Morning Splash: SmartMeters, High-Speed Rail, Santa Cruz Atheists, E. Coli Sandboxes

  • PUC won’t delay SmartMeter to study health effects (SF Chronicle)

    The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday rejected a request to stop deployment of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s SmartMeters and study their possible health effects, even though a majority of commissioners said they wanted more information on the topic. Full article

  • Quan reaches across the aisle to assemble a top-notch transition team (Oakland Tribune)

    After a couple of missteps having to do with unpaid parking tickets and off-message tweets, Oakland Mayor-elect Jean Quan has once again regained the momentum that pushed her to victory last month by assembling a top-notch and diverse group of experts to aid her transition to office next month. Henry Gardner, former Oakland city manager and recently retired executive director of the Association of Bay Area Governments, will serve as chair of the 24-member volunteer transition advisory committee. Full article

  • San Jose pension trustees try to defy council on bonuses (San Jose Mercury News)

    San Jose police and firefighter pension trustees lost a dramatic bid Thursday to distribute bonus checks to retirees in defiance of a City Council move to suspend the extra payments amid a $2 billion retirement fund shortfall. The council in October voted to suspend the bonus checks — which are paid out in years the funds exceed their targeted returns — for eight months while the city seeks to reform its pension system…Three trustees representing current and retired officers and firefighters voted Thursday to take up to $1 million from the pension fund and distribute it as an “extra check” to more than 1,700 retirees and their survivors…But with a vacancy on the seven-member board, the move was blocked by the two council members who sit as trustees…plus city Finance Director Scott Johnson. Full article

  • Chemistry regulation called `’a step backward’ (SF Chronicle)

    A coalition of environmental and health organizations has accused the Schwarzenegger administration of gutting a proposed regulation intended to ensure consumer products contain chemicals that are safe for human use and the environment. The regulation would implement California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, a program to identify harmful chemicals in products such as toys, makeup and household cleaners, and in product manufacturing. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control is overseeing the planning for the initiative, which would force manufacturers to replace harmful products with safer alternatives. Full article

  • Judge refuses to step aside in Prop. 8 case (SF Chronicle)

    A federal appeals court judge has rejected a request by the sponsors of California’s ban on same-sex marriage to disqualify himself from next week’s hearing in their case, saying he would not be biased by his wife’s leadership role in the American Civil Liberties Union. “I will be able to rule impartially in this appeal, and I will do so,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a brief order Thursday. Full article

  • McCain Questions Pentagon on Repeal of Gay Ban (NY Times)

    Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican and Vietnam-era war hero, took on the nation’s top defense and military officials Thursday when he repeatedly challenged the Pentagon’s position that gay men and women should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces. In a sometimes tense hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. McCain, one of the senators who is closest to the military, was in the remarkable spot of arguing with a phalanx of its senior leadership — the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the general who commands the Army in Europe and the Pentagon’s general counsel — and saying they should not push for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 17-year-old law that requires gay men and women in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge. Full article

  • Commuters won’t be charged with FasTrak violations during Bay Bridge standoff (Contra Costa Times)

    Some commuters who weren’t able to get all the way across the Bay Bridge after a distraught man stopped traffic last month were still charged a toll on their FasTrak transponders or received a violation in the mail, but relief is available, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said. (MTC spokesman John) Goodwin said Fastrak computers automatically sent out violation notices to 150 motorists, but the agency soon after sent out notices rescinding the notices and penalties. Full article

  • Proposed Fruitvale gang injunction draws protest as court hearing is postponed (Oakland Tribune)

    Forty people accused by the city attorney of being dangerous gang members will have to pay almost $1,000 in court fees simply to show up and defend themselves and are not legally entitled to a public defender, an attorney fighting a proposed gang injunction said Thursday. Full article

  • 1st Calif. high-speed rail segment to be in valley (SF Chronicle)

    California’s dream of building a statewide high-speed rail system with trains zipping along at 220 mph will start to become reality with a 54-mile stretch of track deep in the Central Valley, the High-Speed Rail Authority board decided Thursday. The board, facing a looming deadline to capture $3 billion in federal stimulus funding, voted unanimously to lay the first high-speed rails between Borden, south of Madera, through Fresno, to Corcoran, midway between Fresno and Bakersfield. Stations will be built in Fresno and in the Hanford area of Kings County. Full article

  • E. Coli Scare Shuts Redwood City Park Sandboxes (Peninsula Press)

    Two years ago, Christopher Beth, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services department, received an anonymous tip about a couple of children getting sick after playing in the sandbox at Stafford Park. He decided to order tests. “We’d never tested the sand before,” Beth said. “Other cities say they don’t test either. There’s no requirement.” It was a good thing he did. The results showed high levels of E. coli bacteria. Since then, a similar problem was discovered at Maddux Park. The sand play areas at both parks are being replaced with water features, officials said, and the renovations should be done by mid-January. Full article

  • Public plea to Ammiano to be mayor (SF Chronicle)

    …Chris Daly… has taken to arm-twisting in public with an open letter imploring Assemblyman Tom Ammiano to consider the interim mayor position. The letter, hosted on the website www.change.org, “humbly” asks Ammiano “to become San Francisco’s next Mayor and lead us into 2011 and beyond.” Full article

  • Atheists upset they can’t post sign downtown (KGO)

    In Santa Cruz there are hurt feelings over religion. In the past, both a menorah and a community holiday tree have gone up in the city’s downtown area. This year, a group of atheists wanted a chance to display their message as well. Instead, there are no signs of the season at all. Santa Cruz area atheists want to be a part of the city’s traditions and so, for the first time, they are taking part in the Santa Cruz holiday parade and holding a sign that says “Reasons greetings! Atheists believe in reason over religion.” After the parade, they planned to post their banner downtown. Full article

  • A Power in Emeryville Slides Quickly, Politically and Personally (Bay Citizen)

    …(Ken) Bukowski has served on the Emeryville City Council since 1987, helping to spur a development boom that turned his tiny East Bay city into a center for retail giants like Ikea and Best Buy, and the home to innovative companies like Novartis and Pixar. But Bukowski, who admitted in an interview this week that he was once a methamphetamine user, fell behind on his mortgage after refinancing. He borrowed money from developers, some of whom did business with the city. This year, he lost the house to an Emeryville businessman who had lent him $50,000. Broke and embittered, Bukowski, 59, now says his penury is driving him out of politics. Full article

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Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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