Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Must Read: Brown to Propose Tax Measure; Alameda Top Officials Ousted

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 7:22 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor-elect Jerry Brown will propose a June ballot measure that would extend $10 billion in existing tax hikes that are set to expire next year, the Sacramento Bee reports. To make the tax increases more palatable to voters, and to bridge a projected $28 billion state budget gap, Brown also will propose about $10 billion in spending cuts, along with one-time cuts totaling about $8 billion.

2. Brown, meanwhile, called UC top officials who have threatened to file a lawsuit if they don’t get bigger pension payouts “very out of touch,” the Chron reports. Brown noted that the UC officials’ demand comes at a time when the UC system is facing a $21 billion unfunded pension liability and most other UC employees are seeing their retirement benefits slashed. The CoCo Times reports that two UC Berkeley executives who are among those demanding bigger pensions, law school dean Christopher Edley Jr. and business school dean Richard Lyons, made $337,000 and $361,000 in salary last year, respectively.

3. Alameda City Council members put interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith on paid administrative leave and are looking to replace them, the Alameda Journal reports. Both Gallant and Highsmith were embroiled in controversy this year over the actions of Councilwoman Lena Tam, whom they accused of leaking confidential city information. Tam, Mayor Marie Gilmore, and new Councilmember Rob Bonta, an ally of Tam’s, voted to put Gallant on leave, while councilmembers Beverly Johnson and Doug deHaan said she should stay until they find a new city manager. The council voted unanimously to put Highsmith on leave after she announced that she’s taking a job as interim city attorney of the City of Barstow.

4. Victoria Kolakowski, who was elected last month to be the nation’s first transgendered superior court judge, will be sworn-in Tuesday during a ceremony at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, the Trib reports. Kolakowski then will begin her assignment overseeing misdemeanor criminal cases at the Wiley W. Manuel courthouse in downtown Oakland.

5. As of Saturday, the penalty for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana will be no worse than getting a traffic ticket, the Chron reports (subscription required). The new law, authored by state Senator Mark Leno and signed by outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, reduces the penalty for pot possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. That means people caught with less than an ounce of cannabis will no longer have to go to court, nor will they face jail time.

6. Young Facebook users tend be angry and self-centered, while older users are gossipy and long-winded, the Chron reports, citing a new analysis of Facebook postings. Overall, users tend to be happier in the morning and grumpier as the day wears on.

7. A new survey is providing hope for the ailing newspaper industry. It shows that 65 percent of Internet users have paid for some kind of digital content, the Chron reports. An increasing number of newspapers plan to charge for online content in the coming years, because Internet ad revenues have never taken off.

8. And finally, you’re going to get some help with your New Year’s diet resolution thanks to a new state law that requires chain restaurants to post calories counts next to menu items. MacDonald’s has already started doing it, the LA Times reports, and other chain restaurants will follow suit when the law takes effect Saturday. A new federal law that goes into effect in March will extend the calorie count regulations to even more restaurants.

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