Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday Must Read: Quan May Hire New City Administrator Soon; Pension Reform May Not Help Budget

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 7:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is moving quickly to select a new city administrator to replace Dan Lindheim and may appoint a candidate to the position as early as this week, the Chron reports. It’s not clear whether Lindheim, who has worked well with Quan, will remain in City Hall in some other capacity. Meanwhile, Chron columnist Chip Johnson says that Oakland City Attorney John Russo should resign from office if he doesn’t get the Alameda city manager’s job, calling the public spats that Russo has had with Quan and councilmembers “an unattractive sideshow.” By contrast, the Tribune editorialized today that while the situation has been “unpleasant,” a Russo departure would cause more turmoil for Oakland.

2. Overhauling public-employee pensions likely will do little to help balance California’s $26 billion budget deficit in the short-term because it takes years for such reforms to produce savings, HealthyCal.org reports. However, pension reform could prove pivotal to the state’s long-term financial health. Republican lawmakers have been pushing Governor Jerry Brown to overhaul pensions. But a new New York Times poll shows that reforming them and slashing public-employee compensation does not appear to be popular with the public.

3. Oakland, it turns out, is not the only city to spend large amounts of redevelopment money on employee salaries. The Mercury News reports that both San Jose and Long Beach do as well. As a result, the governor’s plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies will have substantial financial impacts on those cities, too.

4. When Berkeley filmmaker Charles Ferguson noted in his Academy Award acceptance speech Sunday night that no bankers had been jailed after the subprime mortgage debacle, it struck a chord. Ferguson, who won an Oscar for best documentary, Inside Job, called it “wrong.” The Chron reports that some critics contend that the Obama administration has been too skittish to go after the banking industry, pointing out that more than 1,800 officials were convicted of felonies in the aftermath of the S&L crisis. But others say that Congress is to blame for effectively legalizing mortgage fraud when it deregulated the industry in the late 1990s.

5. Well-dressed college students descended on Sacramento yesterday to protest massive budget cuts to higher education proposed by Governor Brown, the Chron reports. The students also are pushing Republican lawmakers to put Brown’s tax proposal on the June ballot to avoid even deeper cutbacks.

6. Crews continue to make progress on the signature tower of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, the Chron reports. By week’s end, the tower should stand at 480 feet of its ultimate 525 feet.

7. Californians who make significant energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes can earn rebates of up to $4,000 under a new program to be launched today, the Mercury News reports. The amount of the rebate depends on the energy savings achieved.

8. And Google introduced its new vehicle for snapping more of its controversial Street View photos — a large tricycle that can go where its ubiquitous Toyota Priuses can’t, the Merc reports. The large trikes are designed for trails, alleyways, and other hard-to-get-to spots.

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