Feline Friday: An Exercise Wheel for Cats. What Will They Think of Next?

Just when you thought you’d seen everything, someone has invented a treadmill for your feline.  

photo-381Described as a hamster wheel for cats, LaughingSquid.com has information, photos and a video that you can view by clicking here.

The product, called One Fast Cat, currently seeks funding at Kickstarter.com. With 12 days to go, 869 backers have $169,517.00. That’s almost 17 times more than the $10,000 funding goal sought by the inventors. You can read more from Kickstarter by clicking here.

Copyright © 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.


Facts Are In: Government Overspending Swindles Millennials Into Poverty

The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale. ~ Thomas Jefferson

What’s All the Fuss About?

Millennials at The Can Kicks Back have done their homework. Over the last 30 years, the economic gap between younger and older Americans has dramatically widened. While senior poverty has decreased by 5%, rates of child poverty have remained higher and virtually unchanged. Changes in the way government taxes and spends have contributed to shifting more resources to older Americans. Entitlement spending is crowding out everything else so that other priorities are ignored.

Add State and Local Government overspending and debt to the Federal Government overspending and debt and you’ll conclude that government decision-makers at all levels are intentionally forcing future generations into poverty through irresponsible government overspending.

Government overspending at all levels must stop. In Coronado city, our colossal government debt of around $500 million swindles future generations out of a healthy financial future. Coronado’s off-balance-sheet Pension Debts and Redevelopment Debts total around half a billion dollars. As your Councilwoman, one of my priorities is to eradicate city debt in Coronado, not continue business as usual as city officials overspend our children and grandchildren into poverty.

Add State and Local Government overspending to the national debt, which is the result of Federal Government overspending, and you’ll conclude that government decision-makers at all levels are intentionally forcing future generations into poverty through irresponsible government overspending.

What You Can Do About It

The Can Kicks Back logoIf you love your children and grandchildren continue reading here. You can also read the full forty-two page Swindled report by clicking here.

Then, take action. Join the Millennial Movement for generational equity. Make it a priority to defeat the national debt and reclaim the American dream.

Copyright © 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.





Water Wednesday: Groundwater Level in California Basin Hits Historic Low

San Bernadino’s troubles are a red flag warning for us. We live in a desert coast region, with emphasis on DESERT. Water conservation is crucial for all consumers and all government agencies, including Coronado city. We will never have a “surplus” of water. It’s irresponsible for leaders to perpetuate the myth of “surplus water” because it puts local residents and businesses at risk. 

You may not know that by 1964, the San Bernadino Basin in California was at its lowest groundwater level because of a 20 year drought. Twenty years of drought! Today, that same basin’s groundwater level is even lower than in 1964. It’s at an historic low.

Why Does This Matter To Us?

Water drops ripples and green leavesAs water supplies dry up all around California, it’s unrealistic for consumers to assume we aren’t or won’t eventually be affected. As water ratepayers, it’s naive to assume we won’t be rate-gouged by private companies who hold rights to supply water to us for their profit. As government leaders, we’re negligent to ignore this serious issue because it’s not going to go away. Califorrnia is in its third year of official drought. Yet many government leaders have their heads stuck in the sand or are simply averse to hard work.

The Metropolitan Wastewater JPA, on which I proudly serve as the Coronado Commissioner, Finance Chairwoman and Steering Committee Member, are taking action. You can expect to hear more about the Pure Water project for recycling wastewater to reusable standards soon.

The Facts of the San Bernadino Basin

In her 22 July 2014 Los Angeles Times article entitled Groundwater Level In California Basin Hits Historic Low, Veronica Rocha wrote:

The groundwater level in the San Bernardino Basin area is at its lowest point in recorded history, officials say.

Measured in volume, the groundwater level for the basin is now about 500,000 acre-feet below full, according to Douglas Headrick, general manager for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

That would put it below the previous low recorded in 1964, a period that followed a 20-year drought, officials said.

“This isn’t just an issue for San Bernardino, but many other cities depend on this basin for much of their water supply, including Redlands, Highland, Loma Linda, Rialto, Colton and Riverside,” the district’s water resource manager, Bob Tincher, said.

The San Bernardino district and the Western Municipal Water District in Riverside, he said, were facing major challenges, including significant cutbacks in deliveries from the California State Water Project through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the Colorado River.

The region’s water problems are underscored by the fact that few residents know where their water comes from, Tincher said.

A survey of 400 residents conducted in March that was commissioned by 13 water agencies, including the San Bernardino district, found that just 3% to 5% of Inland Empire residents knew that 30% of the area’s water supplies were imported.

“These survey results showed us that we have some work to do,” Tincher said. “If Inland Empire residents do not know that we are dependent on water imported from Northern California for close to a third of our water supply, then they will not understand the need for projects such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which will safeguard our critical imported water supplies.”

Part of the plan includes the construction of two massive tunnels that would move fresh water from the delta to pumping stations that distribute water to the region.

To read the story in the LA Times and see sixteen photos, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.

Come On, Get Happy: New Happiness Study Released

A new happiness study from researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver found that some people are still willing to relocate to the unhappiest U.S. cities for good job opportunities or lower housing prices.

The research by UBC’s Edward L. Glaeser, Joshua D. Gottlieb and Oren Ziv suggests some people are willing to trade happiness for other gains. Their findings are in a working paper called “Unhappy Cities.” The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released the working paper last week. The San Diego metropolitan region on the researchers’ map was found to be somewhat unhappy.

Come On, Get Happy

CelebrateI feel lucky to have been born and raised in one of the happiest areas of the USA. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ are the three counties right in the middle of the Garden State that make up what we fondly call Central Jersey. The census takers and other statisticians call Central Jersey a PMSA, which stands for Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area. A PMSA has a combined population of 1 million or more.

It’s no wonder those of us from Central Jersey are optimistic, genuine, friendly and enjoy life! We hail from one of the happiest areas of the United States.

It’s common knowledge that Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ holds top ranking as one of the most affluent areas of the USA with excellent financial fitness. Financial fitness includes low consumer debt, high savings, high employment opportunities and high real personal disposable income. Real personal disposable income is the amount of income ultimately available to families for personal expenditures, savings and investments.

My roots in this happy Central Jersey region run deep. My German ancestors settled Hunterdon County in the early 1700s. They fought in the American Revolution and our family has had relatives in every war or conflict since the founding of our Great Nation. Ours is a beautiful area full of American history. The undeveloped areas are full of rolling hills, rivers, lakes, streams, horse country and old farmland. The developed areas offer excellent job opportunities, good transportation and other benefits for residents. Proximity to the City (NYC) and the Shore (pristine NJ white sand beaches) are two such benefits we enjoy.

The Happiness Trade-Off. What Does It Mean For Our San Diego Region?

Bubbles of soapThe conclusions of the UBC researchers are relevant for politicians and planners alike in our San Diego region. Some people may be willing to trade happiness for other gains. But those other gains are good job opportunities or lower housing prices.

Our San Diego region has limited job opportunities and high housing prices. As such, it’s not likely that we’ll attract young people unless we inject jobs into our region and limit development greed that prices young people out of the housing market. Offering better transportation services would attract more people to our region.

As I’ve long championed, extended Ferry Service around the San Diego Bay integrated with improved MTS bus service for Coronado would improve our regional economy. Coronado is important to the economy of our region because we have two of the three economic clusters of our San Diego region — U.S. military and tourism. The third cluster is located at and around UC San Diego in Hillcrest and La Jolla — academic research-medical technology.

Where the Happy People Live

Here are the happiest, and the unhappiest, areas of the USA according to the UBC happiness research:

Top 10 happiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):
1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA
2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA
3. Washington, DC
4. Raleigh-Durham, NC
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Houston, TX
7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Nashville, TN
9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest reported happiness:
1. Charlottesville, VA
2. Rochester, MN
3. Lafayette, LA
4. Naples, FL
5. Baton Rouge, LA
6. Flagstaff, AZ
7. Shreveport, LA
8. Houma, LA
9. Corpus Christi, TX
10. Provo, UT

Where the Unhappy People Live

Top 10 unhappiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):
1. New York, NY
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Louisville, KY
4. Milwaukee, WI
5. Detroit, MI
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Las Vegas, NV
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Philadelphia, PA

The least happy American regions are:
1. Scranton, PA
2. St. Joseph, MO
3. Erie, PA
4. South Bend, IN
5. Jersey City, NJ
6. Johnstown, PA
7. Non-metropolitan West Virginia
8. Springfield, MA
9. New York, NY
10. Evansville-Henderson, IN-KY

To read more about the UBC study, read the 22 July 2014 www.ScienceDaily.com article by clicking here. To receive the entire working paper “Unhappy Cities” for your review, order it online from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research for a $5 email delivery fee by clicking here.

Copyright © 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.

Weak Response to California Drought Explained

Have government neglect and corporate greed led to California’s tepid response to our serious three-year drought?  In a word, yes.  

Why Aren’t We Doing Something Positive to Address the Drought?

In his 20 July 2014 article in www.scienceblogs.com entitled Why Has the Response to the California Drought Been so Weak?, Peter Gleick writes:

Water drops ripples and green leavesIn the past few weeks, I have had been asked the same question by reporters, friends, strangers, and even a colleague who posts regularly on this very ScienceBlogs site (the prolific and thoughtful Greg Laden): why, if the California drought is so bad, has the response been so tepid?

There is no single answer to this question (and of course, it presumes (1) that the drought is bad; and (2) the response has been tepid). In many ways, the response is as complicated as California’s water system itself, with widely and wildly diverse sources of water, uses of water, prices and water rights, demands, institutions, and more. But here are some overlapping and relevant answers.

First, is the drought actually very bad?

Even this question is complicated. If you look at the well-known Drought Monitor for California weekly maps, the answer is clearly “yes.” 80% of the state is in “extreme” to “extraordinary” drought and 100% of the state is in “severe” drought or worse. Other indicators also show the severity of the drought. This year will be one of the driest on record, as was 2013. Reservoirs are at record low levels. Deliveries of surface water to some farmers are lower than at any time in recent history. Streams are drying up and fisheries are being devastated.

Yet water still comes out of my tap, in unrestricted amounts and superb quality, at a reasonable price. And this is true of every resident in the state: drinking water supplies have not been affected, especially for the vast majority of the population that lives in cities of the San Francisco Bay area, Central Valley, and southern California.

While there will be some adverse impacts of some farmworkers and farmers, the overall agricultural sector will not have a bad year. Some farmworkers will be out of work this summer and fall, some farmers will be forced to fallow land because of the lack of water, and others will have higher costs associated with the need to replace surface water shortages with temporary groundwater pumping. But initial estimates from the University of California, Davis, the agricultural community as a whole will not see very large losses – a drop of perhaps 4% or so of normal farm revenue. It might be more; it might be much less. We won’t know until the end of the growing and harvest seasons.

In effect, despite our continuing water wars, the State of California’s economy has become largely insulated from the effects of short-term drought – even droughts of a few years. The agricultural sector, which consumes 80% or more of the water that humans use here, only produces $40 billion out of a total gross state product of over $2 trillion – 2 percent.

Has the response to the drought been tepid, and if so, why?

In January, Governor Brown declared a drought emergency. Terrific. That was the right thing to do. But it was not followed by any systematic statewide communications effort, any requirement for mandatory cutbacks, or any comprehensive information on how homeowners or businesses could save water. Other than an occasional billboard urging people to stop wasting water, or an occasional newspaper article about the drought, I have gotten little or no information from my water utility urging (or requiring) me to cut my water use, no detailed information telling me what I can do to save water, and no imposition of mandatory restrictions, except in a few small areas.

The Governor, at the same time, announced the availability of emergency funds of up to nearly $700 million for drought response. Yet now, half a year later and in the hottest, driest part of the year, a tiny fraction of that money has been spent, and very little on the most effective strategies for saving water: rapid and immediate conservation and efficiency programs to help farmers swap out inefficient irrigation technologies for modern efficient ones, or to get homeowners to permanently remove lawns or inefficient toilets, showerheads, and washing machines – to name just a few proven, cost-effective strategies.

Some water utilities don’t like to impose drought restrictions because they have still failed to meter 100% of their customers, so there is no way to measure or monitor demands for savings. Or they fear that conservation efforts simply cut revenues, which force them to raise rates to cover their operating expenses – an action that sours customers on further conservation efforts. (This does happen, but it is a failure of utilities to implement effective water rate structures that can encourage conservation while still satisfying revenue needs: see here for information on strategies to avoid this).

Some farmers have “senior water rights” and will get all or most of the water they need this year. These farmers have no incentive to conserve water or use it more efficiently – and the media and the public do not hear from them. Instead, the public only hears from junior water-rights holders who have posted highly visible signs along Highway 5 in the Central Valley decrying the “Congress created dust bowl” or other catchy phrases that try to place political blame for natural events. These actually come from a tiny part of California’s agricultural community who know that they cannot get all of the water they want (as junior water rights holders), even in normal water years, because the state has given away far more water than nature reliably provides.

These signs are common along Highway 5 in California’s Central Valley, especially where junior water-rights holders have land that won’t get water during droughts. Ironically, this one is placed right in front of a newly planted almond orchard.

These signs are common along Highway 5 in California’s Central Valley, especially where junior water-rights holders have land that won’t get water during droughts. Ironically, this one is placed right in front of a newly planted almond orchard.

So, for now, we muddle through with mostly voluntary exhortations to cut water use, some new mandatory penalties for egregious water wasters (though even these mandatory penalties will be largely unenforced and largely ineffective at reducing water waste), and a lot of wishful thinking that El Niño will bail us out next year.

That could happen. But it might not. If next year is also dry, the shit is going to start to hit the fan. Our reserves and marginal sources of water are gone or going. Our reliance on groundwater overdraft cannot continue without destroying aquifers and streams that depend on groundwater flow. The richest farmers and communities will begin to pay (as they are starting to now) premium prices to buy water from other farmers or to take advantage of loopholes that exempt groundwater from regulation, monitoring, and management, at the expense of poorer farmers and communities who cannot drill million-dollar wells. And more and more people will be at risk of waking up, turning on the tap, and getting nothing but air.

In short, the tepid response will turn into panic and pressure to take actions, even if those actions are inappropriate (like letting fisheries and ecosystems die) or could have been avoided had we done the smart things we should have done earlier.

For photos accompanying this article and the 15 July 2014 California drought graphic, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.

Feline Friday: World’s Most Interesting Cat Face

Venus is a beautiful tortoiseshell cat with a beautiful face.  She is a chimera cat.  Half of her face is black fur, the other half is orange tabby fur. A chimera is a single organism composed of genetically distinct cells. Venus is also heterochromatic. She has one green eye and one blue eye. For more about this special feline, go to TwistedSifter.com by clicking here.

© 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.



MTS Commissioner Requests More Bus Service for Coronado

MTS busAs a Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Commissioner for Coronado, here is the statement I made on the record during yesterday’s Board meeting in San Diego:

Scarcely a week goes by when at least one resident, but sometimes more than one, approaches me with their concern about the need for more MTS service in Coronado. Coronado residents want more bus service for the Village, Shores and Cays. I want to make sure that my colleagues on this Commission and everyone here at MTS are aware of this. Thank you. 

I’m proud to work for the best interests of Coronado residents at MTS.

© 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.


CalPERS Scandal Simmers This Summer

CalPERS, the California Public Employee Retirement System, has failed government employees who deserve so much better. The latest revelations likely are just the tip of the iceberg in the culture of corruption at CalPERS. The last CEO of CalPERS, a former California State Director of Personnel, has pleaded guilty to taking large and small bribes, $250,000 cash in envelopes and a shoe box, payment for his wedding, a worldwide trip, rooms at  two Tahoe casinos, a job for $25,000 per month once he left CalPERS; illegally awarding contracts; and conspiring to cover up his crimes. Justice will be served this fall in the criminal case against him.

rue Color ImageHow does this affect Coronado? Our off-balance-sheet Pension Debts are approximately $300 million. It’s unrealistic to expect CalPERS to give us the honest amount of Coronado’s Pension Debts in a timely manner to disclose to the public on the city books. This means that our city will continue to keep Coronado taxpayers in the dark about the staggering Pension Debts for which Coronado taxpayers are responsible. And Coronado politicians will continue to kick the can and spend, spend, spend your tax dollars on annual budget plans filled with fat and gross waste.

In his article in the Sacremento Bee on 11 July 2014, Dale Kasler wrote:

The first two payments were made in paper bags. The last installment came in a shoebox. The handoffs all came at a Sacramento hotel near the Capitol.

In a stunning admission covering years of corruption, the former chief executive of CalPERS said Friday he accepted $200,000 in cash, along with a series of other bribes, from a Lake Tahoe businessman who was attempting to influence billions of dollars in pension fund investment decisions.

Fred Buenrostro, who ran the nation’s largest public pension fund from 2002 to 2008, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud. He has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as they pursue charges against his longtime friend, Nevada businessman Alfred Villalobos, a former CalPERS board member.

Buenrostro, 64, said that Villalobos plied him with casino chips and a trip around the world, plus a high-paying job with his investment firm after leaving CalPERS. He also admitted working with Villalobos to create phony documents to ensure that Villalobos earned his multimillion-dollar fees representing a Wall Street private equity firm seeking CalPERS investments.

Most of those allegations had been aired publicly already. What was new Friday was the blockbuster admission that Buenrostro took $200,000 in cash from Villalobos. In his written plea agreement, Buenrostro said Villalobos paid him in three installments in 2007, “all of which was delivered directly to me in the Hyatt hotel in downtown Sacramento across from the Capitol.”

According to Buenrostro, Villalobos told him to be careful how he deposited the cash in order to avoid detection by banking authorities. “Villalobos told me to be sure to ‘shuffle’ the currency before making any deposit, as the bills were new and appeared to be in sequential order,” Buenrostro wrote.

Later, after he’d left CalPERS and the investigation into their relationship gained momentum, Buenrostro said he accepted an additional $50,000 from Villalobos, paid by check.

The former CEO’s guilty plea is the latest chapter in a corruption scandal that first surfaced in 2009 at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Documents showed that Villalobos, a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles, had earned $50 million helping his Wall Street clients win investments from CalPERS over several years.

“We condemn the misconduct and ethical breaches admitted today by Mr. Buenrostro,” CalPERS said in a prepared statement. “CalPERS looks forward to justice being served in this case and for the individuals involved to be held accountable for their actions.”

After years of denying any wrongdoing, Buenrostro faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced Jan. 7. He remains free on bond.

“There is no question that the chickens have come home to roost for Mr. Buenrostro,” said his lawyer, William Portanova of Sacramento, after a brief court hearing. “He is starting a new chapter in his life. He is a 64-year-old man who is ready to tell all.” Buenrostro declined to comment as he left the courtroom.

His old friend Villalobos will continue to fight charges filed in the case, said Villalobos’ defense attorney Bruce Funk.

“We don’t think there’s any truthful information (Buenrostro) could give that could affect Mr. Villalobos,” Funk said after the court hearing.

The criminal trial was supposed to begin earlier this week with jury selection. Instead, it has been postponed, probably until the fall. Villalobos, 70, is in poor health and wasn’t in court Friday. He listened to the proceedings by phone.

Buenrostro, in his plea agreement, admitted taking bribes large and small. He let Villalobos host and pay for his 2004 wedding at Lake Tahoe. Villalobos took Buenrostro and a CalPERS board member on a 2006 worldwide trip. (The member isn’t identified in the plea agreement, but a state lawsuit filed in 2010 identified him as Charles Valdes, who has since left the board.)

Villalobos paid for his rooms at two Tahoe casinos, Harveys and Harrah’s. And Villalobos delivered on a promise of a $25,000-a-month job for Buenrostro after the CEO left CalPERS in 2008. The job ended two years later, about the time Villalobos and his company filed for bankruptcy.

In 2005, Buenrostro said he watched Villalobos give casino chips to certain CalPERS board members and to Buenrostro’s wife. At the time, CalPERS was considering awarding a pharmacy contract to a health care company.

Buenrostro didn’t identify the company, and said the board members are no longer at CalPERS. In 2011, CalPERS fired a New Jersey drug-distributor, Medco Health Solutions, after it was revealed that Medco had paid Villalobos about $4 million to help win a contract to supply pharmaceuticals to CalPERS members. The firm, which was later sold, paid a $2.7 million fine to settle a state investigation but didn’t admit any wrongdoing.

In addition, Buenrostro said he worked with Villalobos to “cover up the evidence of our corrupt relationship by concealing and destroying records.” In 2010, after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during questioning by Securities and Exchange Commission investigators, Buenrostro said, he received a $50,000 check from Villalobos.

Buenrostro said the $50,000 was supposedly a loan, but Villalobos told him he probably wouldn’t have to repay it.

If Buenrostro had gone to trial and been convicted on all charges, he was facing up to 40 years in prison. The conspiracy charge to which he admitted carries a five-year maximum penalty. So far the prosecutors haven’t made any sentencing recommendation, but agreed to ask for a reduced sentence based on Buenrostro’s “truthful cooperation,” said his lawyer Portanova. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will sentence him.

The original indictment was fairly narrow. It focused mainly on a series of letters Buenrostro said he created on CalPERS stationery at Villalobos’ behest.

Villalobos’ most important client, Apollo Global Management, had demanded disclosure letters in which the pension fund said it realized that Villalobos would earn fees from Apollo if the firm got CalPERS investments. When he couldn’t get a CalPERS investment officer to sign a disclosure letter, Villalobos turned to Buenrostro, who put together the letters on the pension fund’s stationery, according to the plea agreement.

Buenrostro said no one at CalPERS saw the letters, which Villalobos then mailed to Apollo. The firm got $3 billion of CalPERS’ money in 2007 and 2008, and Villalobos earned fees of $14 million. Apollo has said it wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing.

An investigative report commissioned by CalPERS said it was unlikely that Villalobos and Buenrostro were able to steer investment dollars to Villalobos’ clients. But the report, by Washington, D.C., securities attorney Philip Khinda, said Villalobos’ clients probably charged CalPERS millions of dollars in extra investment-management fees to compensate for the money they paid Villalobos.

The guilty plea marked the latest chapter in the downfall of Buenrostro, a longtime state employee and former deputy director of the state Department of Personnel Administration who became CalPERS CEO in 2002.

Because of his guilty plea to a felony, Buenrostro could have to forfeit a portion of his CalPERS pension, said fund spokesman Brad Pacheco. The amount is to be determined, he said.

You can also read the SacBee story by clicking here.

© 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.

Stop the $3.3 Billion Bailout for SDG&E, Another Ratepayer Rip-Off

Are you tired of bailing out the likes of Wall Street banks and others who deserve to fail because of their personal greed and voluntary bad choices?  Coronado ratepayers have an opportunity to voice your opposition to SDG&E’s proposed $3.3 billion San Onofre nuclear plant bailout this Thursday July 17 at 3 pm at the San Diego Library branch on Fenton Parkway in Mission Valley.

rue Color ImageJuly 15, 2014

Stop the San Onofre $3.3B Nuclear Bailout!

Ratepayer Advocates Host Public Meeting In San Diego

WHEN: Thursday, July 17, 2014, 3-4:30pm
WHERE: Mission Valley Library, 2123 Fenton Parkway , San Diego CA 92108 (Next to IKEA)
SAN DIEGO (2014-07-15) – Opponents to the proposed $3.3 billion San Onofre settlement will host a public meeting in San Diego to shine a bright light on the back-room settlement and explain why it is a ratepayer rip-off. The meeting will be held at the Mission Valley branch of the San Diego Public Library, located next to IKEA in mission valley, Thursday July 17, from 3 to 4:30 pm.

The public is welcome but seating is limited to the first 100 attendees. Doors open at 2:45, so arrive early to get a seat.

The event will be webcast at this url: http://ustream.tv/channel/citizensoversight.

Tax bill worry b&w

Ratepayer advocates will make presentations and open up the floor to comments. Speakers include Ray Lutz, National Coordinator for COPS, and Mike Aguirre, counsel for a party in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) San Onofre proceedings. In addition to the public, all candidates, elected and appointed officials are invited to attend, as this settlement will push up utility costs even higher than sky-high costs already a fact of life in California.

The CPUC held a public meeting in Costa Mesa, 35 miles north of the San Onofre Nuclear Station, but have refused to also hold a public meeting in San Diego County. Opponents to the settlement were limited to only 20 minutes, could not distribute materials in the room, and could not make a powerpoint presentation. This meeting will allow the opponents to the settlement sufficient time to make the case against the settlement in a venue convenient for San Diego County ratepayers.

“The worst thing about the settlement agreement is the fact that the CPUC investigation into the failure at San Onofre is stopped dead,” said Ray Lutz, national coordinator for COPS. “ CPUC proceedings were structured so that the Phase 3 investigation into the events that led to the failure at San Onofre Nuclear Station was not even started, although the Commission spent 18 months investigating side issues: what happened after the failure, toying with equations for replacement power costs, and reviewing how much of the failed plant was still ‘used and useful’. “Without a comprehensive review, no lessons are learned and mistakes will be repeated,” Lutz said.

Government cloak of secrecy

“It’s simple. We are trying to save ratepayers up to $3.3 billion in their electric rates. SCE and SDG&E want us ratepayers to continue to pay for the abandoned plant, to cover not only their investment, but also provide a healthy return on investment “profit” as well,” continued Lutz, and a party in the CPUC investigation under the banner of the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre. “Paying for a plant — with profit — that is not operating for another ten years is well beyond what the average citizen believes is fair and appropriate.”

Michael Aguirre, former City Attorney for San Diego and counsel for a party at the proceeding commented, “We believe not only that the settlement is unfair, but it was negotiated in a manner contrary to class-action law. SCE President Ron Litzinger admitted under oath that the record of the proceeding contains nothing to support proper review by the Commission so as to allow approval. The settlement should not be approved and the proceedings should continue, and proper negotiations held.”

No pay to playAn investigation by Aguirre uncovered the fact that the CPUC had hired a consultant to provide a technical review of the facts surrounding the shutdown, but then inextricably pulled that contract in February, prior to the announcement of the settlement agreement. “This suggests CPUC officials were improperly aware of the settlement prior to the public announcement on March 27, and alludes to official complicity in the coverup,” Aguirre said.

The abbreviated 3-hour evidentiary hearing on May 14th included an extensive cross examination by Aguirre, culminating in cursing and yelling by Commission President Peevey when he was put on the spot regarding any secret and unlawful ex parte meetings with SCE during the many months of settlement negotiation. This outburst has become a YouTube sensation, with some groups even making a cell phone ring tone of his words, “I don’t have to answer your questions. I don’t have to answer your goddamned questions, now Shut up! Shut up!!”

Key clips of the cross examination (including Peevey’s outburst) can be found on YouTube at this URL: http://www.copswiki.org/Common/M1444

A video version of the presentation by COPS can be viewed on line at


Ratepayer advocates request that the public communicate their displeasure with the bailout settlement by emailing public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov

Facebook event – please join and get on the list of attendees


The Coalition to Decommission San Onofre is a project of Citizens Oversight, Inc. also known as Citizens Oversight Projects, or COPS. Ray Lutz is a founder of the organization, which focuses on promoting civic engagement, and has been involved in many success stories, including helping to stop the expansion of Blackwater in San Diego County and the shut down of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, of course with the involvement of the local community in each case.

[PLS NOTE: Ending time changed to 4:30 to allow attendees to make it to Oceanside for San Onofre CEP meeting at 6pm.]

Contact: Ray Lutz

© 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.

Top 5 Taxes You May See on 2016 Ballot in California

Experience shows that the only way to make government live within its means is to stop government officials from increasing your taxes. 

If you're in a hole, stop digging

The first law of holes: If you’re in one, stop digging.

As long as elected officials have the power to tax, they don’t have to worry about managing public finances in a responsible and conservative manner.  Even if they could understand the complexities of public finance, their determined pursuit of their own self-interests combined with their glaring disregard of the best interests of the public would still have them spend, spend, spend taxpayers into a bottomless hole.

That’s right.  Government officials dig taxpayers into a bottomless debt hole while in office.  Then they walk away from office — personally enriched in so many ways, of course.

Here’s a good article by Joel Fox about the top 5 taxes you may see on the 2016 ballot in California.

Top 5 Taxes You May See on 2016 Ballot

By Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee
Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Like meteorologists tracking distant storms heading their way, some folks in Sacramento are watching for signs that tax increases are building momentum for the 2016 ballot when the Proposition 30 temporary taxes begin to fade away.

Now that this year’s state budget is done with increased spending in place, and the promise for more spending if revenue exceeds expectations, how are the programs going to be funded if there is a dip in the economic cycle or the temporary taxes disappear? Tax increases are one way and members of the majority party and the interests that support them are not shy about talking about possible tax increases. There are also those interests considering the tax route to discourage the use of certain goods or products.

Looking into a crystal ball that admittedly has a couple of cracks in it, here’s a list of possible tax increases that could appear on the 2016 ballot. Or could we see more than one?

5. SODA TAX. The push is on to raise taxes on sweetened beverages. Proponents say it is a health issue to end the scourge of diabetes and obesity. The warning label on soda bill the legislature considered this year is the first step in softening the ground for such a move.

4. CIGARETTE TAX. An old reliable. It has appeared on the California ballot a number of times since the late 1990s, winning some and losing some. Most recently, Proposition 29 in 2012 came within six-tenths of one percent of passing. Proponents would like another crack at it.

3. OIL SEVERANCE TAX. You’ve heard the charge: California is the only state that doesn’t levy such a tax, regardless of other taxes burdening the oil producing industry. Now supporters have deep pockets in their corner with billionaire Tom Steyer, who has stated he wants to discourage the use of carbon fuels and see an oil tax. While another deep pocket supporter, Stephen Bing, was defeated in his ballot effort to gain an oil severance tax in 2006 that won’t discourage Steyer.

2. SPLIT ROLL. The goal of those who desired increased government revenue for the 36 years Proposition 13 has been in place, a split roll would tax business property on a different basis than residential property. Unlike the aforementioned taxes that proponents probably would designate the use of some or all of the revenue, the property taxes would go to local government functions, especially schools, relieving some state obligations.

1. MAKE PERMANENT PROP 30 TAXES. Or at least continue the income tax portion of Prop 30, which brings in the bulk of the revenue. It is the easiest route for tax raiser to go – maintain the status quo and tax the rich, an effective campaign slogan when Prop 30 passed in 2012.

Read the original article by clicking here.

© 2014 Barbara Denny, Esq.