Ovitt Outlook
In This Issue...
November 2007
Clean Air
National Freight Gateway Agreement

Last month, officials from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) joined a large contingent of local, regional, state and federal agencies, last month, in downtown Los Angeles and signed an historic agreement establishing the Southern California National Freight Gateway Collaboration. The collaboration is intended to address the daunting environmental and infrastructure challenges presented by record growth of domestic and waterborne freight moving by ships, trucks and trains throughout the region. More than 40% of the nation’s imported goods enter the U.S. at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. As Southern California’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, SCAG is responsible for developing long-range transportation plans for the region – including the goods movement network – that reduce congestion and ensure the region conforms to federal clean air standards.

In my capacity as SCAG President, I made the statement at the meeting that this historic agreement illustrates what can happen when numerous agencies and individuals, at all levels of government and the private sector, put differences aside and work for the common good to address a very important problem, in this case goods movement and its effect on air quality in Southern California. Hopefully this goods movement cooperative agreement is just the first in a long list of problem-solving efforts by officials at all levels of government and the transportation industry. It will take no less in our future efforts to enhance air quality in our region.

SCAG hopes to better facilitate cooperation, coordination and collaboration on critical goods movement issues in the Southern California National Freight Gateway area, which encompasses five Southern California counties and extends from the Ports of Long Beach/Los Angeles to the border with Nevada and Arizona. These critical issues include, but are not limited to, existing and projected landside transportation system congestion (i.e., outside the Ports) and its potential impact on cargo throughout the Ports, and environmental and community impacts caused by goods movement. The explosive growth of trade projected over the next 20 years requires that decision makers at all levels of government join together to accelerate the pace of progress. The signing of this important agreement is a significant step forward in our collective efforts to address our most urgent needs and improve the overall performance of California's goods movement system. The future health and welfare of Southern California depends on clearing the air and growing the economy. Improving the transport of freight through Southern California will lead to significant progress in meeting both of these goals.

The collaboration’s main objective is to improve sustainable and efficient freight transportation operations in Southern California, while protecting and enhancing health and safety, air quality, and the well being of adjacent communities. Both the rail lines and freeways are already heavily congested, and with the expected 25% increase of regional population by 2030, the congestion problem will only get worse. More than 16 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containerized cargo are moved annually through the Ports, a volume that is expected to nearly triple to more than 42.5 million TEUs by 2030. SCAG anticipates that daily truck traffic at the Ports will increase from 54,600 trips in 2005 to 142,000 in 2030 and daily freight and passenger train traffic will increase from 176 trains in 2000 to 265 to 390 in 2025 and 441 in 2030.

While the benefits of these annual imports are clear – presently they have a value of more than $200 billion, support 2.8 million jobs and generate $28 billion in state and local tax revenues – the costs are substantial as well. For example, sources involved in goods movement are major contributors to ambient particulate levels in the South Coast Air Basin that are estimated to cause 5,400 premature deaths within the region annually. Earlier this summer, SCAG’s Regional Council voted to approve a strong resolution urging state and federal officials to take emergency action in addressing the growing air quality crisis associated with the movement of goods.

In addition to SCAG, other signatories of the collaboration agreement included:

  • U. S. Department of Transportation
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service
  • California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency
  • California Environmental Protection Agency
  • California Resources Agency
  • California Air Resources Board
  • South Coast Air Quality Management District
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Orange County Transportation Authority
  • Riverside County Transportation Commission
  • San Bernardino Associated Governments
  • Ventura County Transportation Commission
  • Port of Los Angeles
  • Port of Long Beach
  • Port of Hueneme

 
Gang Violence Reduction

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a number of bills at the end of the legislative signing deadline, in October, designed to reduce gang violence in California after a rise in gang-related crimes in Southern California last year and a series of high-profile killings.

The governor signed legislation to create a new statewide Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy. The Office will be responsible for overseeing state and local gang and youth violence programs and for securing federal funds for those efforts. Part of its charge will be to evaluate cities’ and counties’ programs so that successful ones can be replicated elsewhere.

Another legislative initiative would order parents of gang members to attend anti-violence classes and classes to keep their children from engaging in gang violence. The families would also meet with families of victims of gang violence.

Another bill would require the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to give youthful offenders educational programs that promote family ties and accountability. Juvenile gang members will be jailed closer to home and allowed more phone contact with family members.

Other bills he signed will make it easier for landlords to evict gang offenders and will give the state attorney general more authority to coordinate witness relocation efforts.

One of the proposals, Assembly Bill 1291, by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, will enable judges to require parents or guardians of first-time juvenile offenders to take parenting classes tailored toward gang intervention. The curriculum will teach parents how to identify gang and drug activity in children, how to communicate with adolescents and where to find community resources. It also will warn parents of potential fines and penalties they and their children face for gang-related crimes. If you look at the front lines of the gang issue, many experts say it starts at home, with parents not being held accountable or responsible for their children's actions.

Another bill, signed into law, would strengthen the witness protection program by giving the state attorney general authority to reimburse local agencies that provide protection to those who testify against gang members. That is particularly welcome news in San Bernardino County where prosecutors will be able to pay witness relocation expenses for six months after a trial ends, and an advocate will help a witness find a home and a job and move into a new community. The bill also allows out-of-court statements by witnesses who have been threatened or intimidated by gang members they are testifying against.

Finally, a bill which allows city attorneys and prosecutors in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento and San Diego to evict gang members who possess an illegal firearm or ammunition on rental property, in cases where the landlord is unwilling or afraid to evict. Current law exists to evict people committing drug offenses. If this two-year pilot program is successful in these cities, it could be adopted in gang-plagued cities such as San Bernardino and Rialto.

 
Parole Reform
There are currently hearings and discussions around the state concerning the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced changes to parole regulations that will enable parole agents to focus more resources on high-risk parolees that are most likely to commit new crimes. Low-level, non-violent parolees that are least likely to commit crimes will be eligible to earn discharge from parole after six months if they meet strict guidelines. These new regulations were developed in consultation with national experts, and are modeled after evidence-based practices proven successful in reducing recidivism in 33 other states.

The regulations give parole agents a new, powerful and science-based tool to evaluate parolees and focus on those most likely to repeat an offense. Sex offenders, gang members and other serious, violent or high-risk offenders are ineligible for discharge under these reforms. Additionally, allowing low-risk offenders to earn discharge from parole by completing rehabilitation, education and job training programs creates an incentive for inmates to participate in rehabilitation programs, which in turn reduces recidivism.

About 120,000 inmates are released from California prisons every year. Nearly every one is put on parole, usually from one to three years, regardless of whether they were convicted of check fraud or attempted murder, drug possession or aggravated assault. This isn’t true in other states. In Ohio, Massachusetts and Florida, for example, just 40% of offenders released from prison receive parole supervision. But for those 40% who are the highest risk, they receive more attention. According to the “experts”, and it may sound counterintuitive, putting fewer people on parole makes our streets safer.

The parole reforms adopted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are based on three principles. First, the primary goal of parole is public safety. Second, limited parole resources must be focused where they will do the most good. And third, any parole reforms must reduce the chance that offenders will commit new crimes, because new crimes mean new victims.

The new policy uses a meticulous and well-tested screening process, one that is used by nearly 500 correctional agencies worldwide. As they leave prison, parolees have their entire juvenile and adult criminal record evaluated, looking at 26 specific factors. This assessment gives California parole officers, for the first time, a numeric estimate of each offender’s potential for success or failure.

Those at the low-risk end of the scale are eligible for “earned discharge” of their parole supervision at the end of six months in the community. During those six months, they must demonstrate that they can find stable housing, be successful in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, be financially self sufficient, pay victim restitution and remain arrest-free, essentially proving that they’re able to lead law-abiding lives.

The final decision, however, to discharge a parolee still rests with parole officers and their supervisors. Violent criminals, gang members, those about to be deported and sex offenders are not, under any circumstances, eligible for earned discharge. The new parole reform program may be put into effect in November. A parole district in Orange County will be the first equipped to start implementing the program. The other 23 parole districts in the state will be brought online within 90 days following analysis of the Orange County program and evaluation of its effectiveness.
 
Honor America’s Veterans on Veterans Day – November 11
Remembering The Defenders of Freedom
By Fourth District Supervisor Gary Ovitt

America’s gratitude for the brave souls who fought to preserve our democracy and way of life knows no limits. As we honor their bravery on Veterans Day, we remember the countless sacrifices they made to keep our nation safe, and their valiant work in preserving freedom and democracy around the world.

In a Veterans’ Day proclamation, President Bush stated that “America was founded on the principles of liberty, opportunity, and justice for all, and on Veterans Day we recognize the men and women of our Armed Forces who have valiantly defended these values throughout our nation’s history.”

Veterans’ Day is perhaps one of the most important occasions we can celebrate each year. This is the time when we reflect upon the ideals that we treasure as Americans: the basic liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, ethnic, cultural, and political diversity, and economic opportunity for all. Though we often take these freedoms for granted, the thousands of immigrants who reach our shores each year yearning for the American dream understand the importance of freedom.

Defending our country is not just an abstract notion out of a history textbook. Protecting our citizens from harm from a hostile nation means protecting our American values of freedom and democracy. Everyone who values the freedoms and liberties we take for granted should pause on Veterans’ Day to thank our friends and loved ones for their sacrifices in defending our right to be free.

President Bush in his 2006 Veterans’ Day Proclamation stated: “All of America’s veterans have placed our Nation’s security before their own lives, creating a debt we can never fully repay. Our veterans represent the best of America, and they deserve the best America can give them.”

America’s truest heroes are the veterans of war.

Answering the highest call of duty, these loyal men and women have defended our country and aided the advance of democracy throughout the world. They have served in hostile regions far away from the comfort of their homes.

In honor of these heroes, we celebrate Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.

America has more than 25 million veterans. These men and women served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the war on terror in all branches of the military.

We have much to learn from these veterans.

They know about unconditional commitment. Without questioning authority, veterans served because of their commitment to duty. They knew their nation counted on them to honor this commitment. When the president, their commander in chief, called them to battle, they took action.

As Sen. John McCain, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, said: “Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you in return.”

Veterans know the definition of tough times and depravation. Often working in deplorable conditions, with their lives constantly in danger, veterans don’t take for granted the uniquely prosperous, free lives we lead in America.

The war experience tests the mettle of the men and women in uniform. Their “soldierly qualities” make them strong, independent people with the ability to weather whatever adversity life dishes out. It is this determination that makes them great leaders in their family, community and workplace when they return to civilian life.

Heeding President John F. Kennedy’s advice, our veterans have given much more to our country than they have asked for in return.

Veterans are an inspiration for all Americans, and it is important to remember them on this solemn day of tribute. I urge you to display, proudly, the American flag at your home and workplace on Nov. 11 to show appreciation and thanks for their unparalleled dedication to our country.

 
“Staff Spotlight”
Brian Johsz
Special Projects Coordinator - Fourth District
Brian is responsible for constituent communications, investigating concerns raised by the public and assisting groups and individuals in obtaining services or resolving complaints. Brian represents the Supervisor at meetings and other functions and acts as a liaison between the community and various county departments and agencies.

Brian grew up in Huntington Beach and attended Mater Dei High School. He went to UC Berkeley where he earned a BA in Political Science. While at Berkeley, he was President of Phi Delta Theta, his fraternity, and wrote for various campus publications. Brian also earned a Masters in Public Administration with an Emphasis in Public Management from CSU Dominguez Hills.

Brian started his career working as the campaign manager for Curt Pringle's first mayoral race in Anaheim. He then moved to Sacramento to work for State Assemblywoman Pat Bates as a State Assembly Fellow. While working in the State Assembly, he was responsible for shepherding legislation through the legislature. Additionally, Brian was the lead staffer for the office on Transportation Committee issues. Most recently, Brian worked for Congressman Gary Miller as a District Representative. Brian also has worked for the Boy Scouts of America as a District Executive. He met his wife, Libbie, while both were students at Berkeley.  

Clean Air National Freight Gateway Agreement

Gang Violence Reduction

Parole Reform

Honor America’s Veterans on Veterans Day – November 11

Staff Spotlight

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