Morning Splash: High-Speed Rail; SF Phone Radiation Law on Hold; Rowdy SJ Cinco de Mayo
- High-speed rail panel rejects Caltrain route plan (SF Chronicle)
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has put the brakes on a plan that could stop high-speed trains short of San Francisco’s new Transbay Terminal. The authority board told engineers and planners Thursday not to study a phased-implementation plan, which would electrify the Caltrain tracks and use them as a quicker, lower-cost way to bring high-speed rail up the Peninsula to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets in San Francisco.
- S.F. puts cell phone radiation law on hold (SF Chronicle)
San Francisco has rarely shied away from a legal fight over its cutting-edge laws – be it Walgreens suing over the ban on selling cigarettes in drug stores or restaurants taking the city to court over its requirement that employers provide health care coverage. But the city’s first-of-its-kind mandate requiring that retailers of cell phones label them with radiation levels has been placed on indefinite hold, and a watered-down version is likely to be passed in its place.
- First Oakland budget hearing draws civilian city workers, library backers (Oakland Tribune)
Civilian city workers and library defenders were the loudest public voices Thursday night at the first City Council meeting to address Mayor Jean Quan”s proposed budget. Quan has offered three budget plans: Option A, an all-cuts, worst-case scenario with no concessions from city employees; Option B, a middle ground with employee concessions; and Option C, with the fewest service cuts and layoffs and requiring voter approval of an $80 parcel tax. The city is facing at least a $58 million shortfall in the coming year.
- Rowdy Cinco de Mayo night in San Jose, one stabbed (San Jose Mercury News)
Cinco de Mayo celebrations in San Jose turned rowdy late Thursday, as police and emergency crews broke up crowds, picked up the glass from shattered windows and treated people who had been beaten up and even stabbed. Early Friday morning, San Jose police had not returned phone calls with an assessment of the damage or number of arrests. As of 11 p.m. Thursday, one person had walked into Regional Medical Center after being stabbed in the festivities and several other people had suffered more minor injuries, Assistant Police Chief Diane Urban said.
- S.F. mayoral contenders square off in 1st debate (SF Chronicle)
The nine leading candidates running for San Francisco mayor shared the stage Thursday night in their first debate – demanding that the city can do better but offering few concrete proposals. The University of San Francisco forum touched on numerous issues, among them the budget, the role of the private sector, civic engagement, City Hall’s influence in improving the public schools, and what, if anything, city government should do to aid communities most in need.
- State puts PG&E’s gas-safety cost tracking on hold (SF Chronicle)
The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday to reject Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s request to begin tracking costs associated with gas safety improvements after the San Bruno disaster. Keeping official track of such costs would be a necessary step for PG&E to pass any of those expenses along to its customers. The company had argued that the state routinely approves such requests and that a rejection in this case would be an “arbitrary” and “erroneous” move.
- Children’s Hospital Oakland nurses on 5-day strike (SF Chronicle)
Registered nurses at Children’s Hospital Oakland walked off their jobs Thursday morning in the first day of a five-day strike that centers on disputes over health care benefits and other proposed changes to their contract. The more than 700 registered nurses at Children’s, represented by California Nurses Association-National Nurses United, have been trying to negotiate a contract for more than a year.
- Santa Clara County schools again tops in state (San Jose Mercury News)
In test scores, South Bay and Peninsula schools continue to dominate the rankings of public schools in California, landing 13 of the state’s top 15 elementary schools, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Education. Among middle schools, 10 of the top 25 are in the South Bay. And Santa Clara County hosts the three top elementary schools, based on the state’s Academic Performance Index, in the state: Milliken in Santa Clara Unified, and Murdock-Portal and Faria, both in the Cupertino Union School District.
- California ‘Dream Act’ clears Assembly (Sacramento Bee)
Illegal immigrants could receive college financial aid under legislation approved Thursday by the Assembly and apparently destined for the desk of a new Democratic governor who supports the concept. California could add fuel to the national debate over illegal immigrants’ rights by signing into law the “Dream Act” measure, Assembly Bill 130.
- Santa Clara County DA reins in overzealous attorney (San Jose Mercury News)
In a move that sends a clear message about reining in overzealous prosecutors, District Attorney Jeff Rosen has yanked an attorney off a complex gang murder case for improperly withholding crucial evidence from the defendants until the brink of trial. Twenty-six days before the alleged gang members were to stand trial, Deputy District Attorney Daniel Carr began revealing a treasure trove of information to their attorneys, including a potentially helpful statement by a co-defendant taken three years earlier and the 2008 discovery of the knife allegedly used in 2007 to kill the victim, according to court documents. The last-minute disclosure to the attorneys for the seven defendants violates a prosecutor’s legal obligation to turn over evidence. And in this instance could delay the trial for a year — at a cost to taxpayers of at least another $150,000 in legal fees at a time when the county is facing a $219.6 million deficit.
- California public employees get more compensation, disputed report says (Sacramento Bee)
Battle lines sharpened Thursday over California’s public pensions with the release of a new report that concludes pay and benefit packages for public workers are better than those for their counterparts in the private sector. Commissioned by pension overhaul advocates poised to seek changes, the report drew immediate fire from public employee unions, which have muscled up to fight the emerging pension wars. The two-part study, released by the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, also cautions that public pension obligations threaten to crowd out money for public services.
- Executive Park residential development OKd in S.F. (SF Chronicle)
Called the little sibling of the larger development at Hunters Point Shipyard, a plan to build 1,600 new residential units in a triangular area tucked between Candlestick Park and Highway 101 was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission Thursday.
- California Supreme Court addresses legal deadlines for tobacco lawsuits (LA Times)
Reporting from San Francisco — Smokers may sue the tobacco industry once they develop a disease like lung cancer, even if they suffered different smoking-related ailments years earlier, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday. The decision is likely to keep lawsuits alive that might otherwise have been thrown out because of expired legal deadlines and allow new suits to be filed, lawyers who filed the suit said.
- Feds Abandon Extra Radiation Monitoring of Milk, Water (Bay Citizen)
The U.S. government has abandoned efforts to monitor elevated levels of radiation that infiltrated the nation’s water and milk in the wake of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has faced stiff criticism for its slow and spotty monitoring of radioactive iodine, cesium and other materials that were ejected into the atmosphere after the Fukushima nuclear power plant was struck by a tsunami in early March. The material fell on the United States in rainwater and was ingested by cows, which passed it through into their milk.