Saturday, December 17, 2011

Indians Clean House


The Osage Tribe of Oklahoma has won a settlement against the United States in the sum of $380,000,000!   That's on top of their 2006 and 2010 combined win of $331,000,000!! 

$711,000,000

What happend?  According to the Department of Justice press release below, they worked out their differences...







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PRESS RELEASE - Dept. of Justice
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United States and Osage Tribe Announce $380 Million Settlement of Tribal Trust Lawsuit
Friday, October 21, 2011
WASHINGTON – The United States has reached a final settlement of a long-running lawsuit by the Osage Tribe of Oklahoma regarding the United States’ accounting and management of the tribe’s trust funds and non-monetary trust assets.  Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; the Interior Department’s Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, Solicitor Hilary C. Tompkins, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael S. Black; the Treasury Department’s General Counsel George W. Madison, and the Osage Tribe’s Principal Chief John Red Eagle and other tribal officials commemorated the settlement during a ceremony at the Department of Interior’s headquarters in Washington today.

“This historic settlement resolves with finality long-standing trust accounting and trust management claims by the Osage Tribe,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno.   “This settlement is the outcome of dedicated efforts by the United States and the Osage Tribe to resolve years of costly and protracted litigation.   Today, we come together in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect to recognize an important milestone on a path to a future marked by a stronger government-to-government and trust relationship. This settlement demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to resolving pending tribal trust accounting and trust management cases in an expedited, fair and just manner.”
“Reaching a final settlement with the Osage Tribe has been a priority for this Administration, and it demonstrates President Obama's commitment to reconciliation and empowerment for American Indian nations,” said Interior’s Deputy Secretary Hayes.  “The settlement process was fundamental to respecting the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. government and the Osage Tribe. This agreement marks a new beginning – one of just reconciliation, better communication and strengthened management of tribal trust assets.”

“This settlement is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of litigation between the Osage Tribe and the United States,” said Interior Solicitor Tompkins. “This administration has worked in good faith to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible.  The settlement will allow the United States and the Tribe to foster, cultivate and strengthen their trust relationship as they move together into the future.”

Under the negotiated agreement, executed on Oct. 14, 2011, litigation will end regarding the Department of the Interior’s accounting and management of the tribe’s trust accounts, trust lands and other natural resources, including the tribe’s mineral estate.   The United States will pay the tribe $380 million to compensate the tribe for its claims of historical losses to its trust funds and interest income as a result of the government’s management of trust assets.   The parties also will implement measures that will lead to strengthened management of the tribe’s trust assets and improved communications between the Department of the Interior and the tribe, including procedures for delivery of periodic statements of account, annual audit information, and information relating to the management of the mineral estate to the tribe.    Importantly, the agreement also provides dispute resolution provisions to reduce the likelihood of future litigation.

The Osage Tribe brought its trust accounting and trust management lawsuits in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC) in 1999 and 2000.   Also, the tribe brought a trust accounting case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2004 and dismissed that case in 2010.   The CFC litigation included numerous motions, extensive discovery, many rulings, and two trials over 12 years.   Between 2006 and 2010, the tribe obtained two judgments from the CFC against the United States for about $331 million on various claims spanning the 1972-2000 period.   A trial on significant claims remaining in this case was scheduled to begin in February 2012.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recreational Fishing Industry Wins Battle

As expected, Fish and Game showed the cost to be in the hundreds of dollars, while the representatives of the fisheries and hatcheries said the cost will be, on average, around $133,000.

Dixon Lake in Escondido was one of the four lakes studied for cost by the independent Sapphos Environmental, Inc., and Dixon came in at $181,000 for the biological assessment to keep stocking fish. The breakdown was $25,919 for fish assessment, $15,490.74 for birds, $139,677.06 for herpetofauna.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fullerton's Water Rep to Step Down


Jim Blake

Amid Fullerton’s water rate debacle the City’s representative on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced Tuesday that he is stepping down.  After representing the City of Fullerton for 24 years on the MWD Board of Directors, Jim Blake says he is done.

It is rumored that Fullerton’s retired city manager Chris Meyer is looking to be appointed as Blake’s replacement but that will require a majority vote by the Fullerton City Council.   Since City Council Members Bankhead and Jones appointed Meyer as City Manager in 2002, there is little doubt that they wouldn't give him the MWD nod as well.

However, with Fullerton’s water rates under scrutiny and an illegal tax being batted about City Hall for justification, you have to wonder how much of the water mess can be attributed to Meyer- not to mention the rest of the City’s countless woes.

Chris Meyer
An appointment of Meyer to the MWD Board might bring further outcry to City Hall, something the new Mayor might wish to avoid. Since August the Council members have been cussed at, cursed at, sworn up and down, and yelled at.  They are now being held accountable for their general lack of leadership by a campaign to recall three members, Mayor Pro Tem Pat McKinley, and members Don Bankhead and F. Dick Jones. 

Many believe that the appointment should be filled by a current council member so that they can be held responsible by Fullerton voters for their actions on the Board.  Currently, Blake is answerable only to the Fullerton City Council. 

If the appointment is to be held by a non-council member, then the process should be open to ALL candidates equally like any other council appointment to a commission or committee.  

Whoever is appointed will be tasked with a massive budgetary shortfall that rivals Sacramento’s.  The appointee will be asked for double-digit rate hikes and even more spending.  They need to know the water industry and even more about public policy and long-term investment solutions.  They need to know Fullerton and not just through the myopic eyes of service clubs.

Fullerton deserves an accountable and credible representative on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tinkering with Water Rates

Water ratepayers in San Juan Capistrano are in for a rude awakening.  A new audit of the water system's financial mismanagement predates the 2003 merger of the Capistrano Valley Water District and the City of San Juan Capistrano by six years. 

You read that correctly.  For six straight years the Capistrano Valley Water District was consistently underfunded because of the rate structure.

The dirty laundry is being aired on the pages of the OC Register and after several massive rate hikes (22% in February and 18% more in July) which the audit says aren't sufficient to cover the deficit.

According to  the Register, the audit states that the utility "also used one-time revenue from property taxes and developer fees as a stopgap funding measure, which had the effect of hiding structural funding problems."

The report indicates "poor financial communication" may have been part of the problem.

Let's head up Interstate-5 to Fullerton and look at the similarities.

Fullerton hasn't had an audit but it did have a rate study.  The rate study appears to have been nothing more than a report to justify nearly doubling water rates.  When pressed for hard data and answers on the water system's "in-lieu franchise fee" (an illegal 10% tax on the Water Fund), staff came up empty-handed.

Fullerton has been under-funding the water system since the 1960s.  Some might rightfully ask how that is possible and why.  Good questions, to be sure.  It was in the 1960s that the "in-lieu franchise fee" was put in place by a city council that actually predates Don Bankhead's tenure on the dais.  Since then, 10% of every dollar paid into the Water Fund has been skimmed and deposited into the City's General Operating Fund like a 3-year old grabbing at a cookie. 

That may not seem like a big deal but with every rate hike, the City's General Fund wins big.  Not to mention nearly 80% of the General Fund covers the benefits and salaries of employees not associated with operating or managing the water system.  It also helps to shore up the growing deficit and pension shortfall.  How is that fair?  How is that even legal?  It's not legal.  This January you'll begin to see a more vigorous campaign headed by City staff to raise rates and justify the continued skimming of the Water Fund.

The illegal "water tax" imposed on the Water Fund has reinforced the policy and subsequent affect on our infrastructure with ZERO investment.  Now, after 50 years of ignoring the problem, pillaging the coffers, and looking the other way, rate payers will be forced to pick up the tab.

Maybe I can blame my parents.  Perhaps Mom and Dad should have been banging on the doors at City Hall in the 1960s and '70s telling the City Council and City Manager to invest in the water system.  But they didn't protest City Hall, probably because they were busy raising five kids, paying a mortgage, and worried about their kids heading off to fight questionable wars in far away places.

No, I can't blame them. Like most people, they relied on their elected representatives to do the right thing.

To those who were voters in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s...here I am holding the bag.  How much is it going to cost, you ask, to make up for years of mismanagement and neglect? 

About $300-million... 

Monday, December 12, 2011

State Controller Releases More Payroll and Pension Data for Public Employees

SACRAMENTO – State Controller John Chiang today updated his website showing the salary, pension benefits and other compensation for 674,000 city and county employees in calendar year 2010.
Today's posting includes wages and other forms of compensation worth $38.8 billion.  Four counties and 37 cities did not file in time for this website update
"Holding public officials accountable for how they manage public dollars relies heavily on transparency," said Chiang. "The struggles of the City of Bell remind us that corruption and fiscal mismanagement are often the byproducts of keeping the public in the dark."

The site was originally created by Controller Chiang in late 2010, after he ordered local governments to provide salary and other wage information for their employees to his office.  In October 2010, the Controller collected and posted 2009 wage information for more than 600,000 city and county employees.  He then added 2009 information for the employees from 2,379 special districts.  In June, he added 2010 compensation information for 256,222 employees from the State of California and 123,406 from the California State University System (CSU).
The data postings drew heavy internet traffic, and the site has logged nearly 5.3 million page views since October 2010.
The website covers elected officials as well as public employees.  It includes the following information for each position:
·       Minimum and maximum salary ranges;
·       Actual wages paid;
·       The applicable retirement formula;
·       Any contributions by the employer to the employee’s share of pension costs;
·       Any contributions by the employer to the employee’s deferred compensation plan; and
·       Any employer payments for the employee’s health, vision and dental premium benefits.
In addition, the website shows employees who hold multiple positions within either State government or the CSU system. The Controller continues to update and expand the site to include more public-sector data.  2010 compensation information for special districts, and 2011 information for State and CSU employees will be phased in over the next six months.
In August, the Controller and Community College Chancellor Jack Scott wrote to all 72 districts across the State, requesting they also submit their payroll data by early 2012.
A list of agencies that failed to file payroll records with the State can also be found on this website.  Each non-complying agency could face a penalty of $5,000.  The Controller’s Office will continue to review and post the relevant data from these local governments as it is reported to the State.

Lack of Leadership and Responsibility

A year ago the City of Fullerton was poised to nearly double water rates in order to keep up with the cost of running a municipal water agency.  So what happened?  Public outcry and a serious legal question put the rate increase quietly on the back-burner and out of public debate, at least until now.

The thought of a double-digit rate increase brought the issue to the forefront of Fullertonians’ minds. 

The legal question was raised when the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association reviewed the City’s Water Fund franchise tax and pointed out that the blanket 10% fee that the City was skimming from the Fund was inconsistent with California ’s Proposition 218.  In essence, the City would skim 10% of the Water Fund’s $25-million and use it to back fill the City’s General Operating Fund, nearly 80% of which pays for benefits and salaries.  There was no justification for the tax, which was implemented in the 1960s, nor was there ever any accounting as to how the money would or should be used.

Typically, franchise fees or franchise taxes are levied by municipalities against other utility companies as an in-lieu fee for property taxes.  Think of it as the City renting out a strip of the city’s street for buried electrical line or cable TV line.  Fullerton ’s water utility is one and the same as the City of Fullerton

City staff have indicated that they are wrapping up a study to see just how much money they can justify taking from the Water Fund.  Under consideration is the City’s loss of property tax revenue and potential leasing fees for each of the City’s reservoirs.  This after-the-fact attempt to justify decades of skimming, now valued at $2.5-million per year and growing, is a slap in the face of rate payers.  The sting is particularly bad when one realizes that the other side of City Hall, our water utility has been unable or unwilling to provide detailed meter costs.   

The Fullerton City Council’s lack of leadership and clear direction has allowed City Hall to get by skimming the Water Fund and not having to articulating the true costs of operating, managing, and maintaining the City’s water system in a transparent and open manner.  This lack of leadership and accountability is just one more reason to consider recalling Dick Jones, Don Bankhead, and Pat McKinley.

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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