Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Must Read: Telegraph Declared a Disaster Zone; Recall Campaign Launched Against Five Oakland School Board Members

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. State officials have declared Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to be a disaster zone in the wake of last month’s massive fire that destroyed an apartment building and several small businesses, Berkeleyside reports. But Telegraph merchants are welcoming the disaster declaration because it makes them and tenants of the burned building eligible for federal aid.

2. Oakland has recall fever. Not only are there two recall campaigns involving three groups against Mayor Jean Quan, but angry parents have launched a recall effort against five school board members. The Trib reports that the parents are upset at the board members for voting to close five schools. The recall effort will require gathering signatures in each of the board member’s districts.

3. In recognition that many students can no longer afford to attend UC Berkeley, the campus has decided to offer tuition discounts for the first time to those who come from middle-class families, the Chron reports. The discount applies to students whose parents earn between $80,000 and $140,000 annually and are not eligible for student aid. Under the program, a family that earns $100,000 a year would pay $23,000 annually instead of the usual $32,634 for tuition, room, board, books, and other fees.

4. Alameda County retailers will be required to charge 10 cents to customers who want their purchases put in plastic bags, beginning January 1, 2013, under a new rule adopted by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the Trib reports. In addition, owners of multifamily buildings will be required to begin recycling paper and other recyclables next July, and to compost food and green waste in 2014. However, cities in the county have the ability to opt out of the new regulations.

5. Several state parks have been taken off the closure list as nonprofits and other private groups are stepping up to run them, the Chron reports. State officials hope to save at least 27 other state parks from closure. Seventy parks in all are scheduled to be shut down because of state budget cuts. Among those taken off the closure list is Henry Coe State Park in Morgan Hill. However, questions remain as to how these public parks will be run by private interests.

6. Silicon Valley mega-corporations are exploiting a federal tax loophole that allows them to avoid the 35 percent corporate tax rate on foreign earnings, the Chron reports. The multinationals, including Google, Apple, Oracle and others also are lobbying Congress to extend the loophole to even more of their revenues.

7. California’s small businesses, meanwhile, are having a difficult time obtaining loans to help them grow and hire employees, the LA Times reports, citing a new Pepperdine University survey. About 44 percent of 2,000 small businesses surveyed said they couldn’t access funds needed to grow.

8. Craigslist scams targeting unsuspecting renters appear to be growing in the Bay Area, the Mercury News reports. Scam artists are advertising for rent homes or apartments they don’t own — typically foreclosed and abandoned properties.

9. And consumer confidence tumbled in California in the last quarter by 10 percent, as residents remain concerned about high unemployment, the LA Times reports, citing a new Chapman University survey.

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