A move to reform Hogzilla

Condctors on the gravy train: CalPERs' board members.

A Republican Assemblyman has introduced a bill that would change the balance of power on the labor-friendly and fiscally irresponsible board of CalPERS. Much needed. The state pension system may bankrupt Stockton again.

And bankrupt cities up and down the state as well.

“Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), would add two members to the board that oversees the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, CalPERS,” reports the L.A. Times. “It would also reshape the qualifications for three of the existing 13 positions on the board, either by requiring additional expertise or by limiting participation from those with a connection to public employee unions.”

Additional expertise — as in an advanced grasp of finances, which has been unbelievably lacking at times, considering CalPERS has the nation’s largest pension fund. One of its chiefs responsible for this billion-dollar fund was a union glaser, for instance. That’s one reason CalPERS could urge cities during the dot.com boom to sweeten pensions beyond all affordability.

And then there’s the pro-labor hackery. A pension management system shouldn’t be political at all. It should not lobby to sweeten pensions. A pension management system should manage pensions. Bringing balance to the board is a must. Dems will probably reject the reform.


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The California “megaflood.”


We’ve alluded to the flood of 1861-62 as the extreme example of this region’s floods. Now an article in Scientific American really paints a clear and terrifying picture of what Nature does every 100 or 200 years.

“This enormous pulse of water from the rain flowed down the slopes and across the landscape, overwhelming streams and rivers, creating a huge inland sea in California’s enormous Central Valley—a region at least 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Water covered farmlands and towns, drowning people, horses and cattle, and washing away houses, buildings, barns, fences and bridges. The water reached depths up to 30 feet …”

I am familiar with this history, which is a sort of bedrock to my conception of the Valley. A hundred years earlier, when the second party of Spanish explorers climbed Mt. Diablo to look into the Valley, they saw a giant inland sea. None of the plumbing or levees man has installed is equal to a flood of this magnitude. When, not if, it occurs again, people will simply have to yeild, move to higher ground and wait for the waters to recede.


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The gravy train

The self-enrichment society that public employees have become wants to treat its members to another holiday: a day off so they can vote.

Hence Assemblyman Chris Holden’s AB 542.

Joel Fox nails it:

“Why should public workers be the only ones who get Election Day off? Don’t private sector workers also have to balance work and children and errands and other activities along with their voting obligations?”

The political motive — besides the obvious financial support unions give lawmakers — is to drive more Dems to the polls, Fox says. As if that needs doing in California.

The only remedy for those who would make public employees an even more privileged class is for lawmakers like Holden to be spanked (figuratively) by citizens who think government employees should serve the public first, and not themselves.


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The cray-cray official “drought”

Bad news: most of San Joaquin County is still experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

What we see

Yes, according to government experts we’re still suffereing drought: despite incessant, drenching rains almost twice our average, despite flooded streets and dams spilling over, despite rivers and creeks rising to the danger stage, despite the real possibility of levees failing and vast flooding …

Abnormally dry.

What they see

I read somewhere that scientists have created around 250 definitions for “drought.” That explains a lot. If a word has 250 meanings, it has no meaning. Government can stretch the term to fit its agenda. The earth could experience Noah’s flood II but by some tortured definition, it would still be a drought.

“Drought can best be thought of as a condition of water shortage for a particular user in a particular location,” the drought background page on the state’s website offers more reasonably.

I still disagree. If, say, a “user” moves to the desert pictured above (around Scottsdale, Az.) is that a drought? Should “users’” demands define a drought with no natural metric? If so, then a society that believes in growth beyond its sustainable resources will exist in perpetual drought. Even if it rains.

These guys beat the drought drum, then drive home in heavy rain through flooded streets past danger-stage rivers to tune their TVs to the news about the Oroville dam. And if their nearest levees breaks and they find themselves sloshing around in water up to their knees, they’ll still declare it a drought. Becasue they have twisted the word out of all sensible meaning.

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It’s a rough road out there

Dale Morgan, the bicycling nomad who passed through Stockton recently, sends a brief e-mail.

“Last night I was hit by a hit and run driver.”

Unhappy trails: Dale Morgan's wrecked trailer

“My bike and trailer are busted up.”

And that was all he said about the accident. No mention of any personal injuries. Still, the loss of the trailer is a bad blow, as it is the only place Morgan can store his bivvy sack and the modest other belongings he needs for life on the road.

Morgan reminded me of another free-spirited character I met on Perhsing Avenue, the wandering muleteer John Sears.


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The Sherman’s long goodbye

The Sherman is probably/maybe about to leave Stockton.


Ship of fools: The Sherman

As reported here.

Many things about the historic ferry are hazy. The old owner won’t say who the new owners are. The new owners don’t return calls. I’m also skeptical the “Chief” William Bills was every more than an opportunist attatching himself to the boat when proposed legislation would have enabled it to become a casino.

I believe Bills is chief of nothing. He’s a Filipino with forged documents and fake IDs. Read this.

No matter how deep I dug into The Sherman — and I dug deep — there was always more to expose. On my next trip to Las Vegas, I planned to visit the home of the secretive owners and see if I could better ID them and learn their plans.

But I guess that’s unnecessary now. The Sherman will be towed off … probably/maybe. The lesson, if there is one, is that people who wind up with old Delta vessels ususally have more ambition thatn capital. And sometimes more ambition than ethics. Good leaders see them coming. Then-mayor Anthony Silva did not.


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Trump’s got nothing

Media preview

Elect a man who never elaborated a single, detailed policy during the campaign, and what do you get? Nothing but pointless drama.

Here’s today’s New York Times:

“… Republican lawmakers and Mr. Trump have yet to deliver on any of the sweeping legislation they promised. Efforts to come up with a replacement for the health care lawhave been stymied by disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. The same is true for a proposed overhaul of the tax code.

“The large infrastructure bill that both Democrats and Mr. Trump were eager to pursue has barely been mentioned …. Even a simple emergency spending bill that the Trump administration promised weeks ago — which was expected to include a proposal for his wall on the Mexican border — has not materialized …

“At this point in Barack Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Washington, Congress had passed a stimulus bill totaling nearly $1 trillion to address the financial crisis, approved a measure preventing pay discrimination, expanded a children’s health insurance program, and begun laying the groundwork for major health care and financial regulation bills. President George W. Bush came into office with a congressional blueprint for his signature education act, No Child Left Behind.”

Utter disenchantment with politics and institutions is a self-defeating surrender. Stocktonians saw it with Anthony Silva and they’re seeing it with Trump. Yes, American governance is flawed, and sometimes badly so. But things still lurch towards tolerable results — unless you get so disgusted, or so filled with contempt for the rival party, you throw in a monkey wrench. Then all you get are charlatans who waste precious time.

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The bank that grew with Stockton

Here’s a postcard showing the Bank of Italy’s location in Stockton. It’s the building flying the American flag across Hunter Square from the courthouse.

The Bank moved into the former Commercial and Savings Bank building in 1926. And changed its name to the Bank of America in 1930.

The last one is of the Bank of America in the distance of a 1950s Stockton streetscape. Note the big neon BANK OF AMERICA sign.

Note also what a vibrant downtown it was. Undoubtedly Bank of America provided some of the financial lifeblood.

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A newsroom Valentine

The Record’s newsroom got a musical surprise this morning when The Stockton Portsmen stopped by to croon “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” for reporter Lori Gilbert.

Amusingly, the barbershop quartet caught Gilbert on the phone in mid-interview. If you listen closely at the start of their song, you can hear Gilbert politely ask her caller, “Can you hold on a minute?”

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Making L.A. cooler

Heat culprit: asphalt on Arch Road.

Not cooler as in Ray-Bans; cooler as in,  ”reduc(ing) the average temperature in the metropolis by 3 degrees over the next 20 years,” the L.A. Times reports.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has vowed to do it.

And it’s doable, experts think. City “heat islands” are built environments. They can be built differently. Not only by planting trees (a no-brainer). Traditional asphalt, which absorbs the the sun’s heat, and warms the air in return, can be replaced with “cool pavements” which reflect heat — interestingly, without creating glare.

“In the summer of 2015, the city’s Bureau of Street Surfaces tested one of these cool pavements at the Balboa Sports Complex parking lot in Encino. The new surface was approximately 11 degrees cooler than regular pavement in the mid-afternoon,” the Times reports.

The bad news: lawns also help. All that drought-tolerant xeriscape, not so much.

Still, interesting. Wonder if the solution is applicable to Stockton with its annual string of 100-degree summer days.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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