Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Must Read: Brown’s Tax Plan in Trouble; California Schools Rank 30th in Academics, 2nd in Teacher Pay

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 7:08 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Jerry Brown’s plan for a June ballot measure that would extend tax increases set to expire this year is already in trouble, the CoCo Times reports. Republicans appear to be united in opposition and are threatening to sue Brown and Democrats if they attempt to put the measure on the ballot without getting two-thirds approval in the state Legislature. Democrats believe that because the measure merely extends existing taxes and does not call for new taxes, then they only need a simple majority to put it before voters. However, they acknowledge that without some bipartisan support, the measure will have a tough time passing.

2. In a move that is winning praise, Brown ordered 48,000 state employees to turn in their publicly financed cell phones, the Chron reports. The move could save the state up to $20 million a year, although it will take time to implement Brown’s order because many of the cell phones in question have existing service contracts. Many of the cell phones apparently belong to management-level employees.

3. California schools rank 43rd in per pupil spending nationwide among the fifty states, Top-Ed reports, citing a new study by Education Week. The state’s ranking is expected to fall even lower because the report was based on 2008 figures — before the latest rounds of budget cuts. Overall, the state ranked 30th in terms of educating students. California’s low-rankings, however, appear to have nothing to do with teacher pay. The average teacher salary of $68,093 in the state ranked second in the nation behind New York, according to the National Education Association.

4. It’s unclear whether congestion pricing on the Bay Bridge has improved commute times as hoped, the Chron reports. Transportation officials say more commuters are going over the bridge before and after the toll increases from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., but an independent analysis concluded that commute times haven’t changed. Another report is scheduled to come out today.

5. The former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital building in Oakland is to be demolished this year after a bankruptcy judge released $1.7 million in funds from Lehman Brothers, the Trib reports. Lehman was supposed to finance the redevelopment of the Oak Knoll property before it went belly up in 2008.

6. Prominent Oakland attorney Dan Siegel will become an unpaid legal advisor to Mayor Jean Quan in a move that has angered the Oakland police union, the Chron reports. Siegel, a former Oakland school board member and longtime friend of Quan’s, has been an outspoken critic of some Oakland police practices over the years.

7. Embattled Hercules Mayor Ed Balico announced that he will resign from office next week in the wake of financial scandals, the CoCo Times reports. Balico was accused of approving no-bid contracts to a company owned by the former city manager, and has presided over the city’s rapidly deteriorating financial crisis.

8. And a new report that concludes SmartMeters do not pose health risks likely will not quell debate over the controversial devices, the Chron reports. The new study did not look specifically at SmartMeters, but instead reviewed previous studies on electromagnetic radiation. In addition, the study left open the door that SmartMeters may pose risks in other ways, and recommended that consumers being given the choice to not have them installed.

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