Grand opening

Aug 16, 2013

The new Bay Bridge, all $6.4 billion of it, is scheduled to open to the public in less than three weeks. The opening is planned following the Labor Day weekend, which means the new span will open at just about the time that was planned all along.


From John Wildermuth in the Chronicle: "The new east span of the Bay Bridge will open after Labor Day weekend, an oversight committee decided Thursday morning - a decision that will require the bridge to close for five days beginning Aug. 28."


"Officials said the bridge would close at 8 p.m. Aug. 28 and reopen at 5 a.m. Sept. 3. "The old bridge is not safe in case of a major earthquake," said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "Our interest is moving traffic onto the new span as quickly as possible."


"The move came just days after federal officials gave their approval for a temporary plan to shore up the snapped high-strength steel rods that hold seismic stability structures together. Three independent authorities also found that the fix is more than adequate to allow traffic to move onto the new bridge while the permanent retrofit is completed, which is expected to be done by December."


The Obama administration says a change in California law violates federal long-standing federal law that protects union rights -- and the credit rating of transit agencies could be at risk.


From Keeley Webster in the Bond Buyer: "An Obama administration challenge to recent changes to California's public employee pension laws may damage the credit of 15 California transit agencies, including the state's largest."


"U.S. Department of Labor officials want California state to exempt transportation employees from the California Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013, saying it violates a 1964 federal law that protects the collective bargaining rights of public transportation employees."


"U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez threatened the state's local transportation authorities with the loss of $1.6 billion of federal funds in 2013 alone if the state doesn't act. As a result, Moody's Investors Service late Wednesday placed the credit ratings of 15 California transit agencies on review for downgrade, affecting $6.5 billion of rated debt."


The Coastal Commission is getting into the debate over frackiing, following a report that offshore fracking has occurred off the coast for the past two decades.

From the AP's Alicia Chang: "As a first step, the coastal panel planned to ask oil companies proposing new offshore drilling jobs if they will be using fracking and require them to submit an environmental review. It will determine further action after completing its fact-finding mission."

"A recent report by The Associated Press documented at least a dozen instances of fracking since the late 1990s in the Santa Barbara Channel, site of a disastrous 1969 oil platform blowout that spurred the modern environmental movement. Earlier this year, federal regulators approved a new project, but work has not yet begun."


"Fracking involves pumping huge quantities of water, sand and a mixture of chemicals at high pressures to break up rock formations to recover oil and gas. Offshore fracking typically uses less water compared with fracking on land, where the practice has led to various efforts to ban or curtail it."


Gov. Brown, who seems to move at the speed of molasses when it comes to filling key staff positions, has named a new cabinet secretary.


From the LAT's Anthony York: "Gov.Jerry Brown decided he wanted a cabinet secretary after all."


"Brown has promoted Dana Williamson, who has worked for Brown as a senior adviser since 2011, to a job that has traditionally been the second-most-powerful staff position in a gubernatorial administration."


"All of the other agency secretaries -- from agriculture to health and human services -- report to a cabinet secretary on the standard state government organizational chart, but Brown doesn’t operate by the book."
What's the latest social malady that needs action in Sacramento? Revenge porn, of course.
From the Bee's Jeremy B. White: "Bad breakups can produce all kinds of painful and unhealthy fallout: severing relationships with friends, dividing your mingled possessions, seeking solace in alcohol, putting nude pictures and videos of your ex on the Internet."

"Yes, that last one happens too. Commonly referred to as "revenge porn," the practice of posting or disseminating lascivious images and footage without someone's consent is apparently a serious enough problem that the California Senate has passed a bill penalizing its perpetrators."


The legislation, authored by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and backed by organizations like theCalifornia Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the California Sheriffs' Association,makes revenge porn a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail time. Cannella floated Senate Bill 255 after being approached by a constituent dismayed that an ex had shared photos that "were intimate in nature."

And from our "Secrets of the Nevada Desert" file comes word that, yes, Area 51 really exists. We knew it all along. 
"Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University's National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. Hundreds of pages describe the genesis of the Nevada site that was home to the government's spy plane program for decades. The documents do not, however, mention aliens."

"The project started humbly. In the pre-drone era about a decade after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower signed off on a project aimed at building a high-altitude, long-range, manned aircraft that could photograph remote targets. Working together, the Air Force and Lockheed developed a craft that could hold the high-resolution cameras required for the images, a craft that became the U-2. Why "U-2"?"

"They decided that they could not call the project aircraft a bomber, fighter, or transport plane, and they did not want anyone to know that the new plane was for reconnaissance, so [Air Force officers] Geary and Culbertson decided that it should come under the utility aircraft category. At the time, there were only two utility aircraft on the books, a U-1 and a U-3. told Culbertson that the Lockheed CL-282 was going to be known officially as the U-2."


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