Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Must Reads: California Kills Cheap Insurance Policies; Unions Say BART Board Vote Was Illegal

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Covered California — the state’s version of Obamacare — has denied the president’s request to allow people to keep health-care policies that are to be canceled this year, the Chron reports. The five-member board of Covered California noted that allowing about 1 million residents to keep inexpensive plans that fail to meet the minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act could seriously damage the new health-care system, because it would keep too many young, healthy people out of the Obamacare pool. The success of Obamacare is predicated on the need to have as many young, healthy people sign up as possible in order to finance the costs of treating seriously ill patients. But the president requested that states extend the deadline for ending cheap insurance plans after it became clear that his promise that people would be able to keep their insurance under his plan was untrue.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Must Reads: US Senate Kills Filibuster for Presidential Nominations; State Projecting a $2.4 Billion Surplus

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Democratic-controlled US Senate voted 52-48 today to kill filibusters for all presidential nominees except for Supreme Court appointments, a historic move that is expected to result in the quick approval of numerous nominations made by President Obama that have been held up by Republicans, Politico reports. Since Obama took office, Republicans have used the filibuster — which requires a super majority of sixty votes in the one hundred-member Senate to overcome — to block an unprecedented number of presidential nominees. But after today, the president’s nominees will only need a simple majority of Senate votes to be seated.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fearing Wall Street Reprisals, Oakland Council Abandons Anti-Foreclosure Plans

by Jean Tepperman
Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 4:57 PM

The Oakland City Council — fearing threats from Wall Street — abandoned plans to explore bold strategies for protecting homeowners at risk of foreclosure and instead passed a resolution “appreciating the City of Richmond’s leadership” in this area.

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Richmond Councilman Uses Position to Avoid Fines

by John Geluardi
Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Richmond Vice Mayor Corky Boozé is attempting to use his position as an elected official to dismiss $9,500 in city fines on a property that he controls through a woman he has claimed to be his decades-long domestic partner.

Boozé, who has ties to oil giant Chevron Corporation, has put an item on the city Public Safety Committee agenda that proposes to waive the fines for unexplained reasons. Boozé bypassed the city manager and city attorney to place the item on the agenda. And he left it there despite warnings from the City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller that he could be in violation of state laws that restrict elected officials from voting on issues in which they have a financial interest.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Verizon and AT&T Block Smartphone Kill Switches; Oakland Council Moves Forward on Surveillance Center

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Major cellphone carriers — including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile — are blocking attempts by Samsung to install kill switches in their smartphones, according to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, the AP reports. The kill switches, which would render a smartphone inoperable when stolen, are designed to curb the robbery epidemic nationwide. Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have led a campaign over the past year to get smartphone makers to install kill switches, contending that the number of robberies will plummet as a result. Oakland police say 75 percent off all robberies in the city involve a cellphone. But the major phone carriers — who profit from smartphone thefts because victims are forced to buy new phones — are refusing to sell Samsung products with kill switches. Smartphones thefts cost Americans about $30 billion a year.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All the Potential Contractors for Oakland’s Controversial Surveillance Center Have Ties to Nuclear Weapons

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 4:05 PM

The mass surveillance system the City of Oakland is building in coordination with the Port of Oakland — known as the Domain Awareness Center — ran into trouble in August when it was revealed that the project contractor, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), has been involved in nuclear weapons work for the federal government. Oakland's 1988 Measure T and city Ordinance 11062 bar any nuclear weapons contractor from doing business with the city. It looks like SAIC is out, unless the Oakland City Council approves a waiver to allow SAIC to complete the project.

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Tuesday Must Reads: Unions Say BART Is Overstating Costs of Family Leave; Growth of Oakland Charter Schools Damages School District

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. BART unions say the transit agency is overestimating the costs of a disputed family medical leave benefit by perhaps tens of millions of dollars, the Chron reports. The BART board directors has effectively rejected a tentative deal its management team reached with the unions because of the six-week paid family leave benefit — a move that could prompt another strike. BART officials estimate that the benefit, which they contend they agreed to by mistake, will cost the agency up to $44.2 million over the life of the four-year contract. But the unions say that the estimate is deeply flawed, and say they have no intention of renegotiating the deal.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Alternative to Governor’s Giant Water Tunnels Plan Would Be $6 Billion Cheaper

by Joaquin Palomino
Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM

State officials recently admitted that they had incorrectly analyzed an alternative proposal to Jerry Brown’s giant water tunnels plan, and now acknowledge that it would be $6 billion cheaper than the governor’s proposal. The California Natural Resources Agency had previously said that the competing water plan—known as the Portfolio Alternative— would only save the state $3 billion, and as a result, was not viable.

“It’s clear that the Brown Administration did not honestly analyze the Portfolio Alternative,” wrote six members of California’s Congressional delegation in a statement last week. “The state owes the public a full and proper explanation of both of these plans, who will truly benefit from each, and what they will actually cost.”

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Monday Must Reads: A Possible Third BART Strike Looms; Oakland Hills Voters Reject Wildfire Prevention Tax

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The possibility of a third BART strike this year moved closer to reality after the transit agency’s board effectively voted on Friday to reject the tentative deal its management team had reached with unions and requested more negotiations. The BART board and top managers contend that they mistakenly agreed to a provision that would give transit agency employees six weeks of paid family leave, the CoCo Times reports. However, the unions, which have already approved the deal, contend that the agreement was not a mistake and have indicated that they do not intend to renegotiate. BART officials also announced that they have terminated the contract of their high-priced consultant, Thomas Hock, who signed the paid leave benefit.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Must Reads: BART Deal Is In Jeopardy; Cal Lowered Academic Standards for Athletes

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 9:31 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The tentative contract agreement between BART management and the transit agency’s unions may unravel, the Chron reports. BART managers say they didn’t realize that the contract deal — which brought an end to last month’s strike — included a six-week family medical leave benefit for employees that they said could prove costly for the transit agency. As a result, the BART board may vote today to reject the deal. BART unions, meanwhile, contend that BART’s negotiating team knew full well that the family leave provision was in the contract. The unions have already approved the agreement, but if the BART board rejects it, it could result in yet another transit strike.

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