E-247 - Monday, July 1, 2019
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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Happy New (fiscal) Year! Things are so anti-climactic now after Proposition 25, which lowered the vote threshold to approve a state budget to a simple majority and financially penalized legislators for not passing the budget by June 15.
For the newbies, I spent many years as the budget lobbyist for the Community College League before becoming President/CEO. Before Proposition 25, that meant many long summer nights (and pre-dawn morning hours) in Conference Committee and eventual floor votes--all the way until September.
It's a different world now. The budget is done and the month-long summer recess begins as next week ends.
If you haven't heard, Queen Sheba Ethiopian restaurant is re-opening today from 11:30-9pm one week after an apparent arson fire. On their Facebook page, they warn that while the outside facade won't necessarily be pretty until insurance claims are paid, they focused on cleaning up the interior and look forward to serving great food in thanks to a community that has rallied around them.
They credit the GoFundMe effort and other direct financial support from community members for allowing them to re-open more quickly than most expected. Thank you to the Noonerites who helped out! Here is the menu for the restaurant, which is at 1704 Broadway in Sacramento.
Solomon's Delicatessen opened today at 8th and Kay in the former Tower Records spot and from pics posted by Steve Hansen on Facebook, it looks beautiful.
I'm hungry now and it's only 5:30am.
In other food news (or not), today is the ribbon cutting for the return of the Hard Rock Cafe retail store to the mall formerly known as Downtown Plaza. A Hard Rock Cafe used to essentially be where Sauced and 24 Hour Fitness are and if you're as old as I am, you'll remember that it was America Live! before the music-themed restaurant. You won't be eating at the new DOCO spot--it is just a retail store. It's opening to promote the upcoming Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain, near Wheatland, which is expected to open this fall. If you've been to the Toyota Amphitheatre up there, its essentially being built next door.
The casino's website is somewhat funny. Under the banner "Explore What Sacramento Has to Offer," they have a map showing that the casino is in the middle of nowhere--like the amphitheater.
Finally in downtown news, the recently opened Capital Books on K next door to the Crest Theatre at 1011 K Street begins its "Where's Waldo?" contest today. They have placed "Waldos" in 25 downtown businesses in a challenge to see how many can be found. You can pick up your passport to collect stamps today at Capital Books and collect "Waldos" through July 31 for a chance at a grand prize. On FB, they suggest where you can find them.
Yes, you can tell your boss that you are on an important mission each afternoon including Vampire Penguin, Goodie Tuchews, Andy's Candy, and Candy Heaven. Just in time for summer recess.
BUDGET: The housing trailer bill, AB 101, is up in Senate Budget and Fiscal Review at 1pm in Room 4203. The bill includes court-ordered financial penalties for local government jurisdictions up to $300,000 per month that do not bring their housing compliance after one year of a court determination.
No support or opposition is reflected on the analysis but I'm guessing that it is just because it was a gut-and-amend on Thursday. The bill and analysis were posted on Friday. I am certain that the anti-SB 50 cities and perhaps the League of California Cities are in opposition, but as we say around the Legislature, the deal has been "cooked." It was part of the budget deal between legislative leaders and Governor Newsom.
OH, DUNCAN: While most members of Congress are enjoying the Fourth of July recess ("district work period" in congressional parlance), Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) will presumably be in federal court today for a hearing on motions in advance of the trial scheduled to start September 10. The three biggest issues today are venue, admissibility of evidence, and whether the case should dismissed or the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern California should be recused because two prosecutors had pictures taken with Hillary Clinton.
On venue, Hunter's lawyers have requested a change of venue from the Southern District of California in San Diego to the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. The federal prosecutors argue against it, almost laughingly so, by citing previous much higher profile cases in which the Southern District has denied a change of venue.
The dismissal or recusal motion by Hunter also doesn't hold much muster. The argument is that they violated the Hatch Act, which bars most federal employees from most political activity on federal time. However, it's really about being active in a campaign. It is not a bar in making contributions or even engaging in activity on after hours or on weekends as long as it is not portrayed to be in an official capacity. Basically, prosecutors simply need to point the judge to the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) web page. Motion dismissed.
The OSC is an independent federal agency charged with enforcing several statutes such as whistleblower protections and the Hatch Act. They don't prosecute but, like auditors, review and recommend.
(Interesting contrast: On June 13, the OSC sent a report to President Trump finding that Kellyanne Conway has repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommends her dismissal, finding that she is deemed to be in a non-political position and has repeated disparaged Democratic presidential candidates on television and on social media.)
The Times of San Diego provides the filings and has some great reporting by Ken Stone here (including about the rabbit named Cadbury). If you enjoy their reporting, I encourage you to support the access to documents like this they provide without paywalls (federal filings themselves, while public documents, are behind paywalls). As I've written previously, a subscription to the San Diego Union-Tribune is also worth it because of this story, even though most of the big state stories are identical to the Los Angeles Times.
The court filings also lay out much of the evidence and we see the origin of the "tell the navy to go fuck themselves" message alleged in the original indictment. It was a text message exchange between Hunter and his now-former chief of staff, Joe Kasper. The exchange was over the trip Duncan, wife Margaret, and their three kids took around Italy over Thanksgiving 2015. The government lays out how the airfare, hotel, trains, and museum admission were paid for with campaign funds.
They even file photos from the trip (p. 46-58), with the kids' faces blacked out.
Hunter argues that it was for a campaign or political purpose as the couple tried to schedule a visit to the U.S. Naval base in Naples. The prosecution lays out that Margaret Hunter had made the request through Duncan's congressional office only a couple of weeks before they would land in Italy. She writes COS Kasper (p. 3):
"You may know we are headed to Italy over thanksgiving break. Looks like we will be in and around Naples Nov 25-26. There was a
"At the time, the Hunters were in the midst of a marital spat, and Hunter said, “I’m starting to wonder what I’m getting out of all this.” Margaret replied, “A family trip. I love you and I will make this weekend up to you[.]”
Then, when the Navy responds that they could accommodate the Hunters on the day before Thanksgiving, we get this exchange between Hunter and COS Kasper (p. 61):
Let's through German women under the bus while we're at it.
Hunter is a Marine. I'm sure that in the bars of San Diego County, language like that is commonplace daily, as it is the home of the Marines' Camp Pendleton and the second largest Naval base in the country. The two branches have long held a rivalry that ranges from jovial to the occasional broken beer mug over someone's head. But you don't expect to see it from a congressman representing both.
Of course, Hunter never thought most things that are in the prosecutors' filings would see the light of day. He's even repaid many of the Italy trip costs by selling the family house and moving his wife and kids in with his father while he bunks with women around DC--allegedly.
I feel bad for all involved, except Duncan. His wife is trying to put it behind him and will testify implicating him in court as part of her plea agreement. It was up to the congressman to avoid having all of this disclosed to the public. I wrote before that he could have recovered had he admitted fault, which would have meant resigning and time in prison, which his wife already faces. Now we have many more details and evidence about the decline of his marriage and his mistresses.
Most of us are fallible and I have admitted my own failures in this space. How we handle such mistakes are the true test of character. Duncan is failing this test and he's dragging a lot of other people along with him.
This is not at all political on my part. While Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) is a promising candidate, I still don't see how a Democrat not named Duncan wins this seat in either a special or 2020. My bet is that the next congressman of CA50 is former-congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista). Longtime readers know that I'm not a particular fan of his, and that's mostly because his damn Viper car alarm kept me awake many nights in college. Here, piss off everybody in your office by turning up your sound and listening to this sound of the 1990s.
After all, Issa has his own checkered past but served his probation and paid his fine.
Duncan, you may not care about anyone other than yourself. If nothing else, for your children's sake, it's time to step aside. There is just too much evidence and your wife is the prosecution's star witness. Spousal privilege doesn't apply because she had the official capacity as campaign treasure and also waived it because of her plea that demonstrated she was a participant in the crime, both of which are waivers of privilege.
Don't drag your children, your wife, and your mistresses through a trial.
EDISON $$$: Eyebrows were raised when Edison International, the parent of Southern California Edison, reported $300,000 to the California Democratic Party (CDP) and $200,000 to the California Republican Party (CRP) last Thursday. This came as a coalition, including Edison, pushes the Legislature to act by the policy committee pseudo-deadline of July 12. But, is it out of the ordinary? Let's take a look at the company's giving pattern in recent years.
Notes: In recent years, the formal committee name for the state Democratic Party is "California Democratic Party." Previously, it was "Democratic State Central Committee." Amounts include in-kind non-monetary contributions (usually when its not an even number.
These are only contributions directly to the state political parties. In each of the years, contributions were also made to members of both parties and to some local party organizations, such as the Democratic Foundation of Orange County. For example, in 2013, Edison didn't give money to the state Democratic Party, but did give $54,400 for Jerry Brown's 2014 re-election. In 2012, it gave $75,000 to the California Republican Leadership Fund instead of the party.
In other words, it's complicated and there is little definitive in a casual analysis. Formal redirection funds is largely prohibited, but there is a helluva lot of wink-wink, nod-nod in this town.
A complete read on Edison giving is not possible without a full analysis of all contributions by Edison being categorized by party, which would take way too much time. I could have spent my weekend doing it but didn't as it is deceptive in itself. Not all Democrats are on the same side of a pending issue and the same is true for Republicans. Just look at the vote on last September's SB 901, the wildfire liability and prevention bill. Thus, I'll just leave it as money to the state parties.
This year is not over but it does appear big money came in earlier in the year than in previous years, particularly those without a statewide election. Is there anything sinister? I don't think so but the take-away is that they are a major player, particularly since PG&E needs to get non-operational expenditures approved by the bankruptcy court right now. Funds come from the "reasonable profit" portion of ratepayers' bills. It does appear that contributions have increased in recent years as wildfires and liability have become bigger issues and the Democratic legislative and gubernatorial dominance has tilted totals toward the majority party.
Anyway, no conclusion from me. I'll let you chew on the numbers.
VAXX, SOCAL SMOG and CAKEDAY after the jump...
VACCINATION (I CAN'T GET NO): Soumya Karlamangla and Melody Gutierrez write for the Times that, despite increased scrutiny, the number of vaccination medical exemptions has increased and the state's vaccination rates have dropped. They write:
"California’s kindergarten vaccination rate dropped again in the most recent school year as more parents sought permission from doctors to not immunize their children, according to new state data.
In the school year that ended last month, 4,812 kindergartners had obtained medical exemptions from vaccines, a 70% increase from two years ago, when the vaccination law first took effect, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. The data suggest that large concentrations of medical exemptions are being granted to school children in relatively affluent parts of the state, such as Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties."
They have a lot more frightening data in the article.
CHOKE: In the LAT, Tony Barboza and Rahul Mukherjee report that after much progress over several decades, Southern California's smog is getting worse again. They write:
"Bad air days are ticking up across the nation, and emissions reductions are slowing. The most notable setback has been with ozone, the lung-damaging gas in smog that builds up in warm, sunny weather and triggers asthma attacks and other health problems that can be deadly.
Health effects from ozone pollution have remained essentially unchanged over the last decade — “stubbornly high,” according to a study published this year by scientists at New York University and the American Thoracic Society.
Nowhere is the situation worse than in Southern California, where researchers found a 10% increase in Southern California deaths attributable to ozone pollution from 2010 to 2017. The region has long reigned as the nation’s smog capital and has seen a resurgence of dirty air in the last few years, one that has sharpened the divide between wealthier coastal enclaves with cleaner air and lower-income communities further inland with smoggy air.
For the Nooner newbies, I grew up in Orange County where the let alone the San Gabriel mountains and even the foothills separating Orange County from the San Gabriel Valley would disappear during summer months and we would be kept inside during school. How much this contributed to the cumulative two years I spent in the hospital with bad lung problems that led to me dropping out of high school is unknown, but the doctors believed it was certainly a factor in a complicated cycle. Barboza and Mukherjee continue:
"By the end of this year, California regulators must present the federal government with a plan demonstrating they are on track to slash ozone pollution. Officials say it will take billions in spending to meet smog-reduction deadlines under the Clean Air Act. But no one knows where the money will come from.
There are other obstacles, such as the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back emissions standards that California relies on to reduce pollution from cars and trucks. With each passing year, Southern California smog regulators are falling further behind in raising the $14 billion they say is needed to pay for less-polluting vehicles and clean the air to federal health standards."
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Ian Fregosi and Denise Ng!
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