Monday, August 23, 2010

A speedy review

There's a new environmental impact report for the proposed high-speed rail link through the Central Valley between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Those so inclined can take a gander at the Tracy Branch Library, 20 E. Eaton Ave.

Give your feedback about the project that could have big local implications to — it's significantly easier than going to the public meeting on Aug. 27 in Sacramento.

Making a case for library privatization

The folks at LSSI — the company seeking to take over management of the San Joaquin County-City of Stockton library system, of which the Tracy and Mountain House bibliotecas are a part — has a website it created obstensibly to inform locals about what a partnership with the private company would mean. Check it out here.

LSSI says that it can provide increased library services while spending less money, even establishing a reserve fund that could be used for later improvements. When asked how they could do this, officials with the company said that they have a tested and proven business model and turned around the question, asking why the county and city management haven't been able to provide more efficient services.

One answer might be that LSSI wouldn't have to deal with the California pension plan. If LSSI wins management of the library system, current government employees would be terminated and would then have to re-apply for jobs with LSSI. (For its part, LSSI says those employees would have preference in the hiring process.)

But since it's a private company, LSSI wouldn't be responsible for bolstering their employees' pension plans via CalPers — though an LSSI spokesman said that the company offers a 401k and a package of benefits that's "competitive" in the private sector.

Regardless of how LSSI plans to get there, any contract with the local governments would obligate LSSI to meet certain service levels and to meet them with a limited amount of money. In other words, if the company can't give the county/city the proper bang for the buck, that's LSSI's problem.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wait, rivers have water?

If you've ever wondered how badly we've dammed and diverted our rivers in the Central Valley, there's this reminder from the Fresno Bee:

"On the Valley's west side near Los Banos, something strange is happening this summer in the San Joaquin River — water."

Yup, it's a surprise when there's water flowing in the San Joaquin River. Good grief.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fire chief wears favored candidate on sleeve... er, chest

If you've been wondering what's happend to Chris Bosch, Tracy's former fire chief who left his position under cloudy circumstances earlier this year, he's still around.

And evidently, from the shirt he was wearing when I saw him today when he was representing the local nonprofit Tracy Volunteer Caregivers, he's helping Larry Hite's campaign for City Council.

No word, however, on what's happening with the severance pay dispute between Bosch and the city. When there's an update on that, we'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The transparency we've been talking about

In last Friday's Press, the editorial board called for the city to be more explicit when it comes to telling the public exactly what it's doing to cut costs, especially when it comes to union employees.

Earlier this week, we got exactly what we were asking for.

At tonight's meeting, the City Council will likely approve a set of consessions wheedled from the local Teamsters union, amounting to just shy of a half-million dollars in savings to the city's general fund. (Considering the savings, it should be a no-brainer of a vote.)

It might not be enough on its own to bridge the city's ongoing multimillion-dollar deficit, but it's a step in the right direction. And it's a major step in terms of the city sharing with voters exactly what employee groups are conceding.

Many will insist that union groups and city employees take more drastic cuts, so as to allow voters to turn down a proposed tax increase with a clean conscience.

But these deals with employee groups happen on Planet Earth. Unions are going to protect the interest of their employees. And in this case, Teamster jobs are guaranteed against layoffs for the rest of the fiscal year in exchange for a reduction in pay.

In this case, the interest of both the employees and the city lined up — but asking workers to give up even more without receiving something more in return is unrealistic.

The city and the union members deserve credit here for finding a compromise that helps Tracy and its taxpayers. It might not be enough to eliminate the city's stated need for a sales tax hike, but it certainly isn't going to hurt.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

San Joaquin Delta scores temporary win

An $11 billion water bond that would likely help build a canal to ship water around the dying Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will be delayed — at least by two years.

The effort to but the bond on the November 2010 ballot was losing steam, and the state Legislature figured there's a better shot of it passing if it's put on the 2012 presidential ballot.

But delay or no delay, the proposed vision of a Delta further drained and diverted isn't a healthy one. That remains the same, no matter how long the proposal is shelved.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Far from a final victory on Prop. 8

Though Second Thoughts and other backers of legalized gay marriage celebrated yesterday's court ruling affirming that California's odious Proposition 8 was nothing more than a Jim Crow-style slap in the face to the Constitution, it was a party with reservations.

Because this thing is far from over.

The folks who put the gay-marriage ban on the 2008 ballot and who went to court to defend its merits have already filed a formal appeal of Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that same-sex couples have as much right to marry as opposite-sex couples and that the ban was based on personal moral and religious values rather than any Constitutional or legal foundation.

I hope that judges in higher courts see the wisdom and Constitutional merits of Judge Walker's argument, which you really should read. I found excerpts of his ruling here.

If you want Second Thoughts' feelings on the matter, consider some light reading here and here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back at the blog

After a mild case of the vacation check-outs and a week spent recharging the batteries, the Second Thoughts blog is back under old management.

My apologies to those who found no new content for that week and a half, but we'll try to make up for the recent lull in August.

Stay tuned...