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Archive for October, 2010

I have a cardinal rule when writing my blog – not to overextend myself.

Accordingly, most of my focus concerning the current political campaign has been centered on Propositions 20, 25 and 27.

These three measures have fundamental implications for the effectiveness and quality of our state government and federal representation.

20 extends the role of redistricting by a citizens commission to include responsibility for drawing Congressional District lines in addition to those for state offices.

The citizens commission was approved by voters with Proposition 11 two years ago.

Congressman Howard Berman (Valley Village) is the power behind the attempt to defeat 20 and is also backing the passage of 27, which would repeal 11 and do away with the citizens commission.

It is a brazen and selfish attempt by Berman to thwart responsible efforts to establish districts that reflect logical community lines, not the gerrymandered abominations that reflect the will of political hacks.

Gerrymandering is nothing new; however, it has become a dangerously perverse science because of technological improvements allowing partisan operatives to draw precise districts around party registration, virtually assuring ideological fiefdoms that benefit only narrow interests – not the people. 

It should come as no surprise that Berman’s efforts are backed by limited special interests and employ the services of his own brother.

Prop 25 attempts to allow state budgets to be approved by a simple majority.  On the surface, that seems reasonable – and it would be except for assuring whatever ideological majority was in control the power to force its agenda down the throats of the entire state.

Without meaningful and logical redistricting in place, 25 is pure poison.

If you think the current state budget includes an excess of unrealistic assumptions, just wait until you see what a simple majority of idealogues will concoct in order to promote their agendas.

It really does not matter to me who wins the gubernatorial race.  The state is heading for a fiscal disaster.  Whoever wins may go the way of Gray Davis when California teeters on insolvency.

For the sake of the state, please vote as follows:

Prop 20- Vote YES.  Give citizens a crack at redrawing Congressional Districts.

Prop 25-  Vote NO.  Don’t hand the state budget over to partisan groups obsessed by ideological interests.

Prop 27- Vote  NO.  Don’t pull the rug out from under the citizens redistricting commission.

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Neighborhood Council  Valley Village will host pro and con presentations on Prop 19 – legalization of limited quantities of marijuana for general use – along with presentations about Prop 20 and Prop 27 – both dealing with redistricting.

19 is one of the most controversial measures before the state’s voters.  Its implications could be far-reaching, even beyond our borders.

If passed, the Federal government may come down hard on individuals cultivating or using marijuana for non medical reasons.

20 and 27 are generally considered in tandem by most voters.  These two measures pit established political operatives against average citizens. I have written about them in this blog (here and here) and elsewhere.

NCVV has always welcomed all views at its meetings and forums. All spokespersons are treated with respect, but tough questions or comments should always be expected.

The forum will be part of NCVV’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting – Wednesday, October 27th, starting 6:30 PM at the Colfax Charter School (intersection of Addison and Colfax in Valley Village).

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If the city’s EAA deal requiring employees to pay the overwhelming rate of 5% of the cost of health premiums was laughable, then the proposed offers to the other unions (3% for civilians and 2% for sworn personnel) is in the Rodney Dangerfield class.

If Mr. Dangerfield were alive today, one of his classic jokes would play as follows:

Rodney arrives at LAX and hails a taxi.

“Driver, take me to where the action is.”

The driver drops him off at City Hall.

We get no respect.

We are getting the Bell treatment, only the action is being spread among the city unions.

What  the Mayor, Garcetti and Greuel call a savings to the city from the proposed employee contribution for health care is nothing but the reciprocal of the increase to the taxpayers.

Let’s say the average contribution for city workers will be 3% after all the deals are approved.  That means our share would be 97%.

Using City Hall’s math, that amounts to a 3% savings for us; not much in any event.

But what will the real cost for the taxpayers be?

According to the Mayor’s office, healthcare costs are going to rise by $153 million per year over the next five years.  I’m not certain if that estimate includes the costs for sworn personnel.  In the context it was announced, I think not, so the number is probably much larger.

Let’s just say it is all-inclusive.

Here’s what we are facing.

Assume healthcare costs increase incrementally over the next five years to the $153 extra annual premium amount.  The cost split between employees and taxpayers will be as follows:

Year             Millions              Employee  (3%)           Taxpayer (97%)

2011                $ 19.1                       $ 0.6                          $ 18.5

2012                $ 38.3                      $ 1.1                           $ 37.2

2013                $ 76.5                      $ 2.3                           $ 74.2

2014                $114.8                      $ 3.4                           $111.5

2015                $153.0                     $ 4.6                           $148.4

Total                $401.6                     $12.0                         $389.6

That’s an additional $390,000,000 in costs to the city over the next five years.

Even the annual cost in the fifth year of $148,000,000 is sobering.

You have to assume it will get higher in the outlying years.

Nothing short of much higher employee contributions/lower benefits are going to be sustainable.

Yes, it’s tough, but the unions must wake up to reality. Nationwide, public employees are paying 27% of healthcare costs, close to the 29% paid by private sector employees (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

For any of our elected officials to frame these proposals as a good deal for the taxpayers is using Bell logic.

And that would make Rodney Dangerfield laugh from the great comedy club in the sky.

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Fall in the Sierra

Aspen grove south of Truckee, CA

Fall color is reaching its peak in the Sierra.  There is still time to enjoy the display.

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Improbable Victory

What does a football team do when its first three quarterbacks are injured (Aaron Corp was lost for the season with a knee injury) and your remaining passer was slated to be redshirted and limited in practice to running the scout team?

Adding to the challenge, the top three receivers are in varying degrees of recovery from injuries, and four starters from last year’s offensive line graduated.

It gets worse.  The opponent is ranked number eight in the FCS with only one loss – a heartbreaker – 42-37 against Michigan in a game played at Ann Arbor. 

I am talking about U Mass, a team averaging thirty points a game.

Did I mention it was homecoming for U Mass and 16,000 of their fans showed up for the contest at Amherst to cheer the Minutemen?

But that was the situation where the Richmond Spiders found themselves.  They were caught in a web with seemingly no escape.

Final score:  Richmond 11, UMass 10.

The Spiders’ defense has been steadily improving since the first three games of the season where they tired in the fourth quarter of each contest, allowing opponents to break open tight games.  The defense was fairly intact from last year’s squad, so it was a disappointment when they ran out of steam in two losses (Virginia and Delaware) and in a victory over Elon, a top team from the Southern Conference with playoff aspirations.

When Corp was injured in the first series of downs against  New Hampshire the week before, the defense kept the team in the game despite five interceptions thrown by the third-string quarterback on a windy day, giving up only ten points  (New Hampshire also scored a TD on an interception).

The defense was operating on all cylinders against UMass, including a stand that shut down UMass in a first and goal on the one situation, midway through the fourth quarter.  It gave the Spiders inspiration and they made the best of it.

Montel White, who is a true freshman, made four completions in five attempts during the do-or die series in the fourth, including the game winning TD with seconds left on the clock.

Montel White, Richmond QB

That’s character.

The victory keeps Richmond’s playoff hopes alive.

Photo credit: David Molnar

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There was much pride expressed by Controller Greuel upon release of the long-awaited audit on the  management of the city’s workers compensation program.

I am not challenging the results: the report confirmed what was suspected – Rocky Delgadillo was asleep at the switch.  I also read a report written a few years ago about why Custer was defeated at the Little Big Horn.

These reports have two thing in common: both were too late to have averted any damage and there is no recourse against the culprits. One is buried at West Point, the other is still alive and well despite an embarrassing showing in the State Attorney General primary race. 

Nowhere in Greuel’s cover letter is former City Attorney Delgadillo’s name mentioned, only a reference to the “previous City Attorney.”  The casual reader might assume some of the findings occurred on Trutanich’s watch.  It is not until the last paragraph that any distinction is made between the current and former office holder. 

One might conclude that Trutanich was as much a target as Delgadillo. Trutanich has been the driving force behind reforming the program, yet there was no mention of his progress.

It is hard to believe that Delgadillo reportedly had Presidential ambitions at one time

What the report does not address is if any of Delgadillo’s former staff he foisted on Trutanich had anything to do with the inept management and control of the workers compensation program.

Greuel is the type of person who will not name individuals responsible for wasting taxpayer money. Perhaps she is too close to key tenured City Hall employees to shine the light on them. We need to know who is failing us and insist on appropriate discipline.

I do not think that is too much to ask, but it might be too much for Greuel.

The length of time to conduct the audit is unacceptable.  The workers compensation program is a process with a paper trail and auditors with appropriate experience in the field should have made relatively fast work of it.   In a meeting I had with Carmen Trutanich in January,  he expressed concern that the firm Greuel selected to perform the engagement was not certified to handle such audits.

The “audit” was conducted by Harvey M. Rose Associates, LLC

Reading through the qualifications and background of the firm’s principals and staff, it appears only Harvey Rose is a CPA.  Prior to this engagement, there is nothing I can find in the backgrounds of either Mr. Rose or his staff that any of them had prior experience with workers compensation.

They appear to have extensive backgrounds in reviewing management of public sector entities, but workers compensation is a very specialized field, whether in the private or public sector.

By all accounts, most elected officials and key staff at City Hall knew there was a problem with Delgadillo’s handling of the program.  Why wasn’t a firm with heavyweight experience engaged?

Was Rose Associates a political favorite of the city? 

Greuel blamed the lawsuit filed by Delgadillo (without mentioning his name) as the reason for the audit’s tardiness, but if a qualified firm with measurable workers comp experience had been engaged as of January 2010 (when I talked with Trutanich), a report could have been available months earlier and a clearer path established for Trutanich to follow that much sooner.

Potentially, Greuel is wasting more money with her reports as Delgadillo was with running the workers compensation program.

With audits, timeliness and follow-through are essential to facilitating constructive change – a concept lost on Greuel.

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If Omar Loera , the alleged killer of Chere Osmanhodzic, will be subject to the death penalty if convicted, will Mexico extradite him?

That’s the thought that crossed my mind when I read the article about his arrest  in the Los Angeles Times.

“Prosecutors also charged the parolee with the special circumstances of murder during a burglary and arson, which could make him eligible for the death penalty,” reported the Times.

I thought Mexico did not allow extradition if the death penalty was on the table.

If anyone out there is familiar with the nuances of Mexico’s rules on this issue, please share your thoughts with us.

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