Tag Archives: parks

May Revise Preview: Borrow, Borrow, Borrow!

The AP has gotten a hold of the governor’s May Revise speech and therefore the major budget proposals that are to be unveiled tomorrow. The key elements are described below and over the flip I provide some analysis of each proposal.

  • Arnold will float bonds using the state lottery as security. $15 billion over 3 years will be raised but $10 billion goes into “rainy day fund”
  • If that fails, 1% sales tax hike to last no more than 3 years
  • Prop 98 suspension abandoned; instead COLA will not be paid
  • State parks closures abandoned; instead fees to rise $1 to $2
  • $6 billion still left to cut or balance out somehow.”

Overall thoughts: Here we go again. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to office in the recall of Gray Davis in 2003 promising to solve our state’s budget problems once and for all. Instead he immediately blew a $6 billion hole in the budget with the Vehicle License Fee cut and then borrowed to close the rest of the gap – costing the state around $3 billion in annual debt service.

Now that Arnold’s solution has predictably failed, he is predictably offering more of the same. Borrowing against the lottery is a problematic concept for many reasons, the main one being it avoids the core issues of our budget. It’s yet another one-time fix that does nothing to solve the structural revenue shortfall that has plagued our state for 30 years.

It is significant that Arnold seems to be backing away from his most significant cuts – especially the K-12 cuts. Obviously the details released tomorrow will be key, and we should fully expect higher ed to take another crippling blow. But this does indicate that the activism many of us have launched against the primary schools cuts has had an impact.

And of course, there’s still $6 billion left over – $6 billion that the Yacht Party will insist come in the form of destructive cuts that damage the economy, $6 billion that Democrats will – we hope – insist come in the form of wise, long-term revenue solutions.

Finally, Arnold seems to be gambling that the economy will make a quick recovery and that the current woes are just a dip and not the opening stages of a deeper recession. That, I think, is a major and probably reckless gamble to make.

Thoughts on the specific items are below.

Borrowing against the state lottery: this seems to be at the core of Arnold’s new plan. As described by the AP:

The governor will propose raising $15 billion over the next three years by selling bonds based on anticipated lottery revenue. He will use about $5.1 billion of that for the 2008-09 fiscal year to help erase the deficit, administration officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The other $10 billion would be left in a reserve fund the governor wants to create as part of a budget-reform proposal. It would be intended to ease the effect of year-to-year revenue fluctuations.

The revenue proposal – which administration officials refer to as “securitizing” the lottery – would require voter approval because the lottery was established through the initiative process.

As I explained above this is a clever way to avoid the basic issues here – ride it out another year or two and dump the problem onto the 2010 gubernatorial race. Borrowing the lottery funds is designed to ease the need for the most destructive cuts without raising taxes, and the rainy day fund seems to be a clear sweetener for Republicans to along with this scheme.

Schools: The AP describes the education budgeting as follows:

The budget the governor will release Wednesday backs away from some of the less politically popular proposals in the $141 billion budget plan he released in January, including a proposal to suspend the minimum school-funding guarantee, Proposition 98.

Instead, the budget proposal will include a $1.8 billion increase in funding to schools over 2007-08 levels. Schools still will lose about $4 billion in anticipated revenue because Schwarzenegger’s plan would not include program cost-of-living increases.

This does not necessarily take the 20,000 pink-slipped teachers off the hook. Losing the $4 billion in anticipated COLA revenue will still cause problems for many school districts – and as I indicated above, higher ed is likely to face major cuts anyway even if K-12 is somehow spared the worst. In any case, teachers are being forced to balance the budget on their backs.

Here again Arnold has chosen quick fixes over long-term solutions. California’s educational system was once the envy of the nation. 30 years of tax cuts have reduced CA to nearly the level of Mississippi, and while the January proposals were bad enough, major reinvestment in all levels of public schools are needed for California to ease widening inequality, provide prosperity and jobs, and thrive in the 21st century.

The devil is in the details here, so until we see those, schools don’t seem out of the woods just yet.

Parks: The proposed park closures were always a rather idiotic idea. Although parks should be free of charge, as California’s natural patrimony, it makes far more sense to raise fees than to close parks. Outright closures would have blown an even bigger hole in the parks budget, so this is clearly the more intelligent plan.

Remaining cuts: Even with Arnold’s lottery borrowing scheme there will be $6 billion left in the deficit. Obviously a restoration of the VLF would close that for good, but expect bitter fights over that last $6 billion between Democrats who will want to provide some sensible ways to close the gap with new revenues, and Republicans – Arnold included – who will prefer destructive cuts to sensible tax solutions.

Overall the May Revise doesn’t appear to be the cataclysm that some expected, but even if Arnold’s lottery plan is embraced – which is far from certain – the basic issues remain, and we’re likely to be debating this well into the fall.

What’s the Real Purpose of This Tax Hike in Santa Ana?

It’s very rare when I actually agree with The OC Register’s editorial page, but today happens to be one of those rare occasions. Read this and weep:

As the Register reported, the city [of Santa Ana] hired a Sacramento-based polling firm in March in the hopes that residents would tell pollsters that they want higher taxes to pay to fix Santa Ana’s poorly maintained, pothole-filled roads. To the officials’ dismay, residents overwhelmingly opposed the idea of paying higher taxes for roadwork. But officials saw an opportunity in another question, in which residents said they would give “high priority” to higher taxes to deal with gang prevention.

So they commissioned another poll. And lo and behold, they got what they wanted! People were willing to pay more taxes to “pay for more police officers to fight crime”. So now, we’re getting the “gang-fighting tax” in Santa Ana. But is this really what city officials are telling us that it is?

Follow me after the flip for more…

Here’s some more of today’s Register editorial:

Had the city really believed that there is a desperate need for more police, then it would have commissioned a poll that focused on police needs. Instead, it commissioned the poll based on its presumption that roadwork was the prime need. Apparently, city officials will raise taxes for any and all purposes, which is easier than doing what 84 percent of respondents told the city-hired pollsters: that “spending tax money efficiently” is a high priority.

Now to be honest, I disagree with what The Register says later on about taxes being evil, blah, blah, blah. I just don’t buy Howard Jarvis talking points. That’s not the issue for me.

What concerns me here is that the city would mislead residents about the “need” for this tax. First, they said that it’s about fixing our streets. And now, they’re telling us that it’s really to fight gang violence. So which one is it? Or is it really neither?

Is it really meant to pay for subsidies that we can’t afford and that don’t work for us? Is it really to pay for these bloated salaries for these ineffective city administrators? How are we supposed to accept paying more taxes to the city if we can’t even trust the city to be honest with us?

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see any more gang violence. I don’t want to see any more decrepit streets. I don’t want to see any more dearth of open space in this town. I don’t want to see any more libraries closed.

But if this tax were really about these things, then why can’t the city just tell us that? And if this really weren’t just a reward to a bunch of incompetent jerks who have failed us on all these issues, then why can’t the city just tell us that? How are we supposed to entrust these people with more of our tax money when they can’t even be honest about why they want more of it?

Irvine’s Crime Prevention Programs and the Crime Rate

(OK, fixed! : ) – promoted by atdleft)

Today, the FBI confirmed what CA AG Jerry Brown said in May, Irvine is one safe city. In fact, it’s the safest in the nation:

For the third year running, Irvine tops all large cities in the nation with the lowest incidence of violent crime after posting a nearly 17 percent drop in 2006, according to a report by the FBI. Reported violent crimes for the city – which include homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – fell from a total of 151 in 2005 to 126 in 2006, for a rate of 67 per 100,000 in the preliminary posting of the 2006 FBI Annual Uniform Crime Report. (OC Reg 6/5/07)

Last time, I talked about the importance of parks and recreation.  And of course, economic factors surely weigh into the amount of crime. Given that Irvine has a pretty high per capita income, it’s not surprising to see a low rate of crime. But Irvine actually does better than similarly sized cities with higher per capita income. Take that Sunnyvale! (Ok…Sunnyvale is #2 on the AG safe city list, but that’s one slot below #1).

But something else is also at play here, that is the role of the city’s various crime prevention programs. Irvine has implemented geographic policing, neighborhood watch programs, and Internet reporting.  Follow me over the flip for more..

So for a city of about 200,000 people, how the heck does Irvine stay so safe? Well, how about the Police Department’s various programs. One such program is geographic policing.  This program gets beat officers out from behind desks and in the community, where they are visible. Irvine’s neighborhood alert has also been effective. Knowing your neighbors helps reduce crime and creates a more livable city. Or is it the WatchMail program? Can the internet actually be used as a tool to reduce crime in the community? Whatever they are doing, the Crime Prevention Unit of the Irvine Police Department is proving to be quite effective.

And clearly, it seems like Irvine has enough patrol officers to cover the entire community. And perhaps now that the Irvine Police Department now does “geographic policing”, officers really are connecting more with the community. And maybe, their Crime Analysis Unit is having some effect. Perhaps by finding out what had gone wrong, they can then work with the community to make things right. Whatever is happening, the Irvine Police Department must be doing something right.

And clearly Irvine’s Progressive Mayor and Police Chief know how tough it can be to keep such a big city so safe. Yet for the last three years, they have been remarkably successful in leading the way not just for Orange County, and not just California, but for the entire nation. From The OC Register:

“When you are the safest city in America, you have to work especially hard to maintain that position,” Irvine Mayor Beth Krom said. “This is a source of pride for the entire community.” […]

“Getting to know the people who live and work in these areas helps them to be able to identify the problems in these areas and any impacts on the quality of life,” said Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard.

And how has Irvine been able to avoid what the other major cities in Orange County are suffering from?

The national crime trends were largely echoed in Orange County, with all eight cities with populations of 100,000 or above recording increases in robberies, and a sharp decline in property crime.

There were 19 more murders in Orange County’s biggest cities in 2006 than the previous year – a jump that can be largely result of a spike in gang violence in Santa Ana, which recorded nine more murders in 2006.

However, car thefts, arsons and other property crimes dipped across the nation for the second straight year, the data show. Huntington Beach – which saw a 12.6 percent drop in violent crime – was the only large Orange County city to see a rise in property crime, recording 365 more property crimes last year compared to 2005.

Huntington Beach must now worry about property crime becoming more prevalent throughout town. Santa Ana is now facing a crisis of escalating gang violence. Up in North Orange County, the cities of Orange and Fullerton are grappling with dramatic increases in violent crisis. Take a look at the major California cities on the FBI’s list, and things aren’t looking very good not just in OC, but throughout the state.

So what is Irvine doing right that other cities in California aren’t? Are Irvine’s police services that much better? Are they doing a better job of preventing crime? Are the parks and community services really making that much of a difference? There’s a secret to Irvine’s success, and more communities should try to learn this secret to figure out how to take a real bite out of crime.

It’s Not About “How Latino” Santa Ana Mayor Pulido Is

Dana, what irks us with Mayor Pulido is his lack of accessibility and what seems to be a lack of willingness to lead. The LA Times did an article about three years ago which discussed his nickname “The Invisible Mayor.” Gustavo “The Mexican” Arellano has nicknamed him the “Howard Hughes of Orange County.” All this goes back to his lack of accessibility. Until this last election cycle, virtually the only times we ever saw Mayor Pulido was every first and third Monday of the month. He was often a no show at dozens of community events, it is almost like he is bored of his duties as Mayor. When Santa Ana was being taken over by unruly protests in March of 2006, he was nowhere to be found. His job that day was to be a leader and once again he was MIA. None of it involved marching or protesting. The topic of the protests was immigration, but when the city is on the verge of a riot, it is not a federal issue, it is a local one. Exactly how is that “behind the the scenes” leadership?

That’s Claudio Gallegos in today’s Orange Juice, responding to Dana Parson’s recent profile of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido in The LA Times. I guess he’s taking issue with Dana Parsons’ assertion that those of us who decry Pulido’s lack of leadership are doing so just because Pulido isn’t “Latino enough”. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the crappy state of our roads, closing libraries, lack of parks, and much, much more.

Follow me after the flip as we examine why people in Santa Ana really are irritated with the Mayor

So why are we angry with Miguel Pulido? It isn’t because he doesn’t give awesome speeches at immigrants’ rights rallies. It isn’t because he doesn’t declare allegiance to Aztlan. Basically, it isn’t because he isn’t some firebrand for radical causes. It’s because he just doesn’t seem to care about the people in the City of Santa Ana.

I like how Claudio says it

During his “invisible years”, our streets began to crumble, many playgrounds and park equipment fell into disrepair, after years of a lowered crime rate, crime and grafitti have returned with a vengeance, and a nationally recognized organization labeled Santa Ana one of the hardest places to raise a family financially. Fixing these problems did not require marching or carrying signs. People want leadership.

Or as I said it earlier this week…

Here are some more reasons why Pulido is so controversial here. He hasn’t done anything about the recent spat of gang violence in Santa Ana. He hasn’t done anything about opening more parks in a city that’s in such dire need of open space. He hasn’t done a good job of keeping our roads in good working condition, as some parts of town look like third-world countries due to the crappy state of their streets. He hasn’t improved our libraries… Oh wait, that’s right, HE’S CLOSED THEM! In his twenty years on the City Council and twelve years as Mayor, I’m struggling just to find good things that Pulido has done in this city.

So have we made that clear now? It’s not about “how Latino” Miguel Pulido is. It’s not about how much “Chicano Pride” he displays. It’s not about the color of Miguel Pulido’s skin.

It’s about how the Mayor is doing his job. It’s about our decrepit roads. It’s about the dearth of green in this town. It’s about the gangs that roam the decrepit roads at night. It’s about where the kids have to go when there’s such a dearth of nice, green open spaces. It’s about the dire state of the lives of way too many working people in this city.

And does this Mayor care? Does he care about the people in this city? I think Dana Parsons missed that point when he spoke with Miguel Pulido. Pulido’s not controversial here because he’s not “Latino enough”. He’s controversial because he doesn’t care enough about this city.

How Does Irvine Stay So Safe?

They’ve done it before, and they’ve done it again this year. Irvine is the safest large city in California. Check out the write-up in today’s OC Register:

Violent crime in Irvine dropped more than 16 percent and overall crime in the city fell 6 percent last year, making Irvine the safest large city in California, according to preliminary statistics released Monday by the state attorney general’s office. It’s the third year in a row Irvine has topped the list.

From January through December 2006, Irvine’s number of reported violent crimes – which includes homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – dropped from 151 to 126 – at the same time the state saw a 1. 4 percent jump in violent crime. Irvine recorded drops in property and theft, but the number of homicides in the city doubled from two to four in 2006.

Following Irvine on the list of the state’s safest cities are Sunnyvale, Thousand Oaks, Santa Clara and Simi Valley.

Wow, now that’s safe! So how does Irvine do it? How can they stay so safe? Follow me after the flip as I look for answers…

So what’s the secret to Irvine’s success. Well, let’s start with their youth action team. Irvine is actually getting high schoolers involved in not only being productive in the community, but in also planning how they will be getting involved. And these kids really get active. Between concerts, graffiti removal days, and college workshops, these kids just don’t have the time to waste on crime.

Oh but wait, the fun doesn’t stop there! These kids (and adults) also play sports. They have tennis, basketball, soccer, softball, and much more. Again, these kids are too busy working out and learning teamwork to be caught up in any stupid illegal stuff.

And my goodness, look at all those lovely parks in town! Irvine has many safe places for kids to go to play and have fun. No matter where a family may live in Irvine, they know that there’s somewhere in the neighborhood where they can take the kids to play games and perhaps meet new friends in the neighborhood. And as these kids grow up being able to just play, they don’t get stuck in the streets.

OK, so what’s the point I’m trying to make? Well, here it is. Irvine’s smart planning has resulted in less crime and safer neighborhoods. By creating great parks in all the neighborhoods and giving kids great activities to do, Irvine has taken away whatever appeal criminal gangs might have had. And all these kids engaged in the community means kids who don’t feel that they don’t belong, and ultimately kids who don’t fall into gangs as they search for meaning in their lives.

So perhaps more cities should follow Irvine’s lead in reducing crime, and ultimately preventing any future crime. Clean up the neighborhoods, open some parks, and give kids something fun to do. This might actually help keep up the neighborhood. : )

Pulido No Es Un Villaraigosa

In case you missed it, The LA Times still has one reporter/columnist/commentator left in Orange County. His name is Dana Parsons. And on Friday, he talked about his recent interview with controversial Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido.

Now Miguel Pulido may be controversial, but not in ways that we’d think a Latino mayor of a heavily Latino city would be controversial. He doesn’t lead immigrants’ rights marches. He doesn’t declare Santa Ana as a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants. Actually, Pulido doesn’t really care about immigration.

So how is Miguel Pulido controversial? Follow me after the flip to find out…

“If I were a Curt Pringle [the white mayor of Anaheim], would anybody be saying how come he’s not out there marching?” Pulido says. “And in a way, they’re discriminating – inverse discrimination, so to speak – against me, by making the assertion that because I’m Hispanic, I’m at fault for not participating.”

He notes that his critics on the issue generally are other Latinos. “If I had a different heritage, they’d have a different conclusion,” he says. “That goes against all that I stand for, because I want to treat everybody the same and I want to be treated the same way.”

When I then begin to ask how he wants to be judged on the issue, he says firmly, “As a mayor. Not as an Anglo mayor. Not a Hispanic mayor. As a mayor.”

Another mayor in a heavily Latino city might play it differently, I suggest. “Correct,” he says.

“But don’t say that because this mayor is Hispanic he’s got to behave this way. That really gets to me, because then the implication is that you are different and should behave differently because of that. And to me, I am an American first.”

Wow. That’s deep. Well, I guess people here do wonder why a guy who immigrated here from Mexico City as a little boy wouldn’t stand up for his fellow immigrants, but that’s beside the point. That’s not the only controversial thing about Pulido.

Here are some more reasons why Pulido is so controversial here. He hasn’t done anything about the recent spat of gang violence in Santa Ana. He hasn’t done anything about opening more parks in a city that’s in such dire need of open space. He hasn’t done a good job of keeping our roads in good working condition, as some parts of town look like third-world countries due to the crappy state of their streets. He hasn’t improved our libraries… Oh wait, that’s right, HE’S CLOSED THEM! In his twenty years on the City Council and twelve years as Mayor, I’m struggling just to find good things that Pulido has done in this city.

I guess that’s the real controversy here. It’s not that Miguel Pulido has ever done anything controversial. No, it’s just that HE HASN’T DONE ANYTHING, PERIOD! That’s the difference here.

Say what you will about Antonio Villaraigosa, but a least he’s doing something. At least he cares about Los Angeles. At least he cares about what happens to the people who live in LA. We can’t even get our mayor in Santa Ana to care. He’s too busy comparing himself to Curt Pringle.

Arnold’s Unbalanced Buget

(whoops forgot to promote – promoted by juls)

(cross-posted from Working Californians)

Surprise, surprise, Arnold’s budget isn’t balanced.  The Sacramento reporter’s favorite number source, Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, came out with her report on the governor’s budget.  She doesn’t buy what Arnold is selling, to the dune of a $2.6 billion shortfall.  We do have some reserve cash left over from the current fiscal year to minimize the blow, but Arnold’s plan is still short $726 million.

John Meyers:

That’s a far cry from Schwarzenegger’s bold statement in January that his budget had wiped out the state’s red ink.

Beyond that, the LAO report forecasts an even larger deficit in 2008-09 of $3.4 billion, and slightly smaller deficits throughout the rest of this decade.

There are several differences between Hill’s lengthy report and the governor’s own fiscal projections. But one of the most easily digestible may be this: the LAO says Governor Schwarzenegger’s team has overestimated revenues in the coming year by a whopping $2 billion. The big difference, says Hill’s report, is that her analysts think personal income tax revenues will be “weaker” than projected by the governor.

These are of course predictions, but Hill is a trusted non-partisan source.  The full report is available here, for all of those number geeks out there.

Bob Salladay has a few more highlights from the report:

  • Unfairly increases fees for students at the University of California and Cal State universities by 7% and 10% respectively, when expenditures are increasing only 2.4%. But Hill agrees that the method of setting CSU and UC faculty salaries is based on a “misleading” methodology and should be changed.

Arnold is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of UC and CSU students.  There is no reason to have increases that high, when expenses are not increasing at the same rate.  The expenditure growth rate provides another strong argument for a fair contract between the California Faculty Association and the state.  After watching years of huge tuition increases and massive executive’s pay hikes, it is past time to bring CSU faculty’s compensation into line with similar institutions in other states.  (See SpeakOut for more on the issue)

  • Spends too much money on building prisons, which could lead to “surplus capacity.”

Bricks and mortar are around for a long time.  Hill contends that Arnold is proposing to build more prisons than we will need years down the road.  We are facing a massive overcrowding now, but we may not need to house the same number of inmates years down the road.

  • Unfairly cuts $160 million to fix state parks, especially since California’s parks already have a $900 million list of broken toilets, torn up trails and other problems.

My aunt has worked for State Parks for a long time.  Every year it seems like they face more and more drastic cuts, sending the parks into further disrepair.  The number of parks she is in charge of has increased exponentially and it is always a battle to get maintenance funding for anything.  Arnold’s budget would exacerbate an disaster situation.  Our state parks need basic attention, so that we can all take advantage of our increasingly diminishing wild spaces.  Delaying maintenance means the expenses of repair go up as does the damage by humans to the space.

The legislature will use Hill’s analysis to inform their decisions on modifying the budget.  Tough choices will have to be made, but without Arnold’s rose colored glasses on.