- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

May 29

Vallejo Times -Herald: Just four more wins for the Warriors to climb out of futility

It has been 40 years. Yes, four full decades. Four-fifths of a half century, since the Golden State Warriors have been in the NBA Finals.

That is a marvelous achievement, but, of course, the job is not done. The Warriors now must face a team in the finals that has as its leader the man many consider the world’s best basketball player, LeBron James.

But because the Warriors and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers won their respective series early, we have a week to think about that matchup. And we will, plenty. But right now it’s time to celebrate the excellence that the Warriors have given to their irrationally loyal following.

While the Warriors have had a magical season this year, for most of those four fruitless decades the team has been synonymous with futility. In fact, at one point it suffered through a dozen straight seasons without making the playoffs. Through it all, the crowds kept coming. Even in those horrible years, Golden State was among the top drawing home teams in the league.

The Warriors’ conference finals victory against the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena was, indeed, a gift to those fans. Not only did their team win, they got to see it in person.

There can be little doubt that the seminal moment in the modern resurgence of the once-proud franchise came in 2010 when clueless and detached owner Chris Cohan sold the team for top dollar to an ownership group headed by Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber.

Lacob and Gruber immediately took bold steps, hiring a front office and consultation team that included the likes of former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Jerry West.

They hired Mark Jackson as head coach. Jackson had been a star in the league, but had never been a head coach. His tenure changed the expectations for the fans by making it to the playoffs twice, but he was dismissed after last year. Ironically, he was on the broadcast team covering Thursday night’s game at Oracle.

To replace Jackson the owners hired Steve Kerr, again a guy who had been a star in the league, but who had never coached. The results of that judgment speak for themselves.

The road here was not always pleasant. After trading crowd favorite Monta Ellis for the oft-injured Andrew Bogut, Lacob was booed unmercifully by fans at an Oracle event. But a player like Bogut was the missing piece. It turned out that Lacob and company knew a little more about basketball than those booing fans. Imagine that.

We have to admit, this ride with the Warriors has been fun. Now, all we want from them is four more wins.

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June 2

Editorial: Pricey water bills might finally get point across

Although new urban water conservation regulations went into effect Monday, they really won’t have any effect for a few weeks. There will be no impact until the bills arrive with the surcharges for exceeding “water budgets.”

At that point, the drought may become real for the millions of Californians who still haven’t caught on yet. Some people just need a hit in the wallet to pay attention.

It may not do it. It depends on how bad the bigger bills hurt. Some people may just go, “Ehh, that’s not too bad,” and carry on as before.

It’s likely the finger-pointing will become more pronounced. Blaming and shaming will become more and more acceptable. Lawyers will become involved. Fortunately the deadline for introducing bills in the Legislature has passed, or who knows what might get proposed in our whacky Capitol.

Those routes certainly are easier than coming to grips with the complexities of the state’s water system and the responsibilities of all Californians to keep it functioning.

The vast majority of the people in this state have no local water supply to speak of, but up to this point the implications of that haven’t sunk in. When the bulk of your water is coming from hundreds of miles away, you have an obligation to think about where it’s coming from and the people it has to flow past to get to you, but there’s been no reason to do so. Turn the tap, and the water comes out.

Maybe turn the tap and your bill goes up will make a difference.

Most of us haven’t done that much to conserve, and as Tuesday’s front-page story on the free water audits offered by Cal Water points out, even people who have taken steps can find more ways to save.

Of course, Tuesday’s paper also had a story about people adding pools, with the rationalization that they use no more water than a lawn, once they’re filled. Maybe so, but if you’re digging a hole and filling it with water these days, clearly the reality of the drought hasn’t sunk in.

Things aren’t the same. That’s the point. They probably shouldn’t ever go back to being the same, because we’ve really been asking this place we live to do the impossible: to make dry places lush.

California’s ecosystems have been paying for that for years. Now, our bills are coming due. Let’s learn from that.

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June 2

Contra Costa Times: California lawmakers must call a cab, not a chauffeur

It’s time for state lawmakers to learn how to call a cab rather than expecting personal chauffeur service on the taxpayers’ dime.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the state Senate, in the aftermath of a spate of drunken-driving arrests of legislators in recent years, has hired two part-time employees to provide 24-hour ride service for its members.

The newspaper quotes an unnamed source who turned down the $2,532-per-month part-time job and a legislative chief of staff who said the purpose of the new workers is to curb legislators’ drunken driving.

After the story broke, Debbie Manning, the Senate’s chief sergeant at arms, issued a statement saying the program actually was designed to provide in-building security, refueling of Senate vehicles, transporting senators and staff and escorting them to their vehicles after dark.

That sounds like after-the-fact damage control. It seems that existing Senate security staff already would have provided in-building security and certainly could escort lawmakers to their vehicles after dark. As for the other tasks, let legislators pump their own gas and drive themselves.

Of course, if they’ve been drinking, they shouldn’t get behind the wheel. But if they need a ride, it would be more cost-effective to teach them how to call a taxi or download the Uber app. It’s time they learned to use this new-fangled technology.

After all, we’re not talking about the president or the governor. We’re talking about state senators. And also members of the Assembly, which long has had a ride service to and from the airport and Sacramento events, but not 24 hours a days.

Money in Sacramento is scarce. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon had to eliminate 39 Senate positions in November. If members of Congress can hail their own cabs - and many do - certainly state legislators can do the same. Even those who tie one on.

Sadly, far too many tippling lawmakers have been caught driving in the past five years. Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, was the most recent, pleading guilty in December to a “wet reckless” charge. Before that, then-Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach, and then-Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, pleaded no contest to DUI charges.

And Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, was stopped in a state car after leaving a downtown Concord bar in 2012, police said, failed three field sobriety tests and had a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level. A Contra Costa judge dismissed a drunken-driving charge after his trial ended in a hung jury.

These lawmakers should seek help for their drinking problems. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to enable their behavior with free rides.

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June 2

Riverside Press-Enterprise: Ontario airport transfer makes modest progress

How embarrassing. The cities of Los Angeles and Ontario still have not negotiated a transfer of the Ontario International Airport. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti long has supported transferring ownership of the airport, while virtually every other regional party is waiting for something meaningful to happen.

Last week, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1455 in a 75-0 vote, authorizing Ontario to issue bonds to finance an acquisition of the airport. The bill currently is in the state Senate Rules Committee awaiting assignment for consideration.

“This bill is the result of members representing the Inland Empire and Los Angeles working together to come to a solution,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino, in a statement. “We are hopeful that this bill will move the negotiation process forward and bring about the timely transfer of the airport.”

Rather than engaging in substantive, good-faith negotiations, the two cities unfortunately have chosen to engage in a costly, protracted legal squabble.

The rationale for transferring the airport is simple: the city of Los Angeles does not have the incentive to run ONT well, while the locals do. Located 40 miles from Los Angeles City Hall, ONT is by any measure uncompetitive, costly and underutilized.

“A solution can be reached only through an approach that respects both interests,” said bill co-author Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, in a statement. “The introduction of this legislation is to be a vehicle for a mutually acceptable agreement on Ontario Airport.”

To this point, it has been over a year since Mr. Garcetti signaled his support for a transfer.

“I don’t want to make a single dollar off of Ontario. … Let’s see if we can make that transfer happen,” said Mr. Garcetti in a July 2014 interview on KPCC/FM 89.3 public radio.

In September, he said he was “looking creatively to our friends in the Inland Empire and the eastern part of Los Angeles County to see what we can do to transfer Ontario to local ownership.”

At some point these words must translate to action. We urge the state Senate quickly to consider and pass AB1455 and Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it. Then Los Angeles and Ontario should conclude the transfer at supersonic speed.

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June 3

San Bernardino County Sun: Legislators should stand up for those with developmental disabilities

Sometimes, a glass half full doesn’t cut it. That’s the case for the state budget’s progress vis-a-vis the Lanterman Coalition’s call for a 10 percent hike in funding for services for those with developmental disabilities.

That quick funding boost, as we’ve detailed in previous editorials, is necessary to stabilize a system that - due to years of declining support - is “On the Brink of Collapse,” as a report from the Association of Regional Center Agencies is titled. Since mid-2011, 435 residential homes for adults with developmental disabilities have closed, a loss of nearly 2,300 beds.

The Assembly Budget Committee has offered a half-measure: a 5 percent increase in funding the coming budget year and another 5 percent in 2016-17. That adds up to 10 percent, all right, but over two years rather than in 2015-16.

Worse, the committee called for the funding boost to kick in on Jan. 1, 2016, instead of next month. That would mean, most likely, that more service providers will go broke and close before the fiscal cavalry shows up.

That’s better than the Senate Budget Committee’s proposal, which called for a 10 percent hike, but only for specified services for the developmentally disabled: supported living, supported employment, respite and client rights advocacy. Omitted were important categories such as group homes, day programs and workshops.

“The Lanterman Coalition supports the Assembly’s approach of stabilizing all parts of the service system uniformly,” wrote Tony Anderson, the umbrella group’s president, in a letter thanking the subcommittees that recommended increased funding, while noting that the coalition “continues to stand behind its plea for a 10 percent rate and regional center operations increase in July 2015, a time frame for systemic funding reform, and 5 percent annual increases until the implementation of funding reforms.”

The editorial board continues to support that call - realizing at the same time that, even if it isn’t enough to forestall further declines, the Assembly’s proposal of 5 percent in 2015-16 is as good as it’s likely to get this year. If so, those increases should kick in July 1, not in January.

But the real obstacle here is not the Legislature. It’s Gov. Jerry Brown.

The governor, in his January budget proposal and in his May revision, offered no increase in rates for services for the developmentally disabled. His fiscal conservatism and determination not to fund new programs is admirable in general, but his refusal thus far to restore lost funding for this vulnerable population that has nowhere to turn other than state support is not.

If Brown refuses to budge in budget negotiations, the Legislature should call him on it. After all, 24 of the 40 state senators and 41 of 80 Assembly members have signed onto a February letter by Sen. Jim Beall calling for a 10 percent across-the-board funding hike.

With majority support in both houses, the Legislature should include at least the Assembly’s funding increase in the budget it sends to Brown - even if he doesn’t agree to it - and tell him to veto it if he’s determined to deny those with developmental disabilities what they need and deserve.

That would be a difficult veto for the governor to explain to his constituents.

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June 2

Santa Maria Times: Getting Ready for the Worst

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, usually recognized for its miserable performance after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nonetheless continues to offer advice to the general public about the need to be prepared.

With that in mind, the Santa Maria Fire Department is offering a Community Emergency Response Team course. It’s free to the public, but more about this offering in a moment.

Back to FEMA, whose website lists the six major disasters every American should be prepared for, but generally is not.

Not every American faces all six of the major disaster risks. For example, folks in the Midwest don’t need to board up against a category 3 hurricane - but should be prepared for a category 3 tornado, which is a frequent visitor in many Midwestern communities, often with catastrophic results.

FEMA’s six major disasters demanding your attention are - earthquake, wildfire, flooding, hurricane, tornado and snowstorm.

Perhaps you noticed something particularly unnerving about that list - Californians need to be ready for at least five of them, and although rare, tornadoes have touched down in this state.

California is one of this nation’s truly diverse states, both in terms of the ethnic/cultural makeup, and in geographical variety. We have more than 1,100 miles of ocean coastline. We have a spider web of earthquake faults that run beneath virtually every square mile of the state. We have vast, forested wilderness made more vulnerable to wildfires by drought. We have hillsides that can come sliding down after heavy rains. We have mountain ranges in which hikers and campers can be caught in a sudden snowstorm. And we have an occasional tornado.

We have it all, baby.

That is why it might be wise to book your seat at one of the Fire Department’s CERTs courses. …

The course teaches the basics in disaster preparation and management. You learn what you may need in the way of supplies for specific kinds of disasters. You will get a glimpse of search-and-rescue techniques, and you will come away knowing a lot more about disaster psychology and how terrorism can be a factor.

What the Fire Department folks hope to accomplish is a greater public awareness of the need for planning, having a strategy for you and your family, and how to build a disaster survival kit that is unique to your needs and those of your family.

Once you start thinking of terms of being better prepared, you begin to realize there’s a lot more to it than simply ducking and running. One reason the casualties are so much higher in a certain disaster compared to something similar elsewhere is the level of preparation for those caught in the bulls-eye. There are things you need to plan for and do before, during and after a disaster strikes.

Unfortunately, Californians have to be ready for it all. Survival techniques for different disasters aren’t that far removed from each other. The underlying theme is survival, and those who’ve been in crucial disaster situations know that while you may be worried about the roof on your house and your SUV in the garage, the main thing to worry about is staying alive and safe.

With any luck, you may never have to put your disaster course training to work. However, keeping your fingers crossed for an unlikely miracle just isn’t enough.

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