Welcome to Palo Alto – Now empty out your pockets!

Palo Alto Welcome SignFor the millions of visitors who visit Palo Alto annually, that greeting, “Welcome to Palo Alto” represents a sign of friendship.

However, for those who live just a stone’s throw away, in East Palo Alto, it’s more like an International Border crossing with unspoken conditions of travel appearing to be specially designed for the vast majority of African Americans and Latino Americans who live in East Palo Alto.

Fear of being pulled over

The welcoming sign, for many represents’ a sign of fear as one East Palo Alto business owner, Elwyn Rainer of Rainers Service Station put it; “The majority of Hispanics and African Americans are afraid to travel over to Palo Alto in fear of being pulled over and searched for no reasons”.

“Research has verified that people of color are more often stopped than whites” as reported in one study by the Office of Justice Programs. In fact, Mr. Rainer describes himself as the “Poster Child” of what he perceives as racially motivated vehicle stops by the Menlo Park and Palo Alto police departments based solely upon the color of his skin.

In one of Mr. Rainer’s many vehicle stops the officer did state the reason why he was pulled over. In one stop, it was because as he put it, “your bumper went over the white pedestrian crossing line”.

“It doesn’t matter what I’m being pulled over for I’m always asked; “Are you on probation, recently released from jail all asked all in one breathe” as he put it.

Questioning intensifies

That’s when the line of questioning intensifies; “Do you mind if we search your vehicle”? He said, “It makes you afraid so I always consent out of fear”. Mr. Rainer admittedly said that he does have a “colorful past” and did not disclose what the past was. None the less he no longer travels over to Palo Alto.

Many of the perceived unspoken travel requirements necessary before entering Palo Alto by East Palo Alto citizens include, functioning taillights, current registration, license, both plates, insurance, no strong odors and having the right tattoos of all things.

Recent border crossing from East Palo Alto

That was the experience of one recent border crossing detainment by the Palo Alto police department involving two East Palo Alto Latino citizens while traveling on University Ave.

She relates, “They had stopped us because the car didn’t have the front license plate; he first explained why he had pulled us over but then right after he asked my boyfriend if he has ever been in trouble before.

He asked how old were we and took down my information, within seconds he asked my boyfriend to step out the car and questioned him about his tattoos on both arms (his last name).

After minutes of having him by the police car, the cop asked me to get out the car and asked me to empty out my pocket’s and also he searched my boyfriend and the car.

He had said it smelled like the illegal substance Marijuana, when he had searched the car he didn’t find anything. After he was done he kept questioning both of us about where did we live and what we’re we doing in Palo Alto”.

Just being stopped by the police under any circumstance can be nerve racking in itself. However, we believe the nature or line questions asked in these two cases in our opinion appears to be discriminatory and biased in nature with the intent of targeting minorities and or the disenfranchised.

Attempted explanation

Not so! And in explaining the vehicle stop which occurred recently on University Ave, Palo Alto police Lieutenant now Captain Zachary Perron states; “every vehicle stop is different. There are many reasons why an officer might request an occupant to get out of a vehicle during a detention; in fact, case law allows officers to do it on any stop.

It would be irresponsible for me to speculate about why any officer would ask occupants to step out of a vehicle on any particular stop, since each stop is different.”

However, “building better community relations is still one of the primary concerns of law enforcement throughout the country. That is why every action by a law enforcement officer has a bearing on the relationship of the agency with the community. Since most citizens come into contact with law enforcement officers at traffic stops, this becomes a critical element for law enforcement agencies in their overall public relations effort.

“Traffic enforcement offers agencies a way to build bridges to the community, one traffic stop at a time”. As cited by the International Association of Chiefs of Police

Disturbing questions remain

Were disappointed but not surprised that Lieutenant Zachary Perron did not address the all important questions of; “have you ever been arrested or are you on probation” as the first questions asked in the two East Palo Alto vehicle stop examples.

We beleive the average citizen no matter what their ethnicity, would find these questions to be derogatory, inflammatory, offensive and discriminatory and in no way designed to build trust especially within minority communities.

We left a voice mail message with East Palo Alto Police Information Officer Veronica Barries seeking her comments. She has yet to return our call. Lastly, we strongly feel as suggested by the International Association of Chiefs of Police that “The first words spoken by the officer may very well determine the tone of the encounter and even the eventual outcome” in building better community relationships especially among minorities.

Also see: Palo Alto Police Department’s Response to Concerns Regarding Bias-Based Policing

Profiling Atherton http://kentbrew.github.io/profiling-atherton/

Palo Alto police official response to third party complaint

City of Houston v. Hill – 482 U.S. 451 (1987)

Are police systematically killing the mentally ill

Statistically, when it’s comes to police protecting and serving citizens this recent report, suggests law enforcement personnel are finding themselves having to confront the ever rising tide of community mental health issues often with fatal consequences.

The mentally impared represents a very small segment of our policing society and yet shockingly over 1/4 of the US population killed by police involved the mentally ill at some level.

Unfortunately, many policing agencies are ill equipped for handling emergencies dealing with emotional meltdowns on our streets and in our own living rooms.

The aftermath in far too many cases often results in heartbreaking news and the tragic loss of human life as was the case recently at a Palo Alto mental health facility.

And all to familiar, another man who was shot and killed was known to the San Mateo sheriffs department as a person suffering from schizophrenia.

The vast majority of police shootings are found to be justifies. Why? Officers fearing for their lives and in most cases, cleared of any criminal wronging doing a common outcome.

One of the most egregious cases of police abuse

was Kelly Thomas beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. Kelly Thomas also suffered from schizophrenia.

Kelly Thomas
Kelly Thomas

Few policing agencies are prepared to deal with the mental health issues encounter on our streets and despite the limited CIT [crisis intervention training] received by many local policing agencys including the San Mateo police, fatalities continue which suggests a broken training program.

Our National Mental Health System has gone beyond critical mass when it comes to policing the mentally impared. This is made evident by the continued stories of police responding to calls from distressed family members only to have their family member shot and killed by police or beaten to death.

This is exactly what occurred to a man in Pacifica, California, whose family members called police requesting assistance in calming down their distraught son.  The police responded, handcuffed the son, tazering him, and he subsequently died.

No one has all the answers as to whether or not the limited training class received by the for San Mateo police was enough training to handle these crisis situation but from all outward appearence this was not the case.

However, statistically, the continued increase in fatal police interventions of our mentally impaired citizens should give rise to, and dictate, a greater focus on the needs of the most vulnerable of our population, the mentally impaired.

One major policing agency making inroads into this growing national problems is the Memphis, Tennessee, Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team which has become nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice, as being a first to establish an elite group of police officers and mental health professionals specializing in mental health crisis situations with phenomenal success.

We’re not sure if the outcome would have been any different in Fullerton, Pacifica or in San Mateo, but it’s time to address our policing of this minority group head-on with properly trained Crisis–Intervention-Teams. And the time is now!

Related stories: Hold Your Fire

Editor’s note: Tazers continue to be hotly debated as an effect compliance tool in dealing with those suffering from a mental crisis.


“¡Hasta la victoria siempre!” Cuba: An enchanted land to be revealed

Would you like a cohiba cigarOn a recent trip to Havana I encounter this wonderful and delightful inhabitant.  Of all the country’s I have traveled in the world, I found Cuba by far too be one of the safest.

My favorite restauranta – Gringo Viejo Calle 21 No. 454 e/ E yF Vedado C. Habana, Cuba  – Tel: 831-1946.  This experience was like stepping through a portal in time……And the food –  an epicurean’s delight.

Travel to Cuba as most of you know has been taboo for most US citizens.  So in reality, the decision to go would be an act of civil disobedience.

It was back in 2011 when I presented the question to then Palo Alto Mayor Pat Bert on extending a hand in friendship to Cuba and perhaps becoming the second US city too become a sister city with Habana.  Mobile Alabama being the first.  He said no, it would become to controversial.

Tourism is a billion dollar industry and a missed friendship opportunity for Palo Alto. Think about it. Were friends with China, Vietnam and countries of the former Soviet Union.

At some point in time, the political biases of narrowed thinking politicians will hopefully change. That moment may have finally arrived…..

Homeless Legal Shell Game Maybe Over

Homeless Shell GameBy all accounts most everyone prefers to have the homeless simply disappear. A closer look at laws and ordinances enacted to curb homelessness on the streets of America is staggering.

From all outward appearances, seemingly benign laws such as, loitering, sleeping on the streets or in your vehicles, sit and lie ordinances are designed in reality, to force homeless individuals to go elsewhere.

Many experts in the field refer to such actions as “Selective Enforcement” a human shell game of legal maneuvering with the intent of clearing out the homeless population specifically those living in their vehicles as with the ordinance facing vehicle dwellers in Palo Alto.

Although city leadership would have us all think otherwise, there is no denying the fact that in Palo Alto city leaders are set to ban vehicles dwellers off the streets.

So what are they waiting for? Their waiting for the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to render its decision on the constitutionality in a similar case as outlined in a memo by city manager James Keene to Palo Alto city council members.

The vast majority of past legal cases centers on vagueness of laws enacted and or the “lack of notice of proscribed conduct.” see: City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999).

We believe this is not just an ordinary 9th Circuit Court of Appeals waiting shell game, but valuable time being given the city of Palo Alto and its immense legal staff the opportunity of fine tuning or making sure that all vagueness is removed from the ordinance before enforcement begins.

Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles

Update: The human legal vehicle dweller shell game maybe over.

The city of Palo Alto has been anxiously awaiting the decision coming down from the 9th circuit court of appeals in rendering or putting its final touches on banning vehicle dwellers off its streets.

The delays stem from an earlier challenge in the case of Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles which questioned the constitutionality on a similar ban on vehicle serving as mobile shelters for the unconventionally housed.

This along awaited prolonged court battle for the time being is over. In its decision, the court stated and clearly pointed to the “Vagueness Doctrine”.

The vagueness doctrine is designed specifically to prevent this type of selective enforcement, in which a “‘net [can] be cast at large, to enable men to be caught who are vaguely undesirable in the eyes of the police and prosecution, although not chargeable in any particular offense.’” …


It’s unclear how the impact of this decision will effect the city of Palo Alto in rethinking or pursuing further its ban on vehicle dwellers. But, for the moment, the human legal vehicle dweller shell game maybe over….

Donuts That Go “Crunch” In The Night

The last time I visited Happy Donuts was back on July 2010 when I originally wrote this article. Happy Donuts is located on the El Camino Real in Palo Alto. I was saddened to here of their planned closure.

Unattended Taser
Unattended Taser

What I discovered on one early morning visit was an unattended Taser sitting on the table, so I was not quite sure what I would find this time around.

Not as controversial I suppose, but this time all I found were unattended Macbook Pro’s and a few iPhones.

Happy Donuts is in fact a happy place to hang out 24 hours day, and if you’re hypoglycemic it’s a sure fire way to get that sugar fix.

Creativity abounds for right before my very blurred eyes, the making of a new on-line blogging newspaper accompanied with the sounds of slurping coffee and crunching donuts.

I was half-way conscious when I stepped through the door at 1 or 2 AM so I don’t recall if he said Apollonews.com or Hawthornelab.com.

I should have been in bed but woke-up with an irresistible urge for one of there famous chocolate donuts with nuts.

Both were grad students out at Stanford University and I could see that entrepreneur spirit in their glazed over donut eyes.

Look at this guy and you’ll understand why! He was rolling in his own symbolic future dough. Destined to make millions in their initial IPO.

RIP Happy Donuts….

Palo Alto city employees to reap a boat load of money on taxpayers sponsored cruiseliner

Financial life preserverPalo Alto would spend $10 million more on salaries and benefits in the coming fiscal year then it did the year before if a new budget proposed last night is approved by city council.

Among other things, the 500-page budget proposes a 7% increase in employees compensation for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The budget proposes spending $150.3 million on those expenses from July to June 2015. In the current fiscal year, which ends in June, the city will spend $140 on those same employees. In the previous year, the city spent $134.5 million.

Other than a few brief questions, council members didn’t have much to say about the budget, in large part because they received the massive binders during their meeting and had only a few minutes to prepare questions. But the the council will review the budget and vote to approve it in the coming weeks.

Contact negotiations

Last month, City Council approved raises for the city’s 582 SEIU employees ranging between 4.5% and 14.3%.

The next largest employee group, with 213 members, is the cities managers and professionals. The city also employs 99 firefighters, 83 police officers, 46 utility department managers, seven police department managers and five fire department managers.

The police and fire unions are in the midst of negotiating new contracts. Police managers would make the most on average of all city employees, with $179,136 in salaries next year, not including benefits.

Utility department management professionals would make the second most, on average, netting $133,139 without benefits. The SEIU employees would make the least netting $70,659 without benefits, according to the proposed budget.

Thousands in overtime

For overtime work, police and firefighters would make the most. On average, each firefighter will take home $14,388 annually in OT while police officers would get an average of $13,815 annually.

The city budget shows taxpayers are going to spend a lot of money contributing to the pensions of city workers. Police and fire pension contributions are the highest on a per-employee basis.

The city’s pension contribution for police managers will be $59,903 on average, according to the proposed budget. Police officers pensions are the next most expensive, costing $42,688 each, followed by firefighters pensions at an annual average cost of $42,289, and fire chiefs pensions at $41,828.

Firefighters and police officers would also cost the most in worker’s compensation, between $12,146 and $12,887 each on average. The same is true of medical benefits.

Medical benefits for police managers would cost the city $19,992 each next year while medical benefits for firefighters and police officers trail close behind at second $18,500 for each employee.

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City of Palo Alto begins cigarette butt cleanup

The city of Palo Alto will soon require all businesses to report how many employees they have and provide other data, but the information could also be used for other purposes, such as the possible ban on selling cigarettes, according to Kim Torke, acting environmental services division director.

City council members and city employees such as economic development manager Tom Fehrenbach have said information collected by the registry would be mostly used to help the city gather information to solve parking and traffic problems downtown.

The information could also be used for disaster preparedness, business marketing, compliance with rules about water conservation, economic development and land use decisions, a report to city council from city manager James Keane said.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council members, with Greg Scharff and Liz kniss absent, voted to move ahead with creating the registry. All businesses would be required to pay a fee from $35 to $75 annually to support information collecting program.

But at the end of a report presented to counsel with a list of potential questions that businesses would be asked, such as: “does the business store hazardous materials or generate hazardous waste?”. “Does the business perform automobile repairs? “and “(does the business) sell tobacco products?”

Councilman Larry Klein told the Post earlier this week that he wouldn’t support the questionnaire asking those questions, because he and other council members wanted to limit it to a short, four or five question form.

Smoking ban

Torke told the Post that his office had asked that the question about cigarettes be added because the council had asked him to look at expanding the city’s current smoking ban in the downtown and California Avenue area.

The city already bans smoking within 25 feet of entrances to public buildings. Eventually, he said, it could help them ban the sale of cigarettes at places such as pharmacies and grocery stores.

Torke said it helps to have the information for people who would be affected by the ban so that the city can go talk to them about it in advance.


The city could already get the same information by going to the Board of Equalization, which licenses businesses to sell tobacco. But Torke, said it would just be more convenient to have it all on one form.

The sample questions also included inquiry about whether businesses use plastic pellets, which are used to make plastic products a rarity in Palo Alto.

Torke said that state water inspectors have asked for such information before when they check on the city’s operation, because the pellets can get into storm drains and eventually the ocean.

He said that state inspectors ask other cities to get information on their business registries. When the Post looked at the business license applications of the Menlo Park, Mountain View and Redwood City, none had questions about plastic pellets or cigarettes.

The Daily Post Today
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Money Sucking Santa Clara County Government Tube

Dave Price - Editor and Co-Founder of The Daily Post
Dave Price – Editor and Co-Founder of The Daily Post

Santa Clara County government is like a long pneumatic tube. Money gets sucked into the tube from Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View.

The money comes out the other end in San Jose, where it is spent by bureaucrats on their pet project. The North County pays but seldom sees the benefits of its tax dollars.

The proposal Guardino is floating would raise the sales tax rate from 8.75% to 9% for 30 years, giving Santa Clara County one of the highest sales taxes in the country.

This extra .25% is on top of the previous 1.125% in transportation sales taxes we already pay. The sales tax proposed for this November could raise as much as $3.7 billion over three decades.

Full Story – The Daily Post Today
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Skytran Trumps High Speed Rail

Unlike Elon Musk’s Hyperloop technology which is years Hyperloopaway from being developed there is a High Speed people mover already in use that would accomplish what the current High Speed Rail, HSR, is seeking to perform yet instead of the present price tag of $68 billion this superior technology would only cost $7.2 billion.

Over the last few weeks there has been a great amount of interest in Elon Musk’s idea of a Hyperloop train transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco at a fraction of the cost of the HSR project.

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors is quoted as stating, “How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) — doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars — would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?”

Actually Mr. Musk is half right.  It is true that Highskytran 3 Speed Rail is significantly overrated however there is a company, Skytran, right here in silicon valley that has already created a bullet beater using Maglev technology.

This technology is not years away like Musk’s Hyperloop, at this very moment Skytran is building a system of Personal Rapid Transit in Israel where the company believes the future of all innovation will be developed drawing people from around the world to work and learn about Skytran.

Israel’s bureaucracy “is not as onerous as in some other Western countries. It’s a ‘two-telephone call’ country. Once the government knows about something and is interested in it, they find a way to clear the bureaucratic hurdles, and that is what is going on with us,”  Jerry Sanders, CEO of Skytran

Although geared to decreasing vehicle use in large urban skytran 4settings there is no reason why Skytran cannot be built at a fraction of the cost of HSR connecting L.A. to San Francisco transporting the same number of people that HSR would in the same period of time or less.

Unlike HSR, Skytran integrates into the urban landscape without disrupting traffic flow infrastructure or current land uses; including private properties.  This ability to unobtrusively blend into the existing environment will reduce the push-back that HSR is currently receiving from a number of communities.

High Speed Rail Cost:   

$68 billion for 800 miles of track equals $85 million per mile.

Skytran Cost:  

$7.2 billion for 800 miles of track at a cost of $9 million per mile.  (Approximately $5 billion for the 380 miles from S.F to L.A. track.)

It is 380 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  Some estimates place the High Speed Rail traveling up to 200 mph transporting passengers to S.F. from L.A. in 3 hours or less.

That is if it is an express train with no stops.

What happens if you want to go to someplace like San Mateo from L.A. and not S.F.?  You will fly by your destination to S.F. where it will take you another hour to back track to where you truly want to be.  This dilemma does not exist with Skytran as Skytran’s individualizedskytran 2 pods take passengers directly to where they want go.  At 150 mph Skytran does not equal the top end speed of HSR however overall travel time will be much shorter using Skytran than HSR as every ride is an express ride.

The question is, why won’t the politicians scrap the current model of High Speed Rail for one that will require less energy per mile traveled enabling more people to access the system while removing more cars from the roadways and thereby obtain more goals than the current HSR system at a fraction of the cost?

Some answers here:

$7.2 billion is less than the $9.95 billion in bonds the people approved of and only 18% of the $40 billion cost sold to the people in 2008.

What would be the people’s approval rating of Governor Jerry Brown and our state representatives if they were to terminate the current technology of High Speed Rail and replace it with Skytran?  Instead of building tracks out in the middle of nowhere our elected officials could circle the greater San Francisco Bay Area all they way to Sacramento with Skytran as well as through-out the Los Angeles Basin down to San Diego prior to building anything connecting northern and southern California.

This would cost $10 billion for 1,111 miles of track which would also be the quickest and most cost effective method of reducing traffic congestion as well as green house gas emissions.   During this first phase Brown and his colleagues in Sacramento could then allocate up to $1 billion dollars to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop technology to prove its viability.  Should Mr. Musk’s Hyperloop technology be validated then Brown and our officials at the Capital would allocate up to $9 billion dollars to construct the Hyperloop system connecting L.A. and S.F.

If the Hyperloop cannot produce what Mr. Musk claims it can then the $9 billion would go to connecting L.A. to S.F. with Skytran during phase two of California’s High Speed Rail project.

For $20 billion, less than half of the original cost of the very limited High Speed Rail project the people of California couldskytran 6 have Rapid Personal Transit in the major metropolitan areas and High Speed Rail connecting Southern and Northern California.

Is there any logical reason why Governor Brown and the State legislators do not want to save the California people $20 billion to $48 billion when it is within their ability and authority to do so?


Related Stories:



Hyperloop  Hyperloop 2 Hyperloop 3


How America Is Solving Its Homeless Problem

The relentless assault on American Labor has resulted in record numbers of homeless people.  Assault on AmericaAccording to the Economic Policy Institute if the minimum wage had kept pace with the productivity growth over the last 35 years as it did for the twenty years prior to 1968 the minimum wage would be $18.67 per hour and the median wage would be $28.42 per hour instead of the $16.30 per hour workers currently receive. (1)

That extra $11.42 and $12.12 per hour of productivity went somewhere, where?

CEO pay grew 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years despite workers doubling productivity over that same time period. (2)

Income for the top 20 percent of American workers has increased since the 1970s while income for the bottom 80 percent declined. In the 1970s the top 1 percent received 8% of total income while today they receive 18%. During the same period income for the bottom 20% had decreased 30%.

In the 1970s the top 0.1 % of Americans received 2 percent of total income. Today they get 8%.

In 1980 the average CEO made 50 time more money than the average worker while today the average CEO makes almost 300 time more than the average worker. (3)

49.7 million Americans live in poverty. (4)

From one end of the nations to the other, American cities are dealing with an inadequate supply of housing for the working class by sending those who fall off the bottom rung to jail or shelters.  Many shelters are shelters in name only and are more reflective of a nighttime jail.

Which one is the shelter and which one is the jail?

Shelter ThreeJail Two
Tampa Florida enacted a law a few weeks ago that makes it illegal to sleep or store personal belongings in public. (5)

Columbia South Carolina has criminalized the presence of homeless people in downtown while Palo Alto, California recently outlawed the use of vehicles by homeless individuals. (6) (7)

Being forced into shelters of substandard living conditions has a lot more in common with the segregation laws of the 1950s south and the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. (8)

The general tune that you hear from homeless service providers, policy makers and the justice system is that people are homeless because they have substance abuse problems and or mental health issues.  This belief allows policy makers to blame homeless people for their circumstances while simultaneously avoiding the true cause of homelessness, a lack of housing.

26.2 percent, 79 million, of Americans suffer from mental illness and 6 percent, 18 million, of Americans suffer from serious mental illness. (9)  The 26.2% mental illness rate for all Americans was the same for those who were homeless across the nation on a given night in January 2010.  (10)

More than 22 million Americans age 12 and older – nearly 9% of the U.S. population – use illegal drugs, according to the government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (11) (12)

44%, 137 million, of Americans drink alcohol at least once a week. (13)  15% of the people living in the United States, 47 million Americans, are considered “problem drinkers,” according to the National Institutes of Health. (14)

34.7% of all sheltered adults who were homeless had chronic substance use issues which are higher than the 24% of the general population yet it is theorized that many people who do not suffer from substance abuse problems actually develop one as a result of and response to being homeless.  Thus the increase in substance abuse in the homeless population is directly related to the difficulties and despair of being homeless. (15)

There are only 1,600,000 people who endured a night of homelessness in 2009/2010.  On a single day in January 2012, 633,782 people were experiencing homelessness.  Only 110,000 people suffer from chronic homelessness.  (16)

If the primary reason why people become homeless was the result of mental illness and or substance abuse then there would be a minimum of 30 million people suffering homelessness in America yet there is at most 1,600,000 who endured one night of homelessness over the course of a year with the current daily average being 633,782.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration most Americans who are illicit drug users, 9.4 million in 2004, or heavy alcohol users, 10.6 million in 2004, also hold full-time jobs. (17)  This statistic obliterates the argument that people are homeless due to their own self-destructive decisions from mental health issues or of abusing mind altering substances.

125,000 families that are currently housed are at risk of becoming homeless not because of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse but because of nation wide cuts to the federal Section 8 housing voucher program. (18)

“Because rents are so high, many of these families may, quite literally, find themselves out on the street as a result of these arbitrary budget cuts,” Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority, Washington State (19)

So in places like Columbia South Carolina, Tampa, Florida and Palo Alto, California people could literally go from an apartment to the street and then to jail because the government has removed them from the Section 8 rental assistance program.

If it weren’t for mom and dad allowing their grown children to live at home there could easily be 1.5 million more young adults who do not have a mental illness or substance abuse problem living on the streets subject to arrest for simply being homeless. (20)

If people are not homeless because of mental illnesses and substance abuse then why are they homeless?   Why do the homeless service providers, policy makers and law enforcement promote these erroneous reasons to the public as the cause of homelessness?

Answers, people are homeless because there is a shortage of housing created on purpose to maximize property values and the homeless service providers, policy makers and law enforcement industries all have a monetary incentive to create more homeless people not less.  By promoting these fallacies the special interest groups can mold public opinion away from the solution that would eliminate the vast majority of homelessness.

“In early 1984 on Good Morning America, Reagan defended himself against charges of callousness toward the poor in a classic blaming-the-victim statement saying that “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice.” (21)

Anywhere from 30% to 44% of homeless people have a job, thus being unemployed isn’t the cause of homelessness necessarily. (22)

In the 1980s the proportion of the eligible poor who received federal housing subsidies declined. In 1970 there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units (6.5 million) than low-income renter households (6.2 million). By 1985 the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units. (23)

The cost of an emergency shelter bed funded by HUD’s Emergency Shelter Grants program is approximately $8,067 more than the average annual cost of a federal housing subsidy (Section 8 Housing Certificate). A recent HUD study found that the cost of providing emergency shelter to families is generally as much or more than the cost of placing them in transitional or permanent housing. (24)

The un-housed spend more time in jail or prison than the housed, which is tremendously costly to counties and states.  Often, time served is a result of laws specifically targeting the homeless population, including regulations against loitering, sleeping in cars, and begging.  Additionally since the homeless do not have private residences to drink alcohol upon as most people do they are disproportionally arrested for drinking in public compared to the general population.

Dr. Pamela Fischer, of Johns Hopkins University, studied the 1983 arrest records in Baltimore and found that homeless people are actually less likely to commit crimes against persons or property than housed people but more likely to commit non-violent and non-destructive crimes like loitering, sleeping in cars and parks, drinking in public, begging etc…(25)

A University of Texas study revealed that it costs $14,480 per year to house a homeless person in jail and $20,000 per year in prison. (26)

Next door to Palo Alto is San Mateo County that is attempting to obtain public funds to build a new jail that will house 576 to 832 people at a minimum cost of $165 million to build yet is likely to double to $330 million as a result of issuing bonds to finance the project. (27)

We need to house all those homeless people somewhere

China’s population is 1.344 billion and incarcerates 1,548,498 citizens, 118 people for every 100,000 citizens.  The United State’s population is 313million and incarcerates 2,193,798 citizens, 737 people for every 100,000 citizens. (28)

The extensive homeless population is the collateral damage of a faulty housing market and corrupted economic regulations.  These deleterious institutions are the mines that produce the human fuel for the prison industry as well.  In 2008 approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) in the United States was behind bars, or on probation and parole.  (29)

prisonOver $74 Billion dollars a year is spent on the prison system. (30)   It costs approximately $47,102 per year to incarcerate one person in a California prison. (31)   It costs U.S. tax payers $9 billion a year to feed, house and clothe the people who are in jail waiting for trial who cannot afford bail. (32)

Why all this information on the prison system?  Because the faulty economic system that produces the majority of inmates is same faulty economic system that has produced the increased homeless population.  The judicial, jail and prison system is a $100 billion dollar industry and those that benefit financially form it: bail bondsman; deputy sheriffs;  prison guards; construction companies; doctors; lawyers; etc… do not want to upset the apple cart by resetting the economy to ensure that most Americans can earn a good living.

It is this same conflict of interest that prevents people who earn a living from the homeless service provider industry from criticizing the policy makers regarding the faulty housing market and corrupted economic system.

Homeless service providers receive much of their funding from the government and wealthy interest groups, interest groups that are the ones actually directing policy makers in government to enact certain laws and policies that benefit them financially.

If a homeless service provider were to publicly criticize the policy makers for failing to produce enough housing the policy makers and private interests will withhold funding from that homeless service provider and give it to another service provider who is willing to go along with the program.

Additionally, if enough housing were created the majority of the homeless population would disappear on its own rendering the homeless service providers as an obsolete and unnecessary industry.  Hence, the reasons why the homeless service providers continue to promote the fallacy of mental health/drug use as the primary causes to homelessness is to perpetuate their gravy train job security.

“We’re pretty good about not talking about income inequality,” Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor. (33)

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  Warren Buffett

The federal government’s multi-agency approach to help the homeless is often confused, according to a recently released report that catalogues the hundreds of different ways the government squanders taxes through waste, overlap, fragmentation and bureaucracy.

The Government Accountability Office report found that in 2009, federal agencies spent about $2.9 billion on more than 20 programs that targeted homelessness. If that money were to be targeted toward the building of homes, at say, $200,000 per home, it could theoretically produce 145,000 houses. (34) 

The two above industries, law enforcement/incarceration and service providers are small potatoes compared to the one which is directly responsible for the plethora of homeless and that is the real estate industry as a whole.  Property owners whether they be large corporations or the young couple who owns a single home have an inherent conflict of interest to producing a large supply of housing in close proximity to their low paying jobs when those low pay jobs exist in close proximity to expensive real estate.

The corporations and apartment owners are seeking to maximize lease amounts while the young couple wants to see the value of their house rise at an absurd rate to create a quick and substantial profit demonstrating that both have an inherent conflict of interest to producing a large supply of housing.

It is a case of supply and demand economics.  The housing market keeps the supply of housing low which creates a high demand and thereby enables the property owners to charge renters more money increasing profits.  In the case of home owners what historically was a lifetime investment is now a mechanism by which to sell for a profit within a few years and anything that would derail such a goal is to be squashed.

Federal Minimum Wage:   Pay before taxes  (40hrs per week)

1965            1.25        $200 per month

1970            1.60        $256 per month

1975            2.10        $336 per month

1980            3.10        $496 per month

1990            3.80        $608 per month

2000            5.15        $824 per month

2010/11       7.25     $1,160 Per month

One bedroom Apartment in Palo Alto

1965:       $87.50          to       $130.00

1970:       $115.00        to       $165.00

1975:       $125.00        to       $150.00

1980:       $385.00        to       $400.00

1990:       $600.00        to       $775.00

2000:       $1,200.00     to    $1,600.00

2011:       $1,100.00     to    $1,650.00

Percentage of a Single Person’s Minimum Wage Income

Used On Housing Cost

In 1965            43.5%   to  65.0%       of income to Housing Cost

In 1970            44.9%   to  64.4%       of income to Housing Cost

In 1975            37%      to  44.6%      of income to Housing Cost

In 1980            77.6%   to  80.%         of income to Housing Cost

In 1990            98.8%   to  127.4%     of income to Housing Cost

In 2000          145.6%   to  194.0%     of income to Housing Cost

In 2010/11       94.8%   to  142.2%     of income to Housing Cost

The Extortion of the Poor

A studio in Palo Alto typically goes for $1,400 a month in 2013.  Retail and grocery jobs generally pay $12.00 per hour if you’re lucky which equates to $2,100 a month before taxes.  After deducting federal and state taxes that amounts to roughly $1,900 a month which leaves $500 for food, health care and other expenses.

A person, John, is giving 74% of his/her income to a property owner just to have a box to sleep in.  Thirty hours of this person’s work week produces John zero lasting capital.

What does John do in response to being forced to hand over the fruit of his labor to someone else solely because the other person owns all of the land and refuses to build more housing, John moves into his van to keep the $1,400 for himself.  So what does the property owners and local business community do in response to John moving into his van to keep his hard earned money for himself, the property owners and business leaders lobby the local policy makers to make it illegal to sleep/live in a vehicle and thereby force John to move back into a wooden box and to hand over the majority of the fruit of his labor to the property owner, a person who has more money than he knows what to do with.

In any other circle we would call the above act extortion.

Duke Grad Student Lives in Van to Save Money:

In order to maintain their erroneously inflated property value and high rents property owners rely on the government to make up the difference between the underpaid worker or disabled person and the cost of rent through the Section 8 voucher program.

Due to a 1% vacancy rate the average one-bedroom apartment in Santa Clara County goes for $1,700 a month.  The current cap on the Section 8 voucher for Santa Clara County is $1,315 for a one bedroom which is considered the fair market rate but not necessarily what the market will bear.  This means that if a person finds an apartment for $1,315 the government will pay the landlord $854.75 while the tenant on the program will pay $460.25.  (35)

If there was a enough housing in Santa Clara County to create a 10% to 15% vacancy rate the cost of an average apartment could conceivably drop to $800 a month with the low end being around $500 a month.  This would enable the vast majority of people who rely on the Section 8 program to leave the program saving the government, tax payers, millions of dollars locally and billions of dollars nationally.

So the question is, why do we as a society refuse to demand larger supply of housing a surplus of housing?

Noted economist and columnist Robert Reich has called for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour.

Increasing the minimum wage to $20.00 per hour will not solve the problem of affordable housing if the housing supply is not correspondingly increased as well.  If the minimum wage were increased 275% to $20.00 per hour the property owners would in turn increase their rents 275% negating any gain by the workers.  The gains in productivity would be shifted from the corporations through the workers and to the property owners resulting in zero benefit to the American worker.

Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and even Richard Nixon and George W. Bush acknowledged that private housing markets fail the poor by not providing housing for people with low incomes.

A caveat should be made regarding Homeless Service Providers.  The criticism directed toward Homeless Service Providers is strictly to those organizations whose budgets are bloated with staff salaries producing minimal impact at reducing the root causes of homelessness.  There are many local and national organizations that truly help the homeless lessening the difficulties and hardships incurred by the homeless without seeking self enrichment off of the existence of homelessness and without compromising the fundamental values of fairness in the economy and housing markets for self preservation.

What’s the Solution?

What do all of the pundits like to say, “we’ll you’re good at criticizing but you don’t provide any solutions.”  Well to satiate all of the pundits, here is at least one feasible solution.

There is one significant solution to homelessness and the exploitation of the American worker and that is to shrink the difference between income and the cost of housing.  The only way to shrink the gap between pay and housing cost is to increase the supply of affordable housing.  Attempting to solve the homeless problem without decreasing the housing costs of the 49 million Americans living in poverty will be a fruitless effort.

Palo Alto is a magnified microcosm problem of what is going on around the country from San Francisco to Tampa, Florida.

The people who worked in the retail shops and grocery stores in Palo Alto in 1975 used to be able to afford a studio or one bedroom apartment in Palo Alto without requiring any government subsidization.  If these people were enabled to secure housing in the town they work in by providing a surplus of affordable housing then the working poor would no longer need government housing assistance freeing that assistance up for the homeless who do not have jobs and or are disabled.

There are a number of people in Palo Alto who claim that if a person cannot afford to live in Palo Alto they need to move elsewhere even is said person works in Palo Alto.  The problem with that argument is that the cost of housing in the twenty miles adjacent to Palo Alto is not much different than Palo Alto.  When you factor in the cost of commuting upon those who can least afford to commute to work what little might be saved by living 30 to 40 miles away from Palo Alto would actually result in a greater cost than living in Palo Alto without commuting.

“What the Market will bear.” The problem with that assertion is that the Market is not bearing requiring the government to step in and provide food stamps and housing vouchers to people who are working full-time.

The policy makers, homeless service providers and law enforcement have to blame the homeless for being homeless because if they didn’t then they would be forced to address the true cause of homelessness and that is the exploitation of American through the use of a housing shortage.

The policy makers created the problem of homelessness through implementing bad policy in order to maximize profits for special interests.  Now that there is a homeless problem instead of implementing the solution, creating more housing, the policy makers would rather criminalize the homeless so that more special interests, the justice system and homeless service providers can make a gravy train living.

If people could go to work and reap the majority of the fruit of their labor without having to hand it over to property owners would these people have more reasons or fewer reasons to commit crimes?  If the homeless drunk was not drunk in public but on private property he wouldn’t be cited for being drunk in public.

By increasing a surplus of decent and affordable housing even if it requires the government to step in with money the government will save money in the end due to the reduction in jail and prison costs plus there is the immeasurable benefit of reducing the number of victims of crime.

With a significant reduction of crime, hundreds of thousands of attorneys, prosecutors/defense attorney will no longer be needed.  These attorneys use their connections to with the policy makers to ensure that their industry stays afloat through economic oppression and exploitation.

The current mindset in America is that if you work in a grocery store you don’t deserve to bear the fruit of your labor.  It is this mindset that needs to be flipped on its head.

The average American male has the ability to go into the woods, chop down some trees and create a very nice log cabin in three to sixTUMBLE WEED HOMES months of work.  Once his cabin is complete he no longer has to work on it and is now free to pursue all the other necessities of life and personal objectives.  This is how it should be for this is how it was.

In 1965 it took 4.5 years’ salary of a custodian to purchase a 2 bedroom house in Palo Alto, California.

In 1975 it took 8.5 years’ salary of a delivery driver to purchase a 3 bedroom house in Palo Alto, California.

In 2011 it takes it takes 40 to 54 years’ salary of a delivery driver to purchase a 3 bedroom house in Palo Alto, California.   (40)

If Abraham Lincoln were forced to work 30 to 40 hours a week on his cabin year after year then he would not have had the time to become an attorney.  If Lincoln did not become an attorney he would have never become President.  If he had not become President then he would have never issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln was liberated from the slavery of housing so that he could liberate an entire race.

Some where along the way the property owners convinced the policy makers that people should have to work 30 hours a week on their housing indefinitely.  They have accomplished this by manipulating the housing economy into making housing much more expensive then it needs to be or should be.  By artificially making housing more expensive than what most people are capable to pay off in a few years the property owners have shackled the low wage earners to working on their housing for the entirety of their lives unnecessarily.

This is theft.  This is extortion.  This is slavery.

Broken ShacklesIt is time that the policy makers liberate the 100 million Americans who are enslaved to property owners.  In the 1800s they picked cotton, today they pour coffee and stock your produce.

Every person should be able to afford a decent place to live in the town and or city that they work.

The State of California already actually does this through the Housing Accountability Act Government Code Section 65580-65589.8. (41)

However there is no teeth to the law which enables city’s like Palo Alto to avoid providing housing for every person who works in its city forcing the low income workers to live as many as twenty miles away.

Section 8 housing just enables the property owners to maintain their unnecessary exorbitant rent.

I’m sure there are other formulas that would be more appropriate and work better however here is one as an example for food for thought.

Housing Mandate

Every city and or town shall provide a 5% surplus of housing based upon the number of jobs each city/town produces that pay the federal minimum wage up to 30% of each city’s/town’s median income separated into four average income levels as follows:

ONE:  Each city/ town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing for the total number of jobs within said city/town paying the federal minimum wage at full-time at a cost not to exceed 25% of the federal minimum wage paid out for full-time work, which is 166 hours a month;

TWO:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 5% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 5% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

THREE:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 5.1% to the bottom 10% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 5.1% to 10% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

FOUR:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 10.1% to the bottom 15% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 10.1% to 15% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

FIVE:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 15.1% to the bottom 20% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 15.1% to 20% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

SIX:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 20.1% to the bottom 25% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 20% to 20.1% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

SEVEN:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 25.1% to the bottom 30% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 25.1% to 30% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month.

For Example:

A)    If the average income of the bottom 5% of the median income of Palo Alto job earners is $1,700.00 per month and there are 1,000 jobs in Palo Alto that make up this income bracket then Palo Alto will need to provide 1,050 units of housing that cost no more than $425.00 per month.

B)    If the average income of the 5.1% to 10.0% of the median income of Palo Alto job earners is $2,400.00 per month and there are 1,000 jobs in Palo Alto that make up this income bracket then Palo Alto will need to provide 1,050 units of housing that cost no more than $600.00 per month.

C)    If the average income of the 25.1% to 30.0% of the median income of Palo Alto job earners is $3,600.00 per month and there are 1,000 jobs in Palo Alto that make up this income bracket then Palo Alto will need to provide 1,050 units of housing that cost no more than $900.00 per month.

Should any city/town fail to produce the above housing supply for its residents said city will be subject financial penalties which shall include but not be limited to federal conservatorship enabling eminent domain action to take place in order to secure the minimum housing requirements.

The excess in housing will drive down the cost of all other housing and open up housing for those homeless people who are on fixed incomes and or disability.

Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development, estimated that homelessness could be eliminated for a cost $20 billion annually. The housing department’s budget for addressing homelessness is currently about $1.9 billion. (37)

$20 billion is slightly less money than Americans spend on Christmas decorations, according to an analysis from ThinkProgress. (38)

National Security:

Cost of the War in Afghanistan: $654 billion

Cost of the War in Iraq: $814 billion

Money spent on Department of Defense for 2013 and counting: $488 billion

Money Spent on Homeland Security Since 9/11: $712 billion (39)

If we were to redefine Homelessness as a National Security Risk then $20 billion would look like a bargain.



(1) (2) (3) (3B) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (16B) (16C) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (22B) (22C) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32) (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (38B) (39)

(40)   Palo Alto Housing Costs:

In 1965 a 2 bedroom house cost $23,000.00

In 1965 a 4 bedroom house cost $36,000.00

In 1965 a Machinist earned  $8,500.00  a year

In 1965 a Custodian earned $5,100.00 a year

A Machinist’s yearly salary was  37% of the cost of a 2 bedroom house.

A Machinist’s yearly salary was  23.6% of the cost of a 4 bedroom house.

A Custodian’s yearly salary was  22% of the cost of a 2 bedroom house.

A Custodian’s yearly salary was  14% of the cost of a 4 bedroom house.

In 1975 a 3 bedroom house cost $61,000.00

In 1975 a Delivery Driver earned $7,200.00

A Delivery Driver’s yearly salary was 11.8% of the cost of a medium quality house.

In 2011 a 3 bedroom house costs $1,200,000.00

In 2011 a Delivery Driver earned $22,000.00 to $30,000.00 a year

A Delivery Driver’s yearly salary is 1.8% to 2.5% of the cost of a low-end quality house.

A person’s yearly income of the cost of an average house in Palo Alto went from 22% to 11.8% to 2.5% of in the last 45 years.

References:   The “Palo Alto Times,”  the “Palo Alto Times-Tribune,” the “Palo Alto Weekly,” and “Craigslist”


(41)  California Government Code:  65589.5. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1) The lack of housing, including emergency shelters, is a critical problem that threatens the economic, environmental, and social quality of life in California.

(2) California housing has become the most expensive in the nation. The excessive cost of the state’s housing supply is partially caused by activities and policies of many local governments that limit the approval of housing, increase the cost of land for housing, and require that high fees and exactions be paid by producers of housing.

(3) Among the consequences of those actions are discrimination against low-income and minority households, lack of housing to support employment growth, imbalance in jobs and housing, reduced mobility, urban sprawl, excessive commuting, and air quality deterioration.

(4) Many local governments do not give adequate attention to the economic, environmental, and social costs of decisions that result in disapproval of housing projects, reduction in density of housing projects, and excessive standards for housing projects.

65580.  The Legislature finds and declares as follows:

(a) The availability of housing is of vital statewide importance, and the early attainment of decent housing and a suitable living environment for every Californian, including farmworkers, is a priority of the highest order.

(b) The early attainment of this goal requires the cooperative participation of government and the private sector in an effort to expand housing opportunities and accommodate the housing needs of Californians of all economic levels.

(c) The provision of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households requires the cooperation of all levels of government.

(d) Local and state governments have a responsibility to use the powers vested in them to facilitate the improvement and development of housing to make adequate provision for the housing needs of all economic segments of the community.