Afternoon Update

Mar 21, 2011

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the raw numbers are jarring, anyway: An increasing number of school districts in California face the risk of insolvency. The Bee’s Dan Walters takes a look.


“The state's chronic recession and budget crisis appear to be having a major impact on the financial health of the state's school districts.


“While the number of districts and other educational agencies on the state's list of those unable to meet their financial obligations has leveled off somewhat, the number of those in danger of becoming insolvent has been growing sharply, a new state Department of Education report indicates.”


“The lists, moreover, do not take into account the potentially huge reductions in state school aid that loom this year, especially if Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to extend some temporary tax increases continues to stall in the Legislature or is rejected by voters. He largely exempted K-12 schools from his first round of budget cuts but has indicated they would be hit if the taxes are not extended.”


An early June election could have the result of disenfranchising some California voters, according to the secretary of state’s office. The Times’ Shane Goldmacher reports.

“The window for Gov. Jerry Brown to hold a special election on tax extensions on June 7 is fast closing –- and may already have passed.


“Already, Brown and state legislators would have to rewrite California's election laws if they are to hold any kind of election in June, as they have passed the legal deadline for such balloting. A spokeswoman for the state's chief elections officer said Monday that holding an election on June 7, as the governor has proposed, would now come at a "great risk to disenfranchising voters."


"I can tell you the longer lawmakers wait, the greater the risk will be to voter turnout and voter disenfranchisement,” said Shannan Velayas, a spokeswoman for California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.”


Clearly, Gov. Brown likes YouTube: He’s been there before and he was back again this morning, demanding that lawmakers put his budget package before the electorate. Capitol Weekly’s John Howard tells a tale, short.


“Gov. Jerry Brown went directly to the public Monday morning via YouTube to sell his fiscal policies, demanding that lawmakers place his tax-and-cuts budget before the electorate.”


“The Democratic governor said the state’s fiscal condition was “too big, too irreversible a matter” to preclude the public’s participation. He urged the public to contact lawmakers on resolving the $26 billion deficit. He said that half the job has been done – cuts that lawmakers’ “courageous action” approved last week – but that the remaining half, a series of taxes, has yet to be completed.


For those of you who worry about the Sierra snowpack, this should come as welcome news: The accuracy of the snowpack measurements is getting a boost from new technology.


“The Fresno Bee’s Marc Grossi has the story: “Scientists say the snowpack and snowmelt at these elevations will be the first to change as the climate warms up. They've laced a one-square-mile area with sensors, logging details about the snowpack, underground water and runoff to help predict changes along the 400-mile Sierra Nevada in the future.”


“There's a big bonus in this research for California: more accurate spring runoff predictions, which are anxiously awaited each year by the $35 billion farming industry and city officials who deliver water to 20 million residents.”


“Such precision might not affect delivery allocations that fluctuate each year because of drought and federal protections for dwindling fish. But water managers and state officials would have a clearer idea of how much water will come from the mountain range.”


Earlier Monday...


One of the governor's budget ideas is to abolish California's 425 redevelopment agencies and tap into the billions of property tax dollars they set aside for local projects. The locals are protesting mightily, but they may have another problem here: They could faced court fights mounted by bondholders. This is getting ugly. Bloomberg's Mike Marois tells the tale.


"California’s cities and counties may face bondholder lawsuits if state lawmakers abolish redevelopment authorities to get at their money, a lawyer for some of the agencies said."


"About $5 billion in taxes now going to the agencies would be blended together in a caretaker fund, run by local governments, that would pay investors holding more than $20 billion of bonds. The move may damage the credit quality of the securities, causing their value to fall, said William Marticorena."


“Even a small decline in secondary-market value could produce significant investor losses and possible damages for state and local government,” Marticorena, head of public finance at the Orange County law firm of Rutan & Tucker, said in an analysis distributed March 18. “The market-value declines may not be small and the damages could be immense.”


The devastating tsunami that struck Japan and rippled across the Pacific is providing lessons to California scientists, reports the LA Times' Abby Sewell.


"Teams of scientists combed the California coast all last week, comparing damage from port to port and harbor to harbor. The result will be a set of recommendations that could give better indications of which areas are most at risk and how to mitigate damage."

"This will be our best data set of response in California from a far-afield tsunami yet," said Jose Borrero, a tsunami researcher with the consulting firm ASR Limited who traveled the length of the California coast."

"The state has already published inundation maps that show which areas are believed to be at risk of flooding in various tsunami scenarios, but the new data will allow for a more detailed understanding."


And now, let's open our "Gotcha!"  file to learn about a Las Vegas drug prosecutor who was arrested for cocaine possession. This is the guy who recently handled the Paris Hilton case.


"Metro Police said chief Clark County Deputy District Attorney David Schubert was arrested in connection with drug charges Saturday night. Police spokesman Jay Rivera said Schubert was charged with possession of cocaine and booked into the Clark County Detention Center."


"Jail records late Sunday afternoon indicated Schubert was no longer in the detention center. Police planned to release more information about Schubert's arrest on Monday, Rivera said."


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