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On to the links:
State agency’s mishandling of land costs millions, auditor finds
The State Lands Commission has mismanaged public property, costing millions of dollars in lost revenue by not renewing expired leases, keeping rents at market level or evicting delinquent tenants, the state auditor concluded Tuesday.
“The commission has not always managed its more than 4,000 leases in the State’s best interest with the result that it has missed opportunities to generate millions of dollars in revenues for the State’s General Fund,’’ Auditor Elaine Howle wrote to the Legislature, which asked for the report.
The agency manages lands the state acquired from the federal government at statehood, including river and lake beds, submerged lands along the coast and school property.
The review found that the commission missed opportunities to generate up to $8.2 million in just some of the leases looked at by auditors. The commission is supposed to review rents periodically and increase them if necessary, but auditors said the agency failed to conduct the reviews promptly, “causing it to lose $6.3 million in increased rent it may have been able to collect.’’
Howle estimated that the state lost $1.6 million from 10 leases where the rent was delinquent but the lessee was able to remain on state land. In one case, a boating service company in Crockett had not paid any rent since 1989, but the commission had not taken action to remove the tenant.
As Budgets Continue to Shrink, the Lines Will Grow in California Civil Courts
Lines at a courthouse are kind of like hurt feelings in a divorce: they are expected, they are unavoidable, but, hopefully, they are dealt with quickly.
For the romantically estranged residents of San Francisco, however, the wait for a divorce may soon drag on longer than the life span of most Hollywood marriages, as a series of cutbacks threatens to cripple the civil courts. Under a plan unveiled last month and due to take effect this fall, San Francisco will close 25 courtrooms, reduce clerks’ hours and lay off more than 175 employees, effectively bringing much of the business of the court to a crawl.
Katherine Feinstein, the presiding judge of San Francisco Superior Court, said the average time for a divorce would be at least 18 months. All manner of other civil matters — small claims, civil and class-action lawsuits, probate and conservatorship cases, and big-money complex cases — will also probably take longer to settle.
“The civil justice system in San Francisco is collapsing,” Judge Feinstein said.
But San Francisco is hardly alone in seeing hours or services cut; other California counties have already made cuts or are expected to soon.
Tax Increases Killing Jobs
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic Legislature finally have discovered that California has to create more jobs. The governor last week appointed banker Michael Rossi as his new Jobs Czar.
Yet Brown, the Democratic Legislature and the L.A. Times’ tax-obsessive columnists continue to push for higher taxes. They might pause a bit and consider Illinois, which vies with California and New York for the country’s worst state business climate.
Earlier this year Illinois increased taxes to close a budget deficit. The results are in: total devastation to state jobs. The Illinois Policy Institute reported:
Illinois started to create jobs as the national economy began to recover. But just when Illinois’s economy seemed to be turning around, lawmakers passed record tax increases in January of this year. Since then, Illinois’s employment numbers have done nothing but decline.
Data released today by the bureau confirms this downward trajectory. When it comes to putting people back to work, Illinois is going backwards. Since January, Illinois has dropped 89,000 people from its employment rolls.
The costliest executions in America
Alarcon did, in fact, recite all the particulars of his indictment of a dysfunctional system.
Because the state does not spend enough on lawyers to handle death penalty appeals, he noted, the backlog in California is three times the national average. Because the state requires direct appeal to the Supreme Court, death penalty cases make up 20 percent of the court’s workload. It takes four or five years just to appoint a defense attorney to handle the initial appeal, and another three years or more to appoint counsel for habeas corpus proceedings.
“The cost of maintaining the death penalty has become an onerous financial burden on California taxpayers,” he testified.
But Alarcon offered some ideas other than abolishing capital punishment: amend the Constitution to allow appellate courts to handle capital appeals; change the evidentiary standards so that prosecutors could seek the death penalty only when they have extraordinarily strong evidence such as DNA samples; put an extra $85 million a year into hiring attorneys at the state’s Habeas Corpus Research Center.
The bottom line of Alarcon’s and Mitchell’s findings is that the system is horribly broken and has become a bottomless money pit. It has become, they write, “the most expensive and least effective death penalty law in the nation.”
Because voters established it, only voters can fix it. And voters can’t be expected to make sound decisions unless they know all the facts — and until now, no one has ever told them how much it costs.