Delta Conveyance Project (the Tunnel) Planning Process Road Map – January 2023

Building on progress in 2022, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will continue to advance environmental planning and permitting activities, as well as public outreach and engagement, in 2023. 
 
To help navigate the various permitting and regulatory compliance processes the project must complete prior to approval and/or implementation, DWR prepared a roadmap that outlines the major processes required for the Delta Conveyance Project.

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The Network of Care’s 17th Annual Crab Feed – Sat March 11, 2023

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Sunday Reading – 02/05/2023

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Sierra Nevada snowpack hits biggest level in nearly 30 years – The statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack — the source of nearly one-third of California’s water supply — is at its highest level since 1995, boosting hopes that an end to the drought is near, but also raising concerns that a few warm spring storms could melt it too early and trigger major flooding.

Not since Toy Story packed movie theaters, Steve Young led the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl win, and gasoline cost $1.28 a gallon has there been so much snow in California’s most famous mountain range at the end of January.

“It’s absolutely massive,” said Kevin “Coop” Cooper, a ski resort consultant who lives near South Lake Tahoe. “I’ve spent so much time with my snow shovel that I named it. My wife thought I was having an affair.”

The snowpack was 208% of its historical average for this time of year on Tuesday, a day ahead of the high-profile Feb. 1 snow survey that state officials planned to take near Highway 50 by Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort with TV cameras in tow. The last time there was as much snow, 28 years ago, on Feb. 1, 1995, it was 207% of normal.

The huge bounty is the third largest statewide since 1950, when consistent statewide records began, according to a Bay Area News Group analysis of historical data. Only 1952 (267% of average) and 1969 (230%) had larger amounts on Feb. 1.

In a few places, like Highland Meadow in Alpine County, the snowpack is the largest in recorded history. Read More > in The Mercury News

McDonalds President Says It Might Be ‘Impossible’ to Operate in These Key States – While the pandemic accelerated both discussions and movement of businesses, talk of how California’s high tax rates and liberal leadership has made it “impossible” to do business in the state is anything but new. So are alarm-raising statements about how big business is fleeing the Golden State en masse.

In 1933, one state official wrote that “if we set up a tax on one of their supercolossal $7,000,000 productions, [the movie industry] would no doubt transfer their operations to” Florida. Similar fears of a business exodus to Nevada pushed local legislators to give a property tax break to equipment manufacturers in the 1960s.

More recently, Elon Musk told the audience at the All In Summit in Miami that the Golden State had “gone from a land of opportunity to the land of taxes, over-regulation and litigation.” He had earlier moved the Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report offices from the Silicon Valley to Austin, Texas at the end of 2021.

While discussions around the tech exodus took place throughout much of 2020 and 2021, a new discussion has begun around an industry that exists in every state in the country: the fast food business.

In the fall of 2022, the state passed what shortens to the FAST bill — the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act could require fast-food restaurants to pay workers up a minimum wage of $22 an hour with an annual raise of 3.5%.

While initially passed, the law has faced significant pushback both from the industry and local voters. A referendum vote has been set to November 2024 and implementation is blocked until that takes place.

Industry leaders have predictably been very vocal against the law. In an open letter from January 25, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger wrote that it “makes it all but impossible to run small business restaurants.”

“Under the FAST Act, an unelected council of political insiders, not local business owners and their teams, would make big decisions about crucial elements of running a business, fracturing the economy in the process,” Erlinger wrote while adding that paying fast-food workers such a wage could raise the cost of eating at a McDonald’s by as much as 20%. Read More > at The Street

Concord to part ways with developer of Naval Weapons Station mega-project – The Concord Naval Weapons Station project, the Bay Area’s largest planned housing development, has stalled out yet again.

At the end of a two-hour special meeting on Saturday, the Concord City Council voted to end negotiations with the project developer, in what likely spells another multi-year setback for the controversial mega-development that has been in the works for two decades.

The city has been consistent in its demand the development includes more affordable housing than the state requires.

The deal ultimately fell through over concerns about the amount and type of affordable housing, and the involvement of developer Albert Seeno III, who is currently in multiple legal battles with his father over control of the family’s building empire.

The council voted 3-2 to allow a term sheet — a draft of a contract for the project — with Concord First Partners and a consortium of developers that includes Seeno III, to expire on Jan. 31. Earlier this month, the council had delayed its decision on whether to accept the contract until Saturday.

This isn’t the first time Concord has failed to come to a deal to develop the former weapons site. The city parted ways with the project’s previous developer, national homebuilding giant Lennar Corp.

Concord wants a guarantee that local labor is used, which was a sticking point with Lennar. The company pulled out of the project in March 2020 when its initial exclusive negotiating agreement expired and its negotiations with local labor unions failed.

Now that the city no longer has an exclusive negotiating agreement with Concord First Partners, a development group, other developers can present proposals to the city.. Read More > in The Mercury News

Another one for the 2024 ballot – Atop a November 2024 ballot already teeming with contentious propositions, a new initiative qualified this week that might be the biggest doozy of them all: A proposal to hobble the ability of state and local governments to raise taxes.

In the spirit of California’s 1978’s tax revolt, the proposed constitutional amendment would require the Legislature to put any new statewidetax up for a popular vote. Local governments would have to do the same. Other fiscal tighteners include expanding the definition of what a “tax” is and requiring all local taxes raised for a specific purpose to win a two-thirds majority, undoing a series of recent state Supreme Court rulings that loosened that rule.

California Business Roundtable, an advocacy group that represents the state’s biggest businesses, is the public face of the campaign —  though much of its funding has so far come from major real estate firms.

Opponents, which include advocates for local government and organized labor groups, have responded to the measure like a declaration of war. Read More > at CalMatters

Why Gasoline Prices Are Rising Today – Refining margins in the United States hit $42.41 per barrel on Tuesday, more than double the five-year average for this time of the year, as refinery maintenance and unplanned outages reduce capacity while the global fuel market is tightening with the Chinese reopening and the looming EU ban of Russian fuel imports by sea.   

The crack spread hit $42.41 per barrel this week, compared to a five-year average for January at $15.56, according to a Reuters analysis of dta from Refinitiv Eikon.

The tightening global fuel market coincides with some refineries still recovering from the Winter Storm Elliott at the end of December—on Christmas Eve, as much as 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of the U.S. Gulf Coast’s refining capacity was shut down due to the freezing temperatures.

Additionally, refiners plan longer maintenance periods early this year after foregoing or doing just basic maintenance at refineries for a few seasons. First, it was COVID that prevented workers from being sent to refineries for maintenance. Then it was the rebound in demand – especially in 2022 – during which refineries ran at near capacity to meet consumption. So this refinery maintenance season is expected to be longer and involve a higher number of refineries across the U.S., temporarily driving operational capacity lower and fuel prices higher

Gasoline prices in the United States have risen in recent days.

Drivers appeared to have the advantage of the recent milder weather in much of the United States by fueling up and hitting the road, AAA said on Monday.

“The increase in gasoline demand and slightly more expensive oil pushed the national average for a gallon of gas higher by 12 cents since last week to $3.42.” Read More > at Oil Price

Heating bills on the rise due to increasing natural gas prices – As of this week, PG&E projects that residential energy bills will be about 32% higher from November through March, in comparison to that same time period last year.

According to Utilities, natural gas prices have been rising — driven by higher demand and tighter supplies on the West Coast — and global price increases after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It’s not just gas bills going up, but a large portion of California’s electricity comes from natural gas-fired power plants. Read More > at ABC 30

Amid soaring energy costs, state regulators vote to give Californians early bill relief – Californians are going to get much-needed breaks on their utility bills sooner rather than later this year to help defray soaring energy costs.

The California Public Utilities Commissioners Thursday voted to hasten springtime credits given to customers through the state’s cap and trade programs paid for by major greenhouse gas emitting companies.

Normally given in April, commissioners opted to ask utilities to give the so-called climate credits — roughly $90 for PG&E residential electric and gas customers — as soon as possible in February or March.

But for many households, the credits barely defray the painful monthly cost of utilities amid an extended West Coast cold snap and the dramatic increase in natural gas prices.

People are using more energy to heat their homes this year compared to last winter because of colder temperatures — and it costs more for each kilowatt-hour of electricity or therms-per-month for gas. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Offshore Oil And Gas Is Back, Baby – At last week’s World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, several speakers had harsh words for the oil and gas industry, including UN head Antonio Guterres and the IEA’s chief Fatih Birol. Their message was clear: we need to stop producing oil and gas to solve the climate problem.

While this was happening, however, the world continued to need energy, and oil and gas continued to be the optimal form of energy for most of the things we need energy for. So, with demand forecast—including by the IEA—to surge this year above the growth rate of supply, new drilling is flourishing. Especially offshore.

In December last year, Oilprice reported that the stocks of offshore drilling contractors such as Transocean, Valaris, and Noble Corp were skyrocketing amid robust demand for their services, with day rates for drilling rigs surging as well.

Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that rates could top $500,000 per day, up from about $400,000 at the moment, with offshore drilling picking up everywhere as demand shows no signs it is about to start declining, no matter what apocalyptic visions climate speakers try to paint. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

Now they’re coming from CANADA: Northern border sees 743% spike in illegal migrants trying to cross in a year due to ‘easier entry than Mexico’ – as cops release eerie images of asylum seekers trudging through 12F snow – Border Patrol working in the north of the US have reported a 743 percent rise in migrant encounters compared to the same period a year ago.

Robert Garcia, the chief patrol agent for the Swanton Sector – which covers Vermont, New York and New Hampshire – said he was troubled by the increasing popularity of the people-smuggling route.

He warned traffickers are exploiting desperate asylum seekers with potentially lethal consequences, amid freezing temperatures and dangerous passages.

Meanwhile the Grand Forks sector, which covers Minnesota and North Dakota, has reported 90 apprehensions in the three months since October 1.

The figure is more than for the whole of the 2022 fiscal year, when 80 were apprehended between September 30, 2021 and October 1, 2022.

It comes as a surprise as officials focus on clogging the southern border, which has reached crisis point as thousands migrants seek entry from Mexico.  

Border Patrol said the number of migrants encountered in the sector during the 2023 fiscal year – which began in October – had already surpassed the 12 months of 2022’s fiscal year. In December, a record 441 people were apprehended in the sector. Read More > in the Daily Mail

Can a City Thrive When Its Downtown Is Empty? – The office recession is real, with downtowns in major cities still missing a majority of their pre-pandemic workforce. San Francisco offers a case study in terms of the consequences.

San Francisco already suffers an all-time record office vacancy rate of 27.6 percent. Meta has just put up 34 stories of office space — 435,000 square feet, enough space for 2,000 workers — for sublease.

Even before the tech slowdown, San Francisco’s downtown was as empty as any city’s in the country. Its heavy concentration of technology and finance companies were among the first to embrace the move to remote work. The nature of their businesses has made them the most likely to remain remote. That turned out to be great for the city’s health — San Francisco has had one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country — but terrible for its economy. Already, the city is facing a $728 million shortfall — more than 10 percent of the general fund budget — over the next two fiscal years.

Mayor London Breed has ordered city agencies to plan on budget cuts of 5 percent in the coming fiscal year and 8 percent the following year. “I’m telling departments, and I’m telling everyone else in the city, that things could get worse,” Anna Dunning, the mayor’s budget director, said Wednesday.

The office recession is happening everywhere. Around the country, with rare exceptions such as Austin, Miami and Salt Lake City, downtowns are notably emptier in nearly every city. Retail and restaurant spending in Boston’s Financial District was down 20 to 25 percent last year, compared to 2019. The number of workers showing up downtown remains more than 40 percent below pre-pandemic levels in New York, Philadelphia and Washington. The number of workers showing up in Pittsburgh’s downtown is down by half. One Los Angeles office tower just went on sale asking for half its sales price back in 2015.

By most measures — office key swipes, cellphone tracking data, population loss — San Francisco has taken the biggest hit. All the factors that make Americans more likely to work remotely — not just working with computers but long commute times; expensive housing; a highly educated workforce; and liberal politics — are conspiring against the city now.

Meta isn’t the only tech company surrendering its lease. Other tech firms including Twitter and Adobe have scratched local jobs. Downtown isn’t helped by rising interest rates and construction costs. If downward pressure on rents continues, the city will lose 35 percent of its commercial property tax revenue by 2028, according to Ted Egan, the city’s chief economist.

The city’s tourism sector still hasn’t recovered either, thanks in part to diminished travel from China and other Asian countries. Hotels remain half-empty. San Francisco relies heavily on conventions, which have yet to bounce back. VMware Explore, a big tech conference that drew 10,000 people to the city last year, won’t be coming back this year. Read More > at Governing

California has a big housing deadline on Wednesday — and most Bay Area cities aren’t prepared – When Feb. 1 arrives and Bay Area cities and counties are required to have state-approved plans showing how they will build more housing in the next eight years, this much is certain: Most will miss the deadline.

As for what that means, all bets are off.

Fewer than a dozen of the region’s cities and counties have turned in adopted plans, known as “housing elements,” to the state office of Housing and Community Development as of Monday. This is one day before jurisdictions are required to be “in substantial compliance” with state requirements that every community do its share to add 441,000 new houses, apartments and condominiums to the nine-county region by 2030.

According to that department’s regulations, being out of compliance means that developers can build larger projects than what cities may now allow, providing they provide specified amounts of below-market-rate housing. But the murkiness of the new playing field also makes it likely that questions of what it means to be compliant will be argued in court.

The basics are this: By Feb. 1, Bay Area cities and counties are required to have adopted new housing elements that are in “in substantial compliance” with state expectations. If they don’t, then developers are allowed to build housing that fits state standards even if it is larger or denser than what local zoning allows — an option called the “Builder’s Remedy.”

The current status is dire, according to the most recent figures from the office of Housing and Community Development.

Only nine Bay Area cities have filed adopted drafts with the state, five of them within the last week. San Francisco and Oakland are expected to do the same on Tuesday. Another 13 have filed two versions of their proposed housing elements, while 71 jurisdictions have made single filings — one, San Anselmo’s, arriving at the state just last week.

Since the state has 90 days to comment on an initial draft, and 60 days to comment on a revised version, this means that a single city has completed all its paperwork and being certified: the island community of Alameda. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

California housing politics enters uncharted waters – Cities across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area had until Wednesday to show state regulators how they plan to approve a sufficient quantity of housing over the next decade. 

Some submitted their plans on time. Most did not. Some made an earnest effort to comply. Others not so much. Some will have their plans accepted. Others have already had theirs rejected. Suburbanites viscerally opposed to new construction and density in their neighborhoods are incensed. Pro-development activists are celebrating a “Zoning Holiday.”

As of Thursday afternoon, of the 109 cities and counties in the region, 66 have either had their plans rejected, or failed to submit one at all. Two have had their plans approved and finalized: San Francisco, which approved a plan for 82,000 additional units, and the city of Alameda, which agreed to make room for another 5,000 homes and apartments. Emeryville and Redwood City have both gotten tentative thumbs- ups, too.

With housing scofflaws abounding, the question remains: What’s the state going to do about it?

First, a brief primer on how we got here:

Advocates on both sides of the issue have been alternately clamoring for, and dreading, a “builder’s remedy” bonanza. But housing experts note that we’re in uncharted waters.

Southern California may provide some glimpse of the Bay Area’s future. The state has been slow-rolling its housing plan deadlines, region by region, and much of Southern California fell out of compliance in mid-October. The legal battles are on: Huntington Beach has vowed to “unleash” its city attorney against the state’s mandates and housing groups are suing Beverly Hills to see whether the builder’s remedy applies there. Read More > at CalMatters

California rejected Berkeley’s housing plan. Here’s why, and the potential consequences – Berkeley’s Housing Element was rejected by the state this week, city and state officials confirmed, exposing one of the East Bay’s biggest cities to potential fines and the threat of developers trying to build projects that aren’t constrained by local zoning restrictions.

Berkeley did not fully analyze potential housing sites, and the city must commit to removing permit constraints and upzoning wealthier neighborhoods, according to a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to the city.

The immediate ramifications of the state’s rejection are disputed. The state has said that cities that aren’t in compliance are subject to the builder’s remedy, which allows developers to get approval for housing projects with at least 20% lower income affordable units or 100% moderate income units, even if they aren’t consistent with local zoning.

Jordan Klein, Berkeley’s Planning & Development Department director, said the city was not subject to the builder’s remedy because the city was in “substantial compliance” with state law — but HCD reiterated that the city was out of compliance.

“Several stakeholders have inquired as to whether HCD’s latest letter means that housing projects in Berkeley are eligible for ‘builder’s remedy’ and can disregard the City’s zoning rules. However, the City has met the statutory requirement to adopt a Housing Element that is in substantial compliance with State law by January 31, 2023,” Klein said in a statement.

Alicia Murillo, a spokesperson at HCD, told The Chronicle that Berkeley “has not met the statutory requirement to adopt a Housing Element that is in substantial compliance with State law,” which leaves it open to the builder’s remedy. Under state law, the city may not reject such applications for zoning reasons, but may do so for specific reasons including a threat to public health and safety or to comply with state or federal laws. Projects also must follow California Environmental Quality Act and state Coastal Act guidelines.

Klein said in response that the builder’s remedy was not dependent on state certification and the Association of Bay Area Governments, as well as Berkeley, have the position that cities can rule their plans are mostly compliant and continue to enforce zoning regulations.

“If an applicant seeks to pursue a project that isn’t compliant with zoning rules, it would be up to the courts to decide whether ‘builder’s remedy’ is available,” Klein said.

Berkeley and other Bay Area cities have until the end of May to be certified. After that, they could be blocked from certain grant funding such as for transit and face fines. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Bills, bills and more bills at CA Legislature – They’ve been back for nearly a month, so it’s time for California lawmakers to deliver on some of their campaign promises. That means the legislative session is starting to pick up steam. 

Let’s get to the highlights from a busy Monday at the state Capitol (warning: prepare for quite a bit of déjà vu):

Public safety: Republican legislators unveiled a package of bills — acknowledging the recent mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, as well as the deaths of two officers in Riverside County — but also bringing back some prior ideas.

The Assembly GOP caucus proposals include: 

– Assembly Bill 328, by Riverside-area Assemblymember Bill Essayli, would reinstate the 10 or 20 years-to-life mandatory sentencing enhancement for using a firearm in the course of a violent crime 

– AB 335 by Modesto-area Assemblymember Juan Alanis, would repeal Proposition 47, approved by voters in 2014 to reduce some theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. 

– AB 27, by Orange County Assemblymember Tri Ta would prevent courts from reducing sentences for those charged with felonies with a firearm. 

– AB 75 by Assemblymember Josh Hoover, from Folsom re-ups an effort to increase penalties for serial theft offenses.  

 – AB 88 by Murrieta Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, would require district attorneys to notify crime victims of parole hearings. 

– Granite Bay Assemblymember Joe Patterson proposed requiring more transparency into when and why inmates are being released early. 

  • Essayli: “We don’t need more gun control. We need crime control.”

While Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher of Chico said he believes there will be “bipartisan support for these reasonable reforms,” some GOP lawmakers acknowledged the reality that many of these bills won’t pass, noting that similar bills introduced by Democrats had failed, too. Read More > at CalMatters

The Reason There’s Been No Cure for Alzheimer’s – In 2019, the celebrated science writer Sharon Begley wrote a startling investigative story for the health and medicine publication STAT about why Alzheimer’s research was mired in decades of failure. She asserted this wasn’t just due to the complexity of the brain or the infernal nature of Alzheimer’s itself. There was another reason that had less to do with the nature of the disease, and more to do with the nature of research. 

As she wrote: 

“The most influential researchers have long believed so dogmatically in one theory of Alzheimer’s that they systematically thwarted alternative approaches. Several scientists described those who controlled the Alzheimer’s agenda as ‘a cabal.’ In more than two dozen interviews, scientists whose ideas fell outside the dogma recounted how, for decades, believers in the dominant hypothesis suppressed research on alternative ideas…This stifling of competing ideas, say a growing number of scholars, is a big reason why there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s.”  

The story of this theory starts in 1906, when a German psychiatrist named Alois Alzheimer was studying the brain of a recently deceased woman with dramatic short-term memory loss. During the autopsy, Alzheimer saw dense plaques and tangles in her brain. Eventually, his finding set off decades of research into the nature and effect of those clogs.

In 1984, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, published one of the first reports on what those plaques were made of—a protein fragment called beta-amyloid. In 1987, Dr. Rachael Neve, then an assistant professor and molecular biologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, with colleagues, cloned the amyloid precursor protein gene, as did several other labs. Meanwhile, other scientists around the world were associating amyloid proteins with Alzheimer’s as well, characterizing the proteins, and finding genetic defects related to amyloid in people with an inherited form of the disease. 

It looked pretty clear: the amyloid clumps must be causing the disease. So it would make sense that clearing this debris would return a brain to health. 

But there was a problem with this theory. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease didn’t have discernible plaques. And some people had discernible plaques without symptoms of the disease. Neve herself didn’t believe that there was enough evidence to blame the  plaques. And it turned out that once drugs were developed to clear the plaques, when they were given to patients in clinical trials, the patients didn’t improve.

Still, the amyloid believers persisted. Not just persisted. The goal of mitigating amyloid in the brain has held a vise-like grip on Alzheimer’s research for decades, despite the fact that, one by one, the drugs designed to address amyloid—around twenty of them— have shown virtually no beneficial effects on patients.

One way to understand the persistence of the amyloid theory is to look at the incentives of big academic medicine, big governmental medicine, and big pharma. For decades, time, effort, and money have been sunk into this single hypothesis. If we just make the right intervention in the process of amyloid being deposited in the brain, the logic goes, Alzheimer’s can be beaten. 

Acknowledging that this theory may be a dead end would mean entire careers and billions of dollars have all been devoted to the wrong idea. Not only that—there is no clear path to the right one. Read More > at The Free Press

Here’s exactly how Netflix will prevent you from password sharing – We knew it was coming, and we knew it was coming soon: Sharing Netflix passwords outside of your household is about to become a lot harder. But we had no idea how, exactly, Netflix plans to prevent people from sharing their passwords – until now.

Here’s how it will work.

“To ensure uninterrupted access to Netflix, connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days. This creates a trusted device so you can watch Netflix, even when you’re away from your primary location,” the company wrote in an updated Help Center document.

If you’re traveling, you’ll be able to watch Netflix simply by logging into your account. But if you’re away for an “extended period of time” — presumably, more than 31 days — Netflix says that “your device may be blocked from watching Netflix.” The solution to this is requesting a “temporary access code to continue watching,” Netflix says.

There’s a caveat to this. The updated help document(Opens in a new window), spotted by The Streamable(Opens in a new window), doesn’t appear to be online anymore, though it is accessible via Wayback Machine(Opens in a new window), which keeps old snapshots of websites on the internet. So it’s possible that Netflix will change certain details before it starts enforcing the Wi-Fi connection rule.

Fortunately, Netflix (still) doesn’t plan to automatically charge users for sharing their account with someone who doesn’t live with you. The company will likely tread carefully before enforcing any drastic measures upon its users; while the company’s subscriber count was up in the last quarter, that’s largely thanks to Netflix’s new “Basic with Ads” subscriber tier, and it comes at the end of a tough year(Opens in a new window) for the streaming giant. Chasing away subscribers with overzealous anti-password sharing measures is probably the last thing Netflix needs. Read More > at Mashable

Netflix Claims It Errantly Posted Password Sharing Rules that Would Block Devices Outside of Subscribers’ Homes in U.S.Netflix will be rolling out enhanced efforts to curb password sharing in the United States by the end of March; that much we know for sure. That was confirmed by co-CEO Greg Peters in January as part of the company’s fourth-quarter 2022 earnings report. However, the exact specifics as to what those efforts will look like have yet to be revealed by the world’s largest streamer; at least not officially.

Earlier this week, the streamer’s official domestic Help Center detailed new protocols to prevent people from using someone else’s account to access Netflix’s platform. The new rules would require subscribers to verify their home devices every month and devices outside of the home would be blocked and encouraged to create an account of their own.

The news that Netflix would be blocking devices without a full explanation of what that would mean for people who travel for a living, students in college who live away from their parents, people with multiple homes, and more was not well received by users — whether they were subscribers or those who stream on a subscriber’s account.

However, those new rules were removed from the Netflix website as of Wednesday, Feb. 1, leading to confusion as to exactly what the world’s largest streamer was planning for its already-announced initiative. It turns out, according to a Netflix spokesperson, that those rules are in fact currently in place, just not yet in the United States.

“For a brief time yesterday, a help center article containing information that is only applicable to Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, went live in other countries,” the spokesperson told The Streamable. “We have since updated it.”

The Netflix spokesperson confirmed that if and when the company was to make a change that significant, it would not begin rolling it out without first communicating the details to customers. Over the past year, the service has been testing anti-password-sharing measures in several Latin American countries in an effort to find the best solutions before launching them to subscribers around the world; unfortunately, like the idea of devices being blocked, those tests often resulted in significant pushback from customers. Read More > at The Streamable

“Objectivity Has Got To Go”: News Leaders Call for the End of Objective Journalism – We previously discussed the movement in journalism schools to get rid of principles of objectivity in journalism. Advocacy journalism is the new touchstone in the media even as polls show that trust in the media is plummeting. Now, former executive editor for The Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr. and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward have released the results of their interviews with over 75 media leaders and concluded that objectivity is now considered reactionary and even harmful. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief at the San Francisco Chronicle said it plainly: “Objectivity has got to go.” 

Notably, while Bob Woodward and others have finally admitted that the Russian collusion coverage lacked objectivity and resulted in false reporting, media figures are pushing even harder against objectivity as a core value in journalism.

We have been discussing the rise of advocacy journalism and the rejection of objectivity in journalism schools. Writerseditorscommentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. This movement includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy.

Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll decried how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”  Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.” Read More > at Johnathan Turley

Four-day school week gaining popularity nationally. Why isn’t it happening in California? – School districts across the country are increasingly turning to four-day school weeks to save money, increase student attendance and recruit new teachers. But the trend isn’t taking hold in California. Only two tiny, remote California school districts, Leggett Valley Unified in Mendocino County and Big Sur Unified in Monterey County, have shortened the week for students.

The four-day week isn’t feasible for most schools in the state. California’s Education Code requires schools to hold classes five days a week or have their funding reduced. Over the years state legislators have given exemptions to a handful of school districts in remote areas of California, although they must still meet the requirement for annual instructional minutes. Some of the districts that gained approval for a four-day week have reverted to a five-day schedule and others never instituted the truncated week.

Despite its growing popularity across the nation, four-day school weeks are controversial. The truncated school schedule allows for additional flexibility for school staff and families, but students on four-day schedules typically go to school for fewer hours and score lower on English language arts and math tests, according to research.

At the beginning of 2020 there were 650 U.S. school districts on a four-day schedule, and now there are 850, said Paul Thompson, an associate professor of economics at Oregon State University who has done extensive research on the topic. Ninety percent of the schools are in rural areas and 10% are in suburban or urban neighborhoods, he said. In 2020 Texas, had no school districts on a four-day schedule, Thompson said, and now there are nearly 50.

Thompson says that the most significant benefit of a four-day week is that it offers flexibility to district administrators, teachers and students.

Teachers in four-day districts are usually on the clock on the day that students are out of school, although working on campus is often optional, Thompson said. Teachers use the time for grading or class preparation. They take professional development courses or teach remedial courses to students trying to catch up.  Some teachers also use the day to take care of personal appointments and errands that would have meant a day off work and the need for a substitute, he said. Read More > at EdSource

Heart attacks on the rise among young adults, but many are unaware of risk – …Certain healthy habits can help prevent heart problems — but getting younger adults to accept their risks remains an obstacle.

“It is alarming that younger people don’t feel that they’re at risk for heart disease, but it’s not surprising,” said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of preventative cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

“Most young people think heart disease only happens in old people, but that’s not the case,” Mehta said in the release.

The medical center surveyed 2,000 Americans, finding that nearly half of those under age 45 believed they were not at risk for heart disease.

…The survey found about 32% of Americans aren’t confident they would know if they were having a heart attack.

“If something suddenly seems new and it doesn’t make sense to you, seek medical attention. Don’t Google it to figure it out. Don’t ask somebody else. Let healthcare professionals decide if you’re having a heart attack or not,” Mehta said. “When it comes to a heart attack or stroke, every second counts. In fact, you shouldn’t even drive yourself to the hospital. Call an ambulance so lifesaving care can begin right away.”

To preserve your heart health, Mehta recommends following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8. This includes knowing your numbers for weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Also important are good lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and vaping, sleeping at least seven hours per night and getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.

Also, see your primary care physician every year to stay ahead of any developing issues. Read More > at UPI

1.5 Degrees Was Never the End of the World – How hot is too hot for planet Earth? For years, there’s been a consensus in the climate movement: no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The figure comes from the Paris Agreement, a climate treaty ratified in 2016, and world leaders such as President Joe Biden bring it up all the time: “If we’re going to win this fight, every major emitter nation needs [to] align with the 1.5 degrees,” he said in November. Youth activists at the Sunrise Movement call 1.5 degrees a “critical threshold.” Even the corporate world is stuck on 1.5 degrees. Companies including Apple, Google, and Saudi Aramco—the world’s largest oil company—claim to be transitioning their operations in alignment with the 1.5 goal.

But here’s the thing: 1.5 degrees, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, isn’t based on any scientific calculation. It doesn’t represent a specific planetary threshold or ecological tipping point. It was first proposed during international climate negotiations as a moral statement, a rebuke of the idea that the world could accept some disruption and suffering in order to burn fossil fuels just a bit longer. That’s the takeaway of a new study on the history of the target from two French academics, Béatrice Cointe from the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation and Hélène Guillemot from the Centre Alexandre Koyré, both funded by the French National Centre for Scientific Research. From the perspective of the present, it’s a relief that 1.5 degrees doesn’t represent a scientific threshold, because we are almost certainly going to blow past it. As a rebuke, however, it may live on.

Nothing about the 1.5-degree target was inevitable. For decades, the number on the lips of most climate negotiators was 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And you do still hear that number as the go-to target in some climate circles. But in the late 2000s, a negotiating bloc called the the Alliance of Small Island States argued that this was simply too much warming for their vulnerable nations. Their atolls would be overtopped by the sea; their coastal cities would flood. So they called for a lower target, and 1.5 seemed like a reasonable half-step down from 2 degrees. Read More > in The Atlantic

The mystery of North America’s missing eastern dinosaurs – Hidden within North America is a long-forgotten continent once ruled by a bizarre cast of dinosaurs – but only a handful of fossils have ever been found.

It was a typically warm, humid day in the Late Cretaceous. A strange, pallid mass was floating in the cobalt-blue waters of a shallow sea, above what is now New Jersey. It was a dead dinosaur, the bloated carcass of a monstrous, 6.4m (21ft)-long distant relative of Tyrannosaurus rex.

With an athletic frame and jaws full of flesh-ripping teeth, Dryptosaurus aquilunguis looked remarkably like its cousin, but with a bloodcurdling twist: on the ends of its stubby little arms were great, grasping “hands”, complete with an array of unwieldy eight-inch (20cm) talons. Its fingers were meat hooks, its teeth like piercing bananas. This ancient beast could wrap its hands around you while it bit your head off.

The peculiar dinosaur had staggered its final steps some weeks earlier, though this was just the beginning of its adventures. First its body slipped into the local river – possibly after a flood – where it bobbed around, miraculously avoiding the attention of marauding crocodiles. Eventually, it was flushed out into an ancient inland sea. As the fallen giant decomposed, it sank to the bottom. There its body parts would remain, safely interred in their silty crypt for the coming 67 million years.

That was, until this peaceful sleep was interrupted by workers at the West Jersey Marl Company one summer’s day in 1866. They had been digging up a seam of green, muddy rock to sell as fertiliser when they uncovered a jumble of suspiciously large bones.

The fossils caught the attention of a young zoologist, Edward Drinker Cope – a “dandyish character” with a luxurious moustache who would go on to discover many of the most iconic dinosaurs in North America. He promptly identified the New Jersey remains, writing that they belonged to a “totally new gigantic carnivorous Dinosaurian!” Other than this, it wasn’t immediately clear just how special the find really was. 

Today the remains of the Dryptosaurus are tucked away in a small drawer at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Pennsylvania – a neat arrangement of crumbling vertebrae, jaw fragments, occasional limb bones and teeth. But it turns out these sparse artifacts aren’t just all that’s left of this single individual, nor are they simply the last physical evidence of its species. In fact, they’re among the few surviving remnants of an entire continent – a forgotten land of strange dinosaurs most people have never heard of. How has this happened? And what was it like?

Hidden beneath North America is a secret past. For 27 million years in the Late Cretaceous, it was cleaved into two pieces. In the west was the ancient continent of Laramidia. In the east, the long-vanished continent of Appalachia. Between them was a shallow, predator-infested sea, the Western Interior Seaway. At times, it was decidedly tropical – almost like a warm bath, but swimming with crocodiles, sharks, and the gaping mouths of 18m- (59ft)-long mosasaurs.  

As far as dinosaurs were concerned, the two halves might as well have existed on different planets – they were totally isolated from each other. Though they were contemporaries, Dryptosaurus would never have sparred with a T. rex, ripped the flesh from a triceratops, or fled from the flattening feet of a brontosaurus.

To this day, the last relics of Laramidia can be found in rock layers that stretch from the otherworldly, cacti-filled landscapes of the Mexican desert to the frigid oilfields of western Alaska. In the east, the last hints of Appalachia lie under a region extending from the cypress swamps of Mississippi to the arctic tundra around Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. Read More > at BBC Future

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Delta Restoration Forum registration open

On February 8, 2023, the first Delta Restoration Forum will bring together groups working on and impacted by ecosystem restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh. For both in-person and virtual participants, presenters will share updates on progress towards recently adopted restoration targets in the Delta Plan, followed by an interactive listening session to hear from participants on the future of restoration in the region. The Forum will conclude with an open house and meet-and-greet in which agencies, organizations, and individuals will be available to discuss restoration-related programs, projects, and funding opportunities in the Delta and Suisun Marsh. Read the agenda to learn more.

Attendance is free with registration.

Please note: If the region experiences or is predicted to experience significant weather prior to or during the Forum, the Forum will be rescheduled.

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8th Annual Virtual Park District Youth Job Fair – Saturday, February 11, 2023 from 10 am to 1 pm.

Explore the many paid seasonal and year-round jobs available in the Park District at this year’s Virtual Youth Job Fair on Saturday, February 11, 2023 from 10 am to 1 pm. Whether you like spending time outdoors, working with the community, or lifeguarding, we have a wide variety of opportunities for youth, young adults, and students. The Job Fair is designed for applicants who are ages 15-24, although the minimum age requirement for most jobs is 16 years old. Application and interview tips will be provided! More Info.

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Ten Dazzling Celestial Events to See in 2023

from Smithsonian Magazine

February 2: Comet C/2022 E3 comes close to Earth

In early February, the comet C/2022 E3 will travel within about 26.4 million miles of our planet—the closest it’s been to Earth since Homo sapiens began settling in Europe and Asia from Africa, according to KTLA’s Eric Henrikson and Cameron Kiszla.

While the brightness of comets can be unpredictable, this one may be visible to the naked eye under dark skies, though those with binoculars or a telescope will have a better chance of seeing it. Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere may be able to spot the comet in the morning sky in the northwest during January, while those in the Southern Hemisphere should keep an eye out starting in early February. The comet has a distinctive green color and faint long tail.

March 1: Venus-Jupiter conjunction

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when a planet appears close to a moon, another planet or a star. Conjunctions occur fairly frequently and have “no profound astronomical significance, but they are nice to view,” according to NASA.

During the first few months of the year, the two brightest planets will begin to converge in the southwestern sky, and on March 1, they will reach their closest points to each other. You should be able to see both with your bare eyes, though you can also see them in the same field of view with even the tiniest backyard telescope, writes National Geographic’s Andrew Fazekas. Though the two will appear relatively close, they are actually millions of miles apart. Look west-southwest at dusk to see the two planets together.

April 15 to April 29: Lyrid meteor shower

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through debris left behind from comets and asteroids, which is why they occur at around the same time each year. The Lyrids originate from the comet Thatcher, which orbits the sun about every 415 years. This is one of the oldest recorded showers, with observations dating back to 687 B.C.E., writes Daisy Dobrijevic for Space.com.

This year’s shower will peak on the night of April 22, and the viewing conditions will be favorable—the waxing crescent moon will only be 6 percent illuminated, Dobrijevic writes. Observers are usually able to see about 18 meteors per hour in a clear, dark sky, though on very rare occasions, the Lyrids can surprise viewers with as many as 100 meteors in an hour.

For the best stargazing, find a dark area between moonset and sunrise. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up at the sky, NASA recommends.

April 15 to May 27: Eta Aquarid meteors

This shower is known for its fast meteors that leave long, glowing trails. Eta Aquarid meteors can travel at about 148,000 miles per hour into Earth’s atmosphere, according to NASA. Their radiant—or the point from which they appear—is the constellation Aquarius.

These meteors come from the comet Halley, which completes an orbit around the sun about once every 76 years. This comet also produces the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs in October. Halley was last seen by casual observers in 1986 and is projected to make another appearance in 2061.

This year’s Eta Aquarids will peak the night of May 5 to May 6. Unfortunately, the full moon will appear on May 5, 2023, but don’t let that deter you. A significant outburst with meteors raining down at twice their usual rate could occur, and while the moon may wash out many, it still “could be a pretty decent show,” Bill Cooke, the lead for the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, tells Space.com’s Dobrijevic. These meteors are best viewed in the Southern Hemisphere, but they can also be seen north of the equator at a usual rate of about 10 to 30 per hour in good conditions. Try looking up during pre-dawn hours on or around the peak.

July 14 to September 1: Perseid meteor shower

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best of the year. Bright, frequent meteors with long tails will light up the sky at rates of about 50 to 100 per hour. The shower happens as Earth passes through debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, and it peaks as the Earth moves through the densest portion. Last year’s Perseids coincided with the full moon, making some shooting stars difficult to see. But this year, the shower will reach its spectacular peak two days before the new moon on August 11 and 12.

For the best viewing experience, Royal Museums Greenwich recommends heading to a dark location and giving your eyes 15 minutes to adjust, which means taking a break from checking your phone.

August 31: A super blue moon

Those looking at the sky on the night of August 31 may notice that the full moon appears slightly larger and brighter than usual. That’s because the moon will be the closest in its elliptical orbit to Earth, making it a supermoon. Four supermoons will appear in a row this year—on July 3, August 1, August 31 and September 29.

Because the month of August will see two full moons, the second is considered a blue moon. Blue moons happen every 2.5 years, and the last one occurred in August 2021.

September 26 to November 22: Orionids

The Orionids are not typically as strong as the Perseids or the Geminids, but they are still worth watching. From a dark location, viewers can see about 10 to 20 meteors per hour at the shower’s peak, which falls around the morning of October 22, per EarthSky’s Deborah Byrd.

Like the Eta Aquarids, this shower comes from the comet Halley, named after the English astronomer Edmond Halley. He was the first to calculate the comet’s orbit, accurately predicting its return in 1758—16 years after his death.

This year, the moon will set by midnight on the peak night, providing little interference to viewers who look up in the early hours of the morning. While the meteors appear to originate from the constellation Orion the Hunter, you will be able to see shooting stars anywhere in the sky.

October 14: Annular solar eclipse

In mid-October, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from the southwestern U.S. Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. But because the moon won’t entirely cover the sun this year, a dazzling glowing circle, or a “ring of fire,” will be visible from certain locations. Such an annular solar eclipse can last for up to 12 minutes and 30 seconds, per Space.com’s Dobrijevic and Joe Rao, though this year, the maximum duration is about five minutes in the U.S.

In the U.S., the annular eclipse will begin in Oregon at 9:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and cross through several states before ending in Texas at 12:03 p.m. Central Daylight Time, according to NASA. Folks outside this narrow path won’t see the ring-shaped eclipse, but they can catch a partial eclipse—if the weather cooperates. Remember to always use eye protection when looking at a solar eclipse.

October 28: Partial lunar eclipse

Last year, the U.S. was treated to two total lunar eclipses. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth’s shadow obscures the entire surface of the moon, while a partial eclipse takes place when the moon passes only partly through Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. A third type of eclipse called a penumbral lunar eclipse is more subtle and occurs when the Earth’s fainter outer shadow, called the penumbra, is cast on the moon.

The penumbral eclipse will only be visible in the U.S. on the East Coast. If you’re watching from there, the moon will be below the horizon for the entire partial eclipse, which will begin at 3:35 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and end at 4:52 p.m. But if you look closely, you may still be able to catch the Earth’s faint penumbra on the moon’s surface after it rises in your area. The penumbral eclipse will end at 6:26 p.m. Eastern.

Unlike a solar eclipse, you don’t need any equipment to view a lunar eclipse.

November 19 to December 24: Geminid meteor shower

The Geminids are another fan favorite and one of the last meteor showers of the year. This shower is known for its speedy meteors—they can travel 78,000 miles per hour, more than 40 times faster than a speeding bullet, per NASA.

Unlike many other showers, the Geminids come from a rocky celestial object called an asteroid rather than an icy comet. Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the asteroid, called Phaethon, could lead to a meteor shower, but some theorize that it may actually be a dead comet—or a comet that has lost its icy shell, according to NASA.

Phaethon measures only roughly three miles in diameter, which is surprising considering the amount of debris it leaves behind. Adding to its intrigue, Phaethon appears to brighten as it approaches the sun, as a comet would. This asteroid comes closer to the sun than any other named asteroid, which is why it’s named after the son of the sun god Helios.

The most meteors are predicted to rain down on the nights of December 13 and 14, with the possibility of stargazers seeing 120 meteors per hour. Last year’s waning gibbous moon resulted in only about 30 to 40 visible meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. But a young waxing crescent moon will set early in the evening this year on the peak, providing a dark sky for observers, write EarthSky’s Byrd and Kelly Kizer Whitt. The Geminids are best viewed around 2 a.m. local time, and you should be able to see meteors in all parts of the sky.

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Rainfall Totals In Oakley for January 2023

Average precipitation in January

2.66″

Rainfall Totals in January 2023

7.39″

Accumulated Monthly Totals through January 2023

17.40″”

Average annual precipitation – July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023

13.22″

Percent of average YTD

232.18%

Weather data – https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/oakley/california/united-states/usca2070

A rainfall year season is defined as the 12-month period beginning July 1 that continues through June 30 of the subsequent year.

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Spay and Neuter Awareness Month – February 2023

February is recognized as National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month to encourage pet owners to have their companion animals sterilized before the warmer months of the year when puppies and kittens are born. 

Each year, more than 6 million dogs and cats wind up in animal shelters in the U.S. and approximately half of them must be euthanized because there aren’t enough good homes for them.

The single most important thing that we can do to save cats and dogs from the suffering and death caused by overpopulation is to get our animal companions spayed/ neutered.

Spaying or neutering your cat or dog not only reduces shelter intake but it may enhance the life of your four-legged friend:

  • Spaying or neutering may add to the longevity of your best buddy by decreasing the risk of certain cancers and other diseases.
  • Spaying or neutering decreases the chances of your pet roaming. As a result, they are less likely to escape your yard and get lost or hit by a car.
  • Spaying or neutering may reduce or eliminate males from marking objects with urine and females will not have heat cycles.
  • Spaying or neutering may curb undesirable behaviors such as fighting or biting.
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30th Anniversary of the Trails Challenge

Celebrate 30 years of the Park District’s Trails Challenge! The annual Trails Challenge program has promoted healthy recreation in nature for the past 30 years by providing 20 designated trails ranging from easy to challenging in a variety of parklands and shorelines throughout the District.

Free printed guidebooks are available now at participating Visitor Centers, while supplies last. T-shirts will be available starting Saturday, January 21. Download the guidebook here: www.ebparks.org/tc

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Sunday Reading – 01/29/2023

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Long-term forecast: more rain – …But in early February, a new round of atmospheric rivers could be headed for California, though Swain says they’re unlikely to pose a flood threat.

That’s welcome news to those who are still recovering. Many are doing so with little financial help, since only about 2% of California properties have flood insurance policies, on top of regular homeowners’ insurance, the Associated Press reports.

  • Amy Bach, executive director of insurance consumers group United Policyholders: “People think the only people that need flood insurance are people who live right on the beach or on the banks of a river that has a history of flooding.”

If the February storms don’t bring floods, that could also be a relief to the Newsom administration. 

To help cover a projected $22.5 billion budget deficit, Newsom’s proposal would cut $40 million for flood protection projects along high-risk rivers in the San Joaquin Valley — though that was decided in early December, weeks before the record rainfall. Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, told the Associated Press that the recent storms could change the administration’s thinking on the San Joaquin projects.

Newsom’s budget proposal does include $202 million in new spending for flood protection: $135.5 million over two years to reduce urban risk, $41 million to strengthen levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and $25 million to reduce flooding risks in the Central Valley. Read More > at CalMatters

Netflix will put a stop to password sharing by end of March – Netflix plans to bar users from sharing passwords for free by the end of March of this year, according to a recent company announcement in a letter to shareholders.

Back in October, the streaming giant said it would begin charging subscribers who share their accounts but did not give a specific date or information for when the new policy would be enacted. 

In a quarter four earnings report released late last week, Netflix revealed it would implement the paid sharing system across the platform in the latter portion of quarter one. 

“Today’s widespread account sharing (100M+ households) undermines our long term ability to invest in and improve Netflix, as well as build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to shareholders. “While our terms of use limit use of Netflix to a household, we recognize this is a change for members who share their account more broadly.” Read More > in the New York Post

Antioch approves operating agreement for new cannabis business – Natural Supplements, a cannabis cultivation, manufacture, retail and distribution business, got the green light this week from Antioch’s City Council.

The council OK’d the operating agreement Tuesday on a 3-to-2 vote, with Councilmembers Lori Ogorchock and Mike Barbanica dissenting.

City Attorney Thomas Smith said the operating agreement provides benefits to the city in several ways, including fees that increase each year for the first four years.

Under the 10-year operating agreement, which includes two possible five-year extensions, the operator will pay a perce​​ntage of its gross revenue to the city each month.

Another benefit to the city, Smith said, is in a social equity program that’s attached to the agreement, in which the business helps support a local nonprofit.

“The social equity program gives the business a chance to give back to the community,” Smith said.

Under the agreement, the operator has chosen Rubicon Programs, an anti-poverty program that provides workforce services to justice-impacted job seekers, many of whom were formerly incarcerated and impacted by the War on Drugs.

Based in Ripon, Natural Supplements plans to construct two buildings: one at 11,200 square feet and the other at 19,500 square feet at a site at 2100-2300 Wilbur Ave. No date was given for the expected construction to be completed.​ Read More > in the East Bay Times

How the Californian dream became a nightmare – For Americans, California once looked like the future. It was a state defined by risk-taking and utopian dreaming. Yet for most Californians today, the upward mobility so central to the state’s ethos is rapidly disappearing. For decades, California was the primary destination for both other Americans and for foreign immigrants. Now, this trend has gone into reverse, with people and companies leaving the state. Population growth, already slowing over the past decade, has turned negative for the first time in modern California’s history, largely due to the state’s shrinking middle and working classes and its loss of families.

California’s difficulties undermine the notion, so fashionable today, that with the right mixture of technology and utopian dreaming, societies can forge a future that is both green and widely prosperous. In reality, California now has America’s worst rates of cost-of-living-adjusted poverty and functional illiteracy, the worst housing affordability in the continental US and a devastating shortage of mid-skilled jobs. What’s more, in 2022, California suffered some of the lowest personal-income growth rates in the country, and its GDP grew at less than half the pace of its arch-rival, Texas.

California’s struggles demonstrate what happens when an economy shuns both industry and solid middle-class jobs. Instead, it has placed heavy bets on ephemera, like social media and entertainment. The failure of this approach now stands exposed. Today, California’s once-huge budget surplus has morphed into a deficit of $25 billion, one that may become even higher in the coming years, given the high chance of recession. Because of this, California’s political class is under pressure either to shrink its expansive welfare state and regulatory regime, or to raise taxes – although taxes are already among the highest in the country. Meanwhile, companies are deserting California in droves, as are some of its top one per cent of earners, who pay roughly half of the state’s income taxes.

Once a beacon of upward mobility, California’s tech-dominated economy has now become what analyst Antonio García Martínez describes as ‘feudalism with better marketing’. California has the fourth-highest GINI inequality index out of American states, and has experienced a sizeable expansion of inequality since 2010, according to American Community Survey data. Despite California’s fanatical commitment to ‘anti-racist’ affirmative action and racial preferencesAfrican-Americans and Latinos perform poorly in terms of income and homeownership in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, with the latter among the most segregated places in the US. The gap between California’s fantastically rich elite and the struggling masses illustrates the emptiness of the elites’ supposedly ‘progressive’ values.

California’s embrace of green ideology has been particularly destructive to the economy. Technology companies have been key backers of California’s unproven and costly climate-centred policies, which are the most expensive in the US. While such policies are less directly damaging to digital companies, they have proven devastating to California’s other industries, notably to manufacturing, logistics and agriculture. California, the ultimate advanced industrial power in the late 20th century, has haemorrhaged industrial jobs in the 21st. Its severe underperformance compared with rivals extends to construction, professional and business services, and increasingly even tech. Read More > at Spiked

What happens if BART funding falls through? Here are the worst-case scenarios – BART says ridership is increasing, just not fast enough. About 150,000 people are riding daily, compared to 400,000 daily riders, pre-pandemic. That’s a problem considering about 70% of BART’S operating budget has historically come from fares.

“BART ridership is at 40% of pre-pandemic, that’s because the Bay Area has embraced the work-from-home culture,” said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost.

BART has received $1.6 billion in Federal Aid to help sustain service but the funding is expected to run out by 2025.

If that happens the transit agency is predicting potential consequences like:

  • Fewer Trains
  • Stations which open later and closer earlier
  • Station closures and line shutdowns
  • No weekend service
  • Mass Layoffs
  • Negative impact on traffic and climate
  • Some populations, reliant on transit could be impacted or No BART service at all

BART says it plans to ask the Feds even the state for more funding, even though the Governor has proposed slashing the budget for public transit.

BART says it may take the funding issue to the voters as a transportation measure in the future. Read More > at ABC 7

New $6.7 billion price tag makes Caltrain’s SF extension among costliest in the world – The 1.3-mile stretch would extend the commuter train to the Salesforce Tower

Preparations for the final 1.3-mile leg — pushing trains to the city’s Salesforce Tower — are finally picking up speed after decades of on-and-off planning. But there’s one major hurdle: a new $6.7 billion price tag.

The rail line — also planned as the finishing northern stretch for California’s High-Speed Rail — saw a cost increase of 34% from a 2015 budget, according to a new estimate from the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the project.

At $5.15 billion per mile of new track, the Caltrain undertaking is now runner-up for the world’s most costly transit project, behind New York’s notoriously pricey East Side Access project, according to a database at New York University.

The escalating figure is not holding back transit planners. They have set an ambitious 2032 completion date, allocated over $1.7 million toward lobbying the state and federal government for funds, and rebranded the extension with a new name: “The Portal”

“This is a generational investment in our climate, mobility and economic future for California. This is not extending a commuter rail one mile,” said Adam Van De Water, executive director of the TJPA. Instead, he said, Bay Area residents should view the mega project as a linchpin for a climate-friendly future by uniting high-speed rail, bus and BART at San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center.

“It is a critical connection to bring those 11 agencies together,” said Van De Water. “So then you can take a bus from any of the Bay Area counties into downtown and hop on Caltrain or high-speed rail and be destined statewide.” Read More > in The Mercury News

CA outsources its toxic waste – California likes to pat itself on the back for being a leader in protecting the environment. 

Every year, California workers dig up hundreds of thousands of tons of soil contaminated with things like lead, petroleum hydrocarbons and chemicals like DDT. The waste is so toxic, California considers it to be hazardous and requires that it be disposed of at a facility specially designed to handle such dangerous material.

Or, at least, that would be the requirement if the waste stayed in California. It often doesn’t.

A CalMatters investigation found that, for decades, California businesses and government agencies have taken hazardous waste over the border and dumped it at regular landfills in states with weaker environmental regulations.

Among the findings:

  • Much of the waste is going to landfills in Arizona and Utah with fewer safeguards and less oversight than permitted hazardous waste disposal facilities.
  • Two of the most popular destinations are next to Native American reservations. One of those landfills has a spotty environmental history, Arizona records show. 
  • One of the biggest out-of-state dumpers is the state’s own Department of Toxic Substances Control which, since 2018, took more than 105,000 tons of lead-contaminated soil from the area around the Exide cleanup in Los Angeles County and disposed of it in Arizona. Most went to a landfill that Arizona regulators labeled in 2021 an “imminent and substantial threat.”

CalMatters reporter Robert Lewis and photo editor Miguel Gutierrez traveled to Arizona and Utah, documenting where much of the Golden State’s toxic waste ends up. The Department of Toxic Substances Control said its decision to take the waste to Arizona is driven by cost and acknowledged the agency doesn’t really know how the out-of-state landfills are managed. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office wouldn’t comment.

David Harper, a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, questioned why the Golden State would dump its toxic waste so close to the reservation, which straddles the border between California and Arizona. Read More > at CalMatters

Existing Home Sales Slide to Cap Biggest Annual Drop Since 2008 – Sales of previously owned US homes fell in December to the slowest pace in over a decade, capping one of the housing market’s worst years on record amid a rapid jump in mortgage rates.

Contract closings decreased 1.5% to an annualized pace of 4.02 million last month, the slowest rate since 2010, the according to data from the National Association of Realtors out Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for sales to drop to 3.95 million.

The figures wrap a tumultuous year for the housing sector, in which transactions fell for a record 11 straight months. For all of last year, slightly more than 5 million existing homes were sold — a drop of 17.8% from 2021, the biggest annual slide since 2008.

The Federal Reserve’s most aggressive tightening campaign in a generation sent mortgage rates soaring in 2022 to the highest level in two decades, sidelining many prospective buyers.

While borrowing costs have come off their peak in recent weeks, helping to boost builder sentiment, the outlook is still shaky. Separate data out this week showed new home construction declined in 2022 for the first time since 2009 while applications to build, a proxy for future construction, also fell in December. Read More > at Bloomberg

Falling Bay Area home prices expected to keep tumbling amid high interest rates – The median price of existing single-family homes in the Bay Area was $1.08 million in December, according to the latest report from the California Association of Realtors. That’s an 11.5% reduction from November and a 9.6% drop from December 2021 — both the largest declines of any region in the state.

One reason the Bay Area saw the largest median price is a sharp decline in high-end home sales that may be driven by uncertainty among well-paid tech workers, who have lost jobs in droves, said Oscar Wei, a senior economist with the Association of Realtors.

Another reason: Bay Area home prices climbed higher than anywhere else in California last year, so they’ve had the longest way to fall.

Last year “just got really bumpy real quick,” said Janine Hunt, an agent with Red Oak Realty in Oakland. “We knew it was coming. What goes up must come down.”

Despite the slowdown, December’s median home price was 19% higher than in December 2019, meaning prices still aren’t approaching pre-COVID levels.

Looking ahead, the association forecasts California’s annual median home price — coming in at $822,150 for 2022 — to drop 8% over this year. Wei said he expects the Bay Area to follow a similar trend as current challenges facing the local real estate market are expected to persist. A big, influential question is what happens to mortgage interest rates. Read More > in the East Bay Times

San Francisco Committee Recommends $5 Million Payment to Every Longtime Black Resident -San Francisco’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC) released a draft proposal last month calling for $5 million in payouts to every longtime Black resident in the city. The proposal sparked an immediate backlash from Republicans, who called it racist and fiscally irresponsible.

The $5 million lump sum payment would be aimed at redressing years of discrimination and loss of economic opportunity in the Black community. The total cost would equal billions of dollars.

To be eligible, each adult Black resident would need to meet two out of following eight criteria:

  • Born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996 and has proof of residency in San Francisco for at least 13 years
  • Migrated to San Francisco between 1940 and 1996 and has proof of residency in San Francisco for at least 13 years
  • Personally, or the direct descendant of someone, incarcerated by the failed War on Drugs
  • Record of attendance in San Francisco public schools during the time of the consent decree to complete desegregation within the school system
  • Descendant of someone enslaved through US chattel slavery before 1865 
  • Displaced, or the direct descendant of someone displaced, from San Francisco by Urban Renewal between 1954 and 1973
  • Listed, or the direct descendant of, a Certificate of Preference holder
  • Member of an historically marginalized group that experienced lending discrimination in San Francisco between 1937 and 1968 or, subsequently, experienced lending discrimination in formerly redlined San Francisco communities between 1968 and 2008

The AARAC was formed in 2020 to address the history of systemic racism in San Francisco and offer recommendations for redress. The panel has no power to implement policy; it merely makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin has already voiced his support for the draft proposal.  

John Dennis, the chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party, called it “ludicrous.”

“A city with a $14 billion budget more or less, proposing to spend $50 billion. So just financially it doesn’t make sense,” he told ABC7 News.

“It’s theater. It’s amateur hour. If it passes, I would imagine it’s going to end up getting tied up in the courts.” 

AARC is expected to deliver a final proposal to supervisors in June. Read More > at California County News

San Francisco Falls Into The Abyss – No major American city has failed at the same level as Detroit, whose population dropped from 1.85 million people in 1950 to about 630,000 today. Move over Detroit, here comes San Francisco, which lost 6.3 percent of its population between 2019 and 2021, a rate of decline larger than any two year-period in Detroit’s history and unprecedented among any major US city.  

Detroit’s fall was primarily driven by the relocation of the US auto industry to southern, right-to-work states, where auto producers, including foreign firms who build autos here, have avoided the union conflict that was endemic in Detroit. San Francisco’s decline is driven by absurdly bad local economic policies. How bad? As some city blocks have been taken over by drug gangs selling fentanyl in open-air superstores (think of an opioid version of Costco, without the membership card), city supervisors have spent their time talking about defunding police, abolishing rent, abolishing prisons, and demanding that if Whole Foods is to be allowed to develop a grocery store in a vacant building in the city, it must include affordable housing.  

Some blame San Francisco’s high cost of living for the exodus. San Francisco housing costs have contributed to this loss, but many of those leaving the city are those with very high incomes who can afford to live in San Francisco. Instead, they are choosing to move to locations, many of which are also expensive, that have much more sensible city governance.

They are moving to destinations that do not have San Francisco’s drug and crime issues, its poorly performing public schools, its homelessness, its extremely high cost of doing business, and other issues that people have tolerated for so long, only because San Francisco was once one of the world’s great cities. As someone who loved San Francisco, it pains me to say it no longer is. And I suspect that those who departed San Francisco, whose exits left the city with 60,000 fewer taxpayers, feel the same way.

As San Franciscans have left, San Francisco’s downtown has suffered the most, as many tech workers and their employers have decided that they collectively are better off reducing or eliminating their office space footprint in the downtown area. The office vacancy rate in the city is 27 percent, up from just 4 percent in 2019.

One San Francisco tech entrepreneur took photos of the San Francisco’s downtown area on weekday mornings, times when the area historically has been crowded. Look at these photos and you will think that they were taken on a Sunday or a holiday, not during a normal workday. You see empty streets and empty sidewalks, which in turn lead to empty coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and other businesses whose revenue is primarily driven by downtown workers. As these businesses close, with plywood covering their windows, what little energy and vibrancy of San Francisco’s downturn declines further.

The city estimates that downtown foot traffic has declined about 64 percent compared to 2019. Empty office buildings could cost San Francisco $200 million per year in lost property taxes. And as tenants have sublet their office space, nearly 50 percent of that space will be up for renewal in about two years, raising the potential for even more losses. Read More > at Hoover Institution

Government Watchdog Finds $60 Billion in Pandemic Unemployment Fraud, Suggests Maybe Doing Something About It – In the year after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., Congress passed $6 trillion in spending to address it. Of that amount, it apportioned hundreds of billions of dollars to expand unemployment benefits. As a result of the emergency situation, the benefits were particularly generous, offering some laid-off workers as much as triple the amount normally paid by unemployment insurance (U.I.).

report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made public this week found “substantial levels of fraud” in the program. More notably, it indicated that the government lacks a real strategy for dealing with the problem.

Each state administers its own U.I. program, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) ensures that states comply with federal standards. According to the GAO report, Congress established four new U.I. programs during the pandemic that collectively paid out over $878 billion between April 2020 and September 2022, all of it meant to supplement state U.I. benefits.

Such a substantial infusion of cash created numerous opportunities for fraud and abuse. Applicants submitted falsified income or employment information; some fraudsters even used false identities altogether. The GAO notes that state agencies reported U.I. fraud during the pandemic totaling $4.3 billion. But the DOL’s inspector general identified another $45 billion in potential fraud that had not been investigated.

Using the DOL’s U.I. fraud estimates of between 7.6 percent and 8.6 percent, the GAO determined that total unemployment fraud during the pandemic could be over $60 billion. But notably, those fraud estimates are for unemployment spending during normal times: An earlier GAO report concluded that during the pandemic, the improper payment rate more than doubled to 18.9 percent, so the actual amount could be considerably higher. Read More > at Reason

Major News Outlets Sue for Access to Evidence in Paul Pelosi Case – Major media outlets including the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Fox News all banded together last week to file a lawsuit against the San Francisco District Attorney’s office on grounds that the press and the public have a right to see the evidence against Pelosi’s alleged attacker, David DePape, who was reportedly targeting former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was in Washington, D.C. at the time:

During a Dec. 14 preliminary hearing, the San Francisco district attorney’s office introduced audio and video evidence against David DePape, the man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi. But it has refused to release the evidence to the media.

Attorneys for the coalition said in the motion filed Wednesday that “the public and press have standing to assert their rights of access to court records and proceedings.”

[…]

Evidence introduced in the preliminary hearing against DePape included audio from a 911 call made by Paul Pelosi, portions of body camera video taken by the two police officers who responded to the Pelosis’ house, portions of video of a police detective interviewing DePape and footage captured by Capitol Police Department surveillance cameras.

Though the case shocked political observers, it has strangely been shrouded in secrecy and seemingly fell off the MSM’s radar not long after charges against DePape were announced by San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and Joe Biden’s Dept. of Justice in late October, just three days after the attack and in the midst of the media falsely portraying DePape as a far-right wacko. Read More > at Legal Insurrection

Paul Pelosi attack body camera footage to be released following court order – The police body camera footage of the attack on Paul Pelosi will be released to the public, per an order from a San Francisco judge.

The order came after a sustained effort from a press coalition, according to Politico. The coalition included the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Press Democrat, CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC, NBC, and KQED, according to the Associated Press, which was also a member.

Attorneys for the press coalition filed the request on Jan. 11, arguing that “the public and press have standing to assert their rights of access to court records and proceedings.” Read More > in the Washington Examiner

High Turnover of Home Caregivers Makes Life Precarious for Many – High turnover among in-home caregivers is straining the daily lives of America’s aging population, which relies on them to remain in their homes.

The median caregiver turnover rate—or the percentage of all caregivers who left or were terminated from jobs—was about 64.9% in 2021, according to a report by Home Care Pulse, a company that provides data and training to home care agencies. Though the number has improved from a peak of 81.6% in 2018, it represents a major supply gap, according to people in the home care industry.

Turnover among the 1,461 home care agencies participating in the 2022 HCP Benchmarking Report remained relatively stable during the pandemic, says Home Care Pulse president Todd Austin. Agencies increased wages and more offered benefits to recruit and retain workers, while also doing more to recognize workers as “care heroes” to improve job satisfaction, he says.

But the pandemic added to demand, as the high number of Covid deaths at long-term-care facilities contributed to the desire for people to remain in their homes.

Between 2008 and 2018, the number of home care workers more than doubled to 2.26 million from about 900,000, according to a 2022 report from the Home Care Association of America, an industry trade organization representing home care providers.

The Labor Department projects 25% employment growth in the next decade for home health and personal care aides, which includes those who work in group homes and day service programs, compared with an average expected growth rate of 5% for all occupations.

Even with rapid growth, home care agencies can’t meet demand. More than 85% of the home care agencies in the 2022 HCP Benchmarking Report turned down cases in 2021 due to the shortage, and 59.7% consistently turned down clients. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Why Are Millennials Having So Many Strokes? – Strokes commonly strike the old. The average age for the devastating condition — in which blood supply to a part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts — is around 71.4 years in men and 76.9 years in women. Millennials, however, are starting to bring those averages down.

Now ranging in age from 27 to 42, Millennials are suffering strokes at higher rates than their forebears did at the same age, reversing a 40-year decline in stroke deaths. Between 2003 and 2012, there was a 32% spike in strokes among 18- to 34-year-old women and a 15% increase for men in the same age range, according to CDC researchers. When Scientific American further parsed the data, they found that the hike was mostly centered in the West and Midwest, where stroke rates among young people rose 70% and 34%, respectively, with particularly sharp increases in urban areas. Now, about one in ten people who has a stroke in the U.S. is under the age of 45.

Childhood obesity is particularly noxious in regard to early stroke, and Millennials were the first generation to truly be affected by this alarming trend. The rate of childhood obesity more than tripled from 5% in 1978 to 18.5% in 2016, leaving many more children burdened by associated conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which can lead to a stroke.

There is good news. Thanks to improved medical care, stroke fatality rates have fallen significantly between 1975 and 2019, about 65% for hemorrhagic stroke (caused by a burst blood vessel) and 80% for ischemic stroke (caused by a blood vessel blockage). And with greater brain plasticity, young people are more apt to recover. Still, strokes can leave Millennials with lasting complications, such as occasional seizures, incontinence, cognitive impairment, hindered speech, and diminished muscle control, not to mention a sharply elevated risk of a future stroke.

Increased stroke isn’t the only health issue that Millennials are contending with. The rates of many cancers, especially those tied to poor diet, are rising for people under age 50.

The best solution to reverse the rise in early stroke is for Millennials and future generations to eat right and exercise, especially from a young age. Schools and parents have a vital role to play here. Obesity’s grasp can be hard to break if it takes hold at a tender age, but if healthy lifestyle practices are instilled early, it’s likely they will remain second nature. Read More > at Real Clear Science

Wind Turbines Taller Than the Statue of Liberty Are Falling Over – …The instances are part of a rash of recent wind turbine malfunctions across the US and Europe, ranging from failures of key components to full collapses. Some industry veterans say they’re happening more often, even if the events are occurring at only a small fraction of installed machines. The problems have added hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for the three largest Western turbine makers, GE, Vestas Wind Systems and Siemens Energy’s Siemens Gamesa unit; and they could result in more expensive insurance policies—a potential setback for the push to abandon fossil fuels and fight climate change.

The race to add production lines for ever-bigger turbines is cited as a major culprit by people in the industry. “We’re seeing these failures happening in a shorter time frame on the newer turbines, and that’s quite concerning,” says Fraser McLachlan, chief executive officer of London-based GCube Underwriting Ltd., which insures about $3.5 billion in wind assets in 38 countries. If the failure rate keeps climbing, he says, insurance premiums could increase or new coverage limits could be imposed.

Vestas, GE and Siemens Gamesa have confirmed in statements to Bloomberg and in recent calls with analysts that the push to rapidly develop more powerful turbines has led to challenges. The companies say they are focusing on improving manufacturing operations and have acknowledged that it’s time to tap the brakes on the introduction of designs. “Rapid innovation strains manufacturing and the broader supply chain,” GE CEO Larry Culp said on an earnings call in October. “It takes time to stabilize production and quality on these new products.”

There’s no publicly available industrywide data on turbine failures, making it tough to paint a complete picture of changes in their performance over time. But Vestas and GE have said the shares of their machines in the field that are unable to produce power are elevated, even if it’s still a small proportion of their installed fleets. Siemens Energy revised its earnings outlook for 2023 downward this month, citing higher-than-expected costs caused by flaws in Siemens Gamesa’s installed turbines. Read More > at Bloomberg Businessweek

Companies Cut Temp Workers in Warning Sign for Labor Market – Employers are shedding temporary workers at a fast rate, a sign that broader job losses could be on the horizon.

In the last five months of 2022, employers cut 110,800 temp workers, including 35,000 in December, the largest monthly drop since early 2021. Many economists view the sector as an early indicator of future labor-market shifts.

Temporary employment declined before some recent recessions and during economic slowdowns. Temporary workers, typically employed through staffing agencies, are easy for companies to bring on board—and let go.

“For me, it’s a real warning sign,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING. “The jobs market may not be invulnerable to the downturn story.”

Cutbacks in temporary jobs add to other evidence that companies are adopting more of a cost-cutting stance, Mr. Knightley said. Corporate job-cut announcements are up significantly from a year earlier and business executives are somber about the outlook, he said.

The labor market is historically strong but slowing. Employers added 223,000 jobs in December, the smallest gain in two years. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect higher interest rates to trigger job losses and a recession this year as the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increases filter through the economy.

Pullbacks in temp employment preceded broader payroll declines by several months in recent downturns, including the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions. For instance, employment in the temp sector began falling in early 2007, while employment across all sectors started to descend about a year later. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Groups sue to stop California from ordering unhoused, severely mentally ill people into treatment – Gov. Gavin Newsom’s program requiring mentally ill Californians to undergo treatment at the request of relatives, caretakers and others has been challenged in the state Supreme Court by advocates for disabled and poor people, who say those who may have such ailments should be allowed to decide whether to seek care.

Starting in October, when the law first takes effect in some counties, “thousands of unhoused Californians with mental illness will be threatened with court orders, forced into involuntary treatment and swept off the streets, not because they are a danger to themselves or others, but because a judge has speculated they are ‘likely’ to become so in the future,” the organizations said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

People with disabilities, the suit contended, are still entitled to “autonomy and the right to make their own decisions about their lives, including where to live and what services and treatment to accept.” It was filed by Disability Rights California, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, and the Public Interest Law Project.

The program, approved by the Legislature with bipartisan support, is called the CARE Court, for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment. It will allow a family member, mental health or care worker or law enforcement officer to ask a civil court to refer a person for treatment of a severe mental illness. The county behavioral health system would then decide whether the person needs treatment that he or she is not already receiving. The mentally ill person will receive legal representation but must comply with an order to undergo care. The county agency would also prepare a plan for up to 12 months of medication and treatment, which could include placement in a care center at government expense.

Newsom says between 7,000 and 12,000 people will receive care under the plan. It is to take effect in two phases, with eight counties starting in October 2023 and the others in December 2024. The Legislature has budgeted $57 million for the program this year. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Is tipping getting out of control? Many consumers say yes – Across the country, there’s a silent frustration brewing about an age-old practice that many say is getting out of hand: tipping.

Some fed-up consumers are posting rants on social media complaining about tip requests at drive-thrus, while others say they’re tired of being asked to leave a gratuity for a muffin or a simple cup of coffee at their neighborhood bakery. What’s next, they wonder — are we going to be tipping our doctors and dentists, too?

As more businesses adopt digital payment methods, customers are automatically being prompted to leave a gratuity — many times as high as 30% — at places they normally wouldn’t. And some say it has become more frustrating as the price of items has skyrocketed due to inflation, which eased to 6.5% in December but still remains painfully high.

“Suddenly, these screens are at every establishment we encounter. They’re popping up online as well for online orders. And I fear that there is no end,” said etiquette expert Thomas Farley, who considers the whole thing somewhat of “an invasion.”

Unlike tip jars that shoppers can easily ignore if they don’t have spare change, experts say the digital requests can produce social pressure and are more difficult to bypass. And your generosity, or lack thereof, can be laid bare for anyone close enough to glance at the screen — including the workers themselves. Read More > at AP

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Winter is Here and So Are the Skunks

Seeing (or more likely, smelling) skunks lately? As winter continues, so does the appearance and aroma of these animals, as skunks are seeking a mate and a place to provide shelter to their young.

Skunks do not jump or climb, so they will seek out low-lying opportunities, such as voids under decks or shed foundations, in which to dig out and construct a den.

Here are some tips to discourage skunks from seeking residency on your property:
Remove Potential Food Sources

  1. Keep garbage cans tightly secured without any exposed garbage.
  2. Remove bird feeders at ground level and remove excess spillage.
  3. Remove pet food and water dishes. Store animal feed in secure metal containers.
  4. Remove fallen fruit from the ground.
  5. Treat lawn areas to eliminate grubs.

Remove or Block Areas of Shelter

  1. Thin or remove heavy vegetation or low growing ground cover; remove debris piles, and prevent skunks from entering compost piles.
  2. Replace or reinforce vent screens around your home and secure outdoor crawl space doors.
  3. Secure pet doors at night.
  4. Install 1/2 inch galvanized hardware cloth around decks, sheds, and home foundations.
  5. Store firewood 18 inches above the ground.

If a skunk constructs a den on your property, contact the District for an inspection and assistance. Upon the first visit, a technician will inspect the property to determine if a skunk has taken up residence. The technician will then make recommendations in accordance with the California Fish and Wildlife code.

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Testing the Water at Big Break – January 29, 2023. 9:00AM-10:00AM

Join us every Sunday morning to track the health of the Delta! We will test for different criteria, recording the water quality changes that affect our ecosystem.

Drop-in program, no registration. Free Program. Meet at the Visitor Center. Parent participation required. For information, call: (510) 544-3050.

Staff will be on hand to answer all your questions.

 Testing the Water, Big Break

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How to Save Rainwater without Mosquitoes

With all of the rain we’ve received, we have heard residents talking about how they’d like to save rainwater for later, but the District wants to make sure if folks do save rainwater, they are not providing a place for mosquitoes to flourish. And it turns out, there is a way to save rainwater without mosquitoes — all you need is a round garbage can, window screen, and two bungee cords.

  1. Place the window screen over the opening of the garbage can so that the screen overlaps the sides by several inches.
  2. Connect the bungee cords around the sides of the garbage can where the screen overlaps so that the screen is held tightly in place.

While you’ll still have to dump and scrub each item, now you can dump the water out into your new rain barrel.

And when it rains again, you can collect more rainwater without mosquitoes. Then, when the weather gets warm, you’ll have water left over for your plants and other vegetation later on in the year.

By taking these actions now, you are taking important steps to reduce the risk of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illness for your family and your neighbors now and later.

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24th Annual Spam Festival – February 19

The 24th Annual Spam Festival in Isleton features a public tasting, cooking contest, Spam toss, and more. View the City of Isleton’s website for more information.

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Repeated Storms Leave Rainwater in Unusual Places — Now’s the Time to Dump and Scrub to Prevent Mosquitoes

After weeks of rain, the weather forecast is starting to change, and that means it’s a good time to take a look around your yard for anything holding water to prevent mosquitoes now and later. With 23 confirmed species of mosquitoes in Contra Costa County, we already have some mosquitoes that are active, now, with more to follow as the seasons change. And since mosquitoes only need a small amount of water to develop from egg to biting adult in a matter of days, it’s important to dump out standing water and scrub each item as soon as the weather allows. The key to success is after you check the buckets and other containers, also look for toys, tools, and other places where you might not expect to find water.

Find It, Dump It and Scrub it

After invasive Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were found in Contra Costa County late last year, we now know it’s not enough to dump out rainwater alone — you also need to scrub the plant pots, dust bin, toys, and boat to make sure you remove any potential mosquito eggs that are stuck to each item just above the water line. Of course, if you find something disposable that is full of water, dump it out and seal it in a bag before placing it in the trash to prevent any more water from making contact with any potential mosquito eggs, allowing them to develop into adults.

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Sunday Reading – 01/22/2023

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

California storms: The past three weeks were the wettest in 161 years in the Bay Area – How wet has it been recently in Northern California?

New rainfall totals show that no person alive has experienced a three-week period in the Bay Area as wet as these past 21 days. The last time it happened, Abraham Lincoln was president.

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 15, 17 inches of rain fell in downtown San Francisco. That’s the second-wettest three-week period at any time in San Francisco’s recorded history since daily records began in 1849 during the Gold Rush. And it’s more than five times the city’s historical average of 3.1 inches over the same time.

The only three-week period that was wetter in San Francisco — often used as the benchmark for Bay Area weather because it has the oldest records — came during the Civil War when a drowning 23.01 inches fell from Jan. 5 to Jan. 25, 1862, during a landmark winter that became known as “The Great Flood of 1862.”

And despite the recent wet weeks, Northern California is nowhere near the final yearly rainfall total of 1861-62. San Francisco on Tuesday had 21.75 inches of rain since Oct. 1. That total would have to more than double in the coming months to reach the 49.27 inches that fell in 1861-62, or the 47.19 inches that fell in the second-wettest year in history, 1997-98. Read More > in The Mercury News

For all their ferocity, California storms were not likely caused by global warming, experts say – As California emerges from a two-week bout of deadly atmospheric rivers, a number of climate researchers say the recent storms appear to be typical of the intense, periodic rains the state has experienced throughout its history and not the result of global warming.

Although scientists are still studying the size and severity of storms that killed 19 people and caused up to $1 billion in damage, initial assessments suggest the destruction had more to do with California’s historic drought-to-deluge cycles, mountainous topography and aging flood infrastructure than it did with climate-altering greenhouse gasses.

Although the media and some officials were quick to link a series of powerful storms to climate change, researchers interviewed by The Times said they had yet to see evidence of that connection. Instead, the unexpected onslaught of rain and snow after three years of punishing drought appears akin to other major storms that have struck California every decade or more since experts began keeping records in the 1800s.

“We know from climate models that global warming will boost California storms of the future, but we haven’t made that connection with the latest storm systems,” said Alexander Gershunov, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Assuming that these storms were driven by global warming would be like assuming an athlete who breaks a record was on steroids.” Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Californians approved billions for new water storage. Why hasn’t it gotten built? – In 2014, during the throes of last decade’s drought, California voters approved billions of dollars for infrastructure that would catch and store much-needed water from winter storms. The hope was to amass water in wet times and save it for dry times.

Nearly 10 years later, none of the major storage projects, which include new and expanded reservoirs, has gotten off the ground.

As the state experiences a historic bout of rain and snow this winter, amid another severe water shortage, critics are lamenting the missed opportunity to capture more of the extraordinary runoff that has been swelling rivers, flooding towns and pouring into the sea.

The seven dedicated storage projects funded by voter-approved Proposition 1 remain in various stages of planning. Many are big ventures, including the proposed Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley that would be California’s eighth largest reservoir. Such efforts require years of design, permitting and fundraising and are not easy to build. Still, some say progress has been too slow given the dire need for water.

A small water recycling program on farmland in Sacramento County and the enlargement of Los Vaqueros are expected to be the first to receive final checks from the state, perhaps this year. For other projects, including the Pacheco Reservoir,it could be several more years.

The length of time it has taken to select and finance these efforts was largely intentional. To win broad support for the bond measure in 2014, Prop. 1 put several conditions on the funding, including a requirement that the storage projects show “public benefit,” followed by an elaborate process to rank that quality. It took three years just to gather applications.

“Any large-scale water storage project is complex and requires a high degree of planning, engineering, construction, significant financing, and coordination with existing water infrastructure and operations,” said Paul Cambra, spokesman for the California Water Commission, which is in charge of awarding the bond money.

The proposition also is funding just a fraction of each project, meaning even after the cash is doled out, proposals will move forward only if and when additional money is secured. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

California storms: A 2-inch fish is limiting how much water can be captured for cities and farms -The most drenching storms in the past five years have soaked Northern California, sending billions of gallons of water pouring across the state after three years of severe drought.

But 94% of the water that has flowed since New Year’s Eve through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a linchpin of California’s water system, has continued straight to the Pacific Ocean instead of being captured and stored in the state’s reservoirs.

Environmental regulations aimed at protecting a two-inch-long fish, the endangered Delta smelt, have required the massive state and federal pumps near Tracy to reduce pumping rates by nearly half of their full limit, sharply curbing the amount of water that can be saved for farms and cities to the south.

The move has angered Central Valley politicians of both parties along with agricultural leaders, who have been arguing for many months that someone must help farmers suffering terribly during the drought. Now they are frustrated that the state Department of Water Resources and the federal Bureau of Reclamation aren’t capturing more water amid the record rainfall.

The Contra Costa Water District, which relies on Delta water, has been able to add almost no water to its largest reservoir, Los Vaqueros, in the past two weeks. Its level has gone from 48% full to 50% full. And less water has flowed into San Luis Reservoir, east of Gilroy, a major supply for the Santa Clara County Valley Water District, the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles, and others, than otherwise would have. San Luis Reservoir has gone from 34% full on Jan. 1 to 42% full on Thursday. Read More > in The Mercury News

California: 10.8 Million Mail-In Ballots ‘Disappeared’ in 2022 Election

According to research by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), more than 10.8 million mail-in ballots “disappeared” in California’s midterm elections last year.

California election officials mailed more than 22.1 million ballots to registered voters, but 10.8 million “disappeared.”

“A significant number of mail-in ballots were rejected during California’s first year of mass mail voting. During the 2022 primary and general election 226,250 mail-in ballots were rejected by election officials. These refusals represent the potential disenfranchisement of voters due to the move to voting by mail,” says PILF.

PILF researchers say that “with mass mail-in elections, the problems accumulate.”

The investigation reveals that “after counting the votes at the polling places and the rejected ballots in November 2022, there were more than 10 million ballots pending, which means that election officials do not know what happened to them.”

PILF says that “it is fair to assume that most of these were ignored or ultimately discarded by their intended recipients. But, under the mass mail-in elections, we can only assume what happened. Vote-by-mail practices have an insurmountable information gap.”

They also claim that “the public cannot know how many ballots were ignored, delivered to the wrong mailboxes, or even withheld from the proper recipient by someone at the same address.” Read More > at The Tennessee Star

Duplex law failing to deliver – It has been called “radical,” “draconian,” “sweeping,” and the end of single-family zoning as we know it.

Now, Senate Bill 9 — which Gov. Newsom signed in the fall of 2021 to allow as many as four units on single-family lots across California — may have earned itself a new nickname: Nothingburger. 

According to a new report by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, the effect of the controversial housing bill has been “limited or nonexistent” — at least so far. 

The report’s authors collected applications to divide up residential lots from 13 cities, including urban giants such as Los Angeles, San Diego and San José as well as the sleepier suburbs of Saratoga and Danville. They counted just 100 applications in all for a total of 282 potential units. Just 28 of those applications for 53 units have been approved so far.

To put that in perspective, Gov. Newsom wants cities across the state to approve an additional 2.5 million homes by 2030. And the Terner Center, itself, had earlier projected that more than 700,000 new homes might be feasible under the new law. 

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. As CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobais wrote around the time of the bill’s passage, zoning is only one part of the equation. Construction costs, physical constraints, planning department capacity, local regulations and a limited appetite by most homeowners to carve up their place of residence were always going to make SB 9 an unlikely route out of the state’s housing crisis. 

It also might be too soon to put a fork in the law.

  • Terner report: “It is still too early to say that SB 9 is not working…Planners told us that while applications for SB 9 have been low, inquiries to their departments about SB 9 are high.” Read More > at CalMatters

Is the Bay Area on the verge of a housing construction slowdown? – The Bay Area, already one of the most difficult and expensive places in the nation to build new homes, is being buffeted by a turbulent economy that’s creating even more challenges for a region reeling from a housing affordability crisis.

The headwinds are plenty: Higher interest rates for construction loans. Rising labor and material costs. Slowing demand from homebuyers squeezed by more expensive mortgages. And fears of a looming recession as cities continue to recover from the pandemic.

That’s all raising the specter of a widespread housing construction downturn.

“There already is a slowdown, but I think it will magnify itself in 2023,” said Ken Rosen, chair of UC Berkeley’s Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. “A lot of developers may put projects on hold until construction costs come down.”

The decline threatens to thwart the Bay Area’s effort to meet its state-mandated goal of approving more than 441,000 homes of all income levels over the next eight years, representing a roughly 15% increase in the region’s housing stock. Already, most cities and counties haven’t come close to meeting their individual targets in past decades. And housing experts and advocates contend that chronic underproduction — in part because many local officials have sought to limit growth — is at the root of the region’s astronomical rents and home prices. Read More > in The Mercury News

Microsoft to cut 10,000 jobs as tech layoffs intensify – Microsoft Corp on Wednesday said it would eliminate 10,000 jobs and take a $1.2-billion charge as its cloud-computing customers dissect their spending and the company braces for potential recession.

The layoff, far larger than cuts by Microsoft last year, pile on to tens of thousands of job cuts across the technology sector that’s long past its ceaseless growth during the pandemic.

The news is particularly dramatic for Microsoft, a software maker heavily invested in generative artificial intelligence that represents an industry bright spot.

In a note to employees, Chief Executive Satya Nadella said the layoffs, affecting less than 5% of the workforce, would conclude by the end of March, with notifications beginning Wednesday. Read More > at Reuters

Bad neighborhoods: 1% of counties responsible for 42% of America’s murders – Homicide rates have spiked, but most of America has remained untouched.

Only a tiny fraction of U.S. counties account for nearly all of the country’s homicides, according to research released Tuesday that showed a striking concentration where killings take place.

The worst 31 counties — generally urban jurisdictions — have about a fifth of the country’s population but accounted for 42% of the country’s homicides in 2020, said John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, which conducted the study.

The worst 5% of counties accounted for 73% of homicides. That ticked up slightly from 69% in 2014 and 70% in 2016.

Meanwhile, 52% of counties recorded no homicides in 2020, and another 16% recorded only a single killing.

“Murders are a problem in a very small percentage of the counties in the United States,” Mr. Lott told The Washington Times.

Even in those higher-homicide counties, the crime is still concentrated, he said.

Mr. Lott crunched the data for Los Angeles County and found that 10% of the county’s ZIP codes accounted for 41% of the homicides. Another 10% accounted for 26% more. Read More > in The Washington Times

Holiday sales fall short of expectations, set stage for tougher 2023 for retailers – Holiday sales came in below industry expectations, as shoppers felt pinched by inflation and rising interest rates, according to data from the National Retail Federation.

Sales during November and December grew 5.3% year over year to $936.3 billion, below the major trade group’s prediction for growth of between 6% and 8% over the year prior. In early November, NRF had projected spending of between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion.

The retail sales number excludes spending at automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, and is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It covers the period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

The holiday sales gains include the impact of inflation, which drives up total sales. The consumer price index, which measures the cost of a broad mix of goods and services, was up 6.5% in December compared with a year ago, according to the Labor Department.

For retailers, the shopping season’s results reflect the challenges ahead. As Americans continue to pay higher prices for groceries, housing and more month after month, they are racking up credit card balances, spending down savings and having fewer dollars for discretionary spending. Read More > at CNBC

Pittsburg could soon see road and school crosswalk improvements – Pittsburg’s roadways and school crosswalks could soon become safer as a result of two grants it received recently.

The biggest – nearly $3 million – comes from the California Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Improvement Program. The second, $105,000 from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, will be used to help provide safer routes for walking and biking to school.

The state grant money is to be used for traffic safety studies and improvements at multiple locations in the city, according to the staff report.

Tentative plans include an audit of existing safety signs and striping for all arterial roads, installation of fluorescent street signs, and improvements to edge lines and centerline striping on 15 roads.

Roads slated to be improved include segments of Railroad Avenue, Kirker Pass Road, Willow Pass Road, Bailey Road, Pittsburg-Antioch Highway, East Leland Road, Loveridge Road, Buchanan Road, West 10th Street, East 10th Street, Harbor Street, North Parkside Drive, California Avenue, Century Boulevard and East 14th Street. Read More > in The Mercury News

Biden’s army of IRS auditors falls victim to hiring woes, ambiguous marching orders – President Biden’s vision for a supercharged IRS is running into the rough realities of hiring problems and difficulties in figuring out who should face more audits.

An inspector general revealed the struggles in a report this week, saying there are major headwinds to carrying out Democrats’ new law, which is pumping $80 billion into the tax collecting agency.

For one thing, the IRS has yet to dig out of a pandemic backlog of unprocessed returns. Also, a tricky job market and lack of expedited hiring authority are making it difficult to bring on more people who can clear the hurdles.

“A continued challenge the IRS faces is having to evaluate a high number of applicants in order to find successful candidates both willing to accept the job offer and also be able to pass the required background checks,” the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said.

The IRS did add thousands of customer service representatives last year, which means taxpayers should have better luck getting answers when they call this year. Last year, 85% of calls went unanswered and those that did go through were on hold for about half an hour.

The enforcement side is proving tougher to solve, the inspector general said.

Officials are still trying to figure out how to comply with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s instructions on whom to target for audits. At least over the next year, the IRS won’t be able to expand its ranks of auditors because of “employee attrition and hiring challenges,” the inspector general said. Read More > in The Washington Times

California’s next flood could destroy one of its most diverse cities. Will lawmakers try to save it? – In early 1862, a storm of biblical proportions struck California, dropping more than 120 inches of rain and snow on the state over two months. The entire state flooded, but nowhere was the deluge worse than in the Central Valley, a gash of fertile land that runs down the middle of the state between two mountain ranges. In the spring, as melting snow mixed with torrential rain, the valley transformed into “a perfect sea,” as one observer put it, vanishing beneath 30 feet of water that poured from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. People rowed through town streets on canoes. A quarter of all the cows in the state drowned. It took months for the water to drain out.

More than 150 years later, climate scientists say the state is due for a repeat of that massive storm. A growing body of research has found that global warming is increasing the likelihood of a monster storm that could inundate the Central Valley once again, causing what one study from UCLA and the National Atmospheric Center called “historically unprecedented surface runoff” in the region. Not only would this runoff destroy thousands of homes, it would also ravage a region that serves as the nation’s foremost agricultural breadbasket. The study found that global warming has already increased the likelihood of such a storm by 234 percent.

In the crosshairs of that storm is the Stockton metropolitan area, which sits at the mouth of the San Joaquin River. Stockton and its neighboring suburbs are home to almost 800,000 people, and they rank among the most diverse places in the country — as well as some of the most economically distressed places in California. Thanks to decades of disinvestment, the city’s only flood protection comes from decades-old, leak-prone levees. If a major rain event caused enough runoff to surge down the mountains and northward along the San Joaquin, it could burst through those levees, inundating the city and flooding tens of thousands of homes. One federal study found that much of Stockton would vanish beneath 10 to 12 feet of water, and floods in the lowest-lying areas could be twice as deep. The result would be a humanitarian disaster just as costly and as deadly as Hurricane Katrina.

The “atmospheric river” rainstorms that rolled into California from the Pacific Ocean this month have underscored the Golden State’s vulnerability to floods, but experts insist that the destruction of Stockton isn’t inevitable. As is the case in flood-prone communities across the country, local officials know how to manage water on the San Joaquin River, but they’ve struggled to obtain funding for Stockton and other disadvantaged cities along the waterway. Even as California lawmakers have plowed money into drought response in recent years, they’ve left flood measures by the wayside, and the federal government has also been slow to fund major improvements. Read More > at Grist

Unionization rate hit all-time low in 2022 despite growth in overall members – The percentage of American workers who are members of a union fell to a new low in 2022 despite the total number of unionized workers increasing.

Driving the news: 10.1% of workers were unionized in 2022, down from 10.3% in 2021 and a high of 20.1% in 1983, the first year the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported comparable figures.

Why it matters: Unions play a powerful role in the workforce, with advocates saying they advance worker rights while critics say they stymie progress.

By the numbers: The workforce added 273,000 unionized jobs in 2022, up 1.9% from 2021.

  • But the number of total jobs increased by 5.3 million, a 3.9% jump, outpacing the growth in union roles.

The big picture: Several high-profile unionization efforts have fetched headlines in recent months, including the ongoing campaign to organize Starbucks locations and Amazon warehouses.

Zoom in: The rate of union membership among public-sector workers is five times greater than the rate of private-sector employees — 33.1% to 6%, according to the BLS. Read More > at Axios

America’s Police Exodus – A 2021 survey showed that police departments nationwide saw resignations jump by 18 percent—and retirements by 45 percent—over the previous year, with hiring decreasing by five percent. The Los Angeles Police Department has been losing 50 officers a month to retirement, more than the city can replace with recruits. Oakland lost about seven per month in 2021, with the number of officers sinking below the city’s legally mandated minimum. 

The list goes on: Chicago has lost more cops than it has in two decades. New Orleans is backfilling its shortfall of officers with civilians. New York is losing more police officers than it has since such figures began being recorded. Minneapolis and Baltimore have similar stories. St. Louis—one of the most dangerous cities in America—has lost so many cops that there’s a seven-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide pile of uniforms from outgoing officers at police headquarters called “Mount Exodus.”

And in San Francisco, just across the bay from Richmond, the police department has seen 50 officers out of a force of fewer than 2,000 take off for smaller, suburban departments, according to Lieutenant Tracy McCray, the head of the city’s police union.

A big part of what’s prompting police to leave America’s big cities is the perception the public has turned against them. A 2020 poll showed that only seven percent of police officers would advise their kids to go into law enforcement. Eighty-three percent of those who wouldn’t recommend it cited “lack of respect for the profession.” 

The shift in police officers’ perception of how they’re viewed by the public happened gradually—starting with the first Black Lives Matter protests of 2013, after the shooting death of Travyon Martin and the acquittal of the man who killed him, George Zimmerman. There were more BLM demonstrations: in 2014, following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. Then came the 2015-2016 Democratic presidential primaries, in which BLM played a prominent role. 

And then, in late May 2020, George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, and it was caught on video. The incident ignited protests across the country—a “racial reckoning”—and, soon after, reform.

In some cities, including Portland, Oregon and Columbus, Ohio, local governments set up police review boards with the power to subpoena police records and oversee day-to-day policing. States including IllinoisMinnesota, and Oregon tightened use-of-force standards. New Mexico and Minnesota required officers to intervene if another officer was using what might be deemed unreasonable physical force.

It became popular—even fashionable—for politicians in progressive circles to flaunt their anti-police credentials. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, the city council resolved to “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department.” (They reversed course after crime surged.) In New York, after winning the Democratic congressional primary, now-Rep. Jamaal Bowman tweeted: “Police officers have sworn to protect and serve the institution of white supremacy.”

A month later, the ACLU tweeted that “policing is rotten to its core” and “has always been a racist institution in the United States.” Read More > at The Free Press

Honey bees are not in peril. These bees are. – Want to save the bees? First, throw out most of what you know about them.

What do you know about bees? That they produce honey? That they live in a hive? That they swarm?

Well, I have news: These characteristics don’t actually describe most bees in the US. Of the roughly 4,000 native species, not a single one produces true honey. Not one! Most of them live alone. Most of them have no queen.

The bees that many people are familiar with are honey beesApis mellifera, a nonnative species that Americans brought over from Europe centuries ago. Beekeepers manage them like any other farm animal, to produce honey and pollinate crops.

European honey bees are arguably the world’s most famous insect. They’re honey bees! Fuzzy, buzzing, honey-making honey bees! And they deserve at least some of this attention. About one-third of the food we eat comes from plants that honey bees pollinate, and they face several threats, which has fueled a national campaign to “save the bees.”

But all of that attention on honey bees has, some ecologists argue, overshadowed their native counterparts: the wild bees. They’re an incredible bunch, found in all sorts of colors and sizes, and they’re important pollinators, too — better, by some measures, than honey bees. On the whole, native bees are also at a much greater risk of extinction, in part, because of the proliferation of European honey bees.

Honey bees are ultimately not at risk of disappearing. So perhaps, then, all this time we’ve been saving the wrong bees.

The bee that many Americans adore was carried here on wooden ships 400 years ago. At the time, US farms were small and pollinated by wild insects. Settlers used the new bees (newbies?) for candle wax and, of course, honey.

But in the following centuries, as farms spread and native pollinators declined, honey bees became big business as commercial pollinators. Conveniently, the bees pollinate a wide range of crops and they live in colonies that can be trucked across the country, arriving at farms when plants are in bloom.

Today, the US has nearly 3 million colonies of honey bees, amounting to tens of billions of bees. They pollinate roughly $15 billion worth of crops each year, from California almonds to zucchini.

If native bees aren’t like honey bees, what are they like? Most of them are solitary and nest in the ground. Most don’t have queens. They don’t do dances to find honey. And none of them produce the kind of honey we eat (bumblebees do make a honey-like substance from nectar, though in much smaller quantities).

They’re also a diverse bunch. Some are just a couple of millimeters long and look like gnats, while others — bumblebees and carpenter bees, for example — are longer than an inch. Many bees consume nectar and pollen, like honey bees; others eat oil!

As a group, wild bees are considered incredibly important pollinators, especially for home gardens and crops that honey bees can’t pollinate. Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, for example, require “buzz pollination;” bees have to vibrate their bodies to shake the pollen free — a behavior that honey bees can’t do (bumblebees and some other native species can). Read More > at Vox

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PG&E to begin work on E. Cypress Monday January 23

Starting on Monday, January 23rd PG&E will be working on relocation of their gas line on East Cypress Road. The limit of the work is generally between Knightsen Avenue to Jersey Island Road. The hours of work will be from 7:30am-4pm.

PG&E will have a full complement of traffic control teams on site during their work. The public should expect some delays in traffic flow as a result of their work.

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City of Brentwood 75th Birthday – Saturday, January 21

Saturday, January 21
2 PM to 5 PM

Brentwood Community Center
35 Oak Street, Brentwood 94513

Join the City of Brentwood for a community birthday party celebrating Brentwood’s 75th year of incorporation. Bring the family out for games, cupcakes, and the opening of the time capsule, and learn about the history of Brentwood.

For more info press here

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Chinese New Year – Year of the Rabbit

2023 is a year of the Water Rabbit, starting from January 22nd, 2023 (Chinese New Year), and ending on February 9th, 2024 (Chinese New Year’s Eve). The sign of Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture. 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope.

Celebrate Chinese New Year in the Delta by checking out one of these community events:

  • Chinese New Year Culture Association Sacramento – February 4: Join the Year of Rabbit celebration at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. Learn more on the Association’s website.
  • Locke Chinese New Year Celebration – February 11: This annual event takes place on Main Street in Locke. Enjoy a lion dance, martial art demonstrations, flower arrangements, painting, music, and more! View the Locke Foundation’s Winter Newsletter (PDF) for more information.
  • Stockton Chinese New Years Parade and Festival – March 5: The 2023 Parade and Festival will be held at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum at Micke Grove on March 5. Get all the details on the Stockton Chinese New Years Parade and Festival Facebook page.
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Jan. 7 Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Meeting Continued to Jan. 28 at 9am.

On January 7, 2023, City Council held a special meeting to consider the proposed Term Sheet for the Base Reuse Project at the Former Concord Naval Weapons Station. The Council continued consideration of the Term Sheet to Saturday, January 28, 2023 at 9am. The meeting will be held at the Concord City Council Chamber located at 1950 Parkside Dr. 

Doors to the Council Chamber will open at 8 am. 

Below are the Powerpoint presentations from the January 7 meeting including a link to watch the presentation video. 

The video will also be posted to the City’s Youtube channel. 

1. January 7, 2023 Term Sheet Presentation

2. January 7, 2023 CNWS Vision Presentation

3. January 7, 2023 Presentation Video 

If you have any questions, please email Reuse.Project@cityofconcord.org or call 925-671-3001.

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