Analysis: Recent California newspaper editorials

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 - 11:09 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014 - 11:34 am

Lodi News-Sentinel: San Joaquin County must speak out against Delta twin tunnels

July 11

Lodi's San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel joined the rest of the board in opposing construction of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, known as the twin tunnels.

This massive project, designed to bring high quality water from the Sacramento River around the Delta and send it south, will lead to abandonment of 140,000 acres of agricultural land, according to Vogel.

That is a swath 5.5 miles wide running 37 miles from South Sacramento to Tracy. Imagine that vast swath of rich farm land lying idle.

The state may buy the farmers out, but what is going to happen to everyone else's jobs? The suppliers, the agricultural processors and the laborers who depend on the Delta will all be idle — forever.

Some of them are from Lodi. Many have their homes in Stockton, our county seat.

This county has been state government's weak sister for years. While coastal metropolises have been lavished with water projects and universities, Stockton has been home to prisons and one California State University satellite.

Now the state wants to run a massive pipeline through our backyard. More of the water that flows naturally through our waterways and sustains our agricultural economy will be pumped to the cities and farms south of us.

San Joaquin County should speak with one voice on the twin tunnels. And that voice should say, "No."

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July 20

Marin Independent Journal: Strawberry talks key to seminary plan

The Golden Gate Baptist Seminary property is a jewel when it comes to Marin real estate — a large swath of bayside property just minutes from San Francisco.

The seminary, in fact, was there long before developers built many of the homes that now border its 126-acre campus.

Over the years, the school has been a quiet neighbor, although in recent years there have been a few flaps over the seminary's proposals to sell off edges of its property for home sites in order to cover the school's costs.

Neighbors have been worried about increased traffic and loss of the visual and physical elbow room they appreciate.

Those concerns were part of Strawberry residents' recent criticism of the county's designation of the area as one of the Bay Area's so-called "priority development areas," setting the stage for development of transit-oriented affordable housing.

Neighbors' strong objections to the designation finally led the county Board of Supervisors to scratch Strawberry from its list of designated sites.

Neighbors said little effort was made to involve Strawberry residents in the decision-making process when the designation was determined.

Facing the future use of the seminary property, Strawberry residents are taking steps to get out in front of the planning process. They hired well-known Marin transportation consultant Robert Harrison to take a look at the potential traffic ramifications of turning the seminary into a 1,000-student high school campus and construction of 300 town homes.

The number of town homes reflects the student housing that already exists on campus and the number called for in the county's long-term land-use plans for the area.

A development team representing the Ross-based trust that has a pending purchase of the seminary has outlined similar conceptual plans in meetings with local homeowners. They have been meeting with neighbors in hope of finding common ground.

It is unusual for homeowners to go to the expense of hiring their own traffic consultant, especially before any development blueprints have been submitted. But after the debate over the PDA designation, neighbors are more being more proactive.

A spokesperson for neighbors says the traffic study shows that the proposed level of development could turn into a local traffic headache and the development team should "rethink" its plans to come up with something "more reasonable."

Traffic is not a new concern for Strawberry neighbors. Similar concerns were even raised before the county approved the In-N-Out Burger restaurant on the freeway frontage. Its absence of a customary drive-through was a county concession to those concerns. Many neighbors also protested the county's plans to run a public transit shuttle through their neighborhood, even though the goal was to provide local residents with a way to get around without having to drive themselves.

The level of traffic addressed in Harrison's report trumps both of those projects.

It is a little early in the process for neighbors to dig in, but their traffic study certainly puts their concerns front and center in discussions about the future of the seminary property.

There's no way to avoid that issue, but there are ways to address residents' concerns.

Although there has been talk of the campus being sold to a private school, such as Branson School of Ross, no plans have been submitted to the county.

Branson officials have said they have been looking at ways to grow their enrollment, now restricted by a cap set by Ross voters. They have not, however, announced they plan to move to the seminary property.

There certainly would be advantages to having a prestigious school in the neighborhood. It would be attractive to many home buyers. That might be a worthwhile consideration.

Finding common ground on the future use of the seminary property is going to be challenging for the residents, the seminary and the buyers.

Building political trenches is not the best approach toward reaching that point.

Being reasonable and responsive might be more productive in coming up with a plan that neighbors want to live next to and one that meets the hopes of the seminary and the new owner.

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July 23

Marysville Appeal Democrat: Realizing an unfortunate but significant milepost

He pleaded "no contest," which means he neither admits guilt nor claims innocence, but it counts as a conviction.

So congratulations to local law enforcement for gaining the first conviction in Yuba-Sutter for human trafficking. Alex Smith IV is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 2.

Smith pleaded to one count of felony human trafficking, for persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, and one felony count of dissuading a victim or witness, for arranging for threatening the girl. He faces a maximum sentence of nine years in prison.

As noted by Deputy Yuba County District Attorney Theresa Sydow, it's an important milestone that could help change assumptions and perceptions about prostitution. That is, it's wrong to think that all prostitutes freely choose to engage in prostitution. Some adults may enter the market willingly, but kids? A 17-year-old? Often, Sydow said in an Appeal-Democrat story, a predatory adult manipulates them emotionally, mentally, physically into the business.

Not unlike the dynamics in a domestic abuse or child molestation case.

The topic of human trafficking, and more specifically human sex-trade trafficking and trafficking of children, has been a growing concern since just a few years ago. There's good reason for reasonable citizens to be concerned, here as well as anywhere else.

According to the reporting in the Tuesday edition, the 17-year-old victim wanted Smith to be her boyfriend, and he used that to manipulate her. He advertised her profile on a website advertising prostitution (which has since been seized by the FBI). He coached her on what to do with a customer; he drove her to a "date." He arranged to have her threatened after he was arrested.

"The more you learn, the more you realize that Marysville and Yuba City are essentially on the sex trade industry loop that exists," said Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath. That means that kids are moved around among counties, kept in circulation, kept out of touch, manipulated.

One thing that makes it more likely trafficking charges will be filed and prosecuted is that California voters overwhelmingly passed the "Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act" in 2012. It articulated definitions of trafficking and increased penalties.

The state attorney general notes on the Web that human trafficking is now the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise — estimated at $32 billion a year, globally. It's become the second most profitable criminal enterprise.

"California — a populous border state with a significant immigrant population and the world's ninth largest economy — is one of the nation's top four destination states for trafficking human beings."

For more information on the statistics, the activities, and what's happening in law enforcement, visit online at: oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking.

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July 16

The (San Bernardino) Sun: San Bernardino crime spikes tell only part of the story

The people who call San Bernardino home know there's more to their city than crime and mayhem, though recent headlines may make it seem otherwise.

"San Bernardino police come under fire at Waterman Gardens." "Gun violence in San Bernardino continues with fourth homicide in five days." "Police investigate two gang-related homicides in San Bernardino in two days."

These stories from the past week are the kind that grab everyone's attention — they're the ones that are most read on The Sun's website, the most shared on social media, the most talked about by the community and the families and friends of those who have been killed, wounded or otherwise affected by the violence.

But these stories do not fully illustrate life in San Bernardino.

Dig deeper into the news and you find Junior University Musical Theater is staging a production of "Snow White" at Perris Hill Park. A farmers market has moved to Court Street Square next to City Hall on Thursdays. A local barbershop gives free haircuts and school supplies to local children.

This is San Bernardino — a community of families, business owners, art lovers, farmers market regulars and people caring about others.

Trevaugn Moore, one of the organizers behind the July 6 haircut give-away, told a reporter the event was a way to show everyone that the city has more to offer: "San Bernardino isn't a dead, no-good city."

It's easy to see how some — particularly those outside San Bernardino — might come to think poorly of the city.

In recent years, community members have been hit by crisis after crisis — watching as businesses fled, neighbors pulled up stakes and their city filed for bankruptcy.

The most recent spike in violent crime — the kind that makes front-page news — comes at a time when San Bernardino officials are struggling to balance the public's demand for service with the realities of the city's anemic coffers.

It's been nearly two years since San Bernardino filed for municipal bankruptcy protection, and in that time the Police Department has suffered cuts along with every other department. The department is adding new officers, and detectives are seeing increased clearance rates, but as was argued in March during another spate of shootings, the response to crime must be communitywide.

That hasn't changed — cops alone can't make San Bernardino safer. Neighborhood Watch groups and community organizations such as San Bernardino Generation Now, Save San Bernardino and others are actively working to make the city stronger — if you haven't already, join their cause.

As the second anniversary of the Aug. 1 bankruptcy filing approaches, those who live in San Bernardino should pause and consider their community — especially the side that people in Redlands, or Sacramento, or Washington, D.C., don't often hear about.

That community is worth fighting for.

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July 20

U-T San Diego: California recount laws are a mockery of democracy

In 2000, it was the disputed "hanging chads" on Florida ballots that exposed major failings in the mechanics of how America voted.

Reforms were launched. In 2004, it was the "bubblegate" fiasco that cost Councilwoman Donna Frye the election for mayor of San Diego and exposed failings in the mechanics of how San Diego voted.

Reforms were launched. In 2014, it was the closeness of the primary election for state controller that exposed major failings in California recount laws. Reforms are needed.

In the June 3 statewide primary, Ashley Swearengin, the Republican mayor of Fresno, finished first with 24.8 percent of the 4 million votes cast. But the second spot in the November runoff remained undecided for more than six weeks. Democrat Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, finished a minuscule 481 votes ahead of Democratic Assemblyman John Perez, who asked for a recount.

That's when the absurdity of the recount laws came into sharp focus.

Recounts are not automatic in close elections in California. Any candidate or voter can demand a recount as long as he or she is willing to pay for it. It's hard to say how much it costs because every county sets its own pricing. Candidates can try to game the system by requesting recounts not just in certain counties where he or she did well but even in certain precincts. If a recount under way suddenly changes the outcome, the candidate can call a halt to the counting right then and there and declare victory — except that the opponent could then call for recounts in other counties and other precincts.

Perez called for a recount in 15 counties, starting with Kern and Imperial. The results didn't change much and Perez finally conceded the race late Friday. The recount scheduled to start Monday in San Bernardino County was called off.

There is no deadline for counties in doing a recount. Yet, time was of the essence. Yee, Perez and Swearengin obviously had much at stake. And millions of general election ballots must be printed and in the mail to military service members and other Californians living overseas by Sept. 5.

This is not the way it should work.

The outcome of elections should not depend on the ability of a candidate to pay for a recount. Recounts should be automatically triggered in extremely close elections and the state should pay for them.

The outcome of elections should not be determined by a partial recount of votes in cherry-picked precincts and counties. If there is to be a recount, it should be in all precincts in all counties.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, says he will introduce legislation next month to overhaul the recount laws. We look forward to seeing just what he proposes.

The fair and accurate counting, or recounting, of votes is at the core of democracy. California's laws are a mockery of fairness and accuracy.

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July 16

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Welcome, Los Angeles, to right side of Gold Line fight

Crusades for all that is right and good in this world sometimes need a powerful enemy figure as much as they need crusaders.

Supporters are all well and good. But a nemesis can be just the kind of galvanizing force a movement needs to rally troops and ultimately achieve victory.

Some buffoon to make fun of. A tinhorn dictator to belittle. A paper tiger to set a match to.

In the grand crusade to do what the citizens of Los Angeles County voted to do when they first approved the Measure R half-cent sales tax for mass transit — that is, to extend the Gold Line light rail line from Pasadena east to Claremont, at the very least — the powerful enemy has always been the mayor of Los Angeles.

That mustache-twisting Simon Legree has sought to thwart the voters' aims through various evil subterfuges in which funds for transportation always are funneled back to the city of Los Angeles and the city of Los Angeles only. It's the metropolis in the region, right? It's the place that in order to take its rightful place among the world's grand burgs needs only a rail system to complete it, same as a New York, a London, a Paris, a Moscow.

Why give away rail monies, according to this mayoral logic, to the suburbs, the hinterlands, not to mention the gateway to the far Inland Empire, which no one in your Londons, Parises and Moscows have ever heard of, anyway.

When he chaired the Metro board, and when he appointed others as its members, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa happily played the Legree role. Boo! Hiss! He did everything in his power to rob the Gold Line of the funds that had been approved for it, including simply rewriting the Measure R language when it was up for re-approval and a hike to the tax.

Those of us to the east of the big city didn't cotton to that, and played a key role in rejecting the new, larger version of the sales tax. And since then we've simply continued to push for what was rightfully ours, a job made all the easier with a heartless villain leading the other side. And not just heartless — headless.

The fact of that matter is that Southern Californians are all in this transit game together. Many who live in east Los Angeles County and in the western portions of San Bernardino County work in the city of Los Angeles and need and deserve commuting options the same as Angelenos do. The city and county lines often mean very little in Southern California. We're a people who get around — or who used to, before freeway gridlock shut us down.

We'll fight for what's right on that score. And, as anyone who has seen the 210 and 10 freeways heading west in the morning and east at night knows, those of us who live in Upland and Ontario, Claremont and San Dimas, Glendora and Chino need transit options.

So what do we do now, with the still-newish Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti becoming Metro chair and suddenly announcing he supports the Gold Line extension from Azusa to Montclair, and that he would work to find funding for the project? How to react to rationality like this: "I can't do well for my city if I don't have support all the way to the eastern border (of the county) and vice versa."

How to deal with an L.A. mayor getting all rational and collaborative with us? OK, we give: With open arms we welcome the transformation of an antagonist into a friend.

With the support of the mayor of Los Angeles, the region can finally work together on clearing up one of its most congested traffic corridors for the good of us all.


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