BART directors decided to lay off some employees and eliminate vacant positions rather than raise fares and cut service in order to help close a $25 million budget hole in this year’s budget. However, the Chron reports that the board may be forced to raise fares and slash service later this year to bridge another projected $25 million budget gap in the 2010-11 fiscal year budget, beginning July 1. In yesterday’s vote, the board voted to eliminate 74 positions, but 55 of those are vacant, meaning that the agency will at most lay off 19 employees.
Backers of a statewide measure turned in a petition with more than 700,000 signatures yesterday, far in excess of what is needed to qualify for the November election. The Chron reports that once the Secretary of State’s office determines that at least 433,971 of the signatures are valid, then it will place the measure on the ballot. The initiative, which is sponsored by Richard Lee, owner of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, would legalize pot possession of up to one ounce for adults.
The long-awaited high-speed rail project that would connect the Bay Area to Southern California may break ground as early as this year, the CoCo Times reports. The possible expedited timeline is the result of the Obama Administration’s announcement of a $2.25 billion federal grant for the project. The grant allowed the state to tap into voter-approved Proposition 1A funds, bringing the total to $4.5 billion.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted yesterday to give BART three weeks to devise a plan that will satisfy federal authorities who threatened to withhold $70 million in funding for it controversial tramway to the Oakland airport. If BART fails to meet the new February 17 deadline, then the MTC hopes to redirect the $70 million in federal funding to cash-strapped transportation agencies throughout the Bay Area, including about $7 million to AC Transit.
The Bay Area Toll Authority voted to eliminate free carpools on the Bay Bridge yesterday, and decided to charge carpoolers $2.50 to cross the span beginning July 1. According to the Chron and the CoCo Times, the authority also voted to raise the bridge toll to $6 for everyone else during commute hours and to $5 on weekends. The Bay Bridge toll will remain $4 during non-commute hours on weekdays. In addition, the authority raised the toll to $5 on all other Bay Area bridges at all times, except the Golden Gate, which is not under its jurisdiction.
Best known for publishing A People's History of the United States in 1980, author Howard Zinn died today of a heart attack in Santa Monica. He was eighty-seven. Born in New York, Zinn was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and a staunch labor activist. He taught at Boston University from 1964-1988, and led a faculty strike there in 1979. He is the author of numerous books and three plays.
The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously last night to send a letter directly to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hoping that the city's long opposition to the use of force in that country might quicken the release of the three UC Berkeley graduates being detained there.
In a page one opinion piece today, Oakland Tribune columnist Tammerlin Drummond displays both a surprising arrogance toward gays and lesbians in their struggle for marriage equality and a worldview that fosters bigotry. Drummond was responding to blowback she received for her ill-thought-out column on Sunday, in which she claimed that East Bay gay activists were “intolerant to opposing views” because they had mounted a political campaign to stop the reappointment of Lorenzo Hoopes, a major financial backer of last year’s Proposition 8, to the publicly owned Paramount Theatre board of directors.
Two Union City high school students were hospitalized late last week after eating pot brownies tainted with a substance that made them sick. Five James Logan High School students ate the brownies, which they believed to contain marijuana, and later became ill, according to the Chronicle. Two boys suffered convulsions and had to be hospitalized, but have since recovered.
Last week at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, thousands of fascinating small food companies — and a few fascinating large ones — from all over the world displayed their products as the buyers for stores all over the world tasted samples and placed orders. For many companies in our current economic climate, this show was make-or-break time. Some East Bay favorites were on the scene, both selling and buying, and some amazing new products debuted — featuring formerly unknown edibles and/or cutting-edge technologies applied to traditional ingredients. Are yuzu juice, roasted-tomato cassava chips, Belgian chocolate disks adorned with full-color photographs, and agave-sweetened everything the wave of the future?