CSU and UC, move over: California's community colleges, buffeted and battered by budget cuts, are confronting the real possibility of closures.
From Matt Krupnick in the Santa Cruz Sentinel: "All of California's interlocked higher education systems -- the University of California, the California State University and the community colleges -- have been hit hard by the state's fiscal problems, but community colleges perhaps most of all. Tasked with job training, remedial education and transferring students to universities, the schools receive less money per student than either the universities or K-12 schools."
"If the tax initiative fails, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to slash $300 million from the 112-college system's $3.7 billion budget. And, although he would give the schools $340 million from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, experts say that money may not arrive in time for this year's budget."
"I do think some districts are going to need state assistance," said Scott Lay, president and CEO of the Community College League of California, an advocacy group. "I don't know how many districts would be able to survive a reduction like that and the lost redevelopment money."
With the June 5 primary election just around the corner, all eyes are on a couple of ballot propositions and the top-two primary. But down in Riverside County, the most bitterly fought campaigns include judicial races, which rarely grab public attention.
From the Press Enterprise's Richard K. De Atley: "It’s the first time in 18 years that incumbent judges have been challenged in the county. The nonpartisan campaigns in 2012 seem to be making up for lost time."
"Challengers claim in Web postings and mailers that the two incumbents seated in Riverside, Judge Craig Riemer and Judge Gary Tranbarger, have made rogue-judge rulings."
"Among the claims: Riemer “sided” with child molesters, chose not to give a 25-years-to-life three-strikes sentence to a career criminal who went on to victimize more people, and declared a mistrial in one case because it was going to run one day into his scheduled vacation."
Looming changes in the accounting rules for public pensions originally had been viewed with trepidation, but now they getting more positive reviews.
From CalPensions' Ed Mendel: "Under the new rules, experts say, most California pension systems will make little if any use of a lower “risk-free” government bond-based earnings forecast, currently about 4 percent, that causes debt to soar."
"Pension systems can continue to use earnings forecasts critics say are too optimistic, now 7.5 percent for the three state funds, to offset or “discount” estimates of the cost of pensions promised current workers in the decades ahead."
"But if the assets (employer-employee contributions and investment earnings) are projected to run out before all of the pension obligations are covered, the pension system must “crossover” to a lower bond-based forecast to calculate the remaining debt."
Former San Diego Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who went to prison for corruption, is due to be released in a few months and he's asked the courts for permission to carry a gun.
From the Union-Tribune's Greg Moran: "But the plea, made in a rambling and sometimes disconsolate letter sent to Judge Larry A. Burns on May 2, was for naught. Burns, who sentenced Cunningham to eight years and four months in prison in 2006, replied he had no power to help him."
"The correspondence is the latest missive from the Tucson, Ariz., federal prison where Cunningham has been serving his sentence. The former Republican congressman pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion and admitted to receiving gifts, cash and fancy trips from defense contractors in exchange for steering government work their way."
"Since his imprisonment he has denied taking bribes and said he regretted his plea. In the letter he said he is scheduled to be released to a halfway house in December."
A loan-forgiveness program that was set up to get new doctors to practice in under-served areas hasn't worked out, largely because the incentive really isn't enticing enough.
From Jennifer Gollan in the Bay Citizen: "The program was designed to help primary care physicians cover the costs of setting up private practices or relocating to the district, which includes Burlingame and Hillsborough, two cities with some of the highest real estate prices in the nation. Doctors who practiced in the district for four or five years would have their loans forgiven."
"But nearly a decade later, no physicians have completed the program. The district has not actively promoted the incentives, even after expanding it in 2006 to include other specialties. As a result, critics say, hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have financed community health programs has languished over the years."
“If there is a program that hasn’t worked for 10 years, you would think there would be a course correction, especially with so many dire health care needs in California,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group based in Sacramento."
And from our "On the Road to Lhasa" file comes the tale of the little dog who hooked up with cyclists on an 1,100-mile journey. We don't make these things up.
"Heng and friends were cruising through a town when he spotted a dog passed out in the street, so he did the cool thing and stopped to feed it and make sure it was okay. Not only did Xiao Sa or “Little Sa” appreciate the meal and the kindness, but she pledged her eternal faith to her new human friends and joined them on their one-month journey. On paw, pretty much the whole way."
"Xiao Sa really wanted to accompany them on their trip, and she showed incredible determination over the 20 days she ran alongside her new-found friends, all the way to Lhasa, Tibet. She traveled a total of 1,138 miles, climbed ten mountains over 4,000 meters high, and ran on uphill sections where many bikers prefer to take the bus."
"The only portion of the journey where Xiao Sa didn’t have to run was on a steep slope in Litang, where downhill speeds reach 70 km per hour, which made it impossible to catch up. So the cyclists made a cage for her and gave Sa a ride to the bottom, where she resumed her journey on foot."