Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Must Read: Jerry's Union-Oakland Problems; SmartMeters Buzz Household Electronics

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 12:18 PM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Meg Whitman is now portraying Jerry Brown as being beholden to Big Labor, the Chron reports. Her argument got a boost earlier this year when California unions banded together and spent $10 million attacking her on his behalf. Unfortunately for Brown, public-employee unions could prove to be the electric-third-rail in this year’s election battle. Spiraling pension and compensation costs have played a pivotal role in the state’s budget crisis and the unions have been less than cooperative in reining those expenses. For his part, Brown contends that public employees will have to share the pain in order to balance the state’s finances. And he’s following up on the unions’ campaign against “Queen Meg,” portraying her as a Wall Street maven who pocketed huge bonuses while downsizing eBay.

2. It also should be noted that during Brown’s tenure as mayor of Oakland, he greenlighted generous public employee wage and pension packages that are now helping bankrupt the city. Indeed, Whitman has pounced on Brown’s record in Oakland and is using it against him, the Chron adds. Whitman notes that crime spiraled out of control during his tenure, and that Oakland Unified went into state receivership after he appointed three members to the school board. Brown will have to convince voters that his successful efforts in revitalizing Oakland’s downtown more than made up for his shortcomings and that Whitman’s lifelong disinterest in politics renders her unsuitable for the job. It could be a tough sell in this anti-incumbent year, and Brown won’t have much time to make it.

3. PG&E’s SmartMeters are now being blamed for interfering with household electronics, the Mercury News reports. The problems were first noticed by Peninsula moms who discovered that their baby monitors buzzed loudly when the SmartMeters pulse signals back to PG&E. The meters also may interfere with cordless phones, garage door openers, and home burglary alarms, among other household devices.

4. Chevron is trying grease California lawmakers into granting the company an exemption from state environmental laws for its massive Richmond refinery expansion, the Mercury News reports. The exemption would allow Chevron to ignore two court defeats of its expansion plans. The giant oil company has doled out $4.1 million in campaign donations around the state since 2009.

5. A new microchip monitoring system of poor kids in Richmond is raising objections from the ACLU, California Watch reports. Under the new program instituted by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, children are given T-shirts embedded with microchips that emit radio frequencies that then track the kids. Parents, however, have not been warned about the potential issues involving the electronic tracking devices.

6. A super-successful online T-shirt business launched by a UC Berkeley undergrad is a leading example of the burgeoning “ultra-light” startup craze, the Chron reports. The startup, ooShirts, has virtually no overhead costs and grossed more than $60,000 in August, putting it on track to post $700,000 in sales this year.

7. Oakland’s iconic Kwik Way restaurant near the Grand Lake Theater may reopen as a causal dining establishment run by Gary Rizzo, owner of Somerville Restaurant on College Avenue, the Trib reports.

8. And the City of San Francisco, which has one of the worst records for wasting water in the state, is finally launching a wastewater reuse program, the Chron reports. The city plans to use treated wastewater to irrigate Golden Gate Park and other parkland instead of pristine freshwater from the Sierra Nevada.

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