Morning Splash: Solyndra Collapse; New BART GM; Pt 2 Calif Dream Act Moves to Guv; Bonds’ Perjury Charges Dropped; Goodwin Liu Confirmed
- Solar maker Solyndra closes its Fremont operations, lays off 1,100 workers and prepares to file for bankruptcy (Oakland Tribune)
In a stunning setback for the clean energy industry, Fremont-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra abruptly shut its doors Wednesday, despite more than $500 million in backing from the federal government, throwing all 1,100 of its workers out of their jobs immediately. Once named by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as one of the world’s most innovative companies, Solyndra was seen as so promising that President Barack Obama traveled to its headquarters to tout its prospects and his administration’s plans to create more green jobs
- BART hires new general manager (SF Chronicle)
BART’s formerly fractured board of directors agreed nearly unanimously Wednesday to hire Grace Crunican, a straight-talking public transportation veteran with connections in Washington, to guide the agency through its current controversies and help capture billions of dollars it needs to modernize its system. The board voted 8-1, with Director James Fang of San Francisco opposed, to hire Crunican to head the Bay Area’s largest regional transit agency. She will be paid $300,000 a year with a potential $20,000 annual management bonus – somewhat less than her predecessor, Dorothy Dugger, whom the board voted 5-4 to fire in February.
- State Senate OKs part of California Dream Act (LA Times)
The college dreams of thousands of students who are illegal immigrants moved closer to fulfillment Wednesday after the state Senate approved a bill that for the first time would give them access to public financial aid. Part of a two-bill package known as the California Dream Act, the measure would allow undocumented students who qualify for reduced in-state tuition to apply for Cal Grants, community college waivers and other public aid programs. To be eligible, they must be California high school graduates who attended schools in the state at least three years, and demonstrate financial need and academic merit.
- Lee’s early campaign filing was required (SF Chronicle)
This probably won’t quiet conspiracy theorists about Mayor Ed Lee and his potential links to the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign, who got more fuel with the revelation that Lee filed an “officeholder and candidate campaign statement” more than two weeks before he announced he was running. So was Lee technically a candidate at that point (which would raise ethical and campaign finance issues)? No, says John St. Croix, director of the city’s Ethics Commission. St. Croix said Lee filled out the form, dated July 21, at his request.
- Perjury charges against Bonds dropped (SF Chronicle)
Federal prosecutors Wednesday moved to dismiss three lingering perjury counts against former Giants superstar Barry Bonds but left the door open that the charges could be revived. Major-league baseball’s home run king was convicted in April of obstructing justice during his 2003 testimony to a federal grand jury…The jury deadlocked, however, on the more serious counts of perjury, which had been at the heart of the case.
- Message to America’s Cup: Don’t steal our bay (John King, SF Chronicle)
The agency that guards our bay has a message for America’s Cup organizers who want to park two dozen “superyachts” along Rincon Park on San Francisco’s waterfront in 2013: not so fast. “Filling this basin with large yachts … would significantly impact the public’s ability to enjoy the bay,” reads the official response by the state’s Bay Conservation and Development Commission to the draft environmental impact report for the fabled regatta. The comment period on the report closed on Aug. 25.
- Goodwin Liu confirmed to California Supreme Court (San Jose Mercury News)
UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu’s path to a prestigious judgeship took much longer than expected and was full of political detours, but he has reached his destination. A three-member state commission Wednesday unanimously approved Liu’s nomination to the California Supreme Court, just a few months after it appeared his aspirations to become a judge would be dashed when Senate Republicans torpedoed his long-stalled bid for a spot on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s largest appeals court.
- Caltrain rejects lowest bidder to operate system (San Jose Mercury News)
As Caltrain readies for another financial crisis that could strip riders of their favorite service or lead to tax hikes, the railroad is turning down an offer from a massive transit company to operate the commuter line at a savings of $24 million over the next five years. The reason? Caltrain executives say they are getting “the best bang for their buck” by picking the second-cheapest operator — a firm they say was so impressive it “blew their socks off” and will still do the job for less money than what they had budgeted for future years.
- Caltrain doubles number of parking tickets issued at stations (SF Examiner)
…this year Caltrain has issued more than twice the parking tickets it gave out last year. According to the latest data available, Caltrain gave out 2,144 citations between January and May of this year, compared to just 988 citations between January and May of last year.
- San Rafael pro baseball proposal scaled back (Marin Independent Journal)
A group that hopes to bring professional baseball to San Rafael’s Albert Park has dramatically scaled back its plans in an effort to secure support from neighbors and avoid a costly and time-consuming environmental study. Centerfield Partners first unveiled its proposal in April to bring a new North American League team to San Rafael and lease the lighted Albert Park baseball diamond from the city. The company said it would spruce up the 700-seat grandstand structure, add temporary seating for up to 800 more fans, upgrade the bathrooms and locker rooms and put in modern netting behind home plate, among other improvements.
- “Biggest tire slashing” incident in South Berkeley today (Berkeleyside)
South Berkeley residents in the area of California, Russell, King and Julia Streets woke up today to a rude shock, as more than 50 cars in the neighborhood had had their tires slashed in the early hours of the morning. “This is the biggest tire slashing incident any of us can remember,” said Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt Mary Kusmiss, who added that even 25-year police veterans had never seen anything like it.
- Health insurance regulation bill stalls for the year (Sacramento Bee)
A controversial push to give state regulators the power to reject proposed increases in health insurance rates stalled in the state Senate on Wednesday. Assembly Bill 52, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, would let the state insurance commissioner or the director of the Department of Managed Health Care reject or modify proposed rate increases found to be “excessive,” “inadequate” or “discriminatory.”
- Amazon offers jobs to avert ballot showdown over tax (Sacramento Bee)
Amazon.com is offering to bring thousands of jobs to California as it tries to back away from a ballot-box confrontation over the state’s new Internet sales tax law. The online retailing giant, in a meeting late Tuesday of legislative staffers and retailing lobbyists, proposed opening six distribution centers that would employ a total of 7,000 Californians, according to sources with knowledge of the offer.
- API scores suggest money, innovation help schools (SF Chronicle)
Turns out, more money can make a difference in turning around struggling schools. In San Francisco, most of the 15 or so schools that have received more funding to pay for innovative programs and staff support got better, according to state data released Wednesday.
- Cyclists to Get Their Sidewalk Back (Bay City News)
Bicyclists were greeted with the good news today that the Golden Gate Bridge’s western sidewalk will reopen on Sept. 10 — two weeks ahead of schedule. However, a few days after that, part of the eastern sidewalk will close, meaning pedestrians won’t be able to cross the bridge in its entirety for several months.