A rising prevailing wage sinks all ships

Hey THC fans, checking back in with an update on our post from this past weekend on ridiculously high prevailing wages and the impact that they have on Humboldt’s hopes for affordable housing.

A number of responses came in that absolutely blasted the prevailing wage requirements being proposed in the state legislature by union shills like Kansen Chu, the sponsor of CA Bill 199, which would add a whole laundry list of private housing projects to the type of development subject to paying prevailing wages. Just as a reminder, those types of restrictions are what makes building affordable housing nearly impossible for the private sector, and since the public sector clearly isn’t doing enough to address the housing shortage, Californians are desperate for just such involvement from private developers.

Among the points raise by a few of your fellow readers are that the inflated building costs from prevailing wage applied to current projects could easily be going to shore up issues with roads, public safety, the environment, you name it – but instead those funds are going towards ensuring that Californians have to fight tooth and nail for housing in addition to sub-par services.

Another reader wrote in pointing out the exhaustive amount of funds that go towards over seeing the prevailing wage program, and just how much more effective that money could be spent on housing projects or elsewhere, rather than giving laborers wages that are generally at least three times above the normal wages for any given area.

We even had a THC tipster write in with even more up-to-date specifics about prevailing wages than we were able to turn up. They wanted to make sure that we told all you good readers out there that Humboldt County’s sheet metal workers are officially the highest prevailing wage earners in the area, and pull in a whopping $101.36 per hour.

For reference, that’s just slightly below the same rate that Humboldt’s Health and Human Services Director, Connie Beck, would make if she were paid hourly.

Here’s a link to the full story from the weekend.

Prevailing wage set to sink Humboldt’s Affordable Housing?

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White Supremacy in “McKlanyville”? McMAC set to consider racism in McKinleyville at tonight’s meeting after much delay

That’s right folks. McKlanlyville.

Let all the implications of that wash over you for a moment, but before you laugh, think on this: tonight at 6 p.m., the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee is set to consider placing an in-depth discussion about racism in McKinleyville on a future agenda.

The rumblings about extreme racism in McKinleyville have apparently been simmering for quite some time now, but recently rose to the surface following the much-publicized, and highly divisive, slaying of Josiah Lawson in Arcata this past April.

It was not long after that tragedy when a THC-tipster contacted us about an email they’d received from the professional shit-stirrers over at Humboldt Area Foundation, asking what the community proposed to do about the “hot bed of white supremacy” in McKinleyville. (As an aside, is fueling a debate about how racist or not Humboldt County is something that we really want an organization like HAF getting involved in?)

So, we ask our readers (because we don’t have a clue what goes on up in McKinleyville), is there a basis for concerns about racism – and more specifically, organized white supremacy groups – in Humboldt’s northern reaches? Or is all of this blown out of proportion?

THC shudders to think that any kind of that activity is going on in our beautiful home, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking. If we’re dead wrong, please, enlighten us.

A peculiar twist to this already disturbing issue is a tip we’ve received from an inside source that indicates the man in charge of setting the agenda for the McMAC has been actively trying to avoid bringing the discussion before the committee, and in fact, may have been actively trying to quash the issue altogether.

That man is none other than Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Ben Shepard.

Whether or not white supremacists are working behind the scenes in McKinleyville, we think that actively delaying or discouraging even talking about racism is horrific, especially from a public figure in a position of (relative) power on the McMAC – we hope that bit about Shepard just isn’t true.

We’ll keep you posted as soon as we’re able on precisely what comes out of tonight’s McMAC meeting, and hopefully will have an even bigger scoop from a source close to the effort of driving the discussion about racism in McKinleyville to the forefront of the community’s advisory committee.

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Prevailing Wage set to sink Humboldt’s Affordable Housing?

In just the most recent national publicity about California’s dire housing problems, the New York Times ran a piece which details the depths of the housing crisis that California is sinking into.

The article points to over-regulation, NIMBY-ism, environmentalists, and basically just some really stupid lawmakers as the reasons behind our critical lack of housing.

Good news is that some of our legislators are starting to wake up. Just as the drought created new opportunity to push forward new water regulations in the past few years, the housing crisis – which is on par with California’s pension crisis in terms of severity – is affording us new chances to fix the broken system that got us into this mess.

Heck, the NYT article even highlights one of THC’s most common gripes about housing in CA: “…economists say, the high cost of all housing is first and foremost the result of a failure to build. The state has added about 311,000 housing units over the past decade, far short of what economists say is needed.”

Imagine that? All we need to do is BUILD MORE HOUSING, ASSHOLES.

Here’s a link to the full NYT article:

The Cost of Hot Economy in California: A Severe Housing Crisis

Now, the above New York Times article paints a great picture of how severe the housing crisis is – but makes a pretty bold statement about how California’s housing crisis is “a price of this state’s economic boom”. THC thinks that’s B.S. – the housing crisis is occurring despite the economic boom. You see, a lot of the legislative efforts to alleviate the housing crisis are in fact just get-even-richer schemes cooked up by unions and their pocket politicians.

Logically, a booming economy means more people would want to come here – and they have. It’s just that California’s supremely anti-business, pro-union lawmakers have made it impossible for housing stock to boom along with the rest of the economy. One of the biggest tools at their disposal is the prevailing wage requirements for government-assisted affordable housing development.

Assembly Bill 199, which looks to be on a fast track through a Legislature with a history of accommodating unions, would require private housing developers on projects in which a government “subdivision” has a role, to pay workers on the job the prevailing wage.

According to Beacon Economics, prevailing wage could increase the costs of residential home construction by 46 percent. Even half of that would be devastating.

Estimates from the Building Industry Association indicate that the proposal would boost the cost of a 2,000-square-foot home in San Diego County by about $90,000. The Business Council of San Joaquin County says that AB199 would increase the cost of a 1,500-square-foot home there by $75,000.

To put those numbers in perspective, consider this bit of analysis from the National Association of Home Builders: For every $1,000 added to the price of a California home, more than 15,000 households are forced out of the market.

Folks often understate the impact that prevailing wage can have on a project’s feasibility from a financing perspective – lucky for us, California’s Department of Industrial Relations has a handy list of all the prevailing wage rates for the state, and for specific regions’ wages for specialize laborers.

You can check all of them out at the link below, but we’ll give you a quick run-down of a few Humboldt-specific wages that jump out at us:

Plumber: $71.52/hour

Electrician: Between $50.25 and $89.10/hour

Bricklayer: $74.32/hour

Painter: up to $64.70 per hour

Follow this link if you want to look at any other specific trades in any area of California: CA Department of Industrial Relations: Prevailing Wage

Even better, here’s one of the PDF’s specific to Humboldt’s prevailing wage amounts: Humboldt Prevailing Wage

You’ll notice that the prevailing wage hourly rate, more often than not, is higher than that of our very own (and overpaid) County Supervisors, who clock in at around $38.94 per hour for their yearly salary, not including benefits.

The overarching question that California’s lawmakers need to ask themselves about prevailing wage is this: is kow-towing to wage demand pressure from unions and labor organizations really worth crippling ? Tying up affordable housing projects with prevailing wage issues isn’t just bad for business and development in California, it’s a huge blow to the people in California that are desperate for housing. Should we be screwing all of the low-income families and people scraping together anything they can to keep a roof over their heads in favor or ridiculously high wages?

And make no mistake – it’s our State government’s cozy relationship with unions and the like which will be the biggest factor in torpedoing any realistic chance of meeting the huge need for affordable housing in our state. They’re busy clawing for every last cent they can get their hands on while the little guys are left crowded into tiny apartments, or out in the rain.

There’s a line between ensuring workers receive a fair wage for their hard work and extorting the State government, business owners, an taxpayers for all they’ve got – union forces which push for prevailing wages on any and all subsidized housing development are way, way past that line.

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THC Poll: CA to get even softer on parole; does Humboldt think it’s a good idea?

It’s time for yet another of the ever-popular, and rage-inducing, THC polls, and this one should hit pretty close to home for many of us in Humboldt.

California is set to enact a new set of regulations on shortened sentences for all kinds of criminals in our state prison system, and is geared towards providing credits or incentives for rehabilitation of criminals. The overall aim is to reduce our prison populations and to keep former inmates from going back into prison.

While this issue is slightly different from the horrendous Prop 47, which Humboldt citizen’s often blame for some of Humboldt’s finest getting the good ol’ catch-and-release treatment as soon as they get booked for a crime, it highlights a concerning question: is going easier on various  types of crime a good thing for California?

You can read more in-depth about the proposed changes here:

Officials unveil controversial guidelines for the release of more inmates to relieve prison overcrowding

The most controversial debate around Prop 57 circles around the treatment of sex-offenders in the parole system. Read more on that here:

Debate over sex offenders moves to court as California undertakes prison parole overhaul

But an even bigger problem with Prop 57, in THC’s opinion, is California’s definition of what is or is not a violent crime. Take this other article from the LA times, which details how a man charged with drugging, assaulting, and raping women could walk free much sooner than expected because his crimes weren’t classified as “violent”.

What is a ‘violent crime’? For California’s new parole law, the definition is murky— and it matters

Call us crazy, but there seems to be a big problem with that.

And now it’s voting time, THC fans: Prop 57, love it or hate it?

 

 

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CA Gas Tax repeal initiative being undermined by Attorney General; repeal proponents to sue

As promised, we’re doing our darned-est to keep you update on the latest when it comes to the gas tax repeal initiative. It’ll come as no surprise to you based on our last post about the repeal initiative, but we’re pretty pumped up over the prospect of kicking that tax to the curb.

Unfortunately, the folks behind the initiative have taken exception to the language that will accompany the ballot measure seeking to overturn the gas tax, which was drafted and recently released by the State Attorney General. In short, the proponents don’t like it.

The slightly longer version is that they don’t like it at all, and they’re looking to sue in order to get the language changed. The Attorney General came up with this title of the repeal: “ELIMINATES RECENTLY ENACTED ROAD REPAIR AND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING BY REPEALING REVENUES DEDICATED FOR THOSE PURPOSES. INITIATIVE STATUTE. ”

Harsh wording, to be sure. You can read the full summary here:

Title and Summary of Gas Tax Repeal Initiative

Here’s a link to an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle that condemns the Attorney General’s manipulation of the ballot measure language, and we think it’s worth a read:

California AG stacks the deck on gas-tax measure

Here’s a snippet:

It’s just plain wrong for a Democratic attorney general to offer a skewed legal summary of a Republican-backed initiative. Chief sponsor of the repeal, Assemblyman Travis Allen who is also a candidate for governor next year, is promising to sue over the language.

Becerra is not the first attorney general to employ loaded language for or against an initiative. It’s a bit of a California tradition played by attorneys general of both parties. It’s time to move for reform that would put the title and summary of ballot measures in the hands of a more independent and nonpartisan arbiter.”

We’re generally a little hesitant to use editorial pieces to make a point, the unusually excellent point made by the San Francisco Chronicle – that California needs to explore placing the responsibility for penning the title and summary of ballot measures “in the hands of a more independent and nonpartisan arbiter” – is one that THC feels shouldn’t have much argument against it.

While we don’t at all agree that the repeal of the gas tax is a bad idea – quite the opposite, actually – we do agree with finding a better way of coming up with ballot measure language, and are equally as pissed about the political move by the AG to kill the repeal initiative.

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County Planning Department demotions aim to fix a broken department, but Director John Ford needs to go further

While taking our customary cruise  through the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting agendas a couple of Fridays ago (yes, we lead exciting lives!), we saw quite a few of the same useless agenda items as we’re all accustomed to in Humboldt County.

But one item made our hearts swell with joy – recently hired Planning Director John Ford is taking the first steps towards cleaning up a department that is as ineffective as they come.

Ford put forward an action for the Board to consider which effectively demoted two worthless and troublesome employees and also potentially lowered their salaries.

Steve Santos and Paula Mushrush, formerly the Development Assistance Manager and the Economic Development Coordinator, respectively, have been knocked down a peg or two, both in job title and pay. Now, aside from how ridiculous the fact that Humboldt County even had an Economic Development Director when there’s no real economic development to speak of, this is great news for everyone in Humboldt County.

But making a small example of just two employees won’t right the ship, and the fix has been a long time coming. What needs to happen is a full-on house cleaning – Ford needs to get rid of his problem employees, whether they are incompetent, willfully insert their own agendas into their County work, or are just plain lazy.

See, a slap on the wrist is a move in the right direction, but lowering someone’s salary from $5,534.95 – $7,102.58 to $4,984.55 – $6,396.30 per month (depending on what salary step they were at) likely isn’t going to have the effect that Ford – or those of us here at THC – are ultimately hoping for.

That, of course, is revamping the County Planning Department into an outfit that isn’t rampantly ineffective and unwilling to do the work required of them.

To the many Planning employees to which we can attribute this problem, we’d suggest they take a look at the writing on the wall and get out while the getting’s good. It’ll be a lot easier for them to resign and get to work screwing some other county or city up if they aren’t outright fired here.

Sure, it might be a little tough for Ford to see his way to actually axing people, especially considering the amount of work to be done on processing and approving cannabis permits alone. But we’ also point out that the insurmountable back load of permits is a problem that was caused by this very Department’s incompetence.

So, to John Ford, we say good start – just make sure that you keep going. The future of Humboldt County may well hinge on having a Planning Department that isn’t filled to the brim with sycophants and slackers.

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EPIC, other groups move to stop Richardson Grove project; still ignoring impacts of marijuana growing on our rivers

Just as we all expected, EPIC and other environmental groups have started beating the war drums over the big, bad road-widening project in Richardson’s Grove that Caltrans has been working towards for years.

Don’t the local environmental groups and individuals filing the most recent suit have bigger fish to fry in terms of protecting our cherished environment than trying yet again to shut this project down?

Here’s the thing – the Richardson Grove widening project will happen. The environmental groups aren’t fooling themselves about that – but they are hoping they can fool the general public into thinking they are deserving of public gratitude and monetary support though their efforts will eventually prove to ineffective.

But who’s surprised by any of this?

Back at the end of May, we ran a story on how Natalynne DeLapp, former Executive Director, made the switch from “championing the environment” to working directly for the benefit of cannabis farmers by joining the Humboldt County Growers Association. Of course, if you ask us, her new work with the HCGA isn’t that far removed from the work EPIC does, considering that EPIC and similar environmental groups are tied so closely to the marijuana industry.

Top Humboldt “environmentalist” continues to fight for marijuana, not environment

From that piece:

Since Measure S came on the scene, some groups gave lip service to needing to protect the environment from cannabis. But we’ll bet you big bucks that they’ll raise a much louder fuss over the relatively inconsequential Caltrans project over in Richardson’s Grove.

And just like clockwork, EPIC and others sent out the rallying cry about how destructive and terrible and just plain mean Caltrans is for pursuing the project. (We’d like to note here that the continual legal challenges to the Richardson Grove project from groups like EPIC has sent the costs for widening the road skyrocketing – thanks again for taking more taxpayer money, folks.)

Unfortunately for our local environmental heroes, people are starting to wake up to the reality that their organizations are going after relatively insignificant issues when the big environmental bogeyman – cannabis cultivation – is still continuing virtually unabated. People are also starting to recognize that these groups are blissfully ignoring the impacts on our local rivers from cannabis.

Where’s the outrage over the continual destruction of our environment? Even generally the  oblivious Fish & Wildlife came out and said that the sudden explosion of early season toxic algae blooms in our rivers are almost certainly a result of nutrient run-off from cannabis activities. What did you hear from local environmental groups on that?

Crickets.

You see, these groups know that pursuing pot will cut into their funding in a few ways: firstly, a big chunk of their change comes from cannabis. Secondly, who are they going to sue for cannabis related environmental destruction? It’s a lot more profitable for them to go after Caltrans than it is to take on the actually beneficial and important of taking a stand against cannabis.

When it boils down to it, that’s all these groups are after – more money. The “protect the environment” line they shout over and over again is just that; a line to make themselves sound good and bring in more donor dollars.

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Can’t stand the smell of bad gas taxes? Join the petition to repeal it!

Head over to this website if you want to take steps to help repeal the highest gas tax increase in California history.

No CA Gas Tax

In case you aren’t hip to the B.S. that is the recent gas tax increase, here’s an informative primer on just what the tax is, what it will (or will not!) accomplish, and how much it’s going to cost you.

The true cost of CA gas tax – the State’s numbers just don’t add up

An excerpt:

Does the recently passed gas tax devoting $57 billion to our roads seem to good to be true? Well, that’s because it is.

While poring over a whole heck of a lot of information on SB we came across an article in the Los Angeles Times which notes that only $34 billion of the first $52 billion raised by the tax will go towards roads. Here’s some more on that:

“About $34 billion of the first $52 billion raised will go to repairing roads, bridges, highways and culverts, with most of the money split 50-50 between state and local projects.

An additional $7 billion over the first decade will go to mass transit projects. Other money will fund improvements to trade corridors, including the roads serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and will go toward reducing congestion on the most clogged commuter routes.”

Gee, seems like all that money going to Southern California roads and to mass transit systems which those of us in the northern reaches of the state will almost certainly not benefit from is part of a common refrain – we’re getting gouged for taxes that don’t benefit us in the ways that we’re being sold on, and in many cases won’t benefit us at all.”

 

As for the petition itself, it is all over the news.

Gas-tax repeal? California lawmaker launches a ballot initiative

Initiative filed to repeal California gas tax increase

At this point, the repeal petition is still in its infancy, but you can either make a donation to support the process or sign up to keep updated on the latest developments.

We’ll be sure to keep you informed on the latest with the petition – until then, we’ll say that we just love the smell of tax repeal in the air!

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Think your rent is bad? Odds are good it’s going to get worse

Seems like rents are astronomical in Humboldt County, even though we’re not in the same stratosphere as urban centers like San Francisco, L.A., and San Diego.

A common complaint in Humboldt County is that those darn pot growers are taking  up all the available housing for use in cultivation. Although that may be true to a certain extent, we think the effect of that has been over-exaggerated, especially in recent years.

You see, what’s to explain all the crazy rents being charged throughout the rest of California? Those darn pot growers?

Think again.

As we’ve talked about before, we think California’s housing shortages can be attributed mostly to one thing – there just aren’t enough units to go around.

The Sacramento Bee published an article a few days ago that looked at the critical need to build more housing in California that touches on the current state of continually rising rents and the prospects of our leaders pulling their heads out of their asses and doing something about it. (Forecast: bleak.) Read the article here:

Think rent is high in California? Here’s why it probably will get higher

Want to know something funny? The Bee compared California’s out-dated approach to “encouraging housing” to our very own swine-in-chief:

““President Trump wants to keep people out by building a wall. California is more sophisticated – it uses zoning and development laws to keep people out, but they have the same effect.””

Something surely must be done to provide more housing. Cue our state representatives and leaders riding to the rescue of California’s beleaguered citizens, right?

Well…the Legislature reached a budget deal last week that included no new money for affordable housing.

But then Jerry Brown swooped in and is now seeking a cool $400 million to dedicate towards the creation of affordable housing.

Gee, Jerry – what a great idea! Let’s throw another $400 million of tax payer monies at the housing shortage problem just like we have for the past four decades. Look at how well that’s worked for us so far.

However, Brown did propose relaxing regulations and streamlining approvals to get the ball rolling:

“The Democratic governor wants to streamline housing development by limiting environmental project reviews, lowering permit requirements that can drive up per-unit costs, providing financial incentives to cities and counties that build new housing and strengthening laws that require low-income set-asides in new construction.”

It was a great idea, until environmental groups and unions did us all a favor by shutting those ideas down.

An actually exciting prospect on the horizon is that a few state senators are proposing bills that – you guessed it – would introduce some new taxes to help fight the problem. At least, it’s exciting when you’re only considering the need for more housing.

Of course, it would be more exciting if there was any remote chance of increased funding for housing coming to pass any time soon. Want to know what one of the biggest reasons why our lawmakers won’t act on easing restrictions? Because they’re reluctant to introduce a new tax after they just bamboozled Californians with the gas tax this year. (Which reminds us – tune in tomorrow for an important update about what you can do to get rid of that awful, awful gas tax we’ve been saddled with.)

Of course, there’s a simple answer to the problem that doesn’t occur to the majority of our money-hungry politicians: we can encourage housing by relaxing regulations on all types of housing construction. Boom. Fixed that problem for you, California.

Assembly Bill 73, introduced by Senator Weiner, proposes to do precisely some of those things. We’ll keep you updated on that bill’s progress, but don’t hold your breath.

The Sacramento Bee article goes on to discuss how rents are forcing people out of their homes and often onto the streets. In Humboldt, of course, we don’t need any reminders. We get those every day when we see our streets, greenbelts, and trails overcome with homeless who – among other things – have fallen victim to our State’s inability to care for its residents.

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Humboldt Bay Firefighters’ Union can’t stop complaining, Pt. 2

Yesterday, we detailed how the firefighters’ union decided to tell a little fib to put the . (Let’s note here that, in our opinion, using the suspension of a life-saving program to try and grab more money for themselves seems a little exploitative, to say the least.)

But that wasn’t the only time that the Union, and Union President Matt McFarland, made headlines this past week.

The second time came when McFarland filed a grievance because HBF Chief Bill Gillespie over his desire to wear a politically divisive Black Lives Matter pin on his City-issued, tax-payer-funded uniform. Here’s a link to more on the story:

Local Firefighter Files Grievance After Being Told to Remove a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Lapel Pin From His Uniform

According to Gillespie on the matter, “McFarland’s job description requires him to work closely with police and other public safety agencies, to deliver “a high level of customer service to the public and staff” and to maintain effective working relationships, all of which, he argues, are undermined by a polarizing lapel pin. Regarding the First Amendment, Gillespie says numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, “have held that a [public employee’s] uniform is not a venue for freedom of speech.””

We don’t care what side of the Black Lives Matter issue you fall on – we hope we can all agree that wearing any type of politically divisive flair on the uniform of a public safety employee who ostensibly serves everyone equally is not okay. Not to mention that it is expressly against HBF uniform policy.

If you put aside the seriousness of the clear animosity between HBF and the union, it sure is fun to watch these two go after each other again and again. (Read more on that at the links provided at the end of this post.)

And in what appears to be a win for logic, the Humboldt Bay Joint Fire Authority board upheld Gillespie’s position. More on that from LoCO:

Firefighter Cannot Wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ Lapel Pin: Humboldt Bay Fire Board Upholds Chief’s Order

Turns out that key testimony provided by witnesses called by McFarland’s Union-appointed legal representative which alleged “that many minorities see “an invisible pin” on law enforcement uniforms, one that implies they’re not entitled to the same justice afforded to whites”, was unable to sway those mean, mean folks on the board. (Of note is that Council Member Austin Allison, a yuge advocate for firefighters, serves on the board.)

Let this serve as notice: citing imaginary or “invisible” evidence usually isn’t a sound route to take.

Of course, Matt McFarland and the firefighters’ union haven’t contained their whining ways to just this past week. Here are a few THC flashbacks that help paint a picture of just what kind of organization we have looking out for us:

Humboldt Bay Firefighters ready to burn the taxpayer for first raise “in years”; THC calls B.S.

Humboldt Bay Firefighters fudging the numbers amidst their demands for higher salaries

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