Voice of Our Commentators

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Here is another roundup of some of the most thought-provoking reader comments of the week. Comments are selected by our editors and subject to editing for grammar, spelling, clarity and length.

Click on each topic’s headline to see the article in question.

Supervisors Scold Grand Jury and Reject Ethics Committee

The county contracting the Fair Political Practices Commission is a failed notion right out of the gate. Money being paid to the FPPC by the county to act as a watchdog over county operations creates an inherent conflict of interest. The end product would be just another internal auditor, performance auditor or Office of Independent Review (OIR) — all lapdogs that roll over or bark according to instructions from their masters.

So let’s not try another sleight of hand to fool the OC citizens. Those who are paying attention see the flawed product that these lapdog agencies produce.

And it’s not just what they do, it’s what they don’t do, and that is what the citizens are missing here. The OIR — worthless. A multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department for bad behavior goes unexamined. Yet a big deal is made out of some cop involved in a domestic dispute with his wife. Pull the other one too. It’s an insult to feed us this malarkey and expect us to swallow it.

An independent commission, if one were to be created, should comprise ordinary, average OC citizens. When they start appointing attorneys and former white-shoes boys at big salaries, the fix is in. Notice that the grand jury is the only body made up of ordinary citizens, and it is by far the most productive and most transparent of all the so-called watchdog organizations.

When they first formed the OIR, people demanded it consist of ordinary citizens. But the Gang of Five fought that tooth and nail and gave a host of bogus reasons why it wouldn’t work. And look what the OIR gives us today: more complicit behavior.

So don’t let them hoodwink you, folks. They’ll do it over and over and over and over again until you demand that they stop.

Take back your government from these clowns.

— Beelzebub

Rejection of every report issued by the grand jury clearly demonstrates that the supervisors are not only clueless but hopelessly arrogant in their belief that ethical and acceptable behavior does not apply to them.

— Roslyn

This is starting to sound very shady. When this is investigated and if the facts show that illegal, corrupt behavior, actions or kickbacks have occurred, well, I am just going to be sick.

What has happened to our great county? Investigation after investigation, scandal after scandal. The Board of Supervisors is in full combat mode against anyone who questions what they have done or are doing.

And it is now out of control. I am almost afraid to read the Voice of OC and find out what mess is up next for exposure.

What bothers me the most is how the board has lashed out at the grand jury and anyone else who attempts to help them understand where there are serious issues they must manage. Rather than calmly and in a reasonable way discuss, explain and explore potential for change, the response has been almost hateful.

I am so ashamed of the Board of Supervisors. I am proud of each and every member of the grand jury, because they have provided a true public service.

— Insider2

I can only hope that voters remember how childish all five of these supervisors acted come the next election. As a lifelong Republican, I am embarrassed at their disdain for anyone who dares to criticize them. Servant leadership at its finest indeed.

— Smith2

I watched this [Board of Supervisors meeting], and it was somewhat amusing. Once their tirades were all done, I found myself getting quite perturbed at the arrogance and retaliatory tone they displayed toward the grand jury (though they all denied this).

[Supervisor John] Moorlach almost started crying, because he has given up so much personal sacrifice over the last 18 years, such as a cut in pay and not being able to do much hiking with his family, only now to find out he’s under investigation. These were the choices you made, Mr. Moorlach. Deal with it and quit complaining and go back into the private sector.

[Supervisor Janet] Nguyen complained that she doesn’t get paid to sit on the various boards like CalOptima and the Orange County Transportation Authority, yet she makes almost $200,000 for being on the Board of Supervisors, and most of these meetings take place during normal business hours. This comment was a slap in the face to OC tax payers.

And one of my favorites was Chairman [Shawn] Nelson saying how he volunteers to coach youth football with no stipend. Chairman Nelson, I wouldn’t call it a stipend. I would call it ripping off the tax payers when you leave your county building at 1 in the afternoon for the rest of the day so you can teach kids how to hike a football while receiving nearly $200,000 in salary while most county employes clock out at 5 p.m.

Getting madder by the minute on their poor display of thuggery and self-interest.

— Cacityguy

Anaheim Streetcar’s Price Tag

One hundred million dollars per mile? What, are they paving the tracks with gold?

Just hand out free bus passes. It will be cheaper.

And let’s not talk about cost overruns that would make $320 million look cheap when all is said and done.

— Smith2

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Voice of Our Commentators

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Here is another roundup of some of the most thought-provoking reader comments of the week. Comments are selected by our editors and subject to editing for grammar, spelling, clarity and length.

Click on each topic’s headline to see the article in question.

Investigating Supervisors and CalOptima

Surprise, surprise. When the Board of Supervisors doesn’t agree with a report that exposes just how corrupt they all are, they don’t attack the facts. Instead, they feign outrage and attack the grand jurors who investigated them.

Isn’t that what former Public Administrator-Public Guardian John Williams said about the grand jury when they wrote a report that was critical of him — that they were too old and lacked the expertise to understand his complicated agency? And didn’t Williams end up resigning in shame after the Board of Supervisors found out that everything the grand jury wrote was true?

History repeats itself.

— Stunned

Let’s do a fundraiser for the grand jury. They need $20,000. How about we all get together and see if we can raise the money. Anyone willing? I am. Let’s do this.

And is it possible to enact legislation or put on the ballot a measure to separate the grand jury from this corrupt Board of Supervisors?

Take the ability to cut grand jury funding away from the Board of Supervisors. Make the grand jury independent. Provide them with the necessary dedicated funding to do the job and restore the stipend.

The grand jury is a vital watchdog. The current grand jury has done an excellent job and should be admired and commended. But the Board of Supervisors can’t stand anyone — and I mean anyone — calling them out and exposing their hypocritical actions and behavior.

This is disgusting and must be stopped.

— Insider2

I think in the drama of the grand jury we are missing some very important and troublesome facts.

The FPPC is investigating because these elected officials were having improper relationships with people with contracts with CalOptima. That means that the Board of Supervisors was wined and dined so that they would make favorable votes on contracts. It is sickening.

I wonder what they would find if they looked at all of their dealings? How much money did the board get in exchange for handing an information technology contract to connected insiders?

CalOptima is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks, Voice of OC, for exposing this, and keep digging. This is just the beginning.

— NotSorryForMe

The Board of Supervisors needs to become accustomed to public scrutiny of their actions as all public officials do. Their childish whining did nothing to improve public confidence in their roles as our elected officials.

I’m glad they are being investigated. Their reaction makes one wonder what they are hiding.

Great article.

— Get real

Attacking the Public Records Act

The government’s greatest ally is secrecy and concealment. And in many cases the media plays along with them and encourage the hiding of information or downplaying a set of known facts to assist the government in their efforts.

And it’s shameful. It makes of mockery of “freedom of the press.” Even on a local level we get many revealing stories on county and local governments that we would never get if not for a small publisher like Voice of OC.

I’m just saying that even if important information is made available, often it’s not reported. It’s no surprise that we haven’t had a Watergate-type media investigation for 40 years in this country. And don’t say it’s due to lack of material or opportunity.

The reason is complicity, plain and simple. So signing your name to this letter is fine. All I am asking for is that all those who sign their names, walk your talk.

— Beelzebub

If we allow this to happen, watch out. The foxes will devour the chickens. Without this information, taxpayers will be told to put up and shut-up.

If Gov. Brown allows this, we must vote him out.

— Insider2

Thank you for your efforts to shine a light on this issue that will irreparably harm all Californians.

“Voluntary compliance” is a joke. There is no voluntary compliance for getting a driver’s license, paying taxes, answering a summons or subpoena. This is a ruse to use an alleged budget problem to get out of a legal obligation.

Putting this on the ballot is such a waste of money when the problem can be fixed with very little money by the governor not signing these self-serving bills.

— Reggie

Editor’s note: The governor and Senate Democrats reversed themselves Thursday and abandoned their efforts to amend the California Public Records Act.

Anaheim’s All-White Charter Committee

I wonder how loud the bellyaching would be if all the appointees were Latino? Can you say, ‘The silence is deafening’?

People submitted their names and rolled the dice for being selected. The qualifications for the position were quite public on the city website, and nowhere did it mention Form 700 as a requirement. Now Mayor Tait is pissed off at the list of people and wants to make the selectees file the form.

No other committees are required to file, but he is so mad at [Curt] Pringle, a longtime confident and friend of his, he wants the Form 700 requirement. When he asked [the city attorney whether it was] required he was told it isn’t. But he went forward with it anyway.

All committees or none, Mr. Mayor, if it isn’t required, but expect your list of volunteers to shrink because most people don’t want to share personal-private information for just being a good citizen and volunteering.

And, Mr. Mayor, why was your selection not a Latino? You blew the opportunity to put your money where your mouth is.

— The Truth And Nothing But The Truth

And right on cue, [Councilman] Jordan Brandman appoints [lobbyist and former Mayor] Curt Pringle. He then goes on to list the priorities he wants the committee to review.

His first priorities are things like council responsibilities (look for them to cut the mayor off at the knees) followed by term limits and other issues related to how sitting council members run for Mayor (bingo).

I find it interesting that these are the most pressing issues to Mr. Brandman. Political power and how it is wielded — or abused — takes precedence over what should be first on the list: a review to ensure our charter has not fallen out of compliance with state and federal laws since its last update. (It has.)

As far as Curt serving on the committee, he kind of has to. Really, look at what happened at the [previous charter committee]. Even when they stacked the deck in favor of the pre-chosen outcome, they still did not arrive at the conclusion that the establishment preferred. So Curt is forced to get in there himself, because if you want a dictatorship done right, you have to do it yourself.

Thankfully, Tom Tait asked for each member to file a Form 700. Look for the majority to do a song and dance about how we do not want to be heavy-handed, draconian, big brother-type government and expect someone whose career is based on influence-peddling as a lobbyist to disclose connections that could become conflicts of interest.

Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse This would let the fox redesign the henhouse.

— Cynthia Ward

If those who are injecting race and ethnicity — accidents of birth that we have no control over as opposed to our beliefs, knowledge, experience and character — into this equation can provide a compelling reason why those should be legitimate criteria in appointing individuals to a public body, then I am all ears.

— Matthew Cunningham

Brown to Supervisors: Cut Your Office Budgets

First, it is none of the governor’s business as to who does what in Orange County government.

Secondly, to demonstrate leadership, the Board of Supervisors should be leading the way and setting an example when asking employees to make sacrifices.

Good for [Supervisors Todd] Spitzer and [Shawn] Nelson to change their thinking. Now let’s see the rest of the supervisors get their act together as well.

— Ltpar1

State law establshes counties as political subdivisions of the state, not autonomous fifedoms of locally elected officials. Sounds like the governor’s office delivered a much-needed reminder of that reality.

— News Hound

This is getting stranger and stranger! The Board of Supervisors ignores the grand jury but listens to Jerry Brown. I’m falling down the rabbit hole.

— Insider2

Homeless Shelter Real Estate Deal

The county has a whole slew of real property managers and over 500 attorneys on staff, but the chairman of the Board of Supervisors steers his buddy to a sole-source contract from which he will no doubt receive a standard 3-percent commision of $93,000.

Yet Chairman Nelson wants to do away with the grand jury? I had such high hopes for you, Supervisor Nelson.

— Cacityguy

You’re spot on, Cacity. This is another one of those stinkbombs that warrants an investigation.

But don’t expect the internal auditor or the performance auditor to wrap their arms around it. The insiders wouldn’t touch it with a 40-foot pole. They know which side of their bread is buttered and who puts it there. The grand jury is our only hope.

Why in God’s name would he bring his high school buddy in on this real estate deal? [Supervisor Shawn] Nelson’s an attorney, right? Didn’t he give this some forethought?

He sure talked tough about being a change agent when he campaigned for office, didn’t he? And those first couple meetings he talked real tough too. Then he proceeded to slip right into the fold with the rest of ’em.

— Beelzebub

Sheriff’s Special Officers

The union is out to lunch on this case.

California POST [Police Officer Standards and Training] has determined that the special officers do not have either the qualifications or training to become full-time peace officers. Bottom line is, they are in fact Sheriffs Department civilian security guards with limited powers.

If these guys want to play in the big league, then let them apply to be a deputy and complete the appropriate screening and training process.

— Ltpar1

These special sheriff officers for 20-plus years have dedicated their careers to serve the public and have been recognized as peace officers in the state of California for all that time.

The last special sheriff officer graduating class from the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy has gone through an intense 18-week stress academy, the same length as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for its deputies.

These officers are the true ambassadors for Orange County representing our law enforcement community. They are the first law enforcement officers for approximately 9 million visitors that fly into John Wayne Airport. They are the first line of protection for the public and its employees for the county’s entire court system, the county’s probation offices, the county’s social service buildings and all the jails.

With the millions of contacts made by the public, I ask you small-minded people one question: How much have the taxpayers paid out in the millions of dollars to lawsuits caused by deputies versus these special sheriff officers?

— 411

Toll Road Editorial

There are so many things factually wrong with this “opinion,” but I’ll start by sharing that according to 2010 census data, people between 20 and 29 years old were less inclined to live in urban, walkable neighborhoods than their predecessors.

Except in transit legacy cities like San Francisco, driving habits are staying the same, and the next generation will not be giving up their cars, no matter what kind of central planning comes out of Sacramento.

Roads like the 241 must be built and balanced with environmental protection to accommodate well-known, predictable growth in population, in driving, in moving goods.

Just saying “no” is childish. Adults find a way to make things benefit both people and species.

— Interested

Millions for the Tennis Center

Meh. I think there’s definitely a question here as to whether or not spending money on the tennis center is a good allocation of resources, but I’m not buying the class-struggle narrative that [Voice of OC reporter Adam] Elmahrek is trying to staple onto the side of this story.

The tennis center may be located in an ever-so-slightly “wealthier” neighborhood, but nobody’s going to confuse the corner of Wagner & State College for Coto de Caza.

Boysen Park right next door has its own share of “yellowing patches” of grass and graffiti-covered playground structures, although it does have a bathroom.

— Anaheimer

Honda Center Layoffs

This situation will repeat itself at Anaheim Stadium. Aramark is not renewing it’s contract with the Stadium, and it is rumored they may fire all the workers there and try to run the concessions with nonunion labor at a lower wage.

This is union busting at its finest. It happened at the Honda Center, it’s going to happen at Anaheim Stadium. Disney will be next to try and bust up their labor union.

— Watch n wait 007

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Voice of Our Commentators

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Here is another roundup of some of the most thought-provoking reader comments of the week. Comments are selected by our editors and subject to editing for grammar, spelling, clarity and length.

Click on each topic’s headline to see the article in question.

No Cuts for Supervisors’ Budgets

How much bad news can this county take?

Funny how this VLF funding is timed right when the Orange County Employees Association is in the middle of negotiations.

County employees have not had a raise for seven long years, and everyone deserves a 10 percent raise now. House prices are through the roof, private industry is hiring, workers are getting raises and tax receipts are way up.

Hopefully the state will do the right thing and let the county keep the VLF funding, and we can continue to build the county and not tear it down.

— Germany

Isn’t it curious how the grand jury’s stipend is cut just when some unflattering reports surface on the county’s supervisors?

[Supervisor Todd] Spitzer unceremoniously ended his remarks with, “You get what you pay for.” I don’t think that’s true, Mr. Spitzer, because for the year’s commitment, the oath of secrecy, the hours and hours of exhaustive investigations and the comprehensive reports it looks to me that Orange County is getting way more than what they pay for from the grand jury.

Would you give up your personal life for a year for $15 a day? Perhaps if the supervisors would take the same 5-percent pay cut as the rest of the county, you could pay the grand jury what they’re worth.

— Always surprised

What I find most insulting was the way Spitzer whined and complained of lack of transparency when he felt that he was railroaded by the DA’s and the public administrator’s offices and relieved of his deputy DA job. Of all people, one would expect Spitzer to be a champion of county transparency and reward the grand jury for performing their lawfully assigned duties as a watchdog over county management.

But we get the exact opposite here. So Todd demands transparency when he happens to be the victim, but he sings a completely different tune when his group is subject to the same scrutiny that he once demanded. Funny how that works.

And make no mistake about it: It was Todd Spitzer who led the charge on the recent vote to deny the grand jury a puny $20,000 budget adjustment increase for the third quarter. And now it’s the same Todd Spitzer who led the charge to lower the grand juror’s stipends by a full 70% from $50 to $15 a day. And this is the guy you want as your next DA?

— Beelzebub

Across-the-board cuts may be the easiest thing to implement politically, for it creates the impressoin all departments and programs are being treated equally. However, this is a false impression, because for some, a county dollar draws additional state or federal funds.

For example, Department A that is 100% funded by the county takes a $1,000 reduction in county funds and must reduce costs by $1,000. Department B takes the $1,000 reduction in county funds but must cut its operation by $3,000 or even more because it cannot match the state and federal money that is available if it had the $1,000 to put up.

Across-the-board cuts can and do result in greater impacts in some departments and programs than others.

— News Hound

The Board [of Supervisors] will not exempt itself from budget cuts. I volunteered earlier in the fiscal year to cut my budget. I will do so again this next fiscal year.

All board offices currently have the same base budget. Each supervisor is independently elected and can decide how to handle their own budgets.

For many of the elected officials in Orange County who were asked to make cuts, we approved augmentations during the hearings to add back funding. We work hard to protect the elected officials who have independent constitutional and fiduciary responsibilities and the allocation of their budgets.

I am confident that elected supervisors will analyze their own individual budgets and make the appropriate judgement given resources, priorities and the demands that our constituencies place on our offices.

— Todd Spitzer, 3rd District supervisor

Professor’s Defense:  UC Is a ‘Sovereign Entity’

The UC system is now apparently a self-declared sovereign entity not subject to state regulation, like an Indian reservation. If a rape occurs on a UC campus, are the regents going to argue they aren’t subject to the state sexual assault laws because they are a sovereign entity? Why are they protecting these people – what do they know that the administration doesn’t want the public and law enforcement to find out?

— Reggie

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Voice of Our Commentators

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Here is another roundup of some of the most thought-provoking reader comments of the week. Comments are selected by our editors and subject to editing for grammar, spelling, clarity and length.

Click on each topic’s headline to see the article in question.

Fracking in Orange County?

If this is not a problem, why are they going about it with such stealth?

A wise company will go in and widely educate people, especially elected leaders, on what the company does, how it works, what setbacks they may face and what kind of mitigation and backup systems they are using to control negative effects. Then they start pulling permits.

Instead they hire Curt Pringle, the guy who is king of doing deals behind closed doors. This operation of seeing how far they can get before they are caught or have permits that cannot be stopped is why he has such a horrid reputation in every community he works in.

It seems like the companies who use him are either unaware of his reputation — unlikely given their history in the area — or they may well be deliberately looking for someone who understands the slimy underbelly of OC politics.

The way they are going about it does not indicate upfront sharing and full disclosure with the neighbors, does it?

— Cynthia Ward

Attention, all you Chicken Littles: The sky is not falling.

For some reason, Adam Elmahrek decided to write a long article on fracking, even though Signal Hill is only proposing to conduct geological sonar tests. That’s it.

Where’s the “stealth,” Cynthia Ward? Signal Hill hired a PR firm to conduct public outreach for them and contact public officials. How is that stealthy?

— Mister Richter

The ramifications of failure don’t pass litmus tests: cost-benefit and risk assessment analyses.

Potentially connecting now disconnected aquifers by fracturing the containment membranes or barriers between them could make subterranean contamination ubiquitous, that is, everywhere.

As pointed out by savvy veteran consultants — I’m a mere 15-year newbie — there cannot be any guarantees by the very nature of the beast. This is gambling, not very sensible at that. And I still want the petroleum industry to prove that the residents and water ratepayers want their precious, life-preserving water supplies to be used to profit a select few.

Our resources are finite. The pollution funds needed for massive remediation due to catastrophe are infinite. If there’s any cause for alarm, it’s that the elected officials and many of their staff know little about fracking or even the permits pulled to drill in their own backyard. Where is the oversight?

Contaminants can drip feed through osmosis, eventually find their way into storm drain systems and on to creek-river tributaries. Does anyone believe that the OC will still have A- or B-rated beaches if this happens near the San Gabriel or Santa Ana Rivers?

This isn’t emotional, alarmist, knee jerk activism we’re talking about. It’s fiscal responsibility, the jeopardizing of safe, reliable water supplies as well as living, not dead, streams, water wetlands and the pristine coastline.

— Roger Butow

The Dangers of Bicycle Commuting

Boy, is this the truth. This is why I stopped riding home from work from Orange to Laguna Hills: Santa Ana is a nightmare. In fact, I was almost run off the road by an OC sheriff’s deputy as he was heading to the courtroom.

I would go by that Home Depot on Edinger Avenue on my way home, and despite the fact that it is three lanes wide, I would have cars honk and cuss me out because I was in the right lane. I guess the other two lanes didn’t work on that day.

My observations about Latinos, at least in Santa Ana: Most of the time I would see them ride on the sidewalk, going against traffic and without a helmet. I know people feel safer on the sidewalk, but it is the most dangerous place. Cars just do not see you there. Drivers look out for other cars, not bikes on the sidewalk. Ride like you are a car in the lane, going in the same direction of traffic; that’s where drivers are looking.

Also, when pulling out of a driveway, watch how cars pull out. They come to the end of the driveway then start looking. If you are doing 15 mph on your bike on the sidewalk, you can’t stop when the car pulls out.

Santa Ana has the highest injury rate for bikers, and I suspect it is due to these factors. Look at the reports of injuries in this article. Most happened when the biker was acting like a pedestrian, not a cyclist —  riding on the curb or in a crosswalk. On your bike, you are just traveling too fast to be a pedestrian.

— Steve L

I really want to see a multi-use path by the train line from San Clemente to Irvine. There is so much potential for bicycle commuting if it wasnt so damn dangerous!

— Laurajacksonmv

A Park for Santa Ana’s Park-Poor

This is a great, successful effort driven by a nonprofit (Latino Health Access), community activists , neighborhood residents, local business (Northgate Gonzalez Markets) and the City Council. This effort is a victory for a neighborhood lacking park space where children play in the streets, alleys and vacant lots.

Now they have a space to play safely. Incredible that some will find negatives to attach to this vital community project.

— Art lomeli

I disagree. I concur that they have a place to play. Just not safely.

That’s a high crime area. The playground should have full-time security during daylight operating hours so there aren’t drug deals going down in front of the kids.

And somebody has to pick up the hypodermics, condoms and sherm butts off the playground before the kids show up in the morning.

— Beelzebub

The Costa Mesa Battle Resumes

Can someone explain to me how a city that is allegedly going broke, according to Mayor Jim Righeimer, has money for:

  • A second go-round on the charter after the first charter was rejected by a huge majority of voters.
  • Facilitators to make sure a charter gets written by the committee stacked by the council majority.
  • Lawsuits against employees.
  • Taking over Talbert Regional Park.
  • Sports teams and sports facilities.
  • Remodeling City Hall.

At the same time the spending spree is going on, there is no will to take business license fees from $200 (for Nordstroms at South Coast Plaza) to something more realistic as done by other OC cities.

And there is talk of not paying public employee retirement payments, which will only lead to more legal fees.

Makes no sense!

— Reggie

Enterprise Zones

The enterprise zone was a great idea that I had backed, and I wish it worked.

But the biggest issue is there is no guaranty it is creating new jobs and not simply rewarding companies for jobs they would have created anyway. Does anyone think Disney was not going to hire buckets of new people to run Cars Land if they couldn’t turn to their buddy Todd for tax credits?

And there is no minimum standard to ensure these are good jobs. So you open yet another 5 for $10 T-shirt shop in a strip mall that really doesn’t need another low-end retailer, pay your people junk wages without benefits and you get to walk away with tax money?

Meanwhile we as taxpayers subsidize the low pay of your minimum-wage workers with Section 8 housing vouchers or an underwritten apartment complex. And because you offer no benefits, taxpayers get to pay for MediCal for your workers. No, I don’t want to dictate what employers pay, but I hate that we underwrite and encourage the bad jobs that seem to gravitate to Anaheim.

Why are we not helping the canyon become an incubator for medical research or something that innovates and brings well-paying career-track jobs?

Not my idea of the success story I once championed, but we learn with age, and hopefully Sacramento can clean up some of this by closing loopholes. But when was the last time that happened in government?

— Cynthia Ward

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