Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Must Read: Brown’s Plan Could Drive Businesses Out of Oakland, Richmond; Perata Becomes a Lobbyist

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 7:02 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to eliminate enterprise zone tax credits could drive businesses out of Oakland and Richmond and prompt others to not move here, the CoCo Times reports. Both cities have used the tax credits to attract businesses, and eliminating them, as Brown wants to do, will make both cities less desirable. Walter Cohen, Oakland’s director of community and economic development, said that since 1993, 850 Oakland businesses have taken advantage of the credits, which give tax breaks for hiring workers from low-income areas. Oakland also used its enterprise zone to help Berkeley keep Bayer Pharmaceuticals from leaving the East Bay. The enterprise zone “is a very important tool we have in our toolbox to stimulate jobs and retain businesses,” Cohen said. About 100 Richmond businesses have used the tax credits. Brown wants to eliminate the tax credits, along with redevelopment agencies, to help balance the state budget.

2. Bay Area transportation officials, however, are happy with Brown’s budget proposal because it spares local transit agencies, including BART and AC Transit, from further cuts, the CoCo Times reports. The state has raided transit agency funding in previous years to balance its budget, forcing fare hikes and service cuts.

3. Now that he’s not mayor of Oakland, ex-state Senator Don Perata has decided to become a lobbyist, the Chron reports. Perata has joined powerhouse lobbying firm Platinum Advisors, headed by super-lobbyist Darius Anderson. Perata told the Chron that he will be “doing political strategy work.” The ex-senator was not allowed to become a lobbyist under state law until January 1 — two years after he left the state Legislature.

4. The City of Berkeley will offer sex-change benefits to city employees under a proposal that goes before the city council tonight, the Chron reports. The proposal calls for Berkeley to set aside a total of $20,000 each year for city employees who wish to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. Such procedures typically range from $7,000 to $50,000, and Berkeley would dole out the benefit on a first-come, first-served basis. The city had asked its health insurers to provide coverage for sex-change operations, but doing so would have raised rates for all employees substantially. San Francisco began offering sex-change surgery benefits to its workers in 2001.

5. A new study found alarmingly high levels of mercury in tuna and swordfish sold in California grocery stores and sushi restaurants, the Chron reports. The scientific analysis, commissioned by GotMercury.org, found mercury levels up to three times the threshold that allows federal regulators to pull seafood from store shelves. Mercury toxicity can have devastating effects on fetal brain development, and long-term exposure in adults can damage hearing and vision, plus impair motor skills and balance.

6. Under Steve Jobs’ leadership, Apple has become the third most valuable company in the world, surpassing its longtime rival, Microsoft. Its innovation and creativity also has helped change modern culture. The Chron explores whether Apple can continue to be a trendsetter now that Jobs has gone on extended medical leave again.

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