The Stockton Record: Stockton City Council's censure of Mayor Anthony Silva raises a new batch of questions
The censure of Mayor Anthony Silva is complete.
Three pages worth of "You've Been a Bad Boy, Anthony" were approved by the expected 5-2 vote, with the mayor himself and Vice Mayor Paul Canepa dissenting.
The whole circus really prompts more questions than it provides answers. With that in mind, we'll pose 12 questions for citizens — and council members — to consider:
Does Silva want to be mayor or public information officer? It was an inappropriate move to release the name of the presumed new city manager to one television station before an actual agreement was reached.
But, City Council, shouldn't you really be concerned that you were about to hire a city manager with a checkered past?
Since the five council members' concern seems to be Silva breaking Brown Act rules, can all of them truthfully look in the mirror and say they've never discussed "confidential matters" with the public or media?
Does Mayor Silva realize that many — most? — of the things he demonizes as political foes or others out to get him are actually friendly fire from his own immature actions?
Now that the censure dog-and-pony show is over, are things going to get better? Or will the juvenile sniping in City Hall continue unabated?
Will the council's fractured factions combine to put their efforts into things on which they agree — the need for jobs, public safety, implementing Measure A, etc.?
Why was non-stop drama and controversy missing from the Stockton Boys & Girls Club when other people were in leadership roles there? Will the mayor just step aside and do the job he was elected to do — and not hold on stubbornly to the job he recently supposedly left?
Just a few blocks away, and even with many delicate issues and disagreements, why is it that the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors is able to conduct government and business without nonsense and acrimony? Could the council members — including those whose goal it is to become county supervisors — take a field trip to a board meeting and maybe learn something?
What will the censure and likely continued spats do to the rekindled city manager search?
Is the mayor really so naive that he has to counsel his followers that "people are up to no good" in trying to get candidates ready to run against him next election? Hello, that's politics, at every level.
Do those who oppose the mayor — on the council and in the public — realize they actually could be helping his cause, and his political future? He's playing this "rage against the machine" script perfectly, and many are buying it.
If you're an employer, looking to relocate, does the action of some leaders make you pause?
Disagreements among elected bodies are anything but new. Sometimes they are beneficial. You don't necessarily want your leaders to consider important governmental matters in lock-step fashion.
But too much of the friction at City Hall these days seems contrived and preventable.
We'd suggest, for the benefit of Stockton citizens, that the council members have a little gift exchange this holiday season.
They should buy each other mirrors.
Napa Valley Register: Legal exposure gets obscured in passion of medical marijuana debate
The city of Napa witnessed yet another game of medical marijuana tug-of-war play out in council chambers last week.
Advocates made points. Critics made others. Few opened themselves to new viewpoints and the council heard the same impassioned arguments for and against medical marijuana that have been made in front of them for years.
It was disappointing in so much as the pros and cons of medical marijuana were not the issue at hand.
The question in front of the council wasn't whether medical marijuana is a good or bad thing for Napa. It wasn't even about whether a Napa-based marijuana dispensary is appropriate. Those questions have already been asked and answered by the city of Napa. It's how we came to have a dispensary ordinance in the first place.
Last week's vote was about how vulnerable the city's ordinance was to a federal legal challenge. Staff and the city attorney say they believe it left the city too exposed to serious litigation.
In a 3-2 vote, the council agreed.
Too many in attendance made the argument about something else. Marijuana proponents, by and large, made their pleas to an already sympathetic council. While many opponents spoke not to the legal issue but to the dangers of dispensaries themselves, dangers the city had already spent years working to minimize in the adopted ordinance.
This issue isn't as simple as a thumbs-up-or-down for medical marijuana.
Whether you are for or against improved local access, it is important to remember that this vote was about legal vulnerability and not morality or the risk of increased criminal activity.
Some public comment did acknowledge the true issue at hand and were in fact pleading with the council to test that legal water. And to their credit, councilmembers were weighing the legal element most heavily in their comments and their votes.
Too often in local debate, the mechanics of the issue gets obscured and forgotten in the roar of ancillary causes.
This was evident in the Planning Commission's approach to this same dispensary ban. The planners, who voted 3-2 last month not to repeal the dispensary ordinance, essentially ignored the legal issue presented to them by the city attorney in favor of support for medical marijuana itself.
Multiple commissioners encouraged the City Council to "lead the way" on standing up against the threat of federal intervention.
The council decided the possibility of picking a fight with the U.S. government wasn't in the best interest of the city of Napa.
The medical marijuana issue itself, however, isn't going away. Polls throughout the country show public acceptance of marijuana use, especially for medicinal purposes, is on the rise and the connected legal issues continue to evolve.
Medical marijuana questions will be put before the city of Napa again. When next such an issue is raised locally, let's make sure the details get their proper due throughout the public process and are not drowned out the way they were through this one.
The Modesto Bee: Amazon should let its fancy (and drones) take flight in Stanislaus County
Visionary businessman Jeff Bezos was on "60 Minutes" last week, and he caused a stir when he said that within four years his company, Amazon, might be delivering products via drones.
That's right. Drones. These are benign drones, working drones, delivery drones.
It's a future Bezos, whose last big idea turned into a huge Internet company, apparently already sees clearly. We think Stanislaus County has a role in Bezos' future. In fact, we've got the perfect homebase for Amazon Prime Air. Call us the Drone-a-Zone. Drone-topia. Drone Central.
Why? Serendipity. Amazon is already on the ground in Stanislaus County, west of Patterson near Interstate 5. And so are the drones.
NASA conducts occasional experiments at the former Crows Landing Naval Air Station, often using unmanned flying vehicles, i.e., drones.
That's the same Crows Landing the county envisions as the business park of the future. Developer Gerry Kamilos spent nearly six years trying to turn the 1,500-acre World War II-era facility into a job-generating business park. He staked his plan on trains.
But Patterson residents didn't relish the thought of 50 or 60 freighters a day passing through their community. With a bad economy, he was finally forced to give up his plan in 2012. But the county hasn't been motionless. "We've been meeting once a month, talking over West Side issues and Crows Landing for over a year," said Keith Boggs, the assistant executive officer of Stanislaus County and the man most involved in the Crows Landing project.
Patterson city leaders are on the ground floor for an industrial park that will be about four miles south of the city.
City Manager Rod Butler said the entities are "working really closely together." As we noted last month, the county has contracted with AECOM to produce an environmental impact report so when a master developer is hired (perhaps by 2016) an acceptable plan can be implemented quickly. This time, the county is making the site's airfield more central in its planning.
"One of the things we're required to do is to maintain some aviation component," Boggs said. "We've got a 5,300-foot runway. . We're really excited about what this can be.
"This is where Amazon can swoop in. Some drones need runways. The company built its "fulfillment center" — one of the most modern logistics facilities in the world — from the ground up in Patterson. It's filled with robotics and computers and allows Amazon to ship tens of thousands of objects to customers every day. So, if Amazon has a major facility a short drive from a drone-ready facility, why wouldn't it take advantage of the obvious synergy?
Bezos knows his business best, and Crows Landing might not play any role.
But Patterson on Wednesday night annexed more land to build even more warehouses adjacent to I-5. One thing the city failed to do, however, was account for how it will build roads to accommodate a whole lot more truck traffic. Instead of the 95 cents per square foot the county charges, the city will charge only 7 cents. That could hamstring any efforts to beef up interchanges or surface streets to accommodate more trucks and the cars of thousands of workers.
Perhaps the city is already counting on drones to keep things moving. Probable traffic congestion aside, Patterson is perfectly positioned to play a significant role in a future that will almost certainly see drones become a part of our daily lives. That's not to minimize the difficulties — the FAA has yet to develop rules, drones aren't self-directed, anything with eight spinning blades can be dangerous, etc.
A recent editorial said that expanded use of commercial drones is inevitable.
"So is the development of Crows Landing.
"The Crows Landing project is western United States significant," said Boggs. "If you can hit five single states and another country in a single day-trip, you've got something."
The airstrip makes it even more attractive — especially to someone putting wings on his dreams.
Torrance Daily Breeze: L.A.'s mural experiment might not be a pretty picture
With its vote to allow murals on single-family homes on a trial basis in a few parts of town, the Los Angeles City Council has stirred the debate over public art. The result may not be a pretty picture.
It could be entertaining to watch City Hall try to achieve the needed balance between creativity and chaos — entertaining unless you live or work in one of those affected areas, in which case friction between free-thinking artists and fussy homeowners may lead to more than a little unpleasantness.
After all, this is the City Hall that so thoroughly botched the aesthetic and legal issues surrounding billboards. Can it be counted on to oversee murals?
Not without help. The city needs to make clear who will oversee the new murals, and how. One person's art is another's eyesore, and disputes require reliable referees.
The future of public painted art has been in the works for a decade, ever since the city once called the Murals Capital of the World declared a moratorium on such art displays on private property. L.A. was embroiled in a battle over billboards and other advertising. Murals got caught in the political crossfire.
Last summer, the City Council took the first step toward lifting the ban. It voted to permit murals on privately owned buildings, including duplexes and apartment buildings. But the new freedom did not extend to single-family homes.
The next step came (Dec. 3) when the council voted to approve a pilot program to allow single-family homeowners in the first, ninth and 14th districts, covering much of east and south L.A., to decorate their houses with murals. Because the vote wasn't unanimous (Bernard Parks cast the lone "no"), a second vote was required. (It was approved Dec. 10).
The three districts' respective council representatives, Gil Cedillo, Curren Price Jr. and Jose Huizar, said residents there would welcome the return of colorful, original artwork to their neighborhoods.
In the big picture, so to speak, the debate about murals is part of a healthy discussion about the look, feel and function of L.A. streets. The discussion covers public transportation, the promotion of local urban centers, and the pluses and minuses of lucrative but garish digital billboards. Mayor Eric Garcetti is making the improvement of the city's major thoroughfares a priority with his Great Streets Program.
But what are the details? Where is the line between beauty and blight? A decade from now, will new murals be rare, specific reflections of local culture in a few districts or neighborhoods, or will the ban have been lifted citywide?
Under the new rules, murals won't be allowed to contain advertising, or cover windows, doors or vents. Offensive language, hate speech, gang tags and lewd images will be barred.
According to Huizar's office, owners wishing to decorate single-family homes will have to apply to the Cultural Affairs Department for permits (with a $60 fee) and wait out a 45-day community notification period.
Looking ahead, Huizar's office is working on establishing a process for other parts of the city to seek inclusion in the new rules.
Many people clearly have high hopes that more murals will bring vibrancy to the city — and it could if they are done sparingly, judiciously and, well, artfully.
Let's hope the people in charge have good taste.
The Bakersfield Californian: Will the PUC ignore our privacy concerns?
That government-monitored mobile tracking device most of us carry around for the benefit of our nation's domestic spying agency — that device we used to call a phone — has evolved dynamically in the past 25 years.
Smartphones — hand-held devices with Internet connectivity — can do everything a desktop computer can do. Except you can't slip a desktop computer into your shirt pocket.
But the privacy rules that apply to mobile phones have not changed in those 25 years. The Public Utilities Commission regulations that dictate how and under what circumstances our usage can be tracked and catalogued are the same ones that applied when Michael Douglas was wielding a quart-bottle sized Motorola DynaTAC in the 1987 film "Wall Street." Back then, we used phones to talk to people. And an "app"? That had to be a typo.
Now our smartphones are electronic beacons that betray our every move, our every communication, our every proclivity. And it's all recorded in giant databases, both governmental and corporate.
Many people believe it's time the PUC took a look at its antiquated privacy regulations. The PUC itself is apparently not among them. Indications are that on Jan. 16 the California regulatory agency will decide that the privacy safeguards that apply to landline activity do not apply to mobile phone activity.
If anything, the hierarchy of privacy protections should be ordered the other way.
But the PUC, given the opportunity to close gaps in privacy standards that didn't exist a quarter-century ago before cell phones became ubiquitous, seems poised to adopt Commissioner Mark Ferron's proposal to essentially ignore the issue. Ferron's proposal maintains that present laws and corporate policies are enough to safeguard "potentially sensitive customer information." He also professes that the U.S. has not experienced any serious privacy breaches — a claim that would suggest he has spent the past three years in cryogenic deep-freeze.
The PUC would be better served adopting Commissioner Catherine Sandoval's proposal to review all telecommunication regulations and consider new privacy protections that would not have been necessary in 1986, when existing laws were established. That's only the proper and logical thing to do, given the advances in communication technology and outsiders' growing ability to track it.
Sandoval was appointed to the PUC two years ago precisely for her expertise in these areas; she taught telecommunications and Internet law at Santa Clara University's School of Law. Ferron's background is banking and economics; he and PUC President Michael Peevey typically champion the priorities of business over the rights of consumers, so three of the five votes are all but known already. The writing is on the smartphone screen: marketers apparently have as much right to know your business as you do.
But consumers still have time to weigh in. Call the two PUC commissioners whose voting inclinations aren't yet clear. Call Commissioner Carla J. Peterman at 415-703-1407 and Commissioner Michel P. Florio at 415-703-2440 and tell them you expect the PUC to look out for ordinary Californians.
Imperial Valley Press: Supes kick in for senior meals
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors did a good thing Tuesday, even if the gesture turns out to be temporary. Nonetheless, the supervisors took care of their elders.
In response to a loss of funding caused by the federal sequester, Catholic Charities by way of the Imperial County Area Agency on Aging, was forced to cut 6,000 meals to local senior citizens by the end of the fiscal year. That meant eliminating one of the five days of lunches served at community centers and senior apartment complexes around the Valley.
In order to provide emergency assistance, the county Board of Supervisors approved the expenditure of $9,900 from the general fund to provide that fifth day of meals at least through the next 60 days.
The money will continue the lunch service while the county and the Area Agency on Aging work to find another source of revenue. The program feeds seniors in Brawley, Calexico, Holtville, El Centro and Heber.
A local official said beyond just the importance of feeding the seniors, a strong meals program enhances quality of life through socialization and fellowship with other seniors, since many elders in the county must travel to the meal sites.
But in the end, senior nutrition is ultimately a health issue, and a fairly serious one if not addressed properly.
For many seniors on fixed incomes, food, and food rich in micronutrients at that, is among the last of the monthly or weekly expenditures after utilities, rent and medication. The Catch-22, however, is that for seniors, many health-related issues stem from malnutrition.
The World Health Organization says diseases in which seniors are particularly susceptible, including cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer are all related to poor diets.
One meal might not make a difference, but one meal missed over the course of several months or a year with nothing else substantial to replace it might. For the aged, every little bit counts and can help.
What the county has done is commendable, and now the hard work begins in trying to locate more funding. Local AAA officials are expecting cuts to continue for the next eight years, so finding supplemental funding will have to be a creative pursuit.
Thankfully there are smart people in the county who know their way around grant funding or seeking money from private foundations. We think there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and it starts here.