Morning Splash: Quan Budget Under Fire; CA Tax Revenue Surges; $1400 SmartMeter Refund
- Oakland mayor’s budget under fire before unveiling (SF Chronicle)
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan will personally present her budget to the City Council tonight, but it’s already coming under criticism. Police and firefighter union leaders say Quan’s budget, which was released online Friday, includes proposals they’ve never heard about even though they would require union approval. Some council members say it lacks essential details. And an increasingly influential citizen group declared it wasn’t a budget at all.
- California has $2 billion in unexpected tax revenue (LA Times)
State officials are reporting an unexpected $2-billion surge in tax receipts that will help lawmakers close the remaining $15-billion budget deficit, and the Capitol is humming with hope that more is coming.
- Russo resigns as Oakland city attorney (Oakland Tribune)
John Russo’s last business day in office as Oakland’s first elected city attorney will be June 10. His office delivered a letter of resignation to City Council President Larry Reid on Wednesday morning. The night before, the Alameda City Council voted 4-1 to hire Russo as the new city manager there, calling him “a game-changer” who will be entrusted with leading the city through its financial crisis.
- Bill lets CA counties, school districts levy taxes (SF Chronicle)
Counties and school districts could have broad authority to propose their own personal income tax and other taxes that have previously been the sole responsibility of the state, under a bill approved by a Senate committee Wednesday. The bill by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would allow counties and school districts to seek voter approval of additional income and sales taxes along with excise taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, oil drilling, sweetened beverages and medical marijuana, all in an effort to shore up local services that have been slashed because of state budget cuts. Cities, however, are not included in the bill.
- Children’s Hospital Nurses Begin 5-day Strike Thursday (Bay Citizen)
Hundreds of nurses are set to walk off the job at Children’s Hospital Oakland Thursday morning, the second nurses’ strike at the pediatric hospital in the last seven months. “The issues remain the same,” said California Nurses Association spokeswoman Liz Jacobs, “drastic reductions in nurses’ health care that the hospital could have settled.” Jacobs said no talks are scheduled with hospital management between now and 7 a.m. Thursday morning, when more than 700 nurses represented by the union are to begin their five-day strike.
- S.F. police arrest 7 in killing of German tourist (SF Chronicle)
After a string of raids Wednesday morning, San Francisco authorities announced the arrests of seven of eight young men accused of taking part in a gang gunbattle last summer in the heart of the city that claimed the life of a 50-year-old German tourist and left city officials outraged. Police officers raided five locations in San Francisco as well as homes in Oakland and Fremont, arresting Phillip Stewart, Marcos Blueford and Willie Eason, who are all 19, and 20-year-old Delvon Scott on charges of murdering Mechthild Schröer on Aug. 8.
- Mountain View couple expected to get $1,400 refund from PG&E for SmartMeter glitch (San Jose Mercury News)
PG&E installed a SmartMeter at Vera Sokolova and Alexei Kacharovsky’s Mountain View home in November 2009. When the couple’s bill tripled — hitting $569.58 in December 2009 — they suspected that the SmartMeter was to blame. Then they did something none of the thousands of other PG&E customers who have complained about their SmartMeters have done — they proved it. The case is likely to open a new wave of complaints about SmartMeter accuracy and inflated utility bills. Just this week, PG&E acknowledged that 1,600 SmartMeters, mostly in Fresno and other inland cities, need to be replaced because of a “rare defect” that causes the wireless devices to run fast and raise customers’ electric bills.
- Farmers’ market in S.F. halts live poultry sales (SF Chronicle)
After two decades of selling live chickens in San Francisco, Raymond Young is being ousted from a city farmers’ market – and he’s not sure why. Operators of the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market at United Nations Plaza gave the 41-year-old farmer his walking papers last week, handing him a notice stating that live poultry sales will be banned starting May 27. They provided no explanation.
- Ross Valley Sanitary District moves ahead with rate hike plan (Marin Independent Journal)
The Ross Valley Sanitary District board Tuesday postponed for at least a year a plan to accelerate replacement of aging pipes, but agreed to proceed with rate increases ranging from 34 to 56 percent to cover the cost of existing operations. The board held a special meeting at the Bacich Community Center in Kentfield to chart its course after irate ratepayers spoke out last month against plans for a much bigger rate increase. The board, which has not yet taken a final vote on the rate increase, agreed that the maximum amount it would boost rates is $331 — to $923 a year for Larkspur residents; and $177 — to $697 a year for property owners in the rest of the district, which covers much of the Ross Valley including Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, Greenbrae and Larkspur. Larkspur residents would be assessed at a higher rate because they contribute less in property tax to the district, officials said.
- PG&E profit down on higher blast-response costs (SF Chronicle)
The cost of responding to last year’s fatal pipeline explosion in San Bruno continues to climb for PG&E Corp. The company reported sharply lower first-quarter profit on Wednesday, in part because its subsidiary, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., spent $51 million during the quarter dealing with the blast’s aftermath. PG&E profit dropped 23 percent to $199 million (50 cents per share). The San Francisco company also raised, once again, its estimate for the amount it will spend this year on pipeline safety tests, repairs and other activity related to the San Bruno explosion.
- Hiker Sarah Shourd says she won’t return to Iran (SF Chronicle)
Sarah Shourd, the American released in September after spending more than a year imprisoned in Iran, said Wednesday that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and will not return to the Middle East for her trial on charges that she and two other UC Berkeley graduates committed espionage. Shourd, 32, her fiance, Shane Bauer, 28, and 28-year-old Josh Fattal were traveling in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and hiking near the Iran border in July 2009 when they were arrested by Iranian authorities. They were accused of espionage and trespassing.
- Documents detail firing of Sonoma County ag chief (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Former Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville was fired for misconduct and incompetence after several employees reported that she acted erratically and disparaged them, and after other county officials said that Neville did not show the necessary leadership on several high-profile agricultural initiatives.
- Public employees defend ‘modest’ pension benefits (Contra Costa Times)
Public employees, saying they are tired of being lumped together with the few who have been snared in pension scandals, struck back Wednesday with what they called their own “truth squad” on pensions at the Capitol. One longtime teacher’s aide at the news conference accused “out-of-state billionaires and corporate interests whose greed led to California’s budget mess” of leading attacks on unions to divert the blame from themselves.
- Stanford study backs Einstein’s relativity theory (SF Chronicle)
Stanford scientists announced Wednesday that they have confirmed two key predictions of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, upholding the fundamental assumptions that guide today’s physicists about the state of the universe. Einstein’s predictions are that the mass of all objects in space – from fleas to black holes – warps both space and time as they fall inward toward a more massive object. And when an object spins in space and time, as Earth does, its very spinning drags both space and time along with it, the way a twirling apple inside a bowl of syrup would drag the syrup around it.
- San Jose Sharks take 3-0 series lead (San Jose Mercury News)
A blind pass late in the third period helped get the Sharks to overtime, and impressive saves by goalie Antti Niemi kept them alive once the extra period started. But in the end it came down to a 44-foot slap shot by Devin Setoguchi — his third goal of the game — after taking a pass from Joe Thornton that gave the Sharks a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings as well as their second chance in two years to knock a longtime nemesis out of their playoff path with a series sweep.