Category Archives: state government

A Homeless Governor?

neel and norbyWould you vote for the homeless guy for governor?

I like gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari. He has some good ideas and, during the primaries, did not seem too worried about spending his money to make sure you got the message. Of course, his campaign coffers are nearly depleted now and it’s questionable how much he will be able to spend on his future campaign against Jerry Brown.

A recent stunt, however, has me wondering if he isn’t just another johnny-come-republican.

Allegedly, the multi-millionaire took a Greyhound bus and $40 to Fresno where he spent a week as a homeless guy looking for work. Backpack in hand, he supposedly trudged the streets of Fresno dragging along his toothbrush and videographer. Of course, one has to wonder if prospective employers asked why a homeless guy would need a videographer.

Calling it one of the “hardest weeks” of his life (really?), the investment banker talked about his experience on MSNBC. Going with only one shower for the week, the scruffy mogul also wound up eating at a homeless shelter (I wonder if he paid them for the meal).

Kashkari, who in the past was mistakenly identified by his enemies as a dreaded “Muslim” (He is really Hindu), has been trying all kinds of interesting ways to get free publicity. According to the LA Times he has crashed teachers union conferences, visited churches in South LA and marched in gay pride parades.

The homeless trick takes the cake, though.

Kashkari is going to have to step up his game if he plans to be a serious Jerry Brown contender. Trailing in the double digits, I doubt Brown sees him as any real threat. And, why should he? Stick your head outside the Orange Curtain, and Brown is immensely popular with the voters on both sides of the street. If you can get past his Hi-Speed-Rail-To-Nowhere boondoggle, he has done a remarkable job for a former space-case and shown that he really does have the Pat Brown gene.

In the meantime, Kashkari is demonstrating that he is more interested in publicity stunts than outlining any real plan to fix what doesn’t need fixing – unless you are a super rich investment banker type looking to make more money off the backs of poor Californians. Or, maybe Kashkari, like Meg Whitman before him, thinks money can buy the election.

Oh wait, in that case, throw in the towel now. Governor Brown has twenty-two mil in his campaign account and it doesn’t look like he will have to do any borrowing. Neel, on the other hand, is broke.

What this really shows us is that either Republicans are notorious cheapskates and won’t help fund Kashkari’s all-but-doomed bid or, they just see the writing on the wall. In any case, this may not be the last time you hear about a hair-brained stunt from Kashkari.

One thing I wonder about though. Why did Kashkari feel it necessary to travel to Fresno to demonstrate his homeless prowess. We have a huge homeless encampment right here in Santa Ana.

Maybe he was afraid he’d run into Chris Norby.

 

Coming Home

veterans cemeteryI never thought that is is where I’d settle down,

Thought I’d die an old man back in my hometown,

They gave me this plot of land,

Me and some other men,

For a job well done.

Arlington – Trace Adkins

By now, you have probably heard the news about a push for a veterans cemetery in Orange County. The idea isn’t new. Almost since the Marines left El Toro and Tustin, veterans have been pushing for a place to host their final rest. Unfortunately, most of it was just talk as politicians were too busy deciding which of their cronies would benefit from some of the most valuable land in the county. And, although some may have briefly discussed the idea in conjunction with the Great Park or other developments, the idea kind of fell into the background of discussions.

Recently, though, the idea of a veterans cemetery has been revived and is, in fact, gaining a lot of support both here and in Sacramento. On Saturday, I attended a meeting in Buena Park (lured by the prospect of a free pancake breakfast) hosted by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. Earlier this year, Quirk-Silva introduced a bill that would clear the way for the establishment of a state run veterans cemetery in Orange County. AB1453 was wisely written with the idea of powerful developers nixing the use of valuable property near the Great Park and allows for the establishment of a cemetery “somewhere” in the county.

This is important legislation as, without it, a veterans cemetery would likely not ever come to pass. That’s because the Feds have a corner on veterans cemeteries in the area. And, because there are open cemeteries within 65 miles of Orange County, they will not consider constructing one here. That leaves the Golden State to do the job, if they are willing – and they are.Quirk-silva

Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva came to the breakfast meeting with an appetite and good news. AB1453, introduced in January of this year, sailed through the Assembly and is now going through the legislative process in the Senate. In fact, Senator Lou Correa’s Senate Veterans Affairs Committee passed the bill on June 24th and sent it to Senate Appropriations Committee with recommendation to the Consent Calendar. To date, there have been zero “no” votes on this bill.

In Orange County Board of Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s most recent missive, you would think the whole thing was his idea. Never one to miss an opportunity for self-aggrandizing, Spitzer has a photo of him and Veterans Advisory Council Chair, Bobby McDonald prominently displayed at the top of his weekly newsletter. He talks about how he is looking for a donation of more than a 100 acres and then goes on to suggest a location near Modjeska Grade Road (100.03 acres, to be exact) as a possibility.

The Third District is a natural fit to provide a home to a veterans cemetery because it has the canyons and a significant and substantial amount of the most open space in the vicinity of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro,” Spitzer said. “It’s time to come together in the Third District to find a viable option. I’m inviting Orange County leaders in the Third District to get the word out that we are in search of a land donation of over 100 acres to build a veterans cemetery.

Notice Spitzer doesn’t mention the old Marine Corps base property as a viable location. Perhaps that’s because, according to the Liberal OC, developers are doing their best to deflect the idea. Five Points Homes, a large developer of the old base property, is not too keen on  the idea. In fact, they made a presentation at the Irvine Ad Hoc Committee for a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial meeting in June to propose other locations around Orange County. Alternatives for them included the Tustin MCAS, Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base and the Seal Beach NWS. The one “ideal” space was curiously located in San Juan Capistrano, just off Interstate 5, about as far away from the Great Park as you can get.

Although there is no script to go along with the PowerPoint slides, one gets the idea: Great Park Bad, other spots (any other), good. Face it, who would want to have their kids grow up around a nasty old cemetery. And, just think of the drop in home prices.

Never mind that, according to reliable sources, Orange County is home to the highest number of veterans (and homeless veterans) in the nation. Never mind that Orange County had and still has a huge military presence and history with all services represented. About the only ones who don’t think placing a veterans cemetery at the Great Park is appropriate are those who desperately want the income that would be lost by establishing one.

We think MCAS El Toro is the most appropriate location to honor our veterans. The city of Tustin has wisely joined a majority of cities In supporting AB1453. It’s unfortunate that neither John Nielsen (who was more concerned his business cronies would have to pay more property tax) or Beckie Gomez thought enough to support it with an official resolution, opting for a letter instead. Now, what would have been great is if Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein would put as much effort in locating the cemetery at MCAS Tustin (near the blimp hangars would be good) as they are in getting Arte Moreno to relocate the Angels.

Surely, the time has come to bring this dream to fruition. Every veterans organization from the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council to The American Legion, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars are actively involved with this project. More than 200 veterans and interested persons showed up to hear Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva’s update on AB1453 and efforts to put this plan together.

Importantly, Quirk-Silva said AB1453 is just the beginning. Once the legislative authority has been granted, money still needs to be raised. Hope lies in the Feds who, although they won’t establish a cemetery here, will provide grant money to allow the state to establish and run one. Speaking as a veteran, I don’t really care one way or the other where the money comes from. The important thing is to honor our veterans by giving them a final resting place near their home. By rights, that resting place should be on, what The American Legion 29th District Commander, Bill Cook, called “Sacred Ground”.

Veterans-CemeterySubhead

 

Don’t Bury Me on the Lone Prairie

Veterans-CemeteryAlthough only remnants of the bases remain, Orange County was home to tens of thousands of U.S. Marines and their families over the years. We still have on our soil hundreds of Marine, Navy and Army personnel on several bases and reserve installations. And like the Marines in Camp Pendleton, the U.S. Air Force has a presence at a large (but little known) base in Los Angeles as well. On top of that, we are home to, by most estimates, over a hundred thousand veterans. So, it would be safe to say we are still a military county.

So, why is it, with all the rich history of two major bases and the multitude of support activities that have occurred since World War II, there is no place for a family to send their veteran to their final resting place?

Several of the cemeteries in Orange County have either reserved areas for veterans or a substantial memorial for vets. Santa Ana Cemetery is host to a major Civil War memorial and hosts a Memorial Day Ceremony each year. Westminster Memorial Park is also host to a memorial as well. The memorial at Pacific View Memorial Park overlooking the ocean in Corona del Mar is especially beautiful

None of these, however, are specifically for veterans or their families. In fact, the nearest Veterans Administration Cemetery is located in Riverside (Los Angeles is closer but they no longer have room). Riverside National Cemetery, is within 75 miles of Orange County so the prospect of a national cemetery is dim.

Fortunately, the state can and does build veterans cemeteries without the same requirement. And, I recently received an email inviting me to take a survey with one simple question: Should the city of Irvine identify and dedicate at least 100 acres at the Great Park to create a State Veterans Memorial and Cemetery?. The poll is straightforward and, at this writing, has a 2-1 majority in favor of the cemetery.

This is not the only effort by the group to get Irvine to take the lead in this issue. The Liberal OC recently ran an article on a press release they received from the group. The press release urges the Irvine City Council to take the necessary steps to set aside an appropriate amount of land at the Great Park for this project. Local politician, Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, has also thrown in her support by introducing Assembly Bill 1453 which would open the doors to a state-run veterans cemetery. Quirk-Silva wisely wrote the bill to allow the establishment of a veterans cemetery anywhere in the county.

But the logical choice is Great Park land. Originally, a veterans cemetery was part of the deal for development to begin at the old Marine base. Unfortunately, through the years of political maneuvering by developers and some city council members, the project fell by the wayside for most. A tenacious group of veterans, mostly from South County, has held on to the dream. And, now, the time is right to push the idea.

Cities in Orange County have thrown support toward the idea. Los Alamitos, home to the Joint Forces Training Base, has been joined by Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton and several others in the form of resolutions in support of AB1453. Likewise, every Orange County  legislator has thrown their support to Quirk-Silva’s bill.

So, where is Tustin and, why haven’t our leaders chimed in? Are they afraid eyes may look toward the Legacy property? Even so, would that be a bad thing? Perhaps an alternative to the Great Park would be a veterans cemetery in the shadow of the blimp hangars.

In any case, the next logical step is the Irvine City Council meeting on Aprill 22, 2014. At that time, the city will discuss the formation of a site selection committee that would review potential sites both on the park and the surrounding area. Veterans are encouraged to attend and wear their patches, ribbons and other appropriate ceremonial attire (American Legion or VFW cap, etc.) in support of the cemetery effort.

The issue is far from a done deal. There are a number of entities, including one Irvine Councilperson, who appear to be against the idea of a veterans cemetery, at least at the Great Park. Five Points Homes, another detractor of the idea, is also attempting to muscle its way onto the committee presumably to keep the icky bodies away from their precious townhomes. Even a Feng Shiu consultant to the city (only in Irvine) has some misgivings.

As for me, I welcome a long overdue honor to our military. Their ghosts speak to me every day as I remember friends and comrades who will finally be able to come home. Let’s give them that peaceful place they deserve.

 

Guns in the OC – Will New Rules Turn the OC into the Wild West?

CCW briefcase-flexibilityBy now, you have probably heard that the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the longstanding law in California concerning concealed weapons permits. A ruling of a 3 judge panel of the Court said California Counties are wrong to require concealed weapons applicants to show “good cause”. Instead, the judges agreed with the majority of states that “self defense” or “defense of the family” are good enough reasons to ask for a permit.

In the past, sheriffs and police have wielded a hug amount of power over who does and who does not get a CCW in their county. While Los Angeles has only issued a handful of permits in the past, usually to judges and celebrities, Orange County’s Sheriff Hutchens has been a bit more liberal with several hundred permits issued. Still, it was difficult for the average citizen to obtain a permit under the old rules and often required the applicant to show they have a substantial danger before a permit is issued.

The 9th Circuit Court has now changed all of that:

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.

Chuck Michel, an attorney who represented several San Diego County residents who were denied a permit and who filed a lawsuit in 2009, praised the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling.

“This decision is a very dramatic confirmation of the Supreme Court ruling,” Michel said.

O’Scannlain wrote that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s requirement that applicants must provide documentation such as a restraining order to show a “special need” for a permit “impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.”

The ruling reversed a lower-court decision tossing out the lawsuit and ordered the judge to rule in favor of the applicants.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore has a limited amount of time to appeal the decision. He can either ask an 11 member panel of the 9th Circuit Court to re-hear the case or ask the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment Heller Case that influenced the circuit court judges in their decision.

Of course, Gore can always choose to do nothing, let the ruling stand, and change his policy. That’s not likely considering there are mulitple and conflicting rulings from around the country.

Columnist Dan Walters recently chimed in on the gun control issue from Sacramento, wondering if California politicians zealous hatred of guns and the resulting spate of recent gun and ammunition legislation hasn’t gone too far.

Even Governor Brown pushed back on legislation to ban assault weapons. “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,” Brown said in his veto message.

As Walters points out, however, Brown did sign other legislation ensuring California’s position as one of the most restrictive towards gun ownership.

Perhaps – as Brown implied in his veto message – it’s going too far, piling on gun restrictions zealously with little thought to their efficacy and even less to their constitutionality.

The era’s four most gut-wrenching political issues have been capital punishment, abortion, gay marriage and gun control, and all four involve either explicit or implicit constitutional rights.

California has been expansive of rights in the first three, and a federal appellate court seems to be telling California that it cannot continue to restrict gun ownership without violating the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the right to bear arms.

Although Walters believes the Supreme Court will have the final say in how far states can go to restrict guns, it is more likely the issue will be sent back to the full 9th Circuit Court to be heard first. The only thing to push it directly to SCOTUS is the fact there are multiple and conflicting rulings from other courts and maybe it is time to make some hard decisions.

Here in Orange County, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens wasted no time in changing her policy to conform to the court ruling. Saying the Sheriff would abide by the law, sheriff spokeperson Jeff Hallock said:

“Bottom line is the sheriff is going to abide by the law,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman for O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“Before the court’s decision, good cause was something that was evaluated by the sheriff. What she considers good cause may not be same as Los Angeles, Riverside or San Diego as good cause. But in looking at the decision, some of the subjectiveness is taken out of it.”

Hutchens came under fire when she first took the helm of the OC Sheriffs department from disgraced sheriff, Mike Carona. Carona had issued hundreds of CCWs to residents of the county. And, even though many of those were deemed to be of political favor, it was clear that he had a liberal view of “good cause” when it came to applications.

When Hutchens took the reins, she immediately reviewed and revoked hundreds of CCW permits. Under the guise of cleaning up a political issue, it became clear that she was not going to be as loose as Carona had been with CCWs. When the Board of Supervisors called her on the carpet to see what would be done about the issue, Hutchens stood her ground, essentially saying she was not the lackey of the Board that hired her, rather she would run her office as she saw fit. That and a CCW for Supervisor Shawn Nelson pretty much put the issue to rest.

Hutchens claimed that she was approving ninety percent of applications for CCW. However, by her own numbers, her first year showed that she approved only eighty percent, or about 400, of the approximately 500 applications for a permit. And, in case you are wondering, over 3000 peace officers call Orange County home so you are more likely to meet an off duty peace officer who is carrying concealed than a private citizen.

Now, we see that Hutchens will follow the law. The Sheriff, who by consensus holds sole authority over CCWs issued in Orange County, has seen an increase in the number of inquiries into obtaining a CCW. Since the decision by the court, the sheriff’s office has received 500 applications. That is as many as the department received in all of the previous year. The rate of applications will probably drop as time goes on. However, the department is saying that, with the current number of applicants, those applying today will not likely see a permit for six months. OC Supervisors have suggested augmenting funds to allow for more interviews, the main issue with the applications at this time.  And, in the end, most people are not likely to want to bother with the cost, background check and 16 hours of training.

Will all of this turn The Real OC into the Real Wild West? We think there will be a significant increase in the number of permits issued, at least in the beginning. The ruling means California joins 38 other states that either have no restrictions or shall-issue permits. And California, with it’s previously restrictive CCW law, has the same or higher murder rates as Texas and other less restrictive states. That should be an indication that, although there may be more permits issued, they do not contribute significantly to the crime rate. And, states like Arizona with open carry allowed, are not more prone to violence. This lends creedence to the saying that criminals aren’t going to bother with a permit.

What lies in store for Californians who would like to obtain a permit is unclear. If the ruling stands, it is likely the ultra-liberals in Sacramento will go into overtime to craft restrictive laws that will keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens while doing little to stop criminal activity. You can bet that Darrel Steinberg, the author of the recent assault ban attempt, and Leland Yee, a rabid anti-gun Senator, are already working hard to find ways to eliminate guns in California. Their efforts, like those of past legilsators, have done little to protect the citizens of California.

Perhaps it is time to let citizens protect themselves.

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