Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Must Reads: Caltrans Punished Bay Bridge Whistleblowers; Brown Wins Major Bullet Train Ruling

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Caltrans punished nine top engineers, removing them from their jobs, after they voiced concerns about the problem-plagued new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, the Chron reports, citing a state Senate probe. "The final report just corroborates that things need to change at Caltrans," state Senator Mark DeSaulnier told the Chron. "There is a culture there that doesn't like to be criticized — ever. As a worker told me: ‘Caltrans goes after the troublemakers, not the trouble.’"

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2. Governor Jerry Brown won a major victory when a state appellate court ruled that his administration can move forward with its funding plan for the state’s bullet train system, the LA Times$ reports. The unanimous decision overturned a lower-court ruling that had blocked the high-speed rail project.

3. The Oakland City Council unanimously rejected a recommendation from city staffers concerning the city’s garbage contract, and instead selected Oakland-based California Waste Solutions to handle the city’s entire waste and recycling program — despite the fact that the company does not have an operations facility that can handle the job, the Trib$ reports. City staffers had advised against awarding the contract to California Waste Solutions because they said the company’s proposal was not viable and that it’s projected lower costs were not realistic.

4. More than half of the state is now experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions — the severest level, the LA Times$ reports.

5. Drakes Bay Oyster Company closed its retail facility in Point Reyes National Seashore but will continue wholesale operations while a new lawsuit plays out in the courts, the Marin IJ$ reports. Several companies that do business with the controversial oyster farm recently sued to keep it open, arguing that the federal government erred when it decided to let the farm’s lease expire. The oyster farm previously lost its lawsuit against the Obama administration.

6. The Bay Area News Group has sued the state legislature for refusing to disclose the official calendar of indicted Senator Leland Yee. The legislature contends that lawmakers’ calendars are secret.

7. A record number homes sold for $1 million or more in the Bay Area during the second quarter of this year, as home prices continue to skyrocket, the Mercury News$ reports.

8. A judge has ruled that American Indian Public Charter Schools in Oakland can remain open and that the Oakland school board erred when it ordered the schools to close because of a financial scandal, the Trib$ reports. Judge Evelio Grillo concluded that the school board should have given greater weight to the schools’ extremely high test scores.

9. And the CIA admitted that its employees secretly — and illegally — searched the computers of US Senators investigating the nation’s torture program and had lied about doing so, the LA Times$ reports.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

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