MEMORANDUM January 30, 2015 TO: PORAC Board of Directors FROM: Marketplace Communications RE: PORAC News Flash Following are today’s news clips DATE PUBLICATION 1.29.15 Sacramento Bee 1.30.15 San Francisco Chronicle 1.30.15 Los Angeles Times 1.29.15 1.28.15 1.29.15 TITLE Prisons reach court-ordered inmate levels a year ahead of schedule AUTHOR Sam Stanton Police say Waze app is stalking them Lois Kazakoff Toy guns should look like toys Editorial Koch oligarchs gather to plot 2016 Editorial Sacramento Bee What’s ahead for state health benefits Jon Ortiz Sacramento Bee Police accuse 2 men of using Uber to make Thousand Oaks drug deal Veronic Rocha Los Angeles Times Convicted drug dealer charged with murder of movie executive 1.29.15 San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle Pot growing suspect held for allegedly shooting at deputies Henry K. Lee 1.30.15 1.30.15 Los Angeles Times When L.A. County delays court Editorial 4010 Truxel Road • Sacramento, CA 95834-3725 • (916) 928-3777 • FAX (916) 928-3760 • (800) 937-6722 settlements, it delays justice Sacramento Bee Prisons reach court-ordered inmate levels a year ahead of schedule BY SAM STANTON 01/29/2015 1:55 California’s prison system has hit a milestone, with new figures showing that the inmate population inside the state’s 34 adult prisons has fallen below a court-ordered cap more than a year ahead of schedule. Following legal battles that went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, the state’s prison population has been decreasing steadily in recent years, and a report posted online Thursday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation puts the latest inmate numbers at 113,463, below the cap of 137.5 percent of capacity set by a panel of federal judges in 2009. The prison system’s design capacity is 82,707 inmates, and the population as of midnight Thursday was 137.2 percent of capacity. “This is a snapshot in time,” corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in a statement. “We’re clearly making progress, but much work remains.” One of the lead inmate attorneys in the effort to force reductions in the prison population called the development a “significant moment.” “We should all acknowledge it’s an important, significant and historic moment,” attorney Michael Bien said, but he added that the state must show that it can maintain the reductions over time. How we got here California’s prisons steadily filled in the 1990s as tough-on-crime measures such as the “three-strikes” law won public support. In November 2006, the prison population hit 162,804 – larger than Elk Grove’s current estimated population – or 200.2 percent of the design capacity at that time. Lawyers for the inmates said overcrowding had reached the point that medical and mental health care services for prisoners were unconstitutional, and they renewed their legal challenge to a system in which inmates were being housed in triple-deck bunks in prison gyms and other open spaces. The state disagreed and continued to fight, but in August 2009 a panel of three federal judges said the situation had “brought California’s prisons to the breaking point.” The panel decreed that within two years the state would reduce inmate populations to 137.5 percent of capacity. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 decision in 2011 that the prison population had to be reduced, prompting a series of efforts under Gov. Jerry Brown that led to Thursday’s levels. Under the latest court orders, California has until Feb. 28, 2016, to cut its inmate population to the 137.5 percent benchmark. The early success in getting to that point can be traced largely to the governor’s prison realignment plan, passed in 2011, which shifted responsibility for nonviolent, low-level offenders from the state to counties. Before that plan, as many as 60,000 inmates annually were sent to prisons as parole violators and served an average of 90 days. The Department of Corrections says realignment has cut the prison population by about 25,000 inmates. Counties statewide have seen an increase in jail inmates during that time frame. Where else have inmates gone? ▪ 2,035 inmates have been released since passage of Proposition 47 in November, which redesignated several felony-level crimes, including some drug possession and property offenses, as misdemeanors. ▪ 1,975 inmates in prison after a “third strike” have been released since voters approved Proposition 36 in 2012. The measure allows for inmates to seek resentencing if their third strike was not considered serious or violent. ▪ 115 inmates were released through an parole program designed to get elderly inmates not considered a threat to the public out of prisons. ▪ 2,077 inmates were transferred to a private prison in California City. ▪ Another 8,800 inmates are being housed in prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. ▪ Also helping efforts is a continued decrease in violent crime, a trend that has been measured nationwide for years. Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article8581391.html#storylink=cpy San Francisco Chronicle Police say Waze app is stalking them By Lois Kazakoff on January 29, 2015 12:52 PM http://blog.sfgate.com/opinionshop/2015/01/29/police-say-waze-app-is-stalking-them/ Waze, a traffic monitoring app that publicly shares information to give real-time road conditions including police presence, is scaring law enforcement and they want the police-spotting feature removed. Really? This is a misguided concern about one of the best uses of crowd sourcing around, with 50 million users worldwide. Maybe law enforcement just doesn’t like to be monitored any more than the public does. Waze saves drivers time and aggravation on our ever-more congested roadways by warning of traffic tie-ups, hazards (even dead animals) ahead and offering alternative routes. Sure, the app includes a video-game-like icon that pops up to show where police are present, but for $100 or so drivers can buy radar detectors to mount on their dashboards. Both Waze and the radar detectors accomplish the same thing: Drivers drive the speed limit. How does this harm the public safety that officers are sworn to protect? App users submit data that notes anything of interest to drivers — the couch in the roadway, the truck tire rubber in the fast lane, and the presence of clearly identifiable police or highway patrol cars. Sometimes the data is of the minute, sometimes it is old. Does it allow drivers to avoid the snare of a speed-trap? Probably, but the point of monitoring drivers’ speed is to deter dangerous speeding and ensure road safety, not to hand out speeding tickets. Waze says it operates with support from law enforcement. Yet the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and now the National Sheriffs Association says an app that tracks law enforcement officers puts everyone at risk. In a letter sent last month, LA Police Chief Charlie Beck told Larry Brin, the CEO of Google, which owns the app, that Waze poses a danger to police officers. Beck noted that the man who shot and killed the two police officers in New York used the app to monitor police movements. There are groups that use Waze to monitor and video police activities. The public has this right and should be free to exercise it. Is that perhaps the real target of the law enforcement concerns? With the rise in the use of cameras that snap photos of auto license plates to monitor who comes in and goes out of town, it only seems fair that the public has the right to monitor too. Los Angeles Times Toy guns should look like toys By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-toy-guns-20150129-story.html The scene has been repeated with agonizing frequency: Police officers encounter someone holding a gun and, fearing for their lives, they shoot to kill, only to discover that the gun was a replica so faithful to the original that it looked real. Granted, in some of these cases the police have made obvious mistakes or acted outside of policy. But it's hard to argue with the logic that if a fake gun is readily identifiable as such, many of these tragedies could be averted. Last year, California adopted a measure that goes into effect next January barring sales of airsoft, BB and pellet guns unless they are manufactured in bright and distinctive colors. The move came after a Sonoma County deputy shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez on Oct. 22, 2013, thinking his pellet gun was an assault rifle. Now Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to apply California-style standards to imitation firearms made and sold nationwide. Boxer's Look-Alike Weapons Safety Act of 2015 would expand the Consumer Product Safety Commission's existing authority to regulate toy weapons to include imitation firearms that shoot BBs or pellets. Federal law since 1989 already requires authentic-looking toy guns to be affixed with orange barrel caps that identify them as replicas. But the caps are easily removed; that's what happened to the airsoft gun carried by 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in November. Boxer's proposal would require most replica guns to be white or “bright” red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple or a combination of those colors, or to be translucent or transparent. In short, color schemes or designs that would let law-enforcement officers tell at a glance that they are not facing a firearm. Of course, fake guns that look like toys may not have the same commercial appeal as those resembling the real thing, which is a concern for the industry. And here are two more serious issues: Neither the California law nor Boxer's bill preclude someone from painting a brightly colored imitation firearm a more realistic color. And there's nothing to stop a violent criminal from painting a real gun to look like a toy, possibly creating a momentary advantage over police. The concerns are legitimate, but they are not so troubling as to sink the idea itself. To reduce the chance of fatal mistakes, fake firearms should be easier for police to recognize. Sacramento Bee Koch oligarchs gather to plot 2016 BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD 01/29/2015 4:00 Once again, Charles and David Koch had their Palm Springs election cattle show when 450 of the nation’s wealthiest Americans gathered last weekend to break bread, talk politics and hear wannabe presidents. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, strutted their stuff before some of the nation’s richest Republicans. That is understandable. This being January 2015, Campaign 2016 is well underway. The Washington Post reported that the Koch brothers set a fundraising goal of $889 million for 2016. That mind-numbing sum would be spent on presidential and congressional races. The 17 groups in the Kochs’ network spent $407 million during the last presidential campaign election in 2012. The magnitude of the effort makes clear that the Kochs and their friends are creating a shadow political party that will carry out many if not all the functions of national political parties, with an important exception. Koch-funded nonprofit political organizations generally operate in the dark, using antiquated Internal Revenue Service code sections to avoid the mess of having to publicly disclose their spending. The Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee, by contrast, identify contributors and expenditures in regular, public campaign finance filings. The travesty is not merely the amount of the money being spent to sway your vote. The lack of transparency is worse. By failing to disclose, the Kochs ignore the public’s right to know who is buying the elections, further sullying their reputation and, worse, diminishing the democracy they claim to cherish. The Koch brothers aren’t your run-of-the-mill billionaires. They place No. 4 and 5 on the Forbes list of billionaires, at $40 billion each, earned in part from inherited an oil company founded by their father. Wealthy Democrats spend heavily, too. San Francisco liberal Tom Steyer, whose $1.6 billion places him No. 383 on Forbes’ list of 400 billionaires, spent $73.7 million in a mixed attempt to elect Democrats in 2014. That’s more than anyone else last year, at least of those donors we know of. Unlike much of the Kochs, Steyer disclosed how much he spent and where he spent. The U.S. Supreme Court says rich people and corporations can spend as much as they want on independent campaign efforts. It is a First Amendment right, the justices say. The Kochs’ political philosophy of smaller government and an unfettered free market is a subject they’re free to promote. That’s not the point. If the Koch brothers are proud of what they’re espousing, they should, at minimum, publicly disclose which groups they’re funding and how much they’re giving. Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article8612429.html#storylink=cpy Sacramento Bee What’s ahead for state health benefits BY JON ORTIZ 01/28/2015 8:11 Let’s break out the crystal ball and peer into the future for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to bargain stateemployee and retiree health benefits with unions. Background: California spends about $3 billion on medical benefits for state workers, plus $2 billion for retirees. Unfunded obligations to retirees over the next 30 years approach $72 billion. If nothing changes, experts have said, that long-term unfunded liability will more than quadruple by midcentury because the state sets aside nothing for those promised benefits. Brown wants to prefund them with trust money seeded with 50-50 contributions from government employers and employees. Taxpayers would pay $600 million more annually for the employers’ share, the administration says, but save billions long term. Employees would pay more, but their benefits would be more financially secure. ▪ Unions will argue over whether their members should pay a percentage of salary or a flat contribution. Unlike pensions paid in part based on an employee’s income, medical benefits are the same for everybody. Should a state physician earning six figures pay five times more for retiree health than an office technician? ▪ Look for the 30,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association to cut the first contract deal. Its health care provisions will set the template for everyone else. In theory, the state’s 11 employee unions independently bargain, but history shows that the first agreement sets the template for those that follow. Brown’s M.O. picks off a big union first – last time it was the 95,000-member SEIU Local 1000 – which sends a strong signal to the smaller groups. Scientists, engineers and heavy-equipment operators also have expiring contracts this summer. All held out for more money last time (it didn’t work), so there’s little reason to think they’ll do differently now that Brown wants their members to cough up more for benefits. ▪ Once employees prefund their retiree medical insurance, the benefit will get a new layer of legal protection. Why? Because workers will have reason to claim that the benefit can’t be taken away – at least what they paid into it. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there’s no presumption that retiree-health benefits are guaranteed. But when employees pay in, the benefit “could become like a pension system, with vested rights,” said Sacramento-based labor attorney Tim Yeung. ▪ The governor will get most of what he wants. He’s more popular than public unions. State-style benefits rarely exist in the private sector. Like his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown has shown little generosity to state labor. Some union negotiators privately grouse that collective bargaining has become collective begging. Brown has the whip hand. He’ll use it. Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-stateworker/article8544308.html#storylink=cpy Los Angeles Times Police accuse 2 men of using Uber to make Thousand Oaks drug deal By VERONICA ROCHA http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uber-drug-deal-20150129-story.html Two suspected drug dealers were arrested Wednesday after they used ride-sharing service Uber to deliver highly potent hash oil in Thousand Oaks, sheriff’s officials said. Ventura County sheriff’s deputies stopped the Uber driver for a vehicle code violation about 11:58 a.m. in Thousand Oaks when they discovered his passengers were suspected of dealing drugs, Capt. Jim Fryhoff said. Cody Jens, 24, of Agoura Hills and Luke Karasiuk, 22, of Thousand Oaks told deputies they were using Uber to drive them to a drug deal to sell the hash oil, he said. Deputies seized a quarter-pound of hash oil, known also as “butane honey oil,” and $2,000. The pair was booked on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance for sale. The hash oil is a waxy substance that can produce a strong high when inhaled. It doesn't have the potent odor of marijuana. Hash oil has gained popularity, and has prompted some novices to attempt to make it in their homes, authorities said. But the results can have devastating effects. In November, a man was killed and two others were injured in Muscoy during a massive explosion caused by hash-oil operation. San Bernardino fire officials said the blast was so significant that a freshly paved road buckled. San Francisco Chronicle Convicted drug dealer charged with murder of movie executive Updated 8:43 am, Friday, January 30, 2015 http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Convicted-drug-dealer-charged-with-murder-of6049472.php LOS ANGELES (AP) — A convicted drug dealer was charged Thursday with the murder of a 20th Century Fox executive, who mysteriously disappeared more than two years ago and whose remains were found in a northern Los Angeles County desert area in October. John Lenzie Creech, 42, was charged Thursday with 57-year-old Gavin Smith's death, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Smith was last seen leaving a female friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood on May 1, 2012. Hikers discovered the remains about 70 miles away, near Palmdale in the Antelope Valley, on Oct. 26, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. Smith was with Fox's movie distribution department for nearly 18 years and was a branch manager for several theaters. He was also a former UCLA basketball player and had three children. Authorities said earlier they had found Smith's Mercedes-Benz at a Simi Valley storage facility nine months after his disappearance. Its condition along with witness statements led them to believe Smith was killed. Investigators found Smith's blood and body tissue, including skin stuck to the car's seat. Creech has been a longtime person of interest in the Sheriff's Department investigation. The storage facility where Smith's car was found was linked to Creech, who is serving an eight-year jail sentence after pleading no contest to one count of transportation for sale of a controlled substance in September 2012. A law enforcement official previously told the AP that Smith was believed to have had a romantic relationship with Creech's wife, Chandrika, after meeting her in drug rehabilitation several years earlier. Creech is scheduled to be arraigned on the new felony charge Monday. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in state prison. San Francisco Chroincle Pot growing suspect held for allegedly shooting at deputies By Henry Lee Published 4:30 pm, Thursday, January 29, 2015 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Pot-growing-suspect-held-for-allegedly-shooting-6049704.php An suspected marijuana grower arrested for allegedly firing shots at undercover Alameda County sheriff’s deputies in West Oakland may not have realized he was targeting law-enforcement officers, authorities said Thursday. But Sebastian Ledwick, 33, of Castro Valley was taken into custody for the attack on two plainclothes detectives who had been staking out a marijuana grow operation at a warehouse in West Oakland, said sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly. The incident on Wednesday began as the two undercover detectives were staking out the warehouse on the 1100 block of 28th Street. Ledwick spotted the two men and may have thought they were out to rob him, authorities said. The two deputies left in their car, only to be chased by Ledwick in his car, Kelly said. The suspect pulled up to the deputies near 24th and Market streets and opened fire, authorities said. The bullet lodged into the passenger side of the car and didn’t hit the detectives, who did not return fire, Kelly said. Ledwick returned to the warehouse and was arrested, Kelly said. The high-powered handgun he allegedly used in the shooting was recovered, authorities said. Ledwick was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and drug and weapons violations. He was being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $150,000 bail. Kelly said during the investigation, deputies and Oakland police uncovered a second illegal pot grow — unrelated to the other investigation — in another part of the subdivided warehouse, which shares a parking lot with a building that is used as a drug treatment facility. Several other arrests were made in the case. Los Angeles Times When L.A. County delays court settlements, it delays justice By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-county-settlements-20150129-story.html Los Angeles County jail inmates who need to use wheelchairs because of physical disabilities have had a tough time at the Men's Central Jail, in part because the physical layout of the complex makes it difficult for less than fully abled people to get around, but also because deputies punished them for failing to get out of their wheelchairs. Their treatment was a fairly clear violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, so they brought a class-action lawsuit against the county. It took the county five years to settle the case, which is about par for the course in such suits. But even then, with the parties in agreement, it still took an additional year for the Board of Supervisors to sign on to the settlement. Joseph Ober was an inmate in another case; he said that deputies beat him without justification and denied him medical treatment. He and county lawyers reached a settlement in May, and one of the terms was final sign-off by the supervisors within 120 days. That deadline passed in August, and the court ordered the county to pay daily interest on the $400,000 settlement amount. The supervisors finally approved the agreement last week. Sheriff's deputies stopped and questioned Long Beach Post reporter Greggory Moore when they found him photographing drivers for a story. Deputies also detained and questioned Shawn Nee for photographing Metro turnstiles and asked him whether he had ties to Al Qaeda, and similarly detained other photographers using their cameras in public. The photographers sued, and a settlement of the 1st Amendment lawsuit was reached nearly a year ago. But the supervisors still haven't approved the agreement. County officials face an inherent tension when settling lawsuits. They want to protect the county treasury as much as possible, so they bargain hard and sometimes drag their feet in quest of a better deal. But they also have an obligation to make victims of county mistakes and misdeeds whole; and they must make sure that the problems that led to the suits are fixed. To that end, the supervisors understandably demand to see evidence of corrective action — so the same thing won't happen over and over — before they approve settlements. But many of these delays cost the county additional money, as in the Ober case. In Nee's case, the settlement calls for the Sheriff's Department to stop detaining photographers engaged in legal activities, so it actually is, itself, the corrective action. The department has adopted new practices in accordance with the still-unapproved agreement. Remedial plans are an appropriate part of the county's risk-management process, but they don't have to take so long. The board should put some pressure on sluggish departments to shorten the time between the date of settlement and the date of final approval. Or provide more resources for the departments to draw up the remediation plans. Or both.
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