Bureaucrat Beat: Pocket change, more air time, and spysters

Over the last week or so, gas prices in California went up 8.6 cents per gallon. Prices right now sit 57 cents higher than last gas_prices_-_mammoth_11-17year. In the Eastern Sierra, a gallon of regular in Mammoth topped the $4.00 mark.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it’s not pretty from here on out. Their report blames unrest in the middle east. Surprise. Surprise. And, the Times says that it’s that time of year when California refineries switch to a blend of warmer weather gasoline that costs more to make. Whatever. It all means more money out of the pockets of the people. In Mammoth Lakes a gallon of regular costs from $4.07 to $4.09. In the Owens Valley, the average price is $3.51.

This issue jabbed non-government workers in the gut and caused some county government retirees to jump my case. The benefit called “Air Time” does allow state, and apparently county workers, to pay a fee and to get a higher retirement, as if they had actually worked five more years. The questions now in the news – do the up front fees actually cover the cost of the additional retirement? The LA Times story reports that the state pension fund suffered devastating losses during the recession and that now taxpayers’ contribute to that fund. The story says this year, we will supplement state pensions by $4 billion to help absorb the losses, according to Governor Brown’s proposed budget. The Governor has said “Air Time” should go. We agreed with the Governor last week.

This does not amount to a slam against our friends and neighbors who planned their retirements and count on it. It is a slam against a system that does not carefully watch its obligations and does not over-commit. We have also felt that there is an inherent unfairness in public servants making more money and enjoying more insurance benefits than most of the people they serve. The time has come to carefully examine what goes on in local, state and federal governments. Maybe new policies need to cut back on all of the careless spending and unfunded debt.

A local mother wants parents to know that their teenagers may get into some serious trouble over the internet. The mom called us and asked us to pass on the word. Her teen got hooked into someone on the web and the someone was not a nice person. The mom’s point was kids may be somewhat nave about who texts them, emails them and friends them. One more reason to stay close to your kids.

How close to effective is the Long Term Inyo-LA Water Agreement? At the last Inyo Water commission meeting, groundwaterpumpcommissioner Mike Prather said the water agreement is “fundamentally broken.” I asked him about that later. Prather said he meant that the provisions to turn DWP pumps off to avoid damage to the Owens Valley don’t work. They’re called on/off provisions. Will the Water Commission, Supervisors, somebody deal with this in a way that protects the Valley? No answer.

What’s the answer to this question – since when has the U.S. Chamber of Commerce turned into an organization that requires espionage? According to news reports, three contractors for federal defense and intelligence agencies have worked up proposals to, get this, “monitor and manipulate the chamber’s left-leaning critics.” Good grief. The Chamber denies hiring the spies. Some of the emails going back and forth, however, did indicate contacts had been made with chamber representatives.

Whatever happened to good old, simple living? Do we all really need to build paranoid lives with secret activities to thwart our alleged enemies? Hey, sometimes people criticize other people. It doesn’t mean we have to hire undercover spy firms.

With that, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

 
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