Morning Splash: PG&E Called ‘Wrong-Headed’ on Safety; SF Cops Accused; Anthem Rate Hikes
- San Bruno blast: Watchdog criticizes PG&E spikings (SF Chronicle)
A top gas-safety regulator for California called Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s practice of intentionally spiking the pressure on older urban gas pipelines “a wrong-headed approach to safety” on Wednesday, and he would not dismiss the possibility that it contributed to the deadly San Bruno explosion.
- San Bruno Fire Chief ‘Just Didn’t Know about’ Pipeline (Bay Citizen)
San Bruno’s fire chief said Wednesday that he had no idea a high-pressure gas pipeline passed underneath his city until it exploded last year, killing eight people. The statement, made before a panel of national transportation officials investigating the Sept. 9 natural gas pipeline explosion and fire, highlighted the lack of public awareness about pipelines that traverse the region’s soils.
- SF officers accused of illegal searches, perjury (SF Chronicle)
Officials with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office have released a video they say proves that six narcotics officers illegally searched two South of Market apartments – and that some committed perjury so they could use what they found as evidence. One of the cases was tossed Monday by a San Francisco Superior Court judge. The other was dropped a day later by the district attorney’s office. The Police Department and district attorney are separately investigating the allegations against the officers.
- Anthem Blue Cross raising individual rates again (SF Chronicle)
A year after Anthem Blue Cross created a public uproar by proposing rate hikes as high as 39 percent, the health insurer is at it again. Many Anthem policyholders who buy their coverage as individuals say the company has notified them to prepare for another rate increase effective May 1. This would create a cumulative rise in rates in excess of 40 percent for some consumers in less than a year.
- Peninsula cities face uphill battle in trying to join forces over high-speed rail (Bay Area News Group)
Tired of being a national “laughingstock” on high-speed rail, a splintered group of San Mateo County cities is joining to form a lobbying effort they hope will put them on equal footing with San Francisco and San Jose. San Mateo, Burlingame, Millbrae, Redwood City and South San Francisco have already banded together to form the San Mateo County Rail Corridor Partnership. Officials in Belmont and the county supervisors have also expressed interest, while other cities are set to discuss joining the effort. The officials behind the idea think the county’s 12 cities along the Caltrain line can relay their concerns about California high-speed rail to the state and federal governments more easily as a unified group.
- California lawmakers dismissive of aggressive pension rollback (Sacramento Bee)
Lawmakers on Wednesday reacted skeptically to a controversial new proposal to lower public employee pensions throughout state and local government. “Frankly, I just don’t see this happening,” said Sen. Alex Padilla during a joint meeting of Assembly and Senate committees that oversee public employee compensation.
- Bay Area college students join national protest day (SF Chronicle)
Small but spirited bands of Bay Area college students defied wet weather to rally Wednesday in opposition to financial pressures that, they say, put public education at risk. The turnout in many cases fell below the numbers seen at similar demonstrations last March. But confrontation flared Wednesday evening as protesters settled inside a UC Berkeley building past the 10 p.m. closing time, defying police to disperse or arrest them.
- Steve Jobs shows up for unveiling of Apple’s new iPad (San Jose Mercury News)
Steve Jobs on Wednesday gave Apple’s new iPad 2 perhaps its most fitting coming-out gift imaginable — his own personal appearance. By stepping temporarily out of his medical leave and back into the limelight for the press unveiling of the second-generation tablet, Jobs’ surprise visit said a lot more than his words, which reflected his trademark exuberance in terms like “cool,” “awesome” and “this one really blows my mind.”
- After Closing Clinics, Golden Gate Community Health Makes Plea for Funding (Bay Citizen)
ust one day after laying off dozens of employees and shuttering four clinics, officials from Golden Gate Community Health issued an ultimatum — give us money, or else we’re gone for good. “After thoroughly researching and examining our options, we made the difficult decision to close our health centers,” said Therese Wilson, GGCH’s president and CEO in a news release Tuesday. “The Board of Trustees will work to obtain financing in the hopes of reopening as soon as possible.”
- Oakland cop testifies in Nortenos gang injunction hearing (Oakland Tribune)
The police officer responsible for most of the evidence in the city’s proposed Fruitvale gang injunction took the stand Wednesday, defending the physical scope of the suit, which critics have said is too broad. Officer Douglass Keely, who said he’s currently the police department’s only Hispanic gang expert actively handling investigations, created the primary document of evidence used by City Attorney John Russo in the gang injunction Russo filed in October. Keely testified for the first time Wednesday in an ongoing hearing to determine whether a judge will issue a preliminary injunction against 40 adults accused of being members of the Nortenos street gang.
- Oakland will run Jack London Aquatic Center (Oakland Tribune)
The city of Oakland will take over operations of the Jack London Aquatic Center a month after the nonprofit group that managed the facility announced without warning it would hand over management because of a lack of funding. The announcement Wednesday dispelled doubts, at least temporarily, about whether the Oakland Parks and Recreation Department would have the staff and money to keep the facility at 115 Embarcadero running.
- Feds fold San Bruno card club in loan-sharking investigation (Bay Area News Group)
Artichoke Joe’s Casino is closed indefinitely after federal agents raided the card room Wednesday morning over allegations that loan sharks advanced money to broke players at exorbitant rates and then threatened them with violence to get repayment. The Oaks Card Club in Emeryville was also shut down as part of the operation by state and federal law enforcement agents, which targeted Asian gangs that were allegedly involved in the scam at both locations, according to a source close to the investigation. Officials also believe drugs were distributed on the floor of at least one of the casinos, but it was not clear Wednesday which one.
- Amazon warns California over Internet tax plans (Bloomberg)
Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, has threatened to sever ties with more than 10,000 affiliates in California amid a dispute with the state over proposed taxation of Internet purchases. Four state proposals aimed at forcing Amazon to collect taxes from residents may be unconstitutional and lead to job losses, Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, wrote in a letter to the California Board of Equalization.
- Marin dog walkers take to the Internet to plead case for Golden Gate National Recreation Area access (Marin Independent Journal)
While hundreds of dog walkers offered comments at an open house Wednesday in Mill Valley about proposed Golden Gate National Recreation Area leash regulations, others are getting their word out another way: the Internet. Pro-pooch forces have taken to the Web and social media to register their concerns about proposed rules that would limit their pets’ off-leash time and even ban them from some federal park areas in Marin.