the second time in U.S. history that an impeached president had gone to trial. Clinton was later acquitted of perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

On This Day: Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Escondido (Welk Resort 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive) 1pm –Sunset

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He received a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial in 2013. He is a cancer survivor and lives in North Park.
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avatar Jack January 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

I sent an e-mail to Senators Boxer and Feinstein just now. It is quick and easy. If you do not ask, you do not get.

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