Sep 4, 2012

The public pension changes approved by lawmakers before adjournment give new powers to hundreds of cities by enabling them to make cuts that thus far have proved elusive.


From Calpensions' Ed Mendel: "Pension reform approved by the Legislature last week gives many cities new cost-cutting power that some have been unable to win from public employee unions at the bargaining table."


"The legislation does not cover a quarter of California cities, 121 of 482, that operate under their own charters rather than general law. Among them are several with well-publicized pension problems: Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Jose."


"But for most cities the legislation extends retirement ages, caps pensions and gives new hires a lower pension by imposing a single formula (rolling back increases after SB 400) instead of allowing bargaining on a menu of different formulas."


The trial of state Sen. Rod Wright on felony election-law violations is likely to begin just before the November election. Wright, of Inglewood, is accused of not living in his district, as required by law, and perjury.


From the LAT's Jean Merl: "Almost two years after his grand jury indictment on eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury, state Sen. Roderick Wright has yet to stand trial. The longtime Inglewood Democrat may not get his full day in court before voters decide this fall whether to give him another term in the Legislature."


"Wright's next court date is Sept. 26, for a pretrial conference. Both sides say it's possible his trial could begin shortly before the Nov. 6 election, and they expect it to last two to three weeks. That would make it unlikely jurors could reach a verdict before voters make their own decision on Wright, who is heavily favored to win reelection against a little-known Republican in his solidly Democratic district."


"The case against the first-term senator, who previously served in the Assembly, revolves around whether he fraudulently claimed to live in an Inglewood apartment complex, which he owns, at the time he registered to vote in 2007 and filed papers to run in the 2008 elections."


Whistleblowers who get retaliated against at their workplace aren't getting their complaints properly probed by state authorities.


From Will Evans at California Watch: State labor officials routinely fail to properly investigate whistleblower complaints of retaliation in the workplace, according to a federal review."


"A harsh evaluation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that state investigators lack basic training and often fail to perform standard required tasks such as interviewing witnesses. The  examined the work of the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which investigates complaints from workers who say they were punished for reporting labor or safety violations."


"In more than half of the cases reviewed in the audit, investigators did not interview the person who submitted the whistleblower complaint. Investigators frequently didn't interview other witnesses either and sometimes simply accepted a company's defense." 


State Democratic Party chief John Burton, not known for a tight-lipped demeanor, apologized for his comments comparing Republicans to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propganda minister.


From the LAT's Morgan Little: "If Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republicans are insulted by my describing their campaign tactic as the big lie -- I most humbly apologize to them or anyone who might have been offended by that comment,” John Burton said in a statement."


"Burton, who let loose against Republicans in an interview with KCBS and the San Francisco Chronicle, expressed his contempt for the party’s recent rhetoric Monday morning."


"“They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie. As long as you lie, Joseph Goebbels, the big lie, you keep repeating it, you know,” he said.


Meanwhile, the Willie Brown Jr. Academy, a low-performing, under-enrolled school on SIlver Avenue in San Francisco's Bayview district, is history: The facility was demolished to make way for a new school at the same site.


From the Chronicle's Jill Tucker: "Loud hydraulic excavators bit off pieces of the few remaining walls still standing last week at the school, which served about 160 students in grades four through eight until June 2011. With blue sky visible above and gaping holes nearby, a paper sign directed visitors to the now-nonexistent counseling office."


"Soon, the tons of mangled rebar and concrete chunks will be carted off for recycling and the 4-acre lot will be vacant, a clean slate to rebuild a new school."


"Three years from now, a $40 million, state-of-the-art science- and music-focused middle school for 650 students will open its doors on the site."


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