Bad times

Sep 27, 2011

Half of California voters are reporting a decline in their personal economic situation, the fourth straight year in which at least half of those surveyed said they were in decline -- an unprecedented string of such responses at the Field Poll.


From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "One in two California voters, including Vargo, say their financial well-being is worse off than a year ago, according to a new Field Poll released Tuesday. It marks the fourth straight year in which at least half of Californians reported a decline in their personal situation, the first time that has happened since Field began asking the question 50 years ago."


"Pretty gloomy stuff," said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. "The length of these negative reports is now becoming historic."

"Field also found that 91 percent of voters say that California's economy is in bad shape. Forty-two percent believe that things will stay the same over the next year, while 30 percent say it will worsen and 26 percent think it will improve."


The final federal investigative report is in on the September 2010 San Bruno natural gas explosion, and the summary isn't pretty: PG&E's natural gas transmission lines could be at risk of failure, but the company's record-keeping is so flawed it's hard to be sure.


From the Chronicle's Jaxon Van Derbeken: "The National Transportation Safety Board said PG&E had made numerous mistakes in the management of its transmission-pipeline system, including its failure to test more widely for substandard welds after finding several defects on the pipeline that exploded Sept. 9, 2010, and on other pipelines."


"Citing "multiple and recurring deficiencies in PG&E operational practices," the safety board found that PG&E suffered from a "systemic problem" related to safety."


"The report also said state and federal regulators had not done enough to ensure the company was running a safe system, instead placing what the safety board's chairwoman called "blind trust" in PG&E despite a dismal track record."


 Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, California will be launchiing so-called "preppy kindergarten" -- an extra year of kindergarten in the public school system. 


From Erin Brownfield at EdSource: "Taught by credentialed teachers, it will mark the first time that a new grade has been introduced into California schools since 1891. That was when regular kindergarten was introduced into the Golden State."


"It will also relieve California parents of children who are still 4 when they enter kindergarten of a long-standing dilemma: whether their children are emotionally or cognitively ready to enter traditional kindergarten."


"Under current law, students who turn five anytime before December 2 are allowed to attend kindergarten. But under the Kindergarten Readiness Act (SB1381), approved by the Legislature last year, these younger children will no longer be eligible to attend regular kindergarten. Beginning in 2012-13, the law will  be phased in gradually over the next several years."

An  FBI undercover investigation into the L.A. County jail system included a $1,500 payment to a sheriff's deputy for smuggling in a cell phone to a prisoner, who actually was an FBI informant. The LA Times' Robert Faturechi has the story.

"The revelation is the first public indication that the FBI's investigations into allegations of inmate beatings and other deputy misconduct in the jails have uncovered possible criminal wrongdoing."

"The FBI conducted the cellphone sting without notifying top Sheriff's Department brass, enraging Sheriff Lee Baca and causing a rift between the two law enforcement agencies."{

"Baca, who is scheduled to meet Tuesday with U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. to discuss the escalating tensions, went on television Monday to slam the FBI, saying smuggling a cellphone inside a secured lockup created a serious safety breach. Baca suggested that the FBI committed a crime by doing so."

"It's illegal," he said. "It's a misdemeanor and then there's a conspiracy law that goes along with it."

Gov. Brown has signed legislation raising the documentation fees that dealers charge car buyers by $25, and which includes new consumer protections to curb salvaged and "lemon-law" vehicles.

From the LA Times' Jerry Hirsch: "Dealers will now be required to run the vehicle identification number of any used auto for sale on their lots through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System to check whether the auto has a so-called branded title. Any vehicles showing up as having been totaled or bought back through a lemon law or a victim of some other catastrophe would get a red window sticker warning potential buyers of the auto's history."


"Both the new fees and vehicle history checks start July 1."


"Insurance carriers, repair shops, towing companies and salvage yards must report totaled vehicles to the database, overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.

The legislation was supported by law enforcement agencies, consumer groups and the California New Car Dealers Assn."

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