Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Must Read: Quan Picks Ex-Fire Chief to be City Administrator; State Regulators Let PG&E Off the Hook

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 7:01 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Mayor Jean Quan selected former city Fire Chief P. Lamont Ewell to be Oakland’s interim city administrator, the Trib and Chron report. Ewell was Oakland’s fire chief during the 1990s, and then later served as an assistant city manager and acting city manager in Oakland, before moving on to city manager positions in San Diego, Santa Monica, and two other cities. Ewell will serve until Quan can find a permanent city administrator. She said her first choice for the job backed out after receiving a huge raise. Quan also has asked current City Administrator Dan Lindheim to remain on to handle several major proposed projects, including a new A’s ballpark in Jack London Square.

2. After agreeing to levy fines of $1 million a day against PG&E for its failure to turn over gas pipeline records, state regulators agreed to a tentative deal that would cap the utility’s penalty at $6 million, the Chron reports. Under the proposed deal, which still must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E would pay a $3 million immediate fine for failing to produce the records in the wake of the San Bruno pipeline disaster, and then $3 million more if it failed live up to a compliance timetable. The utility had been facing fines that could have totaled tens of millions of dollars. Critics immediately decried the proposed agreement as a “backroom deal.”

3. PG&E, meanwhile, also proposed its SmartMeters opt-out plan for consumers — but it comes with a major catch: The utility will levy big surcharges on customers who decide that they don’t want the controversial device, the Chron reports. Under the opt-out plan, which was required by state regulators, PG&E would charge consumers an upfront fee of $135 and then tack on a $20-a-month fine for as long as the customer chooses not to have a SmartMeter. Consumer advocates immediately denounced the proposal as unfair.

4. Most California youths are still woefully out of shape, according to results from the state’s annual physical fitness test. From the Chron: “More than two-thirds of the 1.32 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students tested didn't have the strength, stamina, and flexibility required to pass all six fitness categories on the 2010 Fitnessgram administered last spring.”

5. The home of Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks was burglarized yesterday, after an intruder kicked in the front door of her East Oakland home, the Trib reports. Brooks declined to reveal whether anything was stolen from her home. Police have no suspects.

6. And sales tax hikes will go into effect in several East Bay cities next week, the Chron notes. The tax rate will increase to 10 percent in San Leandro, and 10.25 percent in El Cerrito and Union City. The tax hikes were approved by voters in those cities in November.

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