Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday Must Read: AC Transit Decimates Weekend Service; UC Berkeley Slashes 200 More Jobs

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The AC Transit board of directors voted last night to dramatically cut weekend and overnight bus service in an effort to bridge an $18 million budget deficit, the Chron reports. The vote was unanimous and it was the third such cutback this year, totaling about one-third of the agency’s routes. In the latest cuts, which will severely impact low-income residents throughout the East Bay, the agency slashed 39 of its 56 weekend routes and four of its six overnight routes. The cuts came in response to a judge’s decision to rescind $15.7 million in employee compensation reductions that AC Transit instituted earlier this year.

2. UC Berkeley will eliminate 200 jobs by January 1, bringing the total number of job cuts to 800 since last year, the Chron reports. It’s not clear how many workers will be laid off or whether the campus will make the reductions through employee attrition. The cuts come as a result of decreasing state revenue and are a part of Cal’s effort to reduce inefficiency and waste identified in a campus audit.

3. Berkeley school district’s groundbreaking nutrition program is working, as the number of students who are eating healthier grows rapidly, the Chron reports, citing a new UC Berkeley study. Berkeley’s program includes science classes taught in local community gardens, English and math classes offered in school kitchens, and the elimination of process foods in campus cafeterias.

4. Oakland-based BrightSouce Energy has won approval from state regulators to build a giant solar-array power plant in the Mojave Desert, the Mercury News reports. The new plant, approved unanimously by the California Energy Commission, will generate 370 megawatts of power. It faced stiff opposition from some environmental groups, who are concerned that large solar arrays will harm desert species.

5. California regulators also are poised to approve strict new regulations that would require state utilities to dramatically increase renewable energy use, thereby providing a boon to solar and wind power, the LA Times reports. The California Air Resources Board could require that 33 percent of energy come from renewables. The move is being watched closely by clean-tech companies who have held off on expansion plans because of regulatory uncertainty. However, the new rules would be overturned if voters approve the statewide anti-green-energy measure, Proposition 23, this November.

6. PG&E is prepared to abide by a state requirement that it pay for the investigation of the deadly San Bruno blast, the Chron reports. In addition, the death toll of the blast rose to seven people when the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office identified three more bodies through DNA tests.

7. A new Field Poll shows that Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a dead heat, with the former eBay CEO polling well with women, the Chron reports. In addition, the new poll shows a stark divide between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Brown leads Whitman by 40 points in the Bay Area, 64 percent to 24 percent, but she’s ahead in LA, 41 percent to 38 percent.

8. The Bay Area has the fifth worst roads in the nation, the Mercury News reports, citing a new study. The report rated 58 percent of roads in the Bay Area as being in poor condition. In addition, six California cities ranked in the top ten nationwide for having the worst roads, with San Jose ranking first and Concord ranking fourth.

9. Moving the Johannes Mehserle trial to Los Angeles cost Alameda County taxpayers more than $144,000 in extra expenses, the CoCo Times reports.

10. And key elements of the Obama health-care plan go into effect today, including allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions; and banning insurance companies from kicking people off their insurance plans if they get sick, the New York Times reports. The provisions are extremely popular with voters, yet Democrats are too scared to run on them because Republicans have successfully misled people into believing that healthcare reform will be too expensive when it fact independent studies show it will lessen the national debt.

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