Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Emmerson says budget talks collapse

Republican State Sen. Bill Emmerson (R 37) said with discouragement that budget negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown have ended. Emmerson does not see any further discussion between the parties at this time.

According to Emmerson, he and his colleagues negotiated over 50 issues and found agreement on all but two or three. Pension and regulatory reform were areas in which the politicians found common ground. But the spending cap proposal proved too high a hurdle to mutually clear.

“I think the discussion we’ve had came to an end. The Governor was not able to get to a plan on a spending cap proposal or agree on a single sales tax,” Emmerson said. “We had a pathway to improving California’s budget problems. I’m extremely disappointed.”

Emmerson is not sure what Brown will do next — majority vote budget, a fall initiative or another alternative. He was genuinely positive about Brown’s willingness to negotiate.

“I think the governor was extremely honorable. There was no contention,” Emmerson said. “He’s a stand-up guy.” Emmerson said he believed the governor was, in the end, unable to convince his stakeholders.

Brown faulted the larger Republican caucus which, in Brown’s words in a March 25 letter to Republican leader Bob Dutton, “added almost two dozen new topics [to those originally under negotiation] including obscure aspects of labor law and shifting the Presidential primary to March. In addition, your list of demands — if met — would undermine my entire budget proposal by undoing major elements and extending the taxes for only 18 months [rather than the five years the governor had proposed].”

Emmerson himself may get involved in possible initiatives for pension reform and spending caps.

At this point, Governor Brown said he would focus his efforts “on speaking directly to Californians and coming up with honest and real solutions to our budget crisis.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Where were Casey's fans? Abrams nearly eliminated!

It made for great television, but American Idol early favorite Casey Abrams’ near elimination on Thursday, March 24 was a shock to his fans and to Idyllwild. How did a guy pegged to go the distance by many in the blogosphere and the media, celebrated for his originality and musicianship, wind up with the fewest viewer votes? Where were his fans and why didn’t they vote? Has something diminished the “Casey” fan infatuation factor from the headiness of the early weeks of the contest or have fans, including locals, grown complacent, convinced he would sail safely through?

Had it not been for a once-a-season “save,” when judges can override the wisdom or digital dexterity of voters, Abrams would have exited and been denied the post-season national tour.

On Thursday’s show, Abrams, with the fewest votes of the bottom three of eleven finalists, had to “sing for his life” for a possible judges’ reprieve. Abrams had only sung a few bars of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” when judge Randy Jackson stopped him. “We know who you are,” said Jackson. “You deserve to be here,” said Jennifer Lopez. “This is crazy wrong,” said judge Steven Tyler. “We made the decision to keep you on.” And with that unanimous decision, a shocked Abrams survived. But as host Ryan Seacrest darkly noted, two finalists will be eliminated next week.

In the end, those who win do so because of viewer votes, and only if the viewers vote. Talent plays a role, but it is not necessarily determinative. Think Jennifer Hudson, the only Idol contestant to win an Oscar who didn’t even make it to the top three in season three. Left standing after her elimination were six more finalists: Fantasia Barrino (who went on to win), Diana Degarmo (runner up), and George Huff, La Toya London, John Sevens and Jasmine Trias. Only Barrino went on to some measure of sustained career success.

According to Idol lore, Idol producers created the once-a-season judges’ save in season eight, partly because of Hudson’s early elimination and subsequent successes. How many times in the first nine seasons did viewers choose those most likely to have successful recording careers? Judged by subsequent career success, not many. Which of the first nine winners (Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino. Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze) became household names? Again, not many.

Does Casey have a chance from this point on? Have finalists in the bottom three ever gone on to become the American Idol? For the most part, they have not, with two exceptions. Check out this headline from tampabay.com and the St. Petersburg Times: “American Idol shocker: [name deleted] hits bottom three.” That was Adam Lambert, season eight’s leader throughout the entire competition until a close and controversial final vote in which Kris Allen won the competition. In the week of season eight’s Top Five elimination, both Allen and Lambert landed in the bottom three.

In season three, eventual Idol winner Fantasia Barrino was in the bottom two in the Top Seven telecast when Jennifer Hudson was eliminated, and was again in the bottom two in the Top Four elimination round.

Sam Miller, a Hill resident for over 30 years and proud lady of the Red Hats said she wants the town to know they have to support this talented and fine young man. “He’s one of our own and we need to take care of him,” she urged. “This town needs to push itself a little bit more and vote to support Casey.” Miller said she spent a half hour on Thursday casting votes by telephone. “Let Casey know [by voting] that he has a town that backs him, that loves him, and that’s proud of him."

And, as an “Only in Idyllwild” aside, Miller said that because we’re a small town, where many know Casey, his schoolmates, his parents and friends, we have to work harder to compete against finalists from large metropolitan areas with potentially larger home town fan bases.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

weather Tuesday

This morning is partly sunny, especially to the east. As the weather moves west, meets the mountain and is pushed higher the clouds form to the west of us.

Here's picture taken about 7:30 am.

A 20 percent chance of snow showers. Partly sunny,
with a high near 43. West wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Partly cloudy, with a low around 28. West wind
between 5 and 10 mph becoming calm.

A 50 percent chance of rain after 11am. Increasing clouds,
with a high near 46. Calm wind becoming west between 5 and 10 mph.

Wednesday Night:
Rain likely before 11pm, then a chance of snow
showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 34. West wind between 5
and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation
is 70%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

A 30 percent chance of snow showers, mainly after 11am.
Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. West wind around 10 mph.
Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Thursday Night:
A chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 33.
Chance of precipitation is 50%. New snow accumulation of less
than one inch possible.

A chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with
a high near 44. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Little or no snow
accumulation expected.

Friday Night:
Mostly cloudy, with a low around 34.

Partly sunny, with a high near 45.

Saturday Night:
A slight chance of rain. Snow level 5400 feet.
Mostly cloudy, with a low around 33.

A slight chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly sunny,
with a high near 49.

Sunday Night:
Partly cloudy, with a low around 36.

Mostly sunny, with a high near 55.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hwy 74 locally okay, but damage in and near Orange Cty

From CalTrans:

State Route 74 in Riverside and Orange Counties was damaged over
weekend by the storm. There are two locations where the
route sustained
slipouts: One just below the "Dome House" or post
mile 9.6 in Riverside
County (Caltrans District 8), and one between
the "Candy Store" and San
Antonio in Orange County (Caltrans District 12).

Orange County Update:
Damage to the location in Orange County is now under emergency
contract and
the completion date is unknown at this time. Below are
the hours the route
will be open to through traffic by direction only
(to accommodate commuter

Eastbound traffic will be given access between 2:30 pm and
5:30 am
until further notice.

Westbound traffic will be given access between 6:00 am to
2:00 pm
until further notice.

For future updates to the emergency repairs on the Orange County
section of
Hwy 74, please contact Caltrans District 12, Public Affairs,
at (949)
724-2000 or go to Facebook under "Caltransdistrict12".

Riverside Update:
There is no emergency contract for the Riverside location of
Maintenance crews will be working to make repairs
tomorrow, Tuesday, March
22, from 8:30 to approximately noon.
During this time the route will be
under one way traffic control.
These repairs are expected to be completed

Snow!! not spring

For those of you who awoke to a nice warm spring rain. Enjoy, count some blessings because we in Idyllwild are still in the midst of winter. At least 4 inches of snow covered my deck this morning and it is still coming down.

Here is the National Weather Service outlook for today and the week:

Today: Snow showers likely. Some thunder is also possible. Patchy fog. Otherwise, cloudy, with a high near 38. West wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tonight: A chance of rain and snow showers before 11pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 28. West wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Tuesday: A slight chance of rain and snow showers before 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 42. West wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 31. Northwest wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of rain. Mostly sunny, with a high near 45. West wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Wednesday Night: A 40 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a low around 31.

Thursday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43.

Thursday Night: A chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 32.

Friday: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 46.

Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 29.

Saturday: A slight chance of rain. Partly sunny, with a high near 46.

Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 34.

Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 50.

Oh yes, I forgot the CalTRANS warning:

Chains are required on all commercial vehicles (trucks or buses). All other vehicles (cars, pick-ups, vans, etc.) must have either snow tread tires or chains on the drive axle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Run on potassium Iodide fuels health advisory; “If you’ve bought potassium iodide pills already, don’t take them.”

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) conducted a press conference in Sacramento on Thursday, March 17 to address potential health concerns raised by a run on drug stores’ stocks of potassium iodide (KI). Drug stores throughout the state, including Idyllwild Pharmacy, are reporting depleted stocks of potassium iodide, as customers rush to stock the radiation-combating pills as a precaution against spread of radioactivity from Japan’s growing nuclear crisis. “ Customers have bought me out and my suppliers are out,” said Barry Shapiro, owner of Idyllwild Pharmacy.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of Public Health and Heath Officer, Los Angeles County, said to assembled journalists, “If you’ve already bought potassium iodide, don’t take it. Even with the most severe incidences [anticipated] in Japan, that does not translate to danger in California. Taking potassium iodide will confer no benefit and can be toxic in high doses.”

Jessica Wehrman, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Poison Control Centers, reported seven cases of bad reactions to the drug, including two with serious symptoms of vomiting, racing heart and vertigo.

Fielding explained that 5,000 miles separate California’s west coast from Japan and that radiation will be diluted before reaching California. In addition, the United States government is monitoring possible radiation spread on navy ships offshore from the compromised reactors, by high altitude aircraft across the Pacific, and in monitoring stations along the West Coast. Fielding said nothing indicates, at this point, that any significant radiation levels will reach the U.S. Should that change, alerts would be issued, but officials stressed that is not anticipated.

Dr. Howard Backer, CDPH interim director, noted, “We are in wet weather period [across the Pacific and in California] that pulls radiation out of the atmosphere.” Both officials advised that a more likely peril, for which California residents should be preparing, is a major quake here. “Buy emergency kits for car, home and an outbuilding, with water, food, three to five days of necessary medications, cash, important documents, and battery or crank-operated radios and flashlights,” said Fielding. “If you have other money, send it to Japan, rather than buying unneeded [and potentially harmful] pills.”

By way of comparison of worst-case scenarios, Backer referenced the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion that initially sent large amounts of radioactivity into the upper atmosphere and released more as the plant continued to burn for a week. Chernobyl is classified as the only class 7 nuclear accident (7 is the most severe accident on the Atomic Energy Commission scale). By comparison, 1979’s partial meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island (TMI) plant bears more similarity to Fukishima. Fukishima is currently rated class 5 (one with more than local consequences), as was TMI. Both centered on reversing a loss of cooling water in the reactor core that exposed highly radioactive fuel rods. Japan had automatic shutdown controls in place, but the tsunami following the 9-point quake wiped out backup power contingencies within a day. TMI involved one reactor. Fukishima involves multiple reactors.

As of Friday, March 18, power had been restored to the stricken Japanese site, aiding engineers in their battle to cool the reactors.

Government investigations following the TMI accident concluded that no radiation deaths or illnesses resulted from the crisis. With 5,000 miles separating Japan and California, unless conditions in Japan change dramatically, it is unlikely that significant radiation increases attributable to the Japanese crisis will affect the U.S.

"We have not detected any increases beyond what you'd expect historically. Nothing you can attribute to Japan," said Philip Fine of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in a public statement.

Check http://homelandsecuritynewswire.com/topics/radiological-threats for more information on radiological threats.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saturday super moon a natural occurrence

Just in case the unusually large full moon on Saturday night might seem oddly related to current events, and consequently raise anyone's anxiety levels, there is no reason for concern.

A "super moon" is a regular natural occurrence. Every 18 years, the moon passes closer to Earth than at any point in its eccentric elliptical orbit. On Saturday, March 19, it will be 211,567 miles from Earth and will look 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than your average full moon. At its farthest point from Earth, the moon is 252,088 miles away.

If you miss the close encounter on Saturday, you will have to wait until 2029 for another "super moon."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Emmerson says door is still open

Marshall Smith and I just concluded a phone interview with St. Sen. Bill Emmerson (R 37). The entire article will be in the print edition.

Republican State Sen. Bill Emmerson (CA 37) and four colleagues have been dubbed the “Gang 5” or the “GOP 5”, but he prefers the “Reform 5”. For almost two weeks, they have been deliberating and negotiating with Gov. Jerry Brown to achieve a meaningful breakthrough on the state’s financial crisis and put tax extensions on a June ballot.

Although the conferences have stopped without that achievement, Emmerson says, “The door is still open with the Governor.”

Emmerson said the five senators hope to accomplish several objectives as a result of these political risky negotiations: “Spending caps, rainy day funds, pension reform and regulatory changes to improve the state’s job creation capability.

Although no meetings are scheduled, Emmerson remains open to further talks. “I’m optimistic, that’s my nature,” he said. He said Brown indicated a willingness to address these key issues during his campaign and on his website. “It’s an opportunity to make California work,” he said.

Emmerson noted that risks and impediments are building on both sides of the legislative aisle. The formation of the “Taxpayers Caucus” two weeks ago created some division within his party, Divisions that Emmerson dubbed “destructive”. But he shared his position with his party’s legislative members. “I looked at that [formation of the Taxpayers’ Caucus] as campaigning,” he said. “Now it’s time to govern.” Emmerson believes that his group’s position has now gained respect within the larger Republican caucus.

Emmerson is unsure Brown has the full support of his party’s legislators. For example, Sen. Leeland Yee (San Francisco) has publicly opposed the governor’s plan without raising income taxes on millionaires and taxes on oil severance.

There will be more in the full article

Monday, March 14, 2011

Casey Abrams out of hospital and eager for Wednesday

American Idol finalist and Idyllwild resident Casey Abrams was released from the hospital today and is eager to sing in Wednesday's American Idol competition.

Abrams suffers from ulcerative colitis, an intestinal condition that can be both genetically influenced and stress aggravated.

Abrams was able to work from the hospital using Skype on the arrangements for this week's performance with AI producer Don Was. He will be in rehearsal on Monday for Wednesday's show.

According to mother Pam Pierce, Casey "sends his bear hugs to the town and Idyllwild Arts and to everyone who helped by their thoughts, wishes and prayers."

American Idol airs on Wednesday, March 16 at 8 p.m. Viewers will have a two hour window at the telecast's conclusion to vote for Casey.

Results air on Thursday, March 17, St. Patrick's Day. One contestant of the remaining 12 will be eliminated if not saved by a unanimous vote of the judges.

Monday, March 7, 2011

HUSD rescinds temporary contract for elementary teachers

The Hemet Unified School District is rescinding an announced plan to hire qualified substitute teachers for a one-month contract from March 14 through April 15, 2011. The reasons offered by Deputy Superintendent Dr. LaFaye Platter and Assistant Superintendent Vince Christakos were legal — a formula by which the number of temporary hires needed to qualify for state money under class size reduction laws would have exceeded numbers of three categories of teachers, currently out but eligible to return. Those eligible to return categories include: teachers on special assignment, those on a 39-month rehire list, and teachers on leave.

Had the district not run into the legal roadblock, it could have netted $300,000, according to Christokas. “It was a good idea,” said Platter. “But a [legal] glitch,” observed Christakos.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rock slide Thursday, March 3

Mike Freitas submitted this photo of the notorious rock that slid on to Highway 243 this morning. As you can see, the obstacle has already been moved off the road.