Dec 19, 2011

Over the past decade, CalPERS' investment earnings have been below the median for institutional investors. The question arises: Are the mammoth pension fund's investment managers getting paid for poor performance?


From CalPension's Ed Mendel: "Is this as bad as it looks?” said Moret, a gravel-voiced boxing referee leaving the California Public Employees Retirement System board this month after nearly four years."


"Moret said that during his previous service on the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions board money managers with earnings below the median for three or four quarters were dismissed."


“We are glossing over this, and it looks horrible,” said Moret."


"Delivering another jab, Moret reminded his fellow board members that CalPERS, the nation’s largest public pension fund, likes to regard itself as a leader among pension funds."


Few issues in corrections are as controversial as California's three-strikes law, and now a group that is pushing to scale-back the sentencing rule sees a favorable opportunity at the statewide ballot. The Mercury-News' Tracey Kaplan has the story.


"Revising California's law would save state taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year initially and up to $100 million a year in the long run, according to supporters, largely in reduced prison and parole costs. A brief analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office will appear on the ballot itself as well as on signature petitions."


"Advocates predict the savings will prove persuasive, particularly with critical swing voters, though they also plan to frame the campaign in terms of public safety and fairness."


"Voters will potentially have a slew of initiatives on the November ballot seeking to raise revenue with tax hikes, and this initiative will stand out as a sensible way to raise significant revenue without raising taxes," said campaign spokesman Dan Newman."


"But political experts said opponents are likely to dispute the savings estimate and will portray it as soft on crime if the measure qualifies for the ballot. Proponents must collect 504,760 signatures by mid-April to qualify."


Meanwhile, the move to cut school transportation funding to help balance the state's books has hit rural school districts especially hard.


From the Bee's Diana Lambert: "Four of the six schools in the Eastern Sierra Unified School District are scattered along Highway 395, a two-lane road that meanders through scenic Mono County in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains."


"Students often travel as far as 35 miles – each way – to school and back. The drive can be treacherous, especially in winter when rain and snow make the roadways slippery. Traffic near schools and a dearth of street- lights make travel hazardous for drivers pulling into school parking lots and students traveling on foot, said Stacey Adler, superintendent of Mono County schools."


"But things could get much worse come Jan. 2. That's when the district's 500 students will have to find their own way to school, unless they live more than six miles away."


"Last week, still grappling with a budget crisis, California became the first state in the nation to completely eliminate transportation funding for public schools. Gov. Jerry Brown cut $248 million in state funding that helps put school buses on the road and reduced student attendance funding by $79.6 million. Those cuts take effect the second half of the academic year."


Warren Hellman, the Bay Area philanthropist whose numerous causes included improving journalism in the digital age, has died of leukemia. He was 77.


From the Chronicle's David R. Baker: "Mr. Hellman built a fortune as an investor and seemed determined to spend much of it. Co-founder of the Hellman & Friedman private-equity firm, he poured money into local causes, some political, some personal."


"He bankrolled San Francisco ballot measures that reformed the city's pension system and created an underground parking garage beneath Golden Gate Park. He funded the San Francisco Free Clinic and helped set up an endowment to support aquatic sports at UC Berkeley, where he played water polo as a student. Concerned about dwindling local news coverage in the Internet age, he helped form the Bay Citizen online journalism site."


"And in 2001, Mr. Hellman sponsored a free, outdoor concert devoted to bluegrass music, a love he had nurtured for years. Since then, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival has grown into an annual three-day event drawing more than 300,000 people to Golden Gate Park. It is still free, with costs covered by an endowment that Hellman - an amateur banjo player - created to ensure that the festival would continue "after I croak," he said."


And from our "Holiday Goodies" file: Few people had ever heard of canned reindeer meat, but after protesters learned of the new delicacy and raised a howl of opposition, something odd happened -- the food was a sellout.


"At £15 for 190 grams (around $23 for 6.7 ounces), it's a pricey snack. Even so, adventurous eaters are probably out of luck; it's listed as unavailable on and on the website of manufacturerEdible. It's also no longer available at Harvey Nichols stores or online — not because the retailer yanked it from its inventory at activists' request, according to a spokeswoman, but because the publicity led to a spike in sales."


"[O]ur online stock has sold out due to the publicity and demand we've received," spokeswoman Constance Cooper said via email. "It's a seasonal product and stocks are limited so we will not be restocking prior to Christmas." Until next year, foodies with a taste for the wild side will have to content themselves with Harvey Nichols' other edible oddities like green curry crickets or toasted ants."


I hate ants .... 



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