Sunday, January 22, 2012

Riverside Press Enterprise: High speed rail efforts continue LA - Las Vegas

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Maglev gone, but high-speed rail remains

Regional transportation planners focus funding, planning on local connections, not bullet train to Nevada

Sacramento Bee: Governor Brown asks Californians to support big projects

Gov. Jerry Brown once again seeks to sell Californians on big projects

By David Siders
The Sacramento Bee Published: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

"My father built the water plan. I want to complete it. So, whether it's high-speed rail or water or education or public safety, I'm going to invest and build for the future, not steal from it." GOV. JERRY BROWN, son of former Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown
Before leaving Southern California last week, after urging greater infrastructure spending in a "land of dreams," Gov. Jerry Brown recalled how long he has made that case and how wary of his ideas people can be.
"I actually wanted to have a state satellite," Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, told the City Club of San Diego on Thursday. "Couldn't pull it off."
Governor again three decades later, Brown is promoting high-speed rail and a multibillion-dollar water project, versions of which he advocated, ultimately unsuccessfully, when he was governor before. He's also campaigning to raise taxes. In a series of appearances in Southern California following his State of the State address, he made repeated references to his father, the late Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, a legendary builder of state infrastructure.
"My father built the water plan," Brown said. "I want to complete it. So, whether it's high-speed rail or water or education or public safety, I'm going to invest and build for the future, not steal from it."
In Burbank, a reporter said to the Democratic governor, "But the issue is, 'How do you balance cuts vs. raising revenue.' "
"No, see that's the small-minded mentality," Brown responded. "We want to build. We want to build high-speed rail, we want to build water, we want to build roads, we want California to stay on the move."
Brown is expected by summer to propose a peripheral canal or another way to move water through or around the Delta, a project he said will cost water users "well over $10 billion." He persuaded the Legislature when he was governor before to approve such a canal, but it was defeated in a referendum in 1982.
Three years earlier, in his State of the State address, Brown had called the project "an investment in the future," a refrain he repeated this week, more than 30 years later.
"It takes a long time to get things done, and that's why I'm still governor, because I didn't finish everything," said Brown, 73. "In fact, my father didn't finish everything. So, we stick to it. You know, we're not a flash in the pan."
The public's appetite for public works spending is uncertain. Californians authorized the state's high-speed rail plan in 2008, but they now oppose it by a wide margin, according to the most recent Field Poll. The electorate has a dim view of the Legislature, and Brown's own public approval rating – though higher than many other politicians' – is nowhere near as high as he posted when he was governor before.
"The voters are very cynical, and rightly so," said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which handicaps legislative elections.
Hoffenblum, who was working for the Los Angeles County Republican Party in the late 1960s, when Brown was elected to the Los Angeles Community College board, said Brown has "always been a grandiose thinker."
Though the governor's positions are in line with a Democratic Party that is trying to distinguish itself as "the party of bright ideas," Hoffenblum said, "I don't know whether the electorate's ready for that yet."
Brown said Californians, despite their negative feelings about government, are "loyal to their community" and have "deep feelings about our state."
He said, "It will be up to me to draw the picture of what California could look like, and what the alternatives are."
Mark Petracca, a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, said Friday that Brown "must be extraordinarily frustrated."
For "somebody with very big ideas," Petracca said, "it's hard to motivate people to think in those terms when there's not only so much mockery around that, but where people's lives, you know, they want to make sure they can pay the next month's mortgage."
In his State of the State address Wednesday and at a series of follow-up events in Southern California, Brown urged Californians to reject declinists and to invest in the state's future.
"I do admire the fact that he is challenging California to think bigger, to think about having big infrastructure projects that we can complete," said Ruben Barrales, president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Still, he is unsure if Brown's effort will succeed: "Obviously, on a practical level, the people are concerned about the economics of it, the cost of big programs and all that."
Brown's appeal was not unlike that of years ago, when he proposed a $5.8 million communications satellite system and was mocked for his interest in space.
"It's a new idea," Brown said in 1978, "and many people have a hard time dealing with it. They're the same ones who didn't believe we'd ever land a man on the moon."

San Francisco Chronicle: Governor working legislative Dems to pay off debt

Jerry Brown must win Dems' support to pay off debt

Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to eliminate California's "wal... Michael Macor

Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to eliminate California's "wall of debt," billions of dollars of borrowing through years of budget balancing gimmicks, but first he must gain the support of fellow Democrats.

Photo: Michael Macor

Saturday, January 21, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown's 2012 State of the State Address

You can read a copy of Governor Jerry Brown's 2012 State of the State address, which he delivered to the State Legislature this past week in Sacramento HERE:

Governor's 2012 State of the State Address

Los Angeles Times: Social Media's role increasing in 2012 campaign

Facebook, Twitter's roles in campaign 2012 media coverage deepen

News outlets' attempts to mine campaign data from Facebook and Twitter point to social media's growing influence, but some caution the science is too new to be reliable.

Republican presidential debate
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul at Thursday's debate. (Photo by Michael Reynolds / EPA)

Politico headlined a story last week "Mitt, Paul winning Facebook primary." About the same time, the Washington Post reported "Romney with the momentum in S. Carolina," that conclusion based on its new Twitter-tracking app, @MentionMachine.

One of the most striking innovations of campaign 2012 media coverage has been the attempt by news outlets to harness Twitter and Facebook, not just for a spot check on individual voters' feelings but to take the temperature of the electorate in a broader way.

The vast trove of messages and status updates embedded in Facebook, in particular, has created what technology journalist-blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick called "the biggest, most dynamic census of human opinion and interaction in history." But the initial Facebook/Politico analysis belied how fraught the nascent science of "sentiment analysis" is, producing "total bunk," said Micah L. Sifry, the creator of the website Techpresident, which examines the nexus of political practitioners and technologists.

The attempt to analyze the data should come as no surprise in a season when social media have assumed an ever-larger profile, with regular input from such media in televised debates and even a session in which Republican hopefuls answered tweeted questions in 140-character Twitter bursts.

But experts in polling and computer science caution against inexact and overblown conclusions when converting far-flung messages into hard data. They said media outlets should recognize that computer programs are still in their infancy when it comes to distilling human feelings from digitized text.

Imagine a computer trying to parse, for instance, the exact intention of someone who posts "I love having Ron Paul in this race!" Is this hypothetical tweeter a) a stalwart supporter of the Texas congressman b) someone who likes Paul's candor and consistency, but would never vote for him c) a President Obama supporter who enjoys seeing Paul muddle the Republican field d) an observer employing a bit of irony or e) none of the above.

Marc A. Smith, a sociologist who studies online communities and founded the Silicon Valley-based Social Media Research Foundation, said "we are in the Model T Ford era of information systems" and analyzing their content.

Scott Keeter, the president of the American Assn. of Public Opinion Research, said that members of the professional organization and journalists should "proceed with a degree of humility" in deciding what social media can tell us about political campaigns. "Until we have more experience with real world outcomes, it's hard to know the meaning of what we have captured from social media," said Keeter, director of survey research at the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Much of the debate followed a Jan. 12 article by Politico, the online news site, which reported that it had partnered with Facebook to examine all "posting, sharing and linking about candidates" from Dec. 12 to Jan. 10. The arrangement was a first not only in that Facebook delved into both public and private messages but also used computer analysis to "identify positive and negative emotion in text." (The company stressed that while computers draw an aggregate view of user sentiment, human beings do not monitor individual messages.)

Facebook said it employed a "well-validated software tool used frequently in social psychological research." But Smith said he was "highly skeptical" of some of the precise findings in the Facebook analysis. He added that the intellectual disciplines focused on deciphering texts — natural language processing and computational linguistics — "are very deep and can do remarkable things, but they don't necessarily have the ability to predict the next president of the United States of America."

Politico's report didn't actually predict an outcome, reporting instead that a surge in Facebook mentions for Mitt Romney effectively "predicted" (though after the vote) a strong finish for Romney in the New Hampshire primary.

What the story did not say is that the summary of the Facebook chatter was not nearly as accurate when it came to the Iowa caucuses. Politico's charts show Romney in a fairly distant third in Facebook mentions leading up to the Iowa event. In the actual voting the candidate finished in a virtual tie for first.

Keeter said those examining the data should realize that Facebook users represent only a portion of the U.S. population. About 65% of adults who go online told Pew researchers that they use at least one social networking site. The portion of those online who utilize social networks is much lower for those 50 to 64 years old (51%) and those 65 and older (just 33%.)

Politico's national political editor, Charles Mahtesian, acknowledged that the data from Facebook don't represent "a scientifically valid predictive tool." Asked why the website did not use more caveats with the reporting, he said, "We think our readers understand this is just one additional data point. Our readers are such [political] junkies they are interested in seeing it anyway."

In introducing its @MentionMachine feature in early January, the Washington Post said social media acclaim "is the newest measurable campaign benchmark," joining polling data, fundraising totals, ad spending and other measures. At the end of last week, the feature found former Massachusetts Gov. Romney with the "momentum in S. Carolina" — mentioned 183,000 times on Twitter during the week. Whether that has any meaning in Saturday's voting remains to be seen.

All the major presidential campaigns monitor social media closely and use the platforms to communicate with voters. But none are known to employ the same kind of systematic computer analysis the media outlets are trying.

"I think the algorithm and the machine learning will continue to improve and soon they will be able to provide greater and more tangible insights that will be actionable for a campaign," said Zac Moffatt, digital director for the Romney campaign. For now, Moffatt said, the campaigns look at social media analysis as "just one source of data" — though a very intriguing one — in assessing their candidate's fortunes.

Riverside Press Enterprise: Inland job market, economy continues growth

Inland job market continues its comeback

Distribution and logistics were among the sectors to add jobs in December
Published: 20 January 2012 04:08 PM

December was an excellent month for the job market in Inland Southern California, and the typical seasonal opportunities in stores, restaurants and movie theaters had very little to do with it.

There were almost 23,000 San Bernardino and Riverside county residents on payrolls last month than were working a year earlier, a level the region has not seen in 2 ½ years, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday. It was the fifth consecutive month of job growth, and the pace of the expansion has accelerated in each of those months.

Unemployment was estimated at 12.2 percent in December, down from 12.5 percent the previous month and a sharp decrease from the peak of 15.1 percent in the summer of 2010.

“This is the best report we’ve gotten since the start of the recession,” Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi said. “The recovery seems to have some legs, and job creation is creeping along.”

There were an estimated 1,158,000 Inland residents on payrolls in December, up from 1,102,000 six months ago. Payroll employment had been as high as 1.3 million before the worst recession in modern history began to devastate the Inland economy more than four years ago.

Statewide the unemployment level fell to 11.1 percent from 11.3 percent in November. The figures for the state are adjusted to account for expected seasonal fluctuations, while data for counties are not adjusted.

Local unemployment numbers usually decline in December because of one of those seasonal shadings. Many job-hunters settle for two-month tenures at retail or service establishments that need extra staff for the holidays. There was some growth in those sectors this year, according to the report, but it was only marginal.

What the state’s report did show is growth in a much wider reach of job sectors when compared to December 2010, some of it substantial.

Jobs from the area’s distribution and logistic sector are up about 5 percent from a year ago. Smaller increases were noticed in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Opportunities for office workers, mostly support staff, were up sharply last month. Other increases were seen in the health-care and government sectors.

One of the few sectors still losing jobs was financial services, which is tied to a lack of new construction. Redlands-based economist John Husing said it might be another two years before the construction industry becomes a serious economic factor in the Inland area again.

Also, Husing said some national financial institutions, notably Bank of America, are cutting back on local branch operations. But he was encouraged that other white-collar operations appear to be hiring again.
“Back in October the logistics and health-care sectors were carrying the area,” Husing said. “Now we’ve added pieces to the puzzle. This is an excellent report, and it’s what we need to continue.”

Support jobs in the professional and business services sector could mean relatively low-end clerical positions, but it also encompasses jobs for trained professionals such as paralegals and bookkeepers. Those jobs were up by a stunning 10.5 percent from December 2010, the state reported.

Palbinder Badesha, owner of the Corona office of employment service Express Employment Professionals, said her office has seen an increase in temp-to-hire orders, which means that her clients are coming to her for temporary workers who eventually would be hired permanently.

“In December we got orders for administrative workers from clients that had been slow for two years,” Badesha said. “It’s definitely turned around.”

The challenge now, Badesha said, is finding qualified workers. Some who have been idled for two years are ready to get back to action but are rusty.

Despite the faster job growth, one in eight Inland workers is still officially listed as unemployed by the state, and it will take a while to cut into that. Brad Kemp, an economist who watches the area for Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics, said that might not be a bad thing. Slow but steady job growth tends to be more sustainable.

“Volatility is both a privilege and a curse,” Kemp said. “When things are happening, people move quickly in the Inland Empire. The boom is wonderful, but the bust a little more painful.”

Kemp said there could still be problems that slow the recovery. “But right now, employers are making decisions to get back into hiring, and we’re seeing evidence of that.”

Sacramento Bee: Proposal pushed to replace state school bus funding

Lawmakers push bill to replace California school bus cut

by Kevin Yamamura
The Sacramento Bee
January 20, 2012

After a mid-year budget cut wiped out school bus funds, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to restore transportation money by cutting general purpose dollars in all districts.
The Senate budget committee amended its Senate Bill 81 in the Assembly yesterday, signaling lawmakers' intent not only to preserve school bus service now, but in the future as well. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating school bus funds permanently in his 2012-13 budget.
Brown has shown little willingness to reverse cuts, especially with the state facing a new $9.2 billion deficit. With that in mind, SB 81 would replace the $248 million school bus cut with an across-the-board reduction to all districts equal to about $42 per student, shifting more of the pain to suburban districts that don't offer much bus service.
The midyear bus cut hit rural and urban districts particularly hard. According to data compiled by the California School Boards Association, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would lose $1,734 per student. Meanwhile, Davis Joint Unified would lose less than $8 per student and Rocklin Unified less than $10.
The state's coalition of education groups, which includes teachers, school boards and administrators, supports the change. Brown's Department of Finance does not yet have a position, said spokesman H.D. Palmer.
The reduction was triggered in December when fiscal forecasters determined California would fall $2.2 billion short of the optimistic revenue projections that Brown and lawmakers used last June. Since last month, rural school districts have lobbied lawmakers to reverse the bus cut, noting that it would cause uneven hardship throughout the state.
The Los Angeles Unified School District filed a lawsuit to block the bus cut last month, alleging it would violate federal busing mandates and past court decisions ensuring equal education funding across districts. LAUSD would lose $61 per student, according to the CSBA data.
Updated to clarify that the cut would apply to general purpose funding, which largely pays for classroom instruction but also goes toward administration and other costs.