Posts Tagged ‘California’

Life Imitates a Joe R. Lansdale Story

Monday, March 30th, 2015

There’s a Joe R. Lansdale story called “The Pit” where two prisoners are forced to fight each other to death in a pit for sport. The story details suggest it takes place somewhere in the deep south. Who could have imagined that a real-life version of the story (thankfully minus the “to death” part) would take place in San Francisco?

San Francisco sheriff’s deputy Scott Neu is accused of leading a ring of corrupt jail guards who coerced prisoners into gladiatorial combat with threats of rape and violence.

Neu serves at County Jail No. 4 at 850 Bryant St despite having settled claims that he raped a woman prisoner and two transgendered prisoners while working at the jail. He sports a tattoo reading “850 Mob,” believed to describe the name used by the corrupt deputies to describe themselves. At least four other deputies are implicated in the program of sexualized torture.

Snip.

Neu and his co-conspirators gambled on the outcome of fights. One fight pitted the smallest inmate in the jail against the largest, and the fighters say they were threatened with rape and beatings by the guards if they didn’t spar. Neu is also said to have coerced prisoners into training for the fights with threats of rape and violence. Neu has a reputation for sadistic practices overall, including making prisoners gamble to receive their food, clothes and comfort items. Even when prisoners won the games Neu forced on them with the red dice and the deck of cards he carried, he would sometimes take away their “winnings” and give them to other prisoners.

Well, just sounds like a lovely fellow all around, doesn’t he?

Of course, these are just accusations, and Mr. Neu has not yet been proven guilty in a court of law. Maybe his attorney will offer up evidence of his innocence.

The Deputies’ Union attorney Harry Stern claims the Public Defender is making a big deal out of nothing. He says that the prisoners were encouraged to “wrestle to settle disputes about who was stronger,” and were “encouraged” to work out. He dismissed the entire affair as “little more than horseplay.”

Holy crap! When a guy’s defense attorney starts out essentially admitting the basic charge against him but dismissing it as “horseplay,” you’ve got to think the guy is guilty as sin.

And he doesn’t even have the excuse of being in a “high stress, low pay” job since this is, after all, California. According to public records, Scott Neu pulled down a cool $150,912 in the 2012-2013 timeframe (and I’d bet more last year).

Evidently paying unionized public employees more than the market demands doesn’t lead to a higher quality of employee…

Texas vs. California Update for March 26, 2015

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • Forget all those snide liberal cracks about Texas’ public education system, since we have some of the highest graduation rates in the country.

  • “San Bernardino has defaulted on nearly $10 million in payments on its privately placed pension bond debt since it declared bankruptcy in 2012.”

    The missed payments illustrate the trend among cities in bankruptcy to favor payments to pension funds over bondholder obligations, which has increased the hostility between creditors and municipalities.

    San Bernardino declared last year that it intends under its bankruptcy exit plan to fully pay Calpers, its biggest creditor and America’s largest public pension fund with assets of $300 billion.

    The city continues to pay its monthly dues to Calpers in full, but has paid nothing to its bondholders for nearly three years, according to the interest payment schedule on roughly $50 million of pension obligation bonds issued by San Bernardino in 2005.

    If you’re a bank, a retirement fund, or a hedge fund, why on earth would you buy California municipal debt when there are safer alternatives? (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ Doom roundup.)

  • So how’s that San Francisco minimum wage law working out? Exactly like everyone who understands economics expected. “Some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed after the city’s minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.” Plus this: “Low-income minorities are often hardest hit by the unemployment that follows in the wake of minimum wage laws. The last year when the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate was 1930, the last year before there was a federal minimum wage law.”
  • California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests phasing out state health care for workers entirely.
  • California is dead last in spending transparency among the 50 states, with an F rating and a piddling score of 34. Texas ranks 13th with an A- and a score of 91. (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • “North Texas gained an average of 360 net people per day from July 2013 to July 2014, a testament to the job-creating machine in the Lone Star state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau…North Texas and Houston were the only metropolitan areas to add more than 100,000 people during that one-year period.”
  • Just because California has some of the highest taxes in the nation doesn’t mean that the state’s Democratic legislature doesn’t want to add still more.
  • Meanwhile, the Texas Senate just passed a $4.6 billion tax cut.
  • California is rolling out more subsidies for Hollywood.
  • The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power not only has the highest employe costs in the country, it also ranks last in customer satisfaction. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • While Texas is certainly in much better shape than California on public employee pensions, things here are not entirely cloudless either. “The Texas Employee Retirement System is reporting unfunded liability of $14.5 billion in 2014, compared with liability of just $6.3 billion in 2013. By comparison, all of the state government’s general obligation debt as of 2013 was $15.3 billion. The Texas Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Plan is reporting unfunded liability of $673.1 million in 2014, compared with $306.7 million in 2013.”
  • Unlike California, Texas looks to get ahead of the curve on pension concerns with House Bill 2608, which restores control of pension funds to the local level by eliminating legislative approval for pension changes. I”nstead of locking up significant benefits in state statute, HB 2608 would allow city pension systems, like the Houston Firefighters’ Relief & Retirement Fund, to solve pension problems at the local level by changing benefit structures, if they so chose.”
  • “Support for the “bullet train” is ebbing across California, except, perhaps, in the Governor’s mansion.”
  • California raisin packer West Coast Growers files for Chapter 11.
  • American Spectrum Realty, a real estate investment management company that operates self-storage facilities under the 1st American Storage brand, has somehow managed to file for bankruptcy in both California and Texas. I think it’s safe to say that financial shenanigans are involved…
  • Lawsuit over misappropriated funds in a Napa Valley winery leads to a murder/suicide. It’s one of those stories that sounds too strange not to link to…
  • Texas vs. California Update for March 12, 2015

    Thursday, March 12th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • In a worst-case scenario, CalSTARS and CalPERS might need an additional $50 billion a year between them to stay solvent.
  • If you haven’t taken a look at my piece on Stockton’s latest boondoggle, you probably should.
  • A new ballot initiative to cut California public employee pensions is due out in May, lead by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat.
  • Even Jerry Brown’s timid pension reforms are evidently too much for the Obama Administration, which is holding up funds over them.
  • A rare bit of good municipal news out of California, as Rancho Mirage declares that they’re debt free. (Hat tip: Pension Tunami.)
  • Prime Health Care pulls out of Daughters of Charity hospital acquisition. California Attorney general Kamala Harris may have just insured those hospitals will close instead.
  • Texas population to explode. (Hat tip: Push Junction.)
  • Land acquisition for California’s high speed rail boondoggle isn’t going swimmingly.
  • Malibu Golf Club files for Chapter 11. “An attorney for Malibu Associates said the company closed the golf club after defaulting on a $47-million loan from U.S. Bank, which has begun foreclosure proceedings.”
  • “In February, the Berkeley Health Center, a clinic that provided medical services to low-income patients, closed down in the wake of serious financial troubles, including allegations that it had mismanaged public funds.” They also left behind sensitive patient records…
  • Calfornia hikes water rates. Millions for the delta smelt, not one blue drop for you to drink…
  • Monolith Semiconductor relocates from Ithaca, New York to Round Rock.
  • Previously Bankrupt Stockton Suddenly Has Enough Money for an Affordable Housing Development

    Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

    As part of my regular Texas vs. California updates, I’ve been keeping close tabs on the city of Stockton, which just emerged from bankruptcy proceedings last month.

    So what’s one of the first thing Stockton does after exiting bankruptcy? Would you believe spending $14 million for 40 units of affordable housing? For a city that owes $1.6 billion in pension debt to CalPERs, that’s like someone who can barely afford food deciding to buy spinning rims for his 19-year-old Civic.

    To my mind, this has all the hallmarks of a politic payoffs.

    The project would evidently entail “renovation of the 123-year-old Cal Weber Building and the 88-year-old McKeegan Building.”

    Who controls the Cal-Weber building? Dan Cort.

    Who controls the McKeegan building? Dan Cort.

    Who’s Don Cort? A Stockton commercial real estate developer and “urban renewal expert.” He was also Mayor of Pacific Grove (which is a good two and a half hours away from Stockton) until he resigned in advanced of a recall election in 2009. Pacific Grove, like many California cities, got in financial trouble due to outrageous public employee pension costs, and bond debt to cover same.

    Is Cort tied-in to Stockton’s City Council? Given that six of the seven members, including the Mayor and Vice Mayor, are among Cort’s Facebook friends, I’m going to answer “Yes.” (The seventh, Dan Wright, has only been in office since January.)

    None of this is conclusive proof that underhanded financial shenanigans and/or kickback are going on. But it is an indication that reporters, bloggers and Stockton taxpayers should be taking a good, hard look at this project.

    Also, I can’t imagine that Franklin Templeton, the mutual fund company and Stockton bondholder which was forced to take a haircut in bankruptcy hearings can be too happy about it either…

    Texas vs. California Update for February 26, 2015

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • CalPERS believes that it has police powers to seize property to sell to support public employee pensions. “It is hard to imagine a bigger or more blatant example of collusion between business interests and government employees at the expense of ordinary private citizens.” Plus the impossibility of maintaining the 7.5% returns necessary for the pension fund to remain solvent. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • CalPERS and CalSTARS want direct proxy access for candidates for corporate boards.
  • Speaking of CalSTARS, the cost of funding it going forward looms large on California’s horizon.
  • Stockton exits bankruptcy.
  • Daughters of Charity Health Systems sues the SEIU over interference in a merger deal.
  • Part of the demands from California’s liberal Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris to approve the merger include forcing currently Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
  • It’s all but impossible for the Middle Class to live in Silicon Valley.
  • West coast port strike ends. Yet another reason to ship through Houston instead…
  • Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick files a bill for $4.6 billion in tax relief.
  • Texas Right to Work laws help keep the state prosperous, but more can be done.
  • Texas vs. California Update for February 19, 2015

    Thursday, February 19th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • U.S. bankruptcy judge presiding over the Stockton case says pensions are not sacred and can be cut in bankruptcy. “CalPERS has bullied its way about in this case with an iron fist insisting that it and the municipal pensions it services are inviolable. The bully may have an iron fist, but it also turns out to have a glass jaw.”
  • Public employee pensions: Stealing from the young and poor to give to the old and rich. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California’s entrepreneurs still think the business climate sucks. “In the 2014 survey, 63.5 percent called the small business climate poor, with just 10 saying it’s good. This year 60 percent still consider the business climate poor with 16.5 percent finding it good.”
  • By contrast, low oil prices won’t torpedo Texas’ economy. “Texas’ economy today is more resilient to oil price fluctuations thanks to industrial diversification and pro-growth policies.”
  • California’s combined capital gains tax rate is the third highest. Not third highest in the U.S., third highest in the world, lower only than Denmark and France.
  • How environmentalists made California’s drought worse.
  • Two unions are on different sides of a proposed sale of six struggling Catholic hospitals to a private company.
  • Defense contractor “Advantage SCI, LLC announced today that the company will relocate its headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia (Fairfax County in Old Town Alexandria) from El Segundo, California, after recognizing the high costs related to worker’s compensation, liability, and taxes that plague businesses in California.”
  • Coffee roaster Farmers Brothers is leaving California for either Oklahoma or Texas.
  • More on the Farmer Brothers relocation. “After surviving depressions, recessions, earthquakes and wars, Farmer Brothers is leaving California, finally driven out by high taxes and oppressive regulations.”
  • California Democrats file bills to force the state to get 50% of its energy from renewable energy by 2030. They’re basically putting up yet another big red sign to manufacturers: “We’ll make it impossibly expensive for you to do business here.”
  • Why health care in California is less affordable than elsewhere.
  • The mess that is California’s homeowner earthquake insurance.
  • California property owners aren’t wild about being forced to sell their land for the high speed rail boondoggle.
  • Arlene Wohlgemuth on why Texas should avoid the siren song of Medicare expansion. (Also, best wishes to her for a speedy recovery from her motorcycle accident.)
  • California’s top lifeguard pulls in a cool $236,859 in total compensation. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Lewd yoga dentist filed for bankruptcy.” A San Diego dentist, which is my pretext for including it here, but really, how could I not link a headline like that?
  • Texas vs. California Update for January 29, 2014

    Thursday, January 29th, 2015

    To a certain extent, this Texas vs. California roundup is incomplete, since we’re hot and heavy into the new legislative session and I haven’t had a chance to fully digest the proposed budget numbers yet. By the Legislative Budget Boards numbers, they’re only projecting a 1.5% increase in the 2016-2017 biennium budget over 2014-2015. But see the first link…

  • Setting the story straight on the Texas budget. TPPF uses a different baseline…
  • California’s public employee unions would prefer that you not know how well they’re compensated.
  • How California’s public employees use sick leave to spike their pensions.
  • Supreme Court may take on California union mandatory dues case.
  • Though not nearly as bad as California, Texas state and local public employee pensions are also in need of reform.
  • California’s Kern County declares a fiscal emergency over dropping oil prices. “Collapsing crude prices are squeezing the finances of Kern County, home to three-fourths of California’s oil production.” Thankfully, oil and gas extraction is a lot more widespread in Texas.
  • The City of Sacramento’s unfunded liabilities have reached $2.3 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Fresno? No one goes to Fresno anymore!” Except for job growth percentage, that is, where Fresno outpaced Silicon Valley.
  • Remember the Newport Beach police department firing a whistler-blower? Via Dwight comes a followup: “A husband and wife who sued Newport Beach and its police department for alleged retaliation and wrongful termination have settled their lawsuits for $500,000, according to city officials.”
  • “Physician-assisted suicide has returned to California’s political agenda.” Well, why not? California’s ruling Democrats have been attempting fiscal suicide for well over a decade now…
  • Toyota breaks ground on its new Texas headquarters.
  • A public school in California is having a Hijab Day.
  • Texas vs. California Update for January 21, 2015

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
  • The working poor benefit from a lower cost of living in red states.
  • Five of the top ten U.S. cities in economic growth in 2014 were in Texas: Austin, Houston, Ft. Worth. Dallas and San Antonio. (There were also two in California: San Francisco and San Jose.)
  • The Texas Comptroller has released the Biennial Revenue Estimate 2016-2017, which estimates $113 billion in general revenue-related funds available. The report details also notes that “In the past six years, Texas created two-thirds of all net new jobs in the U.S.”

  • By contrast, with the California budget more or less temporarily balanced, Democrats want to start spending like drunken sailors with a stolen credit card again. Legislative analyst: You don’t want to do that.
  • The average CalPERS pension is up to five times comparable Social Security payouts.
  • Jerry Brown says he wants to tackle California’s pension crisis. Good luck with that. While Brown has occasionally been willing to buck his party, and may feel he has nothing to lose in his last term, there’s no reason to believe the Democrat-dominated state House and Senate share his sentiments. I predict a few cosmetic measures passing combined with a whole lot more can kicking until actual default looms. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Central Valley farmers say farming is doomed in their areas.” California’s water regulations are driving them out of business.
  • Stockton’s bankruptcy judge: screw secured debtors, we’ve got to start paying retirees.
  • Key figure in CalPERS pension fraud case apparently committed suicide. Hmmm…..
  • California’s Set Seal retail chain files for bankruptcy.
  • John G. Westine of California convicted of 26 counts of mail fraud in a phony Kentucky oil well scheme.
  • Bankruptcy lawyers gone wild!
  • Texas vs. California Update for January 6, 2014

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

    Here’s your first Texas vs. California update of 2015:

  • Real personal income increased by 1.4% in Texas in Q3, the most of any state. And that with the oil bust just starting to bite, which I’m guessing helps explain why South Dakota’s personal income decline by .2%. (Well, that and getting six inches of global warming in September….)
  • Texas was the number one magnet state in the country for people moving here yet again.
  • “The real reason for the tuition increase is that the UC system needs funds to bail out the mismanaged pension system that covers retired employees of its ten campuses.”

    This is all the result of the regents’ irresponsible oversight. In 1990, UCRP had 137 percent of the assets it needed to meet its obligations, so regents suspended employer and employee contributions to the pension fund. State legislators also stopped allocating money to UCRP. This “pension contribution holiday” lasted 20 years. To top it off, during this period, university officials boosted pension benefits a half-dozen times. By 2012, more than 2,100 UC retirees were each collecting six-figure pensions for life.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Former Pasadena (California) employees arrested on 60 count, $6 million embezzling charges. (Hat tip: CalWatchdog.)
  • More on outrageous California pensions: “In 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami).
  • California’s doomed high speed rail boondoggle breaks ground today.
  • More on the same theme from Twitter:

  • Opponents of California’s statewide plastic bag ban have gathered 800,000 signature for a referendum to overturn it, which will also keep the law from going into effect on July 1.
  • California charity hospitals to be sold to for-profit company to keep them open.
  • Texas vs. California Update for December 17, 2014

    Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

    Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • California’s unfunded health care obligations for retired employees hits $72 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Meanwhile, the state comptroller says that California’s unfunded pension liabilities has hit $198 billion. (Ditto.)
  • California may extend benefits to illegal aliens taking advantage of Obama’s amnesty.
  • Speaking of which, both California and Texas are on the hook for providing education for illegal alien children. “Today, those figures are $14.4 billion for California and $8.5 billion for the Lone Star state.”
  • California will go broke if it doesn’t adopt pension reform.
  • Lessons for California from Texas’ boom.
  • Costa Mesa police union tries to pin false DUI charge on City Councilman. Hilarity ensues. (Hat tip: Dwight.) And what caused the police union to go after him? Pension reform.
  • Pension spiking widespread in Cosa Contra County. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California’s high speed rail boondoggle won’t work with the current tracks.
  • Health industry software company vitaTrackr announces relocation of its headquarters from Baltimore to Austin.
  • Builders FirstSource announces expansion in San Antonio and Conroe.