By Doug Porter
For the twelve days of Christmas I give you: The madness of 2013, one month at a time. A month by month recap of stories that appeared in the Starting Line over the past year.
#1 Nothing But Good News for Bike Riders
Things are looking so bright they gotta wear shades for bicycle fans these days, both nationally and locally.
The nomination of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx’s for U.S. Transportation secretary on Monday has bike enthusiasts excited. The Hill quotes League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke as saying:
“When Secretary LaHood announced his departure, the bicycling community asked the White House to appoint a successor with a clear commitment to multi-modal solutions to local transportation challenges, and Mayor Foxx clearly checks those boxes,”
A few months ago BikeSD member Nicole Capretz, from the Environmental Health Coalition, tweeted a link to Council President Todd Gloria and Councilmember David Alvarez on how to build better bike lanes and get more people on bikes. That sparked a discussion ending with Alvarez asking to meet Martha Roskowski.
On Thursday, Alvarez will get his wish when he meets with Roskowski along with other elected officials and business owners when they all meet to discuss how they can lead efforts to implement the next generation of bike lanes to San Diego. This discussion will include our efforts to have the City of San Diego apply to be one of the six cities that the Green Lane Project will offer technical support and resources to in order to build world class bicycle networks.
This is huge. Green Lanes are a term describing a growing family of modern bikeways “inspired by decades of experience in European cities and adapted to meet the unique needs of American streets.”
The best part about these projects has been the positive impacts that small businesses have realized. The dedicated lanes, being built on streets in cities across the country, have proven to boost foot traffic and sales for adjacent retail stores. In New York City retail sales increased 49% on 9th Avenue after protected green lanes were installed, compared to 3% growth in the rest of Manhattan.
#2 Carl DeMaio, the Best They Can Do for Their Kind
Washington’s Roll Call reported yesterday on a GOP polling effort right here in San Diego County’s 52 Congressional District. It’s well known that incumbent Brian Bilbray’s defeat by Democrat Scott Peters was a bitter pill for Republicans to swallow.
And local GOP leaders have made it perfectly clear that they’ll be back in the game, mounting a serious effort to retake that seat in 2014.
The latest Republican polling effort involved testing voter reaction to ‘new generation Republican’ Carl DeMaio. From Roll Call:
The poll informed likely voters that DeMaio is openly gay and he would prefer that the GOP focus on fixing the federal government’s finances rather than on social issues. According to the polling memo, the results of pitching that kind of a profile in this moderate district were encouraging across the political spectrum.
“The data from this survey shows that DeMaio could be very successful in a congressional race portraying himself as a ‘new generation Republican,’” Tarrance Group pollster Dave Sackett wrote.
The survey memo, obtained by CQ Roll Call, was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Hmmm. When was the last time we heard the term ‘new generation Republican’ used?
Oh yeah, wasn’t that Nathan Fletcher, the mayoral candidate who later ditched the Party?
And can you see the GOP TV ads, should an initiative on same sex marriage be on the ballot?
“Vote for our all-new gay candidate, because that’s the best we can do for their kind…”
#3 Where Have All the Teachers Gone?
That is a question people are likely to be asking at some point in the future. Education activist Diane Ravitch passes along data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing showing a sharp decrease in future educators.
For the eighth consecutive year, the number of newly credentialed teachers dropped, falling from 23,320 in 2007-08 to 16,450 educators earning their credential in 2011-12. The number of students enrolling in teacher preparation programs has also decreased, to 34,838 in 2010-11 from 51,744 in 2006-07.
As always, Ravitch doesn’t mince words:
The corporate reform movement has been bashing teachers and public education without let-up for the past several years. The bashing became super-charged after the introduction of Race to the Top in 2009, because it explicitly blames teachers for low test scores despite evidence to the contrary.
The “reformers” claim they want “great teachers” in every classroom, and the way to do it is to fire teachers whose students get low scores, to close schools with low scores, and to deny teachers the right to due process. This is their formula, and they are sticking to it even though no other nation in the world has launched a vendetta against the teaching profession and public schools.…
This fraudulent reform movement is not going to achieve any of its stated goals. It will not lead to a great teacher in every classroom. Left unchecked, it will turn teaching into a temp job and dismantle public education. This will benefit the haves, not the have-nots. And that may explain why the haves are dumping millions of dollars into state and local school board races, to elect candidates who share their contempt for career educators and democratic control of public education.
#4 The Alternate Reality of ObamaScare
Our local daily fishwrap is undertaking a week-long misinformation campaign designed to scare the crap out of everybody because Obamacare IS COMING.
This move comes as Congressional Republicans are moving to take their 37th vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. It seems the newbies on the Hill need bragging rights back home.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that Obamacare is far from an ideal solution. (I favor single-payer) But let’s look at the alternatives the Republicans are offering…
The Republicans’ solution—voting to repeal ObamaCare– is to keep a system where 26,000–45,000 Americans die every year for lack of insurance. They’re voting to keep paying for working Americans health care in the dumbest possible way —emergency rooms, to allow insurers to deny coverage to kids and adults with pre-existing conditions and for a system where your insurer can invent some reason to drop you when you get sick.
Now you might find this shocking, but there was once upon a (recent) time where a Republican leader, no less than House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, actually introduced a bill that he thought would address some of the shortcomings of the healthcare plan.
Cantor was in for an education. From the National Memo:
Cantor came up with a bill that at least appeared to help those Americans who have been denied by insurers because of pre-existing conditions and weren’t being helped by Obamacare. He even gave it one of those names that you can’t vote against without shaming everyone in your gene pool – The Helping Sick Americans Now Act.
The response from the conservative base was as predictable as it was loud. Fix Obamacare? Accept the results of the 2012 election? Appear willing to help extremely sick people? Oh, hell no. The right-wing blog Red State decided that for the very first time they would “score” a vote.
“Vote no or you’ll get on our scorecard as someone who voted to help fix Obamacare and save it,” wrote Red State’s L.Ron Hubbard-figure Erick Erickson — one of the chief proponents of using the debt limit as a hostage to demand cuts, a gambit that cost America as much as $18.9 billion.
#5 Where Have We Heard This Before? “It’s Bigger Than Watergate”
Well here it is folks. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for. Congressman Darrell Issa’s going to blow the lid off the foreign policy scandal that’s been festering for over six months now.
“I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is,”
“I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term,” he said. “I remind you, as bad as Watergate was, because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die.”
Central to today’s blockbuster hearing will be testimony from U.S. diplomat Gregory Hicks, who said he sought in vain to get the Pentagon to scramble fighter jets over the diplomatic mission as the attack was underway. Portions of his testimony have been leaked to friendly media as right wingers have sought to build the drama.
Of course, the release was selective. This quote from the Los Angeles Times is what Issa and his cohorts would like the public to hear:
…he expressed his opinion that a low-flying fighter aircraft over Benghazi might have prevented the second part of the assault, the firing of mortars at a CIA annex that killed CIA security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
“If we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split,” Hicks told House Republican investigators.
And then there’s this:
But Hicks acknowledged that he was informed as the attack was unfolding that the military did not have refueling aircraft in the area that could have supported a roughly 1,800-mile round-trip flight by the closest fighter aircraft, based in Aviano, Italy.
Ah, reality… Was/Is there a Benghazi cover up? Yes, I’m fairly certain that is the case.
After all, part of the attack involved the destruction of a covert CIA station. And I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there was mucho CYA going on at the State Department.
The GOP’s track record on blowing the lid off ‘major scandals’ is pathetic.
#6 Temecula’s War on Autism
Yesterday the Press-Enterprise ran a story regarding a special education student recruited by a Temecula school official over the objections of his parents to pose as ‘bait’ in an on-campus sting. And it turns out this isn’t the only case involving a special education student and drug stings in the Temecula Valley Unified School District.
The parents of a Chaparral High School student with autism, who was accused of selling marijuana last year to an undercover RiversideCounty sheriff’s deputy, filed a claim that was rejected by the district Tuesday, May 7. The parents said district officials authorized the undercover sting and allowed their son to be hounded by the deputy even though they knew he suffers from serious disabilities. Such claims are typically a precursor to lawsuits.
The new claim accuses school officials of “outrageous, reckless, illegal and egregious conduct,” alleging that they put the eighth-grader in harm’s way by involving him in an “unlawful school-directed drug sting.”
Parents of the first special ed student busted have already prevailed in court getting their son’s suspension from school reversed and have filed suit. Here’s how it came down for them:
In December, 2012, a teenager went to his public school, much like any other day. The boy was an autistic special education student, who is significantly learning disabled and on a regimen of prescription medications for a number of psychiatric disorders. That day, the boy’s parents began to worry when he did not come home after school.
What the parents did not know was that early on that morning, armed police officers had entered the boy’s classroom, handcuffed him, and had taken him away to be interrogated without a call to his parents or any attorney, then locked up for several days.
The boy is our son.
Of course their son was the young man paraded before the TV cameras on the day of the bust.
So while politicians and law enforcement officials play to the news media with these drug busts, the reality often doesn’t match up with the hype. Did you know that special education students represent 8.6% of public school students, but 32% of youth in juvenile detention nationwide?
Here’s how the cops reeled the special ed kid in:
Our son has great difficulties making friends, which is one of the hallmarks of those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), so my wife and I were thrilled when we learned, this past August, that our son had a new friend named Daniel. We had recently moved, and our son had just begun a new school year in a new school, within his same district, so to us, this new friendship seemed like a gift from the gods. Daniel was texting our son at a furious rate, yet each time we had our son invite Daniel over, there always seemed to be an excuse.
Daniel and our son had struck up a relationship in a class that they shared, and cell phone records show that during the course of a short period of time, our son received 59 texts from Daniel’s number. Daniel was an undercover cop.
I want to thank diarist dsnodgrass at Daily Kos, the father of one of the kids involved, for making me aware of this story. The larger issue at hand here is something the ACLU calls the School to Prison Pipeline, which you should read about here.
#7 Papa Doug Manchester’s Campaign Follies
Some people are more equal than others. And when it comes to fat cats like developer and newspaper publisher Doug Manchester, that ‘more equal’ status would seem to mean above the law.
Today’s revelation about Manchester’s misdeeds comes from the Sunlight Foundation, which has scoured campaign finance records nationwide and identified hard money donors who have donated to federal candidates, political parties and political committees in the last election cycle,
“Papa” Doug Manchester made the list of hard money donors of those who appear to have exceeded the legal limit of $70,800 to parties and committees in the 2012 cycle. His donations of $83,426 to committees and $10,000 to candidates all went to Republicans, of course.
I doubt he’s lost any sleep over breaking this ‘little people’s’ law. That’s why he’s got lawyers.
#8 ObamaScare for Dummies, 37th Edition
“We’ve got 70 new members who have not had the opportunity to vote on the president’s health care law. Frankly, they’ve been asking for an opportunity to vote on it, and we’re going to give it to them,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters last week.
That’s right. Your tax dollars were hard at work yesterday as the House voted for the 37th time to repeal or de-fund the Affordable Care Act. From Think Progress:
Last year, CBS News calculated that the number of hours spent on 33 repeal votes — then roughly 80 hours, or two full work weeks — cost taxpayers an estimated $48 million. Since then, Republicans have held three more votes (another $4.5 million) and will add another $1.5 million with their latest.
At a time when lawmakers have implemented $85 billion in across-the-board cuts on top of$1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, no dollar can be spared. And the country has serious health-related needs that could use funding.
And because there is no activity on Capital Hill that he won’t use as an opportunity to get his name in the press, Rep. Darrell Issa decided to start up a Twitter buzz about the repeal vote by starting the hashtag:
He kinda lost that internet battle, and the best part was the official White House Twitter response:
It’s. The. Law.
#9 Saving the Children from Harvey Milk
The Sacramento Bee reports that SaveCalifornia.com has purchased radio ads urging parents to keep their children home from school on Wednesday, May 22nd, lest their minds be corrupted by commemorations in honor of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk.
Over 100 hourly radio spots have been bought in Sacramento and Los Angeles. The group’s president, Randy Thomasson, told the media: “This is harmful to children. This is not academic, it’s brainwashing.”
From the Bee:
Milk served less than one year on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as the first openly gay elected official in California before he was fatally shot in 1978 along with Mayor George Moscone by colleagueDan White. Milk’s life was depicted in the Academy Award-winning movie “Milk.” In 2009, the state Legislature designated Milk’s birthday, May 22, as a “day of special significance.”
The law encourages schools to conduct “suitable commemorative exercises” that commemorate Milk’s life.
Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, an openly gay legislator from San Francisco, called SaveCalifornia.com’s efforts “pathetic.”
#10 As Citizens Clamor for a Better Life, Downtown Types Scheme to Take it Away
After years of suffering through cutbacks and slights of hand, residents from some of San Diego’s poorest neighborhoods packed a City Council public budget hearing last night.
An event that in the past might have been focused on saving city services from further budget cuts was instead about creating positive visions and improving people’s lives.
More than 300 hundred people submitted requests to speak to Council members on topics relevant to the needs of their communities in Mayor Bob Filner’s proposed budget for FY 2014. Speakers addressed the hearing in four languages, advocating for free bus passes for needy students, a better bike infrastructure, more library hours and improvements in the way city’s taxicabs are regulated.
Although only 100 of those who signed up actually got to speak for their allotted minute, the size and determination of the groups in attendance made a clear impression on the Council.
Council President Todd Gloria Tweeted a picture of the chamber from his perspective, adding, “I’m happy to see so many San Diegans participating in #sdbudget. All the students who spoke this evening did an excellent job.”
The effort leading up to the packed council chambers was the result of grass roots organizing by the Mid City Community Advocacy Network (CAN) and the Community Budget Alliance, a coalition organized by the Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI).
The Community Budget Alliance presented a PowerPoint to the San Diego City Council with regards to the FY 2014 Proposed Budget. They also organized training sessions earlier this month on how to write and give testimony of two minutes or less during the city-council budget hearings.
The budget process is far from over. Council members memos’ regarding the budget are due next Friday. The council votes in June on the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1st.
#11 San Diego’s Taxi’s: Unsafe at Any Speed?
A survey released yesterday leaves little room for doubt that conditions in the local taxi industry pose a very real threat to the safety of passengers, drivers and the general public in San Diego.
Conducted over a two month period by San Diego State University and the Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI), the study interviewed 331 local cab drivers, asking about earnings, expenses, hours, health care, vehicle safety and industry practices.
What emerges from the data is a picture of nearly serf-like conditions, where workers are obliged to perform in unsafe vehicles for long stretches of time with low pay under an ever-present threat of being blackballed should they dare to complain about conditions.
Key findings in the report include:
- Nearly 90% of licensed drivers work as “independent contractors”, leasing their vehicles at exorbitant rates that necessitate working a 70+ hour work week to earn what a minimum wage worker makes in 40 hours.
- Drivers are denied protections normally accorded independent contractors, are rarely covered by insurance for accident related injuries and lack job-related health coverage or workers’ compensation insurance.
- The current permitting/leasing system encourages taxi drivers to drive when tired or sick, and allows lax vehicle maintenance, putting public health and safety at risk.
- Current policies allow City permits to be re-sold on the open market without regulation, for tens of thousands of dollars more than their purchase price. As a result, drivers pay high lease prices and are blocked from becoming owner-operators. A permit purchased for $3000 has a median value of $140,000 in 2013, according to the report.
Anecdotally, a number of drivers recounted that the owner had taken the keys after they complained about the vehicle or spoke up at public meetings or to authorities – and a few were blacklisted. Some drivers we spoke to have not been able to find work again, while others had difficulty finding a new position.
One driver reported having the keys taken away after he complained that the air conditioner did not work during a particularly busy conference week in the summer. Seeking a new job, he was rejected by another permit holder, who said: “Your boss told me that you’re trouble.
#12 Leftist Bagmen Out to Kill Jobs
Get ready for another PR assault on sanity, brought to Californians by a group calling itself the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA).
It seems as though the APBA and their allies haven’t been able to spread enough money around Sacramento to stop a Senate vote this week on Senate Bill 405, which would phase out plastic shopping bags. Two other bills with much the same purpose died in committee.
The Bagmen, as I like to call them, have been running radio and tv ads for over a month now, hoping to “educate policy makers and consumers on the dangers of banning plastic bags.”
From California Briefing:
“California wants to continue to lead the fight against global warming, but banning plastic bags will have the opposite effect,” Mark Daniels, the APBA’s Chairman, said on a press call. Plastic bag bans are based on “unfounded junk science and myths,” Daniels said.
Along with the advertising campaign comes a PR blitz involving the ‘placement’ of stories favorable to APBA cause. They have learned the lessons of the anti-GMO labeling types (and the tobacco industry) and taken them to heart: ‘bad is good’, ‘reform is confusing’ and, above all, ‘jobs will suffer’.
This column, distributed nationally from Debra Saunders, is a fine example of their handiwork.
California Lawmakers: Just Leftist Bagmen
There is no problem too flimsy for California’s nanny lawmakers, as witnessed by the many laws that state solons have proposed to keep constituents from getting free plastic bags at the grocery. Those teensy plastic bags are cheap. They’re lightweight. They’re energy-efficient. People use them a lot, which means that they can end up as litter. That can be ugly. So Sacramento Democrats keep concocting bills to outlaw their idea of blight — not the homeless and not unemployment but bags. When Sacramento lawmakers see an opportunity to stick it to employed people who buy things, nothing can stop them.
Solana Beach is the only community in San Diego County currently with a plastic bag ban on the books, according to a story in today’s UT-San Diego.
The remaining bill on this issue, SB 405, is due for a floor vote as early as today. It would phase out single-use bags in grocery stores and pharmacies statewide by 2015 and in convenience and liquor stores by 2016. The measure was introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima.
UPDATE: The plastic bag ban just failed in the State Senate 18-17. Sen. Padilla requested reconsideration, but they decided they’d rather go home for the day.
Tomorrow: June’s Greatest Hits from The Starting Line
On This Day: 1890 – The U.S. Seventh Cavalry massacred over 400 men, women and children at Wounded Knee Creek, SD. This was the last major conflict between Indians and U.S. troops. 1972 – Following 36 years of publication, the last weekly issue of “LIFE” magazine hit the newsstands. The magazine later became a monthly publication. 1982 – Jamaica issued a Bob Marley commemorative stamp.
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Here’s the rest of this series:
April * Cochella (Twice), Taxes, Terrorists, and Testing
March *Sequestration, Taxifornication, Misinformation, and the Great Tourism Recession in San Diego
February * Guns, Governors, God and the Gipper
January * Ted Nugent’s Guns, Obama’s Gays, Manchester’s Minions and Huffpost’s Sideboobs