The Fresno Bee: Fresno State president Joseph Castro would be wrong to impose 'success fee'
When Gov. Jerry Brown hit the campaign trail in 2012 to push his Proposition 30 tax hike, he spent considerable time on college campuses.
Brown said that the proposition would keep college costs down while helping public schools and the state budget. A majority of voters took Brown at his word. State government's dire finances have improved and public schools — along with public institutions of higher learning — are getting increased funding.
But some campus presidents in the California State University system — including Fresno State's Joseph Castro — desire even bigger budgets and are chafing under Brown's 2013 directive to run "a tight ship."
And so the presidents have stolen a page from the politicians' playbook by coming up with a term — in this case, "student success fees" — to gussy up a reach into students' pockets.
Don't be fooled by the language. Success fees are simply a way to raise tuition without getting the needed approval of CSU trustees. Tuition has been frozen at Fresno State and the other CSU campuses at $5,471 for the past three years — and rightly so. The freeze makes sense because of California's painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession.
Over the past 10 years, fees paid by Fresno State students on top of tuition have more than doubled from $370 to $815. Now Castro is looking to add a success fee of about $100 that would take effect for the 2015-16 school year. He's also contemplating raising the student athletic fee to pay for the reinstatement of men's wrestling and the addition of a women's sport.
Moreover, Castro says that students will not vote on the success fees. The reason seems obvious. The last time Fresno State students voted on fees, they turned them down. Yet then President John Welty imposed them anyway.
Understand: Fresno State students have always been an easy mark because the administration knows that their voice does not matter on questions such as fees.
As for raising the athletic fee, students should not be subsidizing the sports entertainment of the entire community.
Budgeting is about deciding priorities. Castro says the success fee would help more students graduate — and graduate faster. Here's a better way to pay for that help. Castro should figure out which programs don't serve Fresno State's mission, cut them and shift the money to his student success effort.
At the very least, he should allow Fresno State students a binding vote on the student success and athletic fees.
Chico Enterprise-Record: Take steps to help salmon through drought
Baby salmon might get a ride down to the ocean this spring. We're not sure who would be more confused by that — them or us.
The salmon fingerlings will be stumped because, well, that's not how it's supposed to work. The recently hatched fish imprint on the stream where they are born and get swept downriver by high spring flows, ending up down in the ocean. They return to the place where they are born three or four years later, spawn and die. If the salmon are born in the hatchery, that's where they return almost all of the time.
There's a concern that trucking the fish down to San Francisco Bay will confuse nature's process, but fishery managers say they're considering that option for millions of little fish. Otherwise, low river flows could mean the juvenile salmon never make it out into the ocean — they'll either get hung up in fresh water, or they'll be easy prey in the placid water for predators like striped bass and pike minnow to gorge on a salmon feast.
State and federal fishery managers say the limo ride — OK, it's more like a tanker truck than a limo — would cost a lot of money, but the young salmon are worth it.
And that's where we get confused. We hear entirely too often from other fisheries people that hatchery salmon are expendable. Some scientists, groups, biologists and even judges say hatcheries should be all but eliminated because hatcheries create dumb, genetically stunted salmon. They'd prefer a river with only wild salmon.
So would we. But the fact is, once the state and federal government started building dams in the last century and cutting off salmon spawning grounds, the hatcheries became an artificial substitute for the now-impossible real thing — a place for salmon to go and perpetuate the species before dying.
We are stuck with hatcheries, but hatchery fish are certainly better than the option of barren rivers.
That's why the idea of trucking baby salmon from hatcheries on the Feather River in Oroville and Battle Creek near Anderson down to San Francisco Bay makes a lot of sense in an extremely low-water year. It's hard enough for the young fish to make it to the ocean even in a normal water year. They need every advantage they can get.
But, as fisheries managers know, they need to be smart about it too. Years ago, in an attempt to improve return rates for adult fish, young salmon were trucked down to the San Francisco Bay to give them a head start out to the ocean. Fish that were trucked down and released would be shocked by the change in water temperature and clarity. Some would die or get eaten.
Fisheries managers then tried cages or barges in the delta waters to help the young fish get acclimated. But predators caught on. When the young salmon were released, hungry predators — fish, birds, otters — were hanging out near the cage, waiting eagerly for feeding time. It was a massacre.
That and the expense are the reasons the state stopped doing it.
This may be a good time to start doing it again, at least for one season, until river flows return to normal. Nobody should complain about the cost, and here's why: If salmon populations dwindle because of the drought, an endangered fish population would result in more water restrictions for farmers and cities. We all have an interest in doing whatever we can for the salmon to get through this drought.
The Ukiah Daily Journal: Changing lake rules imperative
It was a surprise to us and lots of people in the community that part of our serious drought problem this year is the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers let thousands of acre-feet of water out of Lake Mendocino last year for no reason other than 50-year-old regulations.
That water, had it been kept in local storage, could be helping us through this year's drought conditions.
It has been an accepted truism that our water shortage problems are largely storage problems, which is why there has been a call for raising the Lake Mendocino dam, giving us more storage of water in winter to use in the dry months. Raising the dam is a long, complicated process that will cost hundreds of millions. It may still be a good long term answer to our water problems, but it seems to us that storing needed water in Lake Mendocino now is an obvious short term suggestion.
Lake Mendocino was built as a flood control project, not a water supply project. For that reason there is a mind boggling bureaucratic process that governs how much water is stored in the lake and when the water has to be let out. That bureaucratic process does not take into account the idea that in dry rainfall years, water can and should be stored in Lake Mendocino to help boost our local water supply (never mind that Sonoma County controls most of it, anything would help).
Congressman Jared Huffman has introduced legislation that would, as we understand it, give the Army Corps flexibility to keep water in the lake when letting it out serves no purpose other than to drain the lake in anticipation of rainfall we know is not coming.
Unfortunately, even if the bill gets through Congress, apparently it will take three years of study before the Corps can decide how to go about it. (The Army Corps of Engineers used to do great things, now they mostly just build bureaucratic dams that block all progress of any kind.)
Nonetheless, we think changing the rules that govern the releases of Lake Mendocino water with an eye to helping avoid economic catastrophe and a real hit to public health in dry years, is essential and should not fall to the wayside when the rains begin again.
The Bakersfield Californian: Just one race? Apathy is the only winner
Kern County residents who haven't had a chance to get to know their elected officials needn't fear. They'll have plenty of time to get acquainted because all but one of the county's open elected positions will be easily retained by incumbents this year.
And we mean really easily. Supervisors Mike Maggard and Zack Scrivner are running unopposed. Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard is running unopposed. District Attorney Lisa Green is running unopposed. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood is — say it with us — running unopposed. These officials can already begin planning their Election Night victory parties. And, with all due respect to these re-elected-officials-in-waiting, that's too bad.
Maybe taxpayers are happy with the status quo. Maybe residents and political organizations couldn't identify (or financially support) viable candidates this time around. But the lack of opposition is likely a sign of something more disappointing: political apathy.
Local Republican strategist Stan Harper told Californian reporter James Burger, "I really wish people would get out there and participate."
So do we, and not just because it makes for a livelier election season. An engaged electorate is a key element in maintaining a healthy, fair local government. Without competition, elected officials can easily become complacent. And when complacency sets in, where's the incentive to do right by citizens at all times? Contested elections remind politicians the public is watching them. Free passes suggest something else entirely.
Pasadena Star-News: Value of an earthquake warning system proven again
Monday's earthquake in the Los Angeles area was a reminder — about the Big One in our future, but also about the potential for technology to reduce deaths and injuries, if only the money to pay for it can be shaken loose.
In more evidence of the value of the bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year to start development of an earthquake early-warning system for California, seismologists say their sensors sent them an alert before they felt the magnitude-4.4 temblor centered in Encino.
Thomas Heaton of the California Institute of Technology told reporters (San Francisco Chronicle, CBSLA.com) he was at his kitchen table in Pasadena when the alert popped up on his laptop about three seconds before the rumbling started, and that it told him the quake wasn't going to get bigger.
Three seconds might not sound like a lot of time, but it would help people take cover, for public conveyances to slow or stop, for utilities to power down.
But the lead time could be a lot longer, depending on where the quake is and where the alert recipient is. Scientists in Pasadena got a 35-second warning before a 4.7 quake in Riverside County last March. And they say a statewide network of seismographs could give as much as a full minute's warning.
From before its introduction by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, this editorial board cheered SB 135. Now that it is law, the hurdle remains funding for the state warning system estimated to cost $80 million. The bill doesn't allow the money to come from the state's general fund, and federal help sounds unlikely.
Eighty million sounds like money well spent if it can save lives, but where should it come from? From taxpayers? From local resources? (The Los Angeles City Council is looking at the idea.)
Los Angeles Times: We can't afford not to spend more money on Alzheimer's research
Alzheimer's disease and other dementias not only destroy the lives of those who suffer from them but take a devastating toll on family caregivers and on those who must pay the cost of care. An estimated 5 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's. But that number will increase exponentially in the years ahead because of what Robin Barr, a senior official at the National Institute on Aging, calls "an aging tsunami." A highly cited published research analysis estimates that the number of people with Alzheimer's around the world will jump from 36 million today to 115 million by 2050.
A recent study in the journal Neurology estimated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's figure on deaths attributable to Alzheimer's in 2010 — 83,494 in the U.S. — is a fraction of the true number, which it estimated at more than 500,000. Officials at the CDC admit that the agency's number is significantly low.
Just as alarming is this: A study by researchers at Rand Corp. and other institutions calculated that the direct cost of care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementia in 2010 was $109 billion. In comparison, health care costs for people with heart disease was $102 billion; for people with cancer, it was $77 billion. Yet cancer research will be allocated an estimated $5.4 billion this year in federal funds, and heart disease will get $1.2 billion — while research on Alzheimer's and other dementias comes in at only a fraction of that, at $666 million.
It's time to substantially increase that budget.
There's no question that the federal government has focused more intensely on research into Alzheimer's and other types of dementia in the last few years. The National Alzheimer's Project Act, signed into law in 2011, set up a national plan to aggressively develop new treatments for these devastating diseases. Toward that end, research on Alzheimer's and related dementias was boosted with an additional $100 million in federal funds in the last year.
But to effectively tackle this disease over the next decade, more funding is required. Research stands at a promising new threshold. As National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said in an appearance before a Senate subcommittee in February, research has "shifted in recent years, from an emphasis on treatment of individuals with symptomatic disease to primary prevention among individuals at risk."
More money can fund more clinical trials. And there are significant numbers of worthy grant applications at the National Institute on Aging that have not yet been funded, according to Barr.
The U.S. must do what it can to fight this hideous disease before it consumes millions more people and billions more dollars.