AP NEWS

California Editorial Rdp

May 30, 2018

May 29

The San Diego Union-Tribune on California solar panel mandate maybe being a big mistake:

California is among the world’s leaders in its commitment to using cleaner energy. A 2015 law requires the state to get half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. But the state’s electric utilities have made such progress that the California Public Utilities Commission says there’s a chance the goal could be met by 2020. A 2017 Los Angeles Times investigation found that so much money had already been invested in California solar power that it had created a glut that was forcing ratepayers to pay billions of dollars “for power they don’t need.”

Against this backdrop, the California Energy Commission’s decision to require rooftop solar panels on nearly all new single-family homes and low-rise multi-family housing projects starting in 2020 seems hasty and daft. Amid a housing crisis, the mandate will add an average of more than $10,500 to the new homes’ cost. The claim that homeowners can pay this off in 10 or 15 years depends on the dubious idea utilities will be eager to buy excess solar power from homeowners instead of relying on power from far cheaper industrial solar plants. UC Davis energy expert James Bushnell — credible because of his long history as a green-power advocate — says the mandate is likely to have such negative fallout it will make “reaching California’s climate goals possibly more difficult and definitely more expensive.”

Energy commissioners may have gotten the laudatory headlines they wanted. But veteran columnist Dan Walters is right to warn that their edict has the potential to be one of “the greatest policy errors in the state’s history” akin to electricity deregulation two decades ago. The commission should reconsider its decision and rescind a rash, risky mandate.

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May 29

Los Angeles Times on paint companies wanting billion-dollar bailout:

This isn’t the first time Californians have faced a misleading, self-serving ballot initiative bankrolled by special interests. But the chutzpah behind the Healthy Homes and Schools Act sets a new standard.

The initiative was developed by three paint companies — Sherwin-Williams, Conagra and NL Industries — after they lost a nearly two-decade-long legal fight over toxic lead in their products. Late last year, a state appeals court mostly upheld a 2014 trial court ruling that found the companies marketed lead paint as safe even though they knew it was poisonous, especially to children. Lead-based paint was banned for residential use in 1978.

The ruling makes the companies liable for the cost of removing lead paint from homes built before 1951 (the year they stopped marketing lead-infused products) in Los Angeles County and nine other jurisdictions that filed the lawsuit. The case is now back in the trial court to determine how much the companies will have to pay toward removing all that paint; the total is likely to reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

The companies’ solution? Persuade voters to negate the judgment. That’s the point behind the Healthy Homes and Schools Act, which has attracted enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

On the surface, the initiative sounds virtuous. The proponents say they want to provide funding to clean up environmental hazards in homes and schools that could leave the poorest, most vulnerable Californians at risk. Who wouldn’t want to protect poor children? The initiative would direct the state to borrow $2 billion to pay for the removal of lead, mold, asbestos and other hazardous materials. The actual cost to taxpayers, after paying interest on the bonds, would be nearly $4 billion.

But the real purpose is buried in legalese. The initiative would declare that lead paint is not a public nuisance, even though the court found that it was. That declaration would effectively reverse the court decision that put the paint companies on the hook, eliminating their obligation to pay for lead paint removal. It would also prevent other communities in California from suing paint companies in the future.

As a consequence, the tremendous cost of making older homes safe would be shifted from the paint companies that knowingly sold a highly dangerous product to the taxpayers.

While lead paint has been banned for decades, it remains present and a risk in many older homes, particularly in poorly maintained properties. As the paint deteriorates, it flakes, chips and turns to dust. Swallowing even small amounts of lead can cause permanent brain damage in young children, leading to lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

There are plenty of precedents for the sort of self-serving ballot measure the paint companies are attempting to pass. In 2008, billionaire Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens’ company tried to persuade voters to approve $5 billion in taxpayer-funded bonds to help Californians buy natural gas vehicles, which would have provided lots of customers for his natural gas filling stations. Voters rejected it. Mercury Insurance twice sponsored initiatives to roll back a state law that required car insurance premiums to be based on a driver’s safety record and not extraneous factors. Both measures failed.

“Big Paint” is now trying to use the initiative process to overturn a court decision and evade the penalties. But the companies’ resolve could be cracking. One of the three defendants, NL Industries, agreed this month to pay $60 million to settle the case and to drop its support for the initiative.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have proposed a package of bills designed to counteract the initiative and make it easier to sue companies for the cost of removing lead paint. One of the proposals also would make paint manufacturers pay a fee to cover lead paint removal; the fee would go into effect only if the initiative passes.

If these bills are approved, it’s a sure bet that the paint companies and the state will end up in court. That means more money would be spent fighting over responsibility and less on protecting children from lead poisoning.

There’s still time to keep an ill-intentioned initiative from appearing on the November ballot. The paint companies have until June 28 to pull the Healthy Homes and Safe School Act. They should yank their self-serving initiative off the ballot and really start making homes healthy.

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May 27

The Fresno Bee on domestic violence:

“We are overwhelmed by domestic violence.”

Those words, spoken by Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, aptly summed up the key point of a three-day series by Bee staff writer Barbara Anderson. Called “Broken Bodies, Broken Hearts,” the series told in numbing detail how widespread, prevalent and insidious the problem of domestic violence is in Fresno.

What spurred Anderson were six murders last year of women by their husbands or partners. But go behind that grisly number a bit and one finds that thousands of women are emotionally bruised and physically battered every year in the city.

Domestic violence is not limited to neighborhoods where low-income or undereducated people live. It is an equal-opportunity crime, spanning the whole of the city and involving every race, ethnicity and religion. While many violent crime categories declined in 2017, domestic violence jumped by double digits. It so alarms Dyer that he has made arresting domestic violence suspects and rescuing their victims one of his department’s top goals this year.

Charity DePina was 22 when she was killed. Now we will never get to enjoy her bubbly personality. Another young women of promise was Rocio Medina Gomez, a 21-year-old with budding computer skills. Who knows what technological wizardry she might have achieved; her former boyfriend allegedly stabbed her to death. Martha Garcia had been married for more than 40 years and had two adult children. But her relationship to her husband soured and she sought a divorce. He tracked her down to St. Alphonsus Church and shot her in the parking lot before he killed himself.

In 2017, nearly 5,200 calls about domestic violence were made to local authorities. That’s about 14 a day. The rate of calls in Fresno is nearly twice that of similarly sized cities, such as Bakersfield, Sacramento, Riverside, Long Beach and San Francisco. Fresno, the state’s fifth-largest city, had the highest rate of calls of the 10 biggest cities in California in 2016.

The city is indeed overwhelmed by a crime that, due to stigma, and sometimes cultural and religious reasons, remains largely hidden from public view. Most incidents are not reported, meaning the statistics that exist don’t nearly tell the story. But one group sees the problem firsthand through the safe houses it operates.

Nicole Linder is executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center, which operates safe houses in Fresno and Clovis for women and children to escape to from an abuser. Last year MMC helped 5,700 adults and children through the safe houses and its other programs, like counseling.

In large measure, the Fresno community has delegated the domestic violence issue to Marjaree Mason. It needs greater financial support to carry out its mission. Given the breadth of the problem, we call on local and state officials to seek new monies for MMC.

MMC’s immediate need is to find $224,000 it lost in federal funds when the focus shifted away from transitional housing. That directly impacted the center’s program at its Fresno safe house.

Beyond that, new funding for another safe house would greatly help, Linder says. Her agency needs about $300,000 a year to operate such a secure facility around the clock, as it does at the existing homes. Most of the funding for that comes from grants that Marjaree Mason receives.

But getting another safe house does not address the problem of domestic violence in a big enough way, Linder says.

“Domestic violence is so massive a problem, and so widespread, no one organization can take care of all the issues involved,” she said.

What is needed is a focused, unified effort by the spectrum of nonprofits that deal with family issues, plus government counterparts like the police, the district attorney and the courts.

Linder said that kind of movement is occurring now on the problem of human trafficking. “Likewise, we have to do the same with domestic violence,” she said.

Groups that specialize in creating housing, for example, could take the lead on establishing new safe houses.

Schools play a key role. Linder noted that some instruction about healthy relationships occurs in high school health classes. But such instruction is not required, and ideally such lessons should be taught starting in middle school, when interest in dating begins.

Such teaching might have saved Charity DePina.

The young woman from Merced thought she had found love with her Fresno boyfriend. But Gabriel Salvador Salinas would take her from her home to Fresno for days at a time. Her aunt, Anita Iniguez, remembers DePina texting that Salinas was beating her.

Iniguez said she called DePina’s social worker, church and mentors for help. The answer was always the same: As an adult, DePina had to choose to leave Salinas.

But Iniguez said her niece was autistic, and had the mentality of a young girl.

“It’s like talking to a 7-year-old girl and luring her into a van with candy. She’s slow and disabled. That guy picked her out like a predator.”

Iniguez wants to create a “Charity’s Law” that would let family members intervene on the behalf of a mentally or emotionally disabled relative.

DePina was killed last November. Iniguez thinks of her every day. “I feel like I still have to talk about this and do more. This needs to be prevented.”

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May 24

The Sacramento Bee on the tax increase California Republicans aren’t talking about:

California Republicans can’t stop talking about the state gas tax increase and how it’s supposedly hurting their constituents.

But they’re somehow silent about the Trump-GOP tax law that will increase federal income taxes on 1 million Californians next year.

That’s right: Increase.

You may have missed it, what with President Trump abruptly, but not surprisingly, canceling his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while he’s also flogging baseless accusations of an FBI “spy” in his 2016 campaign.

But last Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service strongly hinted that it will nix a workaround that legislators in California and other higher-tax Democratic states are attempting to offset a new limit on deductions for state and local taxes.

Under the sweeping tax law passed in December, those itemized deductions are capped at $10,000. The average claimed by Californians is nearly double that. So the state Senate passed a bill in January that would allow taxpayers to make a charitable contribution to the state in return for a tax credit to offset the lower deductions.

The IRS, however, says it will soon issue regulations that it warned “will make clear that the Internal Revenue Code, not the label used by states, governs the federal income tax treatment of such transfers.” In other words, the charitable donation maneuver almost certainly won’t be allowed.

In 2015, 2.6 million California taxpayers claimed more in state and local taxes than the $10,000 cap, according to the Franchise Tax Board. Of them, 1.5 million should still pay less next year due to other changes, and about 100,000 will owe about the same, the board estimates.

But the other 1 million will owe Uncle Sam a combined $12 billion more. That’s more than double the $5.2 billion a year from the gas tax and vehicle fee hikes.

While doubling the standard deduction will lower federal taxes for many Californians, those savings are a pittance compared to the huge windfall going to corporations. After handing out some highly-publicized bonuses to workers, companies are now using their tax savings to buy back stock and reward investors - not to raise salaries or create new jobs.

Despite those facts, Congressional Republicans who backed the punishing tax law are now cynically helping to fund a measure to repeal the 12-cent gas tax hike, hoping it will gin up their vote in November and stop Democrats from flipping U.S. House seats. Republicans also know that the higher income taxes hit hardest at more affluent residents in Democratic strongholds.

If the repeal succeeds, Californians will have to drive on worse roads. They will also be affected by federal budget cuts to avoid huge deficits caused by the tax law. And, of course, a million of us will owe more in U.S. taxes.

That’s hardly a good deal, no matter how Republicans try to sell it.

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May 21

Ventura County Star on how business can help foster youth:

May is National Foster Care Month, and one of its purposes is to recognize all the individuals and organizations working to improve the lives of America’s 430,000 young people in foster care. So we want to give a shout-out today to a Ventura County program that is doing just that, even though it was created only last summer.

The Businesses with Heart program, featured in a Star story this month, aims to get the local business community more involved in supporting the hundreds of foster children in our county — and so far it appears to be a solid success.

Created and coordinated by Ventura County Children & Family Services, which is part of the county Human Services Agency, the program has attracted more than 30 businesses and nonprofit groups. They are offering foster families everything from discounts on auto repairs and haircuts to internships, training and even jobs for foster teens.

“There’s not enough support for foster children in any community,” county Supervisor Steve Bennett, a longtime foster parent and advocate, told The Star. “We need more support. We need to keep kids from falling through the cracks. For that to happen, we need as many people as possible to step up.”

In return for their support, the businesses are featured on the county’s foster care website and Facebook page and in newsletters and email blasts. They also receive decals and informational materials to display at their stores and offices, showing the public they are foster-care supporters and raising awareness about the overall program.

“Win-win” is an overused cliché but perfectly appropriate here. Many foster families have limited resources and need all the assistance they can get. Businesses and nonprofits can get an image and sales boost, and the county gets new partners to spread the word about its chronic need for more foster parents. “It is bringing a level of education and awareness to the community that has been otherwise untouched,” Businesses with Heart coordinator Jaci Johnson told The Star.

It takes a special kind of soul and a ton of commitment to open your home and heart to a child in need, and we encourage you to consider that, but there also are other ways to help foster youth in our community, and Businesses with Heart is one of them. If you own or manage a business or nonprofit, we urge you to consider joining this worthy program by calling 654-3220, emailing jaci.johnson@ventura.org or visiting fostervckids.org.