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Posts Tagged ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’

No offshore oil drilling for California

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

History is about to repeat itself - and not in a good way.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants the California Legislature to approve his request for the first new offshore oil drilling in California’s waters since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.

This is the worst time to open up California’s coast to off shore drilling, which is exactly why such a diabolical plan is being foisted on the people .

California doesn’t need money from big oil to fix the California budget woes.  California needs to take a hard look at all the  money we’re wasting on agencies and commissions we don’t need.

I know of at least one commission on the list there that is in major need of reform. Maybe we can find another one.

Before cutting education, take a gander at this list of all the absolutely essential California agencies and commissions  we can’t seem to manage without in our daily lives. Why not reorganize? Merge agencies where effort is duplicated.  Eliminate, reform or sell-off .

California Access for Infants and Mothers
California Acupuncture Board
California Administrative Office of the Courts
California Adoptions Branch
California African American Museum
California Agricultural Export Program
California Agricultural Labor Relations Board
California Agricultural Statistics Service
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
California Allocation Board
California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority
California Animal Health and Food Safety Services
California Anti-Terrorism Information Center
California Apprenticeship Council
California Arbitration Certification Program
California Architects Board
California Area VI Developmental Disabilities Board
California Arts Council

California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus
California Assembly Democratic Caucus
California Assembly Republican Caucus
California Athletic Commission
California Attorney General
California Bay Conservation and Development Commission
California Bay-Delta Authority
California Bay-Delta Office
California Biodiversity Council
California Board for Geologists and Geophysicists
California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
California Board of Accountancy
California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology
California Board of Behavioral Sciences
California Board of Chiropractic Examiners
California Board of Equalization (BOE)
California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection
California Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind
California Board of Occupational Therapy
California Board of Optometry
California Board of Pharmacy
California Board of Podiatric Medicine
California Board of Prison Terms
California Board of Psychology
California Board of Registered Nursing
California Board of Trustees
California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians
California Braille and Talking Book Library
California Building Standards Commission
California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education
California Bureau of Automotive Repair
California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair
California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation
California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine
California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services
California Bureau of State Audits
California Business Agency
California Business Investment Services (CalBIS)
California Business Permit Information (CalGOLD)
California Business Portal
California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency
California Cal Grants
California CalJOBS
California Cal-Learn Program
California CalVet Home Loan Program
California Career Resource Network
California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau
California Center for Analytical Chemistry
California Center for Distributed Learning
California Center for Teaching Careers (Teach California)
California Chancellor’s Office
California Charter Schools
California Children and Families Commission
California Children and Family Services Division
California Citizens Compensation Commission
California Civil Rights Bureau
California Coastal Commission
California Coastal Conservancy
California Code of Regulations
California Collaborative Projects with UC Davis
California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth
California Commission on Aging
California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation
California Commission on Judicial Performance
California Commission on State Mandates
California Commission on Status of Women
California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
California Commission on the Status of Women
California Committee on Dental Auxiliaries
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Junior Colleges
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office
California Complaint Mediation Program
California Conservation Corps
California Constitution Revision Commission
California Consumer Hotline
California Consumer Information Center
California Consumer Information
California Consumer Services Division
California Consumers and Families Agency
California Contractors State License Board
California Corrections Standards Authority
California Council for the Humanities
California Council on Criminal Justice
California Council on Developmental Disabilities
California Court Reporters Board
California Courts of Appeal
California Crime and Violence Prevention Center
California Criminal Justice Statistics Center
California Criminalistic Institute Forensic Library
California CSGnet Network Management
California Cultural and Historical Endowment
California Cultural Resources Division
California Curriculum and Instructional Leadership Branch
California Data Exchange Center
California Data Management Division
California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission
California Delta Protection Commission
California Democratic Caucus
California Demographic Research Unit
California Dental Auxiliaries
California Department of Aging
California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs
California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board
California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
California Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating)
California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS)
California Department of Community Services and Development
California Department of Conservation
California Department of Consumer Affairs
California Department of Corporations
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
California Department of Developmental Services
California Department of Education
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
California Department of Finance
California Department of Financial Institutions
California Department of Fish and Game
California Department of Food and Agriculture
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF)
California Department of General Services
California Department of General Services, Office of State Publishing
California Department of Health Care Services
California Department of Housing and Community Development
California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)
California Department of Insurance
California Department of Justice Firearms Division
California Department of Justice Opinion Unit
California Department of Justice, Consumer Information, Public Inquiry Unit
California Department of Justice
California Department of Managed Health Care
California Department of Mental Health
California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
California Department of Personnel Administration
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
California Department of Public Health
California Department of Real Estate
California Department of Rehabilitation
California Department of Social Services Adoptions Branch
California Department of Social Services
California Department of Technology Services Training Center (DTSTC)
California Department of Technology Services (DTS)
California Department of Toxic Substances Control
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVets)
California Department of Water Resources
California Departmento de Vehiculos Motorizados
California Digital Library
California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Certification Program
California Division of Apprenticeship Standards
California Division of Codes and Standards
California Division of Communicable Disease Control
California Division of Engineering
California Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control
California Division of Gambling Control
California Division of Housing Policy Development
California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
California Division of Labor Statistics and Research
California Division of Land and Right of Way
California Division of Land Resource Protection
California Division of Law Enforcement General Library
California Division of Measurement Standards
California Division of Mines and Geology
California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA)
California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources
California Division of Planning and Local Assistance
California Division of Recycling
California Division of Safety of Dams
California Division of the State Architect
California Division of Tourism
California Division of Workers’ Compensation Medical Unit
California Division of Workers’ Compensation
California Economic Assistance, Business and Community Resources
California Economic Strategy Panel
California Education and Training Agency
California Education Audit Appeals Panel
California Educational Facilities Authority
California Elections Division
California Electricity Oversight Board
California Emergency Management Agency
California Emergency Medical Services Authority
California Employment Development Department (EDD)
California Employment Information State Jobs
California Employment Training Panel
California Energy Commission
California Environment and Natural Resources Agency
California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)
California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES)
California Executive Office
California Export Laboratory Services
California Exposition and State Fair (Cal Expo)
California Fair Political Practices Commission
California Fairs and Expositions Division
California Film Commission
California Fire and Resource Assessment Program
California Firearms Division
California Fiscal Services
California Fish and Game Commission
California Fisheries Program Branch
California Floodplain Management
California Foster Youth Help
California Franchise Tax Board (FTB)
California Fraud Division
California Gambling Control Commission
California Geographic Information Systems Council (GIS)
California Geological Survey
California Government Claims and Victim Compensation Board
California Governor’s Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons
California Governor’s Mentoring Partnership
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
California Governor’s Office of Homeland Security
California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
California Governor’s Office
California Grant and Enterprise Zone Programs HCD Loan
California Health and Human Services Agency
California Health and Safety Agency
California Healthy Families Program
California Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau
California High-Speed Rail Authority
California Highway Patrol (CHP)
California History and Culture Agency
California Horse Racing Board
California Housing Finance Agency
California Indoor Air Quality Program
California Industrial Development Financing Advisory Commission
California Industrial Welfare Commission
California InFoPeople
California Information Center for the Environment
California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (I-Bank)
California Inspection Services
California Institute for County Government
California Institute for Education Reform
California Integrated Waste Management Board
California Interagency Ecological Program
California Job Service
California Junta Estatal de Personal
California Labor and Employment Agency
California Labor and Workforce Development Agency
California Labor Market Information Division
California Land Use Planning Information Network (LUPIN)
California Lands Commission
California Landscape Architects Technical Committee
California Latino Legislative Caucus
California Law Enforcement Branch
California Law Enforcement General Library
California Law Revision Commission
California Legislative Analyst’s Office
California Legislative Black Caucus
California Legislative Counsel
California Legislative Division
California Legislative Information
California Legislative Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus
California Legislature Internet Caucus
California Library Development Services
California License and Revenue Branch
California Major Risk Medical Insurance Program
California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board
California Maritime Academy
California Marketing Services
California Measurement Standards
California Medical Assistance Commission
California Medical Care Services
California Military Department
California Mining and Geology Board
California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts
California Museum Resource Center
California National Guard
California Native American Heritage Commission
California Natural Community Conservation Planning Program
California New Motor Vehicle Board
California Nursing Home Administrator Program
California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board
California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board
California Ocean Resources Management Program
California Office of Administrative Hearings
California Office of Administrative Law
California Office of AIDS
California Office of Binational Border Health
California Office of Child Abuse Prevention
California Office of Deaf Access
California Office of Emergency Services (OES)
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
California Office of Fiscal Services
California Office of Fleet Administration
California Office of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Implementation (CalOHI)
California Office of Historic Preservation
California Office of Homeland Security
California Office of Human Resources
California Office of Legal Services
California Office of Legislation
California Office of Lieutenant Governor
California Office of Military and Aerospace Support
California Office of Mine Reclamation
California Office of Natural Resource Education
California Office of Privacy Protection
California Office of Public School Construction
California Office of Real Estate Appraisers
California Office of Risk and Insurance Management
California Office of Services to the Blind
California Office of Spill Prevention and Response
California Office of State Publishing (OSP)
California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development
California Office of Systems Integration
California Office of the Inspector General
California Office of the Ombudsman
California Office of the Patient Advocate
California Office of the President
California Office of the Secretary for Education
California Office of the State Fire Marshal
California Office of the State Public Defender
California Office of Traffic Safety
California Office of Vital Records
California Online Directory
California Operations Control Office
California Opinion Unit
California Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN)
California Park and Recreation Commission
California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)
California Performance Review (CPR)
California Permit Information for Business (CalGOLD)
California Physical Therapy Board
California Physician Assistant Committee
California Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services
California Policy and Evaluation Division
California Political Reform Division
California Pollution Control Financing Authority
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
California Postsecondary Education Commission
California Prevention Services
California Primary Care and Family Health
California Prison Industry Authority
California Procurement Division
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)
California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB)
California Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
California Real Estate Services Division
California Refugee Programs Branch
California Regional Water Quality Control Boards
California Registered Veterinary Technician Committee
California Registrar of Charitable Trusts
California Republican Caucus
California Research and Development Division
California Research Bureau
California Resources Agency
California Respiratory Care Board
California Rivers Assessment
California Rural Health Policy Council
California Safe Schools
California San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
California San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy
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California School to Career
California Science Center
California Scripps Institution of Oceanography
California Secretary of State Business Portal
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California Seismic Safety Commission
California Self Insurance Plans (SIP)
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California Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Certification Program
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California Smart Growth Caucus
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California Special Education Division
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Veterans Home of California

Call/write or fax Governor Schwarzenegger and let him know you think there are better options

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

State Capitol Building

Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916-445-2841

Fax: 916-558-3160

California Here I Come - What would they sing now?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

California was a much different place when Lucy, Ricky Ethel and Fred sang this rousing rendition of California Here I Come on the I Love Lucy Show, episode 110, season 4, original air date 1/10/1955 (Thanks IMDB)

“What would they sing now?” Dunno, but Let’s see what our Governor is singing:

“just three months after our February budget, we once again face a $24 billion deficit. California’s day of reckoning is here.

We have no time to waste. The controller has told us that we have 14 days to act or California is at risk of running out of cash. I’ve already used my executive authority to reduce the state payroll and I’ve proposed the necessary cuts to the three largest areas of our budget, which is education, health care and prisons.

Wait just a gosh durned second….

SAVE EDUCATION!!!

If we don’t teach our kids to be smart and to do math, we’ll never get out of this mess… And if some of the members of  the state’s legislature went to school in California please - get them off the budget committee!

Wonder how much of the budget is wasted year after year fighting fires that wouldn’t have to be fought if crews went out into the dense brush with weed-wackers? Firefighting cost were around  $8 billion bucks last year.  Multiply firefighting costs over the last 10 years, and it doesn’t take a 6th grader to see why we’re going down.

What about all that money the state lost because of Open Space? Once you take land off the tax rolls you say buh-bye to property taxes?  Open space pays no taxes.

We must also restructure the relationship between state and local government. We all hear from the local officials about the heavy hand of Sacramento.

On the coast of California its more like a heavy boot.

I’m also proposing once again to eliminate and consolidate more than a dozen state departments, boards and commissions. These include the Waste Management Board, the Court Reporters Board, the Department of Boating and Waterways and the Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee and so on.

Hmmm - nothing about California Coastal Commission.

I’m also proposing to sell off state property, because Sacramento should not be in the real estate business, especially when we are in a fiscal crisis like this.

Ding, ding, ding! Wait a second gov. You forget! You are in the real estate business… that’s why organizations like the CCC exist and conservancies like Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy exist….so  you take, I mean get, free land to sell for profit.

Sounds kinda rotten to me. Why not give back all the land you’ve taken,not you per se, but state organizations have taken on your behalf, and give it back to the people you took it from?  At least then people can pay taxes on it …if they still have jobs..

Let’s meet those challenges head-on without gimmicks. I don’t want to hand these problems to the next Governor and I know that you don’t want to hand them to the next Legislature.

Isn’t that what you would call a gimmick?

So I have faith in all of you. I have faith in our ability to once again come together for the good of our state.

You mean… put the state first? Instead of self-interest? Gee, can that be done?

So I say let’s move forward and put California back on the path to prosperity.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Source: Governor’s Press Office

One sure path to prosperity is to give the farmers back their land you took for open space so they can grow the food the people need. The other sure path is to manage the brush, I mean: fuel load, so we don’t get any more huge fires like Santa Barbara that we can’t pay for anyway.

Sounds to me like: California, say buh-bye.

Of Mice and Men

Monday, March 16th, 2009


I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads . . . every damn one of ‘em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ‘em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’.

I read plenty of books out here.

Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.

 

 

- John Steinbek, “Of Mice and Men”

 

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started a campaign last Thursday to drum up voter support for a series of budget-related propositions he wants to pass in May.

Schwarzenegger also threw his support behind efforts to hold a constitutional convention, an idea which is showing some signs of support around California. The Bay Area Council, a business-backed policy group headquartered in San Francisco, is spearheading efforts to hold a convention to redo parts of the state’s basic framework.

“I think eventually the state of California needs to look at a constitutional convention,” Schwarzenegger said during a question-and-answer session following his speech. “There’s things that ought to be looked at and debated.”

The governor did not specify which areas of the state constitution were most in need of change.

(Source: San Francisco Business Times)

Don’t know about you, but I get very concerned when any govenor decides he “needs to look at a constitutional convention,” especially when a self-interest group of any stripe is leading the charge… because you know who gets clobbered in the end - WE do!

Tinkering is what you do with a clock or a motor….a radio, guitar, maybe even a computer - not a constitution!  

But I do agree with the govenor’s observation - something is rotten in the state of California.

Michael Chrichton, of Jurassic Park fame, gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2003 - the same place the govenor gave his last week.

Mr. Chrichton brought up many worthy points then, that ring true for our time.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems.

-Michael Crichton 

We don’t have to tinker with anything constitutional in order to take a good hard look at what is working - and what is not.  It’s kinda easy given this last budget fiasco…I don’t think there’s a whole lot of things working in the State of California.

Amendments aren’t necessary to get the Coastal Commission to work better.  For the last 30 years, the Triple-C has been the state’s poster boy for unfettered government run amok. We need to stop that. This is no time for anything in California to be running amok.

Could Peter Douglas, Executive-Director-for-life of the California Coastal Commission be using the commission to advance his personal agenda or is he just the towel-boy for some very wealthy people and some powerful corporations…yes, wealthy people and powerful corporations. (501 c3 Non-profits are corporations.) 

Whose agenda is Pete and the boys really advancing under the guise of environmental protection? Non-for-profit and for profit corporations might be dropping millions of dollars on the Triple C and we’d never know who they are because it is a secret.  They don’t have to tell. By law. California law.

The same law that allows the commission to initiate an appeal of a coastal development permit with the action of any two members of the commission. California State Sen. Denise Ducheny, of San Diego, introduced Senate Bill 1295 Februray 19, 2008 to try and restore fairness to the commission.

It just doesn’t seem right that the people who make the appeal also decide the appeal,”

-Sen. Denise Ducheny

(Source:  North County Times, March 13, 2008)

Predictably, SB 1295 was defeated.

How come the names of all individuals and corporations who contribute to the CCC are not public information?  I’d sure like to know who is pulling their strings, and the public ought to know too. Everyone who makes a contribution for federal political means are reported on the web. Why not here too? 

OK, mistakes happen. BUT, let’s look real carefully at the money flow into the commission and the data that comes out.  The commission uses this data, however it wants to and for whatever purpose it dreams up - and refuses to acknowledge anything contrary to its’ own findings. 

If the data is manipulated who whould know? And what ever they present in court…the courts back them up…so truthful and accurate data is critical for all parties, not just to be used as a means to an end.

 

Where does the data come from? Their own sources - or - Independent, outside experts? Where is the oath that accompanies the data that they submit that says the information is deemed correct under penalty of perjury?  Those three words alone are gonna clean up some stuff PDQ because now the so-called experts will be legally bound to tell the truth. 

And, while we’re on the subject of truth, who protects the people from the meglo-maniacal commission? No, not the A.G. The Attorney General is too busy covering the CCC’s butt. Who is watching out for Jane & John Q. Public to be sure their rights are protected?

I want it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment.  

-Michael Crichton 

How much of the state’s budget does the CCC spend on lawsuits in a year?  In a decade? Over 3 decades?

I bet that number equals the cost of one if not more of these super-duper-tankers we (the people)  lease each year to drop tons of retardant on flaming brush as a result of the coastal commission’s (and other agencies) prohibition from allowing modification of the vegetation?

Once it dawns on folks that if we modify the vegetation, fires won’t be as gigantic, do you think they’ll be pissed?

How many billions did last years fire’s cost? What % of budget was that? I’m not saying get a lawnmower - but I am suggesting we need to do something - RIGHT NOW!

In 90 to 120 days from right now fire season starts.

What new techniques are in place since the last round of catastrophic fires, that cost the state billions of dollars, and helped drive us into the financial toilet?    

Speaking of toilets… 

I heard there is a movement in the Santa Monica Mountains to allow overnight camping in a zone the fire department calls “extremely hazardous”.  Bad idea, no?

I thought we are trying to prevent fires…not start them. They have a lot of money behind them…they’ll probably get their way. Burn the people out who live there, huh?

While we’re doing our fact-finding, let’s not miss an opportunity to look at the California Conservancy and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

The reason I ask is back in 2004, there was a big brouhaha…do you remember?

The Office of State Audits and Evaluations, which examined the conservancy’s spending through June 2003, accused the conservancy of applying $4.2 million in bond money toward planning, education and facilities renovations instead of using it for parkland purchases. The conservancy charged for operating expenses such as phones, cellular phones, Internet service, access pagers, postage, conferences, vehicle costs and other items as direct grant expenses); and using more than $1 million in bond money to pay for legal fees. The audit questioned possible double billing as well.

According to a written response to the audit from Michael Berger, chairman of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the conservancy’s land-management arm, “(The MRCA governing board) recognizes that constant improvement is essential to being an effective and responsive instrument for the people we serve.

(Source: The Acorn)

How they doing? Any better?

We honestly appreciate the efforts of the Office of State Audits and Evaluations, and where they have been constructive in their criticisms, such recommendations have—in conjunction with our own internal review—led to the changes in organizational structure and procedures.

(Source: The Acorn)

Honestly appreciate?  The state audit also criticized the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for its relationship with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority…. That was no compliment.

How is that going?

There’s the appearance that the conservancy is, in effect, awarding grants to itself, and that the authority’s project managers are monitoring themselves.

(Source: The Acorn)

Perhaps, at the same time we can also look into why previous attempts to restore balance into the CCC have fallen flat? I don’t bet, but if I did, I’d say that it probably has something to do with PAC money.

Why, why, why? So many whys.

In his later years, Mr. Crichton turned his attention towards public policy and became extremely skeptical of archly ideological environmentalism. In the speech he delivered at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club in 2003, he argued that environmentalism is essentially a religion, a belief system based on faith, not fact. (Check out his site: http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-environmentalismaseligion.html)

Is the environmental debate today, including global warming, and other issues, based on science or politics?  Are government policies wasting limited resources, crippling human rights and addressing true dangers - or inviting tyranny?

“The lawyers made a very strong point,” [Joe] Edmiston said, and you don’t need a lawyer to point this out—we don’t wake up in the morning, throw a dart at the map of the Santa Monica Mountains and say, ‘Okay, where the dart landed, that’s the property that we’re going to try and acquire.’ There’s a full planning process that goes into that.” 

(Source: The Acorn)

Planning, I bet there is…. 

 

California Wildfires - Who Really Gets Burnt? Follow The Money - Part 3

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

The October 2003 wildfires, which swept huge areas from Ventura County to the Mexican border, damaged or destroyed 3,631 buildings and were blamed for 24 deaths. Although some insurers won accolades for their response, the state insurance department received 869 complaints concerning insurers  ” roughly one for every four lost houses.  

Garamendi and a number of legislators held public hearings in Southern California and fashioned legislative solutions to recurring complaints. Insurers said the survivors’ stories were not symptoms of larger problems and most claims were resolved with minimal dispute. 

“A great many of these issues were brought up based on anecdotes,” said Bill Sirola, a spokesman for State Farm who is based in Sacramento. “Sometimes in the emotional aftermath of disasters, like the fires down in the Southland, there’s a great amount of publicity to what has seemingly gone wrong without seeing that, by and large, everything has gone well.”

State Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) introduced a measure in 2004 to prohibit insurers from canceling a policy or raising its cost because a home had suffered damage from a natural disaster or something beyond the owners’ responsibility or control.

Among the homeowners who testified was Lisza Pontes. Her Lakeside house was damaged but was spared destruction largely because she had spent more than $50,000 on fire-resistant coating and brush clearance.
“Mine was the only house on a street of 13 that wasn’t a complete loss,” she said. Nonetheless, after Pontes filed a claim, her insurer placed her in a more expensive, high-risk pool, and 17 other California companies rejected her before she found an out-of-state firm that would insure her.

Industry officials argued that it was reasonable to be skeptical of people with a history of filing claims, because they are more likely to file future claims. State regulators and consumer advocates countered that insurers practice “use it and lose it” to deter people from filing claims. Six members of the Assembly Insurance Committee voted for Escutia’s measure, SB 1474. Three opposed it. Nine votes were needed to pass the bill.

Under Sacramento rules, a measure needs the support of a majority of a committee’s members  ” not just a majority of those casting votes. The panel at that time had 17 members. Escutia’s bill failed because eight did not vote, though attendance records show that all were present in the Assembly that day. In 2005, a scarcity of participants in Vargas’ committee killed another bill concerning homeowners insurance.

Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) had proposed banning insurers from using potential customers’ credit histories in deciding whether to sell them policies. Ortiz said consumers’ credit was irrelevant to whether they were likely to file insurance claims. The industry countered that its studies showed that people who fell behind on their credit were more likely to fail to take care of their homes.

When the measure, SB 603, came before Vargas’ committee, which had been reorganized into a 10-member panel, three legislators cast votes for the bill, and two against it. The bill failed because five other legislators, including Vargas, did not vote, though all were in the Capitol that day.

As do many other interest groups, companies that write homeowners insurance have multiple ways of currying favor with legislators. Disclosure records show that since 2003, property insurers have picked up the tab 70 times on items as small as a $3.72 breakfast and as large as a $340 round of golf at Pebble Beach.

“That’s our premium dollars working against us,” said George Kehrer, executive director of Community Assisting Recovery, an advocacy group founded after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. In the last three years, Allstate, Farmers Insurance Group and two industry associations gave committee member Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) $1,300 in golf fees, meals and a room at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Allstate also paid for a $170 meal at a Pebble Beach clubhouse for Calderon and his wife.

In May 2003, Farmers paid for Calderon and then-committee member George Nakano (D-Torrance) to attend a Laker game at $114 per ticket. State Farm gave $50 tickets to a 2004 Clipper game to staffers who work for Nakano and for two colleagues on the panel, Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) and Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood).

In March 2005, Farmers bought dinner for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), Vargas and the committee’s chief advisor at a cost of $166 a person. Insurers do not overlook the Republican minority on the panel, though records show that they have tended to pay for smaller events, like a $32 reception in 2003 for Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), who owns an insurance business (Cox was elected to the Senate last year). Committee vice chairman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert) received a $67 dinner in 2004.

One of the most active lobbying groups is the Personal Insurance Federation of California, formed by Farmers and State Farm in 1989 after voters imposed stringent new rules on insurers through Proposition 103.

Between 2003 and 2005, the federation paid for 22 meals for committee members and their aides, as well as a $290 golf game for Vargas’ brother, Javier. A frequent participant at those meetings, legislators said, was the federation’s president, Dan Dunmoyer, now a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Vargas said the perks were irrelevant. “Most of the contact I have is not with them,” he said. “Most of the time I’m meeting with citizens, I’m meeting with friends of mine, and these are people who are not in the insurance business.”

Vargas noted that since he became chairman of the committee, he has sponsored three bills opposed by insurers and often votes against their interests.

Several of the wildfire survivors said Vargas particularly disappointed them. “When we found out that the chairman of the insurance committee was a San Diegan, we thought: ‘How great, who better than a local guy to know what had happened,’ ” said Ciaran Thornton, who lost his Harbison Canyon house in the fires. Thornton and a friend whose home had narrowly escaped incineration met with Vargas at his Chula Vista office in June 2004.

“We sat down, he listened to us. He said, ‘We’ll see what we can do.’ It was very hard convincing him. It was pretty much a roadblock,” Thornton said. “He never got back to us at all.”

Vargas said he gave wildfire victims extensive opportunities to make their cases, both privately and before his panel. But he said his empathy was outweighed by concerns that greater protections for wildfire areas, which tend to be affluent, would be paid for by more economically vulnerable people.

“You know who’s going to get hurt? It’s the elderly woman who has never had a claim, never done anything wrong, and her rates are going to go up by 10%, and that’s not right,” Vargas said.

Amy Bach, executive director of United Policy Holders, a San Francisco homeowner advocacy group, said the schmoozing between legislators and lobbyists cements personal relationships that carry over into the Capitol.

“If the guy’s gotten them a great tee time on a very coveted golf course, then they’re pals, and that makes it that much harder on a personal level to go against them,” she said.

See which California lawmakers, that represent you, make the biggest bucks from the insurance industry in Part 4.

Source: Times reporting
Los Angeles Times

See the article on Los Angeles Times website

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TURF WAR!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
 

Fires Blaze along the coast of California

Wildfires rage in Southern California - NASA

Massive wildfires roaring through California are what many people jave come to expect our future will be.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Experts claim our monster fires are due to everything under the sun…from climate change to greenhouse gas and maybe even the sun itself.

SINS OF COMMISSION suggests there may be another factor no one speaks of,,, and possibly within our control.

Ever wonder why the number of forest fires in the Western U.S. and the amount of acreage burned have increased in intensity?

 

 

The fires are among the worst disasters in California history…

- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Line of fire: Approaching wildfire threatens a subdivision near Los Angeles, California, in 2003. Improved estimates of wildfire hazard could help firefighters focus limited resources on the most potentially dangerous fires.

Line of fire: Approaching wildfire threatens a subdivision in Southern California. Improved estimates of wildfire hazard could help firefighters focus limited resources on the most potentially dangerous fires.

Today Southern California is heavily populated with millions of homes, and these homes are surrounded by large unbroken swaths of protected brush - fuel beds, in fire department lingo. To continue to zealously protect brush without permitting the fire department to modify the denisty is only treating the result - not the cause.

What if we there is a way to trim the chaparral in an environmentally sensitive manner that diminishes the overall flame length thus controls the intensity of the fire - why can’t we do it?  Unless is fire being used as a device to prohibit, restrict or limit home building.

Or is it a turf war between state agencies competing for funds? 


    Portions of this story are excerpted from a series of features on sustainable development by IPS - Inter Press Service and IFEJ - International Federation of Environmental Journalists.



 
 
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