The Roundup

Apr 18, 2012


The Legislature's nonpartisan budget wonk -- the Legislative Analyst -- says California's fledgling high-speed rail project is fraught with financial peril and uncertainty, and advises the Legislature to reject Gov. Brown's request for $2.7 billion in bonds to help kick-start the project. This isn't the first time that the bullet train has been smacked, but it's the first time since the release of the project's reworked business plan. The LAO's view carries weight, too, because it's not spawned by Republican partisans.


From Mike Rosenberg in the Mercury News: "The 10-page analysis advises lawmakers to shoot down Gov. Jerry Brown's request for $2.7 billion in state bonds, to match $3.3 billion in federal grants, to start building tracks in the Central Valley this year. Any delay would risk the loss of the federal grants, which project officials say would be akin to axing the rail line for the foreseeable future."


"This project is important for California and it would be a mistake to delay this project and lose billions of dollars in critical federal funds," Dan Richard, who Brown appointed to lead the project, said in a statement."


"As it has in previous reports over the past few years, the LAO is chiefly concerned that the state will not find the remaining $55 billion needed to complete the full project connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2029. In addition to the federal grants, the state has $10 billion in voter-approved bond funds."


A kind of turf fight is under way in the Capitol over, of all things, the internet-driven voice communications known as VoIP, or voice-over-internet-protocol. The companies that supply the service want to see the regulatory role kept at the federal level, but consumer advocates are worried. And more and more people are using the internet phones as opposed to the land-line variety.


From Capitol Weekly's John Howard: "A move by a group representing hundreds of communications companies, including AT&T and Verizon, would preclude the state Public Utilities Commission from regulating any IP-enabled communications services, including voice-over-internet, or VoIP, communications. Such regulation, if needed at all, is better handled at the federal level, they say."


"One issue raised by alarmed critics is whether deregulating IP-enabled communications, because of the interconnectivity between VoIP and land lines, would cripple the PUC’s authority over traditional wired lines; AT&T alone has some 7 million lines in the state. Another is whether keeping IP-enabled services out of PUC control would loosen existing rules to serve the poor, rural residents and the disabled."


"A Senate analysis – and the legislation’s author – says flatly that existing safeguards wouldn’t be disturbed. “We will not take any steps backwards on consumer protections,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, the powerful chairman of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee."


Ever since it opened and threatened a great surfing spot, the San Onofre nuclear power plant has come in for its share of criticism. It also, it turns out, leads the nation in safety complaints at nuclear powerplants.


From Nick Gerda at the Voice of OC: "The number of substantiated safety allegations at San Onofre in 2011 was more than six times the national average, a significant drop from its peak in 2010 when it was 15 times the average. But even with the decline, San Onofre was — for the third consecutive year — the national leader in safety allegations substantiated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission."


"And in the first two months of this year, the plant again generated more safety complaints from workers than any of the country’s other 64 nuclear plants. The San Onofre plant has been shut down since the end of January when a broken tube caused a small radiation leak."


"More than 7 million people live within 50 miles of the plant, which is just south of San Clemente. The leak has led to renewed calls from residents, activists and some local officials to have the plant better monitored or shut down. Earlier this month, the NRC's top official visited the plant and vowed a full accounting of the tube failure."


The swelling disparity between rich and poor seems to be accelerating, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the cost of tickets for the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium. The Chronicle's Scott Ostler reports.


"The most expensive 1,000 seats in No Name Yet Stadium will cost $375 per game - plus $80,000 for a life-of-the-stadium license to buy that one seat. Those 1,000 seats are nearly sold out."


"It's going extremely well," said Al Guido, vice president of sales and marketing for Legends, the 49ers' stadium marketing firm, when asked about the overall sales picture. He added, "We're really, really pleased with the reaction of season-ticket holders."


"Of course, it's still early in the game. Only the choicest 9,000 of the 68,500 seats have been offered to current season-ticket holders, and not all of those seats have been snapped up. The excitement likely will build with Thursday's ground-breaking ceremony for the $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara, adjacent to California's Great America."


California's weed wars continue, as a legislative committee approves a bill to regulate pot dispensaries. But it's not clear what signficance, if any, the bill has, given that the feds are in the midst of a marijuana crackdown. 


From the AP's Marcu Wohlsen: "There is no doubt that an industry exits around medical cannabis," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the San Francisco Democrat who proposed the measure. "The point of regulation is to bring these activities above-board to ensure safe and effective access."


"California was the first state in the country to legalize marijuana for medical use when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. The ballot measure allows a doctor to recommend medical marijuana for nearly any ailment and has led hundreds of loosely regulated retail storefronts selling pot across the state."


"Cities like San Francisco and Oakland have longstanding local ordinances that create a permitting process for medical marijuana dispensaries that allows them to operate much like other legal businesses. Other communities have used zoning laws to effectively outlaw the dispensaries altogether."


Like Willie Sutton, UC goes where the money is: The university is admitting unprecedented numbers of out-of-state students, who pay three times as much as their California counterparts.
From the U-T's Mike Flynn: "UC accepted 18,846 nonresident students for fall of this year, a 43 percent increase over fall 2011, according to figures released Tuesday. UC San Diego accepted 7,425 nonresidents, up 75 percent from fall 2011."

“We have the capacity to educate many more students at our campuses,” said Kate Jeffrey, UC’s interim director of undergraduate admissions. “What we don’t have is the funding to admit more California students. Nonetheless, we continue to honor the California Master Plan, finding space at one of our campuses for all students who qualify for guaranteed admission.”


"The system’s Board of Regents has formally endorsed increasing the number of out-of-state students enrolled, primarily to capture that extra tuition, up to a maximum of 10 percent of the undergraduate population. For 2011-12, 7 percent of all undergraduates are nonresidents. Such students make up 12.3 percent of UC’s current freshman class, officials said."


 And from our "Spell Check" file comes the tale of the hospital staff that misspelled its own name on their new sign, did a correction, then screwed up the corrected sign. The Roundup hereby offers to lend you our copy editor, who rarely makes a mistake (Okay, okay, so last week we mangled Obi-Wan and Tatooine).


"A passer-by noticed that the first sign — at St Luke’s Hospital in Market Harborough, Leics — read "Hospitral".


"And while it was soon swapped for a new notice, the replacement was STILL missing the apostrophe in "St Luke's".


"Eagle-eyed IT worker Andrew Clarke, 41, from Market Harborough, spotted the gaffe while walking his dog."


"He said: “I always walk past the hospital and they’ve just finished that area so it was a relatively new sign."


Hey, it's easy to do. Once on a test, we misspelled "Dino De Laurentiis" ....


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