Second take

Feb 21, 2012

Chevron has long enjoyed a major presence in the refinery town of El Segundo, which it helped found a century ago, but now that influence is coming under closer scrutiny amid concerns about the local taxes that the petroleum company pays.


From Kristin S. Agostini in the Torrance Daily Breeze: "For one, the now-fired city manager who brought the tax plan to the council - Doug Willmore - said he believes his ouster was retaliatory. His attorney plans to file a claim challenging the council's 3-2 vote on Feb. 9 to dismiss him."


"And old records circulating around City Hall - some of which were released last week to the media - have raised suspicions about a deal city officials struck with Chevron 18 years ago to settle a tax dispute. That agreement came after an auditing firm suggested the refinery owed El Segundo several million dollars in unpaid taxes. The city ultimately suspended the firm's work, and the resulting settlement with Chevron yielded a couple hundred thousand dollars that were turned over to the auditor."

Speaking of petroleum, spiraling gasoline prices are painful enough, but the larger picture is that the drain on drivers' pocketbooks may derail the nation's -- and California's -- fragile economic recovery. The LAT's Don Lee and Matt Stevens have the story.


"The price surge has been particularly steep in California, in part because of maintenance at some refineries that make the state's cleaner-burning gasoline. Statewide, average pump prices for regular gasoline crossed the $4 mark over the weekend and reached an average of $4.031 a gallon Monday, up 5% in just the last week and nearly 9% higher than a month ago.

"It doesn't bode well for the consumer," said Jeff Spring of the Automobile Club of Southern California. "By April or May you might see some isolated instances where you're seeing $5" gas per gallon."

The source of the leaked documents last week from the Heartland Institute is none other than Peter Gleick, a well-known Oakland-based climate expert. Heartland, industry financed, casts doubt on the validity of global warming and Gleick apparently saw the document dump as a way of disparaging Heartland's role.

From Darren Samuelsohn at Politico: " Writing on his Huffington Post blog, Gleick, the president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, said he received one document anonymously at the start of the year but then, in an attempt to confirm its accuracy, made a “serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics” by contacting the Chicago-based libertarian group using someone else’s name."

"The Heartland Institute replied to him with more materials and "confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget," Gleick wrote, referring to its purported plans to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors like the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the creation of new school curriculum questioning climate change science.

Thye Occupy movement has been everywhere from the Oakland ports to Wall Street, and now they've got a new target -- San Quentin state prison.

From John Wildemuth in the Chronicle: "It's been an amazing day," said Crystal Bybee, a spokeswoman for the local Occupy 4 Prisoners group. "We've had hundreds of people out here reading messages from prisoners and speaking out about issues that are important to us."


"Among the reforms protest organizers are calling for are elimination of solitary confinement, a ban on the death penalty and an end to California's "three-strikes" law. The protest was one of about 15 taking place at prisons across the country today."


Gov. Brown's latest budget blueprint reflects a drop in the state's annual payment to CalPERS of about $400 million, from $3.5 billion to $3.1 billion, a move that could wind up putting a freeze on UC and CSU pensions.

From CalPensions' Ed Mendel: "The governor’s plan to shift some of the unpredictable future pension risk out of the state budget, where the general fund has been running huge deficits for a decade, could play a role in the debate over public pensions."


"Next month CalPERS will look again at changing its earnings forecast. The board rejected actuarial advice last year to lower the forecast from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent, which would have increased the state CalPERS payment by an estimated $400 million."


And here's something to warm the heart of every driver tagged unfairly by a red-light camera: A class-action lawsuit is in the works against the city of Victorville and its red-light camera program, saying motorists' rights were violated and demanding millions of dollars in damages.


From Mike Cruz in the San Bernardino Sun: "The suit alleges misdemeanors and infractions have always been violations that must have occurred in an officer's presence and not making that a requirement violates the California Penal Code."


"Declarations that appear in red-light camera tickets from the Redflex-Victorville program are subscribed under "information and belief," which the lawsuit alleges is akin to hearsay, not a police officer's personal knowledge."


"The problem here is there's a disconnect," Conaway said Monday by telephone. "You can't have two standards of evidence."

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