Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Must Read: Prison Guards Union's Sweetheart Deal Gets Sweeter; PG&E Says Shoddy Records Not to Blame for San Bruno Blast

By Ellen Cushing
Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Why is this Tuesday morning different from all other Tuesday mornings? Well, it's not, really: the prison guards still make major bank, the University of California's still struggling, and the earth is still slipping and sliding and shaking like crazy. Here are the stories you shouldn't miss:

1) Embedded in the sweetheart deal the prison guards union recently negotiated with Governor Jerry Brown is a provision that would allow them to rack up unlimited vacation — and, therefore, rake in major ca$hmoney at taxpayers' expense when they retire. This new contract essentially removes the existing cap, set at 80 days, on the amount of vacation that can be accrued and exchanged for cash upon retirement. The LA Times quotes Nick Schroeder at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office saying the new deal represents a "huge liability" for taxpayers, who'll have to foot the several-hundred-million-dollar bill for all this. The union, NB, contributed about $2 million to Brown's election campaign, and the contract still needs to be approved by the state legislature.

2) As the investigation in to PG&E and the San Bruno blast continues, the company is now telling regulators that the explosion still would've happened even if PG&E had done better inspections and kept more accurate records. According to the Chron, the flawed welding job that ultimately caused the blast doesn't typically fail, so even if they'd been doing better inspections, the gas company wouldn't have known to inspect for that particular problem.

3) The University of California released its 2011 admissions data yesterday. The big news, per Nanette Asimov at the Chron: as the UC system continues to struggle financially, three of its campuses — Berkeley, Riverside, and San Diego — have dramatically increased the number of out-of-state students they accept. At Berkeley, for example, admission offers to California residents declined by 17 percent, while out-of-state offers have almost tripled. Unlike in-state students, whose $12,000-a-year tuition doesn't fully cover the cost of a UC education and must therefore be subsidized with ever-shrinking state funds, nonresidents more or less pay for themselves — making them a much better deal for the beleaguered university system. Meanwhile, the Bay Citizen reports that UC Berkeley received a record 52,900 applications, of which about 13,600 were granted admission.

4) A 3.7 earthquake hit near Pacifica just before 3 p.m. yesterday. No injuries or significant damages have been reported.

5) And finally, in case you missed it, President Obama is arriving in the Bay Area tomorrow and will be in town for a couple days, raising money, talking about the economy with various groups, kicking it with Mark Zuckerberg, etc.

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