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Setting the Record Straight – What do You Want For 10 Bucks an Hour?

boring meetingNo Planning Commission meeting this week so…

It’s amazing to me how many time Republicans will jump to take credit where credit isn’t due. A hat tip to The Liberal OC for setting the record straight on just who is responsible for getting the County of Orange out of their latest tub of hot water.

It seems Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, tweeted an announcement that a deal had been struck with the state regarding the $146 million dollars in Vehicle License Fees the County owes the state. The Orange County Register seemed to have taken that to mean Harkey was responsible for the deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From The Lib:

The funding loss occurred when Governor Brown figured out in 2011 that the state no longer was required to give Orange County that funding because the county had refinanced its bankruptcy debt. When the county initially structured the financing for it’s more than $1 billion in debt, they had to get the state to dedicate their share of VLF to pay the loans. When the County refinanced the debt in 2005, county leaders ignored warnings and failed to negotiate the continuance of those funds through a property tax swap. The governor figured out the county’s mistake and kept the VLF funding. In response the county, through former Auditor Controller David Sundstrom, decided to keep $73 million in property tax revenues. The state to sued and the county lost.

So, now the County owes the state a ton of money and, it seemed, with no way to pay it back. When ignoring the problem no longer worked, they went to the legislature with their hat in hand. The mostly Democratic legislature seemingly took delight in saying, “No.” The courts had already been asked to weigh in on the matter with pretty much the same result.

So, where to go?

Senator Lou Correa, of course. Correa has helped the county out of more than one tight spot and, in turn,  has taken a lot of flack from his fellow Democrats. But, it is his moderate stand coupled with his willingness to cross the aisle to get the job done that makes him a valuable resource, even for the conservatives in the county.

Lou supported legislation that will allow a property tax – VLF swap, helped along by fellow Democrat Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (now, it seems all of the OC legislators jumped on board), that will set things a little more “right” in the Real OC.

As The Lib points out, though, the Register seemingly missed that point, either on accident or purpose and attempted to lamely give the credit where it was nowhere due. They said they were “baffled, though not surprised” the Register would leave out an important detail like that.

We’re not. Especially since the OC Weekly broke an interesting story on the way the Register is gathering its news. It all comes down to money.

In a recent article on Navel Gazing Blog, Gustavo Arellano broke the story the Register’s owner and publisher has cut back the stipends and housing for cub reporters. Aside from the valuable learning experience working for the only libertarian-bent newspaper in Southern Califoria, fledgling reporters were being paid the princely sum of $10 an hour and “stacked four to a two-bedroom apartment”.

But the wheels are slowly falling off owner Aaron Kushner’s gravy train. Last month, the Los Angeles Times revealed he’s no longer matching contributions to an employee’s 401k retirement fund; now, media website Romenesko reports the Reg will stop housing its cub reporters and send them off to the OC wilderness with a $750 monthly housing stipend.

Of course, as the Weekly points out, there is not much to rent in Orange County for that kind of money. But, if four of them continue to live together, well, that’s $3k a month and I know a few places they can rent, even in Irvine.

The real rub, though, is what kind of reporting are you going to get for ten bucks an hour? Even the burger flippers at McDonalds are asking for more than that. And, they don’t even get a byline.

The Register explains they are not cutting corner, just fine tuning implementation. Uh-huh. Well, we’ve seen Kuschner spending a ton of money on revamping every facet of the newspaper, implementing a poorly thought out paywall that discourages participation and emphasis on the dying art of print news. So, we are not surprised at this recent turn or the slip to near tabloid style reporting of the news.

The Register still has a few reporters that make the paper worth reading. But, when Frank Mickadeit is found writing a serious article (he’s actually good at it) rather than that tripey column he usually writes, you know there is a problem. And, it’s doubtful buying a cash crop of junior reporters will help. We will still take quality over quantity any day.

Are Guns Really the Problem?



There is an intersting article on The Liberal OC regarding the publishing of CCW permit holders in Orange County. Now, before you push this article aside and run to the Lib, let me tell you they only published a few notable names such as Todd Spitzer and Deborah Pauly (scary, huh?). The gist of the article, apparently, is to show the good sense of our county sheriff in issuing CCW permits while, in some way, trying to equate the Second Amendment to the right to healthcare. While I respect the Lib writers’ opinions, I have to disagree on the issue they bring up. It should be noted The Liberal OC has published a series of articles on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. We are certainly not of the same opinion.

From the Lib article:

We think there are too many guns out there.  The overflowing crowds at this weekend’s gun show in Costa Mesa show Orange County’s appetite for automatic weapons is near insatiable.  We find it fascinating that the same people, the Tea Party Patriots, who so demanded President Obama’s birth certificate, find inquiries into background checks and licenses for firearms an invasion of privacy.  And while gun ownership is a right, so is the right NOT to own one.  When liberals state healthcare should be a right, we’re scoffed at by Libertarians and Conservatives who cling to their guns but fail to acknowledge getting sick is not a choice.

The current upsurge of law abiding citizens to seek firearms is typical anytime an incident such as Sandy Hook occurs and the sitting President and Congress start making noises of further gun control. In the past few days, it has become apparent all the President’s men (and women) are using recent events to push for stricter gun control. Of particular interest is the push to ban “assault style” weapons. That is because they feel it is the easiest “in” to obtaining stricter controls on weapons in the hands of citizens. I am not sure why the writers at The Liberal OC thought that California would be excluded from the run on guns. And, it is not just in that bastion of Republicanism,  Orange County. I suspect it would be difficult to find an assault style weapon (which California already bans most of anyway) for a reasonable price at a store or a gun show. The number of attendees at last week’s gunshow, by the way, was roughly double the norm, based solely on my estimate as an occasional attendee.

Plainly speaking, it is asinine to equate the right to own firearms to the “right” to healthcare. Show me where, in the US Constitution there is a Constitutional right to healthcare? And, please don’t quote the purusit of happiness, etc. That doesn’t fly as it does not enumerate healthcare as a right. There has never been a significant court case, to my knowledge, that even addresses the issue. That leaves healthcare, until the new mandates come in, left largely to the individual. In reality, however, most anyone -indigent or not- has access to basic healthcare. And, it remains to be seen whether the so-called Obamacare will grant any higher access than the current system, at least here in California, already does (I admit, I am no expert in managed care or socialist medicine).

On the other hand, the right to keep and bear arms has been tested and proven, by the highest court in the land, that it is an individual right, not just a state’s right to “keep” a militia armed and ready. That would be the Heller Decision that was quoted by their article, later addressed for the individual states by the McDonald Decision.

So, according to the article we have approximately 409 persons living or working in the county who possess a CCW permit. Add to that another thousand or so off duty peace officers and another thousand or so retired peace officers, all of whom are authorized by law to carry a firearm. In all, there are about 45,000 CCWs authorized by various entities throughout the state of California and probably another 100,000 or so people that are further authorized by law. Still a paltry number in comparison to a population of 38 million.

There is no doubt that California has the most stringent (overall) gun laws on the books. The Brady Bunch gives CA an A+ on their firearms report card. And crime is down, particularly violent crime (unless you look at the Register’s headlines yesterday). Yet, 39 states in the United States have “shall issue” CCW laws that allow any law abiding citizen to obtain a CCW for self-defense. A few states do not require a permit to openly carry a firearm. Arizona and Alaska come to mind. One state, Vermont, does not even have a permit system. Their law says if you have a firearm and want to carry it, do so as long as you are legally allowed to. California is one of only nine “may issue” states where the discretion is left up to the issuing authority.

In Texas, which is a “Shall Issue” state, there are about 123,000 licenses for concealed carry. The population is just under 26 million. That would be only 0.4% of the population. I think other states would probably be about the same. Oh yeah, crime is down across the nation, too.

What is missing here is, how many law abiding, CCW holding citizens actually get into trouble because of their firearms? The Violence Policy Center has a few statistics, although they don’t break them out the way they should be. Let’s just take them at face value for the moment.

From May, 2007 to the present, there were 14 law enforcement officers killed by CCW holders. Of those, one permit was expired and at least two others should not have legally been allowed to carry due to prior convictions or mental illness. There were another 484 deaths caused by CCW permit holders across the country. Only three of those, during the reporting time, were by California permit holders. Oh, wait…. that would be one by a CCW permit holder and two by a security guard licensed to carry his firearm openly on duty (it pays to read these reports rather than just look at the numbers).

Aside from the confusion by the report writers of who exactly is a CCW holder, a closer look would show that many of these permit holders should have been denied a permit that was, nonetheless, issued. And, that says much toward the apathy of law enforcement and the bureaucracy to actually enforce the current laws on the books.

In one case in Washington State, the perpetrator’s family told the authorities years before the incident where he killed 5 people before turning the gun on himself, that Ian Stanwicki was mentally ill. His father told reporters, “The response to us was, there’s nothing we can do, he’s not a threat to himself or others, or we haven’t had a report of it, or we haven’t had to pick him up—call us when it’s worse. And now it’s too late—much worse now, six people are dead.” So, even when authorities are notified that something is amiss (this is not an isolated incident in the VPC report), they sometimes do not take appropriate action.

Add to that the relatively few firearms deaths compared to the number of owners and permit holders and one has to wonder, if the sensationalism the press makes toward each incident were absent, would there still be such a loud call from the anti-gun folks?

Why don’t we address the real culprit, mental illness. Because, one thing I noticed while perusing the VPC report is the high number of mentally ill people that should not have been allowed to possess a firearm at all, much less obtain a CCW permit, had current law been enforced. Certainly, in the mass shootings over the years, the perpetrators displayed outward signs of mental illness or had been previously convicted of domestic violence or other crimes. All of these would have precluded someone from owning firearms in most instances and, in all instances, from obtaining a CCW permit. Until we address the real cause of these heinous acts, mental illness and an apathetic attitude toward enforcing current laws, we will continue to occasionally see them, stricter gun laws or not.

Where Are They Now? Former Tustin City Manager David Biggs

A hat tip to our friends at The Liberal OC for finding this little tidbit of information.

It seems David Biggs, who had a stint as our former short-lived city manager, has resurfaced in Los Angeles County as the city manager for the industrial city of Carson.

If you remember, Biggs was hired after city manager Bill Huston retired. Huston, a mainstay in Tustin for nearly 30 years, was subsequently hired back on a contract basis after the Tustin City Council suddenly and without comment, fired Biggs. Biggs received a fat golden parachute, at city expense, and took a 3 month vacation before resurfacing in Carson. From the Lib:

Under one of those “whatever happened to…..” ideas, we decided it was time to look up former Tustin City Manager David Biggs who was dumped by the Republican council majority last Spring and given a taxpyaer funded $175,000 severance package — that was about nine months of unpaid salary.  Part of the severance package included a mutual “let’s not say bad things about one another” between Biggs and the Tustin City Council.

We’re happy to report, several months too late I’m afraid, that David Biggs landed on his feet at the city manager for the City of Carson; he started late September 2011 and, imagine this, is going a fantastic job in that city and for its city council and taxpayers.  Our sources in Carson say he’s incredibly professional, on top of every detail and city leaders in Carson are pleased with their good fortune.  In other words, thanks suckers (and suckers mean those members of the Tustin city council who voted to oust someone who is competent and professional).

So Biggs had a nice Spring and Summer vacation at the expense of Tustin Taxpayers, and found a great position with a city that values his services and his stewardship of city management.

Suffice to say, dumping a senior executive who left a good job for the one in Tustin after a three month stint, Biggs’ “separation” from Tustin smacked of politics from the Amante-led council majority.  Giving away six figures worth of city taxpayer money and hiring the old city manager back in an expensive interim position seems an awful waste of taxpayer dollars by a city council majority that bills
themselves as “fiscally conservative.”  And that’s because it was.

So, this begs the question, how long had Biggs been City Manager before he saw the writing on the wall? If you do the math, it was not long after Biggs was fired by Tustin that he was hired by Carson. Of course, his vacation was funded by Tustin taxpayers in another fiscally responsible move made by our mayor and council majority. One has to wonder, though, did Biggs see the writing on the wall early and decide to hedge his bet by applying to other cities? It sure looks that way. In any case, he took a nice taxpayer paid vacation and landed on his feet in a town closer to home. Oh, and we got stuck with Huston who managed to suck a few hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer money as an extra-help retiree before the Gang of Three had the good sense to hire Jeff Parker. Thanks, Jerry.

We join The Liberal OC in belatedly congratulating David Biggs for his plumb appointment with a city that, obviously, appreciates his talents. Let’s hope Jeff Parker has enough sense to continue to be a yes-man to Amante at least until Hizzoner leaves the dais.