Friday, July 2, 2010

The Orange County Pension Law Suit Is "Radical", Says Att. Gen. Brown

In yesterday's Op-Ed, The OC Register's editorial staff said, "... his brief in opposition to the board lawsuit called it 'radical.'"  Yes, our own Attorney General will not defend tax payers.  As the OCR points out:
"What is really radical is the $3.7 billion unfunded pension gap the county faces, of which the retroactive pension spike accounts for about $100 million. Mr. Brown, supported for governor by a number of public worker unions, discounted the lavish benefits given to county workers. We'd like to hear what he would do about the runaway pension situation."

Indeed, we would all like to know his plan.  Unfortunately, his plan will surely include higher taxes.
 

OC Watchdog Has Inside Scoop On Orange County Employee Pensions

The OC Watchdog is barking up the OC pension tree and have discovered a few interesting facts.  Before we get into what they found, though, we have to put it all in the right context.  The OC Register "told the court, we will use the information for research and analysis and not just post the raw data."  Why would they tell the court that?  Why not publish the raw data?  Anyway, you might remember  a few of these folk's names, like Bob Citron and Mike Carona:
"Robert Citron, the disgraced treasurer whose risky investments led Orange County into the largest municipal bankruptcy of its time, is collecting around $148, 327 a year. That’s an increase of more than 50 percent above the $92,904 a year pension that he made when he retired in 1994 – thanks to cost of living raises."


And then there is retired OC sheriff Mike Carona who is receiving $217,457 per year while out on bail appealing his federal witness tampering conviction.

Another top OC pension earner is Blake Anderson, who came in fourth on the County's pension list:

"... former Orange County Sanitation District general manager Blake Anderson, who was forced to resign in 2005 after hiring a leadership guru at $180,000 to help the sewer agency find its corporate soul. Dharma Consulting was hired by Anderson on a no-bid contract at $15,000 a month. Anderson, who was criticized in a later audit for exceeding his authority, now lives on about $228,025 a year."
I hope the list is released in its entirety and without redacting.  I think tax payers deserve to know how much is spent on county employee pensions.  Something that we always need to keep in mind is that the people we elect today will be the bloodsucking pensioners of tomorrow.  Stop defined-contribution pension plans for ALL elected officials!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prejudice and Fear Mongering Alive and Well in Education

Dr. Dave Gibson wrote an article in American Surveyor regarding "professionalism" and the educational component.  First, let me set the context of Gibson's perspective.  He is the Founding Surveying and Mapping Program Director at the University of Florida.  What might come of his job if enrollment were to fall?  Just to be fair, I am the Surveying/Mapping Science Program Facilitator (we don't have directors) at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, California.  So, it is safe to say, I have at least a part-time job riding on the success of my program's enrollment.

Back to his article.  Gibson begins with:
The image of land surveying as a technician/trade image is increasingly growing. I make a case for moving away from the apprenticeship system toward an educational standard.

It seems those of us attempting to recruit new life have succeeded in our public awareness campaigns, at least to some degree.  But why does he want to move away from the traditional career path to the exclusivity of a formal education?  I think I already answered that, but let's look further into Gibson's argument.

Dr. Gibson brings up again (I wrote about this HERE) a Florida Supreme Court ruling regarding the statute of limitations for certain professions.  As noted in my previous post, Gibson is trying to have us believe that a four-year degree is the defining standard of a profession simply because a state supreme court created a definition that was consistent with Florida statutes for the singular purpose of determining the statute of limitations.  With that logic, only those with 4-year degrees are professional artists.  And as a point of humor, even the following university majors are professionals: American Studies, Business Administration, Communications, and Reading.  Further, most of those that the rest of us consider to be professional athletes, are, by Gibson's definition, not professionals at all.  I have yet to find a university with a degree in boxing, but I digress. 

From my previous post on Gibson's assertions regarding the Florida case, I wrote:
If education were a pyramid, kindergarten (funny we have never adopted the English term – “child garden”) through the 8th grade would be the bottom. That base creates a good, wide, solid foundation from which a person can grow intellectually. High school is a bit further up – not the top, but getting there. Mixed in is experience. Experience refines the basis into a pointed, focused body of knowledge. Depending on a person’s personality, means, and life choices, he or she might choose no college, trade school, some college, a university, or any combination of advanced education which will surely be supplemented by quality experiences from various sources and activities. Does the lack of a conferred degree detract from their professionalism? I think not.
Dr. Gibson goes on in his latest article to say:
A true learned professional must understand the mathematical, scientific, legal, environmental and societal framework within which the work takes place, speak confidently, write authoritatively, research published information and analyze related issues, skills that are beyond the realm of most "on the job" training or apprenticeship programs.
I agree with the opinion that the list of skills he gives are generally beyond the scope of on-the-job-training.  However, several of the skills such as math, science, speech, and writing can and should be mastered in high school.  What is not mastered in high school can easily be found and learned in a community college.  The list of skills given do not lend themselves exclusively to institutions of higher learning.  With that understanding, the land surveying student/apprentice needs to seek out source of information for the fringe elements of our profession that are not necessarily part of their day-to-day practice but will need to have some level of understanding for licensing exams.  One example is photogrammetry, which in California, is not regulated except in that the subject is part of the state-specific examination. 

Apparently, dazzling students with brilliance takes a back seat to baffling them with bullshit (sorry Mom).  Gibson says the words land surveyor conjures up the wrong image to high school students because they have a preconceived notion as to what a land surveyor is.  Instead, Gibson prefers "geomatics engineer."  A rose by any other name is still a rose and a turd by any other name still stinks.

The real problem Dr. Gibson has seems to be the ignorant and uneducated technicians of Florida.  Yes, California has its share of unqualified technicians who will soon be out of a job, but whether or not all 50 states adopt a mandatory 4-year degree requirement for licensure will not change those status or quality of technicians.  You will always have a need for a field technician who does not command the same salary structure as the licensed professional.  Gibson digs his heels in on this issue:
Firms have been forced to start drug-testing policies for their employees hired off the street, etc. Many of our current professional leaders (owners of leadership firms, chapter/society leaders, Board members, national society leaders) were trained by apprenticeship 30/40/50 years ago. They naturally think, "If I did it, someone else can." We all know and respect many professionals who did not go to college. But the 99 non-diamonds will determine the reputation, image, and future professional standing of surveying, not the one diamond.
I do not have a 4-year degree in land surveying but did attend all of the community college courses I could enroll in before taking and passing the California professional land surveying exams at age 34.  In fact, the vast majority of the California licensed professional land surveyors I have met gained licensure via the same path as I.  And so, yes, I would agree that "if I did it, so can someone else." 

Gibson goes on to talk about peoples' narrow "comfort zone":
An apprenticed surveyor who learned on the job may have a narrow "comfort zone" of practice--only doing those things in the manner they were taught. Such a person may be extremely uncomfortable in today's surveying world of new methods, new applications, and new tools, preferring to offer traditional services with traditional methods. When the profession in general is slow to react and embrace new technologies such as aerial mapping, GIS, etc., the door opens for competing groups to enter the field of surveying and mapping.
His first sentence takes a GIANT leap in assumptions.  Surely he doesn't actually believe that educated people have a broad comfort zone over uneducated people.  Surely, he is not THAT prejudice.  In California, we address Gibson's concern over a licensees "comfort zone" by codifying in state law that licensees may only practice in their area of competence.  To do otherwise is negligent and reckless. As to his last sentence, is he referring to civil engineers playing surveyor?   

As a final though to Dr. Gibson's article, he is not completely off base, though I think he is grasping at straws.  As professionals, we do need to promote education whenever and wherever we can.  However, we should not use fear mongering and personal prejudice in order to elevate our profession.  Lead by example.

OC Register's Jennifer Muir Calls It Quits To Work for Public Employee Union

The "Voice of OC", which is really the voice of Orange County's public employee union OCEA, says Muir now works for the union PR machine.  Friends For Fullerton's Future first reported the OCEA job announcement HERE.  FFFF's "Mr. Peabody" poked fun at the lengthy announcement which typifies public employment and suggested that Red County blogger Mathew Cunningham apply.

With Muir gone from the OC Register, will anyone take notice?  She seemed to be largely absent during the carpetbagging and perjury plagued June Primary.  Perhaps she will find her voice at the Voice come November as a bona fide public employee union shill for Harry Sidhu, who came in 2nd for the 4th District Supervisor's seat.  Going against the public employee unions, the OC Register's editorial staff ultimately chose Shawn Nelson as their pick for OC Supervisor because of his strong stance on public employee pension reform.  Give it up to the Voice of OC, if you cant beat 'em, buy 'em...even if it is one reporter at a time.

(Thanks to Allen Wilson for the link)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Smarter Use of Tax Revenue: End the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency immediately.


In the event you didn't know where I stand on the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, here is something to consider.  This agency goes into areas of Fullerton which it declares to be blighted and then skims the increased property taxes so that it can continue to grow its area of influence. It receives additional funding through the issuance of bonds that will end up costing Fullerton taxpayers dearly. An excellent article on redevelopment agencies is offered by California Assemblyman and former Fullerton Mayor Chris Norby:
“Redevelopment was created 60 years ago to end urban blight in California. It was never intended to be a permanent drain on the budget. Agencies are supposed to sunset after 40 years but are routinely extended indefinitely, and their indebtedness now tops $93 billion.

Redevelopment diverts an ever-growing share of property tax dollars into subsidizing big box retailers, auto malls, theaters, stadiums and low-income housing. Last year, redevelopment agencies diverted $5.4 billion in local taxes - 12% of all property taxes. That amounted to $2.7 billion taken from public schools and $646 million from counties. There is no money to backfill these losses.” (Read Assemblyman Norby’s entire article in Issue 6 of his Norby Notes at http://arc.asm.ca.gov/member/72/?p=newsLetters)
Fullerton Redevelopment Agency destroys hundreds of homes under the auspice of creating low- and very low-income housing. However, the housing only provides for a few low- and moderate-income families.

With dozens of homes falling into foreclosure each month, the City could purchase these homes and sell them at a discount to targeted moderate-, low-, and very low-income families. With the money saved, the City could beautify parkways and medians, repave streets, and enforce the municipal code to keep properties safe and appealing.

OC Register Sides With Gun Owners


"Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day," wrote Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. (from the OCR)
The big question on my mind is this:  Is the right to keep and bear arms in the name of self-defense only a right of someone occupying a residence?  What about the "houseless" (a term my brother likes to use and rightfully so)?  What about business owners and workers?  Do you have to have a structure in which you you live, pay rent, or own in order to defend your self with a firearm?  I think not.

Based on the Court's ruling, I think the right to self-defense is not limited to the domicile but rather anywhere a person is.  The only exceptions that I could foresee might include public schools and buildings such as City Hall, where there is a police presence and command of security to defend the defenseless. 

The real question...when will California recognize the U.S. Constitution?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekend Fun - Part II

Sunday, my wife and kids grabbed me after church to get out of the house and do a little geocaching and hiking.  We packed the lunch box and headed off to O'Niell Regional Park where we found Cub Scouts getting ready for there big Summer Day Camp.  The weather was warm in the sun and cool in the shade and refreshing breeze reminding us we were only a few miles from the beach.


I would hate to see the spider that made this giant web high above the trail.

Weekend Fun - Part I

Friday, my daughter and I were fortunate enough to hang out with a bunch of great folks from the Orange County Chapter of the California Land Surveyor's Association.  This is the annual June CLSA social meeting which incorporates baseball and the camaraderie of fellow land surveyors.  We had a great time as indicated by the smiles...

Waiting for the fireworks...

Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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