If you can speed across Europe or Japan at 200 mph, you should be able to do so in California. But the state needs to follow the rules spelled out in the initiative approved to clear the tracks for a bullet train.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority and its opponents in Kings County have a court date in November to argue about remedies to violations of Proposition 1A by the state agency's draft business plan.
Los Angeles City Council members Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin are calling for a moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is used by energy companies to extract hard-to-reach oil.
A political action committee's failure to disclose the source of its funding may have resulted in a county supervisor inadvertently violating campaign contribution limits, according to a longtime Orange County political watchdog.
Shirley L. Grindle, author of the county's campaign finance law, sent an email to Supervisor Janet Nguyen on Thursday, advising Nguyen to return one of the two maximum contributions she received during her 2012 bid for supervisor: a $1,700 donation from the Orange County Employees Association PAC in 2009, or a $1,700 donation from the OCEA-funded California Citizens for Fair Government political committee in 2010.
County campaign finance rules require candidates to aggregate contributions from the same funding source, and limit the total to the maximum contribution for an election cycle. The limit at the time was $1,700.
Nguyen responded with an email Friday, telling Grindle she was leaning toward returning the contributions but wanted to check with her campaign treasurer first.
Nguyen did not respond to a request from the Watchdog on Tuesday to discuss how she planned to deal with the issue.
The Watchdog reported last week that California Citizens for Fair Government failed to disclose OCEA as a “sponsor,” or the source of at least 80 percent of its funding, as required by state law. OCEA contributed the first $75,000 to establish CCFG, and provided 81 percent of the PAC's funding over its three-year lifetime, according to an Orange County Register analysis of campaign finance records. CCFG then gave its remaining $42,500 to launch a PAC with similar initials, California Citizens Fighting Government Waste.
CCFG has never identified OCEA as its sponsor. Last week, following an interview with the Register, CCFGW's treasurer updated his committee's information to disclose that it was sponsored by CCFG.
A spokesman for the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces state campaign finance laws, said Tuesday the reporting by CCFG is “under review.”
CCFG contributed money in 2010 to Nguyen and her political allies Tony Lam, who was running for Midway Sanitary District, and Matthew Harper, who was running for Huntington Beach City Council, according to campaign finance records. CCFGW's only donation to a political committee was an $1,800 donation in December 2012 to Nguyen's campaign for supervisor, records show.
Nguyen said in an email to the Watchdog last week that she didn't know CCFG and CCFGW were funded by OCEA, but she did not feel misled and would have accepted their contributions regardless.
The treasurer for CCFG, Chris Anderson, worked on Nguyen's 2008 campaign, Nguyen said. Anderson founded CCFG in 2009, then joined Nguyen's county staff on a part-time basis in 2010 as a district representative – a job he still holds.
Anderson was listed as a principal officer for CCFGW when it formed last year with $42,500 from the now-terminated CCFG, according to campaign finance records. The treasurer for CCFGW, David Bauer, is also Nguyen's campaign treasurer.
Nguyen said she was aware that Anderson was setting up CCFG at the time, but was not involved in the decision to set it up and did not discuss potential donors with him.
The OCEA PAC's 2009 contribution to Nguyen's campaign and the 2010 contribution her campaign received from CCFG book-end a January 2010 edict by Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh that the Republican Party would no longer endorse candidates who accepted campaign contributions from unions.
Baugh's edict has forced the union to be more creative if it wants to show its support for Republican candidates, such as the GOP-endorsed Nguyen.
Rather than donating money directly to a candidate, the union turned to, among other things, independent expenditures – such as sending out its own campaign mail for a candidate and giving to other PACs, said Don Drozd, general counsel for OCEA.
Drozd said last week that he didn't recall specifics of how OCEA ended up bankrolling CCFG, but he suspected that someone approached OCEA to contribute to CCFG to support Nguyen. He didn't know who approached OCEA, but he was confident it wasn't Nguyen.
A dispute over state legislation affecting public pensions violates the bargaining rights of transit workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and could jeopardize tens of millions of federal dollars for OC transit projects.
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors is being asked to approve a permit for California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) engineering contractors to do soil borings — geotechnical sampling — along county rights-of-way, mostly roads.
Years late, billions over budget, riddled with construction errors – but also stunning, iconic, beautiful –the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge finally opened to regular traffic Monday night.
Over objections from CalPERS, a judge last week declared that the city of San Bernardino is eligible for bankruptcy, paving the way for a historic showdown over the sanctity of public employee pensions.
While waiting to visit with Santa Ana attorney Ruben Smith, I wonder if I've uncovered a hidden art gallery or a Jedi Temple.
Some elements feel like yet another regal law office in Orange County. Office street parking with a parking ticket somewhere in my purse to validate, a bevy of secretaries, wide hallways and the ever-present board room with comfy leather chairs that roll up to a modern version of the table for the Last Supper.
But this law office, AlvaradoSmith, is special, not just because the walls are covered with oversized art work that partner Ray Alvarado painted, including one with barbed wire that Ruben brought him from the Mexican border. In fact, with its 50 attorneys working in offices in Santa Ana, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s among the largest Latino law firms in the United States.
Ruben and Ray are among the 3.7 percent of attorneys in the United States who are Latino. They've have had their hand in pressing issues around Orange County while shaping the lives of hundreds of Latino youth.
Santa Ana has now become the headquarters of the legal operation. Three years ago, the firm moved here from Irvine. Just six months ago, Ruben moved his residence from Aliso Viejo to the stately Floral Park neighborhood to be near relatives including his mother, Consuelo, who made the city ground zero after making many, many moves that included crossing the Mexican border with little Ruben, marrying Ruben's stepdad, a man with the last name of Smith, and much later, working hard to get Loretta Sanchez elected to Congress.
Even before Ruben lived in Santa Ana, friends recognized that his humble silence shrouded his blunt force in the Latino community. When he was president of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, they gave him a Jedi sword.
On my last visit to his office, Ruben again shrugs off the majestic analogies. Only with ribbing from a pal sitting with us – Jose Solorio, a community college trustee for the Rancho Santiago Community College District – is Ruben reminded to mention his leadership role in the Hispanic Education Endowment Fund.
Ruben was a driving force to create the fund, which this year celebrates its 20th year and has given out nearly 2,000 scholarships. He's also provided law internships to Santa Ana high school students for many years. One of them, Joel Crespo, now works for the firm and is a Santa Ana planning commissioner.
Peel back the layers and there are more interesting ties between Ruben and the community.
He has the firm provide support or pro bono work to the Latino Alumni Association of the University of Southern California, Olive Crest, a non-profit that helps abused children, and La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a Los Angeles museum and cultural center that opened in 2011. Oh, he threw in casually, he's been working with five mayors in Baja California and mayors in Orange County on a project designed to prevent growth problems in Baja and foster cross-border relations. And he did have a hand in the effort led by Solorio, former state assemblyman, and others to save the Orange County Fair grounds from proposed sale.
Now 20 years in business, more clients roll off his tongue: Santa Ana's famed Taquerías de Anda, Gigante supermarket, the University of Guadalajara, Cerritos Community College District, Rancho Santiago Community College District, Chase and other banks, developers and did I forget Shell Oil? Indeed there are too many clients to mention all here, but Ruben Smith makes me realize that his long boardroom table wasn't brought in so he could look like every other office.
Jennifer Delson is a bilingual public relations consultant who works with public issues and personalities. Reach her at Jennifer@delsonpublicrelations.com.
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