By Doug Porter
In just a few short weeks the Board of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will vote on placing a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot. At stake are billions of additional dollars for transportation projects in coming decades.
The regional government group has released results from a just completed Competitive Edge survey of 1201 local voters, weighted for voting history, survey mode, age, party, gender, and subregion.
The ‘Good News’ is that there appears to be enough of a consensus to reach the two-thirds majority required for passage. The ‘Bad News’ is that the 68% supporting the idea dwindles to 62% once arguments against it are presented. (But the trend is in the right direction if you’re an optimist.)
An attempt to reconcile the competing interests in various localities, which are looking for help with infrastructure, and environmentalists, who are seeking measures for climate change mitigation, hasn’t really worked thus far. It’s clear that active opposition will likely doom the measure at the ballot box.
The ballot proposition is referred to as the “San Diego County Traffic Congestion, Road Repair, and Infrastructure Measure,” in the survey, which should be a clue as to which side is prevailing in this debate.
My analysis of the polling results indicates a higher of approval for highway improvements than transit access though majorities favor both premises. New Rapid Transit connecting people with employment centers gets a big thumbs up. Aerial tramways (not including a certain supervisor’s Balboa Park to downtown fantasy) get a big thumbs down.
Still to be determined are timing on various projects and the strings attached by SANDAG to projects in the various localities.
In addition to the question of building voter support, SANDAG must also face the possibility of lawsuits based on compliance or noncompliance with state targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
As Hutton Marshall from SanDiego350 said on these pages recently:
San Diegans–indeed, most Americans–want action on climate change. People are realizing that freeway expansion is at best an ineffective Band-Aid solution to traffic. At worst, it takes money away from transportation options sustainable in the long term. Since the November election will likely see a large turnout of progressive voters, promising environmentally-sound transportation projects isn’t just the moral thing to do, it’s a smart strategy.
San Diegans won’t be in this fight alone. President Barack Obama recently announced a $320 billion transportation spending plan directed toward clean transportation options. Therefore, it is time to capitalize on the wave of federal mass transit support.
Finally, to underscore the need for climate justice and urban development that will benefit the most vulnerable communities in San Diego, it’s worth noting that local sales taxes are a much heavier burden on low-income families than wealthier populations, since poor families are more likely to rely on making smaller, more frequent purchases. Any sales tax increase SANDAG proposes, therefore, should most benefit low-income communities.
Stealing from the Poor, Donald Style
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has filled in the blanks on how he’ll force Mexico to pay for the wall on its northern border, and it isn’t pretty.
From the Washington Post:
Donald Trump says he will force Mexico to pay for a border wall as president by threatening to cut off the flow of billions of dollars in payments that immigrants send home to the country, an idea that could decimate the Mexican economy and set up an unprecedented showdown between the United States and a key diplomatic ally.
In a two-page memo to The Washington Post, Trump outlined for the first time how he would seek to force Mexico to pay for his 1,000-mile border fence, which Trump has made a cornerstone of his presidential campaign and which has been repeatedly scoffed at by current and former Mexican leaders.
The proposal would jeopardize a stream of cash that many economists say is vital for Mexico’s struggling economy. But the feasibility of Trump’s plan is unclear both legally and politically, and also would test the bounds of a president’s executive powers in seeking to pressure another country.
Nearly $25 billion annually flows from the United States to Mexico, much of it in the form of small remittances from migrants to their families remaining behind.
FYI- Mexican immigrants pay more than double that amount in the form of taxes in the United States.
The average remittance sent to Mexico last year was $292.00. Nearly all remittances (97%) are now sent via electronic transfer. An estimated 20% of Mexican residents regularly receive some financial support from relatives working abroad with more worker remittances on a per person basis than any other country in the world. In 2015, these payments exceeded oil revenues as a source of foreign income for Mexico.
Right Wing Voter Suppression Strategy Stymied, for Now
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the decision for a unanimous Supreme Court yesterday, rejected a constitutional claim from conservative groups saying that states and municipalities may count only eligible voters when dividing up districts.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The case began with conservative activist Edward Blum, who claimed the “one person, one vote” rule adopted by the Supreme Court in the 1960s meant that the election districts should represent equal numbers of voters.
He launched a lawsuit on behalf of Sue Evenwel, a Republican county official from East Texas, who alleged the practice of counting everyone had the effect of “diluting” the votes of citizens like her in favor of districts with a high number of non-voters, including foreign residents, children and prisoners.
The high court agreed to hear Evenwel’s claim last year and in December, conservative justices sounded receptive. “It is called ‘one person, one vote.’ That seems designed to protect voters,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. commented.
But it’s likely that the practical and legal problems in this particular case had some influence on the way the conservative justices voted.
Voting rights groups were seriously concerned about what would happen if the Supreme Court told states to ignore people who weren’t eligible to vote when drawing up districts.
When the court heard oral arguments in December, the Southern Poverty Law Center called the case “a frontal assault on the core of the 14th Amendment, which was enacted after the Civil War to give equal representation and protection to all people.”
Luckily for those groups, the Court ultimately rejected the Evenwel plan soundly: “History, precedent, and practice suffice to reveal the infirmity of appellants’ claims,” Ginsburg wrote. And it did so unanimously.
But the Court didn’t settle the question entirely, and instead set up what’s likely to be the next battle: the Texas government’s proposal to use citizen voting age population, rather than total population, to draw up districts. That sort of plan would have similar effects to the Evenwel plan. But two conservative justices — Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — both wrote concurring opinions agreeing that it wasn’t constitutional to force a state to ignore population, but signaling that it would be okay if a state decided to count population in a different way (i.e., by only counting adult citizens).
San Diego’s talk show wunderkind, Carl DeMaio, took time off from drumming up fear over Black Lives Matter and Move On to draw in listeners of the “I am not racist” persuasion to his radio show:
— Carl DeMaio (@carldemaio) April 5, 2016
The Mafia vs. Goldman Sachs Pension Management
Here’s a cautionary tale about the vultures of Wall Street from Market Watch:
Real estate investments in Las Vegas casinos and hotels once threatened the integrity of a Teamsters pension fund that the federal government wrested away from corrupt trustees and organized crime after five years of legal battles.
A quarter-century later, the professionals who replaced them—Central States Pension Fund administrators; the Goldman Sachs & Co. and Northern Trust Global Advisors fiduciaries; and Department of Labor regulators—stood watch while the financial markets accomplished what the mob had failed to: which was to smash the fund’s long-term solvency with massive money-losing investments.
The debacle unfolding at the $16.1 billion Central States fund in Rosemont, Illinois, is a cautionary tale for all Americans dependent on their retirement savings. Unable to reverse a decades-long outflow of benefits payments over pension contributions, the professional money managers placed big bets on stocks and non-traditional investments between 2005 and 2008, with catastrophic consequences.
When the experiment blew up, rather than exhume the devastated portfolio to better understand the problem—and perhaps seek accountability—Central States administrators lobbied Congress to pass legislation giving them authority to cut retirement benefits by up to 50% after Treasury Department approval.
A Tip of the Hat to Jeeni Criscenzo
Freelance contributor Maria J. Duran reported about homeless women and young people at Voice of San Diego, mentioning Jeeni Criscenzo’s advocacy on behalf of these individuals.
The focus of the VOSD story is that current methods for counting homeless youth and women are inadequate, meaning they’re often underrepresented in official head counting totals.
Local programs addressing these at-risk groups must face an additional challenge in that they often are outside of the boundaries of what’s traditionally defined as homeless.
Criscenzo has been writing about this issue and others in her My Niche column at San Diego Free Press, and it appears there may some good news on the horizon:
San Diego is one of the 22 randomly selected communities that will participate in Voices of Youth Count, a nationwide effort to end youth homelessness that will include “surveying youth and those around them, conducting quantitative analyses aimed at establishing a reliable national estimate.”Chapin Hall, a research center at the University of Chicago, designed the program to work with local agencies collecting data.
“What we are trying to do is to go beyond simply an accurate count, incorporating the kind of data collection that would allow us to tell a more complete story about the circumstances of homeless youth,” said Bryan Samuels, Chapin Hall’s executive director. “By doing so you are in a better position to design interventions and programs to address their needs.”
San Diego Youth Services will lead the local group. At least 13 partners have shown interest in collaborating with the study, including the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. The coalition will conduct local counts, recruiting young people who are or have been homeless to conduct in-depth interviews. The counts will take place in May. Samuel believes the timing alone could produce a dramatically different result than the point-in-time count, which is conducted in January.
On This Day: 1983 – The Beach Boys were banned from the Fourth of July concert at the White House. President Reagan overturned the ban two days later. 1999 – In Laramie, WY, Russell Henderson pled guilty to kidnapping and felony murder in the death of Matthew Shepard, killed because he was Gay. 2010 – A huge underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W. Va., killed 29 miners, making it the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years. The Massey Energy Co. mine had been cited for two safety infractions the day before the blast; 57 the month before, and 1,342 in the previous five years. Three and one-half years after the disaster Massey’s then-CEO, Don Blankenship, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four criminal counts.
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