Chances are you are reading this on a smartphone. Guess what? Your cellphone has probably become an essential component of your daily routines, but you’re going to pay a higher monthly rate next year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Clean Drinking Water Funding — June 11, 2019).
Voila! Another regressive tax brought to you by the supermajority party.
Why? Because Sacramento could not see certain systemic trends occurring with the current funding methodology. But, these trends have been occurring for some two decades. Slow to act, but when it does, the bureaucracy hammers you with a major fee hike. The justification? They haven’t increased the fee in decades.
Unfortunately, voting for the 911 tax increase would be akin to approving a "black box." We know that a robust 911 telephone service must be in place. We know that technology has advanced. The unknown is what technology the state will acquire and what the acquisition and maintenance will cost. We know money will go in and that something will come out of the black box, but its internal workings and implementation are opaque.
Consequently, not being provided details and a plan, I voted in opposition to another potentially expensive state IT program, a la the DMV. The state is pursuing this as the private sector is rolling out virtually free applications of a similar nature. Government Technology provides more on the subject in the first piece below.
Now that we’ve opened the topic of an Orange County Veterans cemetery, My News LA.com provides another perspective on the three potential sites in the second piece below (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Review of Recent Votes — June 27, 2019).
Bill Would Provide $172M for California 911 System Upgrade
The State Senate last week approved a flat, monthly fee on every cellphone and landline starting in January 2020, which would upgrade the state’s current 911 system. The bill awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval.
BY RACHEL ROSENBAUM, APPEAL-DEMOCRAT, MARYSVILLE, CALIF.
A bill awaiting the governor’s signature would provide around $172 million in funding to update the state’s 911 system.
The Senate last week approved a flat, monthly fee on every cellphone and landline ranging from 34 cents to 80 cents (about double the current fee) starting in January 2020, which would upgrade the state’s current 911 system. The bill awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval.
The action comes on the heels of the state’s worst fire season, which officials say compounded the already degrading analog-based system, according to a California State Association of Counties press release. The new system will be digital and will be designed to handle photographs, videos and text messages, according to the bill’s text.
The state budget — approved by the Legislature earlier this month — allots $172.3 million for the state Office of Emergency Services (which will oversee the fees that are funding the new system) to improve emergency communication and warning systems, supporting the Mutual Aid system and resource pre-positioning (say, during red flag fire weather warnings), and fund relief efforts after disasters, according to the budget.
The annual revenue needed for the existing system, which handles over 27 million calls per year, is roughly $100 million per year, California Office of Emergency Services spokesman Jonathan Gudel said in an email Wednesday. As the department implements Next Generation 911, the annual revenue needed is estimated to be below $175 million per year during the transition when both Legacy 911 and Next Generation 911 will both be active. After Legacy 911 components are decommissioned, the new system is expected to cost an average of $150 million per year, he said.
“9-1-1 is a service and should not be viewed as a lump sum project, but an ongoing service,” Gudel wrote.
This new data-based infrastructure, called Next Generation 911, is supposed to be faster and more resilient.
Here’s how it works, according to 911.gov (a national program that operates within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation):
The public sends information and data-like video footage to 911. Next Generation 911 call centers receive and triage information and rich data. Wireless networks share the information and rich data from 911 with first responders, who then are alerted to emergencies with real-time, critical information and data. The new infrastructure is also slated to improve dispatchers’ ability to help manage call overload, natural disasters, and transferring of 911 calls and jurisdictional responses based on location tracking.
The current system is prone to outages during disasters including wildfires, according to the California State Association of Counties. In 2017, more than 28 million calls were placed to 911, or 77,000 calls per day. The current system has an average of 15 network outages per month, equaling 255 hours per month that 911 is out of service, according to the press release.
Lawmakers who opposed the fee — Republicans Sen. Patricia Bates, Sen. Andreas Borgeas, Sen. Ling Ling Chang, Sen. Shannon Grove, Sen. Brian Jones, Sen. John Moorlach, Sen. Mike Morrell, Sen. Jeff Stone, Sen. Scott Wilk and Democrat Sen. Melissa Hurtado — preferred dipping into the state’s $21.5 billion surplus. But Democrats said they didn’t want to use short-term surplus for an ongoing expense.
Mike Mohler, deputy director of communications for Cal Fire, said the agency is in full support of the legislation, saying the 911 system is a cornerstone of public safety.
“We’re excited as it makes a difference, not only in public safety but also in response time for first responders,” Mohler said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Without the new investments, the 911 system is going to continue to deteriorate and notably, can cost lives and is absolutely a key factor in public safety and emergency response.”
Last summer, former Gov. Jerry Brown attempted the same fee increase to update the system, but the proposals were shut down in the Legislature.
OC Cemetery District Head Makes Case for Vets Burial Place in Anaheim
The general manager of the Orange County Cemetery District discounted some of the concerns state lawmakers have for a proposed veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
A site in Irvine has been caught in a political power struggle over three proposals there. Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner and state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, have been pushing for the site in Gypsum Canyon in Anaheim Hills as an alternative.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva told City News Service that one of the main concerns about the Anaheim Hills site is it would not be a strictly veterans cemetery as proposed, so veterans would not be able to use their benefits to pay for burial there.
The difference in cost from a military-funded burial and a private one can be as high as $8,000, said Quirk-Silva, a backer of the Irvine site, along with Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, and Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim.
Tim Deutsch, general manager for the Orange County Cemetery District, said that would not be a problem at the Anaheim Hills site because half of it would be dedicated for veterans and would qualify as a state veterans cemetery.
Umberg told City News Service that he does not consider the Gypsum Canyon proposal a veterans cemetery. He also said he prefers Irvine’s sites because of the proximity to the Orange County Great Park, which is built on the former El Toro military base.
The Anaheim Hills site “has no connection to any military historic site like” El Toro, Umberg said.
“The veterans do want a cemetery with some connection to a military experience and El Toro is a site for tens of thousands of Marines which has great relevance and reverence because it was a site from which they departed to go to Vietnam and returned from Vietnam,” said Umberg, a retired U.S. Army colonel.
Umberg also argued that the Anaheim Hills site is within 75 miles of the national military cemetery in Riverside, which is prohibited by the federal Veterans Administration.
Deutsch, however, noted that the proposal in Anaheim is a state veterans cemetery, not a federal veterans cemetery.
Umberg also said the Amended and Restated Development Agreement, or ARDA, site in Irvine is “the only one that’s been really studied,” which is another reason the Democratic lawmakers favor it.
Umberg also said the hilly topography of the Gypsum Canyon site may make it “the most expensive site of” all.
Deutsch said the district hired a consultant this month to begin analyzing how much it would cost to convert the property into a cemetery.
As for Wagner’s concerns that the ARDA site would cost $90 million to clean up to use as a cemetery, Umberg said the cost may be much lower.
“There are a number of ways to make it much less expensive by incorporating the runway into the memorial,” Umberg said.
“And a good chunk of $20 million of it is inflation since the study was done four years ago,” and those rates of inflation may not apply, Umberg said.
“The experts estimate the cost to getting the cemetery in place where it can be useful is $50 million,” Umberg said.
And “that’s roughly the equivalent of what some folks believe” a newly proposed horseshoe-shaped site at the Great Park that was a taxiway, Umberg said.
“There’s no real study of toxins that exist there so we don’t know,” Umberg said.
Umberg predicted that the bill designating the ARDA site for the veterans cemetery will be sent to the governor and “our veterans will have a final resting place here within the next five years some way or another.”
Deutsch said the county needs a new cemetery whether it is for veterans or not because the county will run out of space by 2030. The Anaheim Hills site, he said, satisfies both problems.
“Bottom line is veterans deserve a cemetery and whoever can facilitate that we’re in support of,” Deutsch said.
The Anaheim Hills site would “be a unique opportunity… where families could bury their veteran and take a close walk or drive to visit other relatives, which is something you can’t do at any other veterans cemetery,” Deutsch said.
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