Morning Splash: Cal. Cancels Sale of Transportation Bonds; San Jose Unions Offering Concessions
- State to cancel sale of transportation bonds (Gary Richards, San Jose Mercury News)
…More than a dozen road projects scheduled to be under construction this year in the Bay Area will be delayed, as the state is expected to cancel the sale of transportation bonds approved by voters in 2006. It’s an attempt to save about $175 million in debt payments to reduce California’s $26.6 billion deficit, and it will mark the second time the issuance of bonds has been halted in the past six months.
- After firefighters agree to slash pay and benefits, other San Jose unions more willing to talk cuts (San Jose Mercury News)
San Jose’s pending deal with the firefighters union to slash pay and benefits to help close a huge budget gap marks the most dramatic thaw in labor relations since Mayor Chuck Reed took office in 2007 railing about runaway employee costs. The firefighters union, under new leadership after years of battles with the city, was the first to reach a tentative deal, which the City Council is expected to approve Tuesday. But more than half of San Jose’s other employee unions have already proposed extending temporary pay cuts they grudgingly accepted in June, and city officials are evaluating their offers.
- PG&E launches huge paper chase for pipeline data (SF Chronicle)
Facing a deadline that could mean the difference between doing business as usual or cutting pressure on hundreds of miles of natural-gas pipeline, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has recruited employees to the Cow Palace grounds for a round-the-clock search through tens of thousands of boxes of paperwork. Their job: Find proof in documents, some of them crumbling and dating back decades, that PG&E’s gas lines are as safe as the utility says they are.
- Oakland council to decide on tax measures (Oakland Tribune)
With the city’s already dire financial situation facing even more massive challenges in the coming year, voters may have weigh in on two new city taxes in June, depending on how the City Council votes at an emergency meeting scheduled for Monday night.
The city is facing a $46 million budget deficit in the fiscal year that starts in July, and Mayor Jean Quan is hoping to get help closing that gap from Oakland’s land owners and phone users. She’s proposed raising $11 million for the city’s general fund with a five-year, $80 parcel tax that would need approval from two-thirds of the city’s voters.
She’s also proposing a $1.99 phone tax that would require a simple majority, but which voters rejected in 2008.
- Attorneys ready to challenge Brown’s proposed budget cuts (Sacramento Bee)
Even if lawmakers approve a California budget deal in floor votes expected this week, advocates say they’ve just begun to fight big cuts in the works for redevelopment agencies, developmentally disabled services and other swaths of the state budget. Attorneys are already preparing lawsuits challenging Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposals on the grounds that they violate voter-passed constitutional amendments and long-standing state laws.
- San Francisco accessibility lawsuit heads to trial (SF Examiner)
For 3½ years, San Francisco has been embroiled in a lawsuit brought by a wheelchair-bound woman who alleges that The City does not do enough to make its sidewalks, parks, libraries and pools accessible to the disabled. The class-action lawsuit is set to go to trial next month in a federal court in Oakland. The case does not seek monetary damages, but rather seeks to force The City to spend far more than it currently does on accessibility in its public right-of-ways and public parks.
- Oakland police to reinstate officer fired for shooting unarmed man (Oakland Tribune)
The police department will have to rehire Officer Hector Jimenez, who was fired after a 2008 shooting in which he killed an unarmed man who was running away from him at the time, an attorney said Sunday. Jimenez shot Mack “Jody” Woodfox, 27, in July 2008 after Woodfox led officers on a short vehicle chase in the Fruitvale neighborhood. When Woodfox pulled over, a witness said, he got out of the car with his hands up, but ran when officers “started shouting.”
- Muni operators calling for expansion of safety regulation to include buses (SF Examiner)
With the agency’s rail operations under heavy scrutiny, Muni’s transit operators are now calling for an expansion of the investigation to include the agency’s 800-vehicle bus fleet. That expansion, however, is beyond the responsibility of
the CPUC. While rail operations are under the purview of the CPUC, the California Highway Patrol is the lead regulator of Muni’s bus system.
- Santa Clara County’s 408 will spin off a new area code: 669 (San Jose Mercury News)
…(S)ome South Bay phone customers will start being assigned area code 669 by the end of next year. Deciding who gets to hang onto their 408, and who becomes a 669, is the job of the California Public Utilities Commission, which will convene hearings March 16-18 in San Jose, Los Gatos and Morgan Hill to explain the switch.
- Wrongly convicted rarely compensated (California Watch)
(Jeffrey) Rodriguez is one of 44 Californians released from prison since 2000 who have been denied money after a hearing before the state’s victim compensation board, which can award $100 a day for each day spent behind bars after a wrongful conviction.
Out of the 132 people who have filed claims since 2000, 11 former inmates have been awarded compensation, with payments ranging from $17,200 to $756,900, for a total cost to taxpayers of more than $3 million. Seven other claims were withdrawn, and 56 were rejected without hearings. Fourteen former inmates are awaiting a hearing.
- BART Seats: Where Bacteria Blossom (Bay Citizen)
…The Bay Citizen commissioned Darleen Franklin, a supervisor at San Francisco State University’s biology lab, to analyze the bacterial content of a random BART seat. The results may make you want to stand during your trip. Fecal and skin-borne bacteria resistant to antibiotics were found in a seat on a train headed from Daly City to Dublin/Pleasanton. Further testing on the skin-borne bacteria showed characteristics of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the drug-resistant bacterium that causes potentially lethal infections, although Franklin cautioned that the MRSA findings were preliminary. High concentrations of at least nine bacteria strains and several types of mold were found on the seat. Even after Franklin cleaned the cushion with an alcohol wipe, potentially harmful bacteria were found growing in the fabric.
- Desmond Tutu visits Grace Cathedral (SF Chronicle)
Nothing is hopeless, from tyranny in Africa to traffic in the Bay Area, apartheid fighter and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu told an enraptured, standing-room-only crowd in San Francisco on Sunday. “We are all agents of transfiguration,” Tutu told the congregation at Grace Cathedral during its Sunday morning service.
- Marin household income tops state again, but dips 8.6 percent (Marin Independent Journal)
Marin County has once again topped the state in median household income, but the Great Recession appears to have taken a toll, based on new figures from the state Franchise Tax Board. Although Marin led the state with the highest household median income for the 2009 tax year at $108,465, that figure was down 8.6 percent from 2008, as the economy stumbled. And the 2008 figure was down 3.9 percent from 2007.