Cutting edge

Jun 13, 2019

Nation's first hydrogen fuel cell ferry to transport commuters across SF Bay in early 2020


From the Bay Area News Group's ERIN BALDASSARI: "Creators of the nation’s first hydrogen fuel cell ferry always dreamed that if they built the zero-emission vessel, commercial interest would soon follow. It didn’t take long."


"SW/TCH (pronounced “Switch”), a New York-based investment company, announced Wednesday — two months before the boat even touches the San Francisco Bay — that it would be the first to test the technology in commercial commuter service, beginning as early as 2020. The plan, said SW/TCH co-founder Pace Ralli, is to partner with large employers to offer a pollution-free alternative to gas-guzzling shuttles."


"That means Bay Area residents will not only be the first to catch a glimpse of the vessel, called the Water-Go-Round, when it’s completed this fall, but some of the region’s commuters may also be among the first to experience the boat in action. First, though, there will be a three-month demonstration project where the public can learn about the technology, which has been around for decades but only recently adapted for maritime use, said Joe Pratt, chief executive and technical officer of Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, which designed the vessel. His company secured a $3 million grant last year from the California Air Resources Board to build the ferry with help from Alameda’s Bay Ship & Yacht Co."


Indicted congressman's wife heads to court to change plea


AP's JULIE WATSON: "Nearly a year after U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter suggested his wife was to blame for their indictment over the alleged misuse of $250,000 in campaign funds, Margaret Hunter was headed to court Thursday to change her not-guilty plea, which could pave the way for her to testify against her husband, one of President Donald Trump's earliest GOP supporters."


"Margaret Hunter, who worked as her husband's campaign manager, was scheduled to appear in federal court in San Diego to change her plea."


"The California congressman's attorney, Gregory Vega, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Margaret Hunter's decision should have no impact on his client's federal corruption case that alleges the couple spent more than $250,000 in campaign money on a lavish lifestyle, bankrolling Italian and Hawaiian vacations, tequila shots and theater tickets while their household budget was in the red."


College admissions scandal: Ex-Stanford sailing coach sentenced to 1 day in prison, already served


The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI: "Facing up to three years in prison, the former Stanford sailing coach embroiled in the nationwide college admissions scandal received a much lighter sentence from a federal judge — a single day in prison, deemed already served."


"John Vandemoer’s sentence, handed down Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Boston, included six months of home confinement and a $10,000 fine. It marked the first punishment levied in the cheating and bribery investigation known as “Operation Varsity Blues” that exposed how far some wealthy parents — including celebrities — were willing to go to get their children into prestigious schools."


Jerry Brown's new gig: Launching a California-China climate change institute at UC Berkeley


Sacramento Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "Even in retirement, Jerry Brown is still trying to save the world."


"In his second stint as California governor, Brown warned repeatedly that climate change threatened human existence and stressed the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions."


"We are talking about extinction,” he said during a climate change conference in Vatican City in 2015. “We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way."


READ MORE related to Energy, Environment & Wildfires: Trump's wildfire plan eases environmental law to speed forest thinning in California -- McClatchy's EMILY CADEI; California takes on an ocean of plastic waste, considers crackdown on industry -- The Chronicle's DUSTIN GARDINER


Don't like Newsom's state budget? Blame California Republicans


LA Times's GEORGE SKELTON: "These are some highlights — lowlights? — of a new state budget crafted by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the heavily Democratic Legislature:"


"Government health insurance for young adult immigrants living here illegally."


"A $1.7-billion income tax increase to finance a wealth redistribution program called the earned income tax credit."


Kamala Harris: 'No choice' other than prosecuting Trump


The Chronicle's TAL KOPAN: "California Sen. Kamala Harris says the Justice Department under her presidency would “have no choice” but to prosecute President Trump for allegedly obstructing the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference."


"The 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and former San Francisco district attorney told NPR it would be the right thing to do in the wake of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference and possible obstruction of justice by Trump."


READ MORE related to Campaign Trail: California Democratic 2020 presidential primary is a wide-openm race, poll finds -- LA Times's DAIVD LAUTER; Which presidential candidate takes the most Twitter jabs at @realDonaldTrump? -- BANG's CASEY TOLAN


California's troubled judicial misconduct watchdog may miss key deadlines to improve


BANG's NICO SAVIDGE: "The state commission that investigates misconduct by California’s judges needs to overhaul its troubled practices or it risks undermining the public’s trust in the court system, lawmakers said Wednesday at a hearing on a scathing recent audit of the agency."


"Released in April, the audit found that the Commission on Judicial Performance, which disciplines judges and reviews complaints against them, failed to thoroughly investigate about a third of the cases auditors examined, and did not track patterns of misconduct by judges who were repeat offenders. Auditors also took the commission to task for almost never holding events for members of the public, and its policy of only accepting misconduct complaints by mail, rather than online, among other practices."


"While commission officials say they are working to make changes, however, they concede that the agency could miss the deadline set by the auditors for enacting two key reforms to improve the commission’s investigations."


Here comes another: Third tax on SF's business, tech industry headed to November ballot


The Chronicle's TRISHA THADANI: "Once again, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is looking to squeeze more money out of the city’s high-flying corporations — including its prosperous tech companies — to help pay for the city’s most pressing problems."


"The latest proposal headed for the November ballot would tax companies with highly paid CEOs — those earning at least 100 times the median income of their employees — to help pay for free mental health care for all San Franciscans."


READ MORE related to Death & Taxes: California gas tax to jump nearly 6 cents/gallon on July 1 -- Chico ER's GARY RICHARDS


Sacramento County approves $4.4B budget -- with deep cuts. Here's where the ax will fall


Sacramento Bee's ALEXANDRA YOON-HENDRICKS: "After only a day of hearings, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a $4.4 billion budget that required about $43 million in cuts, in large part to fund county jail improvements."


"As part of the staff-recommended spending plan, about 189 vacant full-time positions will be eliminated, most affecting the departments of human assistance and child, family and adult services. That includes 27 full-time social workers, which may put more pressure on an agencythat still struggles to address regular turnover, a high vacancy rate and large caseloads."


"The cuts will help fund about $21.7 million in upgrades to the county’s jails “as part of continuing efforts to resolve conditions of confinement concerns” outlined in a lawsuit last year that alleged people in custody were subject to “harsh, prolonged, and undue isolation,” according to the staff report."


READ MORE related to Local: Oakland council backs state legislation to streamline approvals for A's waterfront ballpark -- The Chronicle's SARAH RAVANI


Medical pot laws are no answer for US opioid deaths, study finds


AP: "A new study shoots down the notion that medical marijuana laws can prevent opioid overdose deaths, challenging a favorite talking point of legal pot advocates."


"Researchers repeated an analysis that sparked excitement years ago. The previous work linked medical marijuana laws to slower than expected increases in state prescription opioid death rates from 1999 to 2010. The original authors speculated patients might be substituting marijuana for painkillers, but they warned against drawing conclusions."


"Still, states ravaged by painkiller overdose deaths began to rethink marijuana, leading several to legalize pot for medical use."


Who are the best employers in California? Some are in Sacramento, according to Forbes


Sacramento Bee's VINCENT MOLESKI: "Several local companies get high rankings in a new Forbes list of the best employers to work for in California."


"Top billing went to the Washington-based warehouse chain Costco. The best local employer, according to Forbes: healthcare nonprofit Sutter Health, the 26th best place to work in the state. UC Davis was listed just a bit lower at No. 44."


"VSP Global, based in Rancho Cordova, was the 74th best employer. It employs about 6,500 people, according to Forbes."


READ MORE related to Economy & Development: California blows Florida out of the water as most fun state in the US, ranking says -- Sacramento Bee's JARED GILMOUR


Are suburbs pushing homeless people into LA? Debate rages as numbers spike


LA Times's DAVID ZAHNISER/DORANY PINEDA: "Pierre Robinson has tried more than once to set up camp in Culver City, a jaggedly shaped community of nearly 40,000 bordered by Los Angeles on multiple sides."


"Robinson, who is homeless, said police repeatedly have made it clear he is not welcome."


"Every time I tried to set up a tent, they’d tell me to go to the other side of La Cienega if we didn’t want trouble,” said the 38-year-old, who is now living in L.A. — just outside the Culver City line."


A guide to California's broken prisons and the fight to fix them


Sacramento Bee/ProPublica STAFF: "A decade ago, so many inmates were crammed into California’s prisons that the sprawling system had reached a breaking point. Prisoners were sleeping in gyms, hallways and dayrooms. Mentally ill prisoners were jammed into tiny holding cells. There were dozens of riots and hundreds of attacks on guards every year. Suicide rates were 80 percent higher than in the rest of the nation’s prisons."


"The California prison population peaked at more than 165,000 in 2006 — in a system designed to house just 85,000. That dubious mountaintop came after years of tougher and tougher laws like mandatory sentences, juveniles prosecuted as adults and a “Three Strikes” initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1994."


"Since then, California has struggled to deal with a cascading series of problems and almost constant oversight by federal judges. In recent years, the state has undergone the biggest transformation to its prisons since the first, San Quentin, opened in 1851."


READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: Homicides surge in overwhelmed California jails -- Sacramento Bee's JASON POHL/RYAN GABRIELSON; LA County sheriff's deputy who was shot in random attack has died -- LA Times's JAMES QUEALLY/MAYA LAU; ACLU files million dollar claim against Corona Police after immigrant is deported -- OC Register's ROXANA KOPETMAN


Uber, Lyft executives urge California compromise on driver pay


Bloomberg's JOSH EIDELSON: "Faced with legislation in California that endangers their business model, Uber Technologies and Lyft are urging a compromise that would keep their drivers from being considered employees."


"We can make independent work better if we update century-old employment laws,” Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer wrote in a rare, jointly written opinion column published Wednesday in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Many drivers are offering ideas to improve their experience, and companies like ours have a responsibility to come to the table prepared to do our part."


"The executives’ public appeal follows months of private efforts by the ride-hailing giants and other companies to secure support from California’s governor, state lawmakers, and labor leaders for some deal to shield them from a sweeping 2018 state supreme court ruling that makes it difficult for firms to claim their workers aren’t employees."


1958 photos of the Embarcadero Freeway: A double-decker mistake rises 


The Chronicle's PETER HARTLAUB: "It was January 1959, and most of San Francisco seemed to have a case of buyer’s remorse. The Embarcadero Freeway, a double-decker public relations disaster, was finally complete."


"The Chronicle had hailed the arrival of almost every other major infrastructure project in the century — from the Golden Gate Bridge to a new City Hall. Even tourist trap Pier 39 received some editorial support, including a blessing from columnist Herb Caen."


"But not the Embarcadero Freeway. Never the Embarcadero Freeway."


Sriracha trial begins: The breakup between the hot sauce maker and farmer exposed


SGV Tribune's SARAH FAVOT: "The details behind the salty collapse of a business partnership and friendship which was “like family” between the world-famous Sriracha maker and the exclusive grower of its spicy red jalapeño peppers were revealed Wednesday in a Ventura County courtroom."


"A 12-member jury heard opening statements in the trial with multimillions of dollars at stake between the Irwindale-based Huy Fong Foods and Underwood Ranches, which grew the peppers in Ventura County for nearly 30 years."


"The dispute stems from a $1.46 million overpayment Huy Fong made to Underwood for the 2016 harvest season. Huy Fong sued, accusing the grower of not repaying the credit and terminating the relationship. Underwood Ranches countersued for $20 million, saying Huy Fong breached its verbal contract and owes it for costs incurred on behalf of the hot sauce maker."


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