Juneteenth festival brings awareness to Bay Area African-American community

Hank Drew, The Public Press — Jun 19 2009 - 1:52pm

The 59th annual San Francisco Juneteenth activities will begin this weekend with a community and media reception event Saturday at 12 p.m. Visit http://www.sfjuneteenth.org/service.htm. The San Francisco festival is the largest gathering of African-Americans in Northern California and began in the early '50s when Wesley Johnson Sr., once owner of the Texas Playhouse on Fillmore Street, invited all Bay Area African-Americans to celebrate June 19 in his lounge.

S&P lowers California's crediting rating

Jun 17 2009 - 2:39pm

Standard & Poor's has lowered California's credit rating due to the state's unresolved budget deficit, the state politics blog Calitics reported Tuesday.
California's credit rating is the lowest in the U.S., and this move will negatively affect the current budget crisis as interest rates for loans to the state government rise. The state government is currently working close a $24 billion budget gap that has already delivered cuts to education.
This rating also comes at a time when state Democrats are discussing increasing taxes to bridge the deficit, the Associated Press reports. State Republicans have vowed to not support any budget that includes tax hikes.

Mesa, Ariz., police chief to replace retiring Heather Fong

Jun 17 2009 - 1:36pm
Photo courtesy of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department.

Amid the turmoil Tuesday surrounding cuts to the police and fire departments, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced his police chief choice, CBS 5 reported Wednesday.

George Gascon, currently the chief of the Mesa, Ariz., police department, will replace retiring Chief Heather Fong.

Gascon, a Cuban immigrant, also brings experience of working with gangs from his time as assistant police chief in Los Angeles.

He takes over a police force that is facing potential budget cuts, but has reported a 12 percent drop in crime this year, the station reporteed earlier this week.


Vote moves $82 million from public safety to public health

Kevin Stark, The Public Press — Jun 17 2009 - 12:17pm

In a day of high tensions, as hundreds of San Francisco firefighters and public health activists held loud, competing rallies outside City Hall, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday sent a message to Mayor Gavin Newsom: Let's rework the budget priorities together.

San Francisco cushioned from impact of rougher roads

Jun 16 2009 - 4:50pm

By Patricia Decker
The Public Press

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Girl via Flickr.

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget plan becomes law, drivers may have rougher roads ahead, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

But San Francisco will not experience the same cuts in road maintenance service as other counties because of outside funding sources.

As part of the plan to close the $24.3 billion budget deficit, the governor is proposing that 75 percent of gas-tax funds destined for cities and counties be diverted to pay for transportation-related state bonds.

This decision comes at a time when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering a $388 million bond measure to fund street resurfacing and streetscape improvement projects for the next five years.

For many counties, the gas-tax revenues are the sole source of funding to road repairs. San Francisco residents will be relatively unaffected, as the Public Works Department secures most of its funding from other sources such as the bond measure.

Other Bay Area counties will be severely impacted. If the budget becomes law, Alameda County’s public works department will only be able to respond to emergency repairs, but not much else, according to the article.

Delays in repairs are more likely across the city, and a public works representative estimates that roughly 100 jobs will be lost as a result of the gas-tax shell game.

The Budget and Finance Subcommittee will discuss the bond measure on Wednesday, June 17, at 10 a.m. in City Hall.

From the sea to your car: Company wins award for algae-based fuel

Jun 16 2009 - 4:37pm

The San Francisco Business Times awarded Solazyme Inc. with the Bay Area Business Award for Renewable Energy Fuels, KGO's Green Right Now reported Tuesday.

Located in San Francisco, Solazyme has created a process that converts algae into oil that could be used in place of petroleum.

As gas prices quietly creep back above $3 per gallon, alternative fuel sources are becoming more attractive. Crude oil prices are still hovering below the $100 per barrel level and are showing a downward trend.

This algae-based oil is also interesting in light of concern on corn-based fuel products. As more companies moved to create biodiesel from corn, food corn prices began to rise. In addition, a recent Swiss study showed that the environmental impact from corn-based biofuels may be worse than fossil fuels.

Algae-based fuel producers recently began lobbying the U.S. government for funding, the New York Times reported in April.

Corporate dumping suits spread as state mulls cuts to environmental health

Jun 15 2009 - 8:20pm

Jerry Brown. Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.

In a week when politicians in Sacramento are debating whether to eliminate state agencies that monitor environmental health, government lawyers across the state are joining forces to crack down on corporate pollution.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, 20 district attorneys and the Los Angeles city attorney jointly filed suit in Alameda County Monday claiming that Target Corp. has been illegally dumping hazardous waste into landfills.

Brown and three district attorneys also reached a settlement with Kmart over similar claims, requiring the company to stop dumping toxic substances in landfills and pay more than $8.65 million in civil penalties, costs and funding for projects to improve environmental protection.

The court decision comes at a time when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing the elimination of a state health department that shapes legislation addressing toxic chemicals and the environment.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which acts as the primary scientific advisor within the California Environmental Protection Agency, is on the chopping block as the governor looks for savings to close the budget gap.

Schwarzenegger is proposing to dismantle OEHHA and redistribute its duties within the Department of Public Health.

Scientists at OEHHA are specialists in how exposure to chemical pollutants in air, drinking water, soil, food and consumer products can lead to cancer, infertility, birth defects, asthma, effects on the developing brain and other health disorders. 

On June 10, the state Senate Enviromental Quality Committee voted to recommend that the office remain intact, but a final decision has yet to be made by the governor.

PG&E least reliable power provider in the state

Jun 15 2009 - 2:22pm

PG&E customers power outages last longer and occur more often than any other electrical provider in the California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.

California Public Utilities Commission records reveal that the average PG&E customer lost power for almost seven hours during 2008. For the same time period, the average Southern California Edison customer lost power for nearly two hours.

For comparison, the typical Southern California Edison customer went without power for almost two hours in 2008. San Diego Gas and Electric customers spent just under an hour without electricity.

Last week, an underground electrical vault in the Tenderloin exploded in a fireball, leaving customers in the area without power until the weekend. The cause of this explosion and fire remains unsolved.

Police conduct at political rallies questioned

Jun 15 2009 - 12:35pm

With more protests planned against Mayor Gavin Newsom's social program slashing budget, two city supervisors held a meeting to discuss police protection of protesters, CBS Channel 5 reported Monday.

The central idea of the recent budget rallies is that social programs are being cut while the police and fire departments are receiving slight budget increases. Supervisors David Campos and Ross Mirkarimi have called a meeting with the police department to make sure law enforcement protects the crowd while not interfering with the protests.

Mirkarimi questioned Police Capt. John Goldberg about the amount of money spent staffing protests, adding a high-level of police presence at rallies could stifle dissent.

“Our goal is to staff each event appropriately to the event," Goldberg said. "If we have good information we can staff the event accordingly. However, because situations are so fluid, some times we are overstaffed sometimes we are understaffed.”

This meeting comes on the eve of another budget cut rally, planned for Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. across the street from City Hall.

Ballot measure and Ammiano legislative bill could lead to pot legalization

Jun 12 2009 - 1:45pm

2010 could be the year when California finally legalizes the recreational use of marijuana.

SFO receives $15 Million from Homeland Security

Jun 12 2009 - 12:44pm

Security lines at SFO could move much quicker thanks to $15 million in federal stimulus funds provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

Supervisors urge shift of $82 million from cops and fire to health

Michael Pistorio and Kevin Stark, The Public Press — Jun 11 2009 - 9:19pm

In a day of protest inside and outside City Hall, the Board of Supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee shoved a wrench in Mayor Gavin Newsom's interim budget Wednesday, while nearly 1,000 rallied outside for more equitable cuts to save health services.

SF budget cuts target behavioral health

Kevin Stark and Lizzy Tomei, The Public Press — Jun 11 2009 - 8:00pm

Hundreds of San Francisco's most vulnerable people -- the mentally ill, homeless, and seniors among them -- will be pushed out of the social services safety net and even further into the margins if proposed cuts to the Department of Public Health go through.

Newsom's chief choice kept secret

Jun 11 2009 - 1:28pm

Mayor Gavin Newsom has selected a replacement for outgoing police Chief Heather Fong from a list of three candidates. Or so he says.

Newsom has decided to remain slient on his choice until he has a chance to meet with the Board of Supervisors about their changes to his budget plan.

Bay Area transportation gets stimulated

Jun 11 2009 - 11:13am
Photo courtesy of Caltrain.

Federal stimulus funds are riding the rails into San Francisco.

Cuts to state HIV and AIDS programs will put thousands at risk

Lizzy Tomei, The Public Press — Jun 10 2009 - 6:27pm

Proposed cuts in funding to HIV and AIDS programs around the state could put thousands of lives at risk and set back years of progress fighting the disease, activists and service providers say.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest budget proposal would cut $80 million from the state Office of AIDS budget, reducing funding to prevention and testing programs and disease trend tracking by 80 percent. The cuts would also reduce funding for home care, cut the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) budget by $12.3 million, and eliminate the Therapeutic Monitoring Program, which pays for blood tests for people with HIV infection.

Board of education votes to continue ROTC

Jun 10 2009 - 12:48pm

San Francisco high school students will receive physical education credits if they participate in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

The San Francisco Board of Education voted 4-3 to allow students to join ROTC. The Board of Education voted to end the program in 2006 and it was scheduled to end at the end of this school year.

Valley water supplies not in danger

Jun 10 2009 - 12:22pm

News reports of gloom and doom would lead one to believe the current drought will threaten argiculture in the San Joaquin Valley.

According to data compiled by the California Department of Water Resources, the valley will still receive more than 80 percent of its average water supply.

Supervisors save public access TV channels for one more year

Anna Walters, The Public Press — Jun 10 2009 - 11:29am

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors temporarily rescued public access television from the brink of extinction Tuesday, passing an ordinance that reimposes a city franchise fee on Comcast and other cable operators.

San Francisco moves toward mandatory recycling, composting

Jun 9 2009 - 5:33pm

By Michael Pistorio and Hank Drew
The Public Press

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to pass the mandatory recycling and composting ordinance.

The ordinance requires all San Francisco residential and commercial building owners to sign up for composting and recycling services. Violators will be charged a $500 fine.