Rants & Raves for the Week of September 13th, 2010
Meg Whitman is whining about the new California Teachers Association ad, which exposes how her proposed spending cuts would devastate our education system – and her lawyer actually threatened to sue any TV station that runs the ad. Whitman’s lawyer claims the ad is “slander,” but in fact, the ad exposes the the ugly truth that Whitman doesn’t want you to know – if she’s elected governor, more than $7 billion would be cut from education. The figure is based on the fact that Whitman is proposing to cut $15 billion from the budget, and more than 50% of the budget goes to education. No matter what Whitman says about education being a top priority, there’s just no way to cut that much from the budget without affecting our schools, colleges and universities, which have already been ravaged Schwarzenegger’s cuts.
The economic crisis is taking a heavy toll on the state, casting more and more Californians into poverty. According to a new report the U.S. Census Bureau the poverty rate in California soared to 15.3 percent in 2009—which means that 5.6 million Californians are living in poverty. The poverty rate in California is well above the national average of 14.3 percent as this state has been one of the hardest hit unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that a study the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 3.3 million people nationwide were kept out of poverty unemployment benefits. The federal stimulus both increased benefits $25 a week and extended benefits to help the long-term unemployed. The importance of unemployment insurance cannot be understated when it is the only bulwark states have from keeping millions more of the jobless from falling over the edge into poverty. State leaders take note—unemployment benefits keep California above the poverty line.
A recent LA Times article highlighted California’s shortsighted and irresponsible plan to make a quick buck selling off 11 major public buildings to private investors. The whole debacle began last year with AB X4 22 (Evans), a bill authorizing the Department of General Services to sell the buildings through a complex real estate transaction known as a “sale/leaseback” agreement. In this context, a sale/leaseback directs the current property owner (the state) to sell these buildings to a third party (private investor), who then becomes the new property owner from which the state leases office space. However, this one-time infusion of cash comes at a very high price: a Legislative Analyst’s Office report warned that “…the rising cost of leasing the facilities would lead to an increase in the state’s structural problem…the cost differential would increase to over $200 million annually in later years.” So, thanks to this plan, expect even worse budget deficits in the future and even deeper cuts to our already devastated public sector.
A search for Meg Whitman on Yelp doesn’t produce any user reviews, but Whitman certainly got an earful from when visiting Yelp headquarters in San Francisco this week. Yelp employee Susan McKay grilled the candidate on her ad featuring Bill Clinton in a 1992 debate with Jerry Brown saying: “Why are you refusing to remove an ad that has been proven to be false and therefore misleading?” “Why would you knowingly and purposely run a campaign that is based on lies?” Good question, Susan! But given that Whitman has now donated a record-breaking amount of money to her own campaign, I guess she doesn’t have to answer to anyone but herself.
In a huge victory for the campaign to clean up our ports, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder ruled in favor of the Los Angeles Clean Truck program last week. This ruling removes the legal hurdles that have prevented the Port of Los Angeles from enforcing all provisions of one of the most effective diesel reduction programs in the country. Los Angeles’ EPA award-winning Clean Trucks Program has so far parked thousands of dirty diesel rigs and put 6,600 new clean vehicles on the road — all while creating thousands of green trucking jobs. The Clean Ports Act of 2010 would help more ports follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles, giving local communities more power to hold the trucking industry accountable for cleaner air and fairer labor practices. Take action to support the Clean Ports Act – click here to send a letter to Congress today.
The California Occupation Safety and Health Agency (Cal/OSHA) made history Thursday adopting the nation’s first workplace safety rule directed against Bronchiolitis Obliterans—a condition more commonly known as “popcorn lung.” Yes, the one caused microwave popcorn, but it’s far more serious than it sounds, as workers afflicted lose their ability to breathe normally and often require a lung transplant. For years, workplace safety researchers and experts have known that exposure to the common chemical flavoring diacetyl is to blame for this irreversible disease, and yet, no state or federal agency has addressed the hazard. Enter Cal/OSHA, who this week took final action on a 2006 petition from the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Western States Council and the California Labor Federation to protect workers in food manufacturing and food flavor manufacturing plants from exposure to diacetyl and similar substances. The rule requires several common-sense safety measures and will protect hundreds of workers from this terrible condition.