Morning Splash: PG&E’s Substandard Test; Neukom Out as Giants’ Boss; Obama Approval Sinks in CA; Iran Hikers’ Release Now in Doubt
- PG&E wants OK for substandard test by contractor (SF Chronicle)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. relied on a substandard testing method to vouch for the safety of a major natural-gas transmission station, and now wants regulators to accept the procedure and allow the company to restore full pressure this winter to pipelines providing Northern and Central California with much of its gas.
- Purdy: Bill Neukom out as S.F. Giants honcho (San Jose Mercury News)
The Giants confirmed Wednesday night what this newspaper had reported earlier in the day — that Bill Neukom, the Giants’ managing general partner and chief executive officer, will not return in that role for the 2012 season… (S)ources say that Neukom has been asked to step aside by the 10-member Executive Committee of the Giants’ ownership group. The action is believed to be the fallout from a series of disagreements with the committee during Neukom’s three-year stewardship of the team.
- In Rebuke to Iran’s President, Courts Void Release of Hikers (NY Times)
To pave the way for his annual visit to the United Nations, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced with great fanfare this week the imminent release of two American hikers sentenced to eight years for espionage. Not 24 hours later, Iran’s courts issued a stinging public rebuke: they said he did not have the authority to free the prisoners.
- Residents to be polled about regional gas tax (SF Chronicle)
With a struggling economy, high and unstable gasoline prices and a cranky electorate, this would not seem the ideal time to propose a Bay Area gas tax of up to 10 cents per gallon. But regional transportation officials, eager to find out for sure, on Wednesday commissioned a nine-county poll to gauge voter support for a gas tax that could be placed on the November 2012 ballot.
- Texting service makes it simpler to park in S.F. (SF Chronicle)
San Francisco just made the hunt for a parking space in a city-owned garage much easier with the debut of a text-messaging service via smart phones that provides real-time information on space availability in 14 public lots.
- Report: Foreclosure crisis to crush Oakland home values by $12 billion (Oakland Tribune)
Local homeowners will see their collective property values drop by more than $12 billion by the end of 2012 as a direct result of the nation’s foreclosure crisis, according to a report to be released Thursday. Using projections from Realty Trac, researchers estimated that from 2008 to the end of 2012, more than 28,000 Oakland homes will have gone into foreclosure. When a home goes into foreclosure, it usually drops in value by an average of 22 percent, and other homes within an eighth of a mile tend to be hurt by about 1 percent, according to the report.
- San Jose man with stockpile of explosives is a convicted felon (San Jose Mercury News)
The San Jose man who police say had a cache of improvised explosive devices and 45 guns in his Japantown home is a felon with a long criminal history and was once arrested on a city street with a loaded .357 Magnum in the front seat of his truck. Mark Sedlock, 63, was arrested Tuesday after police found eight homemade explosive devices and dozens of handguns, rifles and shotguns while serving a search warrant at his home on North Sixth Street, according to Officer Jose Garcia.
- BART: No More Fake News (Bay Citizen)
BART will no longer make plans to transport supporters to press conferences or write scripts for them to read from, board president Bob Franklin said Wednesday. The Bay Citizen revealed Tuesday that BART recruited loyal riders, prepared a script and hired a car service to take them to and from a press conference intended to sway public opinion and media coverage in response to a planned Aug. 11 protest.
- Emails show pressure from White House to finalize Solyndra’s Department of Energy loan due to scheduling issue (San Jose Mercury News)
Widening the probe into Solyndra’s collapse, House Republicans at a hearing Wednesday released emails showing that White House aides pressured budget officials to finalize a decision on a $535 million loan guarantee to the solar panel maker because they were eager to have Vice President Joe Biden announce the news at Solyndra’s 2009 groundbreaking ceremony in Fremont. But while the released emails indicated the White House was eager for a decision on the loan, they do not reveal that the Obama administration pushed for a particular outcome. Nor did they contain evidence that George Kaiser, a prominent Obama fundraiser and visitor to the White House, had any direct influence or involvement in the Solyndra loan.
- Obama approval rating plummets in California, poll finds (Sacramento Bee)
Even in heavily Democratic California, President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has plummeted among voters, largely on his handling of the economy, according to a new Field Poll. Though Obama is strongly favored to win California in his re-election bid next year, the poll suggests many Democrats may vote for him only begrudgingly, and it is yet another indication of weakening support nationwide.
- Field Poll: Romney leads Perry among state’s GOP (Sacramento Bee)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is maintaining his edge over a surging Texas Gov. Rick Perry among Republicans looking to California’s June 2012 presidential primary, according to a new Field Poll. The poll shows Romney’s support has dipped slightly since June while Perry more than tripled his. But Romney still holds an eight-point lead.
- Deadline nears for whooping cough vaccine (San Jose Mercury News)
With state deadlines looming — and some passing this week — California schools are fervently hounding teenagers to get vaccinated against whooping cough before they are evicted from class. San Jose Unified has been making robo-calls every day. Fremont Union high schools make personalized calls and give advice on clinics. Campus billboards warn students they need to get a shot to stay in school. Oakland High School will hold a vaccination clinic Friday, in hopes of reaching some of the 2,000 noncompliers.
- Skatepark, a San Jose hidden gem, fighting for survival (San Jose Mercury News)
Despite the many municipal charms that draw visitors to San Jose from all over California — highest income per household! — the city has few attractions it can point to as the state’s biggest or best. But unless a coalition of outraged parents and corporate fat cats can quickly cobble together a budget shortfall of $61,000, the city soon may have to pull the plug on a crowned jewel: the biggest skate park in all of California.