📰 Returning to a Balanced Court – A Proposal

Recently, the subject of “Court Packing” has been in the news, because of the Trump administration’s perceived “packing” of the court with Conservative justices, which itself was the byproduct of the Republican Senate refusing to process President Obama’s nominees for the court during his last term. The imbalance this created has led to the desire for a return to balance, which is the goal of what we hear called “court packing” (which, itself, is a pejorative term creating bias — the real goal is a “return to court balance” of having an even number of Justices from each side). There have been other approaches  floating around out there, most centered on the notion of getting rid of lifetime terms for judges, and instituting term limits. Here is my proposal:

  1. All nominees by a President for the Appellate or Supreme Court must be approved or rejected by the Senate within 90 days of nomination. Failure to act results in the nominated Justice receiving an automatic interim 2 year appointment to the position, after which the Senate must approve or reject for the Justice to continue in the position.
  2. All Appellate and Supreme Court Justices must have their positions reconfirmed by the Senate on every 11th anniversary of their starting in the position.
  3. All Appellate and Supreme Court Justices have a term limit of 31 years. At this point, a two-thirds vote of the Senate can extend their term for additional five year terms.

This would apply to new and sitting justices. This creates no new immediate openings, but does provide the opportunity for greater turnover in justices, and the ability to more easily remove weak or bad justices. By using odd numbers for the terms, this staggers the reconfirmation process across 8 year Presidential cycles, hopefully restoring balance as the political pendulum swings.

 

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🛣 Changes to the California Highways Website – Aug/Sep/Oct 2020

This period is shorter one, focused on update. This update includes the August and September headlines, the actions of the legislature, and the August 2020 CTC meeting. Of particular interest are the legislative actions, which saw the authorization of relinquishment of a number of routes, but NOT the passage of the bill related to Route 241.

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum (Ꜳ). This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail or ꜲRoads) from Ted Cabeen(2), Tom Fearer(3), Mark Harrigan(4): Route 1(1), Route 2(1), Route 4(3), I-5(1), I-8(1), Route 9(3), I-10(1), Route 14(1), Route 22(1), Route 23(1), Route 24(1), Route 29(1), Route 36(1), Route 44(3), US 50(1), Route 55(1),  Route 60(1), Route 64(1), Route 75(1), I-80(1), Route 84(1), Route 85(1), Route 91(1), Route 99(1,3), US 101(1), I-105(1), Route 118(1), Route 120(1,3), Route 121(1), Route 125(1), Route 138/HDC(1), Route 151(3), Route 152(1), Route 154(1), Route 168(2), Route 170(1), Route 175(3), Route 180(3), Route 187(1), Route 190(3), Route 192(1), Route 197(1), Route 198(1), US 199(1), Route 207(3), Route 216(1), Route 236(3), Route 252(1), Route 253(1,3), Route 273(3), I-405(1), Route 440(3), Route 480(1), I-580(1), I-605(1), I-680(1,4), I-710(1), I-805(1), I-880(1), County Sign Route A27(1).

Added Carolina Crossroads to the Regional Routes pages. Updated information on the Trails section top page about the history of the National Old Trails Road. Added more information on Scenic Highway designations to the State Highway Types page. Added links to the AASHTO Route Numbering Archive to the Interstate HistoryUS Highway Numbering, and Interstate Highway numbering pages.

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. As many people are unfamiliar with how the legislature operates (and why there are so many “non-substantive changes” and “gut and amend” bills), I’ve added the legislative calendar to the end of the Pending Legislation page. Noted the passage (or took particular notice) of the following bills:

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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – September 2020

Whew. And those years are a wrap. You’re probably confused, thinking the year doesn’t end for a few months. Not quite. The last two weeks have seen two years come to an end: the Jewish year of 5780, and the government fiscal year of FY19-20.  And this year, I’ll take any year ending I can get, if it brings me closer to 2021, and perhaps getting back to the old new normal, as opposed to the new new normal. In any case, the year ends have been keeping me busy, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my collecting headlines about California Highways. So here, for your edification and enjoyment, are the articles of interest that came across my desk. Note: There seem to be a lot less headlines this month — I’m guessing due to impacts from COVID and slowdowns due to the fires. Oh, and as it is the end of September, I’ve started on the next round of updates to the highway pages (which will cover the August and September headlines, legislative actions (including the end of the session), and CTC actions).

So, as always, ready, set, discuss.

[💰 Paywalls and 🚫 other annoying restrictions: LAT/LA Times; SJMN/Mercury News; OCR/Orange County Register; VSG/Visalia Sun Gazette; RDI/Ridgecrest Daily Independent; PE/Press Enterprise; TDT/Tahoe Daily Tribune; SFC/San Francisco Chronicle; MODBEE/Modesto Bee; SACBEE/Sacramento Bee; NVR/Napa Valley Register; DB/Daily Breeze; LADN/Los Angeles Daily News; SDUT/San Diego Union Tribune; RBDN/Red Bluff Daily News; SONN/Sonoma News; LBPT/Long Beach Press Telegram]

  • Commuters may have to pay to use North Bay highways 101, 37, 12 under Bay Area plan. Toll roads may be more common for San Francisco Bay Area commuters in the coming years — but not at the speed one might think. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission sent a letter to the Bay Area’s county transportation agencies in early August to help with funding on projects that alleviate congestion on the highways. The primary option involves express lanes that require tolls to be paid if motorists are not in a carpool or public transit. In the North Bay, U.S. Highway 101, along with State Routes 12 and 37, were singled out as possible toll targets.
  • 🎥 Virtual Open House for the State Route 99 Lomo Crossing Safety Project (Video). Welcome to our Virtual Open House for the State Route 99 Lomo Crossing Safety Project in Sutter County. Caltrans has produced a short video outlining the preliminary measures the Department is proposing to increase safety at the intersection of SR-99 and Live Oak Boulevard/Encinal Road.
  • BYPASS SAFETY MEASURES ON THE WAY. Your odds of getting in a collision on the 120 Bypass as you near Highway 99 if you are trying to head south toward Ripon and Modesto is six times higher than the statewide average. That tidbit from a Caltrans study helped set in motion the first phase of a $131.5 million project at the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 to improve vehicle movements and capacity. The project, expected to break ground a year from now, won’t be in place until 2023. In the meantime Caltrans is taking steps aimed at reducing the potential for carnage until two lanes are in place for eastbound 120 Bypass heading toward Modesto are in place.
  • Caltrans awards $6 million to construction company to fix highways damaged from CZU Lightning Complex. Caltrans is responding to highway damage in Santa Cruz County following the destructive CZU Lightning Complex Fire. Caltrans is mobilizing several contractors and sub-contractors to help with the repairs including fallen and hazardous trees, burned guardrails, destroyed traffic signs and markers and damaged retaining walls. Caltrans District 5 awarded Granite Construction of Santa Cruz a $6 million emergency contract to clear, repair and restore segments of Highway 1, 9 and 236 in Santa Cruz County.
  • 💰/SONN Commuters may have to pay to use North Bay highways 101, 37, 12 under Bay Area plan. Toll roads may be more common for San Francisco Bay Area commuters in the coming years — but not at the speed one might think. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission sent a letter to the Bay Area’s county transportation agencies in early August to help with funding on projects that alleviate congestion on the highways. The primary option involves express lanes that require tolls to be paid if motorists are not in a carpool or public transit. In the North Bay, U.S. Highway 101, along with State Routes 12 and 37, were singled out as possible toll targets.
  • Geotechnical Studies For Last Chance Grade Project Continue as Caltrans Fixes ‘Ski Jump’. Though environmental studies to find the best possible route around Last Chance Grade continue, Caltrans crews have been busy this summer to ensure U.S. 101 stays open. Caltrans continues to repair storm damage at the slide-prone area roughly 9 miles south of Crescent City, the agency stated in a “Progress Update Summer 2020” mailer sent to Del Norters recently. Crews are also correcting a dip in the highway, which locals have dubbed the ski jump, project manager Jaime Matteoli told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Wednesday.
  • More than $1.6B allocated to for work on state’s transportation system. The California Transportation Commission (CTC) allocated on Aug. 14 more than $1.6 billion for transportation projects throughout the state, including about $1.3 billion for State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) projects, Caltrans’ “fix-it-first” program aimed at preserving the condition of the State Highway System. The projects allocated for funding will create an estimated 21,720 jobs, including direct, indirect and induced economic impacts. [Santa Ynez] Area state highway projects allocated funds include: ..

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🍏🍯🍎🍯 L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5781

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown Friday night, September 18th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5781. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 27th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

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🗳 November 2020 Ballot Analysis – The People

One of the key hallmarks of this election season will be the need to vote early (and not, as Trump says, to vote often). So to that end, I’m beginning my ballot analysis as early as possible.This post looks at the candidates for the legislature, other state-wide offices, and local offices. I’m not covering the Presidential election in this post: you probably know where I stand on that one, and I don’t believe there is anything that could get me to vote any way that furthers the term in office of the current occupant of the Oval Office. B”H 2020.

But as for the other offices… note that for most of these, we’ve seen the matchups before from the primary, I’m only revisiting that assessment if my candidate from then is no longer on the ballot, or if events have caused a reassessment of my position. ° indicates an analysis repeated from my primary analysis in March 2020.

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🗳 November 2020 Ballot Analysis – The Propositions

One of the key hallmarks of this election season will be the need to vote early (and not, as Trump says, to vote often). So to that end, I’m beginning my ballot analysis as early as possible. California has published the list of qualified ballot measures for the November ballot, so what better place to start. This is especially true because as of Labor Day weekend, there were twelve statewide ballot measures! So let’s start going through them. My starting point on this analysis, as I don’t have the ballot pamphlet yet, is Ballotpedia. This post covers the 12 measures on the California State Ballot, plus two local measures that will be on my ballot: a #DefundThePolice related measure on the LA County ballot (Measure J), and an LA Unified School Bond measure (Measure RR). Note that this was written Labor Day weekend, so we may learn more about all of these.

Tomorrow I’ll post my analysis of the people on the ballot.

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🛣 Headlines about California Highways for August 2020

Where is the time going, as the days turn into  months, and the months seemingly just go on. It seems like just yesterday it was May and June and I was reworking the site. But through it all I’ve been collecting headlines. So take a read through these, and when you are ready, let’d discuss…

[💰 Paywalls and 🚫 other annoying restrictions: LAT/LA Times; SJMN/Mercury News; OCR/Orange County Register; VSG/Visalia Sun Gazette; RDI/Ridgecrest Daily Independent; PE/Press Enterprise; TDT/Tahoe Daily Tribune; SFC/San Francisco Chronicle; MODBEE/Modesto Bee; SACBEE/Sacramento Bee; NVR/Napa Valley Register; DB/Daily Breeze; LADN/Los Angeles Daily News; SDUT/San Diego Union Tribune; RBDN/Red Bluff Daily News]

  • Late July 2020 Update – Ridge Route Preservation Organization. Not much to report. I recently sent a letter to the Angeles National Forest, which we have confirmation they received, to get more information about ongoing issues. Two of the issues were regarding the gates. Now, as has been stated here many times, we want them open. While we have keys, we don’t really want to “need” them. However, with the gates being left open by others or being damaged, it tends to hurt our cause more than help. If the gates are open when they aren’t planned to be, why help to open them?
  • 💰/SJMN Current rules for I-880 carpool lane, and what will change. Q: What are the rules for the Interstate 880 toll carpool lanes under construction in Fremont? The signs imply that it is OK to use the lanes for no toll due to testing, even during normal carpool hours. If regular carpool rules are still in effect, this can be confusing.
  • Caltrans to Begin Construction on State Route 99 Live Oak Project. Construction crews are scheduled to start work Monday, July 27, on a major pavement and streetscape project on State Route 99 in Live Oak. Roadwork will take place in various stages from south of Pennington Road to north of Ramsdell Drive. Caltrans reminds residents that local businesses will be open during construction.
  • Highway construction project completed in northern SLO County. A highway improvement project in northern San Luis Obispo County is now complete. The project took place along eight miles of Highway 101 in the San Miguel area from north of Monterey Road to south of the East Garrison overcrossing near Camp Roberts in Monterey County.
  • Sonoma County to limit road spending cuts as state, other local funds decline. Sonoma County is preparing to put off or scale back some road maintenance projects while sustaining a core group of other upgrades to its sprawling network of rural roads, moves that officials say are the result of a multimillion-dollar funding shortfall for public works set in motion by the pandemic recession.
  • 🚫/NVR New plan looks to create a better Imola Avenue in Napa. Aproposal to transform car-centric Imola Avenue into a road that also emphasizes walking, cycling and mass transit comes with an estimated $14.3 million price tag. This 3.5-mile-long street is a hodgepodge of eras, looks and neighborhoods. Some parts have sidewalks, others don’t. One section passes homes, another bustling shopping centers, another vineyards, another the oak-covered hills of Skyline Wilderness Park.

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🗯️ Equal Chance, Equal Footing

Yesterday, while writing my post on Trump’s meaning of the “American Way”, the phrase “Equal Chance, Equal Footing” when mentioning White privilege. Society has been pushing the “Equal Chance” notion for years — essentially, it is this notion of color-blind and other forms of supposed race / sex / gender / etc. blindness in academics, hiring, promotion, policing. But aside from the fact that it has never been truly and consistently implemented, it is also a meaningless notion unless everyone starts from the same place.

But this is where Equal Footing comes into play, and it is often the most important piece of the puzzle. You can’t have equal chance if your starting point isn’t equal. Equal footing means, for example:

  • Equal risk of the police targeting you and your family
  • Equal opportunities for education in schools that provide the same learning experience
  • Equal economic comfort for families so that parents have time to spend with children
  • Equal access to job
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Equal appraisals of home and people, independent of racial and economic factors

When we talk equality, often the focus in on the legal aspects. Do these groups have the same rights as others? Can a {woman, LGBT…, black, hispanic, asian, …} do the same thing as {white, male, straight) can do? But equality is more: It is equal chance, and most importantly, having an equal footing.

When you hear talk about “privilege”, it is often a reference to unequal footings. Being white in America gives you a better footing — less chance of bad police interactions, growing up in better neighborhoods, more opportunities in school, more opportunities in jobs, etc. Being male in America gives similar advantages due to societal biases. Similar if you are in the predominant religion – some form of Christianity.

If we are to achieve true equality, we have to work for more than just being equal under the law. We need to be equal under societal customs; we need to provide equal footings. We then need to make sure that are our processes are also equally blind — and that means not only blind to the first level aspects (skin color, orientation, sex, gender, religion), but equally blinds to the second level aspects (what school you went to, where you live, what you wear, how you speak, etc.). True equality is a triad: level, footing, chance. Right now, we have a very wobbly 3 legged stool.

 

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